Sunday, January 31, 2010

Best Actor & Best Actress - Nominee Predictions - No Surprises!

These two categories seem written in stone in before the nominations are announced. Of course, there is always room for surprises, but it would seem to me that room is about the distance between "not happening" and "never."

The room for surprise seems super limited. The only place I see a "surprise" if if Matt Damon's Informant! character (or as I like to call him, Fatt Damon) were to take the spot of say Jeremy Renner.

Otherwise, other possibilities like Daniel Day Lewis, Tobey Maguire or Michael Stuhlbarg, are no possibility at all.

The Best Actress race is even more of a sealed case in my mind. I'm sure there are plenty who'd love to see Emily Blunt nominated, but I don't see her stealing Queen Helen's spot.

Best Actor Best Bets...

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in The Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker

Best Actress Best Bets...

Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gaubourey Sidibe, Precious
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia

Most at risk to not get nominated: Jeremy Renner (pictured above) for his role in the Hurt Locker. If nominated, his name is certainly thrown in with "some big dogs." Despite minimal wins, his name has come up as a nominee in all the right places, and I think there will be a lot of love for The Hurt Locker come Oscar nomination morning.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Best Supporting Actor - Nominee Predictions

This race is a little bit of a tighter circle than the supporting actress race in my opinion.

The names have been the same all season long. Christoph Waltz always wins the award, leaving Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), and usually come combination of Christopher Plummer (The Last Station), Matt Damon (Invictus), Alfred Molina (An Education), and occasionally Peter Capaldi (In the Loop).

I think the trend would be to predict Waltz, Harrelson, Plummer, Tucci, and Damon.

Although I think I'm very curious to wonder how well Invictus will fair with Academy voters, I question their interest in this film beyond Morgan Freeman's portrayl of Nelson Mandela.

So I feel semi-brave trading out Damon's name for a fifth contender.

I Would Bet the Nominees are...

Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Alfred Molina, An Education
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Trade out a name with one of these surprises...

Peter Capaldi, In the Loop
Matt Damon, Invictus
Anthony Mackie, The Hurt Locker
Christian McKay, Me & Orson Wells
Stanley Tucci, Julie & Julia

My Fifth Spot Prediction: You notice my inclusion of Alfred Molina. Molina hasn't been an award season staple, with only limited exposure with a nomination from the British Academy, Broadcast Film Critics, London Critics Circle, and Satellite Awards. These award bodies all recognized Molina previously for his role in Frida, but he didn't receive a nomination in 2003. Maybe this year will be the same, but somehow I have to think his peers might be ready to invite him into their club with his first nomination. Not to mention, his performance in An Education is exceptional. Granted, An Education, is one film that seems to be loosing buzz through award season as it has never really picked up any traction.

Best Supporting Actress - Nominee Predictions

There seems to be a thought that while many of the Oscar races are more or less set in stone there is a little bit of a horse race in the supporting actress race.

Not to long ago, before people actually saw the films in competition, it was thought that Rob Marshall's Nine would be a violent threat in this category with many big names and past award winners filing up this supporting actress category.

But as the movies have come out and buzz has shifted this way and that, there seems to be pre-award consensus that the race is down to Mo'nique (Precious), Julianne Moore (A Single Man), Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), and Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air).

While the only person that seems 100% guaranteed the nomination (and probably the win) is Mo'Nique, but the other 3 seems likely, although Julianne Moore seems shaky to me as well.

Previously it has been assumed that Penelope Cruz would be at least the Nine nominee who was a lock in this category with Marion Cotillard in the lead category. Now, I think we could still see either of these women in this category, but there nomination seems less likely all the time.

So, that fifth spot seems open for either one of the female characters in Inglourious Basterds (Melanie Laurent or Diane Kruger) or to Maggie Gyllenhaal for Crazy Heart. There has also long been a thought that Samantha Morton's role in The Messenger could be a contender.

So with all that talk, I thought I would present my predictions for Oscar Nomination Morning.

I Would Bet The Nominees are...

Anna Kendrick, Up in The Air
Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds
Mo'Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire
Julianne Moore, A Single Man
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air

Trade Out These Surprises...

Marion Cottilard, Nine
Penelope Cruz, Nine
Maggie Gyleenhaal, Crazy Heart
Diane Kruger, Inglorious Basterds
Samantha Morton, The Messenger

My Fifth spot prediction
: You notice my inclusion of Melanie Laurent (pictured above). I think that the steam for Quinton Tarentino's film has only been building through precursor season and the SAG ensemble win goes to enforce, this is not just Christoph Waltz' film. I image the nomination numbers will be high for Inglourious, an Laurent not only pads the numbers but gives a nomination to what is really a very good and memorable performance.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dad, Films I Know You've Seen

My dad apparently gave a link to my blog to a previous co-worker the other day. My dad, not a reader of the blog, decided to give it a read and mentioned that he had not heard or seen any of the movies my blog recent talked about.

In fact, he said it really didn't interest him.

Sure, with recent post about David Lean's Summertime and the documentary Burma VJ, I can understand why he might skip over those post unfamiliar with the films and projects.

