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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What I Saw: The Help (84th Oscar Race)

What I Saw: The Help

Suspension of disbelief is a regular requirement of science fiction and fantasy genres, and the same is true for historical fictions. While there were specific scenes in The Help that I enjoyed, and many moments when the actresses’ performances drew me in, the swings back and forth between racial injustice, caricature, sentimentality and toilet humor were too abrupt to keep me engaged inside the story for the full two and a half hours.

We all know that life was much worse for black maids than what is presented in this movie (see the statement from the Association of Black Women Historians here), but when you tell a story against the backdrop of a historical injustice, you usually take artistic license in order to make a point about the modern world. And sometimes you use humor to soften up the audience so that they are more inclined to learn a hard lesson. Unfortunately, The Help discourages the viewer from considering parallels to today. It relies almost entirely upon examples of racism that its target audience believes are both universally wrong and safely in the past.

Which, it turns out, may be a perfect strategy for selling tickets and getting Oscar’s attention:


The film may not teach us much about overcoming modern racism, but it has mastered the lessons of the modern Oscar campaign. The credits run alphabetically, a nod to the feminist collaborative process which also just happens to provide the necessary cover for Viola Davis and the studio to campaign her as either Lead or Supporting Actress, depending upon how the field looks at the end of the year. Mary J. Blige’s “The Living Proof” plays over the final--and purposefully extended--image of the film, encouraging audiences to stay and listen. Aibileen even goes so far as to declare “We’re not doing Civil Rights. We’re just telling stories,” thus providing a brilliant excuse for those who wish to reward the film for fulfilling one, both or neither of these functions. And in a strange way, even the weaknesses of the plot only serve to highlight that the acting is the strongest part of the movie, which could prove to be a selling point for seeing these actresses in more films.

I predict that The Help will win two Oscars, and secretly hope that the second acceptance speech calls out the Academy by saying: “I can’t believe you ate a second slice!”


Supporting Actress: Viola Davis (currently ranked 1) is the clear front-runner in the supporting actress race, but a win in that category does not necessarily lead to the career trajectory that she deserves. She could easily make the case that her role is really the lead of the film (because it is!) That tends to be a much more difficult category for both the win and the nomination, but both are still possible if the film continues to do well at the box office and her campaign takes off. Either way, it is my hope that we see a lot more films with her as the star.

Original Song: Mary J. Blige for “The Living Proof” (currently ranked 1). This song seems to me like the kind of thing that the Academy will love. You can watch and listen to the music video over at Julian Stark’s page.

Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (currently ranked 2) also seems like a sure thing for a nomination at this point, and could quite possibly win if Viola Davis goes lead.

Costume Design: Sharen Davis (currently ranked 12, but will likely move up in my next set of predictions.) Sharen Davis has been nominated twice before in this category for Dreamgirls and Ray, and a third nod is quite possible here.


Adapted Screenplay: Tate Taylor (currently ranked 12)
Art Direction: Mark Ricker and Rena DeAngelo (currently ranked 14, and will possibly move up in my next set of predictions)
Lead Actress: Emma Stone (currently ranked 16)
Supporting Actress: Cicely Tyson (currently ranked 17)
Best Picture (currently ranked 21, and will surely move up in my next set of predictions)
Film Editing: Hughes Winborne (currently ranked 28)
Cinematography: Stephen Goldblatt (currently ranked 31)
Best Director: Tate Taylor (currently ranked 41)

Makeup and hair (currently unranked, but will be included next time)
Original Score: Thomas Newman (currently unranked, but will possibly be added next time)

Supporting Actresses who are currently unranked but may be considered in future predictions: Jessica Chastain, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, Bryce Dallas Howard, Aunjanue Ellis.

My Lamb Score: 3 out of 5 Lambs
What is a lamb score? Click HERE to learn more.

Read more of my reviews HERE.

Monday, August 22, 2011

What I Saw: Amigo (84th Oscar Race)

What I Saw: Amigo

Amigo is a story about the impossible choices made during wartime. Set during the Philippine-American War, Joel Torre’s character Rafael (the title character called “Amigo” by the invading armies) is charged with protecting the people inside and outside of his village as best he can in the face of yet another wave of colonial imperialism--a wave which they all recognize is neither the first nor the last.

