Thursday, December 24, 2009

Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire (2009)

It's not easy trying to keep up with great movies when you live in a small market. Only mainstream, wide-release films are truly available to me, while smaller, limited-release films require at least an hour's drive, if they are available at all. As a result, it has been increasingly difficult to see any awards-grabbing films while they are in theatres; usually I have to wait until they are on DVD before I can view them (in fact, just a few days ago I saw Revolutionary Road for the first time). So it was incredibly fortunate that I had the opportunity to see Precious here.
Of course, it is an interesting time for Precious: just one month ago, it was destined to win Best Picture from myriad groups, including the Oscars, but now the backlash has begun, and Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker have taken over the frontrunner status. But like the film's heroine, Precious should not be ignored.
Precious is built on a very, very depressive premise: an overweight Harlem teenage, pregnant with her second child (both of her children are the product of being raped by her father) deals with her education (she is illiterate) and her abusive mother. A premise like this can go two ways: its either going to be a moving experience or its going to be bogged down by its own subject matter. The screenplay, written by first-time writer Geoffrey Fletcher, provides a compelling look inside Precious' life, and director Lee Daniels does a fantastic job of providing insight into her mind, wisely balancing the harsh reality of her life with the flights of fancy of the life she wishes she could have. Both men deserve attention for their work here.
The real strength of Precious, however, is in the acting. This is an example of a film with a pitch-perfect cast, each performer unwilling to pander to treachly sentiments. In particular, enough cannot be said about the brave, brilliant performance of Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe as Precious. Making her film debut, Sidibe layers Precious in a way that allows us to see who she really is: peel away the abuse and hardship, and underneath is a girl who just wants to be able to provide for her children. She also recognizes the tragedy of her character: as much as she aspires to be a great mother, behind her eyes the audience can see that she's having to sacrifice her own welfare for her children. Its a harrowing truth that history will repeat itself, and that Precious and her children will never rise above their situation, but Sidibe's performance makes you believe that she can overcome.

Believe the hype: Mo'Nique is a one-woman powerhouse as Mary Jones, Precious' deadbeat, abusive mother. Mo'Nique plays a truly dispicable character: a mother who hates her child (because she "stole" her man), physically and verbally abusing her, neglecting her grandchildren, refusing to work and living off welfare. When its time for a visit from a social worker, though, she makes sure that everything seems acceptable, putting on an act that both false in its sweetness and disturbing in how convincing it is. She's the kind of woman who makes you hate her one minute, such as when she carelessly tosses her infant grandson, and almost makes you feel sympathy for her the next, such as when she begs a social worker (played with stunning grace by an unrecognizable Mariah Carey) to reunite her with Precious. Despite how horrendous, perhaps even "evil," her character is, Mo'Nique never relents in her conviction to bring her to life. Her performance may very well be the best performance of the year.
Though its not only the two leads who deliever. In what could have been a standard teachers-can-change-the-world role, Paula Patton turns in a fantastic performance as Precious' teacher at Each One Teach One, being both hard-nosed and sympathizing, willing to do whatever it takes for the welfare of her students. Carey, as I previously stated, is unrecognizable as Miss Wiess, a social worker whom Precious visits for welfare checks. Her performance is almost enough to make one forgive Glitter. And Lenny Kravitz shows up briefly as a nurse who takes care of Precious after she gives birth. Through these performances, director Lee Daniels has proven himself to be an actors' director, who will hopefully turn in more ensemble films in the future.
