Thursday, August 28, 2008

Spanish Fly

Woody Allen has good taste...strike that, GREAT taste...

Aside from "Manhattan," my favorite title from his expansive body of work, Allen's films generally fail to wow me in the ways I crave from such 'individual' filmmakers -- visual splendor and innovative narrative shown from a unique and artistic point of view. His movies possess these things, of course (it'd practically be blasphemy against American cinema to say they didn't), but, for me, the Woody Allen-ness of them (an adjective that anyone who follows his work will understand) often steps out in front of what they have to offer. Maybe I'm not always into his humor...or maybe I just haven't seen enough of his films (there are so many - of quality, no less - it's mind boggling).

I have seen enough to know that, in terms of a more superficial sense of style, Allen is like the directorial equivalent of Calvin Klein. Throughout his career, his taste in casting (from Diane Keaton to Mira Sorvino) and locations (New York and, lately, abroad) has been consistently chic and his newest offering, the travel channel fling "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," is no exception. In fact, it's a stellar example.

In the exotic romantic dramedy, that's as fun to watch as it is to say, bright Brit Rebecca Hall ("The Prestige") is Vicky and Scarlett Johansson ("Match Point," "Scoop"), Allen's latest muse, is Cristina, two friends who travel to...Barcelona. There they meet Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), a dark and handsome artist whose invitation for a hot weekend turns into a summer of passon for both women. Penelope Cruz plays Juan Antonio's crazed ex-wife, Maria Elena, in a performance that's steadily gaining Supporting Actress Oscar buzz. The film builds for more than an hour before the Spanish vixen makes her subtle entrance and, from then on, Cruz steals it, amazingly inspiring big laughs and pity simultaneously without ever overplaying her scorned, suicidal character. The rest of the players back her up with good turns all around, including Patricia Clarkson's noble wife caught in a loveless marriage.

How beautiful is this?!?

Allen takes his gorgeous cast, hand-picked from Hollywood's hot commodity bin, and drops them into Spain with a meticulous hand (a bit too meticulous -- the film could shave at least 15 mins.), guiding them and his camera through the gorgeous architecture of the land. There's also a narrator, whose fun voice is never personified but who fills in the gaps of Allen's sexy and sophisticated dialogue. (I do love that aspect of Allen's writing -- it's smart and converstional. He's not chatty like Tarantino, his exchanges are much more plot driven.) The narrator is our tour guide all the way to the end, when the characters leave us as quickly as they arrived. The randomness and pick-up-and-go structure of "Vicky" is just like a carefree vacation. It's a vacation worth taking with Allen, who knows all the good sights.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Wong Kar Wai Night

I am addicted to gorgeous films and Wong Kar Wai ("In the Mood for Love," "2046") is one of my many enablers. I just finished his heralded today, bottom-of-the-Blockbuster-rack tomorrow romance, "My Blueberry Nights," his first English-language effort. I had been mighty excited about this movie from the moment I heard about it in the beginning of '08. It received a lukewarm response from critics, probably because it's not much more than shallow fluff. Still, it's more romantic than many of the kitschy chick flicks to come down the pike and, definitely, much prettier.

The cast, aside from newcomer and soundtrack provider Norah Jones (who's okay, but should stick to music), is comprised of Oscar nominees and winners all around. Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz and David Strathairn all play people whom Jones' character bumps into on some pointless, cross-country road trip. These big name actors are given little to do in this short and only adequately scripted journey but they're time on screen just enhances its beauty that much more. We see them through the text-covered windows of bars and bakeries, in the colorful glow of whatever light Wai felt suited the scene and on street corners (not like that) across the U.S. Wai uses that ghostly slow-mo that shows up in most (all?) of his titles and it works when he's not too self-indulgent with his shot durations (perhaps he's caught Van Sant's linger-itis).

For Wai, this is sub par work but it pours colors out of the screen and it leaves you feeling as warm as a slice of blueberry pie.

The Great Lingerer

I love Gus Van Sant. I think he is one of America's most important filmmakers and, as an auteur, I firmly believe that his point of view is vital, both culturally and artistically. The trailblazing "My Own Private Idaho," with its poetic tone and gorgeous execution, is one of my all time favorites. I cover my ears to the naysayers who were/are part of the mini-backlash against the commercially successful, brilliant "Good Will Hunting." I cannot wait for Van Sant's upcoming biopic, "Milk," starring Sean Penn. All that said, I can't stand some of Van Sant's films.

