Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Seeing Green

My two newest reviews are up over on my blog at, and the emerald pigment that both of the films' titles suggest is probably the one and only thing they have in common.

There's J.J. Abrams' DIY thrill ride CLOVERFIELD,

... and, as promised, the Keaton/Latifah/Holmes throwaway movie MAD MONEY.

Check 'em out.

Music Break: Dreamgirls

Bill Condon's Dreamgirls, Oscar's big snub of 2006, is compulsively watchable and really quite good once its digested post-hype. My attention was brought back to it after I noticed that HBO recently decided to play it practically on a loop. That's just fine, because it isn't a film you tire of easily. The music is great, and below is one the movie's most impressive set pieces. It's Eddie Murphy, in his stunningly electric role as the James Brown-esque sensation Jimmy Earley, performing the second half of the song "Steppin' to the Bad Side". The video is of absolutely terrible quality, but see if you can't still catch the genius of the choreography, editing and Murphy himself. It was a rush on the big screen, and if Murphy hadn't strayed to make another fat suit comedy like Norbit, you surely would have seen him joining the company of co-star Jennifer Hudson as an Oscar winner.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sigourney on Fire

Sigourney Weaver, one of my all-time favorite actresses, should have been in the running for 2007's Supporting Actress awards for her dark role as a ruthlessly hilarious network exec in Jake Kasdan's The TV Set.

The movie is just okay, but Weaver is fantastic. Her role was originally written for a man, but upon reading the script, she pursued the part and told Kasdan not to change a single word. The result is pure comedic heaven, and Weaver is in top form as an icy, misogynistic bastard who just happens to be a woman. See this movie now just for her involvement. Below is a sneak peek, one of my very favorite scenes in which Weaver's Lenny discusses casting choices with Ioan Gruffudd's British partner Richard. Beware, Lenny's got a sharp tongue.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

SAG = Sopranos Age Gracefully

First of all, let me say that Sunday night's presentation of the 14th Screen Actor's Guild Awards was a very good show; and while I'm unsure of the status of the writer's strike's affect on future 2007 film and television honors, if it was the last time we're going to see all of these beautiful people together in the same room for a while, it wasn't a bad way to go out. There were a few surprises (namely Ruby Dee's win, which considerably raises her chances of winning the Oscar), but the real highlight was the class and sophistication that emanated from the screen. Genuine, heartfelt and funny speeches from winners like Daniel-Day Lewis, Julie Christie, Javier Bardem, and No Country cast spokesman Josh Brolin, tear-inducing tributes to fallen stars (Lewis' Ledger dedication in particular), and a real collective sense of actor comraderie that seemed more heightened than previous years made for one refreshing telecast.

Aside from that, the theme of the night was certainly honoring seasoned veterans of the industry. In addition to Dee and Christie's wins, obligatory oldest actor in the room Mickey Rooney received a standing ovation from his peers, and longtime scene-stealer Charles Durning claimed a Lifetime Achievement Award. Perhaps the most telling example of such was the recognition of the stars of The Sopranos. The brilliant HBO drama, which revolutionized scripted television for me and the rest of the world, ended its ten-year run with its sixth and final season this past year. And while I normally despise it when actors and works are rewarded simply due to age and/or longevity (it cheapens the honor to more of a parting gift), This is one instance where the recognition was well deserved.

Both James Gandolfini and Edie Falco were awarded for their leading roles in the drama series, and the entire cast walked away with Best Ensemble. While different people have different opinions about the way the groundbreaking show chose to play out its final act (I personally see it as genius in retrospect), no one can deny the caliber of the performances that graced the series for six seasons. Gandolfini crafted one of the most iconic TV personalities of our time, and greatly stretched the depth and range of his character last year. Falco, by far the finest actor on the show, stayed true to the conflicted nature of her screen persona to the end, in one of the most harmonious matches of actor and role I've ever had the pleasure of watching on the small screen.

