Saturday, January 31, 2009

January. It's a Wrap

Welcome to all new readers and thank you to the many loyal long-timers. Things are buzzing here. It's that time of year but there's lots of stuff in planning stages for the Post Oscar season. In case you missed anything here are 10 highlights from the first month of '09 (though we all know the film year doesn't really start until 02/23/09. It's still 2008 until the last naked gold man is handed out).

EVE in WALL•E an appreciation.
Breakfast With... I hope you're loving the new series. What's your favorite episode thus far?
Top Films of 2008 robots, vampires, wedding guests, washed up wrestlers.
Sharing Time it's always a party when the comments really kick in. Thank you for being such chatty and civil moviegoers. Group hug!
Braveheart vs. Rebecca Mel is scary but Hitchcock truly haunts.

SAG live blogging
I almost wish there was an awards show on every week. What's wrong with me?
9th Day of Christmas is there anything better than dancing dadies?
Nicole Kidman in Nine ... okay maybe singing ladies are better. But it's a toss up.
The FiLM BiTCH Awards I've been giving out my own Oscar like awards for years now. See who gets to walk the imaginary red carpet of my mind. No, I'm not finished. It's a huge undertaking.
Oscar Nomination Talking Points
13 discussables -- the most popular January post.

Coming in February:
Another podcast (tomorrow!), the 4th annual Oscar Symposium, the "We Can't Wait" 2009 preview, Film Bitch Award medals, reports from the New York Comic Con, interviews with Oscar nominees, a special "British Actresses" theme week (by request). Plus the usual mix of new films (Coraline, New York I Love You), old films (How Green Was My Valley, Forrest Gump) and random assorted hijinx.

Stick around, especially after that little ceremony at the Kodak. Movie love is eternal. It can't be contained to a measly three months of statue chasing.

Now Playing: Bollywood's Brightest and Hollywood's Darkest

from least screens to most... (links go to trailers)

Shadows - Macedonia's Oscar submission in 2007 (also known as Senki) finally sees limited release. It's from the director of Before the Rain and stars Borce Nacev (pictured right) as a physician who mysteriously survives an accident. His mother is apparently a Lady Macbeth type.

Medicine for the Melancholy
-an indie about African American 20somethings in San Francisco.

The Class
this absolute must see from France reopens now that it's Oscar nominated. I'm sure my own awards had something to do with that release decision, too [snort]. The Class (also known as Entre Les Murs) won the Palme D'Or last summer and hopefully, it can win the golden boy too. I'm not exactly predicting it, though. It might be too subtle and contemporary for standard awards glory.

Luck by Chance -a Bollywood on Bollywood spectacle. Beefcake supplied by "special appearance" superstar Hrithik Roshan and lead actor Fahran Aktar (both pictured, left). But this thing is apparently loaded with star cameos so if you're into Bollywood, you should probably go. Maybe it's like Altman's The Player only with gigantic musical numbers?

Milk and The Reader have both added 600+ screens this weekend for their widest releases yet. It's a bit strange that Milk, which is the third biggest grosser among the Best Picture nominees, has never hit the 1000 screen mark, making it the BP nominee with the smallest "wide" release.

New in Town -Hollywood Cliches Part 1: Midwesterners are so kooky and quaint! Hollywood Cliches Part 2: City folk with big careers are always better off if they move to the middle of the country -- you can find love there! see previous post

The Uninvited -Hollywood Cliche Part 3: Dad or Mom's new "special friend" is always evil! The usually delightful Elizabeth Banks terrorizes in this ghostly horror flick about a teen who doesn't trust Dad's (David Strathairn) new lady.

-Hollywood Cliche Part 4: Revenge is always sweet. Hollywood Cliche Part 5: When someone is wronged violently in a movie they are almost always skilled with the violence themselves since (loop back to Cliche Part 4). Liam Neeson goes berzerk in this thriller when his daughter is kidnapped. This movie has been made dozens of times recently (albeit with different stars and director) but Hollywood never tires of whipping audiences into a frenzy of righteous bloodlust. Has there ever been a movie about somebody who was inept at killing bad guys when they were egregiously wronged?

Any movie plans for you this weekend or are you settling in with DVDs or, god forbid, ignoring the cinema altogether?

I hope Keira Knightley isn't the jealous type...

