Wednesday, January 24, 2007

OPEN FORUM: OSCAR TALK et al


Here’s something new to SLIFR that I hope will become a regular feature. Reader Manaotupapau suggested recently that I try an open forum occasionally, which would be a good way to reintroduce topics from dead or dying threads and past posts, or film and pop culture-related topics of any stripe. So, let’s give it a try, shall we? Naturally, the first topic would have to be:

Your Reactions to the Oscar Nominations!

The only rule I’d like to impose (and it’s already been an unwritten one that has been well abided by so far in the history of this blog) is that the comments remain civil, good-humored and smart. And please feel free to go on at any length you choose! If this Open Forum goes well and everybody feels like the idea is worth pursuing, then pursue it we shall.

Thanks, Manaotupapau, for the great idea! I'll be checking in with a longer post on the subject later tonight, and of course you're welome to bandy back and forth underneath that one too. As Kirsten Dunst once so memorably put it, bring it on!

40 comments:

Dave Robidenza said...

That may be one of the few times I see the words "Kirsten Dunst" and "Oscar" in the same post.

Paul Matwychuk said...

I've been feeling like a real soft-headed pushover this year whenever I read bloggers' comments about the nominations. I kind of admired BABEL. I thought LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, for all its crowd-pleasing contrivances, was a real charmer. I thought Will Smith did a decent acting job in THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS. But apparently all of those films are total artistic frauds.

Obviously, I would have been much happier if Dennis' proposed list of Oscar nominees had prevailed instead. (The spectacle of Salma Hayek trying to pronounce "Hou Hsiao-Hsien" at the official announcement Tuesday morning would alone have been worth it.) It's too bad concert movies never stand a chance of getting nominations, since DAVE CHAPPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY and NEIL YOUNG: HEART OF GOLD provided me with probably the most joyful moviegoing experiences of the year. And it's a shame Spike Lee's INSIDE MAN didn't get any recognition--I think it's a much shrewder, exciting piece of genre filmmaking than THE DEPARTED.

I'm overjoyed, though, to see the Academy reject DREAMGIRLS, which I thought was a terrible, rhythmless movie, from the Best Picture category. I know DREAMGIRLS got the most nominations, but almost half of them are in the Best Song race, so it's a Pyrrhic (lyric?) victory at best.

Of course, despite the honorary award for Ennio Morricone, the Academy's ear for music has always been suspect. Philip Glass for Best Original Score? Boo!

Sharon said...

Here are my ramblings about the Academy Award nominations in no particular order:

I’m sorry that Ben Affleck was not nominated for Supporting Actor in Hollywoodland. I thought he was just terrific in it. And while we’re on that category, I would have nominated Paul Dano instead of Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine. He really blew me away.

I’m disappointed that Dreamgirls was not nominated because I think it’s absence from the Best Picture category will hurt the ratings. And as I work for Disney/ABC, that is of concern to me. If you look at the ratings since Titanic won in 1997, you’ll see a steady decline ratings decline. And while there are many factors that contribute to it, I feel that much of the blame can be attributed to the fact lack of crowd-pleasing blockbusters in the final five. Most casual moviegoers won’t watch the show if they haven’t seen the movies. And I would guess that the combined box office of the five finalists is less than Pirates 2 made it’s opening weekend.

I like Abigail Breslin in LMS, but I’m somewhat uncomfortable with a child in competition with adults. But that’s just me.

As much as I loved Helen Mirren, I would dearly love for Meryl Streep to win. She can do no wrong in my book and should win every year that she’s in a film.

I’m delighted that my current favorite composer is nominated again – Thomas Newman for The Good German’s score. He’s been nominated many times and has never won. I expect that trend to continue this year as well.

I’m also delighted that An Inconvenient Truth has been nominated as well. Can’t wait to see Al and Tipper on the red carpet!

Three Brits and a Spaniard nominated in the Best Actress category. I guess there weren’t any American actresses doing any good work in 2006 except for Meryl Streep, of course.

Now that Ryan Gosling has been nominated for Best Actor, I kind of wish I hadn’t walked out of Half Nelson 30 minutes in. But I was falling asleep and leaving seemed like a great idea at the time.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Dave: As one who does not think of Mary Jane Parker when I see Kirsten Dunst, in her defense I will mention Dick, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Peter Bogdanovich's The Cat's Meow, in which Dunst personified Marion Davies creditably in a largely overlooked, very enjoyable movie. I heard good things about The Virgin Suicides too. And speaking of Sofia Coppola, I spent a lot of time earlier this year imagining how many horses it would take to drag me to see Marie Antoniette, and now I find myself strangely compelled to see it in the hopes that it will surprise me like it did some very smart people I read regualrly.

Paul: I will finally submit to Babel this weekend after being chastized (and perhaps rightfully) for mentioning it in the context of Crash without having yet seen it. Like my hopes for Marie Antoniette, it would be nice if it turned out my reaction was closer to the one you had than to the one I had to 21 Grams (didn't like it one bit).

Don't you think they should just have Salma Hayek announce the nominees every year? Jyes-s-s-s! And I hadn't really thought about it yet, but the comparison between Lee and Scorsese's exercises in genre "slumming" is illuminating. While I enjoyed both movies, I have to give the edge to Lee simply because I didn't feel like he approached the movie as a step backward but, quite the contrary, as an opportunity to see how he could inhabit this kind of storytelling without giving up his soul, his heart. And I think he succeeded very well. Scorsese, on other hand, is being lauded for this "return to form," and has been pointed out elsewhere, often and eloquently, just what about The Age of Innocence, Casino or Kundun suggests a filmmaker resting on his laurels? These are movies from which one has to come back in order to be well-received? Even clunkers like Bringing Out the Dead and Gangs of New York can't be called hackwork. So Scorsese returns to form with The Departed, keeps the picture moving swiftly, but never engages with the material to the degree that Lee did with Inside Man. I really think Scorsese would be better off keeping the company of other directors who never won a competitive Oscar. Besides, Eastwood deserves it (yes, yet again) for Letters from Iwo Jima.

