Friday, September 30, 2005

Passing the Baton

Suggested readings: Interesting post at Mindjack Film about world greats and the future generation of auteurs, prompted of course by P.T. Anderson's presence during the filming of Robert Altman's Prairie Home Companion.

Also Cinematical has a post on the further adventures of Celestia Anne Heche dealing with her mother's gay-hating Christian evil antics.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Mimicry? It's Always Transcendant!

Oscarwatch continues to give us the headsup that the mainstream's most famous critics are getting VERY excited about Phillip Seymour Hoffman's work in Capote. And that he's nearing 'lock' proportions in the upcoming Oscar race. The latest gushing? It's from Entertainment Weekly's Owen Glieberman who says:

"Hoffman, in his sublime, must-see feat of a performance, plays that famous foppish lilt like a hypnotist's instrument, getting you to forget, in 30 seconds, that you're seeing an impersonation..."

I have to say that it will take more than solid mimicry to convince me, though I do plan on seeing the film. It seems that every year when a biopic or five are released you hear the same type of responses: "OHMYGOD [Insert Famous Actor's Name Here] LOOKS.SOUNDS.MOVES.ACTS. JUST LIKE....[Insert Famous Person's Name Here] BUT ALSO DELIVERS A PERFORMANCE THAT TRANSCENDS MIMICRY!!!!" In all seriousness I must say this: Wake me, please!, when someone does mimicry well and people don't also think there's a transcendant performance attached to it. It's so weird to me that mimicry is considered the highest pinnacle of the acting arts.

Is this my natural anti-biopic bent speaking? I often find them awkward as films go...without the structural or narrative discipline that most great films have. Is it my Hoffman revulsion? I've said it before that I find him to be -by a large margin -the most overpraised actor working. For instance, he was SAG nominated for Flawless which I think is one of the worst performances of the past several years. I've in fact never seem him give a performance that I thought was award worthy (FWIW: The exception to the rule? I think he's very good in Magnolia). Or is there something about mimicry that I don't understand? Is it really harder for actors than any other type of characterization? It seems to me that it would do most of your character-building work for you, thus making it easier. I must confess that when it comes to the Academy's love of biopics and biopic performances, I just don't get it. The ability to mimic others seems to be a fairly common skill among actors --you hear about them doing it at parties, you see them doing it in interviews and talk show appearances, many of them seem adept at changing their voice for voiceover characters, etc... Doesn't seem that rare of a gift to me.

Ah well. At least I'm not entirely alone in being suspect about biopic star turns. Mike D'Angelo formerly of Time Out New York and now with Nerve, shares his doubts in his Capote capsule:

"it still strikes me as 80% expert mimicry and only 20% acting. (I didn't understand all the hosannas for Blanchett's Hepburn last year, either.)".

Joss & Neil

To celebrate the opening of Serenity tomorrow, why not get a Joss Whedon fix? Here is an interview to check out: TIME talks with Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon about Serenity, Mirrormask, the Buffy-verse, Sandman, genre-work, and pop culture.

Hump Day (Belated) Hotties: Viggo & Maria

Oops... I forgot yesterday's Hump Day Hotties offering. I was too busy seeing movies. Wallace & Gromit feature debut is top notch, totally delightful. So, um... Hump Day Hotties. Yeah. So, I messed up. But just gaze at Viggo & Maria today longingly and pretend it's Wednesday. They are a deserving hottie screen coupling since they are both smouldering on their own and positively flammable together. You'll see...

Or at least you should see! Tomorrow go to the best movie of the year (so far)when A History of Violence goes wide. OK? Thanks.

Here's some more Viggo & Maria for you...

I didn't think you'd mind terribly. Didn't hurt your eyes, did it?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rachel, Connie, Taryn, and Miranda...

What do Rachel McAdams, Emmanuelle Béart, Connie Nielsen, Taryn Manning, Emily Watson, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Cara Seymour, Miranda Otto, Cameron Diaz, and Isabella Rossellini have in common? They're appreciated by yours truly today in the Top 100 Actresses of the Aughts Countdown (numbers #60 through #51).

Coming soon: The Top 50. How high will your favorites place?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Career Immolation Part 12

Just when you think he can't get any weirder or couldn't possibly alienate anymore of his fans, Tom Cruise manages it, continuing his warpspeed descent into crazy-land. (Thanks to ModFab for the tip) Who would have thought that the world's biggest star would become, in the space of less than 12 months one of its biggest jokes? Pretty soon he'll have pet chimps, sexual abuse scandals, and be building himself amusement parks to live in.

Pan Asian Splendor

If you like your foreign language pictures ripe with visual opulence, you're probably fond of the Asian film industries. The Oscar submissions for Foreign Language Film keep on pouring in and Asia's entries look particularly delectable. Hong Kong's entry stars Takeshi Kaneshiro (there's all the visual beauty you need right there) . The film is called Perhaps Love. China's choice, the latest from a former nominee in this category Chen Kaige (He had an Oscar success with Farewell My Concubine in 1993), is called The Promise. And what do you know? It's another epic featuring a concubine. Only this time there's martial arts, too. Here's a heavily costumed photo gallery for your hungry eyes. Both films, naturally, are shot by Crouching Tiger's Oscar-winning cinematographer Peter Pau. So expect the usual beauty to be doubled.

Monday, September 26, 2005

A History of Violence

The first couple of minutes in David Cronenberg's new film, A History of Violence , are deceptively slow. The camera shows two men leaving a hotel room in the middle of nowhere. The scene is so lethargic that neither the camera nor the men seem to be moving at all. Despite the stillness, a sinking feeling sets in: These men are violent. When the camera crawls forward to confirm the audience's worst suspicions a gun is sickeningly and slowly drawn. Still and quiet as the scene may be, it feels like an explosion. The movie has only just begun. The filmmaker hasn't even broken a sweat yet.

