Sunday, March 21, 2010

Woody Harrelson: Zombie Killer, Messenger and Defendor

I never expected to be writing anything praising the acting skills of Woody Harrelson, the bartender from "Cheers." I thought he did a decent job of playing the over-the-top crazy guy (Natural Born Killers, 2012) and the "doofus" (Kingpin, Edtv), and didn't really have too much to offer aside from that.

In the past few months, I have seen Zombieland, The Messenger and Defendor. If not for Christoph Waltz's outstanding performance in Inglourious Basterds, I really think that Harrelson could have been the one sweeping the awards for his genuine performance in The Messenger. (He did manage win the Independent Spirit and National Board of Review awards for Best Supporting Actor.) He provided depth and a range of emotion in that part that I wasn't really aware that he could pull off. He brought the right blend of that depth with the aforementioned archetypes to play Tallahassee in Zombieland and the titular character in Defendor. Sure, Zombieland was a little over-the-top (what zombie movie isn't?), but in the scenes that called for a little more than the guns-blazing action star performance, Harrelson delivered both the comedy and the drama. In Defendor, Harrelson plays Arthur, a man who isn't "all there" mentally and decides to become a real-life superhero. The world of Defendor is not pretty - from the dirty cop's crew that nearly beats Defendor to death to his unlikely female sidekick, who is also a hooker - but Harrelson manages to play Arthur (and Defendor) with a mix of innocence and fortitude that really makes the whole story compelling.

Out of the three films, I have to say that Defendor surprised me the most. I knew going into The Messenger that it was getting a lot of awards buzz, so Harrelson's strong performance wasn't a huge shocker. Zombieland was pretty much a straight-forward horror comedy, it just featured some better-than-normal performances and plot twists. I'm a big fan of comic book/superhero films and I also love revisionist takes on pretty much any genre, so when I first heard about Defendor I was curious to see the revisionist superhero movie. The narrative structure of the film provides the story, more or less, from Arthur's point-of-view. I don't want to give too much away, but through his conversation with Sandra Oh's character, a framework is established that allows Arthur to gradually reveal more about himself by sharing the events of his life over the last few weeks. The setting of the story and a lot of the situations the characters find themselves in might be bleak, but Arthur/Defendor carries a sense of hope if he can help turn things around, and he extends that hope to the people around him. And that, my friends, is what any good superhero should do.

After seeing these three films, I'm feeling hopeful about the future of Harrelson's acting career (which includes Zombieland 2).

Defendor: 4 (out of 5)
The Messenger: 4
Zombieland: 4

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Happy Birthday Chuck Norris!

Chuck Norris turned the big seven-zero today. Although we don't see much of him these days besides the occasional Walker, Texas Ranger rerun or Bowflex commercial, here's a poem for our favorite Bearded Superhero:

No longer a ranger, he's long since retired
Now an internet meme, to which many aspire
The man, the myth, the legend, the beard
Even by Death the Bowflex master is feared

On Chuck Norris age should have no power,
And he can clean himself, has no need of a shower
He does impossible things, like believe it's not butter,
As well as being able to judge a book by its cover

If you see the Beard Master, be sure to tip your hat,
Although I'd advise against bothering him with known "facts"
But if you live next door, you better turn down the bass,
Or you'll be getting a roundhouse kick to the face

Now, when's that Walker, Texas Ranger movie coming out? I know there's no official word, but with all of the remakes and spin-offs these days, don't you think there should be one?

Monday, March 8, 2010

2009-2010 Awards Season Wrap-Up

I laughed, I cried, I got angry. That description could've worked for this year's Oscars or the 2009-2010 awards season as a whole.

Hosts, presenters and award-winners provided hilarious and heartfelt moments, from the Critics' Choice Awards in January to the Academy Awards last night (March 7). Seeing the first woman to win an Academy Award for Direction (Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker) provided a moment that brought me to tears. Avatar's overall presence provoked a good share of anger, climaxing when I yelled, "It's just visual effects!" at the screen after its Best Cinematography Oscar win.

Sadly, my initial dream at the start of the awards season of seeing Quentin Tarantino (Best Original Screenplay for Inglourious Basterds) and George Clooney (Best Actor for Up in the Air) win Oscars on the same night didn't come true. But I can abide The Dude (Jeff Bridges) winning Best Actor for Crazy Heart. I did get to see Pedro Almodovar and Tarantino, two of my favorite filmmakers, present an award together.

I don't even want to go there with Sandra Bullock again. (She won a Razzie the night before the Oscars!) I'm just happy that Carey Mulligan (An Education) and Colin Firth (A Single Man) won at the BAFTAs. It was also good to see Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) win at the Independent Spirit Awards just two days before the Oscars.

The tributes to John Hughes at the Critics' Choice Awards and the Oscars also won me over - his death was the one movie-related death that really got to me last year. I know I would not be the person I am today without his films.

Personally, I would've liked to see Away We Go, Bright Star, 500 Days of Summer, A Single Man and Fantastic Mr. Fox get more attention across the board. But that's just me, and this awards season is now finally over. Goodbye, Avatar.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My Final Fearless Oscar Predictions

If I were a betting person, these are the films I would put my money on tomorrow night (March 7) to win this year's Academy Awards. (Personally, I'm rooting for Bright Star, Inglourious Basterds, A Single Man, Fantastic Mr. Fox and An Education.)

Best Picture
It will still boil down to The Hurt Locker vs. Avatar, and I think that The Hurt Locker will prevail.
(Likely) Winner: The Hurt Locker
Runner-Up: Avatar
2nd Runner-Up (only for this category as there are 10 nominees): Inglourious Basterds

Best Director
Again, it's The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow) vs. Avatar (James Cameron), and I think that Bigelow will walk away with this one as well (making her the first woman to do so).
Winner: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Runner-Up: James Cameron (Avatar)

Best Original Screenplay
Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds) is the front-runner here, but he could face an upset from Oscar-winners Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man) or from Mark Boal should The Hurt Locker build up a sweep.
Winner: Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
Runner-Up: Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker)

Best Adapted Screenplay
As it goes in a few categories, this one is Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner's (Up in the Air) to lose.
Winners: Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air)
Runner-Up: Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious)

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) pretty much has this one locked up, although Colin Firth (A Single Man) did give a very strong, award-winning performance as well.
Winner: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
Runner-Up: Colin Firth (A Single Man)

Best Actress
I never thought I would be saying this, but it looks like Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) is going to win. However, Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) and Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia) are close behind, and I could see any of them walking away with the Oscar.
Winner: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)
Runner-Up: Carey Mulligan (An Education)

Best Supporting Actor
This one is Christoph Waltz's (Inglourious Basterds) to lose.
Winner: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Runner-Up: Woody Harrelson (The Messenger)

Best Supporting Actress
This one is Mo'Nique's (Precious) to lose.
Winner: Mo'Nique (Precious)
Runner-Up: Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)

Best Foreign Film
The White Ribbon has been winning the majority in this category at other awards, but A Prophet has an outside chance.
Winner: The White Ribbon
Runner-Up: A Prophet

Best Documentary
The Cove has been winning the majority in this category at other awards, but Food, Inc. has been picking up a few awards here and there too.
Winner: The Cove
Runner-Up: Food, Inc.

