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Oscars 2012 Predictions

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Without further ado, big ticket items up first:

I. Animated Feature – Brave. Pixar seems to usually win this, so when you add their first female protagonist I think this is a very likely outcome. The only one of the 5 I saw though was Wreck-It Ralph.

II. Foreign Language Film – Like A Separation before it, Amour was nominated for both best foreign and best picture, which makes its selection almost a foregone conclusion.

III. Visual Effects – Apparently Life of Pi was amazing. I guess that means it will win. Personally, I am pulling for Prometheus.

IV. Makeup and Hairstyling – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I know that Les Mis is the frontrunner here, but for the prostitutes alone that movie should not have been nominated.

V. Costume Design – Anna Karenina. This makes me want to list every single character as an example of how perfect the costume choices were in this film. Instead I will offer the one disappointment—Levin. But that’s an absurd success rate!

VI. Original Song – “Skyfall” by Adele. Eh, I did not really care for this tepid tune.

VII. Original Score – this should be a hotly contested category, but Entertainment Weekly says that Life of Pi is the clear favorite. I think I would prefer Anna Karenina to win.

VIII. Original Screenplay – This category is a SHAM. I hope they award it to no-one since Looper‘s exclusion is an embarrassment to the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences. Also, Zero Dark Thirty should not even be nominated for its “real life account.” How is that original and not an adaptation. Again, sham.

IX. Best Director – this is a crap shoot. I hope that Steven Spielberg wins. Or the guy I have never heard of before, Benh Zeitlin.

X. Best Supporting Actor – Not Christoph Waltz and not Alan Arkin. Beyond that though, it is hard to say who would win. I guess I am rooting for One Take Tommy, even though I dislike him usually. But the award is for a particular performance, not a career. I mean, if it were a career, how could Halle Berry have one?

XI. Best Supporting Actress – Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables. She was great in this Oscar friendly film, but so was Sally Field in Lincoln. Not sure why I think that Hathaway will win.

XII. Best Actor – Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln. Apparently he is 5 for 4 lifetime on nominations and thus assured of victory. He does have the advantage of no serious competition. It sounds like Joaquin Phoenix and Denzel Washington might have been as good, but they did not dominate in the role every f’n American wanted to see kick ass.

XIII. Best Actress – Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook. I hate to say this, but Jessica Chastain is just too small to win this award. Same goes for the 9 year old Quvenzhane Wallis. At least Miss Wallis has a chance of getting larger though.

XIV. Best Picture – We all want to hear Ben Affleck get up there and say something along the lines of Argo fuck yourself for not nominating me for best director. Of course, he seems like a classy guy who is grateful to the Academy for the success that his Oscar for Good Will Hunting brought him, so that seems unlikely.

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Under Appreciated Supporting Actors I

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Supporting actors usually play the most interesting roles. Under appreciated actors tend to inhabit their roles so well, that the actors receive less credit than they deserve. Thus under appreciated supporting actors are those who have routinely excelled in various roles without the attention that they might merit. This list is not a compilation of the best supporting performances, so do not complain that Heath Ledger was excluded since he did star in the critically acclaimed A Knight’s Tale. That said, please let me know what you think of this list, especially if you agree with my choices.

That gun is pointed at Bond, James Bond

Robert Shaw in From Russia With Love, 1963

Robert Shaw plays dangerous like no other actor. As Grant, an agent of SPECTRE, he gave James Bond all that he could handle. He made From Russia With Love a classic far more than the shoe-knifed Rosa Klebb. His Quint from Jaws is the second most memorable part of that film—second to the giant shark. His treacherous “Blue” in the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three showcased a new breed of intelligent criminal who would become popular in modern cinema. Yet his only Oscar nomination came for his portrayal of King Henry VIII in A Man For All Seasons. An under appreciated Oscar nomination? I bet most people reading this did not know that A Man For All Seasons won the best picture Oscar, and even if they did that it was about Sir Thomas More.

Ellen Page & J.K. Simmons, Juno 2007.  ©Fox Searchlight.

Ellen Page & J.K. Simmons, Juno 2007. ©Fox Searchlight.

