Monday, March 27, 2006

Category Confusions for the 79th

As early as now, predictions for the 79th Academy Awards are already being showcased in several websites and blogs, including this one. But what's making it hard for us is the confusion regarding the categories under which actors will fall come nomination night. Not many people absolutely know, I'm certain, since most of these films have been finished yet. But just in case you do, I'd appreciate the information.

Is it me or are there more confusing possibilities than there were in previous years? Anyway, here are just a few that I could think of right now:

Javier Bardem (Goya's Ghosts): Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor? He plays a monk, not Goya himself.

Annette Bening (Running With Scissors): Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress? It's a very baity role and could very well land Bening her first Oscar win, but is her mother role really a lead performance?

Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal): Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress? Isn't Cate Blanchett the lead in this film? Will Dame Judi's role be large enough for co-lead status?

Brad Pitt (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford): Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor? Pitt plays James, not Ford. Co-lead with Casey Affleck?

Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland): Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor? Sure, the title refers to his character (a Ugandan dictator, not a Scottish monarch), but will he be sharing lead status with James McAvoy?

The actors of Flags of Our Fathers: Which one of them will be going for the lead category? My bet is still Ryan Philippe. Wouldn't it be nice to have Reese Witherspoon reading out the name of her husband as a nominee?

Review: Fearless

Jet Li obviously wanted this film to convince people that he could do more than just great martial arts and acrobatics, with his key dramatic scenes and the consistent claim that this is his last martial arts epic. And the thing is, he actually pulls it off in those key scenes, being restrained and subtle in his moments of despair. But of course, I didn't watch Fearless for that. It's no Zhang Yimou or Wong Kar Wai epic. I watched it for the fight sequences, and it delivered. The film is one that must be seen, if only for that. Also for Jay Chou's very entertaining song that accompanies the end credits. Oh, and also because it's Jet Li's last martial arts epic. Supposedly. Grade: C+

Review: MirrorMask

Let me begin by saying that I love Dave McKean's art. I read the works of Neil Gaiman, a frequent collaborator of McKean (as he is in this film), and McKean's illustrations have always been, to me, otherworldly and mesmerizingly beautiful, images snatched from a dreamscape. But how to translate all that visual mastery into a working, live-action film? I was worried, and the trailers didn't help; what I saw there had large helpings of the art that I loved, yes, but somehow it felt empty.

Oh, but it turns out that that's how it was supposed to be. From her stay in her family's circus to the bleak world of light and dark and the MirrorMask, there was supposed to be emptiness, the sort that consumes. The circus is a good starting point, as the limited cast of major players feels like a sort of wandering acting troupe, wondrous in their costumes and makeup and splendid foregrounds to McKean's uncanny visuals. Gullible sphinxes, giants that would bore the Ents, moving's The Wizard of Oz gone wrong, askew, empty. It reminds me of the game Alice, which is being made into a film for release this year. If it has half the alien beauty of MirrorMask, it's going to be fantastic. Having said that, the film is nothing short of fantastic. And I'm hoping to see more of Stephanie Leonidas soon. Grade: B+

Image from IMDb

Review: Nanny McPhee

Emma Thompson is easily one of those actresses who works brilliantly in any film that she's in, regardless of the quality of the film as a whole. She doesn't get much of a chance in Nanny McPhee to show how astounding an actress she is, but she never once slacks or loses the strength of her onscreen presence (despite all that hideous makeup, or perhaps because of it). The film itself is a whimsical, fanciful color-fest, with the occasional dancing donkey lending it the feel of a straight-to-video children's movie. Despite similarities with Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (nowhere more obvious than during the end credits), Nanny McPhee does not soar the way that surprise 2004 gem did. Perhaps it needed a deliciously humorous cameo from Meryl Streep. The short appearance by Angela Lansbury is amusing, Colin Firth is at his charming, bumbling best, and Thomas Sangster still shows signs of great promise as he did in Love Actually. Kelly Macdonald, who did very well in Gosford Park is, in my opinion, unfortunately underutilized. The way the film ends is awkward and somewhat artificial, though I find it difficult to point out exactly why. Still, the film works on an emotional level, if only for a while. Grade: B

Image from IMDb

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Keisha Castle-Hughes for Best Actress?

