Saturday, January 31, 2009

Awards Updates

"Slumdog Millionaire" won the University of Southern California Scripter Award for Adaptation.

And in a gigantic bitch-slap, "Kung Fu Panda" won 15 Animation Guild Awards.  "Wall-E" won 0.  Possibly the biggest upset from any organization so far this race.  Not that it really matters when it comes to the Oscar but...holy crap.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Scrubs - The Mix

Scrubs - The Mix

Article reviewing Scrubs' 8th season and move to ABC

Monday, January 26, 2009

Re-Evaluating "Slumdog Millionaire": Western Constructs of Hope

Slumdog's overwhelming success at the box office this weekend (finishing 5th after a mild expansion is pretty impressive for a film with little advertising), its win at the Golden Globes, the Producers Guild, the Screen Actors Guild, its 10 Oscar nominations all beg the question...what are people responding to?  Ostensibly, we can attribute its grand reception in the States to its transcription of Dickensian ideals - the "rags to riches" fable, the "true love conquers all" idea - to our current economic situation, to our "hope" that we feel at the inauguration of our new president (see also my thoughts on the inauguration from last week).  But why is Slumdog the film that's communicating this to us?  Why not "Milk," which is much moreso about hope, about political communication, about the success of the human spirit against insurmountable odds?  Well, "Milk" is about gay people.  I hate to say it like that, but Prop 8 and any number of homosexual legislation from the past two years is evidence in and of itself that we are very much a part of a homophobic society.  We had problems accepting a film that challenged our expression of masculine virility in the Western just three years ago, why would we all of a sudden open ourselves up to a film that's explicitly gay all over?

"Slumdog" lets us transfer these feelings into India, a society we know NOTHING about as Westerners (by and large).  There is an underlying motif throughout "Slumdog" that really troubles me when I hear people talk about it.  Yes, it's a great movie, but the singular elevation of this movie by the West strikes me as extremely bizarre.  It's a Western production - written and directed by British filmmakers.  I would argue that everything in "Slumdog Millionaire" pivots on a very interesting ideological exchange that actually says the WESTERN IDEALS are what is most powerful, what gives Jamal the ability to succeed. 

Let's just look for a second at the game show in and of itself.  "Millionaire" is a Western show, developed in the United States and exported to India.  That we chose *this* show instead of something - anything - necessarily MEANS something.  Slumdog has been described as the first successful globalized film, but what does globalization mean?  Note that in the original novel by Vikas Swarup the quiz show is called "Who Will Win a Billion?"  We're talking about RUPEES, not DOLLARS, so WHY is the quiz show called "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" in the film?  For Western convenience, obviously.  The quiz show allows Jamal the ability to reconnect with Latika, it is the intermediary thread between them, but it is a predominantly Western thread.  Basically what I'm trying to point out here is that Jamal and Latika's love succeeds because of the Western intrusion into India and other quote-unquote third world countries.

Look at the questions Jamal is asked: he knows Ben Franklin is on American money but doesn't know Gandhi is on Indian money, he knows (or does he?) about Alexandre Dumas but only knows about Indian literature because he was tortured into knowing it.  He doesn't even know the slogan on the Indian flag.  Yes, the illiterate slumdog with no education finding a way to win everything is a great, rousing tale for our times, but there is something very disturbing in the subtext of this film: elements of Western society constantly *save* Jamal, elements of Indian society defeat him.  The American tourists at the Taj Mahal may be stupid stereotypes, but they still save him from the cops.  His brother may realize the potent future India may have, but he is reduced to a caricature of a gangster who finds personal redemption.  Slum life is BAD, as we're painfully (and necessarily) told, but the counter-point to the "evil" life of the film's first act bleeds with the constructed ideologies of the West.

Peer closer into Jamal's job at a telemarketing company.  This exported Western job reconnects him with his brother.  The film makes a point that the job is a Western one, that the Indians working there are made out to be Western, and yet the "Western phone company" provides a crucial intermediation to reunite Jamal and his brother.  Latika's only source of "escape," (her words) is the television and specifically a Western game show.  These Western ideologies again provide a sense of "hope" to the characters and its presence allows them to be reunited.

This is a very powerful and pervasive undercurrent that BEGS to be understood.  We can't merely dismiss "Slumdog Millionaire" as a "feel good movie to reflect our current emotions."  We can't.  Not if we're poised to give it the Academy Award for Best Picture.  Yes, the film renounces money in favor of love, yes it inevitably celebrates the universality of love instead of the culture it's locked into, but what can we make of this?  Maybe the idea that "Indian culture is backwards, Western culture is progressive" is simplifying the film *too* much, but it's a starting point we MUST consider.  British have a very complicated relationship with India that is less than 100 years away from horrible colonialism.  If they can come together to celebrate the country's tradition, that's a very powerful step.

I'm tired of hearing about how "charming" the Slumdog crew is.  We get it, they're astounded by how well their film has been received.  It's become the "little movie that will."  But is the movie a step away from colonialism?  To me, it seems like it's celebrating a CULTURAL colonialism, whereby Western constructs have manifested themselves within the traditional cultural heritage of India.  The complex relationship between these two presences is not resolved in the film, but it does make us wonder what the filmmakers are trying to say about mediation.  We need to provide an intense critical examination of this film in the next month.  I won't deny "Slumdog Millionaire" is aesthetically perfect - it gets dangerously close.  I won't deny it's captured the hearts of almost everyone who's gone to see it.  What the rest of the critical establishment needs to do is figure out why.  Don't dismiss the film as "feel good," look at its underlying ideological construct and realize there is something complex going on there.  I can't provide any deeper answer than what I've given for now.  I guess "Slumdog Millionaire" makes us feel good because it posits in some strange way that WE - the Western world - are responsible for Jamal's success. 

'Let the Right One In' sheds new light on vampires - The Mix

'Let the Right One In' sheds new light on vampires - The Mix

"Let the Right One In"

* * * *

D: Thomas Alfredson
W: John Ajvide Lindqvist

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Screen Actors Guild Awards

Cast Ensemble: Slumdog Millionaire
Actor in a Leading Role: Sean Penn for Milk
Actress in a Leading Role: Meryl Streep for Doubt
Actor in a Supporting Role: Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight
Actress in a Supporting Role: Kate Winslet for The Reader

Ensemble in a Comedy Series: 30 Rock
Ensemble in a Drama Series: Mad Men
Male Actor in a Comedy Series: Alec Baldwin for 30 Rock
Female Actor in a Comedy Series: Tina Fey for 30 Rock
Male Actor in a Drama Series: Hugh Laurie for House
Female Actor in a Drama Series: Sally Field for Brothers and Sisters
Male Actor in a Television Movie/Miniseries: Paul Giamatti for John Adams
Female Actor in a Television Movie/Miniseries: Laura Linney for John Adams

Slumdog Takes PGA

"Slumdog Millionaire" was the recipient of this year's Producers Guild of America award for outstanding feature length motion picture, announced last night.

The world is stunned.

