Friday, December 30, 2005

Updated Predictions

My updated predictions, my last before 2006, are up.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Golden Globe nominees

Here's the list of nominees for the 63rd annual Golden Globe awards, courtesy of Oscarwatch. Just a few surprises: Maria Bello for Best Actress, not Supporting; no Gong Li or Diane Keaton in the Supporting race; and no Munich for Best Motion Picture-Drama (instead there's Match Point). My prediction scores and some notes are to be seen after each category.

"Brokeback Mountain"
"The Constant Gardener"
"Good Night, and Good Luck"
"A History of Violence"
"Match Point"
Score: 2/5. Where's Munich?

Maria Bello, "A History of Violence"
Felicity Huffman, "Transamerica"
Gwyneth Paltrow, "Proof"
Charlize Theron, "North Country"
Ziyi Zhang, "Memoirs of a Geisha"
Score: 3/5. I mistakenly placed Huffman in the Comedy/Musical category. Joan Allen failed to get the boost she needed.

Russell Crowe, "Cinderella Man"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Capote"
Terrence Howard, "Hustle & Flow"
Heath Ledger, "Brokeback Mountain"
David Strathairn, "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Score: 4/5. With Eric Bana missing, Munich just isn't the HFPA's cup of tea.

"Mrs. Henderson Presents"
"Pride & Prejudice"
"The Producers"
"The Squid and the Whale"
"Walk the Line"
Score: 4/5.

Judi Dench, "Mrs. Henderson Presents"
Keira Knightly, "Pride & Prejudice"
Laura Linney, "The Squid and the Whale"
Sarah Jessica Parker, "The Family Stone"
Reese Witherspoon, "Walk the Line"
Score: 4/5.

Pierce Brosnan, "The Matador"
Jeff Daniels, "The Squid and the Whale"
Johnny Depp, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
Nathan Lane, "The Producers"
Cillian Murphy, "Breakfast on Pluto"
Joaquin Phoenix, "Walk the Line"
Score: 4/5(6). Missed out on Depp and Brosnan in favor of Murray.

"Kung Fu Hustle" (China)
"Master of the Crimson Armor" aka "The Promise" (China)
"Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noel)" (France)
"Paradise Now" (Palenstine)
"Tsotsi" (South Africa)
Score: NA.

Scarlett Johansson, "Match Point"
Shirley MacLaine, "In Her Shoes"
Frances McDormand, "North Country"
Rachel Weisz, "The Constant Gardener"
Michelle Williams, "Brokeback Mountain"
Score: a dismal 1/5. Got only Scarlett right. I was thinking they'd go for Streep (over Williams) as they usually do. Where's Gong Li?!

George Clooney, "Syriana"
Matt Dillon, "Crash"
Will Ferrell, "The Producers"
Paul Giamatti, "Cinderella Man"
Bob Hoskins, "Mrs. Henderson Presents"
Score: 3/5. Geoffrey Rush, like costar Bana, missing. Surprise nom for Ferrell.

Woody Allen, "Match Point"
George Clooney, "Good Night, and Good Luck"
Peter Jackson, "King Kong"
Ang Lee, "Brokeback Mountain"
Fernando Meirelles, "The Constant Gardener"
Steven Spielberg, "Munich"
Score: 4/5(6).

Woody Allen, "Match Point"
George Clooney & Grant Heslov, "Good Night, And Good Luck"
Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco, "Crash"
Tony Kushner & Eric Roth, "Munich"
Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana, "Brokeback Mountain"
Score: NA.

Alexandre Desplat, "Syriana"
James Newton Howard, "King Kong"
Gustavo Santaolalla, "Brokeback Mountain"
Harry Gregson-Williams, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"
John Williams, "Memoirs of a Geisha"
Score: NA.

"A Love That Will Never Grow Old" -- "Brokeback Mountain"Music by: Gustavo Santaolalla, Lyrics by: Bernie Taupin
"Christmas in Love" -- "Christmas in Love"Music by: Tony Renis, Lyrics by: Marva Jan Marrow
"There's Nothing Like a Show on Broadway" -- "The Producers"Music & Lyrics by: Mel Brooks
"Travelin' Thru" -- "Transamerica"Music & Lyrics by: Dolly Parton
"Wunderkind" -- "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe"Music & Lyrics by: Alanis Morissette
Score: NA.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Random Oscar thoughts

How to solve the problem with Memoirs of a Geisha... It hasn't been performing well in the first few awards (even heavily buzzed actresses Ziyi Zhang and Gong Li were snubbed by the BFCA), and reviews range from mixed to downright vicious (it currently has a sad 28% rating at Rotten Tomatoes). I am no longer confident at all about its chances for a Best Picture nomination, but I'm still hoping for (and rather expecting) noms for the two actresses. Let's see how the Golden Globe nominations unfold. They'll be coming out tomorrow.

