Thursday, February 22, 2007

The Oscars According To Solon, 2006 Edition

My good friend Solon is a big time film aficionado, so much so that I always tease him by saying that he refuses to watch any movie that does not end with "fin" across the screen. I actually learned of his movie snobbitude shortly after we met in college when somehow the movie "Big" came up and I commented that I like the movie or thought it was good or something. To call this a big mistake would be a massive understatement. To this day he still snarks about that as in "yeah dude Y Tu Mama Tambien was a really good film. But come on, it's no Big".

Anyhow, every year he sends out an email to all his so called mates where he breaks down the "Big 5" Oscar categories, and this year, with his permission I am sharing it with you. Enjoy.

Greetings all.
Once again, I'm fusing my love of movies with my ability to babble (Babel?), and bringing you my thoughts on the 2006-2007 crop. I'm just glad I am living in Marin County--the only movies I really wanted to see, but didn't, were "Days of Glory," which opens here March 2nd, and "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu," which I probably missed earlier this summer. Not too much missed then.
Anyway, I think everyone knows what this is all about; let's hope it's all coherent and credible. Getting right to it then...

BEST PICTURE
(1) PAN'S LABYRINTH
(2) THE DEPARTED
(3) THE DEAD GIRL
(4) LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
(5) VOLVER
(6) CHILDREN OF MEN
(7) BLOOD DIAMOND
(8) BORAT
(9) THE LIVES OF OTHERS
(10) THE QUEEN
(11) SORRY, HATERS
(12) LITTLE CHILDREN
(13) UNITED 93
(14) HALF NELSON
(15) THANK YOU FOR SMOKING

2006 wasn't the best year for movies, but it wasn't the worst, either. None of this year's offerings would be would be in my Top 50, but the top three would be ranked somewhere between #51 and #100 all-time, and the next two would be between #101 and #150, and I could probably go 15-deep with legitimate movies this year. Please note that all of the movies listed below are well worth seeing--any criticisms listed below are only included to draw distinctions between the movies being criticized, and the movies rated above it.

PAN'S LABYRINTH The Spanish Civil War was, by most accounts, very different than any war in Western history up to that time; while it didn't have the carnage of World War One, the ruthlessness and brutality of the warring sides make it, as much as anything else, just an incredibly sad episode in human history. Attempting to make sense of this situation for an adult must have been damn near impossible; I can only imagine what it must have been like for children. Attempting to make a movie that sees the war from the perspective of a 12-year-old girl--one on the verge of becoming an adolescent but still very much a little girl, trying to establish some personal control over the circumstances in which she finds herself--is an audacious move, and Del Toro does it wonderfully. There's nothing wrong with the movie from a straight narrative standpoint, but seen as a psychological study it becomes absolutely brilliant. Unfortunately, the producers will have to make do with the best Foreign-Language film Oscar.

THE DEPARTED At over 2 1/2 hours, this is quite a commitment, but the direction of Scorsese and the editing of Schoonmaker--along with a killer cast--make it all go by quickly. Given the basic framing--mob boss has his gang infiltrated by a cop, while at the same time a cop inside the department is tipping off the mob boss--it would have been very easy for this movie to unravel. But, much like it's inspiration, INFERNAL AFFAIRS, it keeps it all together and delivers big-time (please note that THE DEPARTED is different enough from INFERNAL AFFAIRS that it deserves credit in its own right). There's not a single actor in it that does a bad job, and considering the strong ensemble of players (DiCaprio, Nicholson, Baldwin, Damon, Sheen, Wahlberg, Winstone, et al.), it really is an all-star sort of movie, not unlike an Altman film. While it's not Scorsese's best directing job--really, not even close to his best directing job--it's a worthy addition to his catalogue and an Academy Award for this would certainly not be considered an attempt to right past wrongs.

THE DEAD GIRL Director Karen Moncrieff showed some promise with BLUE CAR, but she has stepped it up with her second film. This film--consisting of five distinct stories about women who are all peripherally connected to a murdered girl found on a hillside--doesn't have a section that lasts longer than 20 minutes, but each of the sections carries enough emotional weight that the collective impact is even more than the sum of its considerably strong parts. It's impossible to say enough about the cast here. Certainly, economy has something to do with it--with one minor exception, no actor is in more than one of the vignettes, so no one's in the movie for more than 20 minutes--but, much like THE DEPARTED, every single person in the movie does a great job. As far as independent films go--and everything about this movie screams "Independent Film"--it's tough to imagine one that is more perfect than this.

