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Archive for March, 2010

Green Zone is Worth Infiltrating

The new film from director Paul Greengrass, “Green Zone”, was a bomb at the box office. Any movie about the Iraq War has immediately tanked financially. Even the recent winner of the Best Picure Oscar, “The Hurt Locker”, only made 12 million dollars during its box office run. It’s a shame that more people didn’t flock to this film, because it’s a damn fine action picture.

The film is loosely based on the non-fiction book, “Imperial Life in the Emerald City”, which is about the reconstruction of Iraq after the American invasion. The film focuses on an elite solider, Roy Miller (Matt Damon) whose mission is to search for weapons of mass destruction weeks after the Americans take over Baghdad. When Damon’s team keeps coming up empty during their search for WMD’s, he begins to question the U.S. intelligence that is leading his team to these bogus locations. Miller’s confrontation with a U.S. intelligence officer, Poundstone (Greg Kinner), does nothing to die down his suspicions. Miller meets up with a CIA employee, Martin Brown (Brendan Gleeson), who tells him that the intelligence is false and Poundstone knows it. Miller and Brown decide to team up in order to search for the source of the U.S. intelligence that brought the country to war.

The film is a very simplified, fictitious version of how America invaded Iraq. I was worried going in that the plot would be too confusing, but it was just the opposite. I admired the simplicity of the plot. The character are also drawn simplistically as well. Damon’s character has one mission, to find the source of the U.S. intelligence. We never get to know him beyond the surface, but if the film tried to cram in some unnecessary character moments, it would have taken me out of the story.

Many real life figures are fictionalized in the film. Greg Kinner’s character is an obvious stand in for Paul Bremer, the head U.S. official in charge of the reconstruction of Iraq during our occupation of the country. A reporter played by Amy Ryan in the film, is a stand in for Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter who was fed lies by the White House in order to sell the war to the country. The film wears its politics on its sleeve. I imagine it will anger those on the right. It angered me as well, but this was anger over how we got duped into going to war.

Greengrass and his cinematographer Barry Ackroyd, employ the shaky camera that has been Greengrass’ trademark in the past. The shaky camera did bother me a bit in the opening action sequences, but I got use it because I was really drawn into the story. The camera work is used to great effect during an extremely well made foot chase sequence toward the end, which had my adrenaline pumping.

Things are wrapped up a bit too neatly for my taste at the end of the film. It is wishful thinking from Greengrass, and the screenwriter, Brain Helgeland. Ultimately, film has the power to use fiction to shine truth on the reality of a situation. This is what this film is able to do. Check it out, judging from the box office, it looks like it’s going to be gone from the theaters soon.

4 stars

Happy 100th Birthday Akira Kurosawa

March 23, 2010 1 comment

On March 23, 1910 the great Japanese director Akira Kurosawa was born. He would have been 100 years old if he lived.

Kurosawa is one of the great and most influential directors of all time. Kurosawa’s masterpiece “Seven Samurai”, has been remade as a western, “The Magnificent Seven”, a war film, “The Guns of the Navarone”, and even an animated Pixar film, “A Bug’s Life.”

His samurai film, “Yojimbo”, was directly remade as Sergio Leone’s “A Fistful of Dollars.” This film launched the careers of Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood and the Spaghetti Western genre.

Kurosawa’s influences doesn’t end there. George Lucas has admitted that Kurosawa’s “Hidden Fortress”, was a direct influence on creating the first “Star Wars” film.

Roger Ebert states that “it could be argued that this greatest of filmmakers gave employment to action heroes for the next 50 years.” He is dead right. I know foreign cinema may turn off some people but I implore you to check out the films of Kurosawa. About two years ago I checked out about 11 Kurosawa films, and I was rewarded with great images and stories that left an indelible mark on my cinematic mind.

Essential Kurosawa include: “Stray Dog”, “Rashomon”, “Ikiru”, “Seven Samurai”, “Throne of Blood”, “Hidden Fortress”, “Yojimbo”, “High and Low”, and “Ran”. If you have the time and the money you could get the fantastic Criterion Collection 100th anniversary DVD box set containing 25 Kurosawa films.

