Tag Archives: Oscars

It’s Never As Bad As It Looks.

“Sunlight

It’s never as bad as it looks.
Oh, I’m pretty sure that was worse. Call it a crummy way to start the new year. I almost lost my dad. A standard procedure he’d been putting off until after his ticker was fully mended, was nearly the end of him. It all went terribly wrong. Hope I’m not presumptive in proclaiming our having rounded third and nearing home, at long last. Shane’s observation of my dad’s doc being akin to Steve Zahn can only be a good thing, yes? Last year, I got to check out the portion of land surrounding the home where my dad grew up. The sun provided the best dappling by which to capture it all by.

“Slug”

Entering the tainment.
I was easily sidetracked with a simple glance downward where this big little guy was found munching away on lunch. You could even hear the crunch of the leaf which made for oddly novel entertainment. Just look at the number of texture types to be found on him! And to think, I’d previously dubbed slugs “the hidden enemy.”

“Apples”

You should seed this.
Ripe fruit for the picking. Count it the second year in a row now with less than desirable conditions coinciding and conflicting with my annual moviefest. The Oscar show itself, at least, seemed packed with references culled from a number of my own personal interests, the shiny cherry atop a soupy sundae.
 
Captain Kirk!
boobs & puppets (but not together)
Waltz- fellow astronomy aficionado- won
dancing
kilt-wearing
the HULK
Downey, Jr.
more dancing
the short film Curfew won
Did I mention Captain Kirk?
Zorro’s wife singing
Christopher Plummer ushered in by The Sound of Music

“Grass

Infrangible.
A single blade, both delicate and strong, enduring. A lone soldier in nature. And not a spit bug in sight.

“Barn

On my side.
My greatest gift and biggest enemy, simultaneously. Time. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it the domain of Murphy. I have dreams, does it not know? At times I seem running very fast just to stay in the same place. Yes, this is life- I always love it, but sometimes I don’t like it very much. It’s simply ravaged the side of this shed, though lovely it still is, with the addition of rusted nails, bits of moss and lichen, and flaked paint to boot. I’ve no lichen yet, but I am a bit rusty on a few things myself. ♦

Tilda Swinton Looks Like David Bowie and Other Obvious Observations

Nearly made the decision to forego my self-imposed Oscar ritual this year, when a first look at the nominations revealed I’d seen all but a handful. So, with that, here I am, another year, another Oscar, another two cents!

With no fraught and frenetic schedule to plan and produce in rushing about this town and that to view all the selected nominees as in years past, it was with unusual leisure that I arrived to see the last* film, Biutiful, in completion of the list. A sporadic bout of snow threatened to keep me away, but failed, nonetheless.

The Last One

Actors
I’d love to see Colin Firth, favored for the win, visit the stage to collect his Oscar for Best Actor. In the King’s Speech, as the future King George VI, known as “Bertie” to his loved ones, Firth does well to physically enact the struggles brought on by Bertie’s debilitating stutter. Two moments in particular, clinched it for me. One, Lionel Logue, portrayed by Geoffrey Rush, is an unorthodox therapist for his time, and therefore, in one particular instance, has Bertie sing instead of speak during conversation, only one of numerous exercises. Bertie sings out this horrific tale of past abuse by his nanny in childhood, and the absurdity of his carried tune paired with the words flowing from his mouth was a taste of cinematic perfection. Two, there are moments when Bertie is able to press passed the wall presented by his stutter to speak correctly. These moments are tied to times when his temper rises, when he’s pushed to declare aloud what he feels is the truth. In one such moment, he declares vehemently that he has a voice, and it makes you wanna laugh and cry all at the same time, because, of course, he does! In those words he hits the nail on the head. A voice in every sense, as a human to share his thoughts and impressions, and quite literally, a voice with which to do so, that he, at last, has found. A delicious triumph! Quite simply, as has been praised by others many times over since the film’s debut, Colin Firth helped in bringing humanity to an often removed and aloof section of the population, that of the Royal family, making the to-be king relatable to one and all.

