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Movies - The Oscars posts

Friday January 09, 2009

DGAs, PGAs, AAs, Blah Blahs,

The Directors Guild of America came out with their nominees for best picture yesterday and it's the same five as the PGAs, which is the same five as Entertainment Weekly went with last week, which is the same five that insider friend of Jeffrey Wells picked in early December:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Frost/Nixon
Milk
Slumdog Millionaire

Does that mean we're down to it? Is this the list the Academy will wind up with? Perhaps.

The big question is: Have the PGAs and the DGAs ever agreed on all five nominations, and, if so, what was the Academy response?

Yes to the first part. Two years ago, both the PGAs and the DGAs agreed on all five picks: Babel, The Departed, Dreamgirls, Little Miss Sunshine and The Queen. But the Academy went with only four of the five, opting for Letters from Iwo Jima over Dreamgirls. That could happen again. Hell, it might even be a Clint Eastwood movie again.

The big question is still Dark Knight. A superhero film has never been nominated best picture. But, if reports are to be believed, some members of the Academy are tired of how marginalized best picture nominees have become and want a blockbuster in there. DK is certainly that.

And keep in mind: DGA and AA best pic nominees are more likely to agree than not. Of the 40 films both bodies have nominated this decade, they've agreed on 34. Four years in a row (2002-2005), there wasn't a difference between the two.

We'll find out for sure on January 22. 

Posted at 08:35 AM on Jan 09, 2009 in category Movies - The Oscars, Movies
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Thursday December 11, 2008

Oscar Watch: NY Critics Pick "Milk"

Now it’s the New York Film Critics Circle’s turn. “Milk” for best picture, actor (Penn), supporting actor (Brolin). “Happy-Go-Lucky,” which opened quietly in October, and whose widest release has been 202 theaters, won for best director (Mike Leigh) and actress (Sally Hawkins). Cruz won again. “Man on Wire” again. Momentum for these two.

BTW: I may preface these awards with the title “Oscar Watch,” but it really doesn’t mean much in terms of the Academy. Critics are critics, and, for best picture, the NY version has only agreed with the Academy twice this decade: 2007 and 2003:

2007: No Country for Old Men
2006: United 93
2005: Brokeback Mountain
2004: Sideways
2003: The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King
2002: Far From Heaven
2001: Mulholland Drive
2000: Traffic

More importantly, they’ve only agreed with me... a couple of times. I guess it only counts if you make a pick, and I don’t remember picking much earlier in the decade, but, if I had, I wouldn’t have picked what they picked. “Traffic” was a huge disappointment. Same with “Mulholland.” Can’t fathom “Far From Heaven” over “The Pianist.” Was never a big “Lord of the Rings” guy. Despite what I wrote yesterday, I chose “Munich” in ’05 but liked “Brokeback” well enough (OK, a lot). But for the last two years? Yes. “United 93” is a great, underrated movie that didn’t even get nom’ed by the Academy, did it? Don’t know if it’ll last but it’s truly powerful. And "No Country" definitely over "There Will Be Blood."

There’s an article on the NYFCC site, from Stephen Garrett at Time Out New York, that touts this organization the way that I touted the National Society of Film Critics a few years ago, but either he, or they, left off some of the misses. Sure, they picked “Citizen Kane” over “How Green Was My Valley.” They also ignored both “Godfather” movies in place of foreign films. The valley isn’t always greener.

All of which is to say: It’s a tough biz saying within a year — really, within a month — what the best pics are, and Lord knows I’ve changed my own mind enough times. The last two years of the ‘90s, my original pics were “Saving Private Ryan” and “American Beauty” but now I’d go, in a second, and with full force, for “The Thin Red Line” and “The Insider.”

But it’s nice to have an opinion; it's nice to care. Most years I just shrug.

Posted at 09:07 AM on Dec 11, 2008 in category Movies - The Oscars, Movies
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Wednesday December 10, 2008

Oscar Watch: L.A. Critics Pick "WALL-E"

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association announced their annual awards yesterday and not only did they go popular ("WALL-E"), they went popular twice (runner-up for best pic was "The Dark Knight"). This is in direct contrast to their recent history. Throughout the decade, L.A. critics have awarded best picture to character studies or quiet, somber films, drained of color, in which something horrific happens and is then resolved ambiguously or painstakingly:

2007: There Will Be Blood
2006: Letters from Iwo Jima
2005: Brokeback Mountain
2004: Sideways
2003: American Splendor
2002: About Schmidt
2001: In the Bedroom
2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Not a lot of laughs there. I guess not a lot of laughs in "WALL-E" or "Dark Knight," either. This is not criticism, by the way. My best pics this decade, which would include "Crouching Tiger" and "Brokeback Mountain," were mostly somber films: "The Pianist" in 2002, for example.

