Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Most Anticipated Films of Fall 2007, Part 2

In the Valley of Elah (Director: Paul Haggis)

"A career officer (Jones) and his wife (Sarandon) work with a police detective (Theron) to uncover the truth behind their son's disappearance following his return from a tour of duty in Iraq (IMDB)."

Here's the thing about Paul Haggis. I not a huge fan of his work at all. The best thing he ever did was write the screenplay for Million Dollar Baby (adapted from F.X. Toole's stories) and, while I would like to say the worst thing he ever did was Crash, I think his script for The Last Kiss was worse (although I hear the original Italian film is just as frustrating). His other work (all writing) is very flawed from Flags of Our Fathers to Casino Royale. But I still have hope for this film. Why? Because of the actors.

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Tommy Lee Jones, an Academy Award winner for his supporting role in The Fugitive, has always been a dependable actor. He brings the right amount of dignity to his performances, whether it be Coal Miner's Daughter or Men In Black (although the less said about the sequel the better). His performance in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada stands as one of his best. And what's always great about Jones is his willingness to stand back and let his co-star shine. Here, he gets to share screentime with Oscar winners Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking) and Charlize Theron (Monster).

Sarandon is an actress who gets better and better with each performance she gives. After a great run in the 80s and 90s, it is in the aughts where Sarandon has become more comfortable with her work. Starting off with balls-to-the-wall comedy in her guest appearances on TV's Friends and Malcolm in the Middle (roles which nabbed her consecutive Emmy nominations for Guest Actress in a Comedy), she was near-devasting in her work on Moonlight Mile. Add to that her sly and charming performance in the remake of Alfie (a role in which she doesn't quite top Shelley Winter's performance in the original, but comes close to it), and you have an actress who is just waiting for another plum role.

Charlize Theron, on the other hand, wasn't really anyone's imagination of a skilled actress, until she hit it big with Monster. Oscar came calling and yes, like many freshly-minted Best Actress winners, she followed it up with a "what was she thinking" role (Aeon Flux? Really?). But not only did she also grab a trifecta of nominations for her work in the HBO television film The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, she also went on to score another Oscar nomination for her performance in North Country. In addition, she did a fantastic job on FOX's critically-acclaimed, Emmy darling Arrested Development (as a Mentally Rretarded Female named Rita).

The subject matter of the film can be very tricky with audiences. Last year's Home of the Brave (one of the first films on the current Iraq war) tried to tackle the subject and despite some solid performances, it did very limited business. Haggis will no doubt have fans waiting to see what the creator of Crash has in store next, so the potential is there for the film to be seen. Let's hope that this one isn't just the same mentality (war is bad) as the his previous directorial work (racism is bad).

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Emmy Analysis: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series:

Conchata Ferrell, Two and a Half Men "Repeated Blows to His Unformed Head"

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Pro: Ferrell has the most screentime of all the nominees (11 minutes), so voters will see her the most (plus she has a ten second cameo in Holland Taylor's submission). On top of delivering hilarious one-liners, Ferrell also has two memorable scenes. Her first is when she is crying in Charlie's bathroom, comiserating over how her daughter let her down when she got knocked up. The second comes at the end, as Ferrell helps deliver her own granddaughter.

Con: The biggest problem for Ferrell is that despite her own Emmy status (this is her third nomination), Taylor is more respected in the industry. It will be difficult for fans of the show to vote for one actress over the other, particularly in a situation where one actress had better material.

Jenna Fischer, The Office "The Job"

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Pro: What Fischer may lack in pure hilarity, she makes up for with charm, sympathy and honesty. She has a moderate amount of screentime (roughly 8 minutes) but she makes the most of it. What will be key to her potential victory is the impact that her submission packs. The final three minutes (the final three minutes of the episode) are Fischer's finest moments. With tears in her eyes, it's hard to deny her anything.

Con: The role doesn't command huge laughs and despite having that wonderful final scene, will it be impactful enough to sustain in voters' minds after watching four other ladies?

