Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Books?"

May the Best Ma...err...Wo...err...Director Win.


Last night Kathryn Bigelow won the prestigious Directors Guild of America award for her achievement in "The Hurt Locker".
Throughout the week leading to the ceremony a lot of people were torn between James Cameron for "Avatar" and Bigelow (I myself prefer Bigelow's work to Cameron).
Most of the ones who thought Bigelow would win attributed a big part of their theory around Ms. Bigelow's sexual organs.
"It's about time they reward a woman", "a woman has never won and it's time", "they'll wanna make history with a woman", "a woman needs to win this someday".
I say bullshit to all that.
Kathryn Bigelow won simply because she was the best director in the category.
This way of thinking comes off as slightly naive in a world where sexual equality is still an urban legend of sorts.
The minute "The Hurt Locker" became so popular among critics it was rare of them not to bring up Bigelow's gender as a plus.
Not only is she a woman, but she dared make a movie about men and not only that, but men at war in one of the most disastrous conflicts America has been stuck in.
She also showed them how it's done.
Many theories began to surface around how she would be recognized by awards groups because most of them would have a hard time understanding that this movie wasn't directed by a man. That isn't completely true because all of them brought up Kathryn's sex before even beginning to think about the movie.
To all of those I have to ask, what is so threatening about a woman understanding a man so well?
Why is it so incredible to believe that a woman might get the essence of war in ways Spielberg and Eastwood only wish they could?
Why is it so hard to believe that a woman would deliver one of the best action films of the decade and showed Michael Bay that action does not invalidate reason?
Before we go that far I offer you two examples: just two years ago Isabel Coixet proved she dominated Philip Roth in ways no other filmmaker ever could.
In "Elegy" she not only got one of the greatest performances Ben Kignsley's ever given, she also showed that sometimes women are the best "men" for the job.
Coixet captured all the nuances, fears and lust that a man would've thought of as personal invasion. Directing like hers' requires a sort of fearlessness and awareness that beyond the obvious there lies a bigger truth.
"Elegy" wasn't about a midlife crisis, it was about a person.
Sofia Coppola did the same for bittersweet Bob Harris in "Lost in Translation". As played by Bill Murray with charm straight out of a Preston Sturges movie, he created the ultimate version of a movie star: the one that has to come down from the firmament and acknowledge his earthiness.
Sure Coppola also fashioned a great character out of Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) but wasn't Bob the one that stuck with you the most?
In a fair world, Sofia would've won the best director Oscar, but of course the Academy had to correct the mistakes it had made two years before and reward Peter Jackson for his cumulative directorial effort in "The Lord of the Rings".
I might even add-and I know few will agree with me-that Jane Campion should've won back in 1993 for "The Piano".
Had history gone that, way not only would this whole "woman" thing be over and done with, the best nominees would've also won.
Deep inside I know that the whole "let's make history" need has been a predominant trend in the last five years or so.
How wouldn't it? When society starts falling into the kind of decay it has over the last decades, people need a reminder that change is possible, a reminder that we don't have to remain stuck in mud up to our necks.
Here is when-even for a second or two-the idea of making history gets the best in us. Content with this forced progressive mindset, society then moves into making the next "historical" even occur.
I wish that a day will come when gonads will no longer factor as ways to evaluate an individual's achievement.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just Luscious.


I know everyone has mentioned this before, but watching "An Education" I too thought this was a jazz standard.
What a delightful surprise to discover it's an original song...so damn sultry.

The World is Big and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner **


Director: Stephan Komandarev
Cast: Miki Manojlovic, Carlo Ljubek
Hristo Mutafchiev, Ana Papadopulu, Dorka Gryllus
Lyudmila Cheshmedzhieva, Vasil Vasilev-Zueka

The need to trivialize history has almost become a film genre of its own in the last two decades. Apparently some filmmakers noticed that stories of enlightenment amidst sociopolitical disasters make for one of the easiest ways to manipulate audiences' feelings.
In "The World is Big..." director Komandarev adapts Ilija Trojanow's slightly autobiographical novel about a family's escape from Bulgaria and consequent stays in refugee camps.
The plot centers around Aleksander 'Sashko' Georgiev (Ljubek) who suffers a terrible car accident in Germany where he loses his memory. His grandfather Bai Dan (Manojlovic) travels from Bulgaria to help his grandson regain his memory, along the way retelling a story of repression behind the iron curtain.
Komandarev divides his film in two parts: present Sashko as he makes a bicycle trip with grandpa back to Bulgaria and flashbacks of younger Sashko (Blagovest Mutafchiev) as he migrates with his parents (Mutafchiev and Papadopulu) to Italy where they live in a camp. The way in which the parallel storylines are edited suggests some sort of cumulative payoff is on the way, but the film is so preoccupied with pushing so many emotional buttons that it practically forgets to wrap the plotline set in the past.
It's as if the director is more interested in referencing as much social issues as he can in order to make his movie more self satisfyingly important. Therefore he mentions post WWII immigration, European repression, political asylum and even Fidel Castro. For those less versed in twentieth century history he makes an alternate solution by filtering all the events through Bai Dan's love of backgammon.
The character is particularly proud of his skills in the board game and his entire philosophical world view (including the film's title) comes from his need to turn everything into a backgammon inspired metaphor.
Even when it's time for Sashko to recover his memory, grandpa finds a way to make it a game where each breakthrough he has becomes the equivalent of backgammon points.
While the movie had so many chances to dig into profound issues about Bulgaria, including the prospect of repatriation as means of moving on or arguing if this is even necessary in a post European Union world it only uses history to move the corny plot forward.
Where it also had the opportunity to explore the main characters' psychological motivations (Why does grandpa choose a bicycle over a plane or car? Does amnesia represent a clean slate for Sashko?) it chooses instead to make them quirky for quirk's sake.
When the movie reaches it's completely anticlimactic finale which we'd been seeing coming from within the first ten minutes of the running time, we realize that the world indeed might be big, but this movie's ambitions aren't only quite limited but also shortsighted.


Read more of my thoughts on this movie over at The Film Experience.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Oscar Nods. Really?

Bleak House.


"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide".
-Albert Camus, "The Myth of Sisyphus"

In Michael Haneke's "The Seventh Continent", a bourgeoisie Austrian family make preparations to migrate, but the nature of the whole film lies in that simple observation by Camus.
OK, perhaps it's not that simple, given how society deals with suicide and any idea pertaining leaving life before time.
But Haneke asks precisely, what is the time and in telling the story of the Schober family creates a piece that defines his entire vision.
We see as husband Georg (Dieter Berner), wife Anna (Brigit Doll) and daughter Eva (Leni Tanzer) go on their normal lives for six years only to end in planned suicide.
Haneke's strict formalism has rarely been so effective (and this was his first feature film!) as he takes on the day by day of the three characters.
The whole movie in fact is contained within the first five minutes, where we see the family go to the carwash and wait patiently while the process is over.



When they leave they make a turn and we see a tourism poster for Australia.
The haunting, physically impossible landscape (see the waves coming from the mountains?) becomes a recurring image of what the Schobers consider the title continent.

After this scene we follow them to their house where we see them engage in routine actions.
They wake up at six in the morning, mom wakes Eva, they feed the fish, have breakfast and then leave for work/school.




