Sunday, September 23, 2012

Emmys 2012: Winners

Comedy Categories

Best Series: Modern Family 
Best Actor: Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men
Best Actress: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Best Supporting Actor: Eric Stonestreet, Modern Family
Best Supporting Actress: Julie Bowen, Modern Family
Best Directing: Steve Levitan, Modern Family
Best Writing: Louis C.K., Louie

Drama Categories

Best Series: Homeland
Best Actor: Damian Lewis, Homeland
Best Actress: Claire Danes, Homeland
Best Supporting Actor: Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
Best Supporting Actress: Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Best Directing: Tim van Patten, Boardwalk Empire
Best Writing: Homeland

Miniseries/TV Movie Categories:

Best Series/Movie: Game Change
Best Actor: Kevin Costner, Hatfields & McCoys
Best Actress: Julianne Moore, Game Change
Best Supporting Actor: Tom Berenger, Hatfields & McCoys
Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Lange, American Horror Story
Best Directing: Jay Roach, Game Change
Best Writing: Game Change

Best Variety Series: The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Best Variety Special Program: Louis C.K. Live at the Beacon Theatre
Best Directing for a Special: Tony Awards
Best Reality Competition Program: The Amazing Race
Best Reality Show Host: Tom Bergeron, Dancing With the Stars

The Five-peat Cometh: 2012 Emmy predictions

I'm always terrible at predicting the Emmys, so have fun at seeing how many I miss, rather than how many I get right.

Best Comedy Series

The Big Bang Theory
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Modern Family
30 Rock
Will Win: Girls
Maybe Will Win: Modern Family
Should Win: 30 Rock
The Storyline: Modern Family has won this award the last two years, and while the Emmys love to repeat, but Family doesn't have the force it had those first two years. It's interesting that six nominations are split over HBO and three different networks, suggesting the Emmy voters really connected with what HBO was offering this year. Girls was a hot enough topic last year despite the polarity to bolster it here, even though I think you'd have to be a fool to not recognize how brilliant the past season of 30 Rock was.

Friday, September 21, 2012

On thinning paint - Deeper into 'The Master'

Note: This is not a review of The Master, which can be found below. Rather, it explores several motifs and ideas I find worth talking about after a first viewing. These comments are surely not 100% accurate -- I am working solely off memory -- and I invite continued discussion in the comments section. If you have not seen the film and would like to map out your own interpretation, I would caution against reading this piece.

We've all heard of drinking the Kool-Aid. Fruity, sugary, a product of a culture driven by artificiality, where a colored powder transforms before our eyes into something palatable, consumable--if not necessarily nutritious.

But we probably haven't heard of drinking the Paint Thinner. To do so would be ludicrous. It is poisonous -- on a literal level -- but it's also something that, in its very nature, strips. It removes facades and constructions, whereas Kool-Aid is itself a facade, a drink of fake fruit flavors.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Erratic behavior - 'The Master' review

You can say this of Paul Thomas Anderson: He goes big or goes home. All of his movies are about big ideas, historical explorations, allegorical cautionary tales about our morals and our psyches. Be it in the unlikely connections of the disaffected in Magnolia or the epic showdown of capitalism and religion in There Will Be Blood, Anderson has employed a variety of filmmaking strategies with formal precision and a nod toward unconventional narrative experiments. Maybe that's why, despite just having made a handful of movies, us self-declared cinephiles seem to salivate over everything he does.

With The Master, Anderson moves to the years immediately following World War II. It's a time of immense social change, a reconstitution of suburban organization and an economic boom. But as movies like The Best Years of Our Lives tell us, it's also a moment of having to come to terms with the physical and psychological scars of WWII. The Master is the emotional antithesis of Wyler's film -- instead of melodrama, there's a near-absence of emotion. Everything is intellectualized.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

'Compliance' and Condescension

Note: There are spoilers in this review. Because Compliance is based on a true story with plenty of news coverage (and a Law & Order) episode, I assume you already know the gist of it.

Sometimes, the discourse around a movie might be more important than the movie itself, or can help inform how to make heads or tails of whatever the movie might be trying to say. I'm all for scouring reviews on blogs and IMDb, trying to piece together a sense of coherence for how lots of different groups are talking about a text. With Compliance, Craig Zobel's sophomore feature, the discussion the movie wants you to have is more important than the movie itself. Adapting the true story of a fast-food manager who is sadistically prank-called and tricked into strip-searching and sexually humiliating a co-worker by a man pretending to be a police officer, it's one of those "I can't believe this happened!" kind of stories that, as you might've guessed, was a Law & Order: SVU episode.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

'Lawless' ain't flawless - review

One of the biggest reasons I wanted to see Lawless was solely for the setting and the period. I grew up mere miles down the road from Franklin County, VA. The legends of bootleggers and moonshine still ring through the Southwest Virginia valley, and Australian filmmaker John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road) was an ideal candidate to give full splendor and anthropological precision to the area, while drenching it in his unflinching violence.

In some ways, I got what I hoped for. Though shot in Georgia -- and any seasoned Son of the Commonwealth will probably notice some discrepancies in Hillcoat's beautiful nature shots, but that's almost beside the point -- Hillcoat and cinematographer Benoit Delhomme find numerously stunning ways to frame dirt roads, open fields, and misty mountains. While Hillcoat's gritty, uncompromising view of Australia in his breakout film The Proposition marked him as a filmmaker geared towards capturing the feel of places, his style there felt bred out of an affinity with that land -- here, he's very much an anthropologist. I'd venture there are more long shots in Lawless than any other non-Steven Soderbergh movie of the last two years. Many shots linger away from characters, look through windows, and ask us to soak in the details of this land. Franklin, VA is rendered simplistically but richly.

The first 30 or so minutes of Lawless are, for this reason, wonderful. I found myself chuckling over how right the geography felt. The slow pace, the establishment of the Bondurant brothers and their moonshine enterprise, the introduction of new law forces from Chicago to clamp down on Prohibition -- screenwriter Nick Cave built a strong first act that draws on traditional genre structures. Tom Hardy, as the lumbering man-of-few-words Forrest Bondurant, is best in show among the strong cast that also features Shia LeBeouf (who has matured remarkably; this is the first time I haven't been annoyed with him), Jessica Chastain, Guy Pierce (a snarling, rabid bit of scene-chewing), and Jason Clarke. In many ways, this cast assembles some of the best talent working today, and they're all top-notch. After seeing Hardy strut his stuff as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises earlier this summer, his turn here is almost more revelatory. He's able to carry his weight in his chest, totally nail the accent, and give Forrest a mythological soulfulness and terrifying brutality necessary for the weight the film wants to apply to him.

