Saturday, January 8, 2011

My early Oscar predictions: Best Picture

Also a post from my old blog. Dates back to September 2010. I'll put up my current predictions soon.

Subject to change as more reviews & precursor Awards drip in, my current predictions are:

1. The King's Speech
2. The Social Network
3. Inception
4. 127 Hours
5. True Grit
6. Toy Story 3
7. The Kids Are Alright
8. Another Year
9. Winter's Bone
10. The Town

11. Somewhere
12. Shutter Island
13. Blue Valentine

Gurus of Gold's first Oscar predictions: Best Picture

I must make it clear that this post is copied over from my old blog & dates back to September 2010.

The Gurus of Gold are predicting the following 15, in this order:
(10 spots really does make the predicting part so much more interesting)

1. The King's Speech
2. The Social Network
3. Inception
4. Toy Story 3
5. 127 Hours
6. The Kids Are Alright
7. True Grit
8. Black Swan
9. The Fighter
10. Rabbit Hole
11. Another Year
12. The Way Back
13. Winter's Bone
14. Hereafter

The first five are definite locks, but I would rate True Grit 6. It has the power to upset & steal the Oscar from King's Speech or Social Network, unless it sucks. Which it won't. Because it is the Coen Brothers.

King's Speech is moving, historical, well-crafted old school drama. Two brilliant lead performances help.

Social Network is literate, detailed, well-crafted Gen X drama. A great script & cast help.

Social Network is more relevant. King's Speech's characters are easier to love.

Inception is the inventive, visionary blockbuster they cannot ignore. The will officially lose all viewership under 40 if they overlook this one. All round awesome production (set, score, costumes, cinematography) & almost Oscar-caliber performances (Leo, Marion - they will be on my year-end lists) help.

Toy Story 3 takes the 'Pixar slot' with a significant emotional wallop. A solid end to a much-loved trilogy. Solid screenplay from previous Oscar winner Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) & score from good old Randy Newman helps

127 Hours is the new visceral, visionary film from recent Oscar winner Danny Boyle. He still has leftover love from Slumdog Millionaire and the reviews for 127 Hours are glowing - gripping, gruesome & deeply emotional. A breakout lead performance (James Franco, yes really), daring cinematography & at least one already-infamous scene ('How do I get free from this rock?') help

True Grit is a fresh adaptation of a classic novel by the Coen Brothers. The original adaptation did pretty well at the Oscars and was pretty right wing. The Coens are decidedly left-wing & left of centre. This is in the vein of No Country for Old Men and A Serious Man's nomination last year proves that the Academy appreciates them, no matter how weird they get. The trailer is awesome, and I think this is gonna kick ass.

The Kids Are Alright is this year's 'little indie that could' of choice. With politically-charged subject matter & three acclaimed lead performances by overdue actors (Anette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffallo), the comedy drama has got the heat to land the list.

Black Swan is having critics frothing at the mouth, either in a good or a bad way. My opinion - it will land nominations, but not Best Picture. Too darn weird & creepy for the Academy.

The Fighter. Unless I have missed the early reviews, this is mostly speculation based on story, genre, cast &, well, genre. It is a boxing story. It is an underdog story. & it looks well made. I'm not feeling it, but let's wait and see some reviews.

Rabbit Hole. Well, it's a drama about the grief of losing a child. Meaty performances guaranteed. What makes this interesting is the apparent wit & humanity, rather than melodrama. I'm feeling it for the actors, but not necessarily Best Picture. Then again, an acclaimed film about loss. How can it miss? Still not feeling it though. Too indie & all about the actors. Let the precursors prove me wrong.

Another Year is the wonderful and Academy-popular Mike Leigh's latest and, many claim, best. His last two films showed up, but missed Best Picture. This year, however, there are 10 slots, and I don't see anything in the charming / classy British Comedy / Drama slot. Lesley Manville's performance is bound to be a critics favourite, which should help this gain momentum. I'm feeling it/

The Way Back. Strong cast, Peter Weir. This almost qualifies for classy British Drama and I would not underestimate it. Peter Weir is a class act is all I'm saying.

Winter's Bone is the other little indie that could. The only reason why this is so low on the list is because no-one knew if it would still be remembered by year end. Well, it's year end and here it still is, so I would bump it  up on the list above Black Swan (have a feeling I am underestimating that one, but I will trust my instincts). Great reviews, a breakout lead performances, all-round solid cast and a well-crafted story with kick. I'm feeling it.

