Friday, August 26, 2005

Best Actress 2005

Generally, this is my favorite category every year, because it nearly always includes the best performances of each year, regardless of gender (e.g. Being Julia's Annette Bening, who was robbed). So I'm discussing this before the other categories.

Who's bound to lead the category come awards season and Oscar nomination night? If Walk the Line ends up being as good as expected, and her performance is just as great, then America's sweetheart Reese Witherspoon can walk away with a first nomination. All the early buzz last year was on her potentially star-making performance in Mira Nair's Vanity Fair, but the film failed to deliver, and so she was mercilessly removed from contention. This film on Johnny Cash seems less precarious and more poised to reign on Oscar night than Vanity Fair ever was, so it has to stink to drive attention away from Witherspoon. The role (June Cash) is very, very significant in the story. If the powers that be won't be idiots enough to campaign for a supporting nod for her, then she has a very good chance of bagging this (at least a nom).

Oscar favorite Judi Dench, who got four nominations and one win (for her eight-minute role in Shakespeare In Love) in five years, is back in the running with Mrs. Henderson Presents, a British film getting all the buzz. I don't mean to simplify the plot, but it's about London theatre, and if Annette Bening got huge attention for a film of that genre, I don't see how Dench can't. Has she ever given a bad performance? This category is kind to smaller films (probably why it's my favorite). Let's just hope the film itself doesn't sink.

For much the same reason as with her film, confidence over a first nomination for Asian superstar Ziyi Zhang has waned. Can she pull off being a Japanese geisha? I personally think that she is a wonderful actress and can do just that. If you weren't impressed with her performance in House of Flying Daggers, watch 2046 and you'll see that she definitely has the acting chops. Thankfully, Memoirs of a Geisha is too big a film (and with too good a release date, Oscar-wise) to ignore. Charlize Theron may be back after winning for Monster two years ago for a Niki Caro (Whale Rider) project. If Caro got young Keisha Castle-Hughes (who was very good) a lead actress nomination, why not Theron? She's nowhere near being due for an Oscar, but unlike some recent winners (e.g. Gwyneth Paltrow), at least her win isn't really being questioned. The role, that of the first woman to file a major sexual harassment lawsuit in the Unite States, is ripe with potential.

If this category looks with favor upon actresses in small films, so it does as well on those whose films appeared WAY before Oscar season. There are many, many possibilities, among them being Juliette Binoche for Bee Season and Uma Thurman for Prime, but for now I'm giving this fifth slot to Joan Allen, who seems to have mesmerized everyone in The Upside of Anger. If she gets a heavy enough push, she can get in despite the more Oscar-friendly releases of her competition.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Best Picture 2005

I generally don't like jumping on the bandwagon, but I think I'd have to do just that and say that Munich will most likely be the leader come awards season. The only thing that seems to be working against it is that it's already August and it's still nowhere in sight (until just recently, it didn't even have a title yet). Many of the other buzzed films, like Ask the Dust, A History of Violence and Brokeback Mountain are already making their rounds among the film festivals. Then again, anticipation for this film will have escalated to significant degrees by the time the film actually arrives. With such a heavy theme, direction from Steven Spielberg, and a screenplay by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, hopes are up for this film...and, of course, the stakes are high.

As for the other films... If there's one that's getting near zero buzz, making its chances grow dimmer every passing moment, it's the Ivory-Merchant project The White Countess. Where the heck is it? Still, I think that Ismail Merchant's recent passing can at least get the film last minute attention. I mean, we're talking about the masters of the period film here. Everyone else is either an inspired artist or a poser. The New World could be the historical epic in the slot, and it doesn't hurt that it's directed by respected Terrence Malick. It may hurt that it's an epic with Colin Farrell in it, but I don't really see that working against it in the long run. Maybe New Line will be back in the running with this one. Memoirs of a Geisha, which is based on a hugely popular novel and directed by Chicago helmer Rob Marshall, has all the trappings to make it an Oscar frontrunner, but the rumors of troubles during shooting, and the rather inaccurate (that's not saying that it isn't inspired) casting are probably making other prognosticators think twice about its chances. As far as I'm concerned, it's still in, and it's a good venue for great Asian actors Ziyi Zhang and Li Gong to shine.

