Sunday, November 30, 2008


The Satellites strike first with their nominees.  The Golden Satellites come out of the International Press Academy and are notorious for being all over the place.  Very little stock is taken in their choices when it comes down to Oscar, but they always have really interesting choices.

Motion Picture, Drama

The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire
Revolutionary Road
Frozen River (<- Nice to see it get some love, despite a Dark Knight snub)


Thomas McCarthy, The Visitor
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant, Milk
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry, The Reader

(no David Fincher, Clint Eastwood, Sam Mendes!)

Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama

Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Kristin Scott Thomas, I've Loved You For So Long
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

(Powerhouse lineup, much?  I like this set A LOT)

Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Mark Ruffalo, What Doesn't Kill You
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road
Sean Penn, Milk

(no Brad Pitt?)

Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Tropic Thunder (gotta love this pick)
In Bruges
Choke (yikes, seriously?)

Actress in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical

Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Meryl Streep, Mamma Mia!
Lisa Kudrow, Kabluey
Kat Dennings, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Catherine Deneuve, A Christmas Tale
Debra Messing, Nothing Like the Holidays

(expect none of these to get to the Oscars.)

Actor in a Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical

Ricky Gervais, Ghost Town
Sam Rockwell, Choke
Josh Brolin, W. (nice!)
Michael Cera, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist
Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges
Mark Ruffalo, The Brothers Bloom

Actress in a Supporting Role

Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married
Penelope Cruz, Elegy
Anjelica Huston, Choke
Sophie Okonedo, The Secret Life of Bees
Emma Thompson, Brideshead Revisited
Beyonce Knowles, Cadillac Records

(this list seems beyond weak. Really?)

Actor in a Supporting Role

Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder (he's the dude playing the dude disguised as another dude)
Rade Sherbedgia, Fugitive Pieces
James Franco, Milk
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (well duh)
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt

Motion Picture, Foreign Language

Let the Right One In (Sweden)
The Class (France)
Sangre de mi Sangre (Argentina)
Reprise (Norway)
Gomorrah (Italy)
Caramel (Lebanon/France)

Motion Picture, Animated or Mixed Media

The Tale of Despereaux
Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!
Waltz with Bashir
The Sky Crawlers

Motion Picture, Documentary

Man on Wire (<- yay!)
Pray the Devil Back to Hell
Encounters at the End of the World
Religulous (<- boo!)
Anita O'Day - The Life of a Jazz Singer
Waltz With Bashir

Screenplay, Original

Philip Roth, Elegy
Thomas McCarthy, The Visitor
Eric Roth, Robin Swicord, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Baz Luhrmann, Stuart Beattie, Ronald Harwood, Richard Flanagan, Australia
Dustin Lance Black, Milk

(I actually really like this set.  But Ben Button is ADAPTED)

Screenplay, Adapted

John Patrick Shanley, Doubt
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
David Hare, The Reader
Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
Justin Haythe, Revolutionary Road

(could end up being Oscar lineup...)

Original Score

David Arnold, Quantum of Solace
Thomas Newman, WALL-E
John Powell, Horton Hears a Who!
A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
David Hirschfelder, Australia
Danny Elfman, Milk

Original Song

Another Way to Die, Quantum of Solace
If the World, Body of Lies
Down to Earth, WALL-E
By the Boab Tree, Australia
Jaiho, Slumdog Millionaire
The Wrestler, The Wrestler


Jess Hall, Brideshead Revisited
Gyula Pados, The Duchess
Mandy Walker, Australia
Tim Orr, Snow Angels
Tom Stern, Changeling
Claudio Miranda, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Visual Effects

Quantum of Solace
Iron Man
The Dark Knight
The Day the Earth Stood Still

Film Editing

Quantum of Solace
Iron Man
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

Sound (Mixing & Editing)

Quantum of Solace
Iron Man
The Dark Knight
The Day the Earth Stood Still

Art Direction/Production Design

Brideshead Revisited
The Duchess
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
City of Ember
Revolutionary Road

Costume Design

The Duchess
Brideshead Revisited
Sex and the City
City of Ember
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Auteur Award

Baz Luhrmann, Australia

TOP TEN FILMS OF 2008 (alphabetical)

The Dark Knight
Frozen River
The Reader
Revolutionary Road
Slumdog Millionaire

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Here it is, the first of about 1,000 posts to come on the Academy Awards. To start the delirious season of guessing, analyzing, and propagandizing, I'll jump onto the wagon my fellow bloggers in the Oscarverse have been on for months and offer up my post-Thanksgiving Dinner picks for the Best Picture nominees.

And the Best Picture Nominees Will Be...