Recently learned from its FYC ads that Disney is pitching Tilda Swinton for a Best Actress nomination for her praised performance in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. What the hell are they thinking?! She has no chance whatsoever of scoring that nom! The buzz that she's getting (which isn't very much to begin with) is all for a possible Supporting consideration. Someone please tell me that they've recently changed this tactic of theirs.

Broadcast Film Critics Association nominees

Here's the list of nominees for the 11th annual Critics' Choice Awards. Note the absence of Ziyi Zhang and Gong Li from the list. Sad.

Brokeback Mountain
Cinderella Man
The Constant Gardener
Good Night, and Good Luck.
King Kong
Memoirs of a Geisha
Walk the Line

Russell Crowe – “Cinderella Man”
Philip Seymour Hoffman – “Capote”
Terrence Howard – “Hustle & Flow”
Heath Ledger – “Brokeback Mountain”
Joaquin Phoenix – “Walk the Line”
David Strathairn – “Good Night, and Good Luck.”

Joan Allen – “The Upside of Anger”
Judi Dench - “Mrs. Henderson Presents”
Felicity Huffman – “Transamerica”
Keira Knightley – “Pride & Prejudice”
Charlize Theron – “North Country”
Reese Witherspoon – “Walk the Line”

George Clooney – “Syriana”
Kevin Costner – “The Upside of Anger”
Matt Dillon – “Crash”
Paul Giamatti – “Cinderella Man”
Jake Gyllenhaal – “Brokeback Mountain”
Terrence Howard – “Crash”

Amy Adams – “Junebug”
Maria Bello – “A History of Violence”
Catherine Keener – “Capote”
Frances McDormand – “North Country”
Rachel Weisz – “The Constant Gardener”
Michelle Williams – “Brokeback Mountain”

Good Night, and Good Luck.
Sin City

George Clooney – “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
Paul Haggis – “Crash”
Ron Howard – “Cinderella Man”
Peter Jackson – “King Kong”
Ang Lee – “Brokeback Mountain”
Steven Spielberg – “Munich”

Go here for the complete list.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Golden Globe Predictions

Hey, just for fun, I'm posting my predictions for the big film categories of the Golden Globes. I don't think I really need to wait for the NBR list to come out.

Best Motion Picture-Drama
Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck.
King Kong
Memoirs of a Geisha
Alternate: Crash

Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical
The Family Stone
Mrs. Henderson Presents
Pride and Prejudice
The Producers
Walk the Line
Alternate: In Her Shoes

Best Actor-Drama
Eric Bana (Munich)
Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain)
David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck.)
Alternate: Ralph Fiennes (The White Countess)

Best Actor-Comedy or Musical
Jeff Daniels (The Squid and the Whale)
Nathan Lane (The Producers)
Cillian Murphy (Breakfast on Pluto)
Bill Murray (Broken Flowers)
Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line)
Alternate: Steve Carell (The 40-Year Old Virgin)

Best Actress-Drama
Joan Allen (The Upside of Anger)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Proof)
Charlize Theron (North Country)
Naomi Watts (King Kong)
Ziyi Zhang (Memoirs of a Geisha)
Alternate: Q'Orianka Kilcher (The New World)

Best Actress-Comedy or Musical
Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents)
Felicity Huffman (Transamerica)
Keira Knightley (Pride and Prejudice)
Sarah Jessica Parker (The Family Stone)
Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
Alternate: Claire Danes (Shopgirl)

Best Supporting Actor
Matthew Broderick (The Producers)
George Clooney (Syriana)
Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man)
Bob Hoskins (Mrs. Henderson Presents)
Geoffrey Rush (Munich)
Alternate: Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain)

Best Supporting Actress
Scarlett Johansson (Match Point)
Diane Keaton (The Family Stone)
Gong Li (Memoirs of a Geisha)
Meryl Streep (Prime)
Uma Thurman (The Producers)
Alternate: Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)

Best Director
George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck.)
Peter Jackson (King Kong)
Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
Rob Marshall (Memoirs of a Geisha)
Steven Spielberg (Munich)
Alternate: James Mangold (Walk the Line)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Music of Narnia

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe hasn't been putting up much of a campaign for the Oscars so far, but its soundtrack seems promising. And there are two possibilties for a Best Original Song nomination: Imogen Heap's "Can't Take It In," and the one that is certain to be more high-profile, Alanis Morissette's "Wunderkind." Check it out here.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