Precious is a film that is built on a story that is harsh in its reality, making it a difficult movie to stomach. But it succeeds mostly on the strength of its steller cast.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Oscar Picks: December 2009

Before I get around to picking my Oscar choices for this month, I have to comment on the Satellite Awards, which were presented yesterday. Shohreh Aghdashloo for Best Actress - Drama? Michael Stuhlbarg for Best Actor - Comedy? The Maid and Broken Embraces for Best Foreign Film? Nine for Best Comedy over Up in the Air? And, I kid you not, 2012 took home two awards? Well, for all they've done wrong, they did get a few things right, such as Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director and, surprisingly, (500) Days of Summer for Best Original Screenplay. Still, these awards are a mess; don't expect them to be echoed the next few months. This month made picking the Oscar nominees a lot easier. Thanks to all of the precursor awards, as well as the releases of all the films in contention. So, armed with a wealth of knowledge, these are my new predictions. BEST PICTURE An Education The Hurt Locker Precious Avatar Up Up in the Air Invictus Nine Inglourious Basterds A Single Man
The critical lashings that The Lovely Bones is recieving has ultimately taken the film out of this race. All of the others are still safe, but The Last Station is likely to fall out because most of the attention is on the film's two leads (yes, Christopher Plummer is a lead. I will not be fooled.). Surprisingly, Avatar seems to be a critical darling, and thanks to its good reviews and innovative tech, it now seems like the real deal (the Golden Globe nod for Best Drama didn't hurt either). I'm torn, however, on that last spot between two men: A Serious Man and A Single Man. Though A Serious Man has recieved more accolades as a film overall, its track record has been spotty thus far. Therefore, riding on its leads and its reviews, I'm picking A Single Man to make the top 10.
BEST ACTOR Morgan Freeman, Invictus George Clooney, Up in the Air Colin Firth, A Single Man Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
I'm finally giving in and including Bridges, since he's picking up plenty of nominations for this role. Hal Holbrook was a longshot of a choice to begin with, anyway. With Nine earning mediocre reviews, it seems unlikely that it will score too many major nominations, which means that I doubt Daniel Day-Lewis will earn another nomination this year. I'm going with Renner for the fifth nominee because his performance, though not really an "Oscary" one, will be noticed now that The Hurt Locker is picking up so many prizes. Not to mention Renner himself has recieved attention from some of the biggest groups, including the BFCA and the SAG.
BEST ACTRESS Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia Carey Mulligan, An Education Gabourey Sidibe, Precious Helen Mirren, The Last Station Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side The first four have been locks for a long time now, so that's not surprising; unfortunately, that means no Abbie Cornish. Saorise Ronan was another longshot choice, but I still hope she gets some recognition for being the best young actress of her generation (apologies, Dakota Fanning and Abigail Breslin). Of course, this means that Bullock is now going to recieve her first Oscar nomination, thanks to plenty of critics awards consideration and two Golden Globe nominations (everyone's so busy celebrating her that no one seems to remember All About Steve, which is good for her....). I'm not exactly fond of this choice, since I think there were better performances (re: Cornish and Ronan) that should be recognized, but one can't fight the inevitable. BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR Alfred Molina, An Education Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones Christopher Plummer, The Last Station Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Despite his near absence from the precursor awards, I'm standing by Molina as an Oscar nominee, especially with An Education moving back into the spotlight. I do realize though that this may be another fool's prediction, since Matt Damon seems to be getting a lot more attention (though Invictus has been only decently recieved). I'm dropping Damon in favor of Harrelson, who is on a roll this fall and has recieved steller reviews for his performance in The Messenger (as well as Zombieland, which is one of my personal favorite movies of the year). All of that momentum should push him to nomintation #2 (he was previously nominated for The People vs. Larry Flint).
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS Mo'Nique, Precious Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air Julianne Moore, A Single Man Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air Penelope Cruz, Nine This category is set in stone. Barring some sort of upset, this will be the Oscar category. BEST DIRECTOR Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker Lee Daniels, Precious Jason Reitman, Up in the Air James Cameron, Avatar Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds I hate to exclude Clint Eastwood from this category, especially considering how much the Oscars love him, but Invictus just hasn't been strong enough. The same goes for Rob Marshall, who was at one point a sure thing. Although Tarantino's films are usually very polarizing, there's a lot of love this year for Basterds, and I think that a second nomination in this category will be his reward for it. And with Avatar heating up, it seems impossible for James Cameron to not be nominated, though sharing the category with his ex-wife Bigelow could create some awkward tension.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Golden Globes: TV

The thing I love about the Golden Globes is that they're a combination of the Oscars and the Emmys, with twice the alcohol and half the prestige. But compared to the Emmys, the Globes are much more willing to include new programs and honor new perfomances that would otherwise be sidelined at the Emmys in favor of old favorites. This year is more or less the same, as you can see below. BEST DRAMA
  • Big Love
  • Dexter
  • House
  • Mad Men
  • True Blood
I'm bitter that they didn't include Lost here, which is coming off it's fantastic fifth season (shameless plug: the final season begins February 2, 2010!). But this group is not in the least surprising. True Blood recieved great reviews this year and developed into a huge hit for HBO, as has the superior Dexter for Showtime. House has evolved into a fascinating network character drama, with critics and fans adoring every minute of it. However, per usual, I'm sure this night belongs to Mad Men, though the Globes don't always choose the predictable favorite. Dexter or True Blood could pull the upset.
