Sunday, February 22, 2009

Live Blogging the Oscars- The Big Show

9:00 pm

Well, that's the night. Congratulations to Bill Condon and Larry Mark for keeping their promis to bring the show in before midnight on the east coast. And, of course, congrats to all the winners.

A lot happened in the last half hour. Sean Penn's very political, yet somehow endearing speech. Kate Winslet's very endearing, and very endearing speech. And, of course, the completion of the Slumdog near sweep. Just one loss.

Check back tomorrow for more on those awards and everything else.

8:25 pm

Is it wrong to say that Danny Boyle's win was the one I was waiting for all night. He didn't disappoint. And, he has to be one of the only winners to call himself an idiot in his acceptance speech. Beautiful moment.

8:10 pm

So, the Academy goes against good sense and awards a tiny understated Japanese film that almost no one has heard of. They just weren't ready for the in-your-face style of Waltz with Bashir. No matter. The classics will show in time.

As far as the music categories, am I the only one who just loves watching the Slumdog Millionaire crew accept awards. By my count, they have two more to accept. But, actor and actress first.

7:45 pm

The Dark Knight for the block, anyone? Slumdog will not sweep every award. But, it can still come very close. And, that's fine with me, as long as they keep cutting back to Danny Boyle, whose genuine happiness and surprise is so refreshing in a season where platitudes are a way of life.

And, is there anyone who doesn't just love Will Smith. Only he could present awards that almost one cares about (outside the academy) and have them be among the most entertaining moments of the night.

7:20 pm

Wonderful moment for Heath Ledger's family. And, for the Academy.

Also, is there anything Philipe Petit can't do?

6:49 pm

Judd Apatow is the modern king of comedy. Can we all agree on that? Jerry Lewis is going to win an honorary award later tonight. That will close the book on that part of comedy history. We're on to Judd Apatow. If you haven't seen the Funny People trailer, check it out here.

6:37 pm

Bit of a cheap shot at Joaquin Phoenix there, eh? Funny though.

Slumdog's 2 for 2. Get used to seeing crew making their way to stage.

6:30 pm

So, the awards are being presented thematically. Sets, costumes, makeup. It's so crazy it just might work.

In terms of the winners, Benjamin Button may only win one more award, so take in the David Fincher love while you can.

6:10 pm

"Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto." Unless Mickey Rourke wins, that might be the awards speech of the night. By the short animation winner. Funny things happen at the Oscars.

Kudos to Dustin Lance Black on his beautiful speech. Truly heartfelt, personal, and utterly necessary.

Simon Beaufoy wins, making Slumdog Millionaire 1 for 1 so far. We'll see where it goes from here.

Great speech by Andrew Stanton. Short. Sweet. Perfectly on point. Just like his film.

And, how funny were Tina Fey and Steve Martin. Great pairing.

5:50 pm

So how about that opening number? It looks like Hugh Jackman was the right choice to add some energy to the show. The jokes were there, like usual, but the song and dance are all Jackman.

A great moment for Penelope Cruz. Great speech. But, let's hope the rest of the presentations don't go as long or meandering as that one.

My television also seems to be trying to go out. Stormy Northern California. I'll have to hope it makes it through the rest of the night.

Live Blogging the Oscars- The Red Carpet

5:26 pm

So, they just asked Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen whom they would save if there were an earthquake. What a silly question.

But, it gets you thinking.

Seth said Judd and Judd said his wife.

It's tough choice. Let's just hope the Kodak is earthquake retrofitted.

They're about to go inside. I'm going watch the opening and so should you. I'll check in at the first commercial break.

5:23 pm

What a great night this must be for guys like Richard Jenkins and Frank Langella. They have deserved this for so long, and they are finally at the Big Show.

Those are the guys people talk about when it's said that "it's great just to be nominated."

5:15 pm

So, the switch in red carpet coverage from E! to ABC's coverage raises a couple questions.

Usually, I wonder who the more famous person is- the interviewer or the interviewee, and that's not a good thing. But, then, when I'm watching ABC, I just wonder who these people doing the interviews are and why they're there.

Beyond that, it's a hell of a sight to see Danny Boyle and the whole child cast of Slumdog. Invented controversies be damned.

4:53 pm

Is there anyone more beautiful or more gracious than Kate Winslet?

And, then they go to Ben Lyons. God, I miss Richard Roeper.

4:39 pm

It's odd watching the red carpet with people who know about fashion and dresses and all that. I don't. What was wrong with Anne Hathaway's dress? Something about fish.

I don't know, but E! was really excited to see Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie show up. They seemed to have the scoop by getting the first shots of the couple's arrival, which is sort of like being the first guy on the top of a hill to see the sun.

