Monday, December 31, 2007

Sailing to Byzantium by W.B. Yeats (Inspiration for "No Country For Old Men" title)

Sailing To Byzantium
by William Butler Yeats


That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.


An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.


O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.


Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

From The Tower 1928

Friday, December 28, 2007

6 Quick Thoughts on the Movie "Once"

1. It's kind of boring.
2. The music is great.
3. I like it because it's different.
4. I like that it plays off of ideas of "dreams coming true" (every street musician wants to record and be loved, right?)
5. I like that it plays off of ideas of reality (the final scenes after the recording are my favorite)
6. We had to watch it with subtitles because our non-Irish ears couldn't understand the dialogue.

Bonus Thought: My wife didn't like the fact that it looked like a home movie

Juno & Teen Pregnency

I remember reading somewhere months ago that Juno will do to teen pregnancy what Pretty Woman did to prostitution.

After watching the movie my pregnant wife & friend Emily sat discussing that idea. If you have seen the movie, I'd love to hear your perspective as well.

Ellen Page is incredibly convincing as the smart lipped teen who ends up going through with her unplanned pregnancy as she maps out her own course making decisions she admits she is not yet mature enough to make.

Is Juno MacGuff's (Ellen Page) life too easy? Does her life wrap up too picture perfect? Does she not face enough real life consequences to go along with her actions?

I'm sure all of these thoughts are debatable, and with piles of anecdotal evidence, I'm sure different people would say Juno's life is too good or not that good depending on different people's life experiences.

The one thing that is true, is that Ellen Page's character is a strong character and someone who is comfortable with following her heart, who goes to the beat of her own drummer, and has a deep consciousness that wants to see the right thing done. To me these are all admirable characteristics.

Without spoiling the unique turns that the movie makes and it's final conclusion, apart from the premarital sex, Juno makes a good teen role model. Argues against me if you wish, but even from the very beginning scenes she is responsible about her problems, she takes the birth control test and begins to independently work through her situation and her options. Something that many teens simply can't do with out bringing their issues and drama into the world of public and peer opinion.

Juno makes no qualms about the truth that she wishes she weren't pregnant, but she also makes few excuses and blames no one but herself. I find her strength, independence, and desire to see her baby in the best situation possible all very honorable.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Water Horse Head - Inspired by a Pizza Hut Prize?

Maybe it's just me, but every time I see a still image from the movie The Water Horse: Legend of The Deep, I always think of the Pizza Hut Puppets that were so popular in the time when Pizza Hut and the prehistoric struggles of Littlefoot, Petrie, Spike, Cera & Ducky were in their prime.

I know the popular analogy is to compare the story of Water Horse to ET (just as people compare Wall-E to ET). But in the look of the glossy head of the Lochness Monster in the WWII Scotland movie reminds me of the glossy heads of the plastic toys from 1988. Maybe it's just me.

I wanted to see what the head was made of and just did a quick little google search, that proved pretty fruitless. Except for the fact that I saw that one of the waterhorse model heads is for sale on ebay. (Pictured left). This head must belong to adult version of the Water Horse (note the larger Mohawk) and is guessed to be made out of fiberglass...but what is the cute plasticy head made of of? Latex? Silicon? No clue, but currently the ebay auctioned head is less than a dollar.

Pizza Hut Puppet Image found
here, with an original Pizza Hut/Land Before Time Commercial.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

My Favorite Christmas Lyric of 2007

"O hush the noise ye men of strife
And hear the angels sing."

From It Came Upon The Midnight Clear, lyrics by Edmund Sears, 1849.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Nominations

And the Screen Actors nods are in. Most notably...the actors loved Into The Wild (a movie light in the precursors), and found little interest in Atonement. They liked American Gangster, but not enough to honor Denzel by himself. They liked Hairspray, but not enough to honor John Travolta.

Here's the nods with some thoughts.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role

George Clooney -Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis -There Will Be Blood
Ryan Gosling -Lars and the Real Girl
Emile Hirsch -Into the Wild
Viggo Mortensen -Eastern Promises

The notable exclusions on this list are Denzel Washington and Johnny Depp. And some how I thought Frank Langella would make the the exclusion is notable to me.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role

Cate Blanchett -Elizabeth the Golden Age
Julie Christie -Away From Her
Marion Cotillard -La Vie En Rose
Angelina Jolie -A Mighty Heart
Ellen Page -Juno

No Keira Knightley. I was hoping to see Amy Adams sneak her away onto this list. I'm sure people will be complaining about Blanchett's inclusion here.

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role

Casey Affleck -The Assassination of Jesse James
Javier Bardem -No Country For Old Men
Hal Holbrook -Into the Wild
Tommy Lee Jones -No Country For Old Men
Tom Wilkinson -Michael Clayton

I wonder if this list will change up much for Oscar? The biggest exclusion to me here is Phillip Seymore Hoffman. Lil' Affleck certainly has received the precursor love.

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role

Cate Blanchett -I'm Not There
Ruby Dee -American Gangster
Catherine Keener -Into the Wild
Amy Ryan -Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton -Michael Clayton

Congrats to Ruby Dee who brings the only racial diversity to the group of nominations. I'm glad to see her short-listed her and hope she makes it to Oscar. The bigger question is where is Atonement? Did all the Briony's (Ronan, Redgrave, & Garai) cancel eachother out? The supporting race could get interesting here as we get closer to Oscars.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture

3:10 to Yuma
American Gangster
Into the Wild
No Country For Old Men

This whole list is a little surprising to me. Especially the inclusion of 3:10, American Gangster, Hairspray...okay, well everything is interesting except for No Country for Old Men. I would have predicted Atonement, Sweeney Todd, & Michael Clayton to make the list. Congrats to Josh Brolin & Russell Crowe for get double SAG Ensemble nods.

Fountain Man: Stealing the Illusion or Padding the End of Year Numbers

This is a picture I took on my cellphone last night. The picture was taken at the mall and the mall employee has drained the fountain and is using a high power vacuum cleaner to suck up the coins from the fountain.

Mind you, this picture was taken around 7pm. The surrounding food court is packed, and every one can her the loud clanking of coins being sucked into this super-powered vacuum cleaner. If you were a child seeing this, this would certainly ruin any illusion that you could make a wish and throw a coin in the fountain.

I don't really know why they were doing this when the mall was busy?

Also, the fountain wasn't super-packed with can get a sense from the picture how he's vacuumed up some of the left side and top tiers of the fountain, but the right side has not been touched.

It made me wonder if the mall was trying to pad their end of the year financial statement, or they desperately needed to make a little extra money to pay Santa Clause for his last week, or maybe the light bill needed paying? And this employee got sent to be the destroyer of dreams, taking all the money out of the fountain to be cut out of the vacuum bag.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

This Could Be Arousal Culture Life?

I previously mentioned that I would soon be getting a $100 check from Google as a result of using their AdSense software and having enough clicks on the above ads.

One thought of mine was that perhaps I would look into getting a domain name for StrangeCulture and somehow having it direct to this blog (or actually be on that link). Granted, I'm not that tech-savvy, but I thought I'd look into it. Today I had an e-mail come through offering me the chance to search and see if the domain I was interested was available.

I thought, why not?

Obviously, I tried and while it was not available, yahoo was so kind to offer some suggestions.

I don't know where these suggestions came from, but one of the top suggestions was! Where in the world do they get these suggestions!

And no, you will not someday have to access this blog by typing in (or .biz, .info, .org for that matter).

Verdict out on how the $100 will be spent.

Monday, December 17, 2007


I got a great video e-mailed to me today by Kirby Ferguson. It's a video he's put together called Trajan is the movie font.

I recommend you watch it, because it's funny, educational, and it hits my interest in marketing, fonts, and movies. And if you're reading this blog you might be interested in the same things.

Watch the short video Trajan is the Movie Font.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

10 Initial Thoughts on the film Atonement

1. I really liked the book. I also really liked the movie.

2. This is a hard book to adapt. (As addressed in my open letter to screenplay writer Chris Hampton & Director Joe Wright).

