Thursday, January 31, 2008


So, at last, here are my musings on the Oscar nominees. I know it's belated, but I got really emotionally sidetracked by Heath Ledger's death. I still don't feel prepared to write my tribute to him. Instead, I'm throwing myself into the hundred or so other blog entry ideas I've got stockpiled. I can't believe the nominees were announced on the same day that he died. January 22, 2008. It feels like forever ago. I was so excited, in my silly way, about the Oscar nominees. I got up at 7:30 a.m. to watch the nominations live. I talked about them on the phone for almost an hour immediately following the announcements. Then, exhausted, I fell asleep and woke up to an unrelated phone call, blissfully clueless, in a world without Heath Ledger, not knowing...with no way of knowing the news I was going to find out within 10 minutes. Sigh.

But this is about the Oscars, right? Awards seem so trivial at the moment, but alas, the show must go on. If the WGA allows it to go on, that is. Anyway, I'm just going to ramble my thoughts off category by category, but only if the category is especially interesting. Don't worry, you won't hear my thoughts on Best Documentary Short, because they don't exist.

Best Actor:
George Clooney - Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones - In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen - Eastern Promises

Ugh, I am so sick of George Clooney. It's ridiculous to put him in the same category as Daniel Day-Lewis. I like that Tommy Lee Jones got nominated - I didn't see Elah, but I thought he was outstanding in No Country for Old Men, so he deserved something. Viggo Mortensen? Blah. I hear he only got this for fighting in the nude for 10 minutes. And no, that doesn't particularly entice me. I don't get the fascination with him. Also, I've seen clips from Eastern Promises, and he sounds like the Godfather with about 50% more cotton. Good for Johnny Depp, but what about Emile Hirsch for Into the Wild? He's more deserving than Depp, Clooney, or Mortensen. Daniel Day-Lewis has this locked, and he should. He's a champ.

Best Actress:
Cate Blanchett - Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie - Away From Her
Marion Cotillard - La Vie en Rose
Laura Linney - The Savages
Ellen Page - Juno

Cate Blanchett? Buh? What about Amy Adams for Enchanted? Cate Blanchett could get a parking ticket and get an Oscar nomination for it. I love her, and I'm sure she's great in it, but I hear the movie sucks. I think the Oscar voters need to be a little more discriminating. All right, Julie Christie is wonderful, but come ON, this is NOT a lead role. It's supporting. Supporting! As in, she supports Gordon Pinsent, who is the tragically overlooked lead of the film. If she wins, it'll be one of those nostalgic things, and I can't stand it when that happens and it's undeserved. I said it. She doesn't deserve it. I hate that she's getting all these other awards. Marion Cotillard was a shoo-in for a nomination, but I have to admit I was still nervous she wouldn't get it. I haven't seen The Savages, so I don't have an opinion on Laura Linney. It rocks that Ellen Page got nominated. I think I've changed my mind again. Marion Cotillard should win. Ellen Page's nomination IS her win. She'll have more chances. Marion Cotillard, I'm sorry for fluctuating on you!

Best Supporting Actor:
Casey Affleck - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Charlie Wilson's War
Hal Holbrook - Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson - Michael Clayton

I've heard Casey Affleck's performance isn't really supporting. It's the opposite of Julie Christie, and maybe equally unfair. I haven't seen it yet, so the jury is still out. If Javier Bardem wasn't so awesome, I'd be rooting for Hal Holbrook. As it stands, Javier is the man!

Best Supporting Actress:
Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Ruby Dee - American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan - Atonement
Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton - Michael Clayton

I haven't seen American Gangster, but this Ruby Dee nonsense seems like a nostalgic nomination. Cate Blanchett at least seems to deserve this one. I'm so happy for Saoirse Ronan, and a bit shocked. They got something right! She's the only one I've seen, so I obviously want her to win.

Best Animated Film:
Surf's Up

Pixar usually has this sewn up, but Marjane Satrapi is serving up some real competition. I can't wait to see Persepolis. I'm sort of thinking it deserves it more than Ratatouille, but we'll see. Surf's Up doesn't even warrant this sentence.

Best Art Direction:
American Gangster
The Golden Compass
Sweeney Todd
There Will Be Blood

I've seen 3 out of the 5, and Atonement should win for having the most sumptuous, delicious-looking art direction of the year.

Best Cinematography:
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Strong category, strong nominees. All worthy. But no one can touch Janusz Kaminski for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Go, Columbia College alum! Woo!

Best Costume Design:
Across the Universe
Elizabeth: The Golden Age
La Vie en Rose
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Hmm, well, as crazy historically extreme as Cate Blanchett's costumes look, I have a soft spot for La Vie en Rose. I think the costumes are deceptively simple, but they're integral to telling the story of Edith Piaf's life. Then again, there's some great stuff in Sweeney Todd, although I'm still not sure how I feel about Alan Rickman's pants being that tight in front. I'm not sure how he feels about it either. This is a toss-up.

