Tuesday, January 23, 2007

There is 32 minutes to Oscar Nominations

are announced, so better late than never, here are what I think may be announced..

Best Picture:
The Departed
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Best Director:
Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"
Bill Condon, "Dreamgirls"
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel"
Clint Eastwood, "Letters From Iwo Jima"
Stephen Frears – “The Queen”

Best Actor:
Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland"
Peter O'Toole, "Venus"
Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Departed"
Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"
Ryan Gosling, "Half Nelson"

Best Actress:
Helen Mirren, "The Queen"
Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"
Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"
Penelope Cruz, "Volver"
Kate Winslet, "Little Children"

Supporting Actor:
Eddie Murphy – Dreamgirls
Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine"
Jack Nicholson,"The Departed"
Brad Pitt, "Babel"
Jackie Earle Haley, "Little Children"

Supporting Actress:
Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Cate Blanchett, "Notes On A Scandal"
Rinko Kinkuchi, "Babel"
Adriana Barraza, "Babel"
Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine"

There may be a dark horse in the race for best picture.. it's a long shot.. but UNITED 93 may be nominated.

Those are my picks... what are yours? How do we compare?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Every few years, foreign films

comes out that breaks the bounds of language. Films like Roberto Begnini's Life Is Beautiful, or last year, when the latest film by Pedro Almodóvar, Volver Starring Penelope Cruise. These films seem to break the boundries between Art Films and Mainstream, and get a large following.

The foreign film that's doing this year is Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy) latest film Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno). A stunning film that's just starting to hit wide release.

The story is set in Spain in 1944 as Franco's victorious fascist forces bear down with punishing weight on any who resist. The film's extraordinary fantasy sequences, in which the girl must complete three arduous tasks, offer a semblance of hope and salvation compared to the short life expectancy in a merciless military state. The film begins with a prologue about the fate of a long-lost princess and the promise of her return. As the tale is told, a pregnant and sickly woman, Carmen (Ariadna Gil) and her daughter Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) arrive at a military outpost commanded by Carmen's officious new husband, Capt. Vidal (Sergi Lopez). Ofelia still pines for her late father while her mother entreats her to embrace the stiff and unpleasant captain although it soon becomes apparent that he is more interested in fathering a son than in being a husband or father to the girl.

Worse than this, the Captain reveals himself as a monster who kills captured rebels with extreme brutality and utter disdain for their existence. The camp is threatened by a gathering number of guerillas aided secretly by their leader's sister, Mercedes (Maribel Verdu), who is the Captain's chief housekeeper.

As the world around Ophelia becomes more and more violent, she becomes captivated by fairies that lead her to an ancient maze leading down to a labyrinth where she encounters a fearsome but talkative faun (Doug Jones). He claims she is a legendary lost princess and she must pass three tests in order to claim immortality.

Ophelia's mother fights with an increasingly difficult pregnancy while Ophelia fights with the challenges and the Captain finds even more gruesome ways to deal with the Guerilla's. Ophelia's adventures seem as real to her as the horrors around her, and it's to Guillermo del Toro's credit that he can weave the 2 worlds together convincingly.

The visual style of the film is mesmerizing and the drama of the military camp has its horrifying moments of torture and death, as well as the scene when the captain has to stitch his cheek together after being slashed by an assailant.

Pan's Labyrinth to me has what most hollywood films is missing - Originality and imagination. Guillermo del Toro has created a wicked wonderland of horror and fascintation, a film that transcends the bounds of language, and presents a story that is beautiful and surrealistic, it's like Lewis Carrol met Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel. This is one of those rare films that is a must see.

Pan's Labyrinth - A

Saturday, January 13, 2007

It's been a while since I've

blogged, because I've been selfishly self-absorbed trying to determine what I'm going to do with the rest of my life, and that means I'm going to be starting my own Pursuit of Happiness soon.

I think partly to try and get me motivated, my girlfriend and I decided to go see someone else's story of being down on their luck and coming out ok. You know.. a "pick me up" kind of thing.

So off we went to see Will Smith portray the actual Chris Gardner, He is a bright guy starting to feel some age, with limited prospects – he sells bone-scanning equipment to doctors but is often rejected, since the Doctors think of the machines as an "unnecessary luxury" He's trapped by the machines, which is the sole support for himself and his family.
One day he walks buy a building and sees a bunch of smiling people coming out and thinks.. "Those guys are happy, what can't I be happy too?"

Well, for starters, his wife Linda (played by Thandie Newton) is becoming a scarecrow of overworked anxiety, and is just looking for a reason to get out. The only saving grace Chris has is his son Christopher, who gets left at a day care nest in Chinatown, and the cheapness of the place is one of many abrasions that finally drive Linda away. The rest of the story features father-son bonding, very effective because it's almost never pushed cloyingly, and because Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, Will's son, fits like a kid glove.

So, Chris starts schmoozing, trainee program for aspiring brokers at Dean Witter. But he can only survive the long tryout by selling the damn machines, which rarely sell. By now he's a single parent, and his son misses mom and the apartment Chris couldn't pay for, and none of the chirpy suits at Dean Witter realize that brisk, affable Chris is scraping by on nerve and small change.

Director Gabriele Muccino gets some charm from bits like the Rubik's Cube or a lost shoe, but nothing softens the pain of being down to $12.44 or living in a shelter. At rock bottom, Chris enlists his son's childish imagination to patch their spirits together.

By all counts a guy like Chris should, by the odds, have more friends or relatives as backup. But the story shows human strength, partly because Smith shows credible weakness when he must. Will Smith as always been good in comedy, and he started to show maturity in drama with “Ali,” and this wonderfully subtle, engaging but never drippy performance again deepens his range and appeal.

The Pursuit of Happyness isn't earth shattering in it's delivery, nor is it unpredictable. You KNOW what happens, but it doesn't mean that it isn't moving at the end. It's one of the few movies made in America that deal with people live and survive.

The Pursuit of Happyness - B