Arguably the biggest surprise of the 2011 Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 16 – aside from host Ricky Gervais’ acerbic wit and Natalie Portman’s maniacal cackle – came courtesy of a schlubby, balding, bespectacled actor. Paul Giamatti stunned the crowd with his upset win for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, for his performance as foulmouthed screw-up Barney Panofsky in BARNEY’S VERSION.
Giamatti is no stranger to the Golden Globes, having won in 2008 for the HBO television miniseries, “John Adams.” However, his win at the 2011 Globes – over more ballyhooed stars like Johnny Depp and Kevin Spacey – was poetic justice given his shunning by the Academy. Yes, Giamatti received his first – and only – Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actor in 2005 as Russell Crowe’s dedicated trainer, Joe Gould, in “Cinderella Man,” but it was a empty gesture considering his snub the previous year in the Best Actor category for arguably his best performance to date as troubled oenophile Miles Raymond in Alexander Payne’s brilliant road comedy, “Sideways.”
It remains to be seen if the Academy will follow in the Globes’ footsteps and recognize Giamatti’s performance in Barney’s Version, but there’s no denying it’s one helluva acting job. Adapted from Mordecai Richler’s novel of the same name and marking the directorial debut of “C.S.I.” director-producer Richard J. Lewis, Giamatti stars at Barney Panofsky, a crude, 65-year-old alcoholic who reflects on his life’s hits and misses, including meeting the love of his life, Miriam Grant (Rosamund Pike) at the wedding reception to his 2nd wife, played by Minnie Driver. Dustin Hoffman also stars as Barney’s eccentric father, Izzy.
MMM sat down with Paul Giamatti and Rosamund Pike (“Pride & Prejudice,” “Die Another Day”) to chat about Barney’s Version, and the rules of attraction.
MANHATTAN MOVIE MAGAZINE: Paul, do you really know how to make a girl cry?
PAUL GIAMATTI: Yeah, that’s me man. I know how to make women cry, that’s for sure. Now I’ve just got to make them smile and laugh.
MMM: How does it feel being a stud?
GIAMATTI: It suits me. Am I a stud in this movie? I guess the guy does alright.
MMM: Even though he does some horrible things he’s such a lovable character. How did you make it a lovable character?
GIAMATTI: I think it’s just sort of built into the character, I think it’s just there; it’s the idea in a lot of ways. If he wasn’t likeable or lovable he would be unbearable. It’s kind of there and there are so many wonderful relationships; the relationship I have with her and the father and the fact that he has this sort of…
MMM: The character’s only really there by what someone does usually. He does lots of nice things.
GIAMATTI: Yeah, there’s a kind of care he takes with these sort of wounded people. With his friend Boogie and that French-Canadian actress and his father in a sense is this kind of vulnerable figure that he’s very protective of. He’s got a decent side to him. I just tried to not screw up the screenplay, which sort of laid out all these characteristics.
MMM: Did you both read the book? Talk about research you did.
ROSAMUND PIKE: It depends who we’re talking to. Sometimes we tell people we’ve read it.
GIAMATTI: I know. You’ve noticed that haven’t you? You amazingly called me out on that. I sort of read the book. I read it afterwards, really read it, but sort of. I stayed away from it.
PIKE: The script is pretty different. The script is brilliant in its own right.
GIAMATTI: The script is really good is the thing.
PIKE: Often when you the resource to a novel you go there because you’re looking for the things that the script leaves out. This script has deviated from the book and somehow remained incredibly faithful to the spirit of it.
GIAMATTI: It’s really well written.
PIKE: You start talking about one aspect of the film and you start thinking that’s what the film’s about and then you realize you’ve forgotten a whole other aspect, like there’s a sort of murder mystery at the center of it all.
MMM: How do you walk a fine line between making your character sympathetic and also a villain?
GIAMATTI: That’s what I mean. I don’t know that it was so much me. I mean maybe I bring something to it, I don’t know. I don’t think he was a villain exactly. He can be a bad guy but I don’t think he’s a bad guy.