Everything that makes it onto the screen in Lawless varies from beautiful to riveting to serviceable. It's what gets left out that makes the movie so maddeningly uneven. At just under two hours, it feels remarkably incomplete. There is a kind of epic seed planted in the first 45 minutes that never gets played out. What starts out as slow starts to accelerate once violence comes into the picture. There are more montages, more jumps forward in time in ways that feel forced to just get us to the next important thing, and a build-up to a climactic shoot-out that's simply too fast. The climax, its resolution, and the subsequent denouement are robbed of resonance. Take, for example, Gary Oldman, who plays a Northern gangster setting up shop in Roanoke. He has two or three scenes, but has one hell of an introduction, and crackles in every second he's in. Then he disappears. It's an arc about the broader web of the bootlegging business that gets introduced but unexplored, a tangent that feels largely incidental and a total miss. This is worse for Jessica Chastain, who enters the film a world-weary soul running from some kind of mysterious past, and about halfway through becomes a sexual object designed solely to cater to and worry about her man -- it's a betrayal of an interesting character, and a pretty crappy representation of femininity.

I don't know the production history of the film enough to make assumptions, but I can imagine a bigger version of the screenplay -- or maybe of the film itself -- that built quietly, explored the Southern geography, and focused much more on the character relationships than this final version, which switches tempo between and among scenes at a confounding rate. Any "internal beats" to help connect thematic arcs disappear as a consequence, and make it feel splintered. I hope that somewhere there's a three hour version of this film, because I honestly believe Lawless could have been a great, masterful gangster movie. Maybe there was simply too much story; maybe it would have worked better as a miniseries.

With so much care obviously paid to designing the film and creating an accurate view of Southwest Virginia, it's a shame the film has to feel so slight. The violence is the most wrenching and riveting thing in the whole film, and Hillcoat never shies away from it. The beauty of the landscape and the ugliness of the fighting between the cops and moonshiners forms the central contrast of the film, and is certainly -- from a visual standpoint -- fantastic. But even for a genre film, Lawless's narrative is just too generic to cut it.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Occupy Limo: 'Cosmopolis' review

The most entertaining part of watching Cosmopolis was the groups of late-teen/early-20s girls in my theatre. Some of them walked out an hour into it. Some of them looked disgusted when the movie was over. At least one looked like she'd fallen asleep. They made me chuckle because I knew they'd come to see Robert Pattinson outside of his Twilight niche, but I couldn't help but identify with many of these girls. Cosmopolis is a frustrating movie. It's more in the vein of James Joyce than anything else I can call to my mind (and even that comparison is full of holes), and it certainly resists and subverts narrative cohesion and logic.

David Cronenberg, who has spent the last decade moving a little bit closer to the mainstream than his die-hard fans would probably care for with A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, and last year's confounding A Dangerous Method, moves back to his corner of stylized weirdness. I haven't read Don DeLillo's 2003 novel (Cronenberg did the adaptation himself), but there is certainly a literary quality to the film--an intense focus on words and interactions above narrative action, a kind of hermetic approach to probing the psychosis of the 1%.

Pattinson plays Eric, a 28-year old billionaire who seems to understand everything about the ins and outs of Wall St. He decides, on this particular day, he needs to travel across town to get a haircut, despite the president's visit and a popular rapper's funeral grinding traffic to a standstill. As Eric inches across the city, various characters enter and exit the limo: co-workers, his wife, his doctor, a prostitute. They have lofty conversations about finances, existence, the human psyche. In the background, society starts to deteriorate. There are massive uprisings in the street, the limo is graffitied, a group who insists "a specter is haunting the world" seems to fuel the anarchic spirit, but all the while Eric sits and talks, contemplating his own existence and slipping closer to some kind of mental break.

There's certainly a bit of serendipity involved in Cosmopolis: Occupy Wall Street took shape as Cronenberg was shooting the film, and that movement's resonances certainly inform and elevate it. The most striking images are the ones of immense foreground and background tension, where Eric refuses to look out his window and process what's happening behind him. Cronenberg crams the movie full of details by contrasting what's inside the limo with what's outside it -- the smooth polish of the leather chairs and the grime of the protestors smashing windows -- but keeps the dialogue largely away from these events.

Eric's conversations are admittedly hard to follow. There are many plays-on-words, clever reversals, odd misunderstandings, and lofty discourse about systems analysis and market projections. I tried to follow everything for about the first twenty minutes, but decided to give myself to the overall experience of the conversation, the effects of the actors' tones and the film's editing pattern. The characters in Cosmopolis are Cronenberg zombies in the best sense of the word, stalking the earth with singular purpose: acquiring currency and the power they think it provides.

The catch, of course, is that Eric is actually powerless. He's paranoid. He has a daily physical because he recognizes how fragile his own life is, and fears disease. The limo is a self-constructed haven of leather and screens, a place for him to hide from and attempt to analyze the world. When he wants to interact with some element of culture -- like a rapper whose music speaks to him -- he plays it in his apartment's personal elevator, co-opting its social relevance for his own luxury. After a while, Eric leaves the limo and his bodyguard despite threats against his life, deciding to confront head-on his own physical lack of power.

Cronenberg's aesthetic is sterilized, almost washed out. The camera doesn't capture Eric so much as it processes him. Lights are heavy, colors are drenched; this is a bleached world that gets dirtier and dirtier as Cosmopolis rolls along. The sex is more robotic than erotic, the violence jarring because of how abrupt and emotionless it's executed. Cronenberg is known for creating representations of the body, of sex, and of violence that are incredibly unique -- just watch The Fly and Dead Ringers -- and Cosmopolis is a somewhat different approach for him. It is not a visceral film. It is very contemplative, reserved, almost obsessed with its own details and its own thoughts. Like A Dangerous Method, one gets the sense Cronenberg is now analyzing himself, using his newer films to explore theories that guided his earlier work.

For many, that's understandably a turn-off. Cosmopolis begins and ends with a whimper, and its crescendoes are rather slight. It's held together by Robert Pattinson, who emerges here as a fully intellectual actor, capable of wrestling with this difficult task via the slightest of smirks. The film is like a prostate exam of one-percenter mentality, even if it doesn't offer up a particular diagnosis. It's fascinating for the way it tries to put so many ideas on the table, how it uses language and form to look at a society on the brink, how it uses Eric allegorically for an entire socio-cultural problem. It's perhaps equally tiresome for how cold it is, how it strips itself completely of traditional narrative devices for identification or for progressive action.

