Friday, February 29, 2008

Ed Norton as The Hulk

This is what Empire Magazine just sent to my inbox. I think that's the first picture I've seen of him actually...Hulkifying. The only other still I've seen is that old one with a pensive Norton gazing into a glass vial. The email included a quote from The Hulk's director, Louis Letterier; "We didn't want to make a cerebral movie...Admittedly, I'm not the most adult director, but just because we're making a superhero movie, it doesn't just have to appeal to 13-year-old boys. Ed and I both see superheroes as the new Greek gods, so there's a classical undercurrent to Bruce's psycho-drama. It's Prometheus, Pandora's Box, Hercules...but with explosions!". A film starring and written by Edward Norton can't help but be cerebral, I think - but this sounds like a good sign that they're not taking this too seriously. If The Incredible Hulk turns out to be something akin to Spiderman or X-Men II, consider me intruiged. The supporting cast seem interesting as well; Robert Downey Jr, Tim Blake Nelson, William Hurt, Tim Roth and...Liv Tyler? I had completely forgottten she was an actual actress and not an elf.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The wrap-up party

My predictions were, to be honest, crap. But even if the names called out didn't quite correspond to my picks, the 80th Academy Awards were still a treat. Diversity, multi-culturalism and a certain giddy relief were the themes of the evening, "You're here! You're here! I can hardly believe it, you're here!". Most of the right people were awarded and the rest of them made up for it with amusing, barely coherant, sweet speeches. Javier Bardem enthused in Spanish, Frances McDormand had loving hysterics in the audience and Gary Busey attacked Jennifer Garner on the red carpet, who was swiftly rescued by Laura Linney. Cate Blanchett showed us how to lose graciously and Jack Nicholson was, well, Jack Nicholson (that man has one default facial expression). Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Hudson and HRH Helen Mirren all flubbed their lines, one with a magnificent Freudian slip, one with insincere bumbling and the other with absolutely no engagement with the audience. Jon Stewart was an exemplar host; witty, charming and scrubbed up nicely in his tux. I had originally thought that he had toned down the acerbic political humour, but I then realised that for some odd reason, RTE's highlights cut out all the topical stuff, neatly severing the Hillary Clinton/Away From Her quip from the opening monologue. How strange...

As predicted, No Country walked away with the closest thing to a sweep (though it could hardly qualify as a sweep, the accolades were fairly well distributed throughout) and I was thrilled. It's not an easy film - and it's certainly not a plotless series of violent events, as I heard a RTE commentator remark on Monday afternooon, did he watch the film? - and seeing people really grapple with it is gratifying. The Coens' nonchalant speech, after Martin Scorcese called their name, was probably my favourite moment of the night (aside from Blanchett's horror at her own Elizabeth clip), but I still find Glen Hansard incredibly irritating. Heck, with Hansard's whingeing and Colin Farrell's unkempt shuffling, I was almost ashamed to be Irish (thank you, Saoirse Ronan and Daniel Day-Lewis, for not being total idiots).

I'm off now, but I'm going to direct you to some of the best Oscar coverage around the net, from writers much more talented and erudite than me:

Nick gets all lovesick over Swinton - Nathaniel has some interesting truths to share (browse around, the Film Experience has everything you need for full blown Oscar-obsession) - Kim Morgan shares her highlights - the Fug girls sharpen their tongues - Emma does a quick run down with great pictures and Glenn lets us in on some red carpet whispers...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oscar Predicts.

I've never done this before. Yikes!

Best motion picture of the year
“Michael Clayton”
“No Country for Old Men”
“There Will Be Blood”

WILL WIN: I’m calling it for No Country. People are wondering whether TWBB will effectively split the dark, male film vote, but No Country just feels right.
SHOULD WIN: Not Juno or Atonement. Well, I haven’t seen Atonement, so dismissing it so readily seems like narrow-mindedness. And it is! I really find it hard to get worked up about the film and I disliked the book so vigorously that it’s probably ruined for me anway.
PERSONAL SNUB: The fact that Zodiac was so thoroughly snubbed still has me baffled. Are Academy Members that forgetful? True, removing Juno or Atonement and adding a three-hour serial killer film would only heighten the dark masculinity of this Best-Picture line-up, but it deserves to be in there.

