Thursday, February 24, 2011

If I Picked the Oscars - Part 2

We're now only three days away from the big night, so I better get my picks in for the rest of the awards:

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay):

   “127 Hours” Screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy
    • “The Social Network” Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
    • “Toy Story 3” Screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
    • “True Grit” Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
    • “Winter's Bone” Adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini

I liked "The Social Network", but felt it never really got inside the skin of Zuckerberg. For me, "Winter's Bone" stands out for its perfectly nuanced and balanced storytelling.
My Pick - "Winter's Bone"
Oscar's Pick - “The Social Network”  

Best Writing (Original Screenplay):

    • “Another Year” Written by Mike Leigh
    • “The Fighter” Screenplay by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson;
      Story by Keith Dorrington & Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
    • “Inception” Written by Christopher Nolan
    • “The Kids Are All Right” Written by Lisa Cholodenko & Stuart Blumberg
    • “The King's Speech” Screenplay by David Seidler

"The Fighter" and "Inception" were great.  "The Kids Are All Right" was funny and poignant.  "The King's Speech" was... well, I'll get into that later.

 My Pick - "Inception".  This multi-layered Borges meets the Matrix head-spinner was complex, thought-provoking and yet personal at the same time.

Oscar's Pick - “The King's Speech” Ok - here's the deal.  This was a good film.  There was nothing wrong with it.  It is a simple story told well.  But it's just so damned safe.  It takes absolutely no chances.  It is basically an ABC afterschool special: dude has stuttering problem... dude overcomes stuttering problem, except the dude just happens to be the future King of England.

When you compare this to really great movies, this one story arc would just be a subplot, woven into a bigger, more compelling whole.  Really folks, get over it.  Does this movie come even close to "The Godfather",  "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest",  "Amadeus", or "Silence of the Lambs"?

I didn't think so.

Best Documentary (Feature):

    • “Exit through the Gift Shop” Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
    • “Gasland” Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
    • “Inside Job” Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
    • “Restrepo” Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
    • “Waste Land” Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

This is a very strong category this year.  "Gasland" is a compelling personal journey through the toxic wasteland of Natural Gas Drilling.  "Restrepo" does a tremendous job showing the viewer what life is truly like for U.S. soldiers serving duty in Afghanistan's Korangal Valley.  And "Inside Job" explores the nausea-inducing reality of the wall-street players who continue to hold the White House hostage.

For me however, "Exit Through the Gift Shop" stood out for its unique journey that explored the concepts of art, fame, and media manipulation.  And I'm still not even sure it was a documentary...

My Pick - "Exit Through the Gift Shop"
Oscar's Pick -  This is a toss-up here.   I'll guess they give it to "Inside Job" to send a message to the controlling interests that rule Wall Street, the Republican Party, the Top 1% high-income earners, the Tea Party...  not to get on a political rant or anything here...

Best Actor: 

    •  Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
•  Jeff Bridges in “True Grit”
•  Jesse Eisenberg in “The Social Network”
  Colin Firth in “The King's Speech”
    •  James Franco in “127 Hours”

This one's tough because I've only seen "Social Network" and "King's Speech" and to be honest, I wasn't blown away by either performance.  In all fairness I really shouldn't make a pick in this category, but who said this was fair anyway?  I'm going to give it to Javier Bardem because I've heard great things about the movie and the guy is a total acting stud - so there.
My Pick - Javier Bardem in “Biutiful”
Oscar's Pick - Colin Firth in “The King's Speech”  The Academy loves them some feel-good movie and especially any acting gymnastics.  A king who overcomes a speech impediment is an easy, safe pick.

Best Actress:

    •  Annette Bening in “The Kids Are All Right”
Nicole Kidman in “Rabbit Hole”
Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter's Bone”
Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”
Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine”

An easy pick for me.  It comes down to Natalie Portman and Jennifer Lawrence.  They both carry their films - the entire narrative rests on their shoulders.  Both bring extraordinary performances.  For me however, Jennifer Lawrence was a revelation.  She created such an authentic, understated yet dynamic and powerful performance as a sixteen-year old desperately trying to hold her family together, that I think she deserves it the most.
My Pick - Jennifer Lawrence in “Winter's Bone”
Oscar's Pick - Natalie Portman in “Black Swan”  Portman's performance as a ballerina at the tipping point of madness is a tour-de-force, and she deserves all the accolades she has received.  She is the obvious choice and will most likely win.

Best Director:

    • “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky
    • “The Fighter” David O. Russell
    • “The King's Speech” Tom Hooper
    • “The Social Network” David Fincher
    • “True Grit” Joel Coen and Ethan Coen

 Ok - down to the nitty gritty here.  I love Fincher and the Cohen Brothers, but don't think their work was Oscar-level this year.   Tom Hooper makes nice ABC after-school specials... er, I mean movies (actually, I liked "The Damned United" much more than "King's Speech"), but c'mon.. let's get real here.

That leaves Aronofsky's "Black Swan" and David O. Russell's, "The Fighter" (and I would also add, Debra Granik for "Winter's Bone".)  Aronofsky showed true film mastery with absolute control of his psychological thriller.  All elements of the film were fully realized to support the central theme.  Russell showed a lighter touch, though no less effective, letting his actors control the scenes and weave a heart-heavy tale of redemption, balancing humor and pathos and never regressing to melodrama.
Debra Granik, like Russell, chose a verite approach to weave her neo-noir tale - perfectly nailing the appropriate tone for such a story.
My Pick - “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky.  I'm torn here, but give Aronofsky the slight nod over Russell and Granik.  Great jobs by all.
Oscar's Pick - “Black Swan” Darren Aronofsky.  I think this one is a slam dunk for Aronofsky.  He is one of cinema's shining lights.