Before we know it, its' been almost fifteen minutes and we don't even know what these people look like. Haneke frames every shot so that they appear like disembodied limbs performing mechanical duties.
He questions our need to recognize humanity in others through facial features when he reveals the car as the garage door opens and the headlights take on a sort of anthropomorph qualities.

Haneke makes us ask ourselves why do we think people are less people if they embrace routine. Out of all the reviews I read for "The Seventh Continent" not a single one forgot to mention how the Schobers were mechanical, dull, stuck, robot-like, conformists etc...
The qualities that become the easiest to notice are the ones we're brought up to think of as evil and consuming, yet those are the same ones we take as given in order to establish a place in society.
We learn that life is about struggle and this usually requires us to sacrifice our liberty in the name of getting "places".
Perhaps this vision is more true in our continent where materialism is both worshiped and loathed, so for us to watch the Schobers might sometimes work as a cautionary tale.
Surprisingly though, no one dares to wonder if they were in fact happy.
If suicide wasn't just the next step, as say going on vacation would be to a do-well-family in our countries.
"We've decided to set sail, because except for you, nothing else is holding us here" writes Georg to his parents as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
What results so brilliant about Haneke is that he never judges them in the ways we probably will. Sure his formal frames suggest psychological tendencies that recall ennui, but only because we've grown used to them meaning that.
Some audience members might find the last part of the film difficult to stomach, especially because it involves the death of a young girl.
But what if this young girl was prepared to die?
The way the movie shows it, Eva is perhaps even more fascinated by the seventh continent than her parents.
Sure, children don't have the analyzing capacity of grownups and it can be said that her parents coerced the girl into joining their unorthodox migrating, but that's just one of the many mysteries that make this film so fascinating.



What resulted interesting to me was that the statements made in the movie were almost meant to be observed with the contents of Camus' essay.
I didn't do the reading/watching on purpose, I didn't even know what "The Seventh Continent" dealt with before I saw it and they both make for a profound meditation on existentialism.


"I think that remembering the life we led it is easy to accept the idea of an end" says Georg without a trace of bitterness, regret or irony.
In fact even when Haneke suggests at the possibility of them committing suicide because the media asked them to (we all know how the director feels about the media and violence) this theory comes off slightly overdone because throughout the movie he has made us wonder if the Schobers kill themselves because of their possessions or in spite of them.
Even when we see them go through their home destroying everything they have, we wonder if this is done out of anger and revenge or just to prove the world how meaningless everything was to them.

I usually have conflict respecting the auteur theory, because more often than not, the auteurs' signatures and trademarks become signs of complacency.
With Haneke, especially in this film, it was a bit different. To see a director establish who he was from the first minutes of his first film is to behold the birth of one of the greatest visualists and thinkers cinema has ever had.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

It's Back!

Leave whatever you're doing and go see the season premiere of "Damages"! If you read this as soon as I publish it you might catch the encore presentation, which wouldn't make too much sense and would take precious seconds away from watching perhaps the best drama on television.
In a nutshell, FX's show is back with a supporting cast that now includes the amazing Lily Tomlin, Martin Short (who mentioned my hometown in a creepy moment) and the brilliant and constantly underrated Campbell Scott.
Apparently the third season is set to be a mind bending whodunit with Chanel purses as evidence. What's not to love?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti ***


Director: Leon Dai
Cast: Chen Wen-Pin, Chao Yo-Hsuan, Lin Chih-Ju, Ma Ting-Ni

How many times do you imagine the backstory behind a sensationalist piece of news?
In his sophomore film "No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti" director Leon Dai did just that, he read an article about a father who threatened to jump off a bridge with his seven year old daughter because of the way society had been treating them.
Unlike people who would've fashioned a condemning essay on unfit parenthood, Dai gave his characters the benefit of the doubt and dug into the possibility that maybe society was a contributing villain in this case too.
Therefore the movie begins with the bridge scene but soon enough takes us back in time to see what drove Li Wu-Hsiung (Wen-Pin) to risk his daughter Mei's (Yo-Hsuan) life.
He works as a diver, making underwater ship repairs and lives in an abandoned warehouse where the two of them share what can be taken for a happy life. When the time comes for Mei to go to school, her father learns that he can't enroll her because he's not her legal guardian.
He finds out that because Mei's mother, who abandoned them years before, remarried she and her husband have legal rights over the child.
Frightened by the possibility of losing his daughter, Wu-Hsiung embarks on a journey that takes him from across cities and government offices looking for a way to stay with Mei.
If the story doesn't sound precisely new, Dai's aesthetic approach gives it an odd sense of freshness: he fashions the film like something straight out of Italian neorrealism, perhaps something Vittorio de Sica would've made.
Shot in crisp black and white which forces us to concentrate on the actors' faces-even if the amount of detail in the set design is stunning-the whole movie works because of its simplicity. Shaped to be something akin to a tearjerker, the results are in fact deeper because behind the plot's straightforwardness there's a harsh criticism of a system that has forgotten kindness.
"In this economy it's hard to eat, how will you build savings?" asks someone to the concerned father as he desperately tries to look for ways to preserve his family.
The movie forces us to see beyond the fairly common melodrama and ponder on the consequences inconspicuous acts may have on someone. It would've been interesting to see Dai explore Wu-Hsiung's psychology a bit more, because he often puts more of the blame on the system than on the average man.
Dai's too innocent view of a world where it's the good people against the establishment would've worked better in post-WWII Italy, but in contemporary Taiwan with its blooming economy, the father's carelessness, comes off as something not so easy to justify.
That's why the movie works at its best when it sees the world through Mei's eyes, when other characters talk about her future as if she wasn't even there, Dai lowers his camera and reminds us that she's the one who will be most affected by the outcomes.

The Milk of Sorrow ***


Director: Claudia Llosa
Cast: Magaly Solier, Susi Sánchez, Efraín Solís, Marino Ballón

Peruvian contemporary history is examined through the story of Fausta (Solier) in Claudia Llosa's "The Milk of Sorrow".
Fausta lives in Lima with her family after they migrated from the country; when the movie begins we see her mother on her deathbed as she sings about the horrors she lived through at the hand of terrorists.
The song, done in Quechua, has a haunting quality that makes it disturbing to fully grasp that the events narrated in it actually occurred to Fausta's mother. She sings how terrorists not only raped her but made her eat her husband's penis and wants her daughter to always keep this present. She dies, leaving Fausta in a state of complete sadness and desolation.
The indigenous people think this deep sorrow comes from a disease called "la teta asustada" (literally translated as "the frightened tit") transmitted by mothers to their offspring through breastfeeding.
With the intention of taking her mother's body to her hometown, Fausta moves in with her uncle (Solís) who urges her to arrange the funeral before his daughter's wedding and gets a job as a maid in the house of upper class musician Aida (Sánchez) where she slowly befriends the gardener (Solís).
The shy Fausta has to learn how to live in a world filled with rapists, murderers and evil spirits without her mother's guidance.
Somewhere between raw social drama and magic realism, Llosa's film is filled with allegories and actual events that might sound like allegories.
When we learn that Fausta introduced a potato in her vagina to avoid being raped and we see how calmly she owns this-even the doctor that discovers it reacts to it as if it was the most natural thing in the world-we are caught in a dreamlike place where thousand year old traditions coexist with social fears.
While the Shining Path is never referred to specifically, one doesn't have to be an expert in Latin American history to understand that everything that happens to Fausta is a direct manifestation of the violence that erupted in Perú with the terrorist group.
Interestingly because the film never attributes any specific actions to the Shining Path, one can assume that Llosa understands that it's impossible to throw the whole blame on a determined group. The rapes and murders in "The Milk of Sorrow" might also have been committed by the military and the government who had as much responsibility as the terrorists.
Through Solier's devastating performance we become witnesses of how a group of people had to cope with things they had never imagined. For the indigenous people of Perú to fathom why strangers with machine guns were massacring them, would be the same as us understanding why Fausta mummifies her mother and talks to her corpse every night.
The audience and Fausta stand in almost extreme opposites and Llosa creates strange beauty out of otherwise mundane situations like the kitsch wedding ceremonies in Fausta's neighborhood that evidence the materialism-as-means-of-new-tradition conveyed by people who are learning to adhere to the rules of a foreign society.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