Best Director:
Julian Schnabel - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jason Reitman - Juno
Tony Gilroy - Michael Clayton
Joel and Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson - There Will Be Blood

I'm excited that The Diving Bell and the Butterfly got at least some recognition. It deserves a lot more, but it's better than nothing. Few directors did better work than Schnabel, so I'm thrilled for him. The Coens - obviously. But well deserved, which is more important. Tony Gilroy - meh, we'll see. Jason Reitman was a shocker. But I've seen Juno 4 times now, and I'm appreciating his direction more every time. There's a definite visual style that is really quirky and impressive. Paul Thomas Anderson FINALLY got a nomination! Celebrate good times. Yay! That he got it for THIS film is especially poignant. He's like, "Hey, Academy, fuck off!" And the Academy is all, "Brilliant! Here's your nomination!" My pick? I think it has to be the Coens.

Best Documentary:
No End in Sight
Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience
Taxi to the Dark Side

I hadn't heard of contestants two, four, and five before this. Sicko is awesome, but I hear No End in Sight is extraordinary. I still need to see it. But, I just saw The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, and I'm flabbergasted that it wasn't nominated. Total injustice.

Best Documentary Short: Just kidding.

Best Editing:
The Bourne Ultimatum
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Into the Wild
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

The Bourne Ultimatum? I guess lots of stuff goes boom, so that probably takes some swift editing. I've seen the other four, and while I'm ecstatic to see The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Into the Wild be nominated for anything, I can't say I really remember the editing in either of them. Other aspects just stood out more. Between No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, that's a tough one, but I have to give the edge to No Country for Old Men.

Best Make-Up:
La Vie en Rose
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

Blechh. Please. Norbit versus La Vie en Rose? Gee, I wonder. How insulting.

Best Original Score:
The Kite Runner

Michael Clayton
3:10 to Yuma

Bogus nominees. Atonement is great, so that should be there. The only other film I've seen is Ratatouille, and I can't for the life of me remember a single note of that score. Ridiculous. The other three don't seem special. Those are some lame rules that kept Once, Into the Wild, and There Will Be Blood out of the running. Quel awful.

Best Original Song:
"Falling Slowly" - Once
"Happy Working Song" - Enchanted
"Raise It Up" - August Rush
"So Close" - Enchanted
"That's How You Know" - Enchanted

3 songs from Enchanted?? I love that movie, but that's insane. How about 3 songs from Once? Or even one from Into the Wild? The only deserving Enchanted song is "That's How You Know." I really hope I get to see Amy Adams perform, but still, 3 songs from that movie is overboard. "Falling Slowly" is the obvious choice. Best song of the year.

Best Sound Editing:
The Bourne Ultimatum
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

It seems to always be between No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. I think I might give the sound awards to There Will Be Blood. I don't think any director working today utilizes sound more effectively than Paul Thomas Anderson.

Best Sound Mixing:
The Bourne Ultimatum
No Country for Old Men
3:10 to Yuma

What? No There Will Be Blood? When I was talking about Sound Editing, I assumed There Will Be Blood would be nominated in both. It should be. Well, for this one, No Country for Old Men.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Away From Her
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Another awesomely strong category. I'm surprised Sarah Polley got a nomination for Away From Her. Even though I'm not totally in love with that film, I'm happy for her. Atonement and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly are wonderful, but again, we're left with two. I'm over the moon for Paul Thomas Anderson, but the Coens, the great underrated screenwriters, do it again.

Best Original Screenplay:
Lars and the Real Girl
Michael Clayton
The Savages

This category isn't all that impressive. See the blog of my own nominees for better choices. Diablo Cody runs away with it. Good for her.

Best Foreign Film:
The Counterfeiters

This is the most inexplicable and baffling category. What on earth happened here? I don't know the rules, and I don't care to know them. But someone messed up big time. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly should win this category, and it's not even nominated. I've also heard nothing but rave reviews of 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, and that's nowhere to be found either. Maybe that should be the winner - I have yet to see it. It's currently crawling its way to Chicago. Anyway, I haven't heard of any of these films. What's up with this? I'm sure they're probably wonderful, but seriously, why? None of them have even been released in the U.S. yet, and most never will. This is appalling.

Best Picture:
Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

This is pretty unsurprising, but good. I don't know about Michael Clayton, but I sort of resent it being there. But I'll be the first to admit I'm wrong if I'm blown away by it. Again, I'm excited for Paul Thomas Anderson and There Will Be Blood. It is certainly a towering achievement and has earned its place there, even if I'm still working out my own feelings about it. Atonement, Juno, and No Country for Old Men - fantastic. The winner has to be No Country for Old Men. TKO in the final round.

So, I guess these were my musings on the nominations, as well as some of my picks for the winners. This is a lot longer than I intended it to be. But what can I say? I'm a passionate gal.

Now, we wait and see if the little kids on the playground can stop fighting long enough to let the nominees have their well-deserved glory.

Take It Back, Jack

I seem to be in the 1% minority of people who are not kissing Jack Nicholson's feet in humble gratitude for his performance as the Joker in Batman. I loved the movie when I was a kid, and I thought Jack Nicholson was great. I was sufficiently terrified. I was blinded by his Jack Nicholson-ness for years. I thought he was the bee's knees as the Joker, too. I don't remember when exactly it happened, but in the past couple years, I have become disenchanted with Tim Burton's Batman movies. I think it has a lot to do with Christopher Nolan finally getting it 100% right. Tim Burton's movies shouldn't be as revered as they are. They're okay, but they're sort of trivial and really dated. Speaking of trivial and dated, let's talk about Jack Nicholson.

