Saturday, February 28, 2009

Oscar Trivia - Actor Edition

I know I haven't been posting like I should have been, but I'm trying to prepare the Oscar update articles. So, just to pass the time, here's some more Oscar trivia, but with some emphasis on the actors. The first people in the comments to get the answers right, will post your name and answer under the question.

1. Which actor was nominated in every decade from the 1950’s on to the 2000’s, only missing the 1970’s, when he was the most successful?

2. Which actor has the distinction of being nominated for Oscars for playing two different U.S. Presidents?

3. Six actors have won Oscars for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Which two won their Best Actor Oscar first?

4. Three actors have been nominated for Best Actor in the same role in two separate films (Peter O’Toole, Spencer Tracy and Paul Newman). Who is the only actor to be nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for the same role in two separate films?

5. Who is the only person to ever be nominated for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor for the same role in the same film?

6. Who is the only actor to be nominated for playing a real-life Oscar winner?

7. Who is the only actor to be nominated for an Oscar to not speak a word of dialogue in a film (post-silent era)?

8. Who was the first posthumous Best Supporting Actor nominee (the only one besides Heath Ledger)?

9. Who is the only person to ever win two Oscars for the same performance in the same film in the same year?

10. Only three Best Supporting Actors have won Oscars for playing a real person who was living at the time of the Oscars. Jim Broadbent and Chris Cooper did it back-to-back in 2001 and 2002. Who is the only other actor to do the same?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Tiny Role Tuesday – Brian Cox

This is a weekly review of an outstanding performance in a film which is very limited or a general cameo. Suggestions for what you would like to see saluted are welcome.

The Film:
Adaptation (2002) dir. Spike Jonze

The Role:
Cox plays Robert McKee, a script-writing seminar speaker, who hates voiceovers, will get irritated by saying that nothing happens in life and thinks Casablanca is the greatest screenplay ever written.

Before We Meet Him…
Charlie Kaufman is having trouble writing his screenplay, an adaptation of “The Orchid Thief” by Susan Orlean. He is timid and has trouble talking to people. Adding to his troubles is his twin brother Donald, who devises a plan to stop mooching off of Charlie by also becoming a screenwriter. Donald decides to attend one of McKee’s seminars and begins writing his own screenplay, The 3. McKee’s seminars change Donald’s life and gives him plenty of rules…wait, principles to help him finish his screenplay. Charlie’s difficulties continue and are confounded further when The 3 is sold for a large sum by Charlie’s agent. Down to his last options, Charlie finally gives in and attends McKee’s seminar.

When We Meet Him…
Charlie doesn’t really think much of McKee when he first sees him. He is lost in his own thoughts, is incredibly uncomfortable and wants to leave. He reminds himself of this in voiceover in his own head, until McKee shouts

“And God help you if you use voice-over in your work, my friends. God help you. That's flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write a voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character.”

He then has Charlie’s strict attention. But that’s not the last time he’s heard. Near the end of the seminar, McKee starts fielding questions from the attendees. Charlie finally gets around to asking what to do about his script as far as keeping things closer to reality, where characters don’t change and nothing really happens. Needless to say, McKee isn’t amused.

Nothing happens in the world? Are you out of your f-cking mind? People are murdered every day. There's genocide, war, corruption. Every f-cking day, somewhere in the world, somebody sacrifices his life to save someone else. Every f-cking day, someone, somewhere makes a conscious decision to destroy someone else. People find love, people lose it. For Christ's sake, a child watches her mother beaten to death on the steps of a church. Someone goes hungry. Somebody else betrays his best friend for a woman. If you can't find that stuff in life, then you, my friend, don't know crap about life. AND WHY THE F-CK are you wasting my two precious hours with your movie? I don't have any use for it. I don't have any bloody use for it.

Charlie is shaken to the core. He cannot go back home without getting a more thorough explanation and talking in depth about his script to McKee. After convincing him to talk at a bar, Charlie explains his intentions of wanting to present the story without sensationalizing it and making it more about disappointment. McKee explains his reasoning.

“I'll tell you a secret. The last act makes a film. Wow them in the end, and you got a hit. You can have flaws, problems, but wow them in the end, and you've got a hit. Find an ending, but don't cheat, and don't you dare bring in a deus ex machina. Your characters must change, and the change must come from them. Do that, and you'll be fine.”

Charlie is thrilled, gives McKee a hug and begins to get closer to an ending and the completion of his script.

My Thoughts:
The great thing that Cox/McKee does at this point of the film is flip it on its side. Charlie talks inside his head the whole film up until the point that McKee yells at him. His words dictate the entire tone shift of the film to have no more voiceover, until the very end of the film, in which he remembers him again. Even the rant doesn’t necessarily affect him from the actual words, but makes Charlie realize that he and Donald aren’t the only ones who know his script is in trouble. After he sees the passion McKee puts into his feelings, he must go to him for help, so his passion can spill over to his script. Additionally, Cox does the interesting thing in that he screams at Charlie when asked a question publicly, then calmly advises when in private. The film follows Charlie’s rules for the first two acts, but McKee shows up and follows his rules…sorry, principles. That shows the authority in Cox/McKee. Charlie doesn’t trust anything McKee does, even as he’s in his class, but as soon as he tells Charlie to do something, he does it without any question. Not to mention, his suggestion is to get a good ending. He also remembers Donald attending class and reminds Charlie that Casablanca is the greatest screenplay ever written and is written by twins. Therefore, Charlie has his ending. Not only does McKee dictate what Charlie should do to fix the script, but also how to end it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

2009 Oscar Predictions Moved to the Sidebar

With the 2008 Oscars in the rear-view mirror, my original 2009 Oscar Predictions are now moved to the sidebar. I'll post whenever I make any changes, but they're going to stay the same at least until March.

General Reactions to the Oscar Ceremony

Favorite Moment:
The Pineapple Express-like montage on comedies. Judd Apatow can do no wrong. Funniest moment.

Least Favorite Moment:
Whoever decided it was a good idea for nine different cameras to capture the In Memoriam, all while flying across the stage. I was watching it on a 42" flat screen in HD and I had to squint to figure out who they were saluting. They should issue an apology for that one.

Teary-Eyed Moment:
Heath Ledger's win and teary-eyed celebrities (see below).

Kill Me Now Moment:
That song-and-dance number right in the middle of the show was completely pointless. If I wanted watch an awards show with huge musical numbers right in the middle of them, I would watch the Tonys. It's not a coincidence that it's the lowest rated awards show.

Best Winner:
Kate Winslet. It was about freaking time and she seemed pretty excited. She seemed as grateful as she should have been. On top of that, everyone was excited for her as much as they should have been. I was pulling for tears, but she'll now be Oscar-winner Kate Winslet, so it's a good night.

Best Loser:
(tie) Mickey Rourke and Meryl Streep. It's a pretty decent indication of what people think of you when the winner of the category you're in mentions you and you alone in their acceptance speech. Translation: Mickey Rourke will get good roles and Meryl Streep is the best female actress ever.

Best Speech:
Sean Penn. Might be one of the best speeches when they look back at things. "You Commie, Homo-Loving, Son's of guns." Great line. The entire speech did a great job in summing up his thanking, experience on the film, a small political statement, a statement on his persona and a thanking of Mickey Rourke all rolled into a two minute speech. Very well done.

Worst Speech:
I'm impressed, but I couldn't actually find any recollection of anyone who had a bad speech. I think that's a pretty good thing for a telecast.

Best Eye Candy:
(tie) Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Damn them and their beautiful faces. They are the reason tears came to my eyes. Ledger's family was pretty good about staying stoic, but those damn celebrities.

Best Surprise:
(tie) Anne Hathaway's voice is something else. I wasn't expecting her to sing, much less belt out with the talent she had. Tying with her was the arms of Viola Davis. That girl was only rivaled by Jackman as far as bicep size.

Worst Surprise:
Charlton Heston is dead. I don't remember this. Too bad.

Random Thoughts:
- Hugh Jackman did a pretty good job overall. I'm not blaming the middle of the show song-and-dance on him, because they wanted to try something new. That being said, never do it again.
- Etta James is looking for a hitman right now to kill Beyonce.
- The five winners as presenters is a pretty good concept. Took a little longer than what I expected, but once I got used to it, I liked it.
- In two years or less, Anne Hathaway will be cast in a musical (with a 90% chance of being produced or directed by Bill Condon).
- I'm not sure what the point was of talking about the nominated films for two minutes, then announcing the nominees you just talked about.
- Why did they want to save time by having celebrities announce three or four nominees, then waste a whole bunch of time with a lengthy musical number and seemingly pointless montages?
- Shirley McLaine almost made me cry. She needs to be in more stuff again.
- With Penelope Cruz's win, Woody Allen ties Fred Zinneman by directing six Oscar winners. He is now tied for third behind Elia Kazan (9) and William Wyler (14). The only active directors who are close are Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorcese (5), Jonathan Demme, Sidney Lumet and James L. Brooks(4). Both Gus Van Sant and Steven Daldry got their second, while Christopher Nolan got his first.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Oscar Live Blogging

7:04 - Check that, my wife insists on watching the Pre-Show. Early verdicts, Taraji P. Henson looks great, so does Kate Winslet. Sarah Jessica Parker looks like a foot.

7:06 - I really hate that Miley Cyrus is famous. I'm waiting for her to be cute and over 18, but I just don't see it happening.

