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Taken By Taken & Post Award Season Concerns

 

US Audiences Taken About Taken?

 

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before in all my years as a critic. On the weekend, a film called Taken topped the U.S. box-office with a tidy sum of $24m. That’s not bad considering its Superbowl weekend. That’s not the point I’m trying to make though.

 

The strange thing is that Taken was released in Australian cinemas almost 6 months ago – on 14 August 2008. It was released in France, its country of origin, back in February 2008. According to the Internet Movie Database, the film has also been released in countries such as South Korea, Poland, Peru, Thailand, Venezuela, Croatia, United Arab Emirates, Iceland and Egypt. It was released on DVD in Australia a few weeks ago.

 

Now, having gone all around the world, the film is being released in the United States. I speak of the country where movies are usually released first. What’s just as surprising is the number of people who paid to see it in its opening weekend. Those U.S. residents really keen could have ordered it on DVD from France months ago. Instead, they’ve waited and come out in droves. It makes you wonder why 20th Century Fox has been sitting on it for so long. Ah well.

 

Post Award Season Depression

 

Now that most of the major award season films have been released, I’m starting to worry about the films being released over the coming months. There’s always a “dead zone” between late February and early May each year. Virtually no big blockbusters are released and the award season has long passed. It’s a quiet time for cinema owners.

 

As I look ahead, those films to get excited about in February would be Changeling (which earned Angelina Jolie an Oscar nom), Rachel Getting Married (which earned Anne Hathaway her first Oscar nom) and The Reader (which is the only best picture nominee I’m yet to see). There are some others of interest which were largely overlooked in the award season including W. (a look at George W. Bush’s life story) and Last Chance Harvey (with the great Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson). I’m mildly interested by the Watchman (the trailer is great) but there’s something about it which makes me think I’ve seen all this before (e.g. X-Men, Batman).

 

Aside from the aforementioned flicks, the cinematic outlook is just as bad as the economic outlook. I speak of The Pink Panther 2 (please kill Steve Martin for doing this), New In Town (a romantic comedy with Renee Zellweger and Harry Connick Jr), Paul Blart: Mall Cop (a comedy starring Kevin James which took $32m in its opening weekend in the U.S.), Dance Flick (yet another god damn spoof movie from the Wayans brothers) and All About Steve (a Sandra Bullock comedy – say no more).

 

I’m already thinking about what I’ll say to the cinema employees when I ask for a ticket to see these movies. I don’t want them thinking ill of me so I’ll have to disclose that I’m seeing it strictly in a “critic’s capacity”. Hopefully, they’ll believe me.

 

Director’s Guild Awards

 

My only major piece of award show news is that director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) took home the big prize at the Director’s Guild Awards over the weekend. He can start working on his Oscars speech now. Well done to Danny.

 

Rory McIlroy

 

In my Film Pie newsletter from 9 December 2008, I did my annual catch up on the golfing careers of Oliver Fisher and Rory McIlroy.

 

I make reference to Rory once again as he broke through for his first win as a professional yesterday in the Dubai Desert Classic. The win lifts him to a phenomenal 16th in the Official World Golf Rankings. Not bad for a 19 year old. Let’s hope it’s the first of many wins this year.

 

I’ll see you all next week.

Oscar Betting, SAG Winners & Milk Homophobia

 

There’s been a fair amount of fall out from last week’s Academy Award nominations. The biggest controversy has surrounded the omission of The Dark Knight from the list of best picture nominees. I wouldn’t have included it myself (it was a very good film, not a brilliant film) but I wouldn’t have been too disappointed if it was nominated. It is the second highest grossing movie of all time in the United States and it was well received by both the public and critics. It has also featured in many lead up awards.

 

Spoilt Milk

 

I am a huge Oscar buff and follow many blogs and news sites throughout the year to read about the latest news. Of all the interesting articles I’ve seen, this one released over the weekend tops the pile - http://www.awardsdaily.com/?p=6364.

 

On the Internet Movie Database (which the world’s biggest movie site), the public can rate a film on a scale between 1 and 10. The votes are collated electronically and you can see the current score of any movie. As you can see from the chart in the article, Milk’s ranking in the all-time best movies list took a nose dive after Thursday’s nominations. It seems a large number of people suddenly logged onto the site and gave it a score of 1 out of 10 – hence the fall in score.

 

As alluded to in this article, this is widely attributed to a backlash from homophobic moviegoers. I find this ironic in a week when Americans saluted their very first black President. I guess the gay movement still has a long way to go.

 

This reminds me of all the anti Brokeback Mountain sentiment in early 2006. It lost the best picture Oscar to Crash, despite the fact that Brokeback had won almost every single important lead up award. It’s sad to find out that little has changed in the past 3 years.

 

Screen Actors Guild Awards

 

The most important lead up awards to the Oscars are the Screen Actors Guild Awards (the SAGs).

