Friday, February 27, 2004

Oscar Predix

Quick predix and opinions in major categories, in my favored faux Entertainment Weekly style.

Best Picture

Will Win: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Should Win (of the nominees): Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World
Best of Possible Worlds (best of all Oscar-qualified films released in 2003): Friday Night

Best Director

Will Win: Peter Jackson, LOTR: The Return of the King
Should Win: Jackson.
Best of Possible Worlds: Claire Denis, Friday Night.

Best Actor

Will Win: Sean Penn, Mystic River
Should Win: Ben Kingsley, House of Sand and Fog
Best of Possible Worlds: Russell Crowe, Master & Commander/Campbell Scott, Secret Lives of Dentists

Best Actress

Will Win: Charlize Theron, Monster
Should Win: Theron (didn't see many of the other nominated perfs)
Best of Possible Worlds: Valerie Lemercier, Friday Night

Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Tim Robbins, Mystic River
Should Win: Anybody but Tim Robbins
Best of Possible Worlds: Johnny Depp, Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Renee Zellweger, Cold Mountain
Should Win: Zellweger
Best of Possible Worlds: Nutsa Kukhianidze, The Good Thief

Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: Lost in Translation
Should Win: Finding Nemo
Best of Possible Worlds: Shattered Glass

Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: Mystic River
Should Win: City of God
Best of Possible Worlds: The Secret Lives of Dentists

Best Documentary

Will Win: Capturing the Friedmans
Should Win: Capturing the Friedmans
Best of Possible Worlds: Capturing the Friedmans

Best Foreign Language Picture

Will Win: The Barbarian Invasions
Should Win: Barbarian Invasions is the only nominee I saw.
Best of Possible Worlds (among pictures submitted by countries for consideration): Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring

Best Animated Feature

Will Win: Finding Nemo
Should Win: Finding Nemo
Best of Possible Worlds: Finding Nemo

Best Art Direction

Will Win: Return of the King
Should Win: Master & Commander
Best of Possible Worlds: Down With Love

Best Cinematography

Will Win: Girl With the Pearl Earring
Should Win: Probably Girl With the Pearl Earring
Best of Possible Worlds: Friday Night or Millennium Mambo

Best Original Score

Will Win: Return of the King
Should Win: House of Sand and Fog
Best of Possible Worlds: Friday Night or Demonlover

Best Editing

Will Win: Return of the King
Should Win: Return of the King
Best of Possible Worlds: The Company or Demonlover

Best Costume Design

Will Win: Return of the King
Should Win: Return of the King
Best of Possible Worlds: Kill Bill, Vol. 1

Best Sound

Will Win: Master & Commander
Should Win: Master & Commander
Best of Possible Worlds: Master & Commander/Secret Lives of Dentists

The Fellowship of the Dems

In a reaction that surprised even myself after watching last night's debate sponsored by the LA Times: I might actually vote for Kerry next Tuesday. He's always been closer to where I am on the issues than Edwards -- especially on the big issue of free trade. And his "unelectable" cultural elitism is actually a positive for me -- what kind of world do we live in when fucking Ralph Nader's going around demonizing the "liberal intelligentsia". Gays and coastal elitists, the last politically correct targets in the United States. On behalf of the coastal elitists, I say, fuck you all. (I'll probably end up voting for Edwards to keep the race going just so my pitiful life will still have a purpose.)

While I was watching the Kerry-dominated debate last night, I was struck by a certain Tolkien dynamic at work. Bear with me:

* Stout, strong-jawed, and his presence *commanding*, Kerry finally has finally picked up Aragorn's sword. Like the King of Gondor, Kerry knows he's top cat but is smart enough to keep up appearances so his men will fight on. With his words strong and squarely aimed at the enemy, the guy's ready to fight and win.

* A somewhat callow pretty boy with remarkable skills, Edwards resolved himself to be Legolas, Aragorn's stalwart sidekick. Edward's got one neat trick, the "Two Americas" jive, but he breaks it down with remarkable precision. But like one-trick Legolas, the dude's content to stay the clean and sunny right-hand man.