More Films You Must See Before You Die

My recent obsession with films, particularly the classics, was sparked in large part by my purchasing last year a wonderful film book called "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die." It's a survey of not necessarily the best films but the most important, beginning with Le Voyage Dans La Lune (1902). There are several films that I believe should have been included in this list for one reason or another, although I am not going to say which ones should NOT have been there (though in my opinion, the inclusion of 1998's There's Something About Mary is surely questionable). Here are the films that I would have included:

Jui Kuen (Drunken Master; 1978)
Superman (1978)
The Karate Kid (1984)
Before Sunrise (1995)
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)
Shakespeare In Love (1998)
Batoru Rowaiaru (Battle Royale; 2000)
Yeopgijeogin Geunyeo (My Sassy Girl; 2001)
Spider-Man (2002)
Wu Jian Dao (Infernal Affairs; 2002)
Love Actually (2003)

Rotten Tomatoes and Oscar Nominations

Critics and Academy voters have never completely seen eye-to-eye when it comes to Oscar nominations, but critical praise for a film can surely influence a film's chances for Oscar recognition. I don't know if someone has actually done this, but surveying the ratings of all nominees for Best Picture in the last ten Oscar ceremonies (since the 68th) in Rotten Tomatoes yields very interesting results. For one, none of these 50 nominees got a Rotten score (59% and below). The closest to a Rotten score was the 61% of Chocolat (2000). Interestingly, the fifth lowest unadjusted (the number of reviewers differs per film, with generally more critics reviewing more recent films) is Gladiator, the Best Picture winner in 2000, with 77%. In fact, only four of the 10 winners got ratings of 90% and higher, with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) being the highest at 95%, followed by 1998's Shakespeare In Love (94%) and last year's winner, Million Dollar Baby (91%). Out of all the 10 winners, only The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was the highest rated among the films nominated in its year. The big champion (unadjusted) is the 1995 nominee Sense and Sensibility, the only film to get a rating of 100%.

Of course, we have to take into consideration the fact that, as mentioned above, the earlier movies generally have less reviewers. If we use the complicated weighted formula used by Rotten Tomatoes, the same three Best Picture winners have the highest weighted scores, and Gladiator is still the lowest. But this time, the big champ is The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), with a whopping grade of 98% from 201 reviewers.

But the nominees aren't always what the Rotten Tomatoes critics think are the best. There are many films with higher ratings that failed to get a Best Picture nomination, so a very high score here doesn't necessarily mean a nom. Still, it's probably safe to say that if a film's score is Rotten, then it won't be nominated for Best Picture. That would mean that Oscar-buzzed Jarhead (Rotten at 58%) will be ignored for the top prize, while Good Night, and Good Luck. (94%, 151 reviewers) has a very good chance for one of the five slots.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Best Supporting...Villainess?

It's a three-way catfight between Hatsumomo, Nola Rice, and Jadis.

In a film year of dark-horse champions, hope amidst racism and political turmoil, cultural sensitivity, and the magic of witches and wizards, the usually intriguing Best Supporting Actress category of the Oscars is shaping up to be exactly that, maybe even more so now than in recent years. While most pundits are confidently placing ever nice (though sometimes with a streak of mischief, frighteningly so in the 2001 TV movie Sister Mary Explains It All) Diane Keaton (The Family Stone) at the head of the pack, a number of the other potential nominees show more than just a spark of that Bette Davis spirit. Heck, Bette Davis's Baby Jane Hudson would cringe when faced with the baleful glare of the geisha from hell or with the malevolent witchcraft of the frosty witch of Narnia. Among these darker possibilities for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar, Scarlett Johansson is getting the most buzz for playing a femme fatale in Woody Allen's Match Point. Undoubtedly a big, juicy role, but her Nola Rice would have to take a backseat to another heavily talked-about performance this year. Early reviews of the film say that Chinese superstar Gong Li plays vindictive geisha Hatsumomo in Rob Marshall's adaptation of Memoirs of a Geisha with gusto and uncanny fire. For those who have read the book, it's a completely enticing and frightening prospect, as Hatsumomo is chilling enough offscreen. Still a possible nominee despite lack of buzz is respected actress Tilda Swinton for playing the mother of all bitch roles this year: Jadis, the White Witch, who has frozen over the land of Narnia and kept Christmas celebrations off the Narnian itinerary, in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Who can top that?

But have female film villains always been so visible in the race for Supporting Oscar? A quick survey of the Academy Awards' history would show only a smattering of vicious vixens in this category, whether we're talking about winners or nominees. It's hard enough to find nominees whose roles can be considered more than a bit naughty or mischievous. There are few that stand out: chilling child murderess Rhoda Penmark, played by 11-year-old Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed (1956), Angela Lansbury as the manipulative (some may say evil, as Lansbury herself does) mother in The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and Linda Blair as diabolically driven Regan MacNeill in The Exorcist (1973). Regan can even be considered a mere victim; she's an ideal child sans Pazuzu. Brat-to-the-end Veda (Ann Blyth) in Mildred Pierce (1945), Piper Laurie's fanatical mom to Carrie (1976), and Barbara Hershey's opportunistic Madame Serena Merle in The Portrait of a Lady (1996) may be sadistic and selfish, and may in fact be considered villainous, but calling them evil would be a stretch.

