Zodiac

Not rated yet!
Director
David Fincher
Runtime
2 h 37 min
Release Date
2 March 2007
Genres
Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Overview
The true story of the investigation of 'The Zodiac Killer', a serial killer who terrified the San Francisco Bay Area, taunting police with his ciphers and letters. The case becomes an obsession for four men as their lives and careers are built and destroyed by the endless trail of clues.
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VJ Morton3
Right Wing Film Geek



(Reviewers' Site/Bio)
  • My Best of the Year “Skandies” ballot
    (”Zodiac” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    My Best of the Year “Skandies” ballot

    And here is what I DID vote for, with some blathering after each category. Remember, 100 points to distribute to exactly 10 films, performances, scripts, etc.; minimum of 5, maximum of 30. (Also available here; the whole 2007 Skandies site here).

    Film (and Top 10)
    20 No Country for Old Men
    17 Hot Fuzz
    10 Atonement
    10 Private Fears in Public Places
    10 Into Great Silence
    8 There Will Be Blood
    7 Grindhouse
    7 The Lives of Others
    6 Gone Baby Gone
    5 Joshua

    The top 2 were the only films I saw all year to which eventually gave a 10 grade, and I saw all the top 8 at least twice … hence the big points gap between #2 and #3.

    I’d like to think this list at least displays a very catholic taste, at the populist end of the film-snob spectrum — 7 films in English and 3 foreign (though one of the three has very little dialog, and I wouldn’t have been unhappy with none). Two of the films (#2 and #7) that have pretty much nothing “meaningful” to do with anything except having a great time, though I should add that I think all these films, with the exception of #5 and maybe #4, I’d recommend without hesitation to any intelligent adult.

    Lead male
    15 Simon Pegg, Hot Fuzz
    15 Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
    14 Sam Rockwell, Joshua
    12 Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men
    9 Jens Albinus, the Boss of It All
    9 Ulrich Muhe, the Lives of Others
    7 Casey Affleck, Gone Baby Gone
    7 Will Smith, I Am Legend
    7 Danny Boon, My Best Friend
    5 Don Cheadle, Talk to Me

    It might seem perverse to have the most widely-praised performance in eons in my second slot (though I wound up giving the same number of points). But comedy is much harder than tragedy to do well, a fact to which even the actor-heavy Academy is tone-deaf. In this movie, along with SHAUN OF THE DEAD, Pegg moves past Leslie Nielsen as the movies’ greatest (recent) parodic actor, managing to keeping a straight face while following with absolute conviction all the conventions of the genre being lampooned. And Pegg does so without the benefit, which Nielsen had, of playing a character who is a complete moron. Pegg’s characters are a bit unawares and self-absorbed, sure … but basically a believable person.

    If Day-Lewis hadn’t been around, Rockwell would have lived the year’s most virtuoso performance, spanning a character arc that you hardly recognize is so sweeping until you realize how different he has become at the end, without ever seeming to (DDL is great of course, but you very definitely SEE him acting). And sometimes, as with the bottom two, an actor can create a great performance just from his sheer personality and presence.

    Lead female
    22 Nicole Kidman, Margot at the Wedding
    14 Laura Linney, the Savages
    12 Ellen Page, Juno
    10 Keira Knightley, Atonement
    9 Jennifer Jason Leigh, Margot at the Wedding
    8 Tang Wei, Lust, Caution
    8 Tammy Blanchard, Bella
    7 Kate Dickie, Red Road
    5 Chen Shiang-chyi, the Wayward Cloud
    5 Jodie Foster, the Brave One

    What did Nicole ever see in Tom? The talent gap between the two is of Wham!-like proportions. Kidman hasn’t done her career any favors in recent years, choosing to work with great directors like von Trier and Kubrick, on risky projects like FUR and BIRTH, and some of her attempts at money-spinners have fallen horribly flat — BEWITCHED, THE GOLDEN COMPASS). We filmgoers are the richer for it. She eases into Baumbach’s unselfconscious post-analytic style like a female Chris Eigemann, convincingly resisting Big Actor’s Moments because everything is always in her control. Plus, she climbs a tree.