While there are several gunfights that interrupt the village’s daily and seasonal cycles, the impossible choices explored in this movie are not the glorified military strategies that define most war films, but rather the intimate survival strategies of the people engaged in the transition from one colonial master to another. And in keeping with this, the pace and drama of the film comes not from the exciting bravado of winners and losers, but from the much slower, more impending, and more certain playing out of what we all (should) know: That the people never win in war. 



At first you might think that the American soldiers are miscast compared to their Philippine counterparts. They seem scrawny, unkempt and comedically absurd in their lack of discipline. But in time you realize that they were perfectly cast, precisely because this is not intended to be an American fiction where the macho, muscle-bound soldier-hero makes the world safe for democracy. They seem remote and out of touch because they are. They have been carried along for the ride, as has the Spanish priest who preceded them, and carry with them the excesses that came from their incursions into other lands.


While the writing, acting, cinematography, art direction and (at times over the top) costume design work to distinguish this Philippine village in a particular location of place and time, the soldiers seem incapable in both their words and actions of approaching the place or its people any differently than their racist conquests in the American south, Cuba or Hawaii. Their “with us or against us” attitude leaves them largely unaware of the complex loyalties--and jealousies-- of family, economics, religion, politics, sexuality and entertainment that the film explores. Crises of faith, jokes at the colonizer’s expense, economic transactions, celebrations, loyalty and betrayal all go on under the noses of the Americans, and sometimes even at their insistence, as is the case with the elections or the romantic diversions.

Sadly, those who go to this film hoping for a testosterone-filled war movie will likely miss these complexities as well, and those who review the film immediately after leaving the theater are likely to remark that it is a bit slow at points. Like the colonialism that is its subject, this movie works on you over time, in the silent and backgrounded moments as much as the grand pronouncements. It does not propose its own solution, but rather asks the viewers to struggle with our own strategies, knowing that even if we cannot win today, we must still protect tomorrow.

Oscar Chances:


John Sayles has been nominated twice before for original screenplay, but the movie will need to pick up significantly at either the box office (a difficult task for an independent film) or the critics groups if it is going to be remembered at Oscar time.

Visual Effects (currently ranked 41)
Original Screenplay: John Sayles (currently unranked)
Lead Actor: Joel Torre (currently unranked)
Art Direction: Rodell Cruz (currently unranked)
Cinematography: Lee Meily (currently unranked)
Supporting Actor: Ronie Lazaro, Chris Cooper, Garret Dillahunt, Yul Vasquez (currently unranked)
Supporting Actress: Rio Locsin (currently unranked)
Costume Design: Gino Gonzales (currently unranked)

My Lamb Score: 3 out of 5 Lambs
What is a lamb score? Click HERE to learn more.

Read more of my reviews HERE.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Open Thread: Is It Ever Too Early To Make Oscar Predictions?

In doing research, I have found many different interpretations of when Oscar predictions should begin.  As you know from the name of this blog, my philosophy is that it is Never Too Early. But I’m curious to learn what my readers think, and I thought it might make for an interesting open thread this weekend.

When is the appropriate time to begin Oscar predictions?

After an actor/director/writer/producer says “I’m thinking of pitching a film about...”
After a script makes the Black List.
After a studio picks up a film.
After a film is listed on IMDB or similar sites.
After a director has been attached.
After major casting is completed.
After shooting has begun.
After shooting has wrapped.
After a distributor has been secured.
After a tentative release date is set.
After the trailer is released.
After a film gets scheduled for a film festival.
After a film plays at a film festival.
After a film is released in theaters.
After the critics have weighed in.
After you have personally seen the movie.
After the shortlists are announced.
After the precursors and guilds have spoken.
After the nominees have been announced.
The morning of the Oscar ceremony.

Let me know what you think in the comments. And Happy Weekend!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

88th Oscar Cinematography First Entries (2015-2016 Awards Season) (8/18/11)

Here is my first attempt to make predictions for the 88th Oscar Cinematography race. Although we don’t yet know who most of the cinematographers are, we can make educated guesses based upon the types and settings of the films.