The list of winners gives up even less chilling prospects: among them only Ruth Gordon shines out as satanical neighbor Minnie Castevet in Rosemary's Baby (1968). All right, so that one's sufficiently dark, but that's as far as the rogue's gallery goes; Catherine Zeta-Jones's unrepentive criminal Velma Kelly in Chicago (2002) isn't so much a villain when studied beside Mrs. Castevet. Neither is Rose Ann D'Arcy, the restrictive mother in 1965's A Patch of Blue, played by Shelley Winters.

The Academy and other award-giving institutions have always had a dilemma in placing a clear-cut delineation between a lead and a supporting performance. But cold-blooded females have not had very much difficulty scoring Best Actress nominations, with icons Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck, and Joan Crawford leading the way. Villainous females like Annie Wilks (Kathy Bates in 1990's Misery) don't have problems getting noticed as leads, with often strong, smoldering performances that allow them to steal the show from their costars. While in the past some leads have campaigned for Supporting honors (often because their chances for a nomination in that category were greater), the category is, as the label suggests, for those that offer the necessary back-up to the leads. Sometimes the supporting characters manage to upstage those in the leading roles, but it seems that the Academy prefers their supporting actresses to be sympathetic; it's a well-known fact that long-suffering wives have been greatly favored in this category, with characters played by Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock, 2000), Shoreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog, 2003), and Laura Linney (Kinsey, 2004) among the more recent examples. In fact, in the last ten Oscar ceremonies, only Hershey, Zeta-Jones, and, to some extent, Catherine Keener (as opportunistic Maxine in 1999's Being John Malkovich) showed some sort of villainy, and only because they aren't as nice as all the other nominees (though Dame Maggie Smith as Constance in 2001's Gosford Park wasn't very nice).

Still, female villains that have an underlying passion, a sort of justification for their behavior however vile, may have a shot at a nomination. This could explain why Johansson and Gong are among the leaders in Oscar buzz in their category and may in fact be among the five. Swinton's climb will be more uphill, as her villain is as one-sided (read: evil) as one can get. If the Academy were a bit friendlier to such roles, Kill Bill: Vol. 2's Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) would have whistled her nasty way to Oscar honors, and so would have other dark, sadistic, brilliant but oh so easily dismissed actresses who just happen to have fun being bad.

Pictures taken from IMDb (Johansson and Swinton) and Yahoo! Movies.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Mini-Review: Initial D

Two things that should describe any film on street car racing: "exciting" and "cool." Both could easily be said about Tau man chi D (Initial D), one of the better manga adaptations and Hong Kong films to come out recently. Though I haven't read a single volume of the manga or watched a single episode of the anime, and even if I'm not very interested in this sport, I feel that the film was able to capture the excitement and thrill that enthusiasts undoubtedly get when racing or watching someone else do so. This the directors, Wai Keung Lau and Siu Fai Mak (Infernal Affairs) were able to do without resorting to overly fancy and dizzying special effects that other directors who adapt manga or anime tend to incorporate into their films to less than flawless effect. There are special effects, but they merge almost seamlessly with the intense action of the actual cars racing. In the parts where they are obvious, the effects only serve to emphasize the power of the vehicles, which could be said to be as much the stars of the film as the actors.

Jay Chou holds his own as lead Takumi Fukiwara, effectively seeming bored when he needs to project that initially non-plussed but increasingly passionate attitude about racing. This role does not require that he overact, and he doesn't. Hong Kong heartthrobs Edison Chen and Shawn Yue have small but important supporting roles that they manage to handle well, and Chapman To is a source of a lot of laughs as he nearly always is, but it is Anthony Wong who, just as often, steals the show. He is extremely effective as a constantly drunk (or otherwise just unstable) former racing god who seems to not care about his son but, as is often the case, actually does. This film just solidifies Wong's status as a brilliant actor, particularly in supporting roles.

Plot-wise, the film has a simple story detailing the rise of Fukiwara as a race car driver and the beginnings of the Initial D storyline in the anime. Though it was clear from the start that the romantic angle would not be the focus of the film, the way it is (un)resolved at the end is not as smooth as I would have preferred. The direction, with key scenes being emphasized with brief stop-motion, can be distracting at times, in the worst cases a bit jarring, and may lead you to think that the disc is skipping in the player. But as a whole, the film is a real treat even for those who are not fans of the anime (or anime in general). The ending begs for a sequel, which I am now eagerly looking forward to.

