Sunday, February 28, 2010
At this point in the game, The Hurt Locker has won a significant number of precursor awards. It's the frontrunner, the film to beat (and with the preferential ballot system, the prospect of it getting beat is definitely out there). But more than its consummate technical skill, the array and discipline of which should net director Bigelow a historical Academy Award (not to mention a few tech awards), but for me to discuss the merits of its editing, sound and design would be detrimental at this stage.
Why The Hurt Locker deserves to win this award extends far beyond its merits as a "good" or "bad" movie. In recent weeks, some publications - LA Times and Newsweek - have been pushing for backlash, getting the military's take on why Hurt Locker is not an accurate reflection of the Iraq War and therefore not a good movie. Bollocks. No one ever said The Hurt Locker was reality. In the words of the great theorist Christian Metz, "Every film is a fiction film." Film isn't reality, it's a representation derived from reality.
Watching Hurt Locker, it's very clear it's not a realistic film, but it plays with the idea of realism. The sniper scene, the opening bomb defusion, the scene with the bombs in the trunk - all of these are, on the surface, VERY real moments. They are choreographed in what feels like blistering real time, but Bigelow and her team gradually push this into a HYPER-realism, a distension of time and space that makes not only realize the stakes but confront the confused and impossible nature of the war as a whole.
The Hurt Locker is the film America needs about the Iraq War. It will be, barring a film on the level of Apocalypse Now, the defining statement on the US involvement - precisely because it is so apolitical. It offers us a trio of soldiers with competing ideologies about war, combat and etiquette. They are Hawksian heroes, forced to confront the merits of themselves through personal anguish and interaction. As the New York Times pointed out in its review of the film, it's a rethink of group combat films, or rather an extension of them into Iraq.
The Hurt Locker is not an action film - it's a meditation. It may have gritty, unbearable moments, but the saga of Will James is about our dependency on war. Not its negative effects, not its positive effects, but its cyclical, addictive nature. Will's concerns are not his, not the nation's, but humanity's in general. We are violent creatures, propelled by our unconscious stirs towards commanding and conquering; "war is a drug," and The Hurt Locker is about drug addicts. It wants us to think about what guerrilla combat means. It's above any argument about realism/accuracy. It's not a reconstruction; it's a construction of the moments between life and death, of the dangerous simultaneity of combat and the elusiveness of fighting something without a face. The Hurt Locker is, above all else, compelling cinema. It's a war film, but in the tradition of the best war films, it's about the souls of men trying to understand why they act the way they do.
For Your Consideration - The Hurt Locker.
And The Hurt Locker stepped past Avatar to win the Cinema Audio Society award for Sound Mixing. Again, I'd be hesitant about predicting a repeat at the Oscars; Avatar will probably win at least one of the sound awards.
Friday, February 26, 2010
Major among that? Finke claims this e-mail is only one in a series she's gotten from MANY producers throughout the campaign season, and she's threatening to go public with all of them. I sure hope she does.
That, and AMPAS's Ryan Dekorte "accidentally" sent an e-mail to everyone in his address book essentially bashing Hurt Locker for bashing Avatar. (you can read the details in Finke's write-up)
AMPAS has called an "emergency meeting" to figure out how to deal with the situation, but most likely all that will happen is Hurt Locker will lose seats in the auditorium. The WORST scenario would probably be Chartier's name being removed from the producing credits, and thus making him ineligible to win the Oscar, but that's pretty drastic.
The UNOFFICIAL side of this is how it may/may not effect voting. The e-mail was supposedly sent about 5 days prior to its going public, meaning if it IS a unique kind of e-mail, it could have pissed off enough people. But with ballots due on Tuesday, it's hard to believe enough people have procrastinated this much for it to make a difference.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Copied from the full story here.
Looks like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has clamped down hard on "The Hurt Locker" co-producer Nicolas Chartier for sending out an e-mail blast that urged colleagues to campaign aggressively for his movie to win the Oscar for best picture while it also trashed a rival film.