It was a thrill to see New Jersey's first family get top honors from fellow members of the industry for their last hurrah. I rarely watch television, let alone dip into analyzing it for writing purposes, but The Sopranos has always felt different to me. Soon after becoming an instant fan, I figured out why: it's wonderfully cinematic. As a whole, the show feels like one of the greatest movies I've ever seen, filled with compelling drama, Oscar-worthy acting, potent storylines, and resonant themes. I'm sad to see it go, but I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who feels that way.

Complete list of winners from the 14th Annual Screen Actor's Guild Awards:


Male Actor in a Drama Series: James Gandolfini, "The Sopranos"
Female Actror in a Drama Series: Edie Falco, "The Sopranos"
Male Actor in Mini Series/TV: Kevin Kline, "As You Like It"
Female Actor in Mini Series/TV: Queen Latifah, "Life Support"
Male Actor in a Comedy Series: Alec Baldwin, "30 Rock"
Female Actor in a Comedy Series: Tina Fey, "30 Rock"
Drama Series Cast: "The Sopranos"
Comedy Series Cast: "The Office"

Male Lead Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
Female Lead Actor: Julie Christie, "Fiona"
Male Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem, "No Country For Old Men"
Female Supporting Actor: Ruby Dee, "American Gangster"
Outstanding Performance for a Cast: "No Country For Old Men"

Friday, January 25, 2008

Proper Precedence

I was wondering whether Heath Ledger's death was going to be the lead cover story of Entertainment Weekly's post-Oscar nom issue (one of their biggest every year), or just be reduced to a sidelined, corner photo. I should have never had a doubt. The tragedy was the cover story all right - the whole cover. There's not a single mention of awards business on it. Kudos to EW for making the dignified choice.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Oscar on Oprah

Yesterday, Oprah took time out of her regular schedule of campaigning for Obama and conquering the world to commence her show's fifth annual coverage of the Oscars. The month-long, interspersed segment of the program is granted unprecedented access, culminating in an exclusive morning-after show broadcast from the stage of the Kodak theater. This year, it began as per usual with a broadcast from the stage of the regular old Harpo studios, where nominees appeared as guests either in-house or via satellite. Below are the top highlights.

10. The popcorn machine
The cute, vintage prop that producers put on the set kept sneaking into frame. Curiously, each time the show returned from commercial, the contents of the machine had gone down quite a bit.

9. Last year's clips
In the midst of hyping up the Oscar-y, Oprah-y moments to come, cameras kept cutting to shots of the 2007 post-show on the Oscar stage. It was nice that Ms. Winfrey completely ignored the fact that this year, there may very well be no Oscar stage at all.

8. Marion Cotillard
The La Vie En Rose beauty came onto an Oscar related telecast and discussed... her Golden Globe. Tsk, tsk.

7. Burgers!
After discussing not eating before the big show with third-time nominee Laura Linney, Oprah recoiled at the last minute and assured the pencil-thin actress, "eat all the burgers you want!"

6. Amy Ryan
The first-time, ridiculously overrated Supporting Actress nominee (and apparently, one of this blog's favorite topics of discussion) is actually really beautiful in person. I mean, in person, on TV, out of character, you know...

5. Oprah's critic-plugging

Way to go Oprah, for name-dropping and quoting every critic in the book when describing each actor's performance. All I kept thinking was, "maybe Oprah will be saying my name some day..."

4. Casey Affleck
The "Assassination..." star has a surprisingly dry sense of humor. When asked what it was like to work with Brad Pitt, Affleck responded, "I didn't even know him," with an expression as wooden as his brother's acting. I almost believed him. Almost.

3. Juno promotion
Oprah loves Juno, made evident by the entire show she recently dedicated to it ("it's so frressh!"), the crazy amount of ads present on her website, and the persistent TV spots that played during the breaks of this telecast. The last time Oprah and Roger Ebert were in this much gleeful agreement over an Oscar contender, Crash beat Brokeback. Watch your back, No Country.

2. Ruby Dee
The 83 year-old "living legend" looked adorably jaded, as if the shock of still being able to be breathe was a bit higher on the priority list than the shock of getting a nod. Still, she looked great, and was obviously the host's favorite, seeing as she got the infamous Oprah hug.