* Kucinich and Sharpton: Merry and Pippin. Not really essential to the battle, but good for some distracting comedic relief. Like those irritating hobbits, there's no need to ever dignify these guys with a response: when Dennis K. "challenges" the candidates to endorse a single-payer health plan, both Edwards and Kerry just looked away and smiled. There goes that little gnome again.

* To stretch a little to include the drop-outs, Dean's parallel is loyal, dogged Sam Gamgee, the beleaguered and uncredited *real* savior of the mission. Who's Frodo? Not a real good fit, but Clark's delicate features, creepy eyes, and role as putative savior make him the best candidate. Lieberman's Boromir, tempted by the darkside. Carol Mosely-Braun, the radiant Eowyn. Gephardt, the limited, one-note dwarf Gimli. And Gandalf? Wacky elder statesman Bob Graham.

Okay. Need to stop before this becomes the dorkiest post, like, ever.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

GOP, a winning contradiction

Here's an interesting (Vern-acularized) article in English Le Monde discussing the contradictory but winning "anti-elitism" strategy deployed by the GOP. It makes an obvious point that I've been rather obsessed with: how the GOP uses religious language and cultural populism to tap into middle America's historical resentment against coastal intellectuals and the highbrow, which are now somehow synonymous with the party of the secular elites -- the Democrats. But I'm still interested in how the GOP have been able to sell their economic elitism as "liberty." The way the GOP have been able to combine these contradictory impulses into one winning message begs a book-length analysis.

But as an unapologetic cultural elitist, I say "Bring. It. On." My foie gras is bigger than your foie gras, you Cheetos chomping thugs!

Monday, February 23, 2004

Most Anticipated Movies of 2004

2003 sucked. This year will surely be better for movies. In fact, this year looks awesome, with most of my favorite working filmmakers -- Yang and Lynch are the only exceptions, really -- putting out new movies.

Without further ado:

1. 2046 (Wong Kar-wai)

Why? A psuedo-sequel to my favorite movie released in the last forty years? With that cast? It's like A-Rod *and* Bonds on the Red Sox.
But... Brooding androids? A shoot that's gone on for almost three years? Gong Li shows up on the set, after shooting had supposedly wrapped? Many signs point to possible disaster.

2. Not on the Lips (Alain Resnais)

Why? It's a French musical by one of my all-time favorite directors, do I have to spell it out? Icing on the cake: Warm memories of Resnais' SAME OLD SONG, my favorite recent musical; good notices in France.
But... AMELIE looked awesome on paper, too...

3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry)

Why? Kate. Charlie Kaufman. The most kickass Hollywood trailer since MINORITY REPORT. Awesome premise. Strong advanced word. Kate.
But... Hollywoof killed the video star...Hollywoof killed the video star (director)....

4. Clean (Olivier Assayas)

Why? Maggie-Olivier reunited. Not sure what this is about, but anything close to IRMA VEP and we have blast off. The cast includes...Tricky?
But... For all of his formal chops, Assayas' last two features have been mixed bags.

5. The Incredibles (Brad Bird)

Why? Get outta here, Brad "Iron Giant" Bird teaming up with Pixar, the most trusted brand name in the business? Add to this incredible embarrassment of riches, a terrific premise and teaser.
But... I don't see any downside. Do you?

6. Secret Agent (Eric Rohmer)

Why? Possibly the last film of cinema's greatest minaturist.
But... I sure hope it's not a spy movie. Or a Conrad adaptation for that matter.

7. Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (Quentin Tarantino)

Why? Kill Bill, Vol. 1 was my #1 most anticipated movie of 2003. I sure like to see how it ends.
But... Though occasionally jawdroppingly awesome, Vol. 1 was ultimately something of a disappointment. Will Vol. 2 provide the emotional resonance that this fanboy love letter sorely needs? Or at least is less forced in its "coolness"?

8. King and Queen (Arnaud Desplechin)

Why? An autobiographical Desplechin starring Mathieu Amalric for me is like an X-Men movie directed by Fincher for fanboys. See also 1997 Top Ten List.
But... It's a thin line between incisive self-revelation and wan navel-gazing.

9. Bad Education (Pedro Almodovar)

Why? Pedro keeps getting better and better.
But... Pedro's always in danger of overindulgence.

10. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater)

Why? The sequel to that pretty good faux Rohmer movie; goodwill to Linklater for his terrific SCHOOL OF ROCK.
But... That pretty good faux Rohmer movie was also kinda annoying; I still remember WANKING LIFE, bud.

11. Dogville (Lars von Trier)

Why? Supposedly awesome. Nicole. Lars doing the martyr thing.
But... "Masterpiece" is what some of this movie's biggest fans exclaimed when Lars last sent a woman through the ringer. (I didn't like that movie very much.)

12. The Life Aquatic (Wes Anderson)

Why? With Noam Baumbach co-writing and Murray, Blanchett and Owen Wilson in the cast, this is a can't miss, right?
But... Once bitten, twice shy: The Royal Tenenbaums was my #1 most anticipated movie of 2001.

13. Ocean's Twelve (Steven Soderbergh)

Why? Soderbergh's working on a more consistently high level than any other American filmmaker; the charming ELEVEN is that one rare blockbuster where you don't see the sweat.
But... Is anyone really hankering to see a sequel to that goofy throwaway? Isn't it time for SS to stretch in other directions?

14. The Aviator (Martin Scorsese)

Why? Howard Hughes is a freak and a half. Old Hollywood dish is always fun. Scorsese knows a thing or two about obsessive freaks. Marty also made one of the least conventional biopics of all-time.
But... The project sounds like a recipe for mediocrity. Also, Scorsese's due to lay a goose egg.

15. Collateral (Michael Mann)

Why? Mann & Cruise doing a "tight and sharp" LA crime story? I am so there.
But... Et tu, Michael w/ digital video? I'm only beginning to warm to Mann's macho man concerns.

16. Coffee Time (Hou Hsiao-Hsien)

Why? Hou's Ozu homage will be the most interesting experiment on influence since Haynes channelled Sirk.
But... Can anyone do justice to Ozu, whose mastery of familial dynamics looks impossible to imitate?

17. Troy (Wolfgang Petersen)

Why? Agamemnon. Achilles. Hector. Ajax. Odysseus. The Iliad's like the fucking Justice League of America, but better.
But... The only good versions of Homer have been "Homeric" homages (e.g., O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?). More pressing question: which Wolfgang Petersen will show up?

18. Cowards Bend the Knees (Guy Maddin)

Why? This insane movie by insane retro-auteur Guy Maddin is by all accounts awesome.
But... Maddin's hyper-mannered films can devolve into pointless camp.

19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Alfonso Cuaron)

Why? Cuaron's, fresh off of his Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN triumph, has worked wonders in the children's genre as well. (See A LITTLE PRINCESS.)
But... It took the force of ten Nicaraguan strongmen to block me from walking out of the puke-awful first HENRY PORTER.

20. Spider-Man 2 (Sam Raimi)

Why? The original is a textbook example of strong Hollywood blockbuster storytelling.
But... Doc Ock is the Spidey-villain equivalent of the lameass Penguin. Couldn't they get Sandman or Venom or Hobgoblin? And please, better CGI this time, Sambo.

Also: Robot Stories (Pak), Samaritan Girl (Kim), Starsky & Hutch, Zebraman (Miike), Bright Leaves (McElwee), Raja (Doillon), The new Kusturica, Untold Scandal (E).

Sundance a buzzin': The Primer, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, The Motorcycle Diaries, Napolean Dynamite, Open Water.

Not excited about: Alexander (Stone), Stepford Wives (Oz), The Manchurian Candidate (wtf, Demme?), King Arthur (Fuqua), The Passion of the Christ (Gibson), Shrek 2 (---). Dawn of the Dead (wtf?), Van Helsing (Sommers), Wimbledon (Loncraine), Sky Captain (Conran), Catwoman (Pitof -- wtf?), the new Angelopoulos.

Jury's out: The Ladykillers (Coen) [wacko trailer; Coens inconsistent], Hellboy (del Toro) [good director and comic, but can it work?], De-Lovely (Winkler)[Cole Porter musical -- good; Winkler -- very, very bad], I, Robot (Proyas) [cool premise, but Proyas?!?], Anchorman (McCay) [Could be funny, could be shite.].

Sounds totally awesome: Dodgeball: A True Underdog's Story; Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle; The Adventures of Iron Pussy.