Like I said, I don't know when exactly it was, but I recently realized that hey, his performance as the Joker really isn't that great after all. In fact, it's lazy. He does nothing extraordinary. He's just being himself! It's not deep or special or anything. Seeing what Heath Ledger has done with the Joker, even in just the trailer, is a revelation. It makes Jack Nicholson's version look pathetic. And that's exactly what I think Nicholson was afraid of...and why he's being such an asshole about Heath Ledger now.

After Heath Ledger died, some media scumbags caught up with Nicholson outside of a restaurant to get his opinion. His reaction? "I told him so." You've got to be kidding me. Apparently, Nicholson claims that he "warned" Ledger about playing the Joker and about the toll it would take on him. Please! I bet Jack Nicholson didn't lose one second of sleep over his performance. I doubt it was emotionally strenuous for him at all. I think Nicholson is making it up, because people claim Ledger never spoke with him. Whether he's making it up or not, the very idea that he would caution him against it is infuriating. If he told him that, how dare he? If he's just saying that he told him that, or if he even thought about saying that to him, what right does he have? The only conceivable reason he would tell him that would be to save his own face. His own stupid, smiling face. He was afraid Ledger would break the spell. And guess what? He has. Too bad, Jack. Ledger outshines you about a million percent. What a small, selfish thing to say. Leave Heath Ledger alone.

"I told him so"?! What the hell is that? That's his reaction to the death of Hollywood's most promising talent? "I told him so"?! Clearly, being in The Bucket List has made him go senile. What an insensitive fool. I have lost so much respect for Jack Nicholson. Now, I will always remember him as a joker, but not because of any role.


I'm planning on writing a whole slew of blog entries on stuff I've seen in the past couple weeks, so I hope you'll forgive me if my memory is a bit fuzzy. I usually like to write about things immediately, but things don't always work out how you planned. How's that for profound?

Let's start off light. I'll commence with my cheerleading double feature - Bring It On (2000) and Sugar & Spice (2001). I didn't watch these anywhere near the vicinity of each other - I'm just condensing because it seems to make sense. Actually, I did see versions of both on the same weekend, but they were the uber-conservative, sterilized ABC Family versions. So, they don't count. However, watching these bland edits (ABC Family must think teens are morons) made me seek out the real movies. So, yay for them, I guess. Give me an A! A! Give me a B! B! Eh, you get the point. My pompoms aren't peppy enough to finish.

I saw Bring It On when it was out in theaters seven years ago, and I honestly loved it. I'm not sure I want to admit that, but so be it. I think I even saw it a few times. I really, really needed cheering up at that point in my life. So, I've thought of it fondly over all these years, and I've scoffed at each subsequently worse-looking sequel (I think the last one was called Bring It On: Milking the Hell Out of a Franchise). I think the only franchise that makes me cringe more is the American Pie Presents empire and all their shenanigans, and that's only because Eugene Levy has completely lost his dignity. To be fair, the original American Pie films were awesome (the first two, at least), much better than Bring It On. Anyway, my point is - I still really enjoyed Bring It On. It's a guilty pleasure, that's for sure. But after seeing Sugar & Spice, which is infinitely superior, my opinion of Bring It On was brought into perspective. I'll get into Sugar & Spice in a bit and how it sort of shut my mouth about Bring It On, but let me analyze Bring It On alone first.

Bring It On is a fun movie. I originally thought there was some smart commentary there about high school, but there really isn't. I think the filmmakers wanted there to be. The movie has a good heart. I like that the opposing cheerleaders (the Clovers) are black and trying to prove themselves in a white-dominated arena. It's a nice twist that the former captain stole all the Rancho Carne Toros' national championship-winning cheers from the black squad. Clovers' captain Isis (Gabrielle Union) is seeking revenge, and newly appointed Toros' captain Torrance (Kirsten Dunst) has to restore integrity to the school. I guess you could argue that everyone is a stereotype. Why are the black cheerleaders poor and from Compton? How come the white cheerleaders have to steal their "rhythm" from the black team? But then I rebut - why not? Isn't it better to bring attention to social discrepancies in simplistic terms rather than not doing it at all? Come on, they're trying! A for effort - woohoo!

Okay, this movie isn't changing the world, but it's harmless fun. It's not particularly biting or sassy, but it's got more of a brain than most teen movies. I think it ultimately has a good message, but telling you what that is would ruin the ending, and I wouldn't dream of doing that. Sure, it's pretty lame that Dunst's character, of the Rancho Carne TOROS, is named Torrance. There's also some atrocious dialogue. Case in point: "This is not a democracy - it's a cheerocracy." - "You are being a cheertator, Torrance, and a pain in my ass!" So, not quite literary brain food, but they're cheerleaders, what do you expect? Ouch, did I just go there? I think I did. I'm kidding. Honestly, I am! So, that's the most moronic dialogue in the whole movie. I have a really hard time stomaching those lines. The rest is trendy-tolerable.