1. Blood Meridian (Predicted Winner)
2. The Many Deaths Of Barnaby James
3. One World Ocean
4. A Thousand Splendid Suns
5. Avatar 3


Alternates:
6. Myth
7. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Silver Chair
8. Untitled Tintin Film
9. Faster Pussycat Kill Kill
10. Inamorata
11. Boyhood
12. Travis McGee
13. The Epic Of Troy Knight
14. The Five Hundred
15. Coram Boy
16. Time Bandits
17. Black Mafia Family Project
18. The Corrections
19. Continuum
20. Guardians Of The Galaxy
21. Hot Wheels
22. Star Blazers
23. Trollhunters
24. Untitled Bobby Glickert Sci-Fi Thriller
25. The Swarm
26. Untitled Batman Reboot
27. Special Topics In Calamity Physics
28. The Believers
29. Important Artifacts And Personal Property From The Collection Of Lenore Doolan And Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, And Jewelry
30. The Secret (Of Happiness)
31. Untitled John Moore Peter Buchman Project
32. Untitled Paul Revere Project
33. Divergent
34. I, Robot 2
35. The Hunger Games 3
36. Bad Boys 3
37. Cape No. 7
38. The Amazing Spiderman 2
39. Evidence
40. The Occasionally Interesting Anti-Adventures Of An Unnamed Girl
41. Affected Provincial’s Companin
42. Alien At Large
43. Bride Of Frankenstein
44. Caliber
45. Echo
46. Gravity
47. Line Of Sight
48. Soapdish
49. The Dangerous Book For Boys
50. Trust

As always, check the Tracker Pages in the upper right hand corner of this blog for the most updated predictions in all categories!
See Cinematography predictions for other years HERE.
If you’re into cinematography, you might also like Film Editing and Visual Effects.
See predictions for other categories at the 88th Oscars HERE.
Switch to another year: 84th,  85th,  86th,  87th,  88th,  89th  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

88th Oscar Original Score First Entries (2015-2016 Awards Season) (8/17/11)

Here are today’s rankings for the 88th Oscar Original Score race. Most of these films don’t have composers yet, and those that do are only rumored, but we can still make guesses based upon genre and the potential profile of each film.



1. Alan Menken for Lidsville (Predicted Winner)
2. James Horner for Avatar 3
3. Randy Newman for Toy Story 4
4. Nigel Osborne for Ivan The Fool
5. Travis McGee



Alternates:
6. Coram Boy
7. Untitled Tintin Film
8. Myth
9. The Corrections
10. Trollhunters
11. Alma
12. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Silver Chair
13. A Thousand Splendid Suns
14. The Many Deaths Of Barnaby James
15. Faster Pussycat Kill Kill
16. Imaginary Enemies
17. Untitled Batman Reboot
18. The Epic Of Troy Knight
19. Blood Meridian
20. Inamorata
21. The Five Hundred
22. Divergent
23. I, Robot 2
24. The Swarm
25. The Amazing Spiderman 2
26. The Hunger Games 3
27. The Occasionally Interesting Anti-Adventures Of An Unnamed Girl
28. Trust
29. Black Mafia Family Project
30. Bad Boys 3
31. Star Blazers
32. Untitled Bobby Glicker Sci-Fi Thriller
33. Untitled John Moore Peter Buchman Project
34. Untitled Paul Revere Project
35. Boyhood
36. Hot Wheels
37. Evidence
38. Continuum
39. Guardians Of The Galaxy
40. Gravity
41. Insects
42. The Mighty
43. Time Bandits
44. Bride Of Frankenstein
45. Echo
46. Line Of Sight
47. Untitled Happy Troll Doll Project
48. Alien At Large
49. Caliber
50. The Believers

As always, check the Tracker Pages in the upper right hand corner of this blog for the most updated predictions in all categories!


See Original Score predictions for other years HERE.
Like words with your music? Check out the Original Song predictions.
See predictions for other categories at the 88th Oscars HERE.
Switch to another year: 84th,  85th,  86th,  87th,  88th,  89th  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

88th Oscar Film Editing First Entries (2015-2016 Awards Season) (8/16/110

Continuing to fill in the categories for future years, here is my first attempt at rankings for the 88th Oscar Film Editing race.

