Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Falling Slowly into Insanity - UPDATED

UPDATE: The music section of the AMPAS yesterday agreed that the song "Falling Slowly" from Once is allowed to retain it's nomination in the category for Best Song. Sanity has thankfully prevailed, but you have to wonder what effect all this bad press has on its chances.

Original Story:
You've probably read the speculation and furore in the Sunday Tribune and elsewhere about Once's nomination in the Best Song category at the Oscars. Originally I had completely dismissed this as an old story re-cycled due to the announcement of the nominees last week, but then the story began to pick up speed and the AMPAS said that they were considering the situation.

This comes as a complete surprise as I had though the matter had been sorted out long ago! Kris Tapely over at Variety points out the same in this article. Only 2 songs from Once (Falling Slowly and If You Want Me) were stated by the Academy to be fit for nomination, while all other songs contain were found to be un-original (as in: not for the film). But now the Academy seems to be flip-flopping and pressure has been mounted to re-consider its legibility as an original work for the film. "Pressure from where?" you might ask. Have a look at who else is nominated for Best Song and you may find an answer.

The AMPAS will announce their final decision sometime today.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Del Toro To Direct The Hobbit

Guillermo Del Toro, director of fantastic films such as Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy and The Devil's Backbone, has been confirmed via The Holloywood Reporter (story here) to direct 2 back-to-back features based on Tolkien's The Hobbit.

It's been known for a few weeks that Peter Jackson and New Line finally settled their litigation surrounding profits for the first Rings installment, and that The Hobbit would be done as 2 films, but when it was originally announced Jackson was only listed as a producer. This hinted at a busy slate for Jackson (with The Lovely Bones and Tintin both in various stages of production) and a possible new director. With Del Toro confirmed, production should begin in 2009 with release dates of Christmas 2010 and 2011.

Oscar Countdown: No Country Wins DGA Award

It has only happened 3 times since 1996 that the DGA Award has gone to a director that didn't go on to win the Best Directing Oscar for that year. Ron Howard (Apollo 13), Ang Lee ( Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Rob Marshall (Chicago) won the DGA in 1996, 2001 and 2003, only to lose to Mel Gibson (Braveheart), Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) and Roman Polanski (The Pianist).

This year, the DGA Award went to the Cohen Brothers for No Country For Old Men which now makes them almost certain of Oscar glory.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

New Bond film gets a name, confuses everyone

It was announced on Sky News earlier that the new James Bond film currently in production will be called: Quantum of Solace.

Apparently it's based on a short story contained in Fleming's For Your Eyes Only.

I don't know about everyone else, but does the title sound a bit Lord Of The Rings-ish? Or even Star Trek-y?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Review Roundup!!

I've conceded to the fact that I won't be able to write full reviews of these films. So here's a quick-fire roundup of what I've seen lately...

No Country For Old Men
I've been aching to see this film for ages, and it did not disappoint. Everything about it sublime: the direction, the writing, the performances (Javier Bardem's will go down in history), the sound mixing, the adrenaline pumping chases...aw hell I could go on for ages. It's excellent. Please go see it.
Rating: * * * * * (5 Stars)

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
10 minutes in to this a friend leaned over and said: "I didn't know this was a musical!". She ended up really enjoying it though, which is more then I can say for myself. The problems I have with Sweeney are inherent to the actual source material itself. The production is fantastic, the performances good and the direction excellent. However, it suffers from a few songs that miss the mark and characters (the daughter and her lover in particular) that are just plain boring to watch.
Rating: * * * (3 Stars)

Charlie Wilson's War
Like Sweeney Todd, this has most of the parts to make a brilliant film, but somewhat falls short. The story of a US Congressman who instigates the biggest covert war in the history of the CIA is interesting and has a strong message that is not forced but hinted at. It's a pity that this story is just not compelling enough, and leaves you with the feeling that they cut out 30 minutes of plot development. It is funny in places and has Philip Seymore Hoffman stealing every scene he's in, but it just isn't enough to save it.
Rating: * * * (3 Stars)

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
This is a massive attempt at taking the piss out of Walk The Line and Ray, and they almost pull it off. In a movie like this you just need to know one thing: is it funny? Answer: Yes, but not always. Some jokes are delivered with a knowing wink that takes you out of the story and reminds you that you are just watching a group of people who are effectively pointing and laughing at other films. Others of its ilk, like Anchorman and Blades Of Glory, aren't so aware of themselves and are the better for it. That said, it is mostly funny and is just about worth the admission. Watch out for a cracking joke about The Temptations.
Rating: * * * (3 Stars)

R.I.P. Heath Ledger

His passing is both sad and unfortunate. It's a shame that we won't get to see what would have been a great career.

