Thursday, January 31, 2008

Random Troubling Fashion Thought of the Night

if Hollywood & the WGA work it out
actors do show up to the Oscars and
______if Keira Knightley attends

...what on god's green earth will she wear? Fashion usually isn't a problem for that one but how can she possibly top Cecilia's emerald dress? And don't we kind of expect her to?

Nikolai Je T'Aime

We haven't played a movie mash-up game in a long time (remember that from last year?) so allow me to throw Eastern Promises 2 at'cha. Over at the big site you can vote on your favorite scenario/co-star. [Strictly for entertainment purposes you understand. I don't actually want endless sequels -ed] If you don't see one you like or you'd care to detail the plot that won your imagination, you can always let loose in the comments. And I promise that I will soon be done posting about 2007 movies. I mean, how many more times can I say Viggo's name before Oscar season is up... 2? 7? 23?

Who, Me?

Yes you, diva.

(She's got a look. 'It's chocolate love.')

8th Shot of Ennis Del Mar (and more on Heath Ledger)

Brokeback Mountain just keeps getting better. The more I look at it the more classically and perfectly structured, shot, acted, and edited it is. Since I'm still reeling from the tragic loss of Heath Ledger, I was looking at the movie this morning. Ang Lee's deliberately quiet and langorously paced drama introduces Ennis Del Mar in longshot as he walks to his destination and waits. And waits some more. He rarely lifts his head up, but stays all stiff and internal. We get our first closeup at the sixth cut to him as Jack Twist's (Jake Gyllenhaal) sputtering vehicle disturbs his peace and quiet. But when Jack gets out of the truck and looks at him, Ennis immediately shrinks back into himself, head bowed, staring at the boots (the bottom right highlighted image, which is the eighth).

It isn't until Jack's back is turned that Ennis Del Mar finally allows himself a peek...

Jack, in contrast, isn't so shy about the looking.

And 8th extra: Ennis Del Mar's eighth line in the movie (only one of which -- "I don't eat soup" -- isn't delivered to Jack):
I'm saving for a place myself. Uh, Alma and me, we --we'll be getting married when I come down off this mountain.
It's only the second personal thing that Ennis has told Jack. Jack, sympathetic to the first story about Ennis's parents, ignores this one completely and jumps immediately back to his previous griping about their work.

Aside about this new 8th series: Why do I love minutae and lists and numbers so much? 20:07? 08th? top 10s? Who am I, Peter Greenaway?

Um. So... OK I'll just let this out. All navel gazing averse readers please be off to other blogs but I guess I have to get this off my chest...

Having dealt with terrible real grief in my lifetime I am not prone to judge how other people do the same. So I've waffled on whether or not to even mention Heath Ledger's tragic passing again, or rather the media and public reaction to it... because I've felt (surprise!) judgemental. Grief is a personal thing and the aftermath of sudden death, especially, is so beyond the realm of normal human emotional pain that when I hear people talking about Heath Ledger, I try and detach. We all deal with these things differently. Live and let live Love and let love. So why am I having such a hard time listening to Hollywood talk about him?

Daniel Day-Lewis's remarks on Oprah (the day after Heath's death) felt extremely genuine and sad to me --the less said about Oprah trying to deal with the sudden disruption of Oscar conversation the better --but his dedication of his own SAG trophy to Ledger @ last weekend's ceremony made me uncomfortable. Even though I feel the same way in regards to Monster's Ball (FB win) and Brokeback (FB win). I understand that this same exact speech really affected others deeply. Which I'm glad for. But the only thing I could think was: again? And 'oh god, no'.

Maybe I'm just jaded from so many years of awards show watching but I've seen the way a speech from one ceremony will mirror a speech from the last one and so on and so on, until it's as clichéd as Jamie Foxx's call and response or Hilary Swank's 'girl from a trailer park dream' or as baffling as Jennifer Connelly's inability to memorize the words "thank you" after winning every prize or any number of repetitive awards season thank yous. Is Daniel going to keep tying his awards run for There Will Be Blood to memories of Heath Ledger. And if so, why?

I keep reading about how great he was in I'm Not There but before his death he was barely mentioned in the Blanchett-obsessed reviews and media coverage. I'm distrustful of the sudden great love. I was also reading some annoying bits about John Travolta slobbering over Heath at Out in Hollywood and it felt so distasteful. Why is Heath Ledger suddenly everyone's favorite actor? Was he their favorite actor before his untimely death? I'm skeptical. Where were Hollywood's votes when he lost the Best Actor Oscar two years ago? He lost despite giving a performance that was so obviously going to become legendary. No offense to Phillip Seymour Hoffman (honestly, no offense. He's quite good in Capote) but Ennis Del Mar was a legend-making performance that was pitted against a traditional type of very good performance. Excuse the generic analogy but it's like comparing a Mona Lisa to a fine painting and choosing the latter. Maybe the Mona Lisa is just too hard to really stare at. Too much to see?