Best Animated Film
Pixar will continue its dominance in this category.
Winner: Up
Runner-Up: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Best Animated, Live-Action and Documentary Shorts
I really am not sure what will win in these three categories (especially seeing as I've only seen one of them in each category), so I'm just going to pick one for each.
Random Picks: Logorama, Miracle Fish and China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province (respectively)

Best Cinematography, Editing, Sound Mixing and Sound Editing
As it goes a lot of the time with the Oscars, I'm going to predict that there will be a sweep. This year these four categories all fall into the epic The Hurt Locker vs. Avatar battle. If I'm correct and there is a sweep, all four of these awards will likely go to the people from The Hurt Locker. If there isn't a sweep, they'll likely be split between the two films, with the people from Inglourious Basterds also having a fair shot.
Winners: the nominees for The Hurt Locker
Runners-Up: the nominees for Avatar

Best Visual Effects
This is Avatar's to lose.
Winners: Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham & Andrew R. Jones (Avatar)
Runners-Up: Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros & Matt Aitken (District 9)

Best Original Song
I will be very surprised if "The Weary Kind" (Crazy Heart) doesn't win.
Winner: "The Weary Kind" (Crazy Heart)
Runner-Up: "Take It All" (Nine)

Best Score
This is Michael Giacchino's (Up) to lose.
Winner: Michael Giacchino (Up)
Runners-Up: Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders (The Hurt Locker)

Best Art Direction
I don't exactly agree with it (as I think this particular film's art direction falls into the visual effects category), but the team from Avatar has been winning the awards leading up to this, and will likely continue.
Winners: Rick Carter, Kim Sinclair & Robert Stromberg (Avatar)
Runners-Up: Maggie Gray & Patrice Vermette (The Young Victoria)

Best Costume Design
Sandy Powell (The Young Victoria) has been winning a lot of awards leading up to this, so there's no reason to believe she won't win the Oscar.
Winner: Sandy Powell (The Young Victoria)
Runner-Up: Janet Patterson (Bright Star)

Best Makeup
Out of the three films nominated, Star Trek seems like the winner to me.
Winners: Barney Burman, Mindy Hall & Joel Harlow (Star Trek)
Runners-Up: Jon Henry Gordon & Jenny Shircore (The Young Victoria)

The complete list of nominees can be found here.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Speaking of Cinema's Oscar Picks

If we picked the Oscar winners, we would choose the following people and films to bring home the trophies at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards on Sunday night (March 7).

Best Picture - Inglourious Basterds is a clear favorite at Speaking of Cinema.
Best Director - Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds) would have to be involved in some kind of tiebreaker if we picked the Oscar-winner in this category.
Best Original Screenplay - Tarantino (again for Inglourious Basterds) has found himself in another tie, this time with Joel and Ethan Coen (A Serious Man).
Best Adapted Screenplay - Nick Hornby's script for An Education barely edged out Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner's for Up in the Air.
Best Actor - Colin Firth is our unanimous choice for his terrific performance in A Single Man.
Best Actress - Newcomer Carey Mulligan is our choice for An Education. Fellow newcomer Gabourey Sidibe was close behind for her titular performance in Precious.
Best Supporting Actor - Christoph Waltz is another unanimous choice for his portrayal of Col. Hans Landa in Inglourious Basterds.
Best Supporting Actress - Mo'Nique is a front-runner on Sunday night and our choice to win for her performance in Precious.

The full listing of nominees can be found here.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekly News & Awards Round-Ups - Feb. 22-28, 2010

Due to a trip out of town, there will not be round-ups this week.

Additionally, there will not be News and Awards Round-Ups March 1-7 due to Oscar overload. News Round-Ups will be back March 8-14; Awards Round-Ups, due to the end of awards season, won't return until sometime in late fall or early winter.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mixed Feelings: Loving and Hating Romantic Comedies, Part Two

Warning: The following "spoils" the ending of Leap Year, 27 Dresses and The Holiday. I'm sorry if it shocks you.

At the end of the last romantic comedy-related post I wrote, I suggested that I should skip out on the romantic comedies that I know will be completely predictable and practically devoid of any reality whatsoever. I didn't follow my own advice, and I recently found myself watching Leap Year. My curiosity was piqued by the setting in Ireland, the presence of Matthew Goode (who actually gives good performances in non-romantic comedies A Single Man and Brideshead Revisited) and the use of a newer song by Snow Patrol (one of my favorite bands), "Just Say Yes," in the trailer. It is also directed by Anand Tucker, who I thought did a good job with Shopgirl. But now I'm thinking that might've just been due to the involvement of Steve Martin.

Leap Year is pretty much your standard modern Hollywood romantic comedy: a neurotic, control-freak female lead finds herself in the company of a pessimistic male lead who is really romantic but is insanely heartbroken. He senses this caricature of a woman could help him overcome said heartbreak, especially after she has a scene or two where she "lets her hair down." She is not interested in him, at least at the beginning. By the end of the movie, they are inseparable. If you take the title and replace it with any major romantic comedy released in the last few years, you can see how ridiculous and recycled these plot lines are. (The best examples I can think of are 27 Dresses and the Cameron Diaz-Jude Law storyline in The Holiday.) The only major difference is that Leap Year is set in Ireland.

I might start to refer to this as When Harry Met Sally syndrome. I love that movie. It is truly an original story about love, and is probably the romantic comedy that originated that general storyline I mentioned above. To me, it seems like writers, directors and studios are repeatedly trying to recreate the film, and they fail pretty much every time - if not financially, most certainly critically.

I think that the most common problem is that these modern stories are just boiling it down to sweeping romantic moments and are not doing a very good job of filling in the gaps. Romantic relationships need romance and passion, but the two characters also need to have some sort of deeper connection to bond them. The Casablanca phone call scene in When Harry Met Sally is a perfect example of that. There might be a tinge of romance to the scene, but it's about these two people connecting through the movie and other bits of information that circle around their conversation about and viewing of Casablanca. The inclusion of the line, "I think this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship," into the narrative of When Harry Met Sally is essential and it comes off without being incredibly cheesy and obvious (see the story Matthew Goode's character tells Amy Adams' character in the castle in Leap Year).

To end on a high note, I'll leave you with the sequence I described, which only constitutes the first three and a half minutes of the following clip.