From the unsettling credit sequence we head into more serene pastures. The film introduces us to the leisurely small-town lives of the family Stall. The husband (Viggo Mortenson) runs a local coffee shop. The wife (Maria Bello) is a lawyer. They have two children and an apparently healthy marriage -- we're soon privy to one of cinema's most casually adult sex scenes. It's intimate, filled with teen-age enthusiasm, and quite passionate. That it will be inverted later to cast new revealing light on the Stall marriage is perfectly representative of the film as a whole. However simple A History of Violence may at first appear, it is constantly revealing itself, rewarding close viewing.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. You see, it's best to go into the film knowing very little beyond this very basic setup. The only narrative certainty, telegraphed by the very first moments, is that we are not in safe territory, no matter how idyllic the following Americana may appear. Slowly and methodically Cronenberg will tighten the screws on the Stall family. Violence will erupt. And as with the aforementioned sex scene, doubled or mirrored sequences and characters will arrive. It's a terrifically plotted thriller, keeping us off balance and challenging our previously held notions about the characters and story.

Cronenberg's amazingly assured direction, never forced or unclear despite constantly shifting ground and complicated agendas is aided immeasurably by a cast operating at the top of their game. Maria Bello is electric (not to mention sensually stunning) as the strong wife whose life is turned inside out. Ed Harris and William Hurt both stun and surprise in attention-getting supporting roles. Ashton Holmes, who plays the teenage son, is believably cast and moving. And finally, there is Viggo Mortenson. If anyone has ever been more perfectly cast than he is here as Tom Stall, I haven't seen the film. His performance is the tricky switch on which this entire History flips. His star turn is a master class in minimalism and exactly what the movie needs at every juncture.

Cronenberg's usual stable of collaborators are also on hand doing fine work. Unfortunately, like Cronenberg himself, they are so confident in their craft that they often escape critical or award notice. There is no heavy breathing, for instance, in the cinematography of Peter Suschitzky (six films with Cronenberg), just terrifically composed and mood-enhancing work. Editor Ronald Sanders (thirteen films with the director) also does exemplary work here; the pacing and coherency of the complicated story structure are top-notch. And speaking of... though David Cronenberg often writes his own features, this time he is working with a new collaborator. It was a wise move: Josh Olson's screenplay is a sensational adaptation of a graphic novel by John Wagner and Vince Locke.

Though American movies are rife with violence, few filmmakers actually pause to consider what the violence they display actually means or where it leads, if it means anything at all to them -- that is, beyond its ability to enthrall audiences -- and if it leads anywhere at all -- that is, beyond the next plot point. A decade ago Oliver Stone explored our capacity to celebrate bloodlust and idolize criminals in Natural Born Killers but the movie stumbled with the hypocrisies bound in its form and content. More recently Michael Moore had a large documentary success with Bowling for Columbine which built a case about the climate of fear adding to American violence statistics, another media indictment. Rare is the filmmaker who eschews the media connection (an easy target?) altogether to go this deep or this intimately into the heart of the violence inside of us. (Though the abstract concept of "the media" does make an appearance in A History of Violence, it is mere narrative blip and of no larger concern to the film at hand.) Here every punch, gunshot, slap, indeed any act of agression carries with it repercussions, madness, psychic damage and, of course, more violence. Every hit stings.

Even if one ignores the gripping undercurrents, A History of Violence functions expertly well as a movie-movie. Many moviegoers will love it without examining its thematic beauty. That it thrills as a pure thriller while also building a subversively flexible allegory is a testament to the true artistry of the thing. Whether History is read as a statement on mankind's penchant for violence, American territorialism and agression, or the American family, it simply works. If there was any doubt as to Cronenberg's mastery of the craft, working as he often does in less respected genres, they should be all but annihilated by this stunning film event. A History of Violence is a major work -- accomplished, deceptively simple, and entirely unnerving. 

Sunday, September 25, 2005

To David With Love

Just wanted to express my sincere gratitude to David Cronenberg for completely rescuing 2005. If his latest filmA History of Violence is any sign as to the quality of the fall/winter movie season to come it's going to be an incredible year after all. Go see it! Review will be up soon (hopefully)

Back to Normal

I'm up and running again.

Enjoy the updates (in process)... Joe's new column, Results of the Foreign Actress Poll, the launch of the Modern Actress Finale poll, Actresses of the Aughts updates, Foreign Film Submissions, and more...

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Something is Amiss

Some computer problems of the internet variety are occuring. Site updates coming as soon when solution found. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Talk Amongst Yourselves

I have nothing to add this morning.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Hump Day Hottie: Emmanuelle Beart

Last week, we visited Taiwan's most beautiful child Takeshi Kaneshiro. This week we head over to St. Tropez, France. I first fell hard for Emmanuelle Béart when she appeared on US screens as a blond avenging angel in that great two part French melodrama/epic Jean de Florette and Manon of the Springs(1986). It didn't take long for Hollywood execs to get their lecherous hands on her for throwaway 'exotic beauty' roles in films like Date with an Angel (1987) and Mission Impossible (1996). But they didn't get it. You see, she's best appreciated in serious films that actually use both her incredible disconcerting beauty and her dramatic gift. She won Best Supporting Actress @ The French Oscars (the Cesars) for Manon and has an additional seven Cesar nominations for her dramatic performances . She's also won various international prizes for films like Régis Wargnier'sUne Femme Française (1995) , Nathalie...(2003) co-starring Fanny Ardant and Gérard Depardieu, and the chilly wrenching love triangleUn Coeur En Hiver ( A Heart in Winter)(1992).

The most recent roles to garner her international attention have been in Sentimental Destinies(2000), 8 Women (with a gaggle of other gallic legends), and Strayed(2003). Her latest film is Danis Tanovic's follow up to his Oscar winning debut No Man's Landwhich is called L'Enfer. L'Enfer is actually the second film in the Heaven / Hell / Purgatory trilogy that the legendary Krzysztof Kieslowski (famous in America forThe Double life of Veronique and the Trois Coleurstrilogy) had intended to make before his death. The first of these, Heaven(2002), was made by Germany's Tom Tykwer starring Cate Blanchett. (If you'd like to read a recent TIFF review of L'Enfer here is one from Jeremy Heilman 'the Movie Martyr' --warning: he didn't much like it.)