I'm very hit or miss with Kirsten Dunst. I usually think she's hugely annoying. I've only really liked her in Marie Antoinette and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. But this is a user-friendly Kirsten Dunst movie. She's perfectly perky and very endearing. I like Jesse Bradford as her romantic interest, and Gabrielle Union is sassy greatness as the rival captain. I love Eliza Dushku as tough transfer student Missy. She's the best part of the movie, and that's not just my Buffy fanaticism talking (she's Faith, the kickass other slayer). I also love watching the cheers and routines. There's some pretty spectacular choreography here. You won't find me saying that cheerleading isn't challenging. The stuff on display here is impressive as hell. Overall, this movie is frothy goodness. It's just right for what it needs to be.

But if you want to watch a cheerleading movie that will actually cause your neurons to start firing, watch Sugar & Spice. Bring It On is really enjoyable, but that's it. It looks positively juvenile compared to Sugar & Spice. Is it fair to judge one by the other? Probably not. But I watched them close enough together that I have no choice BUT to compare. Sugar & Spice made me realize that frothy could also be satirical and clever. Sugar & Spice is deceptively frothy. It's all bubbly and fun, but it's seriously smart. I think this movie is a gem. I don't know why people don't like it (really bad IMDB rating) - it's their loss. It's about high school cheerleaders who decide to rob a bank when one of them gets pregnant. Not exactly bubble gum material. I think it totally subverts teen movie expectations.

The girls are interesting and intelligent. When Diane (Marley Shelton) gets pregnant (with school stud Jack, played by James Marsden), her close friends and fellow cheerleaders are so supportive that they agree to participate in a bank heist (Diane works in the bank branch of a supermarket). Oh yeah, and the main couple is Jack and Diane - isn't that cute? They watch movies to learn how NOT to screw up the robbery. From Reservoir Dogs, they get the idea of nicknames, and the girls can be best summed up (but not reduced by) their aliases.

Diane: Mood Swing Betty (They wear Betty doll masks for the robbery - it's rather adorable.)
Kansas (Mena Suvari): White Trash Betty
Cleo (Melissa George): Stalker Betty (the object of her desire: Conan O'Brien!)
Hannah (Rachel Blanchard): Virgin Betty (with optional horse and saddle)
Fern (Alexandra Holden): Terminator Betty (daughter of an exterminator/black market arms dealer)
Lucy: Richard Nixon (She opted out of the Betty plan, gave up her mask, and was left with Nixon come showtime.) - Lucy is the Harvard-bound brain.

I just loved this movie. The acting is flawless. Marley Shelton is radiantly sweet and funny (as she also is in Planet Terror), Mena Suvari successfully plays against type as a smart-mouth goth, Melissa George practically steals the movie as the Conan fanatic, Rachel Blanchard is hilarious as the super-Christian virgin (check out the TV version of Clueless - she plays Cher and is a hundred times better than Alicia Silverstone), Marla Sokoloff is delightfully bitchy as the B-squad cheerleader looking for her own glory, and James Mardsen plays the good-intentioned, empty-headed pretty boy to end all pretty boys (rivaled only by himself in Enchanted).

The dialogue is consistently witty. For instance, the girls all watch movies to take notes on how to commit a crime. Hannah comes back with her review:

Hannah: "And Tim Conoway was very funny. And they all learned a lot from the experience a..."
Kansas: "Wait a minute. You watched The Apple FUCKING Dumpling Gang?"
Hannah: "I'm only allowed to watch G movies."

Sugar & Spice is funny, surprising, and totally delicious. Like, wow, totally. See it! Any movie that utilizes Conan O'Brien as an aspiring stalker's target is pretty inspired. It's scathing and smart, whereas Bring It On, by comparison (and of its own accord), is pretty tepid and remedial. Yeah, it's fun, but why just have fun when you can have fun and think at the same time? Bring THAT on, Kirsten.

Bring It On: ***1/2 (out of 5)
Sugar & Spice: ****1/2 (out of 5)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Good Night, Sweet Prince

It's been a week since Heath Ledger's shocking, tragic, untimely, and unfair death. It's not a coincidence that I haven't written a blog entry since it happened. I know I didn't know him, but I feel like I did. That might sound ridiculous to people. I realize people might think it's silly or weird to be so deeply affected by the death of a celebrity. I honestly don't care what people think about it. His death has shaken me to my very core. My heart broke when I heard the news, and I've been trying to mend it. I have been in mourning. I still am. I want to write a tribute to him that will do him justice, and I don't feel like I'm quite prepared to do it yet. I do want to get back into my blogging. Writing is therapeutic for me, even if I'm not writing about what is making me so sad. It'll just take me a little more time to write something about him. So, please be patient.

In the meantime, I want to share Christopher Nolan's thoughts on Heath Ledger. His words are just beautiful.

"One night, as I'm standing on LaSalle Street in Chicago, trying to line up a shot for "The Dark Knight," a production assistant skateboards into my line of sight. Silently, I curse the moment that Heath first skated onto our set in full character makeup. I'd fretted about the reaction of Batman fans to a skateboarding Joker, but the actual result was a proliferation of skateboards among the younger crew members. If you'd asked those kids why they had chosen to bring their boards to work, they would have answered honestly that they didn't know. That's real charisma—as invisible and natural as gravity. That's what Heath had.

