Monday, February 27, 2012

2012 Oscar fashion

My favorite look on the red carpet was Jessica Chastain. Her bold black dress with gold details was dramatic and fantastic. Her fresh, flawless skin and beautiful hair perfectly complimented the look.
Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz were a hot pair of presenters. There was much debate about the placement of J Lo's dress and if there was enough coverage over her left breast.
Lopez in Zuhari Murad and Diaz in Gucci Premiere

The ladies of Bridesmaids each had their own looks but there must have been some coordination to all select neutral tones. They looked identifiable as a group when they presented the three short categories.
The trending color of the evening did appear to be white. I loved Gwyneth Paltrow's Calvin Klein dress, without the cape she wore on the Oscar red carpet. On stage presenting with Robert Downey Jr the dress looked amazing. At the Vanity Fair party, a glimpse of her fabulous gold shoes was shown.
Red always has a solid presence at the Oscars. While not the overwhelming trend that it was last year, Michelle Williams and Emma Stone wore unique red pieces. I am not a huge fan of the bow on Stone's dress but overall it is a solid look. Natalie Portman's red dress was my favorite in that shade.

The two nominees from the Help were hit and miss for me. The dress winner Octavia Spencer wore was a bit safe and she had better looks this awards season. I loved the structure and color of Viola Davis's dress but it was not my favorite red carpet look of hers either this award season.
Another green dress I did enjoy, the light mint of Best Supporting Actress nominee for her role in the Artist, Berenice Bejo. Bejo wore Elie Saab and is seen below with Artist director and beau Michel Hazanavicius. Check out each of the side views of her hair as well.

Did the dress seal the win for Meryl? The votes were already counted and envelopes printed but historically when an actress wears gold she is more likely to win.
Not a huge fan of Meryl's Lanvin gown but this pic with Jean Dujardin is too cute.
Angelina had her outstretched right leg stance down, even a little too much so as a presenter, in her black Atelier Versace. Some sad soul even made a twitter page for the leg.
As much as I missed Oprah's after show this year Good Morning America and Live with Kelly and co-host Neil Patrick Harris almost filled the void. Kelly even did the backstage interviews with winners that Gayle used to do and the show was live from the theater formerly known as Kodak as O used to do. NPH tuxedo suited up to recap the 84th Annual Academy Awards. The on the red carpet reporting of Isaac Mizrahi was fabulous.

It has been a wonderful Oscar season this year and I already look forward to next year. A big thanks to all my readers who made it a record breaking month in views, beating last year's Oscar month.
Here's a few more dresses...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The 84th Academy Awards

It was a nice surprise that Morgan Freeman opened the ceremony by introducing the sequence in which nine time host Billy Crystal appeared in the films of 2011. I loved that when Crystal made comments referencing James Earl Jones and Martin Scorsese, when the cameras cut to them, their shoulders were shaking in genuine laughter. My friends and I played along with the drinking game that the ladies of Bridesmaids created during the SAG Awards, drink whenever you hear Scorsese. It was so great when the girls did it again at the Oscars.

Meryl Streep's win in the Best Actress category was a surprise. While she was in a close race with Viola Davis, I was fairly shocked by her win. I did cast my vote for George Clooney, knowing full well that Jean Dujardin (whose name I made the effort to learn to correctly pronounce, as well as Demian Bichir) might take it. To quote my sister's status on facebook, "like Meryl Streep needed another one. Viola Davis was gypped." I do think Meryl earned it, but none the less, I was taken by surprise. I honestly was torn, I think Glenn Close, Meryl, Michelle Williams and Viola really had Oscar worthy performances. The statistics show that if a nominated actress wears gold, they tend to win -- Meryl proved that.

Octavia Spencer was tearing up when they announced her name, it was tough not to cry when she was announced as the winner for Best Supporting Actress by Christian Bale. I loved how her costars Viola Davis and fellow nominee Jessica Chastain kissed her on her victory on her way up to the podium. Christopher Plummer deserved his win for Beginners for Best Supporting Actor and set an Oscar record for the oldest winner at 82 years young.

Crystal hosted a solid and classic show -- just what the Oscar telecast should be. The "insert your name here" theater was made over to look like a classic theater. The theme of the show was the movie going experience that we all share. Just part of what makes me love movies so much.

My friends made comment after comment about Angelina Jolie's gauntness -- more than one suggested she needed to eat a cupcake. Regardless, I may chop my hair off and get Cameron Diaz's new do -- loved it.

While the topic of baked goods is up, Laura made a wonderfully tasty cake, an Oscar tradition at my parties, that featured images representing each of the nine Best Picture nominees. I also told Marla that I would stay up and re-watch Bridesmaids and the Help on DVD into the wee hours of the morning, I might just.
Can you tell which image symbolizes each of the nine Best Picture nominees in Laura's cake of the year?

Laura and I tied each other again with 18/24 category predictions correct, one more correct than last year.

Looking forward to Jimmy Kimmel's special in a few minutes. Fashion tomorrow.