Chartier just issued a follow-up e-mail apologizing for his "extremely inappropriate" e-mail, which violated the Academy Awards' rules, adding, "My naivete, ignorance of the rules and plain stupidity as a first-time nominee is not an excuse for this behavior and I strongly regret it." See details of the academy rules here.
On Tuesday, Pete Hammond reported on Chartier's first e-mail that blitzed Hollywood begging academy members to tell other voters to back "The Hurt Locker" and — in an obvious slam at "Avatar" — "not a $500M film."
The academy has not yet issued a statement about how it intends to deal with this severe violation of Oscar campaign rules. Penalties could be equally harsh, including the withdrawal of some tickets to the Oscar ceremony. Gold Derby asked AMPAS for its response, but so far we've not yet heard back from the press office.
Below is Chartier's original e-mail, followed by his apology e-mail.
I hope all is well with you. I just wanted to write you and say I hope you liked Hurt Locker and if you did and want us to win, please tell (name deleted) and your friends who vote for the Oscars, tell actors, directors, crew members, art directors, special effects people, if everyone tells one or two of their friends, we will win and not a $500M film, we need independent movies to win like the movies you and I do, so if you believe The Hurt Locker is the best movie of 2010, help us!
I'm sure you know plenty of people you've worked with who are academy members whether a publicist, a writer, a sound engineer, please take 5 minutes and contact them. Please call one or two persons, everything will help!
Nicolas Chartier Voltage Pictures
The apology e-mail:
Last week I emailed you regarding the Oscars next week, generally, and
"The Hurt Locker," in particular.
My email to you was out of line and not in the spirit of the celebration of
cinema that this acknowledgement is. I was even more wrong, both personally
and professionally, to ask for your help in encouraging others to vote for
the film and to comment on another movie. As passionate as I am about the
film we made, this was an extremely inappropriate email to send, and
something that the Academy strongly disapproves of in the rules.
My naivete, ignorance of the rules and plain stupidity as a first time
nominee is not an excuse for this behavior and I strongly regret it. Being
nominated for an Academy Award is the ultimate honor and I should have taken
the time to read the rules.
I am emailing each person this very same statement asking to retract my
previous email and requesting that you please disregard it.
I truly apologize to anyone I have offended.
Voltage Pictures, LLC
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
It's time to pay more attention to the early 1960s. The 50s have always been a stable of myth, a time of radical changes solidified through conformist media. The 60s, starting with JFK's election, broke that idea open. In no other film has this idea been so acutely explored recently than in "An Education." It's a small, quiet film that surges with wit and structure. It gets by on class.
But it has a lot to say. As protagonist Jenny pleas during the end, "it's not about just educating us anymore; you have to tell us WHY you're doing it." She is the progressive child, a woman in bloom who must reconcile the changing tides around her. And in young Carey Mulligan, the film finds its vehicle, an actress so subtle and so commanding she seems to make all aspects of the frame gravitate towards her.
Danish director Lone Scherfig makes the film about juxtaposition and emergence. It's about change and growth, but also realization and self-discovery. Littered through the film are sublime supporting turns, magnificent framings and beautiful lighting, and an overall tempo and mood that manages to strategically balance comedy and drama with fresh zeal.
Films are always looking back in time, but "An Education" gives us a thoroughly realized look at emerging British social structures, of altered moralities and a culture trying to reconcile with itself. It has anxiety on the mind, but also hope. Perhaps this fascination with the period that more filmmakers are giving over to is a sign that we want to look at the shifting 60s from the perspective of our world that seems to be struggling with its own new tensions and possibilities. If that be the case, "An Education" serves as a remarkable study in how to learn how to thrive in the world. Whether it's Jenny's story, or one that represents a broader cultural education, it's classy filmmaking at its finest.
For Your Consideration - An Education
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
The movie industry claims it wants to stop Internet piracy. Several years ago, studio and theater analysts decided the reason ticket sales began to slump in several crucial money-making weeks was, simply, Internet piracy. Nothing to do with the quality, nothing to do with inflation or poor marketing — the fault was the laziness of the 18-30 age demographic who essentially “stole” from hardworking filmmakers by watching a video online.
