Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Saturn Awards: Spacey As Ever

One of the reasons that fiction of the genre variety (fantasy, horror, sci-fi etc...) has trouble getting and maintaining mainstream respect is that its target audience (and I include myself there) is too uncritical --there's a reason the term "fanboy" got popular --lapping up both five star dining and fast food junk as if it's all gourmet. Charmed is a supernatural tv series about powerful women but it's no Buffy the Vampire Slayer you know? Daredevil swings around Manhattan in red spandex but he's no Spider-Man. You can see this unfortunate 'we love everything!' phenomenon play out every year in the Saturn Awards. The Academy of Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror Films have released their latest crop of nominations and the results are typical.

Take their "Best Science Fiction Film" category for a perfect example:
  • CHILDREN OF MEN (Universal)
  • DÉJÀ VU (Buena Vista)
  • THE FOUNTAIN (Warner Bros.)
  • THE PRESTIGE (Buena Vista)
  • V FOR VENDETTA (Warner Bros.)
  • X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (20th Century Fox)

My first instinct seeing Children of Men and The Fountain listed with "best" attached is to jump up and applaud. It's great that there's an organization that's not blind to their considerable ambition and showmanship. But when that same organization considers X-Men: The Last Stand a qualitative peer, the heart drops. You realize that they love Children of Men and The Fountain only because of their genre... not because they're, you know, excellent.

Another example: Best Actress
  • Kate Bosworth SUPERMAN RETURNS (Warner Bros)
  • Judi Dench NOTES ON A SCANDAL (Fox Searchlight)
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal STRANGER THAN FICTION (Sony)
  • Shauna McDonald THE DESCENT (Lionsgate)
  • Natalie Portman V FOR VENDETTA (Warner Bros.)
  • "She Who Must Not Be Named" MISS POTTER (Weinstein Company)
Never mind that they found a way to honor you know who (don't say her name out loud!!!) Never mind that they misspell Dench's name on their official site. We all make mistakes. But how can any organization expect to be taken seriously when they'll list Dench's powerhouse soon to be classic creation right alongside Kate Bosworth's misguided and soggy interpretation of Lois Lane?

The Saturn Awards are deeply silly for many reasons and this kind of juxtaposition is just one of them. I also don't understand why "ghetto" awards like these or like the Academy's Animated Film branch can't understand that the more nominees you have in a small field the more impossible you are to take seriously. Say what you will about AMPAS' taste level each year in their Best Picture category but they're only choosing 5 films to so honor from a field of literally hundreds. When your pool of nominees is much much much smaller should you really have more nominees? It's like when the TONY Awards have a category with only 3 eligible plays or revivals or what have you and nominate all of them. What an honor!

The Insomniac's Request

I'm going on two straight nights of insomnia. Perhaps the end of Oscar season has been met with a violent jolt of my internal clock versus me? I am never fully awake or asleep Help meeeee

Since I can't think clearly, you do it for me. Time to bring back "Reader Request" Suggest a topic: a film, a scene, an actor, a performance --something specific, it's not a book, it's a blog entry. I'll choose one of them to post for Monday. If you wanna see what's been done in the past, that's why I have these new handy "labels" at the end of each post

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Oscar Contest

Last week I asked you to make your Oscar predictions in 7 of the toughest to predict Oscar categories. It was the best attended contest yet. Due to the crazy awards year most of the entries were way off (I'm assuming y'all didn't do much better than my 15/24 ratio of success). Winners of this contest are Matthew from Canada and Ritesh from California who both guessed 5 of the 7 categories correctly. In the tie breaker "guess the dress colors" contest, though neither contestant had an exact match, Ritesh came closest to the right color on Helen Mirren and in doing so wins a DVD of Canada's foreign film nominee Water. [side note: Ritesh, who also won the SAG prediction a year ago, must be some kind of prognosticating genius! ] Matthew wins the screenplay to Thank You For Smoking. Your prizes will be in the mail this week.

Thanks to everyone who participated. I'm working on an elaborate contest for March, so stay tuned. I wanna also bow down to Glenn, Adam and Amir from Oxford who all got 4 of the 7 categories right ~they almost made it to the winner's circle.

Finally a nod to our most sartorially psychic participants. Michael from Beverly Hills was the only person to get Helen Mirren exactly right with "I want to say champagne" Fred from Ohio was in the right ballpark for Helen and Kate's color choices and Ziyad from Israel did the same for Helen and Jennifer's looks.

Speaking of Jennifer --she couldn't keep her clothes on. She changed three times that night. Which was your favorite look?

You're the Perfect Post For Me, I Link You I Do

popbytes celebrates Michelle Pfeiffer's Allure
Burbanked "when it comes to the Oscars..."
Cinematical Jake Gyllenhaal's "perfect path"
Hollywood Elsewhere on the sourpuss reviews of the Oscars.

On that last note: I personally felt pretty much how Nick felt 'best show in years.' I'll never quite get why people hate watching the Oscars so much. Or rather if they hate it so much why they still do it. I personally love it. Even when it's kinda boring. And Sunday night was NOT boring. It was the first in years when many of the winners were not foregone conclusions (unless you only care about the four acting prizes in which case, just watch the news wrap up or any of the hundreds of fashion reviews and save yourself time)

The repeated diss that most boggles my mind is the anger towards the Pilobolus dance interludes. Those choreographed shadow poses took, what, 30 seconds to form. How can you get bored in 30 seconds. Is there a nationwide ritalin shortage?

Yes, the Academy Awards often make terrible winner choices --this year not so much-- but it's a 79 year-old institution, what is the audience expecting when they watch? If you're not expecting 3+ hours of clips, speeches, endless gowns, kinda tacky musical numbers, celebrity presenters and hit or miss 'scripted' banter, then quite frankly: you're an idiot. Has no one ever watched this show before? Or does everyone just get amnesia when it comes time to "review" it. This was a really good ceremony as Oscar nights go.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Oscar Night Review: Lesbians, Goodfellas, and Our Queen

If you care at all about the Oscars, you already know who won. So let’s start with something you didn’t know: Jennifer Hudson’s auspicious show biz beginnings. No, not auditioning for American Idol. Everyone knows about that. No, long before she became a foolishly rejected American Idol or an actual Oscar Winner (!) she was an original cast member of Xanadu!

You didn’t know, did you? If Hollywood is looking for an historian of such facts I am more than available. These things get lost in the shuffle of our rapidly shifting pop landscape. I am ready and available to document.

Jennifer eventually took off the Greek disco muse wrap and joined the land of the standardly glamorous for Hollywood's High Holy Night, the Oscars. [Also known as "Nathaniel's New Years Eve" --now I can get on with 2007. Finally] But she didn’t make my best or worst dressed list. With or without the Xanadont flourishes.

for Best & Worst Dressed, Hot Men, Power Lesbians and the crowning of Mirren and Marty

Tags: movies, cinema, Academy Awards, Helen Mirren, ellen degeneres, film, Jodie Foster, Melissa Etheridge,Oscars, Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, worst dressed, best dressed

Nicki Kidman: Camera Hog

It's that annoying guest at the party that barges into every photo op. You'll have to photoshop them out later for scrapbooking purposes

Just kidding Nic'. Love you. I'm sure you're going to get some worst dressed citations but just know that we here at the Film Experience understand the symbolism of your dress. You're a gift to the cinema wrapped up tight and topped off with a giant red bow. Perfectly understandable! Didn't everyone get that?

PSA: Attention Casting Directors

Elisabeth Shue is still very much alive. She proved it by showing up on the red carpet at last night's Oscars. Can someone please give her a job!? I mean a real job. I don't mean like a victim of spooky child job or a mom of Hot Young-Man walk on. I mean a real meaty role. Remember how completely incredible she was in Leaving Las Vegas? How can you give a performance like that and be mostly ignored.

Plus: still pretty.

First casting director to give her a great role again gets a gold star and my thanks.

A Pre-Coffee Glance Back at Last Night

I'll whip up something "Oscary Review" later but the coffee injection is required first... a lot of it.

Things I Was (Mostly) Right About: I predicted that Pan's, Dreamgirls, and The Departed would walk off with the most Oscars. Dreamgirls didn't. The other two did.
Things I Was Wrong About: Lots of things (all the Oscar pages are updated)
Highlights: Finally seeing Martin Scorsese win. I was so completely nervous and thrilled
Low Points: Seeing Emmanuel Lubezki lose for cinematography (for Children of Men) to Pan's Labyrinth. I'd argue that Lubezki was the most deserving frontrunner in the entire building in any category. That was hard to sit through.
Ellen as Host: Yes please. Let's do it again.

Oscar Results

I did OK in my predictions and was right in a couple of last minute hunches (like abandoning Pans in foreign film) and wrong in a couple of others (like going back to Murphy in supporting) and at least I called The Departed right. The Oscar results (and my prediction ratio) are here. More tomorrow when I have time. Good night.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Final Humble Predictions: Let Go and Let Oscar

Despite my feelings about the past cinematic year (i.e. not so great in total) I'm more than a little thrilled that I don't know what to expect tomorrow night at the Oscars. I fully expect to have the worst prediction average of my entire life and that is a great thing. The Oscars should be unpredictable. You shouldn't be able to add it up like: this + this = that even though it's fun and addictive to do that particular brand of glitzy math.

Full article here for those final predictions... about which I am highly confident, no... pretty confident OK, completely not confident about. But at some point you just gotta say: here's what I suspect might happen. A little something for almost everyone. Bring on the show!

would you wanna know why you were invited to parties?

Oscarwatch has the final list o' presenters that will be strutting their stuff across the Kodak stage for the Academy Awards tomorrow night. I've divided them up into easy to follow invitation-only categories.

because you won last year
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rachel Weisz, George Clooney, Reese Witherspoon

we'd inject you into our veins. we'd snort you up our nostrils
if we could only figure out how it could be done

Helen Mirren

oops, sorry 'bout that snub
Ben Affleck, Emily Blunt, James McAvoy, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts

you're gonna lose. accept this gift bag as consolation
Meryl Streep, Leonardo DiCaprio, Abigail Breslin, Kate Winslet,
Cate Blanchett, Penelope Cruz

sorry your dad's going to lose
Jaden Smith

you have our vote
Al Gore

the beautiful people. the beautiful people.
Gael Garcia Bernal, Catherine Deneuve, Clive Owen, Gwyneth Paltrow,
Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Biel, Nicole Kidman, Eva Green, Hugh Jackman

it wouldn't be the Oscars without you (also: we're lazy)
Jack Nicholson, Jodie Foster, Tom Hanks

you funny and this'll be a long night
Jerry Seinfeld, Queen Latifah, Diane Keaton, Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, Cameron Diaz

why not?
Robert Downey, Jr., Greg Kinnear, John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Kirsten Dunst

we realize you OWNED 2006. but we're stuffy.
Daniel Craig

next: final thoughts and predictions.

Panscakes For Breakfast

Surprise your Oscar loving boyfriend /girlfriend / spouse / trick on Oscar morning with a delicious breakfast of Panscakes!

You're allowed to eat carbs on holidays.

Here's how you make them. Get some pancake batter (that's easy -- I'm not typing up any recipe). Keep your griddle on medium --if it's too low your batter will just spread and you won't get good shapes. If it's too hot it'll cook too quickly as you're trying to make shapes. Pour the base face first like you're making a normal pancake ...only smaller. Then pour the horns quickly and carefully. It requires some pretty expert wrist action so practice... (whip up extra batter)

For the tuft of hair and the beard I used coconut. You could also stick a knife in peanut butter and draw them on. If you find a way to make those spirally things above the raisin eyes, it'd be a pretty unmistakable Pan on your Panscake. That detail was too much for me.

