Friday, August 31, 2007

Notes from Venice - Day 2/3

Boyd from European Films here, reporting on the ongoing Venice Film Festival

Weather: hot, with occasional outbursts of rain and even hail
Films seen: Sleuth, 24 Mesures (24 Measures), Michael Clayton, Nessuna qualità agli eroi, Small Gods, In the Valley of Elah
Gripe of the day: wet carpetPeople currently on the same square mile of earth as I am: Takeshi Kitano, Ang Lee, Tony Leung, Jude Law (pictured right by Fabrizio Maltese), Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh, George Clooney, Brian De Palma, Tilda Swinton, Irène Jacob, Bruno Todeschini, Elio Germano, Mathieu Amalric, Arnaud Desplechin

The weather is getting worse her in Venice after a sultry start, and the same could be said of the films, though of course it would be hard to expect all 60 films playing in the various sections of the festival to be on the same level as opening film Atonement.

It was confirmed today that several stars will not be attending the festival (they must have seen the weather reports!), including French diva Isabelle Huppert (whose film Medée Miracle will close the Horizons section) and the otherwise ubiquitous ScarJo, who opened the festival last year with De Palma's The Black Dahlia. The latter should have been in town to promote The Nanny Diaries, but perhaps the general tendencies of the US reviews (ouch!) made her decide that facing a battalion of ready-to-shoot foreign journalists wasn't exactly her idea of a late August getaway.

George Clooney, however, never turns down a Venice invitation, and he is in town to present the legal thriller Michael Clayton. Normally good-humored, the man crowned "mag-nifico" by the Italian press (because of an advertisement in which he pronounces the word thus) had a difficult moment during the press conference when asked why he was doing all these ads? Obviously, "for the money" is not an answer that will score you any Brownie points with the general public. Clooney was visibly at a loss for an answer, finally trying the sarcastic "Me? In commercials?"

Before delving in to some reviews, let me say this: I would have liked to share with you my thoughts on several other films, but I will have to restrict myself as the festival has imposed an embargo on writing about films until after the public screenings, which sometime can take place over 24 hours later than the press screenings. So check back next time for my ideas on In the Valley of Elah and Michael Clayton.

What I can talk about is Sleuth, Kenneth Branagh's update of a 1970 play and a 1972 movie that also starred Michael Caine. It is a "delicious little devil of a movie in its own right" as I note in my full Sleuth review on, though it still remains a small film to my eyes, especially because it retains its stagey feel throughout the film: it is essentially two men talking for 90 minutes.

It came as something of a shock to see that that is the film that leads the Competition score board for the moment, as published in an Italian-language daily distributed during the festival. It has the highest ratings of both the Italian critics and the members of the Italian audience that are part of an audience jury, followed by Lust, Caution and then Atonement. Comparing this to the reviews in the English-language press, it seems to be rather the contrary, with Atonement being on top. What gives...

In the various sidebars of the festival, one can find a lot of offbeat choices, including the first feature as a director from French actor Jalil Lespert (Human Resources). The film is called 24 mesures and presents several connected stories that play out on Christmas eve. Before you say "no more interconnected stories, please," you must know that the actors playing the leads in the four story strands are Lubna Azabal (the girl from Paradise Now) who steals the show, Benoît Magimel (yum!) and Bérangère Allaux and Sami Bouajila (double yum!). So there. Read my full review of 24 mesures.

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Now Playing (08/31)

Labor Day Weekend and you know what that means --taking it easy instead of laboring. Perhaps you should curl up with a DVD? Enjoy your holiday if you have one. If not please still enjoy

s t u f f 9 t h a t 's 9 o p e n i n g
Exiled -From acclaimed director Johnny To
Freshman Orientation -"how far would you swing to get the girl you love?" a tagline that fills me with loathing
The Nines -I like the poster. I also like John August's blog
Self Medicated -drug drama starring its writer/director
Balls of Fury -er, no
Death Sentence -oh Kevin, really?
Halloween -bah humbug (wrong holiday but whatev)

I N _T H E A T E R S _ (links to reviews)
Recommended: Hairspray, Once, Sunshine, The Bourne Ultimatum and Ratatouille No But Yes But... Stardust and Becoming Jane No: Death at a Funeral, La Vie En Rose, and Transformers

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Links: Jodie Hot, Viggo Español: Released... Not

Links, List-like
Nick Davis personalizes the Fall Film roster
The Evening Class Michael Hawley reminds us how much great stuff we're all missing in this f***ed up world of 4000 screens for disposable blockbusters and 5 for international films. I haven't heard of some of these but I want to see at least half of them. And Re: Alatriste (pictured left) who doesn't want to see Viggo speak Spainsh? I mean...hello. Release that on 4000 screens
Zoom In Three horror remakes I like

Links, Reg'lar
I Watch Stuff feels funny about that Grace is Gone trailer
Slant on the controversial Cruising, now in rerelease
popbytes Jodie Foster in W = Hot
JJ is at Telluride and about to spill on I'm Not There
The BIZARRO Blog-a-Thon is over. It was absolutely unfulfilling. There wasn't even one entry worth reading. I most certainly did not enjoy some of them so much that I read them twice.