1. Daniel Day-Lewis
All joking aside, the interview with the immensely talented Best Actor nominee was the show's best segment, and it wasn't for anything Oscar-related. Day-Lewis revealed that he had just learned the news of Heath Ledger's death, and the genuine emotion in his face made it look as if a tear could drop at any moment. The man actually almost succeeded in leaving Oprah - that's right, OPRAH - unsure of what to say next. Almost.

Want more? Wanna learn how to "Plan Your Party" or "Get Gorgeous"? There's plenty over at Oprah's Oscar Extravaganza (as if she needs any extra help). Look out for Juno ads.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger, 1979 - 2008

No words, no words...

Gold Rush, Part II

While predictions are fun, Oscar time would be boring if every category's group of nominees was a foregone conclusion. Thankfully, when Academy president Sid Ganis and his guest Kathy Bates announced the contenders for the Oscars this morning, a few unexpected names were called (and a few expected, noticeably, were not).

Tommy Lee Jones, an old pro who seemed to have been forgotten this awards season, was recognized for his leading work in In the Valley of Elah, beating out Into the Wild's Emile Hirsch. Laura Linney, who'd been shut out of nearly all of the precursor award line-ups, snuck in for Best Actress for The Savages. And Jason Reitman, the young director of Juno whose only major previous film was 2005's Thank You for Smoking, pulled a major upset by making the Best Director short list.

Into the Wild took the biggest hit, losing widely assumed positions in not only Best Actor, but also Best Director for Sean Penn and Best Picture. Its only two nominations were for Best Film Editing and Best Supporting Actor for Hal Holbrook. Much to my delight, Atonement made the top five for Best Picture, despite the fact that many prognosticators believed it had lost its steam. Much to my dismay, the hauntingly brilliant music from There Will be Blood by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood was inexcusably left out.

Below are the nominees for the major categories, along with the tallied scores from my predictions. Just after is a link for more.

Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There
Ruby Dee,
American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan,
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton,
Michael Clayton

My score: 5/5

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

My Score: 5/5

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away From Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno

My score: 3/5

George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

My score: 4/5

Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jason Reitman, Juno
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Joel & Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood

My Score: 4/5

Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

My score: 4/5

For a full list of all the nominees in each category, CLICK HERE.

The awards will be given out at the end of February. Here's hoping it looks something like this:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Streep Esteem, Part I: SHE-DEVIL

I've been waiting for an excuse to pay tribute to Queen of All Living Actresses Meryl Streep since I started this blog. Amidst a recent sleepless night, I finally found one. Scrolling through Comcast's Free Movies OnDemand, I came across She-Devil, a wrongfully forgotten 1989 comedy starring Streep and Roseanne. I'm giggling now, because I can remember being terrified of the cover of this movie as a kid in the video store. I mean, look at Roseanne's face:

I had seen the movie before, just never in its entirety. This time, I watched it end to end, and I think it's safe to say that it's since become one of my very favorite comedies. It's sinfully great. Streep plays a rich, cheesy romance novelist who steals away the husband (a hilarious Ed Begley, Jr.) of Roseanne's dumpy housewife. Bitchiness and vengeance ensue, surrounded by some of the most wonderfully tacky set decoration/production design ever captured on film.

If 2006's The Devil Wears Prada proved anything, it's that her royal highness can tackle comedy just as skillfully as she can poignant drama. In this, she's a stunning, madcap delight; the perfect blend of vixen and victim. The following scene shows a scorned Streep going berserk after catching Begley's character's eventual infidelity via some racy xeroxed photos. Watch as she wildly regains control of her powder-puff pink palace:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

There Will Be... A Review

...just not here. Over on my featured blog at is my latest review, on Paul Thomas Anderson's brilliantly terrifying epic There Will Be Blood. Complex and unsettling, it's a film that requires far deeper analysis than a single viewing can afford. All the same, I took a mighty stab at it - there's linkage below.


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Am I Mad?

Because this is the new movie I wanna see:

Will it be a train wreck? Most likely. Will the poisonous Katie Holmes infect yet another unsuspecting film with her disease of suck? Without question. Will it be fun to review? You bet.