If it sounds like I'm of two minds about Cosmopolis, you're absolutely right. There are bits that stick with you, even if it seems impossible to remember how those pieces fit together in the first place. But whether you're enthralled, bored, or put-off by Cronenberg's direction, it's hard not to admire that he's at least able to capture something about this economic moment in a way no other filmmaker would dare to try.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Something a little more real" - 'The Dark Knight Rises' review

Let's go ahead and get one thing straight right off the bat:

The Dark Knight Rises is not better than The Dark Knight. It's not even close to its level. The middle film of Chris Nolan's trilogy is, perhaps even more clearly now, lightning in a bottle, the kind of bold blockbuster that comes once a decade.

True, there may not be a single shot as pulsating with fevered energy as when the Joker stuck his head out of a police cruiser with the camera whipping about, but that's not to say The Dark Knight Rises is not without its trove of riches. Measured, contemplative, and almost forlorn, the film's beats resonate across Nolan's seven years with Batman, proving that this may be the trilogy of our generation.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Haunted screens: 'The Dark Knight Rises,' Aurora, and spectatorship

I had already planned on writing a separate piece this weekend on the cultural and political prisms of The Dark Knight Rises, in addition to a review. In my mind, it would be a close (as much as can be allotted off of one viewing) look at how the politics of Batman have changed over the three films in accordance with the changing political landscape.

But after this morning, all of that seems feeble. For not. Pointless. As pointless as a Rush Limbaugh rant trying to connect Bain Capital to Tom Hardy's Dark Knight villain. This morning, as I'm sure you've read, 12 people were killed and over 30 wounded as they sat watching The Dark Knight Rises at a midnight screening in Aurora, Colorado. Some reports say the shooter, a 24-year old PhD student, was dressed as the Joker, firing off gas cannisters and rifle fire. I've resisted watching any video or looking at any images of this event because, frankly, the thought sickens me to my core.

There are a lot of awful, evil things that happen every day in the world, but this one hits close to home.

Monday, July 9, 2012

All the little pieces - 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' review

The first image of director Benh Zeitlin's premiere feature, Beasts of the Southern Wild, is of a six-year old girl holding a chick and arranging a mound of dirt on which to place it. It's an image shot from a distance, almost out of focus, gently rocking with a handheld motion. The image itself is as precarious as this moment of unfiltered childhood exploration.

Beasts has already emerged as one of the year's most lauded efforts, exploding out of nowhere at Sundance to win prizes there, at Cannes, and -- let's face it -- some hyperbolic reviews from all corners of the U.S. And to its credit, there is something almost intangible about the film, a kind of primitivism that transcends its almost inherent naivete and its at-times technical sloppiness. It yearns to make the kind of statement about the human condition only great art can make, to explore our connections with communities of nature, people, places, and things utterly cosmic -- and it attempts this without (often) dawdling into on-the-nose sentiment.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Of teen love and CGI overloads: 'Amazing Spider-man' review

"Didn't we just do this?"

That might be a question that rings in your ears for most of Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-man, a re-telling of Peter Parker's transformation into masked crimefighter made just ten years after the wild success of Sam Raimi's first Spider-man movie. Its mere existence has brought up the old proclamations about how those studio bigshots only care about taking our money (of course they do) and that this new Spidey is merely pummeling us with a brand that we'll flock to like sheep. Fair criticisms to be sure, even if they don't exactly take into consideration that Spider-man himself (like almost every major comic book character) has gone through his own revitalizations and re-tellings since the 1960s.

So then, if Sony is taking that same approach, we should expect this new movie to be something completely different, a la Chris Nolan's Batman Begins, right? Well, sort of. The Amazing Spider-man is tonally different (if not drastically) with a bit more blood and a bit less campy than Raimi's vision, but it has its own adolescent growing pains that keep it from emerging as fully engaging and engaged.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ain't nothin' but nonsense: 'Rock of Ages' review

"Rock is dead." So says Paul Giamatti's oily, manipulative manager near the end of Adam Shankman's (Hairspray) adaptation of Rock of Ages, the Broadway musical about late-80s rock decadence. Like almost everything else in the film, it's hard to know how to take the line: are we supposed to realize he's right, that rock has drowned in its own excess and stumbled into the 90s as repackaged bubblegum pop? Are we supposed to deny him and take the stage anyway, embracing rock as something that lives on and on and on?

Then, is Rock of Ages a eulogy, a celebration, an insistence on rock's glory or a mockery of its empty decadence?

Monday, June 11, 2012

"We were so wrong..." - 'Prometheus' review

The very first shot of Prometheus, Ridley Scott's much-hyped, already much-discussed return to science fiction (not to mention the Alien franchise, sort of), is of the Earth backlit by the sun, the camera gently moving up to catch a glare of light. It's the first in a long string of references to Stanley Kubrick's seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey. From the whole structure of the first act -- a pre-history event, iconography that beckons a journey to the limits of space, an explicit pursuit for the origins of humanity -- to neat little dialogue inversions like "Open the back door now!" as opposed to "Open the pod bay doors, Hal" or, my own favorite, a robotic "Good morning, David" early in the film that almost echoes HAL 9000 in cadence. It's even got some nice little visual nods, like an old-age Guy Pearce who looks remarkably similar to the old-age Dave Bowman at the end of 2001.

Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: Prometheus is not a remarkably original film. Nor does it claim to be. Its structure, dialogue, and visuals quote quite freely from other Alien movies, from 2001, and from other cosmically-inclined sci-fi. Its search for the origins of life is, as many detractors have already pointed out, nothing special. In fact, Prometheus is a deeply flawed film. It doesn't quite know what it wants to do with its pursuit-of-God storyline, and that's actually because -- wait for it -- the whole thing is a damn MacGuffin. It's a set up, a cruel joke the film plays. The search for God (or, the alien beings who created us), as it were, actually turns up pure Evil (or, the aliens that will try to destroy us). Many of its ideas feel half-baked, its dialogue is pretty poor, and the most captivating character is the robot. But still, it's hard not to marvel at the thing, a behemoth of a visual accomplishment that feels like a "flash sideways" (for Lost fans) into the Alien universe.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Young Moon Rising: 'Moonrise Kingdom' review

For all anyone can say about Wes Anderson--and for better or for worse--he may be one of the few bastions of genuine auteurist debate in the contemporary American landscape. It used to be that every casual movie watcher had their own soapbox position on Quentin Tarantino -- he's a whiny, arrogant snob; or the savior of postmodern American cinema. Now, the throne of hotly-debated director of the moment seems to have emerged as Anderson. Is he a quirky genius of a storyteller, rich in formalist details bolstered by sentimental deadpan? Or is he a hipster drowning in his own pretension, locked in a glass cell of painterly aesthetics who would retch over the sight of genuine emotion?