You have probably already heard what a great master of cinema Kurosawa is. What I’m saying is that you should finally get around to checking out his films if you haven’t. In honor of his birthday watch a Kurosawa film. Enjoy the “astounding visions he was able to conjure in his imagination” and watch in awe as he “completely renders them on the screen,” as Martin Scorsese elegantly states in a video honoring Kurosawa on his 99th birthday.

“Happy Birthday Sensei.” – Martin Scorsese

This clip is of Akira Kurosawa receiving a honorary Academy Award from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg at the 62nd Annual Academy Awards.

After you catch up on essential Kurosawa, you can check out this clip from a documentary by Alex Cox that features filmmakers discussing the work of Kurosawa. You can find the other parts of this documentary by clicking on the clip.

Unravel the Mystery with The Ghost Writer

It’s good to be back writing reviews. I know all my readers were waiting with great anticipation for my return.

When Pierce Brosnan’s character meets Ewan McGregor for the first time, McGregor only introduces himself as his ghost. McGregor is never given a name in the film, he is only refereed to as The Ghost. From the minute the film started there seemed something off about it. The director, Roman Polanski, does a good job of using this off-kilter mood to build up the suspense. He gets the audience actively involved in the mystery, so we are asking, along with The Ghost, “what exactly is going on here?” Polanksi has crafted a good mystery film that I liked the more I thought about afterwards.

“The Ghost Writer”, based on the novel by Robert Harris, concerns a ghost writer (Ewan McGregor), who reluctantly agrees to finish the memoirs of the former Prime Minister of England, Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). The relationship between the two starts off rocky when The Ghost learns that the previous ghost writer died under somewhat mysterious circumstances. The two hardly get a chance to work on the memoir because the media swarms upon Lang after he has been accused of war crimes by a former member of his cabinet. When The Ghost does get to work he comes upon information dug up by the previous ghost writer about a possible secret connection that Lang has with the CIA.

The performances all around are pretty good. Brosnan is great at playing this Tony Blair like character. His character is never unlikable and we do feel some sympathy for the man, despite learning of crimes he has been accused of. You do feel the weight of the world converging on Brosnan’s shoulders. I like the stakes that are involved here. He could be charged with war crimes and his future may be over. This all had a real world resonance because I could see Tony Blair or George W. Bush maybe being charged with war crimes due to their actions during the Iraq War.

McGregor is fine here, making up for his terrible performance in “The Men Who Stare At Goats.” Olivia Williams is engaging as the wife of the Prime Minister, who feels betrayed by her husband’s close relationship with a personal aide, played with a terrible British accent by Kim Cattrall. Look out for Eli Wallach in a nice cameo as a man who kind of pops out of nowhere to give some information to The Ghost.

The ending of the film doesn’t make much sense when you think about it. But I can’t say it’s not a crowd pleasing moment. I certainly had a smile on my face during the film’s last moments. Polanksi does a great job of creating suspense by simply showing us a piece of paper being passed around. The final shot of the film, which I won’t ruin, is a real beauty.

3 1/2 stars

Oscar Post-Mortem

March 8, 2010 2 comments

The Hurt Locker was the big winner of the night, taking in 6 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Kathryn Bigelow made history by becoming the first female director to win the Best Director trophy. The film is great, and deserving of all awards it received. Avatar had to settle for 3 awards, leaving James Cameron to cry on his billions of dollars.

There were no surprises when it came to the acting winners. Bridges won Best Actor, Mo’Nique took home Best Supporting Actress. Unfortunately Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for the horrible film The Blind Side. I will say that her speech was better than her actual performance in the film. I’m glad that Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor for his amazing performance, but I’m sad that Inglourious Basterds lost out in every other category it was nominated in.

Speaking of losers, Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner lost Best Adapted Screenplay to Precious. That was the only real surprise of the night. I have to say I’m kind of glad Reitman lost. This lost should humble him. Perhaps the controversy surrounding him trying to deny Turner script credit hurt the film, which ended up winning nothing.