The winners...
Best Cinematography: Robert Richardson, Hugo
Best Art Direction: Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schavo, Hugo
Best Costume Design: Mark Bridges, The Artist
Best Makeup: Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland, The Iron Lady
Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Best Editing: Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Best Sound Editing: Phillip Stockton and Eugene Gearty, Hugo
Best Sound Mixing: Tom Fleischman and John Midgley, Hugo
Best Documentary: Undefeated
Best Animated Feature: Rango
Best Visual Effects: Hugo
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Best Original Score: Ludovic Bource, The Artist
Best Original Song: Bret McKenzie, Man or Muppet
Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Descendants
Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Best Live Action Short: The Shore
Best Documentary Short: Saving Face
Best Animated Short: The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr Morris Lessmore
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Best Picture: The Artist

Marie, Dana and Laura
Dana, Deborah, Katy, Marla, Laura, Marie, Anne and Emily's face 
At various times in college, I lived with these awesome women! 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

2012 Independent Spirit Awards

Live from the beach at Santa Monica was announced and Seth Rogen made his way to the stage. Rogen's opening jokes were a bit edgy but were very well received by the audience. He began by commenting about the event being in a tent on the beach, when there are perfectly good existing permanent structures. As the event airs on the uncensored IFC channel, the comedic f-bombs fell with hilarity. Some of the jokes revealed plot lines so I will not repeat them to avoid Drive or the Descendants spoilers. Rogen announced the first presenters with one more joke, "Keep your acceptance speeches short, because the tent has to be at a Bar Mitzvah at 5pm."
The event has a lighthearted, fun-loving tone with the same dinner party seating as the Globes and the SAGs. The presenters and acceptance speeches were full of humor and the event was MC-ed by John Waters. George Clooney, Ewan McGregor and Jean Dujardin were not present. In fairness the first two were not nominated and Dujardin was flying back from the César Awards in France. Back around on the other side, their films were nominated and Dujardin made it from SNL in New York to the BAFTAs in England the next day. Michel Hazanavicius, the director of the Artist, made it back in time to accept his award, so it is possible. Nominee Ryan Gosling was not there either and I have no info on that one.

Interestingly enough, there were ads for the Oscars during the commercial breaks of the Spirit Awards. Of the three writers that won for Best Adapted Screenplay, Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the later two are comedic actors which I did not know until the trio stepped on stage to accept their Spirit Awards and I recognized them. Oh, and the "red" carpet was purple. I love that.
Jessica Chastain, Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams
The winners:
Best Feature: The Artist
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Best Screenplay: The Descendants by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Best Male Lead: Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best Supporting Male: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Best Female Lead: Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn
Best Supporting Female: Shailene Woodley, The Descendants
Best Supporting Female Winner Shailene Woodley
Best Cinematography: Guillaume Schiffman, The Artist
Robert Altman Award: Margin Call (given to director JC Chandor, casting directors Tiffany Little Canfield and Bernard Telsey, and the ensemble cast)
Best First Screenplay: Will Reiser, 50/50

Best First Feature: Margin Call (award given to the director J.C. Chandor, and producers Robert Ogden Barnum, Michael Benaroya, Neal Dodson, Joe Jenckes, Corey Moosa, Zachary Quinto)
Best Documentary: The Interrupters
Best International Feature: A Separation
John Cassavetes Award (best feature made for under $500,000): Pariah (written and directed by Dee Reeds and produced by Nekisa Cooper)
Piaget Producers Award: Sophia Lin, Take Shelter
Someone To Watch Award: Mark Jackson, Without
Truer Than Fiction Award: Heather Courtney, Where Soldiers Come From

My official Oscar predictions 2012

I reserve the right to change my mind on the Best Actor category Sunday before the Awards show starts. In the mean time, I have done my homework, I have listened to songs and scores, I have seen the movies and shorts, and I have watched the trailers of the films in limbo that are not available for me to watch. Hugo has 11 nominations and will win three. The Artist will win at least five of its 10 nominations including Best Picture and Best Director. Some folks express disdain for the predictability of the Oscars. This is not something I experience. I make it my goal each year to be better at predicting and it never seems like a done deal to me. When I start getting 24 out of 24 right on my ballot, more than once to rule out a fluke hole in one, than I may consider the Academy Awards ceremony too predictable. Even then, you never know what people are going to say, what the host is going to do and very significantly, what the fashions will be! This year's show is in the steady hands of veteran nine time host Billy Crystal.
The second scanned ballot is how I would vote, what I think deserves to win. It is really gratifying to fill a ballot out in that way. Voting for predictions of who is likely to win is very different than selecting what films you think and feel deserve to win. I changed my mind about Best Documentary Short and neglected to remove one of the votes in that category. My choice would be for God is the Bigger Elvis. Five of my how I would vote if I were in the Academy selections, are predicted winners -- out of 24. I think I have a good shot at correctly predicting 21/24 right on Sunday. That would be a personal best. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

2012 Best Shorts Festival

For the first time, I was able to see ten of the short films nominated in the Best Short Live Action and Best Short Animated in a movie theater. I really enjoyed the experience and the way that the films were shown. Each short was introduced with a simple graphic of the name of the film, the country it is from and the length of the short. As long as the showtimes and dates work out, I very much plan on going to this event again next year.
 Short Film (Animated)
Dimanche/Sunday is about a little boy's Sunday activities. He goes to church with his parents and then to his grandmother's house. Several animals are depicted as dead and have x's for eyes. I am not sure if the filmmakers were going for awareness about the treatment of animals or if it was the animation style.

