Monday, October 31, 2005

Halloween Countdown Finale

The Top Ten Movies That Make Me Think of Halloween...Concludes!
01. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
With an affectionate "BOO!" to the entire filmography of Tim Burton

Who better to be considered the cinematic patron saint of Halloween than that weird, wild-haired auteur Tim Burton? Most of his filmography from his debut featurePee Wee's Big Adventure(1985), to the amazing run of Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Batman through to Ed Wood, Mars Attacks! and this year's Corpse Bride displays a sweet magical combo of the macabre and innocent spiced with dark humor and mighty visual invention. In other words, it's easy to love Tim Burton's movies for the exact same reasons that it's easy to enjoy Halloween.

In this Henry Selick directed Tim Burton produced animated adventure all of these auteurial character quirks were literalized into the perfect Halloween movie. Oh, sure...Nightmare's storyline is actually about a longing for Christmas. But from its hilarious and jokily gruesome opening number "This is Halloween" to its triumphant 'let's put on a show' reaffirmations of purpose, this movie subverts all the Christmas love into an ode to Halloween as the supreme holiday for those with ghoulishly creative minds. That twist is this movies most memorable trick. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a sickly delicious treat.

"Boys and girls of every age
Wouldn't you like to see something strange?
Come with us and you will see
This, our town of Halloween
This is Halloween, this is Halloween
Pumpkins scream in the dead of night
This is Halloween, everybody make a scene
Trick or treat till the neighbors gonna die of fright
It's our town, everybody scream
In this town of Halloween."


Halloween Countdown...02

And the runner up is...
02 Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Nothing says "Halloween" more than sunlight aversions and blood-lust. If this were a less cinematic list I'd want to put TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer in here or even in the top spot. But we're talking movies --you have to narrow it down somehow. So, in honor of the original bloodsucking Count I've also jettisoned any vampire movies that have torn free from his (or from " first vampire" stories --you can't discount Nosferatu, now can you?) enormous shadow. Of the many --seriously many-- film adaptations or movies inspired by Bram Stoker's epistolary horror novel (1897), Francis Coppola's take on the immortal fanged Count (titled after the novel) is as good as many and better than most. It represents the vampiric in my Halloween list.

Of all vampire films, FW Murnau's silent Nosferatu (1922) is the most important to see if you're taking cinematic historical importance into account. But this list is a personal one. So I chose Coppola's elaborately bizarre, colorful, and passionate 90s treatment of the vampire mythos. The most peculiar thing about this film and my love for it, is that I don't really think that much of it works. A good deal of the problems seems to be in the casting. The most interesting performance (Sadie Frost as Lucy) has the least screen time. Keanu Reeves is wooden as Jonathan Harker, Gary Oldman lacks the onscreen sexual charisma that one would expect from a lead in a romantic horror epic, and strangely, despite it being filmed during what were unarguably her peak years, Winona Ryder also flails about. She never was adept at period (nevermind those two Oscar nominations) but her star turn reads as slightly over-the-top silly rather than passionate when the blood really hits the walls in the second half of the film. Still, despite many misgivings, the film is a spectacle in the best sense. You can't take your eyes off of it. Coppola's passion for le cinéma is evident throughout as he tries every conceivable camera trick in the book. His sort of operatic passion and creative invention is lacking in most every other vampire film. That's a pity because the approach is a perfect fit for this grand guignol literary classic.

This 1992 vampire epic is best seen on the bigscreen where the enormous oddness of its Oscar-winning costumes and makeup and its in-camera visual effects are properly showcased. Bram Stoker's Dracula is large and fascinatingly messy. There's no trace of laziness here--no fingerprints of the undead were involved in this film's making, only fully committed living and breathing artists attempting something awesome. For whatever reason, this particular Coppola film is never booked for repertory houses or even midnight screenings (though it would seem an ideal fit for both) so rent it soon if you've never seen it.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Halloween Countdown...03

The Top Ten Movies That Make Me Think of Halloween continued...
03. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Perhaps this 1939 musical classic should be exempt from any list. Because, well, it's got several unfair advantages. You don't even have to have seen it to feel as if you're intimately familiar (but it's such a grand film that one certainly should actually see it. And without commercial interupption). This movie is so deeply enmeshed into the collective subconcious that one can, if inclined, connect it to all else. The more fascinating list to make would probably be along the lines of "Top Ten Things ThatDon't Make Me Think of The Wizard of Oz". It makes me think of everything -childhood, television, Thanksgiving, Christmas, other Friends of Dorothy, old Hollywood, showtunes, midgets, shoes, Broadway, lions & tigers & bears, fantasy vs. reality debates, beauty fascism, hot air balloons... I could go on all day. I'll spare you.

So, why does it make me think of Halloween in particular? The ubiquity of its iconic costumes for starters. You will always see riffs on every one of its main characters this time of year. Silly spins (hirsute drag queens in Dorothy wigs), innocent enthusiasms (a great family group costume), and every other imaginable interpretation. The second and better reason is the beautiful wickedness of The Wicked Witch of the West. Audience affection for this villain is obvious, but only on Halloween, the night when evil is good, does it seem appropriate to wish that Dorothy had never tossed that bucket of water her way.
"What a world. What a world."

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Weird Oscar Equations: Munich

Is Munich, Steven Spielberg's as-yet-unseen 23rd full length feature, the sure thing everyone thinks it will be with AMPAS? Let's investigate. By dropping all the numerals from his first 21 (His 22nd, War of the Worlds, can't be added as of yet being untested in Oscar waters) into my super-talented  ... we discover the following.

beep bop boooo bop

Dividing the 94 nominations and 29 golden boys by 21 features we see that each unquantified Spielberg feature will nab 4.5 nominations and 1.3 statues. 1.3 you ask? Which statue is that? Ummmmm... the  won't tell me that but it's probably another one for John Williams, ubiquitous Spielberg composer and Oscar's most-favored child in any field, plus 1/3rd of a Sound Editing trophy. OK, well the math is not quite this simple. Munich might not get only 4 or 5 nominations and win just one trophy. If you'd like to throw in some (variables) X (expectations) ≥ you're welcome to. If you subtract all the genre stuff on which Spielberg made his name and concentrate on the more traditional Oscar routes of true stories or historical period dramas, the numbers come out like this: Munich can expect 7.8 nominations and 2 wins...and a 50/50 shot at the big prize ~ a Best Picture nomination, and a 33% shot at Best Director.

Most Likely Nominations Statistically
Score, Cinematography, Sound, Sound Effects Editing
Least Likely Nominations Statistically
Song, Acting (sorry Bana), Screenplay

Weird Oscar Equations: Jarhead

Sam Mendes Oscar History
American Beauty(1999) = 8 nominations. 5 wins.
Pic* Dir* Actor* Actress. Screenplay* Cinematography* Editing. Score.
Road to Perdition(2002) = 6 nominations. 1 win.
Supporting Actor. Cinematography. Art Direction. Sound. Sound Editing. Score.
Jarhead(2005) =????

Let's see, with my amazing grasp of complex mathematical formulas [snort] we have... 3 years -2 nominations, 3 years -4 wins -assuming the same depreciation over another 3 years... -2 more nominations would equal 4. and -4 wins = 0 wins. variable unknown in regards to Deakins no-win legend ± (Hall) x (Deakins) - ...and only 2 similar nominations. Let's see working out this complex formula on my  ...

Jarhead = 4 nominations. 0 wins. Cinematography. Supporting Actor. Sound. Sound Editing.