To see Emmanuelle Béart in full sensual glory, here is a fairly hot desktop sizeshot (NSFW) and another --oh, what the hell. Here's a whole page or tasty jpegs (partially NSFW) and finally here is a still from the film La Belle Noiseuse. Noiseuse is (literally) 4 hours long. I bring this film up because, though it's hardly pornographic-minded (it's really a meditation on the creation of art), Emmanuelle is naked for most of the running time. That'll make the 240 minutes pass swiftly enough for her hordes of international fans. In 1992 when I saw this @ the Detroit Institute of Arts my best friend at the time (who had just gotten married) remarked to me 'Um, I think I'm more familiar with Emmanuelle Béart's body than my wife's.' And then he took off! Wonder where he went...

click here for the freshest film experience posts

Run Off & 'Actress Month' News

You'll notice in the sidebar that there's a runoff poll. I've selected the top 16 actresses from both of the original modern actress polls (no ties were necessary to do that) added Dunaway and Burstyn as top performers from other polls and I have two spots left for the extremely exciting (well, at least to me ;) Modern Actress Finale which hits the main site Sunday. So who are the lucky two? Vote!

PROJECT In other "September is Actress Month" news. The side project ("Discoveries") will be extended into October so that everyone has a chance to watch their movies and experience the Actress/es that they just weren't familiar with. Send me your notes and feelings about this experience (for a Reader Writes highlight on the main site) by Saturday October 15th!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

English as a Second Language

These pages will be filled out country by country over the next couple of days. Enjoy. If English is your second language and you follow your home country's cinema feel free to send me info as to what your country might submit to filmexperience (at) gmail (dot) com. Only a handful of countries have already announced but more annoucements will be coming daily now since the list is due to the Academy in October.

Strangely, this Oscar year doesn't seem to have a major foreign film in the mix for multiple nominations. (Unless 2046 mysteriously enchants them --they've been cold to Wong Kar Wai forever). Even the Toronto winner Tsotsi doesn't have concrete distribution plans. Oscar has been going overseas quite a lot lately but this year might be strictly America the Beautiful.

Recent foreign success stories with various AMPAS branches
2004: The Motorcycle Diaries, A Very Long Engagement & House of Flying Daggers
2003: City of God & Barbarian Invasions
2002: Talk To Her & Y Tu Mama Tambien
2001: Amélie

Monday, September 19, 2005

Busy as Bees

I'm happy as a clam that Michelle Pfeiffer is ACTUALLY FILMING A MOVIE right now. I'm hoping it leads to a flurry of activity from the goddess. But if it doesn't at least some other greats are working frequently again. What's up with actors when it comes to that seesaw of years of inactivity and then tons of work (*cough* Jill Clayburgh *cough*) ? Civilians pretty much just have to work all the time. But I guess actors can take 2 to 5 years off and then suddenly be in demand again.

Meryl Streep has, according to IMDB, nine pictures forthcoming in the next couple of years. Prime with Uma Thurman is out next month (internet buzz will explode next weekend since test screenings are being held soon) Prairie Home Companion from Robert Altman is bound to get people talking next year. She's doing voice work on two pictures, there's a throwaway picture for young adults with Anne Hathaway. Flora Plum, Jodie Foster's cursed circus project is remarkably still on Streep's schedule to. But the one to watch from this vantage point (outside of the Altman musical) is Dirty Tricks the Watergate era comedy that could net Streep that third Oscar she's been waiting 23 years for.

Also in that Watergate film is Annette Bening who would already have an Oscar were it not for the one who shall not be named. Provided the one who shall not be named hasn't made a recurring three-Oscar pact with Beelzebub, Mrs Warren Beatty might be able to nab the statue soon now that she's working full time again. She's got six pictures in the works after several spare years of family life. The murder dramaMrs Harris just played at TIFF (the cast is full of name actors: Bening, Kingsley, Burstyn, Sevigny, and Leachman among others) but no word on its release pattern just yet. Next year's Running with Scissors gives her a crazy juicy role as a bipolar lesbian mother. And there is still the all-star version of The Women to consider. Though that's probably more an intended comedy blockbuster than a play for Oscar glory.

Bening and Streep aren't just working hard...they're getting juicy lead roles. Calling Sigourney Weaver, Glenn Close, Kathleen Turner, Winona Ryder, Angela Bassett, and Michelle Pfeiffer! Are you paying attention? Step it up. It's time to get busy and really commit yourself to grabbing that naked gold man. He may have played hard to get in the past but it's never too late.

Oscar Prediction Updates: September

You know how it is: I like to envision scenarios. In this new one the whole world loves Brokeback Mountain (wishful thinking combined with Toronto buzz), my April Fools guess for the Lone Director returns as a 'career-honors' feeling sweeps critical and media groupthink (for Cronenberg), and Munich & Memoirs of a Geishacrash and burn (hee) because some "sure things" always do.

Hey, I have to keep it interesting for myself because Oscar pages are a CHORE to update! And besides we know so little... festival reports be damned. It's not like anything ever stays the same from September to January in the Oscar race.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


New Retroactive Awards page is up. One Decade was 1995



Saturday, September 17, 2005

Oscar Myth-Busting: Recurring Nominations

Last time on Oscar Myth-Busting we discussed the prevalence of contemporary nominees (more than you think) in the Best Picture lineup. This time let's talk for a split second on getting nomination #2... Whenever an actor becomes an Oscar nominee or Oscar winner people assume they will see them again in Oscar races. While it may be easier to be nominated if you've already been nominated (due to the vague implication that if they've nominated you once, they like you. they really like you.), it's still pretty difficult.

