By now everyone has seen, heard, read or read about President Clinton's ambush by Chris Wallace on Fox News last week. Well, Keith Olbermann stepped up to the plate to, in one fell swoop, vilify the media's sloppy assessment of Clinton's "crazed" response and brought to light an important question. Has George W. Bush even presented himself as a true American with American ideals amidst his incessant and deplorable actions of our "president" fighting for "freedom?" I think it's as valid a question as has ever been posed against this...regime.
So I'm talking to this GORGEOUS blonde at the Rainbow Bar and Grille on Sunset Sunday night. She's Scottish, in a band, etc. I had just finished that Q & A with Kevin Macdonald earlier in the afternoon, so I had "The Last King of Scotland" on the brain.
Me: "Do you happen to know who James McAvoy is?"
Her: "Of course, James is me big brother."
The band is called Streetside, by the way. I should know, I asked her about a thousand times in my drunken stupor. Thanks, Joy McAvoy.
Beautiful spread at the Academy tonight for the premiere of "The Last King of Scotland." I got the chance to chat with James McAvoy afterward, a charming fellow to say the least. Also caught up with Kevin Macdonald again. I'll be moderating his Q&A at the DGA screening Sunday night, but it was good to get some face time following a brief interview for the NY Times back in March.
All in all, the film was well received. Chatting with Kevin and James (never made it over to Forest), they would conjure lines of people that wanted to tell them how powerful the film was, and how moving, how electric, etc. Fox Searchlight seems to also be getting the indication that, even with the passionate love for "Little Miss Sunshine," maybe "Last King" is the pic to throw their weight behind.
Oprah Winfrey had Whitaker on her show this afternoon also, and apparently she said she's seen the film three times, having only seen "The Color Purple" twice. Watch out when she slings her weight behind a film. Remember that full cast special on "Crash" last year?
Oh, and yes, "Last King" is still the best film of the year after a second helping. :)
As is annual tradition, Nathaniel Rogers at The Film Experience is knee deep in his coverage of the submissions process. He's also got some nice thoughts up on his blog regarding China's potential choice. I usually snooze through this whole process until it's time to bite the bullet and predict five contenders, but there are plenty of foreign obsessives out there. If you're one, do yourself a favor and share it Nat's merriment.
And I believe the closing track is that Aretha Franklin/Bryan Adams number that was written for the film. I think. That's definitely Bryan Adams, anyway, but here's a look. It doesn't capture the film very well at all if you ask me:
I can't get this thing out of my mind. It's interesting that I love this film so much, and still recognize the visible stitches that keep it around the fourth or fifth best film of the year in my current perspective, rather than the second or third. "The Last King of Scotland" is a better film, for instance, and as much as I love Kevin Macdonald's work, given a choice of the year's cinematic output so far, "The Departed" will be the film I will watch over and over and over and over again.
And "Scorsese's best since 'Goodfellas'" will be the ubiquitous pull-quote on this film throughout the fall. However, what many will fail to comment on amongst the jubilation of the director's return to form is the fact that "The Departed" is Scorsese's most violent, darkest immersion in 30 years. It is his most cynical and blood-letting effort since "Taxi Driver," and that's a story unto itself. It would be like Francis Coppola coughing up something approaching the epic, sinister majesty of "The Godfather" today, or if Woody Allen crafted something approaching the intellect and sophistication of "Annie Hall." Better yet, imagine William Friedkin turning genre on its ear again as he did with "The French Connection," or Sidney Lumet knocking something out of the park with the consistency of "Dog Day Afternoon" and "Network." That's the kind of return to form we're talking about here.
Also, this isn't just the ravings of someone who has been fed up with what Scorsese has had to offer the last 16 years. You're talking to a guy who considered "Gangs of New York" and "The Aviator" to be top ten qualifiers in 2002 and 2004 respectively. And I LOVE 1999's "Bringing Out the Dead." I can't get on the buses for "The Age of Innocence" or "Kundun," but I certainly haven't been aching for quality Marty for nearly two decades.
Oscar talk is what it is - a bunch of hype that means nothing until people start seeing the film and talking about it. A lot of viewers out there think maybe this will give the Academy reason to finally hand Marty an Oscar for Best Director. That is so doubtful that I remain happy to expect nothing of this film's award prospects, because "The Departed" is the kind of movie that finds a place in history despite a lack of prestigious rememberance. Can William Monahan grab a win for his stunning screenplay? There are those who think a case is there. I am not one of them. Can Leonardo DiCaprio snag a nomination for what is perhaps his best performance to date? Another turn in Ed Zwick's "Blood Diamond" can help matters, but again, I doubt it. And that simply doesn't bother me in the least.