  • Glenn Close, Damages
  • January Jones, Mad Men
  • Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife
  • Anna Paquin, True Blood
  • Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
Who would have thought, at the beginning of the 2009-2010 TV season, that The Good Wife would be the recipient of such good will? I personally haven't seen it, but appearantly what could have been a shameless drama about political infidelity has become a rah-rah feminist drama that features a strong female character who is not a quote-unquote "bitch." So good for Margulies for earning a nod here. Otherwise, this is a fairly standard set of nominees, though it does noticably exclude Edie Falco's performance in Nurse Jackie.
  • Simon Baker, The Mentalist
  • Michael C. Hall, Dexter
  • Jon Hamm, Mad Men
  • Hugh Laurie, House
  • Bill Paxton, Big Love
So Laurie has two of these things but no Emmys for this role? Scandalous. In a perfect world, Hall would have won this at the Emmys for his incredible performance as Dexter Morgan, a role that could have been one-note but has been given a multitude of layers and textures by Hall. I kind of feel like the Globes are copying the Emmys with the Baker nomination, and though Paxton could be considered an unusual choice, the Globes actually like him a lot. And Hamm is probably going to win this. It should be noted, however, that two-time Emmy winner Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) is absent from this category.
  • 30 Rock
  • Entourage
  • Glee
  • Modern Family
  • The Office
Glee and Modern Family are the best new shows of the season, so their inclusion here is well-earned and, with any luck, one of them will win. 30 Rock and The Office are old (and hilarious) favorites, and 30 Rock will most likely win. I don't know why Entourage has suddenly reemerged, but it seems to be popular again, at least critically. Most importantly, the Globes have righted an obnoxious Emmy wrong: no Family Guy.
  • Toni Collette, United States of Tara
  • Courteney Cox, Cougar Town
  • Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie
  • Tina Fey, 30 Rock
  • Lea Michele, Glee
So Nurse Jackie is actually a comedy? Who knew? This is actually an eclectic category this year, with nary a housewife of the usual kind (Desperate Housewives and Weeds) in sight. Instead, we see Toni Collette in her Emmy encore (she's actually quite entertaining) and Tina Fey returning for her fantastic role as Liz Lemon, a modern, thinking-girl's version of Mary Tyler Moore. Courteney Cox is appearantly quite a draw in Cougar Town, another show, like The Good Wife, that surprisingly worked. And Glee's Michele is an inspired choice; her performance as the glee club's main diva is pitch-perfect.
  • Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock
  • Steve Carell, The Office
  • David Duchovny, Californication
  • Thomas Jane, Hung
  • Matthew Morrison, Glee
In the traditional category, Baldwin and Carell have returned for their routinely uproarous turns on their respective programs. The Globes really like Duchovny, whose performance on Californication is solid and, honestly, the best part of the show. I'm surprised that Jane is here, given Hung's lackluster viewership and mediocre reviews, but maybe this is a vote of confidence to bring it back. And once again, the Glee nomination is inspired and welcome: its obvious that the Globes love this show (just like the rest of us), and Morrison is the heart of the show, balancing his comedy with dark drama (just watch his reaction to his wife's fake pregnancy).
  • Georgia O'Keeffe
  • Grey Gardens
  • Into the Storm
  • Little Dorrit
  • Taking Chance
HBO still has a stronghold here, with three of the nominees (Gardens, Storm, and Chance). I don't really know much about these, except that the Emmys really liked Dorrit and Gardens, so one of them will probably take this one.
  • Joan Allen, Georgia O'Keeffe
  • Drew Barrymore, Grey Gardens
  • Jessica Lange, Grey Gardens
  • Anna Paquin, The Courageous Heart of Irena
  • Sigourney Weaver, Prayers for Bobby
They really love Paquin, don't they? The rest are kind of expected, and its most likely that one of the Gardens girls will win.
