Friday, February 16, 2007

Oscar Symposium Day Two!

The second day of our group Academy Award chatter is now posted. Read it here (or start from the beginning if you missed yesterday's installment)

In this second installment: ageism and Venus, Han Solo in carbonite, Half Nelson II: Mr. Dunne Starts Hustling, Kate Winslet (again), technical arguments, Little Miss Sunshine, and Eddie & Jennifer.



Got something to say about anything said? Say it here in the comments.

tags: Oscar Watch, Slant Magazine, Ryan Gosling, movies, Kate Winslet, oscars, Academy Awards, Venus, Pajiba, Jennifer Hudson, documentary, Little Miss Sunshine,botox, sequels

32 comments:

Edward Copeland said...

Just finished reading Day 2 of the symposium and I have several thoughts. First, I want to rise to the defense of Alan Arkin who I think is spectacular in Little Miss Sunshine, from his have lots of sex speech to his tenderness with Olive in the hotel room, he hits lots of notes and hits them well. I was disappointed that his character exited so early. Right now, I'm feeling that Murphy isn't going to pull it off and Arkin will be the beneficiary. It's always dangerous to rely on precedents, but no film has ever won two acting awards without at least a best picture or a best director nomination and I don't think Dreamgirls can break that streak, especially since Hudson is a lock. I mean -- her competition are two foreign unknowns, a 10-year-old girl and someone who won two years ago. As for O'Toole in Venus, while I didn't care for the film, it was all about aging and being past your prime and I don't think he's had work down. He's looked pretty haggard on the appearances I caught him on on The Daily Show and Letterman. Still, Whitaker has it sewn up. I also agree that DiCaprio was better in The Departed than Blood Diamond, but I think they so confused the issue over who was lead or supporting that that is how he, Damon and Nicholson got left out. Wahlberg made it not only because he was good but because he was clearly supporting. I think the person who really got left out this year is Michael Sheen for The Queen. Strategically, they were probably right to sell him as supporting, but really he's in it almost as much as Mirren and in this weak lead actor field, he might have had a shot at landing there. Also, and I'll probably get beat up for saying this, but why is Djimon Hounsou a two-time Oscar nominee? I don't get it. Whether he's a dying New York artist, a 19th century slave or an African diamond smuggler worried about his family, he always seems exactly the same to me. Put aside the fact that he's also a co-lead in Blood Diamond, I just don't get the continued praise for him.

Brian said...

Interesting thoughts on sequelizing Oscar nominees. Where did I hear that the Queen actually is going to be getting a Blair-focused sequel? That would make a trilogy; the Queen is itself a sequel to the made-for-tv the Deal.

And I saw Iraq in Fragments director James Longley speak after a screening of his film at the San Francisco International Film Festival, in which he talked about having followed several other stories of Iraqis under the occupation. In particular there was one story that he for the longest time expected to include in the film as a fourth fragment. It looks like that story resurfaced as a short film Sari's Mother, and played the Toronto Film Festival. Perhaps destined to be a DVD extra?

NATHANIEL R said...

i gotta get to this iraq in fragments movie. It's reopening here so that's good.

NATHANIEL R said...

edward --i totally hear you on the Hounsou thing. He's very nice to look at and he has great screen presence but I don't think either of his nominated performance are great acting.

And the BLood Diamond role is just so underthought and limiting. for what it is he does fine work but it's really not asking much of him.

Stephen G said...

Nick said:
"I think Terrence Malick should complete the Iwo Jima trilogy by restaging the battle one more time and contemplating its implications from the point of view of the sand, and maybe the hill, if there's time."

This. just. killed. me.

Craig Hickman said...

I finally saw Little Children, and while I love Kate Winslet, I think she was just okay in this film. I haven't seen many films this year, but it seems this was a good year for actresses. If that's the case, Streep (entertaining artifice springs to mind for this performance) and Winslet ought to have been replaced.