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Academy has yet to throw David Fincher a bone, even if he's gained the respect of many critics and audience demographics. Here, he'll make the argument not only for legitimate respect as a director, but for the dramatic capabilities of digital film. Brad Pitt + Cate Blanchett + Big Romantic Period Drama = Love. Unless the critics don't get behind it.

Slumdog Millionaire
Fox Searchlight has taken the lead as one of the most reliable indy-centered distrib studios of the last few years (see also: Little Miss Sunshine and Juno), mounting relatable crowdpleasers with hard-hitting campaigns. Slumdog lit up the festival circuit a few months back, and critics have been quick to get behind it in some way or another. Plus, most everyone at least respects Danny Boyle for his competent and unique genre work over the last 12 years (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Sunshine).

The Dark Knight
For an Academy claimed to be out of touch with the modern movie-going public, here's the chance to reward the biggest film since Lord of the Rings. Yes, Dark Knight is a veritable phenomenon on par with the fantasy trilogy, Titanic, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars (all BP noms). It's the second highest-grossing film of all time and it has critical support to match, both in the elite and on the streets. It's a chance for the Academy to legitimize the comic book subgenre, director Nolan, star Ledger, and the much-derided term "pop entertainment."

Revolutionary Road
I actually have a lurking suspicion there will be some kind of weird backlash that makes this an adored film that stays out of the final pack (see Eternal Sunshine, Far From Heaven...). Or a suspicion that its high expectations (read: desire for faithful adaptation) will make plenty hate it; after all, they didn't much warm to Mendes's last two films. But with Leo + Kate, good word from early screenings, and a trailer that screams "give me some Oscars now!" I think the campaign will be aggressive so as to give it this nom.

The media called them homophobic when they didn't give the big prize to Brokeback. Going on the fabulous reviews, and their penchant for bio pics, and how much they liked Van Sant's mainstream feature (Good Will Hunting) before going uber-indie, PLUS SEAN PENN, I think Milk will get it. Probably. It's the weakest out of these, and any of the following could take its place:

Doubt - Adapted from a play, big ensemble, but a Best Picture nominee I don't think. Lots of nods across the board but unless people go wild over it...this will be an acting movie.

The Wrestler - Again, this will be "Mickey Rourke's movie" not "Rourke and Aronofsky's movie." As such, it will be big on Actor, and little on everything else.

Frost/Nixon - I remain completely cynical about this movie because I remain completely cynical about Ron Howard. The Academy loves him (if you think he deserved anything in 01 against Scott, Lynch, Jackson, and Altman then you need to check yourself into a mental hospital), so this one is the one I see most likely getting in.

Gran Torino - Clint Eastwood. That's about all I have to say.

Monday, November 24, 2008

'Religulous' offers snobby, superficial take on religion - The Mix

'Religulous' offers snobby, superficial take on religion - The Mix

"Religulous" - * 1/2
D: Larry Charles
S: Bill Maher

Currently Watching: Andrei Rublev (1966)

I love Andrei Tarkovsky.  I've now seen three of his films, and I can't think of many directors who challenge me so much with such an acute perception of cinema (and also occasionally challenges me to stay awake).  I was floored by "The Mirror," at the time I saw it I couldn't really believe its poetry and I had a hard time sleeping that night because I kept thinking about its camera movement and its slow evolution.  Then I saw "Solaris" about 3 times in different parts before I sat down and watched the whole damn thing over the summer one afternoon.  I had previously slopped praise on Godard for turning sci-fi into a gritty noir, but Tarkovsky managed to turn the genre into a delirious and intense metaphysical search completely separate from and yet accompanying precisely Kubrick's vision in 2001 - if Kubrick is searching for our life, Tarkovsky muddles in our death and the separate entities of our soul and body.

So it was with great enthusiasm I put in his supposed masterpiece that's been succumbed to about 5 different versions based on various censors and distributors; I watched Criterion's restoration of the original 205 minute version.  Yikes.  What struck me instantly was that "Andrei Rublev" is about an iconographer, but it's in black and white.  Okay.  So we're distilling beautiful imagery back into a basic composition.  But Tarkovsky goes a step further, doing MANY sequences in one or two shots with a powerful roving camera.  I actually think any cinematographer who wants to do crappy steadicam and poor handheld should watch this movie and get a sense of how to properly use camera movements.  There's virtually no plot in the movie, but it still encompasses one man's crisis of faith, the religious and political turmoil, and the entire societal hierarchy of 15th century Russia.