Achievement in directing
“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” Julian Schnabel
“Juno” Jason Reitman
“Michael Clayton” Tony Gilroy
“No Country for Old Men” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
“There Will Be Blood” Paul Thomas Anderson

WILL WIN: The fact that the Coens are finally giving us a two-for-one deal makes me hopeful for them.
SHOULD WIN: I really don’t mind, in this category. While I don’t feel Juno is a best picture contender, I think Reitman did a good job. There Will Be Blood still hasn’t opened here (my initial enthusiasm is waned slightly, stop making me wait this long for things I want!) but I respect PT Anderson enormously, Michael Clayton and The Diving Bell were both very masterfully put-together, so I’m not too fussed about who takes it..
PERSONAL SNUB: Todd Haynes, for I’m Not There’s dazzling audacity, playful spirit and enormous scope. Having only seen the film a meagre two times, I’m impatient to see it again.

Performance by an actor in a leading role
George Clooney in “Michael Clayton”
Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood”
Johnny Depp in “Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
Tommy Lee Jones in “In the Valley of Elah”
Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises”

WILL WIN: Daniel Day-Lewis.
SHOULD WIN: I like Day-Lewis, despite not yet seeing TWBB, but Tommy-Lee Jones broke my heart in The Valley of Elah. A surprise win is not on the cards, but if it had to be anyone else, I’d pick TLJ.
PERSONAL SNUB: Chris Cooper, in the vastly unseen Breach (if it’s out on dvd and you haven’t yet watched it, do so!)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Casey Affleck in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”
Javier Bardem in “No Country for Old Men”
Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War”
Hal Holbrook in “Into the Wild”
Tom Wilkinson in “Michael Clayton”

WILL WIN: There’s no point even tossing a coin on this one, friend-o. Javier Bardem’s oddly coiffured pyschopath has this one locked up.
SHOULD WIN: Cry category-fraud all you want, Casey Affleck still deserves to be recognised for his weak-willed Robert Ford. Affleck plays him with such a twitchy neurosis that is such at odds with the winsome stillness of the rest of the film that it stays in the mind for weks after the fact.
PERSONAL SNUB: Having finally snuffled my way through The Diving-Bell And The Butterfly, I can’t understand why Max von Sydow is getting so little attention. In two short scenes, he completely reverses our sympathies, bringing pathos and humour to the stock, cantankerous old-father role. Watching old men crying, especially legends like von Sydow, is always discomforting, but when it’s done with such abandon and pain, it becomes nearly unwatchable.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Cate Blanchett in “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”
Julie Christie in “Away from Her”
Marion Cotillard in “La Vie en Rose”
Laura Linney in “The Savages”
Ellen Page in “Juno”

WILL WIN: Julie Christie. I feel it in my fingers…I feel it in my toes…
SHOULD WIN: Laura Linney’s not as showy, as snarky, as shouty as some of the other nominees (and she’d never be caught dead saying the words “fo shizz”). A Christie win would be okay with me, however.
PERSONAL SNUB: Anamaria Marcina. I came out of 4 Months feeling very uncomfortable. It took a little while to process it, but Marcina's peformance helped a lot. Sympathetic, frustrating, utterly believable - and that look at the end (only rivalled by Jude Quinn's slow smile in the taxi).

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Cate Blanchett in “I’m Not There”
Ruby Dee in “American Gangster”
Saoirse Ronan in “Atonement”
Amy Ryan in “Gone Baby Gone”
Tilda Swinton in “Michael Clayton”

WILL WIN: This is the hardest acting category to predict, I think. At one Amy Ryan looked set for a sweep, but in the meantime Ruby Dee, Blanchett and Swinton have all garnered major prizes. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Blanchett‘s going to take it. The Academy wants to award her, and they’re definitely not going to go for Elizabeth, so this could be her night.
SHOULD WIN: I’ve only seen two of these, so I’m not really at liberty to say. I enjoyed both of them (Blanchett and Swinton), but as a whole I preferred I’m Not There.
PERSONAL SNUB: Kelly McDonald, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Imealda Staunton, Marisa Tomei. Hell, even Cheryl Hines in Waitress.