7:10 - I usually don't have any problem with Tim Gunn, but he's interviewing the Valentino guy and I'm a little worried about it, because I feel the gay seeping through the television.

7:11 - What the hell is Gary Sinise doing with all the guys from Slumdog Millionaire? Is he just hanging out out to get some chances of getting some more parts since his Oscar nomination back in 94.

7:13 - I like seeing Robert Downey Jr. look like a normal guy as opposed to some guy who just did a line of coke off a urinal and threw some suit together, before someone told him that it was actually a formal event. Thank God. He looks pretty good.

7:16 - Good job Anne Hathaway, you look pretty and fair, just like everyone expected you too. I need to cool it down or I'm going to burn myself out on all this red carpet crap.

7:21 - Is that Meryl Streep's daughter? She looks great! She is way too hot not to be famous. Penelope Cruz is right behind her and looks great. Too bad there weren't any really good looking women in Milk, so I could make boob jokes. Too bad.

7:25 - I have an unhealthy obsession with Leslie Mann. Maybe it's because she is so freaking funny, but she's adorable as well. Nothing in Knocked Up is funnier than her stuttering the c-word.

7:28 - Alright, (cue Joker voice) here we go!

7:32 - Wow, it only took two minutes for our first Kate Winslet reference of the night. We're well on our way.

7:35 - Is Hugh Jackman trying to stop from laughing while singing? Mildly impressed so far. I knew Anne Hathaway would get involved already. Wow...who knew Anne Hathaway could sing. Check out the pipes on that girl. This is going much better than I expected it too. Maybe Jackman will work out alright...

7:39 - Wow, standing O right off the bat. Maybe this will work out okay.

7:42 - Montage #1. Little curtain malfunction, but it's okay.

7:43 - Man, they are pulling out all the stops for this first Oscar. It is feeling like it is taking way too long. Still, they're taking risks...I'll give the Oscars that.

7:48 - Best Supporting Actress is for Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. By the way, this is the fifth Oscar win for a Woody Allen film, which ties Clint Eastwood in the last 40 years. She definitely deserved it, but my Amy Adams pick makes me feel stupid now. I'm getting worried that this ceremony will be a Slumdog/Slumdog/Winslet/Rourke/Cruz/Ledger day. I would love some variation. We'll see.

7:51 - Nice little speech by Penelope Cruz, but I was really hoping my out on a limb prediction of Amy Adams would pay off. Oh least we know that leaked list isn't right.

7:55 - God, I love Tiny Fey. Steve Martin is okay too.

7:58 - Best Original Screenplay is to Dustin Lance Black for Milk. Good for him, he did deserve it. To the best of my knowledge, he is the first gay man to win an Oscar unless I am overlooking someone who is obvious.

8:00 - Best Adapted Screenplay is to Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog Millionaire. And Slumdog is 1/1 so far. I am really hoping this is not how the night ends up going. But, it probably will be.

8:04 - It's nice to see Jennifer Aniston looking good.

8:06 - If this is what these yearbooks are going to be like in which we celebrate both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Space Chimps, you can leave me out.

8:07 - Best Animated Feature goes to WALL-E. Four categories are slam dunks and this is the first. Can't wait for Ledger, Boyle and Slumdog to doing the same thing. Animators always have the best speeches because of how happy they are to be there.

8:09 - Best Animated Short goes to La Maison en Petit Cubes. Oh well, who knows in these categories. Shahnk you, sir. Got to love the domo origoto.

8:16 - That set is pretty awesome looking, just like the only thing worth talking about when it comes to Sarah Jessica Parker, being her chest.

8:17 - Best Act Direction goes to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Well, that means that won't go home empty handed. I'm just really hoping The Dark Knight doesn't go home with only one at the end of the night.

8:20 - Best Costume Design goes to The Duchess. At least things are going fast. Should have gone with that originally. Period pieces are puddy in the hands of the Academy.

8:23 - The hosts of the 81st Academy Awards, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig and Sarah Jessica Parker.

8:24 - Best Makeup goes to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It definitely deserved it. It doesn't exactly look like Brad Pitt for half the film. I always have thought makeup is one of those underrated categories in films. This is the category I've always enjoyed seeing the winners.

8:26 - Here comes the romance montage. Hosted by two people who will never be famous again after this year. Let's see what crap they put into this one. Those films include Seven Pounds, High School Musical 3, Twilight and Nights in Rodanthe. But at least they included Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

8:32 - Ahh, Joaquin Phoenix reference, I just now got it. My wife had to tell me. It's kind of funny, but why don't they make a Christian Bale reference while they're at it.

8:35 - Best Cinematography goes to Slumdog Millionaire. Ugghh...2/2

8:39 - Jessica Biel talks about the Sci-Tech Awards for about two minutes, which is all anyone really cares about it. Well done Academy, well done.

8:43 - Comedy montage. This is much better as far as montages go. Anything with James Franco and Seth Rogen is funnier. This is the true indication of the public's feelings towards these movies. Best part of the Oscars so far. A stoned Janus Kaminski. Great for them.

8:47 - Best Live Action short goes to Spielzeugland. I'm not against these shorts, but no one really knows about them. I wish they could be easier to see. Nice little speech, talking about how winning an Oscar will help his career. Should go without saying.

8:50 - My wife is saying that Heath Ledger won't win and I say that, if that happens, it will be the first time in Oscar history that a winner is booed. This would turn me off from the Academy for the rest of my life. No chance this happens...I hope.

8:52 - Hugh Jackman musical number #2. He gets a cane thrown by Brad Pitt...the Oscars have apparently turned into the Tony's. There's a reason I never watch the Tony's. Put Beyonce into this as well, and if it wasn't the Oscars, I'd turn it off. What does this have to do with movies. Are they celebrating the musicals? I blame Mamma Mia! for all this crap. I think the Oscars should go back to Billy Crystal. He never did a bad job. Let's get on that, because this is ridiculous.

8:56 - Let's finish this off, oh had to include Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens. Wait, what? The Mamma Mia! people too? Can we give Heath Ledger his Oscar already...geez.

8:57 - Words from the wife, "I just lost ten minutes of my life." I married her because she's smart.

8:58 - Penelope Cruz's face after the song-and-dance number gives the general tone of what everyone really thought. My interpretation of her thoughts, "Wow, it took 10 minutes to introduce the nominees before my Oscar and that was completely pointless. I wonder if the after party will start before midnight?"

9:04 - I love the Seymour Phillip Hoffman reference from Alan Arkin. Old guys are awesome. That entire sequence was pretty good, especially the Cuba Gooding Jr. part. It's nice to know he still gets a paycheck. Christopher Walken introducing Michael Shannon is well done. Everyone is kind of one edge as Kevin Kline introduces Ledger.

9:08 - Best Supporting Actor goes to Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight. Surprise of the night. His mom, dad and sister accept and I'm ready for tears.

9:11 - If it wasn't for freaking Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, no one would have cried, but those bastards brought it out. I'm surprised how well they kept it together.

9:12 - I wonder how many people have turned the Oscars off now, since Ledger is already done. Documentaries coming up. Is this a montage, or what? I guess it is.

9:14 - Best Documentary goes to Man on Wire. Bill Mahr does a surprisingly good job in not doing something political in his pre-speech. My favorite documentary didn't get nominated, but that's okay. Is Philip Petit in a leather suit? Wow, that's interesting. Petit almost made Oscar history by being the first person to break an Oscar on stage.

9:17 - Best Documentary Short Subject goes to Smile Pinki. What does short subject really mean. Is it just a shorter film or what? I don't know what that means. Anyway, Megan Mylan's earings are enchanting. I can't take my eyes off them.

9:21 - I am really surprised with this pacing. The schedule they released is keeping pretty close to the actual.

9:23 - Action montage includes Speed Racer and Indiana Jones. Apparently, action doesn't happen without cars. I was unaware of this. Did I just see Rambo? Freaking sweet.

9:27 - Best Visual Effects goes to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. That's the third one for them tonight. I would love if it beat Slumdog in total awards, but I wouldn't expect it.

9:28 - Best Sound Editing goes to The Dark Knight. This means Slumdog won't sweep, which is freaking great. I love it even more that it was beaten by The Dark Knight.

9:30 - Best Sound Mixing goes to Slumdog Millionaire. Damn it, that was a disappointment. Does this mean that WALL-E will only win one Oscar. That sucks.

9:33 - Best Film Editing goes to Slumdog Millionaire. Will Smith does the mind-reading thing and says that, yes...he is still there and that Hugh Jackman is napping. Even when Smith read the name, it felt a little predicted. How is this film the film that is winning freaking everything? Never before has such mediocrity won so much.

9:41 - Eddie Murphy presents the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award to Jerry Lewis. I don't care that much, so I will let my wife look at Coach purses online.

9:50 - I had to damn near pry my wife of the computer. That was a great idea. Music coming up. Please let WALL-E win at least one of these. At least I know Slumdog will lose Best Original Song. Though, the other one might win.

9:54 - Best Original Score goes to Slumdog Millionaire. I can't convey my tone of voice through typing, but I actually moaned my way through saying the title. Even my wife is getting annoyed. "Really, how many is that now, ten?" Actually it's five, but they have a 2/3 chance of making it six.

9:56 - The guy who just won an Oscar is singing on stage. Nice. At least I think it's him. I can't tell. Please tell me M.I.A. will show up...please God. Well, we get a nice John Legend performance. I've always liked him. Why the Indian dancers are still there is a really good question.