Those (and their were/are many) who enjoyed 2003 Cannes Palme D'Or winner "Elephant," Van Sant's tedious response to the Columbine tragedy, will revel in "Paranoid Park," his adaptation of Blake Nelson's Portland-based novel about a skater who pours his heart out in his journal after unwittingly killing a security guard. "Park" was nominated last year for the same award that "Elephant" claimed five years ago and could easily be viewed as a sequel, of sorts. It employs the same exhaustingly long tracking shots of kids walking through hallways and treats those images as though they were revealing some sort of deep, existential truth. It's made up of a similar no-name cast of 15 and 16-year-olds who are meant to convey a zits-and-all sense of realism. It focuses on a complicated young boy who, within the film, experiences growth after balancing coolness and morals in the midst of a tragedy.

I did not like "Elephant." I was bored silly with Van Sant's insistence on silently holding on subjects through an entire school's worth of hallways. I also found it way too derivative; nearly every aspect felt like a news headline assumption about what went down during those fateful killings. "Paranoid Park" is better, for sure, but continues Van Sant's dull tradition of forcing his point via needlessly lengthy sequences. I understand that this is a stylistic trademark of Van Sant's pet projects but what good is a signature style if it's ingratiating to its audience? The rest of the film is bursting with loveable Van Sant-isms (an excellent retro-pop soundtrack, dreamy and diverse photography) that exude style in a positive way. But the lingering camera shows up far too often to make it a smooth ride.

From "Idaho" to "Drugstore Cowboy," Van Sant has always been a pioneer in producing films that take an unabashed, unbiased look at American youth. The director is like the rich man's Larry Clark ("Kids," "Bully") in that he can illustrate those same adolescent worlds but remove the harsh vulgarities without losing any of the honesty. His films are more artful, as though he took Clark's work and touched it up with a paintbrush and a quill pen. The cinematography by Christopher Doyle and Rain Li brings beauty to a seemingly washed-out world (I even loved the grainy skater footage, which is not my thing at all ) and the chronoligically scattered narrative avoids gimmick and convention by following the scatter-brained diary of the lead character. Even the boy's voiceover, all robotic and inarticulate, is genuine, evoking the feel of a high school show and tell. All these things are virtues, courtesy of Van Sant. It's when his paintbrush gets stuck to the canvas that things literally slow down and these virtues go almost unnoticed. I would not recommend "Paranoid Park" because I couldn't imagine anyone outside of Van Sant's fan circle enjoying it. I consider myself in that circle and I thought it only a mild success.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Sound of Silence

If ever given the chance to teach a film course, I'd likely devote an entire unit to films that have no musical soundtrack at all. I'd show Fritz Lang's "M," which builds to a blaring, shattering climax that brews silently through the whole, perfectly composed picture. I'd show the Coen Brothers' "No Country for Old Men," which replaces background music with thunder, wind, and the click-click-boom of guns. I'd also show Cristian Mungiu's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," last year's daring and confident glimpse into a harrowing period in the lives of two Romanian college girls who risk their freedoms and relationships so one can have an illegal abortion...quietly.

After much anticipation, I finally caught up with the 2007 Cannes Film Festival Palme D'Or winner yesterday and was surprised with what I found. The film, while brilliantly acted, smartly scripted and shot with sharp precision, is astoundingly simple, offering only a brief, voyeuristic view of a desperate decision that deeply affects two women. The characters are strong, the tensions are high, but what hit me the hardest was the lack of music, a major artistic choice that, when done right, causes everything else in the movie to resonate infinitely more. Like "M," "No Country," and even "The Blair Witch Project" (another one I'd probably show), "4 Months" is one of those films that has the power to rivet you even when the screen is black and all you can hear is a character's breath. And it sticks with you for much longer than its 113 minute duration. The movie itself is simply a fly-on-the-wall, 'I dare you' invitation to share in an emotionally wrenching experience that lasts just a short while. What the movie makes you feel and makes you think about (contributed to by a shockingly long shot of a practically unheard of camera subject) sticks around for much longer.

