Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Dreamgirls: "You're going to Love Me"

Watching Dreamgirls on opening Day in a large theater with tons of people was certainly the ideal enviornment, when Effie White (Jennifer Hudson) begins to below out deep soulful tones the audience clapped, and when Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx) begins pushing people around the crowd jeered at him.

One of the great things director Bill Condon has tapped into with this film (and with Chicago) is that inorder to avoid akward moments of seeing a stage musical on screen, is he makes each song into multiple scenes with multiple costumes, hairstyles, and unique camera shots to keep a constant level of energy through out the film musical.

When you walk away from the film, the only thing you can think of is how amazing Jennifer Hudson does in this film, former American Idol finalist deserves all the accolades she may receive as a result of her portrayl of Effie White. America may feel very silly now that they voted on Fantasia as season three's American Idol winner.

Leaving the theater all I was left wanting was Jennifer Hudson reprise of "And I'm Telling You I'm not Going." I just wanted to hear her bellow out the lines "And you, and you, and you, you're going to love me."

I think thematicly Dreamgirls makes a fun stab at the conflicting roles of selfishness, as every character seems to reveal their selfish desires, amidst the backdrop of songs like "Family" where they pretend that they are acting on behalf of eachother.

Hudson is obviously the standout performance, but the rest of the cast is very strong Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover. Keith Robinson, as Effie's brother C.C. White is potentially the weakest character. There are just many times when he is somewhat cheesy, and yet it's hard to tell if it's Robinson's portrayl of the character, or the way the character is written.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

No Immaculate Birth

For whatever reason, when ever I think of the Christmas story I always think of a traditional nativity scene...with various elements, but the most important one's being that Mary and Joseph were in a stable with Jesus in a manger.

It wasn't until yesterday I thought..."how did Jesus get into the manger?"

Then I realized that Mary actually gave birth in the the stable yesterday...I instantly connected it with the birth of Claire Littleton's baby Aaron in Season 1 of Lost.

My wife and I are almost done with the first season of Lost but watching Emile de Ravin give birth on a uncivilized Island was horrible...and just think instead of of Kate (Evangeline Lily) playing mid-wife...Joseph had to play mid-wife amongst the animals, hay, and feces. That's kind of disgusting.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

May Venus Be More Than Just O'Toole

The other day when I saw the Queen I saw my first preview for Venus. All I've heard about the movie before I saw the preview was Peter O'Toole, Peter O'Toole, Peter O'Toole...etc. And a little about the plot.

But watching the preview it reminded me a little bit of Lost In Translation in feel and them, with a comic british tone of Notting Hill. (Of Course, Roger Mitchell directed both Venus and Notting Hill).

The preview leads me to think that this film has a lot of potential, and yet, the Golden Globes only nominated O'Toole, and even Notting Hill received three globe nods. Obviously, Golden Globe nods are not the berrometer of good films, but so many people have mentioned little comments about this year being a week year for films, and yet so many films with potential are being completly ignored. Is that all these films have been...full of potential without substance?

When Venus goes into limited release this weekend, I am hopeful that it will be a cheery enjoyable film that will not just be a Peter O'Toole 8th award nomination (and potentially his first win, apart from his honary award in 2003)...but rather this would also be a film that people enjoy watching and talking about.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

2006's Visual Effects Finalist

Many people complain about the lack of accesibility the academy has with popular conventions...well, look no further to this years Visual Effects Finalist.

Of the 7 finalist for best visual effects, three will go on to receive Academy Award nominations.

(and supplemental box office information)

Casino Royale
(currently $137 million, currently 10th highest grossing film of the year)
($23 million opening weekend)
Night at the Museum
(December 22nd Release Date)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
($423 million, currently #1 highest grossing film of the year)
($60 million)
Superman Returns
($200 million, currently #5 film of the year)
X-Men The Last Stand
($234 million, currently #3 film of the year)

I predict nominations for the highest grossing pop-culture favorites...Pirates, X-Men, and Superman.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

10 Initial Thoughts on The Queen

1. It's wierd to watch a movie about real people when the real people are still alive.

2. I wonder if any of the people that are still alive (aka Queen Elizabeth II, Tony Blair, Prince Charles, Cherie Blair etc.) have seen the film.

3. I liked the fact that the movie didn't assume that you knew too much information and provided plenty of embedded information that anyone could understand the film.

4. The Golden Globes would be a lot more interesting if they created a new catagory this year, simply "The Best Performance by Helen Mirren," being that she has received 3 nominations this year (The Queen, Elizabeth I, and Prime Suspect).

5. Both my mother and wife have asked how to pronounce Helen Mirren's name...her star-stock has certainly risen since her "Calender Girl" Days.

6. I agree that they shouldn't have put up the flag at Buckingham Palace.

7. Michael Sheen certainly deserves credit for his portrayl of Tony Blair. He certainly earned some star power. (Knowing he was in this film made me recognize him in Blood Diamond).

8. The use of archive footage reminded me of Good Night and Good Luck.

9. I thought Alexandre Desplat's score for this film was a little annoying.

10. I really liked it when Prince Phillip said to The Queen "Move over, Cabbage."

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Pie

Tonight my wife and I were eating dinner, and she asked me if there was a certain type of pie I would like for Christmas dinner. She said she was thinking of a fruit pie, maybe Apple, or Cherry, or whatever...she wanted to make whatever I would like

I said I wanted an Orange pie. Or then again maybe a green grape pie...yum!

Last year I had a mince meat pie for the first time, and this year I want an orange pie. I've never seen or had one before, but how delicious does that sound?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Today's Golden Globe Nominations

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has announced the Golden Globe Nominees this morning.

I've listed the motion picture nominees below.

The initial highlights...Babel received the most nominations.

New comer names who haven't been mentioned very much on the list include Bobby with recognition for the first time this award season, Maggie Gylenhaal for Sherrybaby, Emily Blunt for the Devil Wears Prada.

Double nods were received by Leonardo DiCaprio (Departed and Blood Diamond).

I'm a little bummed that Djimond Hounsou did not get recognized for Blood Diamond, but I am very happy that Adriana Barraza got recognized for Babel.

And Apocolypto best foreign language film...hum? I would have never guessed that as a possibility.

Also, unsurprisingly as predicted awhile back, Helen Mirren received 2 nominations, one for her role in The Queen as Queen Elizabeth II and one nomination for playing Queen Elizabeth I in the TV movie "Elizabeth I."

Speaking of TV noms, my wife will also be happy to know Keifer Sutherland (24) and Hugh Laurie (House) both were nominated for best actor in a dramatic television series.

Picture, Drama:

"Babel," "Bobby," "The Departed" "Little Children," "The Queen"

Actress, Drama:
Penelope Cruz, "Volver"; Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"; Maggie Gyllenhaal, "Sherrybaby"; Helen Mirren, "The Queen"; Kate Winslet, "Little Children"

Actor, Drama:
Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond"; Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Departed"; Peter O'Toole, "Venus"; Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"; Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"

Picture, Musical or Comedy:
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," "The Devil Wears Prada," "Dreamgirls," "Little Miss Sunshine," "Thank You for Smoking"

Actress, Musical or Comedy:
Annette Bening, "Running With Scissors"; Toni Collette, "Little Miss Sunshine"; Beyonce Knowles, "Dreamgirls"; Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"; Renee Zellweger, "Miss Potter"

Actor, Musical or Comedy:
Sacha Baron Cohen, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"; Johnny Depp, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"; Aaron Eckhart, "Thank You for Smoking"; Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Kinky Boots"; Will Ferrell, "Stranger than Fiction"

Supporting Actress:
Adriana Barraza, "Babel"; Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal"; Emily Blunt, "The Devil Wears Prada"; Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"; Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel"

Supporting Actor:
Ben Affleck, "Hollywoodland"; Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"; Jack Nicholson, "The Departed"; Brad Pitt, "Babel"; Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed"

Clint Eastwood, "Flags of Our Fathers"; Clint Eastwood, "Letters from Iwo Jima"; Steven Frears, "The Queen"; Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel"; Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"

Guillermo Arriaga, "Babel"; Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, "Little Children"; Patrick Marber, "Notes on a Scandal"; William Monahan, "The Departed"; Peter Morgan, "The Queen"

Foreign Language:

"Apocalypto," USA; "Letters from Iwo Jima," USA/Japan; "The Lives of Others," Germany; "Pan's Labyrinth," Mexico; "Volver" Spain

Animated Film:
"Cars," "Happy Feet," "Monster House"

Original Score:
Alexandre Desplat, "The Painted Veil"; Clint Mansell, "The Fountain"; Gustavo Santaolalla, "Babel"; Carlo Siliotto, "Nomad"; Hans Zimmer, "The Da Vinci Code"

Original Song:
"A Father's Way" from "The Pursuit of Happyness"; "Listen" from "Dreamgirls"; "Never Gonna Break My Faith" from "Bobby"; "The Song of the Heart" from "Happy Feet"; "Try Not to Remember" from "Home of the Brave"

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

All sorts of Globes

Tomorrow, the Golden Globe nominees will be announced.

In the meantime, I'll remember other globes. The first globe I ever really saw was the brownish globe my grandparents kept in their living room in South Dakota. I think it's in my grandma's basement now.

For a season I taught geographyy, we talked about and looked at globes as well.