So I'm sorry to brain vomit but I've been uncomfortable. If we're talking about the 5 stages of grief I guess I'm in my anger phase. But better to let it out than to hold it in like Ennis.

The truth of my discomfort might be simply this: I just don't like to connect Heath Ledger to other actors. I mean, other actors not named Jake Gyllenhaal for obvious reasons. The greatness of movie stars is often intrinsically tied to the way they are only, in the end, themselves --no matter how much people want them to be "the next" ...whomever. I don't want to connect Heath Ledger to James Dean or Marilyn Monroe or any other celebrity lost too soon. I don't want to look at Daniel Day-Lewis and think of Heath Ledger. When I look at Daniel Day-Lewis I am looking at him to see Daniel Day-Lewis. Whom I also love. When I look at John Travolta I don't... well, I don't want to look at John Travolta.

To be fair I can tell you that I relate to the urge to make everything about oneself. I cringe at Mickey Rooney's SAG antics and Travolta's "everyone in Hollywood is my best friend" neediness because I probably see too much of myself in it. But then I also know it's not just me. I think we all have moments of self-absorption but we civilians don't think of it as a character strength and our weaknesses don't get broadcast for the masses. Famous people are playing in a different universe. They are essentially asked to succumb to this urge fully. Everyone wants a piece of them. Everyone wants their picture. Everyone wants to hear their thoughts about everything they feel about themselves and everyone and everything else --even shit they know absolutely nothing about. Who can blame them for disappearing up their own asses?

But still... If you didn't know Heath Ledger and you're famous why not say something simple like "our thoughts go out to his family" and leave it at that? The only people I really want to hear from at this point are Heath's family, Michelle Williams, Naomi Watts and Jake Gyllenhaal. And even then, I don't want to hear from them unless they need to speak to work through their emotions. Grief is intimate and important to work through in an honest way. The media always makes it into something generic and public and cheap.

[/therapy session]

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hump Day Hottie: Kathleen Turner

A movie cliché I've never understood: people tearing off each other's clothing in a moment of passion. Don't waste perfectly good clothing, people. Wouldn't you rather unbutton swiftly when the mood strikes? Than you can use the garment again. Conserve.

A movie absurdity I totally understand...

William Hurt smashing his way through a plate glass window to get into Kathleen Turner's skirt in Body Heat (1981). Damn straight.

Kathleen Turner is on my brain...

and not just for the usual 80s nostalgia reasons (she remains my favorite actress from the 80s whose initials aren't MS or MP). She's on my brain because of a freelance article I am working on for another site --I'll link up when it goes live but I think you'll love --and because I am desperate to get my hands around a copy of Send Yourself Roses, her autobiography in which she disses all sorts of people who have no business still being famous. If I have to smash through the windows of Barnes & Noble tomorrow to get one, I will. I could be sensible and order it online but in moments of passion, who can think straight?

previous 'Hump Day Hotties'
Russell "H.W." Harvard , Carice Van Houten is a star and
Beautiful Decay of Helena Bonham-Carter

Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts

I always hope to see the 13-15 ish films that are nominated each year in the short film divisions at the Oscars (live action / animated / documentary) but this year I've seen but one from the Live Action division: the humorous Italian entry The Substitute which is about a very wild teacher who causes chaos in a high school classroom one day (screened at the IIFF). So I'm turning this report over to Brian Darr who writes the informative Hell on Frisco Bay blog (which focuses on the cinephile scene in San Francisco) and who recently completed a stint covering Sundance for GreenCine Daily.

Take it away Brian...

"Thanks to my film festival obsession, I've seen three out of the four documentary shorts nominated for Oscars this year. All three are excellent, but the synopsis of the one I haven't, Freeheld (a dying cop trying to fight for benefits for her lesbian partner), makes it sounds like it could be the most seductive to Oscar. I missed Freeheld when it played Sundance last year, but caught two others in this year's edition of the festival.

Salim Baba (d. Sternberg)

Tim Sternberg's Salim Baba is my sentimental favorite in the category, probably because it's also the one with the least chance to win. It's the shortest and its subject the least consequential, at least upon first glance: a man who pushes a portable cinema cart through the streets of Kolkata, India, where he exhibits spliced-together fragments of old Bollywood films to the delight of children who can't afford to go to a "real" cinema.

