Thursday, February 23, 2006

American Idol

I love watching American Idol. And while poking fun at the horrible auditions was really entertaining, my favorite parts are when the [supposedly] really good ones take the stage and the audience votes begin to matter. That started with the performances of the 24 semi-finalists last night and the night before, and here are my thoughts on the matter:

If only Stevie Scott had sung something better suited to her voice, like something from a Broadway musical. If only Heather Cox were more than just a pretty face (and a hot figure). But there were shining moments that night: wonderfully energetic fireball Paris Bennett; soulful Lisa Tucker; and just plain amazing (and gorgeous) Katharine McPhee (no relation, I assume, to Nanny McPhee). They're my favorites right now, but if I had to say which one is most likely to win the competition, it would have to be McPhee. Here's my rundown:

Paris Bennett
Katharine McPhee
Lisa Tucker


Kinnik Sky
Ayla Brown
Kellie Pickler
Becky O'Donohue

? (I'm not sure what to think)
Melissa McGhee

Wrong Song Choice
Brenna Gethers
Stevie Scott

Shouldn't be back next week
Heather Cox

Simon Cowell was much more vicious with the guys than he was with the girls, and in many cases he was actually right to be so. The girls generally brought stronger performances, though there were, of course, stand-outs as well among the guy. Among them were Chris Daughtry (powerful performance), Elliott Yamin (according to Simon, the best male in five seasons), Jose "Sway" Penala (soulfully unique), and, of course, the always amusing and impressive Taylor Hicks. That guy does not look like an American Idol, but if he doesn't mess up, he's gonna get there.

Chris Daughtry

Taylor Hicks
Elliott Yamin
Jose "Sway" Penala

Ace Young
Patrick Hall
Will Makar
David Radford
Gedeon McKinney

Kevin Covais

Shouldn't be back next week
Bucky Covington
Bobby Bennett (how did he get in in the first place?!)

Monday, February 06, 2006

Who (and What) I'd Love to See Nominated

There is something really fun and amusing about trying to predict who will get Oscar nominations even a full year before the actual ceremonies, but it's even better if your favorite films or actors get a nod for their work. There are loads of actors who have shown powerful, stellar work but have never been nominated. It's either that their films are too small, their roles are too small, or the Academy just doesn't like them enough (tough). Thankfully, my favorite actors, namely Cate Blanchett, Nicole Kidman, and Julianne Moore have all been recognized (though the great Julianne hasn't won yet, and Cate should have won for Elizabeth), but there are many other actors and film genres and technical artists who should have been nominated or should be in the near future. I'm not going to list here specific performances that should have gotten an actor a nomination; there's too many of that. Instead, I'm listing people who I'd love to see nominated eventually. So here goes:

Comic book/graphic novel adaptations. Yes, many could argue that films based on comics haven't yet reached the quality looked for by Academy members in films like, say, Brokeback Mountain or Million Dollar Baby. But artistically, some of the best films in every year have been comic book or graphic novel adaptations: Spider-Man 2, Batman Begins, A History of Violence. I really hope that soon, a film of this genre could break into the Best Picture race. Perhaps if a really good one had a December release instead of summer? Perhaps something like a film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series?

Dakota Fanning. Whatever you say about this kid, she's great, perhaps the best of her generation of actors. When she fears something, like she does in War of the Worlds, you feel her fear. Thing is, I'm sure she can handle heavy dramatic roles; she's mature enough. I wonder when we'll see her among the nominees list?

Christopher Lee. Lee has been in more films that almost every other actor alive, and he has brought so many grand, iconic characters to screen, among them Dracula, Saruman and Count Dooku. He no doubt has the acting chops. It's most likely because his roles are either too small or too mainstream pop that he can't get the recognition that he deserves. He should have a meatier dramatic role before he retires (the guy isn't young anymore, after all).

Gong Li / Ziyi Zhang. I think Asians are fantastic actresses, particularly the Chinese. Either Ziyi Zhang or Gong Li (or both) could have made it had Memoirs of a Geisha not been a critical disaster, and they would have fully deserved the recognition. Both are luminous, Zhang with innocence and sorrow (2046, her best performance ever), Li with intense passion (any of her films). I don't see Li getting one with Miami Vice, even if it's directed by Michael Mann, but I'm sure both of them, particularly younger Zhang, will have more shots in the future (perhaps Li has one with Zhang Yimou's Autumn Remembrance?). I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Tobey Maguire. If Tobey gets stuck with Spider-Man 2, a nomination wouldn't be coming his way soon. But he is a very good actor, so I'm hoping he can snag one soon. Kinda sucks that Jake Gyllenhaal, who was once thought to just look like Maguire, got a nomination even before he did (though Gyllenhaal is great in Brokeback Mountain and in fact should win for it).

Hayao Miyazaki. I think there should be a new addition to the rules given by prognosticators on how to predict Oscar nominations: Whenever a Hayao Miyazaki film is eligible for the Best Animated Feature Film award, it's going to get nominated. How I wish that rule extended to the Best Director category as well. To date, Beauty and the Beast is still the only animated film to ever get a nod for the top prize, but even its director didn't get a nom for Best Director. Isn't it about time a director of an animated film got that recognition? How more fitting than one for the god of animation himself?

Lars Von Trier. One of the primary proponents of Dogme 95, Von Trier is also one of the boldest. If only for his vision and commitment to it, he should get a nomination. He should have for Dogville or Dancer in the Dark.

Zhang Yimou. One of the greatest visual directors alive. His films are the most vibrant and among the more emotionally resonant. Perhaps he can get one for Autumn Remembrance, which reunites him with Gong Li. He should have been for Hero.

Christopher Doyle. It's one of the greatest injustices of the Oscars that cinematographer extraordinaire Christopher Doyle, who has worked on most Wong Kar Wai films and lent them their almost otherwordly look, has NEVER been nominated. What will it take to get this uber-talented man recognized for his work?!

Joe Hisaishi / Yoko Kanno. Two of the most talented composers of Japanese themes, particularly anime, with Hisaishi being the frequent collaborator of Hayao Miyazaki. A significant part of the charm of Miyazaki's masterpieces, and of many epic fantasy animes, comes from the music. It cannot be denied that Hisaishi and Kanno are among the best in that field. Perhaps they have to compose themes for live-action films to get noticed.

All images taken from IMDb.

Oscar winner predictions and should-have-beens

I've posted my predictions of who will win in the major categories, plus my opinions on who should win and who should have been nominated.