The producers of the 82nd Annual Academy Awards, Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic did a horrible job at producing this year’s broadcast, which was only saved by the humor of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Martin and Baldwin have great chemistry and they were effective in adding humor in-between the categories. Love the shot of the two of them in Snuggies and the Paranormal Activity spoof. The two were great at playing off each other.

The telecast felt long, tedious and lacked the fun of last year’s ceremony. Shankman and Mechanic should never be allowed back. Their horrible additions to the show included having Neil Patrick Harris open the show with a terrible song and dance number that brought the show to a halt.  I’m sick of him; we get it, he’s gay, funny, can sing and dance, we don’t need to see him on every fucking awards show. The other terrible idea was to have dancers interpret the best score nominees.

The tribute to John Hughes was another bonehead idea from the shows producers. John Hughes didn’t deserve any special memorial tribute. Billy Wilder, Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, Ingmar Bergman, and other real greats of cinema never got their own special tribute when they passed. To add insult to injury, the three honorary Oscar winners, Lauren Bacall, Gordon Willis, and Roger Corman didn’t get honored on the broadcast. Bacall and Corman weren’t even up on the stage when they were acknowledged during the ceremony. The crowd awkwardly didn’t know where to look to acknowledge them.

I also have to blame the director of the night’s broadcast, Hamish Hamilton. There were terrible cuts to people who looked bored shitless. Clooney looked like he wanted to get the hell out of there. There were too many shots of empty seats, and jerky camera movements. For an example of how horrible the direction was, when Kathryn Bigelow wins a historic Oscar for Best Director, the camera cuts away to a wide shot before we can see her interact with her ex-husband, James Cameron, who just lost to his ex-wife and was sitting right behind her. We wanted to see Cameron put on a fake smile and pretend to be happy for her!

Last year’s broadcast had the great idea of having the acting nominees introduced by a past winner of the category. This year they kept the general idea, but only dragged it out. First they showed clips from each nominees film, then they had friends of the nominees come out and praise each of them and then last year’s acting winner came out and announced the winner. This was overkill. It dragged on way too long.

The entire ceremony had an awkward feeling to it. It didn’t have the fun, or excitement of last year’s broadcast, which was produced by Bill Condon and Larry Mark. What the fuck were they thinking bringing out Tyler Perry to present Best Editing? Many of the presenters kept screwing up their simple banter. Other terrible moments came when the orchestra would play people off early, like Louie Psihoyos, the director of The Cove.

I’m a fan of the Oscars, and if I found the ceremony awful, I can only imagine how the rest of America was feeling.

Here is the list of the night’s winners:

  • Best Picture: “The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro
  • Best Director: “The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow
  • Best Actor: Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
  • Best Actress: Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
  • Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”
  • Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique in “Precious”
  • Best Original Screenplay: “The Hurt Locker” Written by Mark Boal
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: “Precious” Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
  • Best Foreign Language: “The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos)” Argentina
  • Best Animated Film: “Up” Pete Docter
  • Best Documentary: “The Cove” Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens
  • Best Cinematography: “Avatar” Mauro Fiore
  • Best Art Direction: Avatar” Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Kim Sinclair
  • Best Costumes: “The Young Victoria” Sandy Powell
  • Best Editing: “The Hurt Locker” Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
  • Best Score: “Up” Michael Giacchino
  • Best Song: The Weary Kind”(Crazy Heart) Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
  • Best Makeup: “Star Trek” Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
  • Best Visual Effects: “Avatar” Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andrew R. Jones
  • Best Sound Editing: “The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson
  • Best Sound Mixing: “The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
  • Best Animated Short: “Logorama” Nicolas Schmerkin
  • Best Live Action Short: “The New Tenants” Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson
  • Best Documentary Short: “Music by Prudence” Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett

Live Blogging 82nd Annual Academy Awards

Look forward to insightful, humorous comments from me.