As luck would have it, Moonrise Kingdom gives fuel to both campsites.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sight & Sound Dream Poll

If you don't know about Sight& Sound, they publish a list of "The 10 Greatest Films Ever Made" once a decade. They poll over 140 critics/scholars from around the world. Unlike all the other polls and lists out there, this one carries the most weight in the film community (forget that silly AFI list). Ebert even did a two-part post on his blog explaining the thought process behind his choices for his 2012 submission (where he added The Tree of Life). As someone who loves making lists, if only for the arbitrariness of it all, I figured I would ask myself -- if I could seriously vote in this poll, what are the 10 films I would submit?

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Reassembling the old-fashioned: 'The Avengers' review

With a price-tag of $220 million and runtime of 143 minutes, it comes as no surprise that writer/director Joss Whedon's The Avengers puts money on the screen. It is, for much of its final hour, a veritable onslaught of masterful CGI, stuff getting destroyed, and sounds so powerful they might make your skull rattle. The same could be said of, for instance, Michael Bay's Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but The Avengers has a kind of fluidity, a kind of awe and delight that transcends the machinations of its own drive toward, as one of the characters so aptly puts it, chaos.

Monday, April 9, 2012

'"Mad" World' - The struggle to change

Dissatisfaction is a symptom of ambition.

Since we are essentially four episodes -- or one third -- into Season Five of Mad Men, I figured it'd be worthwhile (or fun!) to sketch out some of what I think is going on and where the show is going for the next nine episodes. Also, I simply thought last night's episode - "Mystery Date" - was absolutely incredible, and wanted to talk about it some.

Spoilers for episodes one through four follow.

Monday, April 2, 2012

(Who Cares) Who Killed Rosie Larsen?

By now, you've heard the complaints.

The Killing is boring. It goes nowhere. It's not interesting. It's flat-out ridiculous. It's even disrespectful storytelling.

I stayed away from AMC's overwhelmingly protracted crime mystery for a year, with friends waving pleas not to waste my time on it. I was put off a lot by how its tagline is essentially identical to Twin Peaks' "Who Killed Laura Palmer?"

But then it went on Netflix Instant Watch. And then I had Spring Break.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Into the Canon: 'Mulholland Dr.'

Films mean something unique and personal, yet the experience of them is among the most shared thing in our culture. Recognizing this seeming paradox, I'm attempting a new series called "Into the Canon," where I share the personal meanings behind my favorite movies. As many of my friends know, I have an ever-changing "Personal Canon" of films that mean something to me. In talking with them about how we define "best" and "favorite" movies, how we determine which ones "mean the most," I figured the only way to do that was to write about it. Only then can I really start to decipher why I love what I love.

 Geography gives way to other meanings

I. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2001)

It may have been freshman year of college. It may have been earlier.

I can't remember when I happened upon David Lynch for the first time, but when I did it was like someone lit a fire inside me. Mulholland Dr. was the first Lynch film I saw, which in some ways seems completely backward to me now, as it's probably the most fluid and beautiful expression of his navigation of what dreams mean.

The first time I saw it, I did not understand it. But much as the characters repeat "This is the girl" over and over, I knew one thing -- This is the film.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Hungry, Hungry Allegory - 'The Hunger Games'

Watching The Hunger Games, it is almost odd to consider that it was a novel first. Its very conceit is so cinematic, staged as a critique of reality television, violent entertainment, and ideological uses of the media. It's the dark cousin of The Truman Show. More than rats in a maze though, its earnest teenage principals are caught in an act of narrative creation--a decidedly genre-based one--that foregrounds its contrivances even as it embraces them.

But I'll get back to that.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Glee's" fatal move; A rant

If you know me, or have followed my writing with any kind of regularity, you know I love Glee. Its first season wasn't just quite unlike anything I'd seen on network television before, it was a challenge to everything else to combine genres, do away with traditional narrative conceptions about causality, and raise the level of self-awareness to dizzying heights.

I even stood by the show in its all-over-the-place second season, because I saw it as increasing, for lack of a better phrase, the sheer ridiculousness of the show. Characters changed personalities and motives multiple times across episodes, subplots entered and faded away, stereotypes existed and went away, and everything that happened seemed to be filmed like the single most important event in the show. It was nonstop excess, and boy, did I revel in it.

But the common through-line in Glee's spectatorship, or at least, my spectatorship of it, has been this level of self-awareness. Beneath the drama and the (many) tears, the show was funny in ways that the characters weren't always aware of. It stepped in and out of the stereotyped "high school" with reckless abandon.

So in the seconds before Glee went on a two-month hiatus, they committed one of the sloppiest, contrived things any show could do.

They ostensibly killed off Dianna Agron.

Because she was texting and driving.

Now, chances are she'll live (just knowing the show). But she won't be a cheerleader, and the show will probably cripple her or leave her in a weird coma, such that the kids all band together and dedicate their performance at Nationals to her -- and oh wait, she'll show up at the last second in New York City to sing a song that propels them to that long-sought National Championship!

Yeah. It'll probably go something like that.

The question I've been asking myself, over and over, since this episode two weeks ago is: Should I really be upset? After all, isn't this the kind of free-wheeling who-gives-a-rat's-ass attitude about narrative causality that Glee has used nonstop?

Well, no. It's not.

The difference is that it's both horribly contrived and utterly didactic. It's a sledgehammer of condescension.

Glee has kind of imposed on itself a responsibility to represent the ideology of progressive teenage politics.

This last episode, "On My Way," opened with the outing of super-closeted Dave Karofsky, whose tormented subplot has featured some of, I think, the show's best writing. Karofsky, humiliated, tries to kill himself and botches the attempt. We're okay so far. The guy's fragility has been building to this moment. It leads to lots of reconciliations between him and different characters, some nice speeches about how life is worth living.

I'm not complaining about this. I'm complaining that some thought went into writing this plot and making the catharsis work, and then the powers that be (Ryan Murphy) metaphorically put a shotgun to all of our heads in the form of a big freakin' truck that just happens to smash into Quinn Fabray's car.

Because she was texting and driving.

