Sunday, February 28, 2010

2/28: News Updates

Here are some news updates I've complied over at The Film Stage over the past week:

  • New Poster And Trailer For Tilda Swinton's 'I Am Love' [Click Here]
  • Matthew Goode Auditions For Bilbo Baggins [Click Here]
  • Rachel Portman To Score Mark Romanek's 'Never Let Me Go' [Click Here]
  • Sofia Coppola Buys Option To Francis Prose's "Goldengrove" [Click Here]
  • Darren Aronofsky To Adapt 'Serena' With Angelina Jolie [Click Here]

We are officially one week away from this year's Academy Awards, and in this article, I'm going to run through a few of the possible upsets that could occur on Oscar night.

Most notably, there is the growing belief that Inglourious Basterds is climbing its way up the Best Picture ladder. There is certainly enough evidence out there to back up this theory, and it is film with more qualifications than Avatar to own the #2 spot. It has Christoph Waltz as a Best Supporting Actor lock, and Quentin Tarantino as a very strong contender in the Original Screenplay category. Avatar, on the other hand, has no acting or screenplay nominations, and that could very well be what puts this film out of the race. I still feel that The Hurt Locker is the one to beat, but if I had to pick a film with a strong possibility to upset, I'd have to go with Inglourious Basterds at this point.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Movie Review: Blood Simple (1984) - 4 stars

Blood Simple is a delicious piece of neo-noir from the Coen brothers. It was the first film they ever made together, and it could very well be their best. The filmmaking duo has proven to be experts at throwing ordinary people in extraordinary situations, and this film is built upon that foundation. All of the characters in this film are smart, and they know what they want. But even the smartest of people have trouble cleaning up blood.

Everybody's Fine is among the most competent Christmas dramas you will find. The final revelations of this story are somewhat predictable, but the emotional punch is quite the opposite. Robert De Niro gives what is probably his most effective performance since Meet the Parents, and perhaps this is the role he's meant to play in the latter stages of his career. He can no longer bring life to the Jake LaMottas of the world, but as the tough-nose, oftentimes over-demanding father, he seems as comfortable as ever. His performance is the driving force behind this Kirk Jones film, and what an impressive film it is.

Today, I will be breaking down both the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. For starters, I took an in-depth look at the reasoning behind Sandra Bullock's frontrunner status a few weeks ago, and my opinion hasn't changed much since then. Nothing has happened since the Globes and the SAGs to indicate that Bullock might be jumped by any of the other nominees.

For her performance in The Last Station, Helen Mirren has by far the least chance for an Oscar victory. She won the category just three years ago for The Queen, and there's no reason for the Academy to go out of their way to give her another Oscar for such a quiet film. Throughout this awards season, I have struggled to come across any strong, passionate support for The Last Station, but Mirren must know how to play the game well, and she should be more than content with another nomination. Period pieces have done her well.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Countdown To 2010 Oscars: 11 Days Away

The 2010 Academy Awards, set to be broadcast on March 7th, are only eleven days away. Over the course of the upcoming days, I will be breaking down some of the major categories. For the first installment, I'm going to stay simple, and start off with the Best Supporting Actress category, which is perhaps the easiest of the night to predict. Mo'Nique has won every award on the western hemisphere for her chilling portrayal as Mary Jones in Precious, and I don't see any reason why that run shouldn't continue on Oscar Sunday.

Among the other nominees, Penelope Cruz has the least chance of winning for her turn in Rob Marshall's Nine. The actress does some fine work here -- though not quite on the same level as Broken Embraces -- but the combination of the critical and commercial bomb that Nine turned out to be, and the fact that she won just last year for Vicky Cristina Barcelona put her chances of winning at about zero. However, she has obviously gained a lot of weight in the industry. For an actress to be nominated for such a weak film only a year after she won an Oscar shows some elite status. It also makes us wonder where Marion Cotillard is at this point in relation to Cruz.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

25 Years After 'Blood Simple'

The debut of the Coen brothers, the sizzling film noir Blood Simple, was officially released back in January of 1985, and 2010 marks the 25th anniversary of the stunning film that put them on the map. I am re-watching and studying Blood Simple this week in film class, and you can be sure to expect a review by the end of the week. I must say that I am much more impressed than I was the first time around, even to the point where I would call it one of their three best films.