64% of Oscar-Nominated Actors (Male or Female -same stats surprisingly for both) never see a second nomination.
that's not good news this year for names being tossed around like Ken Watanabe, Charlize Theron, Chris Cooper, Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Toni Collette, Uma Thurman, Bill Murray, etc...

Julianne Moore -Back to the Dark Side

Freedomland finally went and got itself made. It gets one of those annoying one-week qualifier runs in NY & LA in December. Enjoy these stills.

Friday, September 16, 2005

M - Z: Actress + Performance

since i did it before I will now list my favorite performances by the top 17 actresses (in descending order) from the M to Z poll last week.
* if a title is in all caps that means the performance would likely place somewhere in my all time lists for Best Lead Actress performance *

Meryl Streep
1. SOPHIE'S CHOICE 2. um, er...3. oh geez, this is hard. I'm sorry it's too hard. There are so many...
Kate Winslet
1. Holy Smoke! 2. Sense & Sensibility 3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Julianne Moore
1. FAR FROM HEAVEN 2. Boogie Nights 3. SAFE
Michelle Pfeiffer
1. The Fabulous Baker Boys 2. Batman Returns 3. White Oleander
Kathleen Turner
1. Body Heat 2. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (on broadway) 3. Peggy Sue Got Married
Maggie Smith
1. Gosford Park 2. A Room With a View 3. Sister Act i think maybe i should have chosen Maggie as one of my viewing projects. i haven't seen her key roles aside from the first two here.
Susan Sarandon
1. BULL DURHAM 2. Thelma & Louise 3. Dead Man Walking
Julia Roberts
1. Erin Brockovich 2. My Best Friends Wedding 3. Closer
Winona Ryder
1. Reality Bites 2. Heathers 3. Mermaids
Sigourney Weaver
1. Aliens 2. Gorillas in the Mist 3. The Ice Storm
Frances McDormand
1. FARGO 2. Almost Famous 3. The Man Who Wasn't There
Uma Thurman
1. Kill Bill 2. Henry & June 3. Pulp Fiction
Sissy Spacek
1. Carrie 2. Badlands 3. Crimes of the Heart
Emma Thompson
1. Howards End 2. Much Ado About Nothing 3. Sense & Sensibility

ok... running out of steam on this Actress thing even though there's much more to do --like complete that actress of the aughts listing. And the new poll, etc...

Site Updates

Results are up in the sidebar for the Favorite Modern Actress Polling and the new poll is up too (Foreign Movie Stars!) I hope I'm not losing readers with the insane polling but it's just what I've felt like doing this month. I'm addicted.

A Brief News Column (sans Joe Reid who is on vacation this week and also engaged with TWoP)

Another Retro Awards Year is coming very soon.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Actress + Performance: A to L

For no apparent reason I will now list my favorite performances by the top 17 actresses (in descending order) from the A to L poll last week.
* if a title is in all caps that means the performance would likely place somewhere in my all time lists for Best Lead Actress performance *

Nicole Kidman
1. Moulin Rouge! 2. Birth3. To Die For
Jodie Foster
1. Nell 2. Silence of the Lambs 3. Taxi Driver
Holly Hunter
1. THE PIANO 2. thirteen 3. Living Out Loud
Diane Keaton
1. ANNIE HALL 2. Looking for Mr. Goodbar 3. Reds
Glenn Close
1. DANGEROUS LIAISONS 2. Fatal Attraction 3. The World According to Garp
Joan Allen
1. The Upside of Anger 2. The Crucible 3. The Bourne Supremacy
Kathy Bates
1. Misery 2. Primary Colors 3. Titanic
Jessica Lange
1. Tootsie 2. Men Don't Leave 3. A Thousand Acres
Jane Fonda
1. KLUTE 2. 9 to 5 3. The Morning After
Judi Dench
1. Shakespeare in Love 2. Mrs. Brown 3. A Room with a View
Salma Hayek
1. Frida 2. TimeCode 3. Desperado
Judy Davis
1. Husbands and Wives 2. The Ref 3. A Passage to India
Julie Christie
1. McCabe & Mrs Miller 2. Afterglow 3. Shampoo
Sally Field
1. Norma Rae 2. Steel Magnolias 3. Places in the Heart
Madelin Kahn
1. Paper Moon 2. Young Frankenstein 3. Clue
Annette Bening
1. Being Julia 2. The Grifters 3. American Beauty
Angelica Huston
1. THE GRIFTERS 2. Prizzis Honor 3. The Witches

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

2005... So Far

Since I am excited [understatement!] for the fall movie season to begin this Friday, I thought I'd list my favorites of the year so far (like Nick and Tim recently did) . My choices (which follow below) are the last 'reveal' as far as this sort of things goes until the end of the year. From here on out there's new movies hoping to mess with "best of" lists every week. And, most importantly, I don't like to give free samples until the whole meal is prepared! You'll lose your appetite.

But before we begin...
Pictures that I haven't seen yet (and therefore they can't figure into my choices) that I still hope to catch (dvd?) Broken Flowers, Cinderella Man, The Holy Girl, Kings and Queen, Land of the Dead, Last Days, Off the Map, Palindromes, and The Wedding Crashers Also I would like to say that Duck Season (from Mexico) and Whisky (from Uruguay) would've placed in some of these lineups if they'd ever see release.

Best Picture
2046 dir. Wong Kar-Wai (Hong Kong)
The Beat That My Heart Skipped dir. Jacques Audiard (France)
Brothers dir. Susanne Bier (Denmark)
Crash dir. Paul Haggis (USA)
Me, You, and Everyone We Know dir. Miranda July (USA)

I expect that two of those will make my top ten list come years end.