Halloween Countdown...04

04 Halloween (1978)
Well, duh. Of course it would be on the list.

Although I will admit that I just saw it last year. I have this way of avoiding movies that I think will scare me. I am a big wuss. I still haven't seen The Exorcist. I only saw Silence of the Lambs almost a year after it opened because I kept having nightmares about it and figured, 'why the hell not? I'm already having nightmares' The nightmares stopped as soon as I saw it. It wasn't as scary as the nightmares. But Halloween is evil scary. I mean, it's even scary during the daylight hours. That is just... wrong.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Halloween Countdown...05

05. (Tie) Orlando (1992) and The Velvet Goldmine (1998)
oh, what the hell, let's just say--The Entire Filmography of Sandy Powell

Though I love almost nothing in the entertainment world as much as Oscar competitions, I'd be totally OK if they just cancelled the Costume Design category every year and just gave an Oscar annually to Sandy Powell for whatever she was making that year. Better yet, just let her costume every movie. Sure, that'd slow down production but I can't see all the movies that are made anyway. Think of my weary eyes, Hollywood! I really can't see them all.

If Sandy Powell and I were best friends, I would casually "borrow" whatever she had hanging in the wardrobe department annually on the morning of October 31st and I would have the best costume in existence for whatever I was attending that evening. Every single year Halloween would be even more fun that it already is if Sandy Powell were my best friend.

If you're not already frightened, you can read more about my love for Sandy Powell and see a lot of beautiful photos of her work here. And to prove that I'm not alone in my idolatry, you can read another ode to Ms. Powell here (scroll down to April 8th).

North Country. Solid or Shameful?

A conversation between Nathaniel (c'est moi) and Joe Reid over the Oscar chances, individual performances, and overall merits (or lack thereof) of Niki Caro's sexual harassment drama North Country.

The Passion of Josey Aimes

North Country | Directed by: Niki Caro | Written by: Michael Seitzman (inspired by a true story as chronicled in Class Action: The Story of Lois Jensen and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law) | Starring: Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, Sissy Spacek, Woody Harrelson and Sean Bean

Nathaniel R: So, do you have time. should we discuss Erin Northovich [sic]?
Joe Reid: Go for it, i'm here --actually, it's funny, because Erin was on TNT all weekend - it's a very re-watchable movie, as it turns out

N: Yes. you know it was in my top ten list that year (2000). I love it unashamedly. It has a level of craft that is just amazing to me: gorgeous cutting, cinematography, everything.
J: It's fantastic, really. More of a star turn for Julia Roberts, obviously, than North Country was for Charlize

N: Well true. But before we get into our very different reactions I do want to alleviate any fears from readers that I'll be out for blood with Charlize. I think she's good in the film.
J: And it doesn't rely on as much "gimmick" as the Monster role does.

N: true. Although in terms of what the film needs from her, Monster is definitely the superior vehicle.
J: She's less impressive than Monster, I think, but it shows she can be a dramatic lead actress without having to gain weight / get ugly.

N: Yes. I always sort of liked her. I think she's quite good in that awful 'deal with the devil' Al Pacino movie, The Devil's Advocate.
J: I think she's as good as that movie requires her to be - which doesn't say much. That's one of those so-bad-it's-good movies, for me.

N: for me it's just so-bad-it's-bad
J: Heh

N: But I think she has a sort of commitment to it, in the Devil's Advocate, that's missing in the other performers. Like she's taking it so seriously that it almost feels like a different movie when she's onscreen. And I think she was also way better than her material in both of her Woody Allen outings.
J: I would agree. I enjoyed her in Cider House, I must say. I never thought she was a "bad" actress in anything but Bagger Vance , really.

N: I wisely escaped that one. So, when it comes to Norma Country I appreciated that she was giving it her all. I think she is far better than the material again. Though not award worthy.
J: I think she's nominatable without guilt, although I can't say as she'd be on my personal ballot. She's outshone by McDormand, for one, although many actresses would be. I think it's interesting to look back on 2003, because I think Theron has more promise as an artist than Niki Caro does; because this is the second straight movie that I find myself underwhelmed by her.

N: So you think Whale Rider, Caro's last film, was overappreciated?
J: Yes. Not so much that I find fault with it, I just thought it wasn't the huge revelation everyone else thought it was.

N: On this we agree. But I think we disagree on North Country.
J: See, I think the big thing about North Country is accepting it for what it is - and what it is is a story about building a case for the sexual harassment lawsuit . . . I think the film really needs to make the conditions unbearable, and as I was watching it i could see that it was gonna catch flak for being so blunt w/ its male characters, and it was, but in the end, that's pretty much necessary if you're trying to show why Josey would bring suit against her employer. I think where Caro ultimately falls short is the courtroom scenes, which are so cliched and uninspired. And that horris stand-and-deliver ending.

N: But it was just so purple in the setup scenes. I felt like the men should all be twirling moustaches and or wearing black hats. Even in the design elements of the film, like makeup, etc... it's so much kinder to the women. It's not that they are glammed up or anything. The women are still realistic but so many of the men are such grotesques that there were moments where I felt like I was watching a Terry Gilliam film. Only without the humor.
J: I think if I were in Caro's shoes, the one change I'd have made would have been to show a scene early on, showing what Jenkins says about how the men treat their wives and daughters at company picnics. For the contrast. But, again, I think to make the lawsuit seem not just plausible, but *necessary*, the mine has to become something of a horror show.

N: But why embellish so much? It's not that I don't believe the story. It's that it's so overbearing in its messaging that you start to think "does Caro (or her writer) think we wouldn't find it offensive enough if they just had excrement on the walls of their rooms and got beat up occassionally?" She overstates her case. Which is a good one already. And to make it even more problematic she bends over backwards to sanctify Josie. This woman can do no wrong. It's the most manipulated I've felt in the movie theater in a very long time. And for me the only saving grace was the performances. I felt like Theron wasn't content with being a saintly martyr which I liked. There is a toughness and a slight abrasiveness to her characterization that I don't feel the script calls for and that, given the evidence of her two films, that Caro would have encouraged either.
J: I agree that the acting bails North Country out in many instances. Mostly with regard to Theron, too, I think you've got that. Especially in the scenes with her kids, I think Charlize brings a lot of "flawed parent" to the role.

N: Yes. I know we're supposed to find the quiet scene with her son late in the movie as heartwarming but that to me was also a horror show. I felt. Wow, this kid is going to need therapy.
J: Yeah.

N: Richard Jenkins was also terrific as the dad. But the film fails him too.
J: Jenkins's arc isn't the most credible, I agree. The man is such a good actor, though, that you want to look past it.

N: I felt myself welling up at his big turnaround scene. The fact that I wanted to buy it even while hating what the film was doing was all Jenkins .
J: I have to say, though, I was somewhat in love with the cinematography and art direction.

N: Well they are quite good. It's just that what they're in service of is so useless to me. To me it's like one of those expensive looking historical social dramas. Take something that everyone agrees is awful. Make a black and white case for it. Overstate your case. Since everyone agrees and you aren't bringing any troubling edges to it, watch as the audience cheers. Blech!
J: Eh, I don't know if I would go that far. I think a lot of the time if a story is filmed the right way, it becomes worthy almost regardless of story. I don't think I needed North Country to tell me anything new about sexual harassment to be a good film. I thought it was remarkable in evoking a very specific and not all that distant time and place, which I think can be more difficult than it seems.

N: But why make Charlize's character such a saint. Why can't we present a flawed woman, as Charlize is willing to and STILL want to see her not abused. Even if she had been a total whore, as the townsfolk suggest, shouldn't she also deserve a harassment free workplace?
J: Agreed.

N: I feel like Caro doesn't trust the audience to understand this.
J: Agreed.