I don't think anyone ever has gotten me a snowglobe before...but that's okay, because I don't really want one. I once really wanted a geode (sort of like the one pictured left) and I think my mom and dad bought it for me. It had a fake gold minor in it. For some reason, I really liked it (I still kind of do).

I think I tried selling it at a garage sale once, and it didn't sell, and for some reason, I've packed it along with me to college and so forth ever since.

I think it's funny that the earth is the only planet in our socal system that doesn't derive from Greek/Roman Mythology. I guess that's because people probably called the earth something or other before the Greek's even existed.

Before I got married I think the idea of having a globe seemed like a fun "household decoration." Now that am I married, I don't want anymore decorations, especially a round one that I can't easily hide in the closet.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Hanukkah radio is unveiled

XM radio is unveiling a new sattelite station XM108 called Radio Hanukkah. This is the first station of the kind, that will revolve around Hanukkah themed programming through the festival of lights. (source)

Many stations have begun doing non-stop Christmas programming through the month of December. In fact according to 100000 Watts, this year 399 stations have switched to all-Christmas programming (up from 302 last year). (A complete list of stations can be found here)

My wife has been frequently turning on one of the 3 local Christmas stations available were we live. The other night we were working on Christmas cards together and each song got worse and worse, because honestly, not all Christmas songs can be good ones.

One of the new songs they played was a song called "All I want for Christmas is a Soldier Coming Home." Now this song, in itself, is a very touching song, except for the fact that it is sang by a man. The song sung by the relatively unknown country singer Monty Lane Allen (pictured left), would have been much better sung by a female vocalist, because as it plays, it certainly sounds a little homoerotic. The music video to Allen's touching Christmas song can be seen and heard here.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

United 93 - Back on the Scene

United 93 is back in the awards scene after winning the Prize of Best Film by the New York Film Critcs Circle. Also Paul Greengrass, director of United 93, won best director by the LA Film Critcs association.

Despite the fact that The Queen did not make the NBR list of 10 ten films, both the NYFCC & LAFCA both gave the Queen the first loser award with it coming in as runner up for best film in both of the critics groups. The Queen also scored best actress mentions for Helen Mirren by both critics groups, and Michael Sheen and the screenplay also got mentions by the NYFCC.

The Queen seems like it is definitly a best picture nomination, and the case for Letters from Iwo Jima grows every day (which won the prize with the LAFCC). And I would be happy if Paul Greengrass got a directors nomination, it is certainly deserved.

(Full list can be seen here)

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Initial Postviewing Blood Diamond Thoughts

I very much enjoyed the Blood Diamond.

I typically enjoy recent films about different social-historical events in Africa (Tsotsi, Hotel Rwanda, No Man's Land).

I think films about Africa are important. The developed world is interested from a business perspective of cooperating with and working with Asian contries, Latin America, and the Middle East, and so these areas of the world get their fair share of discussion in the marketplace.

But Africa is a hopeless place, that still deserves and needs attention, but because in today's current economic climate there is little money to be made off the general populations of most African countries.

So films about Africa, like the Blood Diamond are important. This film was certainly a message-film, about conflict diamonds, but it also an entertaining action-oriented drama.

Especially after Hounsou won best supporting actor from the National Board of Review and this film was placed on the NBR top 10, it has increased my hopes that this film will receive some award attention. Granted, I do not anticipate as Best Picture nomination, I think many of the cast and crew will get recognized, especially previous award nominees Djimon Hounsou, Cinemotographer Eduardo Serra, editor Steven Rosenblum, and perhaps the Sound or Special Effects crew.

Leonardo DiCaprio did a good job playing a diamond smuggling African, and although he will receive more accolades for his role in The Departed, this film will only help keep him in the spotlight a little more this season.

This film is important and interesting and I appreciate this film about African Blood Diamonds and Sierra Leon being made.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Hopes for Hounsou

Even though the National Board of Review is not neccesarily regarded as highly respected reviewing body, the awards themselves are important because they kick off award season, as well as paint a picture of the unseen films yet to come out over the rest of the month.

I was excited that the NBR chose Djimon Hounsou as the award winner for Best Supporting Actor.

Since my first screening of the film In America, this film has slowly become more and more one of my favorite films, if not my favorite. Djimon Hounsou's academy award nominated role in "In America" is not only intriguing, but also very unique.

My favorite scene from the movie is when Matteo (Hounsou) comes face to face with Johnny (Paddy Considine) confronted with the question of whether he is in love with Johnny's wife. I love when Matteo shouts back, in such a shocking way: "No...I am in love with you!" And that pause is striking and your like whoa, what's this film turning into??? and then Hounsou bombasticly goes on to say he's in love with everything that lives, including Johnny's wife, children, their unborn Child and even Johnny's anger.

I am hopeful that the Blood Diamond will be a good film. Out of the trio of Africa films, this film is still an unknown. I surprisingly found Edward Zwick's last film "The Last Samurai" to be very good, and so am crossing my fingers that I will enjoy The Blood Diamond, and am also hoping Hounsou will play a role in this year's supporting actor race this award season (as I predicted in October).

Pictured above Hounsou with Sarah Bogler in the film In America.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

NBR Winners: Iwo Jima, Mirren, Whitaker

So, Letters from Iwo Jima deserves a spot at the critics table this year with it's National Board of Review honor as Best Film.

This film has been under the radar a little bit with it's unknown release date, but now that it is officially a 2006 film, it looks like a film to watch out for.

I accuratly guessed Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker as the winners for Best Actress and Actor.

But the supporting actor win of Djimond Hounsou for the Blood Diamond is a pleasant shock, and Catherine O'Hare's performance in "For Your Consideration" got noticed.

Martin Scorcese won best director for The Departed, Volver won best foreign film, An Inconvinient Truth won best documentary, and Cars won best animated film. (the complete list can be found here).

Some interesting films made the National Board of Review top 10. In addition to Letters from Iwo Jima, the other films were Babel, Blood Diamond, The Departed, The Devil Wears Prada, Flags of Our Fathers, The History Boys, Little Miss Sunshine, Notes on a Scandal, and the Painted Veil.

I was suprised that The Queen did not make this list, nor did Little Children, The Good Shepherd, or The Good German.

Probably more than anything, this cements in my mind that Letters from Iwo Jima has great award potential, that the Departed will get a nomination for Best Picture, and the acting races are still completly up in the air, except for a few key lead performances that are almost for-sure nominations.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

National Board of Review Predictions

The National Board of Review awards should be announced tomorrow, at which point award season for the 2006 film year officially kicks off. The National Board of Review (NBR) is sort of a stuff unimportant group of people, but by naming the first award winners of the year, they have the power of anchoring people's minds to certain films and performances.

The NBR announces their picks for top 10 films of the year, best foreign language film, top 5 documentaries, top 5 foreign films, and a slew of other awards for acting, directing, and everything else you can imagine.

In the past few years it seems like the NBR's choice for Best Film have skewed towards more "literary" films or films touching on American/British themes. The past winners include films like Good Night and Good Luck, Finding Neverland, Mystic River, The Hours, Moulin Rouge, Quills, American Beauty, Gods and Monsters, L.A. Confidential, Shine, and Sense and Sensibility.

Based on their previous selections, I think the winner of best film will either be The Queen, Little Children, or The Departed.

I think for Best Actress they will be torn between Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren, but Helen Mirren will win out. (Previous winners include Felicity Huffman, Annette Benning, and Diane Keaton, and Julianne Moore).

For Best Actor, they could go with Peter O'Toole for Venus, but I think they will stick with safe buzz and go with Forrest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland (the past three NBR winners have gone on to receive the Oscar, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jamie Foxx, and Sean Penn).

For Best Supporting Actrees, I'm not really sure which way they'll go. Part of me thinks they'll go with Meryl Streep (Prairie Home Companion & Devil Wears Prada) and part of me thinks they'll go Cate Blanchett (Babel & Notes on A Scandal). Although Meryl won twice, once for Sophie's Choice and once for in 1972 for a triple threat (Manhattan, Kramer vs. Kramer, and The Seduction of Joe Tynan). Similarly Blanchett won with a triple threat in the supporting catagory in 2001 for The Man Who Cried, the Shipping News, and Lord of the Rings. So this year, it looks more like a wild card, and I'm actually going to predict that they give the award to Adrianna Barraza for Babel.

For Best Supporting Actor, I want to say Jack Nicholson, but they've tended to go with younger actors like Jake Gyllenhaal and Jaoquin Phoenix. That makes me very prone to suggest that Ben Affleck (Hollywoodland), Adam Beach (Flags of our Fathers), and Michael Sheen (The Queen), are all in the running for this one. But I have a strange feeling the will award Daniel Craig for his role in Infamous.

And is it safe to say An Inconvinient Truth will win Best Documentary?

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The Face of Love

Recently, one of my favorite songs has been the title cut from the Sanctus Real sophomore album called "The Face of Love"

"The Face of Love" is one of the most ballady songs on their album, but the message of the song has really been sticking with me all week.

The simple song begins by talking about how Jesus can be pictured and portrayed many different ways, and yet in reading about Jesus much more effort is put into explaining his love for people than anything else. And then he goes on to say that we can be more like Jesus by showing love to people more every day.

I love the line in the song where they sing: "No one too lost for you love, No one too low for you to serve."

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