9:59 - No M.I.A. Too bad. What the hell? In the words of the wife, "Has India taken over this show?" I hope not. This is a sign of things to come.

10:01 - Best Original Song goes to Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire. Number six. India only has a billion people in it, which ones haven't won an Oscar yet?

10:05 - Best Foreign Film goes to Departures. That's the upset that the people have been looking for. No to The Class or Waltz with Bashir. It wasn't an unheard of thing happening. I love this broken English stuff. At least it keeps the speeches short.

10:11 - Who's ready for more tears. In Memoriam, set to a Queen Latifa song? As long as the video isn't playing while she's singing...damn it. This camera guy should be shot. I can't focus. Keep it on the screen camera guy. Cut to commercial so Bill Condon can be fired for that editing. They should be ashamed. Get ready for the big awards.

10:18 - Highlight of the night...Sid Gainus for only two seconds.

10:20 - Best Director goes to Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire. Maybe the only award that film deserved all night. Boyle saying that the Academy has been generous is an understatement. I think they can't give sexual favors to the cast, because I think that's against the rules. Looks like it will finish with eight awards. Save for foreign film, this has been a boring night. Maybe a stunner in Actor or Actress will make up for things. By the way, where is the nod to the co-director that has never been mentioned.

10:22 - Damn, if they want this thing to speed up, they shouldn't take commercials after giving only one award. Actress and Actor coming up.

10:26 - Why the standing O for the actresses? Weird.

10:32 - Best Actress goes to Kate Winslet in The Reader. It's about freaking time. I'll wait to post more about it after hearing the speech. Though, let me say, Shirley McLaine is freaking awesome, Marion Cotillard is gracious, Halle Berry is smoking, Sophia Loren is looking rough, and my wife wants Nicole Kidman's body.

10:33 - Winslet sounds like she's about to hyperventilate. Ricky Gervais is a prophet. Her dad has some pipes and he looks like a villian in a noir film. I like that she thanked Peter Jackson, remembering where they came from. And of course, she thanks Meryl Streep. Now we can start saying Academy Award-winner Kate Winslet.

10:38 - Liking these lineups.

10:43 - Best Actor goes to Sean Penn in Milk. This is bittersweet. Mickey Rourke should have won. That speech would have brought the house down. I do really like Penn's first words. I'm liking his speech a little more than I was expecting to. He just couldn't let the political aspect go, I just am so glad that McCain didn't win. I love the Mickey Rourke tribute.

10:47 - Spielberg here to present Best Picture to Slumdog. Another montage.

10:53 - Best Picture goes to Slumdog Millionaire. Eight Oscars. Too bad. I surprised that Milk won more than one award. Good for them. They bring the kids up, but in 10 years, this will go down as one of the worst Best Picture winners in a long time.

I'm tired and I'm going to sleep. I wish it wasn't so anti-climactic, but it's over. Only 365 days until next year. I can't wait.

If I had voted for the Oscars...sort of

Just some fun to distract myself from the fact that I have nothing else to do until 7pm (my time). This is what I would do if I would have voted for the Oscars since 2000. The big difference, I only keep my parameters to the films that were actually nominated. Some of these would look quite different if I opened it up to all films. I’ll do that one of these days.

Picture: Traffic
Director: Steven Soderbergh, Traffic
Actor: Geoffrey Rush, Quills
Actress: Ellen Burstyn, Requiem for a Dream
Supporting Actor: Albert Finney, Erin Brockovich
Supporting Actress: Kate Hudson, Almost Famous

Picture: The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Director: Peter Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Actor: Denzel Washington, Training Day
Actress: Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge!
Supporting Actor: Jon Voight, Ali
Supporting Actress: Marisa Tomei, In the Bedroom

Picture: The Pianist
Director: Roman Polanski, The Pianist
Actor: Nicolas Cage, Adaptation
Actress: Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven
Supporting Actor: Christopher Walken, Catch Me if You Can
Supporting Actress: Meryl Streep, Adaptation.

Picture: Lost in Translation
Director: Fernando Meirelles, City of God
Actor: Bill Murray, Lost in Translation
Actress: Naomi Watts, 21 Grams
Supporting Actor: Djimon Hounsou, In America
Supporting Actress: Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River

Picture: Sideways
Director: Mike Leigh, Vera Drake
Actor: Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda
Actress: Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Supporting Actor: Clive Owen, Closer
Supporting Actress: Natalie Portman, Closer

Picture: Good Night, and Good Luck.
Director: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Actor: David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck.
Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
Supporting Actor: Matt Dillon, Crash
Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener

Picture: Little Miss Sunshine
Director: Paul Greengrass, United 93
Actor: Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson
Actress: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Supporting Actor: Mark Wahlberg, The Departed
Supporting Actress: Abigail Breslin, Little Miss Sunshine

Picture: Juno
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Actor: Daniel-Day Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Actress: Ellen Page, Juno
Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Picture: Milk
Director: Gus Van Sant, Milk
Actor: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Actress: Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Doubt

2003 and 2004 are the only years in which my tastes differ completely from the Academy’s (I include this year because of the inevitable Heath Ledger win). 2007 was the closest the Oscars and I came to cohesion with four synching wins. 2005 was second with three synching wins. Best Picture was the only category I never agreed with. Questions and comments are always welcome.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

2009 Oscar Predictions

I like to think I have a comprehensive exclusive on 2009 Oscar Predictions, but I just don't know. Either way, please comment on your predictions and whether or not you think mine are crap. Knock yourselves out. And enjoy.

Best Picture
Public Enemies
The Road
Shutter Island
The Tree of Life

Best Director
Rob Marshall, Nine
Michael Mann, Public Enemies
John Hillcoat, The Road
Martin Scorcese, Shutter Island
Terrance Mallick, The Tree of Life

Best Actor
Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine
Morgan Freeman, The Human Factor
Viggo Mortensen, The Road
Edward Norton, Leaves of Grass
Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life

Best Actress
Abbie Cornish, Bright Star
Nicole Kidman, Nine
Michelle Pfeiffer, Cheri
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julie
Hillary Swank, Amelia

Best Supporting Actor
Richard Dreyfuss, Leaves of Grass
Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island
Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road
Max Von Sydow, Shutter Island
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz, Nine
Emily Mortimer, Shutter Island
Saoirse Ronan, The Lovely Bones
Fiona Shaw, The Tree of Life
Imelda Staunton, Taking Woodstock

Best Original Screenplay
Funny People
Leaves of Grass
The Tree of Life
Whatever Works

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Lovely Bones
Public Enemies
The Road
Shutter Island

Final 2008 Oscar Winners Predictions

Gonna go on a limb on some, but I'm being optimistic.

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Actor: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Best Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams, Doubt
Best Original Screenplay: Milk
Best Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Animated Feature: WALL-E
Best Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Editing: Milk
Best Art Direction: The Dark Knight
Best Costume Design: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Best Original Score: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Original Song: WALL-E
Best Sound: The Dark Knight
Best Sound Editing: WALL-E
Best Visual Effects: Iron Man
Best Foreign Language Film: Departures
Best Documentary Feature: Man on Wire
Best Documentary Short Subject: The Conscience of Nhem En
Best Animated Short: Presto
Best Live Action Short: On the Line

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cut the BS Breakdown - Best Picture

This is an unabashed look at each nominee in the big eight Oscar categories. We will look at all the nominees and the various categories. No prisoners are taken, so take heed and gird your loins.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

Overall Feelings:
I would love a year where Best Picture isn’t a near-forgone conclusion. Everyone and their mother was predicting a Best Picture line-up of this save for The Reader. There is no drama, no surprises, it’s just going to happen like everyone expects. I almost thought about not writing this column for the same reason I didn’t write one for Best Animated Feature. I don’t see the merit of explaining why one film will win a prize that everyone knows will win but doesn’t deserve it. I would be interested to know what would happen if Slumdog Millionaire wasn’t in the running.

My Personal Choice:
Both Milk and The Reader made my Top 10 List, so it’s obviously between them. While The Reader had more emotional resonance with me, I still believe Milk is the better film. The narrative was more engaging, the actors excelled beyond the leads and the director took risks. I feel almost talked out at this point. That’s another problem with this Academy, they have a tendency to keep the same films in all categories. Variety would be a welcome thing.

Who Should Have Been Nominated:
This goes back to the argument between The Wrestler and The Dark Knight. This time, The Wrestler takes it. These films are neck-and-neck in my book, but The Wrestler just resonates a tad more with me. Be it Mickey Rourke’s tortured body after the staple match, Marisa Tomei’s perfectly complimentary performance, the extended deli counter scene, Marisa Tomei’s perfectly complimentary body or what is possibly the best ending of any movie in the past couple years. I just think about that film in a different way than The Dark Knight in that I have no idea how the characters end up at the end of the film, but I will eventually find out what happens next with Batman because of the inevitable sequel.

Who Should Not Have Been Nominated:
Frost/Nixon. Have I said anything yet about this film and my hatred of it? No? Oh, well check here and here.

Who Should Win:
As much as I like Milk, I’m saying The Reader just because I (unlike a whole mess of people) like the ridiculous campaigning of Harvey Weinstein. It shows passion in his films. I’m not exactly sure what the campaigning is for. Maybe it’s just to show directors and actors that he cares about their films. Maybe he has incentives built in. Who knows? By the way, I’ll say this today, but in a few years when a lesser film defeats the one I am passionate about, I’ll call Weinstein a cheat. I did the same thing in 1998 when Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan. Still, in this case, The Reader is a quality film. At the time, I was mad at Shakespeare in Love, but I didn’t exactly love it (I was blinded by my fury at it’s win). But, looking at it now, it’s a really great film (though in no way compares to Saving Private Ryan). Still, I’m pulling for the 2005-like upset, but I don’t see it happening.