 

They were held earlier today and the winners were:

 

Best Actor – Sean Penn (Milk)

Best Actress – Meryl Streep (Doubt)

Best Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

Best Supporting Actress – Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Best Ensemble Cast – Slumdog Millionaire

 

They can’t match up with this year’s Oscar winners because both Winslet and Streep will face off in the same category – best actress.

The last major awards are the BAFTAs which are announced on 8 February 2009.

 

Oscar Betting

 

For those new to the Film Pie, I always place a few bets each year on the Academy Awards. I’ve done this every year since 1996 and over the last 12 years, I’ve managed a profit of $4,280. Hey, it’s fun to win the money, but I really do it for the challenge of outsmarting the betting agencies and showing that I know how to pick a winner.

 

Having won $265 already on the Golden Globes earlier this month, I’ve had the following bets on this year’s Oscars…

Best Actor – $400 on Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) to win $346.70.

Best Actress - $400 on Kate Winslet (The Reader) to win $386.83.

 

Mickey Rourke is in a two horse race with Sean Penn. The reason I like Rourke over Penn is because (1) Rourke’s win would be a remarkable comeback – a Cinderella story, and (2) Penn won in this category 5 years ago and it’s tough to back up so close after a win – the Academy likes to spread the love around. I know that Penn just won the SAG (which would automatically give him favouritism) but you have to remember that Penn didn’t win the SAG in the year he won the Oscar (for Mystic River). Today’s SAG win was his first and was widely tipped by the pundits. I did win a lot of money on Penn back in 2004 but this year I’m betting against him and going with Rourke.

 

Kate Winslet faces off against Meryl Streep in the best actress category. It’s going to be one hell of a contest but as Winslet has always been the bridesmaid and never the bride, I think the Academy will shine a light on her this year – her 6th nomination. She also has two great performances – The Reader and Revolutionary Road and that may sway voters minds. Streep is a danger but I think Winslet is too strong this year.

 

I’ve been talking so much about the Oscars and the year end awards races over the last few weeks. I usually don’t have much else to talk about at this time of the year so I hope it’s not too boring. See you next week!

Oscar Nomations 2009: The Reader Steals Batman's Limelight

 

It’s one of my favourite parts of the film year – the moment that the Academy Award nominations are revealed. They were announced just moments ago and here’s a look at the nominees in the major categories with my personal thoughts…

 

Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire

Wow, a big surprise here. Everyone thought the top 5 films were locked in but we did have one upset – The Dark Knight, the second highest grossing film in U.S. history, was overlooked for a nomination. I’m not too fussed. Stealing the nomination was The Reader which I haven’t seen yet and is due for release in Australia in February. Slumdog Millionaire has this won – I’ve no doubt about that.

 

Achievement in directing
David Fincher for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard for Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant for Milk
Stephen Daldry for The Reader

Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire

 

Usually, there’s one film which doesn’t match up in the best picture and best director categories. That didn’t happen this year. They went 5 for 5. So again, the upset was Stephen Daldry being nominated for The Reader over Christopher Nolan for The Dark Knight. I think it’s a fantastic achievement for Daldry. He has made only 3 feature films and he’s been nominated for an Oscar every time – for Billy Elliot (my all time favourite movie), for The Hours and now for The Reader. Well done indeed.

 

Performance by an actor in a leading role
Richard Jenkins in The Visitor
Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn in Milk
Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler

 

There weren’t any major surprises here. This is a two horse race – Sean Penn v. Mickey Rourke. Rourke has the edge right now and I think he can win it. The two most high profile actors to miss out were Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road). It’s nice to see Richard Jenkins and Frank Langella both earn their first nominations. They’re veterans actors who were well overdue.

 

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Anne Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie in Changeling
Melissa Leo in Frozen River
Meryl Streep in Doubt
Kate Winslet in The Reader

 

I saw this coming but not a lot of other people had the guts to predict it. The Academy has deemed that Kate Winslet’s role in The Reader is NOT in the supporting category (as was the case at the Golden Globes). Given that you can only be nominated once within a single category, one of her great performances had to miss out. It turns out she’s been nominated for The Reader as opposed to Revolutionary Road. She’ll now be the frontrunner in this category given that’s she’s due (she’s now got 6 nominations without a win). Melissa Leo caused quite a boilover being nominated for the small independent film, Frozen River. She’s won a few critics awards but most people didn’t see this coming. The unlucky victim in this category was the wonderful Sally Hawkins who has missed out for her beautiful performance in Happy-Go-Lucky. That’s a real shame.

 

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Josh Brolin in Milk
Robert Downey, Jr. in Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt
Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road

 

Heath Ledger has this one in the bag. The only nice surprise was seeing Michael Shannon nominated for Revolutionary Road (see my full length review this week). Robert Downey Jr. completes his comeback with his first nomination since Chaplin in 1993. He’s career has gone full circle in between. Another first for Josh Brolin who earned his first nomination ever.

