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Entries in Life of Pi (14)

Thursday
Feb142013

10 Days 'til Oscar: Score, Song, & Sound

We're in the final crunch now. Oscar voters have to make their final decisions by Tuesday February 19th (with the winners announced Sunday February 24th) so I'm throwing up my own nominees (which I like to announce before the Oscar nominations even. Oy) so you can see my film bitch award picks for the best in the various aural categories here. But while we're on the subject of sound, a film craft I always vow to learn more about and then forget to educate myself, let's make some early Oscar predictions.

BEST SCORE
Naturally I prefer my nominees to Oscars. Unlike many pundits, I knew that the Beasts of the Southern Wild score didn't have a prayer since Oscar's music branch is notoriously exclusive. In addition to their resistance to new composers they also don't really cotton to directors muscling in on their territory, so step away from the sheet music Benh Zeitlin, Benh Zeitlin. (Even an Oscar God as Revered as Clint Eastwood hasn't been able to do it.) Nevertheless Oscar voters and I do have a bit of overlap here as we all swooned for Dario Marianelli's work on Anna Karenina and Mychael Danna's evocative score for Life of Pi. I'd be pleased if either of them won the category. As for the other nominees, I never quite understand the mandatory nature of John Williams nominations. He's certainly created some classic scores over the years but I swear if he just whistled a few bars on a soundtrack he'd be nominated. I also still don't get the Argo score being nominated since Desplat wrote about five film scores this year and they're ALL better than his decent but surprisingly generic work on Ben Affleck's well regarded thriller. A nomination for Zero Dark Thirty would've been so preferrable.

Should Win: Dario Marianelli, Anna Karenina
Will Win: Mychael Danna, Life of Pi. (Even though the music branch is loathe to welcome new blood once they do, they don't tend to have issues with them actually winning the gold.)
Possible Spoiler: Despite Williams' endless nominations, Oscar voters don't seem to be sentimental about giving him a final (and sixth) statue, so I'm guessing Danna's only potential loss comes from Argo-Mania. Alexandre Desplate still hasn't won an Oscar which is starting to seem crazy. 

SONG
Though Oscar and I don't have much overlap -- look, I know Joyful Noise is a crap movie but Dolly Parton writes beautiful movie songs and still doesn't have an Oscar --  I really love the Oscar nominees anyway. All of 'em! It was a good year for original movie songs. I'm looking forward to the performances (should we get them... and it seems like we will).

007 Skyfall - Opening Credits (Best Quality Yet) from Gunnar Lien on Vimeo.

Should Win: Skyfall
Will Win: Skyfall (the night's biggest lock?)
Possible Spoiler: Skyfall... in case they decide to give Adele two Oscars just to see if she pisses herself laughing. 

SOUND EDITING & SOUND MIXING
Oscar likes exceptionally loud movies in the sound categories from the following genres: sci-fi, war, musicals. Which is why you rarely see fragile sounding haunted dramas like, say, The Deep Blue Sea, or fascinating soundscapes like Cosmopolis or artful indies like Beasts of the Southern Wild in the mix. So the weirdest nominee from their choices might be Lincoln which is not particularly loud or showy in terms of sound. I think they missed the boat in ignoring Prometheus in both sound categories this year... but the studio didn't really campaign so there's that. The sound categories can be difficult to predict since who knows what actors make of "sound", you know? And they make up the biggest voting block for winners. Greg P. Russell has been nominated 16 times without winning and he's up again for Sound Mixing on Skyfall. If enough voters become aware of his Oscarless plight, I can't see him losing for such a well loved widely seen film. But are they aware?

watery films are often popular in sound categories

Should Win (Mixing/Editing): abstain... I'm still thinking about this
Will Win (Mixing/Editing): Skyfall & Life of Pi... wild guesswork. They do sometimes split those prizes... and these two films might be in tough battle after tough battle for the entire first half of the ceremony in the craft categories.
Possible Spoiler (Mixing/Editing): Les Misérables & Skyfall

What are you rooting for soundwise with Oscar and what do you think of the film bitch award nominees

Wednesday
Feb062013

Pi Dominates the VES Awards

The Visual Effects Society awards held their 11th annual awards ceremony last night and Life of Pi dominated the proceedings with four awards, including the top prize for Best Visual Effects in a Visual Effects-Driven Film and Best Animated Character in a Live Action Film (Richard Parker). Ang Lee's film is a visual treat and I fully expect it to repeat the feat at the Academy Awards later this month. 