I don't know who spiked the morning coffee of Mad Money's casting director with Maker's Mark, but whoever it was, he or she has successfully nabbed my attention. What else could possibly explain the insane union of these three actresses? I have little to no interest in what this movie is about. Unfortunately, more often than not, a heist comedy is a heist comedy is a heist comedy. No, what I can't wait to watch is the semi-awkward, over-the-hill hipness of the glorious Diane Keaton bouncing off the totally legit, badass hipness of Queen Latifah while the dead-in-the-water, non-existent hipness of Katie Holmes tries desperately to keep up.

The trailer alone is a fail-safe smile inducer, if only for the line where Keaton tells Ted Danson she's "gonna have him whacked." I could watch it on repeat all day. And now you can too, right here (it's at the end, but don't speed forward, lest you miss Keaton telling Latifah she's actually afraid of her):

Friday, January 11, 2008

Gold Rush, Part I


While many of you celebrated your big holidays last month, mine comes just near the end of this one. No, it's not my birthday. January 21st is the eve of the announcement of the nominations for the 80th Annual Academy Awards. As I used to do as a child every December 24th, I now do as an adult on this occasion: lose precious sleep due to excitement and anticipation, and wake up the following morning at 5 am.

At the beginning of December, I posted what I then called my "final" Oscar predictions within a separate blog. What a fool am I. Winds change, opinions change, and as anyone who follows awards season knows, the Oscars are all about precursors and politics. This has been one of the toughest years to call, as predicted front-runners are hanging by threads and dark horses are emerging on the front lines. Also, given the activity (or lack thereof) of the scribes within the industry, the show may not even go on. Therefore, this entire labor-of-love posting dedicated to my self-professed personal Super Bowl may be entirely in vain. So whether the awards are handed out in a press conferrence or in the lavish, stadium seating setting they so deserve, behold my FINAL (promise), calculated predictions on who and what will be duking it out for them in the six major categories.

Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There
A shoo-in for a nomination. Her turn as Bob Dylan was one of the year's very best.
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
83-year-old Dee may be one of early contender Gangster's few nominations.
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
While the film's spotlight is fading, Ronan's fiery debut is hard to ignore.
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Officially (albeit somewhat inexplicably) the front runner. She's won nearly every precursor award.
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
Long overdue for a nom, Swinton will finally be recognized for her stunning work in the legal thriller.

Catherine Keener, Into the Wild

Like Dee, Keener received a SAG nomination from her peers. If her film performs well, she could too.

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesses James by the Coward Robert Ford
Affleck has had a breakout year, and will likely score a nod as the titular villain.
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Bardem is the one to beat, having created a character that will long be remembered (and feared).
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson's War
With three great performances in three big '07 films, Hoffman is sure to get in somewhere. This seems like his best bet.
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Veteran Holbrook's heartbreaking role as a surrogate father should land him his first nomination.
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
The film's showiest performance demands attention, and will probably get it.

Tommy Lee Jones,
No Country for Old Men

A No Country sweep could put
Jones in the running, who's also
had a big year with this film and
In the Valley of Elah.

Amy Adams, Enchanted
Ms. Adams might just go all the way with this delightful Disney homage.
Julie Christie, Away From Her
Currently the frontrunner, Christie has won the most critics' awards.
Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose
A sure-fire contender from the moment her film debuted last spring.
Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart
As real-life widow Marianne Pearl, the paparazzi queen proved she's still got the chops.
Ellen Page, Juno
Page poses the biggest threat to Christie's win, in a performance that's every inch believable

Cate Blanchett,
Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Though she's received noms from
SAG and the Globes, this movie's
weak showing will probably have the
great Cate settling for supporting.


George Clooney, Michael Clayton
The A-list heartthrob continues to build an impressive resume, and will fight it out with Day-Lewis and Depp in this category.
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
The favorite to win, he catches the Academy's eye every time he works (which isn't often).
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Depp should score his third Best Actor nod as the murderous barber, revealing pipes no one knew he had.
Emile Hirsch, Into the Wild
His lead role in Sean Penn's American tale was one of the year's most affecting, and he could join Ellen Page in representing the younger bracket.
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
Mortensen's second outing with director David Cronenberg was another success, and he'll probably receive love for playing a Russian mobster to perfection.