A brief wonderment: Javier Bardem, who did a fine job in his nominated role for Biutiful, was reportedly touted and campaigned as Oscar worthy material by his friend Julia Roberts. She held a dinner to wine and dine those with clout and influence in hopes of earning him a nomination, as she’s done in the past with several others as well. Knowing the Academy’s ways over the years, how they tend to operate within a predictable set of criteria and employ their considerable influence when it comes to voting, I can see why one would take it upon themselves to make an attempt to change it, in turn, by employing their own considerable influence. However, in so doing, and with the passage of time and repetition, at some point does one realize they’re apt to become the very thing they were attempting to fight against?

Alex Eylar's Legos: The Fighter

In The Fighter, Christian Bale plays Dicky Ward, a former boxer hung up on a crack addiction, and older brother to that of Micky Ward, a would-be star boxer if he could only escape the entrenchment of his needy family. Bale lost weight for the role in order to exhibit the wiry frame of the real-life Dicky, and captures his characteristically frenetic and jittery physical qualities for the screen. Offering up a character-driven performance that juxtaposed Mark Wahlberg’s understated one as his brother Micky, his portrayal remains likable despite the bad-guy choices he makes repeatedly. He’ll be my choice for Best Supporting Actor come Oscar night. The film itself provided so much heart and hope and humor, it certainly deserves its Best Picture nomination.

Actresses
Though Natalie Portman’s a shoe-in to win Best Actress for her role in Black Swan, and I count several of her films among my favorites, I say, nay, nay, for reasons mentioned further on. So, with Portman out of the picture, I would have selected Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone in which she plays 17-year-old Ree Dolly, a girl caring for her two younger siblings and household due to her mother having mentally checked out while simultaneously attempting to locate her missing meth dealer-of-a-father in a matter of days before losing their home. Set in Southwestern Missouri, the desolate land seemed almost another character to contend with as Ree makes her way back and forth on foot from this place to that in an urgent and persistent search. I was anxious for her and revered her stubborn stance taken for justice in the face of overwhelming family loyalty and tradition. Unfortunately, in watching The Burning Plain in which she also starred recently, I found the performances comparable- both well done, but if one’s worthy of award, why not the other as well?

Alex Eylar's Legos: Winter's Bone

This leads me to a surprising Best Actress choice, as I generally dislike this woman: Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine. This stated dislike has not stopped me from still immensely liking several handfuls of her films over the years. Hooray for objectivity! Really, a desire for her to win is more a want for further recognition of this tragic and beautiful film. It’s poignant and hopeless and helpless in presenting a marriage plagued with the struggles of everyday existence when all inkling of any magic found has long since left and what remains seems nothing more than work, lacking reward enough to make it all seem worth it. What happens when one side of the relationship wants it to continue and the other’s throwing in the towel? It gets messy and no pat answers are contributed to soothe the audience, we get to sit and feel the struggle along with the couple and are left to wonder as they do.

*Rabbit Hole has fallen through that large crack between availability in theatres and release on DVD, and thus would and should be the true last film. C’est la.

Alex Eylar's Legos: Blue Valentine

Who I’d very much like to see win for Best Supporting Actress would be Hailee Steinfeld, she, along with the cast and crew helped take True Grit nearly straight off the book’s page and up onto the big screen. As Mattie Ross, a girl out to avenge her father’s murder, she employs the help of a U.S. Marshal. The way she punctuated certain words in dialogue, I believed her determination, and her practicality and narrative analysis of when she’d find herself in a particularly trying circumstance often resulted in humor. Am curious to see Steinfeld perform in another role, so as to have something to compare it to. In reading the novel, she’s much more of what I envisioned than the overblown optimism delivered by the young woman in the John Wayne version. True Grit got me back into a Western kick with a stack of great films now waiting out on the coffee table.

