Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Oscars 2009: Predictions in Best Films

And finally and barely in under the wire, Part V of my Oscar predictions.

Best Live Action Short Film, Best Animated Short Film, & Best Documentary Short
I haven't actually seen any of the films nominated in these categories (with the exception of Pixar's animated short, Presto, thanks to their inclusion of shorts on DVDs or with their theatrical releases). Don't get me wrong. I'd love to see them, but I wouldn't have the first clue how to without the benefit of being an Academy member. I always just pick based on the names I like best. Which, in these cases are:
  • Live Action Short: "Manon on the Asphalt” (La Luna Productions), A La Luna Production, Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont
  • Best Animated Short: “Presto” (Walt Disney) A Pixar Animation Studios Production, Doug Sweetland
  • Best Documentary Short: “Smile Pinki” A Principe Production, Megan Mylan
Best Documentary Feature
  • “The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)” (Cinema Guild), A Pandinlao Films Production, Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath
  • “Encounters at the End of the World” (THINKFilm and Image Entertainment), A Creative Differences Production, Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser
  • “The Garden” A Black Valley Films Production, Scott Hamilton Kennedy
  • “Man on Wire” (Magnolia Pictures), A Wall to Wall Production, James Marsh and Simon Chinn
  • “Trouble the Water” (Zeitgeist Films), An Elsewhere Films Production, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal
Predicted Winner: “Man on Wire” (Magnolia Pictures), A Wall to Wall Production, James Marsh and Simon Chinn
People love this film. It even beat out Slumdog Millionaire at the BAFTAs for Outstanding British Film. It's the only one of the documentaries I was able to see prior to the ceremony, and I thought it was pretty great, too. The "characters" were really interesting, and the story was well-told (avoiding that "dry" feeling a lot of docs have). If you haven't seen it, it's well worth checking out.

Best Animated Film
  • “Bolt” (Walt Disney), Chris Williams and Byron Howard
  • “Kung Fu Panda” (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount), John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
  • “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Andrew Stanton
Predicted Winner: “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Andrew Stanton
Only one of these films has people upset (including me) that it didn't get nominated for Best Picture, and that's Wall-E. I thought Kung Fu Panda was surprisingly delightful, but it feels like it belongs in this category. If this is the closest Wall-E can get to Best Picture, I guess it'll have to do.

Best Foreign Film

  • “The Baader Meinhof Complex” A Constantin Film Production, Germany
  • “The Class” (Sony Pictures Classics), A Haut et Court Production, France
  • “Departures” (Regent Releasing), A Departures Film Partners Production, Japan
  • “Revanche” (Janus Films), A Prisma Film/Fernseh Production, Austria
  • “Waltz with Bashir” (Sony Pictures Classics), A Bridgit Folman Film Gang Production, Israel
Predicted Winner: “Waltz with Bashir” (Sony Pictures Classics), A Bridgit Folman Film Gang Production, Israel
Sadly, I haven't gotten the chance to see any of these either. Animated drama Waltz with Bashir seems to have the most buzz going in, though The Class could be a dark horse.

Best Picture

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), A Kennedy/Marshall Production, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
  • “Frost/Nixon” (Universal), A Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and Working Title Production,Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Eric Fellner, Producers
  • "Milk" (Focus Features), A Groundswell and Jinks/Cohen Company Production, Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, Producers
  • “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company), A Mirage Enterprises and Neunte Babelsberg Film GmbH Production, Nominees to be determined
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), A Celador Films Production,Christian Colson, Producer
Predicted Winner: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), A Celador Films Production,Christian Colson, Producer
I'm still flummoxed that The Reader made it onto this list instead of Wall-E, The Dark Knight, or even Revolutionary Road if the Academy wanted to stick with Oscar bait. But that's how the cookie crumbles. Out of the five nominees, only Frost/Nixon scored my oh-so-coveted five-star rating. That being said, if I'd gone into Slumdog Millionaire without such high expectations thanks to all the buzz, it might have garnered a fifth star, too. I'll be perfectly content with another Slumdog victory.