Grade: B
FYC: Best Supporting Actor (Anthony Wong), Best Sound Mixing

Monday, November 07, 2005

Munich Trailer is up, and Other Movie News

Just saw the Munich trailer. It looks like it's going to be a very powerful film with an awesome performance by Eric Bana. This trailer solidifies the claim of the film as Oscar frontrunner, and easily catapults Bana to the potential five for Best Actor. Check it out here.

In other movie news, here's something I'm pretty excited about: a Castlevania movie (finally!). I've been waiting for a big screen adaptation of this game for ages! Not sure how good a job Paul W.S. Anderson will do, but as long as it ends up being better than Van Helsing, then it's on the right track.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Recent Viewings and Recommendations

I've put up a list of my 10 most recent viewings and my grade for each one on the sidebar at the left side. I'll be updating this every time I get to see a new film. I'll also be recommending some films that I feel did not get as much attention as they should have. For this week, it's a nice, dark little treat called May (2002).

When this was shown in theatres here in the Philippines, I ignored it, having easily dismissed it as another one of those horror films with angry, crazy girls popping up almost every week. But then I managed to catch it on cable TV, and I was mesmerized by the lead actress (the eponymous May) and the plot development.

May was played with eerie brilliance by Angela Bettis (who I'd want to see making more films), who captured the ticks and mannerisms of an unstable girl who needed just a push to go overboard. The score of the film, designed to play a creepy, almost innocently sinister background to May's deeds, succeeds in casting an odd light on May's character development. The inherent eerieness of dolls and their subsequent influence on May's act of revenge are used very effectively, but of course I won't spoil it for you and go into that. To give you an idea, though, take note of this tagline: "If you can't find a friend, make one."

If you want to see a disturbing but also entertaining film on how far a girl's psychosis would bring her, then May is definitely something that you have to see. I'll easily give this one a B. Why not a B+? Because Angela Bettis happens to have annoying, vapid costars named Jeremy Sisto and Anna Faris.

Source of photo: IMDb

Official Foreign Language Submissions

The official list of contenders for the Best Foreign Language Film plum is up here. Sadly, no Philippine entry this year. I wonder why? (I'm NOT being sarcastic.)

Monday, October 24, 2005


Doom (2005)
What a dumb movie this was. Instead of retaining the demonic aspect of the game, the movie version was turned into another one of those monster movies on genetic aberrations. And yeah, throw in the zombie aspect of infected humans going around mindless. If I wanted zombies in space I'd ask George A. Romero to make a Planet of the Dead. (Hmm...that DOES sound like a good idea...)
Grade: D (barely passing)
FYC: dream on.

Cinderella Man (2005)
Can Russell Crowe do any wrong (as an actor, at least)? He was amazing in this film and made Renee Zellweger lame by comparison. I suddenly realized with this movie that Renee isn't that good an actress (in my humble opinion). I don't think she'll be getting any Oscar attention for this one. As usual, Paul Giamatti delivered a strong, interesting performance. Regardless of the flaw in casting (though I can't name one right now, I'm sure someone could have done a better job than Renee), it was a great film overall, very involving and moving. I'm not into boxing in and out of movies, but this one had me rooting for Jim Braddock as if so much depended on his victory. And I'm sure that's exactly what the film wanted to accomplish (that and box office success, of course, but you can't have everything).
Grade: B+ (would have been an A if not for Ms. Zellweger)
FYC: Best Picture, Best Director (Ron Howard), Best Actor (Russell Crowe), Best Supporting Actor (Paul Giamatti) Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Editing, Best Art Direction

The Upside of Anger (2005)
A simple but moving film with a great performance by Joan Allen, a nice commendable turn by Kevin Costner, and so-so contributions by the four daughters (Alicia Witt, Keri Russell, Erika Christensen, Evan Rachel Wood). Recommended viewing if only to see Allen's mesmerizing portrayal of a mother who is driven to anger by her sense of loss.
Grade: B
FYC: Best Actress (Joan Allen)

New Narnia Trailer

A totally magnificent new trailer for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is up at Moviefone. Click here.

Friday, October 21, 2005

All the King's Men...Gone

Slight changes have been made to the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress categories due to the recent announcement that All the King's Men is out of the Oscar race this year. I replaced Sean Penn with Jeff Daniels (The Squid and the Whale) and Patricia Clarkson with Uma Thurman (The Producers). Clarkson's exit saddens me, but maybe it's Thurman's chance to get a nom. But I'm doubtful; if she failed to get a nod for her great turns in the Kill Bill films, how strong are her chances for this one? Then again, these films are completely different, the latest being a musical that might allow Uma to show erstwhile unseen acting skills. As for Daniels...well, it's the buzz, and the long career without an award. But this actor has personally annoyed me a lot more times than he has impressed me, and his filmography doesn't exactly say, "You owe me an Oscar."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Updated Predictions

I've made updates to my predictions in all categories. I also included three alternates for each category. These are the ones that I feel could take the slot from any of the five, which are listed in order of potential (highest to lowest).