Heath was bursting with creativity. It was in his every gesture. He once told me that he liked to wait between jobs until he was creatively hungry. Until he needed it again. He brought that attitude to our set every day. There aren't many actors who can make you feel ashamed of how often you complain about doing the best job in the world. Heath was one of them.

One time he and another actor were shooting a complex scene. We had two days to shoot it, and at the end of the first day, they'd really found something and Heath was worried that he might not have it if we stopped. He wanted to carry on and finish. It's tough to ask the crew to work late when we all know there's plenty of time to finish the next day. But everyone seemed to understand that Heath had something special and that we had to capture it before it disappeared. Months later, I learned that as Heath left the set that night, he quietly thanked each crew member for working late. Quietly. Not trying to make a point, just grateful for the chance to create that they'd given him.

Those nights on the streets of Chicago were filled with stunts. These can be boring times for an actor, but Heath was fascinated, eagerly accepting our invitation to ride in the camera car as we chased vehicles through movie traffic—not just for the thrill ride, but to be a part of it. Of everything. He'd brought his laptop along in the car, and we had a high-speed screening of two of his works-in-progress: short films he'd made that were exciting and haunting. Their exuberance made me feel jaded and leaden. I've never felt as old as I did watching Heath explore his talents. That night I made him an offer—knowing he wouldn't take me up on it—that he should feel free to come by the set when he had a night off so he could see what we were up to.

When you get into the edit suite after shooting a movie, you feel a responsibility to an actor who has trusted you, and Heath gave us everything. As we started my cut, I would wonder about each take we chose, each trim we made. I would visualize the screening where we'd have to show him the finished film—sitting three or four rows behind him, watching the movements of his head for clues to what he was thinking about what we'd done with all that he'd given us. Now that screening will never be real. I see him every day in my edit suite. I study his face, his voice. And I miss him terribly.

Back on LaSalle Street, I turn to my assistant director and I tell him to clear the skateboarding kid out of my line of sight when I realize—it's Heath, woolly hat pulled low over his eyes, here on his night off to take me up on my offer. I can't help but smile."

Neither can I, Mr. Nolan.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Awards According To Me

So, since I always compain about how unjust the awards shows are, I thought I'd put my money where my mouth is and come up with my own awards ceremony honoring annual excellence in films. I have most of the serious awards, but I also have some fun ones of my own creation. I don't have many rules, which is very liberating, for me anyway. The main rule is that the major categories have to have at least 5 nominees, but they can have as many as I want beyond that. Also, I am separating American from Foreign films for Best Picture and for the two major acting races. When I say it's an "American" film, I mean it was made with mostly American money and/or distributed originallly by an American company primarily for an American audience. Makes sense, I think. My intention with this is also just to bring attention to great work that has been forgotten or overlooked.

So, without further ado, I, Lisa Draski, present to you the 1st Annual Preston Awards for achievement in films. I'm naming the awards after Preston Sturges, my idol and one of my favorite filmmakers and writers. There's no real reason other than that. :)

The 2008 Preston Awards
(honoring films released in 2007)

I want to start out light and work my way to the more serious awards, but that doesn't mean any of them are any less important than others.

Best Transvestism: John Travolta - Hairspray

Best Accent:
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Kelly MacDonald - No Country for Old Men
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There

Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood

Best Hair:
The Cast of Hairspray
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men

Winner (by a landslide): Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men

Best Newcomer/Best Breakthrough by a Virually Unknown Performer:
Christopher Mintze-Plasse - Superbad
Saoirse Ronan - Atonement
Dillon Freasier - There Will Be Blood
Marketa Irglova - Once
Glen Hansard - Once
Evanna Lynch - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Winners: Evanna Lynch - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Christopher Mintze-Plasse - Superbad, and Saoirse Ronan - Atonement (Yes, ties are allowed. Actually, all of the them are worthy of winning - these are just my special favorites.)

Best Weapon:
A Carrot - Shoot 'Em Up
Cattlegun - No Country for Old Men
Machine Gun Leg - Planet Terror

Winner: Machine Gun Leg - Planet Terror (Sorry, Javier, but Rose McGowan's Machine Gun Leg is just too bad-ass.)

Best Ending:
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Winner: No Country for Old Men

Best Long Take:
The War Shot - Atonement
Marketa Irglova's Walk Home From The Store - Once
La Vie en Rose (several shots actually)

Winner: Atonement (not overrated at all!)

Best Use of the Penis:
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
2 Days in Paris
Superbad (in animation form)

Winner: Superbad (classic!)

Best Homage: Daniel Day-Lewis, doing an homage to John Huston in There Will Be Blood

Best Breakout Year: John Brolin (Planet Terror, American Gangster, In the Valley of Elah, No Country for Old Men)

Best First Film: Julie Delpy - 2 Days in Paris

Best Opening Credits Sequence: Planet Terror

Best Plug for the Dairy Council: Milkshakes in There Will Be Blood

Most Improved Actor: Rupert Grint - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (no more Ron Weasley faces!)

Cutest Couple:
Nathan Fillion and Keri Russell - Waitress
Amanda Bynes and Elijah Kelley - Hairspray
Ellen Page and Michael Cera - Juno
Michael Cera and Jonah Hill - Superbad
Christopher Walken and John Travolta - Hairspray
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - Once

Winner: Ellen Page and Michael Cera - Juno

Most Romantic Song:
"Falling Slowly" - Once (performed by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova)
"Anyone Else But You" - Juno (performed by Ellen Page and Michael Cera)

Winner: It's a tie. It's too close to call it.