La Corona is just as good, with a riveting subject matter: a beauty pageant in a women's prison in Columbia. Terrific characters, very well-directed, amazing access to the prison facility thanks to director Isabel Vega (her co-director Amanda Micheli made the terrific stuntwoman documentary Double Dare, which proved the awesomeness of Zöe Bell well before Death Proof). My only personal reservation with the film is that it seems like it could have been even more effective if expanded to feature-length, and that its 40-minutes-on-the-nose running time (the maximum for this category, and according to imdb Freeheld hits it too) is a naked grab at this Oscar. I guess that's business though. It feels a lot like a winner; a nice mixture of socially-conscious and entertaining. La Corona was an honorable mention for a prize awarded bythe Sundance Shorts Jury, made up of Juno directorJason Reitman, Melonie Diaz (this year's "queen ofSundance" she acted four feature films in the festival), and Jon Bloom, head of the Academy's Short Film section.

Sari's Mother, which I saw not at Sundance but at the San Francisco International Film Festival back in May, is the fourth segment planned for last year's documentary feature nominee Iraq in Fragments. Director James Longley felt it didn't fit with the other three fragments after all, and decided to leave it out of his feature and develop it into a stand-alone short subject. It's probably the most downbeat of the four of Longley's fragments, as it shows a mother trying to get medical care for her young son, who contracted AIDS through a bloodtransfusion. It's pretty bleak, but voters could go for it if they decide they want to acknowledge the war in Iraq."

Thanks, Brian!

And now it turns back over to you readers... Have you seen any of these nominees? Do you want to ? Do you agree with Brian that La Corona is headed for the win for Best Documentary Short?

Related stuff of possible interest: Best Shorts 2007 Oscar Page (more updates to come) * Nick's Flick Picks review of Iraq in Fragments * Planet Hotties: Zöe Bell and other Grindhouse girls *

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

TTT: Movie Posters of 2007

tuesday top ten: For the list lover in you and the list maker in me

I know I'm supposed to be thinking about 2008 by now, but I've been extremely busy with corporate work and freelance work. The annual film experience awards jamboree is suffering from the slow crawl. My apologies but I'm only one man. So let's throw out one more category ... or two.

Top Ten Movie Posters of 2007

If I had seen Hannah Takes the Stairs (left) it would have made the list (for my own awards I don't allow myself to nominate films I haven't seen. Even for categories that don't require the seeing. Like "best poster" and "tag line") I really love the color, the composition, whatnot. DIY movies, mumblecore, what have you...these movies aren't supposed to have advertising budgets and terrific posters. How'd they afford it? Was there a crew member involved with a cobweb gathering BA in design?

10 Tease it up! I wrote about the Michelle Pfeiffer Hairspray poster previously. The trend of individual "introducing..." posters is now old hat but I thought this joyous musical was an appropriate one to work that widespread marketing angle. And in Hairspray's case the "who's who behind the do?" poster made punny use of the very idea of a 'teaser' poster

09 Question: Why are international posters so regularly superior to their American counterparts? Have they done research to determine that Americans really like to stare at photoshopped movie star faces that have been awkwardly forced into a frankenstein group candid? It sure seems like they have. Anyway, I like the puzzle / symbol Zodiac poster much more than the vague dark bridge version that we got in the States. It shouldn't be creepier (bright white and all) but it is.

08 The one thing 300 had going for it was the visuals, inspired by and faithful to comic giant Frank Miller. Dig that odd thrusting composition, forcing your eye diagonally up left to a jutting cliff (will a Disney heroine be singing up top?) Then, just as violently, it lets your eye fall with the doomed warriors and a spray of blood. Now I technically know that this is a battle sequence and these are the losers of said battle. But I like to think that it's just an honest depiction of 300's masochism (machismo? just scramble the letters a bit). Watch beefy anthropomorphic lemmings march off a cliff together. Apparently that dinner in hell is tasty.

07 There were some busy posters that tried to convey the collage / multiple identity thesis of Todd Haynes Dylan biopic but the best ones were the near silhouette portraits of the film's stars. The " Bob Dylan" and "...are Bob Dylan" tag lines were pleasant complications to ponder while settling into the simple images.

06 It's easy to hold grudges against Bug's marketing campaign for foisted the big lie that a generic horror movie was opening. This secured the movie an OK opening weekend but a lot of walkouts, too... and disgruntled audiences means no word of mouth for future weekends. But away from the commercial (the true fraudulent culprit) the first poster is still a pretty accurate snapshot of Bug's psychological disturbances. And it's memorable too. This is a movie that gets under your skin.

and for the top 5 (i.e. the nominees) "Posters of the Year", you'll have to click over to the FB Awards.

Screen Linkers Guild

<--- Julie Christie is a goddess
Lazy Eye Theater knows it, too
Defamer points to a hilarous longing glance within the A list acting ranks at the SAG awards
Scanners loves the truth in Javier Bardem's acceptance speech. So do I
Just Jared Dennis Quaid joining the cast of the GI Joe Movie
Queerty Cristal Gina Gershon talkin' bout her new CD
Fabulon "amen" -this blog always makes me giggle
Buzz Sugar all the Best Pic nominees for $30 bucks. You know, this would be a really really awesome thing to liveblog but... I fear one would be stoned to death if people had to listen to laptop keyboard clacking away for 12 hours straight in the theater

Empire Julianne, no! Back away from the mainstream genre movies. No Moore
StinkyLulu begins his reviews of each 2007 Supporting Actress Nominee. First up: Saoirse "bad seed" Ronan
popwatch Crash will be a TV series -- I guess it kinda belonged there all along
Hollywood Elsewhere this is a week old but what's Jeffrey Wells' deal with Amy Adams exactly?
popbytes joins the chorus of bloggers declaring Angelina Jolie totally pregnant. Speaking of which...

I'm including this last photo from SAG simply because I love it. Brangelina: Even unstoppably gorgeous from behind.

Sage Advice From the Movies, FF Edition

Hug it Out!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday Monologue: A Mighty Heart

Monday Monologue Season 2

I'm still a little miffed that Angelina Jolie missed out on her expected Best Actress Oscar nomination. The more I watch A Mighty Heart the more I'm impressed with the delicacy of the performance and the bustling but nuanced energy of the film in its orbit.

I love Jolie's delivery as she says goodbye to this large multinational group of round the clock reporters, officials, and counter-terrorists. She earns the title of the film.
I just want to -- to say something to everybody.

I want to... I want to thank you for all of your work and all of your -- your effort and your--your kindness. I know how much you wanted to find and bring Danny home. You did not fail, you know? Danny is dead but you know the-- the --the kidnappers, their point is to terrorize people. Right. I am not terrorized. And you can't be terrorized. I am grateful to all of you. Very very grateful. So thank you.

So please, let's eat.
Really, though, the Oscar snubbing is no great issue. The film has far more important things on its mind than winning awards. Director Michael Winterbottom's generous eclectic style of storytelling, which makes room for a large mosaic of astute character sketches (Irfan Khan and Archie Panjabi are my favorites), is a perfect fit for the subject matter. What makes the scene great, beyond Angelina Jolie's intelligence and tightly controlled emotion, is those tiny little cuts to the major supporting players when her speech ends. They're a true community, albeit a now disbanding one, and each of their faces tells its own individual story, too.

A Mighty Heart is one of my nominees for Best Ensemble Award -just announced.

Blindness (Pt 2)

continued from part 1 -More paraphrasing of Portuguese blog entries (thanks Felippe) from director Fernando Meirelles Blindness blog. If I'm interjecting an aside it's in red. The film, due out this August from Miramax, is an adaptation of Jose Saramago's classic novel of the same name.

Post 7 Meirelles says that César Charlone (the Oscar nominated cinematographer from City of God) had the idea of filming in Uruguay. The crew created an irrigation system to simulate rain for a scene in the movie. Meirelles could barely sleep the night before filming this scene he was so busy visualizing it. The morning came with cold and wet weather. He didn't want to torture cast and crew so they waited for the day to warm up a little. He shot the scene three times in a row and stopped because the actors were turning blue, but the scene turned out fine.

Post 8 Meirelles wanted to work with Gael Garcia Bernal (who plays "King of Ward 3") because he had heard that the actor adds a lot to his characters. In a scene as written, his character finds nail polish but, by instinct, decides not to wear it. But Gael decided that the character would wear the nail polisher -- Meirelles was afraid because he didn't want the character to look like a drag queen or the audience to think that they were watching Bad Education II (hey Meirelles, that's a sequel many of us would love to see!) so he asked Gael to find the nail polish accidentally. They shot and Gael based the whole scene around the nail polish. It turned out very funny, as if his character had smoked a joint or three, and was completely unaware of the pain he was causing to the other characters. FYI, the King of Ward 3 is an evil, evil character.

Post 9 The first official photo released (right) was of the "First Blind Man" played by Yusuke Iseya. Meirelles starts by describing a a shift that's happened from the book. In the movie the relationship between the "First Blind Man" and "The First Blind Man's Wife" (Yoshino Kimura) is very tense and they are introduced to the audience in the middle of argument. The selfish wife can't stay with her husband when he loses his sight. He said that their relationship is not like this in the book, but he saw an opportunity to create a good dramatic arc for those characters and the screenwriters know that a conflict is the best fuel to any story. The actors chosen to play these spouses became a couple during filming. Ahhh, nothing like working on an epic bummer to foster on-set romance.

This post is a good illustration (if you can read Portuguese that is) of how collaborative film making truly is. It details a long process of a scene creation involving the husband and wife sitting by a fire. Meirelles had his own ideas about the scene but he made changes to accommodate the actor's ideas (he wanted to incorporate a detail from his own personal relationship with the actress). They shifted the scene without informing the actress. The actress started crying during the scene. Meirelles said the scene was beautiful and touching even though he couldn't understand a single word of what Yusuke was saying (this scene is in Japanese). Yusuke concluded the scene on a romantically inquisitive note and the actress cuts him down, like a samurai drawing her sword (great analogy) with a harsh response. Meirelles then expands the scene so the audience can realize where they are --the fire is not from some romantic place but a pile of trash burning, killing the romantic atmosphere created by the unfocused imagination. The relationship goes downhill from there.

