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Entries in Oscars (12) (288)

Monday
Oct012012

Seth MacFarlane! Really?

 I can't say I saw this one coming. Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane has been named host of February's Oscars. Honestly I wouldn't even have guessed that if you'd let me guess 100 names.

Rule #1 of Oscar Host selection in the past has always been that the host was an instantly recognizable celebrity and household name, the kind of celebrity that even your grandparents would be familiar with: Whoopi, Steve Martin, Letterman, etcetera. It's never a behind the scenes creative, however famous his name or voice might be.

While MacFarlane is considerably less famous than past hosts that doesn't mean he won't do a fine job... his musical referencing will be a natural fit on Oscar night though the non-sequitor nature of his jokes (at least on Family Guy) might be a stranger fit. Are we in for another "Uma. Oprah"?

MacFarlane's selection is yet another example of the Academy's increasingly schizo "who are we?" identity crisis over the last handful of years. They can't stop themselves.

Are you a MacFarlane fan or were you hoping for someone with more star wattage? Who do you think they also considered before this left turn?

Monday
Oct012012

NYFF: "Bwakaw" is a Film Festival's Best Friend

Seventy year-old Rene (Eddie Garcia) is an elderly gay man who fits quite neatly into the crowded movie trope of "Grumpy Old Man." He doesn't have a lawn but he'd clearly want his neighbors to get off of it if he did. He doesn't seem to love anyone or anything other than his dog Bwakaw.

Eddie Garcia and Princess star in "Bwakaw", an Oscar contender from The Philippines

They say that a dog is a man's best friend but I don't think that it's usually meant quite so literally.  Rene is so grumpy that you aren't always sure he loves his faithful canine shadow. In one stinging heartbreakmidway through the film a veterinarian asks him "don't you ever touch your dog?" and it occurs to you that you've rarely seen him do so.

But Bwakaw isn't a demanding girl. She follows Rene everywhere he goes… except inside his house. She's been banned for making a mess the last time she was there and one imagines that was long ago; Rene doesn't let things go easily. He still sleeps, for example, in his boyhood home and he's still quite attached to all of his mother's things including her devout Catholicism though he isn't religious himself (This dichotomy informs several of the film's sharpest comic beats but that's a topic for a much longer piece.) So each night Bwakaw curls up sadly in the dirt at the bottom of the stairs leading to the sad man's bedroom and waits until morning to see her master again.

It's important to note here that Bwakaw the dog is a sandy girl. She'd be barely perceptible from Bwakaw the movie, with its terminally washed out light, colorless rooms, and graying characters, were it not for her happy trot and zest for life. Her name translates to "Voracious" though she's curiously slim and bony for a dog that likes to eat. 

Initially it's not at all clear why this film, a true gem from director Jun Lana and an absolutely worthy Oscar submission, is titled as it is. Bwakaw is not so much an active participant as a shadow, or a sidekick if you're feeling generous. For a good hour the film is little more than a perceptive character study -- not that those aren't welcome -- of a lonely gay man who's angry that he missed out on a full life.  In many ways Rene is a shadow in his own movie. Most of the colorful subplots, broad comedic bits, and vibrant personalities belong to other members of the cast.  Rene's "friends" (I use the term loosely given that he's consistently at odds with most of them) are two flamboyant gay men, a co-worker planning a trip to Canada, a rough taxi driver, a local priest who hears his confessions, and a woman losing her memory in a nearby old folk's home.

But when Bwakaw becomes ill Rene is finally shaken out of his ornery complacency and gradually begins to feel his life again instead of just planning for his death. The film beautifully and fluidly shifts to compliment his journey, letting more light and color and vibrancy into the images.


Many "feel good" inspirational movies boost the spirit synthetically by glossing over life's darkest moments or wishing them away with tunnel vision on the triumphant stuff. Rene's story, however harsh and lonely in its particulars, contains far richer inspiration at its core. Rene is so focused on mortality that he keeps forgetting to live but there's no point in climbing in the coffin before your time. Embrace whatever tiny happiness comes your way. Live. B+/A-

Related Pages
2012 Foreign Film Oscar Submissions Pt. 1: Albania to Italy
2012 Foreign Film Oscar Submissions Pt. 2: Japan to Vietnam
Foreign Film Finalist Prediction List just a little guesswork 

More NYFF
Lincoln's Noisy "Secret" Debut
The Paperboy & the Power of Nicole Kidman's Crotch 
Frances Ha, Dazzling Brooklyn Snapshot
Barbara Cold War Slow Burn
Our Children's Death March 
Hyde Park on Hudson Historical Fluff 