That sums it all up, folks! And just in time! I meant to do these at a more evenly staggered pace, but work and life have a way of throwing off the best-laid plans. :-) The Oscars air tomorrow night (Sunday) at 8 Eastern/7 Central/5 Pacific on ABC.

The Oscars 2009: Predictions in Acting

Part IV!

Best Supporting Actor
  • Josh Brolin in “Milk” (Focus Features)
  • Robert Downey Jr. in “Tropic Thunder” (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Doubt” (Miramax)
  • Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.)
  • Michael Shannon in “Revolutionary Road” (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)
Predicted Winner: Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.)
Looking back on the performances of the nominees, I actually do think Ledger deserves the award here. He gave the most transformed and captivating performance of the five, and he trounced Jack Nicholson as the pre-eminent version of the Joker.

Best Supporting Actress
  • Amy Adams in “Doubt” (Miramax)
  • Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (The Weinstein Company)
  • Viola Davis in “Doubt” (Miramax)
  • Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
  • Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler” (Fox Searchlight)
Predicted Winner: Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler” (Fox Searchlight)
I'm really torn on this one. Personally, I'd have chosen Rebecca Hall (for Vicky Cristina Barcelona) or Amy Ryan (for Changeling) had they been nominated. As it is, I've switched Viola Davis and Marisa Tomei about six times just while trying to write this post. In the end, I'm going with Marisa Tomei, if only because she gave what I thought to be an equally devastating but lengthier performance.

Best Actor
  • Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor” (Overture Films)
  • Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon” (Universal)
  • Sean Penn in “Milk” (Focus Features)
  • Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
  • Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” (Fox Searchlight)
Predicted Winner: Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” (Fox Searchlight)
Rourke seems to be the awards-season darling this year, and rightly so. His performance was brave, honest and heartbreaking. My only complaint for this category is the lack of a nomination for Michael Sheen in Frost/Nixon. Maybe the Academy just can't swallow nominating someone who's starred in the Underworld films.

Best Actress

  • Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Angelina Jolie in “Changeling” (Universal)
  • Melissa Leo in “Frozen River” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Meryl Streep in “Doubt” (Miramax)
  • Kate Winslet in “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company)
Predicted Winner: Kate Winslet in “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company)
Again, this seems to be Kate Winslet's year, as predicted by Ricky Gervais. Not being a fan of The Reader, I really wish she'd been nominated for Revolutionary Road. Either way, though, Winslet's an obviously gifted actress, and I've got no qualms about her finally getting her Oscar this year.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Oscars 2009: Predictions in Storytelling

Part III of my Oscar predictions begins... NOW!

This is the blend of lighting and camera choices that come together to set a visual tone for a film beyond the sets and costumes.

  • “Changeling” (Universal), Tom Stern
  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Claudio Miranda
  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Wally Pfister
  • “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company), Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Anthony Dod Mantle
Predicted Winner: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Claudio Miranda
This was a hard category to call because The Dark Knight was strikingly shot, too. But there some truly beautiful images in Benjamin Button, despite the fact that I thought it was a mediocre film.

In a nutshell, the director is the conduit between what's on the page and what gets shot.

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), David Fincher
  • “Frost/Nixon” (Universal), Ron Howard
  • “Milk” (Focus Features), Gus Van Sant
  • “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company), Stephen Daldry
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Danny Boyle
Predicted Winner: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Danny Boyle
Out of the nominees, this was by far the most complex story told. Ron Howard and Gus Van Sant both did great jobs with their respective films, but the stories and the themes were pretty straightforward. Boyle took a story that could have easily derailed into a convoluted mess of threads and turned it into a beautiful tapestry, so he gets the prize in my book.

Film Editing
Film editing involves taking the film that's shot and determining how to piece it together to achieve a narrative that is both clear and compelling for the audience.

