2007-08 Oscar Calendar

[Monday, December 3, 2007]

Official Screen Credits
Forms Due.

[Wednesday, December 26, 2007]

Nominations ballots mailed.

[Saturday, January 12, 2008]

Nominations polls close
5 p.m. PST.

[Tuesday, January 22, 2008]

Nominations announced
5:30 a.m. PST
Samuel Goldwyn Theater

[Wednesday, January 30, 2008]

Final ballots mailed.

[Monday, February 4, 2008]

Nominees Luncheon

[Saturday, February 9, 2008]

Scientific and Technical
Awards Dinner

[Tuesday, February 19, 2008]

Final polls close 5 p.m. PST.

[Sunday, February 24, 2008]

79th Annual
Academy Awards Presentation
Kodak Theatre

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November 30, 2007

"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (**1/2)


(There’s a lot of misinterpretation going on simply because I joshed Tom O’Neil for going so over-the-top in his review and pointed toward odd but telling discrepancies in Jeffrey Wells’ take. So, I’m going to be measured here…)

I love Tim Burton. He has built a 22-year career on pure visual seduction. He has been pegged – usually by way of criticism – as a virtuoso of style above substance, but I have always found much to admire in his expressionist portrayals.

“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” presented a certain opportunity. On the surface, many felt the marriage of Burton to Stephen Sondheim was a match made in heaven. More to the point, however, the chance for the director to plumb thematic depths such as this hadn’t been more apparent since his masterpiece, “Edward Scissorhands,” 17 years ago.

But before I talk about what didn’t work for me in this, the final big unveiling of the 2007 Oscar season, allow me to knock out the positive assessments first. They are considerable.

Continue reading “"Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" (**1/2)” »

November 13, 2007

"Beowulf" and "Youth Without Youth"


In 2006’s yearly recap column, I allowed myself a tie in my top ten list for the first time ever. It wasn’t just a tie, it was a tie for the #1 spot. In a year packed with, in my opinion, exceptional film product, I saw something in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain” and David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” that indicated something unique: artistic progress.

At the time I wrote:

The art of filmmaking has stagnated. There are no two ways about it. Something good enough or even inspiring enough screens every year for audiences and critics, but nothing moves beyond that expected level of entertainment and/or narrative pleasantry. Nothing has attempted to push the medium toward another level of artistry in quite some time indeed, and filmmakers have settled into a steady, albeit accepted vein of typicality that seems almost as it should be. But it isn’t…and it shouldn’t.

2006 afforded two separate, diametrically opposed works of cinema that can finally be considered a part of another movement altogether. They are Darren Aronofsky’s “The Fountain” and David Lynch’s “Inland Empire,” and though qualification is a fool’s errand when it comes to each, both films combine to form the number one film-going experience of the year in this viewer’s opinion.”

2007 has so far been a strangely acceptable year for cinema. Lacking the spikes in quality I felt from many a film last year, the general flow has been characterized by wide-spread enjoyment at a large number of films, rather than passionate enjoyment of a select few. But when I came to the notion of reviewing two of the year’s steps forward, much like “The Fountain” and “Inland Empire,” I wanted to take a moment and digest them before going to print.

Continue reading “"Beowulf" and "Youth Without Youth"” »

November 01, 2007

"There Will Be Blood" (***1/2)


Paul Thomas Anderson’s “There Will Be Blood” might be one of the most fascinating films ever crafted. It is operatic and sinister, all at once beautiful and magnetic in its depiction of a deplorable human being through and through. But there is a deeply buried empathetic virtue to the character of Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) that suggests some twisted personal connection on the filmmaker’s part.

There is plenty to be said and speculated upon regarding Anderson’s dicey relationship with his father, and portions of that may have played into the creation of this film, which is based on the novel “Oil!” by Upton Sinclair. Whatever the case, “There Will Be Blood” is a stark narrative that counts among the best films of the year for its sheer artistic brilliance and, indeed, defiance.

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October 09, 2007

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (****)


“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is the result of uncommon cinematic vision, in this case springing from the mind of filmmaker Julian Schnabel. As divisive a persona as his techniques could be construed, Schnabel is a consummate artist striving for vastly different things behind the camera than any of his contemporaries. In his latest effort, the director has created a menagerie that becomes that rare example of a film less impressive in the sum of its parts than it is in the analysis of each working component. It is masterful in ways it seems critical analysis has not yet considered.