In other news, the Screen Actors Guild announce their winners tonight, where Slumdog competes in Best Supporting Actor and in Best Cast Ensemble.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Oscars: My Endorsements

Want to know up front who I'm rooting for now that The Dark Knight faced major snubbage?  I've now seen pretty much every movie nominated for anything.  Here is who I would vote for:

Picture: Milk
Director: Gus Van Sant
Actor: Mickey Rourke
Actress: Melissa Leo
Supp Actor: Heath Ledger
Supp Actress: Marisa Tomei
O. Screenplay: Milk
A. Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire
Animated: Wall-E
Documentary: Man on Wire
Art Direction: The Dark Knight
Cinematography: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Costume Design: Australia
Film Editing: The Dark Knight
Makeup: The Dark Knight
Original Score: Wall-E
Original Song: Slumdog Millionaire (Jai Ho)
Sound Mix: Wall-E
Sound Edit: The Dark Knight
Visual Effects: The Dark Knight

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Dr. Weinstein or: How the Academy Dropped the Ball

NOTE: The nominees are posted below this; I thought it would be redundant to copy/paste them into this reaction post.  Scroll down to see

What the hell?

I dared the Academy to be ballsy.  I never thought they would do something like this.  I was giddy, then shocked, then disgusted as I watched Sid Ganis and Forrest Whitaker read the nominations this morning.  Frost/Nixon is in.  The Reader is in.  The Dark Knight is out.  Benjamin Button has THIRTEEN BLOODY NOMINATIONS (the most of any film).  Slumdog has 10.  Milk has 8.  There are some reasons for me to be happy about how things turned out, but I think the Academy sincerely dropped the ball.  There's this kind of unspoken rule that most films nominated for Best Picture score a 70% score or more on Metacritic, and rarely does a film win without being over 75 or so (except for Crash, which I think had about 68%).  Just look at last year:

No Country for Old Men - 91
There Will Be Blood - 92
Atonement - 85
Michael Clayton - 82
Juno - 81

Now look at this year...

Slumdog Millionaire - 86
Milk - 84
Frost/Nixon - 80
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - 69
The Reader - 55

Yikes.  Milk and Slumdog Millionaire are the exceptions (because I can't for the LIFE of me figure out why Frost/Nixon has a score of 80 when rarely anyone calls it the best of the year), but just look at Button and The Reader.  Is this just a sign that this is a polarizing year?  I don't think so, because No Country and Blood were polarizing films that were nevertheless admired through and through, even by many of their detractors.  I haven't seen The Reader yet (I am this weekend), but WHAT JUST HAPPENED?!  Category by category, here's what I have to say:

Best Picture

The Dark Knight did not score a Globe nod and did not score a SAG nod.  It did score a PGA nod and a DGA nod.  Taken together, you could flip a coin (a la Dent) and determine its fate that way.  Looking back, it was headed for a snub - how DARE the Academy recognize a comic book action film!  But that doesn't make it right.  The Dark Knight did something NO other film of its genre has been able to do - breach critics and audiences in a very personal way by using intergeneric syntax and bloody good filmmaking.  I hate throwing the "popularity" card, but the stars aligned on this movie, and it has EIGHT nominations (tied with Milk for third highest overall), so doesn't that mean it HAS the respect it deserves to be here?  Yes.  Yes it does.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has 13 nominations.  It leads the pack.  I knew the techs would get this film up there, but I'm kind of stunned at just how much this film managed to score.  More on that later, but I can't understand how a movie that so many people HATE (with a capital everything) gets up here.  It's pretty significant.  I personally like the film a lot, but it's so problematic.

Slumdog Millionaire has 10 - the second most.  It has all the love and momentum going into the Guild Circuit.  BUT - it has NO acting nominations.  There are two rules to winning Best Picture - you need a Film Editing nomination (don't ask me why, but you do), and you need at least one acting nominee.  No film since The Return of the King has won without one, and that was a coronation year.  Before that, you have to go all the way back to Braveheart.

Milk landed everywhere I thought it would, and I officially endorse it for Best Picture.

Frost/Nixon is not one of the five best pictures of the year.  It is an entertaining movie that's capably made on any level, but it is not an incisive political doctrine like, say, The Queen was.  I'm tired of ranting about this movie, and I'm sure I will in more categories.  Just...ugh.

The Reader is the spoiler.  I actually suspected this would happen, but I didn't have the balls to do it.  How EXACTLY did this happen?  Harvey Weinstein.  He made the decision to bump it into a tiny release at the end of the year, he made the decision to send thousands of screeners directly to the Academy.  He took a HUGE gamble and pushed the film down their throats and they bough it.  I haven't seen it yet, so no real rant, outside of the fact that they bought Harvey again, which is BIG for him.

My predictions: 4/5 (Dark Knight over Reader) [5/5 with my alternate]
My Personal Ballot: 1/5 (the only crossover is Milk)

Best Director

GAHHHHHHH.  RON HOWARD!  Ron Howard! ron howard!  Why do we award him for everyone half-assed movie he makes?  He's NOT A VERY GOOD DIRECTOR.  For crying out loud, this PISSES ME OFF more than anything else.  Not even as much as Stephen Daldry, although I highly suspect every decision he makes in The Reader is made to make us want to cry and think he's a great emotional director, like The Hours (that movie should've been called THE WEEKS...30 Rock reference for the win).

The real crimes are against Christopher Nolan (could we at LEAST have given him this if we were going to snub TDK for Pic, I mean the man's direction is flawless, even if the picture isn't) and Darren Aronofsky (naturalism at its purest).  Not to mention Andrew Stanton (animated films directed themselves, duh!).

My predictions: 3/5 (Nolan and Aronofsky over Howard and Daldry) [4/5 with my alternate]
My own ballot: 1/5 (Milk again)

Best Actor

Hey look, a category I can say something positive about.  I'm SO happy they nominated Richard Jenkins, who had an amazing year and really deserved this.  Everything else went according to plan, and I don't have much to say here.  Except I still don't understand why Frank Langella is getting so much praise; it always feels like he's trying to imitate Nixon instead of just creating a character.  It gets painful.

My predictions: 4/5 (Clint Eastwood over Jenkins) [5/5 with alternate]
My own ballot: 3/5 (Jenkins, Rourke, Penn)

Best Actress

An awesome, awesome category.  They didn't commit category fraud with Winslet's Reader performance.  They nominated MELISSA LEO!  MELISSA LEO!  One of the BEST performances from ANYONE I saw all year, and I was afraid the movie would be too low-key for them.  SO happy about this, it makes up for Jolie's whiny performance being nominated.  Only insult is no Sally Hawkins; that's a dirty shame.  Like, really.  I'm not kidding.

My predictions: 3/5 (I had Kate, but for Rev Road)
My own ballot: 2/5 (Streep and Leo)

Best Supporting Actor

Why do I always agree almost wholeheartedly with this category every year?  It's kind of weird.  I'm Very (capital V) happy for Robert Downey Jr, it's so great they recognized his tremendous comedic and character skill in this movie.  The only weird pick is Michael Shannon, who I again didn't have the balls to predict because I was predicting a more-or-less shut-out for Rev Road.  It's a fair nomination, I guess.  He was okay, but laid on the pontificating.

My predictions: 4/5 (James Franco over Shannon)
My own ballot: 3/5

Best Supporting Actress

Tajari P. Henson?  Really?  It's probably one of the worst-written characters of the entire frickin year.  What a stupid, one-dimensional performance.  More Eric Roth's fault than hers, because it was an awkward performance that reminded me way too much of old portraits of African Americans in cinema than it should have.

