Tuesday, January 23, 2007

They (and I) Saw the light

That's it, the nominations are in. A few notes - stuff you won't read anywhere else (coz who cares Meryl Streep is in for the 14th time?).

- I did pretty well yesterday, with 13 out 15 correct! Including 5 out of 5 in Best Actress (getting Penelope Cruz in there, which wasn't a sure bet).

- I could not have predicted Dreamgirls out of the Best Picture category. It's utterly stupid as it's leading the nominations with 18 nods, including 3 in Best Song.

- Speaking of which, this is gonna be a nightmare for the producers of the show and ABC. The 5 song acts are always a welcome relief in such a long award show, but here 3 of them are from the same pic, with more or less same performers. What will they do? And will we see Eddie Murphy perform "Patience"?

- Sacha Baron Cohem is out of the Best Actor category. That's too bad, it was such an amazing and impressive act! Even though I'm not Borat (the movie) biggest fan, I'm definitely Borat's (the character). Instead, Will Smith is in. Oh well, maybe I should see his movie :-)

- A snub: Children Of Men. Yes, it got 4 nods, but mainly technical categories. I'm happy it's in for cinematography - but it should also for Best Picture and Best Director.

- Who else agrees that the Supporting Actor and actress category are getting more interesting that the leading ones? Abigail Breslin (the girl in little miss sunshine) nominated, how awesome? For once, here's a kid who deserves it. Jennifer Hudson is a sure win, but still.

- In the supporting actor category: Eddie Murphy, wow! First time in 25 years of career. And Jackie Earle Haley, the pedophile from Little Children, was amazing. As for Djimon Hounsou, even though I absolutely love him since Amistad and his stint as Mobalaje Ekabo in ER (isn't that the best name ever?). I'm not sure he deserved it this time though, in a very quiet role.

- Whole in whole, I think the Academy did a great job of noticing "small" and independent actors (Ryan Gosling comes to mind too). However, I see one, big, huge, mistake:

- I'm disgusted "The Fountain" was snubbed everywhere. Without a doubt the best film this year (if not of the decade). Hugh Jackman's performance was on par with Forest Withaker's, and who even doubts that Clint Mansell's score was a masterpiece? Add to it Direction, Cinematography, Editing, Art direction, Screenplay.
Is that really the fate of every alternative movie? Will great directors like Darren Aronofsky always share their vision with only a few? Well for what it's worth, I'm happy to be among them.

Here's my proposition:

- Let's create a new category, "Cinematographic Vision". Can compete in the category any filmmaker, crew member or film itself that distinguishes itself from every thing that exists already. Whether it's an experimental film and vision (Darren Aronofsky and The Fountain), a piece of acting out of the ordinary (the mayan cast in "apocalypto") or another example I can't find. Oh, just give an Oscar to "The Fountain" already!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Oscars goes to...

Tomorrow morning, at the FANTASTIC hour of 8:38 am, oscars nominations will be announced. Why FANTASTIC? Because I usually wake up at 8:30, get in the shower at 8:45 to leave for work at 9:15.
Therefore, 8:38 is the time when I'm finally awake and usually checking my emails (eagerly awaiting every morning the blogspot email announcing the number of comments I received during the night. I then proceed to cry a few minutes and go wash my shame in the above-mentionned shower at 8:45) - but not tomorrow. Tomorrow I'll be watching the nominations, probably on CNN - Headline News, the only Network to carry that kind of stuff.
Yes, that's how addicted I am to the Oscars, and awards stuff in general.

Anyhow, let's get to it: here are my thoughts on who's gonna be nominated tomorrow. Bear in mind who's nominated and who deserves it is totally different. I'll stick to the main categories, and we'll see how I do.

Best Picture

The Queen
Little Miss Sunshine
Letters from Iwo Jima

The first three here are sure bets. I'm pretty confident LMS will be in too, the independent vibe attracts the academy.
Letters from Iwo Jima is usually considered a foreign language movie (it's in Japanese) and my gut tells me the academy wants Clint Eastwood in the main category. Like two years ago, the winner will be between Scorsese and Eastwood. But this time, Scorsese wins.