A Morning Stroll depicts three mornings in NYC, the first in the early 20th Century in black and white, a colorful modern 2009 and then an end of days 2059. The apocalyptic tone of the 2059 jaunt is a surprising shift. While the zombie action was almost too gross for me, it was a very funny short. 

Wild Life is about an Englishman moving to a small town in the Wild West in 1909. He writes home about his daily life and is fairly happy until the weather changes. The viewer also learns about comets along the way.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore was my favorite of the animated shorts. The style was beautiful, fun and had a good message about reading and loving books.

La Luna was the one Pixar nominee this year. It played in theaters before Pixar's Cars 2 this past summer. La Luna is the very sweet and enjoyable story of a boy being trained by two seasoned veterans for a job we are not entirely sure of until the end.

There were at least three additional animated shorts that were played after the five nominated films. They were introduced as highly commended and with the info of title, country and length. Then there was a 10 minute intermission.

Short Film (Live Action)
Pentecost is about an alter boy in Ireland who hits a priest with the incense container he is carrying. He will no longer be an alter boy and his father who is utterly embarrassed grounds the boy. The boy is also not allowed to watch his beloved football (football everywhere else, but you know, soccer in the US). The short was very funny and the idea that the alter boy A team was coached like a football team was cute.

Raju has the most serious subject matter of all the shorts played. The film is about a German couple in Kolkuta adopting a boy. The father and son are in a market and looking at papers floating upward in the sky. In the two seconds that the father is looking up, the young boy vanishes. The father soon learns that there is much more to the case of his missing son.

The Shore was my favorite of the live action shorts. It takes place in a small town in Ireland and reminded me of a Maeve Binchy book. It is the one short in which I recognized an actor. Ciarán Hinds is a character actor you may recognize as well. Hinds portrays Joe. Joe has returned to his home town with his eldest daughter after living in America for 25 years. It is a sweet tale with beautiful scenery and cinematography. The Shore had the feel of a full feature length film.

Time Freak is the weakest short in all. It had low production value and the acting was terrible. I am fairly certain I could make something better on my phone. I have no idea why this one is being recognized by the Academy. And it's about time travel -- I am a sucker for time travel stories but there was just too much to overlook. I can not even picture it as a successful viral video on You Tube. Sh8t Girls Say is much better.

Tuba Atlantic is the story of a dying old man in Norway. He spends his days killing the seagulls that live near his ocean-side home. He is non too amused by the arrival of his Death Angel, a teen girl on her third attempt to become and angel. This short is whimsical and sweet and was one of my favorites in the live action category.

And on DVD...
Having read Shakespeare throughout my education like most, I was very intrigued when I first saw the trailer for this movie. The movie calls into question Shakespeare's true identity and if he was responsible for the works attributed to him. The film's nomination for Best Costume Design got thee to Red Box to see one more nominated movie before Oscar Sunday. The film begins as if the viewers are there to see a play, a fun device. The mystery of the story kept me hooked though it is a bit long and there are very few academics support the Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship. Vanessa Redgrave portrays Queen Elizabeth I and her daughter Joely Richardson appears as the young queen in flashbacks. The Earl of Oxford is portrayed by Rhys Ifans who looks and sounds vastly different than he usually does. Ifans' breakout role was as Hugh Grant's quirky roommate in Notting Hill. The Earl of Oxford's wife, though a brief part, is played by Helen Baxendale. For the Friends fans out there, that's Emily Waltham. The costumes are very worthy of their nomination though the plot is a bit exhausting to keep up with.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

2012 Independent Spirit Award nominations

Seth Rogen will host the Independent Spirit Awards Saturday February 25th. The Spirit Awards are held the night before the Oscars -- on "Oscar Eve" and air on IFC -- the Independent Film Channel. The Artist and Take Shelter have the most nominations with five each.

Below are the nominees of the 27th Annual Film Independent Spirit Awards. The winners in the last three categories were announced prior to Saturday's awards show on January 14th at the Spirit Award Nominee Brunch. The Spirit Awards do strive to advance independent film and these three awards include filmmaker grants.

Take Shelter
The Artist
The Descendants

Mike Mills, Beginners
Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive
Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Alexander Payne, The Descendants

BEST FIRST FEATURE (Award given to the director and producer)
Another Earth
In the Family
Margin Call
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Natural Selection

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD (Given to the best feature made for under $500,000)
Hello Lonesome
The Dynamiter

Joseph Cedar, Footnote
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Tom McCarthy, Win Win
Mike Mills, Beginners
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash, The Descendants

Mike Cahill and Brit Marling, Another Earth
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Patrick DeWitt, Terri
Phil Johnston, Cedar Rapids
Will Reiser, 50/50

Lauren Ambrose, Think of Me
Rachel Harris, Natural Selection
Adepero Oduye, Pariah
Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

Demian Bichir, A Better Life
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Ryan Gosling, Drive
Woody Harrelson, Rampart
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter

Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter
Anjelica Huston, 50/50
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Harmony Santana, Gun Hill Road
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