Elizabeth Perkins, Weeds "Pittsburgh"

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Pro: If voters are looking for the next boozy diva of this category (hello Karen Walker) then Perkins could certainly pull ahead. Her best scene is when she whips out a gun on Mary-Louise Parker, shooting at the cabinets, not realizing the gun is loaded. Plus, some voters might think she was robbed last year.

Con: Perkins' biggest problem is the lack of screentime (she clocks in at roughly 3 minutes). Aside from the gun scene, her other scenes are very brief and probably won't leave much of an impact on viewers. Voters are probably not as fond of Weeds as we would like to think.

Jaime Pressly, My Name Is Earl "Jump for Joy"

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Pro: She has three big scenes that will probably attract voters (spanning roughly 7 minutes of screentime). The opening scene summarizes why she's in court and subsequently, we learn about Joy's previous convictions. She also is funny when having a phone conversation with both Earl and Catalina. And she gets to act drunk, while pole dancing. She too might be seen as overlooked from last year.

Con: After failing to win last year in a weaker field, it seems like Pressly is doomed to be a forever also-ran in this category. The love for the show has also dwindled (still no Jason Lee in Best Actor) and her submission highlights her character at her most white-trash.

Holland Taylor, Two and a Half Men "The Sea Is A Harsh Mistress"

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Pro: She makes the most of her screentime (8 minutes), as she puts down her sons, while at the same time, taking advantage of Charlie's charity. The studio audience seemed to have had an uproarious response to seeing Taylor in giant fake lips, which could potentially get voters to crack a smile. Her last big scene with Charlie shows some sympathy as she reveals that she worries over Charlie's well-being. And the last two winners of this category where an over-bearing mother and a high society drunk. Taylor's character is both.

Con: Same problem as Ferrell, only switched. Taylor is highly respected, as she earns herself her fifth overall nominations (with a previous win in Supporting Actress-Drama for The Practice). But her submission is not as awesome as Ferrell's.

Vanessa Williams, Ugly Betty "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

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Pro: She gives a vicious performance in the hospital scene with Judith Light and then a brief moment with Alan Dale. She lords over these scenes with gusto and if voters are in the mood for such a stylized performance (as well as a comeback story), she has potential to be a very popular winner.

Con: However, despite those scenes, in the remainder of her 6 minutes of screentime, she doesn't come close to matching them. The editing proccess will make her performance seem very uneven (a problem that will also hurt Perkins). On top of that, her character is an über-bitch that will likely get no sympathy from voters

Final Thoughts:

Let's eliminate Elizabeth Perkins and Vanessa Williams. The former's submission is just not enough here and the latter will garner scattered votes, but not enough to muster a win. Jaime Pressly is probably not going to win, but I would say that because her submission is funnier, she outranks the first two. Holland Taylor is more likely to siphon votes away from Conchata Ferrell, which will allow Jenna Fischer to just barely squeak by with her first Emmy award.

Projected Winner:

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1. Jenna Fischer
2. Conchata Ferrell
3. Holland Taylor
4. Jaime Pressly
5. Vanessa Williams
6. Elizabeth Perkins

Friday, July 27, 2007

Most Anticipated Films of Fall 2007, Part 1

It's almost August, which means soon we will be rid of all these summer popcorn films and be hit with a ton of awards baiting films. My favorite time of the year, natch, because I look forward to seeing the best of the best (and sometimes the bottom of the barrell too).

I'm going to try to do a list (*another one? ha) of those upcoming films that I suspect will be seen opening weekend, by any means.

Atonement (Director: Joe Wright)

"A British romance that spans several decades. Fledgling writer Briony Tallis, as a 13-year-old, irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister's lover of a crime he did not commit (IMDB)."