 

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Amy Adams in Doubt
Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis in Doubt
Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Marisa Tomei in The Wrestler

This category is now wide open with the disappearance of Kate Winslet. Penelope Cruz will be the early favourite but she’s vulnerable. Anyone could win this and I’ll be following the lead up awards closely over the next month.

 

Screenplay written directly for the screen
Frozen River

Happy-Go-Lucky

In Bruges
Milk
WALL-E

This will be an interesting category as only one of the best picture nominees this year (Milk) is an original screenplay. I’m very “happy” with the Happy-Go-Lucky nomination. I know of at least someone who will be just as happy with the In Bruges nomination.

 

Screenplay based on material previously produced or published
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Doubt
Frost/Nixon
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire

 

This is a very strong category this year. Doubt is the only film which wasn’t nominated for best picture and yet it still picked up 4 acting nominations (more than any other film). Slumdog is the favourite given that it will be crowned best picture.

 

Overall

 

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button picked up a whopping 13 nominations. Only two films (All About Eve and Titanic) have earned more. This is a little surprise but it was always going to perform well in the technical categories (make up and special effects in particular).

 

Australia earned just one nomination – best costume design. I was hoping that it’d perform a little better.

 

The winners will be announced on Monday, 23 February 2009 (Brisbane time). I’ll be sure to keep you up-to-date with the latest happenings and my Oscars gambling in the meantime.

Have a great weekend!

Another Golden Night For Hollywood...

 

After laying low over the Christmas period, my movie going year has kicked into full swing over the past week – I’ve seen 7 films in the past 5 days and there’s more to see this weekend. I’ve just gotten back from a screening (Gran Torino) and there’s not much time so let’s get right to it…

 

The Golden Globes were held earlier today and it was very significant in terms of the Oscars race. The Globes do seem to impact Academy voters. They are the 2nd most important lead up award (behind the Screen Actors Guild Awards) in the lead up to next month’s Oscars.

 

As I do each year, I placed a few wagers with a sports betting company in the hope of an upset. I backed both Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) and Kate Winslet (The Reader) and luckily went 2 for 2. My windfall was $265 and that’ll do just nicely. I plan to use those winnings to place a few more bets on the upcoming Oscars. My career award show gambling profit since 1996 now stands at $4,545 but hey, who’s counting

 

On to the awards themselves and I think I’ll do this best by splitting them into the relevant categories…

 

Best Picture

 

The favourite, Slumdog Millionaire, won best picture, best director and best screenplay at the Globes. It is now the very clear favourite going into the Oscars and I can’t see it getting beat.

 

Best Actor

 

Mickey Rourke won best actor in a drama for The Wrestler after beating favourite Sean Penn (Milk). I tipped this and I think Rourke’s great speech will see his momentum build in the next month. Hollywood loves a Cinderella story and Mickey Rourke (after all that he’s been through in life) would be just that if he claimed the coveted gold statue. Penn is the only man who can beat him and I wouldn’t rule him out just yet. The Guild winner will probably tell us more. For the record, Colin Farrell won best actor in a comedy for In Bruges and that’s great to see (I thought it was Farrell’s best ever roles) but he’s no chance at an Oscar nom.

 

Best Actress

 

The best actress race at the Oscars has now become a lottery. The two favourites leading into the Globes were Anne Hathaway (Rachel’s Getting Married) and Meryl Streep (Doubt). Both lost however in the night’s biggest upset – to Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road. The reason it was so shocking is that Winslet had won earlier in the night for The Reader (see below). You’d usually expect the awards to be shared around. Also mudding the waters was the win by the amazing Sally Hawkins (my personal choice) in the best actress comedy category for Happy-Go-Lucky. She’s an outsider for the Oscars but should score a nomination. It’s a race in 4 and anyone could win it. At this point, I can’t pick it.

 

Best Supporting Actor

 

Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight) won the Globe and just about everything else to date. He’ll start as a $1.01 favourite for the Oscars and it’s pointless to speculate about any of the other hopefuls as they have zero chance.

 

Best Supporting Actress

 

Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) was the early frontrunner but Kate Winslet has stolen the lead with her Globe win for The Reader. It’s great to see because Winslet has been well overdue. She had been nominated for 5 Golden Globes previously and was yet to win. Now, can she break her run of 0 for 5 at the Oscars? I hope so. She’s no certainty however because her win in the best actress category for Revolutionary Road might actually hurt her. If members split their votes (i.e. only voting for her in one category so as to spread their love around), then she might end up losing both.

 

The Globes ceremony itself was rather uneventful. Sacha Baron Cohen stole the limelight with his distasteful, politically incorrect humour. Yes, he was booed by some but I was happy just to see someone mixing it up. I tire easily of the standard thank yous and back slapping. Ricky Gervais was also good when he presented.

 

The Oscars are unveiled next Thursday (Jan 22) at 11:38pm. Next week’s Film Pie newsletter will therefore be a few days late. I’ll release it to tie in with the nominations and will provide my insightful commentary. See you then.