So I thought I would put together a list of films I have watched with my dad that have been released this past decade.

I'm sure I'm missing some, but I've come up with 32 films, not to mention TV shows like the entire Mad Men series.

American Outlaws
The Aviator
The Big Bounce
Blades of Glory
Cast Away
Catch Me if You Can
The Cove
Deck the Halls
Die Fälscher (The Counterfeiters)
The Family Man
Fun With Dick & Jane
Hearts in Atlantis
The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
Miss Congeniality
Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day
Mona Lisa Smile
Nim's Island
The Patriot
Pearl Harbor
The Perfect Storm
The Santa Clause 2
Sherlock Holmes
The Spiderwick Chronicles
Spy Kids
Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby
The Village

So, Dad, which one of these films would you like me to blog about?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ensemble: "The More Famous People in a Movie the ___________."

After seeing a preview for Valentine's Day over the holidays, my wife's step sister said...

"I have a theory. The more famous people in a movie the worst the movie is going to be."

Her other example was the similar love-themed comedy He's Just Not That Into You.

Of course, writing about M*A*S*H's anniversary, I can't help but wonder what it would be like in Robert Altman and ensemble-style-all-his-own directed the cast of Valentine's Day (including the entire cast, from Ashton Kutcher, George Lopez, Taylor Lautner, and Taylor Swift).

I miss Altman's ensemble pieces, because he can throw the most random assortment of talent into a film and create something wonderful. My favorite Altman film is Gosford Park. Gosford Park is certainly not short of famous people.

But Altman's mastery of the ensemble was unique.

There's other great ensembles, but there's only so many stars you can pack into a film, and if it's not the right story, more stars doesn't guarantee a lesser need for a storyline.

So it's your turn to finish the sentence..."The more famous people in a movie the ____________.

Happy 40th Anniversary: MASH

40 years ago today, January 25, 1970, Robert Altman's film MASH premiered in New York City.

The film, my favorite from 1970, takes place during the Korean War, but clearly played off thoughts, feelings, and frustrations with the Vietnam war is certainly a unique and important film in American film history.

When Oscar-winning screenwriter Ring Larder Jr, adapted Richard Hooker's novel I have to assume there was a feeling of risk involved with a comedy about this group of confused doctors that made up the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.

I think about 2009 and what was a very successful year in film for contemporary war films. Films like The Messenger and The Hurt Locker have been critically well received. Yet, these films are dramatic in nature, and while they have messages and commentary inside their stories, I believe much of there success has been their story telling that is objective without being heavy handed message films.

Another contemporary war film came out this year, The Men Who Stare at Goats...this one a comedy, and boy did it bomb. Comedy about war is a unique challenge.

So what makes MASH (often referenced as M*A*S*H due to original poster art and the later franchise that spawned a TV show) into such a great success.

I can only speculate. Was it the performances, Robert Altman's character saturated story telling, the comical gags, or the ability to laugh at something people took very seriously. Maybe it was all of these things.

Whether it's memories of an itchy nose during a surgery, or the many scenes involving Major "Hot Lips" Houlihan, I think this film did something unique and magical that we haven't seen since.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

SAG Awards and the Bazillion Other Awards - A Mini Rant

I don't write this post implying that "I don't care." Or that I don't understand the difference between the various award bodies, but honestly, award season's full scope is hardly interesting without a little bit of variety.

Who was surprised tonight by any of the SAG award winners? Not only do the nominee list start to stack up in ways that are remarkably similar, but as awards are announced, there is hardly any variety. Tonight's film winners lined up exactly with the big winner's at the Golden Globes.

Maybe consensus has been reached that the performance of the year are those of Christoph Waltz, Sandra Bullock, Mo'Nique, and Jeff Bridges.

So why do we all need to keep on having award shows awarding the same people?

If any category makes the SAG awards interesting it is the best ensemble category one of my favorite awards of the whole season because it's completely different. This award goes to the cast of a film, so in a way it signifies to me the best film for this year, some films like Avatar, don't make the top 5. This year's type 5 ensemble nominees were An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglorious Basterds, Nine and Precious.

The winner...Inglorious Basterds. Who could have known with certainty which film was going to win, and who can truly gauge what a win in this category means for the rest of award season...and why should it have to mean anything else for awards should instead me a special accomplishment to get nominated for this award, one that while award to selected cast members, should also be meaningful for the directors, producers, and screenwriters who shaped and presented these roles and performances. Now this to me is a special award.

Tonight's Screen Actor's Guild win for Mo'Nique is her 18th win for her role in Precious, and Oscar nominations haven't even been announced. Think that's a lot...this is Waltz's 20th win for his performance, Bullock's 3rd win (I'm sure she's still able to act humble and excited when she wins), and Bridge's 4th win.