Albert Brooks, Drive
John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
John C. Reilly, Cedar Rapids
Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris

Joel Hodge, Bellflower
Benjamin Kuh-Sulk, The Off Hours
Darius Kond-Jee, Midnight in Paris
Gui-omme Shiffman, The Artist
Jeffrey Waldron, The Dynamiter

An African Election
Bill Cunningham New York
The Interrupters
The Redemption of General Butt Naked
We Were Here

A Separation
The Kid With a Bike

ROBERT ALTMAN AWARD (Given to one film's director, casting director and its ensemble cast)
Margin Call

Chad Burris, Mosquita y Mari
Sophia Lin, Take Shelter *WINNER
Josh Mond, Martha Marcy May Marlene

Simon Arthur, Silver Tongues
Mark Jackson, Without *WINNER
Nicholas Ozek, Mamitas

Heather Courtney, Where Soldiers Came From *WINNER
Danfung Dennis, Hell and Back Again
Alma Har'El, Bombay Beach

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Oscar Statue History

I was curious about where the name Oscar originated from. The awards show is technically The Academy Awards, not the Oscars as they are commonly called.
  • There is no official story or source for the nickname Oscar but the explanation that the Academy acknowledges is that in 1931 Academy librarian Margaret Herrick made the comment that the statue looked like her Uncle Oscar (he was not in fact her uncle but her cousin, Oscar Pierce).  
  • Herrick eventually became an executive director in the Academy.
  • One biography claims that Bette Davis named Oscar after husband, band leader Harmon Oscar Nelson.
  • In 1932 Walt Disney was quoted as calling his award Oscar.
  • The term Oscar was official recognized by the Academy in 1939.
  • The awards that the Academy will be handing out Sunday, are officially called the Academy Awards of Merit. There are nine types of awards that the Academy bestows.
  • For three years during World War II, Oscar statues were made of plaster. After the war the Academy offered the regular gold-plated statues to those that had received the plaster ones.
  • An Oscar statue weighs eight and a half pounds and is 13 and a half inches tall.
  • The statue remains true to its original design. The only modification is that before 1945 the size of the base of the Oscar varied. Since 1945 the base has been the same as its current base size.
  • 2809 statues have been presented to date.
  • The base is a film reel with five spokes that represent the five original branches of the Academy -- actors, writers, directors, producers and technicians.  
  • The "Oscar" man is an art deco knight holding a crusader's sword.
  • Since 1950 it has been legally required that recipients and their heirs will not sell their statues. They must first offer to sell the statues back to the Academy. If a winner refuses to agree to this stipulation, then the Academy keeps the statue. The Academy keeps the returned statues in their treasury.
  • In 1928 Mexican film director and actor Emilio "El Indio" Fernández posed nude for the statue.

If that is not everything you could possible want to know, comment and I will try my best to find the answer.
I obtained the statue facts and trivia mainly from the official Oscar website and some details from wikipedia.

Fun facts about several of this year's Best Picture nominees. The only one of these facts I knew beforehand was the one about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

'The Artist'
Did You Know?: Some grumpy U.K. moviegoers asked for a refund because they didn't realize the film was silent
'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close'
Did You Know?: Thomas Horn got a call to audition for his role after being spotted on TV during ''Jeopardy!'' Kids Week
'The Help'
Did You Know?: Long before the movie release, Octavia Spencer voiced Minny in the novel's 17-hour audio book
Did You Know?: Director Martin Scorsese assigned his actors film history homework before they began filming
'Midnight in Paris'
Did You Know?: Owen Wilson says he first met and spoke to director Woody Allen when he arrived in France to begin filming
Did you know?: Jonah Hill stepped into his Oscar-nominated role after comedian Demetri Martin dropped out

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Albert Nobbs

This film has three nominations, two for acting, Glenn Close for Best Actress and Janet McTeer for Best Supporting Actress, and the third for Best Makeup.The makeup really is incredible for both Close and McTeer. In an interview Close said that there was actually, surprisingly little makeup used to achieve her very altered look.

Albert Nobbs tells the story of a woman who has been living in late 19th century Dublin as a man for many years in order to obtain and keep work as a butler. A chance encounter sets in motion a change in Albert's way of thinking and about what his life can be. The film exposes issues of class, gender and propriety of the time. The music is often delightfully upbeat and the costumes and sets do a fantastic job of taking the viewer back to another time.
 The cast of this film is yet another recent example of such a strong ensemble of actors. Mia Wasikowska, Brendan Gleeson, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Pauline Collins and Aaron Johnson are all excellent in each of their roles. Jonathan Rhys Meyers even has a small role as a guest of the hotel where Albert works.

Aside from watching the Best Animated Shorts and Best Live Action Shorts this Friday, my Oscar viewing for the year has come to a close. I am so glad that it ended with the experience of watching Albert Nobbs. It was the only film this year that required going to Fox Tower in downtown Portland. I wish that the film had a few more nominations (Costume Design, Score, Song -- Glenn Close not only co-wrote the adapted screenplay, she was a producer and even wrote the lyrics to the song that plays during the closing credits. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for the song). The movie also deserves a Best Picture nomination. I certainly wish that Albert Nobbs had more of a shot at winning some statues.