The hand with the eye (courtesy of that grotesque Pale Man) is easier to make but harder to flip.

Start again with a tiny base pancake for the palm. Pour very tiny amounts of batter lengthwise so that the fingers will be all spindly. It looks freakier if you allow for mistakes. With Panscakes, the freakier the better. If you can find something bigger or more appropriate for the eye than the raisins I'm using here, more power to you. I had limited supplies in the kitchen.

Your breakfast recipient will think you are the coolest person they ever woke up with on Oscar morning. Either that or they'll run screaming at your complete and total transformation into über film nerd. [The Film Experience™ is not responsible for any loss of romance that may occur as a result. -editor]

Links, Episode #241

Windmills has a great idea for a biopic and the perfect actor for the part.
Cutting Room pretty funny title to this post. So accurate.
Lazy Eye Theater "Why I Love Oscar" ...word.
Hot Blog first word on Francis Coppola's long brewing Youth Without Youth
Scott, to Be Certain caught my eye with an 'inexplicable Oscars' theme. And now this blog is just straight up flirting with me with a Winslet vs Swank post.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Voices in His Head

I'm not sure how I'd never heard this but while on the stair machine at the gym this week the TV was playing that Millionaire game show and it was "movie week" One of the questions asked the contestant to identify the three voices that Anthony Hopkins used as inspiration for Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.

Truman Capote, Katharine Hepburn and Hal 9000. Crazy, huh?
[This trivia item has been brought to you by Nathaniel's Oscar exhaustion. Final predictions tomorrow. -editor]

Oprah's Oscar Special

Did any of you watch it? I was mesmerized but not because I thought it was good. I love celebrities as much as anyone but there's something about Oprah's specials that puts me on edge. It's the overkill factor. Too much fame in the room too much celebration of said fame. At least with Oscar there's a sea of tiny beloved faces and nobody gets more than a couple of minutes to be worshipped. It's a fame free-for-all. In TV specials like this one, the stars are expected to be worshipped in detail: their every banal statement should be received as profundity. They bathe together in celebrity fabulousness, wash each others backs with collective ego, towel off with comforting wealth and then exfoliate their pampered beauty with a loofah full of self entitlement. On their way out the door...perhaps a gift bag? They deserve it.

There were two really fascinating things in the special though.

The first was the ability to see two types of stardom thrown into sharp relief. The first interview paired Julia Roberts and George Clooney, both of the charm offensive school of celebrity: self assured (haters might say "cocky"), prone to laughter, warm and amicable --easily radiating the illusion that they're friendly enough to let you hang around. This type of celebrity is personality based (even if they also happen to be talented) and is, unsurprisingly, wildly loved. The second interview was like a splash of cold water in comparison. It paired two chilly charismatic stars Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman from an entirely different school of celebrity. This kind of star the public finds fascinating but also possibly intimidating and more than a little unknowable: aliens as it were. This type of fame is based on talent or at least on the specificity of careers. Crowe is seen as a belligerent difficult genius. Kidman as an enigmatic beauty. Neither would have ever become stars solely by chatting up the press (Julia and George on the other hand...) One can't imagine kicking back and talking through the night with them. The appeal is decidedly non-verbal.

The shock of that transition... With Roberts and Clooney one wants, no EXPECTS, to sit in the room as they chatter away with conciliatory nudges and winks. With Kidman and Crowe, the primary feeling when you get this close is discomfort. It's just as easy to imagine them world famous in the 20s, when the magnitude of stardom was amplified by our remove. They don't sit as easily in today's 24-7 "celebrity" atmosphere. The familiarity of television didn't do Crowe and Kidman any favors but that coupled transition was still mighty interesting to witness.

The last interview brought Sidney Poitier and Jamie Foxx together with Oprah joining in at the end. The takeaway here was watching Poitier try to hold his humility and dignity in place while Jamie and Oprah tried numerous times to place him on the pedestal that he is prone to gracefully, gingerly sidestep. He's one of the greats but unlike Halle "the vessel" Berry he seems to understand his significant place in history without ever demanding all the credit for it or royalties from everything good that ever happened to anyone thereafter. He's a class act but deep down maybe he's an odd fit for Oprah's way with the endless back-patting.

Babel. Can You "Bank" On It?

Oscar buzz is a strange moving target. Before the nominations most awards obsessives screamed Dreamgirls. After the Globes some said Babel. After the SAG nearly everyone (including me) seemed to be convincing themselves that Little Miss Sunshine was going to make good on its tireless "Little Best Picture" campaign. Now, people are scurrying back to Babel. I think I'm gonna stick to The Departed which has always been there. Doesn't it seem like that's the only film that's remained a solid bet throughout? No significant bumps in the road. I'm not confident. But something is troubling me about Babel and it's this: box office.

AMPAS voters don't vote based on dollar numbers but their taste is usually at least somewhat analagous to public response. If Babel wins it will be the least successful Best Picture winner in the past 25 years. I've adjusted for inflation with the help of Box Office Mojo's handy charts and my own admittedly shaky math skills [please view this all as approximate -ed.]. There's only one film that is in Babel's current ballpark of success (or lack thereof) prior to winning the biggest prize and that's The Last Emperor (1987).