Hereafter. This is surely on the list solely on the ethos that you can never underestimate the power of Clint Eastwood. And though that is hard to argue with, he did not land a nod out of 10 slots for the moving, if uneven, Invictus, and Hereafter with it's heavily mixed reviews, is not getting in. Not feeling it.

They left off Indie favourite Blue Valentine, presumably because it is reportedly to heavy &, well, depressing & won't be seen by enough people. Hold thumbs for Ryan Gosling & Michelle Williams not to be overlooked for their apparently lazingly brilliant, career-best performances. I think it has gotten enough attention & has picked up enough heat for the actors to show up in the race, maybe. But I guess BP is a stretch.

They also left off Sofia Coppolla's Somewhere. I'm not feeling the Academy feeling it, but wouldn't say it is dead in the water. Lost in Translation 2 it may be, but I have not yet read bad reviews, only low expectations. People are moved by it & it beat Black Swan at Venice Film Fest.

Get Low also seems to have lost all heat except for its actors.

Another classy British drama, Never Let Me Go, comes from great pedigree, but reviews are a bit mixed and reactions are that it is a bit cold. Bafta's & an adoring fanbase, yes. Oscar, I guess not. The only thing still with heat is Carey Mulligan & Adam Kimmel's cinematography (MAYBE Rachel Portman's score),and those all feel out of the race by now.

Lastly, they ignored a number of potential 'crowd-pleasers'. Let's not forget The Blind Side's slot last year:
The TownSecretariatMade in Dagenham could all make an impact in this slot, and let's not forget Shutter Island, which was being predicted for last year until the release date got moved to this year. Never underestimate Marty Scorsese.

The gurus are an MCN initiative - a 'collaboration of the 15 top Academy Awards analysts in the country'. Whatever that means.

Last year they predicted:

1. Up in the Air
2. Precious
3. The Hurt Locker
4. Invictus
5. An Education
6. Up
7. Nine
8. The Lovely Bones
9. Inglourious Basterds
10. A Serious Man

With Avatar at 11.

7 out of 10. Hmm. Well done for going with A Serious Man, though.

Their predictions were generally 4 out of 5 when there were only half as many slots. I'm surprised they rated Avatar so low, even though it was undeserving.

Another Jane Eyre - beautiful poster

Awesome poster.

From Sin Nombre director, Cary Fukunaga, with an amazing cast (Alice in Wonderland's Mia Wasikowska as Jane, Michael Fassbender as Rochester & Jamie Bell , Imogen Poots, Judi Dench, Sally Hawkins rounding out the cast) and costumes by Oscar-winner Michael O'Connor (The Duchess).

This post mostly stolen from the incomparable AwardsDaily. 


1982 Tron Trailer

This is no less awesome just because there is a shiny, new version on it's way.
Ground breaking is ground breaking & what captured the imagination then still captures the imagination now.

The cyber paranoia was way ahead of its time, and you just couldn't re-create this amazing aesthetic now...

Tron Legacy Original Trailer

This First Official Trailer is the best. Shows just enough, but not too much.

Loving Michael Sheen as the Bowie-a-like & that Daft Punk score is highly effective.
All this is very promising.

Izulu Lami (My Secret Sky) - Trailer

From DV8 Films, Vuleka Productions & director Madoda Ncayiyana (first feature)

A young girl and her little brother leave their rural homestead for the city when they are orphaned, and meet up with a gang of street kids. Hoping to fulfill their mother’s dream, in the end they find their own.
Played at Dubai Film Festival, 2008 & Pan African Film Festival, Cannes 2009

- DIKALO Best Feature Film prize - Pan African Film Festival, Cannes 2009
- AUDIENCE and BEST ACTRESS prizes at Tarifa International Pan African Film Festival, held in Spain

I really just stole this whole post from I like the poster.


Oscar contenders - Best Actress: Annette Bening

Next up - Anette Bening for The Kids Are Alright.

Anette Bening was brilliant in American Beauty - amazingly she pulls off both caricature & raw authenticity in a skewering satire performance. As the tightly-wound, 'perfect' American working mother, she is scary, real, painful & hilarious - but she lost to Hilary Swank for Boys Don't Cry, which is hard to argue with.

