Oscar Predictions and Wishes
Thoughts on movies and other media from a man who loves movies
So just because Malcolm Jamal-Warner (The artist formally known as as Huxtable) managed to sweep through his Celebrity Poker Showdown competitors quickly this week's episode of the show was only an hour long as opposed to the usually two. While normally I would experience only mild disappointment at this, Heather Graham (that's Mrs. Moviegeek to all of you who live in my fantasy world) was not only one of his opponents but finished second. Only one hour of Heather playing poker is not enough. Bravo owes me outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage, or something like that preferably on a DVD that they can overnight directly to my home.
Sorry for the lack of new postings for the last few days. Your devoted moviegeek has been hunkered down viewing and reviewing the best of last year in order to create the best of year-end list.
There is a very funny conversation in Raging Bull where Jake's brother is trying to explain to Jake why weather he wins or he loses his next fight they are going to give him a title shot. The same logic is being used by Fox to explain why the best show on television, Arrested Development is going to be picked up for next year even though it is being pulled for May sweeps.
Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx are starring as Crockett and Tubbs in a big screen adaptation of Michael Mann's quintessential 80s cop show Miami Vice. Here is the first production still to hit the web:
Thank you Skyler
I wonder if this comes with a toy Red Bull and Vodka.
While hosting this weekend's BAFTA awards (the British Academy Awards) host Stephen Fry quipped that if Vera Drake had not won any awards it would have been a "miscarriage of justice."
Gifted Texas Hold 'Em player, Arrested Development fan, and all around good guy Skyler has started construction on a website that deconstructs the acting process of one of America's biggest stars, Tom Cruise. Check out the first step now, but please check back over the next few weeks as he adds essays from some of the most respected film thinkers in Michigan.
Joshua Marston's Maria Full of Grace is structured more like a novel than a film, and in this case that is a compliment. The film plays out in sections that each serve a dramatic function, while always seamlessly providing the audience with the little details that make a story fascinating. The beginning sections of the film establish the life Maria (Catalina Sandino Moreno) leads with an economy the first-time directs rarely display. A viewer can easily marvel at the first-class directing, editing, and cinematography, but all eyes will probably be drawn to Catalina Sandino Moreno. Moreno, 23 but playing 17, captures all the contradictions of a strong-willed young woman who is sure of herself while seemingly always aware that she isn't as in control as she makes it seem. Because the film offers a documentary like approach to explaining what she must do to herself and what she experiences - the sequence on the plane is a claustrophobic nightmare that will work on an audience's nerves with a Hitchcockian precision - the audience is always with her. But it is because of her impressively mature performance that you care about this head-strong girl who feels the need to act like she has all the answers even when she knows she doesn't. Of the five best actress nominees Moreno has the least chance to take the award home, but if there were an award for debut performances she would be a lock to win it.
The very first Academy Awards had two different Best Picture awards. One was for the "Best Production" while the other was more or less awarded for "Best Artistic Achievement". Some may find it interesting that if that were still the case, Martin Scorsese would probably win this year's "Best Production" award, while Clint Eastwood would be awarded the "Best Artistic Achievement" statuette. For some reason that strikes me as very strange.
Mike Leigh films are hit or miss for me. He is a masterful observer of behavior and his humanism is always apparent in the care he extends for his characters. However, if he has a weakness it is that he is not skilled with plot. The first hour of Vera Drake ranks alongside Leigh's very best work. All of the actors create a realistic portrayal of a family living in Britain during the fifties. Vera, a pitch-perfect Imelda Staunton, seems like a good-hearted middle-class bore picking up a few pounds a week as a cleaning woman. Soon it is revealed, just as matter-of-factly as everything in a Mike Leigh film is revealed, that Vera is performing abortions for local girls who are in need of such a procedure. The film approaches the topic in an even-handed way - the film is not about abortion but about a woman who performs abortions. This is not a political film, but a character study. When Vera becomes enmeshed in the legal system, the film loses some of the power it built up as Leigh has no natural feel for suspense or plot. We understand why Vera does what she does, and that really is all the film is concerned with. Her trial makes up the film's final act and it is a real let down as there is nothing new to learn about Vera. We already know why she does it, and now the film is forced to deal with what happens to her. Leigh has no feel for building suspense, and that leads to this section of the film watering-down the audience's involvement with the character. For giving us a rich three-dimensional set of characters as well as handling a controversial topic in a measured intelligent way the film can not be faulted, and sadly that makes the anticlimactic third act all the more disappointing.
Will someone please tell this kid that Blockbuster doesn't charge late fees anymore.
I have been a huge fan of Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown since it first aired. I have been playing poker since I was 7, and I'm fascinated by celebrity so it seemed like a perfect fit. However, it was while watching this week's new episode last night that I was struck by an epiphany that made clear why this show is appointment viewing for me. Celebrity Poker Showdown is the closest this generation is going to get to Battle of the Network Stars. I think they stopped creating new versions of Battle of the Network Stars when I was about ten, and I have missed it ever since. Times have changed. Celebrities now control their images so strongly that they are not willing to humiliate themselves on an obstacle course for the entertainment of the viewing audience. To win at an obstacle course doesn't really impress anyone, but winning at poker signifies a certain kind of intelligence or at least mental skill. (I'm not saying this is CCelebrity Chess Showdown) Winning on the show confers just enough respectability that the program gets decent stars, but the losers - especially the people who go out very early - are genuinely embarrassed which is something audiences rarely see. This extra element is what makes the show one of my very favorites.
And, on a purely selfish note, my fantasy girlfriend will be on the show in three weeks.
Roger Ebert wrote this the other day.