|2008 Oscar Predictions
|The box office intake from this year’s five best picture nominees sits just north of $300 million, which is the second lowest tally from that group in two decades. While mainstream audiences were slow to embrace the top nominees — except breakout hit “Juno” — the quality from top to bottom is strong. Despite clear frontrunners in almost every major category, the night — led by host Jon Stewart — should be entertaining and exciting, proving why the Oscars are the only awards show left in which the awards actually mean something.|
At this point, it seems like “No Country For Old Men” has this award in the bag. After winning the top prize at the Directors, Screen Actors, Writers, and Producers Guild Awards, it clearly has the momentum and is the film to beat. Critical favorite “There Will Be Blood” and Golden Globe winner “Atonement” are runners-up, but they really don’t stand much of a chance.
The Pick: “No Country For Old Men”
For the fourth year in a row, the winner here is a shoe-in. Daniel Day-Lewis in “There Will Be Blood” was hauntingly explosive, showing why his rare on-screen appearances are so special. In spite of George Clooney’s best all-around performance and the always-entertaining Johnny Depp, this belongs to Day-Lewis hands down.
The Pick: Daniel Day-Lewis
No matter how much I liked “Juno” and its star turn by Ellen Page, this has become a two-person race between Julie Christie in “Away From Her” and Marion Cotillard in “La Vie En Rose.” Christie’s performance, which saw her character succumb to Alzheimer’s, has won the majority of the awards so far and should win this as well.
The Pick: Julie Christie
Best Supporting Actor
In any other year, Philip Seymour Hoffman would be a lock for his second Oscar win with “Charlie Wilson’s War.” However, Javier Bardem was simply superb in “No Country,” creating one of the most memorable villains in recent memory. Sorry friend-o, but this is Bardem’s award all the way.
The Pick: Javier Bardem
Best Supporting Actress
The murkiest category of the year, with three actresses having a legitimate shot at winning. Amy Ryan drew raves for her work in “Gone Baby Gone,” Cate Blanchett won the Globe for “I’m Not There,” and then 83-year-old Ruby Dee won the Screen Actors prize for “American Gangster.” The Academy loves Blanchett, as evidenced by her previous win for "The Aviator" and the two nods this year, so I give her the slight edge.
The Pick: Cate Blanchett
The Coen brothers did an exceptional job in adapting Cormac McCarthy’s beloved novel, “No Country For Old Men,” and in the process created the most engaging film of the year. They’ve practically won every single directing award already and should finally earn their first Best Director statue.
The Pick: Joel and Ethan Coen
Best Original Screenplay
While the Academy rarely awards its top prizes to comedies, stripper-turned-writer Diablo Cody’s script for “Juno” is too good to pass up. The wacky world and eccentric dialogue she created was wholly unique and the driving force behind the film, which charmed audiences all across the country.
The Pick: Diablo Cody
Best Adapted Screenplay
It should come as no surprise that this award goes to the Coen brothers as well. Seriously, if you haven’t already seen this film, what are you waiting for?
The Pick: Joel and Ethan Coen
Best Animated Feature: “Ratatouille”
Best Art Direction: “Sweeney Todd”
Best Cinematography: “There Will Be Blood”
Best Costume Design: “Atonement”
Best Documentary: “No End In Sight”
Best Film Editing: “No Country For Old Men”
Best Foreign Language Film: “The Counterfeiters”
Best Makeup: “La Vie En Rose”
Best Original Score: “Atonement”
Best Original Song: “Once”
Best Sound Editing: “Transformers”
Best Sound Mixing: “Transformers”
Best Visual Effects: “Transformers”
|Tags: Oscars, Academy Awards, Predictions, No Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood
|A Look Back At 2007’s Best Films
|In the face of the impeding writer’s strike, Academy Award nominations were released last week. With emphasis on both solemn and contemplative fare, “No Country For Old Men” and “There Will Be Blood” led the pack with eight nominations apiece.|
As with every year, there were several notable omissions. Gems such as “Sunshine” and “Zodiac” went ignored, “Eastern Promises” and “Into The Wild” were underrepresented and a late questionable call disqualified Jonny Greenwood’s superb score for “There Will Be Blood.” Meanwhile, the overrated “Atonement” racked up seven nods, while the abysmal “Norbit” can somehow call itself an Academy Award nominee, picking up one for Best Makeup.
Out of the films which did garner nominations, here are those I enjoyed the most:
“3:10 To Yuma”
2 Oscars, including Best Original Score
Christian Bale and Russell Crowe excel as men on either side of the law, and Ben Foster is a scene-stealer as Crowe’s ruthless right hand man. The story focuses on its characters yet manages to deliver plenty of action, proving all hope is not lost for this once great genre. The best western since 1992’s “Unforgiven.”