My relationship with the Coens has had lots of ups and downs. I wasn't a fan of two of their early outlandish comedies -- Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski -- but I adore their most recent ones: Burn After Reading and A Serious Man. I think it is the dark tone of the latter two that I appreciate the most. When it comes right down to it, I think that dark films are the true calling of this filmmaking duo, and they have crafted multiple masterworks that will be studied for years and years to come. Blood Simple, which began making festival rounds all the way back in 1984, is certainly one of those films.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

2/21: News Updates

Orange British Academy Film Awards 2010 - Winners Boards

Here are some of the news updates I've compiled at The Film Stage over the past week:

  • Joel Silver and Dark Castle Planning Wide Summer Release For 'Splice' [Click Here]
  • Jeffrey Wright Joins Duncan Jones' 'Source Code' [Click Here]
  • 'The Messenger' Writer/Director Finds Next Project: Kurt Cobain Biopic [Click Here]
  • Tom McCarthy Will Make 'Win Win' At Fox Searchlight [Click Here]

Kathryn Bigelow attends BAFTA in London

Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker has been raking in the awards buzz this weekend. Yesterday, Mark Boal took home an original screenplay honor from the Writers Guild, and today, the film took home six total awards, including Best Film, at the 2010 Orange British Academy Film Awards. The Hurt Locker won every category it was nominated in, except for Best Leading Actor, which went to Colin Firth for A Single Man, and Best Special Visual Effects, which went to James Cameron's Avatar.

In the other BAFTA categories, the overrated Fish Tank took home Best British Film, while A Prophet won for Best Foreign Language Film after Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon has been steamrolling through the awards season. I still think the latter is the Oscar favorite, and despite the consecutive wins for Mark Boal in the original screenplay category, I still think the Academy will go for Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds.

The full list of nominees and winners for both the Writers Guild Awards and the BAFTAs are listed after the jump.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Would 'Shutter Island' Have Been A Contenda?

Most everyone knows by now that Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island was originally set to be released on October 2nd of last year in hopes of being a major Oscar contender. However, back in late August, Paramout Chief Brad Grey came out and said that the best thing for the film and the studio would be an early 2010 release. At the time, the statement was a shocker, and led many to believe that this film was doomed to be forgotten, much like Joe Wright's The Soloist was. However, after seeing the fantastic piece of work that is Shutter Island, I firmly believe that it will be remembered as one of the director's most ambitious efforts. Variety is already reporting that the film took in an estimated $14 million on Friday night, and could be well on its way to becoming the director's highest-grossing film ever.

The more I think about Martin Scorsese's latest film, the more I love it. It takes place on the haunting Shutter Island, and it is the ideal location for a thriller of this ilk. Isolated and gloomy, Scorsese sets the tone for this film right off the bat, with the protagonist, the troubled U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), coaching himself through a bout of sea sickness. When he finally pulls himself together, he has a smoke with his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), and a briefing ensues.

Note: The lines quoted below were taken from several e-mails I exchanged with Chad Hartigan.

Many of you might recognize Chad Hartigan from his full-time job as a box-office analyst for ReelSource or for his Friday Forecast/Sunday Cents columns over at InContention, but he is also pursuing a career as a writer/director on the side. In 2008, Hartigan finished his first feature film, titled Luke and Brie Are on a First Date. The film is essentially a 76-minute chronicle of a couple's first date, but that's much easier said than done. The majority of films span days, months, even years. Very few films tackle hour-long stories, and it is in this characteristic that this small project finds its ambition. What may seem like a black-and-white issue on paper becomes much more interesting when it is considered within its thematic context.

Hartigan co-wrote the film along with lead actor George Ducker. In a film chock-full of long, drawn-out takes, much of the dialogue in Luke and Brie feels improvised, and I was surprised to learn that it was quite the contrary. Hartigan apparently wrote the first 25 pages of the script with the thought that the actors would improvise much of the rest, but Ducker "was adamant that we script the whole thing," and with the limited time and resources that most people involved had, it was without a doubt the right way to go.

The New York Times has posted a video in which several notable actors from 2009 discuss their favorite performances of the decade. The video includes, in order of appearance: Sandra Bullock, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Jake Gyllenhaal, Carey Mulligan, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Christoph Waltz, Sam Worthington, Vera Farmiga, Tobey Maguire, Colin Firth, Zoe Saldana, and George Clooney.