People could not stop talking about how the adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel would be a sight to see if Joe Wright didn't screw the pooch. With that, I decided to read the novel beforehand and I have to agree with them. The potential for awesomeness is there and judging from the newly released trailer, it's sure to be heavy on the acting performances. The final act of the book will likely be the most difficult to balance in the film, not only because it is the most important, but also because it will influence how well the second act is.

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Keira Knigthley in the green dress (*swoon)! At least they kept that in. After recently watching Dangerous Liaisons for the first time, I have hope that Christopher Hampton (he adapted/wrote the screenplay for both films) knows what he's doing.

Of course, I'm keeping track of the awards potential for all films and I have marked this one down as the year's frontrunner since March or so. Technical nominations will, as usual, rely on how it does with the precursors, but it has some prestige to it. Jacqueline Durran received an Oscar nod for the costumes in Pride & Prejudice, as did Sarah Greenwood for her art direction of the same film. Dario Marianelli, the film's composer, also landed a nomination for his work in that film (the trend is Wright is working with everyone from Pride & Prejudice, save cinematographer Seamus McGarvey). Hampton won the Oscar for Adapted Screenplay for Dangerous Liaisons, so his nomination is probably the most secure of the film. James McAvoy and Knightley have lots of potential as leads Robbie and Cecilia, respectively, but it's the role of Briony that will be the most important. As in the book, Briony will be depicted in three stages of life, which means three actresses will tackle the role. Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave are all featured in the trailer, although it's difficult to say who will stand out and being recognized by the Academy (I'm betting on Garai today, but Redgrave is a past winner).

Regardless of how it does at the awards, Focus Features should be glad to know that they can count on my $9.75 this fall.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fade In:

The inaugural post. Let's start with a rundown of a few favorites.

Top 10 Films of 2005: (2006 coming soon)
1. Good Night, and Good Luck. (Director: George Clooney)
2. The Best of Youth (Director: Marco Tullio Giordana)
3. Munich (Director: Steven Spielberg)
4. Brokeback Mountain (Director: Ang Lee)
5. Caché (Director: Michael Haneke)
6. Wallace and Gromit in the Curse of the Were-Rabbit (Director: Steve Box and Nick Park)
7. The New World (Director: Terrence Malick)
8. Grizzly Man (Director: Werner Herzog)
9. The Constant Gardener (Director: Fernando Meirelles)
10. Broken Flowers (Director: Jim Jarmusch)
Other favorites: Howl's Moving Castle, Shopgirl, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, A History of Violence, Mysterious Skin, Match Point, Breakfast on Pluto, The 40-Year Old Virgin, The White Countess, Pride & Prejudice, Me and You and Everyone We Know, In Her Shoes, Winter Solstice, Separate Lies

Top 10 Television Series of 2006:
1. Veronica Mars, UPN/CW
2. The Office, NBC
3. Grey's Anatomy, ABC
4. Arrested Development, FOX
5. How I Met Your Mother, CBS
6. Everwood, WB
7. Weeds, Showtime
8. Friday Night Lights, NBC
9. The Sopranos, HBO
10. Scrubs, NBC

Top 10 Albums of 2006:
1. FutureSex/LoveSounds, Justin Timberlake
2. Spring Awakening, Original Broadway Cast
3. Rabbit Fur Coat, Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins
4. The Drowsy Chaperone, Original Broadway Cast
5. The Eraser, Thom Yorke
6. Alright, Still, Lily Allen
7. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, Neko Case
8. Show Your Bones, Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs
9. Loose, Nelly Furtado
10. Sam's Town, The Killers

Top 10 Songs of 2006:
1. Nelly Furtado "Maneater"
2. Justin Timberlake featuring Timbaland "SexyBack"
3. The Pipettes "Pull Shapes"
4. Schuyler Fisk and Joshua Radin "Paperweight"
5. Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins "Born Secular"
6. Lily Allen "Smile"
7. Beyoncé "Irreplaceable"
8. Justin Timberlake featuring T.I. "My Love"
9. Rihanna "S.O.S. (Rescue Me)"
10. JC Chasez "Until Yesterday"