25 June 2009

Announcement: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to Nominate 10 Films for "Best Picture" This Year in Film

Also via Awards Daily, yesterday I learned of the following dramatic shift away from tradition regarding the "premier award given for filmic achievement today": 10 is now the number of works to be nominated by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) for its Best-Picture Academy Award this upcoming January - and all Januaries in the foreseeable future. Whoa! Granted that this shift does leave an incredibly enhanced opportunity for good films to boost their historical reputations by earning such a nomination from the Academy - and Awards Daily has compiled a list of some films that may have been worthy of doing just that in the recent years gone by (a list viewable here) - the shift invariably alters the chemistry of the awards, in that it may be now that all other awards (particularly the acting and directing awards) will come eventually to take center stage as the more rarified, thus more coveted, and double-thus more esteemed prizes to be won in the industry. Such an effective dilution of the "top prize," furthermore, would mean that, while the competition could be more open, the competition could be less "best:" See the Golden Globes' similarly extended list of nominees for Best Picture every year. Admittedly, we should not get ahead of ourselves in such kinds of prejudgement here, but these aforementioned are things to be considered and to be suspected as the days roll on, closer to the January date and afterward. In any case, we could stand to see a film like Away We Go hit the list this year in film. Now wouldn't that be something?

Trailer: The Box

Wow, look at Cameron Díaz, being all actress-y and acting and stuff; she must be like so committed now. Ha: Seriously though, Ms. Díaz is being featured as a near-leading performer in two films this year that look actually not like C-level, romantic-comedy, haphazard jaunts into vapor but rather like on-the-cusp, potentially B+-or-better films - and I like it. Via Awards Daily, check her out in the trailer (below) for the latter of the two films (i. e., director's, Richard Kelly's, upcoming film The Box). (For the former, see here.)

18 June 2009

Theater Review: August: Osage County

I finally got around last night, to seeing potentially the only straight (i. e., non-musical) play on Broadway that I had any real desire to see: August: Osage County, winner of the 2008 Tony Award for Best Play and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; and, indeed, I do think it was worth the wait. Phylicia Rashad, who took over the leading role of Matriarch after Tony-Award-winner Deanna Dunagan vacated in the Spring, was wonderful and truly the ensemble cast was fantastic as a whole, with maybe one or two exceptions from the minor players. Nevertheless, I found the show to be intense, engaging, and lingeringly contemplative, even if it takes brusque strokes to arrive at its topics of contemplation. Yes, in almost every way, I have to say, the play was (in terms of quality and measure) exactly the theatrical equivalent of P. T. Anderson's filmic Magnolia (1999). Even in its primary source of stagnation (i. e., its crumbling and increasingly exorbitant third act), it was the same; and so, while a shortcoming is still a shortcoming, such an evident comparison in my mind is a good thing. I'd highly recommend your venturing into Manhattan, whenever you have the free night - or early afternoon on matinee days, to see it before comes that inevitable day when it closes on Broadway. Tickets are currently half-off (and pretty great seating-wise) at the TKTS booths in Times Square, South Street Seaport, and downtown Brooklyn.

See Whoopi Goldberg summarize the play, along with its fellow competitors for the Best-Play--Tony-Award, during this clip from the 2008 telecast of the 62nd Annual Tony Awards.

Article: "The Seventh Seal: There Go the Clowns"

Here is what I found to be a great short article, reëmphasizing the historical context and the artistic merits of Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal over the film's more popular honor of historical stature and intellectual toughness. For any of you who may be looking to (re)acquaint yourself with the film, it was just recently released in a beautiful Blu-Ray edition by The Criterion Collection. Cheers!