Co-star of the big screen and the small, J.K. Simmons can play daft all the way to bright. On that spectrum I list his roles as Spider-Man/2 (J. Jonah Jameson, publisher of The Daily Bugle), the video game Portal 2, The Ladykillers (explosives “expert” Garth Pancake), Burn After Reading (CIA superior), Hidalgo (Buffalo Bill Cody), Up in the Air (Bob, one of the fired employees), Juno (Mac MacGuff), For Love of the Game (Frank Perry, Tigers manager), and “Law & Order” (Emil Skoda, psychologist). He is so good I even tried to watch an episode of “The Closer” for him and the guy who played Capt. Harris in the Police Academy movies. Unfortunately even he could not save it, similar to his valiant effort in Burn After Reading.

What a face!

Jon Polito as Johnny Caspar, Millers Crossing, 1990

Jon Polito’s face alone could crack my top ten for supporting actors, but once you add in his Italian-American accent, hooooo-eeee, he made this list easily. Miller’s Crossing probably does not even crack into my top three for his favorite roles. For me those are the “Brother Seamus” in The Big Lebowski, Det. Steve Crosetti “Homicide”, and then as the role that must have gotten him Miller’s Crossing Phil Bartoli, the Chicago mafia kingpin in “Crime Story.”

Martin Balsam as Juror #1, 1957.

Martin Balsam as Juror #1, 1957.

Martin Balsam plays key roles in some classic films: 12 Angry Men, Psycho, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Not a controversial choice, but this is someone who should be brought to the attention of all serious film fans who are interested in looking back into film history.

Gina McKee as Marion Nell, Croupier, 1998

Gina McKee as Marion Nell, Croupier, 1998

I fell in love with Gina McKee in Croupier. Clive Owen starred in it with dyed blonde hair and he went on to become a star, but Croupier works because Owen’s girlfriend seemed so caring, so imperfect and so real. Most people know McKee from playing the wheelchair bound Bella in  Notting Hill, but she also deserves fans for her work in ensemble pieces such as in the road to war black comedy In The Loop, the British “The Forsyte Saga” where she marries the wrong man, and the medieval mystery The Reckoning. I hope she grows into the Helen Mirren roles in a few years.

stephen_root380I do not remember the first time I watched “Newsradio,” but I do know that I thought that Stephen Root was in the top 6 funniest people on that show. That is more a testament to the shocking comedic collection that NBC had aggregated than a criticism of Mr. Jimmy James. It really was not until his subtle turn as the man who sets Anton Chigurh on the warpath in No Country For Old Men that I realized how impressive his career has been. He has been all over the place: playing Milton in Office Space—all he wants is his red stapler back—to voice acting as Bill on “King of the Hill” to a closeted homosexual sheriff in Red State. No matter what the role, he seems to pull it off.

Danny Huston as Arthur Burns in The Proposition

Danny Huston as Arthur Burns in The Proposition

Danny Huston is almost a good enough actor to make a crappy movie into something good, like X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Oh well. He uses his American accent well in Silver City. Yet, He is at his best when he gets to use his wonderful English accent in like The Proposition, The Constant Gardener, and Children of Men. He is a delightfully frightening actor.

Mark Strong and Robert Downey, Jr. in Sherlock Holmes, 2009

Mark Strong and Robert Downey, Jr. in Sherlock Holmes, 2009

Another delightfully frightening villainous actor is Mark Strong. He played Lord Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes, Sorter in Revolver, Frank D’Amico in Kick-Ass, Godfrey in Robin Hood, Clive Cornell in The Guard, and Sinestro in Green Lantern. But he has more range than that, as can be seen in the complex British Agent Jim Prideaux in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, SpyIf he were only a bit more traditionally attractive, he could have been a huge star, but thanks to some crappy Guy Ritchie movies, he has finally gotten his chance to shine in these supporting roles.

I'm not locked up in here with you. You're locked up in here with me!

Jackie Earle Haley as Rorschach in Watchmen, both in costume and out.

