Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Oscar Predictions

So we've come to that part of the year where we are less than a week away from the Academy Awards and it is time for me to lay down some predictions. By this point every critic in the country has announced his or her predictions of who will win and who should win an Oscar in every category and Premiere Magazine even interviewed several people who got to vote and revealed who these three nameless individuals voted for and why. Fairly interesting. Anyway, I have a difficult time separating the will and the should and all I'm left with are my picks.

Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby

In my mind Clint Eastwood's film blows everything else out of the water. It gives the viewer an emotional wallop and combines great performances with a script that did not change once during production (rare) and direction where less truly is more. The movie has an unfounded controversy regarding the third act which to me is based more on a reviewer disagreeing with the actions of a character and then suggesting that the movie supports and promotes that viewpoint. I don't think it does. I think the wrong choice was made, but that it was the choice these characters would have made.

Best Director: Clint Eastwood

Sure, Martin Scorsese has never won a Best Director Oscar, and was perhaps unfairly shut out for Raging Bull and Goodfellas (in particular Raging Bull). Sure, Eastwood has won before. But if we are judging the movie itself and the work the director did to bring it to life, Eastwood has to win over Scorsese. I'd love to see Scorsese win an Oscar, but not for The Aviator. The movie wasn't as good as Million Dollar Baby and I don't think his work was as good as Eastwood's. Besides, Alfred Hitchcock never won Best Director and nobody thinks less of him.

Best Actor: Jamie Foxx

Is there any doubt about this? As far as I can tell Foxx became Ray Charles. I didn't get any sense of Jamie Foxx on screen until Ray took off his glasses late in the movie. Great performance. My heart, however, lies with Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda.

Best Actress: Hilary Swank

She's going to join the multiple Oscar winner's club and for this and Boys Don't Cry, Swank was overwhelmingly powerful and sympathetic. From what I've heard, Annette Bening is being overrated in Being Julia in a role that isn't great in a film that wasn't that good. I'll be watching it from Netflix in the near future, but I dont' see how Swank can be overlooked. She was just that good.

Best Supporting Actor: Clive Owen

Odds are Morgan Freeman will win this one and Thomas Haden Church may be the other contender, but Clive Owen in Closer was stunning. He was brimming with raw masculinity and passion and proved himself a man where Jude Law was just a boy. As there were no lead roles in Closer, Owen could have been Best Actor rather than Supporting, but then Jude Law was also a supporting player. I have to pick Owen because he was just so stinking good in this movie, but watch Morgan Freeman pick up the award for his typically solid work in Million Dollar Baby. Freeman is always good.

Best Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen

Cate Blanchett may very well win for The Aviator, but Madsen truly was the heart of Sideways. She made a good movie even better and without Madsen I don't think Sideways would have been nearly as good or as sympathetic as it turned out to be. As much as I like Natalie Portman and would be happy if she wins, I think Virginia Madsen truly deserves this award. Hopefully this will help turn her career around and more of these roles will be offered to her. Side note: Sandra Oh, Madsen's costar was not nominated here but did quite a good job in Sideways. Great ensemble cast there.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005


TNT has been showing re-runs of the X-Files weekly. They've been airing starting on tuesday night at 11 pm through wednesday morning at 4 or 5 am, and then four more episodes in the wee hours of thursday morning. Typically about ten episodes a week. What is good about this is that the episodes have been airing in consecutive order. So, when I started recording them on the DVR starting with Season 4 I've been able to watch them in the original broadcast order and work my way through the storylines of the show.

I'm midway through Season 8 right now and have been fairly well immersed in the X-Files for a couple of months now. I have some 17 episodes currently recorded and needing to be watched, plus the episodes coming this week. After next week I should have all the episodes recorded and will be able to finally chip away at my recorded list. Until now it seems I've just been replacing the episodes I watch in a week with the new ones that come the next week. It's been a neverending cycle which has kept my DVR's memory at close to 90% capacity every week.