In 2009, Hollywood rode an upswing, posting record numbers of ticket sales and grosses.All told, last year was the industry’s most successful year ever. Those same analysts who questioned if audiences would keep going to theaters just a few years ago suddenly rejoiced, claiming it’s a sure sign that people are headed back to stadium seating in droves.
It’s a shame then that Regal Entertainment Group is leading the charge in threatening to undo this newfound success. With a handful of tent-pole blockbusters, movies that studios firmly believe will make boatloads of money by being marketed as “must-see events,” in the works for the first half of 2010, Regal and other big-name corporate theaters are instigating several practices that may send the 18-30 demographic back to the Web for their film fix.
Several months ago, Regal Cinemas made the decision to eliminate student discounts on Friday and Saturday. This means that students, who just a year ago enjoyed their two dollar discount at new releases, are paying $9.50 (or more) at their most likely time to go to the movies: the two weekend evenings.
Sure, on a corporate level this decision has a level of logic. College students will go see “Avatar” anyway; they’ll pay the extra fees no questions asked and have a great night at the movies.
But practically, it looks like a scheme to capitalize on increased ticket sales. It’s one thing for a theater to not have student discounts at all, it’s another thing to remove discounts on only Friday and Saturday, the two most profitable nights for any theater.
So then why not just go earlier in the day? Get a reduced price at a 4:30 matinee and get dinner afterwards instead of before? That would work, except these theater chains are also trying to get rid of matinees.
Regal Cinemas and AMC are just two chains who are gradually eroding the idea of an afternoon matinee. At the former, matinees end at three in the afternoon. Most theaters traditionally end matinees at five or six, clearly dividing reduced price “afternoon” and larger-draw “evening” shows.
Taken together, these new practices are a remarkable one-two punch to drive up revenue and exploit one of Hollywood’s most successful moments. Get rid of discounts, push evening prices into afternoon shows and watch the money roll in.
Most unsuspecting spectators won’t even know what hit them, but if they really want to see “Shutter Island,” they’ll just have to fork out those ten dollars. Or they could scour the Internet for a low quality video someone shot in a theater.
The troubling paradox here is that Hollywood makes it their mission to get the 18-30 year old demographic into the theater as often as possible, but these theater chains are creating practices that isolate the very same demographic.
The very concept of a student discount is creating an incentive to get more people to come see a movie. If more chains follow Regal’s sly practices, studios will once again wonder why turnouts are in decline.
If the theaters are so deluded as to believe they are the only ones who provide access to films, and therefore can charge whatever they want and use any practices they want, they should reconsider how they’re competing not only against each other, but the DVD market and the Internet.
The digital age has redefined how we watch movies, and not only because of special effects. Theaters are no longer the sole place to experience a film, and these theaters certainly aren’t making a case for their continued survival. That’s Entertainment.
Monday, February 22, 2010
If the 1950s usually get conjured up as a period of social rigidity and conformism, the early 1960s are a period of changes and the anxieties that came with them. Whether on television’s much-heralded “Mad Men” or Oscar Best Picture nominee “An Education,” the years between Kennedy’s election and the assassination that cut his term short are riddled with lingering concerns about both society’s new directions and the fear of nuclear annihilation.
Director Tom Ford’s “A Single Man” is a beautiful and sublimely artistic meditation of a soul close to personal collapse in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Colin Firth stars as closeted homosexual professor George Falconer, who is struggling to get over the accidental death of longtime partner Jim (Matthew Goode).
Ford’s film, co-adapted with David Scearce from a novel by Christopher Isherwood, is an immensely crafted and observed film that delicately works stylish cinematic tricks against subtle emotional moments that emerge from the tremendous work of each actor in the ensemble.
“A Single Man” rests largely on British character actor Colin Firth’s capable shoulders. Firth, Oscar-nominated for his performance, gives George a pervasive sense of mourning and insurmountable grief not from a series of exteriorized breakdowns or heavy ruminations about alienation, but in small shifts of gesture, posture and delivery.
