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148 Days Til Oscar Nominations!

Do you ever marvel at the countdown clock in the lefthand sidebar and think "Wow, only ___ days until Oscar nominations!". I know I do. As of right now there are only 148 days and some hours left until Oscar nominations. 21 weeks! That means the universe has plenty of time to back me up on my current predictions or destroy them savagely. Either way is fun for me which is, I suppose, why I've never been able to quit predicting Hollywood's High Holy Night.


Best Picture & Best Director - The Great Gatsby and Baz Luhrmann exit the charts, both moving to summer 2013. And though I never had faith in Gatsby as an actual finalist (the book is too perfect as a book) what can rush in to replace it on the charts? The race is still wide open as it should be.

Gatsby will sit this particular party out. He'll throw his own next Summer

But from where I sit though I'm sure some will disagree, the franchise hopefuls are toast. A lot of people still think that The Gidling of the Lord of the Rings Lily: Part 1 of 3 will factor in but Oscar is not Emmy and LotR is not The West Wing. Fantasy is still a novelty for Oscar voters and I can't imagine that handing the last one 11 Oscars won't feel like enough of a reward for Jackson & Middle Earth. Yes, they've had a decade long breather but I figure the only way The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is competing for the top prize is if people go crazier for it than the original trilogy. And that would be an unexpected journey. 

Meanwhile I suspect that The Avengers and The Dark Knight Concludes Divisively will have a rough time making it through the wild rapids of winter campaigning and I don't expect either of them in the big show beyond a few craft nods. I don't even have faith in the eagerly awaited Django Unchained as an Oscar hopeful. Quentin Tarantino, when he leans toward retro remixes of less prestigious film genres, is just not necessarily for them (see: Jackie Brown, Kill Bill). Yes,  he leans towards that.. always... and he has made two big Oscar hits. But Pulp Fiction was the kind of pop-cultural zeitgeist breakthrough that's impossible to ignore and Inglourious Basterds was a WW II fantasy and Oscar does his own share of fantasizing about that.

All of this nitpicking doubt leads me to believe that Beasts of the Southern Wild, a movie that doesn't look much like an Oscar film (yay!), is on its way to locked up status as an Oscar film. While it didn't become the crossover hit we'd hoped it would, it's done well enough financially to ride the "beloved indie / critical darling" into the mainstream competition for gold. (Think Winter's Bone.)

Best Actor - It's been 11 years since Denzel Washington won his second Oscar and in that whole time he hasn't done anything worth Oscar's time. Will they welcome him back if Flight is a big hit?

What's Denzel's poison? And was he drinking it before the Flight?



The way I see it mainstream dramas that become big hits are shoo in for Oscar play. Oscar likes drama best and when films without genre trappings that are intended for adults soar at the box office, they join in the applause. I'm feeling it'll hit. Just a feeling.

But the big question in Best Actor is whether the Weinstein's will try to convince AMPAS voters that Joaquin Phoenix is "supporting" Phillip Seymour Hoffman (or the other way around) in The Master. If they risk a double lead campaign and the film is the critical mega-success the internet seems to be expecting, could they be the first Actor Pair since *gulp* Amadeus (twenty-eight years ago) to hog 40% of the shortlist? It's hilarious (and depressing) to view Amadeus in retrospect and know that campaign teams would try to pretend that Salieri or Mozart were "supporting" players in their own riveting brutal musical duet. 

Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress -- We discussed these last week here

Best Supporting Actor - This category hasn't come into focus yet which should make the fall extra exciting. So for the moment, you can predict just about anything (at least here) and feel like a true psychic. You can feel like a psychic right up until the moment the films open and prove you wrong! But the foggy nature of the Supporting goods me wonder if I'm not underestimating those that have already arrived and delighted (like Matthew McConaughey and Michael Fassbender) despite the lowbrow nature of their roles... at least accordingi to Oscar's general aesthetics.

Ruth E Carter, two time Oscar nominees, doing retro-chic looks for Sparkle

The latest film to enter the ring visually and aurally is the Motown musical Sparkle (my review tomorrow) and while I don't expect Oscar play anywhere stranger things have happened in the below the line categories. 

Screenplay, Animated, Foreign Film and the Complete Prediction Chart. Check them out and report back.


'Training Day' Flashback & Double Oscar Wins

Ten years ago tomorrow, the bad cop / good cop drama Training Day debuted in theaters. It was a relatively inauspicious debut (for our purposes) in that, though the film was an instant hit, Oscar fanatics weren't really breathlessly awaiting its debut like it was a 'prestige picture' per se. The film surprised and wound up with two nominations for its leading actors, one in lead (Denzel Washington) and one in supporting (Ethan Hawke) because that's how Oscar do.