16 June 2009

Review: Away We Go

Genre: Comedy / Drama

Sam Mendes' latest family drama, Away We Go starring John Krasinski (most popular by means of The Office) and Maya Rudolph (most popular by means of Saturday NIght Live), is admittedly a turn from his previous works of the same category for its own sharp curves into blithe humor - an earnest panache that was notably absent from the more sardonically humorous American Beauty (1999) and the decidedly anhumorous Revolutionary Road (2008). The film in this way makes for a terrific summer movie, as much as perhaps Sideways (2004) did, with its counterbalanced levity and gravity, which in Away We Go teeters on a peak of marital and (more specifically) (pre-)parental distress. While this subject matter itself is not unusual, the fact that Mr. Mendes allows himself to slip away from a hardcore inspection of human interdynamics and into a more freestyle exploration of societal coupledom is what achieves for this film significance. It's as if the director "rerecognized" that distressing foibles and antipathic character sets can be comical on top of acute and amusing (as in a "Kids-Say-the-Darnedest-Things" kind of way) on top of argumentative.

And the cast couldn't have been better at realizing that simultaneous union of qualities in the film's screenplay. Though most of the better known actors (than at least the leads are known) in the film have parts that amount to no more than double-sized cameos, they bring a spice and a flavor to the methodical nomadism of the theory behind the film that would have been absent in a much more serious-minded manifestation of the story. Catherine O'Hara shines as an officiously secretive a-parent to Mr. Krasinksi's character, Allison Janney pops and fizzles as a zesty slice of post-modern fortitude and applied laissez-faire, and Maggie Gyllenhaal is simply a gift as a new New-Wave nurturer, painfully aware of all but herself. As a quintet along with the not unworthy turn of Melanie Lynskey as a somehow refreshingly stock "desperate housewife" and the notably present absence of a fifth woman in the home of Mr. Krasinski's fictional brother, the women link and bind the arc of the film as, indeed, a trip to the hot-spots of theoretical womanhood for women currently in their 30s-60s and as, also, a meditation on paths to be chosen or not chosen for an individual tethered to another or so untethered. As our female protagonist, Ms. Rudolph parades her dramatically overly enceinte self through these hotspots and path-starts as if they were exhibits for a woman who perhaps wisely, perhaps unwisely, has decided to delay her moment of decision and bear the full load out in rhetorical observation. She as such a symbol does well to represent the outlook of all younger women - younger not physically but emotionally and psychically - who may once again see their future, with past abolished, as potentially still the world of mysterious yet exciting possibility that they had once envisioned as a full spectrum when they were children but that they have since recidivized into only a few, blocky, extremed items while (they are) at large within society. They, in short, are those who can choose not for a movement or for faux liberation but honestly for themselves, whatever they desire may be.

And, in the end, though perhaps not as glamorous as those of some or as carefree as those of others, their lives are right for them - or at least they earnestly believe they are, which at the time is all that really matters.

Grade: B+, well done upholding the idea of true individualism, true choice, and true honesty about what matters most to one's own self.

10 June 2009

Trailers: Shutter Island and The Road

Two new trailers, for what could be late-year heavy-hitters, were released today for Martin Scorcese's Shutter Island, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Patricia Clarkson, and Michelle Williams (among others), and The Road, starring Viggo Mortensen as Cormac McCarthy's peregrine protagonist. About the former I don't quite know how to feel, as my primary instincts tell me to shun the feature to the locked door of B-level spooks, but then second glances remind me that there are such a good cast and crew, that perhaps this one, despite first appearances, may be more than just Mr. Scorcese-does-kitschy-horror. About the latter I have every confidence, that it will be a strong piece and an ever stronger vehicle for performance by Mr. Mortensen, who seems to shine in dramatic patriarchal rôles such as his in this in-October-to-be-released piece.

A review for Away We Go is expected later this weekend.

05 June 2009

Winner: Howards End

Huzzah: The Criterion Collection's contest (see here) with Amazon, to determine the film that will become the film-house's next Blu-Ray release, has declared a winner and that winner is Howards End! Needless to say, that film, a beautiful portrait of a changing England, was my choice and I am so happy that it won. To have it on Blu-Ray would be fantastic, and I can't wait for the release, which will likely be later on this year. Until then, enjoy the scones and try not to steal the umbrellas!