For the past four years, the winner of the best visual effects award has been a best picture nominee and there's little reason to assume the streak will end this year. Meanwhile, The Impossible won in the Best Supporting Visual Effects category, though it was left off Academy's lineup in favour of more CGI-heavy titles. In the animated races, Brave managed to win both Outstanding Animation and Character Animation (Merida) in addition to two other prizes. No other animated film managed to snatch anything away from Brave, but The Avengers and The Hobbit rounded out the winners on the live action side of things. 

Full list of winners after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Monday
Jan282013

Best Picture: What If There Were Only Five?

Life of Pi by Dean WaltonI was just looking as a series of graphic Best Picture prints designed by Dean Walton and my mind wandered into a geeky Oscaroborus that I couldn't break free of. The series of prints is referred to as a "full series" but there's only five: Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Zero Dark Thirty, Les Misérables, and Lincoln. Um. There are nine Best Picture nominees this year, Dean!

It got me to thinking. I don't even think those would have been "the five", had there been just five. It's not so easy to discount Argo, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild and Silver Linings Playbook given the final vote tallies. I think we might have had a year of 3/5 Picture/Director split year. Or even gasp 2/5... which has happened before believe it or not.

Way back in 1955 the Best Picture nominees were: Marty, Picnic, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, The Rose Tattoo, and Mister Roberts. The directors branch felt quite differently going with only Delbert Mann (for Marty) who won and Joshua Logan for the big hit Picnic (we recently discussed that film and its Broadway revival) from the Best Picture list. Otherwise the director's branch threw their support behind David Lean's Summertime, John Sturges' Bad Day at Black Rock and Elia Kazan's East of Eden

But back to the here and now.

It's easy to twist yourself into pretzels devouring your own tail in trying to chase the "what if..." of five nominees. My guess is it would have been Argo, Lincoln, Life of Pi, Les Miz, and Silver Linings Playbook... but maybe that's too simple of a guess? We'll never know but it's fascinating to wonder. Number of nominations doesn't always tell the story -- remember when Four Weddings and Funeral crashed the Best Picture party in 1994 with only one other nomination to its name?!. What if it was Argo, Beasts, Lincoln, Les Miz, and Silver Linings Playbook with Life of Pi taking over the long held title of "Most Nominated Movie Ever Without a Best Picture Nom"? That dubious honor currently belongs to a great great movie known as They Shoot Horses, Don't They (1969) which won nine nominations but miraculous fell short of a Best Picture nod. (If you've never seen it you should drop everything and get right to that. It's better than almost all of the real Best Picture nominees)

Which five films do you think would have been nominated under the traditional system? Would Amour have been the first foreign film Best Pic nominated since Crouching Tiger (as it is know) or would we still be waiting for a subtitled picture to enter the race again?

Thursday
Jan242013

Which musical performances will we see at the Oscars?

Though the Academy has officially announced that Adele will be singing "Skyfall" (her first time performing it live) on Hollywood's High Holy Night, we still don't technically know if there will be Best Original Song performances as there often used to be on Oscar night. The Academy had previously announced a 50th anniversary celebration of the James Bond franchise and it's probable that Adele's soulful warbling will be folded into that, whether or not the whole category is represented. We also don't know if she'll be singing before or after her Oscar win*.

There's also been rumors that some permutation of the Les Misérables cast will be performing live but unless they're doing a choral version of "Suddenly", that doesn't necessarily equate to Best Original Song performances either since a cast performance sounds more like a "One Day More" type situation.