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September 21, 2007

"American Gangster" (***1/2)


Ridley Scott’s “American Gangster” is the most “New York” film the cinema has seen since Martin Scorsese’s “Mean Streets.” Every frame of the effort oozes the grime and grit of 1970s Manhattan, that sort of thorough representation that leaves you almost catching a whiff of sewer exhaust or feeling the bite of a northeasterly rain. And yet, as AMERICAN as the film and its subject matter are, there is the strange awareness that a Brit is at the helm, a sense of European observation to it all. Though Scott was a New Yorker in the 70s and knows the territory through which he navigates, it is that curious disconnect which makes “American Gangster” somewhat unique in this generally agreed upon sub-genre of hard-boiled cinema.

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September 15, 2007

"The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" (****)


In 1983, author Ron Hansen crafted a novel that ought to be considered mandatory reading for anyone considering him or herself attracted to the western as a genre and as a conveyor of essential truth. A Shakespearean account of betrayal in the old west, Hansen’s broad sketches revealed deep and vibrant characters that transcended the nickel-book mythology into which they inevitably found themselves woven. Twenty-four years later, filmmaker Andrew Dominik has accomplished a visual telling of that story which is as close to cinematic perfection as you could hope to imagine. At the risk of sensationalism, I would call “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” the most accomplished work of moving imagery committed to film in nearly a decade. It is a staggering piece of true cinematic art.

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September 14, 2007

"Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" (***1/2)


Sydney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” can indeed be deemed that simplest of dramatic terms: tragedy. But there is something to be said about a work of drama – whatever the medium – that settles so deep inside of you and is so deliberate in its downward spiral of emotional distress that you can’t really feel anything when the credits role or the curtain drops. The numbing effect has kind of transcended empathy and compassion, personal discomfort and outright sadness. There’s just…nothing. That is what this film does.

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July 25, 2007

“Feast of Love” (***1/2)


“Feast of Love” is Robert Benton’s deepest, most heartfelt and certainly his best film since 1994’s “Nobody’s Fool.” A rumination on the good-with-the-bad principles of love in its many stages, the film lingers in the minute brushstrokes set to the canvas by an organic, entirely believable ensemble of actors. While Allison Burnett’s screenplay (from the book by Charles Baxter) goes for the money line a bit too often – every character seems to have insight to spare – the narrative still runs smoothly and with a purpose, indeed a whimsical drive, that allows a level of forgiveness in that arena.

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July 23, 2007

“Arctic Tale” (***)


“Arctic Tale” is cute. Of that we can all rest assured. It’s a little difficult to open a film with a snuggly baby polar bear poking her head out of a snow cave, lay exaggerated “sniffing” effects over the soundtrack and not grab your audience’s warm spot off the bat. But while Sarah Robertson’s National Geographic Redux documentary is an interesting exploration into the arctic environment, as well as a not-so-subtle mandate against global warming, it is also much more revealing in its editorial manipulations than, say, “March of the Penguins.”

It’s too simple to mention that the film might have been as easily suited for the small screen, but it’s true. However, it goes without saying that where a film is better suited for distribution shouldn’t play for or against its successes and failures as a work of visual storytelling. So as such, “Arctic Tale” is something of a minor triumph.

Continue reading ““Arctic Tale” (***)” »

July 21, 2007

“The Bourne Ultimatum” (****)


“The Bourne Ultimatum” is the most riveting, most creative, most stimulating film of what has already proven itself to be a thoroughly engaging series of films. Spinning author Robert Ludlum’s spy novel trilogy away from its Cold War settings and into a modernized realm, the adaptations – writer Tony Gilroy the common denominator at every step – have been nothing short of sizzling in their willingness to stray, while remaining true to the essence of the novels and their captivating central character. With this, the final film based directly upon the work Ludlum fashioned, director Paul Greengrass has managed to provide one of those rare movie delights: a franchise that bested itself with each subsequent installment.