In Search of a Midnight Mistake

Only a tried and true movie snob would notice but since that's who I hope is frequenting my site(s), I thought I'd mention that I stumbled in my recent review of "In Search of a Midnight Kiss." In it, I cite Richard Linklater's "Before Sunset" as a source of inspiration (or theft) for the film's director when, in fact, I meant to reference "Sunset"'s predecessor, "Before Sunrise." This may seem insignificant but details matter in cinema and, therefore, in writing about cinema. And since the comparison was made to observe similar on-screen first dates, it's a crucial point to overlook. After all, "Sunset" was, in its very structure, a second date. (The mistake has since been fixed.) Apologies, kids, apologies.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fall Fever

Oh, EW editors, you poor things! You featured "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" as the cover story of your Aug. 22 FALL MOVIE PREVIEW issue just before the makers of the screen version of J.K. Rowling's sixth magical tome announced it'd be bumped to summer 2009.

No matter. You still managed to, once again, compile some seriously awesome coverage of Tinseltown's upcoming autumn lineup and you've, once again, successfully made me giddy. To steal the sentiment used to reveal what your critics, the unyieldingly brilliant Owen Gleiberman and the unyieldingly wordy Lisa Schwarzbaum, are looking forward to, here's "what I'm psyched for":

The great Spike Lee takes his first stab at a war epic, about a group of segregated soldiers trapped in Italy during WWII. Lee says it was easier to get this film (which strays from his usual recipe of racial tension in urban climates) made after the killer bank heist flick "Inside Man" became his biggest hit. I am endlessly fascinated with Lee's work, from "Do the Right Thing" to "Bamboozled," so to say I'm curious to see how he brings his biting social commentary to a historic battlefield is an understatement.

Fernando Meirelles, that brilliant aesthetician behind "City of God" and "The Constant Gardener," adapts Jose Saramago's novel about a futuristic epidemic that causes those afflicted to inexplicably lose their sense of sight. It looks like Meirelles is following in the footsteps of his amigo, Alfonso Cuaron, by crafting a gritty war zone, set in the not-too-distant-future and brought on by a medical nightmare (as Cuaron did with 2006's brilliant "Children of Men"). And he's got talent like Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo on board. I'm in as well.

Clint Eastwood's first film since his Oscar-nominated, one-two punch of "Flags of Our Fathers" and "Letters from Iwo Jima" is a 1920's mystery starring Angelina Jolie as a devoted mother trying to find her missing son. Eastwood's no-nonsense style (co-star John Malkovich tells EW that an eight-page scene was shot in an unheard of five hours) and Jolie's ability to relate her character to her own, recently deceased mother make this project extra appealing, especially since Jolie (a Super-Mom, herself) is due for another Oscar nom.

Nicole Kidman reunites with her fanciful "Moulin Rouge!" director, Baz Luhrman, for this sweeping, Down Under epic co-starring fellow Aussie Hugh Jackman. It's new territory for Luhrman, who previously adhered to a "Red Curtain" philosophy, constructing films that were like celluloid versions of lush stage shows. "Australia" is anything but: a desert-set, war-ravaged, adventure/romance that evokes the soul of Old Hollywood. It'll be interesting to see how that style is complimented by Luhrman's, and how Kidman and Jackman play with the freedom of acting out a tale in their native land.

THE ROAD (11/14)
Another apocalyptic yarn, Cormac "No Country for Old Men" McCarthy's latest best-seller is brought to the screen by director John Hillcoat, who reportedly fought for the project after the book landed on his desk and he fell in love with it. Frequent David Cronenberg muse and recent Oscar nominee Viggo Mortensen takes on the starring role of a father guiding his son through a desolate, post-war terrain. By the looks of it, this seemingly enclosed, intimate tale has a weighty psychological subtext, anchored by familial bonds. Oh, and it co-stars Charlize Theron.

MILK (11/21)
Sean Penn, indisputably one of the world's greatest living actors, pulls a "Brokeback Mountain" by portraying America's first openly-gay politician to be elected to office, Harvey Milk, in Gus Van Sant's biopic, set in 1970's San Francisco. The fact that pioneer Van Sant, openly gay himself, is the man taking on this, the first major gay-themed film since "Brokeback," has enough drawing power of its own. Throw Penn (whose already gaining Oscar buzz), Emile Hirsch, and James Franco in the mix, and it's a fact-based fiesta.

DOUBT (12/12)
Meryl Streep?!? Philip Seymour Hoffman?!? Amy Adams?!? A major adaptation of a controversial, Tony-winning play?!? The director of..."Joe Versus the Volcano"?!? Okay, that last bit is a little baffling but the rest of this 1960's Catholic School drama's credentials are enough to excite any movie buff. Word is that Ms. Streep will be adding Oscar nom #15 to her resume as an accusatory principal and co-star Viola Davis is reportedly earning raves as the mother of a sexually abused student. Intrigue. Suspense. Primo talent. Nuns. Get me a ticket.

Hillcoat's film won't be the only "Road" winding into theaters. It and this, Sam Mendes' (almost) concurrently released follow-up to "Jarhead," call to mind the "Good" twins of 2006 (that would be Steven Soderbergh's "The Good German" and Robert De Niro's "The Good Shepherd," two former contender's that had viewers and Academy members doing a double-take). This one's got a lot more bang for it's buck, reteaming "Titanic" super couple Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet for the first time since the White Star Liner hit the bottom of the Atlantic. They star as a struggling couple who head to Paris to escape their troubles and the film presents a hard-to-swallow twist on the American dream. Given the marquee names of one of America's most celebrated dream teams, my guess is that audiences will gladly take a big gulp.

More exciting releases:

No, thanks:

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Gwyneth's Head Revisited

"I took a souvenir -- her pretty head."
- eerily ardent, biblically inspired serial killer, John Doe (Kevin Spacey), during the mildly surprising, twist ending of "Se7en" (1995).

I went ahead and took the liberty of delivering a spoiler here, since, before last week, I was sure that everyone had seen David Fincher's iconic thriller in which Mr. Doe offs (or provokes the death/punishment of), you got it -- seven people, with each murder themed after which of the seven deadly sins (greed, lust, sloth, wrath, pride, gluttony, envy) the victim had committed in life.

I recently (I told you, last week) rewatched the film with someone who (I told you) had never seen it. He was underwhelmed with the ending, claiming that it was not the least bit shocking, too easy, and that there wasn't enough of a an emotional connection between Det. David Mills (Brad Pitt), who takes the sin of wrath by exacting revenge on Mr. Doe, and his wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), whose aforementioned head ends up in a cardboard box. I agreed and I didn't.

I can remember my first film class in high school, when my teacher told me his favorite movie endings of all time: "Se7en" and "The Usual Suspects." (Kinda' like when I interviewed Calkins Media film critic Lou Gaul and he told me his favorite films were "Citizen Kane" and "Casablanca." ...Wow. Really?) I don't know why that stands out, but I've never forgotten it. I think my teacher's words (and painfully obvious preferences) were in my head during my recent "Se7en" screening. I tried to explain to Brandon (I told you, the "Se7en" newbie) that Fincher's film ushered in a host of followers and copycats and shocked audiences at the time of its release, all of which is true. But I started to feel like I was trying to convince myself.

While I do think its script is highly inventive in ways that the makers of the "Saw" films will forever try to top, Brandon's opinions of "Se7en" are just. Given its small cast, if you know anything about movies, furthermore, thrillers, there are only a few people to tap when the emotional climax rears its head. As Brandon pointed out, there is a sinking feeling that the box that Det. William Somerset (Morgan Freeman, delivering the film's sole deeply felt performance) opens could contain the developing fetus of the Mills' unborn child. But that's super gross, even for a movie featuring serrated strap-ons. Besides, Tracy is never showing, even the slightest bit. (What, you think Gwyneth would have put on weight for this role? They have fat suits for that. Just ask "Shallow Hal".) The only other primary characters are a police captain, played by R. Lee Ermey, and an overzealous SWAT guy, played by John C. McGinley, both of whom no one cares about. Nope, Gwyneth's dome is about the only logical thing that could have been fatally Fed-Ex'ed, unless Mr. Doe was capable of boxing up the foul smell emitting from the decaying body of Mr. "Sloth."

To its credit, "Se7en" is another example of Mr. Fincher's superb visual craftsmanship. As he showed again, later, with better films like "Fight Club," "Panic Room," and last year's obsessively, ingeniously detailed "Zodiac," the man is a master of style and atmosphere, an artful director steadily gaining Ridley Scott-sized venerability. And it's never boring, paced to be enjoyed by focused eggheads and idiots with, um, ants, um, in their pants. For me, the most irritating element in the film is Brad Pitt. On my wall, I have a video store-bought poster of 2006's "Babel." On it, Claudia Puig of USA Today proclaims, "Brad Pitt's best film performance." I don't know about that but I'm fairly certain that his turn in "Se7en" is his worst. Playing a hot-headed, other-side-of-the-tracks man's man, Pitt's overcompensation for Mills' unabashed ignorance is infuriating. There are moments in a scene in the car toward the end when you want to hug Spacey's psycho and kick Pitt's cop in the jaw. (I'm sure Spacey's character was written to be viewed with some sympathy, but this goes beyond the usual, "he's got a point" thoughts.)

