Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Oscars: What Got Awards, and What We Think of That

Look, everyone! The Academy Awards! Remember how deserving most of the nominees were last year, getting recognized for things they were deserving of being recognized for? They decided to switch it up this year, so a lot of nominees were right on the fringes of being worth noticing, but not quite. Winners:

(in order of Wolverine's presentation)

Best Supporting Actress:
Vicky Cristina Barcelona's Penelope Cruz

Best Original Screenplay:
Milk's Dustin Lance Black

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Slumdog Millionaire's Simon Beaufoy

Best Animated Feature:

Best Animated Short:
Les Maison en Petits Cubes

Art Direction:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button's Donald Graham Burt and Victor J. Zolfo

Costume Design:
The Duchess' Michael O'Connor

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button's Greg Cannom

Slumdog Millionaire's Anthony Dod Mantle

Best Short with Human Beings In It: 

Best Supporting Actor:
The Dark Knight's Heath Ledger

Best Documentary Feature:
Man On Wire

Best Short Documentary:
Smile Pinki

Visual Effects:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button's Eric Barba, Steven Preeg, Burt Dalton, and Craig Barron

Sound Editing:
The Dark Knight's Richard King

Sound Mixing:
Slumdog Millionaire's Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, and Resul Pookutty

Slumdog Millionaire's Chris Dickens

Best Original Score:
Slumdog Millionaire's A. R. Rahman

Best Original Song:
Slumdog Millionaire's Jai Ho by A. R. Rahman, Gulzar

Best Foreign Film:
Departures from the Far East (Japan)

Best Director:
Slumdog Millionaire's Danny Boyle

Best Actress:
The Reader's Kate Winslet

Best Actor:
Milk's Sean Penn

Best Feature:
Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog wins everything. Eight. Eight awards is how many a Slumdog wins. That's too many. Too many undeserved. Best Actress? Should have been Streep. No way does a performance as nunny as hers should go overlooked like that. I say this not having seen The Reader, so I'm just talking based on Streep-love. Cinematography? I'd have preferred Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The Dark Knight should have been in there so much more. Rourke should have beat out Penn, and I'm confused as hell why The Wrestler wasn't nominated for way more. If anything it should have been amongst Best Picture. We already knew Synecdoche, New York wasn't going to even get a bit of notice, but I say Best Picture, Best Screen Play, and Best Actor should have been owned by it. It's funny that Benjamin Button was up for Editing, what with them forgetting to take out a whole 40 minutes. I couldn't have guessed further from Ledger winning. I thought Brolin had it in the bag. An outright lie, I just made. Ledger deserved his Joker, and got it. Next year better bring a load better nominations. I rest my ramble.

 - Eric T. Voigt, Charlie Kaufman Was Raped

News: Independent Spirit Award Winners

I'm watching the Oscars right now, and reporting on what won the oh so much better Independent Spirit Awards almost a week late. Hugh Jackman is talking about cinematographers right now. I love cinematographers. I want to be one of them, when I grow to the full grown age a cinematographer must reach before he or she can be named 'director of photography'. 

Best Feature:
The Wrestler

Best First Feature:
Synecdoche, New York

Best Director:
Thomas McCarthy for The Visitor

Best Male Lead:
Mickey Rourke for The Wrestler

Best Female Lead: 
Melissa Leo for Frozen River

Best Supporting Male:
James Franco for Milk

Best Supporting Female: 
Penelope Cruz for Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best Screenplay:
Woody Allen for Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Best First Screenplay:
Dustin Lance Black for Milk

Best Cinematography:
Maryse Alberti for The Wrestler

Best Documentary:
Man on Wire

Best Foreign Film:
The Class (France)

John Cassavetes Award: 
In Search of a Midnight Kiss

Truer Than Fiction Award:
The Unforeseen

I'm basically pleased with all of those. Are you? I still haven't seen Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but I can assume it earned what it was given. And I really want to see In Search of a Midnight Kiss. Huzzah, mumblecoremania. Oh, and what I've seen for Medicine for Melancholy tells me it should have won best cinematography, even though The Wrestler had extraordinary, documentary style camera work. And now, to finish watching those fucking Oscars.