“Ultimatum” picks up right where we left off three years ago. At the end of 2004’s “The Bourne Supremacy,” amnesia-stricken CIA operative Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) had exacted a level of revenge against the Agency operation Treadstone that molded him into an assassin and murdered his girlfriend, indeed his only friend in the world, Marie (Franka Potente). Still yearning for total recall and left with a considerable amount of unfinished business, we are here introduced to a Bourne driven and determined to find the answers he’s searched for over the course of the last two films.

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July 20, 2007

“Resurrecting the Champ” (***)


“Resurrecting the Champ” is Rod Lurie’s most thematically complex film to date. It is also clearly his most personal – a film that plumbs the psyche of a journalist ethically conflicted. A former journalist and film critic himself, Lurie knows well enough the world of newsrooms and beat reporting. But it might be that emotional over-investment that eventually tangles “Resurrecting the Champ”’s potential into something merely enjoyable as opposed to the greater moralistic drama it clearly aspires to be.

Continue reading ““Resurrecting the Champ” (***)” »

July 19, 2007

“Sunshine” (**1/2)


I really wanted to like Danny Boyle’s latest mind-bending cinematic excursion. The elements were in place for the talented genre director to crank out one of the great science fiction films of our time. Writer Alex Garland was on board, a certifiable genius of the narrative form. A decent cast of actors were assembled. Technical achievements seemed to be lining up to pitched perfection. But as I watched the film unfold, I soon stumbled upon that most sickening discovery every filmgoer feels at some point or another: the sense that I needed to let hope slip away. “Sunshine,” I had to admit to myself, was a colossal miss.

Continue reading ““Sunshine” (**1/2)” »

December 08, 2006

"Letters from Iwo Jima" (***1/2)


It is extremely difficult to go about writing a review of Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima” without comparing it to, or at least considering, the film’s October cousin “Flags of Our Fathers.” After all, the film was born out of a nagging sensation Eastwood felt while shooting “Flags,” a sense that the full story wasn’t being told. What he and his seasoned crew expedited as a result is a film more penetrating than “Flags of Our Fathers” could have ever been, a film unlike any other entry in the war genre and, ultimately, an anti-war statement as lacerating and unique as the anti-violence mandate of his masterpiece, “Unforgiven.”

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November 27, 2006

"Notes on a Scandal" (***1/2)


Richard Eyre’s “Notes on a Scandal” is a particular sort of film, one that builds suspense and tension with every moving part of its machinery. On the surface, the film plays like a thriller, dragging the viewer through its wicked tale toward a sinking, almost matter of fact conclusion. But on deeper levels, “Notes on a Scandal” is a true character study, and an analysis of dependence, delusion and, ultimately, hopelessness.

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November 24, 2006

"Dreamgirls" (**1/2)


The last nine days have afforded a number of positive assessments in the wake of “Dreamgirls”’s press screening debut on November 15. Critics and journalists have found themselves left exasperated by the sheer electricity of it all. It makes sense, really, because “Dreamgirls” is a film that never allows the viewer to catch up. It never slows down to take a breath, and that can be an exhilarating experience. But while being left breathless can be riveting in the cinematic environment, it is never as much when it comes at the expense of narrative cohesion.

The problem with “Dreamgirls” isn’t the capable razzle-dazzle. It isn’t the meritorious technical achievements across the board, from striking costumes to lush cinematography, riveting sequence editing to bombastic sound design. The problem with Bill Condon’s film version of Michael Bennett’s stage sensation is that it isn’t a film at all. It is a collection of stunning moments and musical numbers, strung together without any sense of stability, collecting itself as something more akin to an extended VH1 “Behind the Music” special than anything else.

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November 22, 2006

"Children of Men" (****)


Alfonso Cuarón’s is one of the most singular voices in the filmmaking community. Along with longtime collaborator, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, the director has ushered forth textured visions of skewed fairytales for over a decade.

With “A Little Princess,” he took audiences into the mind of a little girl and her trying tenure at a miserable boarding school. In perhaps his most underrated work, “Great Expectations” (a loose adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel), he unveiled the mysterious and fateful journey of a dreamer. “Y tu mamá también” brought the director’s choice of material into a more mature light, still keeping the exuberance of youth, while “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” became one of the most adult installments in a series aimed at a younger market.