How about these vintage-looking stills? The movie's only 13 years old!

Brandon's other criticism, about how the relationship between Pitt's character and Paltrow's character isn't drawn strongly enough to elicit a proper emotional response, I completely agree with. "Se7en" places too much hope in the idea that since these two are lovers, they are inevitably very close. Watching the film, that feeling doesn't register. We hear a brief description about how they were high school sweethearts, how she thought he was funny (really?!? must've missed that), and maybe one "I love you." The pregnancy heightens the ultimate impact, but it's easy to feel more pity for Freeman's character, having to witness the simultaneous downfall of two men, than for Pitt's, having to make a decision that's already been made for him. We just don't feel the love.

Pitt doesn't help matters but I blame much of that on Paltrow, an excellent actress suffering from a serious substance abuse problem: she's addicted to characters who are dead on arrival. Paltrow has struck gold with her more lively roles in films like "Shakespeare in Love" (Oscar!), "The Talented Mr. Ripley," "Iron Man," hell, even "Shallow Hal," but too often, she chooses scripts with females that are, in some way, dark, drab, sad-sacks (see: "A Perfect Murder," "Hush," "Sylvia," "Proof" and this). Whether she's crying about an unborn child, stressing over her vengeful husband, or stressing over math problems, this chick is way too prone to playing dead inside. Having her decapitated head show up in a box is like having Freeman give poetic voiceover narration: it's a forgone conclusion. And that, I suppose, proves all of Brandon's points.

Friday, August 8, 2008


How's this for self-congratulatory? I just realized that the post below was #100 for YourMovieBuddy! It may be nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it's a mini-milestone for me. Hooray for blogs -- I can type away about movies and display it for all the world to see. Here's to 100 more!

When I Am 80 Years Old...

...will Saw LXI (61) be hitting movie theaters? Will they have been able to come up with new ways to kill people 61 years in a row? The most astonishing thing about the Saw franchise is their makers' ability to crank out a feature-length entry on an annual basis. This Halloween, Saw V will be released. It's safe to say that they're working on number six as we speak.

I've only seen the first two Saw films, fairly convinced after the second round that I'd gotten all I cared to get out of the series. But they keep on coming, more quickly and assuredly than probably any other horror franchise in history. They have yet to be the films with the most titles but given their current momentum, it won't be long at all. Here's the trailer for the new one, which apparently stars Elisha Cuthbert. Perhaps when I'm pushing 45, the latest Saw will be starring Vivienne Jolie-Pitt.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mixed Media and Mixed Meanings

The Newark Black Film Festival, which just wrapped up its 2008 series in Newark, Trenton and Asbury Park and moves on to Camden for an encore run in Septmeber, handed out its annual Paul Robeson Awards from July 31 - Aug. 1. "Birthmarks," an experimental, non fiction work by Philadelphia artist Naima Lowe, stood out among the winners.
By R. Kurt Osenlund

After five weeks of showing the finest in independent African American cinema on screens at The Newark Museum, Trenton's New Jersey State Museum, and Asbury Park High School, the Newark Black Film Festival concluded its 34th year with the 2008 Paul Robeson Awards at all three locations from July 30 – August 1.

Named after the politically controversial, Princeton-born actor and singer who, arguably, rivals Sidney Poitier as the most influential black figure in American motion picture history, the awards were given out at the Trenton venue on Thursday, July 31. In the categories of Documentary, Long Narrative, Short Narrative, and Experimental, the winners included Andrea Kalin's “Prince Among Slaves,” Andrew Burroughs' “Algeny: The Genetic Factor,” Keyana Ray's “Reflections” and Naima Lowe's “Birthmarks,” respectively.

A banner advertises the festival outside the New Jersey State Museum. (Photo: R. Kurt Osenlund)

“Film is certainly an art form,” says New Jersey State Museum Curator of Fine Arts, Margaret O'Reilly, who's been involved with the festival for all of the five years it's been making its Trenton stop. “[The festival] is a great series and a lot of work goes into it.”

“Birthmarks,” which, along with the other award recipients, was screened at the Trenton reception, was the standout. Composed of a multitude of mixed media, including 16mm film, 35 mm film, archival footage, still photography, interviews and original writing, the 28-minute, non-fiction short recounts and muses over the involvement of director/producer/editor Naima's father, Bill Lowe, in the 1967 Newark Riots, where police brutality turned a peaceful protest into five days of inner-city turmoil.

