2011 Oscar Predictions


WILL WIN are in bold

DID WIN are  big

MY SCORE: 18/24

despite anne hathaway's efforts and enthusiasm, the 2011 academy awards will go down as one of the worst i have ever seen. not because of who won or lost, but i'm talking the show itself.

besides the funny put-the-hosts-in-the-movies opening, there was barely a laugh or moment of excitement to be found (except when i won the pool i was in of course). the remixed songs was fun and the bob hope part was nice (although, seeing billy crystal out there to introduce it just made it more obvious what a great host he was and how anne and james just couldn't match up). but other than that the show was pretty dull.

as for my predictions: i did ok this year. 18/24 isn't bad and i did get 2/3 in the shorts categories which is where many pools are often won or lost. however, there were a few categories that, looking back, i'm not sure what i was thinking. i think i got a little too into the idea that The King's Speech wave would sweep up other categories that i missed, the now-obvious, Alice In Wonderland in art direction and costume design. and those of you who listened to the prediction episode of the podcast know how close i was to going with the winners in editing, documentary feature and foreign film (but, alas i didn't). so 18/24 it is. one better than last year and my second best showing since i started doing the podcast. how did you all do?


The King's Speech
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone
The Kids Are All Right
The Fighter


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

Amy Adams , The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Christian Bale , The Fighter
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo , The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

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

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

Another Year , Mike Leigh
The Fighter , Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, and Keith Dorrington
Inception , Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right , Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
The King's Speech , David Seidler

127 Hours , Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network , Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 , Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich
True Grit , Joel and Ethan Coen
Winter's Bone , Debra Granik and Anne Rossellini

In a Better World
Outside the Law

How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
The King's Speech
True Grit

Black Swan
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Alice in Wonderland
I Am Love
The King's Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

Exit Through the Gift Shop
Inside Job
Waste Land

Killing in the Name
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Warriors of Qiugang

Andrew Weisblum, Black Swan
Pamela Martin, The Fighter
Tariq Anwar, The King's Speech
Jon Harris, 127 Hours
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, The Social Network

Adrien Morot, Barney's Version
Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng, The Way Back
Rick Baker and Dave Elsey, The Wolfman

John Powell, How to Train Your Dragon
Hans Zimmer, Inception
Alexandre Desplat, The King's Speech
A.R. Rahman, 127 Hours
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network

“Coming Home” from Country Strong, Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
“I See the Light” from Tangled, Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
“If I Rise” from 127 Hours, Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
“We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3, Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

Day & Night
The Gruffalo
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)

The Confession
The Crush
God of Love
Na Wewe
Wish 143

Toy Story 3
Tron: Legacy
True Grit

The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Iron Man 2

The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus/Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

YEAR: 2009, WRITER: Terry Gilliam & Charles McKeown, DIRECTOR: Terry Gilliam, BUDGET: $30 million (estimated), GROSS: $7,689,458

YEAR: 2010, WRITER: Edgar Wright & Michael Bacall (screenplay), Bryan Lee O'Malley (graphic novels), DIRECTOR: Edgar Wright, BUDGET: $60 million (estimated), GROSS: $29,267,130 (as of Sept. 5th 2010)

while photography is pretty singularly a visual medium and books are a medium very much completely reliant on the words, film is an art form that spans mediums. the words are just as important a component to the success of a film (i mean artistic success - not commercial) as is how the film looks and what it does visually, both large and small (people who talk about film tend to sometimes forget that a low-budget film, or one that forgoes large sets and special effects, is still making a visual statement).

what is often the case though - and one of the reasons why i think so many pretentious film people tend to look down their nose at big-budget films and movies with lots of special effects - is that many film makers focus their attention on the visual aspect of film making but forget about how important the words/story/script are - which leads to films like The Transformers I and II, Terminator Salvation, Ecks Vs Sever and i could go on, but you get what i'm saying). i bring this up, because i recently watched two films with strong artistic visions that also remembered how important the text was as well: The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

no one familiar with terry gilliam's work could ever accuse him of not having a strong vision - but it could be said that sometimes that vision just doesn't always work beyond looking good - yes, i am talking about Tideland (having not seen it, i can't comment on The Brothers Grimm). what about Brazil you ask? well, that is another one of gilliam's visionary works, but it can be a little confusing to some.