Other than that - AWESOME.  Amy Adams and Marisa Tomei are my favorites from this lineup, and that they BOTH got nominated makes me thrilled.

My predictions: 4/5 (had Kate in The Reader down here) [5/5 with my alternate]
My own ballot: 3/5

Best Original Screenplay

Probably my favorite category in the entire year.  There were SO many good original screenplays last year, and naturally I knew some of my favorites would get left out (Burn After Reading and Synecdoche).  I left Frozen River off my personal ballot because the category was too crowded, but it's a phenomenal screenplay and I'm so happy to see it here.  So glad Martin McDonagh got here for In Bruges, as well as Happy-Go-Lucky (takes some of the sting off the Best Actress snub, it understands point/counter-point SO well).  The noms for Milk and Wall-E are delicious icing on this sweet ice cream cake of a category.

My predictions: 2/5
My own ballot: 3/5

Best Adapted Screenplay

My favorite category becomes one of my least favorite.  I give my middle finger to people who say Frost/Nixon or Benjamin Button have nomination-worthy screenplays.  Yeah, this was a REALLY weak year for this category.  But Frost/Nixon's screenplay is not deft at all and gets so heavy-handed (that phone call scene is soooo stagey, I'm sorry), and Benjamin Button goes off the rails about the 2 hr 15 min mark (remember, I actually like this film, but my own complaint from day one has been the screenplay - it keeps it from being great).  Haven't seen The Reader, but this category was pretty obvious to pick.

My predictions: 4/5 [5/5 with alternate]
My own ballot: 2/5

Best Animated Film

Bolt over Waltz With Bashir?  Really guys?

My predictions: 2/3 [3/3 with alternate]

Best Documentary

Man on Wire and Trouble the Water are here and that's all that matters.

My predictions: 3/5

Best Foreign Language

Glad both Class and Waltz were nominated, even if I haven't seen either.

My predictions: 3/5 [4/5 with alternate]

Best Art Direction

None of these surprise me. At all.  I'm so (so) glad they did not nominate Slumdog in this category for no apparent reason.  All these nominees actually have really good art direction (wow, really?)

My predictions: 3/5 [4/5 with alternate]
My own ballot: 1/5 (Button sole crossover)

Best Cinematography

"We like movies with lots of lighting!" should be the tagline for this year.  Changeling, Button, and Dark Knight are ALL heavily lit.  Roger Deakins gets in for Reader (glad he didn't split himself on Rev Road, I love the man).  Slumdog gets in (well OBVIOUSLY).  Why can't we give Harris Savides the respect he deserves though?  Milk looks so much better than Changeling, it actually has IDEAS in its shot set-ups, not just a bunch of shadows and tonal changes (wow, this shot is blue because she's sad!)

My predictions: 4/5
My own ballot: 3/5

Best Costume Design

Hey look, Australia got a nomination!  High five!  Glad Milk got in, even if it's technically a period piece it's pretty contemporary, and it's always nice to see recognition of great costumes in movies that take place after 1967.

My predictions: 4/5
My ballot: 2/5

Best Film Editing

There's a rule that's been true since 1989: You can NOT win Best Picture without being nominated for Best Film Editing.  No one can explain this phenomenon.  That being said, it's a 4-way race (screw The Reader!).  But hey, Dark Knight got nominated for ANOTHER category because it's a GOOD movie.  Milk and Slumdog actually had good editing as well.  Frost/Nixon couldn't decide what the hell it wanted to DO with its editing, and Benjamin Button as well bounces all over the place from sequence-to-sequence.  I feel like they got nominated "just cause!"

My predictions: 4/5
My own ballot: 3/5

Best Makeup

Legitimately good picks.  Cool to see some Hellboy love thrown in.

My predictions: 3/3
My own ballot: 2/3

Best Original Score

It could have been worse - they could have nominated Frost/Nixon.  No, in all seriousness, these are pretty solid.  I'm glad Wall-E is here, that score was as breathtaking (if not moreso) than A.R. Rahman's vivacious beats in Slumdog.  I haven't heard Defiance's score, but I'm sad Dark Knight isn't here after all the trouble they went through to make it qualify again.

My predictions: 4/5
My ballot: 3/5

Best Original Song

Can we PLEASE make up our minds if this is a 3- or 5-nominee category??????  Is that so much to ask?  And oh look, I'm irate again: No Bruce Springsteen.  Look Academy, Bruce's song in The Wrestler IS the freaking movie.  Not only as a standalone song, but it's place IN the movie defies freaking words.  It is the best use of an individual piece of music in a movie for the entire year, and I don't say that because I like Bruce (I do, but that's beside the point) - the way the music enters the film and guides us out works on every level with what Rourke and Aronfosky want to communicate.  But instead, we get two nominees for Slumdog, even after the Score nomination.  That's just stupid, bro.

My predictions: 2/3
My own ballot: 1/3

Best Sound Mixing

Wanted?  I almost laughed when I read that, before I noticed IRON MAN wasn't here!  Awful decision.  That, and Benjamin Button = what?  Not really a...sound movie, and not particularly complex on that level (yeah, we mixed dialogue and ambient noise and score and it sounded good...let's get a nomination because you love our movie!)  NO!  Slumdog is doing bold things with sound, which is why it's nominated.  Wall-E is like a symphony of creative noises.  Wanted and Button are stale sound mixes that serve their movies and are nothing spectacular.

My predictions: 3/5
My ballot: 3/5

Best Sound Editing

Wanted again?  Really guys?  Is it because Angelina Jolie was in it?  At least Iron Man is here.  Also: this used to be a 3-film category.  Why are we changing nominee numbers year to year with no heads-up?  Because you liked Wanted and Slumdog Millionaire that much?

My predictions: 3/3 (because this is traditionally a 3-film category, I'm giving myself 100% on this)

Best Visual Effects

So surprising.

My predictions: 3/3
My ballot: 3/3

Overall Predictions: 73% correct (without factoring in alternates)
Factoring in my alternate picks: 81%
^ That's about as close to good as I can get.  Even without factoring the alternates, I did well (I usually get around 67%).  Factoring in alternates, I kicked ass.

You know, it's not so much what they DID nominate as opposed to what they DIDN'T.  I think history will look back at this year and be really perplexed, because most of the films that will be remembered from 2008 10 years from now were not nominated for much of anything (well, the Dark Knight had 8 nominations, but we're still not going there).  I'm waiting for people to make a case for this year.  Last year, the Academy embraced a bunch of serious films that critics and scholars were excited about and writing heavily about (namely No Country and Blood, but there was a lot of praise for Clayton and general good feelings about Atonement).  This year, the critics' most praised lists look SO different from this list.  It's weird and I don't know what accounts for this surge of populist, studio-heavy films after a year of thoroughly embracing independent work (and even 2006 recognized globalization in film...this year completely discounts that).