Monday
Oct012012

Monty, The Reluctant Pundit, Meets "Bernie"

Everyone knows that cats are psychic. Their mysterious moods including strange swerves from autonomy to neediness, and sudden flights of whimsy and imagination at war with narcolepsy suggest as much! Each year as longtime readers know I consult my beloved Monty on the Oscars. Last year he pretended not to care about Bridesmaids, a cryptic response that did little to help us determine the film's Oscar future (it ended the season with two Oscar nominations for Supporting Actress and Screenplay) but in 2010 he was absolutely prescient when it came to Fox Searchlight's 2010 collection: Yes to 127 Hours, Hell No on Conviction and zzzz to Never Let Me Go.

So I couldn't resist presenting him with the season's first tea leaves if you will. The For Your Consideration DVD of Richard Linklater's Bernie arrived on Saturday and straight to my fuzzy boy it went.

Oh no, NOT THIS AGAIN, DADDY.

At first he refused to look. I rearranged the film's FYC postcard and DVD to see if he would deign to comment.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Sep302012

Review: "Looper"

An abridged version of this review was originally posted in my column at Towleroad 

"Time travel hasn't been invented yet," Joseph Gordon-Levitt warns us from 2042 in LOOPER's voiceover. "But in the future it will be." In 2072 crime lords send their victims back in time to be killed by "loopers"  like Joe since it's the only way to get away with murder. (Apparently infallible forensic science has also been invented in the future!). 

Loopers dispatch their prey unceremoniously with a crude descendant of the shotgun called a  "Blunderbuss" which is useless at long distances but impossible to miss with up close. When each Looper's contract expires, his older self is sent back to his younger self for execution which is called "Closing the Loop". In this case that's Bruce Willis sent back in time to meet his death at the hands of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Bruce Willis drag. (Joe's makeup effects, though extraordinarily non fake-looking are initially distracting -- JGL doesn't look like that!

Nothing kills genre films quicker than exposition. When you have to pass out glossaries to the uninitiated or explain the rules over and over again, a story can sputter and die or, at the very least, bore you stupid the second time throughLooper, however, is a wonderfully nimble exception given the size of the learning curve. More...

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Saturday
Sep292012

NYFF: "Frances Ha" Dazzling Brooklyn Snapshot

Michael C. here to report on the first home run I've seen at the New York Film Festival. Frances Ha is the type movie experience I’m hoping for every time I plunk down my ticket money. It knows exactly what it wants to do and how it wants to do it and as a result it grabs you by the sleeve and pulls you right in. It is Noah Baumbach’s finest film to date and the big breakout due for Greta Gerwig for some time now. 

Frances (Gerwig) is a dancer who shares a Brooklyn apartment with her bestest buddy Sophie (Mickey Sumner). Pushing thirty and stalled professionally and personally, she is right at the age when spending her nights flitting around the city getting wasted with her girlfriend stops being cute and starts being a cause for concern. When events transpire to threaten Frances' holding pattern the wheels quickly come off her cushy existence.

With this film Baumbach has not expanded his style so much as smashed it into a thousand pieces and arranged them into a collage. [More...]

Click to read more ...

Friday
Sep282012

For Your Consideration: "Central Park Five" and "The Gatekeepers"

Amir here looking at two films we should keep an eye on in Oscar's documentary race.

"The Central Park Five"

I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to judging the quality of documentaries, I have a particular bias. My favourite docs tend to be innovative films that aren’t necessarily “significant” in the grand scheme of things, like Grizzly Man or Senna, but I often find myself giving a pass to films that use a conventional structure to tell an important story, merely because thee subject matter does the work, towering above the film itself. Every once in a while, however, I’m confronted with a film that utilizes the old “talking heads intercut with archival footage” formula so powerfully that it becomes impossible to imagine it in any other way. Two such films came my way during TIFF that absolutely blew me away.

The first is Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon’s The Central Park Five, which tells the story of five black and Latino youths who were arrested in 1989 for the alleged rape and physical abuse of a white female jogger in Central Park. Despite a lack of evidence to support the charges and their youth (they were all between 14 and 17), they each ended up serving several years in prison or juvenile detention centres. In 2002, more than a decade after their first trial, the real criminal stepped out and confessed; DNA evidence supported his claim. But the irreversible damage had been done. [more after the jump...]

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