DVD: Perplexing Endings and Actresses

oops. forgot to post this on Tuesday

This Week's New Releases
Red Road -Nick speaks highly of this debut film from Andrea Arnold which opened for a split second earlier this year. It won a prize @ Cannes last summer and has been compared to work from Haneke and Von Trier. Already on my queue
Year of the Dog I'm really fond of Molly Shannon's work in this film as a very sad very smiley dog lover. Can you put your finger on how she's revealing so much with so few facial expressions? Bonus Points: eminently discussable ending.
Blades of Glory Will Ferrell and Napoleon Dynamite as figure skaters

Air Guitar Nation on well, what it says should you be looking for a light funny documentary. And Blood and Tears details the Arab/Israeli conflict if you're getting serious.

Special Editions
Crocodile Dundee Trilogy -Can you believe I was an 80s teen and never saw this? Didn't even remember there were three
Dr T & the Women -a minor Robert Altman picture about a gynecologist (Richard Gere) and the many women who love him. Strangely compelling / surprising reason to watch it: Tara Reid (!) is actually not half bad in it. Otherwise its unfortunately marred by a bizarre ending plus the presence of Helen Hunt in the largest female role. Robert Altman and Woody Allen are two of the best directors of actors but neither has been able to make this one interesting.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Notes from Venice - Day 1

Boyd from European Films reports on the ongoing Venice Film Festival

Weather: sultry
Films seen: Gruz 200, Se jie (Lust Caution)
Gripe of the day: jellyfish
People currently on the same square mile of earth as I am: Keira Knightley (right, portrayed by Fabrizio Maltese), James McAvoy, Vanessa Redgrave, Rupert Everett, Zhang Yimou, Catherine Breillat, Gregg Araki, Paul Verhoeven

The fireworks that marked the end of the Venice Film Festival opening gala and the beginning of the Atonement party on the exclusive Excelsior beach (yes, the beach where Gustav ogled Tadzio) have only just finished to pierce the eardrums of the poor inhabitants of the Venetian Lido, so it is time to check in with a first report on the 2007 edition of the oldest festival in the world.

A calm day today as the festival tries to put everything that is needed for a smooth festival run properly into place: wireless connections that are not yet working, printers that are not yet connected, passes that have gone missing, bikes that get stolen, jellyfish that sting bathers who have temporarily given up on having internet access... well you get the idea.

Opening film Atonement was generally well received, though the Italians I spoke to seemed to think it was too long and too classical in its approach. The international press seemed more taken in by exactly this sort of old-fashioned grandeur, and I tend to agree with them (I saw the film a couple of weeks ago, here's my review of Atonement).

Also on the menu today was the Competition Se jie (Lust, Caution) from Ang Lee, the director who brought us Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Brokeback Mountain. At a whopping 156 minutes, the film is something of an endurance test on the behind, and the explicit nature of the film's sex scenes will be hotly debated and might turn some people off (the keyword is "some" not "off" -- you perverts). Though completely functional and artistically viable, the lust part of Lust, Caution would be considered too explicit for a mainstream Hollywood film, let alone for a film from China!

As I have mentioned before, the trailer and the poster left me rather cold. As I suspected, they cannot do the complexity of the film justice or show some of the film's best scenes (notably the various demonstrations of positions from the Kama Sutra).

Also because of its running time (that amongst other things allows for a too leisurely and unfocused start), the film is not a full-fledged masterpiece, but one has to admire Lee for taking the no-holds-barred approach for this spy story set in 1940s Hong Kong and Shanghai.

Its two protagonists, veteran Tony Leung and newcomer Wei Tang, are both exceptional, and technical credits are extremely polished, from the period costumes and production design to the cinematography (by Brokeback's Rodrigo Prieto) and Alexandre Desplat's lush score. The characters are unforgettable, but as a whole the film feels just a bit too indulgent on the lust part of the equation. Read my full review of Se jie (Lust, Caution).

Hump Day Hottie: Complete Unknown!

A crazy thing about Hollywood: even unknowns are just
___________________gah....can't.... form sentences. Beauty!

Exhibit A: Babak Tafti
Very soon you'll see him (well, if you don't blink) as a prisoner in In the Valley of Elah and as 'kid in hallway' in that new Terminator spinoff 'Sarah Connor' TV series. Makes you wonder what other treasures the IMDB holds for those clicking around. I was going to include an Exhibit B and Exhibit C for a more fully realized thematic post but they're called "unknowns" for a reason. Where to even begin with the knowing?