With direction by Catherine Hardwicke (Thirteen), a cast including Keisha Castle-Hughes as the young Virgin Mary and Shoreh Aghdashloo as her sister, and a December release, Nativity seems to be poised to at least get some Oscar attention. I'm looking forward to this film a lot, if only because of my personal devotion to Mary. I don't expect this to sneak into the Best Picture race (unless it's phenomenal), but if there's someone from the film who can get a nod, it's previous nominee Castle-Hughes. I've updated my Best Actress predictions accordingly, dropping Meryl Streep (A Prairie Home Companion) for now. I know it's La Streep that we're talking about here (how dare I drop her, hehe), but her film's 9 June release just isn't too Oscar-friendly.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I've Got the McPheever!

I was not able to watch the first two seasons (Kelly and Ruben) of American Idol, only the season starting from the one won by Fantasia. But after a few weeks of seeing her, particularly after last night's 50s performances, I am convinced that Katherine McPhee has the purest, sultriest, highest-quality singing voice that I've heard from any female singer in the competition. I've got the McPheever! As Randy would say, "We've got a hot one here!" I'll so hate and stop watching A.I. if Kate gets voted out before the final 2 contestants are chosen. Right now, her only tough competition from the girls seem to be Paris and Mandisa (both great last night), with Kelly (back to her adorable self) threatening with her "It" factor. Among the guys, Chris is consistently very good, Elliott still has the best singing voice, and Taylor, though he stumbled last night in my opinion (why did he choose that song?!), has a strong fanbase that won't let him go early (thankfully). Ace and Lisa were OK last night, as was Kevin. Did you notice how much humbler he seemed to be last night? Someone probably had a talk with Chicken Little and told him to stop ruffling the feathers of birds bigger than he. Who should get voted off: Bucky for that terrible performance (it didn't help that he came after powerhouse Mandisa).

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Review: V for Vendetta

Visually spectacular, vibrant, volatile, violent, V for Vendetta (sorry, can't resist adding all the v's) is an unexpected masterpiece from the genre of graphic novel adaptations. I had expected it to be good, but not THIS good. The action sequences are top notch, and though the film was written by the Wachowski brothers, you won't end up thinking that the fighting style is just a rehash of what you've seen in The Matrix. In his directorial debut, James McTeigue creates an artful film whose pace never slows, and whose power (in terms of both the messages and the visuals) grips you and never lets go. It's one of the more emotionally involving adaptations of a graphic novel to have been released recently, given how timely the themes (i.e. terrorism, repressive governments, etc.) are. And even if you don't end up thinking, "Hey, that situation seems familiar," you can't help but be drawn into the world that Alan Moore has so brilliantly created and that McTeigue has adapted with respectful creativity. While Stephen Rea, John Hurt, and of course Hugo Weaving turn in highly commendable performances (you won't get to see Weaving's face, but with that voice, who needs to be seen to be felt?), it is Natalie Portman who shines in the film. Her performance is nothing short of brilliant, allowing her to show a range that many older actresses would envy. The film works on all levels. "Remember, remember the 5th of November." Watch this film and it's something you won't soon forget. Grade: A

To the Academy: Remember, remember V for Vendetta come nomination time. I loved this film and Natalie in it so much that I'm adding a new section to the sidebar of my blog: my own FYCs. While I'd love to see the film itself up for a Best Picture award and think it worthy of such a recognition, my first FYC will be Natalie Portman for Best Actress. Remember, remember...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

American Idol Final 12

Getting over the painful loss of Ayla Brown from the competition, I went home early from work to catch the Final 12 perform the theme shows for the first time. I think Simon Cowell was able to encapsulate the night in a few words. To paraphrase: the first half was just all right, while the second was brilliant. Well, to be more precise, the last four (Katharine, Taylor, Paris, Chris) were brilliant. Everyone else ranged from good (Elliott) to boring (Kelly--what happened?!) to just plain off (Melissa--yup, residual bitterness at her having survived instead of Ayla, but she did forget her lyrics and was pitchy all over). Wrong, potentially fatal song choice for Kelly. Good thing she's so adorable or else she'd be a sure goner. I actually kinda liked Kevin's performance for the first time, but he's still a terrible dancer, and that attitude is a definite turn off. It's everyone's (with the exception of Simon) fault for building up his ego. How many times has Kevin said that he was the show's sex symbol? Whatever. Reality check.

