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Monthly Archives: February 2007

Post-Oscar Toothache.

Reflecting any pains that Leonardo DiCaprio (might) endure(d) while filming The Departed, particularly in the scene where Jack Nicholson punches Leo’s gripped arm, it is politically incorrect that I almost shared the same pains upon knowing that the film in the spotlight won this year’s Oscar for Best Picture.

While the film is a highly watchable flick, I wonder if this signals the decline of American cinema.
Has the land become extinct due to the drought of fresh ideas and compelling stories?
Has the land been busily sharpening its sophisticated look with the help of CGI, without at once feeding the brains?

And all that deserving winners (Alan Arkin, Helen Mirren, Marie Antoinette‘s Costume Design) do not make up the fact that this year’s Best Picture is a remake of a Hong Kong instant classic film. Isn’t it ironic that one land suffers from dry-spell of stories is conquering other land suffers from dry-spell of box-office takings, yet still abundant with interesting ideas?

Try to read between the lines of what IndieWire (as taken from Associated Press) reports below:

“The Hong Kong director of the gritty gangster flick that Martin Scorsese adapted as his Oscar-winning hit “The Departed” heaped praise on the man he said inspired him to make films. “It is an honour to have been able to help Martin win his first and long overdue Oscar,” said Andrew Lau, whose 2002 film “Infernal Affairs” provided the story for Scorsese’s movie set among the gangs of Boston. “He has always been my hero, his films were why I got into making films.” AFP

What does this mean?

With all due respect to Scorsese, whose “The Age of Innocence” is a very personal favorite of mine, and whose “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull”, “Mean Streets”, “Casino” and “Good Fellas” are, IMHO, considered works of art, I can only wonder whether he has entered his swansong years.

If yes, then let him bask in his belated glory, while we, appreciative audience, will continue wondering and searching a very few good, compelling, original films that make us proud to watch them.

Writing the above sentence gave me a bump. For a few seconds, I completely forgot about my tootache. Darn my teeth!

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Posted by on 02/28/2007 in English, Film

 

Let’s Bet! (for Oscar, that is) — Part 3

Not much time left, so here’s a continuous quickie:

BEST DIRECTOR

I thought The Departed is an exceptional film, something like an oasis for Martin Scorsese after his successive dry spells in “The Aviator” and “Gangs of New York”. But look at his classics, “Mean Streets”, “Taxi Driver”, “Raging Bull”, and even “The Age of Innocence” (the latter being my personal favorite). As refreshing as an oasis can be, The Departed still falls short behind those classics, but way better than his previous two films in this century. Add that with the fact that the film is a remake of “Infernal Affairs”, I doubt if it is greatly rewarding to award someone for his cover-version effort. Still, sentimentality plays a major part here, and I doubt if Clint Eastwood can pull off his fame this time.

Will win
: Martin Scorsese for The Departed.
Should win: Paul Greengrass for United 93. His direction is a fine example of an exquisite, tender approach to otherwise a highly sensitive issue.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

I can’t shake off my disbelief on how meticulous the details are presented in The Queen. Peter Morgan did an extremely fine job here, balancing emotional and factual sides nicely in a work that elevates itself above an average TV-movie.
On the other hand, Guillermo del Toro churns out one of the richest fairy tales that linger on our minds long after we walk out of his Pan’s Labyrinth.
However, the Scriptwriter Guilds Association chose a crowd-pleasing Little Miss Sunshine as their annual awards’ winner in this category. I agree that the film has a handful of one-liners (“Go hug Mom”, anyone?), but I am not sure if it is strong enough to fight a gigantic presence of a faun and a stature of a queen.

Will win
: Michael Arndt for Little Miss Sunshine.
Should win: Peter Morgan for The Queen.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

I may not really fall head over heels into it, but I still applaud William Monahan’s skillful approach to transfer Asian graceful-action shootings to American exploitive style. The one I’m rooting for here is Patrick Marber, who was previously denied for his daring take on “Closer”, one of the most intriguing dramas on adult relationships. Penning a screenplay entirely told from its antagonist? Now that’s something.

Will win: William Monahan for The Departed.
Should win: Patrick Marber for Notes on a Scandal.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

One of the strongest line-ups in years. How I wish to see “Volver”, “Blackbook”, “Cafe Transit”, “Curse of the Golden Flower”, “Love for Share”, “Farewell, Falkenberg”, “White Palms”, or “Something Like Happpines” were nominated. But still, none of these can beat Guillermo del Toro’s creatures.

Will win
: Pan’s Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo del Toro.
Should win: Pan’s Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo del Toro.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Hey! “Ice Age 2” is not that bad!

Will win: Cars.
Should win: Happy Feet. The film really pushes the envelope of what computer-graphic animation should be, i.e. putting audience in anxiety over roller-coasting camera works.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will win: Emmanuel Lubezki for Children of Men.
Should win: Dick Pope for The Illusionist. Love its other-worldly look.

BEST EDITING

Not really a fan of editing styles in both Babel and The Departed, both Editor Guilds’ (ACE) winners. But if I really have to choose between the two, I guess I’ll settle for Thelma’s The Departed.