    This category is the cause of my two greatest omissions. Vera Farmiga should have been on this list for JOSHUA, but I just plum flat-out forgot about her brilliant portrayal of a post-partum victim when drawing up the shortlists. And I didn’t see BLACK BOOK until earlier this week, which featured a deserved Skandie-winning performance from Carice van Houten, who would placed definitely in my Top 5 had I seen the film before deadline.

    Supporting male
    17 Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
    15 Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
    13 Lambert Wilson, Private Fears in Public Places
    10 Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
    9 Kurt Russell, Grindhouse
    9 Terrence Howard, The Brave One
    8 Peter O’Toole, Ratatouille
    8 Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
    6 Mark Ruffalo, Zodiac
    5 Ving Rhames, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry

    Ditto what I said about actor, where the most obvious choice and easy Skandie winner wound up in my second slot. Bardem is great, no question. But Holbrook did something very specific that very few actors have ever done, and that’s turn me around on a movie (I probably should have at least put Catherine Keener on my short list for WILD too) that I was mostly hating until he came along. He represents old-style authenticity, trying to warn off while meeting halfway new-style Authenticity, which had things all its own way to that point; hence my hatred. I understand that some of that is the script’s arc, and some of it his iconography and associations (though that’s a legitimate part of acting — use of who one is). But it’s also how Holbrook simply breathes and embodies the wisdom of the ages, how his voice is knowing, how the emotions coming through at just the right moments.

    Two things to note on this category, about things I do self-consciously every year, to offset tendencies that lead to certain things that can too easily get overlooked.

    (1) I try deliberately, though not always successfully, to reward voice performances, whether in animated movies and voiceovers. On the former front, I’ve given points to Larry the Cable Guy and Ellen Degeneres (in part no doubt because the greatest problem standup comics like these two have when they try to act — infelicity with body language — is not a problem) and to Robert Downey Jr. On the latter, I’ve rewarded John Hurt for his voiceover in DOGVILLE and probably should have done so from Andre Dussolier for AMELIE back in 2001. This year, Peter O’Toole profited, with his fruity role as critic Anton Ego getting “animation” points.

    (2) I make a point of always giving at least some points to elements in films that I overall didn’t much care for overall. I didn’t like how my first year of voting (1998 … now at my Skandie history page … thanks, Mike, for retrieving it) had a ballot so heavily weighted toward a few films. Every year since, I’ve deliberately “spread the wealth,” with a particular effort (an affirmative action, one might call it) to find performances in lesser films. This year, the clear awesomeness of Ving Rhames and Philip Seymour Hoffman stirred both their mediocre films to life whenever they were on the screen

    Supporting female
    20 Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
    17 Sabine Azema, Private Fears in Public Places
    15 Vanessa Redgrave, Atonement
    9 Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
    9 Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There
    9 Seong Hyeon-a, Time
    6 Kelly McDonald, No Country for Old Men
    5 Anna Kendrick, Rocket Science
    5 Amy Ryan, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
    5 Kelli Garner, Lars and the Real Girl

    My points to Seong Hyeon-a is the only time I think I’ve ever voted for an uncredited actor — I was sufficiently unsure that I asked Mike if that was OK. She may have had the year’s most difficult role, playing a character already having been played by a different actress in the first part of the movie. The central plot point in TIME (which is very good BTW, an Honorable Mention for the year) is the inverse of Kim Novak in VERTIGO — a woman has plastic surgery to make new again her tempestuous relationship with her boyfriend; Seong plays the woman post-surgery, meaning she has to create a different-yet-same character. She sometimes fumbles and I can see how her stylized playing could be offputting (I have no idea how it sounds in Korean).

    Others: If Amy Ryan can’t play both slutty and concerned mom convincingly, without coming across as a complete nutter, GONE BABY GONE is gone. Kelly McDonald and Vanessa Redgrave really only have one scene each, but they both knock them out of the park, as the respective movie’s moral fulcrum. And Anna Kendrick was a Proustian moment for me, all the high-school girls who were good in debate were just. like. that. (getting debate “spread” delivery right is no mean feat).