Looking aged and worn, Firth expertly builds a character desperate to appear strong, a gay man trying to hide the tracks of his lifestyle and his broken spirit simultaneously.
Julianne Moore, in only a few scenes, provides expert counterpoint to George as Charley, his broken-down, alcoholic best friend and occasional lover. Sharing a dinner party that feels more like a futile exercise than genuine connection, the two are companions in misery.
And while it’s resonant acting that anchors the film, first-time director Tom Ford brings a stable of tricks and palpable enthusiasm for visual design to the film. He and cinematographer Eduard Grau enjoy playing with degrees of color saturation in the film. When George is forlorn, colors drain into depressing grays heavy in grain and harsh lighting.
Conversely, when he experiences something beautiful and begins to feel compassion for the world around him — even for a fleeting moment — the shots explode with depths of rich color and hue.
“A Single Man” is very much about perception and identification. On top of using the camera’s placement and lighting to encourage the spectator to share George’s view of the world, editor Joan Sobel consistently uses jump cuts to create a jagged, blurred sense of space and time.
While disorienting at times, this editing has a deeper purpose. “A Single Man” bleeds both between memory and reality and also between fleeting moments of observation and lingering examinations, and this widely variant editing allows us to fully grasp how George sees certain things.
On top of that, pulsing strings courtesy of Abel Korzeniowski’s rapturous score and period design that drips with detail make the film feel overwhelming with its encompassing perspective.
If “A Single Man” feels slightly artificial in its reliance on a full spectrum of cinematographic technique, it is nevertheless an adventurous and consistently stunning headlong plunge into how characterization and emotion can find visual embodiment.
And importantly, it is a veiled political work, where the Cuban Missile Crisis is always in the background, its threat of total destruction a complement to George’s threat of personal, self-inflicted destruction.
Tom Ford has crafted an ambitious and beautifully realized artistic film. It seizes on both our fascination with deconstructing our culture in order to better understand it, and also deconstructing ourselves in order to momentarily grapple with our complex human condition.
Science fiction has always had a social conscience, and been socially conscious. By the very definition of its words, it emerges out of our world. It takes the "science" and gives it "fiction." Reality and illusion. Truth and dream. Isn't this just the cinema itself? A place, a refuge, from the world, a representative illusion wherein we're asked to confront or elude the questions we can't dare ask ourselves in the light, but rather seek to the shadows to let larger than life images engulf us?
Neill Blomkamp's "District 9" is a miracle movie in every sense of the word. Peter Jackson pumped cash and mentorship into the South African visionary, giving him the space and the guidance to take his veiled look at that country's struggle with apartheid into the violent. He emerged with a full-cylindered tank of a film, one that lumbers with immense forward momentum through an array of pieces that feel of a remarkable whole. "District 9" may be one of the best sci-fi movies of the past several years, and that's partly because it's one of the smartest.
The racial divide of South African apartheid is recast as white bureaucrats struggling to suppress aliens who have been relegated to the slums, a race of species just trying to repair their spaceship with no help from a government too concerned with their potential threat to engage them on a humane level. In the center of this story is Sharlto Copley, an emerging actor willing to submerge himself in a complex role - partly through stunningly complex makeup and visual effects - that help display thoroughly the duality of man. In a way, District 9 has a plot pretty similar to Avatar: its politics of racial divide, of cultural unity, of war over peace, are vaguely similar, but District 9 has the guts to roll in the mud.
Whereas James Cameron gets 500 million to make the biggest space epic of all time, Blomkamp used 30 million (a paltry amount by any effects-driven standard), went into slums, strove for a verite pseudo-documentary approach, and created a world and a situation that required a solution. That "District 9" becomes less of a political meditation and more of an action film in its final act shouldn't be viewed as detriment - it's one of the sharpest, most well-oiled actioners in the past two years, with plenty of suspense and skill to burn. Its editing is precise and the camera knows exactly how to spin into the action. Its soundscape is diverse and creative, and the makeup and creature effects are purely spectacular.