  • Kevin Bacon, Taking Chance
  • Kenneth Branagh, Wallander: One Step Behind
  • Chiwtel Ejiofor, Endgame
  • Brendan Gleeson, Into the Storm
  • Jeremy Irons, Georgia O'Keeffe
This pretty much looks exactly like the Emmy category, with the exceptions of Irons and Ejiofor (both of whom the Globes seem to really, really like).
  • Jane Adams, Hung
  • Rose Byrne, Damages
  • Jane Lynch, Glee
  • Janet McTeer, Into the Storm
  • Chloe Sevigny, Big Love
The thing I love about these nominees is how 4 out of 5 of them come from TV series, rather than miniseries and movies. The best of the bunch is easily Lynch, who deserves the win here the most.
  • Michael Emerson, Lost
  • Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
  • William Hurt, Damages
  • John Lithgow, Dexter
  • Jeremy Piven, Entourage
This is probably the strongest acting category of the TV Globes, with a fantastic set of actors who either define or revitalize their respective shows. Piven gets the most attention from Entourage, and Hurt brought a strong male voice to the strongly-female based Damages. However, the trophy breaks down to a three-way race: Emerson, who's finally been recognized by the Emmys for his intensely creepy and intricate work on Lost; Harris, who is the catchphrase-generating womanizer who proivdes some of Mother's funniest moments; and Lithgow, who on this past season of Dexter proved to be Dexter's biggest challenge yet as the Trinity Killer. With any luck, one of these three will win.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The SAGs!

Another day, another Oscar precursor announcement. The Screen Actors' Guild has announced their nominees, and the result is...the same old thing that everyone else has been talking about. And since the SAGs are pretty good indicators of the Oscars, then it's possible that what we see here is what we'll see on February 2. BEST CAST
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Nine
  • Precious
The Hurt Locker, Precious, and Inglourious Basterds were already sure things for the Oscars, and that is affirmed here (in general, 4 out of the 5 nominees in this category usually go on to become Best Picture nominations). I must admit though that the Basterds nomination is unexpected to me, but fantastic. An Education and Nine have gained some ground here, though Nine really shouldn't be that big of a surprise. In fact, the most striking thing about this set is that Up in the Air is missing: perhaps the individual nominations were enough for the SAG?
  • Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
  • George Clooney, Up in the Air
  • Colin Firth, A Single Man
  • Morgan Freeman, Invictus
  • Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
I think this is probably going to be the Oscar line-up; the only doubt I have is Renner, who will probably have to fight Nine's Daniel Day-Lewis all the way up to February for that final spot. It's not often that such naturalistic performances get nominations, so I'm glad that Renner is getting the recognition he deserves.
  • Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
  • Helen Mirren, The Last Station
  • Carey Mulligan, An Education
  • Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
  • Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Barring the end of the world, ladies and gentlemen, your Oscar line-up.
  • Matt Damon, Invictus
  • Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
  • Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
  • Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
  • Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Remember Alfred Molina? I wonder whatever happened to him. Since the critics awards started, he's virtually disappeared from the a race that he was at one point considered a frontrunner. It seems that Harrelson has since replaced him; I didn't think Harrelson was the real deal, but it seems like he may be on his way back to the Oscars. Who would have thought?
  • Penelope Cruz, Nine
  • Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
  • Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
  • Diane Kruger, Inglourious Basterds
  • Mo'Nique, Precious
Once again, same old, same old, until you get down to that 4th nominee. Diane Kruger? As in, Bridget von Hammersmark, that Diane Kruger? Though the lady she snubbed out, Julianne Moore, will be laughing all the way to the Oscar ceremony, Kruger's nomination is a wonderful surprise, if for nothing more than the fact that someone other than Christoph Waltz is getting credit for his/her performance in Basterds. On that note, however, I would have preferred Melaine Laurent be noticed, but you take what you get, I suppose.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Golden Globes '09!