There is an infamous story in my family about the sister of my mom's co-worker who worked at a Dansk factory outlet store in White Plains NY. One day a delightful, down-to-earth woman was shopping in the store, her identity unknown to the sister. After the customer left, the sister was told who the customer was. The sister was surprised to learn that it was the actress Glenn Close and commented on what a class act and how put together she was. Suffice it to say, my mom and I really like Glenn Close.

Today three more presenters for Sunday's Oscar show were announced: Will Farrell, Zach Galifianakis and Michael Douglas.

And on DVD...
Margin Call

This movie is nominated for Best Original Screenplay. The film centers on the frantic efforts of an investment bank on Wall Street trying to save themselves and their money during the first stages of the 2008 financial crisis. An often covered topic in our current climate, not always entertainingly. The actors, including Zachary Quinto, Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, and Penn Badgley were extremely good. However, I like my entertainment a little more escapist than headline news.

Monday, February 20, 2012

This Means War

I was happily surprised by this movie. How the concept was executed had everything to do with making or breaking the flick. The movie maintains it comedy and action throughout. Reese Witherspoon and her dueling CIA operative suitors Chris Pine and Tom Hardy each act convincingly and Chelsea Handler delivers in her role as the comic relief best friend to the lead. There are many laughs, special effects and thinking about which guy is the better of the two. The movie was a nice popcorn diversion from my Oscar homework.
Several trailers before This Means War stood out and it was my first time seeing each. The quirky, genre combining comedic-apocalyptic movie Seeking A Friend For the End of the World starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley is out June 22nd. The second, Think Like A Man, is a rom com spun from Steve Harvey's relationship advice book. Unlike He's Just Not That Into You, the movie features Harvey and acknowledges the existence of the book. It arrives in theaters April 20th. Also, the intriguing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was previewed. It also arrives June 22nd.  

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I might have needed to have a stronger connection to the history of this story to have enjoyed it more. It was an intriguing mystery and I was able to follow it but the characters were flat. The movie is about a retired spy returning to find a mole in the British MI6 agency during the Cold War. I think in the UK there is more of a connection because of the first adaptation into a miniseries in 1979 and the book by John le Carré. le Carré has a cameo in one scene of the 2011 film. I was very excited by Gary Oldman's nomination for Best Actor. After seeing the movie, I am less enthused. It is a dialogue heavy film and lacks emotion. Colin Firth was a standout in a supporting role. His character had depth and flaws not exhibited in the other characters.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. One of the co-writers, Bridget O'Connor, has been honored posthumously. The film's third nomination is for Best Original Score. The music did not make a strong impression one way or the other when I saw the movie. The Artist is the front runner for Best Score.

Additional Oscar presenters announced: the Muppets, Tina Fey, Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Cameron Diaz and Bradley Cooper. This is in addition to the cast of Bridesmaids, Emma Stone, Penelope Cruz, Angelina Jolie, Halle Barry, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise and Jennifer Lopez. Cirque du Soleil will also be performing. Don't forget, Billy Crystal is hosting for the ninth time.

The following are random Oscar items and tidbits that I have been ruminating on this week. Oh how I love the week before the Oscars! I love Christmas but this really is the most wonderful time of the year.

The Best Actor race remains the closest. Ironically, Jean Dujardin's wikipedia entry notes that he has been described as the French George Clooney. The majority of prognosticators say Clooney will take home the statue.

Of the 30 movies that have won Best Picture in my lifetime to date, I have seen 23. Very soon it will be 24/31 because I have seen all of the nominees this year so I'm covered. Once we go 70s and back to the first winner, Wings for 1927/28, my record weakens (38 out of 83). Got some work to do on that. I would like It Happened Won Night to be my first effort in that regard.
Love the site. Such a plethora of information. After searching by nominee for George Clooney here I received this info:
Win indicated by an asterisk (*)
George Clooney    
2005 (78th)      *ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE -- Syriana {"Bob Barnes"} [statuette]
DIRECTING -- Good Night, and Good Luck.
WRITING (Original Screenplay) -- Good Night, and Good Luck. [Screenplay by George Clooney and Grant Heslov]
2007 (80th) ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE -- Michael Clayton {"Michael Clayton"}
2009 (82nd) ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE -- Up in the Air {"Ryan Bingham"}

The fabulous thing is that the information is official and from a reliable, primary source. Not like wikipedia or even imdb.

One more, in honor of her 17th time for the Iron Lady.
Win indicated by an asterisk (*)
Meryl Streep
1978 (51st) ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE -- The Deer Hunter {"Linda"}
1979 (52nd) *ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE -- Kramer vs. Kramer {"Joanna Kramer"} [statuette]
1981 (54th) ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -- The French Lieutenant's Woman {"Sara Woodruff/Anna"}
1982 (55th) *ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -- Sophie's Choice {"Sophie"} [statuette]
1983 (56th) ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -- Silkwood {"Karen Silkwood"}
1985 (58th) ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -- Out of Africa {"Karen"}
1987 (60th) ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -- Ironweed {"Helen"}
1988 (61st) ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -- A Cry in the Dark {"Lindy"}
1990 (63rd) ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -- Postcards from the Edge {"Suzanne Vale"}
1995 (68th) ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -- The Bridges of Madison County {"Francesca Johnson"}
1998 (71st) ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -- One True Thing {"Kate Gulden"}
1999 (72nd) ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -- Music of the Heart {"Roberta Guaspari"}
2002 (75th) ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE -- Adaptation {"Susan Orlean"}
2006 (79th) ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -- The Devil Wears Prada {"Miranda Priestly"}
2008 (81st) ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -- Doubt {"Sister Aloysius Beauvier"}
2009 (82nd) ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE -- Julie and Julia {"Julia Child"}

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Better Life

The story of Carlos Galindo, a gardener in East LA, trying his best to raise his teenage son is a heartbreaking tale. Demián Bichir is nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Carlos and rightly so. Carlos is such a good, noble man and he tries to do things the moral and right way despite awful situations and the behavior of others.
The music throughout the film is excellent and compliments the story. It is also well written and edited. The movie was directed by Chris Weitz. Weitz directed About A Boy and one of the Twilight movies (A Better Life was produced by the same studio as the Twilight flicks, Summit). This is a much more serious picture. The movie is not sensationalized the way some films of a similar subject matter are nor is it political. It certainly makes one think about the political context of the characters' lives. Before A Better Life I knew Bichir from his role on Weeds. His character on Weeds is not a sympathetic one but reading the press on A Better Life and seeing Bichir in the awards circuit made me very interested in the movie. His next role in 2012 is in Oliver Stone's Savages, also co-starring John Travolta, Benicio Del Toro, Uma Thurman and Salma Hayek.

A Better Life is available on DVD. I have one more movie to see and I will have seen all of the nominated Best Actor performances. Next up to complete that, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with Gary Oldman and last year's Best Actor, Colin Firth.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

2012 BAFTAs

The Orange BAFTA awards celebrate achievement in film. The BAFTA organization, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, has several awards shows each year honoring different areas of entertainment. The Orange or film awards have 24 categories. The same number as the Oscars though not all of the categories are the same. The nominees in several of the categories were very similar to those of the Oscar nominations.

While the award show aired in the US on BBC America at 5pm, the winners had been announced in London by that time. The Artist led the pack with 12 nominations and won seven including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Original Screenplay. Meanwhile, Meryl Streep, Christopher Plummer, and Octavia Spencer took home the other acting prizes. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy was nominated in 11 categories, winning two. While the most Oscar nominated movie of the year Hugo had nine BAFTA nominations, it won in two categories. The BAFTAs are often a good indicator of what films will win in the technical categories. On the red carpet George Clooney seemed to know that he would not be winning for Best Actor and the Oscar race in that category continues to be close. Jean Dujardin was in New York last night making an appearance on SNL and made it to the BAFTAs Sunday. Perhaps he and Kristen Wiig were on the same flight. She and Annie Mumolo were nominated for the Bridesmaids screenplay, as they are for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars.
Jean Dujardin, producer Thomas Langmann and director and screenwriter Michel Hazanavicius with three of the Artist's seven awards.

Stephen Fry hosted the ceremony, if you watch Bones you may recognize him. There was a lovely movie montage of the year's films, though I am a sucker for a movie montage or package as Fry announced it. Martin Scorsese was honored with the Academy Fellowship and John Hurt was awarded with Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema (I share a birthday with Hurt). I actually spotted a seat filler while watching the awards show.
No dresses were real standouts on the red carpet but there were no real misses either. There were many comments about how cold it was. Of note, Michelle Williams' black and white dress was H and M!

Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis and Michelle Williams

The winners:
Best Film The Artist
Best Director Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Best Actor Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best Actress Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Best Supporting Actor Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Best Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer, The Help
Best Original Screenplay Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Best Adapted Screenplay Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Best British Film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Best Film Not in the English Language The Skin I Live In
Best Animated Film Rango
Best Documentary Senna
Best Editing Senna
Best Costume Design The Artist
Best Cinematography The Artist
Best Original Music The Artist
Best Make-Up and Hair The Iron Lady
Best Visual Effects Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Best Production Design Hugo
Best Sound Hugo
Best British Debut Tyrannosaur
Orange Rising Star Award Adam Deacon
Best Animated Short A Morning Stroll
Best Live-Action Short Pitch Black Heist

Saturday, February 11, 2012

2012 Best Shorts viewings

I am very excited to see all of the short films nominated in the Best Animated Short, Best Live Action Short and Best Documentary Short Oscar categories in their entirety for the first time. The last couple of years I have spent frustrating hours searching online for nominated short films with minimal success.

The short film categories are often the most difficult to predict but can be very fun to watch. Especially the animated shorts.
I was first made aware of the ShortsHD program last year. Their website is full of viewing information throughout the US and Canada. For whatever reason, location or showtime difficulties, I was not able to check out last year's nominees in this manner. My plan at the moment is to see one of the afternoon showings at Century Eastport on the Friday before the Oscars, February 24th. I am sure it will be a fabulous way to kick off my Oscar weekend. Each year I strive to do more or experience something new for the Oscar season and I think the Best Shorts festival, as Cinemark has dubbed it, will be just the thing. At this time the showtime info on Fandango indicates that there are 10 nominated shorts to view, and there are a total of 15 nominees in the three Oscar categories for short films. That took the wind out of my sails a bit but I am still very much excited to check it out. Based on the info on the ShortsHD site and Fandango it looks like the 10 shorts will be from the Animated and Live Action categories which are the ones I am most interested in as it happens.