 - Eric T. Voigt, "Singing Nuns"?

S. Darko Trailer: We Need It

In summary: Uncle Sam in a bikini, jumping on a trampoline. 

I've been up in arms about this "sequel" since last Summer, back when people thought it was a joke, back when people thought it would never get approval, never figuratively vomit into a single eye, never exist outside of a few warped minds: director Chris Fisher's, writer Nathan Atkins' and producer Adam Fields', and the wonderful, potentially satanical members of 20th Century Fox's. Back when I believed it would eventually ooze out into the world. And on April 28, 2009 fire up your DVD players, because S. Darko is comin' to town!

S. Darko is bizarre. Dangerous. It's like unleashing a Frankenstein's monster onto the world. It wasn't written or directed by Richard Kelly, it wasn't shot by the same cinematographer, and it only features one actress from Donnie Darko, Daveigh Chase, who reprises her role as Donnie's sister for absolutely no reason. It's a desperate money grab, or a confused fanboy using up lots of free time and money which should have gone towards the prevention of movies like this. 

When I rant about S. Darko I really rant. My face is bright green, I start foaming at the mouth, and it normally takes two hours to resuscitate me once I'm through. I'm not even that large a fan of Donnie Darko. I like the movie, but I never understood the way the emo and scene crowd's eyes gloss over anytime it gets mention. It's a good movie that doesn't need a sequel. Ever. In any form. At all. No way no how.

Donnie Darko is a film based entirely around the pay off at the end. It builds up to a finale. The conclusion is it. It's done. The story line is resolved. It is impacting. The whole film is a convoluted mess that leads you to grasp at straws to understand it, until the very end, where everything wraps up and no more need be said. It's a science fiction film, crossed with a bildungsroman, and it leaves no room for a sequel. 

But they made one.

The sequel isn't a sequel, though. It has two characters from the first movie. It brings back Frank, the rabbit, and Donnie's sister. Which of those characters mattered to the first film? Frank. Why did Frank matter? Because he appears to Donnie, and drives the plot forward, and gets shot in the eye, and then, doesn't get shot in the eye, and never dies, and never appears to Donnie, because Donnie is dead, and Frank gets to live, and therefore Frank can't exist to anyone else in his ghostly rabbit form, because he never dies, and has no reason to travel backwards in time to tell anyone anything, or forward in time to tell anyone anything, because he's fine. He's just a lucky boy in a Halloween costume who doesn't get shot in the eye. That's all he is now. Yet in S. Darko, he appears to Samantha Darko, who he has no reason to see. He's still in his Halloween costume, when he has no reason to be.  He's alive and well! And doesn't even know who Samantha is, because she never shot him in the eye after he ran over her girlfriend! AAAAHHHH!  JHGHSFSDIOFOSIDFH!

That's not even my biggest complaint. That's my nerdiest complaint, but it isn't my biggest. Richard Kelly playing no role in the creation of S. Darko, and being openly against its success is the complaint which lords over the other complaints. The creator isn't in favor of this thing's existence. He's said "I haven't read this script. I have absolutely no involvement with this production, nor will I ever be." He doesn't own rights to his own characters for some reason. Big mistake, because this is what happens to them. They're massacred, and butchered, and brutalized beyond recognition. 

The people who are actually handling S. Darko? Who are these people? Chris Fisher? The maker of Nightstalker? What the hell is Nightstalker? Has anyone even heard of that? And he's directed "Cold Case". Do I watch "Cold Case"? Does anyone I know watch "Cold Case"? No. And this Atkins guy. The writer. He's an editor. Almost all his past experience is with television editing. And working in the sound department. He wrote and directed his own short, and it's earned no love from any respectable critic that I can find. What is making these men throw this together?