however, with Dr. Parnassus, he has created a gorgeous film that is a feast for the eyes and doesn't alienate the audience either. when characters are in the imaginarium it actually makes sense. you understand what is being represented and how it ties into the story. and speaking of the story, it is grand and interesting. gilliam isn't scared of grand story themes and here he takes on the classic deal-with-the devil scenario (in The Fisher King - my favorite of his films - he went with the holy grail).

what struck me about Scott Pilgrim, in regards to the graphic themes and ideas, was how well it used and stuck with the pop-up words and the video-game and comic book visual cues throughout the film.

there are so many movies out there that start strong when it comes to that sort of thing, but as the film progresses it fissiles out like it was just some kind of gimmick. but with Scott Pilgrim it is a core feature of the film and the vision of the film makers and they use it to full effect. and beyond that, the film is very funny, original and really fun.

although Scott Pilgrim and Dr. Parnassus are two very different films without any real connection, i couldn't help but think of them in the same discussion of visual ideas and the good and bad use of said ideas in movies. and these are two cases of good uses in very good films.


Best And Worst Of 2009

looking back, 2009 was a good year overall. however, that overall positive average comes from a rather okay to disappointing big blockbusters and general cinema-near-you fair, to a good to great smaller film and surprise blockbuster year...

the summer blockbuster season was generally a disappointment with films like Watchmen, Terminatore and Transformers all ending up on the "worst of" list. and how can we forget Avatar (i know it wasn't a summer release). sure, it was a huge sucess money-wise and with many critics, but it wasn't a good movie... there were some successesthough, like Star Trek, Inglourious Basterds and District 9 - but even then, you look at the budget for District 9 at $30 million and that is almost independent film budget level.

on the other hand, many of the smaller/foreign/independent/less-publicized films that grabbed my interest ended up living up to expectations - which is often not the case (with the exception of the painfully disappointing The Limits Of Control of course).

like i always say: i can't see everything. so, now is time to list some of the films that have been making the rounds on other list, and garnering awards nominations, that i hadn't seen when i put mine together. they include:

Crazy Heart, Up In The Air, State Of Play, Bright Star, A Single Man, Moon, Anvil: The Story Of Anvil, The Cove, Public Enemies, Me And The Orson Wells, Food Inc....

with all that being said, let the listing begin......


1.  Inglourious Basterds
2A Serious Man
5500 Days Of Summer
6.  In The Loop
7.  Distric 9 & I'm Not Your Friend
8.  Fantastic Mr. Fox
9World's Greatest Dad

don't forget (honorable mention): Up, Where The Wild Things Are, Away We Go, Precious, Star Trek, I Love You Man, Tyson, Adventurland, The White Ribbon, FAQ About Time Travel



if you want to read some short discussions on these crappy films, you can see a write-up on some of them at www.notgoodmovies.com 

1.   Terminator Salvation
2.   Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen
3.   Surrogates
4.   The Limits Of Control
5.   G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra
6.   Watchmen
7.   Angels And Demons
8.   The Invention Of Lying
9.   Gamer
10. Avatar

The Dark Knight & Following

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The Dark Knight: Year: 2008, Writers: Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan (screenplay) Christopher Nolan & David S. Goyer (story) Bob Kane (characters), Director: Christopher Nolan, Budget: 180 million (estimated), Domestic Gross: $158 411 483 (opening weekend)

Following Following: Year: 1998, Writer and Director: Christopher Nolan, Budget: $6 000, Gross: $43 188

christopher nolan made a big splash back in 2000 with his film Memento.  that is one really great film and one of my all-time favorites.  since then he has proven that Memento was no fluke with solid films like Insomnia and Batman Begins and the really good and under appreciated The Prestige (a film that i had at #4 on my list of best films of 2006).  however, what i want to talk about here are mister nolan's first film and his most recent one.

in case you have just gotten back from spending the last two years of your life in a sealed living facility at the bottom of the ocean, nolan's most recent film is the already a huge success, The Dark Knight (you'll notice that it isn't Batman: the dark knight, but rather just The Dark Knight.  i found that interesting). 

as for his first film, most people would probably answer Memento if asked that question, but in fact it is a film he made two years earlier called, Following about an unemployed wanna-be-writer who starts following strangers which leads to him meeting a thief and things go from there. the film is shot in black and white and definitely has some film noire characteristics with its characters and some twists and turns.