Here's randy scrumptious Rupert Friend putting the moves on aging courtesan Michelle Pfeiffer in Stephen Frears costume drama Chéri

You can seem several more new stills at my friend Morrisey Bond's Gorgeous Pfeiffer fansite.

"WE CAN'T WAIT", this site's annual countdown of new movies we're lusting after begins on Wednesday, February 4th. Because I do a collective list I don't get to choose the order but if my guests don't put Chéri in their 'most wanted', I shall send them death glares to rival Pfeiffer's at her iciest.

Friday, January 30, 2009

You think you know who you link. You have no idea.

Thompson on Hollywood will Milk surprise in Best Picture?
Armond White with his annual sh**-starting "Better-Than" list
Coming Soon
Amanda Seyfried vs. The Bening in an Oscar Wilde comedy? I'm so there.
Dear Jesus Whitney wishes she were more like Diane Keaton...
Just Jared yet more Nine set photos. This time it's Pené

"Moments Out of Time"
I used to love this. I'm glad they're still doing it. A list of great singular moments in 2008's movies
Flickhead writes a pretty hawt tribute to Wanted... yes, that Wanted
Lazy Eye Theater
, often prone to amusing shapeshifting as a blog, has now become some sort of anti-Slumdog machine (but this Slumdog is Crash correlation? I guess I agree after reading)

Movie City Indie AMC is doing that Best Picture marathon again. Five movies for $30. Tomorrow! In 42 different cities. I think this would be soooo fun except -- well, only if I could live blog it and you can't exactly bring glowing laptops into the cinema, now can you? But I bet it would be fun except -- always with the conditions Nathaniel sheesh -- well, AMPAS did sort of do a dull job in picking the five, didn't they? And I'm not talking about snubbing The Dark Knight. I'm talking about the lack of a "WOW" factor.

Vanity Fair's Hollywood ~ Episode 10 (2004)

Missed previous episodes? See: 1995 , 1996, 1997, 1998 , 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005

With the annual Vanity Fair "Hollywood" issue about to debut for 2009 -- I'm guessing we see the new cover in less than two weeks (UPDATE: the new cover has been leaked and Vanity Fair has chucked their traditional photo shoot *sniffle* for the millionth magazine cover featuring President Obama), let's briefly return to our Vanity Fair retrospectives. "Send in the Gowns" was the title of 2004's photo shoot and they returned to the first year's game plan of glamour girls. The cover was more crowded though, bringing us an unlucky 13. But who was this cover unlucky for?

Maybe all of them, with the exception of Maggie Gyllenhaal (hurrah) and Hilary Swank (known affectionately around these parts as Beelzebub), who was just 11 months away from her second Oscar. Vanity Fair had gotten less daring in their cover selections as the year's passed (at least in terms of fresh "they'll be famous!" proclamations), but many of these careers had arguably peaked and were headed downhill.

Strange coincidence: 23% of these women are starring in He's Just Not That Into You

Julianne Moore was 43 at the time. She had been on the first "Hollywood" edition in spring '95 (before anyone had seen [Safe]) and got a deserved promotion. In the 9 years between the covers she'd gone from gorgeous up and coming redhead to a famously talented familiar actress as well as an Oscar nom' magnet. Unfortunately, round about this time as her fame and price kept escalating, she stopped wowing. 2004 brought her her only solo film-carrying "hit" in the traditional sense (The Forgotten) but it also brought stinkers like Laws of Attraction and films that no one even knows exist like Marie and Bruce (the only Moore film I haven't managed to get my eyes on). She's been misfiring both critically and box office wise since though she did have small roles in two acclaimed films Children of Men and I'm Not There.

This past year's double Moore dip, Savage Grace and Blindness (FB Body of Work nomination), reminded us that she's a unique and formidable dramatic actress... when she's not trying to be a romantic comedienne or action heroine. Next: She has three films in the can for 2009: the lead in a thriller (uh oh -- not playing to her strengths!) called Shelter, and supporting roles in the dramas The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and fashion god Tom Ford's filmmaking debut A Single Man.

Jennifer Connelly was 33 newly married to fine actor Paul Bettany and had just starred in a hit that everybody thought of as a flop (Hulk) and an Oscar misfire of sorts (House of Sand and Fog) but she was still considered a major get. Only she wouldn't be got. So to speak. She took only co-lead or supporting roles that didn't do much for her in Oscar Bait projects that didn't hook any statues (Little Children, Reservation Road, Blood Diamond) and now she's doing CGI flicks (The Day the Earth Stood Still and Inkheart). Is there a second wind to this career? And if there is, doesn't it need to come very soon? Next: He's Just Not That Into You and then Creation, a Charles Darwin biopic where she and her husband will play the Darwins.