Leap Year: 1.5 (out of 5)
When Harry Met Sally: 4.5
27 Dresses: 2
The Holiday: 3.5 (rating elevated due to Kate Winslet-Jack Black-Eli Wallach storyline; Cameron Diaz-Jude Law alone would likely receive a 2)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Weekly News Round-Up - Feb. 15-21, 2010

*Headline Only Edition - I was short on time this week, so I will only be posting headlines and links to the stories as opposed to blurbs.*

Films in the Works

Owen Wilson to star in new Woody Allen film [The Hollywood Reporter]

Gwyneth Paltrow joins Steven Soderbergh, all-star cast for Contagion [Deadline Hollywood]

Ben Stiller to star in Brett Ratner's Tower Heist [The Hollywood Reporter]

Al Pacino to star in police thriller Son of No One [The Hollywood Reporter]

Natalie Portman to star in stoner comedy Best Buds [Pajiba]

James Cameron looks ahead to Avatar 2 [MTV]

Tom McCarthy to direct Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan in Win Win [New York Magazine]

Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas to star in indie thriller The Woman in the Fifth [Cinematical]

Julie Delpy to direct, star in 2 Days in New York, follow-up to 2 Days in Paris [Screen Daily]

Christoph Waltz to play brutal animal trainer in Water for Elephants [The Guardian]

Andy Serkis, Nick Cave collaborate on motion-capture version of The Threepenny Opera [Empire]

Michael Haneke abandons project on aging to develop screenplay "about the Internet" [The Playlist]

Noel Clarke to co-write, possibly direct film following athletes' countdown to 2012 Olympics [Empire]

Ecosse Films developing new Treasure Island [Coming Soon]

Industry News

Financier looking to prevent Lionsgate from buying Miramax, MGM [Yahoo]

Summit Entertainment won't buy Miramax [Yahoo]

Business bad for Blockbuster [Yahoo]

Film Festivals

Award-winners at 2010 Berlinale announced; Roman Polanski named top director [The Guardian]

Film Comment Selects lineup announced [The New York Times]

Full lineup for South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival announced


Singer-actress Kathryn Grayson dies [The Guardian]

British character actor Lionel Jeffries dies [The New York Times]

In Other News

Musical version of Pedro Almodóvar film comes to Lincoln Center Theater [The New York Times]

Quentin Tarantino saves New Beverly Cinema in L.A. [The Hollywood Reporter]

Oscar-nominated German cinematographer subject of retrospective at Cinémathèque française [The Criterion Current]

Roger Ebert regains voice after 2007 surgery [The Guardian]

AMC chain considers protest of Alice in Wonderland following news of early DVD release [The Los Angeles Times]

Anthony Hopkins painting exhibit goes on display in London [The Guardian]

Sean Penn charged with battery and vandalism in L.A. [Yahoo]

Play centered on Tallulah Bankhead hits Broadway [The New York Times]

Barbara Walters announces last Oscar interview special [Yahoo]

Weekly Awards Round-Up - Feb. 15-21, 2010

The Writers Guild of America announced the winners of their awards on Feb. 20. Mark Boal won Best Original Screenplay for The Hurt Locker, while Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner won Best Adapted Screenplay for Up in the Air. Best Documentary Screenplay went to Mark Monrow for The Cove. More information can be found here.

The winners of the BAFTAs (the British equivalent of the Academy Awards) were announced on Feb. 21. The Hurt Locker won six awards - Best Picture, Best Director (Kathryn Bigelow), Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal), Best Cinematography (Barry Ackroyd), Best Film Editing (Bob Murawski and Chris Innis) and Best Sound. Avatar won two awards - Best Visual Effects and Best Production Design. The Young Victoria won both Best Costume Design and Best Makeup and Hair. Up also walked away with two trophies - Best Animated Film and Best Score (Michael Giacchino). Duncan Jones was given the award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer for Moon. Fish Tank won Outstanding British Film, while A Prophet won Best Foreign Film. Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner picked up yet another Best Adapted Screenplay award for Up in the Air. I Do Air won the award for Best Live-Action Short Film, and Mother of Many won Best Short Animated Film. Colin Firth won Best Actor for A Single Man, Carey Mulligan won Best Actress for An Education, Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor for Inglourious Basterds, and Mo'Nique won Best Supporting Actress for Precious. Kristen Stewart was given the Orange Rising Star Award. More information can be found here.

The winners of the London Critics Circle Awards were announced on Feb. 18, and they include A Prophet for Best Film and Fish Tank for Best British Film. [The Guardian]

A Serious Man was named Best Film of 2009 by the International Cinephile Society on Feb. 17. Indiewire has the complete list of winners.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held its Scientific and Technical Awards on Feb. 20. [Yahoo]

At the Academy Award nominees luncheon on Feb. 15, Oscar telecast producers Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic suggested that the nominees have two acceptance speeches prepared for March 7 - the first being something fun and/or inspirational, about what winning the award means personally and leaves out the "boring" laundry list of thank-yous; the second being said laundry list, which the nominees can read off into a "Thank You Cam" as they exit the stage at the Kodak Theater.

At the luncheon, Shankman and Mechanic also announced that the five nominees for the Best Original Song Academy Award will not be performed at this year's ceremony. [Deadline Hollywood]

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mixed Feelings: Loving and Hating Romantic Comedies

Disclaimer: I know I'm not the first person to complain about realism in mainstream romantic comedies and I know I won't be the last. I just wanted to get another voice out there. Also, as a spoiler alert, you shouldn't read this if you haven't seen (and want to see) 500 Days of Summer and When Harry Met Sally, as I write about their endings.

I recently acquired both 500 Days of Summer and When Harry Met Sally, two of my favorite films, or romantic comedies to be specific, on DVD. I watched them back to back, and two days later, I found myself seeing Valentine's Day, the latest generic Hollywood romantic comedy to hit the big screen. I chose it because I wanted to watch something new, but I wanted it to be a "lighter" film, as opposed to the "heavier" foreign films (The White Ribbon, A Prophet, etc.) I'm eager to see before the Oscars. I definitely got what I was looking for, but I think I would have felt better about myself if I had gone with one of the aforementioned foreign films. It was pretty much as light as they come, with no real nuance or realism akin to that which I found myself engulfed in only two nights earlier with my own double feature.

500 Days of Summer doesn't have a stereotypically happy ending (it's not exactly depressing though either), and When Harry Met Sally, while the story leading up to the ending is fairly original (especially for 1989), does manage to slide in to the happy ending pile. Although, as I discovered by watching some of the bonus features on the Collector's Edition DVD, the original script didn't see Harry and Sally becoming romantically involved at the end of the film. I personally would have rather seen that ending; while the whole New Year's climax is romantic, I do think it would be nice to see a "friend-mance" on the big screen between a straight male and a straight female that doesn't end up turning sexual or romantic. When I was a little girl, and even as I've grown up (a little), I've always fantasized about having great friends over great romance. I know that might be considered ridiculous or blasphemous to some, but it's the truth. So I would just like to see that reflected on the big screen.

Or, at the very least, I would like to see more stories similar to 500 Days of Summer and Annie Hall (another personal favorite movie/romantic comedy), which both go through the ups and downs of relationships, which I find to be a hell of a lot more realistic than a movie where almost every character winds up getting what they want or need, even if it's not the same as what they wanted or needed at the beginning of the movie.

Some people go to the movies for escapism (and I can occasionally be included in that group), but I mostly go to see life reflected or to be inspired by life lived. As far as romantic comedies go, Annie Hall and When Harry Met Sally are the touchstones for the latter, and 500 Days of Summer and Away We Go (my favorite film/romantic comedy of 2009) are the most recent examples. I would rewatch them instead of seeing pretty much any of the mainstream Hollywood romantic comedies released in the last few years, and after watching Valentine's Day, I realize that's what I should've done.