Here's what I think: Benjamin Button will win Best Picture and Slumdog Millionaire will win Best Director.  Button will gain considerable momentum in the Guild circuit.  Slumdog will get a lot of awards, but at the end of the night, they won't embrace it.  It's "too foreign" compared to the rest of these films.  If they DO it will actually validate them a little bit as they would be raising up an independent work by a budding filmmaker.  I hope they split and Milk wins.  But this is like 2005: One film gets praised ad naseum (Slumdog/Brokeback), wins the Globe, and then another film sweeps it away at the last moment (Button/Crash).  At least, that's what I see.  Remember, the Globe has been a kiss of death since 2004.  I think this is going to be a much more interesting race than people are letting on.  Remember: Slumdog didn't get an acting nod for Dev Patel.  That could end up being REALLY important!

That's it for now.  Stay tuned for the next grueling month of figuring this out.

The 81st Annual Academy Award Nominations

Best Picture of the Year

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall, Cean Chaffin
Frost/Nixon, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Eric Fellner
Milk, Dan Jinks, Bruce Cohen
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire, Christian Colson

Best Direction

David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant for Milk
Stephen Daldry for The Reader
Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Ricard Jenkins for The Visitor
Frank Langella for Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn for Milk
Brad Pitt for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie for Changeling
Melissa Leo for Frozen River
Meryl Streep for Doubt
Kate Winslet for The Reader

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Josh Brolin for Milk
Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt
Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon for Revolutionary Road

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams for Doubt
Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis for Doubt
Taraji P. Henson for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler

Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Courtney Hunt for Frozen River
Mike Leigh for Happy-Go-Lucky
Martin McDonagh for In Bruges
Dustin Lance Black for Milk
Andrew Stanton, Peter Docter, Jim Reardon for Wall-E

Best Screenplay Adapted from Previous Material

Eric Roth, Robin Swicord for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley for Doubt
Peter Morgan for Frost/Nixon
David Hare for The Reader
Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire

Best Animated Feature Film

Bolt, Chris Williams and Byron Howard
Kung Fu Panda, John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
Wall-E, Andrew Stanton

Best Documentary Feature Film

The Betrayal (Nerakhoom), Ellen Kuras, Thavisouk Phrasavath
Encounters at the End of the World, Werner Herzog, Henry Kaisr
The Garden, Scott Hamilton Kennedy
Man on Wire, James Marsh, Simon Chinn
Trouble the Water, Tia Lessin, Carl Deal

Best Foreign Language Feature Film

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex, Germany
The Class, France
Departures, Japan
Revange, Austria
Waltz With Bashir, Israel

Best Animated Short Film

La Maison de Petits Cubes, Kunio Kato
Lavatory - Lovestory, Konstantin Bronzit
Oktapodi, Emud Mokhberi, Thierry Marchand
Presto, Doug Sweetland
This Way Up, Alan Smith, Adam Foulkes

Best Live Action Short Film

Auf der Strecke (On the Line), Reto Caffi
Manon on the Asphalt, Elizabeth Marre, Olivier Pont
New Boy, Steph Green, Tamara Anghie
The Pig, Tivi Magnusson, Dorte Hogh
Spielzeugland (Toyland), Jochen Alexander Freydank

Best Documentary Short Film

The Conscience of Nhem En, Steven Okazaki
The Final Inch, Irene Taylor Brodsky, Tom Grant
Smile Pinki, Megan Mylan
The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306, Adam Pertofsky, Margaret Hyde

Best Art Direction/Set Decoration

Changeling, James J. Murakami, Gary Fettis
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo
The Dark Knight, Nathan Crowley, Peter Lando
The Duchess, Michael Carlina, Rebecca Alleway
Revolutionary Road, Kristi Zea, Debra Schutt

Best Cinematography

Changeling, Tom Stern
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Claudio Miranda
The Dark Knight, Wally Pfister
The Reader, Chris Menges, Roger Deakins
Slumdog Millionaire, Anthony Dod Mantle

Best Costume Design

Australia, Catherine Martin
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Jacqueline West
The Duchess, Michael O'Connor
Milk, Danny Glicker
Revolutionary Road, Albert Wolsky

Best Film Editing

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall
The Dark Knight, Lee Smith
Frost/Nixon, Mike Hill, Dan Hanley
Milk, Elliot Graham
Slumdog Millionaire, Chris Dickens

Best Makeup

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Greg Cannom
The Dark Knight, John Caglione Jr., Conor O'Sullivan
Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Mike Elizalde, Tom Floutz

Best Original Score

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Alexandre Desplat
Defiance, James Newton Howard
Milk, Danny Elfman
Slumdog Millionaire, A.R. Rahman
Wall-E, Thomas Newman

Best Original Song

Wall-E, "Down to Earth"
Slumdog Millionaire, "Jai Ho"
Slumdog Millionaire, "O Saya"

Best Sound Mixing

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce, Mark Weingarten
The Dark Knight, Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, Ed Novick
Slumdog Millionaire, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty
Wall-E, Tom Myers, Michael Semanick, Ben Burtt
Wanted, Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montano, Petr Forejt

Best Sound Editing

The Dark Knight, Richard King
Iron Man, Frank Eulner, Christopher Boyes
Slumdog Millionaire, Tom Sayers
Wall-E, Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood
Wanted, Wylie Stateman

Best Visual Effects

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron
The Dark Knight, Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber, Paul Franklin
Iron Man, John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick, Shane Mahan

Nominations Leaders

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - 13
Slumdog Millionaire - 10
Milk - 8
The Dark Knight - 8
Wall-E - 6
Doubt - 5
Frost/Nixon - 5
The Reader - 5
Revolutionary Road - 3
Changeling - 3

LOTS more coverage to come, including a category-by-category breakdown, once I get back from class.........

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Final Oscar Nominations Predictions

Take these with a grain of salt.  Most of these categories seem pretty locked up, and I fully expect to see multiple movies with 9 or 10 nominations tomorrow morning because of the splurge of love that should be Slumdog Millionaire, The Dark Knight, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  But this year, more than most years, I want the Academy to be BALLSY.  This race has turned into an anti-race since the Guilds rallied behind the same five films for no real reason.  I want some shake-ups.  I want Wall-E in for picture.  I want Frost/Nixon out.  I want The Wrestler to be EVERYWHERE, or even things like Rachel Getting Married or Doubt - movies that everyone has counted out of all but a few races.  Nominate someone really SURPRISING for Best Director.  Nominate Charlie Kaufman for Best Screenplay!  Nominate Australia for tons of techs, or Iron Man!  Nominate Let the Right One In for SOMETHING!  Don't forget Frozen River, The Visitor, Wendy and Lucy, and all the other independent movies that stood out among a fairly mediocre studio year.  Don't go insane for Clint.  Don't go insane for Clint.  Don't go insane for Clint.

By the way, for those new to my game, I usually do 4/5 in the big categories and 3/5 in the tech categories, mostly because I either over- or under-estimate a particular film.  I usually end up with an overall 67% percent with the nods (I think my career high was 75-78 in 05, but who's counting?)