And thus ends Season 3 of Hump Day Hotties. Season 4 will begin after an early Fall hiatus. Hump Day Hotties has been a Polysexual Blog Offering.

Season 3 Group Action Grindhouse Girls, Batman's New Bitches, 'too hot for hotties' Men Justin Theroux, Rodrigo Santoro, Paul Newman, Robert Downey Jr, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Jamie Bell, James Marsden, Silver Surfer, Jason Isaacs , Topher Grace Women Anne Hathaway, Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet, Maggie Gyllenhaal , Natalie Portman Program Interruptus Homer Simpson, Cruella de Vil, Maggie Smith

Season 2 Group Action Qi Shu & Chen Chang, Jamie Dornan & Asia ArgentoHot on TV Men Djimon Hounsou, Channing Tatum, Hugh Jackman , Brad Pitt, James McAvoy, Cheyenne Jackson, Daniel Craig Women Scarlett Johansson and Cleavage,Naomie Harris, Uma Thurman Program Interruptus Jenny

Season 1 Group Action Capote Boys, Viggo & Maria , ABBA, Fiennes & Weisz, The Men That Got Away (Vanity Fair), Wet Movie Stars Men Gael Garcia Bernal, Orlando Bloom, Cillian Murphy, Daniel Craig, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Sean Penn, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Tim Gunn and Totally Gratuitous Jake Gyllenhaal Women Gong Li, Rachel McAdams, Madonna, "Starbuck" from Battlestar Galactica, Thandie Newton, Emmanuelle Béart, Meryl Streep, "Selene" and the uncategorizable "Lady Tottington"

Re: Owen Wilson

I haven't posted anything about Owen Wilson's recent hospitalization --apparently from a suicide attempt -- because I don't post about the personal lives of celebrities unless it's somehow related to their screen work or unless I just can't help myself (gay celebs and Lindsay Lohan obviously fall into this second category --I'm not perfect)

In this case all I really want to say is "get well soon"

But if you've been thinking about this wonderful actor these past few days as I have, I point you to a beautiful piece by Matt Zoller Seitz called "A sunbeam in the abyss". He states super eloquently what I've expressed in the past (albeit awkwardly) whenever the subject of biopics rears its head: People have complicated emotional lives. Let's not reduce.

In the Valley of The Valley of

Even if you dread another Paul Haggis (Crash, Flags of Our Fathers, Million Dollar Baby) centric night at the Oscars it will have no bearing on the AMPAS reaction to his new film In the Valley of Elah, a film about the father of an Iraq war vet who goes missing. Take all forthcoming buzz you hear (good & bad) with a healthy dollop of cool analytical distance. It's the only way to make it through the 5-ish months of Oscar buildup and release. I've learned this from years of obsessing even though I sometimes still trip on my emotions. Take deep breaths. No matter how much we may love or hate a thing... We're no Professor X. We can't telepathically bend the will of 6,000 members of the Academy to our the correct way of thinking.

Jeffrey Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere has already come out as Elah's first big Oscar pundit cheerleader. I'm hearing considerably less enthusiasm from an industry reader who I know has seen it (he wishes to remain anonymous) and he wasn't at all averse to it going in. He thinks the screenplay is strong but that the movie fails to capitalize on it. Like Wells, he feels confident that Tommy Lee Jones is in the shortlist [my current Actor predictions] --going so far in our conversation as to compare Jones' film carrying work with a few very recent Oscar winners. Elsewhere, no pun intended, he doesn't see the film getting very far feeling that it comes up lacking in impact. Charlize Theron, though solid, has no character arc or 'Oscar scene' and he shares the early bird concern about Sarandon's grieving mother performance: very moving but too little screentime for Oscar traction.

I haven't seen the film but I'm personally feeling good about Susan Sarandon as a shortlister [I'll soon move her up on my Supporting Actress page], screentime be damned. If a perfomer is well liked enough, a glorified cameo can do the trick (Geraldine Page, The Pope of Greenwhich Village anyone?). Backgrounded roles can have big impact on voters if actors nail a memorable scene (Miranda Richardson, Damage anyone? Or try winners like Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love or Beatrice Straight in Network).

Other than the very strange and unfortunate case of her snubbing for Bull Durham (1988, seriously what happened there: big juicy comeback, best performance to date from an acclaimed actor, critically hailed hit film) Sarandon has been very well looked after by Oscar voters since the early days of her career when she got a surprise Lead nomination for Atlantic City (1981) --she had campaigned as supporting. Since that time Sarandon has been nominated for most of her statue friendly work. Grieving mothers are an ancient and effective 'Oscar Bait' staple. It's early but I think she's probably in.