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

WILL WIN: I’ll be astounded if Juno doesn’t get this one.
SHOULD WIN: Ratatouille scores points for Anton Ego’s speech about criticism, The Savages for the brother-sister rapport, but neither are enough to push them over the edge for me. I’d probably favour The Savages over anything else, though.
PERSONAL SNUB: 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days.

Best Adapted Screenplay
"Away From Her"
"Diving Bell and Butterfly"
"No Country For Old Men"
"There Will Be Blood"

WILL WIN: This is a tough one. I could go the way of the tide and say No Country again (you can’t stop what’s coming, after all), but I’m saying Diving Bell.
SHOULD WIN: Away From Her. I’m always impressed when writers can sketch out a feature-length film from a slim short story.
PERSONAL SNUB: Zodiac. Gah! I was watching All The President’s Men a few weeks ago and I was astounded at the similarities between the two films. Makes you wanna work at a news desk in 1970s America, on the trail of a serial/Watergate buggers.

Best Foreign Film
"Beaufort" -Israel
"The Counterfeiters" -Austria
"Katyn" -Poland
"Mongol" -Kazakshtan
"12" -Russia

WILL WIN: The Counterfeiters, because it’s the only one I’d heard of before the nominees were in.
SHOULD WIN: *tumbleweed*
PERSONAL SNUB: It’s so obvious I feel stupid even typing it; 4 Months, 3 Weeks 2 Days.

Animated Film
"Surf's Up"

WILL WIN: Ratatouille.
PERSONAL SNUB: *tumbleweed*

"Assassination of Jesse James" -Deakins
"Atonement" -Garvey
"Diving Bell and Butterfly" -Kaminski
"No Country For Old Men" -Deakins
"There Will Be Blood" -Elswit

WILL WIN: Will the Deakins double nod half his chances? Probably. It’s a pity, he’s an interesting guy and a great photographer. I’ll say…Kaminski.
SHOULD WIN: Deakins, but I’m not sure which film. Both left lasting impressions.
PERSONAL SNUB: Edward Lachman, on I’m Not There. Heath Ledger sitting in the blue-romanticism of a New York coffeehouse, the dusty orange of Riddle, Marcus Carl Franklin solemnly walking though the dark deep blue of the ocean, even the stark black and white of the opening.

Art Direction
American Gangster -Max
Atonement -Greenwood
The Golden Compass -Gassner
Sweeney Todd -Ferretti
There Will Be Blood -Fisk

WILL WIN: I honestly have no idea. Fisk?
SHOULD WIN: For all it's Whovian charm, The Golden Compass. A flawed film for sure, for I adored parts of it.
PERSONAL SNUB: I know I've said it a million times, but where the hell is Zodiac? That cluttered newspaper office, with its used coffee mugs, stacks of paper, retro phones... I think I have some kind of office fetish?

Costume Design
Across the Universe -Wolsky
Atonement -Durran
Elizabeth the Golden Age -Byrne
Sweeney Todd -Atwood
La Vie En Rose -Marit Allen

WILL WIN: Durran.
SHOULD WIN: None of these particularly excite me, tbh.
PERSONAL SNUB: Okay, this is the only category that I’d have loved a Juno nod. The clothes suited the characters perfectly and I really, really want that slinky tee.

Achievement in sound editing
“The Bourne Ultimatum”
“No Country for Old Men”
“There Will Be Blood”

WILL WIN: I still don't understand this category, but I think No Country will do it again.
SHOULD WIN: Come back to me when I have time to read some book explaining the logistics of Sound Editing. I swear I'll get around to it one day.

Best Film Editing
The Bourne Ultimatum -Rouse
The Diving Bell and Butterfly -Welfling
Into the Wild -Cassidy
No Country For Old Men -"Roderick Jaynes" (i.e. The Coen Bros)
There Will Be Blood -Riegel & Tichenor

WILL WIN: "Roderick Jaynes"
SHOULD WIN: It nearly made me throw up, but the BOURne uLtiMAAATum!
PERSONAL SNUB: Jindabyne. To be honest, I could probably put this film into every Personal Snub, but read this piece and tell me it shouldn't have at least gotten this.