Now...what about the fifth slot? It's up in the air: it could be heavily buzzed Walk the Line or Mrs. Henderson Presents, or light fare like In Her Shoes or Elizabethtown, or the war film Jarhead, or the remake of All the King's Men. But wouldn't it be nice for them to actually remember how great a film Crash was? I admit, this is more wishful thinking than anything else, but it's not entirely impossible. I'm hoping for it.

Of the other movies, I'm most excited about the buzz generated by Walk the Line and Brokeback Mountain. Both look like great acting vehicles for their actors from what I've seen (the latter in particular), but there are things working against them. We just came from a year with Ray. Walk the Line has to be exceptional to walk the carpet (or the stage) with more than just nominations for the two lead actors. Meanwhile, Brokeback Mountain is as gay as a movie could get. Is the Academy ready to accept that?

I'm pretty excited about this year, if only because there are so many possibilities. Who knows, maybe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe will actually make it as another fantasy up for the major Oscars. One can always hope.

All photos taken from IMDb

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Cinemanila Film Festival 2005

Just learned that this year's Cinemanila will be held on October 12-25 instead of the usual August run. And I was SO looking forward to watching Manderlay (the "sequel" to Lars Von Trier's brilliant Dogville). Well, I guess one month isn't too long a wait. I'm just worrying that it's going to be much harder to catch the films at Manila (where exactly there?) than it was at Greenbelt in Makati. Other films to watch for: Mar Adentro (Oscar Foreign Language film winner The Sea Inside), Clean (with Maggie Cheung), and the Japanese animation films (Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence, Appleseed, and the one I haven't watched, Steamboy). Why isn't Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children here?! Sigh.

Updated Predictions

Hey, first predix update since June! You can see my predictions for the big 5 awards on the left side. I'll give my insights on Best Picture tomorrow, if time permits it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Alanis and Narnia

Just bought Alanis Morissette's "Jagged Little Pill Acoustic" album. Man, it brings me back to 1996, when I was in High School and "You Oughta Know" was playing all over the radio. "Jagged Little Pill" was the first album that I ever bought, believe it or not. That and Mariah Carey's "Daydream" (her best album, IMO); couldn't decide on which one I wanted more. Anyway, back to Alanis, the edge is gone even in angst anthem "You Oughta Know," but that doesn't mean that the album isn't good. In fact, mellow Alanis is more soulful, and you finally realize that she actually has a good singing voice and that her songs are actually brilliant. Say what you want, but the songs of "Jagged Little Pill" are each and every one of them little definitive jewels in mainstream music.

Also bought, against my better judgment, the Audio CDs of the entire "Chronicles of Narnia." But it was a killer bargain: Php2500, or roughly $45 for all 31 discs, with the books read by Kenneth Branagh, Patrick Stewart, and Lynn Redgrave, among others. I'd have been a fool not to buy it.

Gearing up for the big Narnia movie, folks.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Top 5 Films (so far)

Hey! While waiting for the great films of the last half of 2005 to come rolling in, here's the list of my Top 5 2005 films so far:

Batman Begins
Howl's Moving Castle
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Sin City


Monday, August 15, 2005

Mini-Review of "Crash"

Here's the late post of my review of Crash: I haven't watched such an effectively involving film that isn't one of those epic dramas in a long time. The blatant racism was disturbing, especially during the first quarter of the film, but as the movie progressed, I (and those who watched with me) couldn't help but actually enjoy the experience of watching the flawed, multicultural characters move around and interact in a world that is so real. It's a testament to how good a director Paul Haggis was that you don't really end up rooting for anyone (or, more appropriately, any race) in particular but become involved in everyone's plight, even those of the very minor characters. There's a particularly powerful scene here involving a guy and his daughter (any more would be a spoiler), and it provokes such a prism of emotions that it comes across as one of the most well-executed sequences among recent films. Kudos to all the actors, particularly Thandie Newton, Don Cheadle and Ryan Philippe, for the great performances. Isn't it obvious that I loved this film? It was even better than I expected. (Photo from IMDb)

Saturday, August 13, 2005


Hi! Welcome to the [dramatically] revamped Ron's Film Site. Hopefully, it will be more convenient to update this Film-Otaku blog than it was with the old site. Much of what you saw there will be seen on this blog, plus I get to give my ideas across more quickly.

I'll be watching Crash in a few hours. It's not often that such good films get a screening here in the Philippines, so I'm determined to catch it while it's still being shown (I don't expect it to live beyond two weeks). Will let you know what I think about it later.

Updates on my Oscar predictions to come later.