SAG-ged.

How the SAG awards manage to be the dullest awards show year after year will always be a mystery to me, this year they were no different and went along with what's been going on for the whole season awards wise.
Mo'Nique, Jeff Bridges, Christoph Waltz and the cast of "Inglourious Basterds" won as expected (they both deserve all their accolades for a change) but just what the hell is going on in the minds of people who voted for Sandra Bullock?
Sure she's nice and fun and everything, but she gave the fifth best performance in her category. Since people have suddenly become so reluctant to keep on awarding Meryl Streep why not then recognize the best female performances in the category which would be Gabourey Sidibe's and Carey Mulligan's?
The only reason I can explain Bullock's win would be that the actors secretly hate Meryl Streep (considering that Mulligan and Sidibe are somehow non-factors to these dumb voters) and wish she would retire so she wouldn't make them all look so lazy and mediocre.
Moving on...a few thoughts from the ceremony.
I love how retro Simon Baker and Anna Paquin looked together.
He looked straight out of the "A Single Man" collection while she evoked Twiggy and Jane Fonda.

Say what you will of the movie, which wasn't the devil's envoy as most people say, these women were by far the best dressed cast.
Whoever advised Nicole Kidman to do some pot and think Woodstock when dressing for tonight, did her a great service as she's never looked so fresh and free.
Marion Cotillard looked straight out of a runway, that dress is spectacular and a mini! While Kate was breathtaking. Penélope somehow was the most meh of them all.
But she has me used to being all blah during these award shows and then just blowing my mind at the Oscars, so let's hope she does it again.

Sexiest male cast ever? Probably.

Now on to my favorite looks,


I've always had the notion that Lanvin can make magic on anyone.
With Carey Mulligan they gave her by far the best look she's had during this whole season. She's looked pretty before, but this time she actually made me go "wow".
Something about the draping makes Carey look like a classic screen siren, not the underfed waif she's been looking like in the past.

After last week's odd pink thingamajig, Diane Kruger is back to looking like an icon. In this stunning gown, in that risky color, she pulls off what Michelle Williams almost did at the 2006 Oscars. But she takes it to another level.

Alexander McQueen makes a vision out of Anna Paquin.

I don't love Joan Allen's look but I found it interesting that she and Nicole Kidman went for the same free spirited style, complete with free flowing tresses and hip jewelry.

Although it must be said that the huge back cleavage showed me more than I'd ever want to see from Goldie Hawn's offspring, Kate Hudson has never looked so damn good before!
Sure the dress is essentially Hilary Swank circa 2005, but the color gave her an aura of elegance, sexiness and drama no other lady achieved during the awards.

Thirst ***


Director: Park Chan-wook
Cast: Song Kang-ho, Kim Ok-bin
Shin Ha-kyun, Kim Hae-sook, Eriq Ebouaney

Leave it to Park Chan-wook to take Émile Zola's "Thérèse Raquin" and turn it into a perverse exploration of faith, love and mortality.
Kang-ho stars as Sang-hyun, a Catholic priest who decides to appease his spiritual unease by volunteering for a biological experiment aiming to find a vaccine for the Emmanuel Virus. When his health begins to deteriorate he receives a blood transfusion which helps him make a full recovery.
Being the only person who's survived the virus turns him into a sensation with followers thinking he has healing powers; truth is that the strange blood turned him into a vampire. He begins to have even more spiritual conflicts when his new side makes him develop a "thirst for all sinful pleasures".
He experiences lust with Tae-ju (Ok-bin) the frail wife of his childhood friend Kang-woo (Ha-kyun) who looks after him while he battles cancer. They begin an affair and think of ways to get rid of the husband.
There are two movies in "Thirst", one is the dissection of Zola's classic which itself became a staple for noir cinema and the other is an interesting character study that follows a man's transformation in the midst of moral crisis. Both are strong themes to study and could make great movies on their own; but Chan-wook finds the common thread to link the stories and filters them through naturalism's concept of the human beast.
On one side we have the chilling actions that Tae-ju and Sang-hyun commit in order to fulfill their passion which embody the naturalist approach to a human being who no longer controls his moral center and gives it the qualities of an animal.Then there's the darkly funny side that Sang-hyun has literally become a human beast by turning into a vampire which takes the director's vision into a postmodernist, almost farcical examination of the classics.
It's also interesting that Chan-wook filters this through Catholicism because it gives him an opportunity to make some fascinating points about the Vatican's stand on various issues. If being a vampire is to be compared with a disease like HIV, Chan-wook ingeniously weaves it into the plot without making a big deal out of it (that he named the virus Emmanuel provides deep symbolism and purpose).
When Tae-ju, who doesn't have much sexual experience, wonders if she's a "pervert" for enjoying the way Sang-hyun bites her during sex, she's got nothing on the implications sexuality involves for the priest. It's sad that before long the director seems to give up on the layers he teased us with and concentrates on the "horror" part of the movie.
"Thirst" soon turns into a genre flick with a slightly absurd edge that doesn't diminish its previous achievements but leaves us craving what it could've been like.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Jean Simmons 1929-2010


Two time Academy award nominee Jean Simmons has passed away today at the age of 80.
The British actress known the world over for her incredible beauty leaves behind a legacy of over fifty films over the course of six decades.
Her first starring role came at the hands of David Lean who had her play the young version of the cold hearted Stella in "Great Expectations".
Her breathtaking beauty shone in the gorgeous black and white cinematography. One year later she would star as Kanchi, the exotic peasant who falls for a royal in the stunning "Black Narcissus".
If she had made an impression on black and white, her perfect features astounded moviegoers in Jack Cardiff's luscious color cinematography. Made up to appear Asian, Simmons becomes an apparition among the breathtaking murals of the Himalayan convent.
Just a year after that Simmons went to star as Ophelia in Laurence Olivier's Oscar winning "Hamlet" for which she received her first Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress. Her take on Shakespeare is imbued with imminent doom that makes her eventual fate a heartbreaking account of lost youth and immortal beauty.
Simmons starred in classics like "The Robe", "The Egyptian", "Elmer Gantry", "Spartacus" and "Guys and Dolls" which won her a Golden Globe for Best Actress.
She was married to actor Stewart Granger whom she divorced in 1960. She later married director Richard Brooks who had her star in "The Happy Ending" which gave her a second and last Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Over the last two decades she went to star in TV miniseries like "The Thorn Birds"-for which she won an Emmy- and in 1998 she appeared once more in "Great Expectations", only she played Miss Havisham this time around. In 1995 she appeared in "How to Make an American Quilt" for which she won a SAG nomination as part of the female ensemble. She spent her last years living a quiet life but contributed to film as part of the English version of Hayao Miyazaki's "Howl's Moving Castle".
She is survived by her two daughters Kate and Tracy who she named after Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. May she rest in peace.