    Director
    18 Coen brothers, No Country for Old Men
    14 Alain Resnais, Private Fears in Public Places
    12 Quentin Tarantino, Grindhouse
    10 “Joe,” Syndromes and a Century
    10 Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
    8 Jafar Panahi, Offside
    8 Edgar Wright, Hot Fuzz
    7 Tsai Ming-liang, the Wayward Cloud
    7 David Fincher, Zodiac
    6 Kim Ki-duk, Time

    I tend to use this category and the succeeding “Script” category as a vehicle to award points to films that just miss the Top 10 — Panahi, Tsai, Kim here and Baumbach, Von Trier and Canyon in the next category. But there was no other choice really possible at #1 … it’s been years since I’ve seen direction so lean, so self-assured, so me-assuring, so perfect in every way — the only reason this didn’t get more points was that everything else in the Top 10 was so strong. Resnais (again) made a masterpiece out of a half-forgotten play; Wright directs for camera-only comedy, rather than just rely on “sketch value”; Tsai is at his most Tsainess ever (until he miscalculates and just goes too far — literally — at the end); Tarantino at his most Tarantinian ever (and the end actually IS a great capper)

    Script
    20 Christopher Hampton, Atonement
    15 Noah Baumbach, Margot at the Wedding
    15 Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, Hot Fuzz
    10 Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard, Gone Baby Gone
    10 Diablo Canyon, Juno
    8 Florian Henckel von Dommersmarck, the Lives of Others
    7 Coen brothers, No Country for Old Men
    5 Brad Bird, Ratatouille
    5 Arnaud Cathrine and Julie Gavras, Blame It on Fidel
    5 Lars von Trier, the Boss of It All

    Yeah … that British literary bias, but Hampton really did do a brilliant job, worthy of the important playwright he himself is, paring down to the essence of what looked like an unfilmable novel and getting the blueprint for how a very literary conceit, post-modern discourses, work as drama (here is Tasha Robinson with a brilliant piece at the Onion AV Club on the film and the novel). Diablo Canyon was fine on the quotable lines department, but she just got outdone by Noah Baumbach who apparently can exude hyperliterate passive-aggressive oneupmanship by the yard and shrink-wrap it to order.

    Let me make a shout-out here for BLAME IT ON FIDEL, which is like a French arthouse version of Absolutely Fabulous — 60s radical parents and a young girl, Anna, who rebels too — by wanting a normal apolitical childhood. The scene where she unwittingly explains the inherent natural basis of property to some anarchists was priceless. About a willful child in sort of the same way ATONEMENT is, but under much different circumstances and she doesn’t take it anywhere near what Briony does. It isn’t a great movie (7 grade) because it never really goes for the jugular like I wanted to against the sort of people whom it’s taking the piss out of — professional revolutionaries/”activists,” though since it’s to some extent about Gavras’s own childhood, some diplomacy is humanly understandable. But it takes more than enough piss for me to enjoy.

    Scene

    These are the scenes in question for 8 of my 10 picks, the ones I’ve able to find. I gave 10 points to all 10 scenes, so the order doesn’t mean anything. It’s just alphabetical by the films’ titles.

    10 At the Father’s house, Bella (couldn’t find … in fact, I can’t find ANY clips for Bella)

    10 Ship’s Mast, Grindhouse (courtesy of Mike)

    10 “Miss Baltimore Crab,” Hairspray (although doomed by this to have no shot at being more than the second-greatest Michelle Pfeiffer musical number)

    10 City of Women, Half Moon (this clip has only Spanish subtitles, but they’re basic setup, saying thousands of women have been exiled to this town, and they play in one voice)

    10 Han River attack, The Host (courtesy of Mike … dubbing isn’t too distracting)

    10 The body won’t stay dead, Lust, Caution (couldn’t find)

    10 Coin toss with “Friendo”, No Country for Old Men (courtesy of Mike)

    10 Trip to the ladies room, Offside (courtesy of Mike … no subtitles, but he sets up the scene here)

    10 “What did the sun say to Erich Honecker?” the Lives of Others

    10 Umbrella dance, the Wayward Cloud (nobody else voted for this one??? … how)

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    More self-absorptionIn "awards"

    I blame SonnyIn "Ben Shapiro"

    2011 -- Best Old FilmsWith 4 comments

    February 16, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

    4 Comments »

    1. Sigh … I should’ve voted for “Umbrella Dance”. Trouble is, 27 months after I watched it, I barely remember any of CLOUD’s musical numbers. (R2 DVD *finally* came out last week.)

      Just wondering: have you read “Atonement”? In other words, is Hampton’s 20-pointer for adaptation, or just general excellence?