Best Picture

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight



Slumdog Millionaire

Alt: The Reader


Best Director

Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler

Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight

Gus Van Sant, Milk

Alt: Ron Howard


Best Actor

Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino

Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon

Sean Penn, Milk

Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Alt: Richard Jenkins


Best Actress

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married

Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky

Angelina Jolie, Changeling

Meryl Streep, Doubt

Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road 

Alt: Cate Blanchett


Best Supporting Actor

Josh Brolin, Milk

James Franco, Milk

Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight 

Alt: Dev Patel


Best Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, Doubt

Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Viola Davis, Doubt

Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Kate Winslet, The Reader

Alt: Tajari P. Henson


Best Original Screenplay 

Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Dustin Lance Black, Milk

Thomas McCarthy, The Visitor

Robert D. Siegel, The Wrestler

Andrew Stanton, Wall-E

Alt: Joel and Ethan Coen


Best Adapted Screenplay 

Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire

Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon

Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, The Dark Knight

Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

John Patrick Shanley, Doubt

Alt: David Hare, The Reader


Best Animated Feature 

Kung Fu Panda


Waltz With Bashir 

Alt: Bolt


Best Documentary Feature

Encounters at the End of the World

Man on Wire

Pray the Devil Back to Hell

Standard Operating Procedure

Trouble the Water 

Alt: I.O.U.S.A.


Best Foreign Language Film

Der Baader Meinhof Komplex

The Class

Everlasting Moments

The Necessities of Life

Waltz With Bashir 

Alt: Revanche


Best Art Direction/Set Decoration


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight


Slumdog Millionaire 

Alt: Revolutionary Road


Best Cinematography 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight


The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire

Alt: The Reader


Best Costume Design



The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Duchess

Revolutionary Road 

Alt: The Reader


Best Film Editing 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight


Iron Man

Slumdog Millionaire 

Alt: Australia


Best Makeup

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Alt: Tropic Thunder


Best Original Score 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Slumdog Millionaire



Alt: Frost/Nixon


Best Original Song 

“I Thought I Lost You” from Bolt

“Gran Torino” from Gran Torino

“Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire

“Down to Earth” from Wall-E

“The Wrestler” from The Wrestler

Alt: Once in a Lifetime from Cadillac Records


Best Sound Mixing

The Dark Knight

Iron Man

Quantum of Solace

Slumdog Millionaire


Alt: Defiance


Best Sound Editing

Iron Man

The Dark Knight


Alt: Quantum of Solace


Best Visual Effects

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight

Iron Man


Alt: Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Gran Torino - The Mix

Gran Torino - The Mix

"Gran Torino"

* * 1/2 (out of 4)

D: Clint Eastwood
W: Nick Schenk
S: Clint Eastwood

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Thoughts on the Inauguration: Why Hope Matters

You notice I try to keep this blog pretty professional and rarely talk about anything outside of films.  And yet, I just walked into the campus bookstore to see a gigantic crowd trying to see the inauguration of our new president.  I just sat and stared as one regime peacefully changed to another.  I just listened to a beautiful piece of oration that promises so much and instills so much hope.  And I watched thousands and thousands of faces across the television screen echo this sentiment.

As I did, I thought about a conversation I had with a few of my very Conservative friends last night, specifically regarding a poster of the now-famous white/red/blue of Obama's face with the word DESTINY in bold beneath it.  Not HOPE, but DESTINY.  My friends understandably found the poster a bit silly, for what is Destiny and why does it apply to Barack Obama?  I'd like to talk about this by talking about this year's much-loved film, "Slumdog Millionaire."  It opens with a question, "Jamal Malick is about to win 20 million rupees.  How did he do it? A: He's a genius. B: He's lucky. C: He cheated. D: It is destiny."

By the way, the following spoils the movie a bit, but if you can't guess how the movie ends just by reading the question that opens it...well, it's a fairy tale, you KNOW what happens!

For two hours, the film lets you work this question, and eventually provides an answer.  The last image before the credits wipes away three of the answers, letting us know that D: It is destiny.  "Slumdog" is a film about difficulties, about a boy who wants more from his life and always looks past the terrible life he leads to the hope of having better - specifically love.  Jamal believes distinctly in HOPE.  His love, Latika, evades him for the duration of the movie; as their paths cross, they quickly part ways, and he never gets the chance he wants to profess his love and be with her.  And yet, he clings to this idea of DESTINY.  As he tells her at film's end, "This is our destiny."

In this film, as in the "mediated discourse" of these Obama posters, HOPE and DESTINY intermingle.  What do they mean?  One reflects a desire, one reflects a certainty.  Both are predicated on a belief in something that is intangible.  This is why I'm not particularly bothered by the use of the explicit word "Destiny," because in this toughest of times, people want something to believe in.  Like the Slumdog who watches his mother murdered, who watches his love fall into a world of prostitution and watches his brother turn into a man he can barely recognize; the Slumdog who has to steal and work a crap job to stay alive, who can't read and can't write, but rather understands the world through what he sees and what he believes, so are many of the people who believe in Barack Obama and the Hope he inspires.

We don't know what his presidency will bring.  We don't.  We hear what he has to say, we see him on our screens as he speaks with profundity.  But we are part of a time where it feels like the country has become more cynical.  In the past few months, I doubt anyone can say with a straight face that they haven't had a moment where they were afraid of what tomorrow would bring, afraid that their own personal world could crumble at any moment - financially speaking.  For some people, all they can do is cling to this Hope and Destiny, as farfetched as that idea might seem.

And speaking of 2008 films, let's talk for a second about "Milk," whose political ideologies reverberate off our contemporary situation.  The last lines of the film are, fittingly, "You've got to give them hope."  When people are down, when they feel beaten, they need this.  I say need because I think that adjective is the most fitting.  Just as people turn to God and to prayer, they turn to Hope, this idea that there may be some unspoken Destiny that can be fulfilled.  Remember FDR's immortal words - "The only thing to fear is fear itself" - what is that but a statement of hope, a plea to not give into cynicism and fear, but rather to HOPE for a better tomorrow.  And as our financial crisis has been compared to possibly reaching scales comparable to the Great Depression, don't we need Hope too?

Watching Barack Obama take the Inaugural Oath and give his eloquent speech, all these thoughts swirled in my head.  I thought all the issues he touched on were appropriate, I thought it encapsulated all his ideals, and I especially responded to a moment where he addressed cynics and further urged all people to join him in the "remaking of America."

They are words.  They are not actions.  We must not confuse the two, for sure.  The next four years will let us know the end to this story.  But to get to this point, not even looking at Obama himself, but to look at the entire history of race in America, the entire history of the ideas behind America, I can't help but feel a surge of that patriotism in my previously cynical veins.  I can't help but be shameless about this, and I'm sorry if that offends any readers.  I want to cling to Hope so I won't be afraid of tomorrow.

Maybe that's foolish, but this is a moment that focalizes and magnifies many of the principles we believe our country upholds.  Or maybe many of the principles I personally want to believe I can uphold, or a direction I personally want to see the country go.  I know there are many people who disagree STRONGLY with the new president's words.  I just hope over the next four years we can all come together, as Obama asked us today, and believe in the Hope to restore our financial, national, and international status.  I Hope we can all believe that there is a Destiny for our great nation that we may be able to attain through years of hard work.  Let's not delude ourselves that our problems will go away in a month or a year.  But let's believe there is a Destiny in our ideals, and that it may be tangible in four years.

Good luck to the President.