1. The Epic Of Troy Knight (Predicted Winner)
2. Avatar 3
3. A Thousand Splendid Suns
4. Travis McGee
5. Coram Boy

Alternates:
6. Myth
7. Blood Meridian
8. The Corrections
9. The Five Hundred
10. Untitled Tintin Film
11. Inamorata
12. Boyhood
13. The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Silver Chair
14. The Many Deaths Of Barnaby James
15. Divergent
16. Star Blazers
17. Faster Pussycat Kill Kill
18. Untitled Bobby Glickert Sci-Fi Thriller
19. Echo
20. Line Of Sight
21. The Swarm
22. Black Mafia Family Project
23. Untitled Batman Reboot
24. Bride Of Frankenstein
25. Wonder Woman
26. Guardians Of The Galaxy
27. Toy Story 4
28. Time Bandits
29. Untitled Paul Revere Project
30. Evidence
31. Important Artifacts And Personal Property From The Collection Of Lenore Doolan And Harold Morris, Including Books, Street Fashion, And Jewelry
32. Continuum
33. I, Robot 2
34. Gravity
35. Alien At Large
36. The Believers
37. The Secret (Of Happiness)
38. The Hunger Games 3
39. Caliber
40. Affected Provincial’s Companion
41. Bad Boys 3
42. Cape No. 7
43. Maynard & Jennica
44. Special Topics In Calamity Physics
45. Hot Wheels
46. The Mighty
47. The Smoker
48. Portofino
49. Dreamland Inc.
50. Untitled John Moore Peter Buchman Project

As always, check the Tracker Pages in the upper right hand corner of this blog for the most updated predictions in all categories!
See Film Editing predictions for other years HERE.
If you’re into film editing, you might also like Cinematography and Visual Effects.
See predictions for other categories at the 88th Oscars HERE.
Switch to another year: 84th,  85th,  86th,  87th,  88th,  89th  

Monday, August 15, 2011

84th Oscar Foreign Language Updates (2011-2012 Awards Season) (8/15/11)

UPDATE: See which of these predictions I have gotten correctly at My Track Record page.


My movie watching buddy is out of town, so I used the weekend to update my predictions for the 84th Oscar Foreign Language race.

Two things of note: First, anyone who is truly interested in the foreign film race should visit the Foreign Films blog at http://www.dzong2.blogspot.com/. There you can find a comprehensive country-by-country analysis, all written in a concise way that even the beginner can understand.

Second, the timeline for the foreign film race runs from October 1 to September 30. While release dates can change without warning, several popular choices look like they fall outside of this time period: The Artist, Polisse, Reign Of Assassins, The Grandmasters, Sponsoring, Play, Faust, Chicken With Plums, Poetry, The Housemaid, Arrietty, Bonsai, Ichimei, The Source, Hors Satan, Loverboy, Terraferma, The 13 Women Of Nanjing, The Island, Say Hi To The Devil, Sons Of The Clouds, Big House, The Deep, The Maiden Danced To Death, Headshot, and Rhinos Season,

Here are my predictions, with previous rankings from April shown in parenthesis:



1. Djo Tunda Wa Munga for Viva Riva! (Congo) (Predicted Winner) (previous rank 18)
2. Asghar Farhadi for A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader Az Simin) (Iran) (previous rank 2)
3. Aki Kaurismaki for Le Havre (Finland) (New)
4. Agnieszka Holland for In Darkness (W Ciemnosci) (Poland) (New)
5. Joseph Cedar for Footnote (Hearat Shulayim) (Israel) (New)