Winter in Wartime **1/2


Director: Martin Koolhoven,
Cast:Martijn Lakemeier, Jamie Campbell Bower, Raymond Thiry
Melody Klaver, Dan van Husen, Tygo Gernandt
Yorick van Wageningen

Set in Holland near the end of WWII, "Winter in Wartime" offers an interesting, if poorly executed, examination of a generation forced to age too quickly.
Michiel (Lakemeier) is a 13 year old boy who witnesses how the Nazis took over his town. We can assume he's lost privileges he once gave for granted and now watches in horror as the German soldiers irrupt into houses and take prisoners that never return.
His father, the mayor (Thiry) has become an ornamental figure, since the Nazis take all the important decisions. Michiel sees this as a sign of weakness and chooses to set his paternal admiration on his uncle Ben (van Wageningen) a mysterious resistance member who warns the boy to stay away from any war business.
The boy isn't able to keep his promise for long when he accidentally becomes caretaker of Jack (Bower), a British pilot whose plane crashed on the outsides of Michiel's town. He finds himself not only hiding a secret that could warrant his execution but also making a symbolic Oedipal transference by acting what he thinks his father should act like.
"I take care of Jack and you shut up!" he screams at his nurse sister Erica (Klaver) when she aids in bandaging the soldier. Michiel's life gets more complicated when his father is held responsible for a crime committed by Jack, which leads to a conflict between his values and feelings.
A satisfying coming of age story, the film is shot in icy blues and whites (to evoke what was the coldest winter in Holland's history) and features some exciting action sequences including a bridge escape that's only botched by crappy editing.
The film has a hard time convincing us of what it wants to be, mostly because within its fairly conventional melodrama it fills itself with facile thrills and plot holes done on the spirit of shocking twists. Almost every action in the film occurs merely to push the action forward and not as some sort of organic succession. We often wonder why is this and this happening to these people if not to put them in perilous, exciting situations.
Fortunately Lakemeier gives an impressive performance that keeps most of the film grounded and he makes the transition of child to adult something easy to empathize with. The screenplay might try to reduce him to sentimental moments but he aptly overcomes them and becomes the movie's greatest ally.
It would've been interesting to see the director develop more the psychological implications of Michiel's forced growth and improvised maturity instead of trying so hard to be an average movie about heroes and lost innocence.

LOL



Thursday, January 21, 2010

From Across the Pond.

Nominations for the British Academy Awards have just be announced and color me surprised but the big twist is that all the usual suspects ended up showing up here as well.
Oh and also the fact that once again the stunning "Bright Star" was practically snubbed in every category.

BEST FILM
AVATAR James Cameron, Jon Landau
AN EDUCATION Amanda Posey, Finola Dwyer
THE HURT LOCKER Nominees TBC
PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness, Gary Magness
UP IN THE AIR Ivan Reitman, Jason Reitman, Daniel Dubiecki

As usual it's an array of Oscar favorites with one purely British film thrown in for kicks. That "An Education" might also get a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars is a nice coincidence, the real surprise is that they ignored the more European "Inglourious Basterds" for mostly American fare like "Up in the Air".

OUTSTANDING BRITISH FILM
AN EDUCATION Amanda Posey, Finola Dwyer, Lone Scherfig, Nick Hornby
FISH TANK Kees Kasander, Nick Laws, Andrea Arnold
IN THE LOOP Kevin Loader, Adam Tandy, Armando Iannucci, Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche
MOON Stuart Fenegan, Trudie Styler, Duncan Jones, Nathan Parker
NOWHERE BOY Kevin Loader, Douglas Rae, Robert Bernstein, Sam Taylor-Wood, Matt Greenhalgh

An impressive lineup. Why it didn't translate to their Best Picture is odd.

OUTSTANDING DEBUT BY A BRITISH WRITER, DIRECTOR OR PRODUCER
LUCY BAILEY, ANDREW THOMPSON, ELIZABETH MORGAN HEMLOCK, DAVID PEARSON Directors, Producers –
Mugabe and the White African
ERAN CREEVY Writer/Director – Shifty
STUART HAZELDINE Writer/Director – Exam
DUNCAN JONES Director – Moon
SAM TAYLOR-WOOD Director – Nowhere Boy

DIRECTOR
AVATAR James Cameron
DISTRICT 9 Neill Blomkamp
AN EDUCATION Lone Scherfig
THE HURT LOCKER Kathryn Bigelow
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS Quentin Tarantino

Quentin and Neill Blomkamp's inclusions perhaps prove that the movies they substituted weren't completely beloved by the BAFTA and it makes sense because they are the movies that might hit closer to American sensibilities.
It's a thrill to watch two women nominated in this category though. If this lineup transferred to AMPAS I wouldn't complain.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
THE HANGOVER Jon Lucas, Scott Moore
THE HURT LOCKER Mark Boal
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS Quentin Tarantino
A SERIOUS MAN Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
UP Bob Peterson, Pete Docter

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
DISTRICT 9 Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
AN EDUCATION Nick Hornby
IN THE LOOP Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE Geoffrey Fletcher
UP IN THE AIR Jason Reitman, Sheldon Turner

This reminded me how ridiculous it is that they also snubbed "In the Loop" so much. It should have this award in the bag if only because it was perhaps the most quotable movie of 2009.
Still Hornby winning for his classy work in "An Education" wouldn't hurt at all. I expect them to reward "Up in the Air" and please AMPAS though.

FILM NOT IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
BROKEN EMBRACES Agustín Almodóvar, Pedro Almodóvar
COCO BEFORE CHANEL Carole Scotta, Caroline Benjo, Philippe Carcassonne, Anne Fontaine
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN Carl Molinder, John Nordling, Tomas Alfredson
A PROPHET Pascale Caucheteux, Marco Chergui, Alix Raynaud, Jacques Audiard
THE WHITE RIBBON Stefan Arndt, Veit Heiduschka, Margaret Menegoz, Michael Haneke

BAFTA has a weird love for silly forgettable French movies and this year "Coco Before Chanel" is that case. The rest are splendid nominees though.

ANIMATED FILM
CORALINE Henry Selick
FANTASTIC MR FOX Wes Anderson
UP Pete Docter

LEADING ACTOR
JEFF BRIDGES Crazy Heart
GEORGE CLOONEY Up in the Air
COLIN FIRTH A Single Man
JEREMY RENNER The Hurt Locker
ANDY SERKIS Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

No Tom Hardy or Sam Rockwell for inherently British productions is ridiculous especially considering how last year they went all the way to find a way to include the dull Dev Patel in this category. It's good to see they snubbed Clint Eastwood who this year was eligible for "Gran Torino" in the UK.