Valentine's Day: 1 (out of 5)
500 Days of Summer: 4.5
When Harry Met Sally: 4.5
Annie Hall: 5
Away We Go: 5

Oscars 2010 - A Movie-Themed Menu

For this year's Oscar night (March 7), I have decided to come up with menu items based on the Best Picture nominees and other films that received multiple nominations. And like Julie in Julie & Julia (nominated for Best Actress for Meryl Streep as the one and only Julia Child), I have taken to my blog to share my ideas.

"Blue Tolstoy" (Avatar & The Last Station) - Blue Mixer or Food Coloring plus Vodka
Mini/Airplane Alcohol Bottles (Up in the Air)

Hurt Latkes (The Hurt Locker & A Serious Man)
Crazy Artichoke Heart Dip (Crazy Heart)
Trail Mix (Up)

Main Course
Fried Chicken (Precious)
Taco Bell (The Blind Side)

Nine-Cheese Baguette (District 9/Nine/celebrating the best of 2009 + An Education) - This can be any nine cheeses, but for me it will likely be cream cheese, cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan, romano, pepper jack, colby, monterey jack and feta; runners-up include gruyere, brie and gorgonzola. To explain why An Education is part of this, especially for those who haven't seen it - the baguette was chosen for the bread because it is French, and in the movie, the lead character is obsessed with French culture.
Nine-Veggie Salad (District 9/Nine/celebrating the best of 2009) - Again, this can be any nine veggies, but for me it will likely be spinach, lettuce, mushrooms, carrots, cucumber, green peppers, cauliflower, broccoli and onions. Topping it off with Italian dressing would be an appropriate tribute to Nine as well.

Strudel with Cream (Inglourious Basterds)

As this is the year of Best Documentary nominee Food, Inc., you get bonus points for using all organic, local and/or seasonal ingredients for these film-inspired creations.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Birthday to Joseph Gordon-Levitt (and Me)

Over the last few years, with IMDb's "Born Today" feature on its home page and the rise of Wikipedia and its pages with lists of famous birthdays by date, it has become more common for everyone to discover with what famous people they have birthdays in common. My "group" includes some rather disappointing and embarrassing public figures, including director Michael Bay, "socialite" Paris Hilton and comedian Larry the Cable Guy. Perhaps the most notable famous person (to me) that I share a birthday with is the actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is exactly five years older than me. (Actor Hal Holbrook and singer Billie Joe Armstrong are my runners-up.)

Through my own observations and conversations, I have noted that a lot of people find actors around their own age that they love as kids and, in a way, grow up alongside. For me, Gordon-Levitt also fits that bill. From his early parts as "Student #1" in Beethoven, "Young Norman" in A River Runs Through It and smaller roles on TV shows like "Quantum Leap" and "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman" through his early leading roles as a child actor in Angels in the Outfield and Holy Matrimony to his series regular role as Tommy Solomon on the TV show "3rd Rock from the Sun," he seemed to pop up in quite a few places throughout my childhood. As "3rd Rock" started to wrap up, Gordon-Levitt took on more film roles, including 10 Things I Hate About You and Manic. Going from 10 Things to Manic marked a transition from lighter, more comedic, supporting roles to darker, more dramatic, leading roles. His strong leading performances in Mysterious Skin, Brick, The Lookout and 500 Days of Summer have helped him slowly make a name for himself as one of the best actors of his generation.

In an arena (somewhat) outside of his acting career, Gordon-Levitt has also taken to the internet to start, which combines social networking and filmmaking to help create multi-layered and intensely original projects, or records, as they are referred to on the site. I first took notice of hitRECord shortly before 2009's 500 Days of Summer was released in theaters, but it's been around for about five years now, and was featured as an exhibition in the New Frontier section of the Sundance Film Festival a few weeks ago.

Gordon-Levitt will next be seen alongside Natalie Portman in the Sundance film Hesher and in director Christopher Nolan's Inception, which I previously noted as the film I'm most looking forward to in 2010. I hope he does a musical next or sometime in the near future, especially after the dance sequence in 500 Days of Summer, the Bank Dance video that accompanied the film and his enthusiastic performance of "Make 'Em Laugh" on a recent episode of "Saturday Night Live." Here's the dance sequence, set to the tune of Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams Come True":

Monday, February 15, 2010

Finding Inspiration in Preservation

"Film is history. With every foot of film lost, we lose a link to our culture, to the world around us, to each other, and to ourselves." -Martin Scorsese

To most filmgoers, Martin Scorsese is known for two things - his incredible body of work as a filmmaker and his trademark bushy eyebrows. To cinephiles, Scorsese is an icon for those things and his work as a film preservationist. The mass audience got a taste of this during his acceptance speech for the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes in January.

/Film excerpted part of his speech: "As far as I’m concerned, making films and preserving them are the same thing. In this room, none of us who make films and watch them would be here without the people who came here before us. Whether it’s DeMille, Hitchcock, the Senegalese filmmaker [Ousmane] Sembène, Kurosawa or John Ford, de Sica, Bergman, Satiajit Ray, we’re all walking in their footsteps every day, all of us… [DeMille] made these pictures for us, the audience, so we could live in their wonders. He was there from the beginning, when films were born. He helped create the narrative style and language that we use today, shaped film as an art form, as a business, and as a mythical landscape. He led the way for all of us. When we look at his films, or Hitchcock or Kubrick, we all remember that motion pictures are part of a continuum, a living, ongoing history. And for me to be a part of all that, well… I thank you, and I thank you so much." The full video of his speech can be found here.

Scorsese's sheer knowledge of the history of film is quite outstanding and if you can get your hands on a copy of A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies, it's a good way to spend (nearly) four hours.

That Scorsese's immense passion for cinema has lent himself to become a leading force in the drive to preserve film should be no surprise. In 1990, he founded The Film Foundation, which has assisted with the preservation and restoration of over 500 films that might've otherwise deteriorated and disappeared from the pantheon of cinema. They've worked with organizations such as the Academy Film Archive and the National Film Preservation Foundation, and recent films they've worked to preserve include Paths of Glory and The Red Shoes. The impressive list of filmmakers that make-up the foundation's board of directors include, along with Scorsese, Woody Allen, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, Robert Redford and Steven Spielberg.

With an ensemble like that under the leadership of Scorsese, the flickering light at the end of the cinematic tunnel can only get brighter.

