21 February 2008

Oscars: Who Will and Should Win RECAP

2007 was one of the best years for film in recent memory, which will make this year’s Oscars much harder to call than in year’s past. That being said, these are my predictions, based on industry insight and Academy trends, as well as my own feelings about how the awards will go. With that, here are the nominees and my prognosticating:

Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

SHOULD WIN: My head says No Country, but my heart says Juno. No movie was as warm or familiar (which is not a bad thing) as this comedy.
WILL & DID WIN: No Country, ambiguous ending and all. This is another challenging masterpiece from the Coens that will be debated for years after.

P.T. Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Joel & Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Jason Reitman, Juno
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
SHOULD, WILL & DID WIN: The Coens. They're style is in every framed of the West Texas tale of greed and murder, familiar territory for sure, but still wholly original.

George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises
SHOULD WIN: As much as I admired Mortensen's performance, I don't believe it warranted a nomination if it meant Denzel getting snubbed for American Gangster, but so it goes. For me, having not seen There Will Be Blood yet, I have to go with Johnny Depp. He's been on the shortlist of best actors for quite some time, and here his menace goes full tilt, with terrific singing no less.
WILL & DID WIN: Daniel Day-Lewis. It's not even a question.

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Julie Christie, Away from Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno
SHOULD WIN: What a tough call. Both Christie and Page defined their movies, the former with restraint and elegance, the latter with spunk and wit. Can it be a tie?
WILL WIN: Christie. The veteran more than earned it, playing the Alzheimer's-stricken senior, but for doing it without a hint of sap. And I really can't see the Academy rewarding a performer in a foreign language film. Sorry, Marion.
DID WIN: The Academy did pick the foreign-language biopic, even though no one else had seen it.

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton
SHOULD WIN: Hoffman really stepped up to the plate and towered over two much bigger stars (Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts) with his performance, but Bardem redefined the movie villain, and scared the bejeesus out of everyone in West Texas.
WILL & DID WIN: Bardem. There's talk of Holbrook eeking out a win, but the Old Man Factor really only pushes you over the edge when the frontrunner pulls something like wearing a fat suit in his next movie.

Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There
Ruby Dee, American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton
SHOULD WIN: Cate Blanchett, who can do wrong, period.
WILL WIN: This is the toughest race to call, not just this year, but of any year I can remember in quite some time. I'll still say Blanchett, but really, I wouldn't be surprised to hear any of these names called on Sunday.
DID WIN: Swinton rode her BAFTA win to victory here, meaning no Americans won acting awards this year.

Diablo Cody, Juno
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Brad Bird (from a story by Brad Bird, Jim Capobianco, and Jan Pinkava), Ratatouille
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
SHOULD WIN: Have you heard? Juno's one of the best screenplays in recent memory. Honest to blog!
WILL & DID WIN: Diablo Cody's first script wins in a walk, home-skillet.

P.T. Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Ethan & Joel Coen, No Country for Old Men
Christopher Hampton, Atonement
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Sarah Polley, Away from Her
SHOULD WIN: I'd really love to see the relatively young Polley win for not turning Away from Her into a treacly movie-of-the-week, but the Coens have been the best writers in Hollywood since, oh, Blood Simple.
WILL & DID WIN: The Coens, in a photo finish with P.T. Anderson.

Roger Deakins, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Roger Deakins, No Country for Old Men
Robert Elswit, There Will Be Blood
Janusz Kaminski, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Seamus McGarvey, Atonement
SHOULD WIN: The gritty realism of No Country for Old Men.
WILL WIN: A tough call, for sure. Last year's seemed-like-a-lock Children of Men lost to the dreamlike but equally deserving Pan's Labyrinth, but Deakins' double nod is quite impressive, and the Academy will finally award the heretofor snubbed (six times!!!) Deakins.
DID WIN: Elswit's haunting, epic frames.

Surf’s Up

SHOULD WIN: The Simpsons Movie, for starters. What? You mean the Academy picked another effing penguin movie?
WILL & DID WIN: Ratatouille. It's possible Persepolis could pull a Lives of Others-like upset, but the latest from the brilliant Brad Bird is also up for two other awards, a major accomplishment for an animated flick. About a rat, no less.

"Falling Slowly" from Once
"Happy Working Song" from Enchanted
"Raise it Up" from August Rush
"So Close" from Enchanted
"That’s How You Know" from Enchanted
SHOULD WIN: Like you have to ask. Four more songs from Once could've been here, but I wish the Academy would've had at least something from Music & Lyrics or Walk Hard here, but I guess it was time to honor Disney again.
WILL & DID WIN: "Falling Slowly," unless there is no justice in the world.

14 February 2008

The Top 25 Love Songs of All Time

Barenaked Ladies - "If I Had $1,000,000"
Love don't need a fortune. Just some pre-wrapped sausages and Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

The Beach Boys - "God Only Knows"
I can't live without you

The Beatles - "All You Need is Love"
It was really hard to pick just one Beatles song, but here it is: the most simple, yet profound thing one can say about love.

blink 182 - "I Miss You"
I'm a mess when you're away.

Coldplay - "Til Kingdom Come"
I'll be with you forever.

The Cure - "Just Like Heaven"
Being with you is better than being anywhere else.

Dashboard Confessional - "Stolen"
Here's my heart. You can have it.

Bob Dylan - "The Man in Me"
You're the only one who could see the real me.

Al Green - "Let's Stay Together"
I look around and see couples constantly breaking up and reuniting but I don't ever want to end it in the first place.

Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová - "Falling Slowly"
I don't know everything about you but I want to more than anything.

Van Morrison - "Have I Told You Lately"
You're my #1, and I don't tell you enough.