As for supporting actor, I'm not sure about Jackie Earle Haley either. Feels like I've seen that performance before. If I could only remember where. I did see Michael Sheen's work (supporting to me, not co-lead), and he ought to have been on the short list. Djimon Hounsou? Whatever. He really does somehow appear to play the same character in a different setting. Eddie Murphy's chances my be solidified by Norbit. Haven't seen Norbit (I enjoy Eddie's comedies, though), but it appears that it will reinforce just how "role of a lifetime" Jimmy Early really was. Now, if he could get the lead in a James Brown biopic...

I wouldn't call supporting actress a washout because Jennifer is so stunning. And she shouldn't be penalized for of her campaign, which she has little if any control over (though she might - Diana Ross not winning for Lady Sings the Blues still pisses me off!). I won't see Babel, so I can't comment. Haven't gotten to Notes yet either. Will wait for the DVD. Abigail Breslin is cute, but I wouldn't have nominated her. (Interesting that the the two least deserving actors from that film got nods.) Based on the short, short list of films I've seen, Anika Noni Rose, who was never promoted, could've fit right in. And yeah, I know, I know, but I love Jodie Foster enough to be happy to see her nominated for damn near anything.

And speaking of Inside Man, I rather enjoyed that film and thought it was well-written and very well directed. A take on post 9-11 New York that chose not to dramatize the events themselves.

Kudos.

Anon in Yorkshire said...

As Brian says, I'm sure I remember reading somewhere that Frears and Morgan have a third installment planned following "The Deal" and "The Queen". Frears said that Tony Blair is reportedly happy with his portrayal in "The Queen" but may not be so very happy with part III which will indeed focus on the moment when people turn on him as predicted. I'd be mighty interested to see that and even more so to see the whole set as an actual trilogy.

I liked "The Queen". It's slight, but intriguing (speaking as a brit here) but there is something stimulating about watching very recent history being specifically visualised. If that makes sense.

Very interesting discussion on actor races, particularly the apparant imbalance caused by one side having extremely strong nominations. I'm happy whoever wins actress, but anyone other than Gosling (which won't happen) or Whitaker winning actor looks like a travesty to me. Good performances, yes - but best of the year?

Ben said...

Hey there, panel. I just read everything up to this point and loved the variety of voices. So kudos are in order.

Personally, I thought the Dreamgirls snub was a step in the right direction. A big step. That movie was hyped since January of last year and I went into it hoping it was great, expecting it to be good, but ultimately being bored out of my mind. As for J Hud, I think she's great when she's singing (and luckily, she sings for most of the film), but like was already mentioned, when she's just speaking, she's just meh. It is an acting award, and for that, can Miss Barraza PLEASE pull an upset?

I think the race for Best Picture comes down to who wins the Best Original Screenplay category. Babel and Little Miss Sunshine will split these awards, I think, but I'm not sure who will get what. I'll say LMS for screenplay, as that's usually a "Sorry We Can't Reward You Anywhere Else" award (Lost in Translation, anyone?), leaving Babel for Best Picture (Lord help us all... honestly, it was just OK).

Finally, can someone explain to me what the hell happened to the marketing for Children of Men? That sort of thing pisses me off, where a movie was great, it had the critical support, and it fell through the cracks because the Oscar isn't a "Best Of" award, it's an award for best ad campaign.

Anonymous said...

omg!!!!i cant believe wats being said about kate winslet!!!i genuinely think it was 1 of her best performances(and thats saying something!).it was sooo heart braking and funny 2!!

NATHANIEL R said...

i really hope that you're wrong Ben... I mean I do NOT want Babel to win. I don't hate it and it certainly wouldn't be the travesty that Crash was primarily because it wouldn't be defeating an instant modern classic. BUT still. I think it's the least of the nominees.

and i would be behind the dreamgirls snub as a statement against hype EXCEPT that in other cases hype works just fine so i'm not sure that that's what it was about.

anon --i know that imbalance is odd, isn't it? But it seems to be (generally speaking) a truth. It's like you just can't have everything ;)

right said...

As others have noted, The Queen is itself a sequel to a made-for-TV movie with Michael Sheen directed by Frears and written by Morgan about Blair's rise to power in the labor party.