Best Director
Jacques Audiard, The Beat That My Heart Skipped
Susanne Bier, Brothers
Miranda July, Me, You, and Everyone We Know
Pawel Pawlikowski, My Summer of Love
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Tropical Maladay

Best Actress
Joan Allen, The Upside of Anger and Yes
Glenn Close, Heights
Lisa Kudrow, Happy Endings
Connie Nielsen, Brothers
Natalie Press, My Summer of Love

Best Actor
Steve Carrell, The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Romain Duris, The Beat That My Heart Skipped
Ralph Fiennes, The Constant Gardener
Terrence Dashon Howard, Hustle & Flow
Tony Leung Chiu Wai, 2046

For the supporting categories I'm listing 7 people in each because it is too early in the year for me to put myself through the punishing dismissal phase of narrowing it down to 5 when these 14 people all made me smile in the movie theater. And even @ 14 there are some folks missing (sigh).

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Junebug
Dakota Fanning, War of the Worlds
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Happy Endings
Taraji P Henson, Hustle & Flow
Rachel Weisz, The Constant Gardener probably she's a lead... but i'm not ready to think about category conundrums just yet --Yeah, probably a lead [he whispers to himself.]
Celia Weston, Junebug
Ziyi Zhang, 2046

Best Supporting Actor
Tom Arnold, Happy Endings
Paddy Considine, My Summer of Love
Kevin Costner, The Upside of Anger
Matt Dillon, Crash
Terrence Dashon Howard, Crash
Michael Peña, Crash
Mickey Rourke, Sin City

Best Original Screenplay
Crash, Paul Haggis & Moresco
Happy Endings, Don Roos
Junebug, Angus Maclachlan
Me, You, and Everyone We Know, Miranda July
Melinda and Melinda, Woody Allen

Best Adapted Screenplay
Batman Begins, Nolan & Boyer
The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Jacques Audiard & Tonino Benacquista
The Constant Gardener, Jeffrey Caine
My Summer of Love, Pawel Pawlikowski & Michael Wynne
Mysterious Skin, Gregg Araki

Best Cinematography
2046, Doyle, Kwan, & Lai
The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Stéphane Fontaine
Brothers, Morten Soborg
My Summer of Love, Ryszard Lenczewski
Tropical Malady, Pengpanitch, Tanapanitch & Vialard

Best Costume Design
2046, William Chang
Batman Begins, Lindy Hemming
The Constant Gardener, Odile Dicks-Mireaux
The Kingdom of Heaven, Janty Yates
Mr & Mrs Smith, Michael Kaplan

Best Art Direction
The Constant Gardener
Kingdom of Heaven
Me, You, and Everyone We Know
My Summer of Love

and if one calls this category 'production design' and maybe most people do given that the credited folk for Oscar nominations are Production Designers... than maybe Sin City But if you're referring to art & set decorations/designs etc... than no. There's no sets. Confusing.

Best Sound
The Beat That My Heart Skipped
The Constant Gardener
Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
Tropical Malady
War of the Worlds

that's all I can do for now... so very sleepy

Hump Day Hottie: Takeshi Kaneshiro

Last week the delectable offerings on display (Rachel Weisz & Ralph Fiennes) were pulled from the current multiplex scene. This time I'm reaching a little further back. In honor of the currently popping Toronto International Film Festival I take you back to last year's event. Last September when I had the pleasure of attending I was gobsmacked watching The House of Flying Daggers. Who would've guessed that there would be a cast member prettier than Zhang Ziyi in any movie? Nevertheless there was Takeshi Kaneshiro's smiling gorgeousness. A sight to behold. I had gone into blissful trances before when confronted with the Takeshiliciousness in ChungKing Express(1994) and Too Tired to Die(1998) but I have to admit that I had kind of forgotten about him (my hearty apologies are offered).

Takeshi is 1/2 Taiwanese / 1/2 Japanese and he also speaks three additional languages to those including English. He should be easy to cast. He deserves to be a bigger international film star. In fact, while watching 2046 recently, I couldn't reasonably figure why a film bursting with that many Asian movie-stars couldn't find room for him. To add insult to injury he's starred for its director Wong Kar Wai before (in the aforementioned Express). I mean if you can squeeze Maggie Cheung into a blink-and-you'll miss her cameo you also ought to find room for Takeshi. Just a note for next time Kar-Wai. OK?

That is all. Just had to get that off my chest.


Acknowledgements: The large photo above comes from this eyepopping site. And Hump Day Hotties is inspired by Gabriel's Friday Hot Guy Blogging feature... though here at Nathaniel R it will feature movie morsels of both flavors. And this particular edition is dedicated to this Takeshi-loving blog.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!

Perhaps you've heard that a Broadway show is more of a tourist trap spectacle than an actual theatrical experience? Or that Broadway is more like Vegas now. Or that Vegas is the new Broadway? These are not false memes even if they don't tell the entire truth of it. Most seasons brings exceptions to any rule about the junk food glitz of Broadway shows as opposed to providing a satisfying theatrical dinner. Shows that are basically spectacle for spectacles sake weren't born in the 80s when Andrew Lloyd Webber took over or when Disney bought up the place in the 90s. Even if it feels like they were. What were things like the Ziegfeld Follies if not for spectacles?

So the good news aboutChitty Chitty Bang Bang is that its spectacle is actually spectacular: The flying car is a wonder. A far more impressive bit of stage f/x magic than Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors the season prior or Elphaba's very celebrated 'Defying Gravity' number in Wicked. I still prefer my stage effects in a lower key (the giant's voice and shadow in Into the Woods for example: Very impressive/evocative but it didn't take over the whole show) but when your show's whole hook is a flying car, well... you'd better deliver. In other good news Tony nominated Jan Maxwell and Marc Kudisch as the Baroness & Baron are both hilarious (Maxwell is even inspired, I would venture to say). They're comic duet totally energizes the show in the second act. Last night the show desperately needed the boost.

