Monday, November 24, 2008

Middle Aisle Critic vol. 11--> Oscar Predictions, vol.1 (assumptions)

I know that it is a little early to announce the winners, but I figured for the sake of the argument that I would make some early predictions. As a film analyzer/ critic, I find that the more films that I see, the keener my sense for predictions become. This has been both a blessing, and a curse, as I sometimes write off entire films for simply being "too conventional" that may deserve to be critiqued on its own account (and not in comparison to other films). This is hard not to do, because so much "territory" has been covered in the last 108 years, that it is difficult to truly express new conventions, but I find myself amazed continually by films that come along, and create within themselves something distinct.

When looking at the films that have come out this year, one can make the assumption that studios focused much more on sequels, blockbusters, and franchise based films. Not a lot of "artistic" films have been appearing, and only now (as the season is coming to full speed) has the focus shifted. This is both an interesting case study of high art vs. pop art, but also an interesting view of marketing, green lighting films, and capitalizing on a certain genre for the sake of a box office draw.

In this short analysis, I will be laying out a few films that I believe will get (at the least) notoriety among critics and film goers, but also hold the possibility for Academy nominations.

For the Sake of the Argument I am going to limit my proposals to just a few cases...This is not an exhaustive list, and this is not set in stone, I am still waiting to see most of these films and so I can only make assumptions on the basis of outsider analysis.

Article #1- Wall*E
--> In looking over the best events leading up to the creation of the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture, one could argue that the award fills all the requirements for elevating an excellent film to a high honor. But this isn't the highest honor, and in fact only one animated film has ever been nominated for Best Picture! This was Beauty and the Best back in the early 9os!
The Best Animated Picture Award should be encouraging filmmakers to make high quality animated films from any genre, for any age group (kids, families, 13 and up, etc.). Some films are starting to change this (namely Persepolis), and in this shift we are seeing that Pixar (if they are running) have a serious contender in high quality films that happen to be done in animation. The question remains however, could an animated film win in another category (exluding the technical/sound/original song categories)?
Could Wall*E, one of the highest rated films out this year (with great critical and commercial acclaim), be a film that surpases its genre and enters into contention for the highest picture of the year?
The film is excellent, and little can be found that detracts from the films immense charm, but is it Best picture worthy? And even if it is, will the Academy "bend" the rules to allow it to run for the higher award?

Article #2- Possibilities (2)

*Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)--> Critics are calling it a major comeback/trial for Rourke, who has pretty much been muddling around for the past 8 years (other than a certain evil metropolis, or a certain dog the bounty hunter ripoff)
*Brad Pitt (Benjamin Button)--> C'mon its Brad Pitt! He has only been nominated once, and that was in a Supporting Role (in one of my favorite films! 12 Monkeys)
*Will Smith (Seven Pounds)--> Will Smith reuniting with his "Pursuit of Happyness" director= a big push for a nomination. Whether he gets it or not, I admire the guy for strategically planning the realease of this movie smack dab in the middle of the fall season.
*Sean Penn (Milk)--> Sean Penn breaks away from his usual Liberal self.... just kidding... will Penn really be the driving force of the movie, or are the performances of the supporting cast really what gives the film the heart + soul?
*Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino)--> This may be a long shot, as there hasn't been much buzz around this project (possibly being shadowed by Changeling), but Eastwood has the crotchety old man down, and I admire the fact that he is still putting out films of this caliber at his age!
*Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon)--> So awesome, I feel like I am seeing Richard Nixon when I watch the trailer. That is a performance you couldn't ad-lib.

*Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road/The Reader)-->
From what I have heard Kate Winselt's performances in both of these films are exceptionally good. I am a pretty big Winslet fan, and if any actress deserves a win it should be her.
*Meryl Streep (Doubt)-->Do you honestly believe that she wouldn't? I mean its Meryl Streep... She is one of the most prominant Oscar winners ever in this category... On the other hand, do we really need to give her another one? I mean she must be running out of mantle space by now. The role looks primed for her, almost as if they had her in mind when they were originally writting it (joke... its an adaption from a play... but who knows could be true)
*Angelina Jolie (Changeling)--> I just thought she did a great job. I never could take her seriously until I saw this film. At times she seemed to be a bit emotional, but it was part of the personality of the character, and it truly fit the flow and feel of the picture.
*Kate Blanchett (Benjamin Button)--> She is usually really good, I don't think she will disapoint.