“Children of Men” fits rather paradoxically into these otherwise whimsical endeavors. Another sort of fairytale altogether, one cloaked in the mystique of dystopia, it is a film as unflinching in its bleakness as it is penetrating in its deep-seeded sentimentality. And in manifesting one of the most horrific visions of the future yet committed to film, Cuarón has given us his masterpiece, the crowning achievement of 2006.

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November 11, 2006

"The Painted Veil" (***1/2)


Romance seems to be the theme that sparks the most diverse reaction from the artistic community, filmmakers in particular. There are various methods and structures utilized to tell tales of the elusiveness of love, and new, fresh takes on this binding structure of human interaction come into the cinematic arena every year. Some audiences prefer the restraint but equal probing of, say, “The Remains of the Day.” Others might yearn for the creative ferocity of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” John Curran’s “The Painted Veil” might not be as calm as the former, and certainly not as unique as the latter, but it is nonetheless a story fabulously woven and penetrating in its exhibition of a new kind of love story. It is one of the year's finest films.

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October 08, 2006

"Flags of Our Fathers" (***)


Clint Eastwood is largely considered one of the most uneven directors working today. For every probing piece of thematic greatness (“Unforgiven,” “Mystic River”) there are three or four considerable missteps, from “The Gauntlet” and “Heartbreak Ridge” to “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and “Blood Work.” Such inconsistency is the price a hard-working filmmaker pays, for anyone willing to crank out a new project every other year for three decades is bound to miss the bull’s-eye frequently.

At the same time, amidst these lesser efforts, Eastwood has always shown a process of honing his artistry, remaining a singular talent and every once in a while experiencing the serendipity of matching that talent with exceptional material. Indeed, more often than not, a failing Clint Eastwood film is doomed on the page before principle photography even begins.

“Flags of Our Fathers” is certainly a singular figment of the war film oeuvre, fit with promising themes rather unrepresented in the genre’s history that speak eloquently to today’s environment of deception of the masses for the gain of the establishment. But it is also an exercise ultimately hampered by an unfocused and erratic narrative, one that constantly seems to be searching for itself and feels hastily lifted from the pages of James Bradley’s best selling book of the same name by William Broyles, Jr. and last year's Oscar-winning scribe Paul Haggis.

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September 20, 2006

"The Departed" (****)


One of the most artistically ruthless films to be produced in decades, “The Departed” is a spike of adrenaline straight to the heart of an audience desperately in need of such rambunctious filmmaking. A loose but paradoxically loyal remake of the Hong Kong thriller “Infernal Affairs,” the film is doused with a cast of familiar faces, each performer offering portrayals unique to anything in their respective repertoires. The script, tuned down to deafening perfection by screenwriter William Monahan, is as frenetic as director Martin Scorsese’s visual vernacular. And the atmosphere, molded by Scorsese as if he were twenty years younger, is as saturating and penetrating as one could hope for out of a freewheeling, balls-to-the-wall entry in the cops and robbers genre. This is truly one of the best films of the year.

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September 15, 2006

"Catch a Fire" (**)


Phillip Noyce has made a relatively stealthy career of tackling political subject matter without being a blatant mouthpiece for the issues with which he sides. Endeavors like “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger” approached agendas from a more entertaining standpoint, both being based on Tom Clancy best sellers. Meanwhile, “The Quiet American” and “Rabbit-Proof Fence” were more specific and cultured in their perspectives of Vietnam and Australia respectively. Now the director takes on the South African atrocity that was Apartheid in “Catch a Fire,” a film that seems too boiled down and ultimately resembling the shell of something much greater.

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September 10, 2006

"Breaking and Entering" (***1/2)


Anthony Minghella’s “Breaking and Entering” is one of the most sincerely penetrating films of the year. It’s most unique quality is the sense of legroom it provides, a healthy stretch of a film with deep breaths and drawn out considerations, as opposed to the typical anxiety of temperamental manipulation (which all film tends to be by nature). The film cannot be approached by the director’s past offerings, most of them over-reaching in their intentions and ultimately short of greatness as a result. “Breaking and Entering” is not a masterpiece, but it certainly treads such waters as an honest and tangible portrayal of mid-life confusion and crisis.