3. Because the book is a little more philosophical and makes comments about truth, perception, and reality, the book does not have a traditional story arch. This will be challenging for some people. (A favorite quote form the book can be found here)

4. The old lady's who were laughing, covering their eyes, and shrieking and saying expressions like "oh my," made the movie fun.

5. Dario Marianelli's score is both good and annoying. The use of typewriter motif makes the music very unique and creative. But the repeating theme (that almost sounds horror-movie-esque) was overplayed. Music plays a big part in this movie, since the movie is not dialogue driven, the music is very important in conveying the characters emotions. In that Marianelli does a great job as well.

6. Which Briony Tallis deserves an academy award nomination? Vanessa Redgrave's tiny scene is incredible, yet it is so short. (A nomination would be similar to Judi Dench's nomination for Shakespeare in Love). Ramola Garai does great, but is also not given significant screen time, relative to Saoirse Ronan excellent acting. I imagine Ronan has a great chance for the supporting nod, and it would be deserved.

7. My wife's never read the book before...what did she think? She got kind of bored in the middle, especially with James McAvoy war scenes.

8. After reading the book, it made me want to engage with other people who knew these characters, actions, motivations, etc. Many of McEwan's messages from this movie are very interesting to me. I hope people see this movie and want to discuss some of the themes further.

9. I felt like this movie reminded me more of a painting than a movie. Especially when the soldiers are out at the beach waiting for pick up. Or even the hospital scenes. The art direction, set design, costumes, and cinematography are all striking. Director Joe Wright did an excellent giving the film a complete style that fit with the film, and he followed through on.

10. Other performances...I'm not sure whether or not I was impressed with Keira Knightley or James McAvoy's performances. I thought both were good, but neither of them were groundbreaking. Yet their characters don't really have a chance to blow the audience away either with a super dramatic scene. Juno Temple does great with her limited scenes, as does Brenda Blethyn.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

2008 Golden Globe Film Nominations

Best Motion Picture - Drama
American Gangster
Eastern Promises
The Great Debaters
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

7 nominations!!! Congrats to The Great Debaters for it's first official buzz. Where's the Kite Runner?

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama

Cate Blanchett – Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie – Away From Her
Jodie Foster – The Brave One
Angelina Jolie – A Mighty Heart
Keira Knightley – Atonement

Not too surprising, there really isn't much competition here this year. The comedy actresses are the competitive ones this year.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama

George Clooney – Michael Clayton
Daniel Lewis – There Will Be Blood
James McAvoy – Atonement
Viggo Mortensen – Eastern Promises
Denzel Washington – American Gangster

Viggo got "the 5th spot" that is usually filled by Johnny Depp for Sweeney Todd, but since that qualifies as a musical/comedy Mortesen gets the chance to make his case as one of 2007's contenders.

Best Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy

Across The Universe
Charlie Wilson's War
Sweeney Todd

Only 5 noms here. Once & Lars and the Real Girls lost some ground here, Charlie Wilson picked up some ground.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy

Amy Adams – Enchanted
Nikki Blonsky – Hairspray
Helena Bonham Carter – Sweeney Todd
Marion Cotillard – La Vie En Rose
Ellen Page – Juno

When I predicted this catagory in October I didn't think Blonsky would make the cut (sort of a one hit wonder), and I accidentally misplaced Cotillard, but congrats to these nominees. It's a competitive catagory and all of them (with the exception of Blonsky) have a viable chance at an Academy Award nod. A win here means something. The exclusion of Laura Linney & Kerri Russell is noticed.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical Or Comedy

Johnny Depp – Sweeney Todd
Ryan Gosling – Lars and the Real Girl
Tom Hanks – Charlie Wilson's War
Phillip Seymore Hoffman - The Savages
John C. Reilly – Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

My October globe predictions for Actor missed Tom Hanks (at the time I didn't realize it was in the Comedy Catagory) I also missed John C. Reilly. I'm surprised Hoffman made it by Linney did not. I'm surprised the HFPA didn't nominate Steve Carrell, I thought they loved him. This is a fun list of nominees though for sure.

Best Animated Feature Film

Bee Movie
The Simpson's Movie

Go really don't have much competition this year (unless by the end of the year more people fall in love with the french film Persopolis).