But, if you ask me, they'd be crazy not to just have five Original Song performances this year since that'd give you the opportunity to have four superstars on stage at various points: Scarlett Johansson ("Before My Time"), Adele ("Skyfall"), Norah Jones ("Everyone Needs a Best Friend") and Hugh Jackman ("Suddenly") plus a gorgeous little outreach for a little world music ("Pi's Lullaby") on the side.

I know that people think the Best Original Song category is silly but if you look back through the history of the Oscars it has often provided great water-cooler moments or at least tuneful bathroom breaks. 

*the night's biggest lock?

Tuesday
Jan082013

Final Nomination Predix: Big Day Ahead for Lincoln, Life, Les Miz

And here we are again.

I was amused to find myself named one of the 'Nate Silvers of the Oscar Race' today on Salon but Thursday morning will undoubtedly make the comparison less apt even if though we'll still share a first name (Nathaniel... why do people go by "Nate"?). In my soon-to-be needed defense it's a lot harder to successfully predict 120ish nominees in 24 categories that dozens of different groups are voting on (nominees, though not winners, are determined only by peers: actors voting for actors, directors for directors and so on) than it is to read an electoral map with only two candidates. Nor is their endless polling to guide us. Oscar voters aren't supposed to tell people who they're voting for. And even when they're willing to, filling out a weighted multi-named ballot is a lot different than checking a box for Candidate A or Candidate B when it comes time to let slip your favorites.

But I digress. Whatever the chaotic, agenda-driven, polarizing and exhausting race to Oscar nominations has in common with politics (quite a lot) we'll ditch the analogy now in order to dig in. I've never been one to care too deeply about statistics apart from the generalities they underline. So in the end I play my hunches.

PICTURE
Locks: Lincoln, Argo, Les Misérables, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook

But What Else Will Be Nominated?
 infinite hand-wringing after the jump....

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jan062013

Drowning in Oscary Waters All Over the World

It's less than 4 days until we're drowning in it! I was called to task a bit for the tsunami image from The Impossible that greeted my first "days until" Oscar nominations post a week ago. I understand the charge of insensitivity and I'll admit it was a weird judgment call. But I have been feeling not just metaphorically deluged. There is so much literal fear or water / drowning on screens this film season. Have any of you noticed? It didn't hit me at first since it's not a particularly visceral fear for me... I've always loved the water.

Let's recount each dive in this year...

If Steven Soderbergh had filmed Life of Pi this would be the entire color palette!

  • Beasts of the Southern Wild -for Hushpuppy drowning is the end of the world, hurricanes as apocalypse. Those shots of drowned animals and her thoughts about them having no daddies? Heartbreaking. 
  • The Impossible - tells a true story of survival from the 2004 Thai tsunami. I still think it odd that it's visual effects and makeup did not make the finalists list for Oscars.
  • Skyfall -Adele's killer theme song kicks in just as James Bond plunges into the water, presumably to rest in a watery grave... or at least to sink into the trippy watery grave visuals of the opening credits
  • Oslo August 31st - this critical darling drama about an addict in recovery basically begins with the protagonist going all Virginia Woolf by loading his pockets with rocks and walking out into the water
  • Life of Pi - at the center of an ungainly expository drama, is a miniature visual masterpiece about a shipwreck and a tiger and boy sharing a boat alone in the vastness of the ocean
  • Jeff Who Lives at Home - stacks its coincidences one on top of the other to lead to a drowning rescue scene
  • The Dark Knight Rises -- death by exile (SPOILER) exile being an icy watery grave
  • Rise of the Guardians -- begins with an icy drowning
  • Moonrise Kingdom features a big storm and flood
  • Amour - has flooding but in which context we shouldn't say
  • Rust & Bone - Marion Cotillard loses her legs in a killer whale accident in France's Sea World and there is also a drowning terror sequence
  • Zero Dark Thirty -the waterboarding torture sequence is what keeps everyone talking though it's a tiny part of the movie. But still: horrific.