Gwyneth Paltrow, 31, was still arguably suffering from the Oscar Curse -- that messy career period that can follow an Oscar win (which she won for Shakespeare in Love, discussed at length right here). The Royal Tenenbaums and Sylvia had reminded that she had plenty of acting skill but something about the career wasn't taking with Oscar or the public. Did she not care enough? She was a newlywed when this cover hit (to Coldplay's Chris Martin) and already pregnant with their first child, though she wasn't yet showing (she's pictured right, a few months later). Her acting career definitely went on the back burner. She's had 7 films released since this cover debuted and only one true leading role among them (Proof). She's now far more of a celebrity than an actress. The fame part stuck. Next: Two Lovers is inching it's way into view. King Lear and Iron Man 2 are coming for 2010.

Naomi Watts, 35, had recently moved out from under that 'Nicole Kidman's best friend' tag and into her own celebrity. The fresh Oscar nomination for 21 Grams (due in no small part to the Mulholland Dr lead in we're sure) went a long way towards that. She was still dating Heath Ledger, who came with her to the Oscars, but their relationship was about to end. (Thank god she convinced him to take Brokeback Mountain first!). In 2004 she had two heavy dramas and one comedy (the brilliant I Heart Huckabees) on the way. She chased those with the massive King Kong. Ever the multi-tasker since stardom hit she's still busy busy busy despite being a new mom. Next: Mother and Child for actress-loving director Rodrigo García and possibly Need with Nicole Kidman. That would be their first movie together since the charming Australian romance Flirting in 1991.

Salma Hayek, 37, still had residual heat from the success of Frida in late 2002. She had broken up with Ed Norton and was dating Josh Lucas but her movie career was about to collapse. Flops like Ask the Dust, Lonely Hearts and After the Sunset were all on the way. A savvy star she's stayed in the game by seguewaying to television production, bringing the big hit Ugly Betty to ABC and doing guest work (30 Rock). Next: "Madame Truska" in Universal's Cirque Du Freak opening in time for Halloween

Jennifer Aniston had just celebrated her 35th birthday, and her career was coming to the crossroads. She was finishing up her last season on TV's mega hit "Friends" and her marriage to Brad Pitt was also close to wrapping (though we didn't know it at the time). They divorced in late 2005 shortly before her first two post TV stardom movies (Derailed and Rumor Has It) opened. Her feature career has been middling peppered with the occasional high concept hit but she's forever ubiquitous in the media thanks to that decade in our living rooms as "Rachel" and her gossip-drenched marriage and split from Mr. Pitt. Next: the star studded romantic comedy He's Just Not That Into You

Kirsten Dunst, almost 22, was about to dump Jake Gyllenhaal (my theory as to one of the reasons people hate her so), Eternal Sunshine was playing (she does not get enough credit for her wistful funny turn in that film) and Spider-Man 2 was about to open. She was extremely famous / busy. It's been a bumpy ride since with rehab, a misunderstood star vehicle (Marie Antoinette), internet backlash and flops outside of those webslinging blockbusters. Next: All Good Things, the narrative feature debut of documentarian Andrew Jarecki (Capturing the Friedmans) opens this summer. Possibly Spider-Man 4 after that. Don't do it Kiki! Save yourself

Diane Lane, who had been famous since she was only 14 had just turned 39. She had seen her lengthy career hit a new peak with an Oscar nomination for Unfaithful in 2002 which she followed with another minor hit Under the Tuscan Sun. She was about to marry Josh Brolin whose career was still a couple years away from supersizing. More films were lining up for Lane but things aren't as rosy now since none have really matched that Unfaithful triumph and some (Kill Shot and Fierce People) had trouble even getting into theaters. Next: nothing announced.

Lucy Liu, 35, had just given the performance of her career in Kill Bill but then... that tends to happen to people when they star in Quentin Tarantino movies, doesn't it? Liu had always toggled between features and TV and she kept doing so. She's never left wanting for work but no great successes since. Next: nothing announced since her last two televisions series Lipstick Mafia and Dirty Sexy Money were both cancelled.