      Comment by Theo | February 21, 2008 | Reply

    2. I’s 9 parts excellence to 1 part knowledge of the difficulty that I know the novel holds without having read it. My specific knowledge of ATONEMENT the novel comes second-hand, especially from the Tasha Robinson piece I linked to (which frankly doesn’t make MacEwen’s novel sound that appealing to me and quotes enough of it for me to make that judgement). I also know, from other post-modern “multiple levels of discourse/multiple-narrator novels,” the general problems this type of novel poses. I apologize if I came across as falsely claiming to have read ATONEMENT at the time of voting.

      Comment by vjmorton | February 21, 2008 | Reply

    3. […] VJ Morton has one of the most interesting¬†Best of 2007 lists I’ve¬†seen, and a thoughtful trip through the¬†acting categories too. Bonus! Actual scenes from great films!¬† […]

      Pingback by The Browser: Dobson and the election. Another Top Ten List. O’Connor. | March 13, 2013 | Reply

    4. […] VJ Morton has one of the most interesting¬†Best of 2007 lists I’ve¬†seen, and a thoughtful trip through the¬†acting categories too. Bonus! Actual scenes from great films!¬† […]

      Pingback by The Browser: Dobson and the election. Another Top Ten List. O'Connor. | Looking Closer with Jeffrey Overstreet | August 16, 2015 | Reply


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  • More self-absorption
    (”Zodiac” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    More self-absorption

    Since I’m holding off revealing my Skandie ballot, I’ll reveal what I almost voted for but didn’t. My method is to put go through the list of all the films I’ve seen and write down everything that strikes me as memorable or a possibility. And then shuck back to 10. These are the leaves that got shucked. These were what did NOT make my ballot. And yes … I only could think of 12 lead female and 13 supporting female performances.¹

    Lead male
    Song Kang-ho, The Host
    Is that the funny Helper Guy from SECRET SUNSHINE?

    Ryan Gosling, Lars and the Real Girl
    Is that the Jewish Nazi from THE BELIEVER?

    Russell Crowe, American Gangster
    Went with him over Denzel cause his character had a bit more of an arc

    Brad Pitt, Jesse James
    He breathes his own legendness

    James McAvoy, Atonement
    Didn’t think he had it in him; actually least convincing when trying for Big Emotions

    Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
    Doesn’t know how to give a bad performance as a Gen-X everyman

    Chris Cooper, Breach
    Doesn’t overdo the religiosity, despite its obvious centrality in his character’s life. I actually met a couple of Robert Hanssen’s children (unknowingly) at a friend’s party

    Tony Leung, Lust, Caution
    Might have placed if he had run full-speed and dived into cars more often

    Slavoj Zizek, the Pervert’s Guide to Cinema
    Technically a documentary, but his onscreen “performance” is as central to his film as Algore’s was

    Woody Harrelson, the Walker
    Perfect casting helps, as you always get the sense that he’s still the dumb bartender

    Lee Kang-sheng, the Wayward Cloud
    More of a deadpan presence than a “performance,” at least in the dramatic scenes, but that’s what the role calls for

    Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the Savages
    Ditto above. And this project looked so DEADLY BAD on paper (or trailer, actually)

    Sebastian Koch, Lives of Others
    Turns 180 degrees without an exact “Eureka!” moment

    John C. Reilly, Walk Hard
    Deserved a better script than he got, but has ironic sincerity chops to spare

    Lead female
    Rose McGowan, Grindhouse
    Her legs alone made PLANET TERROR

    Nina Kervel-bey, Blame It on Fidel
    If she’s too precocious, the movie falls apart

    Supporting male
    Teodor Corban, 1208 East of Bucharest
    Like a lower-key, less overtly demonstrative version of Steve Coogan’s “Alan Partridge”

    Fridrik Thor Fridriksson, The Boss of It All
    I didn’t think an Icelander would ever work for Lars again

    Jeff Goldblum, Fay Grim
    Made Hartley’s bizarro-dialogue seem completely natural

    Josh Brolin, Grindhouse
    Everyman face makes the snarling ridiculousness of his zombie-movie performance

    Jim Broadbent, Hot Fuzz
    One great thing about British actors is that the greatest are not ashamed to do comedy

    Nick Frost, Hot Fuzz
    Every man’s idea of a best buddy — comic version

    Jason Bateman, Juno
    Every man’s idea of a best buddy — not-so-comic version

    Andre Dussolier, Private Fears in Public Places
    Look at how the contrast between his mouth and his eyes makes the tape-watching scene

    Chewitel Ejiofor, Talk to Me
    Yawn … another brilliant low-key, grounded performance from the best actor with a name you can’t pronounce

    Paul Dano, There Will Be Blood
    Actually able to share the screen with Daniel Day-Lewis (is that a spoiler for my Best Actor ballot?)