Denzel Washington,
American Gangster

Seemingly a sure thing just months
ago, Washington's chances have been
gravely affected by the crime epic's
steady decline in the awards circuit.

Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Butterfly is said to be breathtaking, and while it seems it won't crack the Best Pic race, look for Schnabel to get acknowledged for guiding it.
Sean Penn, Into the Wild
Penn's was one of the year's most passionate projects, and as Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson will attest, The Academy loves actors-turned-directors.
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
The Bourne writer's debut feature was the year's smartest movie, and thanks to his script and air-tight approach, he should sneak in here.
Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
The brothers Coen will surely see their second nomination after 1996's Fargo, and with No Country cleaning up the critics' awards, they're the pair to beat.
Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Delivering what some are calling an "American masterpiece," auteur Anderson will indeed make the cut for his gritty oil epic.

Joe Wright, Atonement

While his film will likely land a Best Picture
slot, Wright's Director's Guild shut-out puts a
damper on his Oscar hopes.

Despite being the film with the most Golden Globe nominations (7), Atonement is experiencing a Dreamgirls-esque backlash, falling victim to an over-abundance of early hype. However, it seems impossible for the lavish achievement not to make the top-honor short list.

Into the Wild
Almost universally loved and helmed by an actor who's deeply respected in the industry, this touching story of doomed traveller Christopher McCandless has racked up enough precursor nominations to make it to the big show.

Balancing out the pool as the only title to offer lighter fare, Juno's popularity has made it a serious contender, anchored by Page's lead performance and Diablo Cody's fresh screenplay. The film is also championed by Roger Ebert, one of the few who foresaw Crash's unlikely victory two years back.

No Country for Old Men
The undisputed critical favorite of 2007 has already been showered with a mantle's worth of trophies, and it could very well be honored with one more come February. The masterful, riveting thriller has surpassed Atonement as the surest bet to win.

There Will Be Blood
Showing up late in the game and peaking just as Oscar voters are paying closest attention, Blood has followed a similar strategy as 2004's Million Dollar Baby, which went on to win the top prize of that year. Falling just behind No Country in its staggering amount of critical praise, its practically guaranteed a nomination.

Michael Clayton
The thinking person's law drama has done very well, with early recognition in areas of acting, writing, directing and editing from each respective guild. If it keeps its momentum, it could very possibly knock out Atonement, Juno, or Into the Wild for a position in the top five.

Even if the Oscars go the route of the Golden Globes, and the picket lines keep the ceremony from seeing the light of the Kodak Theatre, the magic of nomination day will ne'er be affected. And life-long cinephiles like me surely won't let a little strike rain on our golden, 5 am parade.
So, make note of my Oscar E.S.P. (rightfully ignoring
that other foolish list), and check back on the big day (January 22, 2008) to view my scorecard and the full list of Academy Award nominees.
Until then, Movie Buddy out.

Bloody Good

Review: Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
4 stars (out of 5)
*Taken from my featured blog at

By now, a lot has been written about how director Tim Burton was the perfect choice to bring Steven Sondheim’s macabre musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the big screen. With a trademark style that’s dark yet whimsical, Burton has made a career out of embracing projects that cater to his bizarre sensibilities. The mastermind behind Batman, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas likely leapt at the opportunity to add the story of a singing, murderous barber to his filmography. The good ink he’s receiving is quite just: Burton’s Sweeney is the best movie musical since Rob Marshall’s Oscar-winning Chicago, and much of that comes from such an ideal pairing of artist and material. It also comes from the fact that like Marshall, Burton respects the constraints of the stage within the film frame while still utilizing the almost limitless visual opportunities film can afford.