Hilary Swank in '04. Photographed by Stephen Meisel for Calvin Klein (photo source)

Hilary Swank, nearing 30, was on this cover because she had a frankly amazing agent. I kid, I kid. Her career post 1999 Oscar had been unremarkable. The Core was her last release prior to this cover but 2004 was looking big for her on paper (a respectable TV movie Iron Jawed Angels and a Clint Eastwood picture Million Dollar Baby -discussed here) and looks weren't deceiving. She won another Oscar for the latter and promptly returned to doing what she does: random disposable projects of multiple genres. Next: Two Oscar hopefuls for 2009 and in both of them she plays the title character. There's Amelia, a biopic in which she plays the famous aviatrix and Betty Ann Waters an Erin Brockovich style working mother turned legal eagle drama.

Alison Lohman, 24, was just off of a few high profile gigs (Big Fish, White Oleander and Matchstick Men) but her follow ups were very low profile. Tell me, have you seen: The Big White, Where the Truth Lies, Things We Lost in the Fire or Flicka? Next: Two thrillers one called simply Game leans scifi, the other Drag Me to Hell is auteur Sam Raimi's return to the horror genre. That might be something to look forward to but can it raise Lohman's profile back to early 2004 levels?

Scarlett Johansson, all of 19 years old, had just become the movies hottest young star. Offscreen she was a dynamo in the Young Hollywood scene --vaguely around this time she moved from dating Jared Leto to a fairly lengthy romance with Josh Hartnett. Onscreen she was a fresh sensation. Girl with a Pearl Earring and Lost in Translation had both opened to enviable acclaim for the young starlet and an awards run, too (though Oscar passed). When this cover was shot she was a critics darling, a paparazzi treasure and very much in demand by both auteurs and corporations (her endorsement side career might be as profitable as her film career by now). She's been super busy these past 4 years with numerous films, marrying Ryan Reynolds and that fledgling recording career. But is it quantity over quality. A lot of people are beginning to think so. Next: He's Just Not That Into You

Maggie Gyllenhaal, 27 at the time, had become ubiquitous around 2002 appearing in critical hits like Adaptation and Secretary. She and Jake her brother ascended in very close succession. The next year or so was less eventful cinematically for Maggie but two years after this cover hit she was all over the screens again delivering you-can't-look-away performances in films ranging from World Trade Center (blech) to Stranger Than Fiction to Sherrybaby and off screen she was having her first child with Peter Sarsgaard. Oscar still hasn't taken a liking to Maggie but few would argue that she isn't one of the most impressive actresses of her generation. Next: Crazy Heart a drama with Colin Farrel and Away We Go a comedy for director Sam Mendes.

PLEASE NOTE: If you'd like to read more about any of these stars, click the names in the labels section below.
median age: 32. Julianne Moore was the mamma (isn't she always?) and ScarJo the baby.
noticeably absent: Who else was topical around 2003/2004? Let's see... Halle Berry was about to screw up her career with Catwoman, Angelina Jolie (who has never been on one of these "Hollywood" covers) had a bunch of movies about to come out, Emmy Rossum was just off of Mystic River and about to co-star in two epics, Kate Beckinsale had had a minor hit with Underworld and was chasing it with another supernatural flick before co-starring in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator.
collective Oscar noms before this cover:
10 nominations (40% of those for Julianne) and 3 winners (her front cover co-stars Connelly & Paltrow and then Swank in the backfold)
collective Oscar noms after this cover: only one but she won (Hilary Swank)
fame levels in 2009, according to famousr, from most to least: Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Hilary Swank, Kirsten Dunst, Scarlett Johansson, Lucy Liu, Salma Hayek, Julianne Moore, Naomi Watts, Jennifer Connelly, Diane Lane, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Alison Lohman
previous episodes of 'VFH': 1995 ,1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005.

New in Town?

<-- Oh Z!, be careful what you ask for

Received on my iPhone from my favorite anonymous "txt critic" who was unusually verbose this time.
Okay, chalk it up to bottom of the barrell expectations, but I thought New in Town was fine. Really.

I can't see it making even the least discriminating housewive's favorites list, but it was totally watchable, cute, pleasant. And dare I say it, I found Miss Z not annoying/false for the first time in 5-6 years.

I swear to god. I mean, it wasn't good! But it went down easy.
Curious. And I think that's a recommendation... of some alien thumbless kind. What say ye readers, should I give her another chance? Dare I step into the movie theater for this one and report back? I'll count up the yays and nays and act according to your collective will. (eep)

Breakfast With... Julia and Meryl

How about a nice omelette?