On the surface, "Rublev" is a plodding, tedious, and often very pretentious film.  But that's to ignore the entire point of Tarkovsky's cinema; he's looking at how to bend traditions in ways almost opposite of the French.  He's using VERY limited resources to construct a VERY complex and multilayered story.  For the ways he uses space, time, and structure to build not only a history but a *tone*, a genuine feeling of historicity and analysis, "Rublev" is a genuinely stunning film.  It's haunting.  If it weren't so long I'd love to watch it again very soon and see how my opinion of it changes.

I won't lie and say I wasn't bored by it, but part of any Tarkovsky is asking - can you get to the point?  Why are you doing this?  Only by being an active participant, by immersing yourself in what he's giving you, can you really appreciate the fact that he's an artist.  I'll go ahead and do another Kubrick comparison - about a month and a half ago I finally saw "Barry Lyndon" and was mildly disappointed by it, mainly because it was one of the first times I've really felt his perfectionist construction got in the way of his narrative - painfully so.  Yes, "Barry Lyndon" is beautiful, but WHY is Kubrick using the same technique over and over and over again?  In "Andrei Rublev," I felt almost the same way, but the film was much more dynamic in its aesthetic and more deliberate in its structure, allowing complex issues to be explored and confronted in almost contradictory ways.  This visual and narrative contradiction helps drive the film and use its aesthetic in creative, enabling ways.  This makes it, at the very least, NECESSARY cinema, if not a complete masterwork.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Currently Watching: Industrial Symphony No. 1 (1990)

I feel terribly out of it since I haven't been up to my writing speed lately, but it's been one of those weeks.  I've been in development hell trying to get the USC Film Club off the ground for the spring semester, trying to work on a paper for the Pop Culture Conference of America, and a large term paper for a class.

I've screened a couple of great things this week, but I just wanted to talk briefly about David Lynch's Industrial Symphony.  I started working my way through some of short films earlier this week after watching "Eraserhead" (1976) for the first time a few nights ago (a film I should by all rights be writing about right now instead of this) and being completely floored by it.  As freakish as Lynch is, his short/early stuff is so much more harrowing and nightmarish than anything in his films.  I thought "Twin Peaks" was haunting.

"Industrial Symphony No. 1" is essentially a filmed version of a play Lynch developed; a 50 minute dream of a woman after she is dumped by her lover.  The film takes place on a stage and features the music of Julee Cruise (who sang many of the songs from Twin Peaks); much of the film's underscore would later form up a central chunk of the TP music.  Essentially a glorified effects show of bizarre sounds and images, I was nevertheless completely enthralled by this for the same reason I'm enthralled by everything Lynch does.  There's no one out there who is as willing to confront us with the visual medium.  So much of how edits both image and sound makes him the middle-man between dreams and nightmares and our precious reality.

Symphony is artsy and indecipherable, but it's also kind of trance-inducing.  It's going to be available for the first time in the Lynch box set coming out next week (but I'm not shelling out 180 bucks for all that!), and I wish they'd sell it separately because I really love it both as a mood piece, as a musical, and as a portal into dreams.  What I think is really the key to it is that he literally puts dreams on stage, he finds a way to navigate the constantly-evolving space of our minds by putting it within a moving frame, a set mise-en-scene that develops based on other actions and effects.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Jimmy's Trailer Park - The Mix

Jimmy's Trailer Park - The Mix

Article on Recent Movie Trailers

'Quantum' revamps classic Bond persona - The Mix

'Quantum' revamps classic Bond persona - The Mix

"Quantum of Solace" -- * *
D: Marc Forster
W: Paul Haggis; Robert Wade; Neil Purvis
S: Daniel Craig; Mathieu Amalric; Judi Dench

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Currently Watching: The Godless Girl (1929)

I had a wonderfully unique opportunity last night.  I screened Cecil B. DeMille's rarely seen social commentary "The Godless Girl" in a beautiful restored print at a special screening featuring world-renowned organist Dennis James.  The film was fairly good, with DeMille showing overt flashes of sensationalism throughout that made the film feel wonderfully campy and dramatic.  The entire audience was interactive with the film throughout, making it even more enjoyable.

Beyond anything I could say about the film and its merits is Dennis James, who composed and played 128 minutes worth of original score inspired by other classic movie scores from the same era.  James was like a machine, never missing a beat and covering a wide range of emotions that perfectly accompanied every shot of every scene.  He's a true virtuoso at his art, and having the chance to watch him perform was a true luxury.  It was the first time I'd watched a silent film in an "authentic" setting; it was a whole new kind of movie-watching environment that really made me feel nostalgic for the loss of this special art form.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dark Knight Score Disqualified

In a bold move, AMPAS has disqualified James Newton Howard's and Hans Zimmer's score for "The Dark Knight," citing it doesn't contain enough original music, since Howard and Zimmer both score "Batman Begins" (05) and distilled several themes from 3 other composers.  Though Howard and Zimmer planned to submit those 3 names as co-composers in order to give them royalty credits, AMPAS still rejected the bid.  The move echoes a similar treatment of "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" in 2002.