Even Chariots of Fire (1981), a small surprise winner back in the day, is a good distance ahead of Babel. Once you've adjusted for inflation the 1981 film's pre-Oscar take is closer to Crash's mid level sleeper success (they're the next lowest grossers after The Last Emperor)

Can Babel win? Like The Last Emperor it's very serious, mostly foreign, big and "meaningful". Emperor's primary competition was two romantic dramedies (Broadcast News and Moonstruck) --not Oscar's favored genre. Babel's competitors are also from non-traditional Oscar genres: a crime flick and an indie comedy. So Babel can win, sure. But it would still be a rare case of a film that never really caught on with the public taking the prize. The Last Emperor opened in late November and was able to gain a significant financial boost from its Oscar win. Babel has been out since October. Should it win it will likely end its run as the lowest grossing winner of at least the past 25 years (I didn't research past 1981)

Oscar has ignored big box office the past couple of years but I'm still tempted to stick with The Departed (It's the only contender with a typical BP winner bank) on account of its solid performance in each quadrant of success: box office + critics + media support + precursors.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Oscar's Labyrinth

How many statues can Pan's Labyrinth take home on Sunday night? That is the question.

When it comes to foreign language films you often see a correlation between Oscar success and domestic box office. The awards correlation is much stronger than it is with English language pictures. Those don't need to be regarded as hits to have a big awards profile (think Little Children, Letters From Iwo Jima, and Babel this year alone) though it obviously doesn't hurt.

For a foreign film anything between $3 - 9 million at the US box office is definitely in the 'big hit' category since at least 80% of the subtitled films never reach the $1 million mark. Films from this decade in that range include Amores Perros, Atanarjuat the Fast Runner, Bad Education, The Barbarian Invasions, Caché (Hidden), City of God, Downfall, Goodbye Lenin!, Maria Full of Grace, Talk to Her and Nowhere in Africa -- several of which were Oscar nominated.

The 'smash hits' are the ones that end up cracking the 8 figure barrier. Recent films that've lept that big hurdle for subtitled pictures are House of Flying Daggers, The Motorcycle Diaries, Volver and Y Tu Mama Tambien. Films that get this big despite requiring literacy in American moviegoers are almost always rewarded with Oscar nominations unless they're action flicks (Kung Fu Hustle or Brotherhood of the Wolf) ineligible (Hero) or named Monsoon Wedding ($13 million but still ignored by AMPAS).

Once a foreign flick nabs multiple Oscar nominations they can usually get even bigger. These are the ones that end up in the multiplexes: Il Postino ($10 million before nominations. $21 by the end of its run) Life is Beautiful ($18 before nominations, $57 in total) Pan's Labyrinth this year had just broken the 8 figure mark before its nominations were announced. Now it's as big as an Amélie (in the $30+ range) but still not the behemoth that the champ Crouching Tiger was ($60 million before nominations. $128 by the end of its run)

blah blah blah box office blah blah...

Point being: the big obstacle for Pan's Labyrinth is not subtitles (once you reach a certain saturation point you're not "foreign" anymore --just a regular old hit movie) but its genre. Lord of the Rings aside, Oscar voters are often immune to the charms of the fantastical outside of say, special effects and makeup. But Pan's is a crowdpleaser. Could it be a powerhouse on Sunday night? Could it actually win the most Oscars? It's more probable than it sounds.

Let's look at the six categories:

Original Screenplay
This would be a major get but it's the only statue that seems truly out of reach. It's hard to imagine Best Picture nominees like Babel, Little Miss Sunshine or The Queen letting a fantasy film overtake them.
Very unlikely

Art Direction
In this category Pan's major competitor is Dreamgirls but my guess (and hope) is that enough voters will feel that John Myhre was already rewarded for the stage & curtains razzle dazzle when he won for Chicago and will be too wowed by Pan's memorable set construction to pass it up in this category.
Pan's is the frontrunner. But vulnerable.

If any film in this category can defeat Emmanuel Lubezki's virtuoso work on Children of Men, it's this doubled fantasy world. But let's hope Lubezki, a world class DP, holds on to his momentum after his recent cinematography guild win and is finally Oscared on his fourth nomination. Lubezki is a true rarity. He can get nominated even if the film housing his work isn't anywhere near the Best Picture race. In fact, none of his nominations have come from Best Pictures. This award should and probably will land in his talented hands.
Verdict: Pan's is a possible spoiler.

Original Score
Scoring is often a difficult category to predict. Babel seems to empty of original material to deserve the statue (will voters notice that the music they're responding too is not the original score itself). Notes' music is probably too divisive (as Phillip Glass scores often are)
Verdict: It's a squeaker. Will Pan's memorable haunted lullaby carry it past The Queen or the umpteenth chance to honor Thomas Newman (for The Good German this time)?

Foreign Film
It's high profile and those multiple nominations in other categories ensure that they'll take it very seriously. But Amélie also had that advantage and lost to a more sober film No Man's Land. Germany's entry The Lives of Others could go the distance but I'm guessing Pan's holds on because it's not "light". It doesn't have the comedy working against them taking it seriously.
Verdict: Pan's is the frontrunner

The makeup creations of Pan, the Pale Man (pictured) and that Black Dahlia-esque injury on the evil Captain (Sergi Lopez) ought to fend off Pan's only real challenger, the prosthetic gore and theatrical face and body paint of Apocalypto.
Verdict: Pan's is the frontrunner

I may regret this but as of this writing I'm predicting that Pan's Labyrinth will nab the most (or tied for the most) statues of the night with a minimum of three and a maximum of four wins.

Beyond the Valley of the Stardolls

Say you have some time to waste and you happen to be a teenage girl (or just think like one) you can probably lose an hour or three of your precious life playing with Stardoll. I gave myself a strict time limit because I am a sucker for interactive goofiness. So here's my 30 minute red carpet creation.

On the left we have BFFs Salma Hayek & Penélope Cruz. You can't see that I placed them in handholding BFF poses because I also gave them unfortunately poofy matching dresses -- what's a BFF good for if you can't wear matching ensembles? I threw in Johnny Depp for some eccentricity... and while I was going there added Björk too. They did have a swan dress for her but why be so literal? Instead I just gave her a bathrobe with a tie and some edible accessories (dog bone and pastry hat for the obvious reason of: why not?).I already regret placing Anne Hathaway in a dress that's more suited for an aging goddess like Julie Andrews or Glenn Close but it's easy to imagine Ms. Hathaway on the red carpet when she's 60, isn't it? (The one major problem with this time sucker: 17 pages of celebrity paper dolls to choose from and not even that number of individual gown choices? Oh the humanity!)