True story: Julia Child taught me to make them.

Julia Child in "The Omelette Show" and
Meryl Streep as that great lady in Julie & Julia

They're the only thing I know how to cook but I am a wiz with the eggs. I can make them all sorts of ways and with all sorts of ingredients. I even make new kinds up on the spot with whatever I find in the fridge. Beyond omelettes I leave all kitchen duties to others. It's safer that way.

How this happened is a long story that I won't bore you with but it traces back to Julie & Julia which was a blogging experiment which became a book which is now a movie which will debut in theaters this August. Amy Adams plays "Julie Powell", a blogger who decided to cook her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Meryl Streep plays the famous cook who inspired her. From nuns to cooks. And, yes, Meryl Streep now has an annual summer box office slot. Who does she think she is, Will Smith?

If La Streep doesn't win her third Oscar this year for Doubt, maybe she'll win it in February 2010 for this? We all know that Oscar loves a good mimic and Streep has always had a gift with both physical and vocal shape-shifting. They'll be essential skills if she hopes to capture this very familiar distinctive American icon for the screen.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nicole Chased by Paparazzi (Onscreen, That Is)

Pics from the set of the Broadway musical adaptation Nine are starting to show up online. Here we see Nicole Kidman, who plays famous actress (quelle stretch!) Claudia, and Daniel Day-Lewis as famed director Guido Contini being hounded by paparazzi.

What a strange thing for someone of Kidman's fame level to "act" onscreen. It must feel like a f'ing documentary. You can see many more photos at I'm Not Obsessed and Just Jared.

If you're not familiar with Nine, for shame. I've given you so many links and posts and such with which to study up. Claudia's has two super numbers in the show: One is a heartbreaker semi-duet with Carla (Penélope Cruz) called "Simple" -- would that Tom Cruise had played Contini! ;) imagine the pop culture implosion!, but the other is her big solo "A Very Unusual Way" and it goes a little something like this...

(because I am a crazy person I'm giving you many amateur versions to choose from. Only true theater queens -- you know who you are -- should watch all four)

From left to right first row: college recital performances by Melissa and Allie
From left to right bottom row: Jersey Boys cast member Craig Lauriein performing it in Chicago and Samantha Servais in a college production. That final clip, Samantha's gives you the most typical sense of how it's generally performed in the show.

Isn't that a great song? I can't wait to hear the 'Sparking Diamond' Satine sing it, can you?

There's also a low sound quality bootleg of the Broadway performance at YouTube that doesn't allow embedding, curse it!

GLAAD it wasn't Chuck and Larry

I never know what to make of GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. I totally understand their raison d'etre but they've made some odd calls over the years. Remember when they totally endorsed that Adam Sandler movie? The one with the absurd and frankly damaging premise that gay men have it easy when it comes to employer benefits and insurance.

Anywayyyyy. Like every organization that has more than 1 member they give out awards. Here are their film-related nominees for the year that was...

Outstanding Film – Wide Release
Brideshead Revisited (Miramax Films)
Milk (Focus Features)
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (Columbia Pictures)
RocknRolla (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Vicky Cristina Barcelona (The Weinstein Company)

The new Brideshead underlined the previously gay-in-subtext-only nature of the piece so I understand why they went for it even if I didn't think much of it. Milk is a gimme. I've already mentioned how pleased I was with Nick and Norah's take on sexuality. I assume VCB is here due to the molten hotness of the Scarlett & Penélope mash session. Weren't they aware that that's too much hot for a darkroom? I mean, there are chemicals in there, ladies! I enjoyed that CruzJo tangle as much as any man would have, but it still seems like a stretch to me for this award. RocknRolla is here because...??? If you've seen it, please share in the comments. I didn't know there was anything queer about Guy Ritchie Guy Ritchie's latest.

Outstanding Film - Limited Release
The Edge of Heaven (Strand Releasing)
Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom (New Open Door Productions)
Save Me (First Run Features)
Shelter (Regent Releasing)
XXY (Film Movement)

I'm sort of angry that everyone began to write about how great The Edge of Heaven (pictured left) was after it had already left the cinema. Why didn't anyone tell me of its worth when it was in theaters? I suppose this is a "my bad" situation since I loved Head On by the same director. I should've pounced on that one. The others I'm less familiar with beyond the Oscar submission XXY and the pleasant Shelter (which I wrote about here). But if they were going foreign here I find it hard to believe that there weren't worthier entries than a Noah's Arc film. GLAAD was into threesomes this year apparently so why not Christophe Honoré's Love Songs?

