Sunday, February 22, 2009

Watch This!

Hugh Jackman won me over right at the beginning. Hysterical!

Oscar Countdown

Oscar Countdown 2009

Hold my calls. I’m not making dinner. Please keep your voice down, unless you’re cheering or booing. Ah, it must be Oscar night.

First, they are "Oscars,” NOT Academy Awards and the evening is filled with winners. I can’t stand “And the Oscar goes to…” We are not in grade school here. I think the other nominees can accept, with maturity and grace, the fact that they didn’t win. There’s no need to sugar coat it.

I’m thankful for my blog because this year I’ve seen more nominated films then I have in a very long time. It has become my “job” to make sure I see all of these films. Since last week was the 3-day Presidents’ Day weekend, I managed to sneak in another Best Picture nominee and one for the Best Actor category. Now I’m on a roll. I watched The Dark Knight last night, so that I can say I saw it before Ledger gets his posthumous nod. I just came back from a matinee showing of The Reader to complete all five “Best Picture” films.

I’m very excited about most of the films and performances this year. I feel there was an extremely eclectic selection this time around. Now as far as the broadcast goes, I’m slightly more hesitant. Hugh Jackman? This is just a weird choice. Jon Stewart did a great job last year and he should’ve been asked back. Will Jackman rip in to his fellow actors? That would seem odd, so he’ll probably sing and/or dance and I don’t think anyone wants to see that.

Also, there’s supposed to be a medley of the nominated songs. Peter Gabriel backed out of performing because his song would be only a minute and half. They probably wanted to put him on a rotating stage or something. Music is so vital to film that you would think in three plus hours they could manage to let artists perform a measly three full length songs. I’m glad Mr. Gabriel backed out.

Well, on to my picks:

MakeupThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Documentary Man on Wire *This is the only one I’ve heard of, thus the most popular for voting.

Foreign Language FilmWaltz with Bashir

Animated FeatureWall-E

Original Song – “O-Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire * I have to add that I’m not a Springsteen fan, but how was his song from The Wrestler not nominated?

CinematographySlumdog Millionaire – With the frenetic pace this film was shot, it outshines everything else.

EditingSlumdog Millionaire – All the cutaways that manage to piece this story together… you are so on the edge of your seat!

Adapted ScreenplaySlumdog Millionaire

Original ScreenplayMilk

Supporting Actress – This will be the upset category – Taraji P. Henson for the Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Supporting Actor – Odds are on Heath Ledger. Ledger brought a whole new level of creepiness to The Joker, but the most powerful performance in this category is Josh Brolin for his disturbing portrayal of Dan White. Still, I think Ledger has it.

Actress – Kate Winslet – I’m leaving in a couple of hours to see The Reader. I’m afraid it will be a good performance, not her best, but she’s receiving a career Oscar.

Actor – Wouldn’t it be great if this could go down in history as a fabulous tie between Penn and Rourke? How dare Mickey Rourke come back this year of all years! As much as I would love my dream to come true, it’s Mickey’s year.

Director – This will not be a year of the director/film combo. Best Director will be Gus Van Sant. I mean it. It will! I do will this to happen!

PictureSlumdog Millionaire and it’s going to be the sweetest award of the night when all those cuties from the film are cheering and crying.

Enjoy the show!

And the Oscar goes to...

The Wrestler

One of the most important aspects of acting is to be raw and really put yourself out there. A master class for this example would be Mickey Rourke’s performance in The Wrestler.

Sometimes it felt like Rourke was simply enacting his own “E! True Hollywood Story,” but Rourke is playing a fictional character here, though eerily similar to his own life.

I was a huge Mickey Rourke fan back in the day. My daughter could not believe he used to be a sex symbol. I was forced to pop in my DVD of Diner to prove her wrong. She was forced to concede that Mickey was, in fact, fine.

I have so much love for Sean Penn’s portrayal of the late Harvey Milk, but I do see now what all the hoopla has been over Rourke’s performance. We can all wish for the outlandish dream of it being a tie, but to be honest, I think Mr. Rourke has this one in the bag.

As a down and out wrestler who has spent his entire life pushing people away, he realizes just how alone he truly is when he suffers a heart attack and is told he can no longer wrestle.

The fly on the wall view of pro-wrestling is truly fascinating, if not difficult to watch due to all the blood. No one is making tons of dough here and these are people are in love with the roar of the crowds and the thrill of the fight. Yet, when the match is over, they are left with little cash in their pockets and completely ravaged bodies.

One of the greatest aspects of this film is its honesty. Although “Randy (The Ram) Robinson,” wrestles on a regular basis, he still needs a day job. He could probably live slightly better than in a trailer park, but he has many expenses: hair appointments to keep his beautiful blond mane, trips to the tanning salon, and don’t forget how expensive performance enhancing drugs are. He also makes regular visits to his pseudo stripper girlfriend. He pays for a lap dance mostly to have someone to talk to.

Marisa Tomei (Cassidy), is Rourke’s object of desire and again, I appreciated the fact that she is portrayed as an older stripper and treated as such. Yes, she is full-on naked in this film and yes, she looks great, but she’s no spring chicken. Her job is becoming increasingly difficult because the men at the strip club do not want private dances with her anymore. No matter how great she looks, they are there to see the young nubile girls. She knows her days are numbered and she’s planning to retire soon.

It would be great to see Randy and Cassidy together, yet there’s a nagging feeling throughout the film that things will not be so happy and tidy in their lives. Rourke’s relationship with his grown daughter is troubled and we get a glimpse of the life he chose to reject in pursuit of fame. Evan Rachel Wood, walks the line of anger, bitterness and hesitation in letting her father re-enter her life.

This was more than just a tour-de-force performance by Rourke. This was a quiet, wonderful film. Its main themes of isolation, loneliness and failed dreams is something we can all relate to at one time or another.