You see, the bad news is that spectacle shows only achieve 100% spectaculaciousness if the audience is at capacity. You need that electric rush that comes from huge hordes of people oohing, aahing, clapping, laughing, or just generally feeling it. Otherwise shows like this read as a little desperate. All that energy expended onstage with no matching volley from the other side? A little painful. Also painful was the miscasting of Raúl Esparza. I didn't believe this going in since I really and truly love Mr. Esparza...who has been a must-see performer for quite a while. But unfortunately it's true. This show needs light and airy or goofy performances and he has too much natural intensity to work within the context of silly comedy that supports spectacle. (Everyone is really supporting the car, you know)

That said... I had a good time. If you like stage spectacles, need a show that little kids will like (the tykes in the audience were buzzing as the crowd emptied out), or are unreasonably fond of the original film, you should consider checking it out. Otherwise... steer clear.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Tell it Tuesday! Homework Reminder

Have you selected your actresses yet? There's still time to watch your movies. I'm working on my first (Barbara Stanwyck). If you only get to one or two, still, shoot me an e-mail to let me know how it went for a special feature in October @ The Film Experience.

Monday, September 12, 2005

When Suddenly It Hit Me...

...I'm extremely depressed that I didn't get to go to the Toronto International Film Festival this year. I can't read one more word about how much everyone loves Brokeback Mountain. I really can't. The green monster is upon me.

Though I can't provide insight this year you can read festival stuff from lucky bastards likeHeilman, Siczinski, Poland, D'Angelo, Hughes, and Wells if you so desire.

Lost Connections 2

Don't abandon your favorite actress in her time of need. VOTE on the poll. If you've already voted ~ spread the word. Streep, Winslet, and Moore are leading. Beyond them... the race is still heated for spots #4 on down...

Sunday, September 11, 2005


So far this new poll (Actresses M through Z) is not as hard fought as I thought it'd be. Streep and Winslet are way out front (similar to Foster and Kidman's triumph last time out). Other updates to check out? Joe Reid's new column and the intro to my Actresses of the Aughts countdown ... a silly thing I'm doing since I have list fever this month. Have you noticed?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Golden Globe Best Actor: Comedy or Musical

About a month ago we discussed the Best Actress field in terms of comedy/musical contenders for the Golden Globes. I never followed up with the men. And here's the reason? They seemed more elusive or less hefty in terms of Oscar bids. While it's true that Oscar prefers drama to comedy it's not true that they just don't like it. They just don't like it nearly as much. Nevertheless the very existence of the Golden Globe comedy categories helps keep a light shining on "light" contenders. So who will see their otherwise less than rosy chances blossoming with a Golden Globe Comedy/Musical Nod this December?

Obvious Contenders COMEDY/MUSICAL
Orlando Bloom,Elizabethtown
Matthew Broderick and/or Nathan Lane,The Producers
Steve Carrell-The 40-Year-Old-Virgin
Jim Carrey,Fun with Dick & Jane
Steve Coogan,Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
Jeff Daniels ,The Squid and the Whale
Peter Falk,The Thing About My Folks
Bill Murray,Broken Flowers
Adam Pascal or someone else from Rent
Brad Pitt ,Mr & Mrs Smith
Vince Vaughn and/or Owen Wilson,Wedding Crashers
Elijah Wood ,Everything is Illuminated

And the Not-So Obvious (Placement-Wise) Possibilities
Heath Ledger,Casanova
Joaquin Phoenix ,Walk the Line
Terrance Dashon Howard ,Hustle and Flow
Cillian Murphy,Breafkast on Pluto
Jack Black, King Kong
Steve Martin, Shopgirl

Should the category turn out thinner than expected or should the debatable categorizations go Drama, there's always the Globes penchant for celebs to consider. Sometimes there's a very random famous nominee that makes you go hmmmm... So, under the idea that we're looking at the entire possible field here's a few more names: John Cusack-Must Love Dogs or The Ice Harvest, Johnny Depp -Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Will Smith -Hitch...

Any thoughts on who the final five will be?

Friday, September 09, 2005


The front page is updated with Poll Results. As expected Nicole Kidman destroyed the competition. This new race (Actresses M through Z) I expect will be a lot tougher for anyone to dominate...

Brothers On and Off of Broadway

You know how life tends to operates on a feast or famine or wave-like manner? Well this week theatrical outings are all colliding for yours truly. I somehow found myself in possession of tickets to four shows all within one week's time. I'm halfway through the stage journey.

On Wednesday I tried valiantly to enjoy the new Off Broadway musical The Miracle Brothers, but the musical itself conspired against said enjoyment. The basic gist of the show seems to be that slavery is bad. I love it when artists really challenge the audience with their messages (snort). But seriously -- that simplistic. I also learned that Tyler Manard, an actor I found hilarious in Altar Boyz (he played the nelliest member of the Christian boyband) doesn't seem to have much range. Either that or he just transposed his character there into this very different musical about Brazil, magical dolphins, and slavery. Now, you can have musicals with lame plots that still work provided that the music is great. But, no luck there either. The actors were having a good time but I wasn't. The only enjoyment I got out of the evening was hearing Kerry Butler's belt (of which I am overly fond).

Those brothers didn't do it for me so the following night I caught one of the last performances of The Pillowman, another show about two brothers. This intelligent gothic Tony nominee closes on September 18th. If you're in NYC, see it while you still can. This was one of those rare blind outings for me. I knew it was critically acclaimed, knew the details of the Tony nominations, and I knew it was Doubt's only real (if distant) competition for the prize. Other than that I had zero knowledge. I happily knew nothing about the play itself. So, it was very surprising for me...and I'll let it be for you too. That's ideal when you have a play as twisty, twisted, and sharp as this one. It's really special. Crudup earns his Tony nomination as a writer in peril. Jeff Goldblum is excellent as a detective. The whole thing is enthralling.

Next up is Edward II but I shan't be writing about that one since I'm friends with the director. (That would be an obvious conflict of interest so instead I will just say: Go See It! I'm sure it will be fabulous). After that I've got Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on tap. That one I'm looking forward to as well since I loved the film as a kid and I love Raul Esparza who plays the Dick Van Dyke role.

