Tuesday, February 26, 2008

the academy awards... this time, with more blog!

One of the greatest benefits of being a Film Studies major -- other than personal enrichment, of course -- is the heightened ability to be a braggard. I get to spend my time reading Entertainment Weekly, scouring IMDb and Wikipedia, and watching anything on E! and Vh1, while telling myself is all research. All the time I spend in a matinée at the Laemmle or with a DVD on, I consider to be studying for an edge in my path through the Industry. So it is with great vindication that I announce myself as the winner of this year's Oscar pool. Now, I only won $6.25, but this was my first Oscar pool ever, and it is with pride that I toot my own horn. So here is my amateur account of the results of Sunday night's almost-didn't-happen 80th Academy Awards.

Best Picture - No Country for Old Men

The Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men, unsurprisingly took top billing at this year's primo awards show. While I would never have voted for it as being the best of anything, it certainly had wonderful performances across the board, interesting filmmaking choices (notably the lack of music), and portrayed an unusual worldview. In my opinion, Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood deserved the award more, but No Country was always going to win.

Best Directing - Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men

Hand in hand with the best pic award for the film (just seeing Sam Rudin on TV gives me shivers), Joel and Ethan Coen were awarded their second Oscar for directing. I keep promising to watch Fargo, and I loved Raising Arizona and O Brother, Where Art Thou, so I can see why they won even if the film wasn't my favorite. Just like PTA did in Blood, they counterbalanced violent characters against sweeping pastoral landscapes, but the claustrophobic world within a motel room was where the Coens shone with this film.

Best Actor in a Leading Role - Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Had Daniel Day-Lewis not been awarded Best Actor, there absolutely would have been blood, if I had anything to say about it! *rimshot* He has shown, once again, his devotion to the craft of acting (when he's not making shoes, of course), and his superhuman ability to transform into another person so completely. His Daniel Plainview was so believable a lonely tyrant that I couldn't help but feel for him even when I couldn't agree with his actions. I'm past due for a Day-Lewis retrospective, as it's been years since I've watched My Left Foot or Last of the Mohicans. So hammy Sir Olivier takes issue with Method acting, if it makes Day-Lewis turn out the kinds of performances that he does, then I say to hell with Olivier! [/vitriol]

Best Actress in a Leading Role - Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

I haven't seen La Vie en Rose, so all I can say about Best Actress Marion Cotillard's performance is secondhand. Her physical transformation, at least, was remarkable, and everything I've read about her dedication to learning how to mirror Edith Piaf's tics and performance styles has been incredibly respectable. Of the performances I did see, my vote was for the wonderful Laura Linney, but I can see why the Academy would have gone for a perhaps more demanding performance than one as restrained as Linney's.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role - Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men

No one was surprised that Javier Bardem won Best Supporting actor, so I don't have much to say here. He certainly put on quite a show as Anton Chigurh, which is evident once you see how adorable he is in interviews. Also, I'm reminded to finally watch El Mar Adentro, as I've wanted to for years. Also, Bardem is about as Spanish as they get. Did you see his mama's jewelry?

Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Though I expected Cate Blanchett to win Best Supporting Actress, I'm not surprised that this would have been the category to get Michael Clayton as award. Unfortunately, traffic kept me from the screening I was hoping to attend the other night, so I have to wait until it comes in my Netflix soon. I can say, however, that Swinton's eccentric acceptance speech was just what I wanted from her. She is the one reason why I can't fully regret having seen Constantine (in theaters, no less - it was not my decision), so I'm glad to see her so well-respected.

Best Writing (Original Screenplay) - Diablo Cody, Juno

Diablo Cody's win for Juno was both expected and endearing. I read her screenplay after I saw the film, but it's definitely for more than just her previous employment choices that she's Hollywood's "It Girl" new screenwriter. Some of the dialogue is a bit hamfisted ("honest to blog," seriously?), but the relationships and themes are so believable, and the voice so unique, that I'm very glad she won. I know she's gotten flack for being a one-trick pony, but I think that her ability to write a smart young female character, and an aging manchild more believable than anything Matthew McConaughey might play, is hard to find these days.

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) - Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men

I haven't read Cormac McCarthy's novel, but against Atonement and There Will Be Blood, I can understand why this award-sweeping film's screenplay would have won. I haven't read Upton Sinclair's Oil! either, but I've read that PTA took a lot of liberties with his adaptation, and I certainly would never have voted for Chris Hampton's take on Ian McEwan's outstanding novel. As for the other two nominees, I'm afraid I'm out of the loop.

Best Cinematography - Robert Elswit, There Will Be Blood

Of all of the beautiful shots in all of the nominated films in this category, There Will Be Blood was absolutely saturated with them. It's difficult to tear your eyes away from the characters whenever they're staring each other down, but there are certain moments when the world of the film just screams with poetic juxtaposition. The most striking of these occurs when Eli Sunday marches towards Daniel Plainview, determined to get an answer about a previously made promise. He strides past a pool of oil glistening on the scorched California earth, and the clear expanse of blue sky dotted with unassuming clouds is perfectly, crisply reflected in the black gold. Stunning.

Best Music (Score) - Dario Marianelli, Atonement

Marianelli is officially the only Joe Wright return collaborator that I am impressed with. Though I enjoyed Atonement greatly, it wasn't that swell of an adaptation, and Keira Knightley was only slightly less obnoxious than she was in Pride & Prejudice. [Though I must say, she perfectly fits McEwan's physical description of Cecilia.] The film's score is one of the most enrapturing elements of the beautiful story, tying together a wonderfully WWII appropriate piano theme with recurring intrusions of typewriter sound. Without the score, this film would have been something entirely different. Take that, Dogme 95!

Best Music (Song) - Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, "Falling Slowly," Once

John Stewart, who did a much better job hosting this year than he did a couple of years ago, totally won my "favorite Oscar host ever" award when he (or whichever of the show's producers, whatevs) let Marketa go back onstage to give a speech after she was cut off the first time around. Once and its beautiful music affected me so strongly, I don't really know how to quantify my pleasure at the fact that it got some critical recognition during awards season. Please, please, for the love of art, see Once. Oh, and Amy Adams is a darling, and I hope that she gets cast in the first run of the inevitable Broadway adaptation of Enchanted, which would do very well on stage.

So, I can't really say much about the other "big" categories...editing/mixing? Well, I saw some of the dailies from the Bourne Ultimatum, and it was so shaky that I can't imagine I'd be able to sit through the entire thing without a little dizziness. Ratatouille as best animated feature? Couldn't watch it, as I dealt with a horrifying rodent problem last year when I moved into a new apartment, and I don't think I will be seeing it anytime soon. I will be seeing Persepolis this weekend though, after I finish reading Marjane Satrapi's graphic novel. I thought it had a shot of winning as it wasn't eligible for Best Foreign Language feature, but apparently Ratatouille was the fan favorite of the year. I didn't see any of the shorts or the foreign language nominees, I'm afraid, so all I can say there is that The Counterfeiter looks pretty fantastic.

Again, sorry for being so lax with posting these past few months. I'm trying to up my media intake, so hopefully I'll be able to vent my musings with some frequency in the future. That's all, folks!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

savage nation

In my never-ending quest to become further acquainted with everything that Philip Seymour Hoffman has ever done on film, I saw Savages earlier this week. I think that this film benefited greatly from its faulty advertising, though, as it was not quite the wry comedy that the trailer led me to believe. Though I was surprised by the tone of the movie, I can't say that I was truly disappointed. I was hoping for some humor a little more zesty than the post-postmodern "jokes." That is to say, the movie opens on perfectly trimmed hedges and slow-motion leisure scenes, which are clearly meant to elicit laughter from the intellectually dissatisfied. Instead, Savages is a very frank look into the challenges posed to those who have to find elder care for their loved one.

Of course, this is all complicated for Jon and Wendy Savage because the father they are trying to find care for in his final weeks abused and abandoned them when they were children. Feeling guilty for having returned the favor, the Savages just try to take care of their father without really paying much attention to him. Some of the sharpest scenes in the movie occur when the self-centered siblings argue aimlessly with each other, and their father tries passively to ignore the pain of his children.

There is a striking lack of humor in Wendy's character, but Laura Linney delivered such an amazing performance that the character becomes sympathetic, when she easily could have stagnated at immature and selfish. She is keenly aware of her shortcomings - unapologetic about her pill-popping, lying to cover up her inadequacies in academia, and dissatisfied with her unhealthy love life - and that is what makes her so approachable. Aren't we all hyper-sensitive to our personality flaws, and critical of people who aren't?

Laura Linney absolutely stole the show here, so it was nice to see PSH sent to the background for once. Even in Anderson's films where he is a tertiary character, he draws so much attention based on his talent at playing the pathetic. I recommend this movie for anyone for whom elder relatives and nursing homes aren't currently a sensitive subject.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

big gay carnival

Monday night found me in attendance with a gaggle of other 'hags at the Mika concert at the Wiltern. As expected, the audience was roughly 70% gay men, 25% female hangers-on, and 5% preteen girls who think they just might have a chance with the Lebanese-English hottie. I went to the concert on the arm of my best 'mo, and it was the perfect date night. Music. Dancing. Mindblowing stage effects!

I appreciate Mika's Life in Cartoon Motion album as a camp-tastic disc to dance to, bolstered by incredible vocals, and refreshingly poetic lyrics (better than Madonna or Kylie). Seeing him perform live, though, made it so that I can barely listen to the CD anymore without being wholly underwhelmed. Mika's presence as a musician clearly has so much to do with the imaginative visual implications of his lyrics, as much as it has to do with the music itself. Everything from giant balloon women, rain of glitter, a Carnival dancer, an oversized Dia de Los Muertos puppet, and a silhouette tableau of anthropomorphic forest creatures loving and fighting - made an appearance onstage. I was certainly not the only audience member jumping around and dancing to the sheer fabulousness of it all.

If you ever get the chance to see him and his whole entourage perform, please do so. I have been visually impressed by concerts before, but never before Mika has a musician's concert vision so totally changed my perspective on the music!

Friday, February 8, 2008

dreamy and dreamier

I had the opportunity to see 27 Dresses for free last week, fulfilling my dream to see a cheezy, predictable rom-com without having to pay for it. The blog "Living the Romantic Comedy" explains pretty thoroughly here why 27 Dresses is just as predictable as anyone would suspect. It's a comedy in the Shakespearean tradition, with lots of banter and (spoilers, barely) a wedding at the end. Katherine Heigl is (of course) pretty and hapless in the starring role, but not too sympathetic a character for my tastes. I'm sure there are those women out there who do obsess over weddings to the point of cutting out well-written announcements and being a bridesmaid 27 damn times, but I'm not one of them. Maybe when I get to be a certain age...well, we'll see.

James Marsden is filling out as a very dreamy leading man, and as the LA Times noticed, has finally gotten the girl this time around. He's about the same amount too cynical as Heigl is too loftily romantic, but ends up being blandly likeable. It's Judy Greer, though, who for the millionth time steals the show. She's slutty and trashy and rolls her eyes at just the right time, and I totally want to hang out with her in real life. I do wish she'd asked a few more people to "say goodbye to these, 'cause it's the last time!" But, alas...

So, I'd say this one ranks somewhere above "catch it on HBO" but below "netflix" in terms of how you should see this movie. There is a gag in the final sequence that did take me by surprise, and was charmingly unexpected, and probably pushed it over the top of "yeah, see it if you get the chance" vs. "not worth it." Also, I may have been favorably biased because I was watching the movie in the same theater as The Most Incredible Audience Member In The World, Ever. TMIAMITWE sat right behind me and reacted more candidly to everything in the film than I would have ever thought possible. She laughed, snorted, gasped, tittered, guffawed, "aww'd," and squealed whenever the movie told her to. It was incredible how nude her predictability sensor was. I loved it.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

slackers, the blog

Once again, I have been terribly lax in my upkeep of this blog. I had all these notes of things I wanted to update it with after I got back from Australia, then life imploded at me. You know how it goes: semester starts up, I immediately have to travel across the country for a funeral, I start a new job, and I get some sort of cold/flu/whatever all in one month. Thus are my myriad reasons for having been a slacker. Luckily, I'm feeling a little better, I'm loving my job, school's going pretty well, and the funeral went as well as it possibly could have.

In school - MY LAST SEMESTER OF COLLEGE OH JEEZ - I'm taking 19th Century Russian Novel, Religion and Film, and Elementary Astronomy. Still getting into the swing of the semester, but the classes seem to be the right workload for my exponentially growing senioritis. As far as my good ol' career is concerned, I'm interning two days a week at Universal Pictures Production/Development. This, of course, means that I am finding all these cool scripts and rumors around the office, and can't say anything about them on my blog. NBCU seems to be a pretty great company to intern at (HIRE ME), and they are pretty hands-on when it comes to career counseling and stuff like that. HIRE MEEEEE

Of course, I have my fingers crossed that the buzz is all right about the writers' strike ending soon, as it is officially the worst time EVER to be looking for a job in Hollywood. I've promised my friends a party the minute Patric Verrone makes it official.

As far as blogging, I've read about half of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and loved it, so I can't wait to see the movie. I'm also hoping to see There Will Be Blood sooner rather than later. I know there are other films I've seen recently - did I ever write about Atonement? - well, I'll have to catch up (on homework and blogging) this weekend sometime. Ta!