I'm sure most of you have seen Movie City News' spreadsheet of 2009 top ten lists, and I thought this would be a good time -- especially after the Oscar nominations -- to offer up some of my reactions. In total, top ten lists were complied from 239 critics. The total score of each film was based upon the total number of critics lists they appeared on (list mentions) and also, the average number of values each film placed away from #10 (average vote). For example, if a film appeared on 20 top ten lists and it's average spot within the top ten was #8, then you would multiply 20 times 2 to get the final score of 40. This method of voting ensures that both the list mentions and average vote relate directly to a film's total score. If there is any confusion about this voting method, feel free to ask in the comments section, or take a look at the spreadsheet and it might become clearer.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oscar Prediction Charts (Updated: 2/17/10)

  1. The Hurt Locker
  2. Avatar 
  3. Up in the Air
  4. Inglourious Basterds
  5. Precious
  6. Up
  7. District 9
  8. An Education
  9. A Serious Man
  10. The Blind Side

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Career of Leonardo DiCaprio

In anticipation of this week's Shutter Island, I'm going to run through a few of my favorite performances from one of Hollywood's most under-appreciated actors. Some people might look at Leonardo DiCaprio's three Oscar nominations and say that he's got his fair share, but I oppose any such theory. This is a guy who, at only 35 years old, has established himself as one of the prime acting talents of his generation. Martin Scorsese, one of the cinema's greatest directors, keeps coming back to him film after film, and that says a lot about just how good this guy is.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

2/15: News Updates

Here are some of the news updates I've compiled over at The Film Stage over the past week or so:

  • Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro Reuniting For Reflective Gangster Film [Click here]
  • Bradley Cooper and Joe Carnahan Reunite for 'The Grey' [Click here]
  • Norton Impresses in 'Leaves of Grass' Trailer [Click here]
  • Blanchett Joins 'Hanna', Tamblyn In '127 Hours', Wasikowska Is 'Jane Eyre', Weisz Explores 'Dream House' [Click here]
  • Mickey Rourke Discusses His Upcoming Film 'Passion Play' [Click here]
  • Fox Searchlight Acquires Another Swank Biopic [Click here]

The Aviator takes a little while to find its legs, but once it does, it never looks back. I'm not sure if there's been a better director/actor relationship over the past ten years than Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio, and this film could very well be their best. To date, DiCaprio has three Oscar nominations, and it should be double that. He should have at least one win, preferably for this remarkable portrayal of Howard Hughes. It's one of the best performances I've seen in a biopic.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Movie Review: Fish Tank (2010) - 2 1/2 stars

Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank is an attempt to tell a gritty, realistic coming-of-age story and, in many ways, it fails on both counts. The film's protagonist is the 15-year-old Mia, played fiercely by first-time actress Katie Jarvis. Based on this character, it's tough to say if Jarvis has a future in the industry, but she certainly carries herself well in this film. She was discovered by Arnold's casting director while she was having a fight with her boyfriend at a train station, and this spontaneous intensity is made clear from the first frame of the film. Jarvis, only 18, also gave birth to a daughter in May 2009. From what the stories tell us, it's easy to jump to the assumption that the actress is simply playing herself, but even if that is true, that in itself is no easy feat. She occupies nearly every frame of this picture, and her believability goes a long way towards making this film watchable. I just wish the same amount of courage had gone into the screenplay.

In many ways, David Lynch's Mulholland Drive is a cinematic achievement for the ages. It is a magical film, with sets sure to take the breath away of any film lover. The soundtrack from Lynch regular Angelo Badalamenti is nothing short of brilliant, and the cinematography of Peter Deming is on the same artistic level. There is an immense feeling of captivation while watching this film, and that is the cornerstone of the experience. Lynch is really not attempting to tell any form of a legitimate, logical story, but rather he is attempting to immerse the viewer in a dream-like atmosphere, and for the most part, the film works. Many people consider this to be the film of the 2000s, and while Naomi Watts' lead performance is worthy of that kind of recognition, the storyline is so weak that it nearly ruins the experience as a whole. It's certainly one of the most memorable films I've seen in years, but the staggering lack of coherency kept it from being a historic achievement in my eyes.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bennett Media's Decade Montage

Bennett Media has put together a rather brilliant collection of the some of the most memorable moments in film in the 2000s. It's well worth the seven minutes, and one of the more satisfying decade retrospectives I've seen thus far. You can click here to view Bennett Media's montages of previous decades that date back all the way to the 1970s.

the films of the 2000s from Paul Proulx on Vimeo.

Sandra Bullock wins at the 67th annual Golden Globe Awards

Daniel Getahun of Getafilm recently wrote a fascinating piece in which he describes how the story of The Blind Side would have been much more effective in the documentary format. It was a great article that stirred up a lot of debate in the comments section, and I'd like to write somewhat of a follow-up article, simply asking (and doing my best to answer) this question: Why is Sandra Bullock going to win the Best Actress Oscar?