Will win: Thelma Schoonmaker for The Departed.
Should win: Clare Douglas, Richard Pearson, Christopher Rouse for United 93.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

I did my thorough observation. Hope it gets published, or if it doesn’t, I’ll publish it here.

Will win: Alexandre Desplat for The Queen. However, I’d like him win for “The Painted Veil” instead, which was not nominated despite winning Golden Globe earlier.
Should win: Philip Glass for Notes on a Scandal. It’ll be a make-up for his previous losses, especially for his haunting works on “The Hours”.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

C’mon, at least Dreamgirls should win something.

Will win: “Listen” from Dreamgirls.
Should win: “Listen” from Dreamgirls.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Girls and gays, I know how Patricia Field should be getting some recognition for both her clever picks among those designers’ galore, but against both king and queens of China and England? Nah.

Will win: (I can’t believe this) Consolata Boyle for The Queen.
Should win: Chung Man Yee for Curse of the Golden Flower. A 40-kg crown? That’s something.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURES

Like you need to ask.

Will win: An Inconvenient Truth.
Should win: An Inconvenient Truth.

BEST MAKE-UP

Will win: Pan’s Labyrinth. That guy is sitting for hours to be made-up as a faun!
Should win: Pan’s Labyrinth. Oh, there’s a vomitting giant toad, too.

BEST SOUND

My take: Dreamgirls.

BEST SOUND EDITING

My take: Letters From Iwo Jima. A perfect show-off for war films. Remember, “Pearl Harbor” won in this category five years ago.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

My take
: Superman Returns. Digitizing Brandon Routh’s rumoured bulging asset? That’s something.

BEST ART DIRECTION

“Moulin Rouge!” won this category five years before, so I’ll go the same.

Will win
: Dreamgirls.
Should win: Pan’s Labyrinth.

BEST SHORT FILM, ANIMATED

Again, I did my thorough observation on this. Let’s hope it gets published.

Will win: The Little Matchgirl. Yes, it’s that HCA classic.
Should win: Lifted. Coming soon this summer.

BEST DOCUMENTARY, SHORT SUBJECTS

My take: Recycled Life. A nice unintended publicity that came right after the nominations were announced. But don’t ask me what sort of publicity it created. Look for it yourself, ok?!

BEST SHORT FILM, LIVE ACTION

Will win: West Bank Story. Yes, it’s “West Side Story” being moved to the Middle East.
Should win: Binta and the Great Idea. Love it.

(And I just notice the bigger letters for “Rosebud” than anything else. Nice gesture of AMPAS who denied “Citizen Kane” from winning the Best Picture 66 years ago!)

 
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Posted by on 02/23/2007 in English, Film

 

Let’s Bet! (for Oscar, that is) — Part 2

Interesting line-ups of thespians in equally attractive roles. And I couldn’t help but shouting “Hallelujah!” for strong roles in women fields, both leading and supporting categories. Quite a reminiscence of 2002’s leading actress category, when Salma Hayek, Nicole Kidman, Diane Lane, Julianne Moore and Renee Zellwegger competed. (Darn the prosthetic nose!)

Nominees for BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE are:
Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond
Ryan Gosling in Half Nelson
Peter O’Toole in Venus
Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness
Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland.

A lock, eh?! Unless AMPAS members were busy watching “Lawrence of Arabia”, “My Favorite Year”, “Becket”, “The Lion in Winter”, and many others for the past few weeks, while regretting their past mistakes. In another note, where’s the old Leo who gripped us to a shocking effect in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?”, “The Basketball Diaries” and “Marvin’s Room”?

Will win: Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland.
Should win: Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland.

Nominees for BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE are:
Penelope Cruz in Volver
Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal
Helen Mirren in The Queen
Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada
Kate Winslet in Little Children.

Wow. A total of 29 Oscar acting nominations among them. What a company! Again, who can defy Her Majesty?

Will win: Helen Mirren in The Queen.
Should win: Helen Mirren in The Queen.

Nominees for BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE are:
Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine
Jackie Earle Haley in Little Children
Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond
Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls
Mark Wahlberg in The Departed.

In a highly subjective way, I can’t shake off the ruggedly gorgeous look of Mark Wahlberg ever since I finished my write-up on him here.
But again, looking at the nominees, I seem to rely more on Alan Arkin, for his brief-yet-nuanced performance in Little Miss Sunshine. If Academy wants to play sentimental vote, this is the perfect category to do so, since he is the most veteran actor here.
The only obstacle? The recent award-showering to Eddie Murphy.

Will win: Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls.
Should win: Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine.

Nominees for BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE are:
Adriana Barraza in Babel
Cate Blanchett in Notes on a Scandal
Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine
Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls
Rinko Kikuchi in Babel.

As much as I try not to follow what others have said, Jennifer Hudson’s soulful belt in “And I am Telling You I’m Not Going” is proved to be unstoppable.

Will win: Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls.
Should win/should have been nominated: Maribel Verdu in “Pan’s Labyrinth”.