Best Song: "Falling Slowly" - Once (There is no other competition.)

Best Musical Performance:
"Falling Slowly" - Once (performed by Hansard and Irglova)
"When Your Mind's Made Up" - Once (performed by Hansard and Irglova, but mainly Hansard)
"I Know Where I've Been" - Hairspray (performed by Queen Latifah)
"You Can't Stop the Beat" - Hairspray (performed by the ensemble)
"That's How You Know" - Enchanted (performed by Amy Adams)
"Anyone Else But You" - Juno (performed by Michael Cera and Ellen Page)

Winners: "Falling Slowly" - Once, "When Your Mind's Made Up" - Once, and "I Know Where I've Been" - Hairspray

Best Villain:
Imelda Staunton - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will be Blood
The Wild - Into the Wild

Winner: Javier Bardem (Staunton makes a fierce Umbridge, but no one can touch Bardem.)

Best Instant Pop Culture Phenomenon: McLovin' - Superbad

Best Character Names: Hairspray (Alliteration has it - Link Larkin, Penny Pingleton, Seaweed J. Stubbs, Motormouth Maybelle, Tracy Turnblad)

The Chaplin-Keaton-Lloyd Award for Best Silent Comedy Revival: L'Iceberg

Lifetime Achievement Award: Olivia de Havilland (Will someone else do this? She's still alive and deserves it!)

Best Animated Film:

Winner: Persepolis

Best Documentary:
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
No End in Sight

Winner: This is a really tough one, but I have to give it to The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.

Best Production Design:
Stuart Craig - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Sarah Greenwood - Atonement
Laura Couderc - L'Iceberg
Dante Ferretti - Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Olivier Raoux - La Vie en Rose

Winner: Stuart Craig - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Craig was the one who worked magic, yet again, in creating the Ministry of Magic, the Department of Mysteries, and Umbridge's office.)

Best Score:
Jonny Greenwood - There Will Be Blood
Robert Rodriguez - Planet Terror
Johan Soderqvist - After the Wedding
Nick Cave and Warren Ellis - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Dario Marianelli - Atonement
Eddie Vedder - Into the Wild
Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova - Once

Winner: It's a tie between Jonny Greenwood and Hansard and Irglova.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Joel and Ethan Coen - No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson - There Will Be Blood
Sean Penn - Into the Wild
Ronald Harwood - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Andrew Dominik - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Christopher Hampton - Atonement

Winners: Joel and Ethan Coen (the great underrated screenwriters)

Best Original Screenplay:
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg - Superbad
Susanne Bier and Anders Thomas Jensen - After the Wedding
Julie Delpy - 2 Days in Paris
Todd Haynes and Oren Moverman - I'm Not There
Adrienne Shelly - Waitress
Gerard Soeteman and Paul Verhoeven - Black Book
Robert Rodriguez - Planet Terror
Diablo Cody - Juno
John Carney - Once

Winner: Diablo Cody - Juno

Best Cinematography:
Robert Rodriguez - Planet Terror
Roger Deakins - No Country for Old Men
Roger Deakins - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Seamus McGarvey - Atonement
Edward Lachman - I'm Not There
Janusz Kaminski - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Morten Soborg - After the Wedding
Robert Elswit - There Will Be Blood
Sebastien Koeppel - L'Iceberg

Winner: Janusz Kaminski - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Best Director:
Julian Schnabel - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Coens - No Country for Old Men
Susanne Bier - After the Wedding
Todd Haynes - I'm Not There
Paul Thomas Anderson - There Will Be Blood
Sean Penn - Into the Wild
Joe Wright - Atonement

Winner: The Coens - No Country for Old Men

Best Supporting Actor:
Michael Cera - Juno
Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Hal Holbrook - Into the Wild
Steve Zahn - Rescue Dawn
Sebastian Koch - Black Book
Josh Brolin - No Country for Old Men
Paul Dano - There Will Be Blood
Tommy Lee Jones - No Country for Old Men
Andy Griffith - Waitress
Max von Sydow - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Winner: Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men

Best Supporting Actress:
Amber Tamblyn - Stephanie Daley
Jennifer Garner - Juno
Kelly MacDonald - No Country for Old Men
Cate Blanchett - I'm Not There
Saoirse Ronan - Atonement
Imelda Staunton - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Julie Christie - Away From Her

Winners: It's a tie between Jennifer Garner for Juno and Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There.