What's your gut telling you about In the Valley of Elah and its Oscar chances and/or quality? Or are you more excited for the other political hot buttons coming out: The Kingdom, Rendition, Lions for Lambs or The Kite Runner.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

H.S. I Love You

This post is my contribution to the Bizarro Blog-a-Thon

I've tried to fight it, oh how I've struggled against it ... but you know what they say: 'the truth will out.'

If Hilary Swank will have me, I'm hers.

Perhaps you've read my many posts about 'Beelzebub' and found yourself muttering "the lady doth protest too much" (sigh) You saw right through me. I am that protestin' lady. I did it too much.

Hilary receives her star. I'll kneel to polish it on every trip to Hollywood

Oh but what else could I have done? The enormity of Her frightened me. I put on boxing gloves with my ($10) Million Dollar Baby, foolishly trying to fight off the inevitable. But no more. I will be strong and proud and true. When I speak of my "Angel" I'll be Iron Jawed. Now I can Write this Freedom for all to read. I've unlocked The Core of my heart to let Hilary Swank inside. She's The Gift I've been waiting for through the long dull days of my cinephilia when I tried to convince myself that the Pfeiffers, the Streeps, the Winslets of the worlds were the ones that deserved Two Best Actress Oscars.

I've doused myself in Insolence to write todays' top ten list. If Hilary can't hear my new affection, maybe she can smell it?

Hilary's 10 Greatest Performances

honorable mention: (tie) Boys Don't Cry (1999) & Million Dollar Baby (2004)
You know what they say about Academy Awards. They give Oscars to the right people but for the wrong performances. Good stuff (hey, it's Hilary!) but minor accomplishments in the Swank filmography.

10. The Reaping (2007)
I was nearly hit by a car trying to get a snapshot of the billboard. Her performance in this horror/thriller was even more dangerous.

<--- Hilary is out of this world!

09. The Core (2003)
I'm not sure what research she did to prepare for the role but it worked. She's absolutely believable as an astronaut.

08. Freedom Writers (2007)
In which she showed Edward James Olmos, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Sidney Poitier how teaching gigs should be done. No wonder she has more Oscars than them.

07. The Film I'm Going To Write For Her (2010?)
When I look into Hilary's gorgeous brown peepers I feel like I know her soul. I need to create for her. I didn't want to be too boastful so I put this @ #7 instead of #1. This post is about Hilary not me!

06. The Affair of the Pearl Necklace (∞)

05. Insomnia (2002)
I lose sleep over how great she is in this Alaskan thriller. I hope Pacino was taking notes. I only wish they could edit Stellan Skarsgaard out of the original Norwegian film and let Hilary refilm his scenes. Because he is a terrible actor and Hilary can play a man (see #10). I bet she could learn Norwegian too.

04. The Next Karate Kid (1994)
Ralph Macchio is a tough act to follow but damned if she didn't pull it off.

03. The Gift (2000)
That fugly mullet hairdo... only the bravest of actresses would allow herself to be unattractive onscreen. And that high pitched painfully slow-drawl line reading "I've been thinking bad thoughts." God, it absolutely haunts me still.

02. Beverly Hills 90210
It's probably cheating to include a television show but this show reached its slow boiling peek under her revelatory work as single mother "Carly Reynolds" who dates Ian Whatshisface. I can't remember his name. I saw only Hilary.

01. P.S. I Love You
Because each new performance from this two time Oscar winner is a cinematic event. In this new film, her Christmas gift to us, Hilary's husband (Gerard Butler --God, she could so do better) dies but leaves her notes to help her move on with her life. December 21st is just four months away. I can't wait.

I'll hold my breath.

"H.S. I Love You"
It's the only thing left to say

Want more BIZARRO? Click for the blog-a-thon

What If You Do Great Work and Hollywood Doesn't Notice?

Hood-riding Death Proof amazon Zoë Bell, surprise badass Freddy Rodriguez (I did not see "El Ray" coming watching Six Feet Under, did you?), and syringe-wielding wide eyed Marley Shelton were the revelations of Grindhouse this past Spring. While it's true that the movie flopped it's also true that actors can ignite their careers by doing unarguably charismatic and scene-stealing work. Even in flops.

Zoë Bell is getting her shot with a project developed for her but what the hell is going on with Freddy & Marley? Freddy has only another ensemble role on the way. He'll be part of the Napa wine industry drama Bottle Shock. Marley, so completely attuned to Planet Terror's comic absurdity and giving the movie a couple of its very best moments. Where's the breakthrough? I sincerely hope this is a case of delayed career explosion. Maybe she's taking meetings every day in Hollywood... perhaps she's swimming in offers and I just don't know it. She has only one new film listed on IMDB and she was probably involved with that before Planet Terror premiered. Why isn't she being cast in everything? I demand an answer!

70:02 (Courage?)