 

Last night, the Film Society at Lincoln Center showed two of the foreign language finalists (sort of*), Iceland's The Deep and Norway's Kon-Tiki, a double bill that was the equivalent of being tossed into the deep-end of this reccurrent theme. Both are true stories about men surviving the unsurvivable on ocean journeys. 

Iceland's Oscar entry The Deep comes from Baltasar Kormakur (of 101 Rejkvjavik, Hafid/The Sea, and Contraband fame). It's both poetically moody and crudely matter of fact somehow. It's steeped in the inky blackness you'd expect from an ocean story at night. (I'm so pleased my screener didn't work because I can't imagine being able to see it at all outside of the movie theater). Hell, even before we hit the water we're in Iceland at night so you can image the darkness. We follow a group of fishermen around as they drink and drink prior to their next voyage. The awful shipwreck occurs relatively early into the movie and for such a simple reason it's surprising that any fishermen live to die from old age. The drowning sequences were, for me, horrific in their calmness, like watching people casually negated as the darkness envelops them. The Deep unfortunately loses its frost-bitten footing  post-ocean trauma when there's a surprising amount of the movie left and we move into a sort of barely there invegistave procedura. But I appreciated The Deep for being very Icelandic (memories of volcanic eruption and a harsh life on the inky sea inform the drama throughout) and as a sort of shoestring non-magical-realist counterpoint to Life of Pi when a fat man begins to converse with a seagull, his only company.

Thor Heyerdhal (the real version) and Thor Heyerdahl (the movie version) played by Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen Norway's entry Kon-Tiki dramatizes the once very famous balsa wood raft ocean voyage of Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl. I say 'once' because two of my friends in their 20s that I spoke to about the movie had no idea who he was or that it was a true story. I knew the whole story from childhood since my parents had a thing for National Geographic magazines (we had a huge collection) and PBS documentaries -- I think I must have even seen Heyerdahl's self-mythologizing Oscar winning doc Kon-Tiki as a child at some point since the story was so familiar.

I sat down all excited to see the most expensive Norwegian movie ever made about one of the most famous Norwegians who ever lived about a story I knew and was immediately disappointed when everyone began speaking in English -- even in scenes set in Norway or between an entire cast of Norwegians (and one Swede). We definitely got off on the wrong foot this movie and I. As it turns out the filmmakers shot each scene twice, once in Norwegian and once in English and the version that's hitting Stateside theaters is, in fact, NOT the Oscar-competing film but it's English-language doppelganger. So most of us will never get to see the film that Oscar voters saw.

I came for a Norwegian adventure movie and got a strange hybrid film that seemed like a big budget Disney movie that had appropriated a foreign story. Maybe the acting was better in its native tongue? There was something about the coloring book simplistic character arcs and super accessible Movie-Movieness that made this very true story feel artificial, negating much of its power. As eye candy, though, the movie is really something, with the amazing beauty of both the Ocean and towheaded shirtless Norwegians exploited throughout. (And just like The Deep it makes an interesting counterpoint to Life of Pi . As in Ang Lee's picture there are scenes featuring bioluminscent marine biology, violent animal deaths, and mass flying fish suicides on a boat). C+

Sunday
Dec232012

Lump of Coal, Anyone? Cinematic Shame (Pt 1)

YEAR IN REVIEW

I plan to get all joyously positive from Christmas Eve through January 9th as I share my take on the Best of the Film Year That Was. But I make no promise about my mood come January 10th...  That's the fateful morning when 6,000 Academy voters play puppet master and yank my fragile psyche about with abandon. But until then... And before the Year End Best of hits, we purge.

MOST "OVERRATED" ANYTHING

I know that people quibble with this word and wish it dead and buried. But that's only because they take it far too seriously. It's a silly adjective but silly is fun. One should always take things for what they're worth. No matter who is using the word "overrated" it only ever means:

Other people are under the mistaken impression that this thing I think is merely okay is really great! They are quite wrong."

Unsatisfying performances, miscasting, bad moves in good films and more after the jump...

Click to read more ...