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA I wouldn't have guessed it 15 years ago, but Eastwood can make movies. While this movie is getting way too many points for creativity--if I'm not mistaken, DAS BOOT did the same thing just as well (while it was made by Germans, they were West Germans making the movie 40 years after WWII, whose primary purpose was to humanize the soldiers, much like Eastwood set out to do here)--it's still a pretty impressive piece of work. The internal struggle between cultural notions of honor, juxtaposed against the natural human instinct to survive, makes for a compelling narrative. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much of point to the movie, other than to make the movie from the perspective of the "other side"--and even though it's really good, it's a little empty and doesn't measure up to the top 3. That said, if you haven't seen DAS BOOT, you might think it was groundbreaking (no doubt there are other movies of this type, I just can't think of any I've seen at the moment).

VOLVER At some point in the past year, Kanu was over at my house while TODO SOBRE MI MADRE was on IFC, and, at one point, he happened to notice the subtitles and said, "Whoa--that chick just said she had a dick!" My response? "It's Almodovar, dude." Some might disagree, but I believe Almodovar has gotten better as time has gone on, and he doesn't feel the need to shock his audience. Arguably, VOLVER is his straightest story yet; there are supernatural elements, but the intention behind them is sweetness, not shock, and, more than any of his movies, this one has tenderness. While it's probably not as good as HABLE CON ELLA or LA MALA EDUCACION, it's a lot funnier than either. And I can't believe that I hadn't realized before now that Penelope Cruz was put together so well.

THE NOMINEES:
BABEL
THE DEPARTED
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
THE QUEEN

Piss-poor, as always.

First things first--at the risk of sounding elitist, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE is an overrated piece of rubbish whose nomination is an absolute joke and whose win would be nearly as great a travesty as that of CRASH last year. It's predictable and cliched (the van they were in had mechanical problems, that was such a novel idea), and the ending is, to put it simply, both a bit stupid and a bit ridiculous. I really have no problem with comedies being nominated, as long as they are legitimately worthy of Best-Picture nominations--a few that come to mind off the top of my head are GHOST WORLD and ELECTION--but this movie is not anywhere near their class. I don't even think it's anywhere near the best comedy this year--even if BORAT isn't your cup of tea, THANK YOU FOR SMOKING is markedly more clever, and has considerably more depth and profundity than LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE.

The rest of the lot are fine. BABEL is more a curiosity than anything else; I'm confused as to why the far superior AMORES PERROS and 21 GRAMS weren't nominated for Best Picture, and now BABEL--which is considerably more tangential and strained, and much less interesting than either of those--is. THE QUEEN is a good movie, although the hype it is receiving seems disproportionate to what it actually deserves. As such--no disrespect intended--I suppose it is a lot like the death of Princess Diana herself.

Only THE DEPARTED and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA would truly be deserving winners.

THE WINNER:
THE DEPARTED stands to win, but just watch those fuckers give it to LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. None of the others have any shot at all. Well, maybe BABEL does, but I doubt it.

BEST DIRECTOR
(1) Alfonso Cuaron, CHILDREN OF MEN
(2) Paul Greengrass, UNITED 93
(3) Guillermo del Toro, PAN'S LABYRINTH
(4) Martin Scorsese, THE DEPARTED
(5) Clint Eastwood, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA

Although any of the five listed here would have been (or are) worthy nominees, only the top two warrant a win.

Often times, the best directing jobs are not the best movies, and this year is a prime example. Really, without Cuaron's vision, there's not a whole lot to CHILDREN OF MEN, but his direction makes it one of the year's best films. If you had asked me prior to seeing the film to predict what the world would be like in 20 years' time, I'd never have come up with what he has; post-viewing it seems an entirely plausible scenario. While this macro-vision is the movie's strength, there are individual scenes that are brilliant as well; in particular, the one that starts with the flaming car--shot entirely from within the vehicle in which the protagonists are travelling, shot with a 360-degree camera angle--is absolutely remarkable, one of the better movie scenes shot in recent years (to be fair, the final scene of SORRY, HATERS is comparably great, although it was almost certainly not as difficult to make--but it's sure as hell audacious and looks pretty damn cool). This isn't the only great scene in the movie--the opening scene, the battle scene, the scene with Kee and Theo at Bexhill--these are all great scenes as well. In total, it's just incredibly impressive.