  1. The Hurt Locker
  2. Avatar 
  3. Up in the Air
  4. Inglourious Basterds
  5. Precious
  6. Up
  7. District 9
  8. An Education
  9. A Serious Man
  10. The Blind Side

Working Girl, the fantastic film from director Mike Nichols, tells the story of a woman looking for a great husband and a great job, and the dilemmas that ensue when those two things overlap. Melanie Griffith stars as the hard-working Tess McGill, and I don't think she's ever been better. This film certainly has a comedic touch to it, but Griffith packs a kind of depth in her performance that is responsible for the majority of the dramatic impact. It's a film about love and work, which is, when you think about it, the two things that pretty much everyone aspires to. If you have a spouse and a job you love, you're bound to be happy in life.

Below is an embedded version of the short film Morgan M. Morgansen's Date with Destiny, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The film apparently screened at Sundance 2010 to some enthusiastic reception. It was made not only by Gordon-Levitt, but also with the help of about 180 contributors from his community-oriented video website hitRECord

These are the glowing words Gordon-Levitt had to say about this piece of work:

I actually watched the thing again just now. And I can whole-heartedly say that, besides the progressive methodology with which it was made, and besides the warm reception it received at Sundance, just purely as a little piece of art, as a short film, as a RECord -- I'm as proud of Morgan M. Morgansen's Date with Destiny as I am of any work I've ever done. 

This article, while containing some personal opinion, is mostly based on actual, plausible Oscar buzz. The following performances and screenplays were ones that -- in my opinion -- had an excellent chance to be nominated, but ended up receiving the short end of the stick. I am not interested in sharing my personal Oscar ballot, but rather considering why some of the most likely contenders ended up on the outside.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Trailer for Atom Egoyan's 'Chloe'

A festival favorite from 2009, Chloe is the new film from Oscar-nominated director Atom Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter). This thriller stars Julianne Moore (A Single Man) as a distraught and panicked married woman who believes her husband (Liam Neeson) is cheating on her. She decides to hire a prostitute named Chloe (Amanda Seyfried) to find out if her suspicions are true.

This film is a remake of a 2003 French film titled Nathalie... I was rather impressed by this trailer, and although the story isn't anything revolutionary, it is still an intriguing premise that could go places with its impressive cast.

Chloe is set for a limited release on March 26th from Sony Pictures Classics. Watch the trailer below, courtesy of Yahoo.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Reaction To 2009 Oscar Nominations

The Blind Side is a Best Picture nominee. Let the absurdity of that sink in for a few seconds. Now, let me ask, who in their right mind is voting for this as one of the year's best films? It's given that the number ten spot is a placeholder and a wild card, but I'm stunned that we ended up with The Blind Side over films such as A Single Man, Star Trek, 500 Days of Summer, and The Messenger. I even would've rather seen Invictus nominated (a film I didn't particularly like) simply because it had good enough reviews to be nominated. The fact that many AMPAS members will look back on 2009 and think of The Blind Side as one of the year's best pictures is a sad thought for me (more analysis and full list of nominees after the jump).

Monday, February 1, 2010

Ebert Sits Down With Jason Reitman

Roger Ebert has recorded a fascinating interview he held at his house with writer/director Jason Reitman. I have embedded two of the videos below, but be sure to check out Ebert's blog post in its entirety by clicking here.

This first video is by far the longest of the bunch (about 7 minutes), and it deals a lot with how Reitman sees his future career developing, along with the future development of cinema as a whole. In this segment, Reitman informs us that the current project he's working on is adapting the Joyce Maynard novel titled Labor Day. As Reitman puts it, Labor Day "deals with a very complex drama." He also, very interestingly, adds, "I may not nail it on this film. This may just be my first step."

It's refreshing and admiring to see an established director go for a change of pace. As he proved with Thank You for Smoking, Juno, and Up in the Air, Reitman is a master of the comedy-drama, but he fully admits that he wants to go in a completely different direction with Labor Day. I, for one, cannot wait to see how it turns out.

In this next video, Reitman discusses some of his favorite films of the year. When asked about Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar chances, Reitman says, "The amount of directorial control in The Hurt Locker is second to none. She's going to win, and she deserves to win. Spectacular film."

Later in the video, Reitman also expresses a true love and appreciation for Neil Blomkamp's District 9.

With the expansion from five to ten Best Picture nominees, predicting the Oscars is much tougher this year than it was last. There are many spots in the lower half of the ten that are wide open, and could end up going to any film from Star Trek to The Blind Side. There is really no way to predict where these spots will go, and the same is true of some of the acting categories. All acting categories seem to have a fifth slot that is wide open, so there could be plenty of surprises when the nominees are revealed. Morgan Freeman (Invictus) and Helen Mirren (The Last Station) don't seem like the surest of bets to me, but the problem is, I just don't know who would replace them with at this point (nominees after the cut).

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