As in Sondheim’s version and the legends that preceded it, the movie takes place in London, though it’s not the London you recognize. It’s a wasteland of puddles and shadow, seen through Burton’s camera lens in perpetual grayscale and muted tones. Benjamin Barker has returned there following a forced fifteen year absence at sea, now calling himself Sweeney Todd and sporting a Cruella DeVil hairstyle only a hairstylist could love. Embittered by false charges and the loss of a wife and daughter – both befallen him at the hands of the odious Judge Turpin – Mr. Todd has a mind for vengeance and a thirst for blood that can apparently only be quenched by his glistening straight razors. He meets the reclusive Mrs. Lovett, a figure from his past of which time and pain has erased any memory, who runs the nastiest meat pie bakery in town and conveniently lives just beneath Todd’s old barbershop. Together, they begin a twisted business/romance; he satisfying his appetite for human life with each new doomed client and she cooking the remains into delectable, posthumous pastries (In one of the film’s more devilish numbers, the pair melodically proclaims, “it’s man eating man out there, why deny them in here!?!”).

Johnny Depp, of course, plays the title role, marking the sixth outing he and Burton have made together as star and director. Sweeney feels like the accomplishment the two have been working toward their entire collaborative career, with Scissorhands, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the clay-mation Corpse Bride standing as formidable precursors. You get the sense that the maker and the muse have come to recognize how to best combine their respective skills, and here the mash-up feels the most lived-in and refined. Depp’s embodiments of Burton’s eccentric leading men have become some of the screen’s most immortalized characters, and Sweeney is destined to join, if not top, that list. While he doesn’t bowl you over with his newly unveiled pipes the way, say, Ewan McGregor did in Moulin Rouge! or Catherine Zeta-Jones did – explosively – in Chicago, Depp was the only choice to play this character. To say he is one of the most talented actors of his generation is an obvious understatement at this point. The fascinating thing about Depp is that he doesn’t choose roles, roles choose him. His unique looks, style and track record have made him his own niche market.

Helena Bonham Carter, Burton’s real-life love, is Mrs. Lovett, in one of 2007’s finest supporting performances. Also a Burton film alum, Bonham Carter looks right at home in the director’s worlds, here appearing as though she was born and raised in Fleet Street’s gutters. Buxom and big-haired, though crawling with filth, she’s like Rob Zombie’s object of desire had he lived in the 1800’s. She gets the mood of the piece just right (even more so than Depp), belting and shuffling her way through the part with such nightmarish glee, it’s nearly impossible to note the hidden treachery of her character. The rest of the cast includes Alan Rickman as Turpin, go-to slithery side player Timothy Spall as his devious right-hand man, Sacha Baron Cohen as a showy and competitive colleague, and newcomers Jayne Wisener and Jamie Campbell Bower as Todd’s daughter and shipmate, respectively. Colorful highlights be them all, this is Johnny and Helena’s show all the way.

The split-level home base of Todd and Lovett’s joint venture, Turpin’s impressively swanky flat and the charcoal-tinted cobblestone alleyways that intersect them are essentially the only locations to be seen in Sweeney. Burton wisely keeps his atmosphere fairly enclosed, acquiescing to the limits of the original Broadway show. The action rarely strays far from the demon barber’s deadly headquarters, and just as Marshall did, Burton makes you feel as though the curtain could drop at any moment. Still, he makes the movie feel big. Speedy, CG-enhanced, first-person tours through the city streets and sweeping, stylized crane shots that go high above London’s rainy rooftops suggest that another town full of unsuspecting victims lives just next door. Like great theater, the movie needn’t show you everything to make you feel it.

Indeed, Burton has the most fun and the film the most pick-up the moment Mr. Todd slashes his first throat (which is strategically delayed to the breaking point). Rather than being terrifying, Sweeney’s elegant use of plasma is sinfully and playfully delightful, as if Mr. Scissorhands picked up where Kill Bill’s The Bride left off and traveled across the pond. Every spurt paints splashes of vibrant red on Burton’s washed-out landscape, and the movie becomes a virtual ballet of blood. The kills begin to merge as seamlessly with the songs as the lyrics do, and the way the film makes light of it extracts nearly all of the offensiveness that may steer viewers away. This is not Saw with song, it’s The Sound of Music with a sharp, deadly edge. Its only weakness comes from a side story that it spends a great deal of time building up, then inexplicably leaves hanging in the air. Whether that be a flaw of the original tale or an oversight of Burton’s editing process is unbeknownst to me. What I do know is that you’d be hard pressed to find a film of last year with all of its elements as well-suited to its material as this one. It’s bloody good fun.