Later in the film, Meirelles struggled to find a simple way to reference the moment again without bordering on the cliche and again the actors help him find it. The director loves the moments in a story when the last piece of the puzzle is found, when a simple cut changes the meaning of a scene, when the movement of the camera has soul, or the music playing finds the right tone for the scene. These moments are alive and being surprised by them is the greatest pleasure of his particular job as a filmmaker. He likes to believe that these are the moments that connect the movie to the audience. He adds that 95% of these movie moments are lost somewhere from the "shooting of the film" to the "reaching the audience"-- he works hard for those 5%

a photo of Mark Ruffalo taken by the actress playing "The First Blind Man's Wife"

Post 10 The director lost the movie's script that he had written all of his notes on! This is not the first time. It also happened to Mr. Meirelles while shooting The Constant Gardener and City of God. Is the director playing Nathaniel in an unauthorized biopic? Cuz I lose everything daily...

Meirelles is sad that people don't understand the complexity of screenwriting. For example: Who tells the story? In the beginning of Blindness he is the one telling the story, presenting the character and the situations with his camera. In the second act ("quarantine") the story is told by the doctor's wife (Julianne Moore), it's through her eyes that the audience sees what's happening in the isolation period. Meirelles praises Moore here for her power to connect emotionally with audiences. Later in the film a new narrator is introduced: "Old man with eye patch" (Danny Glover). This character starts telling what's going on with the character, but unlike the doctor's wife, he tells what's happening in the character minds. In the third act doctor's wife and old man tell the story along with the director. This accumulation of voices is how the story will gain rhythm (momentum?)

There's a note of support for the writer's strike and the director wraps up the post sharing that Goodfellas (1990) is his "script bible". That classic also uses a shifting narrator.

more later...


I am late to the party. Not fashionably late. Just damn late... "well, I guess I'll help clean up" late. Oops. But I do want to ask you to spend a moment wishing Nick, a grade A film critic (but more importantly one of my very best friends in the world), a happy 10th anniversary on the web.

To cinematize the festivities I've placed my friend inside the poster of Blake Edwards "10" ...which seems perverse --I'm sure he'd have preferred being placed into something by, say, Jane Campion. But I'm betting that if Nick really wanted to he could rock Bo Derek braids. He can do anything.

As jealous of his writing as I may be I'm equally if not more jealous of his memory banks. Not only do I doubt that I could ever reconstruct this sort of timeline --I think my 10th on the web is in Feb 2009 but I'm not entirely sure -- I remain flabbergasted that he doesn't take notes while watching movies. That's no big thing in and of itself. Until you read his reviews. They give every indication that he is rewatching the screener in a separate window as he writes them: details, depth, precise critical thinking... I don't know how he does it but I love him for it.

Nick's Flick Picks is a "10"

Late Night SAG

So, I went to a Broadway show (Sunday in the Park with George) tonight instead of seeing SAG live --I haven't been feeling awards season this year what with all the strike business. So I'm still watching it now on rerun when I should be sleeping. My only takeaways so far: Ruby Dee's insane Carol Channingesque glasses, a reminder that I really need to watch Mad Men, another fix of my Krak addiction (Jane Krakowski: "I'm Johnny Depp and I'm an actor"), Mickey Rooney annoyingly making a presenting job into a self-tribute (Dude! It was Charles Durning's night, not yours), Cate Blanchett losing her fashion sense for once, Viggo Mortensen's maroon vest, why is the camera not showing Michelle Pfeiffer (I know she's there! Oh wait, there she is. mmmm), Tilda's cute embarrassment watching her own Michael Clayton clip.

the winners
Ensemble No Country For Old Men
Daniel Day-Lewis -There Will Be Blood
Julie Christie -Away From Her
Supporting Actor
Javier Bardem -No Country For Old Men
Supporting Actress Ruby Dee American Gangster (and I really wish I'd printed up predictions because I decided a few days ago that she was going to win the Oscar this year, too)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Podcast Deux

How's this for ironic... the second episode of the film experience podcast features a sound guy (12 time Oscar nominee Greg P Russell) and the sound quality of the interview leaves much to be desired. To explain: Half of the interview you're about to hear was conducted over the summer before Transformers rampaged through theaters and before I knew what the hell I was doing with podcasting. Ahhh, the joys of learning on the job. So sequentially this came before I spoke with the delicious Marisa Tomei. Before --that's the long and short of it, my excuse. I'm most improved.