The reaction to the film so far is overwhelmingly positive, so much so that the praise might become boring by the time the film releases in a few weeks. Jeff Wells is on board. David Poland is so giddy he can't stop writing about it. And you're currently reading my third posting on the film in less than 24 hours. People are going to want to talk about this film, and people are going to want to leave analysis out of the picture. Wells mentions four times in his review that the film doesn't have thematic resilience, but that it doesn't have to have as much. I don't think the matter even needs to be qualified, because "The Departed" is just too damn good on its own terms to be judged on any other terms.
I'm unravelling again and running out of gas, but I'm sure something will spark my mind where this flick is concerned and I'll find myself writing about it yet again. I can't wait to take it in again next week, and I'll likely buy ticket after ticket when it releases. I can't stop telling people how much ass it kicks and how much they should see it. My 50 year old mother who isn't exactly into blood and violence? I still couldn't refrain from telling her to see it. It's a movie I want EVERYONE to see, because it's just "one of those." One of those films that commands a place as a definitive example of an auteur's talent.
And I'm so happy Jack waited over 30 years to finally partner up with Marty on a project, because the resulting performance is epic and so much more than "Jack doing his thing." If "his thing" is being brilliant and carrying across a character like no other actor alive or dead could dream of accomplishing, then yeah, it's "Jack doing his thing."
This always seems the time of year where predictions are awash with wrong category placements and such, so let me just make it clear that Brad Pitt is getting a SUPPORTING push from Paramount Vantage in "Babel," Ben Affleck is staying in the SUPPORTING race for "Hollywoodland" and Annette Bening is getting a LEAD shove in "Running with Scissors" (keep seeing her mentioned in supporting here and there).
In the next few days we'll complete the layout shift here at In Contention with a spiffy design for "The Blog" (crafted, again, by the hard-working Claes). I'll be changing the format up to allow for commentary from Gerard as well, and any other contributors IC may pick up in the coming months. So The Blog will hopefully function as a long-form message board, with thoughts from others in addition to myself. Here's hoping it all works out and keeps the discussion going. At the very least, both Gerard and I will have that brain leak outlet for various random ponderings.
But then again, sometimes these "to the tune of" reviews can crack you up. He's totally hyperbolic on his apparent hatred of "Bobby" (at least in my opinion), but hey, I'll link it nontheless because it gave me a chuckle:
Meanwhile, in reality (well - MY reality), "Bobby" is one of the best films of the year. And a definite Best Picture contender (which "DCP" seems to concede in his humorous pan).
I mentioned this morning in my brief review of "Volver" that it seems a number of actors are putting their best foot forward this year. The more I think about it, the more I think it is staggeringly true across the board. Here are a few actors who, at least in my opinion, are offering their best work to date in 2006:
Jude Law in "Breaking and Entering"
Penelope Cruz in "Volver"
Will Ferrell in "Stranger Than Fiction"
Ryan Gosling in "Half Nelson"
Steve Carell in "Little Miss Sunshine"
Colin Farrell in "Miami Vice"
Ben Affleck in "Hollywoodland"
Hopefully there are more to come.
Not a total misfire, but uneven enough to be concerned. Moments of power and definitive artistic strokes help to forgive structural disintegration. One nomination is pretty much guaranteed, and since he has three films in the works this year, it was just a question of which one...this is it.
I'll get into it further in a few days.
I never really venture guesses on something as far away as Oscar WINNERS until after Labor Day at the earliest. We're still trying to nail down predicted nominees, after all. But this year, a lot of the films are getting screened earlier than in years past. It seems precious few of the "players" have yet to cross critical eyes. And I get asked all the time "Who do you think will win?" Ah well, let's take a few stabs...
My first Oscar WINNER predictions (heaven help us all...):
Best Picture: "Dreamgirls"
Best Director: Bill Condon, "Dreamgirls"
Best Actor: Peter O'Toole, "Venus"
Best Actress: Annette Bening, "Running With Scissors"
Best Supporting Actor: Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"
Best Adapted Screenplay: "Dreamgirls"
Best Original Screenplay: "Babel"
Best Art Direction: "Dreamgirls"
Best Cinematography: "Flags of Our Fathers"
Best Costume Design: "Marie Antoinette"
Best Film Editing: "Flags of Our Fathers"
Best Makeup: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
Best Music - Original Score: "The Good German"
Best Music - Original Song: "An Inconvenient Truth"
Best Sound: "Flags of Our Fathers"
Best Sound Editing: "Flags of Our Fathers"
Best Visual Effects: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest"
Boy are those crappy predictions. Ah well, at least I'm on the record now.
There is a film premiering next week in Toronto that is, at least in my view, a formidable contender to win Best Picture this year at the Oscars. Politics is always something that can divide the critical masses, but the Academy listens to its gut in such situations, and I think what we have on our hands is a hot contender that the boomer generation will cling to and hold up on high. Some will love it, some will hate it, much like last year's victor. But I'm quite content in considering it one of the year's best. 2006 just keeps getting better and better.