I'll come out and say it: the Golden Globes are one of the most frustrating awards ceremonies in the season. The dramatic categories are usually accurate indicators of how the Oscars will go, while the comedic categories are usually just fun nominees who don't really stand a chance at getting an Oscar. This year's Globes, however, actually carry a little more weight, in my opinion, since Best Picture at the Oscars has been expanded to include 10 nominees, but that does not necessarly mean that all the nominees really stand a chance. Anyway, here's my analysis of this year's contenders. For this post, however, I am only going to comment on the film awards; the television awards will come at a later date. BEST PICTURE - DRAMA
  • Avatar
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious
  • Up in the Air
It's interesting to me that Up in the Air is being campaigned as a drama rather than a comedy, which will only benefit it. The Hurt Locker continues to build its frontrunner status, as has Precious, and they're practically locks for the Oscars now. Avatar and Inglourious Basterds probably won't win here or at the Oscars, but there's a good chance of them both making the shortlist for the latter. I am now convinced that I have underrated Avatar, and I've made it a point to go see it soon. The notable snub here is Invictus. Though it will still make it to the Oscars, its highly doubtful that it will win.
  • Emily Blunt, The Young Victoria
  • Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
  • Helen Mirren, The Last Station
  • Carey Mulligan, An Education
  • Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
Emily Blunt is a major latecomer here. Her film has so far recieved only mixed reviews, and its slow release schedule is doing it no favors. Though Blunt's performance may be great, its just too little, too late. Mulligan is now a virtual lock for an Oscar nomination now, and is THE frontrunner to win. Its good to see Sidibe pick up a nomination here, considering how lately shes been partly absent from the critics awards. Mirren will probably make the Oscar shortlist, but most of that will probably be driven by her legacy than anything else. And Bullock is unfortunately moving foward with her role in The Blind Side (there will be a seperate post about that later). And with no recognition for Abbie Cornish or Saorise Ronan, its likely now that their respective campaigns have come to a close here.
  • Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
  • George Clooney, Up in the Air
  • Colin Firth, A Single Man
  • Morgan Freeman, Invictus
  • Tobey Maguire, Brothers
The first four are nothing new; everyone's been talking about them from the very beginning. However, I'm impressed by the selection of Maguire for Brothers. He had some early buzz, but a lot of that faded over time; not necessarily because of poor reviews, but from stronger competition. I doubt he'll make the Oscar shortlist, but this certainly helps his chances.
  • (500) Days of Summer
  • The Hangover
  • It's Complicated
  • Julie & Julia
  • Nine
The only one of these that's likely to end up in the Best Picture category at the Oscars is Nine, with Summer having the best chance of sneaking in. The other three are really just filler, though the screenplay chances for all three could have recieved a boost. Its notable that this is The Hangover's only nomination, which makes its inclusion seem like a consolation prize for being so popular this year. However, notable snubs include The Proposal (not a bad thing) and Zombieland (which would have been a fantastic inclusion).
  • Sandra Bullock, The Proposal
  • Marion Cotillard, Nine
  • Julia Roberts, Duplicity
  • Meryl Streep, It's Complicated
  • Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
So appearent HPFA really, really loves Streep; so much so that they're going to let her compete against herself! She'll earn yet another Oscar nomination this year, but it will be Julie & Julia, not It's Complicated. However, she and Bullock have a similar situation: double Globe nominations, which usually turns into an Oscar nomination for one of the roles. The Globes fell for Cotillard's campaign fraud, but don't expect Oscar to. And HPFA hearts Roberts way too much. Where's the love for (500) Days of Summer's Zooey Deschanel?
  • Matt Damon, The Informant!
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine
  • Robert Downey, Jr., Sherlock Holmes
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt, (500) Days of Summer
  • Michael Stuhlbarg, A Serious Man
Its hard to say that any of these will move past these. Stuhlbarg had good early buzz, but like the movie he's starring in, his momentum seems to rise and fall violently every week. So who knows? Matt Damon, if he is nominated, will be in the supporting category for Invictus, not for this film. Day-Lewis seems like the safest bet, but even he is on shaky ground this year. As much as I would love to see Downey Jr. score his third career nod, I highly doubt Sherlock Holmes will be the film to do it. And it seems like no one can honor both stars of Summer, but have to choose one or the other: the Globes have rightfully chosen Gordon-Levitt, but Deschanel is just as deserving! It's interesting that Sandra Bullock's Proposal costar Ryan Reynolds isn't in this category, especially considering how big of a year he has had as well, nor is any of the stars of The Hangover.