All it took was a couple of awesome soundbites and a sense that Denzel Washington was peaking as a movie star with that loss for Malcolm X still a regularly discussed Academy embarrassment and *BOOM* Julia Roberts was all

I love my life!"

.... and it was Oscar Number Two for Denzel!

Were you watching? 

King Kong ain't got shit on him.

Oscar #2 let Denzel into the slim ranks of actors with two competitive gold men. Here's the complete list in the order it occurred (because I like to make things difficult for myself).

  1. Luise Rainer (The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth 1936-1937) 
  2. Bette Davis (Dangerous and Jezebel 1935-1938)
  3. Walter Brennan (Come and Get It and Kentucky 1936-1938) *
  4. Spencer Tracy (Captains Courageous and Boys Town 1937-1938)
  5. Fredric March (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and The Best Years of Our Lives 1931/32-1946)
  6. Olivia deHavilland (To Each His Own and The Heiress 1946-1949)
  7. Vivien Leigh (Gone With the Wind and Streetcar Named Desire 1939-1951)
  8. Gary Cooper (Sergeant York and High Noon 1941-1952)
  9. Anthony Quinn (Viva Zapata! and Lust for Life 1952-1956)
  10. Ingrid Bergman (Gaslight and Anastasia 1944-1956) *
  11. Peter Ustinov (Spartacus and Topkapi 1960-1964)
  12. Shelley Winters (Diary of Anne Frank and A Patch of Blue 1959-1965)
  13. Elizabeth Taylor (BUtterfield 8 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf 1960-1966) 
  14. Katharine Hepburn (Morning Glory and Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? 1932/33-1967) *
  15. Helen Hayes (The Sin of Madelon Claudet and  Airport 1931/32 -1970)
  16. Marlon Brando (On the Waterfront and The Godfather 1954-1972)
  17. Glenda Jackson (Women in Love and  A Touch of Class 1970-1973)
  18. Jack Lemmon (Mister Roberts and Save the Tiger 1955-1973)
  19. Jason Robards (All the President's Men and Julia 1976-1977)
  20. Jane Fonda (Klute and Coming Home 1971-1978)
  21. Maggie Smith (The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and California Suite 1969-1978)
  22. Melvyn Douglas (Hud and Being There 1963-1979)
  23. Robert DeNiro (The Godfather Part II and Raging Bull 1974-1980)
  24. Meryl Streep (Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie's Choice 1979-1982)
  25. Jack Nicholson (One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest and Terms of Endearment 1975-1983) *
  26. Sally Field (Norma Rae and Places in the Heart 1979-1984)
  27. Dustin Hoffman (Kramer vs. Kramer and Rainman 1979-1988)
  28. Jodie Foster (The Accused and Silence of the Lambs 1988-1991)
  29. Gene Hackman (The French Connection and Unforgiven 1971-1992)
  30. Dianne Wiest (Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway 1986-1994)
  31. Jessica Lange (Tootsie and Blue Sky 1982-1994)
  32. Tom Hanks (Philadelphia and Forrest Gump 1993-1994)
  33. Michael Caine (Hannah and Her Sisters and Cider House Rules 1986-1999)
  34. Kevin Spacey (Usual Suspects and American Beauty 1995-1999)
  35. Denzel Washington (Glory and Training Day 1989-2001)
  36. Hilary Swank (Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby 1999-2004)
  37. Daniel Day-Lewis (My Left Foot and There Will Be Blood 1989-2007)
  38. Sean Penn (Mystic River and Milk 2003-2008)


* They won again after this for a total of 3 Oscars (except Hepburn the all time leader with 4 competitive acting wins)

The thing I find most interesting about seeing them all together like this is that it instantly reveals that if someone is going to win a second Oscar it usually happens quickly after the first... 3 to 6 years being common. (which immediately makes you wonder about people by the name of Helen Mirren, Marion Cotillard, Javier Bardem and Kate Winslet). The list also shows us that the late 1930s were just brutal for actresses whose names weren't Bette or Luise, that the 1970s were the most friendly towards previous winners and that 1938 and 1994 are strange anomalies, years in which three of the four Oscar winners had already won gold. It's only so long before we have a year with all four since there's a first time for everything.

Third time acting wins have only happened in 1940, 1968, 1974 & 1997

Only four people have ever won more than two acting Oscars and the last to join the club was Jack Nicholson in 1997 for As Good As It Gets. The universe assumes that Meryl Streep will be the fifth, but will she? Quite a few two-timers are still working.

Answer Me These Questions Three

  1. Which three double winners did you find most deserving of both?
  2. Which three would you immediately remove if you had a time machine?
  3. Who do you think is joining the two-timer ranks next? 