Best Foreign Languge Film

4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days (Romania)
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly (France, United States)
The Kite Runner (United States)
Lust, Caution (Taiwan)
Persepolis (France)

Whoa, I didn't expect to see the Kite Runner here...but just like last year's Apocalypto & Letters from Iwo Jima, a non-English movie is foreign language, even if it's a United State product. I'm not really sure how this effects Kite Runners chances for an Academy nod? But this is a strong list of talked about films, making this a pretty interesting catagory. Any guesses on winners? It could go a lot of different ways here for sure.

Best Performance by an Actress In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Cate Blanchett – I'm Not There
Julia Roberts – Charlie Wilson's War
Saoirse Ronan – Atonement
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton – Michael Clayton

With all the Amy Ryan love I was beginning to forget about the Cate Blanchett role. Will Blanchett be able to start picking up awards ahead of Ryan? Also of note, Ronan chosen over Redgrave. Could Roberts continue to be a player this award season?

Best Performance by an Actor In A Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Casey Affleck – The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem – No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman – Charlie Wilson's War
John Travolta – Hairspray
Tom Wilkinson – Michael Clayton

Double Hoffman Love. Affleck is starting to look good. Noticeably excluded is Hal Halbrook. Travolta's inclusion not surprising, because I'm sensing some Hollywood Foreign Press Hairspray loving.

Best Director - Motion Picture

Tim Burton – Sweeney Todd
Ethan Coen – No Country for Old Men
Julian Schnabel – The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Ridley Scott – American Gangster
Joe Wright – Atonement

With such an open race, great comedies, foreign films and dramas, this catagory really helps narrow down who the HFPA thinks are the best of the best. The surprise here for me is that Ridley Scott got in. I thought the list might look like this, but I thought Paul Thomas Anderson might have been the most likely for the spot Scott got. Congrats to Schnabel. Diving Bell is picking up major buzz it seems every week. Burton also seems to be showered with praise for his work for Sweeney Todd.

Best Screenplay - Motion Picture

Atonement - Christopher Hampton
Charlie Wilson's War - Aaron Sorkin
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly - Ronald Harwood
Juno - Diablo Cody
No Country For Old Men - Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Again, this can only help these movies with a nomination in this catagory. Especially since it's not divided out between original and adapted. All are adapted except Juno. More love for Charlie Wilson's War & The Diving Bell. With the number of nominations Charlie Wilson's War is scoring, it will certainly help them advertise for the film and up the box office.

Best Original Score - Motion Picture

Grace Is Gone - Clint Eastwood
The Kite Runner - Alberto Iglesias
Atonement - Dario Marianelli
Eastern Promises - Howard Shore
Into The Wild - Eddie Vedder

They'll do anything to get Eastwood to come to the party, won't they! Congrats to Iglesias, I think he's an excellent composer.

Best Original Song - Motion Picture

"That's How You Know" - Enchanted
"Grace is Gone" - Grace is Gone
"Guarenteed" - Into The Wild
"Despidida" - Love in the Time of Cholera
"Walk Hard" - Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Here's hoping to a best song medley!

35 Films were recognized with nominations.

Multiple nominees went to: Atonement (7 noms), Charlie Wilson's War (5 noms), Michael Clayton (4 noms), No Country for Old Men (4 noms), Sweeney Todd (4 noms), American Gangster (3 noms), The Diving Bell & The Butterfly (3 noms), Eastern Promises (3 noms), Hairspray (3 noms), Juno (3 noms), Enchanted (2 noms), Grace is Gone (2 noms), Into the Wild (2 noms), The Kite Runner (2 noms), There Will Be Blood (2 noms), Walk Hard (2 noms).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Most Promising Frank Langella

In 1971 Frank Langella got nominated for the Golden Globe award for "Most Promising Newcomer - Male." (This Golden Globe award is not part of their current line-up).

Langella was recognized in 1971 for his role in the film Diary of a Mad Housewife.

Since then, Langella has not received another Golden Globe nod. (James Earle Jones actually won the award that year for his role The Great White Hope)

While he has had some TV and film credits of note, Langella has been far more awarded for his stage roles. In fact he has been nominated for five Tony Awards and won three of those times; winning for Seascape (1975), Fortune's Fool (2002), Frost/Nixon (2007), his other nominations were for Dracula (1978) and Match (2004).

It would appear that this decade along with the 70s has been very good for Langella. Along with his Broadway kudos Langella has had some semi-notable film roles in Good Night & Good Luck as well as the opportunity to play Perry White, the Metropolis newpaper editor in Superman Returns.

Yet, maybe Langella will make bigger waves in the later part of this decade. In fact, Langella has recently scored some recognition for his role as a seasoned writer in the low budget film Starting out in the Evening, where a young graduate student tries to resurrect the writers career through her thesis. This film has already scored Langella best actor accolades from the Boston Society of Film Critics, a Satellite Award Nomination, and the runner up best actor credit in the LA Film Critics Awards.

Does Langella have a chance for the best actor Oscar nomination? He's certainly the late-comer in a category I've long concluded is generally decided. But maybe if he gets nominated for a globe he has a chance, but even still, a globe nod is probably not enough.

More likely though, is that Langella will get a chance to shine in next year's film Frost/Nixon which won Langella the Tony Award on Broadway, and will give him a chance to play the part of Richard Nixon on the big screen under the direction of Ron Howard (although some how I imagine that Langella might be directing Howard, rather than the other way around).

Who knows Langella might be 1971s most promising new comer yet (although James Earl Jones is a tough one to out-shine).

Monday, December 10, 2007

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

Nothing to different, except more love for No Country for Old Men, Amy Ryan, Javier Bardem, Julie Christie with a dash of There Will Be Blood thrown in.

Picture: No Country For Old Men
Director: The Coen Bros, No Country For Old Men
Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Actress: Julie Christie, Away From Her
Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men
Supporting Actress: Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Screenplay: The Coen Bros, No Country For Old Men
Cinematography: Robert Elswit, There Will be Blood
Foreign Film: The Lives of Others
Animated Feature: Persepolis
First Film: Sarah Polley, Away From Her
Documentary: No End in Sight

Sunday, December 09, 2007

LA Film Critics Awards & Some Thoughts

I am still pretty excited about award season kicking off...especially because I feel like this year has some more surprises & unconventionalness
that last year lacked (by this point it became pretty clear that Forrest Whitaker and Helen Mirren were on the fast track to Oscar gold, and the best picture short list, was well...short), and it was only at this point that things got shaken up with multiple wins for Letters from Iwo Jima.

The winners were:

Best Picture: There Will Be Blood

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

Supporting Actor: Vlad Ivanov, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

Supporting Actress: Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone and Before The Devil Knows You're Dead

Animated -tie: Ratatouille and Persepolis

Screenplay: Tamara Jenkins, The Savages

Cinematography: Janusz Kaminski, The Diving Bell and Butterfly

Production Design: Jack Fisk, There Will Be Blood

Documentary: No End in Sight

Music: Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova, Once

Career: Sidney Lumet

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association is important predictive award, but they also go there own way with nominations (which is a good thing).

But...some thoughts:

An unexpected hot streak for Amy Ryan...NBR win, in addition to winning the Boston critics Awards as well. Where's Cate Blanchett & the Atonement girls?

Production Design winner for the LAFCA has recently been winning the Oscar. There Will Be Blood looks like it's getting some technical love this year.

Is the cinemotography race going to be Kaminski vs. Deakins?

Inclusion of Ivanov, in the Cannes winning film does not sky rocket him to the top of award predictions for me...although it's interesting how common the young pregnancy film is this year.

There Will Be Blood has a hot push off of this list that the film needs. Especially after it's exclusion from the NBR list earlier this week.

The first list to exclude No Country For Old Men.

The LAFCA director winner has not gone unnominated since 1989 (Spike Lee, Do The Right Thing). Otherwise, even non-best picture nominated directors who won the LAFCA award have still been nominated (recent examples include Paul Greengrass, United 93; Almodovar, Talk to Her; Lynch, Mulholland Drive). PT Anderson looks like he has a great shot at his first best director Oscar nod.

More thoughts to follow, feel free to share yours in the comments.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Please Vote For Me: The 15 Documentary Finalist in 8 Words or Less

Pre-nominations for the Documentary Category of the Academy Awards were announced today. With a little research I will try to summarize the topic of each of these 15 films in Eight words or less. If you have more insight or want to give your own crack on any of these films, have at it.

In alphabetical order, the films are:
  • Autism: The Musical - 5 Autistic Kids + 7 Months = Musical
  • Body of War - Iraq Spine Injury Causes Questions About War
  • For the Bible Tells Me So - Homosexuality And The Religious Right
  • Lake of Fire - Graphic Black & White Abortion Film
  • Nanking - 1937 Massacre: Europeans Protect Some Chinese from Japanese
  • No End in Sight - President Bush's Mistakes First Two Months in Iraq
  • Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience - 11 Writings by Iraq/Afghanistan Soldiers
  • Please Vote for Me - First 3rd Grade Class Monitor Election in China
  • The Price of Sugar - Haitians Exploitation at Sugar Plantation in Dominican Republic
  • A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman - Argentinian-Chilean Forced into Exile in 1973
  • The Rape of Europa - Saving the Art of Western Culture from Nazis
  • Sicko - Problems with For Profit Health Care in US
  • Taxi to the Dark Side - Dead Afghan Taxi Driver & American Torture Policy
  • War/Dance - Three Displaced Children in Dance Contest in Uganda
  • White Light/Black Rain - 18 Survivors of Atomic Bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Have you seen any of these?
Which five do you think will get nominated?
Which ones do you want to see?
The above pictures are stills from Autism: The Musical, Lake of Fire and Please Vote For Me.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

National Board of Review Winners & Their Place in the Oscar Race

Let the Academy Award precursor season begin...

The first real precursor, the National Board of Review has announced it's top films, and actors of the 2007 season.

The top film went to No Country For Old Men, clearly a critical favorite for the year and more and more a shoo-in for a nomination. Previous NBR best pics almost always score a nod, although the winning film here usually doesn't win the Oscar (like past wins for Letters from Iwo Jima, Good Night Good Luck, Finding Neverland, Mystic River, The Hours, Moulin Rogue).

In the past 20 years only three NBR winners did not get nods include: Quills (2000), Gods and Monsters (1998), & Empire of the Sun (1987).

The NBR top 10 (in alphabetical order) are...
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Bucket List
Into the Wild
The Kite Runner
Lars and the Real Girl
Michael Clayton
Sweeney Todd

It's probably a safe bet to assume at least 4 of the 5 best pic nods will come off this list. I'm excited to see The Kite Runner make the list, mostly because I'm very hopeful this will be a great film and would hate to be disappointed.

I'm surprised to see The Bucket List and Bourne Ultimatum make the list.

Films notably not included: The Savages, Charlie Wilson's War, American Gangster, In the Valley of Elah, Gone Baby Gone & There Will Be Blood.

Actor winners are a little interesting...

Best Actor honors went to George Clooney for Michael Clayton.

(The past 4 NBR Acting winners not only went on to get nominated, but also win...Forest Whitaker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jamie Foxx & Sean Penn). I still don't see Clooney winning the race this year, but a nomination looks good.

Best Actress Honors went to Julie Christie in Away from Her. Hooray! She did great work in this film, so glad to see her honored.

No NBR winning actress has gone unnominated since Mia Farrow who won in 1990 for Alice.

Best Supporting Actor honors went to Cassie Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. NBR tends to go with younger actors, and so in an old-actor heavy supporting looks like Affleck has a chance to join some old men.

Best Supporting Actress honors went to Amy Ryan for Gone Baby Gone. I believe Ryan has an excellent chance at a nomination, although this is NBR's acting award that traditionally lines up horribly with Academy nominations.

Other NBR winners...

Best Director: Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd
Best Foreign Film: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Best Documentary: Body of War
Best Animated Feature: Ratatouille
Best Ensemble Cast: No Country for Old Men
Best Original Screenplay (tie): Diablo Cody, Juno and Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl
Best Adapted Screenplay: Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men

Shorts Films & The Academy -- Last Year for Example

In my last post, I mentioned how I thought that the short film race should be excluded from the Academy Awards. Not that I think the medium of short films is bad, but because it lacks relevancy.

The comments in the post below already are illuminating. Sure some people want to champion the genre and even want to broaden it's scope but as far as the Motion Pictures Academy is concerned, I don't know how they can continue to present this award.

I was able to watch a DVD Magnolia Home Entertainment put out of 2007's nominated and winning short films (all five live action films, and two in the animated category.) Attempting to watch these film my two frustrations became clear.

Quality Concern:
I have posted the clip of "West Bank Story" below. This West Bank Story tells a 15-or-so minute retelling of West Side Story (a retelling of Romeo & Juliet) in Israel with two competing falafel restaurants, the Jewish "Kosher King" and the Arab "Hummus Hut." Through music and dance, this ridiculous story is funny...but only for about thirty seconds, to which point the gag is no longer funny.

How did West Bank Story ever get nominated and win in this category? In attempting to sit through the other 4 nominated films you realize that there really isn't that much competition, and because there is no commercial motivation for the short film format, there really is no drive to create quality work. I believe the standard in this category is two low if a unimpressive short film like "West Bank Story" wins the award.

Accessibility Concern:
The animation winner "The Danish Poet" was such a magical little short film. The film playfully ponders the ideas of fate and possibility in a very magical and enjoyable film. The Norwegian film is directed by Torill Kove's and narrated by two time Oscar nominee Liv Ullmann.

The clip below of the Danish Poet doesn't do the film justice. It's tone and story telling is perfect for the short film format. The Danish Poet would lose all it's magic as a feature length film. Yet it saddens me that relatively no one has seen it. And even fewer people would have seen it if it hadn't been recognized by the Academy. I wish there were a way to make films like this more accessible. I wish movie theaters would show this in the theater while I'm waiting for the film to start, or something.

But in the absence of a large audience base, the Academy Awards does not seem like the place to award unseen films. Maybe this is a consumeristic attitude rather than an artful attitude, but I believe the award show is cheapened when winners in short film (animated, live action, and documentary) are drawn from a small pool of films that no one has seen.


West Bank Story

Posted Feb 13, 2007

A musical comedy set in the fast-paced, fast-food world of competing falafel stands on the West Bank.

The Danish Poet

Posted Feb 13, 2007

Kasper, a young poet in search of inspiration, travels to Norway to meet the celebrated writer, Sigrid Undset.

Short Films & Their Current Presence at the Academy Awards

The short film category is my least favorite category at the academy awards.

I know that I am missing some history in understanding this award's importance. Walt Disney has the record for the most academy award wins with 22...most of those wins and handful of additional nominations come from short films, some of which although older I can name and you will know exactly what short film I am referring to. For example, in 1969 Walt Disney won for Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and in 1949 was nominated for Mickey and the Seal. Those are notable short films that have lasted.

Yet, in this past decade there is no Walt Disney, at least not as I see it. The first problem is there just doesn't seem like there's accessibility to watch short films. Sure some are exhibited at the festival circuit and Pixar tacks there's on before some of their movies, like the funny Oscar winning animated short For the Birds which was shown before Pixar's Monsters, Inc.

Yet, with 24 academy awards being handed out this year, the three I absolutely don't care about at this stage in the game are the awards for short films (best animated short film, best live action short film, and best documentary short film).

It's not the craft that makes me uninsterested it's the accessibility and relevance of these catagories.

This post submitted as part of discussion on the Short Film blog-a-thon at Only the Cinema.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Great Wii-kend

It's movie season, but there's not tons to talk about...last weekends new release schedule was's holiday movie season and the top movie was Enchanted at under $17 million (followed by Beowolf at under $9 million).

This blog also had a quiet weekend, but I did not. I had the great chance to spend time with my parents & surprising my mom for her birthday. We had so much fun hanging out, playing games, talking, etc. Plus, I don't think I've ever eaten so good.

Enjoy this short video of my wife and my mom playing their first game of Wii Boxing. (The Wii was my father's early Christmas gift to himself).