Best Actor

Forest Whitaker
Leonardo DiCaprio
Sacha Baron Cohen
Ryan Gosling
Peter O'toole

Will Smith will be snubbed, Borat is in, so is Ryan Gosling for the indie acclained "Half Nelson". Other possibility: Ken Watanabe for Letters, in place of Gosling or O'toole. Oh, and Forest is gonna win. No doubt.

Best Actress

Ellen Mirren
Meryl Streep
Kate Winslet
Penelope Cruz
Judi Dench

Regular Crowd here. Ellen Mirren wins (duh!)

More later. Maybe.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

American I-dull

Here we go again. The new season of American Idol has started this week, and for the next 4 months, it will be impossible for an American to open a newspaper, a news or entertainment website or listen to the radio without being hammered with AI news and predictions.
This is a little like the World Cup in Europe. You might not be interested in it, you'll hear about it anyway, in stereo and technicolor.

But let's focus a little on what AI is: for the first few weeks, we'll have the great pleasure to tune in every week and watch terrible contestant being insulted by the new world famous judges, Simon Cowell first in line.

I will grant you this: it's very entertaining. Watching those poor people perform songs so poorly and ridiculously, without seemingly realizing how bad they are is, simply put, hilarious. We all remember William Hung , who was more than happy to get his more than 15 minutes of fame. I laughed a lot Tuesday and Wednesday night, I admit it. Then I watched in horror the judges compare the poor guys to monkeys, or suggesting they'd be better of prostituting themselves.

Can they do that? According to
Cowell, this is a reality check: they're better of knowing they'll never make a career in music than losing another few years of their life trying. I agree with that: simply saying "not good enough" when it's simply bad is not helpful. The same way you wouldn't want your doctor to tell you you have a chance of outliving cancer when, really, you don't. But still, you wouldn't want to hear: "I've had a lot of sick and dying patients today, but you're even worst". Let's add that if it's alright for the judges to judge their singing, it's certainly out of place to make fun of what they look like or their mental ability.

I also want to give props here to
MSNBC and shows like Scarborough Country for calling this out - even if they are, of course, riding on the American Idol wave, and not shy of using 10 minutes out of their 15-minute segment actually showing the bad auditions, and then rushing the 5 left to criticize them. But then, maybe I'm doing the same thing here!

I've always believed the worst kind of humor consists in making fun of others at their expense. The fact the contestants have signed a release form is some consolation, but they certainly don't need to be pounded on the head the way they are.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Top 2006 - Part II

Here we go, my favorite films of 2006! Except this is totally not-interesting if you don't comment with your own favorite movies! Come on, do it now!

No 5: Letters from Iwo Jima (Clint Eastwood)

I'm in absolute awe of Clint Eastwood, 76 years old and still making 2 movies every year. And what movies! After winning the Oscar 2 years ago with "Million Dollar Baby" (not deserved if you ask me), he creates a masterpiece that will certainly bring some gold as well.
Iwo Jima is a great human piece, about regular people in a war that's bigger than their own lives. Watching Japanese soldiers battle Americans during the second World War is riveting. I personally love Japanese culture, and the difference in actions between those soldiers, and what we're used to in countless other movies is fascinating. "Flag of Our Fathers", the first part of this Eastwood dyptic, was one of them, and much less interesting. Iwo Jima is also amazingly directed, with a very quiet and intimate camera, and beautiful to watch.
It seems that great filmmakers can't go wrong with showing the enemy's side, as Takaha had proven in 1984 with his masterpiece, "Grave of the Fireflies".

No 4: The last king of Scotland (Kevin McDonald).

I was pretty surprised last week to see in the theaters a preview, announcing "coming soon", for this movie I watched more than 2 months ago. This is a movie of my favorite kind: small, with little marketing, that you go see without really knowing what you're in for (none of your friend want to go with you, of course) and that just knock you flat out.
"The Last King of Scotland" is the story of a 26-year old Scottish doctor, moving to Uganda in 1970. He soon becomes the friend and physician of Idi Amin "Dada", Uganda's president and dictator.

There is so much making this film great: the background first, Africa in the 1970's, of which I knew nothing. The colors, sounds and accents that simply move you to another place in time and in space. Interesting to notice that Africa doesn't seem to have changed much since the 70's.
The acting then, with a fantastic James McAvoy (he was the fawn in the dreary Narnia) and a always-underused Gillian Anderson. But most of all, there is Forest Whitaker. This amazing actor ("Ghost Dog" and so many other movies, actually guest-starring in ER) delivers here an incredibly powerful performance. There's no way you can't be petrified when he's on screen, literally inhabiting his role. He just won the Golden Globe for this, and if he doesn't get the Oscar... well, I'll be damned.

No 3: Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron)

Difficult to think of an action movie as one of the greatest of a year. Well, just think of Blade Runner (not an action movie according to some, but let's pass). Sometimes, what we see first as action movies are that good, that well written, that deep, that they deserve the title of "great". "Children of Men" is one of those for several reason. First, the action is top notch, as should be expected. The rawness and realism of this near-future Great Britain makes you think of current war zones, and of the actual condition some people have to live in today.

The reflection on the state of mankind, and what's really important to us (to defeat our enemies, or to see our children live?) has lots of depths - and the way it's brought here is both subtle and intelligent. One would not expect less from Alfonso Cuaron, the always sensitive director of "Y tu Mama Tembien" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban".

But even if you can't see past the action, it'll be impossible to stand up if you need to go pee, as I did myself for at least an hour.

No 2: Apocalypto (Mel Gibson)

Oh, how hard it was for me to decide if I should see the new Mel Gibson movie. I, of course, condemn his anti-semite rant last summer, and have little doubts about what he really thinks of Jews. But is the man and the filmmaker the same? And does he really need my money to build another church in his backyard?
I still don't know how to answer, so I went and saw the movie, but didn't pay for it (instead, I bought a ticket for another movie, produced by Jews). Yeah, well.

It's hard to describe Apocalypto. Yes, it's violent, but not more than the last Episode of Rome (amazing HBO series, by the way). Yes, it's in Mayan, and I think that's fantastic. Both things, though, make total sense in Mel-Gibson-the-filmmaker's view of life. As he did for Braveheart, everything that existed is on screen, as real as possible. Mayans did speak Mayan (duh!), they did sacrifice humans for their gods (although not all of them, fine), so that's what you get. Blood, in this ancient time, was poured as often as water: and it's not the blood of what we now call "gratuitous violence". It's the blood of tradition, of life, of birth. It has its place here.

But why a great movie? Why number 2? For an exceptional experience, the raw mix of Nature and Man, land and civilization. The foot-race between the characters, in the second part of the movie (all played by Mexican of Guatemalan amateurs) is an allegory for so many battles we have fought the last 3000 years I could not mention them all here.

No 1: The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky).

I won't try to describe "The Fountain" here. Oh, sure there's a story, and it's not that hard to understand. There's a style, and you may like it or not. But "The Fountain" is, most of all, an experience. You enter its world and you experience its universe.

Aronofsky has the unique gift of marrying picture and sound to create a film that both takes you in, and gets inside you. It's amazing to see how the pace of his editing, and of Clint Mansell's unbelievable score, regulates the pace of the viewer's own heart. And the presence of Hugh Jackman (or, should I say, three Hugh Jackmans) multiplies that power tenfold. I got out of the theater thinking I had been drugged. To those who think a movie can't be physical for the viewer: see "Requiem for a Dream", see "The Fountain".

"The Fountain" is a lot of things. A romance (perfect companion piece to "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"), and sci-fi story, a period piece. It's a drug, it's a moving painting, it's an exercise of style for its actors.

It's above all, a personal movie. The director's vision. This is a kind of movie you don't succeed or fail at. It's not made for us, it's made by the director, for himself.
So to all the critics who didn't like "The Fountain", who dare advise their reader not to see it, I say: "who do you think you are?"
Who ever said a movie needed a clear story? A linear construction? Who ever said a movie should bring something to the viewer?
Movies don't have to be for hire. They don't have to be the results of a studio order. They can be the will of a director, kind enough to share his vision with an audience.

Maybe you won't connect with "The Fountain". Maybe you won't get into it. But if you do, as I did, it might just change you.
I'll be eternally grateful to Darren Aronofsky for sharing.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Top 2006, part I

Hello Children.

Finally, it's time to reveal my top 2006. No, this is not a top ten. This is simple a list of the great movies of 2006. Not the good, not the enjoyable, the great. Those who were way above everything else. And honestly, it was a freaking good year.

No 12: Dave Chapelle's block Party

Everyone know I love ex-boss Michel Gondry, and some that I admire Dave Chapelle greatly. I'm happy to say that during the last few days of my internship with Gondry, in 2004, I sent a Fedex to Dave Chapelle's agent: it was actually the beggining of their collaboration. But anyway, this is an amazing documentary, for several reason. Of course, the music's great, and Dave's hilarious. But above everything, we really see in it who are the regular Americans. The Marching Band from Ohio, the kids from Brooklyn. For me, this is a neighborhood film, the best depiction I've seen on screen of what real people are.

No 11: Casino Royale

The new James Bond is not a James Bond. I could (and have) talk all day about the flaws of Casino Royale as a 007 movie (in two words: this has nothing to do in the franchise, all the requirements for a JB movie are not met). But let's forget about this, and focus on the movie for itself. A great action movie (with a pretty cheap romance), who's real reason for being in this list is Daniel Craig. His charisma and talent here is absolutely fantastic, and redeems everything. I can't wait for the next one, who might just be a real bond flick.

No 10: The descent.

Few people saw this incredible british horror movie. For once, really scary, and dealing with real issues, such as feminism and revenge. And a cast of almost exclusively women! Rent it now, you won't regret it.

No 9: Marie Antoinette.

Please calm down, and let me explain something. A movie can be anything, as long as there is video and music. It doesn't have to be coherent, it doesn't have to tell a story. Joey Starr's latest music video, for example, is a (short) movie in its own right.

So to all the people who complained about Sofia's Copolla's take on Marie Antoinette, I answer: "Who gives a fuck?" She had a vision, she did it. So what if she likes to dress the queen in converse? She does whatever she freaking wants. And I personally love it, precisely because her vision is so original and creative. I totally bought into the story of a young and modern queen, and I think Sofia's direction was brilliant, as was Kirsten Dunst's acting. And the music, of course!!!!

No 8: V For Vendetta

Well, number one: Nathalie Portman.
Number two: the Wachovsky brothers (the ones who made the first Matrix, not the sequels!).
And then: A great realistic take on the future, awesome effects, great thinking. But please, don't tell me this is a not-politically correct movie: in today's world, being anti-government is the norm, not the opposite!
Finally: a gorgeous photography.

No 7: The Departed.
Action movie at its best. A legendary director, fantastic actors, great script. Nothing else to say, just awesome. It lacks only a little bit of depth and real issues to become great (Se7en-like great, I mean).

No 6: The Prestige
I adore movies about Magic, and those with a twist. The Prestige has both, as well as awesome acting. And the best might actually be Michael Caine! Christopher Nolan once again proves he's the best new Hollywood director around. A word about the other "magic" film of the fall: The Illusionist. A good movie, with the awesome Ed Norton, but a weak script. I wasn't impressed at all with the ending.

Stay tuned, and come back for the top 5!!!! Very soon!
And don't forget to comment with your favorite movies, and try to guess the 5 left :-)