And O, the trailer. What justifies all my rage. This looks like it would have been in better hands with the Sci Fi network. It has Jesse from "Saved By the Bell" warning people about spoiling children, it has comets or meteors or whatever space junk taking out big farm structures, it has a shot very similar to when Grandma Death is almost hit by a car, but this time with Samantha apparently in the road, and as mentioned at the beginning of this rant: it has Uncle Sam jumping on a trampoline with an American Flag draped over her shoulders, and in a cute little bikini. Oh, and a girl conjures fire in her hands. I wish there was a more educated way to put this, but my bountiful upsetitude leads me to ask it like this: WTF?!?!?!?!?!

Things could be worse with S. Darko. It could be getting a theatrical release. But the worst thing of all is that it was made, and will roam the earth alongside its inspiration, always being 500 times worse. Fuck you, S. Darko. 

 - Eric T. Voigt, Apparently Penelope Cruz Won Best Supporting Actress

Friday, February 13, 2009

Network: Kevin Respectfully Agrees! Whuh?

So it looks like "I Respectfully Disagree" isn't going to be a weekly feature. Schoolwork is draining. Writing time is sparse. Sort of. It's more a lack of motivation. In this case, I had watched "Network", and Kevin had once tried to watch "Network", but the audio wasn't synched. He tried again, and succeeded. Score! And we both loved it. Here is our joint, agreeful take on "Network".

KEVIN: Before we get too deep into this, i should start by saying we should be careful not to let our praise for this film run wild, because Armond White says that as film students we foolishly yearn for those damn cynical films of the seventies, with their liberal agendas.

ERIC: Not that "Network" is cynical. It's the polar opposite of cynical. A nationwide television network keeping a mentally unstable man on the air to get higher ratings, exploiting a terrorist group's wacky felonies to make a hit prime time drama, and programming executive so cut-throat she takes out a hit on a newscaster... as far from cynical as you can get.

KEVIN: And how about that programming executive? Faye Dunaway. Roar.

ERIC: There's something about a Faye Dunaway in a pant-suit that just shouts "authority". And it's quite appealing. I had no idea she was such a striking young vixen back in the day.

KEVIN: We can't get swept up in this Faye Dunaway business. There's so much to talk about. i don't even know where to start.

ERIC: How about the monologues? The thousands of monologues.

KEVIN: Delicious. Favorite monologue in the film?

ERIC: That's tough, because there's a monologue every five minutes.... I think William Holden's monologue near the very end of the film is my favorite. He dismisses Dunaway's character as shallow, needy, disgusting... it's one of the most powerful, yet simple, monologues in the film. A close second is Peter Finch's first monologue with the snazzed up set behind him.

KEVIN: "You're beginning to think that the tube is reality, and that your own lives are unreal." That bit?

ERIC: That very bit.

KEVIN: Ok, well I pick that William Holden one, too.

ERIC: Copycat.


ERIC: And?

KEVIN: Ned Beatty's.

ERIC: That's a close third for me.

KEVIN: And...Beatrice Straight's. I just love all her talk about a "winter passion."

ERIC: That is one of the most depressing scenes in the film, I believe.

KEVIN: Agreed.

ERIC: You realize that no film this day in age could pull off what "Network" did stylistically, and verbally, do you not? What do I mean by verbally? You know, the content. What they're saying. What am I looking for?

KEVIN: I'm not sure I follow. You mean it's too wordy for today's standards?

ERIC: Yes.... But also what the words say. The content of the massive amounts of words, and the fact that they are indeed massive. Neither would fly in today's society. I think the closest comparison to something contemporary would be Magnolia, but that's a huge stretch.

KEVIN: It's a huge stretch. Why don't you think those things would fly?

ERIC: Right. Short Cuts to Magnolia makes sense. This doesn't. Because we're so jaded. They don't carry any weight. And people like it that way. They'd stifle it.

KEVIN: And people weren't just as jaded in the seventies?

ERIC: They wanted to get jaded. Being jaded meant something to them.

KEVIN: Well, since neither of us lived through the seventies, I think we'll just have to lay this argument to rest.

ERIC: Agreed. I win.

KEVIN: But in a world like this, does anybody win? Kidding, but if you can write me an entire monologue to back that up it might carry some weight.

ERIC: In a world like Network? Yes. Holden wins. Holden wins all. And I would, but it would only pale in comparison to every singe monologue in Network. Glowing, but true.