(Bening clip in next post)

Then, Anette Bening was awesome in Being Julia - cranking up the old-school Hollywood theatrics as an actress nearing the other side of the hill. Her character is grounded by the grace notes of insecurity just barely beneath the surface, which informs the superficiality of everything else she does, but really comes to life when she finds her groove on stage - but lost to Hilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby. That one you can argue with. (Bening's Golden Globe win just doesn't make up for it).

(Bening clip in next post)

This year, she is the seasons first 'lock' for Best Actress, for The Kids Are Alright, after almost being in the running for her other film, Mother and Child. 

In Lisa Cholodenko's indie comedy Kids, she plays one half of a modern lesbian couple (the other is Julianne Moore, playing ditsy & kooky stay-at-home mom) thrown into disarray when their two kids' shared sperm-donor father steps back into the picture. Bening is great at essaying complex, flawed characters without losing touch of the comedy, and the more tightly wound, acerbic working mother should be a good fit.

In Rodrigo Garcia's latest multi-character female-driven drama, Mother and Child, Bening plays a lonely & 'difficult' (okay, bitchy) fifty-something quietly not dealing with the guilt of giving her only child up for adoption as a teenager. It is a carefully observed & layered performance and Bening is, as ever, unafraid of courting the audience's contempt. Her commitment to the reailty of her character earns credibility to her eventual growth.

Kids was an unexpected hit in the States, and will be the film to land her on the nominees list come February. Opinion is divided over whether this is her best performance, or whether she really outshines her co-star, Julianne Moore. Be that as it may, she is the nominee to contend with for any Actress planning on taking home this year's prize (looking at you, Natalie Portman), mainly because of her reputation in the industry & the fact that there is not yet an Oscar decorating her mantle at home (well, none with her name on it at least - it does not hurt that she is the woman who finally got Warren Beatty to settle down).

(Incidentally, in keeping with their on-going rivalry, Hilary Swank does have an awards friendly movie (Conviction) out this year, but at this stage of the race, Bening is more likely to be her own biggest competitor. Touch wood)


Her other Oscar nomination is for Stephen Frears' The Grifters and, at the Golden Globes, for BugsyThe American President, Running with Scissors Mrs Harris (TV). I thought she was hilarious in Mars Attacks!

American Beauty:

Never ceases to amuse.

Being Julia:

A bit of a long clip, but it sums up the character quite well.

Mother and Child:

Two great clips from the film. 'You don't know me well enough to know if I was upset'. Great flirting, Karen.

Brilliant Mars Attacks! clip (for some reason, it won't embed or post to Blogger)

Ah, to see A listers being so wonderfully daft (that's Jack Nicholson behind the hat & sunglasses). Look like they're having a blast.

Vintage Tim Burton (before he got stuck in his own trademark)

Great South African film: Paljas

Katinka Heyns' Paljas (1998) is still one of my favourite South African films. It is very 'Afrikaans', but feels like a polished European indie.

Unfortunately, I could not find any trailers / clips online (in fact, besides the image from the poster, below, all I could find was a picture of Juliette Binoche. Um...). Wish it had made more of an impact internationally.


Synopsis from
A family moves to the remote area of Karoo in South Africa, and the strain of their new environment brings out the repressed hostilities they feel for one another. When they offer shelter to a clown who has been ostracised by the locals, they become the object of the town's hostility, but the friendship which develops between the young son and clown causes the family to come together and fight back.
User Average

On, the average rating from 130 users is 7.9 out of 10, which is pretty sweet! 

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Clip - Oliver Schmitz's 'Place des Fêtes' (from Paris, Je t'aime)

Life, Above All - SA's submission for Best Foreign Language Film

Oliver Schmitz's Life, Above All (aka Le Secret de Chanda, apparently) is South Africa's official submission to be considered for inclusion among the  Best Foreign Language Film nominees at this year's Oscars. describes the film as 'A touching mother-daughter relationship that reflects the modern South Africa'. It seems to be a coming-of-age story touching on township life, HIV, hardship, superstition... Production & performances look top-notch, so let's hope it can follow in the footsteps of Yesterday Tsotsi (the themes are certainly close enough). 