BIZARRO a screenshot from the 20th minute and 7th second 70th minute and 2nd second of a movie

The Wizard says 'Go away!'
(Yeah, yeah, I'm done with 20:07...mostly) The Bizarro Blog-a-Thon has begun and I thought this reversed promo would be a good way to remind myself to find some COURAGE. I'll need it to say what I gotta say... later today.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Exquisite Corpse #1

Over the weekend I asked y'all to play "exquisite corpse" with me. In case you missed it: the wicked instructions. Here's our first corpse. [click to enlarge]

Where did the evil scientists (their unholy names below) get these body parts? Guess and/or give this mutant cinematic creature a fitting name in the comments.

Head unearthed by J.D. Judge
Lily identified it: a Return of the King hobbit head. Billy Boyd's

Torso wrestled away by Brian Darr under the watchful eye of Hitchcock himself (Blackmail). Nobody guessed it.

Legs dragged directly from the beach by Melinda
And Ben, who watches movies, knows just where she got them: They're Daniel Craig's from Casino Royale. That infamous baby blue swimsuit must've given it away.

what have i linked to deserve this?

Guardian Unlimited Almodóvar on the boards in London
The Man Who Viewed Too Much TIFF a bit early
The Hot Blog More Sweeney Teasing
Scanners "gimme them old-time furrin pictures"
Big Screen Little Screen likes to see Parker Posey "roll around in a role"
Movie Marketing Madness on why Lust, Caution got that NC-17
Awards Daily
is conspiring with every other film news blog to get me excited about Eastern Promises which I was weirdly not all that expectant of, despite my passion for A History of Violence
And one final thing. Over at Stale Popcorn a confession: "Lists Make Glenn Angry". Heh. That's actually why I've sort of stopped reading them (no really) and why I should stop contributing to them. The anger isn't good for me. I can't take the constant 'whatever just happened is the best thing evah!!!!' mentality. Though I'll still love individual listings. Those have real kick and personality. Unless group project 'all time' lists ignore, say, the past 5 to 10 years (for which there can be little perspective yet) and unless they poll more than one type of person, they suck.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Notes from Venice - Day 0

Thanks to Nathaniel for his graceful intro!

For those unfamiliar with me and my site nice to virtually meet you all. I'm Boyd, a kid with a movie tic trapped in a 27-year-old's body. I've been writing about film since Salma Hayek was robbed of an Oscar. Over at I cover European films (duh!) and also cover all the major films (European and otherwise) that play at the major European film festivals, which means I travel in circles from Berlin to Cannes to Venice to Berlin each year. It's a tough job but someone's got to do it!

Venice is actually my favorite festival because of its special place on the calender (the first true Oscar launchpad), the nice climate, great food and (not unimportant) their great taste in movies. I mean, they gave Brokeback Mountain the Golden Lion just two years ago. And check out their track record: Monsoon Wedding, Trois Couleurs: Bleu, Belle de Jour, Last Year at Marienbad, Aparajito, Rashomon... these are all considered classics.

The Venice Film Festival will in fact celebrate its 75th anniversary this year -- take that Cannes, which celebrated its 60th b-day in May -- but its 2007 edition is only the 64th time the festival takes place. The festival is part of a much larger cultural organization called the Biennale, which, as the name indicates, organizes (or at least used to organize) cultural events every other year.

So, the 64th/75th anniversary edition will kick off on Wednesday with the world premiere of Atonement, Joe Wright's follow-up to his much lauded debut Pride & Prejudice. I've already had a sneak peek a couple of weeks ago and I can tell you that the movie, an adaptation of the eponymous bestseller by Ian McEwan, will likely be a big awards contender. It is not a flawless masterpiece, but as romances go, it is pretty heartbreaking and unforgettable.

The couple played by Keira Knightley and James McAvoy will have entire multiplexes fumbling for the Kleenexes in the dark and will leave Oscar-voters little choice but nominate them again (Knightley) or for the first time (McAvoy, who was shamelessly overlooked for his work on The Last King of Scotland). Read my full Atonement review here.

Something possibly even more fun than guessing Oscar nominees and winners is guessing the gay characters and/or elements in the recently announced line-up of the Queer Lion Award, a new prize at the Venice Film Festival that will award a film that "accurately portrays homosexual characters or themes". Who is playing gay? Most of the films listed are not particularly explicit about the gay angle in the material released so far. Could it be Brad Pitt? Casey Affleck? Owen Wilson? Adrien Brody? Michael Caine? Jude Law? Or perhaps a lovely foreign-accented man such as Bruno Todeschini, Benoît Magimel, Sami Bouajila or Daniel Wu?

US films on the Queer Lion contenders list are four: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford with Pitt and Affleck; Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited with Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman and the indie flicks Speed of Life (Superheroes) from Ed Radtke, a juvenile delinquent drama, and the road trip movie Searchers 2.0 from Alex Cox. Law and Caine co-star in the Kenneth Branagh's UK remake of 1972's Sleuth, which also starred Caine.