MMM: Is it necessarily a bad thing if a man feels like he hasn’t found true love but gives it a shot a few times before he really does?
GIAMATTI: I don’t necessarily think it is. I don’t know that this guy thinks he has found it the first two times. I don’t think he’s in any way thinking he found true love with those two wackos. The first woman, certainly not. It’s unfortunate, there’s much more to that whole relationship in the book that I wish could have been in there because it’s a fantastic character in the book, Clara and the crazy relationship that they have. He’s marrying her for all the wrong reasons. I don’t think he loves her, truly loves her. And the second woman he’s making a big mistake and he knows it, which is why the second he sees the person strikes him blind with love like that he goes after her, because he knows he’s making a mistake with the other woman. This is the woman he truly loves and the one time he actually finds it.
MMM: What I got from your reaction in that situation was that he never thought that existed until he saw her?
GIAMATTI: No, I think you’re absolutely right. He didn’t. And that’s why it’s absolutely the impulse to grab it while its there is so powerful that he can’t stop himself.
PIKE: And it’s very powerful to be told that. For someone to sit on a train and say, “Look, I really thought this thing never happens and it does, it really is happening to me now right here.”
GIAMATTI: It’s utterly sincere, and it’s not just about getting tail or something. He actually truly, truly realizes, “Oh my god; that just happened, and I can’t let it pass by.”
MMM: Is that your version of love? What is your version of love?
GIAMATTI: A bit of comedy, some laughs.
PIKE: A few tears.
GIAMATTI: Yeah, a few tears. The idea of being struck by love like that, I think it’s certainly possible. I don’t know how many people actually pursue it. I’ve been struck with lust. Frequently, many times a day. I don’t know about love, per se. I’ve felt that kind of unbelievably impelling power, but whether it was something immediate I don’t know. I don’t know if that’s a real thing.
MMM: Well Miriam’s interesting too because she doesn’t work and she’s not happy about the fact that he’s sending flowers because he’s married.
PIKE: I know, I think she behaves very respectably early on. There was a journalist next door, we just had a big fight because he said that Miriam screwed the whole relationship up by setting Barney up. Because I think she knows him so well at that point that she goes to New York, and knowing she’s going to see Blair. But I really don’t think she went to see Blair. I think she genuinely went to see the son and Blair happened to be there, because Blair is pursuing her like a kind of madman.
GIAMATTI: There’s clearly an attraction between her and Blair.
PIKE: I don’t think she fancies Blair. I couldn’t fancy Bruce Greenwood over him.
MMM: What was so attractive about a man like Barney?
PIKE: The previous one about her being non-flirtatious, it was very interesting actually to play the love interest in a film and not be flirtatious. Because in every romantic comedy or every big romance we see that first scene where there’s definite flirtation going on and it was sort of interesting to hold back and not do all the things that you’re told the romantic lead in a film has to do, sort of do everything against that. I kind of enjoyed that.
MMM: And it’s her being grounded I think.
GIAMATTI: It is, it totally is.
PIKE: And surprisingly men seem to respond to it.
GIAMATTI: Very attractive. Actually, it is.
MMM: We want what we cannot have, that’s why.
GIAMATTI: Well there’s that. But there is something actually very attractive about it, this kind of no bullshit thing.
MMM: When you have the scene after the first lunch meeting, after all that time and you’re with a man who gets so drunk that he vomits and then he passes out and you have to sit there and wait for him to come to, to finally get a slice of pizza because you’re starving. In playing that scene where do you find the motivation for what is keeping her there and what it is about this man who has just done these things that are pretty much all the wrong things to do on a date that keeps her there?
