Wednesday, January 31, 2007

What do you want from me?

It's morning, and you roll over in bed and Blog is already awake and expectant. "Now?" you rasp. "Well, if not now, when?" says Blog, arms crossed.

In one's relationship with one's blog, I s'pose everyone dips in and out of this particular rut. I've got nothing. Nothing except hairbrained Oscar thoughts, and I don't want this to turn into an Oscar quagmire three months out of every year. I've watched some movies lately, but have been uninspired by all of them. I've been thinking about my favorites of all time, but haven't had time to write cogently about them (hence the last post, which, through an image and a lyric, sought to bring you to my mental plane with the least possible amount of work).

There will be plenty to talk about in the second half of February: thoughts on 2006 and the requisite Oscar hoo-ha (including crazy-ass predictions and live-blogging the ceremony). But until then, what do you want, Blog? More futilely, what do you want, readers? Give me a topic -- an actor, a character, a moment in a movie. It can be wholly, partially, tangentially or tenuously related to film. It can be an obscure or ridiculous request. Make me relate and compare two totally different films to each other. Challenge me. I hate to resort to this kind of peddling, but as a friend of mine once said, "Rules? Of course there are rules. But I make them."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Winds in the east

mist coming something is brewin'...about to begin.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Praise for the DZ Oscar Pool

"The most reputable and prestigious pool on the East Coast." Rob Schneider
"The $1 entrance fee doesn't interfere with my alimony payments." Mickey Rooney
"If I had just f*cking picked myself, I would've won." Marcia Gay Harden, 2001

E-mail to request a ballot for the 9th Annual DZ Oscar Pool.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

If the Oscars were given out based on box office...'s who would win right now for "most money earned" in each major category and "least money earned" in each major category:

Picture: The Departed / Letters from Iwo Jima
Director: Martin Scorsese, The Departed / Clint Eastwood, Letters from Iwo Jima
Actor: Will Smith, The Pursuit of Happyness / Peter O'Toole, Venus
Actress: Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada / Kate Winslet, Little Children
Supporting Actor: Mark Wahlberg, The Departed / Jackie Earle Haley, Little Children
Supporting Actress: J. Hudson, Dreamgirls / C. Blanchett, Notes on a Scandal
Original Screenplay: Little Miss Sunshine / Letters from Iwo Jima
Adapted Screenplay: Borat / Little Children

It's kind of a populist vs. non-populist perspective on the year's "acclaimed" work. Evident: The Departed rules, except when it's matched against Borat. And Iwo Jima and Little Children remain virtually unseen (which makes my crazy-ass prediction in the previous post seem all the more crazy-ass). For full figures, see Box Office Mojo.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Kate Winslet will win this year

You heard it here first. Even though (and especially because) Mirren is the 12-1 favorite. There are 27 days til voting closes -- a solid month for that kind of frontrunning to backfire. In other news, DZ Oscar Pool ballots will be available tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

They were better in...

For what they had to work with -- this was a weak year, with brilliance deep but not broad -- the Academy chose well and there is little worth complaining about. So to pull focus from Oscar fussing, here are other noteworthy and/or overlooked movies made by current nominees:

If you liked Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine, then you'll love her in Keane. No cat-clawing dance moves to hide behind here. In this 2004 movie about a man scrambling to find his kidnapped daughter, Breslin must play a spectrum of emotions without the maturity to exhibit them effectively. This role is, in many ways, more of a feat than Olive.

If you liked Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls, then you'll love him in The Nutty Professor. This was Murphy's true comeback, and one of the great comic performances of all time. He portrays six characters (five of which have dinner together, in the same scene, twice) and manages to run the gamut between ribald and heartwarming, regardless of how much latex is between him and the material.

If you liked Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, then you'll love her in Death Becomes Her. I've blogged effusively about this movie before, but this is a much better showcase of Meryl's comic talents. She's praised for her "understatement" in Prada (puh-leez), but it's her overstatement in DBH that resounds with true showmanship and sends the movie (and us) into orbit. As I have before, I simply offer this.