Start your guesses/wish lists for possible gay characters in the comments, and I'll be checking in from Wednesday on to tell you all about it.

Notes from Venice

A special treat for you all! I am always planning to expand my film festival coverage but the necessary funds continue to elude me. So, happy day!, Boyd of European Films fame has volunteered to be the special Film Experience correspondent from the 64th Annual Venice International Film Festival which runs Aug 29 - Sept 8.

He'll be popping in right here with stargazing and screening notes so keep an eye out. And to Boyd I say "Grazie!"

Supporting Oscar Hierarchy and Dianne Wiest

Today is the last Sunday in the month. Which means StinkyLulu is holding another "supporting actress smackdown" (this time it's for 1971: Ann-Margret displays her Carnal Knolwedge, Burstyn & Leachman attend The Last Picture Show, Margaret Leighton Gos Between and the 70s awesomeness sometimes referred to as "Barbara Harris" round out the pack. I just finished reading it. Yum Yum.

I'm sure that Stinky didn't like that the last post was Lead Actresses only --no edges allowed! So, for comparisons sake, here's your top 7 All Time Oscar Supporting Actress Favorites.

o1. Thelma Ritter (50, 51, 52, 53, 59, 62) six nominations and she never won :(
02. There's a six-way tie beneath her, all @ 4 nominations each. You have to start with...
Maggie Smith (65, 78, 86, 01) Could this double winner topple Ritter's supporting nomination record? She's 72 years-old but still makes a movie each year. She's keeping company with...
Ethel Barrymore (44, 46, 47, 49) Drew's Great Aunt
Lee Grant (51, 70, 75, 76)
Agnes Moorehead (42, 44, 48, 64)
Geraldine Page (53, 66, 72, 84) more on Page soon
Maureen Stapleton (58, 70, 78, 81)

Beyond that top tier, 11 women are tied including four who are still working: Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, and Frances McDormand. The latter two both still get baity roles, the former is charging towards another Emmy on Damages...

A Question/Rant of Utmost Importance
...which brings me to Dianne Wiest. I'm completely nutso for the best squinty-eyed actress ever. I just don't understand why all the high profile supporting roles have escaped her since she won her second Oscar. Think on this for a moment: Has any other double Oscar winner (male or female) won for performances as diverse as the ones she served up in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and Bullets Over Broadway (1994)? Aside from the fact that they're both Woody Allen projects, what connects those women? To underline her range even further let's also point out that they're very different women than Wiest's standard typecast role 'the concerned mom' which she's played dozens of times, Parenthood (1989, Oscar nominated) and Edward Scissorhands (1990) being the most famous variations and they're also very different than the women she played in other Woody Allen pictures.

Please to explain. Someone? Anyone? I don't think it's hyperbole to say that she's one of the best actors on the planet. Why is nobody giving her anything interesting to act? Where is Woody? Dump Scarlett and write something for Dianne again already. Shouldn't this woman be considered for meaty stuff like what Dench, Burstyn, Blethyn, McDormand or Bates occassionally get? Argh!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Oscar's Best Actress Hierarchy. A Discussion

I'm psyching myself up for Fall pre-Oscar season. Join me. You know how it goes once September hits. The prestige movies arrive and virtually everything from trailers to talk shows to box office numbers work as viral "for your consideration" ads. The new banner up top, which I've broken into two for discussion purposes here, shows in descending order the women with the most "Best Actress" nominations. No supporting nominations were included in the totals. These are Oscar's favorite leading ladies ranked. And this, is (duh) my favorite category.

01. Katharine Hepburn -12 nominations (32/33, 35, 40, 42, 51, 55, 56, 59, 62, 67, 68, 81) look at that time span ~ just astounding isn't it?
02. Meryl Streep -11
nominations (81, 82, 83, 85, 87, 88, 90, 95, 98, 99, 06) the most modern woman on the list in terms of Oscar since she switches between supporting and lead nominations: that's very common now but it didn't use to be for big stars.
03. Bette Davis -10 nominations (
35, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 50, 52, 62)
04. Greer Garson -7 nominations (39, 41,
42, 43, 44, 45, 60) She's the least well known today but see any of her performances and understand why Oscar fell hard. A charm machine.

05. (Tie ~6 lead noms each... in chronological order)
Norma Shearer (
yay! 29/30, 30/31, 34, 36, 38) One could argue that she's only had 5 noms since she was nominated for two different performances in one year --before they changed the rules on that. But why quibble? Norma needs -- nay deserves your love
Ingrid Bergman (43,
44, 45, 48, 56, 78)
Deborah Kerr (49, 53, 56, 57, 58, 60) the most nominated female lead to have never won the naked shiny man... though Peter O'Toole has her beat overall in the male counterpart category
Jane Fonda (69,
71, 77, 78, 79, 86)
Sissy Spacek (76,
80, 82, 84, 86, 01)

The last time there was a significant change in the field was when Spacek joined, expanding Oscar's top eight women to a top nine once In the Bedroom (2001) hit, ending her 15 year Oscar drought. How long until someone forces a true top ten?