PIKE: She could be about to walk. I think it is really disrespectful to turn up drunk to a date. But then I think it’s when she goes into the room and she sort of sees you have a total new insight into somebody. You have an insight into the fact that he brought however many suits and shirts and ties that he laid out and obviously really thought about this. And then this sort of absurd thing of this Champagne and roses came, which is on one level terribly insulting, and on another level so inappropriately endearing that it’s kind of charming. And then she finds these crib notes of conversation topics and I think whereas she could have thought, “Is this guy just an arrogant asshole?” I think she sees that this is someone who’s so desperate for this meeting to go well that he blows it, and I think that makes her stay. And then that they walk all the way from Central Park to Queens when they actually kiss, like when is this guy going to get on with it?
MMM: Could you talk about the collaboration of working with Dustin? He plays such a funny father.
GIAMATTI: He’s fantastic. He establishes immediate intense intimacy with you as a person and as an actor. But he’s a lot of fun. He’s a fun guy and the process of working with him is kind of nuts. He’ll dig right down into the thing. There were several times when he turned to the director while the camera was rolling and said, “Can we go back to the beginning of this and throw the script out completely? Paul and I will just do this scene in our own words and make it up as we go along,” which we did a couple of times, and then he would suddenly click back in. You had to chase after the guy and keep up with him, but then he’d suddenly click back into the dialog. It was fantastic. It was great. I’ve never worked with somebody doing this kind of mad thing that he was doing but it was highly effective because it just breaks down. He’s getting everything out on camera, he doesn’t believe about doing any rehearsal off camera. You’re going to do it all on camera. You’re going to get your nerves out, you’re going to get all the kinks out, you’re going to work it out all on camera because something great might happen while the cameras are rolling. That’s the way he is.
MMM: How hard was it for him to play the scene when he couldn’t move at the end when he’s dead? Did he keep popping up?
GIAMATTI: He had a fart machine with him, first of all. He had a farting thing with him, which was really hilarious. Very funny. Big laughs as he would hit the fart machine while I was trying to do my big serious scene. For a 75-year-old man he stayed remarkably still. He was pretty amazing because he did have to lie there that whole time and not breathe. He did well actually; he did very well. It was shot really fast because we had to get out because it was a real massage parlor and they had to open for the night so they were like, “Get out, because we’ve got to open.” So the whole thing actually had to go very fast so he didn’t have to lie there too long.
MMM: How would you describe the love story between your two characters? Beautiful, tragic, true?
GIAMATTI: True is a good word for it I think.
PIKE: And I think it’s a really nicely matched relationship. I really admire Miriam because guys like Barney are incredibly fun to be around. The selfish narcissists are also the people who live in such an exciting way. You have to be the kind of woman who can tolerate it, and Miriam is, so she gets the benefit of it and she’s able to nurture him and be totally selfless herself. I think they’re perfectly balanced.
MMM: How is the experience of working with Richard? He has a TV background from “CSI,” so I was wondering if there were any spontaneous things on set?
PIKE: There was a scene where he wanted like at the moment of Barney seeing Miriam he wanted to go right inside his heart and do this whole intravenous journey into Barney’s heart to see it kind of pulse.
GIAMATTI: That’s very funny. That’s very good. That would have been great. What’s great about I think the TV thing is there wasn’t a whole lot of screwing around. He really knew what he wanted to do. He was great.
PIKE: He loved the story. I don’t think his TV background had any bearing on it. He had been passionate about this book for years, like 12 years, and hounded the producer to let him direct it. I think he knew a lot of how he wanted to shoot it. I think he’d had these scenes living in his head.
GIAMATTI: Yeah, he definitely did. When we rehearsed he knew down the line how he was going to shoot something and he would tell us, which was good. It was nice to be able to know that when he got to a scene.
MMM: What’s next for the two of you?
PIKE: Children. No I’m just kidding.
GIAMATTI: I’m doing a movie that George Clooney is directing called “The Ides of March,” which is about a political campaign, a very dirty political campaign. I play a dirty political campaign manager, and that starts in February. Mid-February.
BARNEY’S VERSION is now playing in select theaters nationwide.