I couldn't find a dress I liked for Beyoncé so I just made a slutty one out of shiny necklaces since it's that kind o' tacky that gets media attention. Perhaps I erred, Beyoncé being so shy and all? I finished the dress up game with Channing Tatum but I didn't think clothing was appropriate. Less is more.

Stardoll has *gasp* 5 million users. (It's not like they need me to point at them. But like I said: sucker for interactivity) That's a lot of pre teen and teen girl power. Apparently, based on polling, they're all rooting for Kate Winslet to win the Oscar. Poor things... Sunday night will be rough on them. Oscar breaks everyone's heart eventually.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Best Actress, Singular

Annette here, Mrs. Warren Beatty. Not that you need a reminder. It was just weeks ago that you happily gazed upon our royal visage at the Golden Globes or perhaps it was just a few days ago when you journeyed to my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to give it a good shine.

Nathaniel asked me to talk about my Oscar ballot even though I am not in the running for this year's Best Actress prize (re this mistake: Kate Capshaw and Rita Wilson respected colleagues in the Hollywood community assure me that it isn't fair to have the best actress singular competing with four not-quite-best others. They placed their votes elsewhere from pity, you see) I don't know how much you know, civilians, about the voting process but renaissance men like my husband, the Oscar winner Warren Beatty, who works as an actor/ director /writer /producer nominate in several categories. I nominate in 5: all acting categories and the big picture. We all vote on all the prizes. Apparently Nathaniel doesn't know as much as he thinks because we very exclusive Academy types are not in the habit of publicly stating where said votes go. But nevertheless, I've graciously descended from Mulholland Drive to give you a few hints as to which boxes I'm checking.

In supporting actress I'm voting for the girl who most reminds me of a favorite from my enormous domestic staff. Supporting Actor was easy -if you manage to steal a movie from my friend Jack, you get my vote. It's not easy to do. In fact, I thought I was the only one who could do it... please, you know I was the only one you were looking at in our scenes together in Mars Attacks! In the lead actor category I'm voting for Peter O'Toole. I don't care that I'm not supposed to say it. Aging legendary lotharios? Check my box.

For the Second-Best Actress I'm voting strategically. There's a girl who is likely to be considered overdue the next time I'm nominated if she doesn't win soon. Get on with it Hollywood. I've reminded my friends in Hollywood that you can't be sentimental about your ballots. Go ahead and vote for me the best one every time. It feels silly to make this hypothetical but I'll humor you: If I'm the best every time, I deserve 15 Oscars.

I'll wave to you from the red carpet,
____~The Bening

p.s. On Tuesday I noticed a spot of mud on my star on the Walk of Fame and it's still there today. Will one of you get to that pronto? I can't imagine how you missed it. Thank you.

tags: Annette Bening, movies, celebrities, Jack Nicholson, Oscars, Academy Awards

Oscar Podcast. Plus: The Dumbest Idea in the History of Remakes

Three Things

1. Ashley, Gabriel and myself have unleashed our "Oscar Spectacular" over @ Radio Allegro. My favorite part is my interview with the gracious and chatty awards man Tom O'Neil (Tom dishes on red carpet madness, the importance of awards history, Brad Pitt avoiding Joan Rivers, the recent Hollywood party for The Envelope and more...)

I know that I keep promising to improve at podcasting and if you're taking me up on my promise, you can subscribe here with iTunes.

2. I'm still confused about who might win Best Picture so I've launched a poll so that you can predict en masse. So far The Departed is leading. Is the crowd wise? I thought this poll would bring tighter results. But maybe Scorsese will have a very good night.

3. I'm in a horrible mood the past couple of days. I couldn't figure out why and then it hit me: It's Ron Howard's fault. I've been trying not to mention this news item, hoping it would dissolve into nothingness by my refusal to acknowledge it. I have the (self-deluding) power! When the average person gets a really idiotic idea --perhaps when they're drunk, desperate, sad, tired, horny or loopy they either go through with it and humiliate themselves or they rethink in time "ohmygod. that's not even cool, that's just dumb. My bad!" When a Hollywood mover & shaker gets an unfathomably moronic idea and goes through with it they don't just embarass themselves: they crap on a whole artform. Their blunder goes global. Hearing the news that Ron Howard will remake Caché (Hidden) has angered me and stunned me into silence (until now). It is, arguably, the dumbest idea for a remake in the history of the cinema. Which is saying a lot.

For those who haven't seen the film (Rent it now!) it's about a successful French couple who are tormented by mysterious and invasive videotapes of their home and lives. Saying any more would ruin its twists and turns and its intellectual and political heft. See it. Absorb it. Grapple with it. Even if you don't love it you will still be thinking about it a year later.

The news stunned me into silence. I couldn't even read the articles about it. Everything that is great and challenging and memorable about Caché is antithetical to what Ron Howard is about as a director. Even if you give the Oscar winner the benefit of the doubt and say "that chap, he's a fine Hollywood filmmaker" you'd still have to scratch your head if you knew about the hows and whys of the way Caché functions and the way it burrows into truly uncomfortable places. I can only speak for myself but it would be less horrific to hear that Ron Howard was remaking Casablanca. At least that classic has a mainstream Hollywood sensibility, however sacriligeous a remake, by anyone, would be. Plus if he did that then people would laugh at him for treading where he doesn't belong. But when a powerful Hollywood director ruins a great foreign language film, most people are none the wiser. And everyone loses.

Say something to cheer me up in the comments.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Streep to Win 3rd Oscar ... in Feb 2009

What? It's Oscar Week. If I wanna jump two years forward, I will.