    Robert Downey Jr., Zodiac
    How he is able to get all these roles about people driven to drink and drugs by obsession is absolutely beyond me.

    Supporting female
    Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
    How often and in how many contexts can she play the White Witch (not that I’m complaining)

    Juliette Binoche, Breaking and Entering
    The proverbial actress so great she can stir you by reading the telephone book (which this script pretty much lets her prove)

    Kristin Scott Thomas, the Walker
    Playing “regal diva” opposite Lauren Bacall is hardly easy, but she has a contemporary quality too

    Director
    Philip Groening, Into Great Silence
    I’ll probably have to do penance for this one since his film was in the Top 5, required the patience of Job to get made and got no other points

    George Ratliff, Joshua
    I’ll probably have to do penance for this one since his film was in the Top 10, and I actually know him personally from our days at Texas (did the YMCA dance with his girlfriend at a mutual friend’s wedding)

    Vincent Parronaud and Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis
    I’ll probably have to do penance for this one since this film was in the Honorable Mentions, required the patience of Job to get made and wound up with no points at all from me

    Joe Wright, Atonement
    Best moments as a director, in this film at least, are the ones he hands over to others; plus, the library scene

    Edgar Wright, Grindhouse
    I thought about giving him points for two films but then something told me … DON’T

    Francis Lawrence, I Am Legend
    Handles the summer super-spectacle genre with surprising restraint

    Tim Burton, Sweeney Todd
    Would have found a place for him if he hadn’t cast his nonsinger wife in a role that has no place for a nonsinger to hide

    Script
    Lars von Trier, the Boss of It All
    It takes a great script to make a very good movie with Auto-Mat-O-Vision as director

    Sean Penn, Into the Wild
    I hated what looked like Catcher-in-the-Rye-wannabe twaddle before I realized the film had been playing me for a fool the whole time

    Scene
    The Fate of the Coward Robert Ford after the Assassination of Jesse James, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
    I actually DID vote for this scene before Mike told me it was too long and too broad-in-scope to qualify as a scene

    The TV interview, Atonement
    No scene more moved me this year than this one, but I’m not sure it could work even a little if you hadn’t seen what preceded

    Reunited … at last, Gone Baby Gone
    See ATONEMENT scene … it’s a crushing rebuke to do-gooder idealism, but via a scene of banalities in which nothing really happens

    “Nannare/Barso Re Megha,” Guru
    I’ll probably have to do penance for all the impure thoughts (the video is here, and though this reproduction is crap, it is still AR Rahman and Aishwarya)

    Oil!, There Will Be Blood
    Great expressionist spectacle, great impressionistic subjectivity and darkness erupts into the world, in more sense than one

    Anton Ego tries the food, Ratatouille
    A Proustian moment, seen on Bastille Day, a few weeks after eating madeleines for the first time

    Opening terrorist attack, The Kingdom
    What an action scene should be — taut, quick, choreographed and brutal without ever seeming to be those things

    Hotel shootout (the old-style hotel with corridors; not the motel with adjoining rooms), No Country for Old Men
    The competition from this film was pretty stiff

    A midnight water run, No Country for Old Men
    The competition from this film was pretty stiff

    Interview at Greenhill Manor, the Savages
    Funny test, plus PSH’s best moment in the film, telling off appearances-over-all sister later

    “Hurdy Gurdy Man,” Zodiac
    Saw this again last week, and I realized it’s the only moment of real white-knuckle suspense in the movie

    Bart goes skateboarding, the Simpsons
    Showing the 8-year-old’s willie was a mistake though

    “All These Things That I’ve Done,” Southland Tales
    Boosted by being a moderately enjoyable scene in the middle of a train wreck of a movie

    Driving through the village, Syndromes and a Century
    Five minutes of unbroken pure Being, in which nothing else really happens

    Let us pray, Breach
    Stuck in Washington traffic and prayer combined — what more could I want
    ———————————————–
    ¹ There were a half-dozen films — THE WAYWARD CLOUD, LUST CAUTION, THE SAVAGES, ATONEMENT, BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD, LARS AND THE REAL GIRL — where I had a man and woman from the same film on my short list, but only the woman (women in one case) made the final cut. The competition was just so much less for the women, and I can think of only a few important female roles that I missed, either in terms of not seeing the film or forgetting about the actress until after I had submitted my ballot.

