Sunday, November 30, 2008

November. It's A Wrap

November has been oddly S-T-R-E-S-S-f-u-l what with the joyous election, the Prop 8 nightmare, and the sudden emergence of most of the Oscar hopefuls (at least as far as critics screenings go. You still have to wait because Hollywood hates you and they're into clusterf***ing) But just in case you've just gotten back from a long offline vacation --there's no other reasons to have missed anything, right? -- here are ten highlights from the second to last month of the year [gulp]. 2008 is nearly wrapped.

Lady Sarah Ashley & Scarlett O'Hara Hamilton Kennedy Butler

Australia review Baz buzz
Reason #37 Why I don't go to the Angelika Theater
Podcast Three new episodes in one month? I rock (pssst. another one tomorrow)
"Best Pictures From The Outside In" -Season one. And Gone With the Wind makes 12. Only 28 more episodes to go
Revolutionary Road "7 Word Movie Review" yes, I will say more than seven words. Soon.
Parker Posey on her 40th birthday
Naked Gold Man Swoons Oscar & the Romantic Epic
Velvet Goldmine 10th anniversary. Why it's better than its encore I'm Not There
Nine the musical's new cast and awards history
Tom Lenk an under appreciated comic talent

Coming in December...
Oscar season heats up with abundant precursor prizes including the start of my Dec/Jan 'Year in Review' madness (worst, best, weirdest, sexiest, curious and everything in between too).

Films we'll be discussing include:
Meet Me in St. Louis, Braveheart, Rebecca, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Waltz With Bashir, WALL•E, Forrest Gump, How Green Was My Valley, Revolutionary Road and more... You know how crazy the holidays get. Get in the spirit right here

Satellite Nominations (FWIW)

The Satellites have announced their nominations for this film year that's still in progress. As per usual there are so many nominees that it's hard to be generous about their award meaning much of anything to anyone outside of the actual nominees. With 12 nominees for both Actor and Actress there's room for everyone (including a double nomination for Mark Ruffalo??? I wasn't even truly cognizant that he was in two movies this season and I pay attention) When they get to the supporting categories that's where things get really wacky. Beyoncé Knowles for Cadillac? Really? Does this mean she agreed to show up? Penelope Cruz for Elegy (a lead role) instead of Vicky Cristina Barcelona in which she's the obvious and truly supporting highlight. Strange. Frozen River and The Visitor, two early-ish releases that will probably do well at the Indie Spirits scored big too.

Next up: The National Board of Review kicks things off all official like (at least in terms of standard Oscar precursor chronologies) this Thursday.

Today's Oscar Puzzle: Supporting Actor 2008

Your assignment: Look over my Supporting Actor prediction page. Return and answer me these questions 7:
  • Comedic Slot? Burn After Reading's dumb jock Brad Pitt or Tropic Thunder's offensively committed thespian Robert Downey Jr.? Or neither?
  • Australia's Brandon Walters? Will awards bodies see this as merely natural screen presence... or a true acting turn?
  • Milk. How much supporting actor traction could it possibly get. One (Josh Brolin) Two (James Franco) Three (Emile Hirsch)? Only three films have managed three nominees in this category. They were On the Waterfont and the first two Godfathers
  • Bill Irwin in Rachel Getting Married? True longshot possibility or merely Nathaniel's wishful thinking?
  • Critics Awards. Do they all go to Heath Ledger's way for The Dark Knight or do the Associations and Circles attempt to shore up support for a candidate who needs it more, Ledger being a done deal and all...
  • Category Fraud. Will they honor the FYC lines or laugh in the face of outrageous claims (i.e. The Reader has no lead, Father Flynn is a supporting role in Doubt)
  • Dev Patel in Slumdog. Personally I find the acting in this energetic film merely adequate. Will strong love for the movie convince voters otherwise?

Meg Ryan Wins Gold

And she's just as confused as you are as to why. I mean... in the year of The Women?

But hey, it's something for the mantle. Perhaps she'll place this cute little deer on her mantle betwixt those creepy glass entombed masks that are the American Comedy Awards? Horrifying but true: Meg hasn't even won a Golden Globe for Comedy. Yes The Evil One who stole Michelle Pfeiffer's Oscar also gold-blocked Meg in her one real shot at a major statue (for When Harry Met Sally). The Bambi is a German prize for entertainment figures and Meg won for "International Actress" -- We can't read German but we pray that it's a career prize rather than anything connected to her misguided effort to fill Norma Shearer's shoes this past September.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Still Digesting...

I guess I'm still in a sort of turkey/stuffing/pie coma. Talk amongst yourselves if you've anything cinematic to say...


my internet is where I want you to touch loves Slumdog's "throbbing" imagery
The House Next Door 5 for day: Mia Farrow
Film Essent Best Picture locks?
Victim of the Time a prize for Thandie Newton
DaddyCatcher I must have been asleep at the wheel? How had I not heard this Baz Luhrmann/Wicked thing [thx]
MTV Hugh Jackman on being 'the sexiest man alive' and those gay rumors
Berlinale Tom Tykwer's thriller The International will open Berlin
Antagony & Ecstacy has some words for the outrageous anti-feminism of Twilight
i09 further proof that The Dark Knight caused a loss of public sanity earlier this year -- a man left his 2 year-old in a locked car while he watched it. In Utah, natch

"All In" for Wolverine?