let me start by saying, i am a huge fan of tim burton's first batman movie and nicholson's joker.  also, while i thought Batman Begins was okay, i didn't love it the way many critics seemed to at the time.  with those two factors in mind i can tell you that The Dark Knight is my second favorite batman movie ever, and will probably be number one for many out there.  this thing is great. 

it's interesting for those of you who remember when burton's film came out how everyone was talking about how 'dark' it was.  and you might notice how they have been saying the same thing about nolan's two goes at the caped crusader.  in fact they are both dark takes on the story, but whereas burton's films felt more like comic book movies, nolan has gone for this realism in his approach to the material from how it is shot to the way the people behave to the characters themselves who are all based in some reality, rather then fantasy (they aren't bitten by a radioactive spider, they didn't fall in a vat of acid, etc...).

i complain often about films that are too short.  movies that needed to add another 10 or 20 or 30 minutes of actual story and character rather then relying on effects and action (because without the other stuff cool action isn't going to make me forget that i don't care about the movie or that the story feels incomplete).  The Dark Knight at about 2 hours and 30 minutes is as long as it should be.  there was even a point in the film where i thought it might be over and was thinking that it just didn't feel right, but it wasn't over, there was plenty of movie left to go and it was all really good.

personally, there were a couple things i was curious about, and one would be scarecrow.  we saw this character/villain at the end of Batman Begins and i thought he would have a bigger role in this film.  Instead he is literally on screen for about 20 seconds and then never seen again.  this is less a complaint and more just a curious question about why they did that.  maybe they are keeping him around and building up the idea that gotham isn't made up of one villain at a time, which i can buy and have no problem with.

one other thing was that we don't get any origin story for the joker.  there are a couple things thrown out there, but nothing concrete.  now, does this hurt the film?  not at all, but i personally have this desire to know how these super heroes and villains became who they are and so for me i was just quite curious...  also, given that these nolan films are very set on making this world as real-life as possible (rather then comic book-real) i was curious about what they were going to do with the joker.

both Following and The Dark Knight are films about lone men.  men that watch the world from the shadows.  men that at first seem to be on the outskirts of society.  however, both men also have alternate personas.  for batman it is bruce wayne and for the guy in Following it is a cleaned up version of himself that he creates in order to get close to a woman.

two very different films, but with some similar themes, The Dark Knight is the best super hero movie i have seen in a long time and Following is a good film that many will appreciate as the beginnings of this great directors career.


The Happening & Unbreakable

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The Happening:                                                                                                                                   Year: 2008, Writer & Director: M. Night Shayamalan, Budget: $57 million (estimated), Gross: $30 517 109 (as of June 15th, 1008)

Unbreakable_2Unbreakable:                                                                                                                                    Year: 2000, Writer & Director: M. Night Shayamalan, Budget: $75 million (estimated), Gross: $94 999 143

it's happening!!! it started with a few critics and then as more and more people saw the film, the negative comments and reviews continued, and continue, to grow.  it is becoming an epidemic of mass proportions and i, along with ebert, roeper and about %18 of the rotten tomatoes critics are the only ones left to fight it...

ya, i liked The Happening.  no, i didn't love it, and it is m. night's worst film (although i haven't seen Wide Awake), but ya, i liked it.  that does, however, work out well, because this week i want to talk about The Happening, his worst film, in conjunction with my favorite of his movies, Unbreakable.

m. night is such an interesting and dichotomous film maker to me.  on one end he is brilliant:  he creates some very interesting and thrilling stories and is pretty masterful at creating a mood and getting the audience to feel and react as he wants them to, without us feeling manipulated. 

then on the other hand his dialogue can be stilted and feel forced and he can really ruin great ideas by taking them too far and not trusting himself (like in The Lady In The Water when he shows us the creatures at the end and they look like dudes in bad costumes, rather then keeping them in the shadows and keeping the fear psychological and partially unknown for example).

and yet, problems and all, i really do enjoy his films.  there is just something about his stories and the way he tells them that engages me and overrides problems that in other films would be the reason i didn't like the movie.  i can't always fully explain it, but there it is.  for all the intellectual discussions we have about films and our judgments of them, much of it in the end comes down to, at least for me, how i 'feel' about it.  and from that comes the critiques and discussion points and ideas...

so lets get to the movies: we got our 70s sci-fi movie, The Happening and our superhero movie, Unbreakable.