Actor Leslie Nielsen passed away today at a Ft. Lauderdale, Florida hospital, according to his agent John S. Kelly. He died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 84. Born on February 11, 1926, Nielsen is best known for his deadpan roles in spoof comedies such as “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun” films, as well as “Forbidden Planet” (1956) and “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972). His agent sent out the following statement:
We are saddened by the passing of beloved actor Leslie Nielsen, probably best remembered as Lt. Frank Drebin in THE NAKED GUN series of pictures, but who enjoyed a more than 60 year career in motion pictures and television.”
Mr. Nielsen, 84, died of complications of pneumonia in a hospital near his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, surrounded by his lovely wife and dear friends at 5:34pm EST today.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in his name to the charity of your choice.
Nielsen appeared in over 100 films and over 1,500 TV programs during his career. Here are some classic Nielsen moments:
FRANCO and HATHAWAY to HOST OSCARS.
James Franco and Anne Hathaway will serve as co-hosts of the 83rd Academy Awards®, Oscar telecast producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer announced today. Both have previously appeared on the telecast but not in hosting capacities.
“James Franco and Anne Hathaway personify the next generation of Hollywood icons — fresh, exciting and multi-talented. We hope to create an Oscar broadcast that will both showcase their incredible talents and entertain the world on February 27,” said Cohen and Mischer. “We are completely thrilled that James and Anne will be joining forces with our brilliant creative team to do just that.”
Franco, who currently can be seen in “127 Hours,” will be making his second appearance on an Oscar telecast. Hathaway will be making her fifth appearance on an Academy Awards telecast, and was recently seen in “Alice in Wonderland” and currently can be seen in “Love and Other Drugs.”
Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2010 will be presented on Sunday, February 27, 2011, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and televised live on the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.
Paramount Pictures announced a sneak preview event for the biopic JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER, happening on February 9th:
Moviegoers across the U.S. and Canada may be among the first to experience the new 3D film, “JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER,” at exclusive “sneak preview” screening events set for Wednesday, February 9th at 6pm at specially selected RealD® 3D equipped movie theaters across the country.
Each complete Sneak Preview Gift Pack is priced at $30.00 (plus shipping) and includes:
•One ticket to the movie sneak preview Wednesday, February 9th at 6pm
•A pair of limited edition purple “JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER” RealD® 3D glasses
•A souvenir VIP event lanyard
•Official “JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER” branded glow stick and bracelet
For event locations around the country, to purchase tickets, or to learn more about this exclusive event, please go to: JB3DPreview.com. Limit is 6 tickets per credit card transaction. Supplies are limited.
MICHELLE WILLIAMS is MARILYN.
London’s The Daily Mail is currently obsessed with BBC Films’ Marilyn Monroe movie MY WEEK WITH MARILYN, which just finished filming at Pinewood Studios with the Weinstein Company planning on distributing the movie stateside. The paper has a new interview with star Michelle Williams tying into the completion of filming with the actress talking at length about playing the iconic screen legend, Marilyn Monroe, with a new photo (below) from the movie accompanying that interview. “At a certain point, something else does take over. I don’t quite feel myself these days,” she told the paper. Co-starring Eddie Redmayne, Judi Dench, Julia Ormond, Dougray Scott, Dominic Cooper and more, the film focuses on Monroe’s relationship with Colin Clark (Redmayne), a well-to-do British laborer on the set of her 1956 movie “The Prince and the Showgirl” with whom she had a romance.
UPCOMING FILM PROJECTS.
Atlas Entertainment announced it is rebooting the beloved franchise, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, with Warner Bros. Pictures. Atlas’ Charles Roven and Steve Alexander will produce the feature film alongside Doug Davison and Roy Lee of Vertigo Entertainment (The Ring, How to Train Your Dragon, The Departed). Whit Anderson is writing the script. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” first appeared as a film in 1992, subsequently becoming a cult hit and spawning the wildly popular television series starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz, among many others.
