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Entries in Oscars (11) (327)

Sunday
Feb192012

Oscar's Best Live Action Short Nominees. Predictions!

Amir here. We had a look at the Oscar nominated animated shorts the other day. In the same vein, let’s go over the best live action shorts. As with the previous category, I don’t think this group lives up to the standard set in the past - I would vote for Luke Matheny’s God of Love over any of these choices - but that’s a really high bar.

Pentecost is an Irish comedy about a young altar boy who is grounded by his father after a mishap at the church. When the archbishop visits the local church, the boy’s given a second chance and promised that he can watch his favourite soccer team Liverpool play if he doesn’t screw up again. As someone who cares more deeply about soccer than the church, this film should have been exactly my cup of tea, but I can’t help but wonder how it slid into the top five. I sympathize with the childish sentiments of the protagonist and the film’s funny enough for such a small dose, but the filmmakers should probably be happy with their nomination.

"Raju"

Raju is the only nominee on the serious side. It tells the story of a German couple who are in India to pick up the child they have adopted. Things go awry on the busy streets of Kolkata, however, and dark secrets are revealed about the unfortunate circumstance of their decision. Though Raju effortlessly pulls off the tension in the first half and gives a sense of impending disaster early on, its drama feels unearned. The answer to the central ethical question of the film is so obvious that it seems answered immediately after it's posed. Nevertheless, since the film handles a serious issue, and to its credit is very well made, it might be a serious contender.

Speaking of unearned emotions, The Shore, the second Irish-flavoured entry, stars Ciarán Hinds as a man coming back to Ireland after 25 years of living across the pond. Tepid is the word I’d use to describe it. Director Terry George (of Hotel Rwanda fame) tries to make us feel the emotional charge of the reunion between three old friends, but fails to make any of the characters interesting enough to care for. The scenery is gorgeous and the actors do their best with what they’re given, but this film is only worth watching for Ciaran Hinds’ fantastic voice (and accent) giving us the backstory in a monologue.

Time Freak tells the story of a science student who builds a time machine only to remain tangled in a time web that takes him back to the same few minutes in his life. Of the five films, this is the one that feels least like an Oscar film but I wouldn’t count out its chances. The comedy works very well and the audience seemed to love every minute of it. There was a student film feel to it that I personally could not quite overlook but nevertheless, the new take on the old time machine premise was refreshing enough to give this film a fighting chance at the win.

The final entry is Tuba Atlantic, a Norwegian film about the unlikely friendship between a dying man and a teenage girl sent to be his death angel. The unmistakably Scandinavian absurdist comedy gives its characters more depth and meat to chew on than any other film in the race. Technically impressive, comically violent, and unexpectedly poignant, this is far and away the best film in competition. Quirky as it is, I think it’s ultimately a film everyone will connect with.  

Predictions
This category is tougher to predict than the animated ones. The Shore could potentially appeal to the older demographic, but Tuba Atlantic touches on the same themes and it’s different enough to stand out from the bunch. Time Freak might be a surprise winner. They were open to rewarding young hip comedies last year, weren't they? At the end of the day, I think if anyone can crash Tuba’s party, it will be the topical and dramatic Raju.

Will Win: Tuba Atlantic
Could Win:
Raju
Should Win:
Tuba Atlantic

Saturday
Feb182012

Interview: Oscar Nominee Arianne Phillips

It's long been my goal to up the visibility of the craft of costume design here at The Film Experience. So when the W.E. team was making the press rounds, I jumped at the chance to talk with Arianne Phillips, who has long been a designer I admire both for her technical and visual invention and for her uncanny ability to hit the pop cultural bullseye with instantly memorable looks whether she's designing for musicians (including longtime collaborator Madonna) or for actors. Her film career took off with the one-two comic book punch of The Crow (1994) and Tank Girl (1995). And it's continued to fascinate through Hedwig and the Angry Inch and on to her first Oscar nomination for Walk the Line (2005).

Arianne Phillips in front of her W.E. costumes. Photo via Society News

She received her second nomination last month for W.E. (2011) which has an absurd amount of use for her skills. In my mind they really ought to have done away with typical star "billing" and listed Arianna Phillips up top. No disrespect intended to Abbie Cornish and Andrea Riseborough, who lead the picture through its double-sided narrative.