Finally, I must say I'm glad for the Dreamgirls snub too, if only for what it says about relentless Oscar marketing and presumed ascendance to the top of the heap. The movie was, as you say (and not without irony) rhythmless and clunky, and even aside from its structural famliarity and avoidance of dealing with any of the meaty parts of the Supremes story it unearths, the Broadway source material, if this movie is any evidence, wasn't such great stuff to begin with.

I do have to say, though, that I'm behind the Jennifer Hudson nod. Given a good script in a real movie (as opposed to this paper Oscar tiger), she could really do some wonderful things. She's got the right stuff-- the camera loves her, and I couldn't keep my eyes off of her. Sure, she could use a little modulation in her vocal performance, but when that showstopping number was over, I felt like I'd seen the most electrifying musical number in a movie since Tina Turner practically imploded as the Acid Queen. Anybody ever feel like they could get away with telling Tina Turner to dial it down a notch?

I know TLRHB loved it, and I've got the DVD ready to go, but I was also wondering, has anybody else seen Spike Lee's When the Levees Broke? And do the documentary nominees seem like the strongest bunch ever assembled in any one year? We've actually heard of all five of them!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Sharon: Half Nelson is out on DVD on Feb. 13. This time at least you won't have to walk out to fall asleep!

And given all the overseas influence in the Best Actress category, the rest of the categories seem to be well populated with performers of several different races, colors and, who knows, maybe even creeds too. What do we make of this? What's the impetus behind Oscar's relative color-blindness in 2006?

And what about this? Speaking as someone who was neither offended nor overwhelmed by Little Miss Sunshine, I'm wondering if James Wolcott's take on the movie rings true with anybody?

What do you think, Paul? I thought his observations were pretty good ones, though I'm just having a hard time building up a big head of animosity over this movie. It's a well-marketed, enjoyable comedy-- not Best Picture material, in my mind, but not the bottom of the barrel either.

Cerb Chaos said...

I'll just focus on the best picture category

I actually liked Babel a lot, thought it was much better then Amores perros, which I also liked, and it certainly was better then the mediocre Crash. I can understand the comparisons, but it seems to me light years ahead of that movie.

I also loved The Departed, I think either it or Pan's Labryth is my favorite of the year, actually. Some of the reviews of it seem to ignore that Scorsese has never stopped making good movies after Goodfellas, whether they're gangster pictures or not. I'd actually rate this one about the same stature as The Age of Innocence, a decidingly non gangster movie, in my own personal Scorsese cannon.

I have yet to see Sands of Iwo Jima actually, but from the reviews I'm hearing I'm sure it will be great.

Little Miss Sunshine was just quirky enough for my tastes, and I'm pleased to see it get on here (though I personally prefered Borat)

The Queen is one of the best reviewed films of the year, as Rotten Tomatoes reveals, but I didn't seem to like it as much as everybody else, I liked it, but never felt it really grabbing at me as I think it should have. We can all agree, however, that Helen Mirren was a wonder to behold.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Dennis: I hope you don't mind my being off-topic, but I dug seeing that poster for The Violent Men. I wrote about that film a while back. I feel like I've been in the process of rediscovering Glenn Ford, who, getting back on-topic, never received a single Oscar nomination.

Tina said...

Sharon: I totally agree about Affleck and Hollywoodland. Adrien Brody drove me crazy, but Affleck was wonderful.

Dennis: Yes, The Cat's Meow is a great, completely underrated movie. I caught it on HBO a year or so ago and I couldn't believe it hadn't received more notice. I first saw Kristin Dunst in The Virgin Suicides, where she's also good, so she's also never been Mary Jane to me.

When the Levees Broke is one of the best things I saw this year, in any medium. Although I'm thankful to HBO for financing it, I'd have loved to see it eligible for an Oscar.

James Wolcott's thoughts on Little Miss Sunshine rang true for me, although he's a little harsher than I'd be (I appreciated more the commenter somewhere who called it National Lampoon's Beauty Pageant Vacation). For me, it was one of those films you watch waiting for it to really kick in and get good...and then it was over. Kinnear, Collette, and Carell were good, though.

My favorite of the year was The Departed. I was entertained throughout and thought it was full of terrific performances. I have no problem with it getting any awards, particularly Scorcese.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Peter: I only recently saw The Violent Men for the first time, and it was terrific. I saw it at the Lone Pine Film Festival, held in Lone Pine, CA, near the Mojave Desert where many westerns, including this one, was shot. Ford was great in it, but I put the poster up because I'm on a bit of a Barbara Stanwyck tear right now. Anything and everything I can get my hands on. I ran a double feature of Baby Face (from TCM's wonderful "Forbidden Hollywood" collection) and Sam Fuller's Forty Guns a couple of nights ago. Brassy, saucy, bitter heaven.

Also, did you get my message re running a DVD dub of the Oscars for you? I'll send you a copy of this year's show, if you'd like one. Just let me know.

Tina: Though I would have been just as happy to see Alec Baldwin get a nod too, it really tickles me to see Mark Wahlberg nominated for The Departed. In a wonderful ensemble cast (nobody ever mentions Ray Winstone), he was a stand-out, and to stand out from the likes of these guys, that's saying something. The energy level of that movie really notched up for me whenever he came on screen. He made me really want to get underneath this guy and find out what was behind the incessant bravado. There's really not much of a character there, but we do eventually find out something, and it's a good 'un, as my grandma used to say, thanks in no small part to Wahlberg's ability to jump out like a snake in a can and simultaneously recede to the background of this byzantine story. He's really turned into someone I enjoy seeing on screen.

scot said...

Dennis, I definitely enjoyed your Oscar nominations preview post. And after finally seeing Three Times I share your enthusiasm for that film.

As for the actual real world nominations, they really didn't hold that much excitement for me. Almost all the major nominations went exactly as everyone thought they would. My only hope before the nominations was that Penelope Cruz would recieve recognition for Volver. And even though the award has more or less already been handed to Helen Mirren I was still happy to see Cruz nominated.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Great to hear some love for Three Times. That movie defines mesmerizing for me this year.