This just in: Meryl Streep will play Sister Aloysius in the film adaptation of the Broadway hit Doubt. They'll start filming late this year for a 2008 release. Which means La Streep is winning her third Oscar (finally) in February 2009. Don't believe me? Then you haven't seen Doubt. Remember how I said before Effie White was cast for Dreamgirls that whoever got the role would be up for the Oscar? Same thing here. Sister Aloysius is one of those parts. In the right hands it's a sensational character. And we all know that Streep knows how to handle a strong character.

Doubt is an intense four character play which concerns a young priest who is suspected of molesting a boy. Sister Aloysius, a stubborn old school nun investigates. When I saw Doubt back in 2005 I wasn't completely wowed by it but it's very solid stuff and theater audiences in general were madly in love with it. Cherry Jones (pictured in the role above) was genius beating Kathleen Turner to the TONY that year. Streep should likewise be able to clobber the other nominees in February 2009 with Sister Aloysius as battle axe. Provided of course that they don't bungle the movie. Did somebody say Proof?

Tuesday Top Ten: Bald Heads

tuesday top ten: new series for the list lover in you and the list maker in me

I wasn't going to go here but as I logged into my blogger HQ Britney Spears started playing on my iTunes (to paraphrase the song she's singing to me right now: she drives me crazy. Seriously, girl, pull it together). You may have heard a million times in the past 24 hours that Britney Spears has shaved her head. Some people look hot with a shaved head (Natalie Portman, take a bow). Some people do not (sorry Britney). I shaved my head last week but somehow I didn't end up on CNN or ET. What gives?

10 Favorite Bald-Headed Characters
This list is dedicated to Oscar, the most coveted bald-headed man on the planet.

10 Channing Tatum. Shaved heads count. Any excuse to post pictures...

09 "Tommy" Hugh Jackman in The Fountain. Hugh has beeyootiful hair but if you're gonna be straight up bald for a third of a movie, you might as well pair it with pajamas, tai chi and floating bubbles of light for the maximum memorable factor (previous Hugh drooling)

08 Silver Surfer. A literal embodiment of the "chrome dome" I loved loved loved this character in the comics. But I can't believe they're going to try and movie-ize him. This is not a transferrable character... on account of the unintentional giggles factor. A character who flies around on a surfboard through outer space? In a movie?

07 Bruce Willis. If we're talking action stars, give me Willis's empty dome over Nic Cage's plugs and wigs any second of any day forever. Thank you.

06 Bjork in the "Hunter" video. Björk doesn't look conventionally attractive bald (Britney is not alone) but one of the greatest things about this icelandic genius is her complete lack of vanity. Everything is in service to the art. And this video is striking.

05 Sinéad O'Connor back in the day. It started with the totally brilliant "The Lion and the Cobra" which we 80s new wave kids worshipped. The rest of the world freaked out en masse when "Nothing Compares 2 U" arrived and shot to the top of the charts. I never thought I'd be comparing Sinéad to Britney but she also kinda lost it in the fires of white hot fame. Not everyone can handle it.

04 "Ripley". Never mind that pesky prison colony lice infestation that prompted the buzz job--this was a great look. Somehow Sigourney Weaver's signature character was even fiercer and sexier in the underappreciated Alien³.

03 "Colonel Kurtz" in Apocalypse Now. Our first glimpse of Marlon Brando as the mad Colonel all bathed in shadows has to be one of the great entrances in film history. (personal canon entry)

02 Yul Brynner as "Rameses" in The Ten Commandments I know it's terrible but I always wanted him to win when I watched this Biblical epic as a kid. Also: The King and I. "Etcetera etcetera etcetera"

01 Professor Xavier. Because all my life I wanted to attend "Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters" in New York. I wanted to fly in the Blackbird. Take classes with Kitty Pryde. Train the Danger Room with Cyclops. And chase Nightcrawlers tail ... TMI. But anyway. I love Charles Xavier in print and onscreen (Patrick Stewart didn't disappoint in the films) and it's wonderful that there's at least one iconic bald comic book character that's not a super villain.

Related Post: A History of... Bald Women
Previous Tuesday Top Ten: Celebrity Couples

Oscars Ahoy

Everyone is talking Oscar. Herewith a quick tour of some musings elsewhere

Positively Ponyfied has a funny tour of Oscar's way with Original Song.
Denver Post overdoes it with this "blogs have the power" theory
That Little Round Headed Boy has an interesting dream for Oscar. His plan intrigues. They need to shake things up.
StinkyLulu is profiling each nominee in --well, you know.
Hollywood Insider The rumor mill has Supporting Actor down to the wire between Arkin and Murphy
Movie City Indie "all that money and my ass on the line" on ThinkFilm's Oscar campaign for Half Nelson

and some people are just giving their own awards instead...
Robert Licuria's 13th annual "Cadet Awards"
Joe Reid "Rezzie" Awards. Good stuff from my frequent guest contributor

Dreamgirls, "The Devil", and the Dauphine

One of my favorite below the line categories at the Oscar each year is Costume Design. This year's lineup is special because a) they're all worthy nominees b) some are even [gasp] contemporary entries and c) it's easy to imagine scenarios where different movies win.

So, who is going to take it? Arguments can easily be made for three of the movies, four if you're stretching. More on the costumes race here (return and comment. Agree? Disagree? And tell us which of the pictured frocks you'd most like to wear.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Oscar's Visual Races

Let's save Costume Design until tomorrow but for now Cinematography, Art Direction, Editing, Visual Effects and Makeup: See the final predictions. You'll notice that I didn't make one in Editing. Y'all gotta help me out with that one.