5:32 – Neil Patrick Harris? Who thought this was a good idea?

5:37 – The opening was terrible. Good line about that Damn Helen Mirren

5:40 – Good Avatar jokes. Sam Worthington didn’t look amused.

5:41 – Cut to Ethan Coen when it comes to Basterds joke. They had to find a Jew quickly.

5:46 – Here comes Waltz Oscar.

5:50 – Kind white lady saves poor black kid…The Blind Side.

5:58 – A lamp is behind Ed Asner? Wtf were the producers thinking?

6:01 – Curse Miley Cyrus to Hell for screwing  her Best Song banter! I don’t care if you’re nervous!

6:11 – Shot of Waltz looking at his Oscar. Here comes screenplay! Who will win Basterds or The Hurt Locker?!

6:15 – Called The Hurt Locker winning! Pissed Tarantino lost though.

6:18 – Molly Ringwald looks scared shitless. I’m sorry, but John Hughes does not deserve a special tribute segment. Just include him in the death montage.

6:22 -This Huges tribute with all the actors coming out on stage, was awkwardly handled. I could hear Broderick talking to Culkin as they left the stage. They cut to the Twilight guy, who has probably never seen a John Hughes movie.

6:31 – Whoa! Wallace and Gromit lost!

6:34 – Who this lady on stage. WTF?! A bit rude of her to come up on stage and interrupt the guy in the middle of his speech. A Kanye West moment.

6:37 – Missed best documentary short! DAMN!

6:38 – The Ben Stiller/Avatar bit was hit and miss. Admire Stiller’s balls for going up on stage like that.

6:44 – How did Michael Stuhlbarg get in the audience?

6:50 – Whoa upset! Precious wins! Jason Reitman just has his father’s millions of dollars to live on now.

6:54 –  They should at least have Bacall and Corman up on stage.  They deserve a tribute, not fucking John Huges.

6:59 – Everyone stands for Mo’Nique. I wonder if she shaved her legs tonight?

7:00 – Sam Jackson did a strange eye roll when the camera cut to him after Mo’Nique’s win.

7:07 – The first thing I said when I saw Avatar, was that it was going to win Best Art Direction.

7:12 – African Charlize Theron showcasing film about a poor African American, Precious.

7:17 – Funny Martin/Baldwin Paranormal Activity spoof. Better than the actual film.

7:19 – Why a horror tribute? Is this the Academy commenting on tonight’s broadcast? Appropriate that Twilight New Moon is included in the horror tribute.

7:27 – Hurt Locker wins both sound awards over Avatar, it seems pretty clear now that it will win Best Picture tonight.

7:35 – Best Cinematography goes to Avatar and so continues my piss poor prediction rate.

7:45 – Sam Worthing puts on his glasses in order to look more intelligent. Was he chewing gum as well?

7:48 – Let’s dance while we dispose of a bomb!

7:51- So instead of 5 best song performances, we get 5 unnecessary dance numbers.

8:02 – The Cove should win best documentary. I can’t stand another hit against my predictions.

8:05 – Bull crap. They should at least let the other Cove guy go on.

8:06 – Why the fuck are they letting Tyler Perry present Best Editing. Horrible moment only saved by Martin and Baldwin appearing in Snuggies.

8:17 – Damn, lost another category. Some film from Argentina won Best Foreign film.

8:19 – Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin do a great job of delivering the humor in between the categories.

8:24 – Having other actors applaud this year’s nominees is a good idea in a broadcast devoid of any.

8:33 – The Dude wins. Nice speech, but too many thank you’s.

8:40 – What’s up with Whitaker’s De Niro Casino glasses?

8:46 – It seems like overkill to have Sean Penn come out to present Best Actress.

8:49 – BULLOCK!!!! NO!!!!!!!!!!!! The audience applauds mediocracy.

8:51-  Uh, oh here comes the tears.

8:52 -Streisand to present Best Director. Would by funny if Bigelow then lost.

8:56- Bigelow wins. Well deserved.

