Archive for Author Jess

At first, I thought this category had some pretty stiff competition and would be difficult to predict, but as I saw all the films and the awards season wore on, it was made pretty clear who the front runner is here.

Prediction:

Kate Winslet. Her performance in The Reader is amazing and I’m so glad to see it here. If her other performance this year (Revolutionary Road) had been nominated I don’t think she’d have stood a chance.

What Should Win:
Winslet, for sure, though I would have loved to see Hathaway up there as well.

This year this category is full of very strong contenders with no clear front runner.

Prediction:

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Mickey Rourke. There’s the chance that Sean Penn could upset this as he’s gotten a lot of praise for his Harvey Milk, and Langella is the dark horse here, but everyone has just adored Rourke this awards season. He’s quirky, he gives crazy acceptance speeches, and above all, he freaking deserves it. I think the Academy will do the right thing here.

Who Should Win:
Mickey by a mile.

What interests me most about this category is that I had one person nailed for this award, and have since completely changed my mind.

Prediction:

Oscar Nominated Penelope Cruz

Penélope Cruz. Originally I thought Viola Davis had this one for sure, but after seeing Vicki Cristina Barcelona, my mind has been completely changed. Cruz’s performance is raw, real, and amazing.

What Should Win:
I’ll go with Cruz. While I thought the Academy would flip for Davis’ performance, I wasn’t completely sold on it to begin with and the same thing goes for Henson. I’d love to say Tomei, but unfortunately for Marisa, The Wrestler is all Mickey’s show.

Here’s a category that’s had a front runner since before the film even came out. I think it’s the only category this year with an absolute shoe in for the award.

Prediction:

Joker, Heath Ledger, Dark Knight

Heath Ledger. No explanation necessary.

What Should Win:
How many people would freak out if I didn’t say Heath here? I’m not going to, but I’m just curious. Heath should definitely posthumously take this award, though I’ve said before that I wish I could have known how his performance would have been received if it wasn’t for his untimely death. My biggest beef was with who did and didn’t get nominated with Heath, and my second viewing of Milk hasn’t changed my mind that I wish Franco was up there instead of Brolin.

I saw this film in theaters a few weeks ago and I was the youngest person in the audience by about 20 years.

Kate Winslet, The Reader, Oscar Nominated

When a young boy, Michael Berg (David Kross), gets sick on his way home from school, a woman, Hannah Schmitz (Kate Winslet), helps him get home. When he goes back to thank her, they discover a tension there that manifests into an illicit affair. During the course of their relationship, Michael begins to read to Hannah and they bond through the words on the page. Three years after the affair ends, he encounters her once more under very different circumstances.

The performances in this film are fantastic. Kross and Winslet convey their lust and passion with few actual words. Michael’s reading and Hannah’s reactions are what drives their relationship. In later years, Ralph Fiennes portrays Michael as a tortured soul with a secret in his past. Having read the book, I enjoyed the film but felt that there were a few small things that were mishandled. A few important looks between Michael and Hannah are missing that I think would have further developed their characters well. Also, there is a reveal that is handled in the film as a big revelation, when I thought it was made quite obvious throughout.

Nominations:

Best Picture
The Academy loves holocaust films and I think it’s the only film here that could give Slumdog a run for its money.

Best Director – Stephen Daldry
There’s nothing special about the way this film is directed, though, and I don’t think that Daldry stands a chance here.

Best Actress – Kate Winslet
Her quiet performance of a tortured and painfully honest character is the reason these awards exist. I look forward to seeing her win.

Best Adapted Screenplay
I do like this nomination here. The book is a great story and the film does it justice. If anything is going to knock out Slumdog here it would be this.

Best Cinematography
Poor Roger Deakins does breathtaking work. He works like a dog (last year he was responsible for The Assassination of Jesse James and No Country for Old Men, this year he can claim both The Reader and Doubt) and has been nominated 8 times, but has never won. And I don’t think that will change this year.

***½

I waited until after the nominees were announced to see this film. I had a screener copy, but wanted to see it large on the big screen so I waited to see if it would get nominated for Best Picture before I watched the screener. That way, I knew I’d see it in the Best Picture Showcase as well and get a chance to see its beauty the way it was meant to be seen.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Brad Pitt

Based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story, Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) is born with a curious defect- he ages backwards. He begins life as a man “well into his 80’s” and proceeds to get younger with each passing year. He is raised and loved by his adoptive mother Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) in a retirement home. There he meets Daisy (the elder version is played by Cate Blanchett), the granddaughter of one of the tenants whom he falls in love with.

I recognize that this film is a unique and beautiful love story. I recognize that all the elements of this film are astounding- the effects, makeup, costumes, etc. That being said, I just couldn’t love it. I didn’t hate it, or even strongly dislike it, but I was expecting so much more. First of all, the film is obscenely long. Why is it obscenely long? Because it has several completely unnecessary story lines. It begins with a story about a clock that a man made to run backwards. Is this supposed to be why Benjamin ages backwards? I believe it’s simply to set the tone of the film and to remind us that Benjamin is aging backwards (sometimes the line, “All the while, that clock kept on running backwards” is thrown in to remind us that nothing has changed), which is completely unnecessary as several times Benjamin as a narrator utters “While everyone was getting older, I kept getting younger,” as if you couldn’t tell by his looks alone. In fact the only reason it seems to me that they made that story about the clock running backwards was to have a shot of the soldiers at war running backwards to put in the trailer.

Second, the film is narrated by Benjamin as a woman reads his journal to her dying mother, a device that I actually enjoyed. However, I’m not sure it was necessary for the hospital in which the mother and child are in be threatened by an oncoming hurricane, a hurricane that is revealed to be Hurricane Katrina. I don’t know if that was intended to give an idea of time frame, but if so they mention dates throughout the film and was therefore completely unnecessary. It’s all complete excess and should be on the cutting room floor. And speaking of the cutting room floor, the film was obviously paired down several times and some of its subplots lack polish as a result. Benjamin meets a pygmy early on and is fascinated by him, but when he says goodbye to him and is distraught, we feel nothing. They’ve hardly shown Benjamin spend more than a minute or two with this man and therefore I couldn’t feel sorry when he leaves. Also, there is a gimmick about a man who got struck by lightening seven times. Throughout the film we see these moments, only I’ve seen the film twice now and have only counted six times.

Finally, I really believe myself incapable of fully enjoying this film for one important reason- I spend the entire time over thinking. Every time a year is presented, an age given, or Benjamin is shown to look younger, I find myself calculating how old he actually is and how old his body is. And the worst part is that I never come to a conclusion. As they don’t give a very good starting point, and hardly ever give his actual age, I find myself constantly annoyed trying to figure out what stage he is at in his life, a fact that I felt should be made obvious rather than keeping us guessing. Other than the age difference affecting his relationship with Daisy, it really has no impact on his life. There could have been so many places that the unique idea of aging backwards could have been taken, but Fincher just doesn’t go there.

Nominations:

Best Picture
I think the Academy felt compelled to nominate this film for so many awards based on very few things: an amazing trailer, a unique idea, and an incredibly long production that has had this film on Hollywood’s radar for years. Having seen it, twice now, I can’t even begin to imagine why this is here in place of The Wrestler.

Best Director – David Fincher
The same goes for you, Fincher. Aronofsky deserved this spot.

Best Actor – Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt is a great actor and while I don’t think he’s particularly exceptional in this, I’ll accept that they are honoring his career with this nomination.

Best Supporting Actress – Taraji P. Henson
She turns in a very real and raw performance here and is one of few enjoyable things in this film, but like Viola Davis, her early buzz for the role has fizzled. I don’t think she’ll be taking this award home.

Best Adapted Screenplay
I’ve read the short story that this film is based and there are little to no similarities. I don’t think that adapting a 3 page story into a 3 hour long film warrants an award.

Best Cinematography
This film really is shot beautifully, but Slumdog was a better movie all around and its unique cinematography will likely take this home.

Best Editing
I hate that this is here. Any other film this year would have deserved this spot over this one. The pacing is terrible, the film is too long, and what little was cut out shows. I think this nomination is despicable.

Best Art Direction
Once again, this film is beautiful and I think it stands a real chance at this award. It’s possible that something like Changeling or The Dark Knight could take it, but it is a real contender here.

Best Costume Design
The costumes are beautiful- Daisy wears a red dress that absolutely pops against the darkness of New Orleans at night. She dances in silhouette while it rustles in the wind. It’s a beautiful image. However, I think the Academy will favor The Duchess’ rich period dresses here.

Best Makeup
Again, this is a serious contender, but it’s hard to tell how much of the aging is make up and how much is visual effects. That could hurt its chances.

Best Score
The score is beautiful, but forgettable. It won’t take this award home.

Best Sound
This nomination is a good one- I actually noticed how much the sound popped while seeing it a second time- but I think a large scale action flick will take this home instead.

Best Visual Effects
I’m so torn on this award. Like the make up nomination, I have to wonder how much of the effects are practical and how much are computer generated. The computer aging certainly shows on Cate Blanchett’s face- I don’t think the young version of Daisy looks very real at all. However the very old Brad Pitt may be enough to cinch this win.

**½

I saw this film as a screener before Christmas. I was excited to see it again in AMC’s Best Picture Showcase last night to refresh my memory.

Frost Nixon by Ron Howard, Oscar Nominated

Based on the play, this film follows David Frost (Michael Sheen) during his infamous interviews with President Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) following his resign from the presidency.

I didn’t expect to enjoy this film as much as I did. I knew nothing about the interviews, heck I wasn’t even alive when all of this went down. But this film totally sucked me in. Sheen is great but this film really belongs to Langella who just transforms into the former president. The intense late night phone call and explosive final session are so incredibly engaging. My only criticism is that the film is presented like a documentary- with it’s actors doing interviews as their characters. It really took me out of the film to see Sam Rockwell and Oliver Platt discussing the interviews as though they were the researchers on the project. I thought that device was unnecessary. While the idea of a bunch of interviews on screen for two hours sounds endlessly dull, Langella and Sheen’s amazing on screen chemistry make it work.

Nominations:

Best Picture
I know why this is here and it’s very deserving of the spot, but it just didn’t get enough critical attention to really make an impact here. It should be happy just to get the nomination.

Best Director – Ron Howard
Surprisingly, I don’t mind his nomination here. I generally tend to find Ron Howard to be very heavy handed with his directing and I’m usually not a fan, but this is my favorite of his by far. I don’t think that he stands a chance against Boyle, though.

Best Actor – Frank Langella
If Rourke wasn’t up for this award, I’d be rooting for Langella all the way. He transforms himself and deserves to be recognized for it.

Best Adapted Screenplay
I like this nomination as well- unlike Doubt which was obviously a play and came across dull with it’s one setting and small cast, this film really translates from the stage to the screen well. I’d love to say it will win, but I’m certain that Slumdog will take home nearly everything it’s up for.

Best Editing
I’m glad this was nominated here, but I do think that Slumdog will take this award home as well. Even still, a film about interviews could have been dull but the pacing of this film kept me fully engaged.

****

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