Years before W.E. materialized Phillips has been living her own double-sided career "by design". Arianne speaks with a mixture of confidence, sincerity and appreciated bluntness: she agrees that costume designers don't get enough credit calling it an "a gorllina in the room. It's such an annoyance" but she corrects my slight misunderstanding about her past collaborations with musicians. She freelances as a stylist and editor for print photography, concerts and music videos. She doesn't dress stars for events.

a recent Madonna/Riseborough photoshoot styled by Arianne

I do videos and album covers, mostly narrative based: fantasy, illusion and character. It's very connected to film. You're creating the fantasy of who that person is.
-Arianne Phillips on her second career as a fashion editor and stylist.


Continue for... Madonna, Larry Flynt, Biopic & Concert Tour Challenges

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Saturday
Feb182012

Just Enjoy The Show

Cope and Dalton have made another spoof video of the Oscars. This one is just as offensive, though less consistently funny, than last year's (the presence of Inception in 2010 helped for the alternate reality comedy).

 

My favorite skewerings are of the self-pitying The Descendants and the eliptical structure of The Tree of Life "the earth. a dinosaur. a shoe. Sean Penn" and the "Rise of..." twist on the All Hell Breaks Loose finale is fun.

You know it's alternate reality and satire when Woody Allen runs screaming through the crowd. Everyone knows Woody never attends the Oscars! 

If you're interested, here's their satirical jab at the forthcoming Oscars...

I want my money back. I want my money back. just enjoy the show ♫

Thursday
Feb162012

Oscar's Best Animated Short Nominees. Predictions!

Amir here. Thanks to Shorts International and TIFF, I’ve had the privilege of watching the nominees for Oscar’s short categories before the ceremony for the first time. As enjoyable as it is to finally have a horse in these races and not leave that part of the telecast to refill my alcohol, I’m sad to say that I found this year’s nominees not just short, but also slight. Not that all the films are disappointing, mind you. There are some gems to be found but compared to last year’s batch, this was a letdown.  

Pixar's "La Luna"

Without further ado...we’ll take a look at the animated films today and I will be back with the live actions over the weekend. (TIFF inexplicably scrapped the documentary shorts from its schedule. If you’re filling your Oscar pools, however, the smart money seems to be on Saving Face. I’ve not yet heard a single bad word about that film.)

Dimanche/SundayDimanche is about a young boy whose dull Sunday routine of going to the church and spending the day with his grandparents is only improved by deforming coins on the train tracks! There’s a pro-environment message as the grizzly bear on the coin comes to life and interacts with the boy, but barring a few funny moments, the film is as lifeless as its premise suggests. The colourless and sketchy design of the animation doesn’t help the film’s cause either.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a marvel as far as the quality of animation goes. (The full length version of the film is available online and Nathaniel reviewed it last week.) I’m cooler on this one than he is. I find the story interesting and I like the idea behind its execution, but I feel like the gimmick is repeated a few too many times. I think Nathaniel’s bang-on about the redundancy of anthropomorphism in the books. At 15 minutes, this is the longest film in competition and it certainly feels that way to me.

Then there’s La Luna. If we need further proof that the Pixar guys can do no wrong with their short films, this is it. I fear that saying anything about the plot will ruin the fun of it for those in the dark. Suffice to say that this story of male bonding between three generations of a family is intimately personal and yet, its fantastical twist is so clever and sweet that everyone can connect with. As usual with Pixar, the quality and detail of the animation is breathtaking. (Read Michael’s Film Experience interview with director Enrico Casarosa here. La Luna will be released later in the year, attached to Brave.)

A Morning Stroll is by far the weakest of the nominees. It tells the story of a chicken that strolls along a street, walks up a set of stairs, pecks at a door and is let in by someone. This morning stroll happens once in 1959, once in 2009 and again in 2059 and each time, the chicken confronts someone new on the street. The allegorical representation of the collective demise of the human race through the eyes of a chicken is an amazing concept but I think the shoddy execution of the animation and unwelcome tonal shifts between the three episodes don’t give the humour any room to breathe.