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Foreign Language Film

The list of submissions for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category has appeared in The Film Experience. But where is the Philippines's entry? Did we submit anything? Could it be Sigaw, which is making its rounds in horror film festivals in the U.S.? It's a good film, but not very solid and not the type that we usually submit for the Oscars. Pinoy Blonde, perhaps? Or La Visa Loca, which was directed by Mark Meily (director of last year's submission, Crying Ladies)? My bet is on Cesar Montano's Panaghoy sa Suba (The Call of the River), but I honestly have no idea. If anyone does, I'd greatly appreciate the information.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Updates to Predictions

I have updated all predictions except for the Supporting categories to reflect recent buzz and the results of the Toronto and Venice film festivals.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Mini-Review of "Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children"

I HAVE FINALLY SEEN IT. After two years of waiting. Was it worth the long wait?

Heck, yeah.

Picking up from the events of the PS game (the film starts with a recap), Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children starts with the pace of a hyper-charged video game cut scene and almost never loses that energy. Ever wondered how the special battle scene moves of Cloud, Tifa and the rest of the gang would look like if actors were to actually enact them onscreen? Well, you'll see it here, and the fanboy/girl in you will weep with delight. Before this film, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within had the cleanest, most realistic animated characters. In some ways, it still does, but there's no question as to which film comes across with more life. Where The Spirits Within was flat and gray, Advent Children was alive and kicking and vibrant. It's not a film with a brilliant, convoluted story, but the plot serves its purpose of giving the necessary backdrop to the characters and to the return of a lot of people's favorite video game villain. In fact, one could very well conclude that the entire plot was just designed to give a justification for the return of Sephiroth. But visually, there is no word strong enough to capture the beauty and intensity of the action sequences, how smoothly and breathtakingly wonderful everyone moved. There's a lot of fan service, too (watch for Tifa's fight for one that's particularly very amusing), and humor. But if you're a fan of the game, and you're familiar with what happened, then you're bound to feel just a tad emotional during the last scene. Of course, I'm not saying what happens there.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Other Otaku Stuff

Sigh. Haven't watched a movie for some time now. Last one I watched was, on DVD, Bronenosets Potyomkin (The Battleship Potemkin). Interesting film. With that and Wings, the first Oscar Best Picture winner (for production), I've realized that I'm beginning to like silent films. I fully intend to watch more of them.

Anyway, on to other stuff I'm interested in aside from movies (the blog IS, after all, named otaku). September and October are big months for my other interests, namely literature, music and gaming. Here's a rundown of some of the things I'm looking forward to:

1) Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children DVD - Ok, still a film but...Finally! I've been waiting for this for more than a year! The trailer looks fantastic, and I'm sure it's the film that Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within should have been. Bring on Cloud and co.!
2) DC Heroclix Icons - I'm actually not a very devoted player of Heroclix (yet), but I am planning to buy a booster pack of this to augment my growing army of heroes and villains. I'm not one for the really cheesy stuff, but if I find a veteran Superman, Alleluia.

1) "Knife of Dreams (Wheel of Time Book 11)" - Like many other WoT fans, the pacing of the books has annoyed me from time to time. I mean, practically NOTHING happened in Book 10! But that just makes Book 11 such a must-have. I was able to read the prologue, and I am very excited about it. If this is indeed the second-to-the-last book of the series, then A LOT is bound to happen.
2) "Extraordinary Machine" - The third studio album by musical wonder Fiona Apple. This has been shelved for far too long. Apple is a brilliant musician and her fans (myself included) are salivating for another album after "When the Pawn..." Will buy it as soon as it's out.
3) "A Game of Thrones RPG and Resource Book" - published by Guardians of Order. It promises to be the ultimate resource for the fantastic "A Song of Ice and Fire" books by George R.R. Martin. And it's a d20 book, too, so I can finally design characters and adventures based on this marvelous series.

And in November, the fourth book in that series, "A Feast for Crows," will finally be out. This is my favorite fantasy series of all time, and many are just as enamored of it as I am. Can't wait for this to come out and occupy most of my waking time.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Best Actor 2005

This category usually doesn't interest me as much as the Best Actress category does, but this year there are so many possibilities, many of whom are actors that I really like, so it's rather fun to catch the buzz on their performances. Right now, there's no question that two actors are leading the race in terms of buzz and critical praise: Ralph Fiennes and Joaquin Phoenix (two of the best actors around, IMO). Fiennes is getting astounding raves for his performance in The Constant Gardener, which is also generally being lauded. Fiennes has always been a fine, incomparable actor (can't wait to see him as Lord Voldemort), and the Academy has not been unkind (he has been nominated twice). But in terms of being more in the Oscar mold, I still think that his role in The White Countess is what will get him a nomination. The best that can come out of the first film is probably strong momentum for when the second comes out and the awards season begins. I won't change my opinion here until a) I watch both films and realize that he's better in the first, or b) The White Countess is moved to 2006 and therefore officially abandons Oscar contention.