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Lee Smith
  • “Frost/Nixon” (Universal), Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
  • “Milk” (Focus Features), Elliot Graham
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Chris Dickens
Predicted Winner: “Frost/Nixon” (Universal), Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
How do you take a film about the filming of an interview—basically two talking heads—and make it not only interesting but edge-of-your-seat compelling? I have no idea, but apparently Mike Hill and Dan Hanley do.

Original Screenplay
Best screenplay not based on some other written material.

  • “Frozen River” (Sony Pictures Classics), Written by Courtney Hunt
  • “Happy-Go-Lucky” (Miramax), Written by Mike Leigh
  • “In Bruges” (Focus Features), Written by Martin McDonagh
  • “Milk” (Focus Features), Written by Dustin Lance Black
  • “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter
Predicted Winner: “In Bruges” (Focus Features), Written by Martin McDonagh
I haven't seen the first two nominees (though Frozen River is on its way to my house via Netflix), but In Bruges is so different from any sort of movie I've seen in recent memory that I have to throw my support behind it. Thematically, tonally, verbally... It's just a really interesting piece of work.

Adapted Screenplay
Best screenplay based on other material.

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Screenplay by Eric Roth, Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
  • “Doubt” (Miramax), Written by John Patrick Shanley
  • “Frost/Nixon” (Universal), Screenplay by Peter Morgan
  • “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company), Screenplay by David Hare
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy
Predicted Winner: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy
The amount of research that went into the writing of the screenplay alone makes it worthy, let alone the sheer talent that goes into weaving a series of short stories into something that hangs together so well. There's really no contest here in my opinion. Beaufoy's got to win it, hands down.

I'd love to hear what you all are thinking, too! Coming soon: Predictions in Acting!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Recap: 15 February 2009

Missed my recap last week due to the lack of a weekend thanks to work. But it definitely made me appreciate finally getting a break this weekend!

What I Watched
  • He's Just Not That Into You (3½ stars): A cut above your typical romantic comedy, but it doesn't hit the bar set by Love, Actually. Still, I really enjoyed this one, and it strikes me as pretty guy-friendly. This one's taken a lot of critical flack because it plays up stereotypes while proclaiming to knock them down, but, frankly, I just didn't care. I had fun, the crowd had fun, and that's really all I was looking for.
  • A Life Less Ordinary (3 stars): This is exactly the sort of romantic comedy I would expect from Danny Boyle. Funny, sweet and weird.
  • Confessions of a Shopaholic (2 stars): I didn't go into this movie wishing for me than a mildly fun time, but I didn't even get that. It's really too bad because the cast was excellent, but they just couldn't do anything with the story they were provided. I still have no idea why I was supposed to root for the main character, let alone root against the debt collector who was just trying to do his job.
  • Scoop (3 stars): My third venture into Woody Allen territory. I was mildly amused but not blown away. Better than Manhattan but not as good as Vicky Cristina Barcelona.
  • Oliver Twist (3 stars): This is the 1997 TV version that ran on ABC. I had semi-fond memories of it, mostly due to the fact that it aired during the height of my crush on Elijah Wood. It didn't quite live up to my memories of it, but it was still fun and a fairly solid depiction of the classic Dickens story.
  • Neverwhere (2½ stars): I read Neil Gaiman's novel several months prior to taking in the 1996 BBC miniseries, and I'm glad I did it in the order I did (despite the series coming to life before the book). There are some stories that need a big budget, and this is one of them. I'd still love to see Neverwhere on the big screen some day because I think it's a really cinematic story, but it just didn't work on the small screen with the tools they had to make it.
  • Coraline (3½ stars): This was one creepy movie. Seriously. Don't let the cute trailers fool you. That being said, the first half was a little slow, but once things got rolling in the second half I was pretty entranced. The third act felt a little too easy, but this is certainly one of the better films out right now. As for 3D vs. 2D, I would have preferred to have seen it in 2D, but Neil Gaiman himself says see it in 3D since it'll be available forever in 2D and not in 3D. So there you have it. FYI, it won't be in theatres in 3D much longer thanks to the ubiquitous Jonas Brothers.
I should also mention I saw Lee's Summit West High School's production of Footloose on Saturday. Despite some issues with the sound system (something you get accustomed to seeing in high school productions), the kids put on a great show. The choreography was impressive, and the two leads especially did a stellar job. If you've got high school or even college productions happening in your area, make sure you go out and support them when you can. It's amazing how much work goes into a production like that, and the arts programs deserve the support of the community they're trying to entertain.