And speaking of mesmerizing, I've never been much on Penelope Cruz-- after Blow, I was pretty sure I never wanted to see her on screen again. But I must say, every time I see an ad or a still from Volver I stop and take time to appreciate the way she looks in this film. There's a bit of a '60s Sophia Loren thing going on there, and that's never a bad thing. I hope to finally actually see the movie myself this weekend, along with Babel, The Last King of Scotland and maybe even The Good Shepherd. (Don't ask me how I think I'm going to manage this Herculean feat, because I don't know!) I hope Almodovar's film is as beautiful as his star.

Jimmy said...

When talking of Miss Dunst, let us not forget her charming performance in Bring it On (I'm serious, stop laughing...)

Can't argue with people on Scorsese and The Departed except to say that I disagree - I can't picture him just going through the motions. The Departed struck me as an especially joyful tribute to the gangster pictures of the 30s and 40s - funny, twisty, and entertaining as hell - with Scorsese and his team employing all the tricks of the trade to knock our socks off. Is that a particularly lofty ambition? Of course not, but it just doesn't bother me...

You could say that Spike Lee had the real comeback of the year, but that's not really an adequate description - he took his game to a whole new level.

Like how spread out the nominations are this year. Lots to disagree with, but I'm more impressed with how much they got right, and where.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Back to those documentaries, this year was undoubtedly a bountiful one for this category. It's just great to see so many good films nominated, and familiar ones too. This is the first year I can recall where I knew of all of the nominees and have even seen a couple of them already.

I would probably choose Iraq in Fragments among those listed-- it probably would rank as the best documentary I saw this year. But what of those that Oscar passed over? Did anyone see The Bridge? Or 51 Birch Street?

The documentary I wish Oscar could have found room for would have to be Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck's riveting look at the Dixie Chicks and the aftermath of their denouncement of President Bush, Shut Up and Sing. It's on DVD February 20.

Benaiah said...

I was happy that Dreamgirls didn't get nominated. It was intensely uninteresting to me from the first time I saw the previews and while it is criminal to pre-judge a movie, I just couldn't imagine it as the best movie of the year.

I am profoundly disappointed that Sasha Baron Cohen didn't get nominated for best actor. The Oscar's, for all their self serving progressiveness, are the most cowardly of all the award shows (well besides the People's Choice). I would have kicked Leo and Will Smith to the curb and replaced them with Cohen and Leo (for the Departed stead).

Nice to see Kate Winslet pad her nominated but never won totals in the hopeless Best Actress category. She will probably win in ten years in a mediocre performance, just as Marty will probably win this year for The Departed.

I loved The Departed, but the screenplay was the real star, not the direction. Jack Nicholson was embarrassing and I am surprised that Scorsese couldn't get him to tone it down. His big scene in the restaurant where he discussed rats was beyond hacky. Everyone else in the movie was terrific though.

I would have given the Best Supporting nod to Steve Carrel instead of Alan Arkin.

Spike Lee is maybe the best documentarian going right now and it is insane that he didn't get nominated.

I saw CSA last night, and I agree that it should win the editing award. One of the most disturbing and provocative movies I have seen in a very long time. I have an African-American roommate and I kept imagining how difficult the movie would be to explain to him out of context. Hopefully, I will get a chance to write about it in the next day or two.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Benaiah:

The reason When the Levees Broke didn't get nominated for the documentary Oscar is because it premiered on HBO, plus it was never screened theatrically to my knowledge.

And I share your disappointment about Sacha Baron Cohen. If that's not a great performance, then I guess I just don't know how to assess these things...

About CSA, were you as emotionally slammed by the revelation at the end as I was? (I don't want to say any more, because I suppose there are plenty of folks who haven't yet seen it.) There was a question in the last quiz about a movie moment that evoked an audible gasp-- if I failed to mention this moment, I sure shouldn't have.

Please let us all know when you write about the movie so I can link to it here.

Christian said...

Dennis: I haven't posted here since the "Black Dahlia" discussion, during which I attributed the dazzling effect of so many De Palma films to the work of his cinematographers. You liked the idea and said it might deserve a post of its own.

I don't know if that's called for, or if you have any further thoughts to share on "Dahlia," which you didn't care for, but I thought this would be an opportune time to ask what you think of Zsigmond's cinematography nomination? Bravo, I say! Even those who didn't care for the storytelling singled out Zsigmond's amazing work.

As someone who, at times, has a hard time differentiating between the way a film looks and what a film says -- who thinks that the visuals *are* the story, to a large extent -- I am thrilled with this nomination. Normally, such a nomination wouldn't have a prayer, as the cinematography Oscar so often goes to the Best Picture winner. But this year, with none of the Cinematography nominees matching the Best Picture nominees, I'm holding out hope for a little Oscar glory for "The Black Dahlia."

I have the DVD on hold at the library, but I fear a second viewing will be underwhelming. Not so much because of the problems you've pointed to with the script, but because the visual experience of seeing "Dahlia" an a huge screen will be severely compromised on my 27-inch TV set.

Then again, if "Dahlia" holds up in that environment, I guess it really is the masterpiece we (few) fans claim it to be! ;)

Benaiah said...

That end actually didn't surprise me. For one thing, in Ghost World Eden's character uses a piece of found art that I am pretty sure was featured at the end of the movie. The movie's swath seemed so much bigger than the ending that I was almost disappointed that the ending kind of wrapped up the movie like a bow. Honestly, that was the most difficult movie experience I have had in a long time (it didn't help that I was expecting a narrative comedy, not a pseudo-documentary). I just kept punching you in the stomach and topping itself. The whole movie was the answer to that question. I was shocked. I felt guilty, I felt excited because it was such a powerful statement, I felt like it could be widely interpreted as condemnation for everything it references and maybe its focus was much more specific. Just a powerhouse of a movie.

I read some negative reviews that focused on the misinterpretation of history and I was disgusted. That is like saying that Dorothy should have encountered a more realistic adventure in Oz. History is lit on fire by the movie, so why worry about accuracy. Anyway, I just stop before I steal my own thunder. I am going to watch the movie again tonight and see how I feel the second time around.