Kelly Leak was a major character in The Bad News Bears in 1976. Jackie Earle Haley’s career was all downhill thence until his retirement in 1993. Thirteen years later Haley returned in a movie I have not seen called Little Children and he got nominated for best supporting actor. Three types of people get nominated for best supporting actor: (1) stars who were not good enough to win in their starring roles, (2) young actors on the rise to stardom, and (3) deserving supporting actors. He lost of Alan Arkin a (1) who is now a (3). Anyways, Haley has a fire that makes his small frame almost seethe when angry, which made him perfect for Rorschach and the VP of the Confederacy in Lincoln.

Kevin Pollak in The Usual Suspects, 1995.

Kevin Pollak in The Usual Suspects, 1995.

Rounding out my first ten under appreciated supporting actors is Mr. Hockney himself, Kevin Pollak. He is another short actor, but he has played a wide swath of character, ranging from the comedic to the serious. Hockney was the best of both worlds and made him seem like a bigger star to me than audiences ever did. Some of his credits include A Few Good Men, Red State, The Whole Nine Yards, Casino, Willow, L.A. Story… I could keep going with this or with more actors, but I should stop at ten, as Matthew Perry fortunately did with The Whole Ten Yards.

The Phantom of the Opera

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***

Think of me, think of me waking, silent and resigned. Imagine me, trying too hard to put you from my mind. Recall those days, look back on all those times, think of the things we’ll never do – there will never be a day, when I won’t think of you.

Joel Schumacher + Gerard Butler + musical = something I do not hate? Certainly that would be an unlikely outcome, but it’s true. I think the trick was casting the shit out of the surrounding cast, nice sets, and 70’s rock opera. That is not to say that this film is without criticism. Joel Schumacher still would not know funny if Jim Carrey, Louis C.K., and Jerry Seinfeld tried to explain it to it. Schumacher chose poorly with aging makeup instead of older actors or better makeup. Emmy Rossum’s operatic style of singing clashed with my range of hearing, which I consider to be above average for a 31 year-old. And when two people sing simultaneously, as often is the case in actual opera, I have trouble discerning what is going on. Fortunately, much of what is sung does not appear have to been crucial to the story itself.

Simon Callow, Minnie Driver, Ciaran Hinds, et al...2004, Copyright Warner Bros.

Simon Callow, Minnie Driver, Ciaran Hinds, et al…2004, Copyright Warner Bros.

Back to the best part of the movie—besides the synthesized organ parts, which were phenomenal—this supporting cast is great. Raoul was played by Patrick Wilson—Nite Owl from Watchmen—and he brought his Gaston-esque look to a young viscount who knew the ingenue, Christine–Emmy Rossum, as a kid. He had tool written all over him, but managed to acquit himself quite naturally as a nice guy. Miranda Richardson’s Madame Giry was all right. Just as when she plays Rita Skeeter in the Harry Potter movies, it is hard to distinguish my dislike for her character from my dislike of her performance. Maybe that means she was great! Minnie Driver’s diva Carlotta was perfect. Her singing was believably mediocre and had improved leaps and bounds from her performance as a Russian cat getting strangled, to paraphrase James Bond in Goldeneye. Lastly, the two new owners of the Opera Populaire were Ciaran Hinds and Simon Callow. They were both great and I wish they were in more movies. Ciaran Hinds was great as Julius Caesar in “Rome” and as Carl in Munich. He has gotten more opportunities than Callow, whom I barely recognized from Amadeus, where he played Emanuel Schikaneder. The whole collection was a treat and the leads were not bad either. If Les Miserables was a hit I do not understand why this failed to become one.

Nine Queens

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**** Ah you think she is a saint, hmm. Can’t you see the way she swings her ass? There are no saints.

Ricardo Darín and Gastón Pauls in Neuve reinas

Ricardo Darín and Gastón Pauls in Neuve reinas

Clever little Argentine film. I watched this because it starred Ricardo Darín, of The Secret in their Eyesfame. This lacked the depth of that dark mystery, but did have a nice balance between stakes and lighter hearted comedy. Interestingly, until the end I could not tell if this was Darín’s story or Gastón Pauls’s. Since both characters are confidence men, it’s a battle to see who can be trusted. Or better put, who can be mistrusted less. I imagine that this would be a great film to rewatch. It would also make for an interesting discussion piece for differing views on morality.