They are widely expected to make a third, again following Blair, focusing more on the Iraq war, and his more recent struggles (very similar to what Sasha was asking for, in fact!)

J.D. Judge said...

I'm okay with any of the films (except LFIJ, haven't seen) to win. I thought they were all good. My vote goes to Babel, but all but The Queen are in my Top Ten, and it's in the Top 11-15.

Now, predicting BP is one of the trickiest races probably in years. LFIJ I think has no chance, while The Queen has little, if any. So that leads...

BABEL: They surprisingly gave it to Crash. What disproves that they like that structure?

THE DEPARTED: Guarenteed in Director and A. Screenplay, but Picture is looking worse and worse. Don't be surprised though.

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE: The little film that could. But can it? It's amazing and mind-boggling journey keeps surprising, so... can it?

My Prediction: Babel, but I can totally see The Departed winning.

Ohh, and Nat, which did you think was a least good film: Babel or Dreamgirls?

Brian said...

Thinking about sequels has just led me to realize something that perhaps has been noted elsewhere: of the five Best Picture nominees, only one is not in any way a remake or a sequel: Little Miss Sunshine. I wonder if that's why it's become such a rooted-for underdog that it may actually overcome "the point spread" and win the big prize?

OK, Babel is only a sequel under the very loosest of definitions (the final film in González Iñárritu's thematic trilogy, but not sharing any characters from the previous two films of the trio). And Letters From Iwo Jima might be better called one half of a two-part film than a sequel.

But even if they (and the Queen and the Departed) only dance around the fringes of the typical Hollywood sequel/remake/franchise machinery that's turning many moviegoers away from their product, I can imagine that a film that is completely, entirely free from such associations might feel like a refreshing choice to some Academy voters who think about such things.

Gerry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerry said...

I know we'll never agree on this, Nathaniel, but if you shoot in Versailles, I don't think your Art Direction can be award worthy.

SUCH a substantial portion of the work that is the scouting of locations (largely done for M-A) and the construction of sets which not only best fit the period (already done for M-A) but which also can physically withstand the process of production (already done for M-A).

I realize there is more to Art Direction than that and I'll concede "Marie Antoinette" does an admirable job in that respect (even if I didn't totally dig the colour palette). But if all the aforementioned work is done for you, your work can certainly be good, maybe even very good...but award-worthy?

Now that said rant is out of me, I'll add that "Children of Men" had the best Art Direction of the year and certainly more worthy than "Dreamgirls."

I'd have nominated "Children of Men," "The Prestige," "Pan's Labyrinth," "World Trade Center" and "The Good German" myself.

Craig Hickman said...

A note on the acting awards:

The official names, as most of us surely know, are "best performance by an actress" or "actor" in a "leading" or "supporting role."

To me, then, the operative word is "performance." Who gives the best PERFORMANCE?

If a person is cast in a predominantly singing role and gives a great performance in that capacity, it smacks of snobbery, to me at least, to talk about the award being for ACTING not SINGING. As if goog acting isn't good singing and vice versa. (The vocal warmups are quite similar indeed.) Bottom line: you've got lyrics to deliver and you hope to interpret and convey them in a way that feels real, that emotes, that provokes an emotional response from the seer, listener. (Voiceover work comes to mind here. Also acting.) If Jennifer hit some wrong notes in her spoken word, as seems to be a consensus among many, do those errors take away from all the right notes she hit in her singing words?

AMPAS may decide that they do. But so far, the big voters, including her fellow ACTORS, have decided that they don't.

Kudos.

Arkaan said...

"If Jennifer hit some wrong notes in her spoken word, as seems to be a consensus among many, do those errors take away from all the right notes she hit in her singing words?"

Maybe not, but it does detract from the overall impression you have, which is how you vote. It's just like if an actor can hit one scene but not another, imo.

Eric said...

If it goes to BABEL… then I will feel a tad, a TAD, microscopic bite better about the “Crash” debacle because a win for “Babel” would pretty much confirm that lately voters are just trying to look culturally and politically conscious with their picks.

If it goes to LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE… I’ll be shocked. A cute, fun underdog. Fully deserving of a nod. But Oscar’s Best Picture of the year? No. The only good things about a win for it would be a) genuine comedy finally winning again and b) another Best Picture winner featuring a gay character in a major role. There aren’t many as we all know. Sigh.

If it goes to THE QUEEN… it won’t… moving on.

If it goes to LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA… I’ll yawn and it will confirm that Eastwood / mediocre Paul Haggis rule Hollywood.

I’m still betting THE DEPARTED follows in the footsteps of Lambs. I mean; Critics + DGA + box office + Directing / Screenplay Oscar in the bag. The ‘violence turning off voters’ argument is BS. It’s SEX their afraid of… not guns and bloodshed.

SHOULD & WILL WIN: The Departed
MIGHT UPSET: Babel / Little Miss Sunshine

Jake said...

I'd be interested to hear Arden expand on her disdain for Natalie Portman. That never gets old. Also, more talk about the contenders for Best Director. ;)

adam k. said...

I have to agree with Eric that it looks like Departed's to lose. It's true that DGA + WGA + director and screenplay oscars in the bag + critics + big box office = a frontrunner. It is very reminiscent of Lambs.

I personally LOVE Little Miss Sunshine, but I hope The Departed wins cause it won't get a backlash (LMS would) and then Scorsese would finally have been fully rewarded and we can all move on with our lives. Plus LMS as a concept would make more sense as "the film that lost."

And as for JHud, I agree that her singing was great and her acting was not so much. I hate all this talk about how Condon worked so hard to get the performance out of her. Dreamgirls' direction was mediocre. Frankly, I think it's Condon's fault Jennifer wasn't better than she was with the acting. Basically, she sang amazingly but her acting was average. Did that really require that much work on Condon's part? We knew she could sing before.

And yes, the singing gives her many many points toward being award-worthy, but a truly great perf should be great across the board. Plus even some of her singing could've been better IMO (I was not a huge fan of her "I Am Changing"... I know that's just me, but whatevs).

Steven said...

I find it a little frustrating when people say Jennifer was amazing when she was singing but terrible when she was acting. I am a musical theatre performer and I just have to say that the reason why she was so successful while she was singing was because she was acting her butt off. It's not easy to technically sing those songs, but I think it's even harder to act those songs well, especially with repeating lyrics that need to be reinterpreted each time like in "And I Am Telling You." If her spoken bits didn't please some people, then fine. But those are not the only moments where she is "acting."

~Steven

daveylow said...

First I have to say I'm enjoying everyone's comments immensely.
You could do this symposium monthly together and I would read it religiously.

I do not understand this overhype for Little Miss Sunshine. It's a good little movie but why it's the indie film that's been chosen to adore over and over again is beyond me. The latest ad with Greg Kinnear hugging Breslin really pushed me over the edge. They're doing a lot to make me hate the film when I used to like it.

I hope Half Nelson wins at the Spirit Awards over Sunshine--I think they're in the same category.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Agreed with Steven about Hudson. Singing can be a performance. Of course, I was a fan of her non-singing acting, so...

Agreed with Joe that the Japan segment of Babel should have been it's own self-containted film. It was the best of the four stories (FOUR!ugh) and it felt different. It didn't feel like they were constantly trying to connect it to the other stories (apart from the tenuous gun bit). And if Kikuchi had more time to flesh out this character (instead of it just being scene one: flash vagajay. scene two: come on to dentist. scene three: flash vagajay. scene four: cry) it could've been really spectacular. All the positives of that movie (for me) were in that segment. The acting, the writing, the visuals, the music. The others were a wash, but that part was good.

Agree with Nat about the Dreamgirls sets. Nothing there. Chicago at least had fantasy bits. And I must point out when everyone was discussing Children of Men's award possibilities back in October, I saw the film and said you WOULDN'T get nominated. Too many plain ol' houses and country roads. I disagree, but I said it. I changed my mind in the end, but to toot my own horn, I totally saw that coming.

Kamikaze Camel said...

"I saw the film and said you WOULDN'T get nominated."