Alex Eylar's Legos: True Grit

Some Other Stuff
In the Animated Feature category, I found The Illusionist to be absolutely delightful- the animation style, the muted color palette, the scenery and wistful storyline. A magician meets a young lady amidst his travels and their relationship then unfolds in a father-and-daughter manner. Like many magicians, this fellow had a white wabbit, an especially ornery one at that. The attention to detail- a miniscule light bulb flickers among many others on the ceiling of a theatre’s outdoor entrance- and the play and use of light and shadow were easy to appreciate throughout. The slow pace could put some off, and at moments the passage of time was unclear, yet all the same, a pleasant surprise were it to take the little golden guy!

In other animation, adored the vintage style of Let’s Pollute in the Animated Short category, and found the thoughtful contemplation required of The Lost Thing to be endearing. Madagascar had such a carefree style about it, it made me believe I could create such an animation, too, and offered inspiration to do so. Shane is slightly ape over The Gruffalo from fond memories of the children’s book in childhood.

Gladly, it also shows how easily people can come back together when the right things are focused upon.

Film festivals of every kind have always been on the one day, someday list, having only gone to Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation several times many years ago now. Spent a night seeing the animation and live action shorts a few weeks back up in Seattle, and happy to have seen a line wrapped around the building filled with others wishing to do the same. So, in Live Action Shorts, The Crush was touching and sweet, featuring a little boy whose crush on his teacher may or may not play out to an ominous end. The boy’s affection possessed precisely the type of passion, intent, and follow through many a woman would like to find herself the object of, having me wonder the writer’s gender. God of Love‘s quirky plot filmed beautifully in black and white tells of a man in love who prays to God for help only to receive a box of darts. Looove darts! A modern day take on Cupid. It’s the first of my two favorites for the win. Second, Na Wewe follows a van full of folks traveling in Burundi during the mid 90’s when it must stop at a militia checkpoint. The militia wants to know who’s Hutu and who’s Tutsi, so as to kill the Tutsi, those “not like them.” The film makes a worthy point about the interrelation of humanity, and shows the foolhardiness of choosing to accentuate our differences as a people in order to cause division. Gladly, it also shows how easily people can come back together when the right things are focused upon.

In Costume Design, the number one thing I took away was from I Am Love, an Italian film, in which Tilda Swinton stars reminding just how very much she looks like David Bowie. Once I get past that, I may have something more thoughtful to yield in the way of this particular category. Possibly even costume related. Enquire within.

Alex Eylar's Legos: The Social Network

I’m nearly always disappointed in the selections for Original Song, though, Original Scores are quite another story. The Social Network. It’s due to my general beef with Facebook, because it often reflects parts of what I despise about humanity in gross terms- their tendency to go the way of sheep, to be filled with apathy and be perfectly all right with that- that I only relented and dragged myself to The Social Network at long last because of its Oscar nominations. In the opening credits, Trent Reznor’s name rolled by for film score and I leaned to Bean proclaiming “sellout” under my breath. Never happier to eat that word! A hefty portion in, I noted that the intensity that had built was largely from the way the score punctuated various moments, segued one scene to the next, and the music being distinctively Reznor is what gave the film its driving edge. Enjoyed the movie thoroughly and could see it taking Best Picture for mostly right reasons.

I’d say with age comes evolution, and therefore, allow an artist to develop new ways of growing

Lastly, for Documentary Feature, Exit through the Gift Shop, please! A documentary, a satire, a self-reflective bit of work about street art, and artists, Banksy, Mr. Brainwash- just go watch it- it all touches on points close to home concerning being true to one’s art versus selling out, and which is what, and by whose definition. Applying what’s at topic in this bit of filmage to that of Reznor-as-sellout above, I’d say with age comes evolution, and therefore, allow an artist to develop new ways of growing and producing their work, realizing that where there’s notoriety, there’s the public, and where there’s the public, the one of note can’t please all of the public all of the time.