Even the editors themselves (@ the ACE EDDIE Awards) couldn't decide, opting for a tie between Babel & The Departed. Ties almost never happen with the Academy's nearly 6000 strong voting body... so answer me these questions three
  1. Which film do you think wins the Oscar here and does it also win Best Picture?
  2. Why does the Academy seem to respond to the juggling of big ensemble dramas in this category UNLESS the film is directed by Robert Altman? (Seriously now. Nashville and Gosford Park weren't even nominated in this category and no Altman film ever won this category. Yet Crash and Traffic were winners for keeping all the story threads going. What's that about?
  3. Assuming some voters are wowed by the real time air/land tensions of United 93 and Children of Men's impactful infrequent cutting... which film do they siphon votes from?

Do They Hear What We Hear?

With just six days to go until Hollywood's High Holy Night it's time to finalize predictions. Herewith my quick take on Oscar's aural categories

Given that the Oscar race is looking so tight in Best Picture I'm assuming the technical categories are volatile as well. Can Dreamgirls really lose best song? Do you think I'm in tune or out of key with these predictions? Discuss.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Oscar Symposium: Climax and Clean Up

Oh my god I am so exhausted. The Oscar Symposium is wrapping, I also recorded the upcoming Oscar Spectacular podcast for y'all including an interview with Tom O'Neill and now I am going to take a well deserved day off. In the meantime, Enjoy the final day of the Oscar Symposium. (Or, if you missed previous installments, start here)

In this installment: Ed smears on eyeliner, Sasha shouts "Here I Am!" and Nick directs his very own Notes on a Scandal. Also: a passionate defense of Little Miss Sunshine, sound mixing and editing (what's the difference?), moviegoers vs. Oscar voters, Pan's Labyrinth, Shortbus and our predictions and personal choices if we had an Oscar ballot.

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

tags: Oscar Watch, Slant Magazine, Abigail Breslin, movies, Cate Blanchett, oscars, Academy Awards, pans labyrinth, Pajiba, Notes on a Scandal, Oscar party, Little Miss Sunshine,Babel, lesbian

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

I've Moved. Still Here.

Blogger was fussing with me about moving to the new blogger. So I packed up and did it. I'm still terrified about looking backward through the archives to see if everything really did make it (I shoulda sealed it all in bubble wrap I know). Because if it didn't...

Presumably I can now add labels and it'll really sink in how repetitive I am much I talk about Michelle Pfeiffer, "She Who Must Not Be Named," Spider-Man (?) and the Oscars.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

2nd Annual Oscar Symposium Begins

Please welcome my guests from OscarWatch, Slant, Nicks Flick Picks, Low Resolution, Pajiba, and Cinephilia at the first day of the symposium. You'll learn who everyone is rooting for, when they lost their Oscar virginity, which best picture is "the roommate of the girl you want to nail", and endure the communal nitpicking about the Best Actress and Foreign Film categories.

Got something to say about what you read? Say it here in the comments (more conversation follows tomorrow afternoon)

tags: Oscar Watch, Slant Magazine, Helen Mirren, movies, Kate Winslet, oscars, Academy Awards, Babel, Pajiba, Penelope Cruz, cinema, Little Miss Sunshine,Best Picture, foreign films

I Link You

Here are some links that I composed construction paper Valentines for last night and was too shy to send yesterday.

Stale Popcorn Sofia Coppola = Baz Luhrmann. No really.
Love sick a blog-a-thon. I meant to participate but I got too many projects going. Still, much there to read.
Coming Soon a re-teaming of two A History of Violence stars
Coffee, Coffee... 10 Favorite Actresses. My honey Natalie is listed
Slant on Jennifer Hudson's impending Oscar win. Spot on

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dinner & Movie: Happy (?) Valentines

My latest adventure in podcasting is here. It's the special Valentines episode of Radio Allegro where we reveal our first celebrity crushes (mine are both movie-related of course), our favorite love songs, and what is and isn't romantic in TV & film. You can listen to it over there ... tried to set it up here but I'm having coding issues. (Excuse my dorkiness on the actual podcast. I'm new at this. If you wanna hear me improve each week, you can subcribe here if you have iTunes)

Remember that if you'd like to be heard on next week's show (our Oscar Spectacular), call 1-347-404-5221 today or tomorrow. Leave your name, where you're from and a sentence or two about your Best Picture Prediction. We might play your snappy comments on next week's podcast!

As part of the promotion of the Valentine podcast we all agreed to include a 'dinner & movie' suggestion (with recipes) for this special day. I'm guessing that if you don't already have plans, you're none too pleased about this particular day. So here's a suggestion for the lovelorn, the angry, the bitter and the blackhearted.

Valentine Movie Suggestion
Kill Bill Vol. I & II
If you really need to work through some anger and revenge fantasies towards someone you once loved, you're gonna need both volumes. The first to go a little crazy with your imaginary Hatori Hanzo, the second to calm down, work through it and come out the other side. Mostly intact. Crying jags in bathrooms are totally allowed. Also: bare feet in honor of Uma Thurman's Tarantino-loved toes.

Accompanying Dinner
Meat, very bloody. Let's say a carpaccio of beef. Slice some beef sirloin as thin as possible with your Hattori Hanzo. Arrange the bloody slices on a plate. Drizzle some olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice on top. Add however much salt and pepper you need.

On the side some deviled eggs. Make like they're eyeballs you've just plucked from your most hated enemy. You make them like this: hard boil your eggs. Slice in half length wise with your knife. Scoop out the yolks. In a separate bowl mix those yolks with mayo, mustard (bright yellow just like your hot jumpsuit), salt & pepper until smoothly combined. Spoon that mixture back into those emptied out eggs. Top with a dusting of hot paprika. Put a caper in the middle for the best eye-like effect.

Watch the movies. Eat your bloody flesh and eyeballs. It's the perfect blackhearted night at home for those of you hating on Valentines.

* Other Valentines Dinners & Movies suggestions at ModFab, I Am Screaming... and Radio Allegro

"We Can't Wait" Wraps. What's Next?

Thanks for reading the countdown of 20 Anticipated Films for 2007. A major round of applause to me pals who chatted with me about the movies for this project. They're all worthy reads so after their names I'ma offer you an easy subscription option if you have bloglines.

JA of My New Plaid Pants (movie mania & gratuitous hunkiness. Get it)
StinkyLulu from, well, Stinky Lulu (actress devotion & grilled cheese. Yum)
Joe Reid at Low Resolution (hilarity & TV tomfoolery. Read and Love)
Gabriel is ModFab (pop culture wit, gossip & great music. Subscribe)

Yes, February is a big collective love-in here at the blog. "We Can't Wait" is wrapped and now it's time for THE 2ND ANNUAL FILM EXPERIENCE OSCAR SYMPOSIUM. This one's got a mostly new lineup of participants who I'll introduce tomorrow for a few days of Oscar chatter. Enjoy this group action while you can because in March, Nathaniel (c'est moi) is flying solo again. Gotta give my social butterfly instincts a rest while I recuperate from Oscar season. But you'll still be here, right? Riiiight? It's Valentines Day. I'm allowed to be needy /clingy.

Guide to "We Can't Wait" - What'd we miss that you can't wait for?
  1. THERE WILL BE BLOOD P.T. Anderson
  2. ZODIAC David Fincher
  3. SWEENEY TODD Tim Burton
  4. EVENING Lajos Koltai
  5. LUST, CAUTION Ang Lee
  6. I'M NOT THERE Todd Haynes
  7. MARGOT AT THE WEDDING Noah Baumbach
  8. DARJEELING LIMITED -moved to 2008
  10. GRINDHOUSE Tarantino & Rodriguez
  11. BUG William Friedkin
  12. SUNSHINE Danny Boyle UPDATED
  13. SOUTHLAND TALES Richard Kelly
  14. 300 Zach Snyder
  15. HOT FUZZ Edgar Wright UPDATED
  16. STARDUST Matthew Vaughn
  18. SPIDER-MAN 3 Sam Raimi
  19. RENDITION Gavin Hood
  20. THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM Paul Greengrass

We Can't Wait #1 There Will Be Blood

Writer/Director Paul Thomas Anderson finally unveils his 5th Film this fall called, There Will Be Blood. It's an adaptation of the novel "Oil" by Upton Sinclair. Surprisingly Anderson has jettisoned most of his trusted company of ensemble actors from his first four films. This turn of the century drama about a Texas prospector (played by the estimable Daniel Day-Lewis) is an ambitious saga of family, greed, and religion.

OK, my "We Can't Wait" compatriots, what's your favorite P.T. film and why are you so looking forward to this, our #1 most awaited film of 2007?

Joe: Boogie Nights remains my favorite. I have a tempestuous relationship with Magnolia, though certain moments of that movie are as good as anything he’s ever done. The pairing of Anderson with Daniel Day-Lewis is something of a perfect storm of artists who are famously stingy with their time. And I’m somewhat in love with the idea of Paul Dano as a ... didn’t I read this somewhere? preacher.

Lulu: For reasons I can't justify, I've only seen Boogie Nights. (I know I know yeah yeah yeah.) That said, 2006 marked the year that I officially became a huge Paul Dano fan. So I will henceforth follow young Mr. Dano wherever he elects to appear...

Robert Elswit (?) on the set of There Will Be Blood from the ambiguous and untitled
gallery of images from the production at Little Boston News

Nathaniel: Because P.T. is not using his normal troupe of actors I'm more focused at this point on the production team. The terrific undervalued cinematographer Robert Elswit (Good Night, and Good Luck, Punch-Drunk Love), editor Dylan Tichenor (Brokeback Mountain, Magnolia) and composer Jon Brion (I Heart Huckabees, Punch-Drunk Love) are all on board again with P.T.

Gabriel: I would follow P.T. Anderson into the Himalayas, I would follow him into the Amazon rain forest, I would follow him anywhere. My least favorite of his movies, Punch-Drunk Love, is STILL brilliant. Magnolia and Boogie Nights bring Altmanesque narratives into a contemporary context, with often stunning results. He is one of the most interesting artists of my generation, and I hope he'll fulfill the promise his movies have always signaled.

JA: Punch-Drunk Love is GENIUS! I love Punch-Drunk Love as much as any movie you could name from the past 10 years. I love it as much as Brokeback, as much as Eternal Sunshine. I never in a million years thought it would be possible for me to say that about a movie starring Adam Sandler, but I do; I am so in love with PDL it pains me. Add Magnolia and Boogie Nights (and to a lesser extent Hard Eight), not to mention that terrific Fiona Apple video, and PT Anderson can do no wrong. None. I'm dying to see what he'll do with something that seems so different from his previous work.

Nathaniel: Me too. And hear hear on the Fiona Apple shout out. I'm so sad they broke up. In fact... let's play the P.T. Anderson directed Fiona Apple videos right here and now from happier days (Across The Universe, Fast As You Can, Paper Bag, and Limp)

Ahhhh, Fiona. But back to P.T. for the record Boogie Nights woulda won my Best Picture prize back in 1997 and I've never been less than very impressed with one of his films. I just wish he'd work more. And I'm happy to see this film (which was my actual #1 'most awaited') get the top spot. I didn't even have to rig the voting.

previously on "we can't wait"
#2 Zodiac, #3 Sweeney Todd, #4 Evening, #5 Lust, Caution, #6 I'm Not There, #7 Margot at the Wedding, #8 moved to 2008, #9 The Golden Compass,#10 Grindhouse, #11 Bug, #12, Sunshine, #13 Southland Tales, #14 300, #15 Hot Fuzz, #16 Stardust, #17 The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, #18 Spider-Man 3, #19 Rendition, #20 The Bourne Ultimatum Intro -films that didn't make the list

tags: Paul Thomas Anderson, oil, Daniel Day-Lewis, boogie nights, films