Original Score
3:10 To Yuma -Beltrami
Atonement -Marianelli
The Kite Runner -Iglesias
Michael Clayton -Howard
Ratatouille -Giacchino

WILL WIN: Atonement...clackclackclack.
SHOULD WIN: Haven't heard most of them.
PERSONAL SNUB: Jonny Greenwood, biznitches. It's [probably extremely intrusive when watched in the context of the whole film, but sometimes that works. Think Philip Glass in The Hours. Think Bernard Herrman in, well, anything. Think Jaws!

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

WILL WIN: Hollywood coes over Once and rewards “Falling Slowly”.
SHOULD WIN: I know I’m a disgrace to my country and to my reputation as somebody who likes music, but I prefer Enchanter’s “That’s How You Know” than the Once duet. Earnest singer-songwriters, especially if they’re named Glen Hansard, just don’t do it for me.
PERSONAL SNUB: Kate Bush. She probably wouldn’t have turned up, but still

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Meghan is a Punk Rocker

Who said this?

Little known fact: I am an insomniac and create playlists when trying to fall asleep on the road so if I create them in excess, please forgive. This playlist is a combination of what's been shuffling around my iPod at the moment. Noonday Underground's "Boy Like a Timebomb" will be stuck in your head after one listen, it's fantastic. I have been a huge fan of The Dead Milkmen since high school ever since an ex-boyfriend told me they would change my life. Other additions including Wilco and Siouxsie and the Banshees are absolute musts.

Any idea? No? Okay, I'm going to tell you - the insomniac, Banshees'-loving, Hornby-emulating girl is none other than Meghan McCain, daughter of current presidental nominee John McCain (R-AZ). McCain, along with two other girls, are documenting the campaign trail over at McCainBlogette, where you can follow an onging feature called Blogette Playlists.

I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't surprised to see Sleater-Kinney, TV On The Radio and Pulp on Meghan's lists. There's nothing odd about a twenty-something woman loving Modest Mouse or Garng of Four or the Stooges - but when you look at who her dad is, I sort of assumed she'd be the kind of person who loves Shania Twain or listens to Bruce Springsteen unironically. Or follow in daddy's footsteps and like ABBA. (Okay, ABBA is awesome. But that quote is just too good to pass)

But c'mon! Even I can't find much to criticise about her music taste. These playlists are actually good, and full of interesting tidbits. Want to know how winning a Florida Primary feels? "It feels like The Doors song 'Break on Through'..." And how appropriate is her choice of Smiths song? (Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want).

This is in no way an endorsement for McCain *shudder*. But hey, we Siouxsie and the Banshees fans are few and far between, so kudos, Meghan McCain!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Oh no you didn't...

Sure, Hollywood has occasionally served up edgy female outcasts, such as Winona Ryder in Heathers or the forlorn geek girls in Ghost World played by Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch. But those characters were more weirdos than antiheroes. - EW's Juno article

Dismissing a film's predecessors (whom it obviously owes a LOT to, btw) and insinuating that Juno McGuff is somehow better than Veronica, Enid and Rebecca in two throwaway lines? Nice one, Entertainment Weekly. I don't buy that Juno is an antihero (this is one of the many threads not fully developed in the film - she's presented as this 'wacky loner!' but is then, inexplicably, best friends with a cheerleader, not traditionally the company kept by cinema's oddballs), but she is sarcastic and intelligent and funny, like the girls in Ghost World and Heathers. Blithely chucking away their legacy as "more weirdos than antiheroes" - could somebody clarify what the hell that means? - is just rude and dishonest.