Have I mentioned that I love living in New York City?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


It isn't without its flaws but I think Junebug is worth investigating. A little confounding in spots: Some of the directorial flourishes --maybe it's a North Carolina thing. It may also be overly ambitious and too long or overstuffed for what you're actually left with in the end. Which is...what exactly? Individually some of the scenes are super but together. Hmmm. Even though I don't think the film is entirely successful it's definitely its own thing. And that's always a good thing. Particularly for a debut film. So kudos to first time creative team, director Phil Morrison and writer Angus Maclachlan. They're two to watch.

The cast is good too. I will talk about my husband Allesandro Nivola at some later date. I promise. Amy Adams is getting most of the critical attention and has the most endearing character. I also can't neglect mentioning that Celia Weston (Far From Heaven, In the Bedroom) who plays the mother Peg continues to be one of the most perfect character actresses out there, a sturdy secret weapon for filmmakers. (B)

Hump Day Hotties: Fiennes & Weisz

I am currently taking some much deserved time off from the day job grind. But, since it's Wednesday, I thought I'd throw a bone to everyone working with this new (weekly) daydream service: Hump Day Hotty/Hotties. Today's libidinally inspiring duo are the leads of the new Fernando Meirelles thriller The Constant Gardener.

Ralph Fiennes is one of the classiest and sexiest of British import stars. He first caught major notice in the Oscar winner Schindler's List (1993) with one of the top 10 all-time-best-nominated-performances-that were-inexplicably-passed-over-when-statues-were-handed-out (whew). I fell in love with his talent then. His beauty was harder to get a handle on due to the Nazi ick-factor. But the longer you look at him, the prettier he gets. He isn't often held up as a sex-symbol like, say, Jude Law. But he deserves to be. His sexual power onscreen is a little hard to deny if you stop to think about the extra juice he gives nearly every film in which he stars.

Three years after Schindler's his scorching desert coupling with Kristin Scott Thomas in The English Patient (1996) made audiences swoon and gave him his star-making role. And, though audiences weren't interested, his onscreen lust factor went supernova again in The End of the Affair (1999). Pared up and stripped down with a true peer in the school of pale beauty and genius acting (Julianne Moore), Fiennes was something to behold. 2005's current and steamy duet is no match for that one but it's still pretty hormonal. For one thing, since Fiennes never shuns character specificity in favor of star personae, Justin Quayle remains too subdued and careful for Casanova status. It's one of his quietest characterizations. He cedes all the sexual power to the female this time.

Speaking of... Rachel Weisz has made over 20 features in the past decade. Despite the requisite movie beauty, she hasn't exactly had plum roles. She is probably most well-known for her double love-interest duties with Keanu Reeves (Constantine, Chain Reaction), Brendan Fraser (both Mummy films), and now, Ralph Fiennes (Sunshine, The Constant Gardener). The little seen The Shape of Things(2003) a role she also originated onstage, got her some attention as well. Despite the prolific work, she has up until now remained a B-Lister. That could change if the public or the Academy falls for her bohemian fire and natural sexiness as Tessa Quayle inThe Constant Gardener. It's the best Kate Winslet performance ever that's not --er, performed by Kate Winslet. (get me?)

Whatever one may think of The Constant Gardener as a film, the chemistry between Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz is evident for all to see. Their beautiful interpretations of Mr & Mrs. Quayle's semi-ambiguous partnership is the best reason to see the film. To continue lusting after Ralph turn to Ralph Fiennes Corner. For more of Rachel's goodies visit Rachel Weisz Paradise.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Tell It Tuesday! "Discoveries"

If you are a young budding cineaste with a secondhand knowledge of Hollywood history and you have been watching or voting on these ACTRESS polls, you might be forgiven for thinking you hadn't missed much since the winning ladies are so recently ascendant (Kidman) or so über-famous (i.e. the Hepburns). Methinks the readers are less well-versed in earlier decades. No shame in that. We are always more familiar with the current. I'm working on my backlog too. Join me in the discovery.

Your task for September should you choose to accept it?
1. Choose 3 famous actresses you're not very familiar with.
This can be from any decade. Even if you know them as a celebrity but have never gotten around to finding out why they became famous, that's a qualifier.

2. Rent one or two of their films each to get familiar
You can do it! That's only 3 to 6 pictures. I know you see more than that on DVD in a month. If you need suggestions as to which films once you select your actress, just ask. Or do a little research to see which films are most crucial in their history.

3. Return and report to flmbtch (a) hotmail (dot) com.
Tell me what what you were and weren't impressed with. What surprised you, etc...

If I get a good response I'll do a special feature on your discoveries in October. And spread the word. With polls and group discoveries... the more the merrier.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Lost Connections

Vote on the actress poll. Don't abandon your favorite in her time of need.

Friday, September 02, 2005

10 Word Reviews

A Roundup of 2005 feature films I hadn't commented on yet in this here blog or on the site like Batman Begins, 9 Songs, Revenge of the Sith, The Beat That My Heart Skipped and more. Enjoy!

Also check out Joe's new column and vote on the new poll --this one probably won't hurt for as long as the 'classic actress' poll but it'll sting for a second.

Bakers Dozen: Performances I'm Most Anxiously Awaiting (Part 3)

most awaited performances concludes...

03 Jake Gyllenhaal & Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain. I have never settled on an opinion regarding the talents of the former. And, just as I had settled on an opinion (unflattering) on the latter he went and majorly surprised me in Monster's Ball where he made a vivid character impression with barely any screen time, and more recently impressed me in Brothers Grimm in which he seemed very comfortable with the comedy and he definitely topped the usually reliable Matt Damon. Brokeback is an amazingly subtle short story and if these two actors have the right chemistry and the right investment in their characterizations, well, this could be a knock out of a film.

02 Claire Danes will likely be making a comeback splash with Shopgirl but I'm even more excited to see her in the flesh. She's performing a solo dance piece Christina Olson: American Model(created for her) at PS 122. And I'm going. If you're going to be in NYC from September 22nd through October 2nd I'd suggest buying your tickets now.