4:30 pm

"I'd rather have Loki another two years than the Oscar."

Mickey Rourke talking to Ryan Seacrest, dedicating the night to his recently deceased dog.

Regardless of whether he wins tonight, I think he's made his comeback. The world is free to love him again.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Breaking My Own Rule - The Academy Awards

So, I’m going to go ahead and break my own rule. I’m going to make predictions. But, hey, it’s the Academy Awards. I have been, historically, very bad at predicting the Oscars for a couple of reasons. First, I tend to give the Academy too much credit and assume that they will make the right decisions. Second, I like to go out on a limb and predict upsets sometimes (I had Little Miss Sunshine for Best Picture over The Departed, and we know how well that went over).

What I’m going to do, though, is make predictions and make wishes. Now, this may seem unnecessary, and yes, it does increase my chances of being right, but the predictions are the predictions. They can be wrong, and in all likelihood, they will be, at least on some accounts. And, if you’ve read any of the preceding posts here, then you know what my favorite movies this year have been, and my wish list will come as no surprise.

Check in at 5:00 pm on Sunday, and I will live blog the Oscars. My reactions, my thoughts, and all of that in real time.


Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire
Wish: Slumdog Millionaire

It is rare that the Academy members award the best movie of the year, and a lot of the time, they don’t even reward the best movie of the five nominees. If you follow awards buzz at all, then you know that Slumdog Millionaire has been the frontrunner for months. Nothing else can touch it. Is it the best picture of the year? Not quite. But, that doesn’t matter because it is the best of the nominated pictures. And, sometimes that’s enough.


Prediction: Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire
Wish: Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire

Like his film, Danny Boyle is easily the best of the nominees, though Gus Van Sant’s work on Milk is also worthy. The sheer tenacity of Boyle to go into the slums of Mumbai and drag out an artistic achievement like Slumdog is enough to earn him the award. He deserves it, and for once, it looks like the Academy knows it.


Prediction: Sean Penn for Milk
Wish: Richard Jenkins for The Visitor

For my reasoning on Richard Jenkins, check out my list of the best performances of the year on the bottom of this page. As for the prediction, Jenkins’ part is just too small for the Academy to love it as much as they should. The race would appear to be between Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler). My prediction is for Penn because Milk is a much better loved movie within the Academy, and there are plenty of people who just don’t like Mickey Rourke.


Prediction: Kate Winslet for The Reader
Wish: Anne Hathaway for Rachel Getting Married

Kate Winslet will win for several reasons: 1) the Academy likes The Reader a lot; 2) they like Kate Winslet a lot; 3) and, most importantly, somehow, they got the impression that they owe her an award. It is true that she has lost the award five times, but that’s no reason to award somebody, particularly not for this film, which isn’t even Winslet’s best performance of the year. But, she’s still going to win.


Prediction: Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight
Wish: Philip Seymour Hoffman for Doubt

I like both performances. So does the Academy. We just happen to disagree on which we like more. But, Ledger wins this in a walk.


Prediction: Viola Davis for Doubt
Wish: Amy Adams for Doubt

The smart money is on Penelope Cruz, but I play for free and lose nothing in predicting Viola Davis. She’s well liked, as is the movie, and the performance, despite its length, is deeply respected. Penelope Cruz, on the other hand, is in a movie that isn’t quite as liked, which I think is what it comes down to because, apart from the performances, the Academy is awarding films.


Prediction: Dustin Lance Black for Milk
Wish: Martin MacDonagh for In Bruges

Black’s screenplay is respected throughout the Academy’s membership, and once again, I think this comes down to rewarding a film that they like a lot because they’re not going to give it Best Picture. Don’t be surprised if Wall-E pulls off an upset, but I wouldn’t count on it. There’s too much of a prejudice against animated films, despite Wall-E’s six nominations.


Prediction: Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire
Wish: John Patrick Shanley for Doubt

Despite what I think is an over-reliance on a single plot device, Beaufoy’s script is good enough to win, and it will roll right along with a night of Slumdog Millionaire victories.


Prediction: The Reader (Roger Deakins and Chris Menges)
Wish: Slumdog Millionaire (Anthony Dod Mantle)

If I were smart, I would predict Slumdog like everyone else. Also, the upset pick is supposedly Claudio Miranda’s work on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. But, I’ll take this as an opportunity to go out on the furthest limb available. People like Roger Deakins, and he’s never won, despite many nominations. I think it’s his year. And, it is a very pretty movie, at least in terms of look. Mantle, though, does deserve the award, and I won’t be the least bit upset to be wrong in my prediction. It just means I won’t be perfect.


Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire (Chris Dickens)
Wish: Slumdog Millionaire (Chris Dickens)

If you’ve seen it, then you know why. The pacing, the kinetic energy, the fractured timeline. It’s edited as well as any Bourne film you’ve ever seen. The Academy knows that.


Prediction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo)
Wish: Revolutionary Road (Kristi Zea, Debra Schutt)

Button’s lavish period sets, which span several periods, will win the day here. It is an admirable feat, but Revolutionary Road is so dependant on the set to express the unspoken conflicts present in the book that it can’t be stressed enough how important Zea and Schutt’s work is to the film.


Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire (Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty)
Wish: Slumdog Millionaire (Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty)

(see next entry)


Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire (Tom Sayers)
Wish: Wall-E (Ben Burtt, Matthew Wood)

The first half of Wall-E is all sound, and Ben Burtt’s work, here and in the sound mixing, deserves to be recognized. But, Slumdog seems destined to win everything. And, if the movie teaches us one thing, it’s that destiny will not be denied.


Prediction: The Duchess (Michael O’ Connor)
Wish: The Duchess (Michael O’ Connor)

In this category, the award tends to go to the flashiest, showiest costumes from the nominated films. And, this is one category where it doesn’t matter how much the Academy liked a movie (if you remember the win for Marie Antoinette, then you know what I mean). Luckily, O’ Connor’s work on The Duchess actually is the best of the year.


Prediction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Greg Cannom)
Wish: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Greg Cannom)

Just about every character in this movie ages about 60 or 80 years. If that’s not deserving of an award, I don’t know what is.


Prediction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron)
Wish: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron)

It may be one of the most impressive displays of visual effects ever put to film. Brad Pitt’s transformation as Benjamin Button is nothing short of miraculous. Nothing else this year even comes close.


Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire (A.R. Rahman)
Wish: Slumdog Millionaire (A.R. Rahman)

It’s a very flashy score, ever-present in the film, which just means that the Academy is more likely to remember it. It also features a wonderful mix of current pop and traditional orchestration, and it is unlikely that the Academy won’t fall for this score.


Prediction: “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire
Wish: “O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire

The point of this award is to award the song that best exemplifies the film it is in and that best fits the mood and theme of the film. How a song featured only in the end credits fits this bill is beyond me, but it appears that “Jai Ho” is the Academy favorite.


Prediction: Wall-E
Wish: Wall-E

Never mind the fact that it is the best animated film of the year, Wall-E wins this award by virtue of its five other nominations.


Prediction: Man On Wire
Wish: Trouble the Water

For as much as Slumdog has dominated the main categories at this year’s various awards ceremonies, Man On Wire has won just as many if not more awards in the documentary categories. It will keep that streak going at the Oscars.


Prediction: The Class
Wish: The Class

Most people are saying Waltz with Bashir, so expect that if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the Academy is quite adventurous enough to award an animated semi-documentary in its foreign language category. The Class, on the other hand, is right up their alley.


I haven’t seen them (except for Pixar’s Presto, which played before Wall-E), so what do I know about it. I’ll still make predictions, though, just to be thorough.

Short Live Action- Toyland
Short Animated- Presto
Short Documentary- The Witness from the Balcony of Room 306

So, that’s that. Tomorrow night-- the Oscars. Then, this whole silly, glorious mess will be over.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Year's Best Quotes

There is a science to writing a great movie quote. Usually, it has to be short. It has to apply to a broad spectrum of the human experience. And, more than anything, it has to be memorable enough to stand out from the crowd. If you hadn’t noticed, actors talk a lot in most movies. For one line of dialogue to stick its neck above the rest, something extraordinary must have occurred.

This year did not offer the same sort of instantly quotable lines that last year did (“I drink your milkshake”; “Call it, Friendo”), but there was plenty to remember. Movie snob that I am, the chosen quotes mostly come from more high-brow offerings, but you and your friends know which Forgetting Sarah Marshall lines you like the best.

In addition to the aforementioned qualities, what I look for, almost above all else, is the ability of the writer to hint at the main theme of the film in a single line, to lay out the heart of the story with just a few words. As with everything else, it’s all a judgment call. And, these are my calls.

10. “I am Iron Man.” - Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Iron Man

From the other great comic book movie this year, this moment, essentially the end of the film, summed up perfectly what made Iron Man the anti-Dark Knight. It’s all kitschy fun. It’s about a guy who wants to be a superhero, not because he has to but because he can. As dark and brooding as Christian Bale’s Batman is, that is how light and enjoyable Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is. And, the way Downey delivers this final line makes it the ultimate coup de grace.