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September 09, 2006

"Stranger Than Fiction" (****)


Marc Forster’s “Stranger Than Fiction” really ought to be referred to as Zach Helm’s “Stranger Than Fiction.” While the “Finding Neverland” helmer does a sensational job conveying the brilliant and elaborate story to the screen, it is evident throughout that the writer’s intentions are being taken care of. And thank God for that, because Helm’s creation is ultimately one of the most potent, meaningful and literarily astute pieces of screenwriting in the medium.

It might seem obvious that comparisons to Charlie Kaufman are in store for Helm and the resulting film. It is true that the screenwriter reaches for certain human and social truths via his creatively unorthodox approach, much like Kaufman has done in his most recognizable work. But Helm also tackles his themes in a paradoxically accessible manner that can speak to larger numbers and to even larger truths. With this debut feature, Helm has truly hit a grand slam.

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September 06, 2006

"Bobby" (***1/2)


Emilio Estevez’s third feature filmmaking endeavor is everything his prior work was not. It is both insightful and meaningful. It exudes passion and commands relevance. It represents a cross-section of a country battered and bruised, and emphasizes the beacon of light that hoped to usher it to greener pastures. Crafted with graceful devotion and blistering sincerity, “Bobby” is not merely one of the most personal films of the year. In a season curiously dedicated to themes of compassion and understanding, it is one of the most resonant film-going experiences politically inclined cinema can aspire to be.

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September 02, 2006

"The Last King of Scotland" (****)


Every so often a film comes along that is so celebratory of the filmmaking process and fresh in its approach to visually conveying a story that it creatively demolishes anything within earshot. “Metropolis” was an early example, as Fritz Lang opened up the world in front of the camera like no one before. Arthur Penn’s “Bonnie and Clyde” and William Friedkin’s “The French Connection” awakened the filmmakers of the seventies to new boundaries willingly crossed. And Quentin Tarantino brought unique and highly innovative ideas to light in the nineties when he unleashed “Pulp Fiction” on the filmmaking community.

Another such film has finally come along, and whether Kevin Macdonald receives the credit he deserves for melding the idiosyncrasies of documentation with the manner of narrative flow or not, “The Last King of Scotland” has become a landmark of ingenuity. In this viewer’s opinion, it is the best film of the year thusfar.

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"The Queen" (***1/2)


Stephen Frears is one of the most versatile working directors in the industry. With that versatility comes the inevitable misstep from time to time, sure. But also with it comes a high order of professionalism and a certain amount of confidence that can manifest the most precise of cinematic creations. “The Queen” is just such a film. Carefully calibrated and wound to a specific 103 minutes, it is a modest and fine hour for a director who has been cranking out work of the highest quality for over two decades.

“The Queen” tells the behind-the-veil story of the days following Princess Diana’s tragic death in August of 1997. As the world mourned the passing of one of the most important political figures of the 20th century, Queen Elizabeth II (Helen Mirren) and her family holed up in their Scotland compound, choosing to handle matters with restraint, dignity and in privacy. Newly appointed Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen), with his sites set on modernizing the outdated government and bringing it back in touch with the people of the land, felt the decision to refrain from public access was detrimental to a country that desperately needed guidance and to share in the grief.

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September 01, 2006

"Little Children" (**1/2)


Tom Perrotta’s novel “Little Children” is a visceral reading experience. A smart and casually brilliant work of fiction, the author’s characters exude a demand for understanding and compassion above all else in a narrative flow that is forgivably meandering. Todd Field’s adaptation (co-written by Perrotta) in the form of New Line Cinema’s film of the same name keeps these crucial elements in tact during a transition to the screen, but the end result is sadly nothing approaching the exuberance of imagining Perrotta’s world in one’s mind. Questionable directorial decisions and, at times, a tendency to follow too close to the tread of Perrotta’s novel (yet straying much too far when the need arises) ultimately hinder “Little Children” from the suburban poignancy it aspires to be.

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August 29, 2006

"Hollywoodland" (***)


The death of George Reeves, television’s original Superman, in 1959 defined the loss of innocence for a generation. There are many who remember where they were the moment they discovered Reeves’s body had been found, the victim of an apparent suicide. The lore surrounding the event has even wound itself into incorrect information that perpetuates itself mythically, forever living on as one of Hollywood’s greatest mysteries – or is there a mystery at all?