Who Will Win:
Like I said, I don’t see it happening. Slumdog Millionaire is just too much of a juggernaut and too much of a crowd-pleaser these days. This film will win based on the sole fact of perfect timing. It was the perfect, “little,” “feel-good” movie that involved a cult director and an international feel. It was released by the perfect studio at the perfect time to gain steam and maintain until Sunday.

A Best Picture Poem:
Frost/Nixon was boring,
A big waste of space,
I’d sure like to think,
It’ll come in 5th place.

Benjamin Button is,
As much as I could contend,
Three very long hours,
For an obvious end.

Milk is the best,
Of the Best Picture five,
Sean Penn is getting close,
To the greatest actor alive.

The Reader is worth the money,
Which I paid to see the flick,
I wished there was more Kate,
And absolutely no dick.

Slumdog got people happy,
As much as it got people pissed,
Underpaid kids is the least of their worries,
As the Oscar will not be missed.

Cut the BS Breakdown - Best Director

This is an unabashed look at each nominee in the big eight Oscar categories. We will look at all the nominees and the various categories. No prisoners are taken, so take heed and gird your loins.

Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Steven Daldry, The Reader
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant, Milk

Overall Feelings:
Yawn…Best Director is the one chance for the Oscars to go out on a limb. Most of the time, four of the five nominees are from the Best Picture line-up, but a fifth gets to come from a film that usually isn’t an Oscary film. If you look back at the past 27 years, every year has had at least one unique Best Director, save for 2005. Films like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, City of God, Black Hawk Down and Mulholland Drive had their directors nominated. And it’s not like 2005, when there really weren’t all that many choices for the Academy to make over the five Best Picture directors. This year does not fall into that category. Andrew Stanton, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky, Jonathan Demme or Woody Allen. And that is just off the top of my head. I see the need to nominated Boyle and Fincher with the accolades their film already received, but the monotony of this category makes me want to skip over that part of the ceremony.

My Personal Choice:
There really isn’t any nominee that I am passionate about, save for Gus Van Sant. I did include Fincher and him on my personal ballot, but Fincher just barely squeaked in. Van Sant didn’t have a very daunting task as far as controlling chaos or giving some passion to a passionless story, but he took some risks with the presentation, plus he did convey some spectacular performances from his entire cast. Fincher did a good job, but he just kind of let everything develop on its own without taking some leaps. Daldry did a fine job, as did Boyle. But, I find it hard to want to give Boyle accolades for directing his fourth best film. And Howard, well…don’t get me started. See below.

Who Should Have Been Nominated:
Both The Wrestler and The Dark Knight have a tendency to sway from #1 to #2 in most categories. In this case, I have Christopher Nolan running away with this one. Both Aronofsky and Nolan are the most visible in their films, which really couldn’t be any different in genre, but the evident direction is suited for both films. Nolan had the incredible task of improving on a wonderful first Batman film, plus making a comic book film into a crime drama isn’t exactly an easy task. In addition, when was the last time you remembered so much about supporting players over the hero, who has the name in the title? You can credit Nolan for all this.

Who Should Not Have Been Nominated:
Well, let me think about this. Van Sant deftly handled a passionate fanbase and ensemble. Daldry took the risk of graphically showing a controversial relationship and turning relatively bland courtroom proceedings into an intense situation. Boyle and Fincher handled everything with the utmost care, so that leaves Ron Howard. I keep reading about how much Frost/Nixon was desired by many directors, including Martin Scorsese, George Clooney, Sam Mendes and Mike Nichols. The thought of any of those other guys actually making this movie makes me really mad. Howard took no chances, let everything happen without dictating the action and it showed with the only two performances that resonated were ones that the actors had perfected night after night on Broadway. Howard might be the most overrated director in the past 20 years. His only great film was Apollo 13, and he’ll continue to make this same type of fluff that people over 60 love. My God, this is incredibly frustrating.

Who Should Win:
Gus Van Sant is just about the only one who truly deserves it, so I’ll go with him.

Who Will Win:
In a runaway, Danny Boyle. I don’t like the fact that Slumdog Millionaire will dominate the Oscar headlines come Monday morning, but that’s what’s going to happen.

A Best Director Poem:
Ron Howard is an okay director,
As long as he doesn’t stretch,
Maybe he gets a biopic on Mother Teresa,
And turn her into a wretch.

Van Sant’s film about Harvey Milk,
Is getting a lot of acclaim,
He’s getting more famous by the day,
And maybe that was his aim.

Daldry just got his third nomination,
For only his third film,
Boy ballerinas, lesbos and Nazis
Man, does Oscar like him.

Fincher had so much dark and gloom,
Aliens, killers and fights,
Se7en, Fight Club and Panic Room,
I wish this one didn’t bite.

Boyle did a movie on the sun,
And some guys on smack,
Then he filmed some Indian slums,
An Oscar, he will not lack.

Cut the BS Breakdown - Best Actress

This is an unabashed look at each nominee in the big eight Oscar categories. We will look at all the nominees and the various categories. No prisoners are taken, so take heed and gird your loins.

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Overall Feelings:
There’s something about this that I just don’t feel as a strong group. Maybe it’s because the entire Oscar season led on with Kate Winslet’s performance in The Reader was a supporting performance in every single preliminary awards before the Oscar nominations came around. I was personally blown away by Winslet in Revolutionary Road and thought she gave the best performance of the year. Since she was nominated for the former, so that’s probably my lack of passion for this line-up. I was disappointed that Jolie got in, but looking at it one-by-one besides that, a pretty decent line-up. The thing I am really curious about is if we would be talking about Sally Hawkins possibly winning if she would have been nominated.

My Personal Choice:
I cannot deny the great power of soon to be Oscar-winner Kate Winslet, but my favorite of her performances was not nominated. Since I don’t want to cheat with Winslet twice, I’ll go with the manic selfishness/insanity that is Anne Hathaway. More than any other of the performances, hers is the one that stayed with me more than any other. I can’t say it was just one thing, but a combination of a bunch. The scene describing her brother’s death, the first confrontation with Rachel, the big fight in the living room, the fight with her mother. It’s funny to think about actually, because she has fight after fight but never seems to raise her voice. Take note, Meryl Streep, yelling doesn’t mean intensity.

Who Should Have Been Nominated:
My brain says Sally Hawkins, my gut says Rebecca Hall. I have a tendency to trust my gut. It’s not so much that Hawkins did worst than Hall, I find their performances on just about an equal plain. But, I find Hall to have the more difficult of the two. I know it consisted of more than near-blind optimism, but Hawkins had a common personality to convey with every line, while Hall had to come from many different angles with her character. She’s confused, sexual, bored, engaging and so many others. Just a complex performance with a perfect execution.

Who Should Not Have Been Nominated:
I can’t give Angelina Jolie the benefit of the doubt. I am not one of those people who hates all things Clint Eastwood, but Changeling had so much potential that was just screwed away. I by no means think it was a bad film, but there was a lot that could be happening with less than what little did happen with the amount presented. Jolie had the meaty (if not stereotypical) role of a grieving mother, but didn’t do much of anything with it, short of yelling, “I WANT MY SON BACK!” What subtle nuances did she put into the role? Or, what subtext did she add? A very dull and unimaginative performance that wasn’t bad, but by no means spectacular.

Who Should Win:
It’s hard to balance my desire for Kate Winslet to win an Oscar with my love of Anne Hathaway’s performance. As much as I’d like to say Hathaway, I think she’ll get plenty more chances in the future for a nomination and win, so I’m going to go with Kate Winslet. I argued with another guy on a message board about Gus Van Sant’s chances of winning an Oscar. He argued that it was happening because of the quality of both Milk and Paranoid Park. I said that two good movies is no reason to win, but that is kind of the way I think with Winslet (unlike Van Sant, who has no chance). Her performances in both films were just too great for the Academy to ignore. If she were nominated for Revolutionary Road, I would want say she would win for that (barring a supporting nomination for The Reader. But, since she’s nominated in lead actress for that, she should win…she’s beyond due.

Who Will Win:
I can’t convince myself of anyone else but Kate Winslet. I know Meryl Streep is in the running, but there hasn’t been an award that Winslet has lost except for one. I know most of her wins or nominations have been in supporting, but look at the facts. She has been nominated 10 times for her performance in The Reader, with the only awards she hasn’t won is the Satellite Awards, Online Film Critics Society and the Oscars. The Satellite winners haven’t been announced yet, nor the Oscars. The only award she hasn’t won is the OFCS, in which she was inexplicably defeated by Angelina Jolie. There is no way the Academy overlooks that kind of success.

A Best Actress Poem:
Jolie should have gotten,
A snub for the second year,
At least she has Brad Pitt,
To take care of that rear.

Leo isn’t new,
But she’s getting pretty big,
She just needs more roles,
And at least one de-glam wig.

Streep has a nomination,
Her fifteenth overall,
Sixteen will come soon,
Probably next fall.

Hathaway paid her dues,
Her nomination, her reward,
Give it a few years,
She’ll have an award.