Chris & Don: A Love Story (Zeitgeist Films)
Freeheld (Cinemax)
A Jihad for Love (First Run Features)
Saving Marriage (Regent Releasing)
Sex Change Hospital (WE tv)

Freeheld was an Oscar winner last year. I've heard good things about A Jihad for Love which is about gay and lesbian muslims. Have any of you seen it? I have a Chris & Don screener. I have too many screeners. When can I watch them? If only screeners would arrive steadily throughout the year and not crush the postman with their weight during Oscar season. Poor flattened postman.

Off-Cinema I was pleased to see nominations for music artists like Jay Brannan, Magnetic Fields and Hercules and Love Affair. GLAAD's theatrical awards went very tranny. Not that there's anything wrong with that. If you ever have a chance to see Justin Bond (the total genius -- "gee-nee-uss" to quote Pené -- of Kiki & Herb fame, Dina Martina or Taylor Mac perform, you must. But approach with caution if you're the sensitive or easily frightened type.

Here's a full list of GLAAD nominees for those who are interested.

Two Oscars for Rahman?

Best Original Score is an Oscar category I can never quite get in tune with. Either I think the Academy's preferred choices are too overpowering (and therefore memorable, sure, but not helpful to the film) or I don't remember them or I love them but Oscar doesn't notice them (see the works of Angelo Badalamenti). But this year, I'm pretty good with their choices.

First and foremost, I'm relieved that Thomas Newman's completely overbearing repetitive score for Revolutionary Road wasn't nominated and that his great score for WALL•E was instead. He's now been nominated for 10 Oscars and he has yet to win. Danny Elfman, a beloved composer -- especially to Tim Burton or Oingo Boingo fans -- is also waiting for his first win, though the fine score for Milk probably won't do it for him. He has Bridget Fonda at home to comfort him so he's probably not complaining.

The Online Wall Street Journal has a good piece up about all of the contenders, tipping Slumdog for the win (of course) but can I say again how angry I am that Bruce Springsteen was skipped for his song from The Wrestler. I haven't gotten over it, have you? With Springsteen blocked, Slumdog's A. R. Rahman, who nabbed three (!) nominations his first time out, could well win two music Oscars in February. I liked the score and the songs just fine (definitely my favorite elements of the movie) but that's total overkill if you ask me.

Not that overkill is anything new for Slumdog Millionaire's awards run.

related pages: Oscar's aural categories (vote here on your favorite score) and my own Score and Song nominees

Breakfast With... Wendy and Lucy

A donut and a cup of coffee. Some financial planning as a side dish. That's as sure a way as any to kill one's appetite.

I hope you're taking better care of yourself than Wendy does.

I'm absolutely convinced that if I had a heart and could cry and was a dog person (I know that's a lot of "if"s), I would tear up every time I was reminded of Wendy and Lucy. It got to me. More so than I thought at the time. The movie is currently playing in Seattle, San Diego, Philly and Boston and should be hitting a few more cities tomorrow. Watch out for it or save it on your rental queue if your town never gets this kind of tiny gem.

Michelle Williams is up for Best Actress in my own awards and now the film is up for Best Ending (I've tried to keep the write ups short and semi-vague so as to not spoil). I've also announced nominations in the Opening Scene and Credit Sequence categories - Check them out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mad Max

Glenn from Stale Popcorn here, taking a moment out of the roasting he is getting in his apartment - it's 44 degrees here, or 110 in crazy fahrenheit measurements - to bring you this post.

Anybody who reads my blog (hi... five of you!) will know I like to follow Australian film. I am from Australia and I am deeply connected to my country's industry. Thankfully taking a break from movies about drug dealers, drug users, wife abusers, crooked cops and philandering husbands (five of Australian film's favourite topics) is Mary and Max, a claymation film from Adam Elliot, the director of Oscar-winning Harvey Krumpet. It debuted as the opening night film at Sundance recently. Wallace & Gromit this is not. From the film's IMDb plot outline:

A tale of friendship between two unlikely pen pals: Mary, a lonely, eight-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne, and Max, a forty-four-year old, severely obese man living in New York.