Makes you wonder what Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique do with all those awards and trophies? Time to buy a trophy case I suppose.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ridiculous Quote We Can't Stop Repeating: Ravioli

"You are like a hungry child who is given ravioli to eat. `No' you say, `I want beefsteak!' My dear girl, you are hungry. Eat the ravioli."
--Renato de Rossi from David Lean's Summertime (1955), in reference to why Katherine Hepburn's character should have sex with Rossi' loser character.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You Will Not Divulge the Secret

"The management of this theatre suggests that for the greater entertainment of your friends who have not yet seen the picture, you will not divulge the secret of the ending of Witness for the Prosecution"
-- Voice Over as the Credits Role at the End of Witness For the Prosecution

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Burma VJ

It's hard to watch the film Burma VJ, directed by Andres Østergaard, without acknowledging it is an important film.

Not to criticize our knowledge of world affairs, but I would guess that while we have probably heard of Burma, located in the country of Myanmar, we probably no little about their current political challenges.

It was only in 2008 when a tropic cyclone devastated the region killing what is estimated at well above 100,000 people. During the disaster I remember hearing about some of the Burmese issues and the military junta in the country for the first time, and how the level 4 cyclone might allow for a breakdown in the military corruption as they might be forced to allow visitors into the country to serve the people who might not normally be accepted.

This devastating event is not the context of the film, but rather that context of my knowledge base. This documentary actually takes place in 2007, months before the cyclone.

This story is about the smuggling of video footage out of a country that controls it's citizens with fear doing everything it can to maintain control of the people, economy, and the way the Burmese engage with the world.

The film's Danish director tells the story of the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) and there role in putting pictures and video into the hands of media of the government's repression, and specifically a huge protest done by the Buddhist Monks in 2007.

What is compelling about this story to me is first that the footage seen in this film while edited together very carefully is also very raw. The film footage of the protest and scenes is done by amateurs on crude equipment trying to film discreetly. This is the film footage available, there is no other footage of these events. And what is amazing is how despite the limits, how so many scenes and angles and sounds are captured. It's powerful and important.

The second intriguing thing about this documentary is the way in Burma VJ simply tells a story. There are no interviews, second thoughts, scholarly explanations, or other accounts, rather the film has a solid narration by a young Burmese male named 'Joshua.'

His narration is seamlessly intertwined with the footage and story, and it's paced a such a calm storytelling quality that not only is it powerful, but also speaks a strong testimony to the technical work that went into this story.

This is an exceptional and compelling film. As one of the 15 films in competition for an Oscar nomination, I would think this film would certainly have a solid chance. As for an important story about current world stories of injustice, this film is one that is not just well made but also important.

This film gives two connected stories of social change in the midst of injustice, one is in the use of modern technology to have social impact. The second is in the use of religious authority as demonstrated by the Buddhist monks to extract social justice out of their religious status. To see these two different methods combined is a unique a moving experience in itself.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Three Directors With Casting Power

If it were my guess there are three directors who have a lot of power right now to hire anyone...

Scott Cooper, John Lee Hancock, and Jason Reitman.

These directors might not be household names but the success of their limited filmography is working in their favors.

Scott Cooper's first picture would seem to be about to bring Jeff Bridges his first Oscar win (Crazy Heart). Not just that, but the film was shot in only 24 days.

John Lee Hancock 3rd picture surprised at the box office. Not only that was able to bring a popular actress, Sandra Bullock, a role with The Blind Side that has given her accolades and credibility she's never had including a likely Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe win.

Jason Reitman has brough celebrity status to Ellen Page in the surprise hit Juno, and now has given Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga award credibility as well with Up in The Air, not to mention provided George Clooney with a perfect part.

Not only are these young directors giving stars a chance to be invited to the big-kid-parties and a chance for the words "Academy Award winner/nominee" to be attached to their names, but there also creating positive roles, one's that people get excited about, that people attach themselves to. These aren't deglam projects like Charlize Theron in Monster, but performances that regular people will embrace as well.

Sure, if one of these directors have an unlucky break on a project or two, then there opportunities to sign big stars will deminish, but right now they're hot and I would think they have a lot of power to sign the stars they want on their projects.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The 67th Golden Globe Ceremony

Just a few brief thoughts on the globes tonight.

What speeches will be remembered? Probably Mo'Niques for the emotion.

Speech with most finesse? Robert Downey Jr with all the names of people he's not thanking.

Boring speech? Christoph Waltz.

Maybe you should have prepared a speech? Meryl Streep.

Annoying speech? Chloe Sevingy, she just seems so cranky, from the red carpet complaints about the weather to the award speech that just seemed so super flat, not to mention a weird awkward dress moment, I was more than underwhelmed.

Who really annoyed me the most? Oh, not Sevingy, I meant to say Nick Cannon, did you catch any of the post-show broadcast. I felt like it was like Nickelodeon had chosen a winner to guest interview people. This programming was an embarrassment for anyone involved with the post-show.

The winner we'll remember? Sandra Bullock. Who would have thought that her first Golden Globe win would come in the Dramatic film category. She is a class act and America will be glad to have her.

Effect of Sandra Bullock's win? Julia Roberts American sweetheart crown is finally passed. The inappropriate red carpet questions to Roberts were about how she passed up opportunities to star in The Proposal and The Blindside. But somehow I think after this past year, Roberts may be taking second pickings to Bullock. Robert's is in need of a hit more than ever.