Episode 2
Click on over to iTunes and subscribe. It's free. If you don't have iTunes you can get the enhanced podcast (with photos) with an RSS feed here. And if you don't have iTunes or RSS, you can simply listen to the mp3 version of the Greg P Russell Oscar nomination discussion or the earlier Marisa Tomei Interview.

In the new interview Greg talks about his whole career and this year's Oscar competition --he's glad he's not competing against a musical again but No Country For Old Men is a chilling rival. After the interview there's a three-way chat about the Oscar nominations with Joe Reid of Television Without Pity and Susan Posnock of Awards Daily. Enjoy. Now, I'm off to see the new Broadway production of Sunday in the Park with George !

P.S. if you like the podcasts so far, please use that "tell a friend" feature @ iTunes where you can e-mail the link to whomever you think might be interested. For some reason I'm not yet showing on their "search" feature so this is the easiest way to spread the word. Thank you

a portrait of Kirsten Dunst reading what people say about her on the internet

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The César / Oscar Crossovers

The Académie des César (aka the French version of our Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences -affectionality known as AMPAS i.e. the Oscars) announced their nominations yesterday for 2007 films. And the winner is... (likely to be) La Vie En Rose which led all the films with a rather impressive 11 nominations. That's more than any of the American pictures got in their parallel "best of year" race. Other Oscar nominees in the French César race include The Diving Bell and Butterfly (7 nominations but still no recognition for Max Von Sydow --my interview -- damn!) and Persepolis (6 nominations)

Best Picture
La Graine et le Mulet -directed by Abdellatif Kechiche
The Diving Bell and Butterfly -directed by Julian Schnabel
La Vie En Rose directed by Olivier Dahan
Persépolis directed by Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud
Un Secret directed by Claude Miller

Best Actress
This is not Marion Cotillard's first run @ the César. It's her fourth nomination. She previously won Best Supporting Actress for her work in A Very Long Engagement (starring Amelie Audrey Tatou) but it seems impossible that she'll lose for her Edith Piaf imitation. There's no Julie Christie juggernaut in the mix to stop her. Her competitors are Isabelle Carré (Anna M), Cécile de France (Un Secret), Marina Foïs (Darling), and Catherine Frot (Odette Toulemonde). The Césars are award in Paris on February 22nd so Marion is going to be travelling a lot that week if she wants to sit in the Kodak too for the Best Actress nail biter... that is if the Oscars roll on without a picket line.

Best Actor
Mathieu Amalric, who couldn't generate any Best Actor Oscar traction for his warm but limited work (hey, he can only blink his eye! it's not a judgment) in The Diving Bell and Butterfly is up for Best Actor across the pond. His competition includes Michel Blanch (Les Témains), Jean-Pierre Darroussin (Dialogue avec mon Jardinier), Vincent Lindon (Ceux qui Restent) and Jean-Pierre Marielle (Faut que ça Danse!)

and just for fun, here are the "breakthrough" nominees (or something equivalent I suppose) -- the French stars of tomorrow?

From left to right: Nicolas Cazalé, Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet, Johan Libéreau,
Jocelyn Quivrin, Laurent Stocker, Louise Blachere, Adele Haenel, Audrey Dana,
Hafsia Herzi and Clotilde Hesme (these images aren't necessarily from the
films they're nominated for --and French readers can let me know
if I made an error in a face with a name)

How about we hear from some of our European readers? Have these 10 actors truly "arrived" this year. Which do you think have international careers ahead of them?

Blindness (Pt 1)

Portugese fluent readers may already know what's coming up in these Blindness posts but those of you who are, like me, limited to one or two other tongues, will want to read on. I've had loyal TFE reader Felippe send me a rundown of what's going on over at Fernando Meirelles Blindness blog. What follows is a mix of his paraphrasing with my editing and commentary --if I'm obviously taking over the text is in red.

Meirelles (well known for City of God and The Constant Gardener) has been documenting his film adaptation of the great novel of the same name by José Saramago (one of the best I've read in the past several years). I'll try to tone down the spoilers but some will undoubtedly escape.

But before we begin, a bit more on the movie: Meirelles has enlisted a heavyweight cast and team, including his City of God cinematographer and editor (both of whom were Oscar nominated alongside him for that breakthrough film). The new film stars Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore as a doctor and his wife and the film is about a blindness epidemic, known as the "white sickness". The doctor being one of the first humans to fall ill to it. Don McKellar (who also wrote the screenplay), Gael Garcia Bernal, Danny Glover, Sandra Oh and Alice Braga have supporting roles. The Miramax film is due in theaters in August... perhaps chasing the Constant Gardener release pattern?

