Though most of my Oscar prediction chart updates have to wait for today's screening of Zero Dark Thirty (eeeeeeee! Bring it, Bigelow) it was safe to go ahead and revamp the Best Actor chart since Jessica Chastain can't compete there without significant alternate universe alterations. The chart has all new text, new rankings, links to reviews and past articles, and thoughts on locks, dark horse campaign angles. There's also an extensive list of vote siphoners that probably won't factor in but for random ballots from their most ardent admirers. That doesn't mean they aren't worthy of attention. It never does and never will since "Best" will always remain in the eye of the beholder.
HUGH vs. DANIEL
This weekend's debut of Les Misérables sent numerous industry professionals and media types (including myself) into a frenzy. (lots more after the jump)
By the end of each and every November I am buried in piles and piles of screeners in addition to screening invites each night (I'm not complaining) that all arrive within the same two week period (I am complaining). To give each film a fair shake you'd have to do nothing but watch movies for two weeks before ballots are due -- I'm terrified at how quickly my Critics Choice voting begins! In order to see all the films you want and rescreen those you have foggy memories of you'd have to a) give up Oscar parties, networking and campaign luncheons, b) turn down filmmaker interviews c) decline visits from family and friends and choose not to attend any holiday parties with them d) abandon your blog, your writing, and any work for clients and consulting jobs and thus all your money and e) refuse to sleep.
As I am unwilling and/or unable to give up any of those things, I admit to a certain distressing ohgodImafailure feeling each November. This is a longwinded way of saying that I'm super far behind and overwhelmed and I hope you'll all be patient though I know your first instinct is probably sympathy-free; "Bitch, you already saw Les Miz. Shut it!"
BRIEF THOUGHTS ON THREE MOVIES I HAVEN'T TALKED ABOUT
Rise of the Guardians
Santa isn't the main character but he's the character I kept thinking about while trying to organize my thoughts. Santa has "naughty" and "nice" tattoos and the movie is that way, too. In every respect it's a mixed bag, no matter how many gifts it has stuffed inside. Despite confusing character design (why are tooth fairy and easter bunny so scary looking?) and steady but strange characterizations (Santa laughs a lot but there's no vocalization whatsover that might be interpreted as a "ho ho ho"), the characters were sort of endearing. I really enjoyed Sandman, who doesn't speak but communications through shape-making, and Jack Frost who is visualized here as a teenbeat icy hipster twink. The film is often gorgeous but it's also so over-designed as to be instantly forgettable as it leaps from busy lair to busy lair of these iconic characters. The story is both overly familiar and alien (what's with that 'listen to the man on the moon' messaging?) and nonsensical. Most of it all it just smells weird; that's the aroma of frenzied "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?" flop sweat. C-
Oscar? There is still plenty of debate as to which toon will win the Best Animated Feature this year, but given the strength of the field, Guardian's chaotic overkill doesn't bode well for its chances.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Logan Lerman is Charlie, an introverted troubled high school freshmen (hence the title) who finds solace in writing and literature and renewed energy for life when a group of "misfit" seniors take him under their wing. The best moments of this adaptation of the beloved best-seller resonate with tender universality but the screenplay (and I assume source material) are problematic. High school is traumatic enough without actual trauma as ever present backstory. Why all the gilding of such a delicate lily? B+/B
Oscar? Traction would be a stretch in any category given that youth oriented films, no matter how heartfelt and soulfully performed, are rarely recognized. Still... this is a significant leap forward for all three of its principles: Logan Lerman does his best work yet anchoring the film; Ezra Miller proves he has a much wider range than After School and We Need To Talk About Kevin suggested; and yes even Emma Watson -- who longtime readers will know I've been ice cold on -- impresses.
Brief Thoughts: If Joe Wright's brazenly theatrical take on this oft adapted classic about a respectable Russian wife who loses her place in society to her obsessive affair with a young soldier isn't the year's strangest film (The Master and Holy Motors fight for that honor), it's still one of the most compelling high wire acts. The stylization, which mostly turns on an ever shifting stage set and constant art and film history referencing, isn't always consistent and the film feels like an almost-musical so often it borders on torture (for musical aficionados at least). But there's something about all the eye-popping scenic changes, grand acting gestures, mobile camera, and plot riffing rather than storytelling that give the film a propulsive self-absorbed energy that dovetails perfectly with the stubborn sexual obsessiveness of Anna herself. B+
Oscar? The film will undoubtedly prove too divisive for major prize-gathering -- hell, I'm the target audience and even I am of two minds about it -- but it still has a fighting shot at the eye candy categories or, as we like to call them, the Moulin Rouge! prizes (a film it often recalls). If the actor's branch is feeling daring, they might want to take a closer look at Keira Knightley's huge star turn. She's getting braver and more adept at stylization all the time. She's the ideal model for Joe Wright's picture-making. Knightley will never be everyone's favorite actress but there's much to admire in this gutsy editorial posing performance.
An hour long conversation about his divisive movie. Sometimes you have to hear it from the filmmaker's mouth.