"District 9" strives to create a reality, but it's not a comfortable reality. It's a movie that makes you squirm, puts you in the middle of a confrontation, and though its morality is fairly simple, it takes a chapter in South African history and tries to get inside the issue in a creative way. This is what science fiction - GOOD science fiction - has always been about: dealing with the world in creative ways, taking reality to a logical extreme in order to illuminate a deeper truth.
For Your Consideration - District 9.
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Martin Scorsese has dipped through his pool of cinematic knowledge, carefully stirring up gentle waves in the tide pool. The result is another grand postmodern exercise in the vein of his overwhelmingly underrated "Cape Fear," a psychological jolt that stirs through its stylistic excess. It may as well be Scorsese's "The Shining," a trip to through the spookhouse that ends up projecting ghosts inward instead of outward.
Obligatory plot summary: Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Teddy Daniels, a Federal Marshall investigating the disappearance of a female patient on Shutter Island, which houses an institution for the criminally insane. Teddy's also harboring some guilt and hallucinations directly tied to violent events in his past that start to overwhelm him during his brief stay as he tries to unravel the mystery.
"Shutter Island" may be an elaborate tribute to Val Lewton and the spookhouse movies of the 1950s, but it has much deeper concerns about surviving and writing history on its mind. Part of what makes it such a compelling, interesting film is that it winds through the whole spool of 1950s paranoia - in the course of his investigation, Teddy firmly believes he's on the verge of uncovering a conspiracy involving Communists, Nazis, control of the hydrogen bomb, and maybe a little bit of lobotomy. Crazy stuff, but in the vein of Lewton, Aldrich, Siegel, et al, Scorsese uses these high-wired concepts as room to delve into greater problems with the national mindset.
Teddy also happens to be persistently crippled by two visions: one is of executing Nazi officials at Dachau prison at the end of World War II, the other is of his wife's tragic death in an apartment fire. The best and most thrilling parts of "Shutter Island" are a series of extended, astonishing dream sequences wherein Teddy confronts these spirits that haunt him. True to form, these are some of the most purely cinematic moments Scorsese has shot in his last several films, smoothly arcing up a level of abstraction until Teddy's separate guilt become fused into disturbing violent images.
Working again with longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker and accompanied by cinematographer Robert Richardson, "Shutter Island" is all about getting us off edge and getting us to identify with Teddy. The editing has his typical verve, with a couple of great moments that seem to swerve in and out of the film's coherent reality, but in each sequence the master seems firmly in control of the game he's trying to play. And yes, "Shutter Island" is a game. It's filled with daring geometry and lighting, gothic setting, loads of classy exposition, and a mystery that makes less sense before it makes more. But as with all Scorsese movies, the plot really isn't what it's about, it's just a way of getting to what it's all about, so maybe I should address what I've already heard some professionals use as a criticism, but which I see as a strength.
The ending. Yes, it's a twist. A pretty big one. I won't give it away, but I've heard a few people lament that it doesn't satisfy, it's too obvious, not original enough, etc. I don't think it matters, because what Scorsese has managed to do is go back into the 1950s and ferret around in one of his favorite places with his new favorite leading man. Like "The Shining," "Shutter Island" is concerned with how history gets written, how the past intrudes in the present, and how we all get overrun by our duality and our trauma.
And Scorsese's movies have always been about how violent men deal with their surroundings. Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, GoodFellas, The King of Comedy - all of them are about people who can't function in terms of how their respective societies deem they should, who must reconcile a rupture or suffer in their violence. So too is Teddy Daniels, a man who must solve the case of the missing woman if he is to find any solidarity with the violence that plagues his past.
Yes, DiCaprio continues to emerge as one of the most gifted actors of this generation, a veritable machine of range that can go from a caricature of a 50s detective one minute to a man of searing angst the next. His work with Scorsese is so married, so controlled and so coiled, it lends the project a whole extra level of intensity that keeps it very much grounded when it threatens to spiral into Scorsese's tricks.
I realize it's hard for me to really talk about "Shutter Island" without giving away what it's all really about, but I admire it in a way I don't think most people are giving it credit for. It's not about tricking us, creeping us out, or paying homage to Val Lewton. It's about giving a different treatise to what Val Lewton and his ilk were going after. Many of Scorsese's films have ventured back into different eras of culture and of filmmaking (sometimes in an overlapping way) not to necessarily reach any greater truth, but to apply what he wants to discuss to what he admires. Ditto "Shutter Island."
It has all the penchants of a great Scorsese film - the aforementioned editing, the elaborate screenplay that is about so much and yet nothing at all, tremendous acting, a musical score ripped from a dozen sources and yet all sounding of a piece, a larger commentary on culture. Yet this time he's daring to go into psychology, a move he hasn't really made since Cape Fear or King of Comedy. It's a movie about trauma, and more specifically the trauma America faced at the end of World War II.
All the historical/cultural references aren't just a passing thing; Shutter Island is implicitly about the break we faced when we learned about the Holocaust, the depths we took to create unity as a nation even as we suffered from Communist paranoia. Yes, Teddy's hallucinatory condition is one of America, a nation trying to overcome its broader implications in violent acts even as it wants to believe it can do good. By doing that good, finding that woman, we can "restore ourselves."
"Shutter Island" is a great film, and one worthy of discussion not only for its technical marvel, and especially not because it has a neat trick ending. That ending says something deeper about America in the 1950s, and to what end Scorsese wants to create that conversation is something to be talked about over coffee. I can't say I've figured it out myself, but I'll concede he caught me under a conspiratory spell.
Director: Kathryn Bigelow, Hurt Locker
Actor: Colin Firth, A Single Man
Actress: Carey Mulligan, An education
Supp Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Supp Actress: Mo'Nique, Precious
Original Screenplay: Hurt Locker
Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air
Foreign Language: A Prophet
British Film: Fish Tank
British Debut: Duncan Jones, Moon
Rising Star: Kristen Stewart
Production Design: Avatar
Cinematography: Hurt Locker
Costume Design: The Young Victoria
Makeup: The Young Victoria
Visual Effects: Avatar
Film Editing: The Hurt Locker
Sound: The Hurt Locker
Musical Score: Up
Dialogue and ADR Editing: Inglourious Basterds
Music Editing: Avatar
Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue (Foreign Film): District 9
Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue (Animated Film): Up
Nothing for Hurt Locker, two for Avatar. Oscar only has one "Sound Editing" award, so take that how you will.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Doesn't change a thing. Basterds was ineligible since Tarantino's not a guild member. This went pretty much as anyone could have expected.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
The Editors Guild announces tonight. The comedy award will (hopefully) go to A Serious Man or (500) Days of Summer, the animated will hopefully go Fantastic Mr. Fox (but will most likely go to Up), but the Drama award has me abuzz.
In 2006, when Departed beat Babel for this award, I knew the race was over. This year, Basterds is NOT nominated (and it lost the ADG to Holmes last night), and it seems to me we have another Hurt Locker/Avatar showdown. Although don't forget - District 9 is in the mix too, and is a wonderfully edited film. It takes the best part of both frontrunners - heightened pace in the latter and beautiful verite action in the former and excels terrifically. Were IT to win I could read that as either a blow to Avatar or a notch on Basterds' belt (lack of support for either THL or Avatar).
Of course, that's reading a lot into a pretty minor guild award, especially when we have yet to see the Writers. If THEY pick Hurt Locker in Original (keep in mind Basterds was disqualified), it could be close to over. If they pick A Serious Man, we're gearing into a brawl.
But let's say Avatar wins tonight, wins the Visual Effects Society, wins the Cinematographers Guild, wins Motion Picture Sound Editors - if it builds all that momentum from the techs, will that be enough to rocket it past the obvious acting/writing support for Hurt Locker/Basterds?