  • Penelope Cruz, Nine
  • Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
  • Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
  • Mo'Nique, Precious
  • Julianne Moore, A Single Man
This is exactly what I imagine the Oscar category will look like.
  • Matt Damon, Invictus
  • Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
  • Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
  • Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
  • Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Honestly, I'd forgotten all about Plummer, since he has been absent from most of the critics awards. But that's probably because with the exception of one or two for Harrelson, Waltz has been taking all of them home. I don't see Damon's campaign being strong enough to get him into the Oscars, but he could be a pleasant surprise. I also wonder if Harrelson's sudden momentum is another case of too little, too late, or if he could actually make it all the way. Otherwise, Waltz is a lock, and it looks like Tucci will make it too and be The Lovely Bones' only major representative.
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  • Coraline
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • The Princess and the Frog
  • Up
Again, this is exactly how I expect the Oscars to go. Though honestly, I'm surprised more recognition hasn't been given to Miyazaki's Ponyo. Since when has a Miyazaki not been universally praised?
  • Baaria (Italy)
  • Broken Embraces (Spain)
  • The Maid (Chile)
  • Un Prophete (France)
  • Das Weisse Band (Germany)
The problem with this category is that it has different eligibility rules than the Oscars do. Whereas the Oscars require it to be financed, produced, and submitted by a foreign country, the Globes only require it to be in a foreign language. Still, Broken Embraces, a probable winner here, wasn't submitted to the Oscar comittee, so its hard to tell. Though momentum for The Maid seems to be fantastic right now.
  • Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
  • James Cameron, Avatar
  • Clint Eastwood, Invictus
  • Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
  • Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
I have a feeling that this may be how the Oscars go too. Though I have to ask: where is Precious' Lee Daniels? He certainly deserves one for his exquisite work. But I'm glad Bigelow's holding her own with the usual suspects.
  • Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell, District 9
  • Mark Boal, The Hurt Locker
  • Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
  • Nancy Meyers, It's Complicated
  • Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
The thing I hate about this category at the Globes is that its a conglomerate rather than seperated like at the Oscars. Therefore, a lot of major screenplays such as Precious, A Single Man, A Serious Man, Up, (500) Days of Summer, An Education, etc. get ignored. However, the choice of District 9 is exceptionally inspired, and the inclusion of It's Complicated is confusing. That over Summer? I don't think so.
  • Michael Giacchino, Up
  • Marvin Hamlisch, The Informant!
  • James Horner, Avatar
  • Abel Korzeniowski, A Single Man
  • Karen O and Carter Burwell, Where the Wild Things Are
I really wish Where the Wild Things Are would recieve nominations in other categories too, but I guess I'll settle for this. I don't really know much about these, but bright side: no Amelia!
  • "Cinema Italiano," Nine
  • "I See You," Avatar
  • "I Want to Come Home," Everybody's Fine
  • "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)," Crazy Heart
  • "Winter," Brothers
This is a horrible Oscar predictor, namely because the HFPA chooses the most random selections for its nominees. As you can see here, Everybody's Fine and Brothers appearantly have better musical selections than The Princess and the Frog, which the Oscars are much more likely to go with.
More to come. Thoughts and comments are welcome.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Grammys Go Young

This year's Grammys are marked by something that may be a recognition of great artists or a ploy to gain more viewers (your choice): there are a lot of mainstream, "cool" nominees. Personally, I think its great to honor those who are making popular music right now, not just the legends who continue to make good records. Because my Grammy ballot, which only consists of a fraction of the full nominees, is still 11 pages long, I'm going to break up my nomination analysis into six entries: the first, this one, will consist of the night's general prizes, while the remaining five will be pop/dance, rock, R&B, rap, and country. RECORD OF THE YEAR
  • "Halo," Beyonce "I Gotta Feeling," Black Eyed Peas
  • "Use Somebody," Kings of Leon
  • "Poker Face," Lady Gaga
  • "You Belong With Me," Taylor Swift
There's not a single song in this group that wasn't a Top 40 hit in the past year, which hasn't happened at the Grammys in a while. The most surprising thing here is that they went with "Halo" over "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," which was a much bigger hit for Beyonce. It's genuinely hard to predict who will take this category, but most likely it will either be Beyonce, Swift, or Gaga. I like all of them, but my vote goes to "You Belong With Me," which stands as a true testament to Swift's fantastic skills as a performer (and at only 20 years old).