It's now a competition between Katharine McPhee and Paris Bennett for the girls, and between Taylor Hicks and Chris Daughtry for the boys. All of them were magnificent last night.

Who I hope would get eliminated tonight: Melissa McGee or Kevin Covais. Who I think will: Melissa for messing up her lyrics.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Thoughts on the 78th and Predictions for the 79th

I am one of those [few?] who are really happy that Crash won the Best Picture award at the Oscars. Several reasons: 1) It's the first big surprise win since Shakespeare in Love prevailed (deservedly) over Saving Private Ryan. I love Oscar surprises (and was hoping for one in the Supporting categories, with wins by Michelle Williams and Jake Gyllenhaal). 2) It DESERVED to win. In my humble opinion, it's the easily the most deserving winner since the glorious sweep of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Granted, Brokeback Mountain was a good film and will remain one of the most important in recent film history, but I thought it overrated. Crash was the most well-crafted film this year. 3) I got it right. I'm one of the not-so-many people who predicted that it would take the award from Brokeback Mountain. I'm glad I risked that call.

That having been said, I don't get why some people are reacting so vehemently against the win of Crash (see the article in Oscarwatch). It's personal preference, of course, but does the victory of Crash really deserve such spite? I don't think so.

Ok, that's over. It was fun, though I'm not so happy with Clooney's win. Now, I've posted my VERY EARLY predictions for the 79th Academy Awards. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

78th Academy Awards Winners

Here are the winners of the 78th Academy Awards. Categories with asterisks are those that I predicted correctly.

Best Picture*

Best Director*
Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)

Best Actor*
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)

Best Actress*
Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)

Best Supporting Actor*
George Clooney (Syriana)

Best Supporting Actress
Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener)

Best Original Screenplay*
Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco (Crash)

Best Adapted Screenplay*
Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana (Brokeback Mountain)

Best Foreign Language Film*

Best Animated Feature Film*
Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Best Art Direction*
Memoirs of a Geisha

Best Cinematography
Memoirs of a Geisha

Best Costume Design*
Memoirs of a Geisha

Best Editing*

Best Makeup*
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Best Original Score
Brokeback Mountain

Best Original Song*
"It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" (Hustle & Flow)

Best Visual Effects*
King Kong

Best Sound Editing*
King Kong

Best Sound Mixing
King Kong

Best Documentary Feature*
March of the Penguins

Best Documentary Short
A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin

Best Animated Short
The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation

Best Live Action Short
Six Shooter

Friday, March 03, 2006

My Film Awards 2005

Best Picture
1. King Kong
2. Crash
3. Pride & Prejudice
4. Good Night, and Good Luck.
5. Memoirs of a Geisha

6. The New World
7. Brokeback Mountain
8. Munich
9. Cinderella Man
10. Walk the Line

Best Director
1. Paul Haggis (Crash)
2. Terrence Malick (The New World)
3. Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
4. Peter Jackson (King Kong)
5. George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck.)

6. Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice)
7. Steven Spielberg (Munich)
8. Rob Marshall (Memoirs of a Geisha)
9. Stephen Frears (Mrs. Henderson Presents)
10. Ron Howard (Cinderella Man)

Best Actor
1. Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line)
2. Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain)
3. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
4. Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow)
5. Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man)

6. David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck.)
7. Ralph Fiennes (The Constant Gardener)
8. Eric Bana (Munich)
9. Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence)
10. Jake Gyllenhaal (Jarhead)

Best Actress
1. Naomi Watts (King Kong)
2. Charlize Theron (North Country)
3. Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
4. Felicity Huffman (Transamerica)
5. Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice)

6. Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents)
7. Ziyi Zhang (Memoirs of a Geisha)
8. Toni Collette (In Her Shoes)
9. Gwyneth Paltrow (Proof)
10. Joan Allen (The Upside of Anger)

Best Supporting Actor
1. Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain)
2. Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man)
3. Donald Sutherland (Pride & Prejudice)
4. Terrence Howard (Crash)
5. Anthony Hopkins (Proof)

6. Soliman Cruz (Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros)
7. Ryan Philippe (Crash)
8. Clifton Collins, Jr. (Capote)
9. Michael Caine (Batman Begins)
10. Matt Dillon (Crash)