Repeat Wins for Acting at the Oscars? Jeff Bridges and Mo'Nique seem almost for sure. At this point I'd guess Meryl Streep will win the Oscar as well, and although he didn't win tonight, I'm still pulling for Woody Harrelson for the big award.

Film I'm Hoping Has A Little Backlash? I have a hard time accepting Avatar as the film of the year, I personally am hoping for a little backlash so attention can be directed elsewhere.

Thoughts on the Host? Ricky Gervais isn't really a favorite of mine anyways, and I felt like his jokes were more insulting than comical. I couldn't get into his performance tonight and am really not interested in his return.

Thoughts on Haiti awareness? I think the thoughts for Haiti and encouragement to donate and participate was certainly appropriate, although at many times felt forced and insincere. Some people certainly seemed very effected by the tragedy, others only seemed like that's what they should have said. I won't say who fell on which end of the spectrum, because it doesn't seem right to judge, but the tragedy certainly played a role in the awards show.

Final thought? I feel like the winner's this year where uniquely American, Jeff Bridges playing a country music singer, Sandra Bullock a Mississippi mom, Meryl Streep an American TV chef icon, & sure Sherlock Holmes isn't American, but how much more American can you get than Robert Downey, Jr? Kind of some American selections from the Hollywood Foreign Press, wouldn't you say?

StrangeCulture 4th Blogaversary!

So, I had a hard time choosing my blogaversary cake online, and settled on this one from Mani's Bakery in LA. Apparently Mani's made it without an artificial colors, prety sweet...unless the frosting taste like green beans.

Anyways, I decided in this cake because, I have a one-year old daughter and so I can have the fairy princess cake.

Actually, if there has been one film that seems to have had a large role on this blog over this past year, Strange Culture's 4th's Julie & Julia.

I was going to make a cake out of Mastering the Art of French Cooking as I have done a few times over this past year for my blogaversary art, but decided I was done with my Julia Child/Julie Powell posts.

In addition to those posts, this blog also saw more posts about films from the 1930s and 1940s, a "What Movies Do Christians Want" Series, a Peace series in October, as well as the annual Reel (Real) People series.

Here are some additional highlights from 2009...

* I Am A Horrible Person: Saying "No" To Girl Scouts & Their Cookies, Too [January 18, 2009]
* Book Adaptations & Best Picture Nominations: Trend Revisited [January 26, 2009]
* 3D: Whoop-di-dee [February 2, 2009]
* Will Blockbuster Survive in 2009? Should it? [February 12, 2009]
* First Thoughts on the 81st Academy Awards [February 22, 2009]
* Reel People: Amy Adams is Julie Powell [March 7, 2009]
* Why We Love Hospital TV Shows [April 2, 2009]
* Vomit Inducing Summer Movies (2009 Edition) [May 3, 2009]
* When I think of Michael Jackson... [June 25, 2009]
* Are there More Outdoor Weddings in Movies Than In Real Life? [July 14, 2009]
* Grant/Hepburn and New Thoughts on Romantic Comedy [August 9, 2009]
* Robin Hood, Sequins, & Technicolor Birthday Cake Costumes [August 23, 2009]
* Reel People: Quinton Aaron is Michael Oher [August 28, 2009]
* Airports and Up in the Air [September 3, 2009]
* Strange Culture - Post Number 1000 [September 24, 2009]
* Peace or Conflict - The Challenge of Peace in Storytelling [October 13, 2009]
* A Modern Horror Film Soap Box [October 31, 2009]
* A Little About The 15 Documentaries on Oscar's Radar [November 21, 2009]
* My top 20 Films Of the Decade (2000-2009) [January 1, 2010]

Here's to another great year at StrangeCultureBlog! Thanks for reading, commenting & linking!

Previously blogaversary post: 1st, 2nd & 3rd.

Rosamund Pike in An Education

An Education, a favorite film of mine from 2009, has an incredible cast of great characters and performances. If you watch the film it is not surprising that Carey Mulligan receives the bulk of the praise. She does an incredible job and is the film's protagonist.

But it's all the other characters who intermix on screen with Mulligan's character Jenny that give Carey Mulligan the chance to respond in subtly (or not so subtly in a few scenes) in the mix of these various characters.

In a film scene that often lacks great female performances, this film has a variety of female parts that are all praise worthy, particularly those of Olivia Williams, Cara Seymore, and Emma Thompson. But one other female role really sticks out in this film and that is the role of Helen played by Rosamund Pike.

Helen's character is in my mind a very challenging performance, because it takes extreme balance to be convincing. Helen is the ditsy blond trying to be sophisticated in a world of extravagance she wants to fit in. Her character despite her lack of intellect and desire to impress is not to rude to treat the intellectual school girl Jenny with scorn. No, instead Helen becomes Jenny's mother-of-worldly-things, helping her know how to fit in to a new world she has fallen into.