Best Picture of the Year: Inglourious Basterds
Best Director: Michael Haneke for The White Ribbon
Best Actor in a Leading Role: Sam Rockwell for Moon
Best Actress in a Leading Role: Charlotte Gainsbourg for Antichrist
Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds
Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Anna Kendrick for Up in the Air
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner for Up in the Air
Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds
Best Cast Ensemble: An Education
Best Voice Acting: Kevin Spacey for Moon
Best Art Direction/Production Design: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Nelson Lowry
Best Cinematography: The White Ribbon, Christian Berger
Best Costume Design: Where the Wild Things Are, Casey Storm
Best Film Editing: The Hurt Locker, Chris Innis and Bob Murawski
Best Original Score: Drag Me to Hell, Christopher Young
Best Adapted Score: (500) Days of Summer
Best Sound Mixing: Inglourious Basterds
Best Sound Editing: Drag Me to Hell
Best Visual Effects: Avatar
Best Makeup: Drag Me to Hell
Best Trailer: Up in the Air (Trailer 1)
Body of Work: George Clooney for Fantastic Mr. Fox, Up in the Air, and The Men Who Stare at Goats
Scene of the Year: Inglourious Basterds, "I want to send a message to Germany"
Win Totals (22 categories)
Inglourious Basterds - 5
Up in the Air - 3
Drag Me to Hell - 3
The White Ribbon - 2
Moon - 2
The Hurt Locker - 1
Where the Wild Things Are - 1
An Education - 1
Antichrist - 1
Avatar - 1
Fantasy Film: Avatar
Contemporary Film: The Hurt Locker
Kind of surprise win for Hurt Locker (its only real competitor in its category being Up in the Air, I think). Shocked that Holmes wins over Inglourious Basterds. Holmes and Avatar are nominated for the Oscar against Doctor Parnassus, The Young Victoria, and Nine.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Valentine’s Day has its own group of annual prerequisites, and Hollywood is quick to offer new entries each year. This weekend, for example, the studio powers that be are pushing the aptly named “Valentine’s Day” as a star-jammed ensemble piece that tries to appeal to literally every demographic.
While all couples clamor for a date movie, that perfect two hours of escapist, heartwarming entertainment replete with the right balance of laughs and love, those looking for something different should dust off the DVD of one of Hollywood’s perennial classics.
Admirers often discuss 1942’s “Casablanca” with a glazed over sense of nostalgia. Its complex and honest look at souls trying to find logic through love while awash in the political web of North Africa during World War II is indeed one of the most beautiful movies to ever come out of classic Hollywood.
It still sits atop many “best movies of all time” lists nearly 70 years after its release, but at a time of year when we’re anxious to discuss the virtues and detriments of love and its often material and superficial gestures, it’s worth taking a peek inside how “Casablanca” works, and why it’s worth remaining on the list of annually screened love stories.
Foremost, “Casablanca” was never supposed to be a success. It was a film like a dozen other films, an assignment handed to director Michael Curtiz, a great craftsman who built his reputation as a filmmaker who could excel in any genre — a man of all trades.
It was shot fleetingly on the Warner Bros. backstage sets, and while it employs two major stars, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, who at the time were just emerging as players, no producer thought “Casablanca” would do more than serviceable business.
It’s perhaps this humble quality, this sense of selflessness that gives the film its grace. It is in many ways a work devoid of artistic flourish, one that conforms almost totally to the normative aesthetic styles of any Hollywood production of its time.
But what’s most striking about “Casablanca” is how it balances its love story around the lingering threat of World War II. Set in Morocco, a stopping port for potential evacuees trying to make their way out of war-torn Europe, the major concerns of the competing powers of the war are allegorically embodied in the film’s various characters.
Taking that into consideration, the isolationist, bitter capitalist Rick (Bogart) is the representation of America in the months and years leading up to Pearl Harbor. The story of Rick learning to overcome his animosity towards ex-lover Ilsa to help her and her revolutionist husband is the story of America coming to terms with its inherent obligation to help its allies in the war.
But again, “Casablanca” premiered in Nov. 1942, meaning its production occurred mere months after America’s entrance into the war. It just so happens that this microcosmic allegory is also a love story and a redemptive one at that.