"Wild Life"

Finally, Wild Life is a gorgeously painted Canadian pastoral about an Englishman who immigrates to an unpopulated Alberta at the turn of the century. One the surface, the film is about one man’s depression as he faces the typical hardships of immigration, particularly the freezing cold of Midwestern Canada. But I found it to be a rich study of personal alienation and a rare look into the lives of Canadian settlers who are far less explored that their counterparts south of the border. Of all the five films, this is the one that most benefits from the technique it chooses, the oil painting effect giving it a romanticist 19th century look that fits nicely into the narrative.

Oscar Predictions: Pixar's Day & Night couldn’t manage to take the prize last year despite being the most widely acclaimed of the nominees. I have a feeling a similar fate awaits La Luna. Flying Books’ charm will probably carry it to the podium.

Will Win: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Could Win:
La Luna
Should Win:
Wild Life

 

Wednesday
Feb152012

Interview: The Man Behind "Puss in Boots" Is A Dog Person!

Monty and PussMonty meows and leaps up on the chair beside me. Cats always know when something is up. In this case, what's up is a phone call to Chris Miller the director of Puss in Boots, who is still reeling from his first Oscar nomination last month when Puss in Boots won itself a slot in the Best Animated Feature race. "Oh my god, it's insanity," Miller admits. "That day is a blur. I've never been through this before so I was pretty overwhelmed at the scope of it."

Monty does a little spin and settles in. If my cat understood any words beyond "treat", "Monty" and "no"*, he might be incensed by Miller's next confession when I ask him about his own pet situation. "Technically I'm more of a dog person. I can't lie about that."

* There is still some debate about whether or not Monty understand this word.

Miller is sadly pet free himself at the moment, still in mourning for the loss of a beloved pug. But this past year in cinema has been a dog person's dream and Miller is enjoying it. Martin Scorsese's plea for a write-in vote for "Blackie" at the inaugural Golden Collar Awards made him laugh and, like the rest of the world, Miller is crazy about "Uggie" from The Artist. He sheepishly admits that the main reason he attended a recent screening and Q&A of Oscar's frontrunning film was Uggie-related. "I thought 'I wonder if Uggie will be there. Oh I hope the dog shows up' I'm being totally honest!"

He was surprised and thrilled about Antonio Banderas open letter which added to the Golden Collar fuss by speaking out about Puss's snub. Puss in Boots, the character, has been in Miller's life for nearly ten years and it's the one cat he loves as much as dogs. "That cat was my favorite from the onset," he says recalling his years with the Shrek franchise. He loved Puss' intrigue. "He came with some history already. Or at least you knew he had some incredibly history. "

"Fear me. If you dare!

NATHANIEL: I'm curious about the career track for animation directors. You've done a lot of voicework and story art? How did you graduate to directing?

CHRIS MILLER: I was involved in story early on in my career and the writing end of it. With Antz and the Shrek movies we were given a lot of latitude to come up with material, characters and dialogue.
A lot of times we'd be sort of given an idea and sent off to come up with something. You share it with the producers and the directors and you sell it a bit. In doing that you get a little taste of everything in cinema. You're writing, you're composing shots, you're blocking out scenes, coming up with character interaction. You're really getting a first crack at visualizing a sequence. Looking back it was a great training ground for direction.

[Improvisation, Oscar madness, and moviemaking from your bedroom after the jump]

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Feb122012

Seeing Double: Best Actress

So, Meryl Streep won the BAFTA for Best Actress playing British political icon Margaret Thatcher and looked great doing so. At first all I could think was Dynasty power bitch combo pack (Collins power / Evans warmth) with those shoulder pads and the dramatic bodice.

But then it hit me...

Aunt Josephine!