Supp. Actor
*Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)--> Amazing dedication mixed with a truly talented actor who never truly reached the potential that he creates in this film. The rest of Ledger's career will be shadowed by this performance, and looking at all the critical/commercial success, I would say that he deserves it more than anyone else at this point.
*Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon)--> Sheen is talented actor who seems to play similar types of roles (which may change as he is cast as the Cheshire Cat in the upcoming Tim Burton film "Alice in Wonderland"). Sheen as David Frost is the type of film role that we are used to seeing Sheen play, but in his defense he does it very well.
*Philip Seymour-Hoffman (Doubt)--> While it wouldn't be as glamorous as his Best Actor win 3 years ago, a Best Supporting oscar could show the versatility and dedication that Hoffman produces in his work.
*Josh Brolin (Milk)--> I must say that I am very impressed by Brolin as of late. The guy is funny, talented, and stirring in his roles and represents a new face in Hollywood (something that is somewhat needed). Brolin's role in Milk seems to stir up a lot of controversy (from both sides) and it is the kind of role that simply will not sacrifice itself as a "second tier" role.

Supp. Actress
*Penelope Cruz (Vikki Christie Barcelona)--> I loved this film, and I really feel like Cruz is one underrated actress. She is really talented, yet she sometimes gets overlooked for being "stuck up". The role she plays in this film is quite pivitol and without her I feel it simply would not have worked.
*Amy Adams (Doubt)--> The timidness, and all around dexterity of her performance in Doubt seems to "cry out" for a nomination. Adams is another young actress that truly represents a "new face" in Hollywood. She can play a great counterbalance to actors like Hoffman + Streep
*Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler)--> I think shes great. She is one of those actresses that pops up every once in a while, and then seems to dissapear to smaller projects for a period of time. From the look of the trailer she seems to play a counterbalance to Rourke, who may not be as directed without her.

Best Picture (difficult to say)
*Benjamin Button
*Slumdog Millionaire
*Wall*E (?)
*The Wrestler
*The Dark Knight (?)
*Revolutionary Road

Best Director (harder to concieve)
*Danny Boyle
*Ron Howard
*David Fincher
*Sam Mendes
*Clint Eastwood
*Chris Nolan
*Darren Aronofsky

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Middle Aisle Critic vol. 10--> Possibilities

In recent film news, the film "The Dark Knight" has been taken under consideration as being a possibility for a Best Picture nomination, and more specifically, Heath Ledger is in possible consideration for a Best Supporting Actor nomination. If this does occur, it would make the award a "posthumus" award, which only Peter Finch has successfully won for an acting nomination. This would make history, in a sense, in several ways. The first way would be simply that Ledger becomes the second actor to win an Academy award after his death. The second, which is much more ambiguous, concerns the role of "popular" film over "artistic" film. Traditionally the Academy didn't have the issue that it is now dealing with, since before recent years, winners of the "Best Picture" award were films that grossed more than any other, as well as standing above the crowd as being "high art". In the last few years we have seen a shift, which has promoted smaller, limited release films at a much higher rate than blockbuster type films. This says a lot about the quality of blockbuster films, but also raises the question: "What if a film is garnered great by the general consensus, but not the critical community?" or better yet (in the case of 'The Dark Knight') "What if a film from a genre not usually critically successful, but almost always commercially succesful, becomes regarded highly by both the general populous, and the critical community? If this occurs, has their been a shift from "high art" to "pop art"? Or are the changes occurring simply reflections of a time when blockbuster films took both commerical and critical acclaim?"
These are the questions I ask myself in considering whether films like 'The Dark Knight' or 'Wall-E' should be recieved outside of their normal mediums (MTV movies awards for TDK, and Best Animated Feature), and regarded as one of the best of the entire year?
I loved both of those films, and they stand as two (admist others) pedastals of quality that I haven't seen too much of this year (besides a few other select films).
Who knows... could Pixar and Christopher Nolan sweep the Oscars? Or will the votes reigning in throughout the academy speak against this? There are politics involved, but is it necessarily bad if critics want to perserve "The Academy" image?