It's because of this soapbox mentality that Glee has gotten a lot less funny and more cringe-worthingly serious over the last eight or so episodes. That "Blame It On the Alcohol" episode, regardless of your feelings about the lesson it was preaching, was still silly. The characters spewed purple vomit on each other while performing Ke$ha, for crying out loud.

There's no comedy in Glee now. There's just contrived writing that's supposed to make us feel bad.

Santana doesn't want to come out? We'll just have someone create a situation that forces her to! Finn wants to join the military and be like his dad? Turns out his dead dad was a drug addict this whole time! But when it comes to Rachel and Finn's weird, rushed marriage, we'll just invent a bunch of silly things that get in the way of the ceremony happening. Like Quinn getting hit by a car.

Instead of poking fun at didactic teaching even as it slides its own morals, it has become that scene from Mean Girls--"Don't have sex, because you will get pregnant. And die." Except it's not satire anymore. With that car crash, Glee has gone into a realm of sheer exploitative drama I don't think it can ever recover from.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscars LiveBlog

84th Annual Academy Award Winners

Best Picture: The Artist
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spenser, The Help
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Best Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Best Documentary Feature: Undefeated
Best Foreign Language Feature: A Separation
Best Art Direction: Hugo
Best Cinematography: Hugo
Best Costume Design: The Artist
Best Film Editing: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Best Makeup: The Iron Lady
Best Original Score: The Artist
Best Original Song: The Muppets
Best Sound Editing: Hugo
Best Sound Mixing: Hugo
Best Visual Effects: Hugo

Saturday, February 25, 2012

84th Oscars - Final Predictions

I usually wait until right before the ceremony to post these, but I honestly don't think I will switch at this point, and since I've already gotten some ballots in my Oscar pool that virtually match this list, I might as well put it out there.

Best Picture

The Artist

The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredible Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: Hugo
The Upset: Hugo
Reasoning: The Artist has simply roared through this race since the Critics Choice Awards. It won that, the Golden Globe, the Producers Guild, and the Directors Guild. To bet against it at this point would be pure folly. Its only serious competition—Hugo—probably deserves this win (even if I like The Tree of Life most out of this slate) because of what it says about film and the revolutionary way it goes about saying it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Film. Now more than ever.

My favorite moment in The Artist isn't one of Michel Hazanavicius's deep focus, cross-compositional gags where signs comment on or joke about the action or the lack of talking. It doesn't involve Uggie, either.

My favorite moment in the movie is where Peppy recovers George's film and holds it up to the light, examining it carefully. The film cuts to a close-up of the frames, and as she looks, they animate ever so slightly. It is an image of the two of them in the outtake from earlier in the film, dancing for one moment and collapsing into laughter the next.

This is, for me, the soul of The Artist, and the whole reason it will win Best Picture, the whole reason it may become the platform from which many an impassioned blogger will campaign for the necessity of film. This is one of the few moments where The Artist overcomes its own nostalgia to revel in the beauty of its medium.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Remembrances: On the 84th Nominees

To remember. To create a history. To relive an experience. To suddenly have the past, as Walter Benjamin might suggest, "flash up" for a moment, hoping and waiting to be grabbed.

This is what unites this year's Academy Awards. The act of remembering, the act of creating a personal or collective history.

We see this most explicitly--or perhaps most pervasively--in our two Best Picture frontrunners: The Artist and Hugo. The former is constructed head to foot to look like something it isn't--a movie from the late-20s/early-30s. It's a feat of reconstituted aesthetics that brings with it the weight of mythologies about the movie industry's conversion to sound and a purely romantic ode to something past. The latter explores the technology of "the future"--3D cinematic space--by traveling to the past and reframing one of cinema's earliest technicians as a romantic martyr. In a more childlike, eyes-wide-open way, Hugo is the better movie about the magic of movies.

But the Best Picture race offers more outside of this hermetic seal of "movies about movies," even if there's virtually no chance for anything else to win. The Tree of Life is a movie of filmed memories and interior recollections, childhood approached from middle age. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close uses the shared memory of 9/11 as a space for a child to overcome his own personal loss (and boy, does it exploit that image). Midnight in Paris is about nostalgia--a particular kind of memory that distorts history. In that film, Allen explores a dislocation of place and identity, a soul trapped between multiple time periods and moments of history. War Horse takes place in World War I--a historical film--The Descendants has the spectre of a deceased family lineage hanging behind George Clooney's decisions. The Help reframes history from the perspective of white guilt and a search for a black voice (as problematic as its racial politics are). Billy Beane's memories of his own personal defeats haunt the narrative of Moneyball.

But as these films look toward the past, they also look at the future. Moneyball is about re-inventing the wheel and worrying about what that re-invention means for a whole institution. The Tree of Life pushes, in one majestic finale, from the past to the present to the future. Hugo has one foot in its diegetic past and another toward us in the theater: Scorsese seems to be asking, what will the films of tomorrow look like? Where is our magic? Ditto The Artist, a film that reads almost like a plea to remember "film for film's sake" at a moment where Kodak has filed for bankruptcy and the industry braces to switch almost completely to digital.

Every year I have people ask me why I care at all about the Oscars. After all, I haven't really agreed with them much since 2007, and I've become intensely indifferent about the actual winners in that time. But who they pick fascinates me because I see it as the story the industry wants to tell itself about itself. If they pick The Artist, or if they pick Hugo, that will say something about the industry's panic about moving into an era that is post-film. When "films" cease to really be "films." Of course, whether that's an empty gesture or not remains to be seen. Will they be like the Hollywood Foreign Press and help increase funding for film preservation? The Academy is many things, but it is first and foremost a symbol of what the industry stands for.

Overall, this is a really bizarre year for Oscar. They can nominate both The Tree of Life and Extremely Loud for their top prize. One is an oblique art house film, the other a straight-down-the-line-conventional three-hankie-weepie. They can nominate a performance as subtle as Gary Oldman's in Tinker Tailor and not nominate Michael Fassbender for, well, any of his four roles. They can nominate Rooney Mara in Dragon Tattoo but not its screenplay.

There are some great surprise nominees in here--Malick/Tree of Life and Oldman/Tinker's screenplay are chief among them. I have many films I adore--Hugo, Moneyball, Midnight in Paris--in the thick of the race. But overall, this was a year where Oscar played it safe. Buzzed performances like Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt's in Young Adult--daring, bracingly dark comedic performances--are slighted, while conventional "Oscar Roles" like Branagh's and Nolte's are front and center. Movies that "The Internet" (bloggers, digital critics, IMDb-active 18-49 year olds) loves like Drive and Melancholia are all but absent, while Big Hollywood gets its obligatory slots in the Sound and VFX categories (Bigger is Better, right?). John Williams gets TWO scores (including one that sounds remarkably like Apollo 13), while Trent Reznor gets the shaft. And at the end of the day, even the most successful film of the year--Harry Potter--can't crack out of the hell the Academy's relegated it to for the past ten years.