Other nominees who've done better work in previous films? This ain't limited to actors.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Oscar nom predictions

I started to exhaust myself by providing predictions for every category, then realized it (like the Oscars) was a stupid exercise (and one that everyone and their mother is doing). We all know Mirren, Whitaker, O'Toole, Murphy & Hudson, Little Miss Sunshine, The Departed and Babel will be up for the big prizes. You don't need me to contribute to that kind of media onanism (see AMPAS-approved photo at left). So here's a snapshot of tomorrow's quirks and blips: Cohen, the lady Gyllenhaal, Gosling, Arkin and Breslin will be up for acting; Meryl will too, but not for The Devil Wears Prada. Letters from Iwo Jima will rebound with a picture/director score; Dreamgirls will be left out of both. The director category will look remarkably different from the DGA: In addition to Eastwood, Cuaron will arrive and Greengrass will be back. Children of Men will pop up in at least five technical categories. The Departed will have the most nominations (I'm seeing eight). Still, none of these are true surprises ('cept for Meryl), so I'm going to go out on the shakiest of limbs: Bobby for picture, plus a script nod to Estevez, plus Laura Dern for Inland Empire. Deal with it, crackers.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

On Kyra Sedgwick

I've always had such affection for Kyra Sedgwick, so it was delightful to see her in the spotlight last night at the Golden Globes. (The poor gal's never won anything, and even though she's a steadily working actress with a healthy TV show and superstar husband -- of 19 years! -- she's rarely the center of attention.) My affection is rooted in Heart & Souls, in which Sedgwick plays a waitress who dies right after her heart's been crushed but is given one last chance, as a ghost, to make some things right. Sounds maudlin, but the movie has a sincere pulse and Sedgwick is, well, its heart and soul. It's something about her raspy voice and how it takes to Southern accents, and her slightly platypusian mouth and her bottomless-cuppa-coffee eyes. She looks and moves like cotton but can quickly flick a steely gaze or assert an iron will. She's won me over in other movies, but I always come back to Heart & Souls. And pairing her with Alfre Woodward just sweetens the pot.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Golden Globes predictions

Picture (Drama): Babel
Picture (Comedy/Musical): Little Miss Sunshine
Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Babel
Actor (Drama): Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Actress (Drama): Helen Mirren, The Queen
Actor (Comedy): Sacha Baron Cohen, Borat
Actress (Comedy): Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Screenplay: Babel
Animated Film: Happy Feet
Foreign Language Film: Pan's Labyrinth
Original Score: The Fountain
Original Song: "Listen," Dreamgirls

In other words, a boring night (unless everyone is blotto). Babel gets three, Dreamgirls gets three and The Departed's power is called into question. We can at least expect some refreshing theatrics from Meryl (remember the last time she got a Globe, for Adaptation? This is how you accept an award). As I've said before, Meryl should accept all the awards for everyone. Sometimes I think she's a better awards-acceptor than actor. Also in that category: Liz Taylor ("Gladiator!") Any thoughts on predictions? The show is tonight.

Update 1.16.07. The link to Meryl's acceptance speech for Adaptation has been "removed at the request of copyright owner Dick Clark Productions." To this I say: Kiss my ass, Dick. With ever-dwindling ratings, your silly awards show needs all the exposure it can get. Try this one instead.

Friday, January 12, 2007

It's five o'clock, pig. Time for a white wine and a cigarette

Last night The Daily Show had Peter O'Toole, who at first was bemused to the point of speechlessness and then later settled down to deliver a few gems (his loving Hepburn impression, his sad observation that everything's "gotten a bit glum, hasn't it?"). To watch, go here and scroll down the Last Night's Highlights box. The old bugger is on the campaign trail for Venus... Upcoming: Oscar nominee predix (ballots due tomorrow), Globe winner predix (shoot me). My year-end huzzahs will be posted the weekend of Feb. 16. By then the top-10 frenzy will have settled and we take a fresh look.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

FYC: Sook-Yin Lee in Shortbus

The film: A riotous celebration of our capacity to connect.
The actor: A Canadian musician in a star-making turn.
The character: A spritely couples counselor in pursuit of an orgasm.
The moment: When her tension boils over during a session with the Jamies. This could've been a forced, ungainly scene, but Lee has charisma to spare. She spins her wheels throughout the scene -- groping, lurching, finally making an admission. It's some nice comedy, and a great entrée to a character's journey. And it does feel like a journey -- a great arc -- thanks to Lee's emotional nakedness.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

INLAND EMPIRE: I'll no doubt change my mind after five more viewings

I might still be in INLAND EMPIRE, which I saw last week. It's about being unable to tell whether you're in a movie, acting for a movie, watching a movie or watching yourself watch or act in a movie. (Yeah, I know.) I walked out of the AFI and didn't want to turn my head, fearing David Lynch would be next to me with a digital camera in my face. ("David, please, I'm trying to cross the street.")

INLAND EMPIRE, INLAND EMPIRE. All caps. A great title -- epic and intimate. "A woman in trouble" is its tagline. Perfect. "It's a mystery," Lynch has said. He shot it on digital and swears he won't go back to film, which is a shame because Mulholland Dr. was gorgeous and INLAND EMPIRE is not. It looks like a student film. A bad student film.