Alternates:
6. Hong-jin Na for The Yellow Sea (Hwanghae) (South Korea) (New)
7. Pablo Giorgelli for Las Acacias (Argentina) (New)
8. Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne for The Kid With A Bike (Le Gamin Au Velo) (Belgium) (previous rank 8)
9. Nuri Bilge Ceylan for Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (Bir Zamanlar Anadolu’da) (Turkey) (New)
10. Pedro Almodovar for The Skin That I Inhabit (La Piel Que Habito) (Spain) (previous rank 1)
11. Kivu Ruhorahoza for Grey Matter (Matiere Grise) (Rwanda) (previous rank 5)
12. Andrei Zvyagintsev for Elena (Russia) (New)
13. Nanni Moretti for We Have A Pope (Habemus Papam) (Italy) (previous rank 9)
14. Oliver Hermanus for Beauty (Skoonheid) (South Africa) (New)
15. Joachim Trier for Oslo, August 31 (Norway) (New)
16. Nadine Labaki for Where Do We Go Now? (Wo Hallah La Wen?) (Lebanon) (New)
17. Gerardo Naranjo for Miss Bala (Mexico) (New)
18. Heshem Issawi for Cairo Exit (El Korough) (Egypt) (previous rank 11)
19. Hirokazu Koreeda for I Wish (Kiseki) (Japan) (New)
20. Markus Schleinzer for Michael (Austria) (New)
21. Athina Rachel Tsangari for Attenberg (Greece) (previous rank 27)
22. Raoul Ruiz for Mysteries Of Lisbon (Misterios De Lisboa) (Portugal) (New)
23. Eric Khoo for Tatsumi (Singapore) (New)
24. Deron Albright for The Destiny Of Lesser Animals (Sibo Ne Kra, Dabe Ne Kra) (Ghana) (previous rank 45)
25. Valerie Donzelli for Declaration Of War (La Guerre Est Declaree) (France) (New)


26. Lisa Aschan for She Monkeys (Apflickorna) (Sweden) (previous rank 15)
27. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun for A Screaming Man (Un Homme Qui Crie) (Egy Nema Kialtas) (Chad) (New)
28. Bela Tarr and Agnes Hranitzky for The Turin Horse (A Torinol Lo) (Hungary) (previous rank 4)
29. Stephane Lafleur for Familiar Ground (En Terrains Connus) (Canada) (New)
30. Luis C. Suarez for RPG Metanoia (Philippines) (previous rank 6)
31. Pablo Lorrain for Post-Mortem (Chile) (New)
32. Tom Kykwer for Three (Drei) (Germany) (New)
33. Zhang Meng and Jae-young Kwak for The Piano In A Factory (Gang De Qin) (China) (previous rank 33)
34. Calin Peter Netzer for Medal Of Honor (Medalla De Onoare) (Romania) (New)
35. Alejandro Bellame Palacios for The Rumble Of Stones (El Rumor De Las Piedras) (Venezuela) (New)
36. Sajni Srivastava for Ray Of Hope (Tanzania) (New)
37. Runar Runarsson for Volcano (Eldfjall) (Iceland) (New)
38. Janez Burger for Silent Sonata (Circus Fantasticus) (Slovenia) (New)
39. Paz Fabrega for Cold Water Of The Sea (Agua Fria De Mar) (Costa Rica) (New)
40. Wei Te-Sheng for Warriors Of The Rainbow (Seediq Bale) (Hong Kong) (New)
41. Carlos Cesar Arbelaez for The Colors Of the Mountain (Los Colores De La Montana) (Colombia) (New)
42. Pernille Fischer Christensen for A Family (En Familie) (Denmark) (New)
43. Urszula Antoniak for Code Blue (Netherlands) (previous rank 28)
44. Kiran Rao for Mumbai Diaries (Dhobi Ghat) (India) (New)
45. Buyar Allmani for Amnesty (Amnestia) (Albania) (New)
46. Sulev Keedus for Letters To Angel (Kirjad Inglile) (Estonia) (New)
47. Hanny R. Saputra for Under The Protection Of The Kabbah (Di Bawah Lindungan Ka’bah) (Indonesia) (New)
48. Daniel Vega Vidal and Diego Vega Vidal for October (Octubre) (Peru) (New)
49. Talal Selhami for Mirages (Morocco) (New)
50. Sanjeewa Pushpakurmara for Flying Fish (Igillena Maluwo) (Sri Lanka) (New)


As always, check the Tracker Pages in the upper right hand corner of this blog for the most updated predictions in all categories!

See Foreign Language predictions for other years HERE.
See predictions for other categories at the 84th Oscars HERE.
Switch to another year: 84th,  85th,  86th,  87th,  88th,  89th  
UPDATE: See which of these predictions I have gotten correctly at My Track Record page.