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Entries in Film Bitch Awards (54)

Monday
Jan242011

Sad News and My Ballot For Best Costumes

First, the very sad news. If you've been reading the past couple of days you probably saw the "visual category film bitch nominations". While adjusting coding today, to finalize the page, I accidentally somehow  erased the entire page. I've lost four categories worth of published nominees and writeups (animated film, visual effects, makeup, and editing) as well as preliminary stuff that wasn't published. I can't seem to find a cached url that will display it -- i'm not sure it would display now in anyone else's "history" or cached pages?  I am d-e-p-r-e-s-s-e-d. That was probably eight hours of work and there are no extra minutes this time of year. Let this be a lesson to everyone: never keep your files only in one place. I'm not even sure i'll remember what I nominated or wrote. It may take me much longer and post-oscar noms to do this now. I always complete the Film Bitch Awards in the traditional categories before the Oscar nominations but this looks like the year where tradition might finally die. Sniffle. Blotchy tears will short circuit my keyboard now.

But there's no sense in not posting what I'd already written about costumes. But IF you think your computer will display a cached version of the visual nominations page don't click on this new version ;) and try it and email me a pdf or something.

Just for the hell of it, for example's sake, I want to talk about two costumes pictured below (I chose them at random) in the absurd hope that a few of you out there will reveal a previously hidden obsessive love of costume design. I want to create a series devoted to it but I need to know you're out there first.

Amy Westcott and Mary Zophres done good.

What can costumes tell us about characters? Quite a lot. Amy Westcott (Black Swan) and Mary Zophres (True Grit) will probably be Oscar nominated tomorrow, each for the first time, and I've also nominated them. Westcott is undoubtedly benefiting from Rodarte's "Swan Lake" ballet costumes (Rodarte can't be nominated with her due to contractual issues) but her own work is very fine, too. Maybe Westcott wouldn't be nominated without the Rodarte bells and whistles but that says more about the Academy's resistance to contemporary character costuming than about the quality of her work.

The color coding of all of these similarly dark and vaguely possessed women is delicious, just subtle muted variations (blacks, greys, white, pinks, etcetera) since they're distorted reflections of each other. Isn't it perfect with a capital P that Winona Ryder's evening wear on the night she's thrown in the trash heap --  excuse me, retiring --  is basically a big silver "X" . She's a goner.

Over in True Grit Mattie's clothes don't quite fit her (amusing smart choice) and Rooster's look like they desperately need to be laundered but isn't it perfect that LaBoeuf's outfits look so new and fastidious and that they're fringed. His pride takes a beating in the film but he's wearing it, you know? He cares about how he looks.

MY NOMINEES IN COSTUME
alas none of the other visual categories that have vanished like tears in the rain

Would you like to see a recurring series on costume design in 2011?

 

Sunday
Jan232011

Best Actors (Lead and Supporting), My Ballot

As is my annual perogative I went back and forth between lead and supporting designations on several of those "co-lead" roles until I tied myself in knots and could not come undone. I'm more strict about these things than most so just deal. Every year people give me a hard time about it. But for every clear cut case of category fraud (Hailee Steinfeld is a lead in True Grit. Duh!) there are areas so gray one can't make out blacks or whites (I'm still not sure what to make of Lesley Manville in Another Year) and one just has to call it like one sees it and be okay with how other people are calling it too. No biggie. So for what it's worth I consider the couplings of Firth & Rush (The King's Speech) and Wahlberg & Bale (The Fighter) to be power duets within films specifically about their relationship with one another - therefore leads just like Scarlett & Rhett in Gone With the Wind only without the sex and with more of a damn given.

Lead Actor
I regret to inform that I have not seen Javier Bardem's much lauded performance in Biutiful. I tried! (Screener didn't work. Didn't realize that til after one week qualifier had passed, etcetera) Do I feel bad about thus dissing him? Yes and No. I love Bardem but it's no secret that I disdain the "one week qualifier" Oscar tactic and part of me -- a small petty part but a part nonetheless -- wishes even the worthiest of performances and films would be ignored every year IF attempting this until the studios and/or the Academy put a kabosh on this absurd practice which is bad for moviegoers and bad for dramatic films in general, as it teaches audiences to shun them or not care a whit about them unless or until they are Oscar-stamped. That's no way to build or keep an audience for adult entertainment. After all, not every film can be Oscar nominated.