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    February 6, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

    4 Comments »

    1. “Ego tries the food,” “hotel shootout” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man” all made my final list.

      Comment by Noel | February 6, 2008 | Reply

    2. I contend that showing Bart’s doodle was a brilliant masterstroke that elevated the scene into greatness — I don’t believe I’ve ever heard a bigger explosion of laughter in a theater.

      Comment by Donna | February 6, 2008 | Reply

    3. I’m with Donna on the issue of Nancy Cartwright’s penis.

      Comment by Adam Villani | February 7, 2008 | Reply

    4. […] was the scene from THE SIMPSONS MOVIE of Bart skateboarding nude (on a dare from Homer, natch). But I said there that “Showing the 8-year-old’s willie was a mistake though,” which has drawn two dissents […]

      Pingback by Nancy Cartwright’s penis « Rightwing Film Geek | February 7, 2008 | Reply


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  • Oscar surprises
    (”Zodiac” is briefly mentioned in this.)

    Oscar surprises

    The Oscar nominations were announced earlier today. And here’s my quick reactions.

    Kudos:

    ● Three of the 5 Best Picture nominees are among my 10 Best for the year, and 1 of the 2 that aren’t heads my list of runners-up. Four of 11 — NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, ATONEMENT and THERE WILL BE BLOOD, plus JUNO. And of the other 7 favorites of 2007, 3 are foreign films that one cannot expect to be top dogs at the US industry honors (which is what the Oscars are). And while I don’t think the fifth nominated film (MICHAEL CLAYTON) is that good (5 grade), it’s no CRASH and I don’t think it’s considered widely to be a front-runner to win anyway. So I am almost guaranteed to be reasonably happy on Oscar night — the Best Picture winner is near-certain to be a worthy film.

    That. Does. Not. Happen.

    My tastes are not the Academy’s and I don’t discriminate against comic clowning (see the film at #2 this year), small-studio/indy films and foreign films. In fact, this has never happened. I did a quick glance over the Best Picture nominees for the last 20 years earlier today, and found that that never in the entire period where I can say I have followed movies closely had 3 of my Top 10 been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.¹ In most of those 20 years prior to today, it’s been 0 or 1. Depending on how you slice my lists, the 100 films nominated for Best Picture Oscar, just 22 (or 24 … see footnote) have grabbed one of the 200 available slots on my 10 Best list — an average of barely 1 per year.

    So I congratulate the Academy on my tastes. I hope it’s simply that the best English-language films of the year so clearly declared themselves, that there was no denying them. But undoubtedly part of the reason is that some of the fall prestige or semi-blockbuster films that might have looked like potential Oscar-Baition™, fizzled at the box office and/or generated poor or little critical buzz. After all, it’s not as if the Coen Brothers and PT Anderson have been big AMPAS locks in the past (this is only Wright and Reitman’s second films). I’m thinking most of THE GOLDEN COMPASS and the ELIZABETH sequel, and to a lesser extent SWEENEY TODD and BEOWULF, plus such potential breakout films as BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD and all the anti-war films, from RENDITION and LIONS FOR LAMBS to REDACTED and GRACE IS GONE.

    ● PERSEPOLIS received ample compensation for its snub in the Foreign-Film race (more on that below) by getting a nomination for Best Animated Film. It’ll lose to RATATOUILLE, of course (not that I’m saying that would be a travesty of judgment). But the nomination at this moment will help PERSEPOLIS, since it was released just a couple of weeks ago in the top few cities and is now spreading around the country. I hope Sony Classics has gold-statue emblazoned posters ready. This is a case of the principal reason the Oscars matter to me … as a way of raising the public profile of small films (even small English-language films) that are good enough and accessible enough to satisfy a broader audience than the one that habitually keeps abreast of such movies. PERSEPOLIS is such a film.