“Hollywoodland” is a project that has seen a long road to the screen, bouncing from one studio to another and back again, enduring rigorous casting scrutiny and a number of raised eyebrows regarding the direction a screenplay based on these questionable events would take. Now the feature film debut of television veteran Allen Coulter, “Hollywoodland” is a vivid and self-propelling experience that lingers much longer than you would expect it to.

Continue reading “"Hollywoodland" (***)” »

August 02, 2006

"World Trade Center" (***1/2)


“World Trade Center” is a nearly flawless account of something so personal, yet so universal, that it leaves the instigating events of September 11, 2001 almost as an afterthought – lipstick on the rim of a wineglass long emptied. The triumph of commanding such humanity in the face of a story that could have easily been played up as the rah-rah “9/11 MOVIE” some might have expected belongs in large part to screenwriter Andrea Berloff, who pitched a striking and rich tale to producers Michael Shamberg and Stacy Sher before burying herself into the lives of Will Jimeno and John McLoughlin (the two Port Authority survivors upon which the film is based). A huge chunk of that glory, however, deserves to be placed into the hands of Oliver Stone, a filmmaker who shows in this latest effort (in a career speckled with films that were his own, if nothing else) that he retains the professionalism to tell a story free of artistic whimsy or personal commentary.

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July 19, 2006

"Lady in the Water" (**)


M. Night Shyamalan is an artist like any other. There are a lot of potent ideas and whims of fancy bouncing around inside his inarguably creative mind. He is, in all likelihood, just as his representation in the American Express commercial, discovering vibrant new details worthy of expansion at every step of the way. However, as a filmmaker, Shyamalan has never found the appropriate balance for fully realizing his themes and notions. For all of the discussions he wishes to have with his audience, for all his attempts to represent each of them completely, the insularity of his concepts gets the better of him every time out. Such is the case with “Lady in the Water,” a film far less deserving of the inevitable wave of detest coming its way, whatever level of failure it may exist upon.

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July 18, 2006

"Babel" (****)


“Babel” is the crowning achievement in the early careers of writer Guillermo Arriaga and director Alejandro González Iñárritu. It will deservedly be seen as that defining moment which took them out of personal thematic expression – the mark of a true artist – and into the arena of global and human consciousness through artistic dexterity – the mark of something much more. It is the most particular specimen, yet the most universal, in the long line of socially and/or politically inquisitive filmmaking we’ve experienced over the last two years. And it goes without saying, “Babel” is the first real masterwork of 2006.

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July 17, 2006

"Miami Vice" (**1/2)


Michael Mann’s “Miami Vice” is a terribly anxious piece of filmmaking. By its own erratic and rote design, the film marks, at once, a substantial step down for the writer/director, and merely a lateral move in the realm of stylistic representation. Boasting a curious mish-mash of caricatures and equally original representations, it is certainly the most uneven work he has offered to date, and most assuredly the worst film he has produced since the horror of 1983’s “The Keep.” Then again, the “worst” of Michael Mann would usually be a point of envy for most of today’s working filmmakers.

Based on the Anthony Yerkovich-created television series of the same name, “Miami Vice” is a meditation on deception and trust. The film wears its themes on its sleeve, though forgivably so, as, if anything is spread evenly and accomplished absolutely throughout, it is that very concept. But Mann’s film has an eagerness to it, a misplaced ardency, that leaves the impression of a movie with something to prove. Its chest seems puffed outward from the moment the Universal Pictures logo disappears (immediately bursting into the sounds of Jay Z and Linkin Park at a Miami nightclub), to the slow fade of the closing title screen (a tonally ironic deep, cool blue).

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July 13, 2006

"Little Miss Sunshine" (***1/2)


Jonathan Dayton’s and Valerie Farris’s “Little Miss Sunshine” is the rare example of the quirky and fringe actually having something to say. It melts away the infection of suspicion and invariably lets itself into our hearts without the stench and waxing effect of sentimentality rearing its ugly head. It takes on human frailty and maintains relevance, all the while introducing absurdity to realism like they were long lost friends. As one of the definitive indie experiences of 2006 thus far, the film is certain to stand out as unique against whatever fray of cinematic output awaits us the rest of the year. Regardless, at this, the mid-way point, it has to already be considered the high-water mark for films in release.