What I Read

I finally finished Breaking Dawn this past week, meaning I'm through with the Twilight series. I think I've already made it clear that I was unimpressed. Now, I'm not going to go as far as Stephen King did because it's obvious by the astounding success of the novels that Stephenie Meyer is doing something right. I'll simply say that I wish her editor had pushed her harder. While I didn't enjoy the novels (as evidenced by the several times I was sitting on my bed literally yelling in frustration at them), I'm glad that I read them so that I can have an informed opinion at the very least.

I also read through JK Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard, which I found to be quite charming. They stand fairly well on their own even without the foundation of the Harry Potter series, and I'm very much looking forward to seeing what Ms. Rowling has up her sleeve for future works (whether they're set in magical worlds or not).

What I'm Writing

EARNEST is doing better this week. I'd been feeling really frustrated by it and by the writing process in general. And then three things happened.
  1. Screenwriter Kevin Lehane (along with several others, but I saw his first) posted a link on twitter to this wonderful TED talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love). It really struck a chord, and I've felt much less pressure ever since.
  2. I listened to a Creative Screenwriting podcast with Robin Swicord, screenwriter of The Jane Austen Book Club, among other adapatations (including screen story for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). She shared some practical tips for adapting novels into screenplays, and I feel much more comfortable attempting the feat now.
  3. I listened to another Creative Screenwriting podcast with Luc Besson, who gave the simple advice of listening to the same music for the entirety of a project. I've heard and employed this before, but I'd sort of forgotten it for whatever reason. I'd been listening to Sondre Lerche on and off throughout my struggle with EARNEST, and it occurred to me that my less hair-pulling nights have been whilst listening. So now, the earbuds go in as the fingers hit the keyboard.
That's it for now. Look for the rest of my Oscar predictions this week as we gear up for the big show on Sunday. Have a lovely week, all!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Oscars 2009: Predictions in Visuals tells me there are just nine days left 'til the big show, so I'd better get moving on this whole prediction thing. On to the visual categories.

Costume Design
Pretty self-explanatory, this one.

  • “Australia” (20th Century Fox), Catherine Martin
  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Jacqueline West
  • “The Duchess” (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films), Michael O’Connor
  • “Milk” (Focus Features), Danny Glicker
  • “Revolutionary Road” (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage), Albert Wolsky
Predicted Winner: “The Duchess” (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films), Michael O’Connor
One of the things the title character was known for was her trend-setting ways. Unsurprisingly, the costumes were intricate and gorgeous. The other nominees all did a nice job as well, but the designers for The Duchess had the most work cut out for them, and they succeeded beautifully.

Art Direction

Again, from my limited research, Art Direction appears to encompass the overall look of the physical aspects of the movie (most notably, the sets).

  • “Changeling” (Universal), Art Direction: James J. Murakami, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt, Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo
  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Art Direction: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Peter Lando
  • “The Duchess” (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films), Art Direction: Michael Carlin, Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway
  • “Revolutionary Road” (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage), Art Direction: Kristi Zea, Set Decoration: Debra Schutt
Predicted Winner: “The Duchess” (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films), Art Direction: Michael Carlin, Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway
I haven't seen Changeling quite yet, so it's possible (though doubtful) that it will yet blow my mind and I'll have to come back and change this. But, for now, I'm giving this one to The Duchess as well. All other nominees were entirely adequate, but the sets and overall look of The Duchess was, again, gorgeous.


Another self-explanatory category.

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Greg Cannom
  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O’Sullivan
  • “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (Universal), Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz
Predicted Winner: “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (Universal), Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz
I know the Academy doesn't like to give awards to comic book movies, but I think this really has to be the fair winner. It appeared to me that a grand portion of Benjamin Button's aging effects were done with CGI (and a lot of the time, you could tell). Hellboy II was a true spectacle for the art of make-up.

Visual Effects
And here we have the special effects category.

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron
  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin
  • “Iron Man” (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment), John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan
Predicted Winner: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron
This was a tough one. Part of me thinks that Iron Man deserves it, but, despite the fact that I knew I was watching CGI effects, I really was rather impressed by what they managed to do with Benjamin Button. I think this one could really go either way and still be fair, but I think Oscar will lean toward the bait, and that's Benjamin Button.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The Oscars 2009: Predictions in Sound & Music

Leading up the Oscars on Feb. 22, I'll be making my predictions for each of the categories. I've seen most of the nominated films, so I feel like I can actually offer informed opinions this year. Tonight, I'll tackle the sound and music categories.

Sound Editing
From my quick research (in lieu of easily-found descriptions on the Oscar Web sites), I've come to believe that Sound Editing more or less encompasses the selection of sound effects.

  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Richard King
  • “Iron Man” (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment), Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Tom Sayers
  • “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
  • “Wanted” (Universal),Wylie Stateman
Predicted Winner: "Wall-E" (Walt Disney), Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
Out of the nominees, I think Wall-E required the most creativity as far as choosing sound effects that were both whimsical and realistic.

Sound Mixing
Again, from limited research, it appears Sound Mixing is the art of compiling dialog, sound effects and music together to create the soundtrack for the film.

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Mark Weingarten (HORRIBLE)
  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
  • “WALL-E” (Walt Disney),Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt
  • “Wanted” (Universal), Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt
Predicted Winner: “WALL-E” (Walt Disney),Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt
I'm going to go with WALL-E here again. When I try to recall anything about the other nominees, I can't think of anything truly remarkable (except for how remarkably bad I found the sound mixing to be for BENJAMIN BUTTON; it's possible the theatre I was in was having issues, I guess, but I had a lot of trouble hearing and understanding dialog in certain places). WALL-E, however, had the dust storms, the spaceship landing, the "Put on Your Sunday Clothes" montage... lots of good sound stuff.

Original Score

Hopefully this award is pretty self-explanatory. But, for those not in the know, the score of a film is the music that runs throughout it. The easily recognizable themes from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, and the Harry Potter films all come from the scores.

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.),Alexandre Desplat
  • “Defiance” (Paramount Vantage), James Newton Howard
  • “Milk” (Focus Features), Danny Elfman
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), A.R. Rahman
  • “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Thomas Newman
Predicted Winner: “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), A.R. Rahman
I don't remember much from BUTTON, MILK or WALL-E. I haven't seen DEFIANCE, but I caught an excerpt on youtube. It's beautiful but traditional, and it has no buzz.
I think SLUMDOG will take this, since the soundtrack is also beautiful, catchy, and something not usually seen in Oscar-nominated films. WALL-E might put up a good fight, but I think SLUMDOG will come out victorious.

Best Original Song

Again, pretty self-explanatory. I still shudder when I think of poor Amy Adams being sent out on stage last year to perform "Happy Working Song" all by her lonesome with only invisible animals to accompany her. Too bad, because that could have been a very cool bit. Oh well. Onto this year.

  • “Down to Earth” from “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel
  • “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
  • “O Saya” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman andMaya Arulpragasam
Predicted Winner: “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
This is a tough one. All three songs are great. But it seems like SLUMDOG's going to be the Oscar darling this year. Of the two, I like "Jai Ho" just a little bit better than "O Saya," though they're both great. So that's my pick.

Any thoughts from you all out there? If anyone can offer any better explanations of sound editing vs. sound mixing, feel free to chime in. Next week: The Visual Categories!

Monday, February 02, 2009

Recap: 2 February 2009

The dearth of quality films opening in January allowed me to round out my Oscar-nominee viewing this weekend. Next weekend that all changes, though, with Coraline and He's Just Not That Into You (which may or may not be a "quality" movie, but it will be fun, and I'm OK with that). By the way, if you haven't seen this video about the clichés you will not find in HJNTIY, it's worth checking out.

What I Watched
  • Milk (4 stars): Stellar performances here, as expected. The framing was interesting, but sometimes confusing. The only thing that kept it from earning 5 stars was that I would have liked a more even-handed take on the "villains" of the story. As it is, they're set up as sort of one-dimensional versions of evil; an exploration into the development of their motives would have been more effective. It would be interesting to see an alternate version of history if this had been released prior to California's Prop 8 vote; methinks it might have made a difference.
  • The Wrestler (4 stars): Despite the bloated first act, the film was able to deliver a fairly powerful, albeit disappointing story. When I say "disappointing," I mean my own disappointment in the characters as human beings. They were well-written, but I hate seeing journeys that begin and end in the same place, even if the arc is true to character. That's just a personal preference with no bearing on the quality of the movie, mind you. The movie was solid, and Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei earned their respective nominations.
  • If a Man Answers (4 stars): This is a sort-of screwball Sandra Dee-Bobby Darin movie about the trials and errors of marriage. I wasn't expecting much, but I ended up adoring it. Dee is adorable as usual, and Darin reminds me of Ben Savage here, which makes for a good combination.
  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona (3½ stars): This one has grown on me in the past 18 hours. I nearly turned it off because the dialog was driving me up a wall in the first 15-20 minutes, but it improved once the story got moving. This is only my second time exploring the Woody Allen canon, so I don't really have a huge frame of reference for comparison, but I did enjoy it more than Manhattan, as it seemed to be less about nothing than Manhattan was. Also, I think the Best Supporting Actress nomination should have gone to Rebecca Hall instead of Penelope Cruz. Cruz was great, but Hall had to give a more layered performance.

On Writing

I got my BlueCat analysis back last night, and my fear that MUTE sucks (and by association, that I suck) is starting to lessen just the smallest, tiniest bit. Don't get me wrong; I love MUTE, and I worked very hard to make it the best I thought it could be, but there's always that little voice of doubt in the back of my mind.

The feedback from BlueCat made me incredibly grateful I read and applied this post from The Rouge Wave blog, run by The Script Department head Julie Gray. By the way, I purchased script notes from The Script Department back in October before submitting MUTE to the BFSC, and they really helped me punch up my script a bit. They're not cheap, but they're definitely worth it.

I keep getting bombarded by all these what-if scenarios, usually when I'm trying to go to sleep, of course. What if I win? What if I place? What if I don't advance at all? And then I try to imagine what I would do and how I would react in all those situations. I usually let my mind play around for a minute in each of those scenarios before reality checks in and gives me the real answer. And you know, the answer that always comes back is pretty simple: Keep writing. And so that's what I do. Keep writing, keep studying, keep learning.

This Week's Goals
  1. Seriously, I need to get through my Netflix rentals. It's not even funny anymore.
  2. Finish reading Breaking Dawn so I can finally be done with the Twilight series.
  3. Hit 65 pages in EARNEST.
Oh, and Happy Groundhog Day, everyone! Only six more weeks of winter!*

*Please excuse the forced optimism. I'm trying to convince myself that I'm actually OK with six more weeks of bitter cold. Fake it 'til you make it, right?