Synecdoche, New York - The Mix

Synecdoche, New York - The Mix

Review: "Synecdoche, New York"

* * * * (out of 4)

D: Charlie Kaufman
W: Charlie Kaufman
S: Philip Seymour Hoffman; Samantha Morton; Michelle Williams

This was one of the hardest reviews I've written in a long time, because it took me a while to figure out how to write 500 words on a movie that left me speechless.  But then, starting to write about it, I only uncovered more things I liked, until I ballooned to a review that was about 800 words long.  This gets the gist of it, but hopefully (probably only once the film is on DVD and I can watch it again) I can do a longer piece about its various nuances and specific filmmaking techniques in it that really floored me.  Excellent film, I'm actually considering including it in the Film Club at the end of the semester as a strong conversation piece.  If only I could have waited a few days to do that Top 10 list, because this would surely be near the very top.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Sixth Annual Jagged Edge Awards Nominations

When you see nearly 60 movies in a single year (and I did, and it was difficult), it's extremely hard to single out five directors, five actors, five sound designers, as representations of the best work of the year.  Especially in a year like 2008, when I left the theater feeling underwhelmed more times than I did satisfied, it becomes even more difficult to try and spread the playing field and figure out what made the biggest impact.  These nominations reflect a salute to some superbly original films, to some films whose technical prowess was awe-inspiring, and to a few films that managed to surprise me in ways I would not have guessed.  In order to adhere to my own tagline, and "award filmmaking excellence above the cut," I had to redefine for myself where that cut was and make some hard edits.  Hopefully they most accurately reflect my true opinions, for it's hard to rank such diverse films as "The Dark Knight," "Slumdog Millionaire," and "Synecdoche, New York."  But I tried.

The Sixth Annual Jagged Edge Awards

Awarding Filmmaking Excellence Above the Cut


Best Picture of the Year


The Dark Knight


Synecdoche, New York


The Wrestler


Best Direction


Darren Aronofsky for The Wrestler

Charlie Kaufman for Synecdoche, New York

Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight

Andrew Stanton for Wall-E

Gus Van Sant for Milk


This is the first nomination for Darren Aronofsky, and Gus Van Sant.

Andrew Stanton is also nominated this year for his screenplay for Wall-E

Christopher Nolan was previously nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Prestige in 2006. He is also nominated for Adapted Screenplay for his film this year.

Charlie Kaufman was nominated for – and won – the award for Best Original Screenplay in 2004 for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He is also nominated this year for Best Original Screenplay for his film.


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role


Clint Eastwood for Gran Torino

Philip Seymour Hoffman for Synecdoche, New York

Richard Jenkins for The Visitor

Sean Penn for Milk

Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler


This is the fourth nomination for Clint Eastwood.  He was previously nominated in this category for Million Dollar Baby and for Direction for Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby

This is Philip Seymour Hoffman’s second nomination. He was nominated – and won – the category in 2005 for Capote.

This is Sean Penn’s second nomination. He was nominated – and won – the category in 2003 for Mystic River.

This is the first nomination for Richard Jenkins and Mickey Rourke.


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role


Sally Hawkins for Happy-Go-Lucky

Melissa Leo for Frozen River

Lina Leandersson for Let the Right One In

Meryl Streep for Doubt

Michelle Williams for Wendy and Lucy


This is the first nomination for Sally Hawkins, Lina Leandersson and Melissa Leo.

This is the second nomination for Meryl Streep. She was previously nominated – and won – this category in 2006 for The Devil Wears Prada.

This is the second nomination for Michelle Williams. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress in 2005 for Brokeback Mountain. She is also nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Synecdoche, New York.


Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role


Mathieu Amalric for A Christmas Tale

Josh Brolin for Milk

Robert Downey, Jr. for Tropic Thunder

Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight

Brad Pitt for Burn After Reading


This is the first nomination for Mathieu Amalric and Josh Brolin

This is the second nomination for Robert Downey, Jr. He was nominated in this category last year for Zodiac

This is the second nomination for Heath Ledger. He was nominated for Lead Actor in 2005 for Brokeback Mountain.

This is the second nomination for Brad Pitt. He was nominated last year in Lead Actor for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.


Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role


Amy Adams for Doubt

Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Frances McDormand for Burn After Reading

Marisa Tomei for The Wrestler

Michelle Williams for Synecdoche, New York


This is the first nomination for Penelope Cruz, Frances McDormand, and Marisa Tomei.

This is the second nomination for Amy Adams. She was nominated – and won – the Lead Actress category in 2007 for Enchanted.

This is the third nomination for Michelle Williams. She was nominated for this category in 2005 for Brokeback Mountain and is nominated this year in Lead for Wendy and Lucy.


Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen


Dustin Lance Black for Milk

Joel Coen and Ethan Coen for Burn After Reading

Charlie Kaufman for Synecdoche, New York

Martin McDonagh for In Bruges

Andrew Stanton for Wall-E


This is Dustin Lance Black’s and Martin McDonagh’s first nomination.

This is Joel and Ethan Coen’s fourth nomination. Last year they won three awards – for Directing, Writing, and Editing No Country for Old Men.

This is Charlie Kaufman’s third nomination. He won in 2004 for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and is nominated this year for direction for his film.

This is Andrew Stanton’s second nomination. He is also nominated this year for his film’s direction.


Best Screenplay Adapted from Previous Material


Slumdog Millionaire

Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

Based on the Novel “Q & A” by Vikas Swarup


Let the Right One In

Screenplay by John Ajvide Lindqvist

From his Novel


The Dark Knight

Screenplay by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan

Story by Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer

Based on Characters Appearing in Comics Created by DC Comics

Original Character “Batman” Created by Bob Kane



Screenplay by John Patrick Shanley

From his Stage Play


Wendy and Lucy

Screenplay by Jonathan Raymond and Kelly Reichardt

From a Short Story by Jonathan Raymond


This is the second nomination for Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan as a writing team; they were previously nominated for The Prestige. Christopher Nolan is additionally nominated as director this year.

This is the first nomination for other nominees.


Best Performance by a Cast Ensemble


Burn After Reading: George Clooney, John Malkovich, Frances McDormand, Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, Tilda Swinton

A Christmas Tale: Catherine Deneuve; Jean-Paul Roussillon, Anne Consigney, Mathieu Amalric, Melvil Poupaud, Hippolyr Girardot, Chiara Mastroianni, Laurent Capelluto, Emmanuelle Devos

Milk: Sean Penn, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Diego Luna, Alison Pill

Synecdoche, New York: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Tom Noonan, Michelle Williams, Samantha Morton, Hope Davis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Emily Watson, Dianne Wiest

Tropic Thunder: Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr, Jack Black, Nick Nolte, Tom Cruise, Brendan T. Jackson, Jay Baruchel, Steve Coogan


Best Art Direction


Appaloosa, Steve Arnold

Australia, Ian Gracie and Karen Murphy

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Kelly Curley, Randy Moore, Tom Reta

Doubt, Peter Rogness

Synecdoche, New York, Adam Stockhausen


This is the first nomination for all nominees


Best Cinematography


Australia, Mandy Walker

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Claudio Miranda

The Dark Knight, Wally Pfister

Milk, Harris Savides

Slumdog Millionaire, Anthony Dod Mantle


This is Claudio Miranda’s, Wally Pfister’s and Mandy Walker’s first nomination

This is Harris Savides’ second nomination. He was nominated last year for Zodiac

This is Anthony Dod Mantle’s second nomination. He was nominated in 2003 for Dogville


Best Costume Design


Australia, Catherine Martin

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Jacqueline West

The Dark Knight, Lindy Hemming

Happy-Go-Lucky, Jacqueline Durran

The Wrestler, Amy Westcott


This is Jacqueline West’s, Amy Westcott’s, Lindy Hemmings’ and Catherine Martin’s first nomination.

This is Jacqueline Durran’s third nomination. She was nominated in 2007 for Atonement and 2005 for Pride and Prejudice.


Best Film Editing


The Dark Knight, Lee Smith

Milk, Elliot Graham

Slumdog Millionaire, Chris Dickens

Synecdoche, New York, Robert Frazen

The Wrestler, Andrew Weisblum


This is Lee Smith’s third nomination. He was nominated in 2006 for The Prestige and 2003 for Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

This is Chris Dickens’ second nomination. He was nominated in 2007 for Hot Fuzz

This is Robert Frazen’s, Andrew Weisblum’s and Elliot Graham’s first nomination


Best Makeup


The Dark Knight, Peter Robb-King

Synecdoche, New York, Judy Chin

Tropic Thunder, Gerald Quist


This is the first nomination for all nominees.


Best Music


Australia, David Hirschfelder

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Alexandre Desplat

The Dark Knight, James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer

Slumdog Millionaire, A.R. Rahman

Wall-E, Thomas Newman


This is Alexandre Desplat’s, Thomas Newman’s, A.R. Rahman’s, and David Hirschfelder’s first nomination

This is James Newton Howard’s and Hans Zimmer’s second nomination; they were collaboratively nominated for Batman Begins in 2005


Best Sound


The Dark Knight, Richard King

Iron Man, Christopher Boyes, Frank Eulner

Let the Right One In, Mikael Brodin, Christoffer Demby, Maths Kallqvist

Slumdog Millionaire, Tom Sayers, Resul Pookutty, Ben Barker, Niv Adiri

Wall-E, Ben Burtt


This is Ben Burtt’s third nomination. He was nominated twice in 2005 for Munich and for Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith

This is the first nomination for all other nominees.


Best Visual Effects


The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Ted Allen

The Dark Knight, Chris Corbould

Iron Man, Stan Winston


This is the first nomination for Chris Corfloud and Stan Winston

Ted Allen was previously nominated for Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.


Best Original Song


“Jia Ho” by A.R. Rahman from Slumdog Millionaire

“Little Person” by Jon Brion from Synecdoche, New York

“The Wrestler” by Bruce Springsteen from The Wrestler


Body of Work Award

Award given to an individual who has made an impact in two or more productions in a single year.


Robert Downey, Jr. for Iron Man and Tropic Thunder

James Franco for Pineapple Express and Milk

Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt and Synecdoche, New York

Richard Jenkins for The Visitor, Step Brothers, and Burn After Reading

Brad Pitt for Burn After Reading and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


The Scene of the Year


Australia: Dancing in the Rain

Burn After Reading: The Spook in the Closet

The Dark Knight: The Chase in the Streets

Doubt: Sister vs. Father

Forgetting Sarah Marshall: The Dracula Musical

In Bruges: Getting Stoned with a Dwarf

Let the Right One In: Climax/Resolution

Man on Wire: The Tight Rope

Milk: First Rally in the Streets

Pineapple Express: F*ck the Po-lice!

Slumdog Millionaire: The Third Musketeer (The Final Question)

Synecdoche, New York: The Funeral, Again and Again and Again

Tropic Thunder: Satan’s Alley

Wall-E: Define Dancing

The Wrestler: Dance in the Warehouse


Nominations Total


The Dark Knight – 12

Synecdoche, New York – 10

Milk – 9

The Wrestler – 8

Slumdog Millionaire – 7

Wall-E – 6

Doubt – 5

Burn After Reading – 5

Australia – 5

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – 5

Let the Right One In – 4

Tropic Thunder – 4

In Bruges – 2

Wendy and Lucy – 2

A Christmas Tale – 2

Happy-Go-Lucky – 2

Iron Man – 2

Appaloosa – 1

The Visitor – 1

Forgetting Sarah Marshall – 1

Man on Wire – 1

Pineapple Express – 1

Vicky Cristina Barcelona – 1

Frozen River – 1

Gran Torino – 1

Thursday, January 15, 2009

BAFTA Reactions

Scroll down for the nominations list.

 - Slumdog Millionaire will win everything and there will be much rejoicing.  But not by me.  Don't get me wrong, I love the film, but WHY are Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto nominated in acting categories?  Why is this film in the production design category?  Why is it everywhere?  There were other films this year, and I should have expected so much because it's a British production and naturally they're hyped about it, but why can't we have more diversity?

- Why is Benjamin Button nominated for 11 awards?  It's a technical wonder, I know, but can someone please explain how the Achilles Heel of this movie - its dreadfully archetypal, hokey, and confoundingly melodramatic screenplay - getting nominated for every award?  It single-handedly keeps the film from being a masterpiece, and flaws it at every turn.

- WHY IS FROST/NIXON HERE?!?!  Even with movies like Juno, I've read lots of people explain to me why they like it so much.  As of yet, I've had no one explain to me why Frost/Nixon is being considered for Best Picture.  There are few-to-no critics backing it.  Why must we salute mediocrity because it's in the mainstream?  I wasn't a fan of 2008 overall, but this was a great year for independent works.  Let's notice them!  And why is Ron Howard nominated for directing and Chris Nolan isn't?

- The Reader surges forward.  Gotta hand it to Harvey Weinstein, he can pull the strings like no one else.  If it throws out something at the Oscars, it would be pretty unreal.  All the Globes love from Kate's double win is only helping it at this point.

- Dark Knight gets nine nods but not a Director or Picture slot.  And yet Clint Eastwood does.  That sounds about right.

- Good to see love for Burn After Reading and In Bruges.  Misanthropy isn't lost on everyone.

- The love for Changeling is disconcerting, mainly because I can see the Academy doing this.  Come on, Best SOUND?  You're kidding.

- Iron Man DOESN'T get nominated for Sound, and the aforementioned Changeling and Quantum of Solace do anyway.

- Indiana Jones gets a nomination for Best Visual Effects and George Lucas creams.  

- Happy-Go-Lucky is shut out.  Hunger is not far behind.  Apparently the Brits don't like honoring their own this year.  But they were fine with singing Atonement's praises *insert rolling of the eyes*

- I AM glad that Milk caught on with them for Best Picture.  Goes to show the universality of the film (maybe?)