Creator Joss Whedon responded to the announcement, saying, “This is a sad, sad reflection on our times, when people must feed off the carcasses of beloved stories from their youths—just because they can’t think of an original idea of their own, like I did with my Avengers idea that I made up myself.”
Walt Disney Pictures has confirmed that Gore Verbinksi is now officially signed on for Disney’s THE LONE RANGER. Verbinksi, who has worked with Johnny Depp on the first three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and the upcoming “Rango,” will re-team with the actor, currently attached to play the Lone Ranger’s sidekick, Tonto. The Lone Ranger’s origin story begins with a group of Texas Rangers chasing down a gang of outlaws led by Butch Cavendish. The gang ambushes the Rangers, seemingly killing them all. One survivor is found, however, by an American Indian named Tonto, who nurses him back to health. The Ranger, donning a mask and riding a white stallion named Silver, teams up with Tonto to bring the unscrupulous gang and others of that ilk to justice.
Mark Wahlberg has confirmed to MTV that he will play Nathan Drake in the David O. Russell-directed UNCHARTED: DRAKE’S FORTUNE video game adatptation and that Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci may have roles as well. Wahlberg told MTV he hopes to reteam with his “The Fighter” and “Three Kings” director next year. “The idea that he has is just insane,” Wahlberg said about Russell. “So hopefully we’ll be making that movie this summer.” He added: “That’s who he wants to write the parts for. I talked to Pesci about it and I know David’s people have talked to [Robert De Niro]… I’m obviously in whatever David wants to do but the idea of it is so off the charts: De Niro being my father, Pesci being my uncle. It’s not going to be the watered-down version, that’s for sure.” The story will allegedly have something to do with antiquities dealers in New York.
Gael Garcia Bernal will play boxing champ Roberto Duran in HANDS OF STONE, reports TheWrap. Al Pacino is also circling the role of boxing trainer Ray Arecel in the biopic. Jonathan Jakubowicz (“Secuestro Express”) will write, direct and produce the project with Ben Silverman. The site says the film “will focus on the boxing champion and will tell the inside story of the ‘No Mas’ fight.” In the closing seconds of the fight’s last round, Duran turned his back to Leonard and quit, saying “no mas” (“no more”). Duran beat Leonard in an earlier welterweight championship bout. They would meet again in a 1989 middleweight championship fight in Las Vegas. Leonard won that fight in 12 rounds.
Until next week!
Tags: academy awards, Airplane!, Anne Hathaway, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gael Garcia Bernal, Hands of Stone, james franco, Joss Whedon, justin bieber, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, Leslie Nielsen, Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn, Naked Gun, oscar, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune
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By Marlow Stern
So, the 2010 Academy Awards have come and gone. Despite attracting more viewers – 41.3 million compared to 36.3 million last year – it was a decidedly lame ceremony.
The expansion of best picture hopefuls from five to 10 is likely accountable for this year’s surge to a five-year ratings high, although shouldn’t take all the credit. The down economy has been more conducive to moviegoing, and this year’s Oscar ceremony attracted younger demos with teen idol presenters like Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron and the “Twilight” crowd.
Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin failed to impress as co-hosts. There were high expectations for this pairing thanks to their respective hilarious stints as hosts of “Saturday Night Live,” but, there was a severe dearth in skits and none of the heckled stars seemed into it (least of all George Clooney, who boasted a smug, disinterested expression the entire night). Gone are the days of Billy Crystal serenading Jack Nicholson from Jack’s lap. The most inspired performances came from presenter Ben Stiller – dressed as a nav’i and hissing at James Cameron, and the presenter combo of Robert Downey Jr. and Tina Fey, whose repartee was like a symphony in passive aggression.
But what made the 2010 Oscars so unexciting was, for the most part, the predictability. When the biggest upset of the night is Argentina’s “El Secreto de Sus Ojos” taking home Best Foreign Film over Germany’s “The White Ribbon” or France’s “A Prophet,” you know you’ve got a snooze-worthy program (it bears mentioning that the Best Foreign Film Oscar selection process is entirely screwed up, which explains why in years past films like “City of God” never won, and “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” wasn’t even nominated).