Winslet went on Extras,
Said she need an win,
She get what she wanted,
And be an Oscar winner herein.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cut the BS Breakdown - Best Actor

This is an unabashed look at each nominee in the big eight Oscar categories. We will look at all the nominees and the various categories. No prisoners are taken, so take heed and gird your loins.

Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Overall Feelings:
Pretty decent line-up here. Penn and Rourke will go down as classic performances in the future, while Jenkins finally gets his due in a role that is perfectly suited. Langella was a little hastily put into this category with way too much excitement, which has obviously died down quite a bit. Pitt didn’t have much of a performance, but was pretty suited to the character. He didn’t do anything spectacular, but he did what he needed to do. Three out of five isn’t bad.

My Personal Choice:
Two of my favorite performances from this year are going head-to-head in this category, so I couldn’t be happier. My preference is definitely Mickey Rourke. His performance is heart-breaking, redemptive, subtle and powerful. Penn was great in his layered portrayal of the character of Harvey Milk, but Rourke gives a classic performance. On top of that, Rourke had the more difficult role to perfect. Those who say that Rourke was just playing himself haven’t seen the film. Rourke had everything and pissed it all away, but Robinson had everything and lost it just because of time. Milk was well documented in documentaries while Robinson was a purely fabricated character.

Who Should Have Been Nominated:
My love for In Bruges is fairly well-documented. That definitely includes Colin Farrell. This year, the talk is all about redemption with Rourke and Downey, but Farrell has just as much to be happy about. Where was his career before this? Hot off of Alexander, Miami Vice and Cassandra’s Dream? Come on…even now when you look up Colin Farrell on IMDb, the search says: Colin Farrell (Actor, In Bruges). This is the film he will be remembered for. And it should be.

Who Should Not Have Been Nominated:
I’m going to ruffle some feathers with this, but I would have to say Frank Langella over Brad Pitt. It’s not that I think that Langella gave a bad performance, I just don’t think he did anything that would warrant being one of the five best of the year. He was a dramatic version of Sam the Eagle from The Muppet Show. Did he take a true side of Nixon? Did he decide that Nixon should be eternally stubborn, eternally regretful, human? Nope, he took no road at all and figured out the accent. I would have been happy with a nomination to his counterpart in Michael Sheen, but his role just wasn’t showy enough over Langella’s to warrant the recognition.

Who Should Win:
Bill Murray. He should have won back in 2003 when he was up against Sean Penn. Therefore, the best performance of that year would have won and Penn would have gotten his deserved Oscar this year, rather than the good but by no means great performance in Mystic River. That’s my reasoning behind this. By the way, if you get the chance to see the YouTube clip of Penn’s win, look at the box with Murray’s picture. That is the look of pure hatred. Fantastic. By the way, I’m still bitter.

Who Will Win:
This cannot happen again. Murray’s chance at Oscar glory is an once-in-a-lifetime event. What do you think the chances of Murray getting another nomination? Very slim. I see the same thing happening for Mickey Rourke. That is why, I think the Academy will realize the mistake they made back in 2003 and remedy it by giving Rourke the Oscar. They should give it to him just for the sole purpose of comedy. Can you imagine the possible outcomes from an Oscar acceptance speech by Mickey Rourke? I can’t wait. Plus, do we really want to give Sean Penn a second Oscar? I’m not really up for a really pretentious speech about hemp.

A Best Actor Poem:
Jenkins finally got a star turn,
An Oscar nomination and now stardom to burn.

Brad Pitt got his second nomination and now,
He’ll smile with Angelina and take a few bows.

Langella was Nixon I guess this is true,
Too bad Michael Sheen did not get one too.

Penn played a politician whose name wasn’t Dick,
I would like him much more if he wasn’t a prick.

Rourke used to suck and now he’s back to great,
He’ll thank his dogs, his agent and Marisa Tomei

Cut the BS Breakdown - Best Supporting Actress

This is an unabashed look at each nominee in the big eight Oscar categories. We will look at all the nominees and the various categories. No prisoners are taken, so take heed and gird your loins.

Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Overall Feelings:
Once again, the supporting category gets it right. My personal ballot matched up perfectly except for one. My one complaint is the lack of variation in the roles. Tomei, Henson and Davis pretty much have the same role as a scenery chewing, suffering female in their films. I almost hesitate to include Tomei with them, but it’s fairly accurate. Adams’ role as the quiet detractor is somewhat new, but not revolutionary. Cruz’s role as the crazy/foreign sexpot is almost a stereotype, but she knocks it out of the park, so I don’t have any problems with it.

My Personal Choice:
It’s a two-horse race between Tomei and Davis for my personal award, but the way Viola Davis absolutely crushes her scene is what takes the cake. If you have the chance, watch the scene again. It seems for a while that it will be the informative role of giving some insight into the characteristics of the child, then something happens and Davis turns on a switch a becomes a powerhouse. The few complaints I have with Hoffman and Streep in Doubt come from their inability to convey power in a speech without screaming. Davis can’t be on screen longer than eight minutes, but throws a stick a dynamite into the entire film without raising her voice more than a decibel. Look at Streep during that scene, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her realize she is being out-acted, but that is definitely the case here. This is the best use of screentime in the recent past.

Who Should Have Been Nominated:
The poor ladies of Rachel Getting Married. As much as I like the film, I cannot and will not laud the performance of Debra Winger, who got close to the Worst Performance in a Good Movie nomination. That being said, Rosemary DeWitt was transfixing. Her portrayal as the engaged sister with some underlying unrequited feelings dominates the film just as much as Anne Hathaway’s character. She’s even almost backhanded in the way she presents herself, like announcing her pregnancy right in the middle of a fight. A masterwork.

Who Should Not Have Been Nominated:
Once again, I don’t think any of these nominees are undeserving. The only one of the five nominees that doesn’t have a spot on my ballot is the one who is left out. Amy Adams was nominated for her name. Adams is an adorable celebrity who doesn’t give bad performances, is family friendly and is beloved by the press. All Adams had to do in order to get her nomination was to not screw up. She didn’t screw up, so she got the nomination. I don’t think an actress besides Adams in the same role gets this nomination.

Who Should Win:
Despite my desire for Viola Davis to take home the gold, Penelope Cruz deserves the Oscar. I would argue that Cruz had the most difficult role to excel at. The exotic sexpot isn’t exactly a challenging role, but Cruz perfected it and made it her own. Woody Allen should be getting a lot more credit than he has been for leading actresses to career best performances. If Cruz takes the Oscar home, she deserves it fully.

Who Will Win:
This category is the most competitive I’ve seen in a while. When I think of the most competitive acting category, I think back to Supporting Actor in 1999. Michael Caine took home the Oscar, but Tom Cruise, Michael Clarke Duncan and Haley Joel Osment could have taken it and deserved it just as much. In fact, the only actor who didn’t have much of any chance was Jude Law. In this case, I could see any of the five nominees winning. That is why I feel an upset coming. As much as I would love Davis, Cruz or Henson to have their first Oscars, I don’t see it. As well, I don’t see the Academy giving Tomei her second Oscar (though I could be completely mistaken about their feelings for her). So, I see whoever it is that calls the name, to call the name of Amy Adams. You could give me all these reasons for it not to happen and the reasons she doesn’t deserve it, but don’t say I didn’t tell you so come Sunday.

A Best Supporting Actress Poem:
Davis did no yelling,
And still had the spice,
But if Oscar comes calling,
She can name her own price

Tomei won once,
She could win again,
If she keeps getting naked,
I really need to know when.

Henson was so loving,
She loved an “elderly” Pitt,
If she wins the Oscar,
Imagine the roles she’ll get.

Cruz should definitely win,
We know this much is true,
If she wins, she’ll be excited,
Selma Hayek will go nuts too.

Adams just might be,
The cutest nun around,
On Sunday they will call her name,
And cuteness will abound.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Cut the BS Breakdown - Best Supporting Actor

This is an unabashed look at each nominee in the big eight Oscar categories. We will look at all the nominees and the various categories. No prisoners are taken, so take heed and gird your loins.

Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Overall Feelings:
As much crap as the Academy takes for screwing up categories like Best Picture, they should really be exalted for their supporting categories. Additionally, Supporting Actor is probably the category that is most universally appealing. If it wasn’t already sewn up six months ago, this would be one of the best things to watch for on Sunday. Everything is there, the blockbuster tragedy nominee, the blockbuster comedic performance, the critical darling that finally got his due, the default nominee and the character actor in the prestige picture. This is the most exciting group of nominees with the most boring of conclusions.

My Personal Choice:
I could speculate, and many people already have speculated, on what The Dark Knight would be like without Heath Ledger. Would it still have made a bunch of money? Sure. Would it have been critically acclaimed? Probably (Batman Begins was at 84% on Rotten Tomatoes). Would it be the film that it will be remembered as for the next 50 years? Absolutely not. That is the true definition of a classic performance. I loved all the performances, but Ledger didn’t even compare with everyone else. He is the story of this year’s Oscars and very well should be.

Who Should Have Been Nominated:
It’s hard to desire another name in a near-perfect line-up, but my runner-up for Best Supporting Actor this year got left out in the cold (just behind Ledger). Brendan Gleeson gave such subtext and layers to his performance as the aging (or already aged) hitman who decisions lead to the end of his “career.” All the nominees have their defining scene. Brolin has his drunken confrontation with Penn, Shannon had his screaming matches with DiCaprio and Ledger had his “pencil trick.” Watch the scene in In Bruges where Little Jimmy makes mention of a worldwide war between races. Gleeson takes the years of pain and anger from his wife’s murder, his motives towards killing and his loyalty to Harry all in two minutes of dialogue. Fantastic.