LEADING ACTRESS
CAREY MULLIGAN An Education
SAOIRSE RONAN The Lovely Bones
GABOUREY SIDIBE Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
MERYL STREEP Julie & Julia
AUDREY TAUTOU Coco Before Chanel

It's awesome to see Saoirse Ronan being recognized for her terrific turn in this underrated film, but what the hell is Audrey Tautou doing there? That they included her over people like Emily Blunt and Helen Mirren is surprising.
That she got in over Abbie Cornish and Katie Jarvis is just insulting.

SUPPORTING ACTOR
ALEC BALDWIN It’s Complicated
CHRISTIAN McKAY Me and Orson Welles
ALFRED MOLINA An Education
STANLEY TUCCI The Lovely Bones
CHRISTOPH WALTZ Inglourious Basterds

Alec Baldwin over Peter Capaldi from "In the Loop" and Michael Fassbender from "Fish Tank" is too preposterous to even comment.

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
ANNE-MARIE DUFF Nowhere Boy
VERA FARMIGA Up in the Air
ANNA KENDRICK Up in the Air
MO’NIQUE Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
KRISTIN SCOTT THOMAS Nowhere Boy

So it seems the British also fell for the one note performance Anna Kendirck gave and not only that but found her better than the ladies from "Inglourious Basterds" and "An Education".
Again if just last year Frieda Pinto got in for basically looking pretty was it too much to ask them to remember Rosamund Pike who not only looked beautiful but actually explored why her character was arm candy.

MUSIC
AVATAR James Horner
CRAZY HEART T-Bone Burnett, Stephen Bruton
FANTASTIC MR FOX Alexandre Desplat
SEX & DRUGS & ROCK & ROLL Chaz Jankel
UP Michael Giacchino

CINEMATOGRAPHY
AVATAR Mauro Fiore
DISTRICT 9 Trent Opaloch
THE HURT LOCKER Barry Ackroyd
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS Robert Richardson
THE ROAD Javier Aguirresarobe

No "Bright Star"...tisk tisk tisk.

EDITING
AVATAR Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua, James Cameron
DISTRICT 9 Julian Clarke
THE HURT LOCKER Bob Murawski, Chris Innis
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS Sally Menke
UP IN THE AIR Dana E. Glauberman

PRODUCTION DESIGN
AVATAR Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Kim Sinclair
DISTRICT 9 Philip Ivey, Guy Poltgieter
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE Stuart Craig, Stephenie McMillan
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS Nominees TBC
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS David Wasco, Sandy Reynolds Wasco

COSTUME DESIGN
BRIGHT STAR Janet Patterson
COCO BEFORE CHANEL Catherine Leterrier
AN EDUCATION Odile Dicks-Mireaux
A SINGLE MAN Arianne Phillips
THE YOUNG VICTORIA Sandy Powell

Oh yay "Bright Star" did make it in somewhere! This category is pretty hard to argue with in terms of quality though.

SOUND
AVATAR Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson, Tony Johnson, Addison Teague
DISTRICT 9 Nominees TBC
THE HURT LOCKER Ray Beckett, Paul N. J. Ottosson, Craig Stauffer
STAR TREK Peter J. Devlin, Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Mark Stoeckinger, Ben Burtt
UP Tom Myers, Michael Silvers, Michael Semanick

SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS
AVATAR Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andrew R. Jones
DISTRICT 9 Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros, Matt Aitken
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE John Richardson, Tim Burke, Tim Alexander, Nicolas Aithadi
THE HURT LOCKER Richard Stutsman
STAR TREK Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh, Burt Dalton

MAKE UP & HAIR
COCO BEFORE CHANEL Thi Thanh Tu Nguyen, Jane Milon
AN EDUCATION Lizzie Yianni Georgiou
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS Sarah Monzani
NINE Peter ‘Swords’ King
THE YOUNG VICTORIA Jenny Shircore

Ouch for "Nine". How it went from being a surefire frontrunner to a laughing stock is one of the season's most fascinating stories.

SHORT ANIMATION
THE GRUFFALO Michael Rose, Martin Pope, Jakob Schuh, Max Lang
THE HAPPY DUCKLING Gili Dolev
MOTHER OF MANY Sally Arthur, Emma Lazenby

SHORT FILM
14 Asitha Ameresekere
I DO AIR James Bolton, Martina Amati
JADE Samm Haillay, Daniel Elliott
MIXTAPE Luti Fagbenle, Luke Snellin
OFF SEASON Jacob Jaffke, Jonathan van Tulleken

THE ORANGE RISING STAR AWARD (voted for by the public)
JESSE EISENBERG
NICHOLAS HOULT
CAREY MULLIGAN
TAHAR RAHIM
KRISTEN STEWART

No Katie Jarvis in this category is bollocks! Or whatever rude expression the British would use to encompass disdain.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Road **1/2


Director: John Hillcoat
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smith-McPhee, Charlize Theron
Robert Duvall, Molly Parker, Guy Pearce, Michael K. Williams

After an unexplained cataclysm almost destroyed the planet, a man (Mortensen) and his son (Smith-McPhee) try to survive among the last remains of humanity.
They have to hide from people who became cannibals, look for food and find a way to get to the Gulf Coast where they think they will be safe.
Along the way they encounter several characters and problematic situations that force them to analyze if staying alive is really worth the risks.
Their only weapon is a gun with two bullets which they planned to use on each other upon reaching an extreme case.
Trying hard to be more than an apocalyptic "Paper Moon" the plot worries less about the lead characters' surroundings than about their relationship and how familiar traditions like father/son dynamics might be the only things that survive doomsday.
We see as the boy tries hard to grasp the loss of a world he never knew (he was born days after the tragedy began) and how the father copes with the memory of his wife (Theron) and how she chose death over life in a decaying world.
"Each day is more gray than the day before" narrates Mortensen even if we the movie was shot in a muddy palette by Javier Aguirresarobe which gives it a sense of dirtiness which inevitably makes us think that this is done with the eventual intention of purification on director Hillcoat's part.
The movie suffers from serious tonal unbalance as it travels from road movie with thriller elements, to intimate drama without ever justifying its choices.
Its most distressing problem lies on how much it tries to be a book. The screenplay was adapted from Cormac McCarthy's award winning novel and even if you haven't read it, you know the characters and actions were extracted from a novel.
The too poetic narration for example creates a weird separation between how Mortensen's character sees the world and how he refers to it.
More than haunting verses, his storytelling hints of insanity. When these words are paired with golden flashbacks involving Theron the film drifts to a place that isn't justified emotionally by the characters but suggests two different movies were made and then pasted together.
It's good that Mortensen gives a performance with enough power to distract us from the screenplay's inconsistencies.
He gives this man a tragic soul and most of his work is done with his eyes that peek from behind a huge beard and dirt. The man doesn't need big lines to evoke loss, despair and his immense love for the child.
Smith-McPhee comes off a bit obnoxious at times, but his performance makes sense given that he clings to his father and demands him to teach him all he needs to know.
The scenes where they just eat together and share seemingly insignificant moments are the ones where the whole movie is at its best.
Sadly Hillcoat never explores elemental things like why they have fought to stay alive for so long in a world that obviously won't last long.
The repercussions of such existential questions could've sparked debates of hope and human pride, but in "The Road" they are just as mysterious as the planet's destruction.
"Whoever made humanity will not find humanity here" says an old man (played brilliantly by Duvall) and hard as it tries the same can be said about this too mechanical movie.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Princess and the Frog **