10. (eight-way tie with 5 lead nominations each)
The next group
(5 lead noms) is bigger and includes actresses who've passed away (Susan Hayward, Anne Bancroft, Audrey Hepburn) and one retired giant (La Liz!) so let's just talk about the ones that are still living and working in films and who, thus, still have a chance at increasing their legends:

Shirley Maclaine (58, 60, 63, 77, 83)
Ellen Burstyn (73, 74, 78, 80, 00)
Jessica Lange (82, 84, 85, 89, 94)
Susan Sarandon (81, 91, 92, 94, 95)

Almost all of them have been working strictly in ensembles in recent years. Can they find their own In the Bedroom?

18. (fourteen-way tie: 4 lead noms each)
Just below them in the Oscar horse race are many who've passed on (Barbara Stanwyck, Irene Dunne, Greta Garbo, Janet Gaynor, Rosalind Russell) five retired winners (Jennifer Jones, Jane Wyman, Olivia DeHavilland, Joanne Woodward, Glenda Jackson) and one who has moved to TV guest work (Marsha Mason)...

Three working legends are also in this tier. How many more rungs up the ladder can Judi Dench (97, 01, 05, 06), Diane Keaton (77, 81, 96, 03) or Vanessa Redgrave (66, 68, 72, 84) climb? Or is it supporting roles from here on out?

Oscar's 80th birthday is just six months away ~ What happens to the Best Actress field in Oscar's octogenarian years? Must we wait until Kate Winslet is in her 40s for a real shakeup of the rank? You want to share your theories about the future of this hierarchy in the comments. You know you do.

Thanks to ~Little Golden Guy for a great database. Related stuff ~This year's Best Actress Race (updates soon) or click any of the labels below for more on these cinema greats...

Friday, August 24, 2007

Extras, Extras, Talking All About It

Do you think the actors in this scene have annoyed their loved ones with constant stories about 'that time I worked with Nicole Kidman' ?

Because, well, wouldn't you if you were in their shoes? I often wonder that about extras in spectacular spectacular movie sequences. To be fair these men are singing and dancing so this is a good deal more than typical "extra" work but still... the question remains. Was this a special day or just another day in the office for these guys? (Tangent: Yes, I'm feeling guilt about that abandoned MR! project. One of these days. One of these days...) I sometimes wonder about things like that. I'd love to chat with any one of these guys about that day(s).

If you've ever been an extra or more in a movie, tell us about it in the coments.

An Invitation to Play "Exquisite Corpse"

As a child I was fascinated by the drawing game Exquisite Corpse in which a piece of paper is folded in three and passed 'round the room. One person draws a head, the next person draws a torso (without seeing the head, the paper still folded) and the final person draws the legs and feet (w/out seeing head or body). The paper unfolds to reveal an often hilarious, surreal, frightening figure, an 'exquisite corpse' (here's an example for the confused)

The Film Experience loves reader participation. So --can you see where this is going?--let's play this surreal game together

You: Nathaniel I really want to play!!!
Me: Good, I thought you might.
You: What do I do?
Me: Oh beloved reader, it's easy. You simply screengrab or find and crop an image of one of the following three things:
a) a movie character viewed from the neck up
b) a movie character viewed from the neck to hips
c) a movie character viewed from the hips down.

Send me the file (the bigger the better --but in jpeg format please) and let me know what movie it's from and your blog/site url if you have one.
You: What happens then?
Me: I piece your pic together with two others images sent by other readers and credit you all when the lovely frankenstein movie moster is revealed. We can all share a laugh or squeal of horror (or both) and then everyone can try to figure out which movies the body parts are culled from.

Get it? Got it? Good! It's easier than it sounds. I'll post the first corpse as soon as I have enough entries. We'll continue if we enjoy ourselves. Deal?

Now Playing (08/24)

Closing Escrow comedy about real estate agents and home buying. Aren't there a million reality shows on TV now on the same topic?
Dedication Billy Crudup is an eccentric children's book author (is there any other kind?) who has lost his illustrating partner (Tom Wilkinson). He resists the new artist in his life (Mandy Moore) first. Directed by Justin Theroux (mmm, Justin)
Deep Water a doc about an infamous boat race in '68
Eye of the Dolphin A young girl befriends a dolphin in the Bahamas. I think we're all asking the same question here: Do they play Olivia Newton-Johns' immortal "Promise (Dolphin Song)" on the soundtrack. If not, I'm boycotting
Hannah Takes the Stairs (love the title) a new entry in the growing "mumblecore" movement. Hannah has already won admirers in cinephile heavy corners of the blogosphere
The Hottest State Ethan Hawke directs Mark Webber, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Laura Linney, Sonia Braga, Michelle Willliams and himself in this romantic... dramedy?
Right at Your Door A terrorism thriller. It's using a comparison to 24 as a pull quote so, er, pass...