2013 Preview

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Thanks to Entertainment Weekly I got psyched again for this year’s upcoming films. Here are some that got me the most pumped:

1. Man of Steel. I have never been a big Superman fan. When it comes to DC I am more of a Batman/Green Lantern kind of guy. I did not even watch Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. While objectively Singer might be a better director than Zack Snyder, I have loved Snyder’s films. I do not like horror movies, but even I gave his Dawn of the Dead remake 3.5 stars. Every preview for this makes me want June 14th to come that much quicker. Will this be original? I neither know, nor care. What I do know is that Zack Snyder is the best faithful comic book adapter ever, as 300 and Watchmen have shown.

2. Spike Lee is remaking Oldboy? Bwah?! Japanese horror films have been popularly remade in the US, but Korean revenge cinema? And Spike Lee? I am more intrigued than excited by this.

3. Ender’s Game is a novel I have never read, but always heard great things about. This will save me from having to read it, or might turn me onto reading the acclaimed series. This will star Asa Butterfield–Hugoso that is also pretty exciting.

4. The Wolverine is an update based on the original four issue mini-series written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Frank Miller. Frank Miller’s name is justifiably famous since it was his version of Batman that became Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight.” He created Sin City. He made Daredevil relevant. Generally, he is considered the second best writer in modern superhero comics. Still, Chris Claremont had more to do with my interest in comics than Frank Miller. That is how important Claremont is, and, frankly, how damn good he is. Before Bryan Singer’s X-Men proved that comics could become blockbuster movies in the 21st century, and that Marvel could make a comic book movie, Stan Lee’s “X-Men” was a canceled book. Then in the late 1970’s Claremont took some mutants and made them uncanny. Similarly, he took a fledgling Canadian brawler and gave him a fascinating Japanese samurai and ninja background with that mini-series in 1983. Thirty years later it will make one hell of a movie. Snikt.

5. 42. No this is not a movie about Mariano Rivera, it is about the second best player to ever wear that number–Jackie Robinson. He put up with so much crap from people, it would be good to remind ourselves of his courage, and to see what we can learn about not treating any person that poorly again.

6. Oz the Great and Powerful is based on the L. Frank Baum Oz books. Did you know they were books and not just The Wizard of Oz? I did because my Dad read several of them to me as a kid. So for nostalgic reasons I am looking forward to this movie.

7. Elysium. I liked Neill Blomkamp’s District 9. I like Matt Damon and Jodie Foster. I do not like that there has been only one picture used for this film in the past year. Always the same damn picture. Release more pictures, damnit!

8. On the imaginary excitement scale, I was at a 10/10 for Star Trek. A film that lived up to the hype and delivered in every way I wanted it to. Star Trek Into Darkness takes that same crew and pits them against a mystery villain. The actor for that mystery villain is the new Sherlock Holmes on “Sherlock,” which is probably the best show of the past five years. But can he play a cunning, powerful villain? Peter Jackson seems to think so, since he tapped Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch to voice Smaug in his The Hobbit trilogy. Now I am at an 8/10, but when I saw the new preview…I went back to 10.

Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007

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***

At first Everything of Nothing appeared to be a warts and all documentary about Ian Fleming, but it turned out to about Bond, James Bond. I got to hear from essentially everyone I could have wanted to hear from—except Sean “I’m too cool for this shit” Connery. I learned a few things in this pleasant documentary. I learned more about the Thunderball hullabaloo*. And I got to hear George Lazenby tell his version of how he became James Bond.  My favorite part of this film was how it showcased each Bond without lying about the quality of the crappier movies. For instance, Licence To Kill was too dark for its time, but Timothy Dalton was still an excellent James Bond. The later Pierce Brosnan flics were too silly, but he was still an excellent Bond. If only the same could be said for George Clooney as Batman.

Of further note is that President Bill Clinton is on screen for like five minutes and that’s pretty special. Mike Myers’s appearance was also pretty money as well.

*Kevin McClory helped Ian Fleming try to adapt Bond for the big screen, but then gave up on the process. Since Fleming took some of McClory’s ideas, McClory successfully sued for partial rights to the novel Thunderball. He gets a writing and producing credit on the movie. 18 years later he executive produced Never Say Never Again starring an old Sean Connery as James Bond.