I'm not trying to beat a dead horse when I bring up last year's show, but this is really the leftovers of The King's Speech winning those prizes. It brings them back to the center of their taste spectrum. It's not a tragedy if The Artist wins Best Picture, or if The Descendants wins Best Picture. They're both fine movies, maybe even great in their own ways, but they are particular kinds of movies that make those years like 2007 seem all the more anomalous.

"The trick is not minding," so the saying goes. And truly, I don't mind. I can't be bitter when Terrence Malick and Martin Scorsese are both nominated for Best Director. I can't be upset when Rooney Mara got her nomination, Moneyball earned six, and Hugo stands atop the pile with 11 nominations. It's just when you step back and look at the picture as a whole, you have to imagine what it could have looked like.

These are the kinds of memories the Academy wants to cultivate. The kind that show variation and a willingness to sort of think outside their box, but without being bold enough to cast the ballot that really breaks down even one of that box's walls.

Oscars: Category-by-Category Response

You can see the nominees in my post below. This is purely reaction, speculation, cursory thought:

Best Picture: Um. Wow. It almost went according to plan, and then they announced The Tree of Life and I jumped so high I think I almost hit my ceiling. That might be an exaggeration, I don't know. Then they announced Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and I was kind of depressed but still happy with myself because I predicted it in the 9th slot. Then I realized The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo didn't get in. Frankly, that an organization can nominate The Tree of Life and Extremely Loud for the same award blows my mind, so far away are they on the cinematic pole--art house event and overly sentimental weepie--that it almost perfectly illustrates how truly confused this Academy is becoming.
My Prediction: They nominated 9, and I "officially predicted" 8 nominees, so I'm pretty happy I actually almost got that right. Outside of that, I went 8/9, putting in Dragon Tattoo and missing The Tree of Life.

Best Director:  Again, I did a little victory dance when I heard Terrence Malick's name. Then I realized I didn't hear Fincher's name. It's a hugely bittersweet moment to me (and kind of a bitch-slap to Fincher after last year), but I guess I should stay positive.
My Prediction: 4/5 (5/5 with my alternate)

Best Actor: Congrats to the people who actually called Demian Bechir's nomination. That one was a total shocker. Outside of that, I'm so thrilled that Gary Oldman is actually nominated for an Academy Award. Yes, you may not have realized it, but he's never been NOMINATED for one. So that in and of itself is huge. I'm proud of myself for NOT picking Michael Fassbender (even though I'm sad he didn't get in, especially with the year he had), and I'm thrilled DiCaprio's hokey J. Edgar performance got the shaft.
My Prediction: 4/5

Best Actress: I felt so damn good when they read this one out. Not only is Rooney in (which, in my mind, both makes Fincher's omission both okay and all the more horrific), but I picked this one perfectly, resisting my temptation to slide Tilda Swinton in the 5th slot.
My Prediction: 5/5

Best Supporting Actor: Honestly, I'm ashamed the Academy didn't nominate Albert Brooks. It's THE quintessential supporting role, people! I'm shocked Max von Sydow actually couped a nomination, but at least he's the best part of that thoroughly middling film. I also picked Armie Hammer over Nick Nolte, because I had NO idea the Acad would actually snub J. Edgar completely.
My Prediction: 3/5

Best Supporting Actress: I know this is kind of silly, but the fact Shailene Woodley did NOT get nominated for The Descendants shows--to my mind--the film cannot win. It needed THAT nomination in particular to make a statement. Other than that, this one was easy to call.
My Prediction: 4/5 (5/5 with alternate)

Best Original Screenplay: I'm not surprised 50/50 didn't make the cut (it's not an Academy-type movie), but I'm thrilled J.C. Chandor's Margin Call took that crowded and competitive fifth slot. Great writing, and a really pleasant surprise.
My Prediction: 4/5

Best Adapted Screenplay: Well, this category went in a totally different direction. First off, I cannot tell you how happy I am that Tinker Tailor is nominated. Having said that, how in the WORLD can you nominate Ides of March ahead of Dragon Tattoo? If anything, I figured Zaillian's script would get in (big blockbuster novel, smart adaptation, big movie). Also, can we officially declare The Help DOA in the Best Picture race? No nod here thrills me, and dooms the film.
My Prediction: 3/5

Best Foreign Language Film: Kind of pissed about Pina not making it here, but it's nominated in Doc, so I guess it's okay. This one was straight down the line.
My Prediction: 4/5

Best Animated Feature: Talk about a political statement. Two of the movies nominated haven't even opened in New York and had no buzz. No Tintin, no Pixar. Something's going on in that animation branch.
My Prediction: 3/5 (4/5 with alternate)

Best Documentary: This is where I just throw my hands in the air and give up. If you've been following the Oscar commentary anywhere on the web, you probably heard all the roars of condemnation over this category this year. They need to fix how stuff gets nominated in this branch.
My Prediction: 2/5

Best Art Direction: I really botched this category. My bad. It's weird that War Horse is in and Tinker isn't, don't you think?
My Prediction: 2/5 (3/5 with alternate)

Best Cinematography: Nailed it.
My Prediction: 5/5

Best Costume Design: Nods for Anonymous and W.E.? They really just want to make this "the category period films go to die."
My Prediction: 3/5

Best Film Editing: Ah, yes. The elusive "Film Editing" prize that collapses the Best Picture race into four contenders, and keeps The Descendants rumbling in the conversation. Don't ask me how these statistics work. They just do.
My Prediction: 5/5

Best Makeup: Kind of surprised to see Harry Potter show up here. But hey, good for it. Ralph Fiennes's nose deserves the attention.
My Prediction: 2/3

Best Original Score: Proud of myself for calling Tintin as my alternate, and I guess we can go back to saying John Williams owns this category? Sad that Dragon Tattoo didn't get in (too good?) but I'm okay with Tinker Tailor taking that spot.
My Prediction: 3/5 (4/5 with alternate)

Best Original Song: This is so stupid. Two nominees? How is this allowed to change every single year? If I were Elton John, I'd be furious. I'm sure Madonna is.
My Prediction: 1/2 (that just feels silly to write)

Best Sound Mixing: So happy to see Moneyball in this category (hooray for actually recognizing how good its sound design is!). I put Pirates and Harry Potter in ahead of Transformers, thinking they'd be tired of those robot noises. Guess not.
My Prediction: 3/5

Best Sound Editing: Oh look, Drive's ONLY nomination! What a freaking shame.
My Prediction: 2/5 (3/5 with alternate)

Best Visual Effects: Can we make up our mind if this is 3- or 5-film category? It throws off all my predicting.
My Prediction: 2/5

So how'd I do?
Overall, I correctly predicting 72 of 104 nominees, which comes out to 69%. If you factor in my "alternates" in my predictions, that bumps it up to 78 out of 104, or 75%.
In the "Top 8" categories I predicted 35 of 44 nominees (37 if you include my alternates), which comes out to 80% (or 84% with my alternates).
I completely nailed three categories (five if you include my alternates), and dipped into the dread 2/5 on four.