 
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Posted by on 02/22/2007 in English, Film

 

Let’s Bet! (for Oscar, that is) — Part 1

This is my entry that loudly speaks: You ask for it!

And no matter how hard I have persuaded printed media to release my Oscar predictions (i love you, guys! hahaha!), they lean more towards what news agencies provide. Let’s see if my predictions match:

Nominees for BEST PICTURE are:

Babel
The Departed
Letters from Iwo Jima
Little Miss Sunshine
The Queen

Earlier this week, I discussed with my colleague, who traveled regularly to film festivals in the world, over why it is so hard for Indonesia and many other countries to score a nomination, at least for Best Foreign Language film. His answer is simple: “Most of AMPAS members who vote for this event reside in the US, so, it’s easier for them to vote for films they are familiar with. By familiar, it can be by getting a release in LA/NY, or media coverage, or any medium of promotions. Like everything else, it’s all about connection.”

Add that with “getting close to them, the voters”.

Four of five Best Picture winners in this century are films with stories originally concepted in America, set in the USA and directed by American directors (the exception being “The Return of the King” by New Zealander Peter Jackson). From “A Beautiful Mind” to “Crash”, they all have the Star Spangled Banner notes embedded within.

So, what does this tell us? Easy. The only very American film is Little Miss Sunshine.

If one would like to push The Departed, it is quick to note that the film is an adaptation of much superior “Infernal Affairs” from Hong Kong. The Queen and Letters from Iwo Jima are out of question, and Babel does babble in multiple languages in several continents.

The fact that Little comes with a dose of good-hearted humor is a bonus, and in a time of disheartening events around the world, I guess most of right-wing, liberal voters would like to light up the world with one thing they know best: entertaining.


Will win
: Little Miss Sunshine
Should win: Letters from Iwo Jima (hasn’t it been some time that we see a war film winning Best Picture? The last time a war drama won Best Picture was, believe it or not, “Platoon” in 1986!)

 
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Posted by on 02/22/2007 in English, Film

 

Old habits die hard.

When I decided to take up the job offer from JiFFEst last year, little did I know that one of the very dearly parts of me would be neglected. That part is what we are reading right now: my online version of me, aka my blog.

Of course, I couldn’t be happier to see myself being in a field of my lifelong passion, i.e. film. Ah, yes. The joy of immersing oneself to the celluloid dream, the fun in relating ourselves to a better celluloid character, and the excitement to fill this space with more and more words.

Or not?

Behind the white screen and the DVD eject button, beyond the line-up of films in papers and magazines, a hard work awaited. So hard that it left me close to no time to prepare. After all, what’s to prepare? No guidance or clues from the previous year’s works on how to do what I was supposed to do. No templates or any form of blue-prints of how I should assemble everything into one. It was like being sent to a jungle when you wore your most comfortable Prada, without having paraffin in your Samsonite backpack.

Luckily, the jungle wasn’t that wild. At least how I looked back at it now. It just took me some days, make that weeks, to stay up until 5 or 6 am, and going back to the office at around 11 am. Also some weekends to go by, since one of my friends reminded me that the day was Saturday at 11 pm when we had our online chat.

Yet, I enjoyed the process. I don’t know if you, my friend, or anyone understood how I felt at that time. Yes, it was tiring, and as much as I hate to do, there were times when I had this urge of consuming bottled Vitamin-C pills, something I had secretly detested. But I found a great joy of reading my research materials, choosing the right stills for whoever or whatever media needed them, and writing whatever kind of writing under the sun about them. Talk about the success of working under pressure, eh?

However, happiness comes with a sacrifice. Cliché it may sound, but honestly, somehow I couldn’t share those moments with this blog. It could be because I chose to publish my write-ups in a printed media, or maybe because I began to lose interest in writing here. As simple as the latter or as slightly complicated as the former, they lead me thinking as I am typing this write-up: I wouldn’t be here without this blog.

I made this blog when I found myself at dead-end with my previous jobs. Seriously, if I had anything to regret, it is definitely for not having any guts to leave those jobs any soon. So, as a solace during the dreadful and overloaded working hours, I decided to make myself a blog, where I could write about whatever I wanted. Especially about films. I had had locked my desire to comment about films for a terribly long time. Whatever they were about films I had watched, or any news on films I had found interesting, I just couldn’t resist the urge anymore. You see, I was living with inner conflicts all those years. Thinking about films inside, but responding to angry customers on the outside.

This blog was my daily oasis then. Everyday, I couldn’t wait to write. Make awards prediction, write reviews in pretty horrible grammar. Still until now, though! Hahaha!

Well, they call it ‘bad memories are the one that you can laugh at’. Of course, these memories are the ones that tickle us most to revisit.

So, it might be a revisit, or it might be a permanent affair. Whatever it is, I just want to say that one shall not be away from anything they love most. Anything that brings them to life, anything that they see themselves in.

Those meaningful things are our habits. The habits that drive us to become who we really are.

For me? Let’s just say that what you read here is what I am.

Old habits die hard.

And so did the flood apparently. 🙂

 
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Posted by on 02/13/2007 in Blog, English, Personal