  • I Am...Sacha Fierce, Beyonce
  • The E.N.D., Black Eyed Peas
  • The Fame, Lady Gaga
  • Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King, Dave Matthews Band
  • Fearless, Taylor Swift
Again, all of these are reasonably popular acts with hit records, and this hasn't happened in this category since 2003 when the lineup featured Outkast, Missy Elliott, Evanescence, Justin Timberlake and The White Stripes. I haven't heard all of these albums in their entirety yet, but based on history, any of these albums could easily win. However, the most likely choice is Beyonce, since the Grammys have been very kind to her throughout her career.
  • "Poker Face," Lady Gaga (Lady Gaga and RedOne, songwriters)
  • "Pretty Wings," Maxwell (Hod David and Muzse, songwriters)
  • "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," Beyonce (Thaddis Harrell, Beyonce Knowles, Terius Nash & Christopher Stewert, songwriters)
  • "Use Somebody," Kings of Leon (Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill & Nathan Followill, songwriters)
  • "You Belong With Me," Taylor Swift (Taylor Swift and Liz Rose, songwriters)
I think the Grammys got Beyonce confused, since this is the category where a nomination for "Halo" makes sense. "Single Ladies" is a great, catchy song, but it is not really a songwriting feat. Neither is "Poker Face" really, but Lady Gaga is a good songwriter, so it works. Expect Taylor Swift to walk away with this one though, since her talents in this category are undeniable.
  • Zac Brown Band
  • Keri Hilson
  • MGMT
  • Silversun Pickups
  • The Ting Tings
What a great year to be an indie artist, since MGMT, Silversun Pickups and Ting Tings were counterculture, indie-culture superstars this past year. I don't know who to say will win this one, but I'm going to say Keri Hilson is the most likely choice.
  • Cadillac Records
  • Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • True Blood
  • Twilight
This is a pretty standard set of the most musically talked-about films and TV shows of the past year. Expect Slumdog to win, though Basterds totally deserves it the most.
  • "Mr. Hurricane," Beast
  • "Boom Boom Pow," Black Eyed Peas
  • "Life in Technicolor ii," Coldplay
  • "Wrong," Depeche Mode
  • "Her Morning Elegance," Oren Lavie
There was no shortage of great videos this past year, but somehow the Black Eyed Peas' decent but not extraordinary "Boom Boom Pow" video managed to leapfrog Major Lazer's "Hold the Line," Matt & Kim's "Lessons Learned," and, most notably, Beyonce's notorious "Single Ladies." Still, the other 4 are fantastic, the most exciting of all being Coldplay's and Lavie's entries. But the award will probably go to Depeche Mode.