This post is part of "For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon," which is running Feb. 14-21 on various film blogs. More information about the blogathon can be found here, and you can donate to the National Film Preservation Foundation here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Weekly News Round-Up - Feb. 8-14, 2010

Films in the Works

Penelope Cruz is in talks to join Johnny Depp for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides for Nine director Rob Marshall. [Yahoo] Multiple sources are also reporting that Cruz will star in the psychological drama Melancholia for filmmaker Lars von Trier (Dancer in the Dark, Antichrist). [The Playlist]

Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Marion Cotillard will star in the action-thriller Contagion for director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Che). [The Playlist]

Warner Bros. is using filmmaker Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight) as a "mentor" for the latest Superman film. He has also started preliminary work on his highly-anticipated third Batman film. [Deadline Hollywood]

New Line Cinema is looking to restart its Vacation franchise, starting with a film that puts Clark Griswold's son, Rusty, at the center of the story. Chevy Chase is expected to reprise his role, now as a grandfather, in some capacity. [Coming Soon] New Line is also moving forward with its remake of the 1981 action film Escape From New York. [New York Magazine]

Cate Blanchett is joining Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan for director Joe Wright's Hanna; Katherine Heigl will star in the adaptation of the Janet Evanovich novel One for the Money; Amber Tamblyn will co-star with James Franco in director Danny Boyle's 127 Hours. [Coming Soon] Kate Mara is also in talks to co-star in 127 Hours. [Hollywood Reporter]

Glenn Close will star in, co-produce and has co-written an adaptation of the play The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs, a drama about a woman (Close) in 19th-century Ireland who disguises herself as a man to survive. Rodrigo Garcia will direct the film, with Orlando Bloom, Michael Gambon and Janet McTeer co-starring. [Screen Daily]

Alicia Silverstone is reuniting with Clueless writer-director Amy Heckerling for Vamps, about two female vampires who must make immortality-jeopardizing decisions when love enters the picture. [Coming Soon]

Kevin Costner will direct and star in a World War II action-adventure film based on the novel A Little War of Our Own by Dan Gordon. [Cinematical]

Tom Cruise will return to the role of Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible 4. [Deadline Hollywood]

Madonna will direct W.E., which centers on King Edward VIII's affair with Wallis Simpson, who may be portrayed by Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air, The Departed). [Empire]

The next Spider-Man film can be added to the list of upcoming movies that will be released in 3D. [Hollywood Reporter]

Tim Robbins will play the father of the villainous Dr. Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard) in the upcoming adaptation of Green Lantern. Ryan Reynolds has filled the titular role. [Hollywood Reporter]

Susan Sarandon is in talks to star in the feature film adaptation of the 1960s TV show "The Big Valley" as the matriarch of a ranching family in the 1870s, a role that was originally filled by Barbara Stanwyck. [Hollywood Reporter]

Rachel Weisz is joining Daniel Craig and Naomi Watts for director Jim Sheridan's thriller Dream House. [Empire]

Colin Firth and Matthew Macfadyen are joining Jim Sturgess in director Michael Winterbottom's drama The Promised Land. [Yahoo]

Jamie Bell, Judi Dench, Sally Hawkins and Imogen Poots are in talks to co-star in the latest adaptation of the Charlotte Bronte classic Jane Eyre. Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland) and Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds, Hunger) have already signed on as the leads. [Yahoo]

Pierce Brosnan, Ed Harris and Jim Gaffigan will star in the independent comedic thriller Salvation Boulevard, about a born-again Christian who finds himself on the run from fundamentalist members of his church that will do anything to protect their pastor. [Coming Soon]

Writer-director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls, Gods and Monsters) is adapting the novel The Song Is You into a music-infused film. [Deadline Hollywood]

Peter Bogdonavich will co-write and direct the film adaptation of the novel Turn of the Century, which follows a couple with three kids dealing with marriage issues in an alternate reality-based world. [Hollywood Reporter]

Bob Balaban, Catherine O'Hara, Vanessa Paradis, Adam Goldberg, Danny Huston and Jay Harrington will all lend their voices to the animated film A Monster in Paris, which follows a group of unlikely characters who team up to save the city from said monster. [Hollywood Reporter]

Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) will co-star in the supernatural horror thriller The Apparition. [Shock Till You Drop]

Hugh Laurie (TV's "House") is in talks to star in the indie dramedy Oranges, about an older man who has an affair with a friend's daughter. [The Los Angeles Times]

Plans to develop a feature film based on Fox's hit TV show "24" are moving forward. [Coming Soon]

Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Donnie Brasco) will write and direct an as-yet-untitled film about the mysterious death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko for Warner Bros. [Coming Soon]

Sean Bean, Dougray Scott and Robert Vaughan will star in The Magnificent Eleven, a modern update on the classic western The Magnificent Seven (which in turn is a remake of Akira Kurosawa's classic Seven Samurai). [Screen Daily]

Warner Bros. is planning the latest adaptation of the classic Alexandre Dumas novel The Three Musketeers. [Coming Soon]

Regency Enterprises is putting a "reboot" of the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie Mr. and Mrs. Smith into development. [New York Magazine]

Universal is remaking the 1982 comedy The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, which starred Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton. [Coming Soon]

Russell Brand will star as a millionaire soccer player who gets arrested and sentenced to community service in Texas in an untitled project for Warner Bros. [Deadline Hollywood]

Taylor Lautner will star in the drama Abduction, about a teen who feels disconnected from his parents and discovers why. [Deadline Hollywood]

Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen, P.S. I Love You) will star in the psychological thriller The Unblinking Eye as a retired detective who was nearly murdered by a serial killer. [Hollywood Reporter]

Breaking Dawn, the last part of the Twilight saga, will be split into two films. [Deadline Hollywood]

Industry News

Lionsgate and The Weinstein Co. have been revealed as two of the bidders for Disney's Miramax Studios, which recently closed its offices. Lionsgate is also one of the potential buyers of fledgling studio MGM. [Yahoo]

New Yorker Films, the 44-year-old independent film distribution company that previously announced plans to close up shop, will go on after Aladdin Distribution LLC bought its extensive library, which includes Jean Luc Godard's classic Breathless in addition to films by Bernardo Bertolucci, Federico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa. [The New York Times]

Hong Kong company Imagi International Holdings Ltd. has announced that it has shut down its computer animation studio, Imagi Studios, which helped produce the films TMNT and Astro Boy. [Yahoo]

Film Festivals

Directors Quentin Tarantino and Michel Gondry will each be part of one of over 80 panels at the upcoming South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival. [The New York Times]

The Berlin Film Festival started on Feb. 11 and will run through the 21st. The festival included the first screening of the restored full-length director's cut of Fritz Lang's 1927 classic Metropolis. [The Guardian]


Stuntman and actor Bobby Hoy (Spartacus, The Defiant Ones) died on Feb. 8 from cancer. He was 82. [The Los Angeles Times]

Texas congressman Charles Wilson, who was portrayed by Tom Hanks in the 2007 film Charlie Wilson's War, died on Feb. 10 from a heart attack. He was 76. [The Guardian]

In Other News

Conservationists in Los Angeles are trying to raise $5.5 million by April to ensure that the land around the historic Hollywood sign becomes a park. [The New York Times]

Entertainers Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin will receive stars on the Las Vegas Walk of Stars in a ceremony on Feb. 22. [Yahoo]

The annual Toy Fair was held in New York on Feb. 14, and included new toys from major film releases such as Toy Story 3, Iron Man 2, Shrek Forever After and The Last Airbender. [Yahoo]

The French band Phoenix will provide the soundtrack to filmmaker Sofia Coppola's upcoming movie Sometime. [Prefix]

Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man, Coffee and Cigarettes) will curate the Sunday lineup of the music festival All Tomorrow's Parties in New York. [Stereogum]

Non Plus One, a six-minute short film for clothing brand Opening Ceremony starring Jason Schwartzman and Kirsten Dunst, and directed by Gia Coppola (Francis Ford Coppola's granddaughter) and Tracy Antonopoulos, has been released online. The short also features a song by Schwartzman's Coconut Records. []

Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman) has announced that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. He says he is expected to fully recover. [Yahoo]

Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are suing the British tabloid News of the World for claiming that they are looking into a multi-million dollar split. [Yahoo]

A play centering on the life of legendary film producer Robert Evans (The Godfather, Rosemary's Baby) is in the works. [The New York Times]

Film blogs, including Speaking of Cinema, are uniting Feb. 14-21 as part of "For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon," which will help raise awareness and money for the National Film Preservation Foundation. More information can be found at the blogathon's main page and Facebook page.