Illegal Tender "always protect the family"
Mr Bean's Holiday I love him in shorts but I'm scared of feature length Bean
The Nanny Diaries our girl Scarjo takes on The Linney. Even if its bad, so what?
Resurrecting the Champ Josh Hartnett is now playing dads. I feel so old. In other news: Samuel L Jackson plays a homeless man called "The Champ" Life lessons / redemption sure to follow
September Dawn Jon Voight plays mormon prophet Brigham Young in this reenactment of the massacre of September 11th, 1857, which the movie posits as the first act of religous terrorism on US soil. I bet they aren't happy about this in Salt Lake
War Jet Li vs. Jason Statham. Why does it even need a trailer? or a title for that matter? Shouldn't "action star vs action star" be enough to get asses in seats?

I N _T H E A T E R S _ A N D _ R E V I E W E D
Death at a Funeral (pictured, right) this is my latest review in which I get frustrated with strenuous Brit comedy and do some hair pulling about distribution schedules for both Indie & Hollywood fare. Also: Becoming Jane, Hairspray, La Vie En Rose, Once, Ratatouille, Stardust, and Transformers

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Words of Wisdom from Catalina Sandino Moreno

"I just think you have to be good at one thing. You just have to learn that craft. I'm not going to launch any perfumes and I'm not going to start singing."

Kissing Volver

kissing ~ a new series. *mwah*

Pedro Almodovar's filmography offers an abundance of affectionate hooks, but the kissing in Volver is one of his most ingenious. That double cheeked, loud repetitive smacking added so much to the humor and pathos to an already great film. The kissing served up an amusing blend of true intimacy and wary distance-keeping.

Let's take a look...would that this post also had sound!

begins in a cemetery where daughters busily clean their mothers' grave. Just as soon as they've packed up their supplies to head home it's suddenly girls gone wild ... with kissing!

The festive smacking is prompted by the entrance of Agustina (Blanca Portillo in green above), a friend to Volver's central family. She is the movie's loudest and most passionate kissing advocate. Agustina gives young Paula four kisses remarking "she's all grown up!", Raimunda (a justly Oscar nominated Penelope Cruz) gets two. Finally Agustina meets her match as she embraces Sole (the wonderful Lola Dueñas in blue). Sole's smooches are the only rivals to Agustina's in enthusiasm and volume. They trade five (five!) noisy smackeroos. It sounds like ten.

And then the ladies are off to see Aunt Paula (Chus Lampreave, FB cameo gold medalist)

This possibly senile old woman is pickier about her cheek-to-cheek time. Raimunda gives her dear Aunt six affectionally received kisses. Aunt Paula then cheerfully trades two with Raimunda's daughter, noticing their shared name. Warily, she accepts two cheek pecks from Sole.

Aunt Paula's instant distrust of this forgotten niece is one of the movies funniest jokes. Immediately following the kiss she proclaims to Raimunda...
That Sole looks like one right sourpuss
A line that's even funnier than its delivery since Sole (pictured, right) almost always has a genuinely good-natured expression plastered on her face.

Aunt Paula remains unconvinced about this Sole character as they all say goodbye. To Raimunda she gives a huge hug complete with six kisses again, two simple kisses go to the younger Paula and, with a rather confused "must I?" expression on her face, the forgetful woman succumbs to two cheek-to-cheeks from the sourpuss.

Raimunda blows her ancient Auntie a kiss and heads out the door. Next stop: Agustina's across the street.

Agustina restrains herself when her friends arrive and lets her lips busy themselves with chatting. She also offers up a doobie. Her first kiss in this scene is actually delivered from lips to fingers to a photo on the wall. The woman in the photo is her long missing and possibly dead mother -- "the only hippie in the village" she proudly notes. Agustina, who is sickly herself, is in some ways the bridge character between the living and the dead in Volver so it's fitting that she kisses them, too.

When the sisters take their leave Agustina's lips attack again. Four kisses each for Raimunda and Paula. And another competitive kiss-a-thon with Sole, six kisses shared.

Will the kissing ever end? We're only 15 minutes into the movie and the kiss counter has reached an incredible...

There's a whole lot of lip smacking in Volver --has there ever been a movie with more kissing? Plant another one on me Pedro, please.
~if you love this post, please link it or email to friends.
Spread the love as freely as Agustina spreads kisses!~