Awards Season: A Brief Summary

Oh man. Its awards season now, and I am ridiculously behind on my observations and reactions to the various awards and nominations going out. I haven't made my December Oscar picks yet because I am waiting for the Golden Globe nominations to be announced tomorrow, since these will (somewhat) clear the air around the contenders and pretenders. But for now, here's a short summary of reactions to various awards thus far. INDIE SPIRITS - A Serious Man gets best ensemble but no best feature nomination? This film is getting to be very unpredictable. - I'm pleased to see Paranormal Activity get a Best First Feature nomination. It's an encouragement of more indie horror. SATELLITE AWARDS - I just want to say up front that I don't consider the Satellites to be accurate predictors of the awards season. The hefty amount of nominations for 2012 only confirms this. - However, this is not the first group to recognize Woody Harrelson for The Messenger. Maybe he's got some real heat now... - The District 9 nominations in director and screenplay are excellent, but probably the biggest nominations the film will be recognized for. NATIONAL BOARD OF REVIEW - Star Trek as a top film? And Where the Wild Things Are? I loved them both, but this seems a little odd. Will this be their only recognition or is more to come? -The tie for Best Actor between Morgan Freeman and George Clooney: cop-out. -Up in the Air seems to be moving past Precious as the film to beat. DC FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION - This just looks like a list of front-runners and buzzed-about performances. - Kathryn Bigelow's direction win certainly looks promising for her future. - The only real surprise here is the Original Screenplay category: The Hurt Locker, (500) Days of Summer and A Serious Man all lost out to....Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds script. Which is fantastic, since it was the most inventive screenplay of the year (my apologies to Summer and District 9). BOSTON SOCIETY OF FILM CRITICS - The Hurt Locker takes Best Picture, Director and Actor. The film's Oscar chances really are on the rise. - Meryl Streep finally registers her first big win. But is she still too far behind Carey Mulligan to be considered a frontrunner? - There's Star Trek again, in the Best Ensemble category. If it continues to be picked for things like this and makes it to the Oscars, set phasers to stun. LOS ANGELES FILM CRITICS ASSOCIATION -The Hurt Locker again for Best Picture and Director. Could this really be the year of the first female directing Oscar winner? NEW YORK FILM CRITICS ONLINE - Avatar as Best Picture? Maybe I'm underestimating this film after all.... - The Top 11 films are a hoot. I guess when Oscar expands to 10 films, you can't have a top 10 list anymore... - Chalk up another screenplay win for Tarantino. It looks like he'll (finally) be making his long-awaited return to the Oscars. That's all I've got for now. Hopefully, by the the end of the day I'll have reactions to the BFCA Critic's Choice nominations, as well as my response to the Grammy nominations.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

November Oscar Predictions

Dear God, its already December! Its been way too long since my last post, and I apologize for taking so long; exams are coming up soon and I have been overwhelmed with work. I wanted to have explanations for my nominee choices, but that may have to wait until December's; I will, however, post a few thoughts in this one. And soon I will also post my reactions to the Gothams, the Satellites, the Spirits, the Grammys, and the NBRs (whew!). Best Picture An Education The Hurt Locker Precious The Lovely Bones Up Up in the Air Invictus Nine Inglourious Basterds The Last Station - I don't think that A Serious Man really stands a chance anymore, so I'm betting on The Last Station instead. Invictus and The Lovely Bones are also iffy right now for me. Best Actor Morgan Freeman, Invictus Daniel Day-Lewis, Nine George Clooney, Up in the Air Colin Firth, A Single Man Hal Holbrook, That Evening Sun - Morgan Freeman's frontrunner status is dropping precipitously, but he'll still be nominated. Now with Jeff Bridges gaining heat, I'm doubting the Holbrook nomination, though I'd rather have him in the running too. Day-Lewis is iffy, since most of what I've seen of him in Nine is just him smiling. Best Actress Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia Carey Mulligan, An Education Gabourey Sidibe, Precious Abbie Cornish, Bright Star Saoirse Ronan, The Lovely Bones - With Amelia bombing, Hilary Swank is down (but not necesserily out; see Cate Blanchett's Elizabeth: The Golden Age nomination in 2007). However, I think Ronan's nomination might just be wishful thinking on my part, and Helen Mirren might actually have a better shot for The Last Station. Best Supporting Actor Alfred Molina, An Education Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones Christopher Plummer, The Last Station Matt Damon, Invictus - I'm doubting Matt Damon will squeeze into this category now, given Invictus' lackluster preview response. Here's hoping Anthony Mackie takes his place for his performance in The Hurt Locker. Best Supporting Actress Mo'Nique, Precious Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air Julianne Moore, A Single Man Penelope Cruz, Nine - Thanks to Marion Cotillard's move to the leading category, I think Cruz will have to carry the torch for all of the Nine women. However, I still think this category will be Mo'Nique and the four women that lose to her. Best Director Clint Eastwood, Invictus Lee Daniels, Precious Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker Jason Reitman, Up in the Air Rob Marshall, Nine - There's no doubt that the last four will make it, but I have doubts now about Eastwood: the Academy loves him, but they're not above excluding him (see his "sure-thing" nomination last year). If he falls, either Quentin Tarantino or Michael Hoffman will probably replace him, with a chance of Lone Scherfig or Peter Jackson.