I think we’re all glad Mickey Rourke is back and no one will begrudge his win tonight. His Golden Globes speech about how much he loves his dogs may be mocked by some, but anyone who has ever truly loved an animal knows what it means when they are there for you when know one else is. Tonight, I’m sure it will be an even more heartfelt Oscar acceptance since his beloved Chihuahua died a mere few days ago. As a tribute to Mickey and Loki, I chose to post a pic of them with this post instead of a still from The Wrestler. Pets come into our lives asking so little of us and Loki fulfilled his doggie purpose by sticking with Rourke through thick and thin. Good job Loki and good job Mickey Rourke. Welcome back!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Frost/Nixon...Best Picture?

This is clearly the weakest film in the Best Picture category. Frost/Nixon, though riveting at times, fails to deliver.

I feel one of the most important things in a film is the ability for the audience to follow the story. Ron Howard expects you to come in with a certain background knowledge of events, and this is where I think it falls flat. I was quite young during Watergate, and I didn’t walk away knowing any more than I did coming into it. I also didn’t feel my children could see this film and learn about Watergate or Richard Nixon.

However, the performances were great. Frank Langella, who believe it or not kids, played a very sexy Dracula in the 1970’s, truly embodies Richard Nixon. In one scene (where he’s petting the dachshund) the resemblance was so dead-on that it freaked me out!

This is probably a better DVD flick, though my husband disagreed. He felt there was more tension with the big screen, but I have to admit to checking my watch more than once.

Did this nomination knock out The Dark Knight or possibly The Wrestler? We’ll never know, but take comfort in the fact that it doesn’t stand a chance.


Rarely is watching a movie a visceral experience. Milk is that film. Prepare to be so efficiently transported to 1970’s San Francisco that you’ll be shocked when the movie house lights come back on and you find yourself in the here and now.

Not only is this intelligent filmmaking at it’s finest, it also has the gift of perfect timing. Cleve Jones is quoted saying that he and Gus Van Sant talked about making this film eighteen years ago. Some things are worth the wait. I can’t think of a single aspect of this film that could be changed. Everyone is perfectly cast, the pace of the story, sets the right mood and Gus Van Sant’s careful directorial eye, make this one powerful movie going experience.

Watching this film was quite surreal for me. I was eleven years old when Mayor Moscone and Harvey Milk were assassinated and I was living just a couple of neighborhoods away in San Francisco’s Mission District. At that time in my life, I had never been to the Castro District. I remember the story on the news. I remember the flags all over the city being at half mast, yet the historical significance and true horror of the event was a million miles away from my life. I was also attending San Francisco public school, yet I have no recollection of Proposition 6 as it was being depicted in the film. That none of these events affected my daily life I think says a lot for the assimilation that Milk was fighting for. San Francisco has always been the perfect model for different peoples living in harmony.

Sean Penn completely embodies the late Harvey Milk. We are never surprised by a phenomenal performance from Penn, but this one truly stands out. Time will tell if this will garner a second Academy Award for Penn. Although everyone turned in top-notch performances, the one to watch is Emille Hirsch. His portrayal of Cleve Jones, (who was befriended by Milk and worked as an intern during Milk’s service) lights up every scene he’s in. Too bad he didn’t snag an Oscar nom, but there’s only so much to go around. I hope we see Hirsh turning in better performances such as these and staying away from fluff like Speed Racer.

Kudos to Josh Brolin for taking on the troubled Dan White. He made him a real person. Although difficult to understand, he showed us a man on the precipice of a changing world that he feared would no longer have room for him.

While Penn and Brolin should receive much deserved Oscars, my true hope for recognition is director Gus Van Sant. This is a film where you can truly see and appreciate what a director does. I agree with all of his choices. The things he chose not to show and most importantly, the things he did, were spot on. Sitting through the journey of this film, there where times when I felt I didn’t want to see the events unfold. Maybe it should end on a happy note and we could just use those summary epilogue words. However, in the end, the true horror of it all had to be told and I agreed with every horrific frame I had to watch. It wasn’t easy, but he made all the right calls.

I hope the Oscars will open a wider audience, but my advice to you is…see it, see it, SEE IT!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Slumdog Pulls Out In Front!

<a href="" target="_blank">The Daily Show: Dev Patel</a>

I think Jon Stewart of The Daily Show said it best when he described Slumdog Millionaire as, “The most depressing feel good movie ever!”

This film is difficult to watch. To see children living a life so hopeless and dangerous makes you want to jump into the screen and save them all. The youngest actors in this film are simply adorable, and the innocence on their faces makes you shudder at their lifestyle all the more.

Watch this clip of the fantastic Dev Patel on The Daily Show. What a talented gem we’ve added to the pool of fresh young actors! If he cannot make you feel for his character, the film just does not work; however, Dev Patel delivers on every level. His dramatic acting and his comedic sweetness shine through. You want this kid to succeed.

I’ve now seen three of the five Oscar nominated films and I can’t believe how good they are. I really would be happy with a win for Benjamin Button, Milk or Slumdog. Each film brought something unique to the film-going experience. Slumdog Millionaire has such a creative story concept and transports us to a world that is very real, yet unknown to most of us. It’s classic boy loves girl story, where rooting for the underdog and finding that we desire the same things in life, will always win out despite our geographical differences.

So right now I’m torn. This film was so beautifully crafted and came out of nowhere with no stars (moviegoers LOVE that). Benjamin Button, transported us to a fantastical world you can only find in the movies and Milk was one of the best biopics ever put on film. I’m trying to see The Wrestler and Frost/Nixon this weekend. I’m afraid The Reader is the one film I’m not rushing to see. I wonder if I see anymore, will I ever be able to decide?