Pictures
So, my dad calls up asking if I’d like to see a movie, a relatively rare thing as he’s quite straight-laced in what he chooses to view. A voracity for portions of history- Hitler, Mexico, and the Royals among them- had him eager to see the King’s Speech. With a full house, the trailers began, one being for Blue Valentine. As the trailer wraps up, Ryan Gosling croons You Always Hurt the One You Love and in the silence after his utterance of the final lyric “It’s because I love you most of all”, my dad loudly exclaims, “Gee, I hope not”. Never know just when he’ll strike, though, galleries and museums that verge on the edge of taking themselves a bit too seriously often fall prey. Enjoyed the first portion of the film tremendously as the trust and rapport was built between Bertie and Lionel. The angles chosen to frame the characters added visual interest as did the use of blues and greens. A history lesson with humanity, albeit an altered lesson, I’m rooting for its win!

Alex Eylar's Legos: The King's Speech

Give Original Screenplay to Inception, and as for Best Picture, let’s swap out Black Swan or The Kids Are Alright for The Town. Black Swan, I tell you, had I not known this particular film was from the likes of Darren Aronofsky, I wouldn’t have guessed it. Rather, thought it was in keeping with the likes of this year’s The Roommate, and not much more. Concerning Portman’s time dedicated to intensive ballet training in preparation of the part, bravo! Props to any and all actors and actresses who take the time to immerse themselves in their character’s world. Present them with an Oscar for it? No. If coupled with a phenomenal acting job, sure. She gave a relatively fine performance, though, I’ve seen her better- a scene comes to mind from Closer more award worthy than Black Swan, in fact. Though there was meant to be a transformation from the innocence of the white swan to the sensuality of the black, Portman gave no gradual hint of any such transformation, instead playing the part as a near quivering, fearful mouse-of-a-girl straight on through. Any transformation to have taken place is seen only in external devices- the red swan eyes and bits of a sprouting feather that tell us there’s something changing, but nothing much internally from Portman herself. Oddly enough, for all that training, she’s most often shot from the torso on up. Some have raved on that the film’s not about a young dancer at all, but instead the struggle of art within, the want and need to express it perfectly, and have deemed the piece a visual feast. I know well the desire and outright need of artistic expression and appreciate work that attempts to relay that to a public that may not always understand, putting them in an artist’s shoes, pointe shoes, in this case. Just didn’t find it as gratifying as others may have, and a visual feast, not in the least.

Alex Eylar's Legos: Black Swan

Tomorrow holds tickets to a downtown Oscar party in ritzy duds. Till then, I’ll soon be checking in on the Spirit Awards hosted by Joel McHale! Seattle pride bursting here. As a teenager, saw McHale perform many times at Pike Place Market’s Theatresports and loved the way he had with timing. Ah, timing, posting my thoughts the early morning of, now that’s some timing. ♦

Further work by Alex Eylar can be found on Flickr and at mocpages.

Okay, Now That THAT’s Been Stated …

I DIG THE OSCARS. This’ll be the third year in a row that I’ve made a conscious effort to see each and every movie nominated in the Best Picture, Best Actor/Actress, and Supporting Actor/Actress categories. Years past, I’d see many of the films, but not all. It’s important to differentiate between what one wants to win, what will win and what should win, and I’ve found I like putting my two cents in for each, and that may only be done fairly in viewing all the submitted work. Here, a half-cent’s worth, or so …

The film is almost feverish with optimism, and hope to overcome, with a sense that one must always try, nothing less would be satisfactory.

Slumdog Millionaire! I’d so love to see it win for Best Picture! Went into this film without having seen a preview or a poster, just a one-line synopsis from Bean. Arrived to a packed house, and was enamored within minutes. Its visual style, bright colors of blue, and yellow, orange and red, coupled with the best treatment of subtitles (the majority of the film is in English) I’ve seen to date, and scored by songs from M.I.A., all go far to enrich the excellent content that is Slumdog Millionaire. The story follows a street kid, or “slumdog,” Jamal Malik, who appears as a contestant on India’s version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. He is interrogated by local police on the suspicion of cheating, where the story unfolds in flashbacks over his impoverished and often brutal childhood. The way in which his experiences are woven in to produce the game show’s answers is nothing less than brilliant! Kudos to Danny Boyle for adaptation from the book (resulting in a win, too, please!). Despite the portrayal of horrific conditions with orphans and squalor, brutality and crime, the film is almost feverish with optimism, and hope to overcome, with a sense that one must always try, nothing less would be satisfactory. The scene that plays during the end credits is really what clinched it for me, as both a testament to India’s film making history and a major play to my own personal tastes.