Joaquin Phoenix is also a former nominee (for The Gladiator), but he can still be considered an underrated actor. Now he and costar Reese Whitherspoon are being considered as the best elements of Walk the Line (itself a praised film this early), with career-best performances. Jamie Foxx's win last year for playing Ray Charles at first had me worried that Phoenix was not going to get Oscar attention, but I greatly doubt that scenario now. The Academy loves biopics and the actors that are able to capture the greatness of those that they portray. It is being said that Phoenix was able to do just that. Plus, he sings the songs in the movie!

Tommy Lee Jones has been nominated before and even won (for The Fugitive), and recently he took home Best Actor honors at the Cannes Film Festival for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Cannes has never been a good predictor of Oscar glory (Bjork, who won in Cannes for her amazing turn in Dancer of the Dark, was snubbed by the Academy), but he's American, and he directed this film as well. Chances are, he'll take another nomination for this, though a win is doubtful.

The last two slots are, I believe, a toss-up between three actors: Jake Gyllenhaal (Jarhead), David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck.) and Robert Redford (An Unfinished Life). Gyllenhaal, a young, talented actor, has been getting decent critical attention for some time now, so playing one of the soldiers in Sam Mendes' Gulf War movie can do the trick. That and his other strong role, that in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain (for which he's likely to go for Supporting). Strathairn is an extremely underrated actor, but he seems to be in good form (from the trailers) and early reviews say that he actually is. Robert Redford, who prior to my 2 September update of the charts was among the contenders, has, unbelievably, only one nomination (for The Sting) as an actor to his credit. I'm not one for this kind of Oscar attitude of giving career awards, but yes, isn't it time to give him at least another one? Roeper has just recently praised his performance in this movie. Right now I'm considering replacing Gyllenhaal with Redford, but I'm hesitant to do so. There are other actors also vying for Oscar glory, like Steve Martin for self-penned Shopgirl and George Clooney for political drama Syriana, or even Colin Farrell for either The New World or Ask the Dust. That's why this category is becoming more interesting than it has been for the past few years.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Review of "Manderlay"

Let me begin this review by saying that I loved Lars Von Trier's Dogville. How much? Well, I think it's safe to say that it's among my Top 20 films of all time. I came out of the theatre convinced that Von Trier is a genius. My viewings of Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves only reinforced that view. So when I learned that Manderlay, the sequel to Dogville, was going to be shown at the Cinemanila Film Festival, I awaited it fervently.

The first half or so of the second film in his trilogy on the USA, Manderlay, had me thinking (unfairly, as I would later realize), "What went wrong?!" The casting changes, primary of which was Bryce Dallas Howard replacing Nicole Kidman as Grace, were not a problem. In fact, Howard did a very decent job throughout the film (as she did in The Village: a severely underrated performance). The plot seemed to plough on at first, though there were amusing interjections in certain places, like Grace's story about her canary. It was difficult to be drawn into the plight of the people of Manderlay for some reason.

I would later realize that it was the same with Dogville. Both films reached a high point in the third or fourth chapter (I'll see it again, just to make sure) and never let go from there. Suddenly, the town and its people became compelling figures on Von Trier's almost bare chalk-marked set, and each one was beginning to have a distinct character (much like the categorization of the blacks in Mam's Law). Howard shone as Grace with a charm both delicate and strong, and with one of the most beautiful faces to appear on screen (and get such good close-up shots) in recent times. That's saying a lot, since neither her nor her costars (particularly Danny Glover, with a subtle performance) was ever flashy. With such understated acting, it's sometimes difficult to get involved. But here, it worked.

So did the familiarity. Key elements in Dogville were still there: the set, the music, the general mood of a calm before the storm (or, as Gandalf says it, the deep breath before the plunge). If you ignore the fact that Kidman becomes Howard (and it was unexpectedly very easy to do so, without taking away from Kidman, whose role in Dogville was, in my opinion, her best), there's a continuity that makes you feel that you didn't go too far away from Dogville (though it's in another state from Manderlay). In fact, that's what the film ends up trying to say, and the way the story develops near the end makes you agree.