Nathaniel R: I guess my argument could made in regard to Good Night and Good Luck too, which I loved much more. I agree with the central message of both films. But even though GNaGL is onesided I think it understands the emotional intricacies of large social problems. I didn't even feel that North Country understood enough to even give us that. The Union scenes, for example. Having some knowledge of how unions work, that could have been amazing stuff and instead it's just everyone against this poor put-upon woman in every scene. There's not even any sense of gray area in the union scenes which there definitely should be.

What did you think of McDormand's character?

Joe Reid: I thought it was to McDormand's credit that she made her case for a nomination, for me, even before the ALS reveal. I thought she was absolutely spot-on as the one woman with a foot in both camps, trying to make a place for the women by sheer workmanship. Once the disease is revealed, the acting became secondary to the gimmick, which was a shame and no fault of hers. I still think she was fabulous and actually held back in the later scenes.

N: She's always good. I agree here. I guess my visceral anti-response to the film is feeling like all of these people are willing to go so deep and the film is just wading in a kiddie pool. Such nervy actors and the movie has no nerve.
J: I think the fact that the movie is based on this true story, maybe Caro felt she had a responsibility more to that than she did to the movie she was making.
I think if this is an original story rather than a true-life one, she might have at least been willing to think about going less broad.

N: Hmmm. it could also be the opposite problem. I guess reading the book would shed more light on it.
J: From what I understand, the book is every bit as harsh as far as the treatment of the women, but that the Josey character is a composite.

N: The big lawyer showdown in the courtroom? If I thought this was a good movie I would say it was the worst scene of the year in an otherwise good movie.
J: Yeah, that was actively bad. Ugh. I was absolutely on board up until that point.

N: and that still didn't ruin it for you?
J: Not really, no. I think maybe the fact that what I loved about the movie wasn't the story meant that a bad finale scene didn't taint, say, the acting or the production design.

N: for me it just confirmed my worst fears about the whole thing * shrug* but I am, personally, very affected by endings. They can be make or break for me.
J: See, I think a lot of times I've already formed my opinion on so much of the movie by the time the end come.

N: Well, I had too I suppose. We just fell on different sides. I promise never to make up sexual lies about you in a court of law though.
J: That means a lot, it really does.

Here's my question - why does Sissy Spacek take that role? There's so little to it.

N: Mortgage payments?
J: Hey, I'm assuming that check for The Ring 2 didn't bounce or anything.

N: Sissy it's time to choose between your homes! Only take one worthless role a year please.
J: I probably shouldn't be so hard on her. I think a woman of her age probably isn't swimming in these deep, attractive roles. Not a whole lot of In the Bedrooms for her, I don't think. Which is yet another reason for me to deeply resent that awful Home at the End of the World adaptation.

N: say no more.
J: Oh, but I should. Because: seriously. One of the better books I had read in a looong time. And it got fucked over.

N: Yes. the book is just heartwrenchingly good. The movie -dull as dishwater and sloppily choppy in its narrative.
J: And there was no heart to it! No soul - no deep feelings. That book was all these deep feelings and emotions.

N: If any book needed a miniseries rather than a film that was it. Those character arcs are so long and so intimate. Without a world class director and screenwriter and cast I think it was doomed. And it didn't have any of those things.
J: Well, and it's certainly not the easiest thing to depict in 2 hours - the intertwining and confusion between friendship and love and sex - but you'd think some filmmakers would have dived right in

N: To me that adaptation was like the 1st Harry Potter attempt --so concerned with being faithful that it's like checking off the scenes one by one and missing that the thing has to work as a movie.
J: So, okay, final thoughts on North Country? Anything you'd consider nominatable in any category? Oscars and/or Film Bitch?

N: Film Bitch: Can't say as I think it will survive any category. Good performances but top 5? Probably not. Oscars: I think Charlize has a very good shot though I wouldn't say she's locked. Nothing else I don't think. And when it comes to Frances. The weird thing is that I think the baity gimmick could undo her.
J: In what way? That it will cause people to overlook the performance?

N: In that her performance is really engaging but as soon as there's that baity reveal it feels like a gimmick. Maybe I'm overanalyzing but it seems too obvious as an Oscar gimmick simply because it's so  extraneous to the film. You don't need that entire storyline for the film to work. So it feels like a stunt. Even though McDormand is quite good. If her storyline had felt less like an add-on and more integrated, I think she'd be a sure thing. I don't know if I'm making any sense.
J: No, i understand. I just don't know if "gimmick" is exactly a bad thing when it comes to the Oscar voters. Who have liked a good gimmick in their day.
I think it makes for an easy way for critics and second-guessers to pooh-pooh the nomination if it happens, but I think voters might eat it up. For good or ill.

N: But the gimmicks they like are usually part and parcel of the entire film, aren't they? Maybe I'm just hoping. I get so tired of those Oscar crutches. I think North Country is the type of film voters might like but I can't see multiple nominations simply because I think the film will have a fast fade.
J: I know. Maybe it's just me severely underestimating the Oscar voters to even understand "integrated into the film" which I hate saying, because it makes it seem like I didn't like the performance, and I very much did.

N: I liked it too. But not for the reason an Oscar voter might. So what grade would you give this. I'm going to post this as the site's review.
J: I think on the blog I gave it a "B"; a grade I hate giving because it seems to milquetoast, to me. But it reflects the "good, not great" opinion I have of it.

N: Any hedging? or is it a solid B?
J: If I were to hedge, I'd hedge B-minus; see? You're talking me down! YOU should be the studio shill of the online Oscar community!

N: Ha Ha
J: [Feel free to edit that comment out. ]

N: Nah, that one we leave in I think.

Joe's Grade: B (B- with hedging)
Nathaniel's Grade: C-

Halloween Countdown ...06

Top 10 Movies That Make ...well, you get the gist of this by now.

06. Kill Bill(2003)
So for the past three Halloweens I have wanted to be Uma Thurman. Long blond locks. The imitation Hattori Hanzo sword. A yellow jumpsuit. With blood stains. Asian friends rudely and reductively recruited to dress up as the Crazy 88s. They form my entourage and strut down the street with me. It's like one massive Sally Menke edited, Robert Richardson lensed, Quentin Tarantino directed dream sequence that's all about glorifying me. Me. Me. Me!

(This fantasy has been brought to you by the holiday Halloween, my inner drag queen, and my tireless enthusiasm for self-aggrandizement)

Halloween Countdown ...07

Top Ten Movies That Remind Me of Halloween continued...

* Due to continuing technical difficulties there are no pics. (boo hoo. me love visuals)
But I don't want to get too far behind. *

07. The Crow(1994)
This entry is not about costuming though you'll see the mime face w/ black leather pants (easy, iconic) just about everywhere this time of year. Neither is this about the Halloween ghoulishness of an extremely violent film about an undead man who happens to be played by a man who was killed on the set (Brandon Lee, rest in peace) during the making of. Nor is it about my teenage love of comic books. I only read this once after the movie was released. The Crow appears on this list because I hail from Detroit, Michigan and so does this gruesome story.

If you'd have told me as a child that I'd have to explain "Devil's Night" (the night in which all The Crow's narrative mayhem occurs) to other people when I grew up I would have laughed at you with the easy myopia of childhood. 'Who doesn't know what Devil's Night is?' I would have scoffed. Apparently lots of people. Or so I discovered when I moved west. So it came as a relief when The Crow opened and I suddenly had an easy-to-cite cultural reference to explain to people about the night of vandalism, arson, and general mischief that precedes Halloween. I thought everyone grew up tepeeing houses, egging cars, setting fires, and sneaking around their neighborhood on October 30th each and every year.

Halloween Countdown...08

Top Ten Movies That Make Me Think of Halloween...continued.

08. Clue(1985)
I imagine my readers scratching their heads. That Tim Curry comedy from the 80s? That board game? Why, yes, my friends. I grew up loving the game, playing it with my family. Later, I was quite excited for the movie. I saw it three times. Little remembered fact: Unlike on the DVD at the theater there was only one ending. You had to try different theaters to see the different endings.