BBC News has coverage here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Oscar Nominations Announced

The Oscar.com website has a full run-down here.

The big new is that there's quite a few Irish in the nominations...

- Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) in Best Supporting Actress
- Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood) in Best Actor
- Once got a single nomination in the Best Song category
- Seamus McGarvey (Atonement) in Best Cinematography

So how did my predictions do? Here's some commentary (read: my own stoopid opinion) on other categories as well...

Best Picture
Almost hit the nail on the head. There's been quite some buzz with Michael Clayton, and this morning I've been reading that some are considering it No Country's main rival.

Best Director
Joe Wright, director of Atonement, will feel rotten. A Best Picture nomination but nothing for his direction. Jason Reitman's nomination is a huge surprise, considering the Academy rarely give nods to comedy. On the predictions front: 3/5 ain't bad!

Best Actor
Tommy Lee Jones' nomination wasn't expected. I had thought Tom Hanks was a certainty but was very wrong. Emile Hirsch's exclusion was the first sign that Into The Wild would get royally snubbed. Another 3/5.

Best Actress
Like I said, Cate Blanchett's nomination is an annual event. She won't win it though as most will give her Best Supporting Actress. Laura Linney's nomination was unexpected. Keira Knightly didn't get her very much expected nomination... burn! 3/5 on the predictions again.

Other Categories
- As usual, Best Supporting Actor has the most interesting selection. If it turns out to be No Country's night then Bardem will take it home, otherwise Hal Holbrook will be given it (more so for his career rather then his role in Into The Wild).
- Saoirse Ronan will have her work cut out to beat Cate Blanchett in Best Supporting Actress. The I'm Not There actress is a dead cert.
- Best Original Screenplay is the Academy's favorite time to give an award to an Indie film. Juno looks most likely this year.
- No Simpson's Movie on the Best Animated Feature list. Ouchers!
- Speaking of animation, Ratatouille's 5 nominations are really surprising, especially Best Orig. Screenplay
- I predicted 2 nods for Once in the Best Song category, but was trumped by Enchanted's 3 (count 'em!) nominations. I did not see that coming at all. Even Eddie Vedder's song from Into The Wild didn't get a nomination! Once will be favorite to take away the statue as the rest of the votes will be spread too liberally over Enchanted's songs to pose any threat.
- Norbit got nominated (for Best Make-Up). The end of the world is nigh!

Overall, it's a wide open race and I have a feeling that no one film will run away with it. The ceremony will take place, pending that the Writers' Strike (TM) will allow it, on Sunday, Feb. 24th.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Oscar Predictions

I've got a slew of reviews to write up (No Country, Sweeney Todd, Charlie Wilson, Walk Hard, Dan In Real Life) but before all that there's the matter of the Oscar Nominations that are announced tomorrow.

So, just for the hell of it, here's my predictions for some of the major awards and check back tomorrow (Tuesday) so see how many I got wrong!

Best Film
- No Country For Old Men
- There Will Be Blood
- Juno
- The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
- Atonement

Note: Michael Clayton could spring a surprise

Best Director
- The Coen Brothers (No Country For Old Men)
- PT Anderson (There Will Be Blood)
- Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell And The Butterfly)
- Joe Wright (Atonement)
- Tim Burton (Sweeney Todd)

Note: Ridley Scott and Sidney Lumet could also get noms based on their careers so far. Ben Affleck could get a sneaky nom for Gone Baby Gone.

Best Actor
- Daniel Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
- Tom Hanks (Charlie Wilson's War)
- George Clooney (Michael Clayton)
- Frank Langella (Starting Out In The Evening)
- Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises)

Note: Top 3 are a dead cert, John Cusack might surprise with Grace Is Gone, also Emile Hirsch for Into The Wild.

Best Actress
- Julie Christie (Away From Her)
- Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose)
- Ellen Page (Juno)
- Keira Knightly (Atonement)
- Angelina Jolie (A Mighty Heart)

Note: I honestly can't see any other possible nominations, unless Jodie Foster's star-weight gets her a nom and Cate Blanchett gets her now annual nomination.

Other Awards
Expect Sweeney Todd to feature heavily in the Technical/Production categories, as will Atonement and There Will Be Blood. Once, as I said at the beginning of the year, will get 2 noms (both in the Best Song category).

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Review: Dan In Real Life

The Short: It's a poor attempt at light family entertainment. Not funny enough to be a comedy, and not dramatic enough to be even a half-decent drama. After Evan Almighty, it's another flop for Carell.