Somewhat off topic now...
Occasionally with the great filmmakers it feels unseemly to bring up the great compromise of Oscar. Anderson is probably too much of an artist to care too deeply about golden idols but I do wonder -- tis the season -- if The Master can hold on to any Academy plays or if the year is just getting too crowded with traditional but very satisfying entertainments (Lincoln, Les Miz, Argo) for any of the "difficult" s (The Master, Amour, Anna Karenina, maybe even Beasts of the Southern Wild) to squeeze into the major categories.
What say you?
P.S. In case you missed it, my thoughts on The Master
Today's Golden Horse Awards, the Chinese-Taiwanese Oscars, spread the wealth. Superstar Andy Lau (A Simple Life, Infernal Affairs, House of the Flying Daggers) had the honor of presenting Best Picture. It went to Beijing Blues but Beijing hardly dominated. Every BP Contender took home at least one prize and some of them major.
I watched a bit of the ceremony live on the web even though I speak no Cantonese, Mandarin or Taiwanese. Awards shows are -- you'll never believe this -- a source of endless fascination to me. Yes, even if I have no clue what's going on.
I was told at one point though that the producers were asking the hosts to ad lib more since the ceremony was running short -- imagine it! Otherwise awards ceremonies speak a universal language. Consider the Best Actress category: silly presenter banter, 5 nominees, a mix of teary and elegant and 'why did they pick that?' clips, tense multi-camera grid as the winner is announced, and a tearful young beauty winning the big prize.
Also, just like it would happen at the Oscars, her equally pretty young male co-star (Joseph Chang) lost the counterpart male category to a mature and well respected character actor who'd paid his dues. The gender rules of awardage appear to be universal, too!
Best Picture Beijing Blues (pictured left) is a drama about a detective catching thieves
Audience Choice Gf*Bf (a popular youth-oriented romantic drama)
Best Director Johnny To Life Without Principle (Hong Kong's Oscar submission)
Best Actress Gwei Lun-Mei Gf*Bf
Best Actor Ching Wan Lau Life Without Principle
Best Supporting Actress Liang Jing Design of Death
Best Supporting Actor Ronald Cheng Vulgaria
Best New Performer Qi Xi Mystery
A complete list of winners and nominees can be found at the official Golden Horse site.
It came true.
Tom Hooper, looking very confident, took the stage at Alice Tully this afternoon to welcome everyone to the screening with a Happy Thanksgiving and a confession that he had finished the film at 2:00 AM in time for today's all guild screenings, the very first! If we were sitting there "It must mean I've finished it," he quipped.
Though reviews are embargoed until December 11th, let it suffice to say (for now) that my fears about the film adaptation of the classic musical were alleviated quickly. MORE...
Alfred Hitchcock is getting as much attention this year as 007, what with Vertigo topping the Sight & Sound poll and the new Hitchcock biopic that references Hitchcockian mythology from 1958 through 1962 but focuses mostly on Psycho (1960). All that plus a new TV show that will look at the life of Young Norman (Freddie Highmore) and the infamous Mrs. Bates (Vera Farmiga) long before she was a dead woman rotting away in the fruit cellar.
The first official image released inspires hope. It didn't go for something obviously CREEPY. Instead, counterintuitively, it's calm and painterly ...very Wyeth... and if you knew nothing of Psycho you might not even think of blood...blood... oh god mother the blood!
As a general rule I hate Hollywood's fascination with prequels, an obvious example of their creative bankruptcy but also, more dangerously, a key contributor to the dearth of imagination in audiences. It trains people to be passive viewers as if it's anathema to participate in what you're watching and create your own narratives to align with particularly gripping stories you're told. This is a strange dichotomous development considering that the easy access to art and technology these days seems to have actually inspired more participation... so why do people still want inspiration-killing backstories... the worst examples ever being the Star Wars prequels which just robbed the originals of their mythological potency. THIS IS WHAT CAUSED THAT. THIS BECAME THAT. REMEMBER THAT BIT? IT'S BECAUSE OF THIS. LET ME HOLD YOUR HAND AND OVER EXPLAIN EVERYTHING.
So I'm confused that I'm so excited for this. It must be the resilience of Psycho. It's already withstood several sequels, countless ripoffs and parodies and one recreation, and the kind of marrow deep cultural impact that you'd think would make it feel redundant to watch. Nope. It still terrifies and intrigues. The casting of the prequel series is also compelling. Freddie seems ideal, right? And Farmiga is one of the big screen's most compelling actresses, even if Hollywood isn't really helping her deliver on her potential -- even after her Departed / Up in the Air hit Oscar films breakthrough. What gives?
Still, with Dexter long overstaying his welcome on Showtime (this season started strong but quickly devolved and last season was just bad bad television... and there's still one more to go!) and Hannibal (yes, The Silence of the Lambs' Hannibal) about to get his own prequel series, doesn't TV already have enough 'life inside the head of a serial killer' drama? Serial killers are to television now what they were to the movies in the mid to late 90s.
Have you had enough or do you still enjoy the genre?