And that's just the beginning! It features the vocals of Phillip Seymour Hoffman (as Max), Toni Collette (as adult Mary), Barry Humphries, Eric Bana plus several others that only Australians will recognise (Renee Geyer and Ian 'Molly' Meldrum, anyone?) I, for one, can't wait to see what Elliot does and the trailer (below) looks wickedly dark and funny. Hopefully a distributer picks it up for international release. I wonder if the animation branch would respond to it like they did Harvey Krumpet or if they would pass by it for, oh I dunno, Lame Dreamworks Cartoon 7.

It is released in Australia in April.

Signatures: Penélope Cruz

Adam of Club Silencio here with a look at my favorite actresses and their distinguishing claims to fame.

If for some unjust reason Penélope Cruz should lose the Supporting Actress Oscar, I know she'll handle it well. Throughout her career she's learned to make the best of a bad situation. Not to say it won't take some time...

It wasn't all that long ago that Penélope was an actress lost in translation. Beautiful and effortless in Spanish; beautiful and trying in English. In short time and with the help of some great directors, Penélope's become a sensational bilingual stunner. I'm convinced it's because of that positive attitude. Even as a nun impregnated by an HIV-positive transvestite, or a teenage prostitute giving birth on public transport, Penélope finds such splendid ways to deal with cinema's most dire debacles.

Penélope's character Maria Elena, her nominated role in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, is on the path of self destruction once her lover takes another. But give her some time and that bitter hatred of the world and Scarlett Johansson magically transitions into artistic inspiration and mutual bisexual lust. Penélope's all about learning and personal growth.

"What did they say in art school? They said I was a genius... I'm not talking about talent. I said genius. Gee-nee-us. Gee-nee-us."

Her fruitful collaborations with Pedro Almodóvar have yielded her greatest tragedies, but also her greatest optimism. Penélope's transcendent turn as Raimunda in Volver pits her against all sorts of obstacles as a mother forced to cover the death of her deadbeat husband, cope with the sexual abuses of her past, and deal with the possibility that her dead mother still wants closure. Trying times indeed, but Raimunda turns that tragedy into triumph. She opens her dream business and manages to heal old wounds. "I felt like I knew women like that, and I love that she refuses to be a victim," says Penélope, "I love the dignity that Pedro gave her in the script, and I just wanted to give her that."

Penélope has already completed work on Almodóvar's latest, Broken Embraces, and prepared for the inevitable misery with that same distracting idealism, "I think every day changes you a little bit and makes you learn something new. Now maybe from the outside that change can be seen like a silent thing, but I think we're constantly moving forward, evolving, changing and learning."

Of course she's right. If you can survive Bandidas, you can survive anything. Just give Penélope some time. And the Oscar.

Hump Day Hottie: Ralph Fiennes

JA from MNPP here, adopting the HDH authorship reins from Nat for a moment to give a little appreciation to (slash rant over) a man I've come to feel defensive over lately in what appears to me to be an endless onslaught of oversights. Basically what I'm getting at is...

Where the heck
is the Ralph Fiennes love?

Granted I'm starting to seem obnoxious with my praise-singing for the man so perhaps nothing short of a Presidential bid would sate my thirst, but I think Meryl knew well enough at the SAGs when she planted a big wet one on him - what better way to celebrate? I wish the world would follow suit. Ralph should be positively drowning in sloppy-tongued accolades, yet it's as if a giant cricket croaks its weary tune whenever it comes to an enthusiastic reception of his consistently admirable work.

And I don't get it. From where I'm standing the man gave two fine performances this year: oh sure, his work in The Reader is the sort of understated stuff that awards bodies hardly ever go anywhere near (what clip could they possibly show when he never screams or cries or bleeds out?), but what really saddens me is the lack of love for his delightfully profane comic performance in In Bruges, which was one of the funniest things I've seen all year. Just imagine a clip of his "Inanimate Object" speech smacking up against Phillip Seymour Hoffman's beatific glow in Doubt! That's what magic is made from.

And that Ralph can swing so effortlessly from that bared-teeth f-bomb snarl in Bruges to that quiet bruised stare in The Reader... I haven't seen it but he appears to have made powerful work of the part of Doris Duke's swishy butler in the TV movie Bernard and Doris opposite Susan Sarandon... then earlier this year he was seducing and destroying Keira Knightly in The Duchess... and then there's his recurring gig as the Evilest Evil To Ever Evil called Voldemort He Who Shall Not Be Named...