Currently Watching: Naked Lunch (1991)

As crazy, creepy, and utterly bizarre as David Cronenberg can be, I don't think anything could have prepared me for how "out there" his 1991 film is.  He bases the film on William S. Burroughs's "unfilmable" novel, and his film looks more at the novelistic process than trying to adapt the stream-of-thought book.

Cronenberg is a fabulous director who pushes his limits like very few filmmakers working today; I'd go so far as to say he's the best Canadian director working today.  He uses a noir style to tell the tale of a writer-turned-exterminator who becomes addicted to the powder he uses to kill bugs, with murderous and outlandish consequences involving conspiracies with buglike creatures.  Words can't even really describe the film, and I'm not even sure how I feel about it.  I'm usually a big fan of Cronenberg's more bizarre works, my favorite being "Videodrome," but where that film expresses a multitude of societal ideas, "Naked Lunch" feels stuck in a vacuum.

It's a dramatic work of auteurship and I applaud Cronenberg for even *making* a film this confusing and alienating.  It's hard to enjoy "Naked Lunch" of even understand what Cronenberg is trying to do with it, which makes it harder to understand or get involved with than most of his work.  I really admire the saturation of colors, the great special effects, and the way the film developments around a writers' struggle to both write his novel and quit his addiction.

"Naked Lunch" is a film I'd both love to see again in order to try to understand it, and also a film I have no desire to watch again because of how alienating and awkward it is to stomach.  It's weird (beyond weird).

Did Entertainment Weekly Rip Me Off?

So here's the deal.  In late August I wrote an article for The Daily Gamecock entitled "Dark Knight Earns Dark Horse Status" where I talk about why TDK is being considered a legitimate contender for the Academy Awards and how it manages to cross the pop culture demographic spectrum.

In the 11/7 issue of Entertainment Weekly, columnist Mark Harris wrote an article called "Dark Knight as Dark Horse."

WHAT???????  Granted, these phrases have been bantered around the internet for some time, and my article distills conversations I've had on with other bloggers, fans, etc. combined with my own views on the film.  While Harris's article doesn't explicitly steal my words, he does take lots of points not only from my article but from others I've read on respected blogs written by respectable people.

Take a look, side-by-side, and see if you can see the similarities:

My article:

Entertainment Weekly's article:,,20237200,00.html

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

'Rocknrolla' typical Ritchie - The Mix

'Rocknrolla' typical Ritchie - The Mix

"RocknRolla" - * * 1/2
D: Guy Ritchie
W: Guy Ritchie
S: Gerard Butler; Tom Wilkinson

Monday, November 10, 2008

New director 'chokes' on complex material - The Mix

New director 'chokes' on complex material - The Mix

"Choke" - * *
D: Clark Gregg
W: Clark Gregg (screenplay); Chuck Palahniuk (novel)
S: Sam Rockwell; Anjelica Huston; Kelly MacDonald


For anyone who even remotely comes close to checking this regularly:

FilmBlog is gearing up for awards season, which will mean a dramatic shift in what is covered.
Until that begins in early December, much writing will be put on hold as I've suddenly become swallowed up in academic studies.

My articles for The Daily Gamecock are about the only thing I have significant time for right now, and I feel much other writing on this blog would feel pointless or meandering.  There may be a few "currently watching" tabloids for those concerned, but until December 5 expect far less writings outside of article posts and the occasional update on interesting film stuff.

Friday, November 7, 2008

'Zack and Miri' plot proves cliche - The Mix

'Zack and Miri' plot proves cliche - The Mix

"Zack and Miri Make a Porno" - * *
D: Kevin Smith
W: Kevin Smith
S: Seth Rogen; Elizabeth Banks

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Currently Watching: Recount (2008)

In the spirit of the election, I finally checked out HBO's highly acclaimed miniseries.  I was really upset I didn't get to see it on first run because I love virtually every actor in it.  Director Jay Roach shows off a kind of steady, penetrating docu-drama style I never expected him to be capable of.  It helps that he works with a superb script from Danny Strong, who manages to cover most facets of the election quickly (without ever feeling hurried) and investigative (without feeling partisan).

The ensemble makes the film, with Kevin Spacey and Tom Wilkinson providing the most showy but the most developed performances.  As someone who was a bit too young to really "get" the 2000 recounts, the film does a thorough job of explaining the strategies and thought from both sides and of laying out the various legal and political battles.