Lookie here, it's Taylor Kitsch (Friday Night Lights) as Gambit in the upcoming Wolverine movie (May 2009)

Off topic: I miss Friday Night Lights.

On topic: I know that Gambit isn't opposed to wearing purple or vests in the comics but I worry that following 2008's mania for The Joker, everybody is going to be wearing vests and greens and/or purples in blockbusters for years to come. "Super" films are really unimaginative this way. After Terminator 2 everybody used cold blue filters for action. Following The Matrix all super-powered folks were suddenly opposed to primary colors and costumed in black. Following The Phantom Menace Samuel L Jackson was cast in seven more (intended) super franchises. Etcetera.

Anyway... doesn't it seem like X-Men Origins: Wolverine should already be on DVD -- like we've been hearing about it for years? I'm curious to see how well it fares given the overall crappiness of the X-Men finale (Last Stand), the popularity of the character, Hugh Jackman's ever rising fame but questionable bankability, and the upcoming glut of comic book movies (the genre seems unstoppable now but oversaturation will eventually kill it).

Friday, November 28, 2008

Now Playing: Gay Activism, High Concept Merriment, and Sun-Blasted Romance

Only four movies dare stare-downs with Edward & Bella (Twilight) in their second week of Harlequined romance. Your new releases, from least to most screens (links go to trailers)

Milk - In the grand tradition of most of the best movies of any given year *sigh*, this straightforward but artful and expertly acted bio of a great American is only available to you if you live in big cities. The rest of you will have to wait until Dec 5th or 12th. It's worth the wait.

Transporter 3 -Surprising but true fact: I have never seen a Jason Statham movie despite finding him to be one sexy m*********

Australia -It took visionary Baz Luhrman (i.e. the wizard of Oz) 8 years to make a follow up to Moulin Rouge! You can blame that on his aborted production of Alexander the Great (which was to have starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Mel Gibson & Nicole Kidman) and his general filmmaking timetables. Movie # 5 coming sometime in 2013. This epic WW II adventure romance is very much a MOVIE. Read the review.

Four Christmases -Vince & Reese are described as a "happily unmarried couple" in the synopsis of this holiday flick. Which means you know it will end with their engagement or marriage and maybe even a pregnancy announcement. If we've learned anything about mainstream Hollywood all quadrant efforts they are totally into reinforcing heternormativity which means we can't have our Miss Witherspoon living in sin with no feeling for children. But first this unwed couple have to (presumably) learn life lessons by reluctantly visiting their broadly comic families. Am I getting warmer? (Tell me if you've seen it.)

Expect it to be a massive hit --top ten of '08, easy-- because there's baby vomit in the trailer and apparently baby vomit is hi-lar-ious! Possible silver lining: the cast (Vaugh, Witherspoon, Favreau, Chenowith, Duvall, Steenburgen, Spacek, Voight) is rather merry: Five Oscar winners for a high concept family flick? It's like they're trying to one-up Meet the Fockers.

Are you seeing something new this weekend?

Thursday, November 27, 2008


You saved Julia some dessert, right? She has plenty of room.

Bon Appetit

the guests are arriving...

Will the meal be "finger lickin' good"?

Home For The Holidays? Happy Thanksgiving!

Well, wherever you are, enjoy this day! I always do. I think one of the reasons I enjoy Thanksgiving is that people actually come to me --the huge feast is currently being prepared chez moi. I don't have to travel to my crazy parents house in a big oversize pink coat where I'll only end up fighting with my sibling --oh, wait that's Holly Hunter. I get us confused.

I love Jodie Foster's Home For the Holidays (1995) and I always think of it this time of year. My other favorite movie Thanksgiving is in Addams Family Values
"Eat us, we make a nice buffet..."
I had intended to type up a whole list of movie things I'm grateful for this year to honor the holiday but I don't wanna give away all my year end awards too soon... so I'm narrowing it down to three ultra specific things.
  • Poppy in Happy-Go-Lucky. Being perky and cheerful isn't really my bag but I'm still trying to be more like Poppy. I love the way she turns random conversations that could be mutual crab fests into pleasant emotional outreach. Tell her something negative about someone and she'll say "bless her/him" even as she'll join you in sympathetic exasperation.
  • The way Paul (Bill Irwin) smushes his son-in-law's face in Rachel Getting Married.
  • How happy Sean Penn looks when he's laughing as Harvey Milk. It's not a look we see on Sean Penn so much but isn't it beautiful?
Your turn: Name three movie things you're grateful for this year.

P.S. regular posting will resume tomorrow after we've all digested. Be safe and take care and THANK YOU for being a loyal reader. I couldn't keep going without you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Curious Links of Nathaniel R

Today and Tomorrow check out this cool pie chart of Sofia Coppola films. I love it
ModFab thinks Benjamin Button is, well, "curious"
Awards Daily My god. I'd totally forgotten that most FYC campaigns are well under way.
Defamer horrors! Mariah Carey could be up for an Oscar this year
Boy Culture I'm with Matthew here. Director Bill Condon (talking about Prop 8) just dropped a notch in my book.
The Bad and Ugly "Old Man Notices Eliza Dushku" (hee)
Everything I Know... Broadway's money grubbing Young Frankenstein is closing soon. That won't stop the cynical movie-to-stage transferring
The Big Picture loves Benjamin Button's David Fincher even though he's cold blooded
LA Times on marketing Milk
Scanners on Altman's Nashville. I never tire of reading about this movie
The Cinematic Art, speaking of Robert Altman, looks at Rachel Getting Married through that prism

And here's the trailer to Tony Gilroy's Michael Clayton follow up Duplicity which reteams Closer's vicious spouses Julia Roberts and Clive Owen.

I had no idea he'd go comic for his sophomore effort.

20:08 (Cel Phone Switcheroo)

screenshots from the 20th minute and 8th second of movies.
I use a VLC but diff' players come up w/ slightly different shots. It's an inexact exercize.

Hey, how's London?
Poor Ewan MacGregor's Penis. It's only had four women. Which is why it's such easy prey for deviled Huge Jackman in Deception. Unfortunately, given the sex club plot device, Jackman's "foreplay" with MacGregor (his word, not mine... would that the movie would have taken him literally) and Michelle Williams' randy promises of a 'frenzy of f***ing and sucking' the movie is surprisingly sexless. Jackman and McGregor both actually penetrate women with their pants still on in the grand tradition of 80s movies. I've never actually understood the mechanics of that but I'm no anatomy expert. I guess Hollywood knows best.

For a short while (a very short while) the movie had me going since the actors, particularly Williams, are much better than their increasingly laughable material. The cinematography is also quite pleasant to look at, a clear case of putting lipstick on a pig or a Skinemax made-for-cable movie vying for the Cinematography Oscar.

Dante Spinotti can't help himself.

Have you seen it? If you haven't your better off imagining the whole movie in your head (Jackman, MacGregor, Williams, Charlotte Rampling and Maggie Q all belong to the same sex club. Go!) I'm guessing you won't squander the premise, the way Deception does. D

Red Carpet Lineup

I decided that my red carpet series needed a new look. So I've adjusted slightly. I'm guessing I like doing it more than you like seeing it but whatevs. I blog for me. Me! Me! Me! So with my perplexing obsession with celebrity heighth in mind (I'm not a macrophile in my civilian life. I swear) I've coopted The Usual Suspects poster. Partially because I like to showcase actresses who most blogs who feature celebrity photos ignore. So... get it? It's tagline humor: "you've got to look beyond the usual suspects" No? Anyone? I blog for me. Me! Me! Me!

Anyway the blogs that showcase all the red carpet photos are obsessed with people like Phoebe Price, Heidi Montag and Kim Kardashian and honestly I don't even know who those people are. My brain is too filled with real actors to make room for these people, whoever they may be and whatever they may do. I don't need to know.

Here we go. On the carpets this week...

Saffron Burrows (or 'Mrs. Fiona Shaw' as I like to call her) is a tall drink of water and quite a looker. Fiona is a lucky crazy lady. Thespians Ruby Dee & Sissy Spacek I've grouped together. They're both so tiny. First person to guess why I've placed them side by side earns my immediate respect and may choose the banner motif next week. But one question: Is Sissy Spacek training for a roll in Kill Bill Vol. 3? What is that ka-ra-té outfit about? It's better not to ask what Sally Kirkland is "about" but merely to enjoy her flamboyance and her death's grip on her own peculiar celebrity. It's been 21 years since her one and only Oscar nomination (for Anna) and she still works the red carpet circuit like a tireless coke-fueled 21 year old starlet. It's like she's always looking for work and will be noticed. Naturally I love her. Kristin Chenowith is not even 5 foot tall! All that cuteness and those huge multi-octave pipes are packed into but 59 inches. And like I mentioned some time ago live-blogging, I love that she always wears huge bows like she's offering herself up as gift. It's astute self analysis, non?

Meanwhile Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Connelly are like "This line-up is too C-List for us. We're outta here." But Jennifer, honey, what have you done for us lately?
____ Reese, you're free to go.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesday Top Ten: Female Directors @ Box Office

updated to correct box office errors & bring up to date to Nov 30th

With Twilight, the high school vampire romance, opening to huge box office, various websites are talking about director Catherine Hardwicke's "achievement". For the most part I hate the notion that box office is an achievement (maybe it is but it's no meritocracy) or that it's directly attributable to any one person involved. This is how many movie stars end up with oversized paychecks that they're rarely able to live up to (result = backlash). It's how many directors of questionable talent continue to get major gigs (consider the careers of Brett Rattner, Chris Columbus, et al) because they're smart enough to attach themselves to can't miss franchises. What I'm saying is this: I could've directed Twilight and it would've still opened to $69 million. My version would've changed a few things:
  • A better wig for Taylor Lautner.
  • No clothed scenes whatsoever for Cam Gigandet.
  • Less boring ass moping/whining from Kristen Stewart (who may never be able to live that hospital scene down. That was the best take!? Ouch)
  • Extra scenes that aren't in the book so that something happens besides stare-downs. My cat might love this movie
  • More shirtless scenes for Edward... but not in the sunlight because I hate that stupid skin twinkle effect.
Come to think of it, I hated all of the effects in the movie. Yeah, I definitely would've fired some people. I can't recall the last time a movie with special effects this cheesy opened huge. Was it Van Helsing? Generally speaking blockbusters have top notch special effects even if they're dramaturgically challenged.

I'm joking of course (somewhat?). Catherine Hardwicke undoubtedly made a better film than I could have but her skills have nothing whatsoever to do with the box office. And while I thought this vampire yarn shabbily directed I suppose she'll always have the stunning and appropriately histrionic 13 as a first and more deserving claim to fame.

Enough boring ass moping/whining Nathaniel. Get to the list!

Top Box Office Hits Directed by Women
I might have missed one but I think this is mostly accurate
note: I did not include co-directed animated movies in this list

runners up
16 $66 The Parent Trap (1998) Nancy Meyers
15 $71 Bridget Jones's Diary (2001) Sharon Maguire
$74 Prince of Tides (1991) Barbra Streisand
$95 Michael (1996) Nora Ephron
12 $107 A League of Their Own (1992) Penny Marshall
11 $114 Big (1988) Penny Marshall

10 $115 You've Got Mail (1998) Nora Ephron
09 $119 Twilight (2008) Catherine Hardwicke
$121 Wayne's World (1992) Penelope Spheeris
07 $124 Something's Gotta Give (2003) Nancy Meyers
06 $126 Sleepless in Seattle (1993) Nora Ephron
-- $140 Look Who's Talking (1989) Amy Heckerling
04 $140 Deep Impact (1998) Mimi Leder
03 $143 Mamma Mia! (2008) Phyllida Lloyd
02 $144 Doctor Dolittle (1998) Betty Thomas
01 $182 What Women Want (2000) Nancy Meyers

And as a palate cleanser, some movies that are definitely worth investigating if you can find room on your netflix queue (I know I'm always giving assignments).

10 Interesting Female Directors
(Alphabetically and off the top of my head. My favorite from their filmographies listed)

Alison Anders (Gas Food Lodging)
Kathryn Bigelow (Near Dark)
Jane Campion (The Piano)
Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation)
Claire Denis (Beau Travail)
Mary Harron (American Psycho)
Nicole Holofcener (Lovely & Amazing)
Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!)
Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don't Cry)
Lynn Ramsey (Morvern Callar)

I forgot Susanne Bier (Brothers). My apologies! And of course you can't go wrong with Agnes Varda (but I was thinking more of features rather than docs which is what she's doing now). There are also many fine foreign directors whose work I'm less familiar with... other countries don't seem to have as hard of a time as the US employing female directors (the submission lists for Oscar's foreign films illustrates this point each and every year)

related article minus the women (um....): Oscar's Best Director Race predictions for 2008

Robert Pattison On Twilight's Opening Gross

'69! Does this mean I have to stare at Kristen Stewart for the next 7 years? How many books are there again?'

Monday, November 24, 2008


Some people get drunk on fame, some on power, some on the usual stuff. Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann, gets drunk on storytelling. It's been fully obvious in each Bazmark production. Some filmmakers start slow, giving you time to settle in, as they describe the world, introduce the characters and set up the plot. Baz Luhrmann starts big and usually well past the first story beats. He's already buzzing. He expects you to catch up. Consider the anticipatory glee projected in the very first frames of the "red curtain trilogy" (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge!). The mere act of opening the curtains seems to thrill the filmmaker. The red curtains are gone for his fourth film, the massive epic Australia, but the storyteller (if not the story) remain the same.
Would you like to hear a story?
-Lady Ashley to a crying child

The film's first few absolutely gorgeous minutes suggest that we'll be seeing a child's adventure film. Our guide is Nullah (Brandon Walters), a "creamy" (half aboriginal, half white) who is walking with his grandfather, King George (David Gulpilil) when they chance upon a murder. Jumping forward in time, with Nullah still guiding us, we see him hiding at a cattle ranch called "Far Away Downs." Nullah, in voice over, introduces us to The Drover (Hugh Jackman) and Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) but Baz, behind the camera, only offers us tantalizing glimpses since Nullah peers at them between wooden slats. Nullah then informs us that we've missed the beginning of the story. True to Baz's form this prologue is not actually the beginning. We're whisked briefly to England for a fuller introduction to Sarah. One must have an explanation as to why she is whisked off to...

[cue titles] AUSTRALIA


I'm Linking As Fast As I Can

The Advocate interviews the great Cherry Jones (on Meryl in Doubt, her new role on 24, kissing Sarah Paulson and more)
In Contention re: doc Oscar hopefuls
Valley Dreamin'
a 2nd "Endings" 'Thon
The Big Picture more divisive drama for Benjamin Button -it's a week old but I rest my case: This movie wins "Weirdest Foreplay Award" for '08. (Narrowly defeating The Reader)
StinkyLulu Susannah York in They Shoot Horses Don't They? --I love that turn but the whole movie is the bee's knees
Pop Seoul on the trailer to Frozen Flower. I'm imagining the Hollywood pitch: "Curse of the Golden Flower meets Brokeback Mountain. Wire action and man sex!"
Slate why movie vampires always break the vampiric "rules"
Vulture Twilight. 28 reasons why the movie is better. Funny piece --- though that still doesn't mean the movie is any good.
Humanizing The Vacuum a few insightful bits on Rachel Getting Married

And I couldn't not share this youtube video of Gloria Swanson (thx) talking about the lion's bride sequence in Male and Female (1919). They had faces then, indeed. And hot bestial fantasies as well apparently.

Off Cinema
Mighty God King Snoopy has a video game
Queerty Melissa Etheridge is excited to keep her tax money now that she's a second class citizen
Popnography Cheyenne Jackson to star in a Broadway musical from the South Park guys
Joe.My.God shares some charts on anti-gay laws in the States... in case anybody tells you the gays complain too much, here's the rebuttal

Viva Italia (and Hugh Jackman)

I was all set to complain that we didn't get Hugh Jackman on the US cover of Vanity Fair. Then I remembered that they just gave us Amy Adams and Kate Winslet as pin-up girls instead so...

It feels churlish to complain somehow. But still...

On the cover of 2009's "Vanity Fair's Hollywood" can we just get The Drover in Scarlett Johansson's 2006 pose --maybe his trainer could play the Keira part? (I'll be Tom Ford) Or maybe let Hugh could recreate that Burt Reynolds Cosmo spread? Or Demi Moore's birthday suit cover? Let Baz Luhrmann photograph him because our favorite silver fox auteur likes to fawn over Hugh's sweaty musculature already. Speaking of: Go see Australia on Wednesday! Here's my review. I worry about its box office prospects and I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we don't want to wait another 7 years for another Bazmark production. I know we can blame the gap between Moulin Rouge! (2001) and Australia (2008) partially on Oliver Stone and Baz's aborted take on Alexander but it's not like the auteur is speedy to begin with. Give the Luhrmann/Martin team some incentive to move right into the next movie... whatever it may be. I'll even take a return to Alexander... it's not like Stone's was definitive.

P.S. How many rounds could you go in the ring with Jackman?

Red Carpet Rendezvous

Okay... I know when you mention Twilight you're supposed to be panting exclusively about Robert Pattison and Kristen Stewart but at the risk of losing every tween or soccer mom reader i may have *they do nothing for me*. However, it was fun to see Anna Kendrick back in high school again. Remember that choice Camp moment when she belted out "Ladies Who Lunch" Wicked funny that was. Worth a rental just for that scene! Maggie Cheung was coaxed out of retirement for filming on Tarantino's upcoming WW II epic. Hey however we get her back is fine. Even if it's only a cameo it's still something. Madonna attended a Gucci event in this grass skirt. It's the weirdest look for her since that time her eyes were mouths in the Bedtime Stories video

Unfortunately it's not as cool.

TANG WEI! I'm shouting because I was just so excited to see her. I know she's banned in China and all but somebody give this woman a follow up role. Did no one in the movie industry see Lust, Caution. It's like turning your nose up at gourmet food or lighting your money on fire. Do not let her go to waste. Nicole Kidman is tall.

Viola Davis is soon to be an Oscar nominee, thank God. I still smile thinking of how rich she made 2002 cinema even from the sidelines (Remember Antwone Fisher, Far From Heaven, Solaris?). And finally Faith the Vampire Slayer. I have been waiting a long time for her to be in something worthwhile (Tru Calling = awful) but after the cancellation of Pushing Daisies and all the production woes from the set of Dollhouse, I'm thinking it wasn't such a good idea for me to become interested in television again. I knew I should've quit it altogether when Sex & the City or Six Feet Under went off the air.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Day of Rest

Shhhhhhhhhh. Clark is sleeping. Like him, I'm going to need some R&R if I hope to be SUPER again.

Coming November 24th-30th: Detailed thoughts on Australia, Milk, Revolutionary Road, Slumdog Millionaire and Twilight. Plus: Bill Irwin interview, more on Oscar's animated, documentary and foreign film races (The Class is so excellent... I'm now rooting for that though it might be too subtle for even an Oscar nomination) and the usual blog goodies. I'm hoping for another episode of "Best Pictures From the Outside In" but that's probably stretching it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oscar Prediction Revisions

I'm cheating a bit on my Oscar color key. You know the one (green = lock, yellow = good bet, etc...) You'll see yellowish green for two films. Slumdog Millionaire and Milk might not be "locks" in the truest sense --after all, the precursor voting bodies haven't begun to weigh in and no top ten lists (thankfully) have landed in November but they feel like Locks To Be. The other three spots look contestable.

I have been a firm believer for months now that The Dark Knight would be there and as the holiday contenders emerge, all working similar Big Stars + Big Pedigree + Big Bait Message/Genre + Holiday Ticket movie angle I still have faith that voters will look back to its Movie of the Year status. The big bad Bat movie's Oscar campaign seems quiet right now but that's probably wise given the overhype of the summer and fall. I'm assuming it's a breather. There's still time to reemerge machine guns firing once the precursors and top ten lists begin their march towards Oscar. At the very least the movie stands out: as do Milk with the immediacy of its message and Slumdog just because it's, well, a true one-off.

But Oscar has five spots. 1,2,3 ...4?5?

That leaves two spots wide open and any combo of the six most Oscarable December releases seems plausible: Doubt, Revolutionary Road, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, The Reader and The Wrestler. What say you Oscar watchers?

Updated Oscar Pages: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, Actress , Supporting Actor,Supporting Actress and Visual , Costume and Sound pages...

New Podcast: Rachel Getting Married Pt. 1

Part 1 of 2: Rachel Getting Married Special

When I interviewed screenwriter Jenny Lumet she claimed ignorance, blissful ignorance, when it came to the movie industry. While it's true that she grew up in a famous household (she calls legendary Lena Horne grandmother and one of Hollywood's most lauded filmmakers, Sidney Lumet, father) she didn't know the fine details of getting script to screen. She apparently didn't stop to question her instincts, didn't stop to worry that screenwriters aren't technically supposed to announce their choice of Oscar winning directors... and get him. Her directorial suggestion of Jonathan Demme (Married to the Mob, Silence of the Lambs, Something Wild), underlines what one can already hear in Rachel Getting Married's illuminating screenplay: this is a sharp perceptive woman.

Last week I also spoke with "Rachel" herself Rosemarie DeWitt, currently an Oscar hopeful for Best Supporting Actress, on her ascending career. We dish on Mad Men (she jokes that it's hard to make out with Jon Hamm week after week, poor thing), investigate why Cinderella Man was important to her, praise Anne Hathaway, and I geek out about Searching For Debra Winger (which I am prone to do -- I really should write about that documentary) when we come around to DeWitt sharing the screen with the elusive 80s icon.

You can read more about these interviews here

Those with iTunes can get the enhanced podcast here.
If you're without,there's a standard mp3 for your listening pleasure.

Oscar prediction updates are in progress -more later

A Little Patience

To everyone waiting for more info following those maddening 7 word movie reviews, waiting is the name of the game. It's what Hollywood makes us do each year with Oscar hopefuls and it's what I make you do... even though my intentions aren't as cynical as Hollywood's (who figure Oscar voters can't remember anything opening earlier than Thanksgiving) but a matter of time constraints. I wish I could clone myself. This holiday week will be jam packed with goodies, starting in just a couple of minutes. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Wrestler is Coming

The first trailer to Darren Aronofsky's miniature gem has arrived

After my marathon movie day yesterday (Australia, Milk, Revolutionary Road) as well as earlier screenings (Doubt, Slumdog Millionaire) I've seen all but a few of the presumed Oscar giants (still waiting on: Frost/Nixon, Benjamin Button and The Reader). And having weighed the contenders I must inform that I'm still rooting for The Wrestler to displace almost any of them in the ring to sweat it out and do bloody theatrical battle for that coveted Best Picture title.

Even if their films aren't "Best Picture"s, Jonathan Demme (Rachel Getting Married) and Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) could be "Best Director"s, couldn't they?

The precursors will be upon us very soon. Each year I pray that the various Oscar Prediction Clubs will return to their founding purposes -- that is honoring the best films and performances of the year -- even if in so doing, they have to ignore the big ticket December films they've just barely screened and vote for things that are far less likely to be honored at the Kodak. But I've also been doing this for a long while now and I know better. The precursor nominations will be a mix of things that these guilds, clubs, associations and circles really do love and things they assume Oscar will love (a dependable percentage of which no one will care about in 2 or 3 years time). Some valiant cinematic efforts will be shoved aside for the latter. That's the way it goes.

But back to The Wrestler --I'm unsure if critics will rally unanimously given the other things they could throw their weight behind. And even if they do, I'm unsure if Oscar will bite given the low key nature of the film and its modest production values. But this is where I'm directing my prayers to the gods of cinema. I've given up hoping that Rachel Getting Married (more divisive than I thought it'd be) can find itself a miracle Best Picture nomination but I am still crossing my fingers that a brave non-predictive precursor body (do any still exist?) will at least honor Jonathan Demme's return to form as a director. It'd be so sweet to see him pull off a Mike Leigh Vera Drake style surprise nomination. But what are the chances of that?

Oscar Nom Predictions are currently being revised. You'll see the results tonight and tomorrow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

7 Word Movie Review: Revolutionary Road

Rough start and overscored. Lively acting throughout.

7 Word Movie Review: Milk

Unapologetically GAY. Penn's best in 13 years.

7 Word Movie Review: Australia

Overstuffed stiff absorbing EPIC. Hugh Jackman Porn.

a full review is now available, kids

Red Carpet Rendezvous

Little known fact: Marisa Tomei is planning to play Mrs . Roper next. I have nothing to say about Deborah Harry but we were just talking about her so why not include? You know what Diane Keaton needs to do next? A meaty dramatic role like she had in Reds or Mrs Soffel -- but oh right ... Nobody remembers how strong she is in dramas, including maybe Diane herself. Winona Ryder was hospitalized for a mysterious illness this week . Here we go again. I mean this next statement in the nicest least snarky way I could mean it. I honestly thought that Natasha Lyonne was dead. So this year hasn't been as big for Elizabeth Banks as we all were thinking, has it? Still, she looks fab. So does my fab Mad Men cast member Christina Hendricks Yumyum. Is Hollywood going to pounce on her? At the very least, can't they throw her some supporting work in period pieces.

The Big Movie Dogpile

Today I will be seeing three of the biggest Oscar contenders. I realize this will sound enviable to many of you. I told 'txt critic' about my three-in-one-day schedule and he said
I want to murder you and wear your skin to the screenings!
Ha ha. uhhh...

I assure you that it's not a complaint. It's more like a question mark. It's just that I don't really understand the benefit of the annual studio dog piling, everyone leaping on critics and guild members and Oscar voters all at once, rubbing their legs frantically like desperate horny beasts. Why is everything ambitious,prestigious and golden also simultaneous? It's very strange.

You see, today I'm still thinking about Meryl Streep as a bitter nun "Look at that. You blew out my light!" (Did I underestimate her work? Maybe. Were my expectations too high for 'the greatest actress of all time'? Probably. I already want to see it again) Meanwhile I'm trying not to think about those stupid vampires who stare at each other and us for hours upon hours and never think to do anything else. You're a vampire, idiot, kill something, drink blood, scare me. Meryl Streep is way scarier than you are. Do SOMETHING already! Anything... I'm begging you. Now I must leave both nuns and the undead behind.

I fear that all Oscar hopefuls will blur together. I won't be able to tell one film from the next -- it'll be just like a bleary eyed film festival only more middlebrow. By Thanksgiving I'll be imagining Harvey Milk sweeping prissy Nicole Kidman off her feet even as she ages backwards -- younger and younger she gets, all the way back to her shadowy past in Nazi era Germany when she fought Daniel Craig in the Belarus forest before her unhappy marriage to Leonardo DiCaprio (of Connecticut), a union which ended with his historic downfall by way of a 1970s television interview.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hump Day Hottie: 30 Years of Michelle Pfeiffer

Next Tuesday, November 25th marks the 30th anniversary of the very first filmed appearance of the legendary Michelle Pfeiffer. She had one line on a Fantasy Island episode... "Who is he Niobe?" To celebrate this landmark, Fran @ The Face (a great great pfan site) has compiled this video celebration.

Watch Michelle Pfeiffer, 30 Years of Career in Celebrity Videos | View More Free Videos Online at

The first two minutes are montage but after that, it becomes a true event: a chronological completist stroll through her entire career (including TV appearances and voicework). It's 11 minutes and 47 seconds of Heaven... or my idea of heaven at any rate. One of my favorite things about the video is the thrill of watching the goddess get more and more beautiful as the years rush by. I also appreciate that the music changes just exactly when it should --round about 1987/1988 when her career went supernova (it was the combo of Witches of Eastwick / Married to the Mob / Dangerous Liaisons / Tequila Sunrise). This is my new favorite video. My cold dead heart nearly started beating again, my dry eyes nearly welled up -- so many memories rushing back along with reminder that I'll just never love another actress more ...and y'all know how big a statement that is given my, um, actressexual tendencies. Pfeiffer was with me as I took my first irreversible steps into cinephilia. She still sends me.

Here are my 10 arguably favorite pictures of Michelle Pfeiffer (yes I argue with myself about such things --you know it's so hard to choose)

Clockwise from top left: Photoshoot to promote Dangerous Minds (1995) -I heart the dangling "superstar", Herb Ritts imagined Pfeiffer as drag king in 1991, and finally: Actor/Photographer Jeff Bridges catches an candid moment on the set of Fabulous Baker Boys (probably 1988, she quit smoking not long thereafter) --I once nearly dropped... well way too much $ at a gallery for a breathtaking Bridges original of Pfeiffer atop the piano. If I were a rich man...

Left to right: by Rankin for Esquire in 2007 to celebrate her comeback, photographed by Davis Factor for Movieline in 2002... so atypically casual in denim.

Left to right: In 1990 by Jean Pagliuso when Russia House was coming out. That headshot is classic Pfeiffer. I'm not sure where I got the middle picture or who took it but it's one I've been obsessed with for a good while. Michael Thompson shot the actress for W in 1999... no one does ethereal miserabilism as well as she.

Left to right: Pfeiffer in Life magazine in 1986 by Co Rentmeester, Pfeiffer by Herb Ritts again in 1989 as she entered the pantheon of all time great silver screen beauties with the release of The Fabulous Baker Boys. It's never going to stop being frustrating that she lost the golden boy while everything in her career was screaming golden... even the photo shoots.

See Revolutionary Road Early

If you're in the NYC area director Sam Mendes (Mr. Kate Winslet) is attending a screening and doing a Q & A afterwards @ BAM on December 10th. I'd buy your tickets now as special appearances like that, two weeks prior to opening, sell out quickly.

thanks to reader and commenter Abstew for the tip

Blue Steel Reborn!

I caught my reflection in a spoon while I was eating my cereal, and I remember thinking, 'Wow, you're ridiculously good looking. Maybe you could do that for a career.
Zoolander looks borrowed from ONTD

Question: If vampires can't see their own reflection, how did Edward (Twilight) know he could be "professionally good looking"? Yes, Robert Pattison is just as versatile as Derek Zoolander! We hear he's working on a new look for the sequel but you 'you gotta tame the beast before you let it out of its cage.'

I've Linked You So Long

popbytes Grace Jones licks Joseph Fiennes. Whaaaaa?
My New Plaid Pants new pics and new new on Spike Jonze Where the Wild Things Are
ModFab declares undying love for Kristin Scott Thomas
People Hugh Jackman: Sexiest Man Alive
The Wicked Stage Desplechin A Christmas Tale collects another fan
Twitch thinks Star Trek is relevant again. It is? I guess I missed the part where people are excited for this one. Or maybe it's just my lifelong teflon like resistant to the franchise
Kenneth in the (212) "Face Dances" with Ethan Hawke
Fire of Spring HBO is finally doing a fantasy series. Yay!
Voynaristic more on the Prop 8 fallout at the Los Angeles Film Festival
Buzz Sugar a new Pinocchio (Just how many hours does Guillermo Del Toro cram into one day... 42?)
Out in Hollywood Both original stars are coming back to Hairspray for its final weeks on Broadway. Yay. I saw Marissa and Harvey in previews years ago and I wasn't "Without Love". In fact it was pouring out of me. Joy.

And Reports From the Edge shared this Fine Bros 4 minute video which "spoils" 100 movies. You've been warned.

Watch 100 Movie Spoilers in 5 Minutes - NAKED VERSION in Funny Videos, Entertainment Videos, and Webisodes | View More Free Videos Online at

1996 Retrospective

I haven't had much time to write as you've undoubtedly noticed. Screenings, personal life stuff and general exhaustion. Searching for that 15th wind I am. But to keep you busy, how about a look back to 1996? (Tangent: It came to mind with the most recent episode of "Best Pictures From The Outside In" ---here's a complete index of the episodes as suggested.)

With 1996 there's certainly a lot to choose from. Here's where my 1996 awards would probably go.

Share your favorite '96 films & performances in the comment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Sparkling Diamond

Thanks to TFE reader William for pointing out these Australia premiere photos on DListed

He writes...

THAT is a movie star.
Our sentiments exactly, Billy. Australia is but 8 days away.

"Hey, weren't they supposed to be making a biopic about me?!?"

Debbie thinks it's a great idea but she'd really like an update.

Monday, November 17, 2008

You Look Like You Need a Link

Bad and the Ugly Johnny Depp as Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland. Or is the photo a fake? Discuss
The Big Picture on why Twilight came from Summit rather than a big studio
Den of Geek has a list of 75 comic books on their way to the screen -- god help us all
In Contention Kris waits and waits for the Oscar contenders
Defamer Helen Mirren: 'saucy cougar or grandmother who says totally inappropriate things'
Drawn! old Star Wars storyboards
A Room of One's Own makes a curious case for Amy Adams
OMG Actress/comedienne Wanda Sykes comes out of the closet
Gold Derby Oscar Documentary finalists. Go Trouble the Water ! Win that thing (not that it will but I can dream. More on this race later when I have more time.

And I have to share this soul-destroying clip on Prince of Persia (coming in 2010) from ET (thanks Topless Robot) on account of it... well. I don't know quite why I'm sharing it. Whim? Untreated Gyllenhaalism? Jake's "muscle implants" maybe.

This movie looks t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e (not that most on set 'making of's don't make their movies look cheap and badly costumed and whatnot. But that Bruckheimer reference to Lawrence of Arabia doesn't inspire generous feelings, you know?

Sister Aloysius and Mrs. Miller

I can't review John Patrick Shanley's Doubt this early but after today's screening, I would like to both pat myself on the back and slap myself. I was right and wrong about its Oscar prospects when the cast was first announced seasons ago.

Wrong... about Meryl Streep's third Oscar. Sister Aloysius is a sticky role but it's not the slam dunk "erase memories of Cherry Jones's powerhouse stage creation"' it needed to be for Streep to reach Nicholson's three statue tally. Best Actress fanatics take note: the way is clear for Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road / The Reader) if she delivers --it's getting harder and harder to imagine anyone else winning.

Right... about Viola Davis. You'll remember that I've been more confident about Davis ("Mrs. Miller") in the supporting actress field than any other candidate and I cautioned other prediction-happy types earlier this year to ignore Amy Adams starpower and focus on the actual roles being played. Mrs. Miller is, to my way of thinking, the key factor in Doubt's arguably overblown reputation as a Great Play. She's the pivot point: After the heartbreak of her one big scene, nothing is the same for the play's lead characters again. More importantly, after her troubling walk-on, nothing is the same for the audience. It's a sneaky miracle part. Mrs. Miller shades and shocks the otherwise blunt themes into more troubling life. It's no longer a simplistic audience game of who did or didn't do what but an ambiguous and emotionally and morally complex problem to wring your hands over. Unless Academy voters get stingy about her screentime, expect to see Viola Davis all dolled up on Oscar night.

Update: The Envelope has an extensive interview up with Viola Davis