Maybe I wasn't upset last year because I loved No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, even if Jesse James and Zodiac got too little attention.  But this year I just feel like we're saluting mediocrity.  It was a mediocre year, so duh, but why is it that everyone is simultaneously going after the same 5-6 films as if they were the only things to see this year?  What I liked about last year's awards were that even though the winners were consistent all year, the nominees covered a wide range of films; I don't think any film at the Oscars had more than 7 or 8?  I can't see that happening this year.  Slumdog, Button, and Dark Knight will be gargantuan.  This even furthers my theory that we are entering the death of film criticism.  While I want to salute this year as the rise of Boyle, Fincher, and Nolan as part of the New Ascendancy of directors (since I've been singing their respective praises for at least five years), I can't help but think that we're simultaneously experiencing a very radical and very important New Wave - Charlie Kaufman, Courtney Hunt, Kelly Reichardt, Andrew Stanton, Darren Aronofsky, Martin McDonagh - are all starting to emerge as really vital and important directors.  If they all get crammed out of this year, fine.  I want Christopher Nolan to win Best Director anyway, provided he's nominated.  But I can't help that this entire year has been spent glossing over very important people, especially after last year was such a salute for DIRECTORS and really individualized pieces of filmmaking.  I get that vibe from Nolan, from Boyle to a degree, and definitely from Van Sant.  I get it kind of from Fincher, even though Ben Button is far from his best work.  These new directors are going toe-to-toe with Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Ron Howard (gag me), Mike Leigh, Oliver Stone, the Coens, Baz Luhrmann, Ben Stiller, Ed Harris...and that to me is VERY exciting.  And yet, no one is talking about it.

I'll be doing a more precise piece about all of this in my 2008: A Year in Review this weekend, which will bleed into my Top 10 (that is actually different slightly from the one in the paper today, since I saw Synecdoche New York after publication of the article), that will bleed into my Awards Nominations.  Stay tuned.

The British Academy of Film and Television Award (aka the British Oscars or aka the Orange Award) Nominees

(presented in 2009)


THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON  Kathleen Kennedy / Frank Marshall / Ceán Chaffin
FROST/NIXON  Tim Bevan / Eric Fellner / Brian Grazer / Ron Howard
MILK  Dan Jinks / Bruce Cohen
THE READER  Anthony Minghella / Sydney Pollack / Donna Gigliotti / Redmond Morris


CHANGELING  Clint Eastwood
THE READER  Stephen Daldry


BURN AFTER READING  Joel Coen / Ethan Coen
CHANGELING  J. Michael Straczynski
I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG  Philippe Claudel
IN BRUGES  Martin McDonagh
MILK  Dustin Lance Black


FROST/NIXON  Peter Morgan
THE READER  David Hare


THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX  Bernard Eichinger / Uli Edel
GOMORRAH  Domenico Procacci / Matteo Garrone
I’VE LOVED YOU SO LONG  Yves Marmion / Philippe Claudel
PERSEPOLIS  Marc-Antoine Robert / Xavier Rigault / Marjane Satrapi / Vincent Parannaud
WALTZ WITH BASHIR  Serge Lalou / Gerhard Meixner / Yael Nahl Ieli / Ari Folman


PERSEPOLIS  Marjane Satrapi / Vincent Parannaud
WALL•E  Andrew Stanton


DEV PATEL  Slumdog Millionaire
BRAD PITT  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


KATE WINSLET  Revolutionary Road


ROBERT DOWNEY JR.  Tropic Thunder
HEATH LEDGER  The Dark Knight
BRAD PITT  Burn After Reading


PENÉLOPE CRUZ  Vicky Cristina Barcelona
FREIDA PINTO  Slumdog Millionaire
TILDA SWINTON  Burn After Reading
MARISA TOMEI  The Wrestler


THE DARK KNIGHT  Hans Zimmer / James Newton Howard
MAMMA MIA!  Benny Andersson / Björn Ulvaeus
WALL•E  Thomas Newman


THE DARK KNIGHT  Wally Pfister
THE READER  Chris Menges / Roger Deakins


CHANGELING  Joel Cox / Gary D. Roach
FROST/NIXON  Mike Hill / Dan Hanley
IN BRUGES  Jon Gregory


CHANGELING  James J. Murakami / Gary Fettis
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON  Donald Graham Burt / Victor J. Zolfo
THE DARK KNIGHT  Nathan Crowley / Peter Lando
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD  Kristi Zea / Debra Schutt
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE  Mark Digby / Michelle Day


CHANGELING  Deborah Hopper
THE DARK KNIGHT  Lindy Hemming
THE DUCHESS  Michael O’Connor


CHANGELING  Walt Martin / Alan Robert Murray / John Reitz / Gregg Rudloff
THE DARK KNIGHT  Lora Hirschberg / Richard King / Ed Novick / Gary Rizzo
QUANTUM OF SOLACE  Eddy Joseph / Chris Munro / Mike Prestwood Smith / Mark Taylor
SLUMDOG MILLIONARE  Glenn Freemantle / Resul Pookutty / Richard Pryke / Tom Sayers / Ian Tapp
WALL•E  Ben Burtt / Tom Myers / Michael Semanick / Matthew Wood


THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON  Eric Barba / Craig Barron /  Nathan McGuinness / Edson Williams
THE DARK KNIGHT  Chris Corbould / Nick Davis / Paul Franklin / Tim Webber
IRON MAN  Shane Patrick Mahan / John Nelson / Ben Snow
QUANTUM OF SOLACE  Chris Corbould / Kevin Tod Haug


THE DARK KNIGHT  Peter Robb-King
THE DUCHESS  Daniel Phillips / Jan Archibald
FROST/NIXON  Edouard Henriques / Kim Santantonio
MILK  Steven E. Anderson / Michael White


CODSWALLOP  Greg McLeod / Myles McLeod
VARMINTS  Sue Goffe / Marc Craste


KINGSLAND #1 THE DREAMER  Kate Ogborn / Tony Grisoni
LOVE YOU MORE  Adrian Sturges / Sam Taylor-Wood / Patrick Marber
RALPH  Olivier Kaempfer / Alex Winckler
SEPTEMBER  Stewart le Maréchal / Esther May Campbell


HUNGER  Laura Hastings-Smith / Robin Gutch / Steve McQueen / Enda Walsh
IN BRUGES  Graham Broadbent / Pete Czernin / Martin McDonagh
MAMMA MIA!  Judy Craymer / Gary Goetzman / Phyllida Lloyd / Catherine Johnson
MAN ON WIRE  Simon Chinn / James Marsh
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE  Christian Colson / Danny Boyle / Simon Beaufoy

THE CARL FOREMAN AWARD for Special Achievement by a British Director, Writer or Producer for their First Feature Film

SIMON CHINN  Producer – Man On Wire
JUDY CRAYMER  Producer – Mamma Mia!
GARTH JENNINGS  Writer – Son of Rambow
STEVE McQUEEN  Director/Writer – Hunger
SOLON PAPADOPOULOS / ROY BOULTER  Producers – Of Time And The City

THE ORANGE RISING STAR AWARD (voted for by the public)


Slumdog Millionaire: 11
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: 11
The Dark Knight: 9
Changeling: 8
Frost/Nixon: 6
The Reader: 5
In Bruges: 4
Milk: 4
Revolutionary Road: 4
Burn After Reading: 3
Doubt: 3
The I’ve Loved You So Long: 3
Mamma Mia!: 3
Wall-E: 3
Duchess: 2
Hunger: 2
Man on Wire: 2
Persepolis: 2
Quantum of Solace: 2
Waltz With Bashir: 2
The Wrestler: 2
The Baader Meinhof Complex: 1
Gomorrah: 1
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: 1
Iron Man: 1
Of Time and the City: 1
Son of Rambow: 1
Tropic Thunder: 1
Vicky Cristina Barcelona: 1