Nicole Kidman & Ewan McGregor - "Come What May"
Intense, authentic, and even a bit cheesy. Just like us.

Pet Shop Boys - "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing"
I'd do anything for you, even naked ballet.

Prince - "Nothing Compares 2 U"
No one could ever take your place.

Sarah Silverman - "I Love You More"
A silly choice, I'll admit, but love is worth fighting the ACLU for.

The Smiths - "There is a Light That Never Goes Out"
Even dying is lovely, as long as I'm with you.

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - "Born to Run"
Let's hit the road. We don't need nobody else.

U2 - "All I Want is You"
It's simple. You and me, us, forever.

Barry White - "You're the First, the Last, My Everything"
Fairly self-explanatory.

Wings - "Silly Love Songs"
Let everyone be jealous of what we have.

Stevie Wonder - "For Once in My Life"
It's finally happened, and I wouldn't want it with anyone else.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - "Maps"
Stay. Whatever it is, it can wait.

12 February 2008

The Grammy boycott will continue

So the Grammys were on Sunday, and you know what? No one was watching, not even me. And it's pretty simple why: the Grammys are ridiculous. There's 110 categories, endless hit-or-miss performances, and a crazy eligibility calendar (October 1st of the previous year to September 30th of the current year, yet they will wait til well into the new year to give out awards). And what's more, they continue to honor artists that used to be great, but now simply aren't putting out the quality of music they used to. Get your act together, Grammys. Trim down the performance run time, hand out fewer awards, book better performances, and give stuff to albums people have actually at least heard of.

Worst Choices This Decade:
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters over Kanye West's Graduation

BEST POP PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP WITH VOCAL: The Black Eyed Peas' "My Humps" over Death Cab for Cutie's "I Will Follow You into the Dark"

BEST COUNTRY SONG: Rascal Flatts' "Bless the Broken Road" over Brad Paisley's "Alcohol"

ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Ray Charles' "Genius Loves Company" over Green Day's American Idiot

BEST NEW ARTIST: Evanescence over Fountains of Wayne (They also nominated Evanescence for ALBUM OF THE YEAR!!!)

BEST POP INSTRUMENTAL PERFORMANCE: B.B. King's "Auld Lang Syne" over Moby's "18"

ALBUM OF THE YEAR: O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack over U2's All That You Can't Leave Behind

ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Steely Dan's Two Against Nature over Beck's Midnite Vultures

BEST ROCK ALBUM: Santana's Supernatural over Red Hot Chili Pepper's Californication

These were just the top choices, out of many possible ones. Oy.

A Letter to Nicolas

Dear Mr. Cage:

What has happened to you? Where is the Nicolas Cage I used to know and love? The quirky, lovable, sometimes sad Nicolas Cage. The Nicolas Cage of Raising Arizona, Adaptation, and Matchstick Men? Have you been hanging around Matthew McConaughey too much? Is his complacency rubbing off on you? You used to balance challenging indie films with big-budget blockbusters. But is it all about the paycheck with you now? Say it ain't so, Nic! Sure, you had your slip-ups in your early days (Vampire's Kiss, Trapped in Paradise), but so does everybody. Now it's your good performances that rarely show up. What would your uncle Francis Ford Coppola think? I looked on IMDb today to see if you may be trying to redeem yourself in the next few years, but alas it doesn't look like that will happen. I mean, a talking hamster movie? Really?! Oh, well. Maybe with all the money you're making from the National Treasure series (where it seems you have a competition with your onscreen father Jon Voight--another Oscar winner who has succumbed to worthless, paycheck-grabbing roles--to see who can act more poorly), of which there will be two more. I like 'em enough for mindless entertainment, but how about some actual acting and writing next time around? So all I'm asking Nicolas is to restore my faith that you can act. That my love of your quirky roles has not been in vain.

H.I. McDunnough's #1 Fan

04 February 2008

Mooney at the Movies: U2 3D

Talk about your elevation. (National Geographic)

U2 3D (A)

Starring Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr.
Directed by Catherine Owens, Mark Pellington

Allow me to get my song quoting out of the way now: U2 3D, a mind-blowing movie-going experience, is "even better than the real thing."

Filmed on the Latin American leg of their masterful, record-breaking Vertigo tour, this is not your dad's concert film, though your dad will probably enjoy it. There's no insight into what makes a band tick (like The Last Waltz), or onstage oddities (a la Stop Making Sense). It's simply 85 minutes of pure exhilaration.

All your favorites are here, from "With or Without You" to "Vertigo" to "Pride (In the Name of Love)." And while some numbers shine a bit more than others, you'll still wish you could leap to your feet and sing along.

See, that's what makes this excursion so fascinating: if you were one of the 150,000+ people at one of these stops, you have just one vantage point for the entire set. But with this film, you're on stage with the band, hovering above them, and standing in front of Bono as he "wipes your tears away" during "Sunday Bloody Sunday."

But beyond the eye-popping visuals of U2 3D is the top-notch sound. Adam Clayton's bass fades away as he retreats towards the drum kit and the Edge moves forward with his guitar. You can hear each instrument distinctly, yet they all blend flawlessly.

Take for example "Where the Streets Have No Name," arguably the group's best song. With that memorable intro, the camera pans out to the crowd, where everyone, and I mean everyone, is jumping up and down in unison. It'll make you want to run around that heart-shaped track the band had during their Super Bowl performance in '02. The simple sonic pleasure in these few minutes is much more impressive than any stunt in any action movie last year.

To deny yourself the joy of seeing U2 3D, is to deny yourself perhaps the best time you'll ever have as a fan of cinema or music. You owe it to yourself to find a theater playing it. It'll a "beautiful day" indeed.