That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

Ken Jennings, the Jeopardy champ, has a very amusing, quirky blog (www.ken-jennings.com/blog/), which I'd recommend to all. Sometimes, he weighs in on movies. Here is his take on this year's Oscar race:

Now i was never a huge fan of, say, Chicago, or Gladiator, but if Little Miss Sunshine wins next month, it’ll be the most clueless Academy Best Picture pick since Forrest Gump in 1994. There’s not one solitary second of this formulaic road-trip crapfest that felt true or honest to me (much less perceptive or lovingly observed) in any way. Not for one moment did I believe any of it. The cast isn’t a family. They’re not even characters. They’re always just actors–and actors I like very much–bouncing around at the “but-wouldn’t-it-be-funny-if” whims of an endlessly quirk-plagued script. The big audience laughs–Grandpa’s doing heroin! Steve Carell’s buying gay porn! Greg Kinnear’s stealing a body!–are just the worst examples; every scene is full of contrived crap like this. The unbearably misconceived pageant finale, from the gag-ridden “we’re-gonna-make-it” car chase borrowed from a 1970s Disney movie all the way down to the queasy striptease, doesn’t work at all–in a way, it’s the apotheosis of clownish unbelievability the movie’s been promising all along.

I laughed out loud at the out-of-nowhere ending tacked onto The Departed, and I’d still rather see that flawed movie beat up on Little Miss Sunshine. In fact, I want to see Mark Wahlberg literally beat up Abigail Breslin, preferably while she’s dressed like the Bee Girl from the Blind Melon “No Rain” video. Yup, if Children of Men or Pan’s Labyrinth can’t be nominated, I’m actually rooting for The Departed. For a change, I actually want the sympathy-vote old-timer obviously-lesser-work to win over the token hip indie. Oh yeah, and Peter O’Toole too, sorry Forest. Thank you and good night.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Ken Jennings brings up that final shot in The Departed. Since we're talking about endings that hit you in the gut (CSA worked that way for me, as the capper to, as Benaiah says, an escalating historical bonfire), regardless of how everyone felt about the movie as a whole, yea or nay, how did everyone feel about that little joke Scorsese throws in there in the final shot? The cherry on top, or a cheap, obvious zinger?

Christian: Off the top of my head, I can't think of a movie shot by Vilmos Zsigmond that didn't look fundamentally amazing-- Jersey Girl, I guess, which would be a rare instance of a brilliant cinematographer not being able to override or inform the visual acuity of the director and bring something extra to the party that normally isn't there in his other movies.

As for his work on The Black Dahlia, even though I cared not for the movie, I'd be hard-pressed to find fault with what Zsigmond did with the Panavision palate here. Much like in his work on Blow Out, the darkness of night in Dahlia has a particularly tactile quality, as if it's made of the harshest velvet, and even the California sunshine is given a slightly curdled sheen. It's exciting that none of the nominees in the Cinematography category match the Best Picture nominees, so there's the possibility for some actual suspense here. And the category is full of riches, so even if Zsigmond doesn't win, maybe Lubiezki will...

All this talk of cinematographers seems particularly relatable to something I'm experiencing at work right now. In the past few days I've had a chance to look at the 1935 version of Les Miserables, starring Fredric March as Valjean and Charles Laughton, gloriously demented here, as Javert. The movie is directed by one Richard Boleslawski, a director of Russian heritage with whom I was previously unfamiliar. A quick check on IMDb reveals he directed other notable movies, including an early version of The Painted Veil (1934) starring Greta Garbo and the first version of Three Godfathers (1936) starring Chester Morris and Walter Brennan.

Based on Les Miserables, he's a director who I hope to learn more about and whose movies I hope to see more of. This movie shows off a fascinating visual style, mixing long takes with exressionistic compositions and lingering, imposing close-ups-- it's a patch and a half on the logy 1952 version with Michael Rennie, which seems to be intent on lending weight to all the least important aspects of Hugo's narrative.

But my point with Les Miserables is that it was shot by Gregg Toland, and so part of the upcoming investigation of Boleslawski's movies for me is going to be how they vary visually and stylistically from film to film. Because I'm curious to get a handle on how much of Les Miserables was Boleslawski and how much can be reasonably credited to the man who shot Citizen Kane. The only way to get even a slight handle on this is to compare a few of his films and see what they look like stacked up next to each other.

I guess what I'm wondering is, is Boleslawski the real thing, or is he Kevin Smith to Toland's Vilmos Zsigmond?

Chris Stangl said...

CLICK!?! CLICK!? SERIOUSLY, that CLICK!?

Oscar Time! The idea used to set my heart a-pounding... and then I stopped being 12 years old. I don't even know what the Academy pretends the awards mean any longer. The institution that tells us Kevin Costner is a better director than Martin Scorsese is giving out statues? Hooboy. Positing the awards as a competition or a contest obviously offends anyone serious about art, but hey, I'm a sucker for lists, rankings and horse races. The Thing about Olympic competition, though, is that the strongest, fastest, most graceful entrant is supposed to win; the atrocious taste of the nomination and voting bodies and the reality of the procedure align the Oscars as a popularity contest. There is more ideological purity in the motives of the People's Choice Awards.

This year's noms continue the 79 year quest to establish a canon of middlebrow claptrap. In most of the categories, there is no real winner. It's impossible to care if any of those men - all (save Gosling) fine actors, all nominated for middling junk - win Best Actor. They weren't the best actors. No Academy member can look you in the eye and say Ryan Gosling gave a better performance than Ray Winstone and Guy Pearce in THE PROPOSITION. That Will Smith's performance will live beyond Hugo Weaving in VENDETTA. That DiCaprio was better in BLOOD DIAMOND than THE DEPARTED. Sadly, the game becomes "which mediocre-to-bad nomination is least offensive?"

Sometimes there is no answer. There is no worthy animated feature nominated. There are no good Original Songs nominated. Everyone loses.

I'm pulling for THE DEPARTED on all fronts, Wahlberg, Schoonmaker, Scorsese, and Monahan. I'm saddened by the audience indifference to the movie almost as much as I found it enthralling. I just can't stop watching the damned thing, and it's shot onto my list of favorite Scorsese pictures. Granted, I lean toward AFTER HOURS, KING OF COMEDY and AGE OF INNOCENCE: genre is Scorsese's creative hotplate. It is a shame THE DEPARTED's leads were not given any love, though.

In a few categories, my preferred picks (or 2nd picks) were actually nominated: PAN'S LABYRINTH's makeup, POTC: DEAD MAN'S CHEST's art direction and effects (and it's up against SUPERMAN RETURNS and POSEIDEN... two films with remarkably bad effects), BORAT's screenplay-or-whatever-it-was. I'm also keeping fingers crossed for Zsigmond and BLACK DAHLIA, though I am one of the few who was not the least disappointed by the film.

I Wish Dept.: PIRATES' rousing score was nominated, as well as Depp's fithy/sexy weirdo performance, the diverse and detailed costumes, a few of the supporting players (Nighy and Naomie Harris), and its much-lamented screenplay, which I loved very much. The PIRATES script is a marvel of excess and character-development tangent, like a KILL BILL for kids. I wish INLAND EMPIRE were not snubbed, but I'm far beyond caring what the Academy thinks of David Lynch. I wish DePalma's name were up there. I wish SCANNER DARKLY's Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves' would replace Will Smith and Kate Winslet.

Very, very most of all, I wish Mott Hupfel's cinematography for THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE were nominated all by itself, with no other contenders. If I ever meet Hupfel, I'm going to tongue-kiss him.

I sincerely hope Scorsese steps up to the lectern, grabs his Golden Boy, statue-whips the host and tells the Academy to insert a .44 Magnum in their collective vagina. Now that, you should see. CLICK!

Paul Matwychuk said...

Some writer I once read (I can't remember who; maybe I should steal their idea and see if I can get away with claiming it as my own) suggested that the Oscars should split up the Best Costume category into Best Costume (Period) and Best Costume (Contemporary).

I couldn't agree more! This category has arguably featured, year after year, the most unimaginative, narrow nominees of any category in the ceremony except maybe for Best Documentary. It's always a list of five period pictures--movies where the costumes tend to be inspired more by historical research than by insight into the characters. I'm going to sound like much more of a LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE diehard than I really am here, but I thought the costumes in that movie were perfectly chosen and did as much to set the tone of the film as the art direction and the music. Same goes for the costumes in movies like INSIDE MAN and MIAMI VICE.

I can certainly understand the criticisms that guys like James Wolcott and Ken Jennings have for LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, and I feel a little bit helpless in the face of them. All I can think of to say is, the wildly overrated BRINGING UP BABY is full of even more contrived and precious situations than LMS, and people think that thing's a classic. I know, I know: heresy! And I'm not trying to claim that LMS is some kind of underappreciated classic comedy either. But for me, it was funny enough and the cast was charming enough to win me over. (Corpse-stealing scene excepted. And while Alan Arkin is a national treasure, I'd have nominated Greg Kinnear or Steve Carell instead.)

Anyway, let me echo the praise for the stinging satire of CSA (my pick for the best film of the year) and the fearlessly committed performance of Sacha Baron Cohen in BORAT, which might be the comedy equivalent of Robert De Niro's work in RAGING BULL.

And am I the only person here who thinks THE PRESTIGE deserved a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay?

Edward Copeland said...

I'm not going to bore you with all the statistical nonsense that fascinates me and which seems less and less relevant with each new Oscar year. (I haven't gone all the way back to check, but I think it's unprecedented to have four out of the 5 best actor nominees be the sole nomination for their respective films. The last time someone won best actor on his film's only nomination was Michael Douglas in 1987 for Wall Street and before that Cliff Robertson for Charly in 1968. Still, I don't think this means DiCaprio is winning.) As much as I loathed Babel, I was expecting its nominations, so the nomination the pushed the most vomit up into my throat was Philip Glass for his horrid intrusive score in Notes on a Scandal which almost made the film unwatchable at time.

Bill said...

I loved "The Prestige", too, but I suspect that there are some pretty big holes in the plot. I won't know until I've seen it again, and I'll be happy to be wrong, but we'll see...

Regarding the last shot in "The Departed": I'd heard nothing but criticism of it, before I saw the movie, but I'd avoided finding out anything about what the shot was. Seeing it, I thought the rat was absolutely fitting. For one thing, it was completely in keeping with the tone of the film. For another thing, I read it as a simple, nasty kick to Matt Damon's corpse. I happen to be very pro-cop, and the movie, cynical as it was, struck me as being very pro-cop, as well (not as much as "Infernal Affairs", but still). While I understand that Scorsese may have been going for something more with the rat-shot (considering which building we see in the background), I'm sticking with my initial reading of it, and on those grounds I thought it worked.

Flower said...

I was hoping that The Proposition's screenplay would get a nomination - and while I loved Ray Winstone in the same picture, I thought Emily Watson gave THE outstanding performance in that film.

Loved the last shot of The Departed, but it's about a 50/50 split among my friends (quickly polled in advance of this post!). Aside from making me laugh - a lot - the shot links Damon to the system that tacitly supports the corruption he represents (the capitol dome in the background), suggests that little will really change (Wahlberg's act of vengeance not withstanding), and provides the perfect cynical bookend to the film (following the beginning, which couches Nicholson's rise as a component of Boston's institutionalized racism).

Dennis, I just recently watched Three Times (largely based on your recommendation). It was my first Hou, and I thought it was excellent - the way he conveyed different social/political eras was just extraordinary. At first I didn't like the silent section, but by the time I got to the third story, and was able to feel how different each story was - I really started to appreciate the film.

And speaking of unheralded performances, has anyone seen Francois Ozon's Time to Leave? There's a sequence toward the middle in which the main character, dying of cancer, goes to visit his grandmother (played magnificently by Jeanne Moreau). It was a beautiful sequence, perfectly played and achingly real. It was a tiny film that didn't really get any attention (I rented it off Netflix), but Moreau's brief performance is extraordinary.

Benaiah said...

I finished my review of CSA, and posted it on my blog. After watching it a second time it stands out as my pick for movie of the year. I want to organize a double feature of Crash and CSA, just to juxtapose how the two movies make the audience feel.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Good morning, everybody.

I'm running late today and have to leave for a teaching job in about an hour and a half, so I can't stay long. But there's plenty I want to get back to, especially some of Chris S.'s comments and thoughts on Scorsese's rat. So please keep this going. I'll be back.

Crash plus co-hit CSA. Very interesting. By the way, you can read Benaiah's blog, entitled Back to Bard right here.

As a crutch-bound Arnold so hilariously put it to cap off the Golden Globes a couple of weeks ago, "I'll be back!" (See? Got the same stunned nonresponse he did. There must be a future for me in politics.)

Brian said...

Good luck on your teaching gig, Dennis!

You asked for documentaries we thought were snubbed from the list. My pick: Jonestown: the Life and Death of People's Temple. But I guess this year the momentum was behind films that tackle current-day political issues head-on, not historical relevancy.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Brian, I had forgotten about Jonestown. It played here for one week and it was impossible for me to get to it when it did. But thanks for reminding me-- this has been a very good week for adding movies to the Netflix queue.

So you're not happy about the coronation of Helen Mirren? Is it because of the performance, the movie, or the whole so-front-runner-she-has-the-award-already status? (A status that the Academy deflated pretty effectively re Dreamgirls.) And who would your choice be, among the ones nominated, and in your perfect world?

Thanks for the good wishes. I'm headed to first grade today!

Benaiah said...

Gee Edward, you really had something to say. This Film is Not Yet Rated was great, but of course, the irony of the Academy pointing out how arbitrary the movie business is before giving the best picture to something trite and worthless is too much for the Oscars to handle. Thus, it wasn't nominated.

manaotupapau said...

Dennis - Thank's for giving this kind of forum a shot: Hope you're finding it rewarding.

I used to worry about the Oscars, but now it only serves one worthwhile purpose to me: to see people talking about films they might not otherwise be talking about. But then, blogs like this have sort of taken over that area for me, so who needs the Oscars? It's almost a bizarre parody of a rite of spring: nubile actresses squeezed into outrageous costumes celebrate the death of the cinematic year - and after that, the sacrificial films are released on DVD for hoi polloi to discuss or not discuss and then one doesn't talk about these movies in polite society anymore. It becomes a rite of national amnesia. (Sometimes, Brokeback Mountain is still rolled out for a tired joke.)

There's a perverted sense of competition in trying to say Ryan Gosling is better in Half-Nelson than Leonardo Di Caprio in Blood Diamond (or insert any other two actors/directors/ etc into that formula). How can that be measured? It seems to me the only way to truly criticize a performance (actor, director, whatever) is in terms of its success within its own framework. So, did Di Caprio's performance enhance/weaken Blood Diamond as a film and how so? If Helen Mirren gives a brilliant dramatic performance in The Queen, how can it outdo a brilliant comic performance by Meryl Streep in The DevilWears Prada? (And are they mutually exclusive? I haven't seen either movie yet, but I've read that Streep has a central dramatic moment - does Mirren have no moments of sly lightness in The Queen?) Sorry, I know I'm not saying anything new here, but I seriously suggest that blogs like this are opening up a kind of openness of discussion on films that outdoes any of the ceremonial trappings of the Oscars. People stuck in no-theatre towns like mine can actually join in on a larger discussion and share their views.

But you asked about the Oscars, so, perusing the list, I'll say the following: I want to see Babel and The Departed; I really want to see Letters from Iwo Jima; I didn't watch Little Miss Sunshine, but I heard, with a smile, the two hours of bellylaughs it provided the rest of the household (they were watching it downstairs while I was busy reading); I'd really like to see Notes on a Scandal and Little Children and The Last King of Scotland. I'm dying to see Pan's Labyrinth, and thanks to AmazonUK, I'll be able to do that in March; thanks to the same, I was able to watch Children of Men this week. (Although, obviously Children of Men is a terrible movie since it's nominated only for Best Adapted Screenplay and Cinematography and Editing.) So, how's that for a penetrating analysis of the competitors?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Wow, looks like Edward got a Blogger flogging. I managed to get it down to five posts, Edward!

On the subject of documentaries, I enjoyed This Film Is Not Yet Rated and appreciate the insight into the MPAA it gave me, but I often found the movie a little too flip and aware of its status as preaching to the choir. The inclusion of a more cogent argument in favor of the MPAA might have made the movie feel less smug to me. And maybe I'm just tiring of the Michael Moore-style antics. On the other hand, you mention Anytown USA and you are absolutely right-- this movie was riveting, witty, sharp documentary filmmaking. All politics might be local, as the movie's tag line goes, but it shows that even at their most specifically local, the stories behind politics-- greed, hubris, incompetence and vaulting ambition-- are as universal as it comes. I wasn't sure if this was released theatrically this year or not, but I really should have made some mention of this movie earlier. It's powerful, unassuming, brilliant stuff.

I did some superficial research, and I think you're right too-- I don't recall a year when four of five Best-Actor nominees were their respective movie's only nominations. I haven't heard Philip Glass's score yet, so I don't know, though you're not the first person I've heard single it out for abuse. Let's see-- worst nominee? How about the near unlistenable songs "Listen": and "Patience" from Dreamgirls? A lot of the original songs in that show were terrible and forgettable, and these two were no better.

Flower: I'm with you in your support for The Proposition, but that movie was just too grimy and gruesome and bleak-- I'm unaware of whether any significant money was spent to raise its profle, but I seriously doubt too many people in the Academy even saw it.