Anyway --much later in college with my family of friends Clue came up again. Halloween was approaching and the discussion erupted into party plans. There were six of us. We would dress as Clue for the party we were attending! I was Mr Green. [tangent: It was the first and the last time that I was ever seen w/ a moustache. Yuck]. The brilliance of dressing up with a group as Miss Scarlett, Mrs White, Mrs Peacock, Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, and Mr Green cannot be overstated. It's easy. It's creative. It's not expensive. And, despite there being no definitive look to adhere to, people will recognize who all of you are, provided you stick together. Enjoy the party.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Halloween Countdown...09

Top Ten Movies That Make Me Think of Halloween continued...
09. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?(1962)
I think I have seen drag queens doing Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as Baby Jane and Blanche Hudson in nearly every Halloween party or parade I've attended. And why not? It's always good for a hearty familiar chuckle. Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? is one of the great smorgasbord movies: a grand sick-making feast with equal parts horror, comedy, melodrama, psychological profiling, and meta Hollywood-on-Hollywood sado-masochism. Both stars were superb as looney washed up actresses, cooped up for decades in their shadowy two-story home. And you have to hand it to the ever-gutsy Bette Davis, one of the bravest, most relentless movie stars there ever was. She chews on the antique furniture as if her career depended on it... and it did back in 1962. Her signature Baby Jane ditty "I've Written a Letter to Daddy" is one of the scariest things you'll ever see or hear onscreen. Scary, I mean to say, in the giggle while you gulp sort of way. In other words: 100% perfect for the scary but all-in-good-fun thrills of Halloween.

Surprise Actor Factor

My umpteenth post on the Best Actor race. My apologies:

If you ask people who is going to be competing in Oscar's Best Actor this year you'll hear these three names: Hoffman for Capote. Phoenix for Walk the Line. Ledger for Brokeback Mountain. It's only late October so no one is locked as much as expected to place at this point. Possible stumbling blocks? Hoffman is a supporting star (see Giamatti's surprise snub last year), Phoenix is not going to campaign (uh oh -they like gladhanding), and Ledger is a young pretty thing (and that naked gold man isn't gay --pretty and youthful only helps win "Oscar" over if you're an actress). So they all have hurdles, though all are still likely. From there it gets trickier. The other names you hear tossed around? Jones for Three Burials, Fiennes for something or other, Strathairn for Goodnight and Good Luck, Murphy for Breakfast on Pluto, Mortenson for A History of Violence, Crowe for Cinderella Man, Howard for Hustle & Flow, and Lane for The Producers some of which are clearly possible and some which feel absurd [at least to me] as competitors. But are there surprises in store?

5 Somewhat Under the Radar
Johnny Depp's last Oscar date came for one of his most underwhelming performances, Finding Neverland. That proves that he can just ride the newfound love. Can he coast into a third nomination for a more flamboyant performance in a far less palatable, less Oscar-bait film in The Libertine? Anthony Hopkins got good--and more importantly "warm"-- buzz for The World's Fastest Indian at Toronto. Then it seems like the film was going to 2006. Now it's competing with Tommy Lee Jones in the field of 'former winner getting a perfunctory one-week release in December to qualify'. Will it work? Eric Bana gets top billing in Munich. Hulk aside, both Troy and the Australian Chopper make him seem eminently nominatable at some point in the future. Is the future now? Spielberg films aren't really great at getting acting Oscars, though. Jeff Daniels' fantastic work in The Squid and the Whale could encounter the problems that derailed Jeff Bridges for a similar role last year. How do you get nominated while starring in a small film and superbly playing a horrible person who doesn't happen to be a villain, doesn't have a disability, and doesn't come from a bio-pic. It's tough to do. Still, Daniels has never had his due and if they're feeling generous it could happen. And finally, we conclude with George Clooney. It's not like people aren't talking about Clooney. But they're talking about him as a filmmaker. As an actor he still doesn't have that much respect beyond 'has good taste'. Could Syriana change that?

Halloween Countdown...10

I obsess on Halloween. Other than Oscar night it's my fav holiday. But for me obsess often = stress. Trying to come up with the perfect costume, planning to go to too many parties, etc... So, this year I'm taking it easier. But to celebrate bloggishly, and to satiate my desire for list-making, I will countdown the Top Ten Movies That Make Me Think of Halloween

10. Sleeping Beauty(1959)
Maleficent, the one person that Sleeping Beauty's parents shouldn't have ever forgotten to invite to their daughter's debut, is my favorite from Disney's animated rogues gallery. What's more this magical party crasher might just be my favorite villain. period. from any movie. Darth Vader can quit the heavy breathing. The Wicked Witch of the West's cackle isn't as deadly serious as Maleficent's entitled fury. Sleeping Beauty makes me think of this festively dark holiday because I always thought that, on the right person and with the right commitment to the whole look, the perfect Maleficent costume would be unbeatable. I know you can buy mass produced versions but I've never seen anyone come anywhere close to approximating this sorceress' majesty, gorgeous evilness, or the correct color of her flawless skin. And even if the right Halloween reveller could nail this singular look, they couldn't morph into a fire breathing dragon anyway. Losers.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Can't. Stop. Tinkering. Must. Turn. Off. Computer.

Minor Oscar Updates in the major categories to reflect very early precursor notices (see previous post) such as Gotham, British Independent, and Hollywood Festival kudos. Plus new poster images for Munich (serious, contemplative teaser) and The New World (romantic epic style). Must. Stop. Now. Next major prediction alteration on November 7th after Jarhead and Chicken Little open.

If the year ended today I think our best pic nominees would be some combo of these six -minus one: Capote, Cinderella Man, Crash, Constant Gardener, Goodnight and Good Luck and A History of Violence. But the year does not end today.

Gotham Award Nominees

They're kind of like the Independent Spirit Awards... Only well... I don't really know their criteria. Seems to be the East Coast version. It seems very narrowly focused. But still and all... a respectable list. Other than the little problem of it being announced in October, before some 2005 features have even wrapped (Even earlier than NBR which is having lots of problems right now.)

The big winner this year? MATT DILLON who gets the full tribute which could help his Supporting Actor bid for Crash. The exposure from last year's Gotham Awards certainly didn't hurt eventual Oscar nominees Mike Leigh, Catalina Sandino Moreno, or Don Cheadle, did it? None of them were "locked" by the time in which Gotham made their announcements and handed out their winners last year. So, score one for Lions Gate and its agressive Crashcampaign.

But let's get to it. "And the nominees are..."

Best Feature
CAPOTE -Bennett Miller
KEANE -Lodge Kerrigan

Best Documentary
BALLET RUSSES - Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller
GRIZZLY MAN Werner Herzog
MURDERBALL Henry-Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro

Breakthrough Director
Bennett Miller for CAPOTE
Phil Morrison for JUNEBUG
Andrew Wagner for THE TALENT GIVEN US
Alice Wu for SAVING FACE

Breakthrough Actor
Amy Adams as "Ashley" in JUNEBUG
Camilla Belle as "Rose Slavin" in THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as "Neil" in MYSTERIOUS SKIN
Terrence Howard as "DJay" in HUSTLE & FLOW
Damian Lewis as "William Keane" in KEANE

Best Ensemble Cast
BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN - Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Linda Cardellini, Randy Quaid, Anna Faris
CRASH - Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Dashon Howard, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe, Larenz Tate, Nona Gaye, Michael Pena
GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK - David Strathairn, Patricia Clarkson, George Clooney, Jeff Daniels, Robert Downey Jr., Frank Langella
NINE LIVES - Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Elpidia Carrillo, Glenn Close. Stephen Dillane, Dakota Fanning, William Fichtner, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Holly Hunter, Jason Isaacs, Joe Mantegna, Ian McShane, Molly Parker, Mary Kay Place, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Aidan Quinn, Miguel Sandoval, Amanda Seyfried, Sissy Spacek, Robin Wright Penn
THE SQUID AND THE WHALE -(pictured) Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline

As usual with "ensemble" awards I have issues with who is listed as being a part of the nomination. Why no Matt Ross in Goodnight and Good Luck? The same thing happened to him with the SAG nom for The Aviator even though he has more than ample screen time in both features. Why no Billy Baldwin for Squid and the Whale? And Crash leaves out Loretta Devine (whose head to head with Matt Dillon is one of the film's best moments) and the Middle Eastern family altgoether. What's up with that?