Paul Greengrass is one of the more underrated directors today, and I am pleased to see him getting hype for UNITED 93 (which, while a good movie, is not nearly as good as his BLOODY SUNDAY, the best movie of this type and one of the better movies of the last decade). His direction here also is a noteworthy achievement; almost every scene either takes place inside a plane, or in a room with multiple characters--very few of whom are professional actors--having multiple conversations trying to replicate the most chaotic situation in which any of them had ever found themselves. While he takes some feel-good liberties ( e.g., it's highly unlikely that the passengers on the flight ever got inside the cockpit), the fact that it doesn't come off as some B-movie feel-good amateurish rah-rah movie is, in and of itself, pretty remarkable.

While the others all do good jobs, they are helped by external (or internal) factors; del Toro's direction is helped by the incorporation of fantasy elements, Scorsese's is helped by the editing of Schoonmaker (a lock for the editing Oscar, of course--although Cuaron and Rodriguez are nearly as good in CHILDREN OF MEN), and Eastwood is helped by the fact that he is directing a war movie--not easy, but by virtue of their scope they tend to look more impressive than they actually are. This isn't a knock on any of these directors, all of whom had admirable accomplishments--just an explanation for their being rated after Cuaron and Greengrass.

THE NOMINEES:

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, BABEL
Martin Scorcese, THE DEPARTED
Clint Eastwood, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
Stephen Frears, THE QUEEN
Paul Greengrass, UNITED 93

I don't understand how Cuaron was left out and Frears was nominated (and I actually like Frears--but, bloody hell, he's done a lot better job for some of his other movies than he did in THE QUEEN). And, while BABEL's certainly more impressive from a directing standpoint than it is as a movie, but I don't think there's much doubt that they nominated the wrong Mexican director. Other than these, I suppose I can't complain too much.

THE WINNER:
I've given up on predicting Oscars for Scorsese. But hey, Hitchcock never won, and Kubrick never won, so he's in good company. Inarritu wins for his worst movie yet.

BEST ACTOR
(1) Leonardo DiCaprio, THE DEPARTED
(2) Forest Whitaker, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND
(3) Ryan Gosling, HALF NELSON
(4) Leonardo DiCaprio, BLOOD DIAMOND
(5) Sacha Baron Cohen, BORAT

There isn't a whole lot to split the top four performances, any of which would be a deserving winner.

Leonardo DiCaprio is unfairly maligned--probably a product of being in TITANIC--he showed a lot of promise with THIS BOY'S LIFE, and if you follow his career arc since the turn of the century--THE BEACH, GANGS OF NEW YORK, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, and THE AVIATOR--it's clear that he's progressing at a great rate and there's little doubt he's one of the better young actors today. I preferred his performance in THE DEPARTED to his performance in BLOOD DIAMOND--it helps that the former was a superior movie, and it also helps that his character in THE DEPARTED is considerably less cliched (the amoral money-hungry mercenary who eventually comes good isn't overly original--although this isn't to say he isn't good playing the role). In THE DEPARTED, I thought he did a good job keeping it together as his situation becomes more and more chaotic--and while it's always tough to play a character who is, in essence, playing a role within a role, he pulls it off with aplomb. Forest Whitaker is also strong in THE LAST KING IN SCOTLAND. While it'd be easy to overact when playing such a role, Whitaker is completely plausible, always within himself, and never descends into theatrics--unless by design. It helps that he's shot in a really cool style, too (I can't explain it well, having only seen it once, but he's shot in an interesting fashion, with a bunch of quick cuts to close-ups and shifts in focus). And, while I think playing a drug addict is a bit of an assist to having a role considered overrated, Ryan Gosling does enough in his other scenes--where he's teaching, where he's coaching, or where he's talking one-on-one to Drey--that the drug scenes simply enhance his performance instead of defining it. He has no chance of winning, but his nomination is well-deserved.

And, while I've been onto "Da Ali G Show" from the start, I'm amazed that Cohen is able to do what he does at all, let alone do it so well. Obviously, BORAT's not for everyone, but if there's ever any sort of comedic performance that should be rewarded with an Academy Award in one of the lead acting categories, it's one like this.