in The Happening, some event/happening is taking place across the northeastern united states that is causing masses of people to start killing themselves.  as it spreads out of the cities, people flee.  but what is it? what is happening?

in Unbreakable, a man is in a massive train accident and, not only is he the only survivor, but he is completely unharmed in any way.  what does this mean?  who is this man?  who is he supposed to be?

m. night loves films with questions.  he wants you to ask them and think about them and then he gives us the answers and sometimes they aren't the ones we expected.  but, either way, the discovery, for me, in his films is always interesting.

i mentioned how both these films were archetypes of different genres (the sci-fi movie and the superhero film) and that they are.  from how they are shot, to the score they use, to the mythology behind the stories, especially with Unbreakable which does it so damn well. 

watching The Happening i couldn't help thinking about films like 28 days later and the 70s version of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.  the unknown threat, the population being killed, the few remaining people trying to survive and figure out the rules to what it is so that they can protect themselves.  with the use of the landscape as a character and the sometimes over-the-top score, the film recognizes what it is doing. 

in Unbreakable we have a wonderful superhero mythology created.  not that i have time to get into a whole joseph campbell 'hero's journey' here, but anyone who reads comic books, or has seen superhero movies will recognize this story.  what the film is really, is the origin story. 

in the special features on the dvd m. night talks about how the film was initially three parts with the hero discovering who he is being just the first part like it is in most superhero movies, followed by the hero using his powers part and the conclusion.... (think Spider-man, Ironman, Batman, etc.....).  however, that wasn't working for him and so he instead decided to turn the origin story into the whole film, and that worked brilliantly. 

this is also his best filmed film.  a comic book is really a movie told in still images and m. night and his cinematographer eduardo serra use that idea to create wonderful still images within the context of moving ones, with the use of long takes and interesting framing and angles and lighting and colors . 

i have no problem with mark wahlberg.  in fact, his performance in Boogie Nights is one of the best and most underrated performances of the last decade (ok 11 years).  however, in this thing he just isn't that good.  this probably isn't helped by a script that is at times good and at others really not.  m. night's writing, like i mentioned before, is often on the verge of stilted and in this film it falls over into it often.  as for Unbreakable, it is the opposite.  the performances by bruce willis and samuel l. jackson are very good and the script is wonderful.

since The Sixth Sense you can't talk about an m. night movie without talking about the ending.  he unfortunately worked himself into a niche corner with that film and for many films after that one people were expecting a surprise ending (many probably still do when they go see his films).  the point is that the ending of both The Happening and Unbreakable are important to any discussion of the films and for different reasons.

with Unbreakable the ending is wonderful.  it provides a nice little surprise that makes you think back over the film and provides a different perspective upon a second viewing, but it doesn't feel so out of left field that the previous 90 minutes you spent watching the movie feel wasted.

as for The Happening, the ending, not giving anything away, is very anti-climactic.  it just kind of ends and for an audience having taken the ride it is natural to want something with more ooumph!! i also kind of felt that way at the end, but it was in thinking about the film afterward that i appreciated it more.  i am often the first to complain about a film that builds slowly only to fall into the trap of feeling the need to give us action or effects or something big, killing what they had spent the majority of the movie building up and creating (I Am Legend is a great example of this).  with The Happening however, that isn't the case.  the film and, especially the ending, just happen.

and yet, like i said in the beginning.  i liked it.  i didn't think the acting was very good and some of the dialogue doesn't work and there are probably a few holes in the story, but i liked it.  i was involved and in the end i appreciated the simplicity of it.  there is even a great coda at the end of the film that, of course, you see coming, but smile in appreciation of it none the less as it fits perfectly into the genre.

The Happening is far from a great film.  but, even with the problems i was engaged till the end and thinking about it afterward i appreciated some of the things even more: like how it plays the 70s sci-fi genre and how the ending just ends, etc...

as for Unbreakable, this is a great movie, and although it did make money at the box office it is one that is, for some reason, often forgotten when people talk about m. night shamaylan.  if you notice the trailers for his most recent films they always say 'from the director who brought you The Sixth Sense and Signs', they just leave Unbreakable off the list.  well, i am here to put it back on that list, and not only on the list, but at the top of it.