This was a really bizarre morning (I'll touch on that in a piece later today, hopefully), but this was a really poor showing for me. Last year, I got 79% of my predictions (86% with my alternates), and if you factored my alternates into my top 8 predictions from last year, I got 96%.
Oh well, every year can't be as easy to spot as 2010. Live and learn!

84th Annual Academy Award Nominations

Best Picture

The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredible Close
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Tree of Life
War Horse

Best Director

Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Alexander Payne for The Descendants
Martin Scorsese for Hugo
Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris
Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life

Best Actor

Damien Bechir for A Better Life
George Clooney for The Descendants
Jean Dujardin for The Artist
Gary Oldman for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt for Moneyball

Best Actress

Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis for The Help
Rooney Mara for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams for My Week With Marilyn

Best Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh for My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill for Moneyball
Nick Nolte for Warrior
Christopher Plummer for Beginners
Max von Sydow for Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Best Supporting Actress

Berenice Bejo for The Artist
Jessica Chastain for The Help
Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer for Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spenser for The Help

Best Original Screenplay

The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumulo
Margin Call, J.C. Chandor
Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen
A Separation, Asghar Farhadi

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Descendants, Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Hugo, John Logan
The Ides of March, George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
Moneyball, Steve Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan

Best Animated Feature

A Cat in Paris
Chico and Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

Best Documentary Feature

Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

Best Foreign Language Feature

Bullhead (Belgium)
Footnote (Israel)
In Darkness (Poland)
Monsieur Lazhar (Canada)
A Separation (Iran)

Best Art Direction

The Artist, Laurence Bennett, Robert Gould
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan
Hugo, Dante Ferretti, Francesca Lo Schiavo
Midnight in Paris, Anne Seibel, Helene Dubreil
War Horse, Rick Carter, Lee Sandales

Best Cinematography

The Artist, Guillaume Schiffman
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Jeff Cronenweth
Hugo, Robert Richardson
The Tree of Life, Emmanuel Lubezki
War Horse, Janusz Kaminski

Best Costume Design

Anonymous, Lisy Christi
The Artist, Mark Bridges
Hugo, Sandy Powell
Jane Eyre, Michael O'Connor
W.E., Arianne Phillips

Best Film Editing

The Artist, Annie-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
The Descendants, Kevin Tent
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
Hugo, Thelma Schoonmaker
Moneyball, Christopher Tellefsen

Best Makeup

Albert Nobbs, Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Nick Dudman, Amanda Knight and Lisa Tomblin
The Iron Lady, Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Best Original Score

The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams
The Artist, Ludovic Bource
Hugo, Howard Shore
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias
War Horse, John Williams

Best Original Song

"Man or Muppet" from The Muppets
"Real in Rio" from Rio 

Best Sound Mixing

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
Hugo, Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
Moneyball, Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco, Ed Novick
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, Peter J. Devlin
War Horse, Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson, Stuart Wilson

Best Sound Editing

Drive, Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Ren Klyce
Hugo, Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
War Horse, Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

Best Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler, John Richardson
Hugo, Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman, Alex Henning
Real Steel, Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor, Swen Gillberg
Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White, Daniel Barrett
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Dan Glass, Brad Friedman, Douglas Trumbull, Michael Fink

Monday, January 23, 2012

84th Oscars Nominations Predictions

Final Oscar Nom Predictions

Best Picture

The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
Midnight in Paris
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
War Horse
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Alternate: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Explanation: Since the Academy is doing “five to ten” nominees, I’ve gone ahead and included 10. My official prediction is that they will nominate eight films, and I’ve ranked this slate in the order of likelihood, meaning War Horse should be seen as the official cut-off of my prediction, but were it to extend to nine, ELIC would be in, and if 10, Bridesmaids would get in.

Best Director

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
David Fincher, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo
Alternate: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

Best Actor

George Clooney, The Descendants
Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Edgar
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball
Alternate: Michael Fassbender, Shame

Best Actress

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Alternate: Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin

Best Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks, Drive
Armie Hammer, J. Edgar
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Alternate: Viggo Mortensen, A Dangerous Method

Best Supporting Actress

Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Octavia Spenser, The Help
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Alternate: Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

Best Original Screenplay

The Artist
Midnight in Paris
A Separation
Alternate: Win Win

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Descendants
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Help
Alternate: War Horse

Best Foreign Language Feature

A Separation
In Darkness
Monsieur Lazhar
Alternate: Superclasico

Best Animated Feature

The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Cars 2
Puss in Boots
Alternate: Kung Fu Panda 2

Best Documentary Feature

Paradise Lost 3
Project Nim
We Were Here
Alternate: Bill Cunningham New York

Best Art Direction

The Artist
J. Edgar
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Alternate: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Best Cinematography

The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Tree of Life
War Horse
Alternate: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Costume Design

The Artist
The Help
Jane Eyre
My Week With Marilyn
Alternate: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Film Editing

The Artist
The Descendants
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Alternate: Drive

Best Makeup

Albert Nobbs
The Iron Lady
Alternate: The Artist

Best Original Score

The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
War Horse
Alternate: The Adventures of Tintin

Best Original Song

“Lay Your Head Down” from Albert Nobbs
“Hello Hello” from Gnomeo and Juliet
“The Living Proof” from The Help
“Life’s a Happy Song” from The Muppets
“Man or Muppet” from The Muppets
Alternate: “Masterpiece” from W/E

Best Sound Mixing

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
War Horse
Alternate: The Adventures of Tintin

Best Sound Editing

The Adventures of Tintin
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
War Horse
Alternate: Hugo

Best Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Super 8
Alternate: War Horse

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Golden Globe Predix

Best Picture, Drama

The Descendants
The Help
The Ides of March
War Horse

Will Win: The Descendants
Should Win: MoneyballWhy? In many ways, I can see this going to The Descendants, Hugo, or The Help in equal measure. The Globes do love Scorsese (more on that below), but in the top category I remain convinced that Payne's dramedy is about to break through the ceiling and become the potential spoiler for this year. And George Clooney's involved.

Best Picture, Comedy/Musical

The Artist
Midnight in Paris
My Week With Marilyn

Will Win:
The Artist
Should Win: Midnight in ParisWhy? The Artist is the horse to bet on, and its international status should play well to the HFPA. Still, I can't help escape the feeling that if a major upset will happen, it will be here. The HFPA also goes for Woody a lot. There's a fraction of a chance, but hey, The Artist has to stop short sometime. Right? Right?

Best Director

Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris
George Clooney for The Ides of March
Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist
Alexander Payne for The Descendants
Martin Scorsese for Hugo

Will Win: Martin Scorsese
Should Win: Martin Scorsese
Why? Michel Hazanavicius is the big frontrunner after a mildly shocking win at the Critics Choice on Thursday. But as much as I suspect the Globes will love The Artist, I can't help feel Director will be headed somewhere else. Mainly because of how textured and rich Scorsese's work in Hugo is, but partly because the HFPA has been very vocal about their support for him in the last decade. It's a down-to-the-wire category that could still go all over the place before the Oscars.

Best Actress, Drama

Glenn Close in Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis in The Help
Rooney Mara in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady
Tilda Swinton in We Need to Talk About Kevin

Will Win: Viola Davis
Should Win: Tilda Swinton
Why? I think Viola Davis deserves this award, and even though the HFPA are star-whores, they've award Meryl Streep so many times that I think their love for the film (it has multiple nods - Iron Lady does not) will outweigh their Streep obsession. In reality though, these are five fine performances that deserve the award in their own ways. I'd give my vote to Swinton, who is the most revelatory and devastating.

Best Actor, Drama

George Clooney in The Descendants
Leonardio DiCaprio in J. Edgar
Michael Fassbender in Shame
Ryan Gosling in The Ides of March
Brad Pitt in Moneyball

Will Win: George Clooney
Should Win: Brad Pitt
Why? I've a feeling the Oscar is going to be a drag-down, knock-out fight between the two A-list superstars. George Clooney's film is in a better position than Pitt's, even though Pitt has received far less awards attention in his career and, I think at least, gives far and away the better performance.

Best Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh in My Week With Marilyn
Albert Brooks in Drive
Jonah Hill in Moneyball
Viggo Mortensen in A Dangerous Method
Christopher Plummer in Beginners

Will Win: Christopher Plummer
Should Win: Christopher Plummer
Why? I could see this going to Brooks or Plummer, with Mortensen as a super-upset (something the Globes aren't really famous for as of late). At the end of the day, Brooks gives a ferocious little performance, but Plummer towers over Beginners. In a career with very little recognition, he deserves this one.

Best Supporting Actress

Berenice Bejo in The Artist
Jessica Chastain in The Help
Janet McTeer in Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer in The Help
Shailene Woodley in The Descendants

Will Win: Jessica Chastain
Should Win: Shailene Woodley
Why? I've heard the rumbles for Octavia Spencer, but I don't buy it yet. Awarding Chastain lets the HFPA signal out an actress who had at least four (I could be miscounting) movies come out this year. She is the breakout story. On the other hand--if the Globes go wild for Descendants, you could hear Woodley's name, and if they fall out of their chairs for The Artist, you could hear Bejo.

Best Actress, Comedy

Jodie Foster in Carnage
Charlize Theron in Young Adult
Kristen Wiig in Bridesmaids
Michelle Williams in My Week With Marilyn
Kate Winslet in Carnage

Will Win: Michelle Williams
Should Win: (Abstaining)
Why? I still haven't seen Marilyn or Young Adult, the two frontrunners of this race, so I can't really comment. The Carnage performances cancel each other out, but if it wasn't for the heat behind Williams I could reasonably see Kristen Wiig winning this. The love for Bridesmaids right now is kind of astounding.

Best Actor, Comedy

Jean DuJardin in The Artist
Brendan Gleeson in The Guard
Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 50/50
Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris

Will Win:
Jean Dujardin
Should Win: Jean Dujardin
Why? This is not a great slate of nominees. Everyone in the organization will vote for Dujardin. Only conceivable upset is Gordon-Levitt, if they're in the mood to star-whore.       

Best Screenplay

Midnight in Paris
The Ides of March
The Artist
The Descendants

Will Win: The Descendants
Should Win: Moneyball
Why? This is a really tricky category. By the time we get to the Oscars, it will probably be Midnight vs. Artist in Original Screenplay and Descendants vs. Moneyball in Adapted. That's just where I think it's headed. So when you level the playing field, who comes out on top? All four of those have legitimate shots, but I'm giving the slight edge to Payne's script just because I expect it to clean up here. I'd love nothing more than for Moneyball to keep winning, though.

Best Foreign Language Film

A Separation (Iran)
The Flowers of War (China)
The Kid With a Bike (Belgium)
In the Land of Blood and Honey (USA)
The Skin I Live In (Spain)

Will Win:
A SeparationShould Win: (Abstaining)
Why? I've heard from a few of the bloggers that Angelina Jolie's Land of Blood and Honey could be a legitimate upset, but the love that's forming around A Separation just feels too great to deny.    

Best Original Score

The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
War Horse

Will Win: The Artist
Should Win: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Why? The music of The Artist is pretty phenomenal, classic Hollywood stuff that (almost) perfectly narrates the movie (except for that scene. You know the one). But the music of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo so rethinks how we hear film music, how they work in a movie like that, and the kinds of emotion they emit. It's the year's towering achievement of composing, if you ask me.

Best Animated Feature

The Adventures of Tintin
Arthur Christmas
Cars 2
Puss in Boots

Will Win: RangoShould Win: Rango
Why? Because Tintin is so internationally-oriented, you might expect a win from the Foreign Press Association. But it's hard to get past how tepid it's been received State-side, whereas Rango has gone on to be a commercial and critical success. In a lineup that simply looks mediocre, Rango really stands out.

Best Original Song

"Hello Hello" from Gnomeo and Juliet
"Lay Your Head Down" from Albert Nobbs
"The Living Proof" from The Help
"The Keeper" from Machine Gun Preacher
"Masterpiece" from W.E.     

Will Win:
"The Living Proof"
Should Win: (Abstaining)
Why? The Help has more overall support than probably all of these films combined. I could see Madonna winning, though. Just because.