Well I ask you, where does Ralph's never-ending parade of talent slam into the critical praise that he so richly deserves, that's what I want to know. Somebody tell me where that place is, cuz I'm booking a room. Me and Ralph and a medieval f@$%ing bowling alley for two!


Sharing Time

While I am convalescing, answer me these questions three*. Come on lurkers, you too!
  1. What were you hoping to read about when you clicked over here today?
  2. What was the last movie you saw in the theater and did you love it?
  3. What is your favorite pre 1970s movie?
  4. Which movie star drives you wild with desire?
  5. If you were invited to a costumed Oscar party, which character from this year's movies would you come dressed as.
* I am very bad at math

How I Feel / How I Wish I Felt told in perfect black and white by Miss Joan Crawford

I can barely move (no joke -- back is out. And no painkillers within reach). I'm ripe for mocking by Bette Davis. I hope your day is far more glamorous.

Talk amongst yourselves. How are you feeling today?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Links of Eastwick

Popnography Jamie Bell in the TinTin movie. Yes
Getty Images best and worst of SAG red carpet
Best Week Ever on Evan Rachel Wood. 'Her lips are busy!'
My Stuff & Cr*p listen to tracks from all the nominated Oscar scores

Just Jared
interviews Alan Cumming. He's started directing again
Yuppie Punk mp3s to coincide with this year's Oscar nominees
Empire Driver and Swank co-starring in a legal drama that hopes to be all Erin Brockovichy
Movie City Indie Dustin Lance Black's on the abundant Milk nominations
Charlie Rose Great conversation about Benjamin Button with AO Scott and David Denby. Watch it

The Daily says goodbye to celebrated author John Updike who died earlier today. As you may know, Updike's last novel, published just about a year ago now, was a sequel to The Witches of Eastwick called The Widows of Eastwick. He didn't like the 1980s film version of the earlier novel (though he was a fan of Michelle Pfeiffer's "Sukie") and many stories from the set at the time indicated that the stars weren't that happy either. Nevertheless, I'm hoping that his estate, the actresses and the movie studios think hard about mounting a film adaptation. How grand could a reunion of Susan Sarandon, Cher and La Pfeiffer be? Their characters are 15 or so years older in Widows than their counterpart celebrities are now so there's plenty of time to get this project cracking (Start now. Movies take forever... especially when expensive/skittish/retired actors are involved) and we definitely need more films about elderly women. When was the last time someone made a movie primarily about them?

"Coughing's good. It gets you higher."

Hi, everybody! It's JA from MNPP here again, all set to rampage across your computer screens once more. Yay! This time I'm doing exactly what I did last time... only different! Last time it was Geena Davis' birthday that made me all nostalgic for an AWOL actress. This time, same spiel, different actress - today is the 45th birthday of Bridget Fonda, and I miss her something terrible too.

The last time Fonda worked was seven full years ago for a couple of television projects, but the real shining gems in her resume, as far as I'm concerned, go back a few years further to Sam Raimi's A Simple Plan in 1998 and Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown in 1997 (side-note: These remain both of these director's finest films. Discuss.)

Honestly, smacking those two performances beside each other right now is a little mentally overwhelming, so large does my love for both of them loom. In the former she's Sarah Mitchell, her pregnant belly disguising a mounting villainy of Lady MacBeth-like proportions, and in the latter she's Melanie Ralston, for whom the bell tolls an echo in the sound of "Huh, Looooooouuuis.... where's the car, Looooooouis?" Chills, just thinking about that gal's fate.

Of course, Fonda had done plenty of fine work outside of those two roles, but it was this terrible two-some that forever cemented my love for her. And then, within a couple of years, she was gone. Poof! You don't know whatcha got, et al. That tunefully prolific bastard Danny Elfman went and stole her away with apparently happy off-camera living and now I'm left with a Melanie's-bong shaped hole in my heart. Sadness. Hopefully she'll get the itch back like her Auntie Jane did and come back to us. Fingers crossed!

FUN FACT! I just learned this while skimming her IMDb page: Fonda was a big fan of Italian horror-maestro Dario Argento and was supposed to play the main character in his 1997 flick The Stendhal Syndrome. The role went to his daughter Asia instead, who then got to roll around with a mostly naked Thomas Kretschmann in her place. I hope Fonda had a damned good excuse for missing out on that hotness.