Congratulations to Streep and all the BAFTA winners. I know there's been a lot of drama among The Film Experience readers and Streep fans -- the categories overlap ;) -- about who should win Best Actress . This site attracts more than its share of the drama in that regard given that we talk about the category so often even when nobody as beloved as Meryl is involved. I assume the race is neck and neck and neither outcome would surprise on Oscar night. Streep was always going to win BAFTA with the added advantage of the already awards-magnetic gift of mimicry hitting the eyes of the people who would recognize the skill of the mimicry the best and The Help being very American-skewing in its appeal (I'm actually a bit surprised it was nominated for the BAFTA). The Iron Lady was dodgy enough politically not to really get people riled up about its always controversial subject which I think hurt the film but helped the Meryl awards prospects if that makes any sense. But even though she was always going to take it (I never doubted) it still does help her stay in the Oscar conversation; Oscar ballots are due on the 21st so people are still voting.

I hope we can all agree that when the Oscar conversation involves actresses as massively gifted as Meryl and Viola we all win.

That said I still hope it's Viola just on the grounds of these two performances and because if someone has to beat Streep I'm much more comfortable with it being an actor who you know can really throw down with her. Too often Oscars go to people just because they're well liked and not because they're Oscar caliber talents. This is why so many of the greats don't have even one Oscar... and people don't like to think about the harsh realities but if Viola loses that would mean we'd have to add her to that list of Moore, Close, Bening, Weaver, Pfeiffer, et all who can't catch the gold man despite world class gifts.

Streep and Davis at the SAG Awards 3 years ago when Meryl wisely demanded that Hollywood give Viola great rolesI'll be happier for either of them since one is an all time favorite and one is a current favorite who I hope becomes an all time favorite. If only we could have a tie!

I hope we can all agree that if Viola isn't offered great roles after The Help, regardless of who wins next Sunday, we all lose.

I think that should be my last note on this particular Best Actress matter before Oscar Sunday because good lord this topic has taken up huge chunks of the internet and this blog. And to think the world spent the first half of the year obsessing over Meryl vs. Glenn!

Each year brings surprises and who would have ever predicted this neck and neck battle back when they were first watching Doubt (2008)?

 

 

Sunday
Feb122012

Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer on Black Artists and Image.

I know I've gone on and on about Viola Davis this year. It's no secret that I'm rooting for her in Best Actress. She's such an enormous talent and such an interesting woman and she keeps on reminding me of of both of those truths in different revealing ways this year. (I'm really going to be disheartened if The Help doesn't lead to better and bigger things. I don't want to see her play one more lame anyone could do this "best friend to the heroine" part like in Eat Pray Love.) Thanks to Mark Harris for pointing out this new interview from the Tavis Smiley show on PBS and thanks to Tavis Smiley for starting with the rough stuff. He basically begins by telling the actresses that though he is rooting for them he is uncomfortable about awarding black women for playing maids some 73 years after Hattie McDaniel's Gone With the Wind win and he was also uncomfortable with Denzel Washington's win a decade ago for playing a dirty cop in Training Day. The stars and the host really get into it (respectfully). Here's Viola's take.

That mindset... is absolutely destroying the black artist. The black artist cannot live in a revisionist place. The black artist can only tell the truth about humanity. Humanity is messy. People are messy. Caucasian actors know that. They understand that. They understand that when you bring a human being to life you show all the flaws as well as the beauty. We, as African American artists, are more concerned with image and message and not execution. Which is why every time you see our images they've been watered down to a point where they are not realistic at all. It's like all of our humanity has been washed out. We as artists cannot be politicians. We as artists can only be truth tellers.

The conversation blossoms from there. They talk August Wilson. They talk Fences. They talk Red Tails. They talk about acting as baton passing. It's great stuff and nobody pulls any punches.

Octavia's late interview response about the difficulty of convincing Hollywood to bankroll more black projects takes a nice turn, too.

Let me tell you the other thing. It begins with the ticket buyer. Dee Rees wrote an amazing film called Pariah. And if you haven't paid to see it at a theater near you, you're part of the problem.

It's inspiring that some people, and people as visible as Meryl Streep and these two, have singled out Pariah for praise. It's just too bad the movie had such extremely limited distribution and too bad it was saved until the one weekend of the year when no one would be able to pay it any attention during the Oscar glut. But bygones. It's one of my favorite pictures of last year and I'm hoping it gets a better life on DVD.

The complete interview which I've embedded after the jump is well worth a watch if you have half an hour. 

Click to read more ...

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