KEVIN: Maybe too true.... Do you think Paddy Chayefsky was on something? Something that rendered his monologues super-powered?

ERIC: We just read an example of his character descriptions. Faye Dunaway was given 'the best ass in programming', right?

It's the balls to say something like that in a screenplay that did it. Maybe his balls were on something.

KEVIN: Speaking of balls, Marline Warfield had them in this movie.

ERIC: The "badass commie nigger"?

KEVIN: I had to imdb this little gem (a laureen hobbes quote), but I remember how much I loved this line in the film: "You can blow the seminal prisoner class infrastructure out your ass. I'm not knockin' down my goddamn distribution charges." That's just damn fine writing.

ERIC: Chayefsky is a miracle worker. It's like he set a bunch of dictionaries down, took a chainsaw to them, and then cobbled them together with magic. As much as that analogy doesn't make sense, it speaks worlds about the script.

KEVIN: It looks like we've got nothing but praise for this film. Is there anything you didn't like about it?

ERIC: Yeah. How much little there was to not praise. I enjoy ripping into a film, and this gives me no rancid meat. It's a delicious, savory tenderloin.

KEVIN: So, we're finished? Do you feel at all obligated to tie that oft-quoted line into our discussion?

ERIC: Dude, fuck that. Everyone says that. I'm mad as hell about it. I'm not going to take people quoting it anymore, you hear me?

KEVIN: Yeah! I'm as tired as hell, and I'm not going to talk about this film anymore. Tonight, at least.

ERIC: All right, all right. Enough with the cute stuff.

Gerry: A Tale of Two Gerrys

Gus Van Sant is the flyest cat on the block. He's been around since the mid-80s. I always forget that. I didn't even know the exact year was 1985 until today. The 90s + 2000 were good to him. "Good Will Hunting", "Finding Forrester", real family-friendly films that left everyone feeling a little bit better about life, and a fair bit more wholesome. Unfortunately for him financially his later films were extraordinary pieces of art, and utter box office failures. 2008's "Milk" shows him heading back to his more accessible side, but it's obvious he'll maintain his darker streak.

Of his "Death Trilogy", including "Gerry", "Elephant", and "Last Days", I have now seen two. "Gerry" I watched today. All of these are handled by cinematographer Harris Savides. Same goes for "Milk". He makes the world look like you're seeing it for the first time in your life, and grasping how beautiful it is. He mixes sharp focus and out-of-focus, dark and light, close-up and long shot, melding everything together, bringing out the unifying qualities between each contrast in stunning clarity... I could write this whole review like a 'thank you' letter to him. 

Sprawling shots of the desert, extremely long takes of Gerry (Matt Damon) and Gerry (Casey Affleck), adorable and hilarious conversations between the two, incredible, amazing, remarkable looking everything. This movie was great. It's not given all that much praise because it has no deep story, and is very long for what story it has. Two young men get lost in the desert. That's it. No subtext. No backstory. They get lost. And wander around. And it's amazing.

"Gerry" is meditative. 

It was an experience is what it was. I let the film wash over me. It's extremely visual, and audial, and would be terrible to watch if you're looking for a lot of character interactions. It reminded me of how it felt to watch "2001: A Space Odyssey", which I just watched last week. Except all of this could have happened in real life. I connected to it more. And it wasn't 2 hours +. That helped. The shots were long, and deliberate, but never too long, or over deliberate, if that's possible. 

This movie RUUUUULES!!!! That's it.

 - Eric T. Voigt, Didn't Know How to Wrap That Up

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Barry Lyndon: Forever And Ever

Barry Lyndon is over 3 hours long. But don't let that stop you from watching it when you have a lot of free time on your hands. So far, it's the best Stanley Kubrick film I've seen. If this man knows how to shoot one thing extremely well, it's action. Whenever a fight takes place, or people are being ripped apart, he gets the camera right up in there, and captures every meaningful hit. The cinematography is amazing, and the soundtrack is just wonderful. A select track:  That is all.

 - Eric T. Voigt, Back to Watching "The Office"