The Hulk & The Incredible Hulk

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The Hulk:
Year: 2003, Writer: Stan Lee & Jack Kirby(Marvel comic book character), James Schamus(story), John Turman & Michael France & James Schamus(screenplay), Director: Ang Lee, Budget: $137 million (estimated), Gross: $132 122 995

The_incredible_hulk The Incredible Hulk:
Year: 2008, Writer: Zak Penn (screen story & screenplay), Director: Louis Leterrier, Budget: $125 million (estimated), Gross: Just opened

besides the fact that both films have a large, green, cgi hulk in them, these are pretty much two completely different films.  this makes sense in a way.  i mean if you are going to try and reboot a series and feel like the last attempt got it wrong, then it makes sense to go in a very different direction.  the problem is that neither one of these movies got it all right.

it surprises me that i am saying that for two reasons.  first off, i had always remembered liking the 2003 version of the film and, for some reason, the trailer for this new version had me pretty excited to see it.  but oh how things change.

i should say at this point that i know nothing about the actual hulk comic books, so i don't know which film is more faithful to the real hulk story and the characters or anything like that.  therefor, my discussion of the films is based solely on the films.

i sat down earlier this week to re-watch The Hulk, since i hadn't seen it since 2003 in the theater, and it just wasn't as good as i remembered it.  and then, on friday i went to see The Incredible Hulk and it just wasn't that good to begin with.  but, like i said before, they are two very different films.

i had a sense they would be quite different even before i saw The Incredible Hulk.  first off, louis leterrier is quite a different director then ang lee: lee has made films like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountian and The Ice Storm, where as leterrier's three other films are Unleashed and The Transporter 1 and 2.  also, given the general negative response to lee's film, i was pretty sure the studio would want to do it differently this time around.

i knew things were different about 30 seconds into The Incredible Hulk.  the film opens with writing on the screen that says, 'days without incident - 157'.  bam!! he is already the hulk and he is trying to control it.  it took lee's film 45 minutes till we got our first glimpse of the green guy, but in this new film we are told right off the bat he is already the hulk and within 10 minutes or so we see our cgi friend big, green and very angry.  while that is only one point, it is a perfect example of how these two films differ. 

lee's film is all about the psychology of the character and his inner struggle with what is going on inside him, with his father who made him this way and the girl he loves.  leterrier's film is all about the action.  ya, sure norton has demons inside and is focused on controlling his anger and does have a love interest, but it all feels very secondary to ' hulk smash!!'

not that i was disappointed from the start though.  in fact, when The Incredible Hulk starts off and throws us right into the story in progress so-to-speak, i was thinking, ok this could be fun.  they are assuming we know the basic story (scientist, gamma rays, things go wrong, yada yada yada) and they just want to throw us right in.  the problem is that they threw us right into a pretty typical action movie.  you know the kind that love special effect and big action sequences, but don't really care about the characters on anything more then a superficial level.  and it was because of this that as the film went on i found myself losing interest.

the special effects are great and the big action set pieces are involved and quite impressive.  but, besides that i was only mildly interested in the rest of it.  watching it, you really get the feeling that the studio was all over this from the beginning and really focused on getting a lot more bang for their buck then they did in the 2003 version.

speaking of the 2003 version, there was a fair amount about it that i did like.  i liked that we got an origin story.  the way he became the hulk was a major part of the film, whereas in The Incredible Hulk we only get it mentioned quickly in passing and a few flashback images.

i also liked the depth of character that lee brought to the film and the editing style with all the comic book framing and multiple angles on the screen at the same time was a fun touch that i found viscerally appealing. 

i also prefered jennifer connoly to liv tyler.  i like liv, but the script she was working with didn't help her any by relegating her to the damsel in distress, the ann darrow in this green king kong story.

however, lee's film is a bit slow and long.  although, that isn't the real issue.  rather i think that is just made more evident because the film itself is so overbearing and heavy.  it really isn't that much fun

in the end the better of the two films is the 2003 version. however, both of them are flawed, but this new version should do much better at the box office given its more action pact and general audience friendly.  it seems like the studio feels the same way because the appearance of another recently launched franchise character at the end of the movie suggests there are a few more films planned.

p.s. i have heard that leterrier's original cut of the film was a good 30-45 minutes longer then what the studios made him stream line it down to.  this gives me hope that the directors cut of the film will be a much fuller and more interesting film.... guess its wait for the special edition dvd time.