Hump Day Hotties: The Cast of RENT

I figure I outta get my excitement about the movie version of Rent out of the way a month before it finally premieres so I don't embarrass myself if it starts stinking. I must rid myself of these expectations since the man at the helm has never made a good movie. Well, unless you count Adventures in Babysitting. At least he'll always have that. "Don't F@#k with the Babysitter!". So here's to the men and women of RENT in semi random/sorta descending order of hotness...

The Boys. Let's start with Jesse L Martin who plays Collins. It's his voice that I can't get over. The sweet kindness of his face doesn't hurt either. If you don't have the original cast recording of Rent [why not?] you may still be familiar with his mad skills through his days on the stage in Ally McBeal, a show wherein at least half of the cast members got a primetime showcase for their vocal skills. Lawyers in Boston moonlight as Broadway stars, didn't you know? Taye Diggs = Hot. If you ask for an argument about that you'd hear crickets chirping. But I'm subtracting points for him being married to Idina Menzel who stole the Tony Award that rightfully belonged to either Tonya Pinkins, Donna Murphy, or Kristen Chenowith a couple of years ago. Not that i'm holding a grudge or anything. Taye plays Benny.

Anthony Rapp. I see Anthony all the time in New York City at Broadway shows (both of us mysteriously in the audience on the same nights) and I almost introduced myself while waiting in line right next to him for the opening night of Moulin Rouge! @ the Zeigfield in 2001. Such a cutie. Particularly if you go for guys who are proud and out (nothing being less hot than the closet) and guys who wear glasses (I do --er go for them, not wear them myself). Anthony's official website is here. He plays Mark, my favorite character in Rent, the filmmaker. Adam Pascal is something of a Broadway heartthrob originating the lead male role in the hit Aidaafter his work originating the role of Roger in Rent. His solo CD is available from Sh-K-Boom records if you're so inclined. And we conclude with Wilson Jermaine Herada and he's only in last place just because I'm least familiar with him. He plays Angel, Collin's boyfriend, and he won the Tony for it on Broadway. He's also, clearly, a doll.

The Girls. You begin with Rosario Dawson. The jury is famously still out on whether or not she has anything special to deliver as an actress but as for her sex appeal? Not in question. Smoking hot. She plays junkie stripper Mimi and she's one of only two newbies in the cast (that weren't in the original Broadway production). The other is Tracie Thoms who plays Joanne, Maureen's girlfriend. And finally there's Mrs. Taye Diggs, Idina Menzel who reprises the role that introduced her, Maureen. Recently her star profile rocketed with a blockbuster year+ run as the original lead in Broadway's Wicked. She will be seen in Ask the Dust with Colin Farrel and Salma Hayek next year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

And It's Official

Oscar has officially announced the Foreign Language Submissions Listthat we've been tracking for a while @ the site.

Please Welcome: Costa Rica, Iraq, and Fiji submitting for the first time.
Bye-Bye: Entries from Nepal, Venezuela, and Uruguay which didn't make the cut.
No Surprise: Greece's Brides which is mostly in English was booted. I called that.
Big Surprise: Michael Haneke's Cannes celebrated thriller Caché (Hidden) starring Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil is not on the list. I assume it must have been disqualified due to one of their strange rules regarding international productions. But its absence is the first I've heard of the film having trouble with the AMPAS committee.

The Women (1939)

The Women was not my first choice for this edition of Classic Movie of the Week, but after the wrist slashing / bottle o’ pills swallowing pathos of last week’s entry... I figured “geez, lighten up Nathaniel” So instead I’ve opted for a gem from what many consider to be the pinnacle year of Hollywood, 1939. That was the year that brought us Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Ninotchka and at least a dozen other extremely beloved films. Also strutting around in theaters that year was this bitchy but endearing comedy/melodrama mix. The film's impressive line up was headlined by Norma Shearer as Mrs Stephen Haines. She was orbited by stars of similar (or then just-lesser) stature: Rosalind Russell, Joan Crawford, Paulette Godard, and Joan Fontaine among them. Even with the mega-wattage and box office pull delivered onscreen the film bore the sexist and reductive tagline: “It’s all about men!”

Not that it isn't about men, I must quickly add. Or at least women's ideas about the men in their lives. The film's drama and comedy comes from the way women fight over men, adore men, adjust themselves for men, connect themselves to men, and sabotage each other. What? You thought with Russell and Crawford in the mix that this wouldn't be catty? The film is often so feline that I remain surprised that director George Cukor opts to open on dogs barking rather than cats fighting as the first reel unspools. For those hoping for enlightened gender roles, this is not the film. Alas, not all the ideas promoted in the film about the way marriages crumble or survive are so dusty. Though bits of it may have aged unflatteringly, the movie has a sharp wit [why are 30s and 40s movies so funny and today's comedies so strained?] and though it's often cacophonous with the sounds of children, pets, and gossiping groups, a good sense of balance. Cukor knows when to shut off the noise and allow Norma Shearer's strong and dignified performance to hold the chaotic processions together. Improbably, she even seems like an admirable pillar of feminine strength when she's learning to get catty. "Jungle Red!"

Despite regular Oscar love for 'The First Lady of MGM' (Norma Shearer had 5 Oscar nominations and 1 win behind her when this film premiered) AMPAS voters dismissed The Women with nary a nomination. Not even for the celebrated stars empathetic turn as the wronged housewife. Perhaps it was too fluffy? Nevertheless it remains a jolly good, surprisingly serious time at the movies. Whether you're after a witty comedy, old Hollywood eye-candy, or memorable performances, the film delivers. The jokes are funny, the sets and parade of outfits are glamourous or amusingly outre (you have to see Rosalind Russell's "eye" dress to believe it), and the gaggle of movie stars are a collective hoot.

Hollywood, always seemingly bereft of new ideas, have been planning a remake forever. The latest attempt has Diane English (TV’s Murphy Brown) at the helm and is currently set to star Annette Bening, Meg Ryan, Uma Thurman, Sandra Bullock, and Ashley Judd. But we’ve been here before with other gltizy line-ups. I’ll believe it when filming commences. With enough lawyers, agent, and star cooperation they may eventually be able to arrive at a start date and produce a film that matches the glamourous star wattage from the 1930s. But they’ll be hard pressed to match the fun of the original film itself.

Read more about The Women?
Norma Shearer: First Lady of MGM
Jon Danzinger Review (funny bit on the film as 'millinery porn')
The Best of Everything: A Joan Crawford Encyclopedia

It's Raining Men

New poll up at the main site ~Modern Movie Actors (A to L). Who do you most love from the past 30 years of film? Beatty? Hoffman? DeNiro? Fiennes? Ford? Hackman? Carrey? etc... so many names. Only one vote. It's always Sophies Choice around here.

Also new at the site: Joe Reid's latest column

Monday, October 24, 2005

Cuddly Critters

Which fuzzy 2005 movie critter do you most want to squeeze?
"...hug him, and love him, and squeeze him and call him George"

a. pesky vermin (W & G) b. baby penguins (March of...) c. baby fox (Grizzly Man) d. Heen e. Turnip (both from Howl's Moving Castle) f. grizzlies (Grizzly Man) g. Obi Wan Kenobi (SW III) or h. Gromit (W & G)

Don't be shy. Who gets you all gooey inside?

The Chronicles of... Oh, Never Mind

Curiousity: Why do I have so little interest in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, the latest lit-rich fantasy epic to be transmorphed into a film series? I love C.S. Lewis as an author and all throughout my life I have had little use for his contemporary J.R.R. Tolkien yet The Lord of the Rings films couldn't have excited me more. Perversely I greet each new Narnia image or trailer with something approximating a shrug. Is it the talking animals? The director of Shrek? Fantasy epic fatigue after 3 Christmases of Middle Earth? Anyone else not feeling excited or is it just me?

Cinderella Man and Oscar Fatigue

Recently Kris Tapley name checked me in a post on his blog about the possible revival of Cinderella Man in this year's Oscar race. So, since he shouted me out and my take on the situation is very different than his, I thought I'd respond. But before I get into this just a quick note: My negative feelings about its chances are not box office or release date related. Surprised? You will be if you've been paying attention. These are the two issues that normally come up in any discussion about why this movie is dead. But these are not the primary reasons why I think the film will have trouble. [Disclaimer: I have not seen this film. I see a lot of movies so its odd that I didn't. But I will catch it on DVD when it is released at the start of awards season. ]

Recently Sasha Stone of Oscar Watch published an article on the contenders so far and Oscar's short-term memory. I do not believe that Oscar's memory is as short as all other Oscar prognosticators seem to believe. I've done the research and years like 2002 when all Best Pictures come from December are much rarer than people think. The last time it happened prior to 2002 was in 1988. Statistics tell us that it's something like 2.3 of the nominees each year from from December. So 2 or 3 a year. And virtually every year has acting nominees that arrived prior to the fall movie season and each and every year people forget that when making their predictions.

But Sasha's article does bring up a point that I think is very relevant to the Cinderella discussion. Her article mentions the 'sexy vote factor' --the need for what you're writing on your ballot to seem fresh, kicky, sexy to you. Why do you want to see a film or a performance recognized unless you're a little in love? This is, theoretically speaking, a reason why so many Oscar nominees are late year releases. The voters are still excited by their new dates. The passion hasn't gone out of the marriage yet. And this is my main problem with buying into the belief that Cinderella Man will resurface in a major way. Who would consider voting for it as something kicky and fresh to do?

This may seem suspect coming from me. I know. I have taken flack for dissing Crowe and dissing Renee and dissing Ron Howard in previous Oscar races. But I am no longer alone in these feelings. The media does not stay in love with celebrities forever. Usually there is a shelf life factor, an expiration date. The biggest and best stars have comebacks but that is a different story for another day. Neither Crowe, who has exhausted many of his supporters with rage-aholic outbursts, nor Zellweger, who is experiencing a tailspin of her own have been in trouble long enough to experience "comebacks". They have never gone away. They are basically just entering the rocky road portion that often follows excessive spotlighting (2000 to 2004 for both of them). They are fixtures of the red carpet who haven't been model citizens (see: Tom Hanks) so it's natural that fatigue of sorts will set in among both media and audiences (and I count the Academy as a unique fusion of these two general entities with many of the same likes and dislikes).

So how would a huge movie about boxing (the genre of the last winner 2004) directed by Ron Howard (winner 2001), who is old-fashioned enough aesthetically to never really have a sexy factor going for him, Russell Crowe (winner 2000) and Renée Zellweger (winner 2003)... combined seem fresh --an exciting thing to vote for? Then, once you add in all the problems that the movie had this summer (box office/pr). Well, it seems like an uphill battle. A very steep one. What could be exciting for Oscar voters about returning to 2000,2001, 2003, and 2004 while they're voting at the end of 2005? Even the Golden Globes, which tend to give celebrities longer consecutive runs than Oscar, eventually move on to someone new. Someone sexier. Someone more [insert number of New Year here]. Hear me?

If Cinderella Man's campaign team can pull this off, it will be one of the most amazing worthy-of-worship-and-raises Oscar campaigns ever, but it will still result in zero Oscar wins in March. Oscar voters are only human. Even if their old affections resurface, they're not going home with any of these previous partners on Oscar night. Everyone knows it. So, what's sexy about voting for a seat-filler as opposed to a potential winner? My theory: Oscar voters will be interested in pursuing new love interests this year.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Try our newly revised Oscar predictions in light of All the Kings Men disappearance.

Feast on the first course of Nick's Top 100 He Loves to Love countdown. List-making 4-evah!!!

Gag on the new news about Coraline (well, not really. I heart Dakota. I know I shouldn't. But I do. I'm just disappointed that they're not making it as a live action film starring Michelle Pfeiffer as "Mother" and "Other/Mother" as originally planned/leaked. sigh)

And enjoy your weekend. I'm off for some R & R. We'll be serving it to you hot again on Sunday night or Monday morning with Joe's new column, a third actor poll, and other tasty treats.

P.S. That Actress "Discoveries" page will come soon. Thanks for your e-mails and participation

New Reviews: Part 2

This movie year is looking to be unusually political when all is said and done. Jarhead, Munich, and Syriana have yet to arrive but we've already seen two films leaning towards politics in one way or another.

Read the reviews of Good Night, and Good Luck and The Constant Gardener

Pushed to 2006

I detailed my feelings about the upcoming remake of All The Kings Menback in August and I've had it camped in my Oscar predictions for awhile now. Word came today at Movie City News that the film is moving to 2006. Around about this time every year this happens, some seemingly major contender vanishes. It doesn't always mean the film is is trouble though that is always the first rumor to spread when a film is delayed. Recent best picture nominees like Gangs of New York, The Hours, and Finding Neverlandwere all delayed a year in their arrivals. This means that since I've just barely updated my Oscar predictions, i will be shifting them again right away rather than waiting till the scheduled changes next month.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

New Reviews: Part 1

Filthy/Gorgeous I feel icky (bad cold) but in an attempt to feel beautifully healthy I thought I'd try and catch up with my reviewing duties...

Read the reviews of Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, The Aristocrats and Wallace & Gromit

Upcoming Nightmare

I woke up this morning in a cold sweaty panic realizing this: Hilary Swank will be @ the Oscars (AGAIN) this year. To compound the terror she will be presenting Best Actor to Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

That moment will be brought to you live from the Kodak theater on my favorite holiday of the year (Oscar Night). I'll have to look at both of them at once. I will want to rip my eyes from their sockets rather than watch but i will not be able to look away. I will have no choice. It will be Oscar night. It will be my own personalized Apocalypse Now. the horror...the horror

Life is cruel.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Other People Like Movies Too: The Sequel

Grand Opening/ Grand Closing
Fun inquisitive post on the North Country poster. Doesn't it look a tad too familiar? I knew I hated it instantly but I couldn't figure out why. Now I know. Thanks for having a better memory than I.

Dreamgirls news
The cast is still coming together but my spidey-sense is not tingling with this adaptation. Just have a hunch that it will be a through-the-roof success. I don't feel one way or another about Beyoncé or Jamie Foxx but I love Anika Noni Rose. I've always said that whoever is cast as Effie is going to be nominated for an Oscar provided they can do "And I Am Telling You" justice. So, this casting possibility (Fantasia Barrino) is kinda surprising --but still as weird as it is to say that an American Idol performer will be an Oscar nominee in one or two years time, I'll trust that Bill Condon knows what he's doing. Even with two AI connections (Anika made her film debut in From Justin and KellyI'm still not nervous about this movie.

Filmmaker Magazine
A fun interview with the always outspoken and usually brilliant DP Chris Doyle of In the Mood for Love, The White Countess, 2046, Hero, and Rabbit Proof Fence fame.

Other People Like Movies Too

I have a cold and will be healing myself with DVDs and theraflu. So before I shut this here MacDaddy down, here are four reading recommendations to keep you entertained / engrossed / thinking about movies...

Joe Reid (tFE columnist & budding TWoP star) has part one of a series up on his blog. It's a hilarious Fall Preview (in Mid October!). A must read.

Kris and I are something of prognosticating arch-rivals (his prediction rate is better than mine but I get the riskier choices more often because I am a wild man when it's down to the wire...sometimes to my embarrasment. sometimes to my eternal glory [snort] ) but anyway...we play nice in the Oscar sandbox together. And we both understand more about the Oscars than some people who are always babbling about it on television (you know who). His new column at Movie City News examines how little has happened in the Oscar race this year. And for reasons unbeknownst to me he takes yet another shot at my little pet Being Julia while dissing Mrs Henderson Presents... (I like Being Julia more than most)

For some insightful chat about the current crop of cinema (leaning toward the off-Hollywood variety) offerings including The Wayward Cloud and A History of Violence

Kerry has a very personal take on The Squid and the Whale which makes me wish I could see it right now (except for this nasty cold business). I love when people personalize the movies. If you also respond the more personal film reviews, another good one in this vein was The Scene Stealer's August look at Lost in Translation.

Hump Day Hottie: Orlando Bloom

Despite the "film bitch" moniker... I am nothing if not a bleeding heart. So, I'm feeling for Orlando Bloom these days. I thought I'd stroke his ego (ahhh, stroking) by giving him the shout-out this Wednesday. His movie (Elizabethtown is tanking at the box office. His last movie (Kingdom of Heaven) tanked at the box office. And naturally, given his extraordinary beauty and ridiculously easy fortune (5 of his first 7 movies were blockbusters), the critics are out for blood. But honestly is it really his fault that he was a ninny in Troy? He was playing the part the way it was written thank you very much. And is it really his fault that Kingdom of Heaven had problems and Elizabethtown is (apparently) a mess?

How can you be hating on a face like this?

So, how do you like your Orlando best? Bloom is pretty tasty in all available varieties: Flynn-like swashbuckler, romantic and scruffy soul-searcher, modern metrosexual? Me, I guess I'm still partial to Elfin. I ♥
Legolas. I do.

P.S. in other Hump Day Hottie news, please congratulate me for eating up the new James Bond before the announcement was made.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

They Shoot Horses, Don't They (1969)

The inaugural edition of our new weekly sidebar item >>> "Classic Movie of the Week" is a gentle forceful nudge to remind us to all investigate cinematic history on a regular basis. There's so much you haven't seen. There's so much I haven't seen. Especially If you don't have a revival house in your city, set up your own movie club. Join Netflix (so affordable and convenient) or Classic Flix (which specializes in pre-1950s movies and has many titles that Netflix doesn't from these decades) and watch one classic a week.

This week's rental suggestion is the fascinating 1969 film They Shoot Horses, Don't They? starring Jane Fonda, Susannah York and Gig Young all of whom were Oscar nominated for their work. Gig Young has the Cabaret MC type of role and he won the supporting Actor Oscar. Jane Fonda is warming up for her even greater bitch-on-wheels Oscar winning tour de force in Klute(1971). But of the three performances I was must stunned by Susannah York who has one particularly yowza scene featuring one of the most chilling and sustained loss-of-sanity bits I've seen from an actor in aeons. The film is set during the great Depression but, in reflection of the late 60s reality-bites mindset is not some Seabiscuit/Cinderella Man style inspirational-triumph-of-the-human-spirit "we're all winners" uplift. They Shoot Horses is a spawn of the "life is hell and then you die" school of filmmaking. But you already knew that all period pieces eventually tell us more about the time in which they're made than the time that they're about, didn't you?

Not that They Shoot Horses... doesn't also educate us. It's a well-made snapshot of a bizarre lesser known moment in history which involved practically unthinkable marathon contests. The narrative casts a fascinating light forward on today's reality television show hijinks and also way back to ancient inhuman entertainments like Christians thrown to the lions. This is a crazy intense film. Highly Recommended

Oscar Trivia: Film buffs take note this is the biggest Oscar-miss in history. Despite nine nominations there was no correlating Best Picture bid.

Oscar's Pre-Season in Swing

Some minor prediction shifting in all Oscar categories over at the site. That's right, the Oscar Predictions for October are up. This includes all categories including the first educated guesses on the possible Foreign Film Nominees. Major gains for Mrs Henderson Presents and Capote and dips for The Three Burials... and The Family Stone which will try to gain traction whilst the media slobbers all over King Kong and The Producers and other wannabe Christmas blockbusters.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Patricia Davies Clarkson & Nicole Mary Kidman

It's finally come down to this: [drumroll] Presenting the top two most, um--something or other (reasons/description of the list is here)--actresses of the first half of the decade. It's been a month now since I started this project. I forget what I'm doing. If you're coming to us late (statistics tell me we've got newcomers tuning in -don't be shy) you can read about that or just eat your dessert before your meal

Patricia Clarkson and Nicole Kidman crown the Top 100 list for 2000~2005. They deserve it.

Read the conclusion to this huge Top 100 list or start at the beginning to experience the countdown in its complete glory.

Previous Film Experience Notes on Patty & Nicole
All the King's Men (Patty)
Screenings (Nicole)
TomKat (N)
2004 Film Bitch Nominations (N & P)
Dogville review and top ten list (P)
2004 Golden Globes (N)
Pieces of April and Station Agent reviews (P)
2003 Film Bitch Nominations (P)
2003 Supporting Actress Race (P)
Far From Heaven #1 (P)
Far From Heaven review (P)
2002 Film Bitch Nominations (N & P)
2002 Best Actress Race (N)
2002 Oscar Diary (N)
Moulin Rouge! #1 (N)
Moulin Rouge! review
The Others review
2001 Film Bitch Silver Medal (N)
2001 Oscar Best Actress Race (N)
2001 Best Actress Pre-Nominations (N)

Thank You For Your Patience

the conclusion to the Actress month (countdown, etc...) and to the updated Oscar predictions
etcetera etcetera etcera
will be available later today. For now I must be off to job interviews (wish me luck) and other such matters
I'd rather sit around and talk about actresses all day but it don't pay the rent
what a world what a world

Tara Reid

In the Actress Countdown I had no choice but to give the second spot to this über talented Tara Reid. Her filmography continues to startle. Her television work in Wild On... elevates the medium, taking it far away from its dismissive notoriety as the "boob tube".

Read the rest?

Happy Anniversary IMDB

Happy 15th Anniversary to the IMDB. A great resource/service to film fans everywhere and a necessity, like water or oxygen, for people like me. Here's to 15 more. Now, if they could just figure out a way to remove TV from their listings (so you can look at JUST filmographies. Or if they could just figure out a way to include "as himself/herself" in the actual filmography IF it's an actual film role (Being John Malkovich for Malkovich or Irma Vep for Maggie Cheung, f'rinstance) rather than some awards show appearance--than they'd be just about perfect.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Kate Elizabeth Winslet

"At this point in the countdown I think it wise to remind readers of what this list is and what this list is not. This is not a list of my favorite actresses of all time. Nor is it a list of my favorite contemporary actresses of my filmgoing life. For the record and in no particular order that would be..." read the rest...