Post 1 Meirelles informs that they'll be filming for seven weeks in a prison in Tonto. He also tells us that he tried to buy the rights to the novel back in '97 but Saramago wasn't selling so he opted to make City of God instead. He doesn't know why the author changed his mind but when Meirelles got the rights he secured international financing to prevent Hollywood studio interference. Smart move! If you've read the book you'll know that it's quite unHollywood. To give you a picture of how relentless it can be, lets put it on a Cormac McCarthy curve: it's a smidgeon bleaker than No Country For Old Men but quite a lot happier than The Road (which is also going before cameras soon)

Post 2 Lunch with the author. Saramago, is described as tall, healthy and lovely. Saramago says that the Cão de Lágrimas (the dog in the book) must be big, and he is very pleased to hear about the casting of Danny Glover. Meirelles said that Danny Glover and Jose Saramago are quite alike (???) Meirelles thought that Saramago would not be interested in the film adapatation because he once said that cinema destroys imagination. As it turns out he is interested in this film and wants to know when he can see some of it. The other lunch guests are lost in translation. Only Meirelles and Saramago speak Portuguese.

Post 3 SPOILERS Julianne Moore is shocked (upset?) to learn that she has to film one of the books most harrowing sequences (a rape followed by a murder) out of order. Through his head-phone Meirelles hears Julie preparing for the scene: breathing heavily, then crying, then crying desperately. In the first shot she was carried away by emotion, screaming her text. Everyone was shocked (including Mark Ruffalo) and carried away by Julie's emotion reacted in a similar way. Unfortunately that was not the tone that the director wanted for the doctor (Ruffalo), so they had to redo the scene. To keep Julie in the mood for the scene, the director opted not to fix the mic problems they were having. In the end, they did the scene at least eight times. Meirelles chose Moore's fourth take, and Ruffalo's eighth. Julianne got the right tone easily, Mark took a bit longer. Oh, Mark you troublemaker! Kidding, we love. You really shouldn't still be waiting for that first Oscar nomination.

Post 4 In this post Meirelles discusses charisma. "Where does it come from?" The director cites Sandra Oh as an actor full of it. He did not know that she was an actor when they first met but he was with her presence. She asked for a small role in Blindness, so they wrote a few lines for the character Minister of Justice. He said that the minimal role became a great role, that is the power of a great actor like Oh. Meirelles also mentions that he expands the role of the pharmacists assistant (played by Mpho Koaho) due to the actor's charisma. Now, if only Meirelles could time travel back to 2004 and beef up Oh's role in Sideways. It's still sad that she was so ignored while the rest of the cast kept winning honors.

please note: as it turns out Twitch Film has translated this Portugese post "on charism" in full --if you want more details on it, is here.

Post 5 The prison shoot in Canada is over. That was the most difficult piece dramatically, but technically easy. The shooting in Montevideo and Sao Paulo will be harder because they will outdoors. The production hired an actor instructor to do a workshop for the extras that will be playing the blind. Meirelles doesn't want the movie to look like a Night of the Living Dead remake. Hee. I'm glad Meirelles has a sense of humor about this thing because, like I said: B-L-E-A-K. But just to prove my point, let's do one more.

Post 6 In which Meirelles wants there to be more fecal matter everywhere. more s%*! The director wasn't happy enough with the amount of excrement in the set, so he asked for it to be a lot messier. I can smell an art direction nod, coming can't you? But in all seriousness... it's one thing to read disturbing things in a novel. It's another to see them visualized. I'm fearful of how much we can take when I think of just that tiny bit of onscreen excrement in The Savages which was completely disgusting. A whole set filled with it? Oh dear. He then discusses civilization, and says that after reading Blindness, he thought of society as a complex but very fragile entity. He is also retaining the books choice to not give the character's names (i.e. "the doctor", "the doctor's wife", etcera). Once they can't be visually distinguished because they are all blind they don't need them. Meirelles is working to emphasize the character relationships in the film, while trying to avoid making a tear-jerker.

Continue on to part 2

Friday, January 25, 2008

Actress Psychic ~ And the Winner Is...

With the announcement this past Tuesday of Oscar's Best Actress Nominees the "Actress Psychic" game that many of you signed up for last April comes to a close with the following points given [reminder of points rules]

Cate Blanchett -The Golden Age
+25 (nom) -2 (fourth nom or more) -2 (prev winner) = 21 pts
Julie Christie -Away From Her
+25 (nom) -2 (fourth nom or more) +2 (early opening) -2 (prev winner) =23 pts
Marion Cotillard -La Vie En Rose
+25 (nom) +5 (first nom) +2 (foreign language) + 2 (early opening) =34 pts
Laura Linney -The Savages
+ 25 (nom) -2 (december opening) =23 pts
Ellen Page -Juno
nobody guessed her a year in advance so = 0 pts

and the one supporting nominee that was predicted in lead...
Cate Blanchett -I'm Not There
+25 (nom) -20 (supporting) -2 (4th nom or higher) -2 (prev win) = 1 pt

To find out who won, what they won and where you ranked in this contest, click on over to the contestants page. Wanna play again this year?

p.s. on a more self-centered note, I had my best year ever for last april's year in advance predix (including 3/5 in this very category --a personal best). If you wanna have a huge time travelling mind-f*** you can go visit them.