Best Foreign Actor:
Rolf Lassgard - After the Wedding
Mads Mikkelsen - After the Wedding
Glen Hansard - Once
Mathieu Amalric - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Dominique Abel - L'Iceberg

Winner: Rolf Lassgard - After the Wedding

Best Foreign Actress:
Carice van Houten - Black Book
Marion Cotillard - La Vie en Rose
Stine Fischer Christensen - After the Wedding
Marketa Irglova - Once
Fiona Gordon - L'Iceberg
Sidse Babett Knudsen - After the Wedding

Winner: Marion Cotillard - La Vie en Rose

Best Foreign Film:
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Black Book
After the Wedding

Winner: After the Wedding

Best Actor (in an American film):
Emile Hirsch - Into the Wild
Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Gordon Pinsent - Away From Her
James McAvoy - Atonement
Brad Pitt - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood

Best Actresss (in an American film):
Tilda Swinton - Stephanie Daley
Ellen Page - Juno
Keri Russell - Waitress
Rose McGowan - Planet Terror
Amy Adams - Enchanted

Winner: Ellen Page - Juno

Best Picture:
There Will Be Blood
No Country for Old Men
I'm Not There
Into the Wild

Winners: It's a tie between No Country for Old Men and I'm Not There

There you have it, folks. I hope you enjoyed looking at my awards, because I had a blast coming up with them. Also, I invite comments. I'd be more than happy to defend any of my nominees or winners, and I've love to hear your opinions or choices.

Until next year...

I Can Strike, Too

I know this is extremely belated, but to be honest, that miserable Access Hollywoodified Golden Globes "conference" didn't deserve my time any sooner. It doesn't even deserve it now.

Watching Billy Bush and Nancy O'Dell unceremoniously announce the winners without any respectful pauses and then immediately gossiping about it was revolting. The Golden Globe for the most appalling comment goes to... Billy Bush! After revealing Cate Blanchett as the Best Supporting Actress winner for I'm Not There, he expressed his shock and ignorantly assessed, as only a Bush could: "At the end of the day, it's a woman imitating a man." Well, at the end of the day, Billy Bush is just a parasite imitating a human being.

Congratulations to all the winners. You deserved better than that. I hope the people involved with the strike are happy. I would write more about that pathetic telecast, but I can't. I'm on strike.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pull the String!

I've started and erased this post about five different times already. I just can't seem to think of how to begin to talk about the cinematic blunder that is Glen or Glenda. My mind is as blank as the faces of all the actors.

This...thing...was the proud work of Ed Wood. Yes, THE Ed Wood. This was his most personal project because it's about his own transvestism. Wood loving wearing women's clothes. He actually plays the one-in-the-same title characters under a false name. He had a Grand Canyon-full of good intentions. That's abundantly clear. There's something very sweet and endearing about his earnestness and oblivion. He really thought he was making something great. The movie opens with a title card promoting tolerance for all people, so it has a good heart. Ed Wood had a good heart. For 1953, it was revolutionary to make a film about transvestism. He was like a pioneer without a map. I initially saw this movie four years ago in a class about censorship. I must have repressed my memories of it. I'm sure we had a blast watching it. I do vaguely remember that. Before I watched it again last night, my viewing companion brought up the one star rating (that's as low as it can go) I gave it on Netflix. So, the first few minutes pass, and I'm like, "This is awful, but sort of charming. Bless his incompetent little heart. Why did I hate it so much?"

Well, I was reminded with a vengeance. I don't hate it, though. There are movies I viciously despise. But there are few that are made as poorly as this one. Some movies are so bad that they're just unwatchable (Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song - I even loathe having to count each extra "s"). Glen or Glenda is so bad that it's a laugh riot. Still, through all of the hilarity, there was a lot of pain. I found it extremely insufferable at times. There's just minutes upon minutes of inane explanation. It's only 68 minutes long, but it felt like an eternity. It was neverending. People just repeat the same things over and over. Here's a typical exchange that would happen:

"So, the sky is really blue, but I heard it was going to rain."
"You say the sky is really blue, but it might rain?"
"Yes, that's right. The sky is blue."
"You're right, it is. You don't say."
"I do say. I just said it."
"I suppose you did. You say you heard it might rain?"
"Yes, but I'll get to that in a minute. First, the sky is really blue today."
"The sky is blue?"
"The sky is blue. But it might rain."
"But it might rain?"
"Yes, it might rain, let me get to that in a minute. First, let me explain the phenomenon of the sky being blue."
"Please do explain the phenomenon of the sky being blue. I'm still unclear."
"Well, scientifically speaking, the sky is blue."
"I see now. You say it's purple?"
"No. Blue."
"Yes, blue."
"But why is it blue, and how do clouds form?"
"Well now. Clouds are a whole new subject. I'll get to those things in a minute. First, let me talk about the possibility of rain."
"I thought you were going to talk about the possibility of rain in a minute."
"The minute for talking about the possibility of rain is now."
"I see now. Indeed, it is the time for talking about the possibility of rain."
"Actually, let me get to that in a few minutes."

AHHH! It's like being tortured by words. I feel like Norma Desmond when she says that people in the film industry have made a rope of words and strangled themselves with it. Obviously, that specific conversation never occurred. But a bunch like it did. I'm not even exaggerating. They just keep talking and talking and repeating what the other person said. It's so forced and bland and unnatural. These conversations occur mainly between a cop and a psychiatrist, discussing transvestism. The format of the movie is really odd. It's not really narrative, because there isn't a discernible plot. It's almost like a documentary. There's this random narrator blathering over the whole thing. He sounds like every man who ever narrated a movie you watched in a science class. So, the cop is apparently investigating the death of a man who killed himself because of the persecution he faced for wearing women's clothes. It was not, however, said as eloquently as that. The cop then goes to the psychiatrist to ask why and how and what it is and all this stuff. So, there's the narrator, scenes between the two professionals, random vignettes of different transvestites (mainly Glen/Glenda, but other "cases," too), and Bela Lugosi.