Director: Ron Clements, John Musker

The differences between "usual" Disney princesses and the new multi-cultural approach they want to take is expressed quite clearly to us in the first scene of "The Princess and the Frog".
New Orleans seamstress Eudora (voiced by Oprah Winfrey) works on a dress for little Charlotte La Bouff (Breanna Brooks) while she tells her and her daughter Tiana (Elizabeth M. Dampier) a fairy tale.
While the perky, and white, Charlotte glows at the idea of frogs that turn into magical princes, Tiana yuks and proclaims there's no way she would ever kiss a frog.
Her dreams involve opening her very own restaurant with her father (Terrence Howard) and Disney love is something foreign to her system.
Flash forward a few years and Tiana (voiced later by Anika Noni Rose) is working as a waitress while saving to make the first down payment on her restaurant. Charlotte (voiced as an adult by Jennifer Cody) is still the same and has set her eye on the upcoming arrival of Prince Naveen of Maldovia (voiced by Bruno Campos) to become the princess she always wanted to be.
The fact that during these first few scenes we're actually suggested to think of Charlotte as some sort of antagonist- making life impossible for girls who want to work hard like Tiana- is ironic considering how the whole plot turns against itself later on.
Free spirited Naveen is transformed into a frog by evil witch doctor Facilier (Keith David) A.K.A "the Shadow Man" who has a plan to get Charlotte's father (John Goodman) wealth.
Naveen, who obviously read the fairy tale, confuses Tiana for a princess and asks her to kiss him in exchange of being granted anything she wishes for.
She does, ending up a frog herself. It's impossible not to question here if she's being punished for going against her integrity (and expecting to make her wishes come true out of magic) or because she dared think of herself as a fairy tale princess.
Soon Naveen and Tiana find themselves crossing the bayou to find Mama Odie, a witch (Jenifer Lewis) that might know how to turn them back into humans.
Along the way they befriend anthropomorphic creatures that show us-by way of Randy Newman's catchy but repetivie songs- not all reptiles and insects are nasty creatures.
Large part of the plot is shaped around the idea that we shouldn't want to be something we're not. Giant alligator Louis (Michael-Leon Wooley) wishes he could be a jazz trumpet player, while Cajun firefly Ray (Jim Cummings) is in love with a star he calls Evangeline.
Half the movie we endure a debate going on between what the film is saying literally and what it's revealing in a sub-level.
We come to understand that dreams like the one Ray has not only are impossible to achieve but are slightly delusional and it might be said that by stressing out how these predominantly African American characters endure all kinds of trouble to reach things the heroine doesn't even believe in, the filmmakers are not evolving as they suppose, but retaining traditional characteristics to assure young audiences that maybe Disney's status quo isn't so bad as it seems.
The twists have more smug-self-indulgence than wonder and while handsomely drawn and animated the film never haves the magic of 2D classics the studio delivered so proficiently during its golden age.
"It serves me right for wishing on a star" sighs Tiana, when "the only way to get what you want in this world is to work hard for it".
This might come off as a positive message on Disney's part but the movie takes such great lengths to take us to Charlotte's side, that children might just assume old studio princesses who merely wait for a prince to solve their lives are better off than poor Tiana.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cruz on 60.


Watch CBS News Videos Online

She's so eloquent and so damn sexy. I feel cheated because I wanted a whole 60 Minutes of her though...
Thanks to Castor for leading me to this video!

Hmmm...


I'm just not sure if fashion wise, for her age, that's a good thing for Penélope though.
And can I just say how much I love watching Edoardo Ponti every time his mom does a red carpet?

Quick Globe Recap (Part Deux).


Mo'Nique just sealed the Oscar deal with what was a classy, remarkably thought out speech and one of the night's most deserved wins (I loved that Drew Barrymore made a reference to it when she won as well).
Watching how gracious and especially how thankful she is, makes me truly want to smack all those people who have been dissing her approach towards the awards campaigning bullshit.
I might not have liked "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire" but every time I remember how good Mo'Nique was I have an altogether better reaction towards the film itself.
May she be just as wonderful at Oscar (oh and someone better nominate Nicole Kidman for another award soon, she looked fantastic last night!).

Now let's move on to fashion.
If someone had told me a few days ago that frills would be all the rage at a red carpet I would've laughed and told them to go back to the 1800s.
But nude color or pale dresses with tons of frills is precisely what we got.
Surprisingly they seemed to work wonders particularly in three ladies:

Fashionista extraordinaire and Golden Globe winner herself last night Chloë Sevigny opted for a lavender greyish hue that made for one of those out of the blue choices only she can pull off.


Despite being extreme opposites in the body shape department Christina Hendricks and Nicole Kidman basically wore the same thing.
The voluptuous Miss Hendricks made her dress shine with the use of simple makeup and her beautiful red hair. This woman honestly evokes the exotic sexuality of people like Jayne Mansfield.
While the monumental Kidman looked sweeter and more accessible than she ever does.

My favorite winner of the night went for something slightly similar but a bit more deconstructive with a simple dress with beautiful structural appliqués that made some people joke she had killed a hedegehog and others, like me, see how it gave her whole style a luscious flow.

Sofía Vergara probably could just wrap some sheets around her spectacular body and she'd make it. But this strapless gown in such an unexpected color gave her a breathtaking simplicity that downsized her natural erotic-ness and brought out a more classic beauty look to her. That burgundy strip on top is a stroke of genius.

John Galliano's muse obviously went for Dior and while the dress had nothing wow to it, that flash of lace undergarments and the dominatrix shoes were yet another of the delicious ways in which Cotillard suggests angelical qualities with devilish instincts.

And boy does Eli Roth clean up good.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Oh and...


My favorite win of the night!
Makes me hate the top movie awards less...

Golden Globe Winners...

or how I Learned to Stop Caring and Dislike the HFPA.

Picture, Drama: "Avatar."
I predicted it so I was more than OK with it, although "The Hurt Locker" going home empty handed is preposterous.

Picture, Musical or Comedy: "The Hangover."
To say my jaw fell to the floor when they opened the envelope would be a serious understatement. My only explanation for this, besides the lackluster quality of the category, would be that HFPA members voted for it while on a hangover of their own.
Or that they secretly merged with the People's Choice Awards.

Actor, Drama: Jeff Bridges, "Crazy Heart."
No arguments on this one.

Actress, Drama: Sandra Bullock, "The Blind Side."
I don't hate Sandra Bullock. In fact I thought she was the best thing in "Crash" (a movie I do hate) and her "Miss Congeniality" is the kind of movie that makes me chuckle even after a million viewings. But I have no idea in what world (Pandora maybe?) did she give a better performance than Carey Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe.
I'm also really disturbed by all those "Erin Brockovich" comparisons...Steven Soderbergh's film is one of the greatest of the decade, "The Blind Side" wasn't even the best movie released in its week.
Sure they are both rom-com queens proving they have dramatic chops, but a blonde wig and an accent do not Erin Brockovich make. Bullock is a great movie star, but she's by no means a great actress. That she just became Meryl Streep's fiercest competition for the Oscar is just disturbing.

Director: James Cameron, "Avatar."
Cameron said it better: Bigelow should've won.

Actor, Musical or Comedy: Robert Downey Jr., "Sherlock Holmes."
I'm really guessing he got this for losing all the awards last year and because he's fantastic in everything he's in of course...

Actress, Musical or Comedy: Meryl Streep, "Julie & Julia."
I don't love this performance as much as award organizations do, but she better win the Oscar now.

Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, "Inglourious Basterds."
You just can't argue with this one.

Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique, "Precious: Based on the Novel `Push' by Sapphire."
I don't like her movie, but she gave the best supporting performance of the year as Mary Jones. To see her win, after some media members have trashed her for not participating in the bullshitty campaigns mounted during the season, was incredibly fulfilling.
Plus, I have to confess I thought she'd be the crass, loud Mo'Nique from "House of Charms", but I've been so astounded by how ladylike and eloquent she is. Can't wait to see her get the Oscar!

Foreign Language: "The White Ribbon."
The idea of Michael Haneke winning awards in America gives me little waves of pleasure that can be compared to orgasms.

Animated Film: "Up."
I'll say it again: should've won Best Picture Comedy or Musical too.

Screenplay: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, "Up in the Air."
Quentin losing this to this movie is...I'm at a loss of words to convey it.

Original Score: Michael Giacchino, "Up."
One of the most pleasant wins of the night. If James Horner had won I would've imploded.

Original Song: "The Weary Kind" (theme from "Crazy Heart"), (written by Ryan Bingham, T Bone Burnett).

More about the Globes tomorrow, if I muster the energy and will to even mention them again.
Actually they were not that crappy, but G-d the Musical Comedy pic just killed my buzz.

The White Ribbon ****


Director: Michael Haneke
Cast: Christian Friedel, Leonie Benesch, Ulrich Tukur, Ursina Lardi
Burghart Klaußner, Steffi Kühnert, Maria-Victoria Dragus
Leonard Proxauf, Rainer Bock, Susanne Lothar
Eddy Grahl, Fion Mutert, Ernst Jacobi

Watching Michael Haneke's films is like staring into an abyss. The endless darkness exerts a force that pulls you in despite your survival instincts.
This has never been more true than in "The White Ribbon", an austere drama set in the small German village of Eichwald in the years leading to WWI, where the villagers lead the same lives their ancestors have been carrying since the nineteenth century.
Their patriarchal, conservative nature is evidenced in the way they've unofficially distributed power.
The village sprawled around the estate of the Baron (Tukur) who employs the local farmers to look after his crops. He represents the closest they have to a governmental authority (never questioned because of his nobility and economic power) with the Pastor (Klaußner) becoming the moral leader.
With the young schoolteacher (Friedel) and the doctor (Bock) rounding up the "knowledge" powers to conform a society that sounds almost feudal.
The village's normal life is altered when a series of strange accidents begin to occur. First the doctor falls from his horse and is almost killed after a wire is tied around some trees, then a woman dies on a freakish mill accident and soon after the Baron's son (Mutert) is brutally beaten.
When nobody takes responsibility for the events, everyone in the town becomes a suspect; but Haneke will not turn his film into a whodunit (the villagers actually let several incidents accumulate until they are forced to call the police) and lets the actions flow towards a shattering conclusion that explores the nature of evil.
In lesser hands such a plot would turn into an ominous, preachy account that would dissect society and rely on facile psychological explanations to point fingers.
Under Haneke's steady command it becomes an eerie study of what accounts for innocence and purity in a world that perhaps never even knew them to begin with.
The title ribbon is tied around the village's children by the Pastor to remind them of how they should resist the temptations of the flesh and fight their savage nature, but who do these kids have to look up to?
We see how behind closed doors the adults behave in ways that not only contradict what they expect of the children, but also deem the ribbons as a token of infancy dismissed upon reaching adulthood.
We're witness to how the doctor abuses his mistress (the splendid, chilly Lothar), to how the Pastor preaches about goodness but has no compassion when he beats his children and how the Baron's authority becomes null in the eyes of his wife the Baroness (Lardi).
If the adults think the children ignore all these events, then Haneke reminds us that by placing his camera in the scene we're taking on their roles; we're watching but the characters are unaware of it.
Shot in sterile black and white by the extraordinary Christian Berger, "The White Ribbon" borrows the qualities from ancient photographs that come to life only when we're not looking.
His tendency to leave the camera still makes for some beautiful shots that evoke complete stillness. A magnificent shot of the severe church only makes us wonder what might be going behind the wooden doors and the brightness of the wheat fields in another scene offers a discomforting tranquility: a creepy portrait of idyll.
Those used to Haneke's filmmaking will instantly be filled with a constant dread, the one he's used throughout his career which often musters comparisons of Hitchcock.
But unlike his other films where sudden acts of violence disrupt with shocking flashes of reality, the ones in "The White Ribbon" are of a more subdued nature.
One scene has a child balancing on the edge of a tall bridge, when the schoolteacher notices him and runs to save him we might be expecting tragedy to strike but are left dumbfounded when not only the boy is saved, but reveals that he had a purpose for his balancing act.
"I gave God a chance to kill me" he says serenely. "He didn't, so he's pleased with me" he continues revealing the theme at the film's center.
The grownups, more than the kids, are witnesses to how not only the accidents remain unpunished, but how their petty sins are forgiven too.
What's more, it's implied that they seem to think they have the moral and spiritual authority to hierarchize sin.
What future then, awaits these people and the children they're raising? When the movie begins the schoolteacher narrates (his older self voiced by the John Hurt-ish Jacobi) that the events in his town might "clarify some things that happened in this country".
The obvious path would be to say Haneke is exploring the roots of Nazism but to do so would be to undermine and limit the director's vision towards a specific point in history.
While the rise of Nazism has been universally established as one of the most evil times in human history, if we narrow our vision of good and evil towards the past wouldn't we be too behaving like the adults in the village?
This by no means suggests that Haneke is justifying the actions of the Nazis, but that his purpose isn't exclusive to the country where his film takes place in.
"The White Ribbon" isn't a morality tale and the usually ice cold director flirts with the idea of romance in a haunting love story between the schoolteacher and a young nanny (Benesch).
But just as we're ready to leave the village for good, he once again turns the tables on us with an event we saw coming but surprises us for unexpected reasons.
It's curious how despite the sense of menace that permeates the whole film, Haneke never relies on cinematic conventions. There is no musical score in the movie which makes sense-because life doesn't have musical sues ready before we encounter peril-but also because it forces us to deal with the events represented as if they were closer to us than we think.
We know that we're watching a movie, but the fact that we can't justify the wickedness coming out of it using the appeasing qualities of music or quick editing cuts has a terrifying effect.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Golden Globe Predictions.

If the Hollywood Foreign Press Association serves a purpose it's to deliver the wackiest awards show on the planet. This year, more than any other, they might just go ahead and also have one of their most surprising ceremonies, with several film categories literally up in the air.
People don't give the HFPA the credit they deserve and forget that unlike the Academy they aren't afraid to go for the edgiest choices from time to time and as much starfucking as they do, they actually deliver the acting awards to the best performances.
This year they will give their prestigious Cecil B. de Mille Award to the incomparable Martin Scorsese (who just last year handed it out to Steven Spielberg), let's keep in mind that the HFPA gave Marty their Best Director award twice and before the Academy.
So maybe they're not all about champagne, crassness and cursing. Maybe they're on to something.

Best Motion Picture (Drama)

Will win: "Avatar"
Should win: "The Hurt Locker"

"Up in the Air" might be the movie going in with the most nominations, but "Avatar" is all the rage right now. The Globes were one of the first to reward "Titanic" twelve years ago when "L.A. Confidential" was sweeping everything and whenever they have the opportunity to reward something epic, over something small they will usually choose that road.
It would be incredible to see them give their top award to "The Hurt Locker", but after last year's love for the slumdog, they might want to get back to being all Hollywood.

Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical)
Will win: "Nine"
Should win: "(500) Days of Summer"

Truth be told, their lineup in this category isn't so good. It's filled with average to good movies without a single truly outstanding thing in the mix. Sure "Julie & Julia" was fun, but is it really Best Picture material?
"Nine" stands as the second most nominated film this year and the HFPA loves musicals and stars, but the real shame here is that they went AMPAS' way and threw all the animated films to their own category. If they hadn't sent them to the ghetto, "Up" would've had this one in the bag and with reason, it's among the best films of the decade.

Best Director Motion Picture

Will win: Kathryn Bigelow "The Hurt Locker"
Should win: Kathryn Bigelow "The Hurt Locker"

The Globes already rewarded a woman in this category, so they have that whole "let's make history" thing out of their minds. So here they will perhaps establish one of those splits awards have become so fond of. Bigelow's film was the most taut thriller of the year and the best movie about the Iraq invasion released so far. James Cameron will have to sit down and applaud as his ex-wife begins her steady march towards Oscar.
Oh and that nomination for Clint Eastwood is a joke.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Drama)

Will win: Jeff Bridges "Crazy Heart"
Should win: N/A

As much as the Globes love George Clooney, they will not resist rewarding a man who epitomized cool decades before Clooney came to notoriety. The fact that they nominated Tobey Maguire for "Brothers" should be enough for them to make up by giving the award to someone who actually has been mastering the craft for decades.
If not for all of this, maybe they will realize that Clooney having two acting Globes already is way too much already...

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Drama)

Will win: Carey Mulligan "An Education"
Should win: Carey Mulligan "An Education"

Maybe I'm just trying to convince myself that Sandra Bullock's bizarre win in the Critics Choice Awards was a freaky accident that had Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe split each other's votes or maybe the HFPA will choose the best performance in the category.
If Mulligan has an advantage is that she doesn't have to compete with Meryl Streep here and that the Globes love the British ingenue more than the rest (last year's win for Sally Hawkins was extraordinary!) and again that she's the best in the category (I love Emily Blunt but I'll never understand what she's doing here over Abbie Cornish, yes I will bring up Cornish in everything Best Actress related this season).
Oh boy, but what if Mulligan and Sidibe split their votes all over and Bullock emerges winner?

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy)
Will win: Joseph Gordon-Levitt "(500) Days of Summer"
Should win: Joseph Gordon-Levitt "(500) Days of Summer"

It's been settled that everyone pretty much hates "Nine", so a win for Daniel Day Lewis here would be strange (especially because critics pretty much think he's the weakest link in the movie). A hunch tells me they might want to reward Matt Damon in "The Informant!" just so that he won't go home empty handed (he won't win Supporting...) but if something the Globes love more than the rest are the pretty boys delivering superb performances.
If Jonathan Rhys Meyers and James Franco are Golden Globe winners, how can they not love Joseph Gordon-Levitt's delightful turn in "(500) Days of Summer"?
I expect him to be the kind of slight shocker Colin Farrell was last year, even if his win totally makes sense.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy)
Will win: Meryl Streep "Julie & Julia"
Should win: Meryl Streep "Julie & Julia"

Come on they probably engraved her name in the award the day after the movie came out.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture

Will win: Christoph Waltz "Inglourious Basterds"
Should win: Christoph Waltz "Inglourious Basterds"

It's a shame that poor Christopher Plummer is getting nominated for awards for the first time in his entire career because he has almost no chance to win any facing the juggernaut that is Waltz. The HFPA won't merely be following in the footsteps of Cannes and the critics' awards, they will also be reminding people that they are above all an international committee seeking to reward the best from wherever in the world they are.
And yes, Waltz was brilliant.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture
Will win: Mo'Nique "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire"
Should win: Mo'Nique "Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire"

I will never understand what everyone sees in those "Up in the Air" female performances and as much as I would love for Penélope Cruz to finally win a Globe if she lost for what have been her two greatest performances she won't be winning for "Nine" (HFPA unlike AMPAS doesn't really go for the whole "should've won last year so let's reward them now" policy).
Mo'nique delivered a stunner of a performance and she has a pretty clear path up til Oscar. The only question that remains is will she show up or not.

Best Animated Feature Film
Will win: "Up"
Should win: "Up"

It's ironic that the animated feature film lineup makes for a much more satisfying array of nominees than that whole Best Picture Comedy or Musical category.

Best Foreign Language Film
Will win: "The White Ribbon"
Should win: A case could be made for all the nominees.

HFPA has shown they love gritty in this category and a win for "A Prophet" wouldn't be a complete shocker. They have proved they love their legendary auteurs which is why Michael Haneke's stunning "The White Ribbon" seems like it could get it.
They adore Almodóvar, but maybe he's won too many times and "Broken Embraces" didn't have the appeal his previous films did awards wise.
And Chile's "The Maid" was such a surprising picture that they could want to reward it for the freshness factor.
I say Haneke's film wins here by a very slight margin.

Best Screenplay Motion Picture
Will win: Quentin Tarantino "Inglourious Basterds"
Should win: Quentin Tarantino "Inglourious Basterds"

Best Original Score Motion Picture
Will win: Michael Giacchino "Up"
Should win: Michael Giacchino "Up"

Best Original Song Motion Picture
Will win: "The Weary Kind (Theme From Crazy Heart)" – "Crazy Heart"
Music & Lyrics By: Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett
Should win: N/A

Over at the TV side I'm predicting "Mad Men" and "Glee" to get the series awards (they love fresh but "30 Rock" should definitely be winning again) and Alec Baldwin, Toni Collette, Jon Hamm and Glenn close to get the lead acting awards.
"Grey Gardens" will obviously win the Made for TV Movie/Miniseries awards but I'll go on a limb here and predict Jessica Lange loses Best Actress to Drew Barrymore who will no doubt deliver the night's cutest speech.
I also say Jane Lynch wins Supporting Actress for "Glee" and Neil Patrick Harris gets the one Emmy stole from him.

The Golden Globes air Sunday Jan. 17 on NBC.