    ● I probably shouldn’t be surprised that Amy Ryan got a deserved Supporting Actress nomination for GONE BABY GONE — she won a bunch of critics awards and was nominated by the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. But Ben Affleck’s film, good though it was, flamed out at the box office, and, Ryan aside, was pretty much overlooked by critics and award-givers. But I feared a surprise snub (though playing a trashy tramp always helps an actress).

    ● Though I was obviously disappointed that neither of ATONEMENT’s two leading actors were nominated, I was happy that the actual best performance in the film was — Saoirse Ronan as the pre-teen Briony in the film’s first section, who commits the sin that originates the film’s moral universe, like Adam and Eve in the Garden. She exudes childish willfulness — that toxic mixture of precociousness, thinking she’s an adult while not having the experience of an adult, and preciousness, a spoiled certainty that one is in the right come what may, especially when others have to bear what comes. The person with whom I saw the film the second time could hardly restrain his hatred for Briony throughout the second act, audibly talking to himself — a testament to her creation in the first act.

    Raspberries:

    ● This was known a week ago, but the foreign-films nominations are a scandal, not in terms of what was nominated (of which I cannot speak since I’ve seen none of them, and I certainly hope they’re worthy), but in terms on what was not nominated. Look … I well understand that Mexico’s SILENT LIGHT and Sweden’s YOU THE LIVING were no-hopers with the Academy. Both films are great but so stylistically eccentric that I can’t really be surprised. Just being submitted by their country is all the victory they could expect. But wth happened with several films that looked far more in line with Academy tastes but didn’t even make the “semi-final” cut of nine films from which the five nominees are chosen. This article in the Washington Post by Ann Hornaday centers most of its (justified) outrage on the snubs of France (PERSEPOLIS) and Romania (4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS), to which I would add Germany (THE EDGE OF HEAVEN) and South Korea (SECRET SUNSHINE). All four films, in my opinion, were worthy and the right kind of film to win some props. And these films were completely passed over even for the semi-finals in favor of films about which I’ve heard little critical buzz except from fellow TIFFgoer and Academy member Ken Rudolph. But Ken had the good taste to recognize the awesomeness of the right films (except Andersson) … though he does make the Polish finalist KATYN and Serbian semi-finalist THE TRAP sound appetizing and, to a lesser extent (to me), does the same for the Israeli and Austrian finalists, BEAUFORT and THE COUNTERFEITERS. Still, the bright spot is noted in Hornaday’s article:

    Whatever the reasons, [chairman Mark] Johnson avers, the process is clearly in need of tinkering. He intends to approach the Academy’s Board of Governors, which oversees rule changes, soon after the awards ceremony on Feb. 24. “I think we have to do some kind of radical change and hopefully we can come up with a system that works better,” Johnson said.

    ● I’ve not seen NORBIT, but I still feel confident saying it was one of the worst films of the year. A defensible film doesn’t score 9 percent at Rotten Tomatoes (the same score as LEONARD PART 6 and lower than CATWOMAN). But now … this phrase is accurate: “Academy-Award Nominee NORBIT.” Yes. The makeup people voted for it. I can understand somewhat … the stills make it clear that this was a big makeup job … but does quality of the film have NO role? Shouldn’t technical people take enough pride in their work to hate to see such herculean efforts and creativity wasted on a widely-reviled punchline and all-time turkey? Were there no other films with impressive makeup that did honor to it (there were only three nominees to fill out after all)? What about SWEENEY TODD for eccentric transformations of actors; GRINDHOUSE for the prosthetic gore; I’M NOT THERE or even WALK HARD for all the various “Dylan looks” or “Dewey looks” without (in the former case) simply replicating the actors’ natural looks; HAIRSPRAY if you want to honor fat suits; or ZODIAC or TALK TO ME for people aging over the years? Did Viggo’s tattoos in EASTERN PROMISES count as makeup? Is this worse than “Academy-Award Nominee MANNEQUIN” and (speaking of Eddie Murphy) “Academy-Award Nominee BEVERLY HILLS COP 2” (in the same year and category, no less)?