8:58 – We are finally at Best Picture. Like how Tom Hanks cuts to the chase…The Hurt Locker! Cameron just has his billions to fall back on.

9:03 – Horrible broadcast, terrible direction, but great hosts and for the most part, deserving winners.

15/24 on my picks. As horrible as The Blind Side.

Oscar Predictions

Before the 82nd Annual Academy Awards air this Sunday, I decided to take a stab at predicting what films will take home the Oscar. Get your Oscar ballots ready. I’ve done detailed analysis over the past months since awards season began, so trust me. My predictions are in bold.

Best Picture
“Avatar”, James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers
“The Blind Side”, Nominees to be determined
“District 9”, Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers
“An Education”, Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers
“The Hurt Locker”, Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier and Greg Shaprio, Producers
“Inglourious Basterds”, Lawrence Bender, Producer
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”, Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, Producers
“A Serious Man”, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Producers
“Up”, Jonas Rivera, Producer
“Up in the Air”, Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, Producers

Inglourious Basterds was my favorite film of last year, so of course I’m going to say it should win the Best Picture Oscar. The Hurt Locker has won almost all the major pre-Oscar film awards, except the shitty Golden Globe, so I’m pretty confident in saying that it will win. I still think Avatar could pull out a win, or maybe even Inglourious Basterds, since Harvey Weinstein is campaigning hard for it. I think this late minute round of negative press surrounding The Hurt Locker came too late to hurt its chances. The safe bet remains The Hurt Locker. Maybe with 10 nominees something crazy could happen. We will see Sunday night.

Directing
“Avatar”, James Cameron
“The Hurt Locker”, Kathryn Bigelow
“Inglourious Basterds”, Quentin Tarantino
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”, Lee Daniels
“Up in the Air”, Jason Reitman

The clear winner is Kathryn Bigelow. She won the Directors Guild Award which almost perfectly lines up with the best director Oscar.

Actor in a Leading Role
Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney in “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth in “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”

Bridges has been around forever, and many consider it his time to win finally an Oscar.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Matt Damon in “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”

Waltz has won every major award prior to the Oscar. He is fantastic in the role and absolutely deserves to win.

Actress in a Leading Role
Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”
Carey Mulligan in “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”
Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia”

As much as it pains me to admit, it looks like Bullock is going to win. There is chance that Streep might pull out a win, but it’s just a slim chance. It will be a dark day Sunday when Bullock wins for such a mediocre performance. Bullock has to be careful that her career not follow the same trajectory of other Best Actress winners. Anyone remember Louis Fletcher? Exactly.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Penelope Cruz in “Nine”
Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air”
Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart”
Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Mo’Nique has won every major award before the Oscar, so she’s unstoppable.

Animated Feature Film
“Coraline”, Henry Selick
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”, Wes Anderson
“The Princess and the Frog”, John Musker and Ron Clements
“The Secret of Kells”, Tomm Moore
“Up”, Pete Docter

Pixar always wins this category and this year should be no different. I would personally love it if Fantastic Mr. Fox won, but I’m not counting on it.

Art Direction
“Avatar”, Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”, Art Direction: Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro; Set Decoration: Caroline Smith
“Nine”, Art Direction: John Myhre; Set Decoration: Gordon Sim
“Sherlock Holmes”, Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer
“The Young Victoria”, Art Direction: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Maggie Gray

Avatar has to win something on Oscar night. The film won the Art Director Guild award for best fantasy film, so I think it will win this category. This is also one of the few categories in which the film is not competing against The Hurt Locker in, so the Academy will throw it something.

Cinematography
“Avatar”, Mauro Fiore
“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”, Bruno Delbonnel
“The Hurt Locker”, Barry Ackroyd
“Inglourious Basterds”, Robert Richardson
“The White Ribbon”, Christian Berger

This is one of the categories that I find difficult to predict. The cinematography guild awarded the black and white cinematography of The White Ribbon. The Hurt Locker or Avatar could pull out a win. I love the classical cinematography by Richardson for Basterds. I think the Academy will shun Avatar’s cinematography in favor of The Hurt Locker’s realistic, handheld feel.