So for my best actor list I had to choose between a sweaty former boxer, a sweaty federal agent, a sweaty rock climber (what's going on here) and several other men who were sweating out really difficult situations like an illiterate inmate, an innovator beset by lawsuits, a king on the verge of war, a man who'd just lost a child and so on.

Supporting Actor
So many wonderful performances and I'm still debating a couple of also rans with myself. Self: "He was better." Also Self: "No, you're crazy. Him." But in the end I'm happy with the settled ballot which includes a chill sperm donor, a hardened criminal, two men with mysterious motives with their lead actress, and one man, Andrew Garfield who I would have nominated twice over if I could have. Subtract The Social Network from the 2010 calendar and he'd still be a Film Bitch Award nominee for Never Let Me Go... (a film I didn't much care for overall).

READ MY BALLOT

Who is on yours?

Saturday
Jan222011

Eye Candy: Visual Effects, Makeup and Animation

It's 2 days and 15 hours or so until Oscar nominations! Late tomorrow we'll do final predictions but until then, the FiLM BiTCH Awards continue wherein I share my own ballot of "best of the year".

Rapunzel lays down the law

If you read the top ten list, you already know my Animated Feature finalists (though I cheated a bit on the grounds of: if Oscar can keep changing the number of nominees, I can adjust as I see fit, too!). Each one of my nominees Toy Story 3, How To Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist and Tangled has at least one other nomination to show for it in another category, too (you can see a tally of nominations thus far at the bottom of the sound categories).

Visual Effects
You know what's funny? My single favorite visual effect of the year is the Winklevii in The Social Network but just as you can't really nominate a film for costume design just because it has one good dress, I didn't end up nominating it in that category

I generally applaud the use of visual effects as a supporting mechanism rather than as the goddamn raison d'etre of a film's existence. And it also just missed because as I was drawing up my charts I suddenly started giggling about how indulgent it all seemed. Why cast twins when you can spend millions playing with your technological toys?! Maybe this is why True Grit just barely misses my makeup nomination, too. Did they really need to go to that much work to make Barry Pepper hideous when he's a strong enough actor to sell dastardly and dangerous without any false grody teeth? I'm just thinking aloud here. Join in the debate at any time.

Dakota self applies in The RunawaysHere are my Visual Effects and Makeup nominees.
[You'll have to scroll down a bit to get past the wall of Black Swan posters in the unfinished categories.]

If you're wondering why Tim Burton's Eyesore in Wonderland is nowhere to be found it's because I think it's overworked in virtually every department. I don't mean to impugn the significant talents of all involved -- and you should skip this paragraph if you're tired of me bagging on it (I'm tired of me, too) but the film will not go away -- but it just doesn't work. It's probably a simple matter of direction but when makeup artists know that Johnny Depp will oversell the "mad" part of "mad hatter", for example, do they than have to work so hard that even an actor playing it straight would look crazy in their designs? Wouldn't something lower key have provided helpful balance, even whilst remaining within the basic register of INSANITY. 

And when you choose to make Anne Hathaway of all people unattractive, and it's not part of the character concept that she be so, I just can't go with you to the places they're going. White wig, white gown and...black lipstick? I'm dying here.

Anyway... I prefer makeup just like I prefer my visual f/x, supporting the narrative brilliantly whilst only drawing attention to themselves if they're the main show and should.

once again the nominees

And finally we end with a Black Swan makeup tutorial because it's amusing and we loved the Avatar tutorial this girl did last year.

She just wants to be perfect!

Friday
Jan212011

Ear Candy: Best Sound, Score, Songs of 2010

I really am trying to get a move on with my Film Bitch Awards. If you're new to The Film Experience that's this site's annual awards. We've been doing it for (gulp) 11 years... Each year I promise myself to spend more time listening to the movies since my eyes are so greedy and always want to watch watch watch. But movies are not only eye candy. They can also provide significant aural pleasure. 

Some films that sound gooooooooood

So I've now announced the nominees in all the sound categories. mixing, editing, original song, original score and my own special category "best adapted or song score" which is a highly necessary category given that  so many films now use a mix-tape approach rather than relying on one person to provide the music. This weekend we'll try to wrap all the other "standard" i.e. Oscar categories -- as well as do final Oscar predictions -- since that's all gotta be out of the way before Oscar nomination morning. (I don't expect my lineups to match Oscar's much in sound and score but they rarely do so I won't be hurt too much on Tuesday.)