So a break from their recent history but not from their history. The Association, which has obviously differed over the years (you can see their current membership here), has often awarded bold, popular movies. I'm thinking "Star Wars" in 1977, "E.T." in 1982 and "Pulp Fiction" in 1994. I'd add "L.A. Confidential" and "The Insider," two Russell Crowe movies from the late '90s, but, as good as these movies were, I don't think they were ever popular at the box office.

Here are their picks over the years:

1999: The Insider
1998: Saving Private Ryan
1997: L.A. Confidential
1996: Secrets & Lies
1995: Leaving Las Vegas
1994: Pulp Fiction
1993: Schindler’s List
1992: Unforgiven
1991: Bugsy
1990: Goodfellas
1989: Do the Right Thing
1988: Little Dorrit
1987: Hope & Glory
1986: Hannah and Her Sisters
1985: Brazil
1984: Amadeus
1983: Terms of Endearment
1982: E.T.
1981: Atlantic City
1980: Raging Bull
1979: Kramer vs. Kramer
1978: Coming Home
1977: Star Wars
1976: Network & Rocky
1975: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest & Dog Day Afternoon

Not a bad list. I'd also recommend checking out the LAFCA Web site, which is clean and well-designed for this kind of research. 

The rest of their picks for this year, including Best Actor (Sean Penn) and Best Supporting Actor (Heath Ledger) can be found here.

Posted at 08:48 AM on Dec 10, 2008 in category Movies - The Oscars, Movies
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Saturday December 06, 2008

Oscar Watch: FOJ-Dub

On the Hollywood Elsewhere site, Jeffrey Wells, who always seems to misspell my name (“Eric”) whenever he reacts to one of my articles, posts an Academy insider's picks for Best Pic:

Slumdog Millionaire
Milk
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
The Dark Knight

The supposed shocker is Dark Knight, but I wouldn't be surprised and might even be happy to see it nom'ed . Either way, I get the feeling we're getting down to it. This is beginning to feel right — particularly with Doubt garnering tepid reviews. It would also mean that both Kate Winslet movies (The Reader, which I'm reading now, and Revolutionary Road) would be shut out. Again, not a surprise. Best pics tend to be male- rather than female-oriented, and have been for quite a while

Read the whole post here.

Posted at 03:04 PM on Dec 06, 2008 in category Movies - The Oscars, Movies
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Friday December 05, 2008

Oscar Watch: NBR Picks "Slumdog"

Yesterday, the National Board of Review, the first body to present film awards for the still ongoing season (a season that’s barely begun for the rest of us), announced its awards for 2008. They are:
Best film: “Slumdog Millionaire”
Best director: David Fincher for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Best actor: Clint Eastwood for “Gran Torino”
Best actress: Anne Hathaway for “Rachel Getting Married”
Best adapted screenplay: Eric Roth for “Benjamin”; Simon Beaufoy for “Slumdog”
Best original screenplay: Nick Schenk for “Gran Torino”
Best supporting actor: Josh Brolin for “Milk”
Best supporting actress: Penelope Cruz for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”
Best documentary: “Man on Wire”
Best animated film: “WALL-E”

Quick thoughts. Glad to see “Man on Wire” win. Cruz killed in “Vicky.” Brolin was great but wasn’t his role in “Milk” a bit small? Maybe not. Happy for my friend Deb whose friend Nick won for best screenplay and who wrote the screenplay that is garnering a legend like Eastwood acting accolades so late in his career. That's impressive. Have yet to see “Slumdog.” This weekend, I hope.

Most articles mention that NBR’s pick last year, “No Country for Old Men,” went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. So a good indicator, right? Well, let’s pretend life goes back a little further:

2007: “No Country for Old Men”
2006: “Letters from Iwo Jima”
2005: “Good Night, and Good Luck”
2004: “Finding Neverland”
2003: “Mystic River”
2002: “The Hours”
2001: “Moulin Rouge”
2000: “Quills”

Last year was the anomaly. Only once this decade has the Board’s pick gone on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. In fact, in general, NBR is one of the awards bodies I agree with the least. Their picks are rarely surprising — the way that The National Society of Film Critics can surprise (“Babe”; “Out of Sight”) — and often feel safe and soft. Critics’ favorites that don’t have much staying power.

Oh, and among their top 10 movies for the year? This one. WTF?

Posted at 08:08 AM on Dec 05, 2008 in category Movies - The Oscars, Movies
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