“The Bourne Ultimatum”
3 Oscars, including Best Editing
Matt Damon returned for a third outing as superspy Jason Bourne, and it matched the high bar of its predecessors. The action scenes are superbly staged, another adept display from director Paul Greengrass (“United 93”), and the film exhibits an unusual amount of smarts for a Hollywood blockbuster.
4 Oscars – Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay
Not only was it the breakout hit of the year, it was also the year’s best comedy. Buoyed by a star-making turn from Ellen Page, the story’s real charm lies in the script from rookie screenwriter Diablo Cody, made up of wildly inventive dialogue and wholly amusing characters.
7 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director
A character-driven, legal thriller centering on a man caught in a moral crisis. Tony Gilroy’s sophisticated screenplay is brought to life by one of the best casts of the year — George Clooney has never been better, and Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton excel in support.
“No Country For Old Men”
8 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Cinematography
The Coen brothers’ strongest outing to date turned out to be the best of the entire year. Highlighted by an impressive cast, including the phenomenal Javier Bardem, it is impeccably written and executed. How much you like the film hinges on its unconventional ending, which has generated a significant amount of debate among viewers.
1 Oscar – Best Original Song (“Falling Slowly”)
The stirring Irish musical incorporates songs naturally into its storytelling style. The indie soundtrack is stellar, and first time actors Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová deliver heartfelt performances in a down-to-earth movie devoid of Hollywood conventions.
5 Oscars, including Best Animated Feature, Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Score
Pixar bounces back from 2006’s disappointing “Cars” with one of their best yet. Directed by Brad Bird (“The Incredibles”), it is cute and full of humor, yet unafraid to tackle existential themes for older audiences.
3 Oscars, including Best Visual Effects
A widely entertaining popcorn extravaganza with some of the best visual effects ever seen in a film, it is director Michael Bay’s (“The Rock”) most accomplished work. It also features plenty of humor, especially from budding star Shia LaBeouf.
“Sicko,” “Sweeney Todd” and “There Will Be Blood.”
|Tags: Best, Films, 2007, Academy Awards, Oscars
|Movie Review - War
|Jet Li and Jason Statham are prototypical examples of how to be modern-day action movie stars, and their repertoire of films showcases their amazing abilities in both martial arts and stunts. Reuniting for the first time since 2001’s mediocre “The One,” it would be logical to assume their latest film “War” would be a worthy addition to their careers.|
The plot is what one would expect from a movie of this sort—an assorted hodgepodge of the stories from a dozen or so other films, amassed and thrown together here to fill the gaps in between the action. FBI agent Jack Crawford (Statham) is on the hunt for the mysterious assassin known only as Rogue (Li), who happened to kill Crawford’s partner three years ago. In the meantime, a deadly feud ensues between the Chinese and Japanese mobs, and Crawford and Rogue are caught right in the middle.
In a movie such as this, the plot is essentially reduced to an afterthought to make room for the action sequences, which are the main draw and reason to see the film in the first place. Unfortunately, someone should have reminded the filmmakers of this.
The movie inexplicably gets bogged down by its second-rate plot, relying more often on the dialogue instead of the stunts. The more time they focus on the story, the more we realize how poor and cliché-driven it is, a weakness it never recovers from. Matters only worsen when they pull off a huge twist of an ending so ridiculous it’s hard to take any of it seriously.
When the action finally does come, which is at a fairly consistent rate throughout the second half, it fails to live up to its billing. While it’s not bad, it’s also nothing we haven’t seen before, and done better previously by the parties involved. The at-times hyperactive editing doesn’t add much, if anything, and none of the film’s fights exhibit any sort of a “wow” element.
Li and Statham regrettably only have a handful of scenes together and, when they do finally meet up for their big confrontation, it can only be defined as disappointing. One would have thought choreographer Cory Yuen (“The Transporter”) could have been able to think up something far more creative, especially considering the talent he had at his disposal.
As far as the acting is concerned, it’s nothing special either. Li isn’t given too much to do other than look menacing, failing to build on his recent string of strong performances (“Hero,” “Unleashed,” “Fearless”). The martial arts aspect also tends to take a backseat to the gunplay, a questionable decision because martial arts are when Li is at his best.
Statham doesn’t fare much better. His cynical sense of humor and distinct charisma, which he exhibited in his early Guy Ritchie days (“Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels,” “Snatch”) and in last year’s “Crank,” is curiously missing. Here, only his customary gruff persona is on display, which robs Statham of the very reason why is so entertaining to watch. The cast is also brought down by the presence of John Lone, the annoying villain from “Rush Hour 2,” who is up to more of his grating over-the-top antics as the leader of the Chinese mob.
In the end, for a movie named “War,” there certainly isn’t as much fighting as one would expect. Instead, it spends too much time dwelling on its shoddy storyline and not enough providing the types of spectacles action aficionados anticipate. For Li and Statham fans, it’s still worth watching at some point just to see them together again, but for everyone else, there’s really not much incentive.
The Verdict: C (75%)
|Tags: War, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Movie, Review