Slumdog Millionaire

Milk is also a contender for Best Picture, still I’d much prefer its leading man, Sean Penn, to win for Best Actor versus see the film take it as a whole. Penn really captures the humor and enthusiasm projected by Harvey Milk, America’s first openly gay man elected to public office, a fact the picture is centered and built on. Despite its sad outcome, the film manages to offer up encouragement above all, a great tribute to Milk. Aside from Penn for Best Actor, Mickey Rourke may be a nice choice (still deliberating), for his go as a past-his-prime pro wrestler in the aptly named, The Wrestler. I found myself constantly evaluating whether he was truly good, or just because he sooo looked the part, is being credited with a performance that was simply his natural state of being swathed in the outer visual trappings of that aged and leathery exterior.

Milk

The Wrestler

It was with heavy resignation that I plopped down to watch Best Picture nominee Frost/Nixon, as all of the interest I held upon viewing the preview months back, had dwindled away. The first in a three-movie marathon to be had that particular day, I was eager to check it off the list and move on to what I deemed more enticing fare. Au contraire! It wasn’t long before I was highly engaged, with timing and editing handled in such a way as to produce wit and humor. The film covers the televised 1977 interview of former president Richard Nixon by David Frost, a popular British talk show host. Although typical Hollywood liberties are taken and it strays from the truth, the fun lies in the hours seen spent prepping for the interview, with those backing Frost concerned with cornering Nixon and weening an admission of wrongdoing of time spent in office, most notably, in the Watergate scandal, while Nixon and his camp looked to set an untarnished image in the minds of the American people. A deserved nomination, a potential win.

Frost/Nixon

The Reader, I still have difficulty accepting as worthy of a Best Picture nomination, as it felt like it fell flat somehow, just short of providing a satisfying emotional impact, I guess. Kate Winslet portrays Hanna, a woman who has an affair with Michael, a 15-year-old boy, in 1950s Germany. Their brief romance centers on much bedroom activity (note her nifty come-on with that towel move) and the reading of many a book. Hanna leaves abruptly, only to be seen again nearly a decade later by Michael, a university law student. She stands trial for crimes of war, and Michael, torn by a desire for justice, holds secret knowledge that may reduce Hanna’s sentence significantly. The always lovely Kate Winslet may very well take the Oscar for Best Actress, yet I found her portrayal of Hanna as an old woman, lacking, if not a bit hokey, largely in part to the cakey and implausible makeup application meant to transform her into an older Hanna.

TANGENT: In fact, the only role that comes to mind in which a younger actress plays an aging one well, is that of Marion Cotillard in last year’s La Vie En Rose. It was the very last film I had to watch on my Oscar list, and I did so in the wee hours of the morning, long after posting my thoughts on the 2008 Academy Awards. Had I watched beforehand, I would surely have raved on about Marion’s transformation into that of Edith Piaf, France’s most beloved singer of her time, some would even say, century. The makeup job was by far the best I’ve seen in the way of aging an actor, it won, deservedly so, as did Marion. The makeup provided a bridge of sorts, enabling her to cross over the barriers of time to effectively embody Edith, instead of impeding the transformation, as with Winslet.

The Reader

Frequently, I struggle to feel passionate about what the Academy nominates in the way of women’s roles, and this year proves no different. Meryl Streep need merely grace the screen to be bestowed a nomination (as does Dame Dench). Aggravating though I find this, her turn as the stern and seemingly single-minded nun in Doubt, is marvelous. She interjects an almost droll humor with a variety of smart quips into a film brimming with stark simplicity, her prim and plain look doing much to further define her character. Though I’d like her not to win this time around merely for the sake of letting others have a turn. All the same, she’s commendable (again) and most pleasantly, she tends to offer up delightfully, and surprisingly, entertaining acceptance speeches. Personally, I’d like to see Anne Hathaway win for her portrayal of Kym, a recovering addict, full of vulnerability and narcissism in Rachel Getting Married. Multiple scenes attest to her deservedness, one in particular. Her sister, Rachel, is getting married (clever title) and the reception dinner provides an opportunity for loved ones to stand, mike in hand, in honoring the betrothed couple with words of love and reminiscing. Kym begins well, but quickly deviates to a self-glorifying rehab exercise, blathering on in supposed apology, and the discomfort to be felt was palpable. Fellow theatre goers began squirming in their seats hoping, willing, her to just move on already. Penélope Cruz takes on the role of a tempestuous ex-wife in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She’s downright funny in her perceptive and moody fussing, and though I may still be overly warm towards her due to the capture of my heart via song in Volver just a few years back (lip-synced, or not, well done), I’d like to cast her as the winner of Best Supporting Actress. Viola Davis would serve nicely as well, she was deeply moving in Doubt, as a mother choosing the lesser of two evils in attempts to protect and provide for her son’s needs.

Doubt

Rachel Getting Married

VickyCristinaBarcelona

Doubt

In the Best Supporting Actor category, I must say, I was so pleased to see the stodgy Academy recognize a comic performance! Robert Downey, Jr., for Tropic Thunder. But geez, Louise, not while up against perfection! Brolin’s nomination for his turn as conflicted elected official Dan White in Milk seems overly generous (the personal turmoil one must feel in determining White’s course of action hardly appeared to play out on Brolin’s face, nor in his manner). However, Michael Shannon’s nomination is spot on. As a man who’s suffered a mental breakdown, his visits to the home of the outwardly ideal 1950s couple in Revolutionary Road are harrowing. The filter one employs in social settings is clearly gone in his case, allowing him to cut deep, right to the truth, revealing a gaping wound in their marriage, and Shannon is relentless in his depiction. Let’s swap out Brolin’s nomination in favor of The Changeling’s Jason Butler Harner as Gordon Northcott, who relays a seedy fervor on screen, making one glad they’re not alone in a room with him.

Tropic Thunder

Milk

Revolutionary Road

The Changeling

So, that’s that. The mentioning of cinematography, art direction, editing, song and score, makeuping and costuming, documentaries and animations, shorts and otherwise, screenplays and adapted, shall all remain delicious fodder for the savoring of tomorrow night. I leave you with the words of Johnny Carson, words many may regard as truth. “As you all know by now, this is the 51st annual Academy Awards. Two hours of sparkling entertainment spread out over a four-hour show.”

To which I ask, “Oh, pleeease can’t we make it five?”

And Now, For a No Brainer …

Good God, let the man WIN! I’m talking Oscar gold, this coming Sunday evening, Best Supporting Actor, Heath Ledger, the Joker. C’est parfait!

My Lord, he’s glorious, the mannerisms, the movement of mouth and tongue, that wicked laugh, devious grin, maniacal makeup, dapper vest and nifty socks, looney nurse’s uniform. Ledger’s joker is chaos embodied. He took my expectations and surpassed them like very little has ever done before.

And love that pencil trick, mm-hhmmm. ♦

Heath Ledger

There Will Be Blood

Oh, yes. A declaration and a promise. I was so sure that There Will Be Blood would be my definite pick from those in this year’s Oscar’s Best Picture selection after having been completely taken with the previews displaying images of an impassioned Paul Dano and fueled by an intense segment of the film’s engaging score. Not so afterall. A movie I had absolutely no interest in to begin with has won out in the end. The Oscars are but a day away. Big yay! Here lie my musings on this year’s offerings …

There’s no curtain of the psyche pulled back to reveal the depth required to possess such anger and its source.

In viewing There Will Be Blood, I was struck by the score immediately. It made me look at the vast, sprawling cinematic camera shots of barren land with great expectancy. Music to keep one on their toes, alert. A main draw in the film, much ballyhooed, is Daniel Day-Lewis’s topnotch (and nominated) performance. He portrays a driven, ambitious man in search of wealth, an “oil man” as he fondly and repeatedly refers to himself, but a man who never quite gets it. “It” being life’s great connection to others, instead he systematically drives away and/or disposes of the few close to him. Day-Lewis is excellent, his face so lively, his voice almost roaring in line delivery at times. As I like to find the meaning in things, often to a fault, the film left me generally unsatisfied. And not in the good way in which one is left wanting more after just a taste, no. Ambiguous, it all was. The man had tremendous anger, though, no explanation is even hinted at as to why. No reason. No motive. The payoff lies in the “why,” don’t they know? There’s no curtain of the psyche pulled back to reveal the depth required to possess such anger and its source. Count me ultimately disengaged and wondering at the intent of the director in so telling the story.

There Will Be Blood

Among the men …
Every little bit of me screams for Johnny, Johnny DEPP!! Go, fight, win! An Oscar, yes! But, for his role as Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street? Nooooooo! Overlooked for many a fine performance over the years only to land a third nomination for Sweeney Todd. Say it ain’t so. A movie I thought I’d absolutely love due to its gruesome take on meat pie filling, monstrously funny, and a musical at that, lost my affection with its focus purely on revenge rather than on redemption. A bang up job he did, all the same, the man can emote in glorious pallor, thus he must remain my top pick for Lead Actor. I am so championing for Casey Affleck to win for Supporting Actor in the The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (quite the mouthful). I swear I could see actual love and admiration, the real deal, pouring out from his eyes as Robert Ford in a discussion with Jesse James played by Brad Pitt. Viggo Mortensen, Viggo is nominated solely for having displayed his pretty pink parts on screen for all to see. During a fight seen in a bathhouse, no less. In his turn as Nikolai, a driver for one of London’s most notorious organized crime families of Russian descent in Eastern Promises, his accent is kept wonderfully consistent, but an inadequate show of emotional range fails to convince me of his Oscar deservedness. FYI, I’m apparently a fan of Russian criminal tattoos, who knew?

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Eastern Promises

What’s the deal with Clooney? Why does the academy again deem him worthy of an Oscar acting accolade? Nevermind the actual movie, Michael Clayton, for which he’s nominated capturing a Best Picture nod (and even Original Screenplay). Clooney plays the fixer for a high-power law firm whose client, an agrichemical industry giant, is wreaking untold havoc on their consumers’ health. Tilda Swinton, nominated for Supporting Actress, plays chief counsel for said industry giant. I so thoroughly abhorred her, more that of what she represents- the money-grubbing corporate mongers who check any scruples at the door in exchange for a sizable expense account and a noteworthy entry on their resume only to live out the existence of a soulless stooge. Michael Clayton plays like a grimmer version of the movie Erin Brockovich, though, Mr. Clayton must be dragged to his duty whereas Ms. Brokovich led the crusade. Michael Clayton is a slow build to a resolute, but disappointing end, seemingly aimed at providing Clooney with fodder with which to shoot for an Oscar. I’m prepared to birth a small baby cow if Michael Clayton takes it. Or Clooney for that matter. Moo.

Michael Clayton

Let’s talk women …
Juno. Oh, Juno. I really, really didn’t wanna see this film. Despite immensely enjoying the quirky Napoleon Dynamite-ish style seen in the trailer and on the poster that all called my name, I was completely turned off by that Ellen Page, Juno, with her harsh, smug line delivery. Juno is 16 and pregnant, obvious dilemma therein. Rolled my eyes and let out a groan when it was announced she was nominated, as well as the movie. FINE. Off I drove to see it in my pursuit of an informed opinion over that of stubborn bias. Not even five minutes in, and I was lovin’ it! Abandoned my disdain for her character entirely. Was won over by her, rooting for her, and genuinely adding her to the “Most Admirable Characters” list. Also nominated for Original Screenplay (take that, Michael Clayton!) it contains the pleasurably sardonic nature of Diablo Cody’s (clearly a pseudo name) writing, just as in her published memoirs. My personal choice is for that of the most lovely Cate Blanchett. Whether she wins for her title role in Elizabeth: The Golden Age or for her portrayal of Bob Dylan in I’m Not There for Supporting Actress, no matter. She’s power. She’s strength. She’s soft. She’s tender. Diverse, malleable, a true chameleon. When she bellows the words “I, too, can command the wind, sir! I have a hurricane in me that will strip Spain bare when you dare to try me!” as Queen Elizabeth, my spirit rises up to match hers and I feel I could conquer the world. As for who should win, the radiant Julie Christie captures all the multifacets to be found in the slipping away through Alzheimer’s dementia with poignancy and grace in Away From Her.

Juno

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

I’m Not There

Away From Her

The moment cannot pass without mention of the beauty that is the film Atonement aptly nominated for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay, and Film Score. I have not read the book from which it was adapted, though, in watching it I felt very much as though I were reading some delicious unfolding of languorous description. It is a ravishing romance set in 1935 with a decided undertone of carnal tension. As the credits rolled, Bean asked what I thought of it, to which I said it was one of those films that I needed a little space from to see if it grew on or away from me. A definite case of absence growing the heart fonder, it burned in my mind, and I returned a second time to experience its haunting mood. The music was integral, the score responsible for sweeping me further in. As the There Will Be Blood score was not nominated due to a missed technical requirement, the Atonement score simply MUST win! The pressing repetition of one piano key played again and again heightening each moment on screen before taking off, coupling with a frenzied string accompaniment, soaring high then sweeping low. The addition of the sound of typewriter keys, interwoven here and there, appropo as the plot hinges on that of a misinterpreted typed letter.

Atonement

A sucker for a good bad guy, I am, strictly on screen, that is. My personal choice for Best Picture edges out Atonement by a smidge: No Country for Old Men. Wasn’t moved one bit by the trailers I’d seen leading up to its release. Sometime afterward, I heard somewhere that Javier Bardem’s character was being compared to Hannibal Lecter. Interest peaked and with the announcement of a Best Picture nomination, off I went to watch. Out wandering the wide open land of a Texas border town in hunt of antelope, Josh Brolin’s character, Llewelyn, comes across a massacre, a drug deal gone horribly wrong. A case of $2 million in cash left there for the taking. And take he does. Soon found out, he finds Anton Chigurh, played by Javier Bardem, in hot and ruthless pursuit. Bardem’s highly intense. To a most enjoyably mental degree. His weapon of choice: An unlikely cattle gun. The pacing in this film is right on, keeping the viewer from any ease as Llewelyn, an “everyman” easy to root for, makes seemingly plausible move after plausible move in order to shake the trail of Chigurh, but to no avail as he’s continually caught up with. I felt sure the calm, calculating, perversely humorous Chigurh would walk up the aisle of the theatre at any moment and plug me with that rotten cattle gun. The ending seems to simply drop off out of nowhere, though, it’s supposed to be true to the book it’s taken from, so hooray for that, I suppose.

No Country for Old Men

There is a similar theme amidst many of the nominated works this year. That of bleakness, a dispiritedness. Some are outright tragic. Many appear a slam against America. From society’s tendency to seek out a quick fix, the want of something for nothing, to the end all, be all of money as God, greed replacing any remaining integrity as the big business modis operandi. Catered to the realist and not the idealist. One must certainly acknowledge realism, begin there, but never, never stop there, always shooting, aiming high, for idealism. One doesn’t work without the other and I look forward to a new batch of films in the coming year trained maybe a bit more towards that of said idealism, that of hope. ♦