=

I saw the film and said it WOULDN'T get nominated FOR ART DIRECTION.

Dunno what happened there.

Anonymous said...

If Jennifer Hudson wins the Oscar, it will be for her fully realized, energetic, and dynamic performance in "Dreamgirls". It isn't just for the singing, and it's frustrating when you constantly read the detractors boil it down to the terribly simplistic "the Oscar's for acting, not singing!" generalizations. It won't be the first time an Oscar was won where singing was the primary component fueling the win, and it won't be the last, nor does that win become invalidated b/c of the singing alone. Hudson did far more than just "sing" in the film -- she brought the heart and soul through to the film that wouldn't have been there otherwise through humor, longing, sadness, despair, and redemption. I'm glad that her character's presence was felt in her main scenes and especially in her absences. I'll be more than happy to see her grace the Oscar podium with that statue in hand for a star-making, well-deserved supporting actress win this month along with all of her other honors.

NATHANIEL R said...

daveylow --thanks for the compliment. I would probably die if i attempted symposiums monthly though --wouldn't you rather I lived ;)

gerry --if MA shouldn't be nominated because Versailles already exists that what of all the nominees where the great outdoors are a crucial part of the production designs. These places exist too. I wasn't part of the MA film crew but I'm certain that they had to do more than just show up and start shooting. There's still millions of choices to be made.

anonymous & steven I do COMPLETELY agree that singing involves acting (and let me just say: I worship people who do both well --saw FOLLIES last week here in NYC and Victoria Clark and Donna Murphy, my god: the brilliance)

...but here's the catch: the musical performances that have won the Oscar (think: Minelli in Cabaret, Streisand in Funny Girl, Zeta-Jones in Chicago, etc...) are usually flat out excellent in every part of what they're asked to do, romantic scenes, comedic bits, character arcs and of course the songs.

I don't think that Jennifer Hudson's performance is "bad" in any way but it feels like a first time actor getting a great role and working her ass off to knock her signature scene out of the park. And the movie hands itself to her constantly. The movie itself from every piece of direction and editing and (set set spike) rhythms of the scenes is about 'you're gonna love her' --it's the directions prime mission and this part he does well.

that said, I still love Jennifer Hudson as a singer. Always have. And I enjoyed her performance in Dreamgirls And I will buy all her records. And I will be happy when she wins the Oscar because I love her (and because I don't love any of her competitors enough to be upset about 'no fair' ;))

Craig agreed on Inside Man except the Jodie bit. And I love that Spike Lee keeps making the 9/11 movies without being directly 9/11. Such a smart and talented guy.

Kamikaze Camel said...

BTW, Doesn't Vilmos Zsigmond just have the best name?

Gerry said...

I have no doubt they did a lot more than show up and start shooting but they did a helluva lot less than, say, "The Good German" did on Hollywood backlots or, hell, even "The Illusionist" did transforming modern day Prague into 1900-ish Venice.

I don't know if you've ever been to Versailles but, apart from the props (which don't make the achievement worthy in and of itself), the film essentially looks like the palace looks.

Choosing locations from within Versailles I just don't consider to be that challenging. Sorry (again, I don't expect you to accept this opinion ;) ).

Steven said...

O agreed, Nat. I wasn't saying that she gave the most complete performance. I just wanted to point out that there is acting involved in singing. That's all.

And can I say I'm completely jealous that you saw Follies! Haha.

~Steven

Craig Hickman said...

Nate, thanks for noticing.

And to Steven & Anonymous, I was beginning to wonder if I was the only one on this blog who loved Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls.(Not that I minded, but company is nice too)

And Kamikaze, I enjoyed her spoken word scenes as well. The one that stands out most in my mind's eye is the bit on Martin Luther King. Didn't see where she was going, like where she ended up. Loved. That. Scene.

Kamikaze Camel said...

I thought the bit where she walked out of the studio and, SHOCK, there's a riot outside, was quite comical.

But that's Bill Condon's fault. In fact, most of what was wrong with that movie was Condon's fault.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry craig -- you're far from being along about Hudson. :D