Monday, January 7, 2008

No Tolerance for Old Jokes

Top Ten Observations from the 13th Annual Critic's Choice Awards:

10. D.L. Hughley is NOT funny.
I'm SO sick of the producers of these second-rate awards shows hiring token black comedians in the false hopes of entertaining a room full of stuffy white people. Having your entire schtick consist of race jokes in the year 2008 is neither humorous nor daring - it's uncomfortably tired.

9. Fergie's "Glamorous" has officilly been spent for red carpet arrivals.

8. Nikki Blonsky is adorable.

7. George Clooney is impeccably dressed, but incredibly insincere when it's not about him.
He actually looked at his watch when he presented the new Joel Siegel award to "friend" Don Cheadle. But, did you see that suit?

6. Leslie Mann is a fox.

5. Amy Ryan is an inescapable thief.
She robbed Cate Blanchett of yet another award. If she is indeed set to win the Oscar, could they just ship it to her house and have chameleon Cate impersonate her at the ceremony?

4. Javier Bardem is a fox.

3. The Broadcast Film Critics do not care about television.
Did anyone even hear the nominees that came before or after Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee in the category of Best Film made for TV? Even the announcer lady rushed through it.

2. No Country for Old Men is indeed the best film of 2007.

1. The Critic's Choice Awards is the most predictable awards ceremony in the world.

The Winners:
Best Picture - No Country for Old Men
Best Directors - Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Best Actress - Julie Christie - Away From Her
Best Actor - Daniel Day-Lewis - There Will Be Blood
Best Picture Made for Television - Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
Best Documentary -Sicko
Best Family Film - Enchanted
Best Animated Film - Ratatouille
Joel Siegel Humanitarian Award - Don Cheadle
Best Foreign Language Film - The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Best Supporting Actress - Amy Ryan - Gone Baby Gone
Best Supporting Actor - Javier Bardem - No Country for Old Men
Best Song - Falling Slowly - Once
Best Composer - Jonny Greenwood - There Will Be Blood
Best Comedy - Juno
Best Young Actor - Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada - The Kite Runner
Best Young Actress - Nikki Blonsky - Hairspray
Best Screenplay - Diablo Cody - Juno
Best Ensemble - Hairspray

Saturday, January 5, 2008

New Review Stop

I've started to post some of my newer reviews over at, a subsidiary of and Calkins Media, Inc. Catch my commentary on Sweeney Todd and The Savages in my personal blog within their page at two separate but identical locations (click 'em):

Now, go hunting. It's good stuff, and there's more on the way!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Preview Break

Before I delve into Oscar madness, I'd like to take a pause to highlight three films I'm looking forward to most in the coming year. Each of them comes from a visionary director who rarely disappoints, and each boasts an excitingly talented cast. As 2008 begins, here's a look at a trio of releases for which I can't wait.

My Blueberry Nights

Chinese master Wong Kar Wai makes his English language debut, directing Norah Jones, Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz and David Strathairn in the story of a young drifter and the people whose paths she crosses. Wai's films, like 2046, In the Mood for Love, and Chunking Express are gorgeous expressions of romance, and I'm hoping his style translates well with American actors and audiences:

Cassandra's Dream
Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell and Tom Wilkinson star in Woody Allen's latest London outing, following Match Point and Scoop. While this trailer looks a bit typical, Allen's movies are always elevated by his characters, story and dialogue, and his attempts at darker fare have proven to be surprisingly successful in the past:

Funny Games
Director Michael Haneke remakes his own sadistic 1997 thriller about two young men who terrorize a family of three, with Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, and Michael Pitt taking on the lead roles. Haneke's last fim, Cache' was a haunting, dangling masterpiece of restraint and unanswered questions. This preview makes Funny Games appear a worthy follow-up.