Actrices Que Nous Aimons

I know I'm not alone in feeling tres heureux when I think of "Carol" (Margo Martindale) and her broken French in Alexander Payne's section of the omnibus film Paris Je T'Aime.

And she's now a film bitch nominee for Best Actress in a Limited or Cameo Role along with one large and in charge manager, a lost actress, a widow and a guilt ridden woman. Did these women catch your eye with their brief roles ... or were you looking elsewhere when it came to the edges of the movies?

But back to "Carol" and Margo Martindale for a second. She was so sweet and sad and simple and self aware (only not ?) as Carol in 14ème Arrondissement, that perfect length gem within the Parisian film, that when it was over I immediately started wishing her into other movies.


Consider the possibilities, indeed

Lunchtime Poll: What'cha Waiting For in 2008?

Over the next six days we'll be wrapping up the 2007 party (FB awardage, actress psychic winners, Oscar win predictions) and then it's on to 2008 cinema! Plus: a second episode of the podcast and the annual Oscar Symposium with some new and some returning voices (here's the last one for a reminder).

So what are you most looking forward to this year?

I mean, besides Australia with the one and only Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!) directing La Kidman again. Duh. We're all breathless for that. Baz isn't the fastest filmmaker in the world but since they've wrapped, he has more than enough time in post to deliver that cattle ranch epic (co-starring Hugh Jackman) for the next Oscar season.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Trouble the Water (Plus: Links)

My New Plaid Pants has the best episode yet of "Thursday's Ways Not To Die"
Guardian "un-congratulations, you're pregnant"
Coming Soon new James Bond title: Quantum of Solace. And I thought "Bond 22" was bad. Still, with Daniel Craig leading again they could call it This Movie Sucks and I'd still buy my ticket.
Movie Marketing Madness on supply and demand and the low figures for today's prestige dramas in the marketplace. I may have linked to this before (?) but if so it's worth repeating. This makes a lot of sense and it's yet another reason to accept my decree that Hollywood must stop releasing every adult drama in the last quarter of the year.

And way the hell over in Park City, Utah the Sundance Film Festival has recently wrapped its first week (couple more days to go). One of the hits of the festival is Trouble the Water (pictured, above) a raw firsthand account of Hurricane Katrina and Hurrican FEMA survivors. You can read my review @ Zoom-In.

[cue exit music: God's gonna trouble the waa--aahh---ter]

8th Kill in No Country For Old Men

Approximately every 8 days in 2008 we celebrate the 8th Something of Something -- whoa, specific

*spoilers* from No Country For Old Men follow, obviously

I've seen No Country For Old Men three times and it remains, for the most part, an unnerving experience. Certain moments within Anton Chigurh's (Javier Bardem) relentless demonic pursuit of Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) are only truly terrifying the first time through but others seem to fester like open wounds becoming more troubling with repeated viewings.

No Country... has a much lower body count than many casually destructive action films but the deaths hurt more. That the subject matter seems to be the inevitably of death, life's unavoidable defeat (such a nihilistic author, that Cormac McCarthy) obviously contributes to the disturbance. So does the movie's occasionally merciless sick joke tone...
oh, hell's bells they even shot the dog
The first two murders (a cop and an unfortunate driver on the highway) come courtesy of Chigurh and aren't given much if any context in the larger narrative. I'm not counting the deal gone wrong that sees several dead people at once --one only mostly dead "agua"-- since these killings took place offscreen and I can't tell how many victims there are.

More loss of life follows: a dog (the only onscreen kill not committed by Chigurh) and two 'managerial types' that the big boss must be displeased with. He's not one to articulate his reasons --but god, that's a harsh on the job performance review.

Five dead so far.

And then comes the first of the two long motel sequence (about 45 minutes in) which combined undoubtedly won the film its well deserved Oscar nominations for sound. Llewellyn has the money and three Mexican drug runners and Anton are all in hot pursuit. When Anton bursts into the room where he thinks Llewellyn and the money are he blows away two of the Mexicans with his creepy pressurized weapon. Upon entering the already bloody bathroom, we see the 8th victim of No Country For Old Men. He hides in the shower shaking from fear.

And a very peculiar thing happens.

Chigurh pulls the shower curtain closed before the kill. This brutal murderer who gets off on killing or performs it with bored ease, averts his gaze (for the one and only time) from his own in-progress atrocities. Why? It's a troubling incongruity in this disturbing film.

previous episodes of 8th
...character intro in Showgirls
...use of magic in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix