Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mark Friedberg (And Other Wonders of the Film World)

What did Mark Friedberg (pictured left) ever do to the Art Directors branch within the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences? For years he's been one of the most distinctive, inspired and original talents working yet he never seems to come anywhere near an Oscar nomination. Even the Art Director's Guild has only bothered to recognize his often breathtaking, amusing or mood enhancing work once (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). I bet you can conjure up images right now of his contributions to movies like The Darjeeling Limited, Across the Universe, Far From Heaven, Pollock, The Ice Storm and Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love. But I don't have a Friedberg blind spot. I haven't forgotten his rich work on Synecdoche New York. He's one of the five Art Direction nominees in my ninth annual awards (this is Friedberg's third FB nomination. He received a silver medal for Far From Heaven in 2002).

I didn't care for Synecdoche which devours itself more mercilessly than Charlie Kauffman's other projects do --there's always a bit of the oroborus in his work -- but the crucial art direction and set decoration, which dwarf or trap or reflect the characters, go a long way to realizing the film's gargantuan ambitions.

In addition to Art Direction I've also posted my ballot for Film Editing, Original Score and Original Song.

Mark Friedberg isn't the only old favorite to show up again. Other repeat FB nominees include editor Ang Lee's frequent editor Tim Sqyres, Baz Luhrmann's creative partner (and wife) Catherine Martin and composer Danny Elfman. Click away to see how Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, The Dark Knight and the year's best documentary Trouble the Water figure in.

What art direction, editing and scoring spoke to you this year? And have you been singing "The Wrestler" in the shower every day like I have? I can't get it out of my head.
*

25 comments:

James Colon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
James Colon said...

Finally was able to see The Wrestler this weekend here in Orlando. I was worried that with all the waiting I was doing that I was hyping it up in my mind to a level it could never reach. Great to see that I was completely wrong--IT WAS AMAZING!

To answer your question, though, SYNECDOCHE does have great sets, but I'd really have to think to decide whether or not its the best of 2008--same with editing. As for score and song, it is easily Thomas Newman's WALL-E score, and "Little Person" from SYNECDOCHE. Both are so beautiful.

Arkaan said...

"Jai Ho" is sung by AR Rahman, Tanvhi Shah, Sukhvinder Sing and Mahalaxmi Iyer.

And thank you for going for Friedberg and Squyres (in particular). Both achievements were incredible and shouldn't be overlooked.

NATHANIEL R said...

oops. i meant to fix that question mark. Thanks

(...) said...

lovely nominees (except "another way to die" in song: horrible choice).

thrilled with the mention of "trouble the water". in my opinion, the song will be an oscar nominee.

i wished you could recognize happy-go-lucky in score (in some scenes, the music has the same effects as the music of curb your enthusiasm --i love it), in bruges in editing and "barcelona" from vicky cristina barcelona in song (i still don't undertand why this one, never published before the film, has zero award recognition).

i'm surprise how you stating your love for burn after reading. hope lubezki makes the shortlist. over editing, music, even screenplay, the cinematography is the biggest technical acomplishment in the film.

NicksFlickPicks said...

The answer to your question about "The Wrestler" is YES, although also in my office and on the subway, and once in the public library.

D said...

If either "Dracula's Lament" or "Rock me sexy Jesus" doesn't score an Oscar nom, I will be very upset. Imagine the performances that would accompany either of those... not that they aren't worthy in their own right, too. When Golden Globes picked that song from "Bolt" over those two, I was nigh inconsolable.

Sally Belle said...

You know, I wondered how Friedberg missed a nom for Across The Universe last year too. Even if you didn't like the picture, his work was perfect. I haven't seen Synecdoche but from the looks of it...I'd guess his work would have to be way up there.

The Wrestler is my favorite movie of the year....so far...I still have a lot to see. But, that one just , thrilled me, charmed me and moved me.

Bernardo S said...

Mark Friedberg is the most nominated Production Designer in my personal ballots with noms in '02 (and a finalist mention in '01), '04 and two in '06 (The Darjeeling Limited and Across the Universe. He won for the latter).

As of right now, considering the awful release dates in Mexico, my favourite Art, Editing and Scoring is...

ART DIRECTION (no frontrunner yet)
Australia
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Horton hears a Who!
My Blueberry Nights
WALL·E

EDITING (None of the other 4 are even close to Paranoid Park)
Blindness
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
My Blueberry Nights
Paranoid Park
WALL·E

SCORE (WALL·E is winning, with BB close behind)
Bolt
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Duchess
Horton hears a Who!
WALL·E

SONG (Down to Earth is pure brilliance)

Bolt (I thought I lost you)
My Blueberry Nights (The Story)
Quantum of Solace (Another way to die)
WALL·E (Down to Earth)

And just for fun my favourites of the year so far...

1. WALL·E
2. XXY
3. Paranoid Park
4. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
5. Cloverfield
6. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
7. Blindness
8. The Wackness
9. Frozen River
10. Horton hears a Who!
11. Speed Racer
12. My Blueberry Nights
13. Bolt
14. Australia
15. Charlie Bartlett

Notluke said...

I love your appreciating Carter Burwell and I hope he wins a Filmbitch. (Burn After Reading didn't always work for me, but the "serious" music was such an inspired decision). Am indifferent towards music in TDK, as much as I am championing for it in other categories. Hate the Bond song. Love the Art Direction roster. Am hoping Reprise, disappointed though I was with it pointlessness and unlikeable characters, deservedly wins Editing.

As a belated FYC of sorts, I won't force you to watch The Happening, but I urge you to give a listen to its soundtrack (much of it is currently on Youtube). The quality of Howard's music to Shyamalan's works seems to be inversely proportional to the quality of the accompanied films, because I find this one, especially the creepy and melancholic main theme, to be absolutely stupendous.

It's also worth noting that two of the best scores this year were for documentaries: Danny Elfman's for Standard Operating Procedure (although oftentimes too Burtonesque and thus distracting from the film) and Michael Nyman's for Man on Wire (although I am told it was actually his re-used scores for Peter Greenaway's films -- which gives me yet another reason to catch up on Greenaway, I guess).

Notluke said...

(...) (cool name!): You know, it's first I've heard that the VCB song is actually original work for the movie. It's beautiful and deserves some award recognition if that's the case, I agree. I guess most people, like me, mistake it for an existing older standard because 1) that's what it sounds like and 2) that's what Woody is known to roll his opening credits to.

NATHANIEL R said...

i love Greenaway so i really need to rewatch some of his stuff. (i didn't know this about man on wire)

Brian said...

Yes the emotional resonance of Man on Wire was tremendously assisted by music from Greenaway films, particularly the Cook the Thief his Wife and Her Lover and Drowning By Numbers in my view (I'm sure colored by the fact that those are my favorite Nyman scores and favorite Greenaway films).

This musical approach did not go down well with every critic (see here but I bet we wouldn't see it sweeping the precursors otherwise.

Steven said...

I love that you mention The Reader in a lot of categories as a finalist, but I wish it made your nominee list more often. It's a beautiful film with a wonderful score and great visuals. The acting wasn't so bad either. ;)

Loving the love for WALL-E, however. Especially in the score and art direction categories. Totally deserved.

~Steven

Glenn said...

Nice lists, yes. Friedman is an odd case. I'm not sure how he missed for Far From Heaven and I was surprised Across the Universe didn't pan out for him either. One of the few designers who is as good in contemporary settings (if not better) than period.

The one glaring omission from Art Direction, I thought, was Speed Racer. It's the Tron of this decade!

I was surprised to not see "All Dressed in Love" as even a finalist in original song.

Bruce Springsteen's (aka God) new album is out in 8 days!!!

Glenn said...

Oh, and really, "Another Way to Die" is execrable. It's shocking that you nominated it.

VS said...

I'm really surprised to not see Alexandre Desplat nominated in Original Score - He's your John Williams: he was 5 for 5 between 2003-2007 in the film bitch!!

NATHANIEL R said...

bring on the excrement!

(sorry i love the new Bond song. Love it. I don't know why so many people hate it)

adam k. said...

I'm also surprised to see Desplat left off. You generally love him. And I thought this was some of his very best work, definitely my favorite score of his other than Birth. And the music was the absolute best thing about the movie.

Arkaan said...

Interesting to hear the defense of the score. I can hardly remember it. I remember the breathtakingly beautiful cinematography (Nathaniel, I think the main reason Blanchett's still in this race is simply because Miranda's camera is very very kind to her), the intriguing detail of the sets, the lame framing story.... but not much about the score. And I'm like Nathaniel, I've nominated him for the same films (except maybe 2007).

NATHANIEL R said...

arkaan -- is cate blanchett really "still in the race"? Or is she only still in the race in the minds of Cate fans? The ONLY thing she has going for her is that BFCA nomination and nobody is claiming that Kate Beckinsale is still in the race ;)

ok, i guess that's not fair. She is in a BEST PICTURE nominee so if there is a shock actress nomination on Thursday it'll probably be her and I'll be proven wrong... but I hope not. There are so many good performances this year.

notluke --my rule is that I can't nominate something i haven't seen. so if i haven't seen something it's out of the music categories which you theoretically could vote for without having seen the movies... but i think it misses the point since you should see how those things work inside their movies as it were.

Arkaan said...

Hey, I wouldn't vote for her - there are a number of people who think she's the best in her film, and I can imagine actors viewing her as the most nominateable of the trio. I thought she was out of it when The Golden Age clunked down, and look where that got us. And Beckinsale's director founded the BFCA, so that's sorta different. Now given the number of people that will be given nods by rote in this category (Winslet, Streep) I don't think we can count the probable nomination leader out of this category, especially when it's someone like Blanchett. Then again, I'm still startled at those who thought she could win for this role. I'm wondering if they saw the first ELIZABETH again or something, because a win would come from a different role/film.

NATHANIEL R said...

HA!

i am interested in one note though...

"Now given the number of people that will be given nods by rote in this category (Winslet, Streep) I don't think we can count the probable nomination leader out of this category, especially when it's someone like Blanchett."

on the other hand... if you think those noms are handed out "by rote" another way of saying "default nominees" than there really is no room for Blanchett because she falls into the same category as Streep and Winslet (i.e. great actresses who are probably shy of the shortlist even when they do subpar work... which is not often but you get my point) and how many of those can a five-wide shortlist hold anyway?

Arkaan said...

How many default nods can a shortlist hold? At least two (see 2005 for Dench and Theron).

More specifically, despite the two wins at the Golden GLobes, I think we've got to be very wary with how we predict Winslet. Because ballots were due two days after the GG, there really wasn't any time for her to get traction on the basis of that towards nominations (wins on the other hand). Additionally, both her films underperformed in general this season (unlike CCoBB, though the fact that it's done very well for itself without Blanchett is something that should give everyone pause), so I really have no idea how to predict best actress.

I'm going with Streep, Winslet, Hawkins, Hathaway and Scott-Thomas, but I'd wager on getting this wrong (though some might say including Scott-Thomas sorta makes that more likely than not).

NATHANIEL R said...

arkaan... i kind of fully expect something weird to happen with the Best Actress nominations. I just don't know what.