And now...  Drumroll please...  Time to get the kids to bed and drain the last of the drinks, 'cuz the show's almost over.  Just one last Oscar to give out...

Best Picture:

    • “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
    • “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
    • “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
    • “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
    • “The King's Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
    • “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
    • “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ce├ín Chaffin, Producers
    • “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
    • “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
    • “Winter's Bone" Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Dang... that's a long list!  But I'll make this short, because by now, you pretty much know my take on these films.

It's a close call, and I love them both, but I have to give "Winter's Bone" the slight edge over "The Fighter", simply because of its more original story.  If "Black Swan" had walked the line a little more convincingly between horror and psychological thriller (ala "Rosemary's Baby" "Jacob's Ladder", "Angel Heart") then that would have been my choice.
My Pick - "Winter's Bone"
Oscar's Pick - "Black Swan".     If "King's Speech" wins, please shoot me and put me out of my misery.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

If I Picked the Oscars

Every year we do a little Oscar get together at my place - watch the show, critique the fashion, check out the parade-of-dead-stars montage and say, "Oh, that's right, I forgot HE died...", but most importantly we bet on the winners.  That's right, while the Super Bowl may be the single most bet-upon day every year, in my house Oscar night is the time to put your big ol' $5 bill on the line and put up or shut up.

Just like Fantasy Football magically makes that Arizona vs. Jacksonville game so exciting 'cause you're hoping Jay Feely can kick you 6 points so you can pummel your best friend and gloat about it at work the next day, so does betting on the Academy Awards suddenly make that best animated short category the single most important thing in the world 2 1/2 hours into the always excessively long ceremony.  And trust me, the overall winner each year is almost always determined by who correctly picks "Logorama" over "Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty."  What's that you say, you've never even heard of those flicks, well welcome to the club my friend, now put your fiver in the hat, pick up your pen and do what we all do...


That's why my 8-year old has about as good a chance as I do.  It's like they always say, "The family that bets together, stays together..."

Anyway, in this post I will not do that - pick all the winners that is.  Because let's face it, I wanna win that pot as much as the next guy.  No, in this post I'd like to do what Siskel & Ebert used to do, which is present my picks as if I were suddenly king of the academy and able to choose the winners from the best and brightest cinema had to offer in 2010.  I will use their list of nominees as a starting point, except for when they completely whiff and ignore great work.  Ok, and I'll also throw in my predictions of who I think the Academy will choose for the big categories - those are usually pretty obvious anyway.  And I won't do every single category - just the ones I care about and where I've seen the majority of the contenders.  Unless I decide not to.  So there.

Alright then... bring it on!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Enter the Dark Updates

Here's what's new and exciting with my little bundle of horror goodness:

Enter the Dark will be screening at a couple of really fun festivals this week.
First off, if you happen to be in the greater Boulder City, NV. region (or ripping it up in Vegas), be sure to check out the Dam Short Film Festival. We will close out their Wednesday evening block of horror shorts from 9:15 - 10:15.

Then, hop on over to Sanford FL, and their brand new Love Your Shorts Film Festival, where you can see tons of great short movies of all genres (including the Oscar nominated God of Love).  Then stick around until Saturday night's sci fi/horror selections at 9:30 as we close out that evening's festivities as well.

We are also excited to be part of the High Desert Shorts Film Festival, May 27 - 29 in Pahrump, NV., another cool indie film short fest.  I'll let you know exact dates when I have them.

... And now for all the rest of you horror fans, this March you will get your chance to see Enter the Dark for FREE!!!  We were fortunate to be selected as part of First Glance Film Festival's short online contest:

In 2010 we presented over 50 short films online. More than any other festival in the world and awarded over $5000.00 in prizes.

Over 5000 registered voters, voted over 14,000 times to create one of the most competitive online short contests for any film festival in North America.

We look forward to you being part of the next Short Online Contest.

The Short Online Contest begins in Late March 2011 and run for 6 weeks.
 Stay tuned for more info on how you can watch and vote for a bunch of great short movies!


Enter the Dark continues to enjoy great reviews from some really cool bloggers.  It has been incredibly rewarding to see that the vision I had for this short film is being well received.

From Midnight, With Love:
Miro's story works like a good horror tale should, suckering us in with one hand while it's preparing to pop up and scare us with the other.  There's a command here that can't be taught, and Miro shows a natural gift for creating tension.
Dollar Bin Horror:
… this 17 minute short has no gags. It's just scary.
It's just a really damn good film.
Chuck Norris Ate My Baby:
It's quick, fun and a bit spooky and, as promised, watching Enter the Dark in the dark makes it all the more effective.
Fatally Yours:
Enter the Dark is an entertaining, scary and thought-provoking short film.
The acting is also top-notch, with actors Charles Yoakum and Rob Sandusky putting on convincing performances.

That's all for now.  In the meantime I'll continue to play the festival circuit until October or so (do a full year to hit all that I can), and work on ideas for the next short film.

The we'll do it all over again!