Weekly Awards Round-Up - Feb. 8-14, 2010

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will broadcast a live stream of its Oscar nominees luncheon on Feb. 15 on its Facebook page, and The stream will start at 11:30 a.m. Pacific time. More information can be found here.

Actress Elizabeth Banks (Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Definitely Maybe) will host the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Scientific and Technical Awards on Feb. 20. More information can be found here.

Penelope Cruz, Sean Penn and Kate Winslet, who all won acting Oscars last year, will be presenters at the Academy Awards on March 7. More information can be found here.

To increase its Best Adapted Oscar chances and generally promote the film, IFC has released the full screenplay for In the Loop on its website, along with a note from co-writer/director Armando Iannucci.

British actress Vanessa Redgrave will receive an Academy Fellowship from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts on Feb. 21, as part of the annual BAFTA Awards. [Yahoo]

The drama Fish Tank won Best Film, Anne-Marie Duff (Nowhere Boy) won Best Actress and Andy Serkis (Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll) won Best Actor at the Evening Standard Film Awards on Feb. 8. The Guardian has the complete list of winners.

The thriller Cell 211 won eight trophies - including Best Film - at the Goya Awards, Spain's equivalent of the Oscars, on Feb. 14. The historical drama Agora won seven awards, including Best Original Screenplay. [Yahoo]

The Art Directors Guild announced the winners of its annual awards on Feb. 13. Best Period Film Art Direction went to Sarah Greenwood for Sherlock Holmes; Best Fantasy Film Art Direction went to Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg for Avatar; and Best Contemporary Film Art Direction went to Karl Juliusson for The Hurt Locker. More information can be found here.

The American Cinema Editors announced the winners of their annual Eddie Awards on Feb. 14. Best Drama Film Editing went to Bob Murawski and Chris Innis for The Hurt Locker; Best Comedy Film Editing went to Debra Neil-Fisher for The Hangover; Best Animated Film Editing went to Kevin Nolting for Up; and Best Documentary Editing went to Geoffrey Richman for The Cove. More information and the complete list of nominees can be found here.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weekly Awards Round-Up - Feb. 1-7, 2010

The nominees for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards were announced on Feb. 2. View the complete list here.

The nominations for this year's Razzies, which honor the worst in film, have also been announced. All About Steve, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Land of the Lost, Old Dogs and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen were nominated for Worst Picture.
Worst Director: Michael Bay (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), Walt Becker (Old Dogs), Brad Silberling (Land of the Lost), Stephen Sommers (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), Phil Traill (All About Steve)
Worst Screenplay: Kim Barker (All About Steve); Stuart Beattie, David Elliot & Paul Lovett (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra); Chris Henchy & Dennis McNicholas (Land of the Lost); Ehren Kruger, Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen); Melissa Rosenberg (Twilight Saga: New Moon)
Worst Actor: Will Ferrell (Land of the Lost), The Jonas Brothers (Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience), Steve Martin (Pink Panther 2), Eddie Murphy (Imagine That), John Travolta (Old Dogs)
Worst Actress: Sandra Bullock (All About Steve), Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana: The Movie), Megan Fox (Jennifer's Body and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen), Beyonce Knowles (Obsessed), Sarah Jessica Parker (Did You Hear About the Morgans?)
Worst Supporting Actor: Billy Ray Cyrus (Hannah Montana: The Movie), Hugh Hefner (Miss March), Robert Pattinson (Twilight Saga: New Moon), Jorma Taccone (Land of the Lost), Marlon Wayans (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra)
Worst Supporting Actress: Candice Bergen (Bride Wars), Ali Larter (Obsessed), Sienna Miller (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), Kelly Preston (Old Dogs), Julie White (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen)
Worst Screen Couple: Sandra Bullock & Bradley Cooper (All About Steve); Will Ferrell & any co-star, creature or "comic riff" (Land of the Lost); any two (or more) Jonas Brothers (Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience); Shia LaBeouf & either Megan Fox or any Transformer (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen); Kristin Stewart & Robert Pattinson or Taylor Lautner (Twilight Saga: New Moon)
Worst Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Land of the Lost, Pink Panther 2, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Twilight Saga: New Moon
They also announced the nominees for the Worst in Film for the 2000s. The Worst Picture of the Decade Razzie nominees are Battlefield Earth, Freddy Got Fingered, Gigli, I Know Who Killed Me and Swept Away.
Worst Actor of the Decade: Ben Affleck (Daredevil, Gigli, Jersey Girl, Paycheck, Pearl Harbor, Surviving Christmas), Eddie Murphy (Adventures of Pluto Nash, I Spy, Imagine That, Meet Dave, Norbit, Showtime), Mike Myers (Cat in the Hat, The Love Guru), Rob Schneider (The Animal, Benchwarmers, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, Grandma's Boy, The Hot Chick, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, Little Man, Little Nicky), John Travolta (Battlefield Earth, Domestic Disturbance, Lucky Numbers, Old Dogs, Swordfish)
Worst Actress of the Decade: Mariah Carey (Glitter), Paris Hilton (The Hottie & the Nottie, House of Wax, Repo: The Genetic Opera), Lindsay Lohan (Herbie Fully Loaded, I Know Who Killed Me, Just My Luck), Jennifer Lopez (Angel Eyes, Enough, Gigli, Jersey Girl, Maid in Manhattan, Monster-in-Law, The Wedding Planner), Madonna (Die Another Day, The Next Best Thing, Swept Away)
The "winners" will be announced in March, and more information can be found here.

The winners of this year's Annie Awards, which honor the best in animation, have been announced and include Up, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Coraline and The Princess and the Frog. The complete list of winners can be found here.