It’s time for the Oscars to get CREATIVE in its nominations. The Academy needs to strip its senior (65+) members of their voting rights, or at least have them take a movie equivalency test to reaffirm their critical faculties (similar to eye testing for senior citizen drivers). Stop shunning the great comedy and action performances in favor of stale turns in biopics and costume dramas. Did anyone give a damn about “The Last Station?”
Without further ado, here are MMM’s 2010 Academy Award nominees (and who we thought should have won):
Sure, Jeff Bridges was “due,” having been nommed 4 times before and being unceremoniously shunned from a nomination for his madcap turn in “The Big Lebowski” thanks to the Academy’s longstanding anti-comedy stance, but Sharlto Copley delivered the most engaging performance of the year in “District 9.” His character arc from obnoxious, toadying pencil pusher to “DON’T YOU FOOKIN’ LOOK AT ME!”-shouting action hero is a master class in acting. Copley’s performance elevated “District 9” to one of the year’s best films, and even validated the film’s transition from a sci-fi parable to chase film during its third act. Props should also be paid to Sam Rockwell’s convincing turn as clones in the criminally underrated sci-fi flick “Moon,” directed by David Bowie spawn Duncan Jones; Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s star-making performance – and great karaoke rendition of The Pixies – as the naïve, manipulated lover of Zooey Deschanel in “500 Days of Summer”; and Nicolas Cage’s downright wacky, drugged-out turn in Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.”
OK, so Sandra Bullock was solid in “The Blind Side.” But honestly, it’s just a glorified Disney movie – like “Remember the Titans” with a ballsy woman supplanting Denzel Washington and more cloying scenes. Tilda Swinton’s unglamorous performance as a woman who kidnaps a boy in an extortion plot gone awry puts her sweaty-armpits turn in “Michael Clayton” to shame. Inspired by John Cassavetes’s “Gloria,” Swinton’s turn as the alcoholic protagonist, smudged eye shadow and all, is the most intense and ballsy female performance of the year. Props should also be bestowed upon Kirsten Stewart, who, though certifiably awful in the “Twilight” films, displays some heavy acting chops as emotionally fragile characters in films like “Into the Wild” and “Adventureland.” And if you wanna take about ballsy, look no further than Charlotte Gainsbourg in Lars von Trier’s “Antichrist.” Winner of Best Actress at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, Gainsbourg bares all – physically and emotionally – as the tormented heroine of Von Trier’s gloomy, violent film.
No argument here. Christoph Waltz’s turn as the “Jew Hunter,” Nazi Colonel Hans Landa, in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” is nothing short of the best performance of the year (in any category). I mean, the guy speaks FIVE languages in the film (convincingly). It’s also nice to see the Academy finally give an outstanding – and deserving – Nazi performance the statue. Edward Norton should’ve won for “American History X,” and ditto for Ralph Fiennes’ supporting turn in “Schindler’s List.” Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling weren’t even nominated for “Romper Stomper” and “The Believer,” respectively. But my main issue is with the nominees. Matt Damon (“Invictus”), Woody Harrelson (“The Messenger”), Christopher Plummer (“The Last Station”) and Stanley Tucci (“The Lovely Bones”) are such uninspired, “name recognition” choices. Did these characters elevate their respective films? Were they memorable at all? Not nearly as memorable as Peter Capaldi’s hilarious turn as foul-mouthed Prime Minister enforcer Malcolm Tucker in “In the Loop” – “FUCKITY-BYE!” Or Zach “Fat Jesus” Galifianakis’s movie-stealing turn in “The Hangover?” One of the year’s other great comedies, “I Love You, Man,” really takes off when Jason Segel’s wild, hyper-masculine character is introduced a half hour in. And who can forget Zachary Quinto’s stoic sexiness in the elevator with Uhura in “Star Trek?”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Mo’Nique, “Precious” (WINNER)
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Gwyneth Paltrow, “Two Lovers”
Melanie Laurent, “Inglourious Basterds”
Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Crazy Heart”
Again, no argument here. Mo’Nique and director Lee Daniels created an iconic movie monster in “Precious.” And somehow, despite all the tossed TV sets and verbal abuse, Mo’Nique manages to make her monster seem human in the film’s climactic scene. She probably won’t be heard from again (see: Jennifer Hudson), but lets give credit where it’s due. But did “Up in the Air” really need TWO supporting noms? No. It barely deserved one. And Penelope Cruz’s nomination for that horrible piece of crap musical “Nine” was just based on Academy cache (hers and the Weinsteins’). I’m not the biggest fan of Gwyneth Paltrow’s, but her turn as the Joaquin Phoenix’s seductress in the underappreciated “Two Lovers” is magnetic – as is the stunning Melanie Laurent’s turn as Jewish escapee Shoshanna in “Inglourious Basterds.” At long last, a coterie of talented French actresses are starting to crossover to the U.S. (see: Laurent, Marion Cotillard, Eva Green). She’s the heart and soul of the film, and who can forget that splendid sequence of her applying warrior makeup to David Bowie?