I liked Juno. I liked it a lot, actually. But I have one large quibble with it; Ellen Page's smart-alecky Juno is not the definitive voice of my generation. I'm two years older than Juno and her friends were supposed to be in the film, but if anyone had ever said "Honest to blog?" to me, I would've been horrified. Same goes from the forced ebonics that are so laboriously ladled onto the script, in a film utterly devoid of black characters or black culture, it just looks embarrassing. I'm less appallled by the barrage of pop-culture references, everyone has certain films/tv programmes/whatevers that they quote from, regularly and often tediously, (why hello Mean Girls!) but it's not the be-all and end-all of a person's character. I liked Juno best when she was chatting honestly with her father or Bleeker, rather than namedropping Iggy Pop. It's a frivolous worry, but I'm concerned that Juno's tastes will be absorbed by osmosis by teenagers who couldn't be bothered formulating their own. A generation of girls who assume Sonic Youth are "just a bunch of noise"? Noooooo!*

But back to the original article. Like Juno, Veronica, Enid and Rebecca were all smart, individualistic girls with their own set of problems, interests and quirks. Acting like Juno is somehow a superior, more accurate portrayal of being a teenager is ridiculous. In my opinion, the earlier three were better developed characters, less like a fictionalised version of a smart-aleck teenager, more real and true-to-life; but in the Great Big Cinema High-School In The Sky, they'd all probably get along (or, at least have grudging respect for each other). Lord knows we already have a small enough number of interesting teenage girls in the movies; there's enough for one more without throwing the others out.

*I'm partly joking about this. The music of Juno is a topic for a whole other blog post, but the ragging on Sonic Youth was uncalled for!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Ice Storm (1997)

I watched The Ice Storm for the fifth or sixth time last night, cementing its place as one my best loved films of all time. I'm not sure I could accurately pin-point why this film feels to important to me, but the fact remains that every time I decided to watch it I get utterly absorbed. The ending still shocks me, every single time. It happens on every viewing; the clenching of my stomach, my heart beginning to pound, the "It's going to be different this time" feeling...and then BAM. Of course, it's not just the ending that gets to me. Every frame is integral to the film, every fumbled line and moment of humour ( Paul Hood standing on the steps and hopefully yelling "The Idiot!" at the retreating Libbets Casey, Wendy's inappropriate Thanksgiving speech, the original discussion of the Key Party, the tuba...). In my head, this film is perfect.

"To find yourself in the negative zone, as the Fantastic Four often do, means all every day assumptions are inverted. Even the invisible girl herself becomes visible and so she loses the last semblance of her power. It seems to me that everyone exists partially on a negative zone level, some people more than others. In your life, it's kind of like you dip in and out of it, a place where things don't quite work out the way they should. But for some people, the negative zone tempts them. And they end up going in, going in all the way."

What are the films that are special to you? That you could watch on repeat for eternity quite happily? Do spill.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sticking to what you know

From The Guardian: Madonna has turned her hand to directing. Now, I know what you're thinking, "Wow! What with the deaths of Altman, Bergman and Antonioni in the last few years, I've just been longing for a new autuer to step up and start making films again, and good old Madge has taken up the helm. Where can I see this masterwork?" Well, I'm sorry to dissapoint but unless you were at the Berlin Film Festival this week, you're going to have to wait for "Filth and Wisdom". Dayum.

I don't mean to be condescending. It could be a masterpiece, couldn't it? What do you say, Peter Bradshaw ?

Madonna's script is a nightmare of crass and fatuous stereotypes: south Asians, Jews, gays - no one escapes her lack of insight or common sense. Despite living in Britain for many years, she has only the sketchiest notion of what the place is like. Her film reaches a Zen state of pure offensive awfulness when the lap-dancer's mentor comes round with a gigantic wad of £20 notes. This was her "tips from last night". Her "tips"? From "last night"?

Hmm. Maybe not, then.

But my absolute favourite part of the Guardian article is this extract from Madonna's programme notes. "I have always been inspired by the films of Goddard [sic], Visconti, Passolini [sic] and Fellini and hope that I may one day make something that comes close to their genius." Right. Good luck with that, then. And maybe the next time you namedrop some Greats, spell their names correctly*.

I'm not ragging on Madonna. But this is great.

*I know the typos are probably nothing to do with Madonna herself (though I wish they were), but it's still hilarious.