Who Should Not Have Been Nominated:
Like I said, I love this line-up, but if one had to go, it would be Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The reason would have to be the fact that it was just too shouty and reliant on others. There’s a name for actors who shout-act and don’t have anyone else shouting back at them, it’s called Al Pacino. Take away Streep to yell back at, and Hoffman isn’t as effective. On top of that, he’s starting to get nominations purely based on the fact he’s Phillip Seymour Hoffman rather than having a good performance. That’s not his fault, but them’s the facts.

Who Should Win:
I’m going to change things up. Let’s put Ledger aside for a moment and ask who should win besides him. I would say it’d be Robert Downey Jr. Downey suffered from Gary Condit syndrome (a big story that was overshadowed by an even bigger one). He would have been the big comeback story of the year if not for Mickey Rourke. Too bad. How many performances have transcended as well as his has? Critics loved him, audiences loved him, he created controversy, dealt with the fame easily and has been great to the media. Apologies to Josh Brolin, but Downey’s performance was just the more difficult role to perfect.

Who Will Win:
I just don’t know. Maybe Downey, Brolin, even Shannon sneaking in? Umm…no. Ledger.

A Best Supporting Actor Poem:
Hoffman has the Oscar,
He’ll have to wait for number two,
Because Heath will come and haunt him,
If he doesn’t get his due.

Shannon overshadowed,
Leo, Kath and Kate,
But now is not his time,
So he will have to wait.

Brolin just got his nom,
His wife has had one too,
They should star together,
In Unfaithful 2.

Downey played a white guy,
Playing another black man,
It was real successful,
But not as much as Batman.

Ledger died so sadly,
But they still will call his name,
From now on playing villains,
Will never be the same.

Cut the BS Breakdown - Best Adapted Screenplay

This is an unabashed look at each nominee in the big eight Oscar categories. We will look at all the nominees and the various categories. No prisoners are taken, so take heed and gird your loins.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Eric Roth, Robin Swicord
Doubt, John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan
The Reader, David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire, Simon Beaufoy

Overall Feelings:
One. I count one nominee that is worth being here. I’m not saying there was a plethora of choices when it came to adaptations, but my God…I want to personally thank David Hare and his script because he is the only one who deserves to be in the running. First off, Eric Roth has already won an Oscar for this script, and it was called Forrest Gump. This guy has a tendency to write schmaltzy, clichéd ideas and sometimes gets his just desserts (The Postman). He all fooled us in 1994, but retooling the story to fit with F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story is just lazy. Next is Shanley. I don’t deny that Doubt is a well-written piece of entertainment, but I don’t understand what he did to covert this to film. Just because it is a well-written script on Broadway does not mean you can just take the carbon copy and film it to suit the needs of a film. The more I think about it, the less I think Shanley belongs with this group. Anyway…now we have Peter Morgan. I still fail to see the appeal of Frost/Nixon. Was it the fact that Frank Langella and Michael Sheen were so enthralling in the dual leads that we give praise to the film as a whole? I would love an explanation. The script is systematic, immensely forgetful and takes absolutely no risks. It avoids all character flaws and characterization in general and just focuses on the fact that Sheen and Langella were really good in the play. Finally, we come to Mr. Simon Beaufoy. I have yet to share my thoughts on Slumdog Millionaire, but it was an enjoyable experience. I liked the film as a whole and left with a smile on my face. That being said, if I were to rank these nominees in their quality, only Morgan would be worse. What made this film so memorable and the feel good story it was? Two things did. First, was the fact that it was a true story (sort of) and second and most importantly was the direction of Danny Boyle. Can you remember any dialogue from that movie? I can think of maybe three lines off the top of my head. The memories that stick with me are the visuals and the style it is presented in. This is a pure piggy-back nomination. The Academy couldn’t have played it any safer or been any more boring with this line-up.

My Personal Choice:
As I said, I want to personally thank David Hare and apologize to him for not being able to win the Oscar. The Reader is one of those rare films like The Dark Knight in which they are presented with a preconceived notion of what they are and then they turn out to be something so different and presented in a different way, that we are blown away by them. Just how The Dark Knight isn’t a comic book movie, The Reader isn’t a holocaust film. It molds into a brilliant combination of multiple ideas. It starts out a voyeuristic film, then moves into a forbidden love story and transforms into a lost love story and shifts again into a trial film. It continues to a story about age and what could have been, goes to a story about learning and hope, and concludes with a story of redemption and loss. Hare all the way.

Who Should Have Been Nominated:
I know some people hate it and a lot of people just plain don’t understand it, but I thought that Revolutionary Road was a fantastic film. Justin Haythe stayed as close as he could to Richard Yates’ book without copying what made the book work. I’ve heard many a blogger shout about the point of the film, well it’s right there in the writing. It’s about desire, shunning normality, wanting to live, all that deeper meaning in life. Michael Shannon should personally thank Haythe for giving him the words to shout and scream his way to an Oscar nomination.

Who Should Not Have Been Nominated:
My own rules are to only pick one, so I can’t throw out three. That being said, Peter Morgan’s script for Frost/Nixon is mediocre at best. Where would this film be without names behind it? Morgan should be thanking Langella, Sheen and God for the fact that a good number of the members of the Academy are senior citizens. I’m still waiting for someone under the age of 30 to really support this film.

Who Should Win:
Hare for The Reader. For reasons mentioned above, but overall because it was the only film out of the five that, while I was watching it, I didn’t give a wanking motion when I heard some piece of dialogue.

Who Will Win:
(Sigh) Beaufoy and his unimaginative script for Slumdog Millionaire. It’s an unfortunate inevitability. If anyone else had a chance it would probably be Shanley, but I’m not holding my breath. If they call anyone else’s name besides Beaufoy, I swear I’ll do a backflip in my living room. But, I can’t do a backflip so I’ll break my lamp and end up throwing my back out. But it will be worth it.

A Best Adapted Screenplay Poem:
Some enjoy the Nixon,
Some enjoy the Frost,
I enjoy a gun,
To blow my head clean off.

In Doubt there were some nuns,
There were some priests as well,
I wish they would stop yelling,
And just go burn in hell.

Benjamin Button was boring,
I’ve heard this all before,
I also saw this movie,
In 1994.

The Reader was the best,
It wasn’t hard to do,
Have your actresses naked,
And you can be loved too.

Slumdog will win everything,
Taxes, death and this,
I wish I would have taken,
A one-and-a-half hour piss.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cut the BS Breakdown - Best Original Screenplay

This is an unabashed look at the big eight Oscar categories. We will look at the nominees and the various categories. No prisoners are taken, so take head and gird your loins.

Frozen River, Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky, Mike Leigh
In Bruges, Martin McDonagh
Milk, Dustin Lance Black
WALL-E, Andrew Stanton, Pete Doctor, Jim Reardon

Overall Feelings:
Despite the Academy’s God-awful, what-the-hell-where-you-thinking choices with Best Picture, Director, and Adapted Screenplay, they have put a murderers row in some categories. This is one of the better line-ups. The great thing is that they aren’t all the same thing. You have a female-driven indie-crime drama, a super-feel-good British comedy, a dark comedy featuring hitmen, a gay historical docu-drama disguised as a biopic, and an animated love film about robots. The diversity and quality of films aren’t the norm. Even if you were to predict this category one year ago, Milk would probably be the only one that would be predicted.

My Personal Choice:
In Bruges was a different take on the old hitmen-are-just-regular-people-who-are-much-more-interesting gimmick. How do you maximize the talents of Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes while bringing out the absolute best in Colin Farrell? By writing a script that is not only smart, funny, witty and affecting, but you write it in a way where the actors can obviously enjoy themselves while saying the lines. That being said, I’ll be perfectly happy with any of the nominees winning.

Who Should Have Been Nominated:
The bad part about having a great line-up is the fact that you could still leave out two or three real winners. That’s the situation here with the omission of Rachel Getting Married and The Wrestler. I understand leaving out The Wrestler, but Rachel Getting Married and Jenny Lumet’s near-perfect script are hard to pass over. But, who would they replace? If I had my way, it would be Mike Leigh and Happy-Go-Lucky to get replaced, not because of any bias against the film or the filmmaker, but for the fact that there never really is a script in a Mike Leigh film. It’s almost like giving the Emmy to the guys from Who’s Line is it Anyway? It’s not that the lines and feeling are smart, it’s just too loose and improvised to be a script.

Who Should Not Have Been Nominated:
Like I said, the Academy got it pretty good this year, but Happy-Go-Lucky would be the odd man out if I had to pick one.

Who Should Win:
Now, I don’t see this as the same as My Personal Choice because as much as I’d like In Bruges to win, I know it has no chance. Therefore, Milk has to be the one. Dustin Lance Black should win just based on the fact that he managed to craft this script into a well-founded character study. The two things that he did that still amazes me is how he figured out how to give Harvey Milk the tribute he deserved without turning it into a puff piece. On top of that, he figured out a way to write should-be-corny dialogue but put it in the context where it sounds more classic than clichéd.

Who Will Win:
It’s down to a two-horse race with WALL-E and the aforementioned Milk coming down to the wire. Ever since Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture back in 1991, animated features are coming more and more into the forefront and one of those animated films will win Screenplay, Director, Picture and maybe even acting awards in the future. I just don’t think Milk can be ignored. It’s one of those films that just cannot go home empty handed. I’ll tell you one thing, if WALL-E wins this category, pencil in Sean Penn for Best Actor.