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June 27, 2006

"Superman Returns" (***)


When he was appointed to bring one of the most socially complex comic book series to the screen in the form of 2000’s “X-Men,” director Bryan Singer had in front of him the opportunity to usher realism and tangibility into the genre. While that first installment in a franchise that has this year gone terribly awry was still rather over-blown and theatrical (studios must cover their bases), it still provided a sturdy base for Singer to create a near masterpiece with the film’s sequel. “X2” made some of the most un-relatable of characters inherently familiar and brought them off of the page and into the real world in what was one of the best films of 2003.

This year Singer takes to task an entirely different sort of superhero, the world’s most recognizable man of steel. And while the work he puts into “Superman Returns” doesn’t necessarily make for the perfect blending of thematic resilience and organic spectacle found in the “X-Men” series, he finds a way to define and illustrate fully the character of Kal-El like no other filmmaker before him, a character as cursed as he is gifted.

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March 20, 2006

"Inside Man" (**)


Spike Lee’s “Inside Man” is an embarrassment of devices from start to painstakingly anti-climactic finish. As a run-of-the-mill heist romp, it still falls prey to a dedicated intention to distinguish itself, both thematically and stylistically.

Thinking it over, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is rather impossible to write a negative review of “Inside Man” without spilling the beans here and there, so I’ll leave it to you to decide whether to venture into the spoiler territory below. If you’re ducking out now, suffice it to say, Spike Lee picked a rather sluggish screenplay to be his first foray into mainstream genre fare, and leaves a bloated two plus hours on the screen that could have been much more effective at a slim, tight 90-100.

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2008 Year in Advance Predictions

UPDATED: 2/25/2008

Main Charts | Tech Charts

[Motion Picture]

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”



“Revolutionary Road”

“The Soloist”


David Fincher
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Ron Howard

Gus Van Sant

Sam Mendes
“Revolutionary Road”

Joe Wright
“The Soloist”

[Actor in a Leading Role]

Benicio Del Toro
“The Argentine”

Jamie Foxx
“The Soloist”

Frank Langella

Sean Penn

Brad Pitt
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

[Actress in a Leading Role]

Vera Farmiga
“Nothing But the Truth”

Angelina Jolie

Julianne Moore

Meryl Streep

Kate Winslet
“Revolutionary Road”

[Actor in a Supporting Role]

Josh Brolin

Russell Crowe
“Body of Lies”

Robert Downey, Jr.
“The Soloist”

Heath Ledger
“The Dark Knight”

Michael Sheen

[Actress in a Supporting Role]

Amy Adams

Kathy Bates
“Revolutionary Road”

Cate Blanchett
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

Catherine Keener
“The Soloist”

Carice van Houten
“Body of Lies”

[Writing, Adapted Screenplay]

“Body of Lies”

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”



“Revolutionary Road”

[Writing, Original Screenplay]


“Hamlet 2”


“The Soloist”


[Art Direction]



“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom
of the Crystal Skull”

“Red Cliff”

“Revolutionary Road”



“The Dark Knight”


“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom
of the Crystal Skull”

“Revolutionary Road”

[Costume Design]

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”


“The Other Boleyn Girl”

“Red Cliff”

“Revolutionary Road”

[Film Editing]

“Body of Lies”

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”



“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom
of the Crystal Skull”


“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

“The Dark Knight”

“Red Cliff”

[Music, Original Score]

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom
of the Crystal Skull”

“The Soloist”

“Revolutionary Road”


[Music, Original Song]

coming soon

[Sound Editing]


“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom
of the Crystal Skull”

“Iron Man”

“Speed Racer”


[Sound Mixing]


“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom
of the Crystal Skull”


“The Chronicles of Narnia:
Prince Caspian”


[Visual Effects]

“The Chronicles of Narnia:
Prince Caspian”

“The Incredible Hulk”

“Iron Man”

[Animated Feature Film]


“Kung Fu Panda”


[Foreign Language Film]

coming soon

[Documentary, Features]

coming soon

[Documentary, Short Subjects]

coming soon

[Short Film, Animated]

coming soon

[Short Film, Live Action]

coming soon