Justin Timberlake received his "Man of the Year" pudding pot from Harvard's Hasty Pudding theatrical troupe on Feb. 5. [Yahoo]

Weekly News Round-Up - Feb. 1-7, 2010

*Headline Only Edition - I was short on time this week, so I will only be posting headlines and links to the stories as opposed to blurbs.*

Films in the Works

Johnny Depp to direct Keith Richards doc [Coming Soon]

Russell Crowe and Beyonce linked to latest incarnation of A Star Is Born [Empire]

Terrence Malick to direct all-star romance [Empire]

Hugh Jackman to co-star in Chinese film [Empire]

Next Bourne = prequel? [Empire]

Daredevil reboot is a go [Deadline Hollywood]

Watchmen 2 in the works [Empire]

Colin Firth would do Bridget Jones 3 [Empire]

Enchanted 2 is a go [Empire]

More Burke & Hare cast revealed [Empire]

Orlando Bloom is the Good Doctor [Hollywood Reporter]

Eric Bana in Hanna [Hollywood Reporter]

Danny Glover in Dragon Fire [Empire]

Taylor Lautner = Stretch Armstrong [Hollywood Reporter]

Another Nicholas Sparks novel-based movie in the works [The Los Angeles Times]

Sam Worthington to star in The Fields [Coming Soon]

Whoopi Goldberg & Kathy Bates are Earthbound [Empire]

Another take on The Thing [Hollywood Reporter]

Cast for the upcoming Soul Surfers announced [Empire]

Paranormal Activity and Saw creators team up for Insidious [Cinematical]

Olivia Wilde will co-star in Cowboys & Aliens [Hollywood Reporter]

Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin & Billy Crudup to co-star in crime drama The Convincer [Coming Soon]

Ginnifer Goodwin to star in Something Borrowed [Coming Soon]

McG to direct This Means War [Cinematical]

Danny McBride will star in L.A.P.I. [Empire]

Industry News

Sony Pictures laying off 450 employees [Yahoo]

Fox files lawsuits against several DVD pirates [The New York Times]

Film Festivals

Rotterdam International Film Festival announces award-winners [Indiewire]

South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival reveals its lineup [The New York Times]

True/False Film Festival reveals its lineup [Columbia Missourian]


Producer David Brown died on Feb. 1 [The New York Times]

Actor Ian Carmichael died on Feb. 5 [The Guardian]

In Other News

Vacation series' Griswolds return as part of super bowl promotion [Entertainment Weekly]

Batman & Robin tops list of Worst Movies of All Time [Hollywood Reporter]

Rare Marilyn Monroe photos auctioned [Yahoo]

Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor granted knighthood in France [Yahoo]

Actors Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard engaged [Yahoo]

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Nic Cage: National Treasure - A Razzie Rebuttal

Catherine recently (as in, a mere few hours ago) outlined how Nic Cage was "snubbed" for the "Worst Actor of the Decade" award from the Razzies. However, Nic Cage's supposed ineptitude doesn't even begin to compare to the other actors who were nominated for the award (Ben Affleck, Eddie Murphy, John Travolta, Mike Myers, Rob Schneider). Let's look at the differences:

- Nic Cage has only been nominated for three Razzie awards. Among the five nominated, the closest is Mike Myers, who was nominated for four in the 2000s.
- Nic Cage has never "won" a Razzie. All of those nominated have won at least one Razzie
- Nic Cage has won an acting Oscar. None of the people actually on the list have won an Oscar for acting...ever. Only Ben Affleck (while leeching off Matt Damon) has an Oscar among those nominated, for the Good Will Hunting screenplay.
- Nic Cage was nominated for an Oscar in the 2000s (Adaptation). Only Eddie Murphy, among those nominated, was nominated in the 2000s for an Oscar (Dreamgirls).

Those facts alone show why he isn't the "Worst Actor of the Decade." Plus, no one is ever going to win an argument with Nic Cage's Bird Hair.

On a side note, I actually liked Knowing. Yes, Nic Cage had a couple of waaaay over the top moments, but overall it's actually an unusually reserved performance for late-2000s Nic Cage. It was especially refreshing considering everyone else in the movie seemed to be sleepwalking through their roles.

The movie, despite its horribly illogical plot, does a decent job of keeping the tension built, and far exceeded even my meager expectations. I don't recommend it for anyone looking for a "good" movie, but if you like Nic Cage or over-the-top sci-fi movies, it's worth a rental.

Nic Cage: National Treasure - "Snubbed" by Oscars AND Razzies

The nominations for the Razzies (which "honor" the worst movies every year) for films released in 2009 and the entire decade of the 2000s were announced yesterday (Feb. 1), and Knowing, which has continued Nicolas Cage's string of ridiculously bad movies this decade, didn't even get a nomination. Cage also failed to get a spot on the highly un-coveted list of nominees for Worst Actors of the Decade, which consists of Ben Affleck, Eddie Murphy, Mike Myers, Rob Schneider and John Travolta. All of those men are worthy contenders, but I honestly would have predicted Cage to be on that list, perhaps in place of Myers or Schneider (who only had a supporting role in about half of the films they mentioned). I mean, who else could claim the title of most ridiculous action-adventure star of the decade? He had a flaming skull (Ghost Rider), punched out a woman while wearing a bear costume (The Wicker Man) and kidnapped the president (National Treasure 2). The amount of ridiculous one-liners in most of his films this decade, especially The Wicker Man, could fill volumes. I was also saddened by the absence of that film amongst the Worst Movie of the Decade nominees, as it would definitely belong in my worst five films of the 2000s. (Warning: The following video does contain spoilers and bear-man vs. women action.)

The last part of 2009 brought a better Cage to the screen in director Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. He even received a couple of nominations here and there for Best Actor with some of the critics' organizations. I don't think it was quite worthy of that praise; I personally think Cage is at his best when he's a little more low-key (Leaving Las Vegas, Bringing Out the Dead, The Weather Man). While it wasn't a huge shocker that his name was omitted from the Best Actor Oscar nominations this morning (Feb. 2), his name was circulating out there as a possible dark horse.

Considering a Break-Up with Oscar

I can, on occasion, be fairly elitist about films (although I also have appreciation for a good silly romantic comedy or action film now and then), and this awards season, I've found that this elitist side is emerging full force.

The Avatar-mania is one thing, as is the over-zealous Streepfest, and honoring Sandra Bullock for her best performance. (I'm doing my best not to get emotional and write the next sentence in all caps or with a million question and/or exclamation marks.) The Academy went and nominated The Blind Side for Best Picture?! It is a good film, but not a great one. Which also brings me to this - I wasn't exactly sure how the re-expansion of the Best Picture category to 10 nominees would go until this morning when I heard Anne Hathaway read the names of all 10 films. As I was writing them all out, I realized something - I've seen all of them already. Most years, I've only seen two or three (out of five) by the time the nominations are announced - this year, 10 for 10. While I'm happy about that for the sheer movie nerd that I am, I'm also rather disappointed by it. I'm disappointed that, out of 10 films, there were no really "unseen" or lesser-known films, or any (good) surprises to any degree. There aren't any films like last year's Frost/Nixon or The Wrestler for me to go see and be reassured that all of the films nominated for the Oscars deserve to be there. As the years have gone by, the Best Picture nominees have strayed further from my personal favorites each year, but I still found at least some merit in most (if not all) of the nominees. I would say that at least a third of the Best Picture nominees this year honestly do not deserve to be so honored. They are about spectacle and/or box office over storytelling. As one of the biggest fans of the Academy Awards that you ever might come across - and a writer - that is really quite disheartening for me to realize. I just want to go back to bed and pretend that this morning's nominations were all a dream. This all started really sinking in when I got to the last category on my list of nominees, Best Song - two songs from Randy Newman and The Princess and the Frog? Really? It isn't even close to being one of Disney's classics, and while it got two noms, Karen O's amazing tracks from Where the Wild Things Are were completely shut out (and so was Paul McCartney). I suppose I should be happy that the song from Avatar didn't get nominated though, and I know that a deserving song ("The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart) will probably win.

In tracking all of the awards this year, I know that Bullock will probably win Best Actress, and I'm gradually coping with that. However, if Avatar or The Blind Side wins Best Picture, the Oscars and I might be done, or at least on a break for a little while.

A Big(elow) Year for Female Filmmakers

In the entire history of the Academy Awards, only three women had been nominated for the Best Director Oscar - Lina Wertmüller (Seven Beauties - 1976), Jane Campion (The Piano - 1993) and Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation - 2003) - and none of them won. For 2009, Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) has been a front-runner in the Best Director race throughout awards season, culminating in her DGA Best Feature Film Director Award win on Jan. 30, her nomination for the Best Director Oscar this morning (Feb. 2) and her likely win at the Oscars on March 7. Not only is she getting all of this attention, I actually feel she deserves it, as opposed to some of the other directors who wind up getting nominated as a pseudo-lifetime achievement award or because they're James Cameron (or some other Hollywood heavyweight). The Hurt Locker is a great film, and I would think that even if I found out it was directed by a man.

2009 was a banner year for female filmmakers - along with Bigelow, Campion has been getting a lot of positive attention for Bright Star, and so has Lone Scherfig for An Education. At one point, there was buzz that all three could have found themselves with Oscar nominations. Agnes Varda, the female filmmaking face of the French New Wave, has also been getting quite a bit of praise for her autobiographical documentary The Beaches of Agnes. French director Claire Denis' 35 Shots of Rum has also been well-received. While writer-director Anne Fontaine hasn't been getting quite as much buzz as the others, her film Coco Before Chanel is getting a few notices. Romantic comedy pros Nora Ephron (Julie & Julia) and Nancy Meyers (It's Complicated) have also been managing to hear their names and films mentioned here and there.

What disheartens me about this is that I have now listed the majority of the films directed by women that were released in 2009. Ephron and Meyers are the only two whose films were studio pictures, therefore getting opening weekend wide releases. (The Hurt Locker is an independent film, and the rest come from outside of the United States.) They were both also romantic comedies, which I feel have become the stereotypical go-to for (Hollywood) studios and producers when they feel pressured to employ more female directors.

I would like to briefly add in Drew Barrymore and her directorial debut, Whip It. It did not perform very well at the box office, but according to Metacritic, it got "Generally favorable reviews." (To me, the latter part of that is more important than the former, but that's another topic for another post.) While she isn't necessarily deserving of the awards buzz that Bigelow and the other ladies have been receiving, I feel Barrymore deserves to be recognized for making a female-driven film that is one of the better (American) coming-of-age stories to come along in a while. I hope she returns to the director's chair.

Actually, that brings me to my concluding point. I think it is fantastic that female directors are gradually getting more positive attention come awards season, and I hope that this means that studios and producers will be more open to putting the women I've mentioned and other female directors behind the camera, especially for films that are not romantic comedies.

82nd Annual Academy Award Nominations

Actress Anne Hathaway (Rachel Got Married, The Princess Diaries) and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Tom Sherak announced the nominees for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards this morning (Feb. 2).

Here they are:
Best Picture: Avatar, The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, A Serious Man, Up, Up in the Air
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), James Cameron (Avatar), Lee Daniels (Precious), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air), Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker), Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman (The Messenger), Joel & Ethan Coen (A Serious Man), Pete Docter, Bob Peterson & Tom McCarthy (Up), Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
Best Adapted Screenplay: Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci & Tony Roche (In the Loop); Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell (District 9); Geoffrey Fletcher (Precious); Nick Hornby (An Education); Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air)
Best Actor: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), George Clooney (Up in the Air), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Morgan Freeman (Invictus), Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)
Best Actress: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)
Best Supporting Actor: Matt Damon (Invictus), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Christopher Plummer (The Last Station), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones), Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)
Best Supporting Actress: Penélope Cruz (Nine), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart), Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), Mo'Nique (Precious)
Best Foreign Film: Ajami, The Milk of Sorrow, A Prophet, The Secret in Their Eyes, The White Ribbon
Best Documentary: Burma VJ, The Cove, Food, Inc., The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, Which Way Home
Best Animated Feature: Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, The Secret of Kells, Up
Best Animated Short: French Roast, Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty, The Lady and the Reaper, Logorama, A Matter of Loaf and Death
Best Live-Action Short: The Door, Instead of Abracadabra, Kavi, Miracle Fish, The New Tenants
Best Documentary Short: China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province, The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner, The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, Music by Prudence, Rabbit a la Berlin
Best Editing: James Cameron, John Refoua & Stephen Rivkin (Avatar); Julian Clarke (District 9); Chris Innis & Bob Murawski (The Hurt Locker); Joe Klotz (Precious); Sally Menke (Inglourious Basterds)
Best Cinematography: Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker), Christian Berger (The White Ribbon), Bruno Delbonnel (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), Mauro Fiore (Avatar), Robert Richardson (Inglourious Basterds)
Best Art Direction: Rick Carter, Kim Sinclair & Robert Stromberg (Avatar); Maggie Gray & Patrice Vermette (The Young Victoria); Sarah Greenwood & Katie Spencer (Sherlock Holmes); Anastasia Masaro, Caroline Smith & Dave Warren (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus); John Myhre & Gordon Sim (Nine)
Best Costume Design: Colleen Atwood (Nine), Catherine Leterrier (Coco Before Chanel), Janet Patterson (Bright Star), Sandy Powell (The Young Victoria), Monique Prudhomme (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus)
Best Makeup: Barney Burman, Mindy Hall & Joel Harlow (Star Trek); Jon Henry Gordon & Jenny Shircore (The Young Victoria); Aldo Signoretti & Vittorio Sodano (Il Divo)
Best Visual Effects: Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh & Burt Dalton (Star Trek); Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros & Matt Aitken (District 9); Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham & Andrew R. Jones (Avatar)
Best Sound Mixing: Ray Beckett & Paul N.J. Ottosson (The Hurt Locker); Anna Behlmer, Peter J. Devlin & Andy Nelson (Star Trek); Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson & Tony Johnson (Avatar); Tony Lamberti, Michael Minkler & Mark Ulano (Inglourious Basterds); Geoffrey Patterson, Greg P. Russell & Gary Summers (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen)
Best Sound Editing: Christopher Boyes & Gwendolyn Yates Whittle (Avatar), Tom Myers & Michael Silvers (Up), Paul N.J. Ottosson (The Hurt Locker), Alan Rankin & Mark Stoeckinger (Star Trek), Wylie Stateman (Inglourious Basterds)
Best Score: Marco Beltrami & Buck Sanders (The Hurt Locker), Alexandre Desplat (Fantastic Mr. Fox), Michael Giacchino (Up), James Horner (Avatar), Hans Zimmer (Sherlock Holmes)
Best Song: "Almost There" (The Princess and the Frog), "Down in New Orleans" (The Princess and the Frog), "Loin de Paname" (Paris 36), "Take It All" (Nine), "The Weary Kind" (Crazy Heart)

We will post our choices for the winners closer to March 7, when the Oscars will take place and air live on ABC. More information can be found here.