Costume Design
“Bright Star”, Janet Patterson
“Coco before Chanel”, Catherine Leterrier
“The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”, Monique Prudhomme
“Nine”, Colleen Atwood
“The Young Victoria”, Sandy Powell

The last couple of years a period film won this award. To top it off, The Young Victoria also won the costume guild award.

Documentary (Feature)
“Burma VJ”, Anders Ostergaard and Lise Lense-Moller
“The Cove”, Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens
“Food, Inc.”, Robert Kenner and Elise Pearlstein
“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”, Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith
“Which Way Home”, Rebecca Cammisa

The Cove has won every major documentary award prior to Oscar, so I’ll go with it to win

Documentary (Short Subject)
“China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province”, Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill
“The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner”, Daniel Junge and Henry Ansbacher
“The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant”, Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert
“Music by Prudence”, Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett
“Rabbit a la Berlin”, Bartek Konopka and Anna Wydra

I have no idea what’s going in this category, but Oscar experts pick this film, so I’ll go with the consensus pick.

Film Editing
“Avatar”, Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron
“District 9”, Julian Clarke
“The Hurt Locker”, Bob Murawski and Chris Innis
“Inglourious Basterds”, Sally Menke
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”, Joe Klotz

The Hurt Locker won the American Cinema Editors guild award. If there is an Avatar sweep, it could win in this category.

Foreign Language Film
“Ajami”, Israel
“El Secreto de Sus Ojos”, Argentina
“The Milk of Sorrow”, Peru
“Un Prophete”, France
“The White Ribbon”, Germany

This category is a complete toss-up. The Academy requires that all voters in this category attend screenings of all five nominees in order to vote. This category is unpredictable, so I have no idea who will win. Some Oscar experts are going for Un Prophete, or El Secreto de Sus Ojos from Argentina. I’ll stick with my first choice The White Ribbon, but I’ll probably end up wrong come Oscar night.

Makeup
“Il Divo”, Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
“Star Trek”, Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow
“The Young Victoria”, Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore

Sometimes genre films do win this award, like Pan’s Labyrinth, but for the past couple years the Academy has given it to films set in the past.

Music (Original Score)
“Avatar”, James Horner
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”, Alexandre Desplat
“The Hurt Locker”, Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders
“Sherlock Holmes”, Hans Zimmer
“Up”, Michael Giacchino

The score from Up was very good and memorable. Avatar could pull out a win, but I’m going with Up.

Music (Original Song)
“Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog”, Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Down in New Orleans” from “The Princess and the Frog”, Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Loin de Paname” from “Paris 36”, Music by Reinhardt Wagner Lyric by Frank Thomas
“Take It All” from “Nine”, Music and Lyric by Maury Yeston
“The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from “Crazy Heart”, Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

This year a good song will actually win. Crazy Heart won the Golden Globe for best song, it’s gonna win, case closed.

Short Film (Animated)
“French Roast”, Fabrice O. Joubert
“Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty”, Nicky Phelan and Darragh O’Connell
“The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte)”, Javier Recio Gracia
“Logorama”, Nicolas Schmerkin
“A Matter of Loaf and Death”, Nick Park

I haven’t seen any of the films in this category, but I know that every year Nick Park has been nominated he has won.

Short Film (Live Action)
“The Door”, Juanita Wilson and James Flynn
“Instead of Abracadabra”, Patrik Eklund and Mathias Fjellstroem
“Kavi”, Gregg Helvey
“Miracle Fish”, Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey
“The New Tenants”, Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson

I haven’t seen any of these films, so you could close your eyes and randomly pick one of these nominees and have a fair chance of picking the winner. Oscar sites are going with Miracle Fish or The Door. I’ll go with Miracle Fish because Richard Roeper picked it. Don’t blame me if you end losing this category in your Oscar pool.