    ● The snub of Jonny Greenwood for THERE WILL BE BLOOD, which is simply the most memorable and certainly eclectic dramatic score (i.e., no songs, not a musical) that I can recall in the past several years. Academy rules kept him out as ineligible because the score was too unoriginal. (The late timing of the announcement was crap, regardless.) I understand the problem of dramatic scores competing against song scores or the known-reaction quantities of existing music. So there have to be rules about what’s an original score. But surely it’s relevant to the spirit of the law that a large part of the pre-existing score was (1) Greenwood’s own previous work and (2) hadn’t been used in a movie. As one of the commentators at Variety noted: “And by this standard, Santaollalla’s score for Babel was eligible how, exactly?” And, similar to the makeup folly (and the original songs noted there too), technical awards can’t rationally ignore completely the function they play in the movie. After all, they’re not technically honoring music per se (that’s what the Grammys and similar awards are for), but the use of music in motion pictures. Regardless of anything else about the not-written-for-the-film music … only a deaf man could avoid the insight that Anderson and Greenwood’s use of the music is original to the film and not simply borrowed majesty.

    ● I understand that Javier Bardem’s got the “showy” role in the Coens’ NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. He’s the Supporting Actor front-runner and deserves to be. But can a guy get nominated for … well … a naturalistic performance that actually carries the film from moment to moment as its principal audience identification figure. Being a corrupted innocent playing in waters too rough for him but believing he can get away with his relatively-minor sin and escape judgment with enough guile (i.e., all of us, in some sense). Sorry, Josh Brolin … apparently not.

    ● Why was anybody impressed by the Cuisinart editing of THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM? “Most editing” I could get behind … gawdknows the editor cuts, cuts, cuts away like Sweeney Todd with ADD. ULTIMATUM is a perfect example of a film edited to death. Or as I wrote here, in surprisingly substantial agreement with Atkinson (his political asides aside):

    is some supposed anti-Bush subtext about gov’t surveillance and secret skullduggery supposed to hide the fact that you literally cannot make head nor tail of what is happening. … No coherent space emerges for any of the three main set pieces — Waterloo Station, Tangier foot chase and New York car chase. And so all we see is large metal objects crashing into one another, fists flying somewhere (where was Tony Jaa when you need him), all manipulated by characters that are complete robots despite being made of too-too-solid flesh … this isn’t a movie; this is a big-screen video game, with cutaways to the players “onstage.”

    —————————————
    ¹ For the stat geek, these are the number of Best Picture nominees on my Ten Best list for that year: 2006-0; 2005-0/1; 2004-1; 2003-1; 2002-2*; 2001-1; 2000-1; 1999-0; 1998-2; 1997-0; 1996-2; 1995-2; 1994-1; 1993-1*; 1992-2; 1991-2; 1990-1/2; 1989-2*; 1988-0; 1987-1*.
    The asterisked years are those in which one of my 10 Best also won Best Picture (CHICAGO, SCHINDLER’S LIST, DRIVING MISS DAISY and THE LAST EMPEROR).
    The multiple figures for 1990 and 2005 reflect a film among my Top 10 on Oscar night but not on it now (THE GODFATHER 3 and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN). In both cases, it was not a demotion of that film, but the promotion of other movies either seen later or growing from repeat viewings and edging it down to #11 or #12 (METROPOLITAN and MAY FOOLS in the first instance, and SARABAND and MILLIONS in the latter).

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    January 22, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

    3 Comments »

    1. Josh Brolin was insane. INSANE in that film. Insanely good, I mean. I am willing to forget the domestic battery charge with Diane Lane for his role in this film. And speaking as a native Texan, this is high praise indeed. Johnny Depp needs to go far away for a couple of years before I rip his goatee off in hatred.

      Comment by Lindsey | January 23, 2008 | Reply

    2. You’re from the British Isles, and I don’t know any Irishmen… how does one pronounce “Saoirse?”

      Comment by Adam Villani | January 24, 2008 | Reply

    3. Does the quality of a film factor into its Oscar prospects in the technical categories? Of course. But in principle, why should it? The category is not “Best Achievement in Makeup for a Non-Disgraceful Motion Picture”. Similarly, a composer really can’t do much if his kick-ass score winds up melodically supporting a steaming pile.

      Comment by Alex | February 12, 2008 | Reply


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Armond White1
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⚠️ EDGY 🔥 CONTENT 🔥 WARNING 🔥 (NSFW?) ⚠️

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