THE NOMINEES:

Leonardo DiCaprio, BLOOD DIAMOND
Ryan Gosling, HALF NELSON
Peter O'Toole, VENUS
Will Smith, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
Forest Whitaker, THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND

All things considered, these aren't too bad, although most of the standout performances of the year were pretty obvious. Peter O'Toole is fine in VENUS, but if it wasn't Peter O'Toole no one would have noticed the performance (not that he isn't good, but he isn't that good). Will Smith? Very weak. Full credit to them for nominating Gosling, that wasn't expected. Leonardo DiCaprio, while great in BLOOD DIAMOND, was better in THE DEPARTED--and given that film's high profile, you can't argue the performance slipped through the cracks.

THE WINNER:
The smart money is on Whitaker, but I think he has a few things working against him. First off, he is 45, while Peter O'Toole is 72. Second, he's not really the lead character in THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND--James McAvoy is. Third, Peter O'Toole has had 7 nominations for Best Actor without a win--unfortunately for him, when he was nominated for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA he had the misfortune of going head-to-head with Gregory Peck in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD--and the Academy is always rewarding actors a little too late, and for lesser performances (John Wayne for TRUE GRIT? Denzel Washington for TRAINING DAY? Nicole Kidman for THE HOURS?). O'Toole wins in a big upset, and then Whitaker wins for his next credible role.

BEST ACTRESS
(1) Laura Dern, INLAND EMPIRE
(2) Penelope Cruz, VOLVER
(3) Helen Mirren, THE QUEEN
(4) Maggie Gyllenhaal, SHERRYBABY
(5) Kate Winslet, LITTLE CHILDREN

This is, by far, the deepest of the acting categories this year, as the legitimate nomination-worthy performances go 9-deep (along with those listed above, Maggie Cheung, Naomi Watts, Robin Wright Penn, and Jodie Whittaker all put forth legitimate performances). Any of the top four would be deserving of a win.

Laura Dern's performance in the largely puzzling INLAND EMPIRE stands out as arguably the best female performance since Naomi Watts' performance in Lynch's MULHOLLAND DRIVE. Much like Watts' Betty Elms/Diane Selwin, Dern's listed as playing two roles--in truth, her character has four distinct and separate performances over the course of the movie--and she is thoroughly convincing and authentic in all of them. Obviously, INLAND EMPIRE is no MULHOLLAND DRIVE--given that I rate the latter as the best movie of the last 10 years, and I don't rate the former among this year's best--but insofar as the performance of the leads go, they are to a large extent comparable.

As for the others, much like DiCaprio, I think Penelope Cruz is not as well-regarded as she deserves to be, largely because it's difficult for her to get a legitimate role in this country--WOMAN ON TOP, BLOW, and VANILLA SKY did not really make the most of her considerable talents. In VOLVER, she plays multiple roles within her role--mother, daughter, sister--and she carries the movie from start to finish, developing considerable depth over the course of the movie. Quite honestly, I'm just glad she got nominated, given that it's a foreign-language role. And, while I think Helen Mirren is great in THE QUEEN, I think her performance is vastly overrated. For the most part, she's just acting like she's got a stick in her ass, just like the real Queen Elizabeth. Of course, the supposedly impressive thing about her performance is the humanizing she does--but, for my money, these scenes are too few and far between to rate her ahead of Dern's dominating performance--or Cruz's, for that matter.

How good was Gyllenhaal? Everyone knows what she looks like--rail-thin, doll-face--and in the two scenes in SHERRYBABY where she threatens to kick someone's ass, she's totally plausible and you're convinced that if it comes down to it, she'll win. That's great acting.

THE NOMINEES:

Penelope Cruz, VOLVER
Judi Dench, NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Helen Mirren, THE QUEEN
Meryl Streep, THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
Kate Winslet, LITTLE CHILDREN

Wow, look at that, Judi Dench and Maryl Streep got nominated--what a surprise. Other than those two, the nominations were good, of course. I can't believe that Gyllenhaal didn't get nominated, but apparently Gosling fulfilled the junkie quota as far as the nominations went.

THE WINNER:
Mirren. I feel bad for Winslet--probably my favorite actress, who is about to go 0 for 5--but no one is stopping Mirren this year.

BEST ACTOR, SUPPORTING
(1) Mark Wahlberg, THE DEPARTED
(2) Kazunari Ninomiya, LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
(3) Michael Sheen, THE QUEEN
(4) Steve Carell, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
(5) Jack Nicholson, THE DEPARTED

In the supporting categories, while it's easy to find nomination-worthy performances, you have to set the bar a little higher for a win--and this year, only the top two are deserving.

The truth is that the supporting cast for THE DEPARTED is so deep, I could have filled all five spots here with actors from that movie and made a credible case for each of them. Wahlberg is the best of the lot; when playing a hard-ass--especially a hard-ass cop--it's easy to go too far with it, but he doesn't, which is pretty amazing when you consider that his character really is largely one-dimensional. Ninomiya is also very strong--he's also arguably a main character, not a supporting one--and from someone who is a singer-turned-actor, it's an impressive performance. I thought Sheen was pretty good in THE QUEEN--nearly the equal of Mirren--although the scene where he chews out his assistant seems a little contrived and is pretty weak, even though it's supposed to be a dramatic moment in the movie. The truth is, I thought his was a lead performance, but since the BAFTA's listed it as supporting, I will as well.

THE NOMINEES:

Alan Arkin, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Jackie Earle Haley, LITTLE CHILDREN
Djimon Hounsou, BLOOD DIAMOND
Eddie Murphy, DREAMGIRLS
Mark Wahlberg, THE DEPARTED

A poor job, once again. There is no way in the world that Arkin should have been nominated over Carell--not only does Arkin do half of the acting that Carrell does, all he does is overact, except for that one scene in the hotel room with Olive. And, while I thought Haley was good, his acting is shit--no doubt, he's really damn creepy, and until he talks he's really good--but as soon as he's in scenes with dialogue--except for the few lines when he's on his date with Jane Adams (at the restaurant, not in the car)--he's not very convincing. Hounsou and Murphy are fine, I suppose.

THE WINNER:
I initially thought Murphy had this wrapped up, but I really think there might be something to this whole NORBIT controversy (i.e., Eddie Murphy's new movie NORBIT--not exactly an "Oscar-worthy" film--has just come out with some heavy promotion, and it could be a bit of an embarrassment to the Academy if Murphy wins). At this point, I think Arkin is probably a more likely winner.

BEST ACTRESS, SUPPORTING
(1) Maribel Verdu, PAN'S LABYRINTH
(2) Rose Byrne, THE DEAD GIRL
(3) Marcia Gay Harden, THE DEAD GIRL
(4) Lola Duenas, VOLVER
(5) Carmen Maura, VOLVER

Just like the supporting actor category, I could have filled this with actresses from one movie (in this case, it would be THE DEAD GIRL; in addition to those listed above, Kerry Washington, Mary Beth Hurt, Toni Collette, Brittany Murphy and Piper Laurie all give strong performances). All of the performances listed above are strong ones, and in my estimation any of the top 3 would warrant a best supporting actress win.

Even so, Maribel Verdu is so strong in PAN'S LABYRINTH that she stands above everyone this year. It's a large role, and in many ways she's the most important character, filling the role of surrogate mother and being the one who allows Ofelia to participate in her fantasies. She's brilliantly cast against type here--while she's usually cast as a sexpot, her character in this movie couldn't be more asexual--and she pulls it off without a hitch. Oddly enough, Rose Byrne is in the worst of the vignettes in THE DEAD GIRL ("The Sister"), but her performance is such that it stands out even the story she was given is lacking. The scene where she is talking about her sister to her parents at the restaurant is probably the best acting anyone did all year. Byrne just shades Marcia Gay Harden, who is (along with Kerry Washington) in the best of the vignettes ("The Mother"). Between the two of them, a story that could easily fall into melodrama instead has a very strong emotional impact, and that's entirely down to the two performances.

THE NOMINEES:

Adriana Barraza, BABEL
Cate Blanchett, NOTES ON A SCANDAL
Abigail Breslin, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
Jennifer Hudson, DREAMGIRLS
Rinko Kikuchi, BABEL

By far the worst of all the major categories this year, I don't think there's any doubt they missed the best of the bunch. Blanchett was pretty average with a role that had a lot of potential, in my estimation. I thought Barraza was good in BABEL, but Kikuchi is getting way too much hype for not really doing too much other than acting like she's deaf. I mean, she flashes those guys, and gets naked, but that's about it; I just didn't see too much there that impressed me. Jennifer Hudson is good (I'd have had her 7th here, with Kerry Washington being 6th), but I wasn't as impressed with her as everyone else seemed to be. I mean, she sings, that's cool, but her acting isn't nearly as good as the six I have listed above her.

And Abigail Breslin? Please. It's so comical it's not even worth addressing.

THE WINNER:
Hudson. "Fat" girl + sympathetic + singing = Oscar statuette.

Please note that all predictions are listed for entertainment purposes only.

The Academy Awards are Sunday, February 25th, 2007. Enjoy.

14 comments:

Colin said...

I have some friends who are film freaks - not necessarily discriminating, but still. They can't believe I don't watch films (I haven't seen any of the films listed here; I'm not sure if I've watched any film at all except maybe "Guns of Navarone" in the last 6 months) and keep asking about my opinion of whatever's nominated. So I think that this year, I'll just borrow Solon's. Thanks for that.

ATL_eagle said...

Nice write up. Does Solon bet on these?

BTW, Big is a very good movie. Making a smart, well acted mainstream kids movie that also can entertain adults is harder than following around some dippy love triangle like Y Tu Mama Tambien.

Solon said...

No, I wouldn't bet on these--I'd never trust these jokers to come through on anything.

The only possible wager I could see making this year is Alan Arkin for Best Supporting Actor--I really think that Murphy might have bottled it--I mean, Norbit is an absolute joke of a movie, and it's not like he just up and dominates in Dreamgirls--and Arkin has paid his dues.

I think he's available at something like 3/1, so it's pretty good value for your money. Most of the favorites are pretty fat favorites, and there's little value with them (FYI, even though I'm not going with Scorsese for largely superstitious reasons, he's probably going to win). And O'Toole's a pretty big longshot that hasn't beaten Whitaker in any of the precursors so far.

I still have not seen Big, but I have grudgingly accepted that it probably is a halfway legitimate film. In any event, even unseen I would bet my life that it is better than Crash, or Little Miss Sunshine.

Of course, I'd also bet my life that it's nowhere near as good as Y Tu Mama Tambien, probably one of the two best films ever to come out of Mexico (along with Amores Perros). Hell, I'm not even sure Kanu would make that claim.

moin said...

That's 5 for 5 (I'm reading between the lines and saying that predicted an Oscar for Marty). Impressive.

I still think Letters is better than Departed.

Solon said...

By the letter of the law, I hit 4 of 6. To be honest, I wasn't surprised by Scorsese's win (as implied above, and, as you inferred, I've just always picked him and he's never won, so I just figured I'd better go with someone else), and after O'Toole didn't win the BAFTAs I figured he'd lose here, but I'd just go with the longshot for the hell of it.

I was most excited that the one suggested wager (Arkin) came through, at a decent price. Nice.

I can't believe that "Pan's Labyrinth" didn't win the Best Foreign-Language Oscar. "The Lives of Others" is plenty good, but it seemed like "Pan's Labyrinth" was winning everything technical early on, so it would have won this as well. Hell, the presenter (Cate Blanchett?) was pretty amazed at the winner. As it is, I still think it won the second most Oscars (3, to 4 for "The Departed").

As I said, I'd have been comfortable with "Letters" or "The Departed" winning Best Picture, although when they played the clip from "The Departed" tonight along with "Gimme Shelter," it really fired me up, because I dig that song. Scorsese must have some sort of deal with the Stones--I think this is the third time he's used the song, always to great effect.

That said, though, the big question isn't which was better between "Letters" and "Departed," but which was better between "Big" and "Y Tu Mama Tambien." So where do you stand?

Moin said...

Well, apparently I can't count.

To be honest, I haven't seen Y Tu Mama Tambien, but... a few google searches have that coming out on top for me. For non-cinematic reasons though, I admit. Forgive me, I'll atone for it somehow.

I think one of the reasons that Pan didn't win was alot of people might have voted for it for Best Picture, assuming it wouldn't end up in Best Foreign Language. It's quite plausible I suppose. But then again you know how much Hollywood loves them Germans.

Lastly, did you guys catch how, when William Monahan won the Best Adapted Screenplay, while he was busy hugging Scorsese and company, the voice-over announcer said that the Departed was based on the "Japanese" film Infernal Affairs? That was about the funniest thing I've ever ran across. Though it seems that most of my fellow Chinese doesn't share my sense of humour.

Aureliano said...

Good writeup there. I think most of the night went as expected with a few exceptions: 1. I still wasn't sure that Departed would win due to the violence/language in the movie. 2. I was sure that Pan's Labyrinth was going to take Best Foreign Language...that was my lock of the night.
In other Academy news, glad to see Gustavo Santolalla (sp?) win once again. He's good, and has a knack for picking very good movies.

PS - I'm with you on Mulholland Dr...that's second in my movie list after Cinema Paradiso. Haven't been able to see Inland Empire yet, but looking forward to it - looks very Lynch-esque from the previews.

Solon said...

Moin--yeah, I'm surprised I didn't comment on that "Infernal Affairs" bit earlier. I found it pretty offensive--I mean, seriously, how can you make a mistake like that?

Aureliano--you are spot-on about Santaolalla. I wasn't overly impressed with "Babel," but I thought his score was pretty good, and I'd have been mildly upset if he hadn't won. I was a little surprised, though, I know a lot of people were pissed about his winning for "Brokeback" because there wasn't much to it.

Nice to hear that you are on the Mulholland Dr. express--sometimes, I feel like I'm the only one--but I have to warn you, Inland Empire is not in its class. Dern's great, though.

ATL_eagle said...

Solon, I love Mulholland Dr too...even if I don't get everything that is going on. Would love to read your take on it one day.

Aureliano said...

Not sure if you saw it, but Dern and Lynch were honored in the Independent Spirit Awards Saturday. DL couldn't make it, but Dern was there and had some very nice things to say about Lynch and Inland Empire...about how Lynch pretty much wrote/directed/produced/shot/promoted the film himself.

Solon said...

ATL Eagle--At some point here during the CFB offseason, I'll get it together and e-mail my spin on it to you. For the record, there is a great article on Salon that pretty much confirmed much of what I thought:

http://archive.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/2001/10/23/mulholland_drive_analysis/index.html

Long story short, end of movie (last 1/3) is real, first 2/3 is Naomi Watts imagining a scenario (perhaps all in the moments just preceding her suicide) under which her life has turned out very differently. There's much more to it than that, of course, but that's the thumbnail version.

Aureliano--I did see that. I think Lynch won some sort of lifetime achievement award, and Dern accepted. Truth be told, that awards show pissed me off, because "Little Miss Sunshine" was winning everything, instead of the far superior (in my estimation) "Pan's Labyrinth" and "The Dead Girl."

I suppose when an indy gets Oscar hype, they are going to try to give it as much momentum as they can.

Aureliano said...

Solon,
You're right on the indy hype, and that probably has a lot to do with its cast - take away the big name actors and I think you don't get as much hype for that movie.
Personally, I didn't hate it as much as you did, there were a lot of things I took away from the movie. Thought the acting was pretty good (the adult characters for sure); it had some funny parts and I liked how despite their dysfunction they rallied around each other at the end.
To me it wasn't that bad, but it wasn't the comedy of the year by any means either - I'd take Thank You For Smoking (haven't seen Borat yet).

So do you have a blog out in cyberspace or what? Liked reading all this commentary and would like to read more.
PS - Props for Kanu for giving the man a forum.

Solon said...

Aureliano--Thanks for the kind words.

I do not have my own blog, although I have written a College Football "picks" column during the season that ran on EDSBS the last two seasons (ATL Eagle alluded to this earlier in the thread, when he asked if I bet on these picks). I've been planning on starting one for a long time, but (1) my current job, that I've had for the last 20 months or so, doesn't have Internet access at work, and (2) after Kanu started his blog, I realized how much time it takes to actually have a blog and keep it going.

So, as it stands, the occasional column is all I really have the time and inclination for.

I have also been working on some pretty big college football project for the last couple of years, and I'm looking to write a few columns about it this offseason, but, obviously, it's unrelated to movies.

The only reason I send this email out every year is because I wanted a little more return on the 50 or so movies I go to every year, so I started sending this to all my friends to start a little bit of discussion. But movies are definitely my #2 obsession.

David Stefanini said...

I love the blog that you have. I was wondering if you would link my blog to yours and in return I would do the same for your blog. If you want to, my site name is American Legends and the URL is:

www.americanlegends.info

If you want to do this just go to my blog and in one of the comments just write your blog name and the URL and I will add it to my site.

Thanks,
David