The style mirrors a political documentary, allowing the film to move fast without relying often on exposition and allowing Roach to be economic with his shots and editing.  Production design reflects the cluttered atmosphere of campaign offices.

"Recount" is extremely brisk, enthralling, and satisfying as an in-depth political expose.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh, It's a Long One

Last year's "The Assassination of Jesse James," "Zodiac," and "There Will Be Blood" clocked in near 160 minutes and still earned massive critical acclaim in an age where movies (Lord of the Rings is the exception that proves the rule) feel like they get shorter and shorter all the time.

"Australia" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" have just released that their runtimes will anchor somewhere between 150-160 minutes.  Anomalies?  Maybe.  Excitement? Definitely.  These are two movies that look anchored by textures and very rich storytelling, and I'm excited that the two creative brains behind them were able to get these lengthy cuts out there.

Bring on the butt-numbing, I'm in the mood for some lengthy, visually stunning narratives in the last two months of the year!

A New Day, A New President (Elect)

I was debating whether or not to post anything about the election.  I could have settled for a "Currently Watching" post on Ivan the Terrible, Purple Rose of Cairo, or Midnight Cowboy.  This morning, it seems even more pointless than usual to blog about the same old stuff.

I've been an avid support of Barack Obama since his campaign launched 20 months ago and have stood behind him firmly through the whole darn process.  Unlike any other political figure in my time, he has both challenged and excited me.  His eloquence is unsurpassed and his ideas echo many of my own.  I hope and pray for his family and for his ability to lead the country in the next two months, and through the next four years.

Obama is a man of many promises, and with a Dem congress (with many centrists), it can be assumed he'll be able to get many of his positions passed.  He has a lot to do, many promises to keep.  He has inspired America to cross party lines, to become inspired by an agent of change.  Whether this change will come or not has yet to be seen, and I'll ultimately hold off my judgment of the man until he's spent a year in the position.

Today I am very proud.  This was my first presidential election I was able to vote in.  Beyond that, I voted absentee in Virginia, which voted Democrat for the first time since 1964.  People will say this was a historic election regardless of what Obama does or doesn't do for many reasons.  Aside from the obvious "racial barrier" thing people keep chanting, I think this shows that partisan politics don't have to play into discourse.  Much as Reagan united people across the spectrum in 1984, Obama was able to key into what people want and what people feel needs to be done, he was able to address their concerns consistently and eloquently.

As unashamedly emotional as I felt watching his acceptance speech, people should turn to McCain as an example.  His speech encapsulated all the disappointment he must be feeling, but his speech was humble and genuine, and I hope the respect he showed Obama is echoed in his constituency.  It's no secret that South Carolina is a very conservative state, and yesterday and this morning I had the misfortune of hearing many foolish, arrogant, and ignorant remarks from Conservatives.  (as a side note, I've heard my fair share from the Dems as well - Obama needs to be tested in the position before we can call him a wonderful president)  I hope that this knee-jerk response will gradually dissipate and people can help embrace whatever direction the country takes.

I became politically aware in the administration of George W. Bush.  I was too young in 2000 to really *grasp* the election and what it meant, and since early 2003 I've been extremely cynical towards the federal government.  This is no time to rant, but my political dissatisfaction finally feels like it can turn around, that I can feel true patriotism towards a president and towards the government.  I would love to say, four years from now, that Obama helped bring us together after the country became so divided and so hostile and so bitter.  If there's any change we need, that's the kind I would like to see.  Regardless of the policies, regardless of the actions, I want to be able to trust Obama and his administration to do what's best for our country and unify us the way I felt unified as I watched people jubilantly celebrate last night.

Additionally, I marveled at one statistic: 66% of the youth vote cast their ballot for Obama.  66%.  For first-time voters, it was 69%.  Stunning.  Whatever that means in the long run, I feel proud to be a part of that demographic, and I'm even more proud of the turn-out.  

The kind of energy that coursed through the evening was unprecedented in my politically cognizant lifetime.  I hope that energy carries past Jan 20 into 2012.  Today I feel particularly proud of who I am, what I believe in, and the world that I am a part of.  I believe in change, and I believe in hope.  Some days it feels hard to see the sun amidst the clouds, but sometimes hope is all we have, and I believe that's what drove so many to vote for a man who continues to speak so inspirationally on the changes he believes we need.

I wish him luck and I will be hoping for the best.  I hope you will be too.

Jimmy's Trailer Park - The Mix

Jimmy's Trailer Park - The Mix

Movie Trailer Wrap-up

Monday, November 3, 2008