The trailer:

The Academy's nomination policies for Foreign Language Films are bizarre and complicated - every country gets to submit only one film for consideration, and the final nominees are whittled down from there. Complex eligibility requirements also exclude some films from being submitted for consideration. The combination often results in the critics or the public (less likely) bemoaning the exclusion of their favourite Foreign Film from the final five (e.g. Shutting out Romania's Palme D'or winning 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days in 2008, or France's La Mome (aka La Vie en Rose) competing for Best Costume Design and winning Best Makeup & Best Actress, but not being considered for Best Foreign Language Film, as France had submitted Persepolis instead). True, the resulting five are often an odd bunch, but the Academy has nevertheless done well in choosing their winners in the past few years. 

This is likely due to the one great rule that applies to Foreign Language Films, and not to other categories: members are only allowed to vote for the winning film if they have attended screenings for each of the five nominated films. This means the winner is determined by merit, not popularity. For a change.

Oliver Schmitz made his name locally with 2000's Hijack Stories, and made his small mark internationally by contributing the 14th 'segment' to 2006's tapestry of 5 minute short films based on themes of love & Paris: Paris, Je t'Aime. Schmitz's segment, Place des fêtes, has strong performances & a quiet intensity that elevates the slight story into one of the better segments in the film, in my opinion. Odd, moving & effective.

Place des fêtes (XIXe arrondissement) — by South African writer-director Oliver Schmitz. A Nigerian man (Seydou Boro), dying from a stab wound in the Place des fêtes asks a woman paramedic (Aïssa Maïga) for a cup of coffee. It is then revealed that he had fallen in love at first sight with her some time previously. By the time she remembers him, and has received the coffee, he has died.  (Wikipedia)

Place des fêtes clip in next post.

Oscar contenders - Best Actress: Nicole Kidman

Running down the racehorses contenders for this year's Best Actress nominations, first up is Nicole Kidman in John Cameron Mitchell's Rabbit Hole. Not because she is the leading contender, far from it, but because the great-looking trailer for Rabbit Hole has just hit the web:  (tried to embed, but no luck).

The film is about a couple dealing with the loss of their young son, and trying to piece life back together, which sounds dreary, but with Cameron Mitchell at the helm of the Pulitzer winning play, critics are hailing it as warm, witty & refreshing:

'...incisive, observant and warm... a refreshingly positive-minded take on cinema’s ultimate downer' - Peter Debruge (Variety)

'...pretty much flawless.' - Scott Weinberg (Moviefone)

The major draw card is the three leads: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart & Dianne Wiest. All three performances look great - based on the trailer & the clip below - but this is Kidman's vehicle, and it is about time she gets back in Oscar's good books (I have no idea why she was ever out). Based solely on these brief impressions, her performance thankfully seems to rely more on nuance of character than on the theatrics of grief. Here's hoping.

Cameron Mitchell's career has been anything but straight forward thus far, and it is good to see hints of his risk-taking creative energy emerging in the training. His outsider approach should go far in rescuing Rabbit Hole from maudlin melodrama.

As for Kidman, an Oscar nomination is built on how much goodwill an actor has built up with the Academy, how good their PR campaign is &, only lastly, the performance. Don't believe me? Remind yourself who won Best Actress last year? & Who did she beat?


'Nuff said. (How great are the posters for Precious & An Education?! I excluded The Last Station, because Dame Hellen Mirren was never going to beat those three.)

Kidman's performance seems to be in the bag this year & I think the Academy has punished her enough for Stepford Wives & Cold Mountain, so all she needs is some good marketing, & it feels like Lionsgate is pushing this on grounds of its Oscar potential, so hopefully it takes.

Kidman has always been a fascinating screen presence, even from the early days of Billy Bathgate & Dead Calm, before Tom Cruise came along & de-cooled her. Her finest hours, imho, have been in To Die ForThe OthersThe HoursDogville & Birth, but she also delivered excellent work in Eyes Wide ShutMoulin Rouge!Birthday GirlFur & had awesome hair in Portrait of a Lady.


A few misjudged comedies, some cold dramas & an ill-advised second venture with Baz Luhrmann aside, Kidman has consistently sought out indie gold, and has delivered diverse & mesmerising work.

Her most unfairly slated performance, imo, is in Margot at the Wedding. Yes, Noah Baumbach takes risk in building his film around such a wholly unlikable character, but the character Kidman essays is detailed & pitch  perfect. You may never come to like her - which is certainly entirely intentional - but you do come to feel sorry for her, and that in itself is an achievement. A brave and unflinching (& wholly unglamorous) performance.

Be that as it may, Rabbit Hole seems to have landed her back in the game.

Margot at the Wedding Trailer: