Archive for Author Jess

I saw this film back in November just a few weeks after the election, so I was still in the politics mind set.

Milk with Sean Penn as Harvey Milk and Josh Brolin

The film tells the story of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), California’s first openly gay elected official, who after a life of struggling against oppression, is assassinated by a fellow politician, supervisor Dan White (Josh Brolin).

I loved this film and it really struck a chord with me, and I’m sure many fellow Californians as well, as one of Milk’s campaigns against a Prop so closely resembles that of the recent Prop 8. While Sean Penn is great, I think the supporting cast is ever better. James Franco, Josh Brolin, and Emile Hirsch are all fantastic as supporting cast. The only critique I’ve heard about this film is that the documentary is better. I’ve never seen it, so I really enjoyed it, but maybe if I had I’d feel differently. Either way, as much as I loved this film, I don’t predict it taking home any awards come Oscar night.

Nominations:

Best Picture
I just don’t think this film has generated enough buzz to really give Slumdog or The Reader a run for their money. But, it’s one of my favorites in the category, so I’m glad to see it here.

Best Director – Gus Van Sant
I’ve said before that whatever takes Picture will take Director as well, and I just don’t think Van Sant will take it home over Boyle.

Best Actor – Sean Penn
Penn is fantastic as Milk and a lot of people seem to think he’ll take this one home, but I’m standing by Mickey. He’s more deserving and everyone loves a good comeback.

Best Supporting Actor – John Brolin
This nomination seems to be nominating his recent career choices than the actual role. He didn’t get any recognition for No Country and I hear that he was the only reason to watch W. Brolin followed all that up with a great supporting performance in Milk and here he is. Personally, I think Franco has the most stand out performance next to Penn, but either way no one’s taking this award from Ledger.

Best Original Screenplay
This, I think, is it’s best chance to take an award home for the night. The problem is that this category is just so unique. Recently there’s always been a breakout winner (Juno, Little Miss Sunshine), but this year I loved all the entries. However, Milk has the most nominations out of all the films in this category, so it does stand apart from the rest in that regard.

Best Editing
This is a good entry here, but I just don’t think it has enough to cut it against the beautifully cut Slumdog.

Best Costumes
This is an interesting nomination, but I don’t think that the dated clothing will be enough to take home the win as the Academy tends to favors lavish costumes such as those in The Duchess.

Best Score
I wish I could recall a single note of the score, but it just didn’t seem memorable enough to me. Those that I remember, such as Changeling and Revolutionary Road, didn’t get nominated. My score radar was definitely a tad off this year. Either way, I think that Slumdog will take this home on Sunday.

****

I saw this film before Christmas, assuming it would be a celebrated film with award worthy performances and would gather tons of nominations this season.

The Oscar Nominated Doubt

Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) is the head mistress at a Catholic school in 1964 Bronx, NY. She begins to suspect foul play when Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) takes a particular interest in the first black student to be enrolled in the school, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster). She enlists the help of her fellow nuns, including Sister James (Amy Adams), a wide-eyed young nun who is not as quick to jump to conclusions.

To be perfectly honest, this film bored me to tears. It’s completely over the top and dramatic with its intense score and quick dialogue. If these actors had taken the stage with this material I’m sure it would have been spectacular, but it simply doesn’t translate to this medium. There is so much build up that never actually goes anywhere and with no resolution this film left me feeling very empty. I’m not surprised that the Academy felt the need to honor such a high-powered cast, though I disagree. Additionally, I don’t see this film taking a single award home.

Nominations:

Best Actress – Meryl Streep
I love Meryl, I really do, but she is so over the top in this one. She plays her character to death with her thick Boston accent and overly judgmental scowl. We get it- you’re a strict Catholic nun. Thankfully, Kate Winslet’s beautiful performance in The Reader should prevail here.

Best Supporting Actor – Phillip Seymour Hoffman
A Philip Seymour Hoffman performance can go either way with me- I either love him or hate him. Usually when he’s a supporting actor he’s more tolerable, for instance last year I loved him in Charlie Wilson’s War. This year, however, he was just too much. We all know this category belongs to Heath Ledger, but there are others I would have rather seen with this nomination.

Best Supporting Actress – Amy Adams
Adams is still growing and developing as an actress, and I felt she brought a small breath of fresh air to this film. She’s a welcome change from the stuffy theater performances and actually looks as though she belongs on film and not on the stage. However, she’s not nearly as good as…

Best Supporting Actress – Viola Davis
This breakout performance got a lot of early buzz for the Oscar and with good reason. She has but one scene in this film, and it’s an intense one. Still, the material is more shocking than the actual performance- as the mother of the little boy in question, she takes a surprising stance on the matter at hand. With such a small role, and by splitting the vote with Amy Adams, I think this award will go to one of the other deserving nominees.

Best Adapted Screenplay
I’m very undecided in how I feel about this nomination. On the one hand, the dialogue is quick and smart, but on the other, I still felt as though I was watching a play and therefore it didn’t adapt very well. Either way, I don’t think it stands a chance against Slumdog, so I won’t waste much more time on it.

**½

I saw this film in theaters and in 3D, which is such a great way to see an animated film of this caliber.

Disney\'s Bolt

On the popular science fiction television series “Bolt,” stars Penny (Miley Cyrus) and her dog Bolt (John Travolta) fight against evil scientists to save the world. Only, Bolt thinks the whole thing is real, including his super powers. One day when he is let loose thinking Penny has been kidnapped and finds himself on the other side of the country. Along with a stray cat, Mittens (Susie Essman), and an obsessed fanboy hamster, Rhino (Mark Walton), they set off from NY to LA to save Penny.

I have to give a forewarning to any dog people out there that this film may make you weep. Mixing a good dog/owner relationship with a sweet reunion was enough to push me over the edge on the emotions. This film was adorable and just the right mix of sweet sentiment with humor. Rhino’s character is downright hysterical and you’ll never look at your hamster the same way again. My only complaint was that I was embarrassed coming out of the theater with puffy red eyes.

Nominations:

Best Animated Feature
I love that this is here and I want to root for it, but WALL-E is just too good. Sorry, Bolt.

****½

Phasekitty and the Oscars

This category has been majorly paired down this year and I’m certain it’s the Academy’s attempt at livening up and shortening the ceremony. Not only are there only three entries this year, but they will be performed in a brief medley on Sunday night, rather than in 3 separate performances. The nominees this year are:

Prediction
“Jai Ho.” The cast’s Bollywood dance at the end of the film is both original and awesome and I’m sure I’m not the only one who can’t get it out of my head.

What Should Win
“The Wrestler.” Yes, I know Bruce’s song isn’t even nominated here, but it should be, and it should win. He was robbed. But out of the nominees, I’ll go with “Jai Ho.” It’s a really fun and catchy song.

I saw this movie back in November last year, before it won all the awards and was surrounded by tons of hype.

Slumdog Millionaire, Oscar Nominated

When a Mumbai teen (Dev Patel) is arrested on suspicion of cheating on the game show Who Wants to be a Millionaire, he retells his past to show how he knows the answer to each and every question. Raised on the streets with his brother (Madhur Mittal), he tells of unfinished business between his brother and a long lost love (Freida Pinto).

Not only did I see this film before all the hype, but I knew almost nothing about its plot. When the credits came up on the Who Wants to be a Millionaire set I wondered what kind of weird, gimmicky movie I’d gotten myself into. But, it proved to be very touching, sweet, and extremely enjoyable. I wasn’t the least bit surprised when it started snatching up awards left and right, especially considering its competition.

Nominations:

Best Picture
Because The Wrestler’s not nominated here, this is my favorite film of the five. I also really enjoyed Milk and The Reader, the only two films with a chance to take this award away from Slumdog. The Academy is old-fashioned, so Slumdog’s feel good ending may give it the edge over Milk, but The Reader has been quietly rustling up its own buzz lately and could squeak past this indie darling.

Best Director – Danny Boyle
I definitely think that despite what wins Best Picture, Boyle will take home the gold on Oscar night. The Academy is honoring his career with his best film to date.

Best Adapted Screenplay
I’m a big fan of this category, but a little out of sorts as I have not read Q&A, the book that Slumdog is based on. I have, however, read The Reader and again think that this competition is between these two.

Best Cinematography
The film looks great, sure, but I don’t think it stands a chance here. Between The Dark Knight, The Reader, and Benjamin Button the competition is far too stiff to be considered.

Best Editing
Here I’ll put Slumdog down for another win. With the seamless transitions between past and present and a beautifully cut final sequence, this film deserves the win here.

Best Score
Another win. Everyone is flipping for Slumdog’s Bollywood music as it offers up something different that the Academy rarely sees here.

Best Original Song – “Jai Ho” and “O Saya”
Normally I’d say that having two nominations in the same category would split the vote, but now I’m just debating which one will win. “O Saya” is the song that plays in the beginning of the film as the children are running through the streets of Mumbai, while “Jai Ho” is the one that the entire cast dances to, Bollywood style, at the end of the film. I give the edge to “Jai Ho” for being the most recognizable, though both are great. Poor Peter Gabriel doesn’t stand a chance.

Best Sound and Best Sound Editing
I’ve stated before that I think these categories belong to The Dark Knight and WALL-E, respectively, and I don’t think that Slumdog will give them much of a run for their money. But you never know- these categories are often quite difficult to predict.

****½

I was so glad to see the shorts again this year. It makes the ceremony so much more interesting when I know everything I can about all the nominees. Interesting fact about all the animated selections this year- there’s not a single word of dialogue amongst them.

Presto Pixar Oscar Nominated Short Film

La Maison En Petites Cubes (House of Small Cubes)
An old man lives alone in a house built to survive the ever-rising flood that engulfs his village. He continues to build rooms on top of rooms to escape the water. When he drops his beloved pipe into one of the lower rooms filled with water, he rents scuba gear to retrieve it. As he descends through each floor of his house he recalls all the fond memories experienced in those rooms, right down to the foundation of the house that he and his wife built with their own hands. This film is sweet and the animation is like a colorful painting, but the film seemingly goes nowhere.

Ubornaya istoriya – lyubovnaya istoriya (Lavatory-Lovestory)
An attendant in a men’s lavatory longs for an intimate relationship. When flowers start to appear in her tip jar, she gets frustrated in trying to figure out who put them there. The animation looks like a basic drawing come to life and is very unique. The story is sweet and has a nice little resolution, but I didn’t find it to be all that original.

Oktapodi
Two octopi are in love for a brief moment before one is snatched up and taken away by a restaurant cook to be slaughtered. The remaining octopus escapes from his tank to save his true love as they race through the streets of a small Greek village. This film is all of two minutes and if I hadn’t seen for myself that there was no lamp and bouncing ball at the beginning, I wouldn’t have believed that it wasn’t a Pixar film. The computer animation is beautiful and the story is adorable and original.

Presto
The rabbit of a famous magician takes revenge on his owner when he doesn’t get fed. This is Pixar’s short for the year and if you’ve seen WALL-E, you’ve likely seen this as well. It’s hilarious and quick-witted comedy makes for a great entry in this category.

Oktapodi Oscar Nominated Animated Short

This Way Up
Two undertakers are forced to carry a coffin through the country to make it to the church when their hearse breaks down. This short started out unique and funny, but took a weird turn toward the end that really took the film in a different, unpleasant direction.

Prediction:
Presto. Pixar usually has this category in the bag, but last year they took the year off. This year they came back stronger than ever.

What Should Win:
Presto. Although I’d be just as happy seeing Oktapodi taking it home as well, but it’s super short length will likely diminish its chances.

I was so glad to see the shorts again this year. It makes the ceremony so much more interesting when I know everything I can about all the nominees. I honestly loved each selection this year- the Academy really has their work cut out for them in narrowing this category down to one.

Oscar Nominated Short Films Live ActionAuf Der Strecke (On the Line)
Rolf, a security guard at a book store, loves Sarah, a clerk, from afar. But after a tragic accident on the train they both take home, they come together for support. This short feels so real in the relationship between Rolf and Sarah and really hits a note of uneasiness with its final shot.

Manon sur le Bitume (Manon on the Asphalt)
An accident causes a young girl to reflect on moments in her life. This film was beautifully shot and is heart wrenching in its images. It brings together several characters with one very sad story.

New Boy
Joseph is taunted on his first day at a new school, which causes him to remember his last day at his old school. I loved this film as it was just the right mix of sweet and funny with despair and sadness. The film ends on a sweet note, with Joseph giggling amongst his new friends and putting his horrific past behind him.

Grisen (The Pig)
Asbjørn Jensen is admitted into the hospital for surgery and finds solace in a painting of a pig on the wall of his hospital room. When he gets out of surgery he is delivered some bad news, then discovers the pig has disappeared from the wall. He calls his daughter, a lawyer, to argue his case in getting the pig back on the wall as he has come to consider it his guardian angel. This short was funny and sweet, with a gleefully ironic ending.

Spielzeugland (Toyland)
Two small boys are best friends in WWII Germany- David is Jewish and Heinrich is not. When the Nazis come to retrieve the Jewish family, Heinrich’s mother tells him that David and his family are going to Toyland. Heinrich follows David’s family, causing his mother to go on a frantic search to retrieve her son. This film was very well made and has a heartwarming ending.

Prediction:
Spielzeugland. The Academy tends to favor holocaust films and this one pairs well with critical darling, The Reader.

What Should Win:
This is tough because I truly did love each and every selection this year, but I give the edge to Auf Der Strecke. Its characters were so real and it’s beautifully directed. The camera movements are intimate and do a lot to create a convoluted and sad love story in just 30 minutes.

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