01 I always love when Madge gets into her groove, so to say that I'm excited about the release of Madonna Confessions on a Dance Floor is to state the extremely obvious. Can't wait to see what she comes up with videowise. choreography wise. tour wise. etc... And I continue to hope she heals quickly since I don't like "light duty" pop stars. I need the full and unfettered M-A-D-O-N-N-A experience.

Bakers Dozen: Performances I'm Most Anxiously Awaiting (Part 2)

Continued from Part One

08 Way back in 1998 I suffered a crush so massive I thought I would never recover and be glad to stay afflicted. That movie lovespell was caused by a certain Johnathan Rhys-Meyers who was then dolled up in glam-rock finery in The Velvet Goldmine. Much to my surprise I did not stay terribly smitten with JRM. He stayed beautiful but his follow up performances were either in lesser films or were decidedly less impressive. I began to think of him as an OK actor with very memorable looks. I still think of his as Maxwell Daemon from Goldmine. But the buzz on his leading role in Woody Allen's film Match Point is surprisingly strong. Can he finally have found a follow-up to reignite a Goldmine level fervor in fans?

07 Comedic talent has a tough time drawing respect from institutions like The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and from fussy critics. They only seem to have a certain quotient of acclaim to give funny men. From 1987 to 1997 Robin Williams hogged the hits and the Oscar nominations. In 1998 Bill Murray took up the mantle of most-respected comic talent by critics and he parlayed that into an eventual Oscar nomination for 1993's Lost in Translation When, I ask, will it be Steve Martin's turn. He's been Oscar worthy before to no avail. Can Shopgirl do the trick?

06 The Cast of RENT Can they do on the movie screen what they did on stage nearly a decade ago? That is: Win over a broad range of fans and take home massive acclaim, nominations, and enviable reviews? It seems a tall order. But there's no day like today...

05 I used to hate child stars with a passion. Can anyone say "Overacting?" But lately I think that Hollywood has been doing a better job when they seek out the minors for starring roles. Haley Joel Osment and Dakota Fanning are both gifted performers. I don't begrudge them their screen space. The next potentially big child star? Well, Terry Gilliam seems very enthused about Jodelle Ferland's star turn in his new film Tideland. Is it father figure hyperbolé or is Ferland the real deal? We shall see soon enough. The movie sounds fascinating.

04 I think The Producers is a ridiculously overrated stage blockbuster. But I can't wait to see Uma Thurman vamp it up as Ulla. Can she sing and dance as well as she kicked all surrounding ass in Kill Bill?

next up --my top three most-awaited performances of 2005

Bakers Dozen: Performances I'm Most Anxiously Awaiting (Part 1)

Though Fall hasn't really begun, it's my favorite season and I'm feeling anticipatory (see also the new sidebar: Anticipation) about everything. Everything entertaining that is. Tthe real world? A little scary right now. I'll pass. So, without further ado. Here are the performances I'm most curious about / interested in / anxious to see for the remainder of 2005.

13 Michael Cerveris and Patti Lupone will be stepping into the very plum stage roles of Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett in the Broadway return of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Now to be honest, Cerveris and Lupone are not the true draws for me. Sondheim and this productions particular staging device -actors as orchestra (!?) are the main want-to-see factors. Still, I'm curious to see how Cerveris (great voice) and Lupone (i may lose my gay card but i overrated) fare in this über worshipped show.

12 I realize that you can't trust Tom O'Neill @ GoldDerby with future film & Oscar hype but he's now suggesting that Julianne Moore will be in the running for that coveted golden statue this year with The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio. I hope he's right. I always look forward to Julianne's performances and I'd love to see her clutching that Oscar. We've discussed this already on this blog. But it's worth asking: How great will Julianne really have to be to actually win? Once you get as acclaimed and oft-nominated as Julianne you have to start really subverting expectations to keep the nominations coming because you've raised the bar so many times. Will AMPAS voters really find something new in her third run at a 50s housewife (following her double nomination for Far From Heaven and The Hours) or will they just be willing to give it to her to get it over with as they sometimes do when they've slighted a major star umpteen times.

Trivia Alert:
If Julianne receives her fifth nomination this January she becomes one of the 25 most Oscar honored female actors ever! Only three actresses within that current top 24 are Oscar-less: Glenn Close, Deborah Kerr, and Thelma Ritter.

11 Colin Farrellhas had a rough year. After an indie that sunk (Home at the End of the World) and an epic that fell way short (Alexander)--it seems that the media that once overhyped him now find sport in knocking him down a peg or five. I hold the unpopular opinion that he's actually a decent actor. Neither of his last two performances were unqualified successes but he has an earnestness that I find appealing. He seems to actually want to be a great actor...even if he's not quite there yet. That's more than a lot of phone-it-in stars have. I'm curious to see what Malick does with him in The New World

10 Viggo Mortenson in A History of Violence early buzz which calls him subtle, nuanced, and probably not an Oscar contender (due to --well that pesky subtlety and nuance) makes me believe that I'll love the performance. I thought he rocked as Aragorn so I'm ready for more.

09 Hello. My name is Nathaniel.
["Hi, Nathaniel!"]
I'm addicted to Cillian Murphy.
In anything. So give meBreakfast on Pluto. I need it.

08 through 04 next...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New Orleans

I don't have much to say about the horrible ongoing devastation other than donate if you can . On a more personal note, I do want to mention that I had the chance to spend a week in New Orleans five years ago. It was a business trip but I spent almost every night out and about in the French Quarter wandering around, trying to soak it all in. I am not normally a good tourist...but I remember that week vividly. Whatever I chose to do, from vampire tours to walking around by myself to drinks with amazingly friendly locales, I enjoyed myself immensely. A great city. A great loss.


All I want to do today is hang out in my pajamas and watch old movies. But to work I go (last day) Maybe tomorrow I'll break out the pjs and DVDs. I really wish I had a pair of those numbers with the footies...or something 30s that's all classy even though you are just sleeping in them. Just for the nostalgia factor. Happy September!