It'll be a little sad when this is all done because it is an excellent show, but it will give me the chance to get back to the shows I have coming from Netflix. I'm part of the way through the mini-series From the Earth to the Moon, plus i need to get back into Alias, 24, Angel, The Sopranos, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Shows that I want to start include Firefly, The West Wing, Six Feet Under, and Band of Brothers. I've got quite a bit I want to watch here.

Season 8 is an interesting season for the X-Files. Mulder(David Duchovney)is essentially out of the show and will barely make appearances for the rest of the run (as I understand it). Introducing John Doggett (Robert Patrick) as a new agent is growing on me and he's doing a great job, but his role has pretty well reversed the dynamic of the duo where Mulder was believing in everything supernatural (and often being right) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) needs the scientific proof. The roles are reversed and Scully is playing Mulder's role (she is uneasy in it, but has seen too much over seven years with Mulder) and Doggett doesn't believe. It works, but it isn't the same, and I know that we're going to get another agent, Reyes, at some point which probably means less Scully. Scully has always been the heart of the show and we've seen the mysteries and conspiracies from her eyes. That'll be a little strange. I'm mostly curious as to how this will all get wrapped up (well, that and if there really will be a second X-Files movie).

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Oscar Season

Is there really a better time of the year for movies than Oscar Season? Not in my book. For whatever reason, all of the best movies come out in September through February (some movies get a limited release in December just to qualify for the Oscars, then open wide later). It's how I get to see Hotel Rwanda and Million Dollar Baby on consecutive weekends and that is priceless.

But what I really like about this time of the year is just that because of all of the award shows leading into the Oscars, there is a lot of discussion about movies. Sure there is discussion all year, but how much do I really want to hear about The Day After Tomorrow and Eurotrip?

It's all about the Oscars. What are the chances of the actor I like scoring a nomination? In the case of Natalie Portman, apparently very good. Will Scorsese finally win Best Director? I hope not. Is there a better movie this year than Million Dollar Baby? No, but Hotel Rwanda, Maria Full of Grace, and Closer were all excellent. Will Hilary Swank win a second Best Actress Oscar and deny Annette Bening a second time? I hope so.

It'll keep me up and in front of the tv watching all 6 hours of the Academy Awards television broadcast while I should be sleeping because I have to work the next day.

And then it'll keep me mentally complaining for the next couple of months (or years if I think about Titanic winning Best Picture over L.A. Confidential).

Movie Review: Million Dollar Baby (2004)

A film by Clint Eastwood

The more I think about this movie, the more I love it. I am fully convinced that Clint Eastwood is becoming a better filmmaker with each passing year.

Million Dollar Baby is a movie about Frankie (Eastwood), a grizzled old "cut-man" who owns a boxing gym. He is the type of man who was old school when the old school was new school. Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) is a woman who wants Frankie to train her as a boxer, but being old school, Frankie won't. She's paid her dues at the gym for the next six months, so he'll let her stay, but he's not going to train her.

But because there won't be much of a movie if he doesn't, he does decide to train her. Maggie is all guts and determination and she really doesn't have anything else going for her in her life. Her family would be the definition of white trash, and Maggie is only one small but important step away from that. She has desire to be more.

To say more would really spoil the feel of this movie. Routinely funny and moving, "Million Dollar Baby" is a nearly perfect movie. Wherever you think the movie is going to go, it doesn't go there. "Million Dollar Baby" is not a movie about boxing, it is a movie about a boxer. There is a significant difference and the difference is likely what makes this movie so good.

Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank, and Clint Eastwood all turn in what may be the best work of their career and that is saying something. Everyone feels absolutely perfect as their characters and Swank in particular does a fantastic job in becoming Maggie Fitzgerald. It doesn't feel like Swank is playing a role, it feels like she is Maggie. The other women who Swank boxes against do a great job making Swank look like the real deal, so the praise really goes to everybody in the movie.

There are difficult decisions made in this movie and each one falls in line with what the characters might actually do. "Million Dollar Baby" does not take a wrong step once and this is a movie that actually surpasses any hype it has been given.

Grade: A