And, spoiler warning, the two Hollywood stars don’t end up together in the end. Rick famously lets Ilsa get on the plane, a conclusion that goes directly against the grain of any similar-minded picture of the time — a majority of all Hollywood films ended with a couple embracing, regardless of genre.
“Casablanca” survives as one of Hollywood’s most loved movies not necessarily because of its artistry, which it has plenty of in very subtle ways, or because of any kind of innovation, but because of the way it deals with America’s international position at a pivotal moment of its contemporary history.
It’s a love story about redemption and humanity, to be sure, but it’s also about nationalist pride. Unlike so many love stories that have the eternal power of love on their minds more than its incessant complications, “Casablanca” extrapolates the story of two individuals to the grand scheme of historical ramification.
So if it’s true that movies can provide us with emotional experiences and help define how we perceive these emotions, “Casablanca” created a space to imagine the manifestations of selfless love.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Controversy rippled through the media, or maybe just the fervent corner of Internet speculation, last week when it was announced Tebow and his mother, Pamela Tebow, would be featured in a pro-life spot.
Fans eager to protect the assumed sanctity of Super Bowl advertising were quick to protest the politicization of the ad without even seeing it. How could CBS air such a divisive ad during a game that many steadfastly believe represents a moment of national unity?
By these accounts, Tebow’s ad would be the most devastating and talked-about Super Bowl moment since Justin Timberlake showed the world a little too much of Janet Jackson. Early in the first quarter, the devastating tornado of soapbox preaching and moralizing came sandwiched in the midst of a commercial break.
Imagine the horror of seeing Pam Tebow reflecting on how her healthy, beautiful baby almost didn’t make it into the world, photographed against a white background as she holds a picture of her child. Imagine the disturbing moment where “Timmy” tackles his mom, only to throw an arm around her and flash an over-the-top grin a second later.
Cheesy, yes, but if you blinked you missed it. From there, other commercials rolled on, the game went on for four quarters and The Who played at halftime.
The “ad that would destroy the Super Bowl” was more like a tide pool ripple than a tsunami, but it begs two important questions — first, why did people get themselves so up in arms in the first place; second, does the Tebow ad have any lasting impact for Super Bowl advertising as a whole?
The first question seems a bit obvious. Our society likes to segment its distractions. Save God for church, never bring up politics at the dinner table and make sure the Super Bowl ups the silly factor to the extreme.
Why we assume the most important issues in our lives shouldn’t be integrated into media is the greater mystery here. Why relegate the discussion of abortion (or health care, or the recession) exclusively to news channels or coffee houses?
In many ways, the Tim Tebow ad forced us to consider the very nature of the Super Bowl as a state of national discourse. Of course it would be a respectful, modest and insignificant ad, despite the claims some launched of images of dead fetuses circulating for 30 seconds. The question was, should it even have been there in the first place?
While it’s doubtful Tebow’s set a precedent for other socially conscious public service announcements of this type, the Super Bowl still reigns as one of the greatest opportunities to win an audience in 30 seconds. It’s perhaps more an issue of society that we have to force ourselves to believe television and sporting events should brush larger issues under the table for a few measly hours.
There’s a difference between pushing an agenda and promoting a message, and the distinction must be realized to further understand how media, from a 30-second commercial to a two-hour film, can be positively used to engage us with society’s broader preoccupations, even at — and especially at – our moments of diversion and distraction.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Thursday, February 4, 2010
From Entertainment Weekly. Sounds like a great idea to me, I'd love to see what this looks like.
The movie contains interviews with people close to Salinger who have never spoken on camera and it looks at his writing process since 1965, when he stopped publishing. It also features footage of Salinger, materials belonging to him as well as more than 100 photographs of the rarely seen author. There is no word if Salerno got an interview with the mysterious Salinger himself. “There is no PBS-type narrator, no black background or talking heads,” says the source. “The look, sound, and editorial pacing is consistent with a feature film.” As for a premiere date, filmmakers are hoping to take the film to the Cannes Film Festival in May.