Come back and let me know what you think of the soundscapes of movies like Black Swan, I Am Love, Salt, The Social Network, The Ghost Writer, Burlesque and many more in the comments. (My ears are not as well trained as my eyes but each year I think I listen a little better. Progress)

After the Oscar nomination brouhaha winds down late next week, we'll hit the "fun" categories like Diva, Villain, Best Action Sequence. You know how we do.

Thursday
Jan202011

Director ≠ Picture. (And Other Theories)

One of the things that's most bothersome during awards season is the persistent notion that Best Direction must = Best Picture. There's a healthy bit of correlation of course but this is not how I view film so it's different for my own awardage. All of the top 24 films I covered in my year end review have have strong direction of course. But Direction, like acting or writing or editing or whatnot is not always the most important element, auteur theory be damned. Some films achieve greatness through a consistent cumulation of "good" efforts across the board, others through one or two specific "Great" elements, some through strength of story, theme and plotting.

Other times the director is the principle reason that a movie is great and the auteur theory works just fine. Two examples this year: David O. Russell (The Fighter) and Jacques Audiard (Un Prophete) are both working in excessively familiar genres yet they're finding fresh new pockets of life. They have such great eyes and formidable guiding visions. So I compose my directorial list each year separate from my Best Picture list and though there's a healthy bit of correlation (7/10) the order is definitely different and these would be my top ten players (alpha order)

  • Andrea Arnold for Fish Tank
  • Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan
  • Jacques Audiard for Un Prophete
  • David Fincher for The Social Network
  • Luca Guadagnino for I Am Love
  • Bong Joon-Ho for Mother
  • David Michôd for Animal Kingdom 
  • Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer
  • David O. Russell for The Fighter
  • Lee Unkrich for Toy Story 3

So here's my nominees!

I've also posted my Screenplay choices. I was torn as to what to do with Toy Story 3. I don't really think of sequels as  adapted despite the trending and campaigning that way with Oscars. If sequels are adapted than aren't all original screenplays that are inspired by true stories or real life characters or that riff on other stories adapted? I considered letting it slide since Toy Story 3 needs the other two films to exist. It's not really a stand-alone. But then that we be true of all sequels and all movies based on true stories or inspired by actual characters and so on and, well, it's a slippery slope and virtually 85%-90% of movies become "adapted". So I've stuck to the original definition. Adapted meaning based on previously published work

Friday
Jan142011

Best of 2010: Nathaniel's Top Ten List

Previously on "Best of the Year"
Honorable Mentions: Scott Pilgrim, Another Year, Winter's Bone, etcetera
Runners Up: A Prophet, Toy Story 3, Rabbit Hole


TOP TEN LIST

10 How to Train Your Dragon (see previous article)
09 The Ghost Writer (see previous article)
08 Fish Tank (see previous article)

Animal Kingdom dir. David Michôd.
[SPC, August 15th]
It begins with a banal static shot of a mother & son watching a game show, all zoned out like couch potatoes. A few seconds later paramedics arrive. Surprise, you've been staring at a dead woman! This is but the first of many chilling upheavals (and, uh, dead bodies). Her orphaned son "J" is soon picked up by his estranged Grandma (Jacki Weaver in an Oscar worthy performances) and dropped right into her lion's den; his uncles are all crooks. Animal Kingdom circles around introducing this testosterone-heavy crime family and then it makes like a boa constrictor. It may be the family that's getting squeezed but you have to remind yourself to breathe. It's the year's best crime drama and a major arrival for first timer writer/director David Michôd.

The Fighter dir. David O. Russell
[Paramount, Dec 17th]
Springing as it does from the extremely tired sports bio, this movie is a real miracle. It's tough to single out a favorite moment or element because it's "squirrely" humanity keeps popping into frame even within standard tropes and traditional scenes. Christian Bale and Melissa Leo and Christian Bale are a perfect exhaustive mother and son but Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams quieter work as Mickey and Charlene resonates, too. David O. Russell is the movie's MVP. He's not brawling or slugging it out as many directors do. Like Mickey he's picking his punches... "Head. Body. Head. Body". He's an even craftier boxer. You never know where the next punch is landing "Head. Body. Funnybone. Heart".

The rest is in alpha order. 