Best Supporting Actress
1. Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)
2. Gong Li (Memoirs of a Geisha)
3. Maria Bello (A History of Violence)
4. Rachel McAdams (The Family Stone)
5. Thandie Newton (Crash)

6. Tilda Swinton (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
7. Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener)
8. Anne Hathaway (Brokeback Mountain)
9. Frances McDormand (North Country)
10. Taraji P. Henson (Hustle & Flow)

Best Original Screenplay
1. Crash
2. Good Night, and Good Luck.
3. The New World
4. Mrs. Henderson Presents
5. Cinderella Man

Best Adapted Screenplay
1. Pride & Prejudice
2. The Constant Gardener
3. Brokeback Mountain
4. Proof
5. Capote

Best Animated Feature
1. Howl's Moving Castle
2. Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
3. Wallace & Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Best Score
1. Memoirs of a Geisha
2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
3. Pride & Prejudice
4. The New World
5. Syriana

Best Song
1. "Wunderkind" (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
2. "Isipin Mo Na Lang" (Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros)
3. "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" (Hustle & Flow)
4. "Senkai no Yakusoku" (Howl's Moving Castle)
5. "Wonka's Welcome Song" (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)

Best Art Direction
1. Memoirs of a Geisha
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
4. King Kong
5. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Best Cinematography
1. Memoirs of a Geisha
2. The New World
3. Brokeback Mountain
4. Pride & Prejudice
5. The Constant Gardener

Best Costumes
1. Memoirs of a Geisha
2. The White Countess
3. Pride & Prejudice
4. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
5. Seven Swords

Best Makeup
1. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
2. King Kong
3. Land of the Dead
4. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
5. Memoirs of a Geisha

Best Visual Effects
1. King Kong
2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
4. War of the Worlds
5. Serenity

Best Action Sequence
1. Cloud and co. vs Bahamut (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children)
2. The war (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
3. Harry being chased by the dragon (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
4. Kong vs the three T-rexes (King Kong)
5. The final 3-way race (Initial D)

Breakthrough Performance
1. Matthew Macfadyen (Pride & Prejudice)
2. Suzuka Ohgo (Memoirs of a Geisha)
3. William Moseley (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
4. Nathan Lopez (Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros)
5. Ashton Holmes (A History of Violence)

Best Cameo Performance
1. Ralph Fiennes (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
2. Judi Dench (Pride & Prejudice)
3. Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
4. William Hurt (A History of Violence)
5. Devon Aoki (Sin City)

Best Ensemble
1. Crash
2. Good Night, and Good Luck.
3. Sin City
4. Brokeback Mountain
5. Memoirs of a Geisha

Best One-on-One Fight
1. Peter vs Jadis (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
2. Harry Potter vs Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
3. Marv vs Kevin (Sin City)
4. Yoda vs Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith)
5. Cloud vs Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children)

Best Villain
1. Jadis, the White Witch (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)
2. Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
3. Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith)
4. Hatsumomo (Memoirs of a Geisha)
5. Kevin (Sin City)

All photos taken from IMDb

My Film Awards 2004
My Film Awards 2003

Thursday, March 02, 2006

American Idol Week 2

What a boring week. Only a few standout performances, and most of the contestants played it safe with their song selections. While easily impressed Randy and Paula praised several of them who shouldn't have been so complimented, Simon was (as usual) the only sane judge who saw the flaws in performances like those of Ace Young and Kevin Covais. I'm hoping that we don't have to put up with such a snooze fest next week.

Paris Bennett (though never near as exciting as she was last week)

Ayla Brown (whoa! Didn't think she was this good.)
Kelly Pickler (Kawaii!)

Katherine McPhee (lovely voice, boring song)
Lisa Tucker
Melissa McGhee

Brenna Gethers

Bad, but let's give her another chance
Kinnik Sky

Please end the torment
Heather Cox (valiant effort in singing a Mariah song, but what was she thinking?!)

Elliott Yamin (darn, this guy's voice is unbelievable)
Chris Daughtry (raw and powerful, as usual)

Taylor Hicks
Gedeon McKinney

Will Makar
Jose 'Sway' Penala

Not so Good
Ace Young (pitchy, and Simon was right: he obviously struggled)

Kevin Covais (the guy cannot dance to save his life, and his voice isn't that good either)
David Radford (sure, good voice, but can't he do anything else?!)

Who I won't care to see next week
Bucky Covington (I just don't get him)