Previous Film Experience Notes on the English Rose
'All The Kings Men'
Kate Loves Morgan
2004 Bronze Medal: Best Actress
2004 Oscar Race: Best Actress
2004 Oscar Review: Best Dressed
Enigma review
2001 Oscar Review: Best Dressed
2001 Oscar Race: Supporting Actress
2001 Gold Medal: Supporting Actress
Iris review
Quills review
1999 Holy Smoke Gold Medal

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Kirsten Caroline Dunst

10,9,8,7,6,5 4

Previous Film Experience Notes on "Kiki"
measure your pleasure
Movie Alphabet
2004 Supporting Actress Honorable Mention
"Onward Kirsten Soldiers" (2002 Reviews)
2001 Best Actress: Honorable Mention
crazy/beautiful underrated
Bring It On Review
Virgin Suicides Review
2000 Bronze Medal: Supporting Actress and Silver: Character Intro

Samantha Morton

In the Actress of the Aughts Countdown please welcome ... Actress # 5

Previous Film Experience Notes on Samantha Morton
2003 Best Actress Race
Minority Report review
Morvern Callar review
2002 Best Actress Nominee
2001 Line Reading Nominee
2000 Silver Medal: Supporting Actress and Gold: Character Intro

Joe Reid Returns

Our news columnist returns from his vacation with an extra thick column on Cruise's Messiantology, Casting rumors, another white-people-save-the-world epic, Oscar Predictions, and Kirsten Dunst...

Read. Gossip. Discuss.

Friday, October 14, 2005

I Can't Keep On Waiting For Her...

Every little thing that she says or does
I´m hung up
I´m hung up on her

(thanks to ModFab for the tip)


I know you're all here looking for the next player in the Actress of the Aughts countdown (patience, readers, patience) but while you're visiting please vote on the Classic Male Movie Star Pollon the main site. I realize I always have too many things going on at once. Sue me. But Brando can't be the only masculine contender that works your fandom into a lather.

I know I suggested that a top 100 countdown of the xy variety would follow but we may have to take a little breaksie after this exhausting Actress Countdown concludes. And besides in less than two months awards season begins. Good times.

Julie Anne Smith

Julianne Moore is God... number six in the Actress of the Aughts Countdown. (but still divine -never fear)

Previous Film Experience Notes on God
Julianne Moore: Time Traveller
Wherefore Art Thou Julie Anne?
The Forgotten review
"Look Away"Laws of Attraction review
2002: Top TenThe Hoursand Far From Heaven
2002 Oscars: Best Actress
2002 Oscars: Best Supporting Actress
2002 Oscar Diary
2002 Gold Medal: Best Actress
2002 Indie Spirit Awards
Far From Heaven review
The Shipping News review
Evolution review
World Traveller review
Hannibal review

and much more in...
The Shrine Room: "Julianne Moore is God"

A Useless Moment Spent Thinking About Elizabethtown

I really have no desire to see this new picture. [There's really nothing opening for me to see this week. shame]. But back to Elizabethtown. I have this horrible suspicion that when Kirsten Dunst shows up on my Actresses of the Aughts list people will be pissed off since we all like to think in the present tense. And if people hate Elizabethtown and Dunst in it --will they be out for blood?

Sweeney Todd

So, I took in the revival of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street last night. It opens proper on November 3rd. I had been worried about Patti Lupone as Mrs Lovett but my worries were for naught. Though the part hardly demands "restraint" Lupone's natural performance style is, from my way of thinking, so broad that I thought her meat pies would be overdone. Not so much. They taste just right. She and Michael Cerveris, both of them Tony winners and likely to be nominated again for this production, were both terrific in the famous leading roles.

I'm familiar with the score but this was my first experience seeing an actual production of Sweeney Todd so I can't compare it to anything. I don't know how it measures up. But for me it worked like gangbusters in this stripped down version. The set, featuring unusually vertical staging, never changes. The actors are the orchestra. And wonder of wonders it's not overmic'ed like so many Broadway shows. But it's thrilling. Loved it. Loved it. Loved it. I couldn't even breathe towards the end. Highly recommended

p.s. If they ever do make a movie of this musical as they've been threatening to for years (Jarhead director Sam Mendes currently has dibs) and it's well done and well cast, whoever plays Mrs. Lovett will win the Oscar. It's a huge juicy comic practically co-lead role and you know how they love those in the supporting categories.

Catherine Elise Blanchett

In the Actress of the Aughts Countdown we reach lucky number seven

Previous Film Experience Notes on Oscar Winner (feels good to say, doesn't it) Cate Blanchett:
2004 Oscar Win: Notes on the Race
2004 Silver Medal: Best Supporting Actress. Gold Medal: Character Intro
The Aviator review
The Shipping News review
2001: Supporting Actress (Honorable Mention)
The Gift review

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Michelle Pfeiffer

The One. The Only. Michelle Pfeiffer

Previous Film Experience Notes on La Pfeiffer:
I Could Never Be Your Woman
Cat Woman
God's Gift
2002: Lamentations & Oscar Snub
2002 Gold Medal: Best Supporting Actress
2002 SAG nomination Reactions
FB Awards: Best Villain, Diva of the Year
White Oleander review
Sound of Musicals (2001): Hollywood's Talent Pool
FB Awards: Best Actress (Honorable Mention)
What Lies Beneath review
In the Pflesh: A True Story (October 1999)
1999 Retrospective: Best Actress

and much much more in...
Pfandom: Michelle Pfeiffer Pforever

Scarlett Johansson

In the Actress of the Aughts Countdown we reach number nine

Previous Film Experience Notes on ScarJo:
Which 20-something actress are you?
The Island Trailer
Lost in Translation ~ #3 for #2003
FB Awards: 2003 Best Actress Nominee
LiT review (I like it one grade better now ;))
a Bob & Charlotte day

Antonia Collette

In the Actress of the Aughts Countdown the Top Ten begins...

Previous Film Experience Notes on Toni Collette:
Your BioPic Fantasies
In Her Skeleton
One Singular Australian
FB Awards: 2004 Best Actress Semi-Finalist
Oscar Diary 2003: (Feb 8th & 7th Entries)
2002 Silver Medal: Best Actress in a Limited or Cameo Role
Sound of Musicals (2001): Hollywood's Talent Pool
1999 Retrospective: Supporting Actress

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

What I Need

To make my website everything I want it to be, I need...
1) a massage therapist willing to work frequently for a reasonable price on my computer frozen neck and shoulders...
2) a Flash expert to tutor me quickly and creatively
3) a photographer to collaborate with for movie inspired photoshoots.
So...if you live in NYC and happen to be a talented computer animation expert with a camera held in your strong deep-tissue trained hands, please give me a call immediately.

Thurman. McDormand. Huppert. Deneuve. Allen.

The passion continues to grow. We have already moved into worshipful territory. #15 through #11 in the Actress of the Aughts countdown has been posted. They are [drumroll please] Tarantino's muse and America's amazon blonde Uma Thurman, 'as sexy as she wanna be' tradition buster Frances McDormand, France's mindblowing ice queens Isabelle Huppert and Catherine Déneuve, and the contender herself Joan Allen. (And she sure as hell better be a contender in this year's Oscar race)

Read and discussThe top ten begins tomorrow.

Hump Day Hottie: Lady Tottington

Oh. Don't pretend you aren't interested in her produce!

It's not just her aristocratic bearing that gives this Lady that special something. Her character and her fashion sense go along way too. Kindness to animals is a sure sign of inner beauty and inner beauty is hot. As for her outer beauty, well look around. In Wallace and Gromit's world is there anyone hotter? Her singular way with accessories also bears mentioning. No ensemble comes without a special touch, a leaf in the hair perhaps --or, hell, a whole fronds for those special evenings entertaining the townsfolk at her vast estate. It's not just Wallace who wants entrance to her secret garden.

Lady Tottington for a 'cracking' good time...