Cinema de Gym: 'Man on Fire'

Kurt here. Watching Man on Fire at my gym was a unique experience in that someone on staff, either by accident or sneaky design, played the DVD in Spanish. As I entered the cardio room, no one was bothering to fiddle with the settings, so neither did I. After all, here was an opportunity to better test my image-reading ability, or, at least, to better test Tony Scott's ability to tell a story with images. Enough time had passed since I'd first seen this Denzel Washington vengeance vehicle (released in 2004) for me to be unsure of where I stood in the running time, but given the room full of visibly exhausted investigators and hostage negotiators on screen, my guess was little Dakota Fanning had already been M.I.A. for quite some time. Daddy Marc Anthony, whose sweat-slicked cheekbones and jaw reflect the scene's pervasive blue highlights, is on the phone with who we're meant to assume is the culprit, while a pre-comeback Mickey Rourke, as a (probably) duplicitous agent or some such, is waiting to chew out the caller. Enter former next-big-thing Radha Mitchell, who, as Dakota's mother, steps in to take the phone, only to receive some devastating threat that leads to a Rene-Russo-in-Ransom freakout (in Espańol, no less).

Hombre en Fuego

From there, we hop to a bed-ridden Denzel, who looks like he's in Mexico but, then, that could just be Scott's burning-pińata aesthetic. Receiving what appears to be intel and some fiery pep talks from sidekick Christopher Walken, Denzel is back on his feet in no time, returning to the scene of the Dakota abduction (a park) and doing a lot of ACTORY things with his face while hunting for clues. This is a dialogue-free scene, but Scott does a lot of talking with the camera, spinning it incessantly to underscore clue confusion. I remember hearing somewhere (probably during some behind-the-scenes tidbit on the FX network) that Scott rigged the camera to a kids' merry-go-round to achieve this effect. I'm all for resourceful filmmaking, but looking again, this approach reads as literal and pushy, in a film already largely defined by maximum force. Satisfied (or so we assume from the answer-providing flashbacks), Denzel relocates to Dakota's parents' place, scouring the girl's bedroom for yet more clues, then encountering Radha. The mom cries about what I think I remember to be an overall fear of betrayal, which is likely justified by film's end. She hands Denzel a teddy bear, and then we cut to the CIA-operative-turned-bodyguard's badass weapons preparation process, an edit that speaks directly to the movie's intended juxtaposition of the sweet and the brutal.

I recall the sweet being far more effective, to the extent that I told many folks that Man on Fire was only worth watching in its first hour. Written by the busy Brian Helgeland, who adapted the novel that was also put to screen in 1987, the film takes memorable care in establishing a meaningful relationship between Denzel and Dakota, who slowly lowers his guard after he reluctantly agrees to serve as hers. It's moving and involving, and then the movie pivots with Dakota's kidnapping, slipping into a kill-'em-all ass-kicker whose primary goal seems to be appeasing the bloodthirsties in the audience. What we have then is a frantic, yet boring, tone, and grainy variations on Scott's repeated gimmick signature style of saturating the hell out of oranges, greens and blues. This, I believe, was the start of Scott's now-required look, not to mention the start of his maestro-muse relationship with Denzel (Déjà Vu, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Unstoppable would follow). It's one of those films that has bafflingly amassed a whole lot of devotees – the kind of movie guys love to say they love (in the ultimate seal of approval, it just popped up as one of Taylor Lautner's five faves). I'd love to say I love it, too, but, alas, no. I do wish I'd walked in during the first hour, if only to hear what the then-10-year-old Dakota sounded like dubbed over. 


1. If you're looking for a fun angle for your second reading of a film, play it in another language.
2. Sweetening things is no good if it becomes clear that you're more interested in bloodying things up.
3. While I greatly appreciate directorial trademarks, Tony Scott's might be my least favorite.
4. With a single kidnapping, Man on Fire has one more abduction than Taylor Lautner's Abduction.

Are you keen on Man on Fire, or, for that matter, Team Scott/Washington? Do you speak Spanish?


Denzel's Pastrami

Mmmmm, (cinematic) sandwiches.

[Hat tip to the Daily What] That shot of Denzel Washington with his mouth full is too great. But my favorite clip in that montage is Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark. She's got true appetite.

But clearly they forgot  short order cook / lonely waitress classic Frankie & Johnny.

Frankie: I gotta eat
Johnny: We all gotta eat -- we'll eat. How about i make a little picnic for us?
Frankie: What's the menu?
Johnny: Whatever you like. You like tuna fish. I can make casserole.
Frankie: No, Not tuna casserole. [makes face] No. Tuna fish sandwich.
Johnny: I am defined by my tuna sandwich! I take the tuna out of the can and I work it between my fingers until it gets real soft.

What are you hungry for right about now?

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