I can only assess EMPIRE with regards to Mulholland. After all, both feature blonde actors vying for a role that puts the kibosh on their psyche. But where Mulholland was measured and profound (it was in my top 10 for 2001), Empire is cagey and unfeeling. The first was about heartbreak, the second about murder and guilt. I think. Both movies operate on their own logic and -- despite their what-the-f*ckness -- they follow the rules therein. Except Mulholland's logic makes sense. You dig? Neither do I.

And while I value Mulholland as a whole, I was only transported during one sequence of EMPIRE. Laura Dern's character is lost in the dim hallways of her soul (think John Malkovich in his own portal) and stumbles into an empty movie theater. She sees herself on the theater's screen as we see her on ours. Then a dark figure darts on her screen at the same time it moves in her reality (which is our screen), and I immediately wanted to look around my own theater (my own reality) for the intruder. Dern is unnerved, and we are unnerved. Who's watching us? Who's watching us watch ourselves? (I was half-expecting Dern and Lynch to jump in through the fire exit to pulverize the last bricks of the fourth wall. They didn't; if they did, this would've been the best movie of the year. Alas.)

This brief scene is a thesis, but the rest of the film doesn't support it. At least, not after one viewing. I took notes on every scene, knowing I'd have to piece it together. And even though I was riveted for EMPIRE's 172 minutes, it doesn't add up for me. Lynch has proven to be a careful artist, but this one feels like an amateur attempt to trick people into seeing a genius that just...isn't...there. If this sleight-of-hand was Lynch's intent all along, then good for him. But I feel sleighted rather than delivered.

"I'm not sure how many characters I'm playing, but I bet it'll look just fascinating."

Monday, January 08, 2007

Pity the Pitt

David Thomson in The Guardian: ...all Brad Pitt has offered in 2006 has been Babel, a singularly monotonous and pretentious picture [...] in which Pitt spends most of his screen time bending over Cate Blanchett, waiting for her to recover consciousness or die. [...] The way he's fading at 43, he could be an actress. (Jan. 5)

Caryn James in The New York Times: In Babel Mr. Pitt delivers the most mature, complex performance of his career as a distraught husband whose wife has been shot on a tour bus near an isolated Moroccan village. With little more than half an hour on screen he restores seriousness to a career that started off like a dream combination of stardom and artistry, only to veer into the realm of the truly silly. (Jan. 7)

With whom do you agree? I'm more with Thomson. Of late, Pitt's been in the shitter (Mr. and Mrs. Smith was his last release). But his participation in Babel was well-intentioned, which is a step in the right direction, and he's one of the credited producers on The Departed. So even though he'll miss out on an acting Oscar nomination for Babel, I'd say he has a 90 percent chance to win a statuette for The Departed. What Academy voter wouldn't go for the chance to put both Pitt and Scorsese (for the second time in one night) up on the stage? Next post: Inland Empire. I swear.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

FYC: Pam Ferris in Children of Men

The film: A highly-praised dystopian action film set in 2027. It has much to say about our mortality, and is a stunning technical achievement -- more seemless, affecting battle scenes I have not seen. See Dargis for a graceful appreciation.
The actor: Heretofore unknown to me, save for her part as the aggressive battle axe Ms. Trunchbull in 1996's Matilda. Welsh by way of Kiwi. Also known for Aunt Marge in one of the Harry Potters and for her long career in British TV shows like "Rosemary & Thyme" and "Darling Buds of May."
The character: Miriam, a nurse-turned-rebel who can tangle with the best of 'em. Portly and dowdy: not your typical vision of an action heroine (save the dreadlocks), but she matches Clive Owen step for step. It's a true supporting performance. No flash, all texture. Cuaron could've cast a babe in this role, and the movie would've withered. Instead, we have this wonderful, mysterious, complete human being who quietly electrifies the movie's nervous system.
The moment: When she's describing her work on the frontline of extinction -- delivering humanity's last babies before our species goes inexplicably sterile. It could've been a theatrical monologue, but Ferris turns it into a profoundly understated bullet point on her war-torn resume. It makes her final scene all the more excruciating.

This post is part of StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Blogathon. What actor would you nominate in the category? My runner-ups to Pam Ferris: Laura Harring and Pell James in The King and Diane Lane in Hollywoodland.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I need your help!

Think of director-actress teams for me. Like David Lynch & Laura Dern, Quentin Tarantino & Uma Thurman, Ingmar Bergman & Liv Ullman (right), Woody Allen & Keaton/Farrow, Jack Hill & Pam Grier. I need more. Next post: Inland Empire. Lynch loses it.