However, I will disagree with you and Bill re that rat at the end of The Departed. Where you guys saw a perfect little stinger for this rough-and-tumble tale, a great metaphor for Damon and the continued infuence of his like within the halls of power, in Boston and, of course, beyond, I was put off by the obviousness of the joke, and the relative clumsiness with which it was executed. It's been a while since I've seen the movie, so forgive me if I'm misremembering, but doesn't more than one person describe Damon as a filthy rat near the end of the movie? So why did Scorsese, never one with a necessarily light touch, but also never one, in my memory, to go for cheap gags, go with this one? It doesn't tell us anything new and the level at which it is pitched-- far below the sophistication of the rest of the movie, I feel-- caused it to illicit a fair amount of groans in the (small) theater in which I saw it. The movie didn't work for me on a deep level anyway, and I felt Scorsese struggling to keep a lid on Nicholson and keep the tone picthed more toward the dark side thrpoughout. So why would he undermine the effect of his film this way? I know several of you disagree that it was undermining to include that shot, but that was the result for me-- it tipped the movie toward the superficial and leeched away a lot of what might have been haunting residue in my mind.

Bill, re The Prestige, I look forward to seeing it again for the very reason you suggest-- plot holes will become clearer if I'm more aware of how my attentions are being misdirected. But that movie's big reveal, involving Bale's assistant, I actually figured it out fairly early on. Yet, curiously, the end result was not a lessening of the impact of the story for me. I remained interested in discovering how the "prestige" was played out, even when the cat (or the rabbit) was out of the bag. This must be interpreted, to some degree, as an attitude that came from being fairly and intelligently respected by the screenplay.

Paul: Interesting thought on the Costume Design category. I'm all for historical reserach and everything, but you're right-- rarely do movies whose costumes are an extension or a comment on the characters or the subject matter and themes of the movie manage to get much in the way of attention. That said, it's hard to imagine Marie Antoniette's costumer getting overlooked, and I've only seen the trailer (It's on DVD Feb. 13). And I was absolutely enthralled (much more so than I was by the film's plot) with the fetishtic detail of the costumes in Curse of the Golden Flower, as well as the director's fetishism in allowing us such a long, close look at them. (I can still remember the the decoration on Gong Li's fingernails and how they were visually integrated with one of her long, delicately layered yellow dresses.)

However, and we may have to save this one for another forum, I'm going to have to take issue with your assessment of Bringing Up Baby as overrated! Let's revisit this one soon! :)

(Whew. This is what I get for being away from my computer for less than a day!)

Chris: I haven't seen Click, so I'm not even sure in what context its award-worthy makeup might occur, but you can bet someone spent some mighty cash to convince enough voters that an Adam Sandler comedy needed to have been/should have been nominated.

And come clean, why don't ya? Your heart is definitely still a-pounding over the Oscars-- I recognize the indignant tone! (Oh, man, you should read some of the fully outraged tirades I wrote and used to force all my family and friends to read back in the '80s, when the movies that were nominated were MUCH worse than the crop we're faced with this year. Tell 'em, Blaaagh!)

I'm not sure, but I think you're saying there are no good animated movies nominated this year. (Or were you just using this as a "sometimes" example?) If you are, I'll admit my preference for non-nominees like Flushed Away over Cars, but Cars is still I movie I liked-- it's just that Happy Feet and Monster House were ones I adored. Hard to get flustered over this batch of terrific movies.

I get your enthusiasm for Scorsese, but (and this isn't the first time I've said this) I don't get the reverence for GoodFellas and I certainly don't get the reverence for The Departed. Both are good movies-- in fact, I might even argue that The Departed holds together from beginning to end in a way that GoodFellas does not. But to me Scorsese remains a great director who, ever since Mean Streets and Taxi Driver, remains in search of another great film-- and this comes from someone who reveres Kundun, The Last Temptation of Christ, The King of Comedy, The Last Waltz and his superb documentaries A Personal Journey Through American Cinema, My Voyage to Italy and Italian-American.

I do think it's interesting that POTC: DMC went over so well with you-- it seems to me to be the year's poster boy for the kind of mediocrity that you're accusing Oscar (and often with plenty of evidence) of kowtowing to. And one last thing: I've had this argument with others before, but I really feel I saw different movies than the rest of the public saw when I hear someone putting down the effects in Poseidon and Superman Returns. Of course, no film is going to be letter perfect in this regard, so it seems a bit perverse to grumble about obvious CG crowd scenes or whatever other minuitae it is when the overwhelming sense of both those films is one of extreme success within the visual range they've set for themselves. Poseidon is a well-made, occasionally silly movie, and whether or not you buy into it or not seems the responsibility of the writer, director and actors here. I can't think of one moment in that movie where I thought, "God, that cheap effect just threw me out of the scene." I'd say the same thing for Superman Returns.

And wow, if Scorsese still had the kind of pizazz you're imagining when he wins that Oscar, he might just have ended up making a picture that I would find as enthralling as you do.

Thanks for stirring it up, Chris! I'm with you on Zsigmond too. And if you ever meet Mott Hupfel, I hope I'm somewhere nearby!

And thanks, Manotupapau, for the kick in the ass to do a forum. I hope we can keep this one going for a while yet! (Where do you live that you're so cinema deprived?)

As I looked over the list of this year's nominees, I didn't find much to get too hot and bothered about. I still have yet to see a few titles, so maybe that's when my slow boil will begin. But what abouteveryone else? Taking up Chris and Edward's lead, what were the nominations that you all found most annoying? What were the year's most outrageous omissions?

Flower said...

I don't think it's just Academy members who haven't seen The Proposition, unfortunately. And of course you're right, the movie's far too dark to be an "Academy" movie, but a boy can dream, can't he?

Briefly - I can certainly appreciate where you're coming from with The Departed and that rat. What I enjoy about it, though, is how it demonstratesvsuch contempt for Damon's character, stripping all the carefully molded masks away with a blunt, sarcastic, final judgement. There's a morbid cheer to it - Scorsese dancing on Damon's grave - that was, for me, bracingly, darkly funny, and indeed, unexpected from someone like Scorsese. You're absolutely right that it's about as subtle as, well, a gunshot wound to the head, but for me The Departed was, by and large, not about subtlty - it was about being a dark, funny, operatic comic book of a movie - and within that context, the ending, rat and all, worked like a champ.

Damn, sounds like I need to check out more documentaries.

Most unfortunate omissions were Cuaron for director, Volver for Foreign Film, and the score from The Painted Veil.

I have to say, the nomination I'm most annoyed about is Paul Greengrass'. It's well made, of course, and Greengrass deserves credit for that, but the movie itself struck me as cynical and manipulative in the worst way.

Hey, sorry for rambling on, Dennis, and keep up the good work!

Brian #2 (to distinguish me from the other one who posts here (:) said...

Dennis (and everyone)--
This is why I love this blog: I log on and I'm reminded of many films that had slipped through my memory, despite my enjoyment of them (chief among them, Inside Man, which I agree should've picked up more nominations-- Clive Owen, Lee, and the remarkable Gregory Plummer, to name just three). There's a lot here to (happily) absorb, but I did want to say a few words in praise of Kirsten Dunst, so fabulous in every thing from the sublime Bring It On to the already-praised Cat's Meow. But I happily think of her as Mary Jane Watson, too-- she may not have a lot to do in those films, but she brings a lovely combination of wry humor and open-faced wonder to the proceedings. I know it's hip to bash on superhero movies, but Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer bring me a lot more cinephiliac joy than overrated 'auteurs' like Haggis or Aronofsky.

Brian #2 (to distinguish me from the other one who posts here (:) said...

GREGORY Plummer? Um. I meant Christopher Plummer, of course. (: Not sure where Gregory came from, but maybe I'm just repressing memories of Sound of Music.

Edward Copeland said...

Hopefully Blogger will be nice to me today and just post this once. As for as Shut Up & Sing goes, I felt it was entertaining enough, but it didn't really do much as a documentary. I knew everything it told me (aside from the sisters' fertility problems) so to me it felt less like a probing documentary than preaching to the converted. One of the previous posters mentioned how ridiculous it is to compare performances, something that has been mentioned forever. Bogart once famously said that perhaps the true way to pick the best actor was to have the five nominees each perform Hamlet's soliloquy, though he said that worried him since he was up against Olivier in that particular year. Someone else said -- and I wish I could remember who it was -- that too often the acting Oscars go not to the person who acts the best but the one who acts the most.

andyhorbal said...

Some writer I once read (I can't remember who; maybe I should steal their idea and see if I can get away with claiming it as my own) suggested that the Oscars should split up the Best Costume category into Best Costume (Period) and Best Costume (Contemporary).

Paul, were you thinking of this very good Slate slide show called "And the Oscar Goes to … Petticoats!" by Julia Turner?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Edward: Aside from preaching to the converted, a quality for which I am sure it is guilty (as are many documentaries, I'd guess-- I doubt Roger Mahoney was recommending to too many of his friends that they see Deliver Us From Evil), I thought that Shut Up and Sing told me plenty I didn't already know about the music business-- the degree to which music acts and their management emerse themselves, and are emersed, in distracting minutiae, the meticulousness of creating a musical recording, a sense of the day-to-day reality for three women who are as at home in stadiums and arenas as they are in their own houses.

But it also illuminated plenty about and deepened my perceptions of the personalities in the group, even going so far as to display the kind of self-righteous flippancy that can go along with defending yourself under attack (Natalie Maines is quite aware of the presence of the camera, and those moments when she chooses to acknowledge it to underline points she tries to score against the people putting pressure on her come off as the most uncomfortable kind of self-consciousness).

Most importantly, though, I don't know what it feels like to be persecuted, on any level, for saying what I believe to be true, and the movie made what that felt like to these people abundantly clear. Regardless of whether the Dixie Chicks are multimillion-dollar recording artists or some cover band pickin' and grinnin' down at the local hillbilly bar, they've got a right to say what they want to say without fear of industry reprisals, onstage humiliations from the likes of "patrotic" stars like Toby Keith, and death threats from an ex-fan base that equates their speaking out against a president and his policies with declaring a disdain for America itself. Shut Up and Sing may be pitched to an audience primed to root for the Dixie Chicks, but even if it is it seems to me than there is plenty in this movie to illuminate the meaning of the way their lives and careers were turned upside-down for those already familiar with the story, as well as how celebrities also function as citizens.

CINEBEATS said...

Hello Dennis! I'm trying to get my blog up and running again and thought I'd stop by and say hello.

I also wanted to add that I'm afraid that I'm sort of disappointed with the Oscar noms this year or maybe it's just the movies? I haven't seen a lot of new films so my opinions on them are rather useless but here goes nothing...

If I was voting I'd give Scorsese a damn gold statue for best director & movie so he could stop trying to please everyone and get back to making good movies again. (on a side note - I haven't seen The Departed and my interest in it is minimal)

I hope Peter O'Toole finally wins for best actor (my love for him is endless) but I'd be just as happy to see Forest Whitaker win.

I'd like to see Helen Mirren win because I like her a lot and she'd never gotten an Oscar which is silly when they're handing them out to people like Gwyneth Paltrow & Halle Berry (obviously I'm not a fan of either).

I'd like to see An Inconvenient Truth win best doc just because it will probably annoy Bush and Co.

Last but not least, I hope Pan's Labyrinth wins every award it's nominated for.

CINEBEATS said...

One thing I forgot to mention - the highlight of this year awards will easily be Morricone getting a lifetime award! The lifetime awards are often the best part of the show for me and I usually like (as well as get all teary eyed) the homage they do to actors who recently died.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

CINEBEATS! K! Nice to hear from you! Yeah, please do get that blog up and running again soon. I miss you, and I bet I'm not the only one!

(Oh, and by the way, I was thinking of you when I posted this, just in case you didn't see it.)

I'm with you on Pan's Labyrinth, for sure. I'm very excited about seeing Del Toro on stage at the Kodak. And you're right-- seeing Morricone accepting an Oscar will be sweet indeed. (TLRHB suggested that Clint and Eli Wallach should present it to him, flanking him from the extreme left and right of the stage!)

Like you, I started off kind of indifferent about the announcement of the nominees because, frankly, I just can't get too enthusiastic about the showering of awards on Babel, or even movies I kinda liked (The Departed, Little Miss Sunshine). But I realized that even when the movies are not top drawer, I still enjoy the show and the atmosphere surrounding it and the swirl of film talk in the air (even though it's pretty dumbed-down). So why not have fun?

So glad you're back in the blogosphere! Keep in touch, eh?