Every line that Pike delivers and every scene is incredibly convincing despite the unique character she plays. This could have easily been played like Reese Witherspoon played Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, but instead Pike brings a level of sophistication to the role that is not only impressive in it's own right, but also sets Carey Mulligan up for some fantastic scenes.

Rosamund Pike's accolades are relatively limited for this film on the award season scene (part of the Screen Actor Guild's Best Ensemble list, London critics circle nomination, and British Independent Film nomination) but I think that Pike, at 30 years old, certainly deserves a shot at more great roles. This role convinces me that she's an actress to watch.

This post is part of Stinky Lulu's annual supporting actress blog-a-thon. See the complete list of participants of the 4th annual blog-a-thon here.

Here are my previous contributions for this blog-a-thon include:
Class of 2008: Frances McDormand in Burn After Reading
Class of 2007: Allison Janney in Juno & Hairspray
Class of 2006: Adriana Barazza in Babel

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Prepping For the Globes

The Golden Globes are 32 hours away as this post goes up, and I'm pretty excited.

What I'm excited about is seeing all the stars of this years season all in one place. Photo shoots that will have Jeff Bridges alongside Morgan Freeman and George Clooney.

I want to see Carey Mulligan and Gabby Sidibe walk the red carpet.

And I'm excited to see who actually wins in some of these races. The globes often chases different winners than the Academy so it could easily be new speeches by different stars.

Not to mention, the jovial and relaxed atmosphere (mixed with a little intoxication) can often make these speeches some of the best of the season.

So, needless to say, I'm excited for the Sunday night ceremony.

Do you have anything you do to prepare for the ceremony? Any movies your rushing out to see this weekend in preparation, or perhaps a DVD your going to be watching?

We'll be watching the Hurt Locker in our house tonight. How about you?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Most Disappointing Actor of the Decade

Disappointing means that there was hope. That there was promise. And then...there was nothing.

After Good Morning Vietnam and Dead Poet's Society at the end of the 1980s Robin Williams presented himself as a unique actor with the ability to play characters who mix comedy and the serious of subject matters.

This repeated itself in a very active and varied career in the 90s with enough success stories to forgive some of the less than praise-worthy performances.

From a memorable performance in Mrs. Doubtfire to Good Will Hunting, even as the genie in Aladdin, Williams was worthy of praise.

What happened in this past decade? The bright spots were his respectable creepy performance in One Hour Photo and Teddy Roosevelt in Night at the Museum.

Hardly the bright shining resume that previously included roles in The Fisher King, Hamlet & Hook.

I have a lot of favorite Robin William's roles, but not a single one from this past decade.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Up In The Air: "Wish You Were Here"

I write this on the road. Sitting on a hotel bed after a long day of work and a late business flight last night.

And as I walk in the airport lines...all the different lines, checking baggage, security, boarding the plane, and so forth I continually think of George Clooney and Jason Reitman's film, Up in the Air.

A variety of things along the way remind me of this, including hotel reward status, and even the robe in the hotel closet.

I travel independently very infrequently, but I can't imagine what it's like for people like Clooney's character Ryan Bingham who do spend a good portion of their time "Up in the Air."

It's interesting because even if you put in a super full day of work on the road, you feel kind of alone.

Over the holidays my wife and I traveled with a toddler which included a lot of coordination, luggage carrying, and general exhaustion.

But even though it's probably easier to travel by yourself, it's hardly better.

Good night friends and family, wish you were here.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Scott Cooper & Me (& Bobby)

So I don't really know Scott Cooper, and I can't even say I 'met him' but I did see him and listen to a question and answer time at a local press screening for the film Crazy Heart where Cooper, the films writer/director showed up at the end to answer some questions.

Cooper is pictured above with Jeff Bridges and Robert Duvall...Scott Cooper looks pretty happy in the picture. He seemed pretty happy at the screening too.

Talk about a dream come true for a debut film. Sure, no box-office explosion (especially with it's hyper-limited-release schedule) but Oscar buzz and general praise, what more could this non-household-name-Actor want?

Cooper loved talking about Robert Duvall. He said him and Duvall are close "buds" more or less in 20,000 different ways:
  • Duvall produced Crazy Heart.
  • Duvall and Cooper have been in films together (most notably the award winning mini-series Broken Trail, as well as Gods and Generals, and the upcoming Duvall film Get Low).
  • Cooper was married at Duvall's house
  • Apparently they like the same sports and music.
  • Cooper and Duvall talk on the phone two or three times a day.
  • Cooper wrote Duvall's film role with him in mind, even applying his cadence of speech to the words in the script.
  • Cooper calls Robert Duvall, "Bobby."

You could tell this all was a point of pride for Cooper.

Honestly, Scott Cooper seems like a nice enough guy, who's humble in praising his performers (Duvall and Bridges primarily) as well as his behind the scenes talent (T Bone Burnett primarily).

Scott Cooper also seems to value a different type of aesthetic, perhaps that what leads him to make a film with more of a country-western slant? Who knows how the book Crazy Heart got in his hands, and why this was the project he chose to adapt for the screen?

In the question and answer time most people seemed curious in knowing what Jeff Bridges was like on the set, and how he was acquired to work in this film. Everyone, had curiosity in the mystique of "The Dude." Scott Cooper admitted he had never seen The Big Lebowski. I suppose the Coen's may not be voting for Cooper on their Academy Award ballots.

Scott Cooper for whatever reason mentioned two or three times that his dad studied under William Faulkner. It usually didn't seem to have relevance to what was being discussed, so this must be meaningful to him.

Cooper seemed to view himself as a culture and art sponge who had in childhood absorbed a variety of music, books, and other culturally relevant pieces of America.

He's reading Charlotte's Web to his daughter.

I for one, am really glad that Scott Cooper made this film. It's a creation, and I think for some people in the creative field this film will truly be an inspiration to create. Out of art springs art, I suppose...and I sense if that is the case Scott Cooper will be honored.

I'm interested in seeing where he goes next. Will he write more? Direct more? Star in minor roles along Duvall (or shall we say, Bobby) more?

I imagine if he wants to make a film and align his cast it might be easier a second time around, although he said the script for Crazy Heart took three to four years, so if he's going to write at that pace, we might not see his name for awhile.

I suppose we'll see. It was good to spend some time with you Scott Cooper.

Does District 9 Have A Date with Oscar?

One of the surprises of our current award season is that in the process of expanding the Oscar best picture race to 10 films there are far more films that find themselves of the fringe of possibility for Oscar best picture contention.

Another more specific surprise to me is how many times I'm seeing District 9, the successful summer sci-fi film, show up in precursor list.

This past week the Producers Guild of America released their nominations, which included a now expanded 10 nominations for best picture (instead of their previous 5). On this list they went "sci-fi-crazy" with 10 science fiction films, Star Trek, Districk 9, and Avatar.

This is not usual.

Other than the important PGA award, few awards are choosing District 9 in it's Best Picture line-up, but it does show up in the adapted film category regularly as a nomination (Broadcast Film Critics Association, Golden Globes, and Satellite Awards).

Interesting note, the Golden Globes choose 5 best dramas, and 5 best comedy musicals, and only 5 screenplays. District 9 showed up in the screenplay category with "tougher" competition, but not in the picture categories?

All that to say, I feel like as more award bodies nominate this film, the film is being legitimized, and the buzz behind it is growing.
There is some certainty about some of the films that will be showing up at the Oscars, but District 9's chances are a mystery. It has a good chance is some of the technical categories, like sound effects, but what about bigger categories? It could be an Oscar morning surprise, or not show up at all.

Friday, January 08, 2010

First Thoughts on Crazy Heart

Crazy Heart. Where do I start.

I feel like there's a lot I can say about this film, but at the same time, I proceed with caution.

It's not like it's a "there's a big surprise, Jeff Bridges is really a ghost the whole time" type of film and I don't want to "spoil the twist." Because this film doesn't quiet have a twist, but instead lots of little surprises.

So, it's hard to talk about it with out taking away from what I think is a very pleasant film.

If you live in New York City, wear black, and have never seen a dirt road, I think this film might be a little hard to fully appreciate. On the other hand, if you've known so old men who wear cowboy hats, women who wear jade earrings, and have ever been to small town bowling alley then I think this film will carry an air of authenticity to it.

And a half dozen sentences in, and I've failed to mention the two things everyone who sees the film will talk about...Jeff Bridges and the music.

When this film popped up on the "2009 film radar" back in November, it became pretty clear Jeff Bridges was going to be an Oscar contender. But Oscars and awards aside, this isn't just an award-friendly role, it's one of the roles that I think will mark Jeff Bridges career. This is some fine, fine work he does in this role. He is always convincing.

When my wife and I were at the screening more than once my wife asked me if Jeff Bridges character, Bad Blake, was a real person. The film has an air of being a bio-pic, but Bad Blake is fictional, but seems like the story of a true washed up musician.

Comes the next part that makes this whole film, including Bad Blake, seem so real and interesting, the music. T-Bone Burnett, along with Stephen Bruton and Ryan Bingham, put together a fantastic collection of "Bad Blake" songs. These songs, along with Jeff Bridges performances, make this film.

The the soundtrack for Crazy Heart is great with many songs that I believe are worthy of standard radio play, Bridges vocals and all. The films theme-song "The Weary Kind" is good, but I am particularly fond of "Fallin' & Flyin'" as well as the ballad "Brand New Angel."

I saw this film the other night, and I'm still digesting it some, but it's easy to praise the songs & Jeff Bridges.

I could say more about Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, and "the surprise actor" who shows up in this film in an interesting way, or Scott Cooper (writer/director) and his debut with this film...but for now I will keep it simple, because that's how Bad Blake would probably keep it, and praise this film, it's lead actor & the music that I think people will find entering their homes.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Box Office: Where Will Avatar Land?

Avatar continues it's box office climb. I've heard a number of people say that they are going back for a second helping, maybe changing formats (such as upgrading their original viewing to IMAX or 3D). And of course nothing helps a box office more than repeat viewings. Just ask those crazy girls who saw Titanic over & over & over & over.

So somehow James Cameron is intriguing a fan base and is currently #2 movie of the year with a domestic box office of $367 million, behind Transformers 2 ($402 million). But of course, we can expect Avatar to pass up Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen soon...and if it does, Spider-Man's not far behind and so forth.

So it's hard to tell how far the fan love and dollars spent will go, but we can make a good guess that Avatar will hit the domestic top 10 shortly, and where it lands is anyone's guess.

I can't imagine Avatar would pass over The Dark Knight ($533 million) but it's possible, and imagine then if Cameron had the two top domestic pictures...ever! Not to mention two different films, different formats, and not a sequel or series by any stretch of the imagine.

Hum, kind of crazy. Nice work James Cameron on knowing "what people want."

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Every Little Step

I think some people avoid reality television, not for their lack of interest, but because they know as soon as they start watching they will get roped in...and they don't want to dedicate months of Tuesdays or Thursdays to which guy is chosen for the girl, who will lose the most weight, who will win the dance-off, or whether that funny British lady with the beautiful voice will win the big prize.

So, if you are someone who likes those stories, you will love the real-life documentary Every Little Step.

Every Little Step is like one of these reality shows told in 93 minutes.

Needless to say, my wife loved it! Every Little Step tells the story of the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line. The story of singers and dancers looking for a break in New York City is an emotional tale.

The story has that reality show fun because the casting crew is interesting, intense, and in a few cases are the people who played the original part.

Where this story is different than a reality television show is that the time between casting calls is incredible. Four months! Are you serious! American Idol makes a handful of stars in 4 months, and in the real world these dancers have to wait four months between cuts to see if they make the next round.

This film is also fun because the story of A Chorus Line mirrors the story of these performers as well. There's something slightly cruel and entertaining about watching people audition for a musical singing the song "I Hope I Get It."

Finally my favorite part of this film is learning about the creative process Michael Bennett used by interviewing people about dancing, and then working with Marvin Hamlisch to write lyrics out of these stories and interviews. It's a pretty impressive and inspiring creative process.

This film is a lot of fun, and wives across America will love husbands who watch it with them. Plus it's one of the 15 films contending for an Oscar nomination for documentary this year.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Yankee Doodle Dandy Thoughts

I've talked some over the past year about war related films, and that most war films seem to suggest a failure of logic in the concept of war.

My wife and I watched Yankee Doodle Dandy, the 1942 film about the life of musician/actor/song-writer George M. Cohan who wrote a number of patriotic songs and musicals, including songs like "Grand Old Flag" and "Over There."

It's interesting to watch this film almost 70 years after it was made, because I think America, critics, and the Academy Awards would have little tolerance for this film as a "modern film." I think in a time vault of "that's how people thought in the early 40s" people respect the film today, but I think to be patriotic is viewed as less artistic, cheap, and unintelligent.

And perhaps there was some of this in the 1940s too, and earlier.

In the film, some people scoff at Cohen's "vulgar flag-waving" but the thing is that Cohen's plays are generally successful...he says something to the effect that he's a regular guy who makes plays for regular guys.

I think there's something to that.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Anthony Hopkins: 4th Lead Actor Oscar in 2010?

I've recently discussed Johnny Depp, Russell Crowe, and Denzel Washington's chances of scoring their 4th lead actor nomination in 2010.

An Actor that owned the Oscar scene in the 90s that didn't make a dent this past decade was Anthony Hopkins. For some reason, his performances were limited, largely were supporting or genre films (Beowulf, Hannibal) and other films (Hearts in Atlantis, The World's Fastest Indian, Proof) never gained traction.

His awards were limited to lifetime achievement awards. Has Hopkins who has impressed audiences and critics with his three lead nominations (Nixon, The Remains of the Day, The Silence of the Lambs) departed the award scene?

The Wolfman

In 2010, the first time we will see Anthony Hopkins is in the remake of The Wolfman staring Benicio Del Toro (pictured above with Hopkins). The February release date makes me want to write off this role entirely, not to mention it's supporting (I should mention though, that Silence of The Lambs was a February release...but this seems like special effects gimmickry, not thrilling drama).

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

Hopkins has another supporting role in Woody Allen's upcoming feature You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, but in addition to the role being supporting, Woody Allen roles tend to win nominations for the women not the men. Hopkins will be acting alongside Antonio Bandera, Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, and Freida Pinto of Slumdog Millionaire fame.

Hemingway & Fuentes
If there is a role that will bring Hopkins back into the Award spotlight, I am watching reception and release of the film Hemingway & Fuentes tentatively scheduled for a 2010 release date. This film feature Hopkins in the biopic role of Hemingway alongside Andy Garcia, who's directing the film.

Hemingway and Fuentes tells the story of Ernest Hemingway and his friendship with Gregorio Fuentes, a boat captain who inspires the story of The Old Man and The Sea.

I must say, Hopkins has the look (Hemingway pictured, right does not look too far off from Hopkins in The Wolfman pictured above), and the interest in Christopher Plummer's Leo Tolstoy role in The Last Station suggests that Hollywood is interested in honoring these types of performances.

Shoot the Messenger

Hopkins' final chances for 2010 lie in a rumored role in Ted Griffin's film Shoot The Messenger, based on the novel by Stanford Psychiatry professor Irvin D. Yalom called Lying on the Couch: A Novel.

This film tells the story a woman trying to kill the career of a psychologist who told her husband to file divorce. Hopkins is rumored to play the psychotherapist (Ernest Lash) while Emily Blunt is rumored to play the part of the woman (Carolyn).

Hopkins in 2010?

Hopkins in 2010? Maybe...I would limit his chances to Andy Garcia's Hemingway project though. I would certainly like to see Hopkins get the right roles to impress us again.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A Long Way Down - Johnny Depp's Movie?

The other day I talked about the New Year's Eve themed book A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby. The book tells the story of 4 unlikely acquaintances who all meet, as they plan on committing suicide on New Year's Eve.

Well, even before the book was published in 2005 Johnny Depp had bought the rights to the book to be made into a feature length film. At the end of 2006, Depp has also hired D.V. DeVincentis (screenwriter of two films, Grosse Pointe Blank and High Fidelity), as the screenwriter for the film.

You have to wonder, what's holding up this project if this was initiated back in 2006? But the fact of the matter, I could see that this film could be a complete bust of a film if the characters are not written in an interesting and convincing way. But if done correctly there could be something magical on the screen that transcends the original text. It would be easy to see this become a modern Breakfast Club, mixing and matching a group of people who otherwise would never interact on normal conditions (except here they all share the common bond that they want to toss themselves off the top of a building in London).

In addition to strong story telling, casting of these four different characters opens up a world of possibilities.

Now, Johnny Depp is producing, but I don't think there is any way without significant re-writing that Depp could play a part as one of the four main characters. Age wise he might be able to play Martin Sharp, but Martin plays the part of a British morning talk show host.

To cast the part of Martin Sharp, there are endless possibilities, part of me pictures Martin Sharp being played by Michael Sheen (maybe it's the similar names, and maybe it's seeing Sheen play Tony Blair and David Frost). I think Sheen could shine in this role and provide a bit of diversity to his resume. My second choice is Ralph Fiennes, but he may be too sophisticated for this role.

The other character who thinks has a wide range of possibilities is the casting of the homely 51 year old mother of a disabled child named Maureen. Reading the book there is one person that I practically pictured as Maureen, and that is Imelda Staunton. Staunton seems to have the age, stature, and mastery of the subtle performance that would be important for this role. I picture her Vera Drake character brought to modern London.

There's also Jess, the crazy 18 year old her own baggage and impulsive nature, foul mouth, and straight-forward honesty. Depending on when (if) this film actually happens might change the eligibility of the character, but if I had to chose someone know I'd be interested in seeing what Evan Rachel Wood could do, particularly at playing British. I have a feeling she can bring the sassy, crazed, emotional, character that Jess brings, with finesse not as a comedic performance. Over the top takes skill.

Finally there is JJ, an American who's stuck in London delivering pizza's after a breakup with his British girlfriend and the break-up of his rock band. There's a variety of young American actors who I'm sure could fit the bill, but here's where I would want the casting director to also consider pulling from an American Idol finalist who didn't make the final cut. This role seems like the perfect role to find a young charismatic want-to-be rock star from American Idol and transition them into this role.

We'll see if A Long Way Down, like other Hornby books, get a finalized big screen treatment, but Johnny Depp, if you need some casting advise, please see above and let me know how it works out for you.

Friday, January 01, 2010

My top 20 Films Of the Decade (2000-2009)

In addition to posting my favorite films from the years that end in '0' I thought I would take the chance as one decade closes out and the other begins to share my favorite films of the decade.

Obviously, been a number of great films, and I was tempted to make it a top 50, but decided to keep it at a tight-20 films, although it's hard to leave some films off the list.

Below are my top 20 films of the aughts.

1. In America (2003)
2. City of God (2003)
3. Ratatouille (2007)
4. The Lord of the Rings:The Return of the King (2003)
5. Memento (2001)
6. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
7. Finding Neverland (2004)
8. The Motorcycles Diaries (2004)
9. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
10. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings (2001)
11. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
12. An Education (2009)
13. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Tours (2002)
14. Road to Perdition (2002)
15. The Painted Veil (2006)
16. United 93 (2006)
17. The Lives of Others (2006)
18. The Constant Gardner (2005)
19. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
20. Fantasia 2000 (2000)

Here's to the next decade...the tens? the teens?

Favorites Films of the Years that End in '0'

Happy 2010!

I thought I would kick off the year with my favorite films from the years that end in the number zero. We'll start at 1940.

We'll see what movie tops my personal list for 2010 come year end.

1940: The Philidelphia Story (George Cukor)
1950: Sunset Blvd. (Billy Wilder)
1960: Pyscho (Alfred Hitchcock)
1970: M*A*S*H (Robert Altman)
1980: Coal Miner's Daughter (Michael Apted)
1990: Avalon (Barry Levinson)
2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee)