Monday, January 26, 2009

"Welcome to The Suck"

I borrow that phrase from a film that did indeed suck--Jarhead. May it live forever in "wasted opportunity" heaven...

The "Suck" I refer to is January Movie Hell.

I find myself devoting more and more of my blogging time to analyzing the Awards Race and perfecting my 2008 Retrospectives (which will be posted by week's end). Why? Because the movies just aren't worth writing about.

Why should I write a long-winded review of Bride Wars? Is the film's trailer not review enough? Actually, speaking of the trailer...if I were to write a review of the film, it would center on the notion that Trailer Cutters--those who edit the two minute-and-thirty second spots we see before the Feature Presentation starts--have better filmmaking skill and sharper comic timing than do the actual filmmakers. The trailer for Bride Wars is funny and effective; the film is decidedly less so. The problem is that the filmmakers take scenes that work in the trailer and then put slightly different, much less funny spins on them. I like Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson. They work pretty well together. The film is...okay. But the effort is about as lame as you would imagine coming from the vaunted First Movie of 2009.

Why should I write a long-winded review of Paul Blart: Mall Cop? It is another piece of ridiculousness churned out of Happy Madison, that Adam Sandler-run company responsible for every horrific piece of shit Sandler ever makes. The twist--if I can even call it that--here is that the film is actually PG-rated, and thus fun (?) for the whole family. It also stars Kevin James instead of Sandler or Rob Schneider, which is HUGE step up. James is likable in a way the usual stars of these movies are not, so he at least elevates the film to a level of watchability...except during the scene in which he's wrestling an obese woman in the middle of Victoria's Secret. At that moment, I wanted to kill myself...or the filmmakers.

We have two--oftentimes three--months of "Suck" ahead. Hopefully, as happens on occasion, a few interesting films (and maybe one great one) will pop up early in the year.

The Oscar Race--First Post-Nom Charts

Everything is narrowed down to five...and really, everything is narrowed down to two--at most.

Here's where it stands...

1. Slumdog Millionaire
2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. Frost/Nixon
4. Milk
5. The Reader

Note: Slumdog just can't stop winning awards. At this point, if it didn't win, it would be as big an upset as Brokeback Mountain in 2006. But don't expect to be surprised.

1. Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
2. David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. Gus Van Sant, Milk
4. Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
5. Stephen Daldry, The Reader

Note: Boyle matter what.

1. Kate Winslet, The Reader
2. Meryl Streep, Doubt
3. Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
4. Melissa Leo, Frozen River
5. Angelina Jolie, Changeling

Note: Winslet and Streep, neck-and-neck. Hard telling. My money's on Winslet for now, since this Reader performance has been the most honored of the year when you consider the fact that it has garnered both lead and supporting awards.

1. Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
2. Sean Penn, Milk
3. Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
4. Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
5. Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Note: Another two-person race. I still have a feeling about Mickey, though.

1. Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
2. Viola Davis, Doubt
3. Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
4. Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
5. Amy Adams, Doubt

Note: With Winslet out of the mix, Penelope Cruz is likely back in the top spot. It's been about five months since Vicky Cristina Barcelona was released and Cruz picked up very early "Oscar Frontrunner" status, so that heat sure seems to have faded...but who's gonna beat her?

1. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
2. Josh Brolin, Milk
3. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
4. Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
5. Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder

Note: Is it even worth discussing?

1. Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
2. John Patrick Shanley, Doubt
3. Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
4. David Hare, The Reader
5. Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon

Note: Beaufoy is your winner.

1. Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon, Wall-E
2. Dustin Lance Black, Milk
3. Martin McDonaugh, In Bruges
4. Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
5. Mike Leigh, Happy Go Lucky

Note: Another category that's down to two: Wall-E v. Milk. I think it's the robot's award to lose.

Screen Actors Guild Winners

Is it just me or do you see any trends developing over the course of this race?

Best Cast
Slumdog Millionaire

Lead Actress
Meryl Streep, Doubt

Lead Actor
Sean Penn, Milk

Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Supporting Actress
Kate Winslet, The Reader

So...where do we stand?

About the same place we've been standing for the last several weeks.

Slumdog Millionaire seems to be a foregone conclusion. Best Actor is a toss-up between Sean Penn and Mickey Rourke. Best Actress is between Kate Winslet and Meryl Streep. If Heath Ledger could be awarded 10 Oscars for his performance, he would be.

People love the Winslet performance in The Reader. I am of the belief that her work in Revolutionary Road is even stronger, even though The Reader is a better film. But the real heat has always surrounded the Reader performance, no matter which category it has landed in. Since the Academy nominated her only once, in the lead category, for The Reader, she is the one major roadblock between Meryl Streep and Oscar number three. The fact that this is her strongest performance in years--and the fact that the Nomination Queen hasn't actually won an Oscar in 26 years--would make her a shoo-in, if not for the love for The Reader, and the fact that Winslet hasn't won an Oscar since...she was born. And that's a crime.

It's tough to gauge the Best Actor race. Rourke won the GG, and then Penn wins the SAG...back and forth we go. One thing that can happen, though--SAG and Oscar can have differing opinions. It happens...and it could happen this year. This applies to both lead acting categories. It's a bigger voting bloc for the Oscars...and a little different. So...big toss-up.

Finally, Slumdog Millionaire is turning into the kind of juggernaut we haven't seen since...well, last year I guess, when No Country swept everything up. But the heat for Slumdog seems even bigger in many is cruising in a similar way to--dum dum DUM--Brokeback Mountain. And if you recall, Brokeback was such a huge frontrunner...that it lost in the closing seconds. To bullshit like Crash. this a fair comparison?

Yes and no. Brokeback was that rare early favorite that held up all the way until the ceremony...when it lost. This year, the early favorites lost steam way early, and Slumdog became the undeniable, unstoppable movie of love and passion. In Brokeback's year, a lurking turd kept resurfacing to spoil the day. The only turd in this Oscar race is Ben Button, but it is much bigger than Crash, and a lot less sneaky. It is gonna be way harder to steal Slumdog's thunder.

Oh, and by the way, when did Crash first make its move in 2006? At the SAG awards, when it was the upset winner for Best Cast. No such luck for any film over the 'Dog.

It is, in many ways, a foolish comparison. But there is such heat behind The Film of Destiny that it worries me a little bit.

Brief...Producers Guild Winners

The PGA gave out their awards over the weekend...anyone surprised by the results???

The Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award
in Theatrical Motion Pictures


Producer of the Year Award in Animated Theatrical Motion Pictures

Producer of the Year Award in Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oscar Noms: The Reaction

Alright, so... much for that whole "two possible wins for Kate Winslet" thing... much for a Dark Knight BP slot.... much for Sally Hawkins in Best Actress...

...sad for all involved...except Winslet, actually, who comes away a winner no matter what.

I adjusted some of my predictions before the nomination announcements, but didn't get to write anything about them yesterday. So let's go on the honor system...I will be honest about which ones I nailed and which ones I failed.

Looking at the Best Picture race, everything was as expected--save The Reader. If you would've asked me before the announcement this morning, I would have told you that the only film with a legit shot to slip into BP over Dark Knight was, indeed, The Reader. Some will say they didn't push, but I totally disagree. This nomination was earned--not because of the film's quality, but because of the producers' maneuvering. They made a strong push and got exactly what they wanted--including the sole Winslet nomination.

Other than that, nothing much has changed...Slumdog is still on track. We will see if the race reinvents itself in the next four weeks.

In Best Director, nothing surprising, based on the BP noms. Stephen Daldry gets the nod for The Reader over Chris Nolan for DK...the directors match the movies. Boring.

And Boyle will win. Easily.

Best Actor was also as expected, though my Clint Eastwood prediction was swapped for Brad Pitt. It was pretty easy to see it coming...I just went slightly against the grain.

Best Actress was a real virtue of unforeseen studio decisions. After a season-long roller-coaster ride during which Kate Winslet received both Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress prizes from various Critics' Groups for The Reader--and during which The Weinstein Company couldn't decide in which category they would submit her for Oscar consideration--they obviously went with the Lead Actress category. As such, her work in The Reader was nominated for Best Actress, and her work in Revolutionary Road lost out. In truth, the studio made the right move--Winslet is the lead actress in The Reader--but I also believe that her performance in Revolutionary Road is even stronger (as for the movie...well, we'll discuss that later). But the producers of Revolutionary Road took the nomination for granted...the producers of The Reader never stopped pushing.

The other Best Actress shocker had to be the omission of Sally Hawkins for Melissa Leo...or for Angelina Jolie, whoever you pick to steal the slot. In the eleventh hour, I had put Leo back on the shortlist...but left Hawkins on as well. Most of these "surprises" could have been predicted, either by common knowledge or by correctly understanding Academy thinking. But I was truly surprised--and truly saddened--that Hawkins was passed over.

Nonetheless, Winslet must still be considered the frontrunner--even moreso now that she didn't pull off the double-nominations--with Hathaway and Streep at her heels but falling back.

The supporting categories were, as always, the most difficult to handicap precisely. In Supp. Actor, Ledger, Brolin, and Hoffman were in, as expected. And instead of the final two being filled by Dev Patel and Michael Sheen, they were filled by Robert Downey Jr. and Michael Shannon. I had a real strong feeling about Downey and especially Shannon...I probably would've included Shannon in my final predictions bt left Downey off. But again, in the least predictable category, the Downey nod--and even the Shannon nod--is no surprise.

I should note, however, that the omission of Michael Sheen in Frost/Nixon is now the second time in the last few years that Sheen has been overlooked by the Academy. The first came two years ago, when his fabulous portrayal of Tony Blair in The Queen was left off the final supporting actor shortlist.


Here was the other category affected by the Winslet "is-she-supporting-or-is-she-lead?" crap-shoot. And in addition, it's also traditionally one of the most infuriating categories to nail down in terms of forecasting. With the obvious departure of the Winslet slot for Best Actress, there left a clear opening. That opening was taken by Amy Adams for Doubt. Good for her--it was underappreciated work in a very brilliant film.

The other four were as expected--Tomei, Cruz, Davis (making it a supporting actress double-dip for Doubt), and Henson. Special shout-out to Taraji Henson, by the way, for scoring a nod for the best performance in the highly overrated Ben Button. Hers was not merely a "makeup" performance (as was Brad Pitt's). She brought energy and ingenuity to what could have been a throwaway character, and she is justly awarded.

I actually love all these performances, making the Supp. Actress category one of my happiest of the morning.

Looking ahead, with Winslet gone, frontrunner status is once again bestowed where it had been in the months leading up to the Golden Globes: Penelope Cruz. And in a year when Woody Allen was actually overlooked for his best screenplay of the decade...the Academy will likely throw a bone to Vicky Cristina by awarding Cruz...and in turn, giving her "payback" of sorts for not giving her Best Actress in 2006 for Volver.

(Quick tangent: Winslet, also a Best Actress nominee in 2006 for the ever-brilliant, ever-amazing Little Children, will be paid back with Best Actress this year. Both Winslet and Cruz lost in 2006 to the Helen Mirren-in-The-Queen-juggernaut.)

(Quick Tangent #2: The whole "payback" notion is mentioned only because, after tracking awards season for over a decade now, I know how the Academy works. Russell Crowe gets awarded for Gladiator because many thought he "should have" won for The Insider the year before. Nicole Kidman gets the Oscar for The Hours after losing for Moulin Rouge. Renee Zellweger won for Cold Mountain after a slew of more deserving nominations went unawarded. This is how the Academy works. I personally do not believe in or endorse the notion of "payback" awards, nor do I believe that Winslet's or Cruz's performances would win or should win solely because of a sense of payback. These are great actresses who are amazing every time out of the gate. I am merely painting a portrait for the potential line of thinking among Academy members this year. Thank you and goodnight.)


Well, they certainly got creative in this category. Of the five nominees, only two--Milk and Wall-E--were entirely expected, and only one other--Mike Leigh for Happy-Go-Lucky--could have been predicted as a spoiler. I am very happy to see Martin McDonaugh's brilliant work on In Bruges recognized (ditto that for Mike Leigh). I am surprised to see two of the most loved screenplays of the year--Jenny Lumet's Rachel Getting Married and Robert Siegel's The Wrestler--get the shaft.

Nonetheless, the Academy actually reached for innovative work in this category, but as a result the race is essentially narrowed down to two: it will be Milk v. Wall-E down to the wire. A lot of it will hinge on the Best Actor race (which will most likely be awarded after this category, so we won't get to read any other tea leaves than our own guessing games): if Sean Penn wins, then Wall-E will be a shoo-in. If Penn loses, then Milk might get the screenplay award as a consolation prize for being shut out for Picture/Actor/Director.

At this point I am still betting on Wall-E.


As expected. I made no bones about the fact that predicting a Dark Knight screenplay nomination was a bit of fun, and that The Reader was the most likely literary adaptation to take the fifth slot. Obviously, the same wave that led that film into the BP slot swept it into this category.

Of course, no amount of analysis will keep Simon Beaufoy from winning for over.

Alright...unleash the hounds. Let's discuss. More analysis to come.

The Oscar Nominations

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant, Milk
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Amy Adams, Doubt
Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Courtney Hunt, Frozen River
Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky
Martin McDonagh, In Bruges
Dustin Lance Black, Milk
Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, WALL-E

Eric Roth, Robin Swicord, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
John Patrick Shanley, Doubt
Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
David Hare, The Reader
Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire

The Baader Meinhof Complex - Germany
The Class - France
Departures- Japan
Revanche - Austria
Waltz with Bashir - Israel

The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
Encounters at the End of the World
The Garden
Man on Wire
Trouble the Water

Kung Fu Panda

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road

Changeling - Tom Stern
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Claudio Miranda
The Dark Knight - Wally Pfister
The Reader - Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
Slumdog Millionaire - Anthony Dod Mantle

Australia - Catherine Martin
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Jacqueline West
The Duchess - Michael O'Connor
Milk - Danny Glicker
Revolutionary Road - Albert Wolsky

The Conscience of Nhem En
The Final Inch
Smile Pinki
The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
The Dark Knight - Lee Smith
Frost/Nixon - Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
Milk - Elliot Graham
Slumdog Millionaire - Chris Dickens

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Greg Cannom
The Dark Knight - John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O'Sullivan
Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Alexandre Desplat
Defiance - James Newton Howard
Milk - Danny Elfman
Slumdog Millionaire - A.R. Rahman
WALL-E - Thomas Newman

Down to Earth from WALL-E - Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyrics by Peter Gabriel
Jai Ho from Slumdog Millionaire - Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyrics by Gulzar
O Saya from Slumdog Millionaire - Music and Lyrics by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam

La Maison en Petits Cubes
Lavatory - Lovestory
This Way Up 

Auf der Strecke (On the Line) 
Manon on the Asphalt 
New Boy 
The Pig 
Spielzeugland (Toyland) 

The Dark Knight - Richard King
Iron Man - Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes
Slumdog Millionaire - Tom Sayers
WALL-E - Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
Wanted - Wylie Stateman

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Mark Weingarten
The Dark Knight - Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick
Slumdog Millionaire - Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
WALL-E - Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt
Wanted - Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Guild Nominations in Perspective

I'm not going to go into SAG--the Screen Actors Guild--just yet. It offers several categories and will be given its own space. For now, I am concentrating on the three other Guilds that can directly--or by accumulation--effect the Oscar race: the Producers Guild (PGA), the Writers' Guild (WGA), and the Directors' Guild (DGA).

First, the PGA. Here are this year's nominees--the Guild equivalent of Best Picture:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Slumdog Millionaire

Historically, the PGA has a frequent tendency to match 4 out of 5 of the eventual Oscar nominees. Last year, they nominated The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Oscar went with Atonement. In 2007, they nominated Dreamgirls while the Academy nominated Letters from Iwo Jima. The year before that, PGA went with Walk the Line while Munich got the Oscar nod. You get the idea...

The problem with history repeating itself this year is, simply, who could possibly be replaced--and by what? I guess the most likely candidate for dismissal would be the least traditional nominee--The Dark Knight. But what film would ever replace the second-highest-grossing film in history, driven by the year's most celebrated performance? Wall-E was the most acclaimed film of the year overall...but that would be like replacing one untraditional nominee with a very untraditional nominee. Doubt would be a worthy candidate, but it never caught on in a real way with any group other than SAG. So what's left...Revolutionary Road? People are currently taken with hating every piece of that film other than Kate Winslet. The Reader is the only other possibility in terms of visibility and half-assed critical consensus...but again that has more to do with Kate the Great.

For the first time in nearly a decade, I think the PGA might match Oscar to the letter.

Onto the WGA, where the Original Screenplay and Adapted Screenplay categories mirror the Oscars with relative accuracy...but once again, are rarely exact. There always seems to be at least--and sometimes more than one--"Just for Fun" nominee, like Judd Apatow for Knocked Up last year (gag) or Apatow and Steve Carell for 40-Year-Old Virgin in 2005.

This year, here are the Original Screenplay nominees:

Burn After Reading, Joel and Ethan Coen
Milk, Dustin Lance Black
Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Woody Allen
The Visitor, Tom McCarthy
The Wrestler, Robert Siegel

And Adapted Screenplay nominees....

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Eric Roth
The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan
Doubt, John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan
Slumdog Millionaire, Simon Beaufoy

This year's "Just for Fun" nominees appear to be the Coens for Burn in Original, and the Nolans for DK in Adapted. However, the could-be nomination fest for Dark Knight could sweep the Nolans into the Oscar race. The Coens--however deserving their brilliant, unjustifiably-derided script may be--are likely left out, which is to be expected. Expect them to be replaced by the writers of Wall-E.

Now, onto the DGA Nominees...

Danny Boyle, Slumdog
David Fincher, Ben Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
Gus Van Sant, Milk

Alright, let's look at the history. Last year, DGA had four of the five eventual Oscar nominees. The lone exception: Sean Penn for Into the Wild; the Academy went with Jason Reitman for Juno. In 2006, the DGA was off by a bunch, nominating Bill Condon for Dreamgirls and Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris for Little Miss Sunshine, who were all looked over in favor of Paul Greengrass (United 93) and Clint Eastwood (Letters from Iwo Jima). Looking back even further, in '04 and '05 DGA matched Oscar five-for-five, and in '03 they were four-out-of-five. In essence, it's always a toss-up for the DGA...they are certain to get 3 for sure, and they sometimes match Oscar to the letter.

So what about this year? It seems as if the DGA will have one of those "Five-for-Five" years, with the Oscar nominees all virtually locked in.

The important thing to remember about these analyses is simply this: it's all really a game. The PGA, WGA, DGA, and every other Guild nominates not in an effort to predict the Oscar nominees, but to honor the craft. That's the way it should be. So the guessing game is just that--a game. Just like all the rest of this Oscar prognostication stuff.

But it's fun.

And once tomorrow morning rolls around, we'll crunch the numbers once again.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Kate Winslet: But What If...

When J and I watched the Golden Globes and Kate Winslet won both categories, best supporting actress and actress, I screamed aloud in total joy. She is by far my favorite actress and  her wins are long overdue. Two. Wow. Exciting and frankly, appropriate.

I saw on our blog that J has changed his opinion on Winslet for what may happen Oscar night, and I hope he is right. If she were to win two Oscars, it will be unprecedented and perfect. Maybe that is the Obama influence this Oscar year--a year for first times.

I am going against all supposed logic here and I do not think one critic or blogger has said this yet, but what if she walks away with... none. 


My thinking is that she will either get both or none. Conventional wisdom says she will walk with one, and before the Golden Globes last week, that one was suppose to be for The Reader. After she won both at GG, both movies are front and center for her accomplished work.

Now, voters will have 4 choices. Winslet for both films, Winslet for The Reader, Winslet for Revolutionary Road, or Winslet for none. I will argue here that her chances are better to win both than to win one over the other, but sadly she may be most angled to lose both. Part of the reason for that claim is that both categories this year are full of really wonderful other actresses with really great performances(Winslet is still my fave though) and the other reason is because many people may not think any actor/actress should win two and will have to choose. The choosing is where it gets tricky. If she had only won for The Reader, I would say we would see that happen again for Oscar night. However, by winning for both, the Academy will feel more pressure for both films and that could possibly split her votes. EEK.

In a year like say 2003 when Charlize Theron had the stand-out role and no one doubted she would win and win hard, if she had been nominated for another film for best supporting at the same time, it would be clear which movie the academy would have chosen their votes to go toward. 

So, we have a set of people who will find voting for her twice unfair. We have a set of people who feel she deserves Best Actress status and others who feel that The Reader was the performance to win (should have been "best actress" actually). These people who will not vote for both, will choose one and thus split the votes.

In another year, if the actresses were less known, or not in as strong of roles etc., one of her categories could still win, but we do have really superb performances in both of the categories; tough competition from Hawkins, Streep, Hathaway in Best Actress and Cruz and Tomei for Best Supporting. There is no clear "stand out and alone" actresses this year and that helps siphon votes away from our Kate Winslet if someone feels they have to choose.

So, it is my view that she could win really huge or most possibly lose huge. I don't think there will be any middle ground for Winslet.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Oscar Nomination Predictions, Round 2

Consider this the Globe-Adjusted Version. I am still wrestling with my contention that this year's Oscars will be mildly influenced by the Golden Globe results--not directly, but by gradual accumulation of consistent results. 

The nominations are crystallizing. The race is getting clearer and clearer.

Here is v. 2.0 of the Charts...

1. Slumdog Millionaire
2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. Frost/Nixon
4. Milk
5. The Dark Knight

Outside looking in: Doubt, Wall-E, Revolutionary Road

Note: Slumdog solidified its lead even  further last Sunday, so in essence there wasn't any real movement. However, I moved Milk from #2 to #4 simply because it is being forgotten in a big way. It has the muscle to take down Slumdog--and I still believe it is really the only film that has that potential--but Focus needs to mount a HUGE campaign in the lead-up to the ceremony.

1. Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
2. David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
3. Gus Van Sant, Milk
4. Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
5. Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon

Outside looking in: Jonathan Demme, Rachel Getting Married; Mike Leigh, Happy Go Lucky; Sam Mendes, Revolutionary Road; Steven Soderbergh, Che

Note: Nothing different here, either...Boyle wins going away.

1. Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
2. Sally Hawkins, Happy Go Lucky 
3. Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
4. Meryl Streep, Doubt
5. Kristin Scott Thomas, I've Loved You So Long

Outside looking in: Angelina Jolie, Changeling; Cate Blanchett, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Melissa Leo, Frozen River

Note: Last week I went out on a limb and put the two indie girls--Sally Hawkins and Melissa Leo--on the list. This week I came back down to earth. But after her Globes win Sunday, Hawkins moves way up--not because of the win, but because of that beautiful, honest, tearful acceptance speech. If the Academy didn't fall in love with her during Happy Go Lucky, they fell in love with her during the Globes ceremony. In a wide open year, she could upset.

Also, I made a BIG swap at the top. Kate Winslet moves into the lead and Meryl Streep goes from the top to fourth. Why? Because Kate now has the heat in a big way...and because this wasn't seen as a "lock" performance for Streep. For that matter, it isn't a "lock" performance from Winslet either...but Streep has long been considered the Nomination Queen, and Winslet is the most respected actress out there who has yet to win an Oscar.

1. Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
2. Sean Penn, Milk
3. Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
4. Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino
5. Richard Jenkins, The Visitor

Outside looking in: Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; Benecio Del Toro, Che; Leonardo DiCaprio, Revolutionary Road

Note: I'm swapping Penn and Rourke for the moment. Rourke won the Globe and gave a memorable acceptance speech. Granted, the speech was more "Globes-y" than "Oscar-esque," if you will, but the Academy prides itself on "slumming it" once in a while. So Rourke has the momentum.

1. Kate Winslet, The Reader
2. Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
3. Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
4. Viola Davis, Doubt
5. Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Outside looking in: Rosemarie DeWitt, Rachel Getting Married; Debra Winger, Rachel Getting Married; Rebecca Hall, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Note: Yes, I'm aware that I'm jumping from one limb to the next. Right now, I have Kate Winslet on track to win two (2) Oscar statues. Not possible, right? I think so, too...but who else is leading the category right now? I don't know either. So by process of elimination, Winslet is the frontrunner. It is almost certain that she will win an Oscar. If she wins in this category--always an early-evening bellweather--then her odds of taking Best Actress goes down precipitously (though not even close to entirely). If Cruz, Tomei, or Davis win here, then it is a near lock for Winslet in Best Actress.

1. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
2. Josh Brolin, Milk
3. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
4. Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire
5. Michael Sheen, Frost/Nixon

Outside looking in: Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road; Robert Downey, Jr., Tropic Thunder; Eddie Marsan, Happy Go Lucky

Note: I'm not going to make any real adjustments here, simply because this category--even moreso than Best Picture or Best Director--is a lock waiting to be awarded. Ledger will win. And because of that obvious fact, it makes the four other nominees that much harder to predict. Brolin and Hoffman are likely in. Patel and Sheen are good bets. But with the category winner already a foregone conclusion, there is an opening for Oscar to give "happy-to-be-nominated" nominations to Michael Shannon or Robert Downey, Jr. Tough call...I want to take one more look before Nomination Morning.

1. Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire
2. Peter Morgan, Frost/Nixon
3. Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
4. John Patrick Shanley, Doubt
5. Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight

Outside looking in: David Hare, The Reader; Justin Haythe, Revolutionary Road

Note: No movement...yet. Beaufoy is your winner--easily--but the other nominees are still up in the air. A quick study of the Writer's Guild of America (WGA) nominations (announced after my first set of charts) supports this current line-up,'s looking good for now.

1. Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon, Wall-E
2. Dustin Lance Black, Milk
3. Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married
4. Woody Allen, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
5. Robert Siegel, The Wrestler

Outside looking in:  Tom McCarthy, The Visitor; Mike Leigh, Happy Go Lucky; Joel and Ethan Coen, Burn After Reading

Note: I'm sticking with these for now as well, however...the WGA nominees have replaced two of my current predictions--Lumet for Rachel and...WALL-E!!!! Yikes. The two newly-minted Guild nominees are deserving--Tom McCarthy for the priceless, beautiful The Visitor and the Coen brothers for their very-undervalued Burn After Reading. But no Wall-E?? I don't know, I don't know, I don't know....

Round 2 is complete. Keep your eyes open for one final update before the nominations are announced next Thursday. And look for a report-slash-analysis of the Guild nominees and how they may impact the Oscar race.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Globes Night...

...was actually kinda fun. I enjoyed it. What a total surprise.

After years of filling its role as the "Hollywood Drunken Fun Night," and especially after last year's strike-induced "News Conference" bit of ridiculousness, the powers-that-be were obviously aware that the Golden Globes were in need of a major recharge as they re-entered the public consciousness.

The result? A quieter gathering (in spite of the post-commercial audience rustling). More focus on the work and less focus on overt showmanship. Smart choices in nearly all categories. A handful of fabulous, uninterrupted acceptance speeches. And one of the most satisfying Globes shows in years. Well done, HFPA...much as I hate to say that.

I frequently try to quell the notion that the Golden Globes directly influence the Oscars, but in this, the most abbreviated awards season ever (thank you, awards season powers-that-be), and the most wide open, the Globes may well help solidify--if not define--some of the trends we've already begun to see transpire...

Slumdog Millionaire won big surprise. It has gone from being the odds-on favorite to the clear favorite, now with the potential to sweep the Oscars in a number of categories. It is now on the other films in the race (specifically Ben Button and Frost/Nixon, and to a lesser degree Milk) to start pushing if they want to stay in the race. But Slumdog has passion on its side, and a very Obama-esque "righteous wind at its back."

Kate Winslet was a double-winner, for actress and supporting actress. The liklihood of repeating that feat on February 22 is very slim, but not outside of the realm of possibility for the first time ever. She is spectacular in everything, and has never won anything. The Academy wants to give her an Oscar...and she may wind up with two in one year.

Ledger was posthumously honored again...and I hope when the Academy does the same, they will provide a better clip montage than the one the Globes used.

Sally Hawkins gave one of the most genuine acceptance speeches I've ever witnessed. She may have locked her Oscar nomination with that one. In addition, Kate Winslet gave tremendously beautiful and gracious speeches for her wins. Colin Farrell was honest and humble and great.

Mickey Rourke won, which certainly gives him a tremendous push going forward, after he had fallen a bit behind Sean Penn. He also said "balls" a lot, which is incentive enough for the Academy to award him--his on-stage acceptance speech will be as entertaining as his on-screen performance was powerful.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona won in the musical/comedy category, which was a surprise given the clear love in the room for In Bruges. There is obviously still a little brown-nosing of legends (in this case, Woody Allen) left in the HFPA.

Oscar nominations are just over a week away, and the Globes will have more influence this year than any before...and any in the future. But that may have to do with riding the waves that have obvious been building. Slumdog will win. Danny Boyle will win Best Director. Simon Beaufoy will win Best Adapted Screenplay. There may be one or two other awards thrown in to give Slumdog the mini-sweep. Why? Because It Is Destiny. It Is Written.

Kate Winslet will win something...which category she will win, and how many she will win, is still anyone's guess.

It's Rourke versus Penn for Best Actor...give the edge to Rourke for now, but that could change...and a split vote could trigger a surprise in the order of Frank Langella.

Adjusted Oscar Charts are on the, more movies for godssakes...Gran Torino, The Wrestler and Revolutionary Road...

Make way for the Top Ten, everyone....

Globes Winners

Best Picture, Drama
Slumdog Millionaire

Best Picture, Comedy/Musical
Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Director
Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire

Best Actor, Drama
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

Best Actress, Drama
Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road

Best Actress, Comedy/Musical
Sally Hawkins - Happy-Go-Lucky

Best Actor, Comedy/Musical
Colin Farrell - In Bruges

Best Supporting Actress
Kate Winslet - The Reader

Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight

Best Animated Feature

Best Screenplay
Simon Beaufoy - Slumdog Millionaire

Foreign Language Film 
Waltz With Bashir (Israel)

Original Score
A. R. Rahman - Slumdog Millionaire

Original Song
"The Wrestler" - The Wrestler
Music and Lyrics by Bruce Springsteen

Comment as you see fit...analysis forthcoming...