Yes, Bela Lugosi presides over this trainwreck. I mean, he literally presides OVER it all, because he plays God. He's credited as the "Scientist," but he's shown creating life (just mix a couple test tubes - why didn't I think of that?). He's awkwardly interjected into the movie to babble madly about the people on earth being puppets and pulling the string. It seems like Lugosi just stumbled out of the home and onto this set. He practically did. Ed Wood idolized him and basically pulled him out of obscurity to work in his movies. In a way, he gave Lugosi a purpose again, and they became great friends. So, it's sweet and sad to see him here. His acting is just atrocious. I'm sure it's partly the heroin addiction. But he's also stuck in a Dracula time warp. I think he thought he was still playing Dracula. At one point, he tells the people, "Beware! Take care! Beware!" Wow, how insightful. But he pronounces it "Bevare." I doubt Legosi even understood what the movie was about or what he was doing, but you can tell he was grateful to be working again. His eyes bulge on every protracted syllable of the absurd dialogue, his eyebrows raise half a centimeter in some attempt to convey a change in emotion, he's almost choking on the scenery he's chewing, and I think he's a bit high and senile, but he's having a blast.

Let's talk about his role as God in this movie. It's utterly bizarre. I never knew God was so angry and macabre. He sits in this room full of skeletons and other stock horror props. Oh, and the test tubes. Don't forget those. It's like mad scientist fused with the cryptkeeper fused with...God, I guess. If God was your creepy, vampire-like uncle that everyone avoids at family functions, that is. There's no point to him being in the movie except that Ed Wood wanted him there. That's it. Wood's real-life girlfriend at the time, Dolores Fuller, plays his fiancée Barbara in Glen or Glenda. She's possibly the worst actress ever. In the movie, Glen struggles with having to tell Barbara about his other side, Glenda. Plus, he really wants her angora sweater. The movie trudges along with the cop and the psychiatrist engaging in more fascinating discussion. It even veers away from Glen by talking about the case of a man who had a sex change operation.

Eventually, Glen tells Barbara, and the psychiatrist says that it's the result of him not being loved as a child or something, and that Barbara needs to help him kill off this other "character." Hmm, that doesn't seem very tolerant. This is where Wood's naïveté comes in. In the end, Glen wears the clothes less and less until he stops, because Barbara's love cures him. Oops, sorry, I ruined the ending. Now, I don't know if this was the Production Code interfering or not, making him slap on this ending, but this is a real cop-out. Wood was very brave to make this movie and literally put himself out there (he's actually not a bad actor), but then at the end, Glen gives up his transvestism and conforms? Also, transvestism is talked about very condescendingly and antiseptically by the cop and psychiatrist, and especially by that random narrator, like it's some nuisance meant to be fixed. If dressing in women's clothes makes him happy, why can't he keep doing it? Why does it have to be cured? For a transvestite himself, I think Wood missed his own point.

There are so many other things wrong with this movie, like his unending use of irrelevant stock footage, the miserable sets, the pathetic production value, the glaring continuity errors, the awkward shots and lighting, and then his promise in the title card of the movie's "stark realism," when the first shot is Bela Lugosi as God staring wildly at the camera and then haphazardly creating life out of test tubes. Oh my god, I almost forgot about the ten minute long surrealistic scene of voyeurism and sadomasochism. I guess it's supposed to be God/Bela watching these mini-scenarios. There's a couch, and all this kinky stuff happens on it. For instance, a man rips a woman's clothes off (it's mostly concealed) as he apparently rapes her. And she loves it. Women vamp around in skimpy clothes. And the most shocking part - one woman puts another woman on the couch and ties up her hands and feet with rope and then GAGS her. Sheesh, I never knew God was such a perv. We can thank Ed Wood for pointing that out. Bela Lugosi/God's reaction to these sexual shenanigans? An ever-so-light raising of the eyebrows and a blankly bemused expression, as if to say, "Hmm." Yeah...that's...a proportionate reaction.

Sigh. Glen or Glenda is not the worst movie ever made, but it's close. Yet, I'm still sort of fond of it. Of course, it's hilariously awful. But it's more than that. To have affection for this movie, I think you need to know something about Ed Wood or, better yet, to have seen Tim Burton's masterful Ed Wood, his loving tribute to the person some call the worst director in history. Ed Wood was a naïve, exuberant, charming, passionate guy who just loved making movies. He was always optimistic and never let anything destroy his spirit. He truly believed in what he was doing, and he really thought his movies were good. He only did one take for everything. It was all perfect to him. He was just excited to be making movies and living out his dream. Even if he failed miserably, HE didn't think he failed. That's what matters in the long run, isn't it? I respect and appreciate that. It's really very sweet and beautiful.

Okay, put away the tissues, I can't possibly end my review of Glen or Glenda on a sentimental note. Instead, I urge you to pull the string as I leave you with these inspirational words, written by Ed Wood and spoken by Bela Lugosi: "Beware! Beware of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep. He eats little boys...puppy dog tails, and BIG FAT SNAILS...Beware...Take care...Beware!" Whatever you say, Bela.

Rating: 1/2* (out of 5)