9. “You’re the most beautiful thing in the world…you’re a man.” - April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) in Revolutionary Road

After spending the first third of the film insulting and questioning the manhood of her husband, April Wheeler declares him to be, not just a man but, beautiful in as much as he is a man. It is one of only two emotionally positive moments in the movie because he will spend the rest of their time together forcing her to question this assessment. Winslet takes the pose of a wife doing penitence for many sins against the husband, and the audience is enraptured by watching this woman give up a piece of her soul so that her husband might find some piece of his own.

8. “I think you and I are destined to do this forever.” - The Joker (Heath Ledger) in The Dark Knight

As delivered by the now-deceased Heath Ledger, the line is all tragic irony, for we know that they will not “do this forever,” nor will they ever do it again. That the line is the perfect evocation of the conflict in the Batman character is of great import as well. As Batman struggles with the idea of having to play the hero forever, Ledger comes in as the Joker to tell him that he must and will be forever locked in a struggle with evil. Just, not with The Joker.

7. “I was thinkin’ about how nuthin’ lasts and what a shame that is.” - Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

For all of the shortcomings of this film, Brad Pitt has never been better. Benjamin Button ages backwards (if you didn’t know), and when he says nothing lasts to the Cate Blanchett character, who ages normally, it should be laughable. It is thanks to Pitt that this line works. And, since the line works, it helps to establish Button as a more active character, rather than the passive observer he seems to be. Unfortunately, the movie quickly loses this bent, but the line remains significant.

6. “I’m saying that when the president does it that means it isn’t illegal.” - Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) in Frost/Nixon

In terms of historical and factual accuracy, the line is ludicrous. However, in terms of Peter Morgan’s screenplay, it is everything. It was used in the trailer, which makes little sense as the whole movie builds to this revelation, but even though the audience knows it is coming, Langella puts everything into it and makes it a surprise. The revelation is not a surprise, as I said, but the way it is revealed is, which is because Ron Howard knows how to direct for maximum effect, and he milks this line for all it is worth.

5. “I didn’t even know where Bruges fucking was…it’s in Belgium.” - Ray (Colin Farrell) in In Bruges

In one way, In Bruges is a tragic comedy about gangsters and honor and all that, but in another way, it is about the worst vacation ever. This line is what distinguishes Ray from the beginning as different from his partner Ken. Ray is self-destructively insular. He is constantly in danger of imploding, and he can take no time to even look around him. The truth is that it doesn’t matter where Bruges is. It may as well be Hell because, from inside his own mind, he wouldn’t know the difference.

4. “My name is Harvey Milk, and I’m here to recruit you.” - Harvey Milk (Sean Penn) in Milk

It’s one of those repeated lines that gains new meaning and new significance with each time it is spoken. It’s a slogan. It is, by nature, simple, catchy, and affective. Thus, for the same reasons it works so well as a slogan for the slain gay-rights activist, it works as a great quote. Admittedly, it may be more Sean Penn’s performance than the line itself, but a great quote has to be said by somebody.

3. “Maybe, it’s written.” - Jamal Malik (Dev Patel) in Slumdog Millionaire

It took a lot of guts for Simon Beaufoy, the film’s scribe, to write a line as on the nose as this one and to let it be repeated as the story plays out. The story is about nothing if it is not about destiny. This line is used as a mantra throughout the picture, and in one way or another, every character is affected by its meaning. Jamal’s story, however, is the story the audience cares about, and it is his destiny that must be assured in watching.

2. “I’m just really worried about dying in the fire.” - Hazel (Samantha Morton) in Synecdoche, NY

It is my belief that behind this line lay the mystery of Synecdoche, NY. That is, of course, an overly-simplistic view of this abstract masterpiece of a film. The context of the quote is that Hazel is in the market for a new home, and her best prospect is a house that happens to be on fire, literally. She voices her concern but ultimately buys the home, still ablaze. Why? Because even though she will probably die, what would be the point of living if you couldn’t live as you saw fit? But, it is also representative of the ever-present inescapability of death. Like I said, though, I think it’s everything. But, that’s just a thought.

1. “I know I’m awake, but it feels like I’m in a dream.” - Ken (Brendan Gleeson) in In Bruges

Ken says this line twice. The first time, it is a B.S. story given to his boss about his partner’s feelings about Bruges. The second time, it is a devastatingly sad reflection on his own state of mind. The repetition occurs less than five minutes later, but everything in Ken’s world has changed. This is the strength of Martin McDonagh’s screenplay. The dramatic mood-shifts would not work if not for McDonagh’s writing. The dual use of this line, its heartbreaking double meaning, and the importance of the words to Ken are what writing is all about. And, any line that can define writing deserves to be recognized as the best quote of the year.