The Long: The story of Dan In Real Life is straight out of TV Movie-land: a widowed father is trying to cope with his 3 daughters (each at a different stage in life), his work and his lack of a love-life. They all pile into a car and head off to a family gathering at a quaint and quiet seaside town that always seems to be overcast. While off buying papers Steve Carell's character meets a woman whom he completely falls for, only to find out that it's his brother's new girlfriend.

While sometimes amusing, the film never really gets out of 1st gear and seems to happily plod along in it's own world, leaving the audience behind to wonder when they'll all cop-on and give us something interesting to watch. The family at the centre of the story are incredibly annoying with their "family time" games and group exercise sessions in the mornings. Their behavior is so safe (well, it is a PG rated film), mundane, oh-so-cutesy and sugar loaded that you may just develop diabetes from looking at them.
Carell is fine in his role, but is given very little to work with. The same can be said for the rest of the roles, except Dane Cook who turns in another insipid and uninspiring performance.

The writing behind the story is the main reason Dan In Real Life fails. The story takes many turns in the wrong direction, throwing characters into positions where they really shouldn't be and relying on the audience to buy in to these quirks and to ignore the implausibility of it all. It tries so hard to be light hearted and appealing that it forgets to properly engage us and leaves the viewer feeling cheated, having sat through 90 minutes of fakery and lies. In essence, the film is like a condescending pat on the head from an annoying relative.

Rating: * * (2 Stars)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Recent News!

- Brad Renfro, the 25 year-old actor and star of such films as The Client and Apt Pupil, was recently found dead. IMDB has the full story here.

- Irish film (and IFTA nominee, oh how exclusive!) Kings has been dropped from the Oscar shortlist for Best Foreign Film. Whittled down to a total of 9 films, the list has also dropped hot favorites 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and The Orphanage. That Academy is bonkers I tell thee!

- We should find out today if the planned Justice League film, with Max Max director George Miller, will get the green light or not. I'm on the edge of my seat! (No, really!).

Edit: It's been delayed due to The Writers Strike (TM). Well darn it!

- The Producers Guild Of America (who very regularly predict the Oscar Best Picture winner) have named their top 5 films of '07. They are: No Country For Old Men, Juno, There Will Be Blood, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly, and Michael Clayton. Oddly (yet tellingly) enough there was no mention of recent Golden Globe winner Atonement, which today received 14 BAFTA Nominations.

- The final Harry Potter book might be shot over 2 separate films, according to The Daily Mail. They're doing it this way to properly "honor the complexities and scale" of the story. Yeah, and to line your wallets as much as you can before the series ends.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The People's (don't get much) Choice Award

With the Golden Globes reduced to an hour's press conference next Sunday thanks to the WGA Strike (TM), our own need for award ceremonies on this side of the Atlantic will turn to the IFTAs. Most of the categories and nominations will be announced tomorrow, but one has already been published on their fancy looking website: The People's Choice Award for Best International Actress.

This "award" is being sponsored by a haircare company (whose name I'm loathe to say here) and has the following nominees...

- Cate Blanchett for Elizabeth: The Golden Age
- Jodie Foster for The Brave One
- Keira Knightley for Atonement
- Hilary Swank for PS I Love You

While this being a very blatant attempt at advertising is one thing, they could have at least come up with a better list then that. I mean c'mon! Hilary Swank!? Foster and Knightley I can forgive (the latter will probably gain an Oscar nomination) but what about Julie Christie in Away From Her? My own favorite of last year: Keri Russell in Waitress? Why not even go for an obvious one and give a nod to Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart? I can understand that sponsorship money is needed to ensure that the event goes smoothly, but if the IFTAs are to be taken seriously then they should at least have a bit of cop-on and have proper nominations. People's Choice me arse!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Predictions for 2008

- The best film of the year will be released on Jan 18th with No Country For Old Men
- The Oscars (if they actually go ahead!) will once gain give the Best Picture gong to a film that really isn't the Best Picture at all
- Once will be nominated for 2 Oscars (both in the Best Song category) and will win 1
- The new Indiana Jones film will be the highest grossing film of 2008
- The Dark Knight will have millions of Batman fanboys swooning the world over as Nolan will have "fuckin' nailed it!"
- BluRay discs will surpass HD-DVD as more people buy the PS3
- That format war will eventually not matter as movie downloads become more proliferate
- Judd Apatow, having scored numerous hits in a row, will finally have a commercial and critical flop
- The Writers Strike (TM) will finally end mid-Spring as everyone agrees that only 8 episodes of Lost isn't enough for this year
- Jim Carrey's career continues on its downward spiral

Got any other predictions?