Sound Editing
“Avatar”, Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle
“The Hurt Locker”, Paul N.J. Ottosson
“Inglourious Basterds”, Wylie Stateman
“Star Trek”, Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin
“Up”, Michael Silvers and Tom Myers

I have no idea what the difference is between this and the other sound category, but I’m going with Avatar. Avatar won the Motion Picture Sound Editors award, which lines up pretty close with Oscar. Maybe the Hurt Locker or Inglourious Basterds could win here.

Sound Mixing
“Avatar”, Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson
“The Hurt Locker”, Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett
“Inglourious Basterds”, Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano
“Star Trek”, Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin
“Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson

Once again I have no idea what the difference is between this category and Sound Editing. Avatar should do well in the technical categories. Maybe The Hurt Locker could pull out a victory here.

Visual Effects
“Avatar”, Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
“District 9”, Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
“Star Trek”, Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton

This is a no brainer. If Avatar doesn’t win, I’ll be shocked.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
“District 9”, Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
“An Education”, Screenplay by Nick Hornby
“In the Loop”, Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”, Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
“Up in the Air”, Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

The Academy is going to throw Up in the Air something. This is the only category I see it winning. The Writers Guild Award the film won confirms that it will win.

Writing (Original Screenplay)
“The Hurt Locker”, Written by Mark Boal
“Inglourious Basterds”, Written by Quentin Tarantino
“The Messenger”, Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
“A Serious Man”, Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
“Up”, Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy

This is one of the races that is hard to predict. Tarantino’s script deserves to win, but I think it will go to The Hurt Locker. The Hurt Locker won the Writers Guild Award and BAFTA award. Basterds wasn’t eligible for the Writers Guild Award, but it was in direct competition with The Hurt Locker for the BAFTA. Screenwriter Mark Boal was an actual journalist embedded in Iraq, which can’t hurt his chances with voters. The Oscar voters love a good personal story.

Cop Out is Neither Fun nor Funny

March 1, 2010 1 comment

This film sounded good in theory. I liked the director Kevin Smith’s last two movies, “Clerks 2,” and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno,” so I was looking forward to his next film. You throw in Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, who is hilarious in “30 Rock,” and I was totally up for this movie. As it turns out, this film only does sound good in theory.

Smith’s movie is an homage to the buddy cop movies of the 1980’s, minus the humor. The story is ridiculous and hardly worth going into any major detail here.  Jimmy Monroe (Bruce Willis) and Paul Hodges (Tracy Morgan) are two long-term police partners who get suspended doing some dumb cop shit. Willis needs money to pay for his daughter’s wedding, so he decides to sell a vintage baseball card. The baseball card gets stolen and Willis and Morgan end up getting involved with a Mexican gang that has Willis’ baseball card. As you can imagine, cray antics ensue after this.

Kevin Smith directs this film like a total amateur. Many of the scenes have no pacing, no humor, they just lie dead on the ground. You want to take a pillow and suffocate these scene to put them out of its misery. The action scenes are also badly edited, which causes these scenes to be  devoid of any excitement, tension, or suspense.

The only times I did laugh was due to Tracy Morgan. The one comedic bit that works involved him and Willis doing a good cop/bad cop routine in a Russian’s house. Seann William Scott, playing a thief, is also very good at being super annoying in the movie. Many of the scenes that are intended to be funny involve Morgan saying something outrageous and Willis giving him a look. I can’t blame Smith for all the lackluster humor in the film. Credit must go the screenwriters, Robb and Mark Cullen. One potential funny bit involves a scene with Morgan interrogating a suspect by saying quotes from such films like, “Jaws” and “The Color Purple.” The humor from this scene in undercut because Smith has to cut back to Willis telling the audience what film the quote is from.

Bruce Willis looks bored out of his mind here. He and Morgan have zero chemistry together. Jason Lee is terrible, Adam Brody is unfunny and Kevin Pollack is given nothing to do. The scenes involving the film’s villain, a Mexican gang leader named Poh Boy (Guillermo Diaz), are cringe-inducing to watch. I’m not sure if I’m suppose to take this guy serious or laugh at him. The entire film has this same problem.

1 1/2 stars