Bill witnessed these events while working as a reporter for the Trentonian at the age of 21. Initially sent to cover the protests, he was beaten by police at the scene because he was black. Shards of broken bottles that cut into his flesh left a series of small, spot-like scars down his back. Naima, who's seen the marks for as long as she can remember, uses them not only for titular inspiration, but to ground her story on an unbreakable father-daughter bond and a 20-year quest for understanding. They are, in many ways, the driving force of her film and, ultimately, thanks to some strategic foreshadowing, its climax and big reveal.

A scene from "Birthmarks." (Photo: Naima Lowe)

“I was originally adverse to the idea of the build-up [of revealing the scars],” Naima says. “It seemed a little exploitative. But I had [my father's] permission and his blessing to do it. As it developed, and as I understood it more, I started to think that using that story convention could work very well. It came fairly late in the process...when I chose to re-edit it that way.”

Naima's editing process also consisted of literally overlapping layers, with various forms of media repeatedly superimposed over others. Throughout “Birthmarks,” photos often appear on top of the film, then newspaper clippings on top of the photos, then text on top of the newspaper clippings and so on, sometimes producing five layers at a time. The outermost layer of typed words, which is intermittently paired with audio of Naima reading additional original prose, express the filmmaker's innermost feelings, while all the layers beneath it suggest a single meaning or truth just waiting to be uncovered.

“What I wanted to get across was a cyclical meaning through repetition,” Naima says. “It may seem complex and layered at first, with a singular meaning, but, through repetition, you can get at multiple meanings. The event and the story have really evolved over time, as well as the meaning.”

Philadelphia filmmaker Naima Lowe. (Photo: Naima Lowe)

A Philadelphia native, Brown University graduate and writer at heart, Naima is currently an MFA candidate and Future Faculty Fellow at Temple University in its Film and Media Arts program. In addition to the honor claimed at the Newark Black Film Festival, “Birthmarks,” her first film, has received recognition from the Student Academy Awards as a Regional Finalist, was given the award for Best Sound Design by the NextFrame International Student Film Festival, and has also been shown at the Black Lily Film and Music Festival, the Athens Film and Video Festival and the Anthology Film Archive.

“There have been some very nice surprises,” Naima says. “I've been very pleased with the way it's been shown and I've learned a lot since I've made it. Getting the [Newark] award was particularly gratifying given the place and context of the film.”

From September 11 – 26, the Newark Black Film Festival's entire 2008 series, including Naima's inventive meditation on history, racism and family, moves to the Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts for one last run. If the viewers there are anything like their Trenton neighbors, according to O'Reilly, the free event (made possible by a grant from Bank of America) will be met with open arms and open minds.

“When we started five years ago [at the State Museum], we weren't sure of how audiences would embrace [the festival],” she says. “But the community has really claimed ownership of it. They love it and they love that it's in their backyard.”

For more on the 2008 Newark Black Film Festival, visit:
For more on Naima Lowe, visit:

*This has been reprinted by the author from an article published in Inter-County News Media Group's Pennington Post.

An Oscar Nom for Annie?

Many Oscar pundits, including the esteemed Nathaniel Rogers over at The Film Experience, are predicting that Anne Hathaway may land her first Academy Award nomination for her role in Jonathan Demme's upcoming dramedy, "Rachel Getting Married" (trailer below.)

I must admit, watching this, while it does appear to be Ms. Hathaway's grittiest and, perhaps, meatiest performance, I'm not convinced. Looks a little too much like the obligatory pretty-actress-gets-ugly-and-dirty-for-Oscar to me. But then, what am I saying? It usually works, i.e. Charlize Theron ("Monster," "North Country"), Naomi Watts ("21 Grams"), Nicole Kidman ("The Hours"), Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball"), Salma Hayek ("Frida"), etc., etc., etc. (I will not include Hillary Swank, who, as poor, white, trash, was basically given two trophies for playing herself -- the only thing she does well.)

This trailer does remind me of my all-time favorite Thanksgiving movie, "Pieces of April," which had that same, stripped-bare, DV aesthetic. Incidentally, that film landed Patricia Clarkson a Supporting nod. Perhaps the compounded grittiness of the feature and the female within in it will get Academy members to remember Annie's name in the same way they did Patty's. Fine with me. She still deserves some sort of consolation prize for being the sole "Brokeback Mountain" star whose stellar work was almost universally ignored. We'll see.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Um, I'm in. (Take that, Elisabeth Hasselbeck!)