A Best Original Screenplay Poem:
Frozen River really got there quick,
But no one saw it enough to stick.

Happy-Go-Lucky sure made us smile,
But we know Mike Leigh will be around a while.

In Bruges is somewhat hard to say,
But we know Martin McDonagh is here to stay.

WALL-E is great but gets number two,
So Best Animated Feature will have to do.

Milk is the film that gets the big win,
I wonder who gets it in 2010?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oscar Winners Videos

Found these on YouTube the other day. The pure joy of these people when they win is fantastic. The only thing that I don't like is looking back at some of the forgone conclusions or mistakes the Academy made with their winners. I hope they won't regret their decisions this year. Enjoy.

Best Actor

Best Actress

Best Supporting Actor

Best Supporting Actress

Sunday, February 15, 2009

1st Annual McGill Award Nominations/Winners

Best Picture
The Dark Knight - Runner-Up
In Bruges
Rachel Getting Married
The Wrestler
- Winner

Best Director
Darren Aronofsky, The Wrestler - Runner-Up
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight - Winner
Gus Van Sant, Milk
Andrew Stanton, WALL-E

Best Actor
Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road
Colin Farrell, In Bruges
Sean Penn, Milk - Runner-Up
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler - Winner
Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon

Best Actress
Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married - Runner-Up
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader - Winner
Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin, Milk
Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges - Runner-Up
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight - Winner
Brad Pitt, Burn After Reading
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt - Winner
Rosemary DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler - Runner-Up

Best Original Screenplay
Burn After Reading
In Bruges -
Milk -
Rachel Getting Married
The Wrestler

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Dark Knight - Runner-Up
The Reader
Revolutionary Road
- Winner

Best Ensemble
Burn After Reading
- Winner
Rachel Getting Married - Runner-Up
Revolutionary Road

Best Poster
Burn After Reading - Winner
The Dark Knight (Teaser)
In Bruges
Synecdoche, New York
The Wrestler
- Runner-Up

Best Trailer
The Dark Knight - Winner
In Bruges - Runner-Up
The Wrestler

Prettiest Film
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Runner-Up
The Dark Knight
The Reader
Revolutionary Road
- Winner

Best Line Reading
“I am very f—king surprised he did not give us that reward.” –Chad in Burn After Reading - Winner
“I don’t want to kill you. What would I do without you?” –The Joker in The Dark Knight
“I really, really hoped I wouldn’t die.” –Ray in In Bruges - Runner-Up
“You gotta give em’ hope.” –Harvey in Milk
“What you havin’ spring chicken?” –Randy in The Wrestler

Best Scene
Tunnel Chase, The Dark Knight - Winner
Going back to Afghanistan, Iron Man
The music stops and the doors close, Rachel Getting Married
The Ram vs. The Ayatollah, The Wrestler - Runner-Up
Space dancing, WALL-E

Best Surprise
The Bank Job - Winner
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Colin Farrell, In Bruges - Runner-Up
The “sex” scene in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Ending
In Bruges
- Runner-Up
Slumdog Millionaire
The Wrestler
- Winner

Best Death
Brendan Gleeson, In Bruges - Runner-Up
Angelina Jolie, Wanted
Derek Luke, Miracle at St. Anna
Brad Pitt, Burn After Reading - Winner
Terrance Stamp, Valkyrie

Best Nudity
Penelope Cruz, Elegy
Angelina Jolie, Wanted
Jason Segal, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler - Winner
Kate Winslet, The Reader - Runner-Up

Funniest Running Joke
Harry’s “machine,” Burn After Reading
Peter’s weiner, Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Lethario, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
The invincibility of Red, Pineapple Express - Winner
Les Grossman’s foul mouth, Tropic Thunder - Runner-Up

Best Overall Performance
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Sean Penn, Milk
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler - Runner-Up
Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road - Winner

Best Cameo/Limited Role
Andre B. Blake as The Hair Stylist, Rachel Getting Married - Winner
William Fitchner as The Bank Manager, The Dark Knight
Debbie Harry as Amy O’Hearn, Elegy
Jordan Prentice as Little Jimmy, In Bruges - Runner-Up
J.K. Simmons as CIA Superior, Burn After Reading

Best Young Actor/Actress
David Cross, The Reader - Winner
Kat Dennings, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Joseph Foster, Doubt - Runner-Up
Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire
Matteo Sciabordi, Miracle at St. Anna

Best Overall Year
Patricia Clarkson, Elegy and Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man and Tropic Thunder - Runner-Up
James Franco, Pineapple Express and Milk - Winner
Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Frost/Nixon
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor, Burn After Reading and Step Brothers

Best Comedic Performance
Tom Cruise, Tropic Thunder
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
James Franco, Pineapple Express - Runner-Up
Frances McDormand, Burn After Reading
Brad Pitt, Burn After Reading - Winner

Best Eye Candy
Rachel Bilson, Jumper
Rebecca Hall, Frost/Nixon
Scarlett Johansson, Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Runner-Up
Angelina Jolie, Wanted
Frieda Pinto, Slumdog Millionaire - Winner

The Lane Smith Memorial Best “That Guy” Appearance
William Fitchner, The Dark Knight - Runner-Up
Bruce McGill, W. - Winner
James Rebhorn, Baby Mama
Chelcie Ross, The Express
J.K. Simmons, Burn After Reading

Best Thing in a Bad Movie
Omar Benson Miller, Miracle at St. Anna
A surprising amount of boobs, Sex and the City - Runner-Up
Thomas Hayden Church, Smart People - Winner
Hugh Laurie, Street Kings
Angelina Jolie’s ass, Wanted

Worst Thing in a Good Movie
Renee Zelwegger, Appaloosa
Diego Luna, Milk
Kathy Bates, Revolutionary Road - Winner
The Dance at the Credits, Slumdog Millionaire
Thandie Newton, W. - Runner-Up

Movies I specifically avoided (and with good reason)
Beverly Hills Chihuahua
The Love Guru
- Runner-Up
Mamma Mia!
The Women
- Winner

Movies I should have avoided
The Happening
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
- Winner
Sex and the City - Runner-Up
Smart People

Overrated Movies
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Runner-Up
Slumdog Millionaire - Winner
Tropic Thunder

Underrated Movies
The Bank Job
- Winner
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
- Runner-Up

Thursday, February 12, 2009

[In]Glorious Trailer

My most anticipated film of 2009 has a trailer. I'm pumped for everything except Brad Pitt's accent (sounds a little on the corny side) and Eli Roth as an actor.

That being said, I'll trust Tarantino until he lets me down. And the day I see Ryan Howard kill and scalp Nazi's is the day I'll be a happy man. Seriously, doesn't this picture just get you pumped?

Kelly, I have to go to Europe for a couple of weeks...

Seriously, that speech he says to Kelly about going to Europe is that much funnier these days. I like to think he's been gone from the show just for that reason. Man, I am crapping myself with anticipation.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Oscar Trivia Part 2

1. 2005 was the last year where six different films won Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress. Before 2005, when did it happen last?

2. Which film was nominated for the most Oscars without being nominated for Best Picture?

3. Last year, all four acting Oscars went to non-Americans for the second time. When was the first time it happened?

4. What was the last film to be nominated for Best Picture that was rated PG?

5. What was the last film to win the Best Picture Oscar without receiving a screenplay nomination?

6. What was the first film to win Best Picture that was rated PG-13?

7. What was the last film to be nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress, Supporting Actor and Screenplay?

8. What was the only film nominated for every Oscar it was eligible for?

9. What was the first year all Best Picture nominees were in color?

10. What was the first sequel to be nominated for Best Picture?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

WTSOYF Top 10 of 2008

Now, keep in mind, I live in a nice size city but don’t have the ability to see every independent and foreign film. I tried as best as I could, but I couldn’t get around to a lot different films.

Additionally, my rules on my Top 10 don’t allow me to include documentaries in the countdown. That doesn’t mean I really liked some of them. Man on Wire and Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired were some of the best this year.

Anyway, let’s start out with some Honorable Mentions that don’t get any commentary, in order from worst (relatively) to best: W., Valkyrie, Tropic Thunder, Defiance, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Frost/Nixon, Appaloosa, Changeling, Slumdog Millionaire, Burn After Reading, Iron Man, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Anyway, on to the Top 10!

10. Doubt
d. John Patrick Shanley

Some people have said this film felt forced, but even though it was handled by fairly inexperienced director (and it showed), the actors are of such a caliber that they could handle the script (which John Patrick Shanley is obviously better at) and direct themselves to elevate the caliber of the film. As good as Hoffman, Adams and Streep are, they pale in comparison to the best non-Ledger supporting performance of the year in Viola Davis. The smartest thing that Shanley does in the course of the film is keep the camera on Davis for her brief but powerful scene. When the camera cuts to Streep, she looks almost amazed that she’s getting upstaged. I would have personally liked a little more closure on the film than what happened, but that’s the way the play was, so I’ll live with it. The bottom line is that the actors did the work that the director should have done. Highly entertaining nonetheless.

9. Elegy
d. Isabel Coixet

This was a movie that I fell into almost by accident. When it first came out, I was nowhere near a place I could watch it. I did see the restricted trailers, which at least intrigued my adolescent side. Then, I had the opportunity to see it and didn’t really have any expectations. That being said, I was blown away. I have mixed feelings on Ben Kingsley because he seems to take any job that pays enough. Sometimes that works out with Sexy Beast and Lucky Number Slevin (an underrated favorite of mine), but also gets involved in Thunderbirds, Bloodrayne and A Sound of Thunder, which might be the worst performance in the worst film I’ve ever seen. But that’s for another day. Kingsley conveyed every subtext and underlying emotion of his character. But, I believe the true greatness of this film is the way Kingsley acts in unison with his costars. Without Penelope Cruz, Patricia Clarkson, Dennis Hopper and Peter Sarsgaard, his character becomes one-note and boring. Cruz brings the spice, Clarkson brings the sexy and desire for the lost, Hopper brings the intellect and Sarsgaard brings the angst. Besides the cast, the thing that elevates this film over others is not what is said, but what is implied in the silence. Coixet should get a more commercial job for the job she does, but I’m not sure how well it will translate to big budget.

8. The Reader
d. Steven Daldry

This is the first movie I ever went out of my way to see when it I truly believed it wasn’t coming to my area. It was two hours away and I made plans to take my wife to see it on the last day it was in theaters. That day, it was nominated for five Oscars and it is currently at both the major theaters in my city. It was still worth the trip. Everything that has been said about Winslet doesn’t need to be extended any further except the fact that she deserves the Oscar she will probably win. The thing that stood out for me was David Cross. When I first saw the film in production, I thought it was the comedian, but to my relief, a young German boy graced the screen as an acting equal to Mrs. Winslet. Ralph Fiennes also puts in some quality supporting work as does the great Lena Olin, but I think this film rests on the shoulders of Cross. His personality fits his motives as a young body with an adult mindset. Perfectly suited to the character and perfectly cast. If Daldry can pull off an Oscar nomination for his upcoming The Adventures of Caviler and Clay, he should be put into the discussion of the top directors of the 21st century.

d. Andrew Stanton

The day Pixar comes out with a huge dud of a film, will be the day I give up on watching animated films. The difference between Pixar and other animation studios is their faithfulness. Do you realize that only four directors have ever done a Pixar film? John Lasseter (Toy Story 1&2, A Bug’s Life, Cars), Brad Bird (The Incredibles and Finding Nemo), Pete Docter (Monster’s Inc. and the upcoming Up) and Stanton, who co-directed A Bug’s Life and presided over Finding Nemo. There is a reason all these films are classics. They find a talented director of either underseen classics or brilliant shorts. Stanton delivers the most emotionally charged and understated of all the classics. The thing that makes WALL-E so wonderful is the fact that it takes you so low before it lets you get back to the high. It’s hard to watch it again because the happy ending doesn’t resonate, it’s the extreme sadness and despair near the climax. It doesn’t mean I didn’t love the film, I think the reason I didn’t put it higher was how real it felt and I couldn’t reach onto it like I should. The other thing that resonates is the great characterization of robots over the humans. Don’t you feel like you know what WALL-E or EVE wants or how they feel more than a person would? This is the type of film I could talk about four 20,000 words and still not get down to the core of things. That is what makes a great film and that what makes an animated film a classic.

6. Revolutionary Road
d. Sam Mendes

I am a staunch Mendes defender. American Beauty is one of my favorite movies of the last 20 years, Road to Perdition is extremely watchable if anything, Jarhead is misunderstood brilliance and this will go down just the same. First off, let it be said that Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio should be in every movie possible with each other. They bring out the best in each other. As much as I liked Winslet’s performance in The Reader, this might be the best female performance I’ve seen in the last five years. She’s a mirror of whatever emotion best suits Leo. Layered, complex, complicated, brilliant. I can’t finish talking about this film without mentioning the supporting cast. Not only the manic and fantastic Michael Shannon, but the two characters that make the film work almost better than any other characters, Milly and Shep Cambell (played with every bit of humbleness by Katherine Hahn and David Harbour, respectively). They see the Wheeler family as the ideal, watch them unravel and then try to shun the pain they’ve viewed. The thing I wanted more is backstory, though it probably added to the allure of the characters and the story in general. I know many can’t stand it, but I couldn’t sit back in my seat because I was glued to the edge.

5. Milk
d. Gus Van Sant

This is the film, more than any other on the list, that I thought I would hate more than any other. What made this film great, besides the performances, was the possibility of this being an over-indulgent puff piece that glorified everything about the man. Generally, it focuses on Harvey and his struggles, but it occasionally goes into, not Harvey’s faults, but his blindness and general over abundance of trust of everyone. It leads to not only his initial democratic failures, but his eventual death. It’s been said that the definition of a great performance is when you don’t realize the actor is acting and you just see the character. I believe it becomes great when you think back to the film and continue to see the character. Even seeing the actor on television, I see Sean Penn, then I see Harvey Milk. Josh Brolin, James Franco and Emile Hirsch add to the story and move it to a surprisingly watchable film. I’m still amazed at the pace and rhythm of this film. My surprise of the year and the ensemble of the year.

4. Rachel Getting Married
d. Jonathan Demme

I’d like to thank my wife for the opportunity to like it as much as I did. She saw it about a month-and-a-half before I got the chance to, and she did not have high praise for it. That’s the kind of film it is. It divides family, pitting brother against father and husband against wife. Her words against it brought my expectations down. When I finally got the chance to see it, I was blown away. The thing I loved about it more than anything else is that it doesn’t shy away from reality. From the cringe-worthy rehearsal toast to the little games that the family plays, the little things make it realistic over other films. Though many find Anne Hathaway’s character annoying, I find her searching for acceptance over the constant attention she’s always had, which can sometimes come across as annoying. The supporting cast does a wonderful job in facilitating the conflict for the main characters, from Rosemary DeWitt’s sister, to Bill Irwin’s dad. The reality of the film speaks true, from the lingering pain of the lost little brother, to the absolute lack of stereotypical family-movie problems. It’s real, and rings true as such.

3. In Bruges
d. Martin McDonagh

This took a second try to really appreciate this film. It seemed uneven and too slow for the first two-thirds and then the last act came together for a great ending. Upon a second viewing, the first two acts came together. I don’t know what it was, maybe it was the understanding of what was happening to the characters with the motives and backstories put more into perspective. Either way, the only thing better than the script is probably the acting. Career best performances from both Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, which includes one of the best monologues of the year by Farrell who goes on about how life will be different for the family he affected because of what he did. Add to that a wonderfully menacing and hilarious (if too short) appearance by Ralph Fiennes, and you have yourself a cast. The stars aren’t the only ones who shine. Unknowns like Jordan Prentice add to the fun as a drugged up midget…I mean, dwarf actor who gets a little too high now and then. Clemence Poesy brings the adorable as Farrell’s love interest as well. The thing that makes this film more memorable than others is the fact that the film leaves a very happy memory of the experience, despite having very bleak moments, like Farrell’s monologue, and even a violent and bleak ending. I don’t think I could explain it, but I just know that I love it.

2. The Dark Knight
d. Christopher Nolan

The poster to the left sets the perfect tone to this film. The thing that hasn’t been publicized enough about this movie is that it’s not a comic book movie. It’s a crime/action drama that happens to involve a character who originated in comic books. Seriously, at what point in that film can you freeze frame it and it looks like a comic book? The thing that amazes me when you look back on it, you care so much about all the characters, if you name them in order, does Batman/Bruce Wayne make the top three? How about the top five? The Joker, Two Face/Harvey Dent, Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, Lucius Fox…hell, even Rachel Dawes is more characterized in this film. You can blame Batman Begins for that one. In the first film, it took over half of the film to explain how Bruce Wayne becomes Batman, how he gets his “wonderful toys,” his karate, his philosophy…and this film relies on the fact that you’ve seen the first film. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I’m saying that this is the biggest asset of this film. It’s had the chance to give the backstory so Nolan can delve into everyone else. And everyone knocks it out of the park. Ledger (of course), Freeman, Eckhart, Caine and especially Gary Oldman, who really needs more quality work. I’m a little worried about the prospects of a third film in this series. The point of a sequel is to either elaborate or improve on the previous. If the third film can beat this one, then the movie-going public is going to be in good shape.

1. The Wrestler
d. Darren Aronofsky

If there was one word to describe this film, it would be desperation. Desperation, not only for the characters, but for the filmmakers themselves. Everyone by now has heard the story of Mickey Rourke and his rise and fall and rise again, but Aronofsky is no different. His previous film, The Fountain was wildly misunderstood and underappreciated. His onset differences with Brad Pitt took the luster away from the film and took away much of the confidence studios had in him. Therefore, he had limited resources and opportunities, and knocked it out of the park with this spectacular character-driven piece. Rourke and Randy both were desperate to turn around their careers. Marisa Tomei’s stripper character was desperate to go back to the way things were when she was younger and the characters as a whole were desperate for another chance to make things right. You can feel the desire for redemption, for financial stability, for equality. They just want things to be easy as opposed to the struggle that they are. This is Aronofsky’s second top spot on my end of the year lists after his unbelievable sophomore effort in Requiem for a Dream. I’m not saying he topped that, because I’m not sure I’ve seen a film that can top that. The performances are as perfect as they can be. Rourke and Tomei do everything they need to, with Evan Rachel Wood topping it off in a too short but crucial part as Rourke’s daughter. The most efficient, most poignant, well acted and best film of 2008.

And that is my Top 10 Films of 2008. What do you think?