How the HELL was “Anvil: The Story of Anvil” not nominated for Best Documentary? I don’t want to think about it too much because it will just upset me. Yes, “The Cove” was a beautiful, edifying documentary. OK. But no documentary tugged at the heartstrings like “Anvil.” It was far and away the most affecting – and effective – rock documentary I’ve ever seen and, excuse the cliché, a “triumph of the human spirit.” Canadian metalheads Steve “Lips” Kudlow and Robb Reiner are also the best onscreen couple of the year, displaying the true meaning of friendship, through high and very, very low. I’m also not sure how “Afghan Star” escaped being nominated. The film, a look at how contestants on the a musical contest program “Pop Idol” in Afghanistan risk their lives to appear on the show, is an outstanding commentary on celebrity and the social injustices of the region. But seriously, go see “Anvil.” You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll headbang.
James Cameron accomplished the unthinkable in “Avatar,” crafting a technology-pushing 3-D dreamscape. Kathryn Bigelow’s hyper-kinetic direction in “The Hurt Locker” was consistently thrilling. But Michael Haneke’s direction in “The White Ribbon” is masterful. Every shot is a delicately composed work of art, vividly rendered in black and white. It’s far and away the most beautiful-looking film of the year. When nearly everyone describes the film – and direction – as Bergmanesque, you know you’re seeing something special. Sure, Haneke is incredibly pretentious and scary looking, but what the hell. And some love should also be given to the filmmaking duo of Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (“Half Nelson”), who, with their Dominican baseball recruiting film “Sugar,” do a great job of capturing their protagonist’s sense of alienation and displacement, as he’s transported from the Dominican baseball league, to a farm league in the Midwest United States, and then, to congested New York City. Though tiny in stature, the film’s journey is one of epic proportion.
“Where the Wild Things Are”
“The Hurt Locker”
“The White Ribbon”
“A Prophet” (WINNER)
It’s just annoying that decent albeit undeserving films like “The Blind Side,” “An Education” and “Up in the Air” steal nominations from more deserving fare that could actually use the Oscar nomination to their benefit. The aforementioned “Sugar” was a completely immersive study of alienation; “Where the Wild Things Are” a fully-realized fantasy that captured the estrangement and imagination of youth; “Humpday” was the most hilarious comedy of the year, as well as an intelligent deconstruction of modern male masculinity; and, last but certainly not least, French genre filmmaker Jacques Audiard’s crime saga “A Prophet” was captivating from start to finish. It’s the most complete character study of the year, presenting us with an illiterate, 19-year old Arab street urchin entering prison, and taking us on a journey of spiritual and criminal enlightenment, as the protagonist blossoms into a full-blown crime czar. In “A Prophet,” crime is the hero’s only religion…
…Let’s hope for some more inspired choices next year, Academy!