2012 BAFTA nominees

Tomorrow is a big awards day. The more well known Grammys celebrating the best in music will air at 8pm Pacific time. Prior to that, the British equivalent of the Oscars will air on BBC American at 5pm Pacific time. I first watched the BAFTAs last year, when the King's Speech ruled supreme. The Social Network and Natalie Portman's performance in Black Swan were also recognized at the BAFTAs last year.

The Artist has the most nominations with 12. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is nominated in 11 categories, while the most Oscar nominated Hugo has nine nominations. My Week with Marilyn has six nominations and The Help and War Horse are each nominated five times.

The BAFTA nominees honoring the films of 2011 are:

Best Film:
The Artist
The Descendants
The Help
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Outstanding British Film:
My Week With Marilyn
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
We Need To Talk About Kevin

Outstanding debut by a British writer, director or producer:
Attack The Block – Joe Cornish (director/writer)
Black Pond – Will Sharpe (director/writer), Tom Kingsley (director), Sarah Brocklehurst (producer)
Coriolanus – Ralph Fiennes (director)
Submarine – Richard Ayoade (director/writer)
Tyrannosaur – Paddy Considine (director), Diarmid Scrimshaw (producer)

Foreign language film:
A Separation
The Skin I Live In

The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius
Drive – Nicolas Winding Refn
Hugo – Martin Scorsese
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Tomas Alfredson
We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lynne Ramsay

Leading actor:
Brad Pitt – Moneyball
Gary Oldman – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
George Clooney – The Descendants
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Michael Fassbender – Shame

Leading actress:
Berenice Bejo – The Artist
Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams – My Week With Marilyn
Tilda Swinton – We Need To Talk About Kevin
Viola Davis – The Help

Supporting actor:
Christopher Plummer – Beginners
Jim Broadbent – The Iron Lady
Jonah Hill – Moneyball
Kenneth Branagh – My Week With Marilyn
Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Ides Of March

Supporting actress:
Carey Mulligan – Drive
Jessica Chastain – The Help
Judi Dench – My Week With Marilyn
Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids
Octavia Spencer – The Help

George Harrison: Living In The Material World
Project Nim

Animated film:
The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn
Arthur Christmas

The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius
Bridesmaids – Annie Mumolo, Kristen Wiig
The Guard – John Michael McDonagh
The Iron Lady – Abi Morgan
Midnight In Paris – Woody Allen

Adapted screenplay:
The Descendants – Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
The Help – Tate Taylor
The Ides Of March – George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
Moneyball – Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan

Original music:
The Artist
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
War Horse

The Artist
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
War Horse

The Artist
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Production design:
The Artist
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
War Horse

Costume design:
The Artist
Jane Eyre
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Make-up and hair:
The Artist
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
The Iron Lady
My Week With Marilyn

The Artist
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
War Horse

Special visual effects:
The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
War Horse

Short animation:
Bobby Yeah
A Morning Stroll

Short film:
Mwansa The Great
Only Sound Remains
Pitch Black Heist
Two And Two

The Orange Wednesdays Rising Star Award (voted by the public)
Adam Deacon
Chris Hemsworth
Chris O'Dowd
Eddie Redmayne
Tom Hiddleston


The movie Drive starring Ryan Gosling begins slick and stylized. There is something fresh and retro about it all at the same time. The music throughout compliments the story; it is at times 80s and all of the original music is by Cliff Martinez. The cast is strong, co-starring Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman, Christina Hendricks and Albert Brooks. We are given a glimpse into the life of Gosling's character, known only as the Driver -- a Hollywood stunt driver, a mechanic and getaway driver. The movie builds in tension and you just know that it is all going to hit the fan at some point.

Gosling is as hot as ever and I am glad to have seen my final big pic of his from 2011. Drive is nominated for a Best Sound Editing Oscar. Some of the sounds which are so striking are for those of brutal violence. I was glad to be viewing the movie at home so that when the violence began I could have a glass of wine and look away. This is not my favorite type of genre but the movie is done very well.

Also on DVD...
Kung Fu Panda 2
Truth be told I only watched this movie because it is one of the Best Animated Feature nominees. I had enjoyed the first one in theaters and the sequel features the returning voice talent of Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Seth Rogan, Jackie Chan and Lucy Liu. Part of the plot happily deals with Po the panda discovering that he was indeed adopted by his father the goose. The dialogue is clever in the non-action scenes and the rest of the story is about the appearance of the villain Shen the peacock as voiced by Gary Oldman. Oldman is nominated for Best Actor in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.