Was Manderlay as powerful a film as Dogville was? Maybe not; I didn't leave the theatre with a satisfied grin on my face thinking, "Serves you right" and with my heart pounding, as I did with the first film. But the starkness of the film's end, as intensified by the shot of the United States map, white and blank and misleadingly pristine, as it zooms farther away and shows Grace growing ever smaller across it, consumed as it were by the enormity of it all, is stirring, to say the least. If only for that, and for the hope that in the third film Grace finds whatever it is she must find, I'm not inclined to change my opinion of Von Trier as a cinematic genius, a gem among today's directors.

Weekend Viewings

Finally finished Salo o le 120 giornate di Sodoma. I'm reserving an actual review for when I actually get to watch it WITH subtitles (it's in Italian), but let me say now that it's a movie that's not for the squeamish. There are scenes here of degradation and humiliation and breaking the human spirit that would make Hannibal Lecter cringe. It is, after all, loosely based on a piece by the Marquis de Sade (portrayed brilliantly by the great Geoffrey Rush in Quills). It's disturbing and sick, but I still recommend that you watch it, just to add to the spectrum of films that you've watched--and to appreciate the power of film as a medium.

Also got to see two high school films: Mean Girls (funny stuff; I'm waiting for what Tina Fey comes up with next) and Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Very enjoyable film, and makes you wish that Matthew Broderick would still be as cool as he was then.

Now for one of the oddest films that I've seen in a long time: The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Man, that was one big trip into the bizarre. Perfect word for the film: campy. But like almost all campy films, it had its charm. It was amusing to see Susan Sarandon in her role, but it was Tim Curry (almost unrecognizable at first) who stole the show. He's amazing here as the transvestite Transylvanian Dr. Frank N Furter. Most of the songs are memorable and hummable, though I initially cringed at the opening song. For those we have to thank Richard O'Brien, who until my viewing of this was still best known to me as the host of that game show The Crystal Maze. I'm not one for remakes (in general), but if ever one of this film is made, I can imagine Tim Burton directing it and Johnny Depp taking the role of Frank N Furter. What do you think?

Friday, September 02, 2005

Update on Best Actress 2005

Even before I start discussing the other categories, I'm going to make significant changes in my Best Actress predictions. After more careful research and analysis of the contenders, I've decided that I've been an idiot for ignoring Julianne Moore and Felicity Huffman for too long. The Academy (as I do) loves Moore, having nominated her four times before (she would have won for either Far From Heaven, The Hours, or both in an ideal world). In The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, she plays a mother of 10 and wife to a deadbeat. How does she support her family? By winning jingle-writing contests! Just imagine the emotional depth and range of that role (and I am NOT being sarcastic). If not an actual win, she's likely to get at least a nomination.

What about Huffman in Transamerica? The star of Desperate Housewives is playing the role of a transsexual just a few operations away from being a bonafide man before having to look for a rumored son. If that isn't Oscar-bait, I don't know what is. The role has already won her a Best Actress award at the Tribeca Film Festival, and she's an Emmy nominee this year for her hit show. If she wins the Emmy, expect her name to be called out as an Oscar nominee.

Charlize Theron and Joan Allen, who had previously occupied the slots now belonging to Moore and Huffman, still have a chance, but it will be tough for a former (and very recent) winner and an actress in a movie with a very early release date to displace the latter two. We'll see how this one plays out.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Good Night, and Good Luck. And Other Musings.

All right, I'm biting. Just saw the trailer of George Clooney's Good Night, and Good Luck, and I must say...I'm pretty impressed and excited about this. And that's saying a lot, since I normally don't really dig these types of films. Then again, I did sort of like All the President's Men... Anyway, I've just added David Strathairn to the shortlist of Best Actor contenders (though Redford may pop in again at any time, depending on how An Unfinished Life is received), and I threw in George Clooney for supporting. Hollywood loves him, and he's in two great political films this year, one of which he directed.

What about Ralph Fiennes? Yup, everyone's going gaga over his performance in The Constant Gardener, so I don't know why I just won't replace his slot for The White Countess with this one. Maybe I have to watch it first. Either way, he's going to get nominated this year for sure, what with another big juicy role coming up (as Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). That is, unless the multiple perfs actually cause a split in votes. In that case, poor Ralph.

Weekend viewing: saw for the first time Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde (enjoyed it); Old School (nothing special, though Will Ferrell was, as always, a hoot); Calendar Girls (Helen Mirren: fantastic); and, I hate to admit, being a self-proclaimed film buff, The Shining ("Heeeeeeere's Johnny!"). Creepy film. Claustrophobic is the perfect word for it. It deserves its reputation as among the best horror films ever made.

I am in the process of trying to finish watching Salo o le 120 giornate di Sodoma. Haven't reached the most disturbing parts yet (according to those I know who have seen it). Must finish it!

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.