"No rankings?" you scream in disbelief and protest? See, it's like this. It's late at night and I'm way tired and I kept changing the order and I finally gave up. But I gotta announce my personal Best Picture nominees.  You don't wanna know medals already, do you? (Don't answer that.) We've just begun our annual awardage.

 

Black Swan dir. Darren Aronofsky
[Fox Searchlight, Dec 5th]
"It's so pink. Pretttttty" Nina (Natalie Portman) says peering down at a grapefruit. What is it with Aronofsky and grapefruit? (See also: Requiem for a Dream). Nina is in some ways a silly girl, terrified of her own shadow, grossed out by sex, at odds with her body, still living in her mother's apartment.  Black Swan is silly and girlie itself, in love with its most histrionic moments, its mad crushes, and always eager to peer over but then retreat from the precipice [Spoiler] until the actual adult moment arrives when Nina dances the Black Swan. So what to make of artistic triumph being a literal fall if not, perhaps, a literal death? [/Spoiler] It's odd that Aronofsky's fifth feature feels so juvenile after his most adult (The Wrestler) but he's clearly having a ball. Nina's not the only one seeing reflections. This is Aronofsky's own funhouse hall of mirrors.

 

Blue Valentine dir. Derek Cianfrance
[Weinstein Co., Dec 29th]
Hundreds of stories announce their resolution straightaway and use the 'How did we get here?' hook as they circle back to kick off the story. Blue Valentine doesn't do this exactly, but you can soon compare and contrast the start and finish line. The film shows us the courtship and the breakup of Cindy (Michelle Williams) and Dean (Ryan Gosling) simultaneously on linear tracks. Cindy and Dean are out of sync even in their happiest moments but the actors are brilliantly in sync. The genius of the telling is not, I think, in how it starts or how it ends but in all the tiny details that point you towards that vacuum in the middle. Notice the gap. As for the film's own middle? Perfection. Shortly after we've seen that Cindy don't wanna dance with Dean no more ("You and Me") she happily dances for him ("You Always Hurt The Ones You Love"). The songs are in the wrong order.



The Kids Are All Right dir. Lisa Cholodenko
[Focus, July 30th]
This dramedy is so effervescent that its easy to miss the depth and the detail as you're laughing. Though it's light on its feet, Kids is grounded in multi-dimensional characters, smart specific dialogue and structural beauty, too. It takes place in that wonderfully vital summer between adolescence and adulthood and so does the movie, toggling between the two as Joni and Laser (Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson) cope with growing up and their moms (Julianne Moore and Annette Bening) cope with marital trouble and Paul, the new man in all their lives (an exceptional Mark Ruffalo). Paul himself is caught between adolescence and adulthood albeit in a different way. The family expands and constricts and expands and constricts as all families do, experimenting with their own dynamics as life rolls on. Paul may be an interloper but then, so are we. We're just happy to have shared our summer with them.

 

I Am Love dir. Luca Guadagnino
[Magnolia, June 18th]
In I Am Love, a ravishingly operatic melodrama, Tilda Swinton, that prized jewel of the movies plays Emma, the prized jewel of a wealthy Italian family. The storytelling is in the images and oh, what images. (I Am Cinema would be an appropriate alternate title.) In fact, the film might reveal itself more readily without the subtitles. The secret key to its divisive ending (if you ask me, she's not being punished as some angry readings go) is to notice that it's not just her husband who wants her locked up. Even her beloved servant cocoons her with curtains, shutting out the world. Her son, too. She's never to be lost or shared or stolen or even changed. Whenever Emma escapes, there's sudden rushes of feeling, sunlight, flavor, curiousity, beauty.

 

The Social Network dir. David Fincher
[Columbia, October 1st]
Not many movies feel like new classics while you're watching them. And as early as the first scene, too. Most need time to settle. Not so with The Social Network which just speeds through, all synapses firing with rich performances (Jesse's best) inspired direction (Fincher's best) and handsome production values (many people's best?), until... "wait, it's over?" When that ending comes (spoilers: Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook, got sued, is a gajillionaire) you want to click "refresh" yourself. Project that bad boy again! Here's why I know it's a new classic: second viewing, ending comes "wait, it's over? Refresh!"; third viewing, ending comes "wait, it's over? Refresh!"; Fourth viewing, ending comes "wait, it's over? Refresh!"

 

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