I had no idea that the tale of a 1930s Parisian orphan would also be Martin Scorsese's vehicle to draw attention to the need for film preservation. The movie is a love letter to the history of film and clearly exhibits Scorsese's passion for preserving old film. The entire movie is touching and full of beautiful views of the train station where Hugo lives and of the city. While the first act of the film is a bit slow, the movie is wonderful.
The cast is very strong. Asa Butterfield plays the title character and does an exceptional job. Ben Kingsley is a grumpy shopkeeper who becomes an integral figure in Hugo's life and leads him to a friendship with Chloë Grace Moretz's Isabelle. Sacha Baron Cohen is quirky and enjoyable as the Station Inspector. He truly is a good actor, when appearing in films that he did not write or direct, see also Sweeney Todd. In his own movies Cohen's main goal is to try to shock or be controversial. Hardly the intents of Martin Scorsese. You may also notice several characters are also portrayed by actors that appeared in the Harry Potter series, I counted at least three.

The cinematography is wonderful and I would be very surprised if the film does not win the Best Cinematography Oscar. In all honestly, while it is not my favorite picture, War Horse does seem to be the most deserving of the cinematography award.

This film works on many levels. The love of movies is highlighted throughout and intertwined with the story of a lonely boy, a lonely old man and how we all need personal connections. Hugo has the most Oscar nominations with 11 total.

Announced as presenters for the Oscars thus far:
The cast of Bridesmaids were the first Oscar presenters to be announced, Rose Byrne, Ellie Kemper, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Maya Rudolph, and nominees Kristen Wiig (Best Original Screenplay) and Melissa McCarthy (Best Supporting Actress). Also presenting, Emma Stone, Penelope Cruz, Angelina Jolie, Halle Barry, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise and Jennifer Lopez.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

War Horse

This is the Best Picture nominee that I was least motivated to see. I found some motivation, mainly a good showtime for a week night viewing, and I went while I had the resolve. War movies are just not for me. I love history but I am too faint of heart for accurate portrayals of war. I was not even very invested in the characters and I cried throughout the movie. Thank goodness it is rated PG-13. If it was rated R I do not think I could take it. The trench warfare came later in the film than I would have thought but it was wrenching. I have never seen Schindler's List or Saving Private Ryan for this very reason. Shocking as it may be that a movie and history lover like me has not, but true. War Horse is so blatantly made to tug at the viewers heart strings and it was forcefully made to seem epic and old fashioned. These are precisely the reasons why I was not interested in this movie. I went in with a positive attitude, adult juice box in purse, with the hope that my love of history would see me through to enjoying it.
 For a movie named War Horse, it took almost an hour to get to the war part. The first act dealt with how the horse came to be in the lives of the main character Albert. The film is very deserving of its nomination for Best Cinematography. The beautiful landscapes are captured with almost surreal angles of light. The score is from John William and is not surprisingly nominated for Best Original Score. Newcomer Jeremy Irvine is very good in the role of Albert. The cast does not have many stars though Albert's mother Rose is portrayed by Emily Watson. As the first World War begins the Captain that purchases the horse for the war effort looked very familiar -- Tom Hiddleston also appears in Midnight in Paris as F Scott Fitzgerald.

I am glad to check off the six nominations War Horse received on my viewing ballot and it certainly was better than Tree of Life.

And on DVD...
I am to the point where I am watching movies that may have only one nomination. Warrior was marketed to seem like this year's The Fighter. Taking place in the world of MMA and starring Joel Edgerston and Tom Hardy, that is an unfair comparison. The movie seemed to be trying too hard to be of dramatic caliber and had Nick Nolte not been nominated for Best Supporting Actor, I would not have seen it. I was happily surprised to have enjoyed the last act of the movie and the story of the two brothers.
Jane Eyre The costume design of the most recent adaption of the classic piece of Brontë literature has been nominated. Though I have not read the book so I can not comment on how faithful the version is to the original. Sometimes it is more enjoyable to watch a movie based on a book, or certainly a revered piece of literature, when you do not know the story well. Less comparing and more watching. Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender do an excellent job in their portrayals of Jane and Rochester. The score is haunting and fitting of the story.

Monday, February 6, 2012

2012 Oscar Nominee Luncheon

This year it was very difficult for me to locate a quality image of the official "class photo" of all of the Oscar nominees that attended the Nominee Luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Monday, February 6th.
Best Actor nominees Oldman, Dujardin, Bichir, Pitt and Clooney
The headlines reporting the event all seemed to be quotes from George Clooney about hanging out with pal Brad Pitt. Not a bad headline but certainly lacking in info beyond that. Last year not only was I able to find photos of the nominated actors in most of the acting categories with ease, I was not even aware of the event or looking for the images when I found them. Reading about the annual luncheon event seemed like a real glimpse behind the scenes at the inner workings of the nominee process and one I anticipated enjoying as part of my experience each year following the Oscars. I am disappointed most by the lack of best support actor and actress group pictures and best actress photo. Perhaps as the luncheon is not a well known event, last year just happened to be lucky. And Clooney was not there. With Brad Pitt.
More than 150 nominees were honored at the lunch and 18 of the 20 actors nominated were in attendance (Demian Bichir, George Clooney, Jean Dujardin, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt; Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Ronney Mara, Meryl Streep, Michelle Williams; Kenneth Branagh, Jonah Hill, Nick Notle, Max von Sydow; Berenice Bejo, Melissa McCarthy, Janet McTeer, Octavia Spencer; -- supporting nominees Christopher Plummer and Jessica Chastain were not at the event.).