Sunday, February 26, 2012

OSCARS 2012 (2011)

This is the third year I have blogged my predictions and like last year I'm leaving things to the last minute, but it is mainly as I am still undecided on some categories. This year has been the hardest in a long while to predict. This is great, it means there are some fine films with fine acting in them!
For those that may or may not know I predict purely with the intent of who I think will win - who I think should win is another matter all together. I predict from following some choice critics who know their stuff, past history, trying to understand the academy and what is popular. And even then it can be bloody difficult. I generally only use the SAGs and the Directors Guild as assistance in terms of winners, as they are the only awards that voters overlap. Anyone who uses The Golden Globes as an indicator has absolutely NO IDEA what they are talking about (that is a pet hate of mine!). Of course great performances and films will always sweep across the awards purely as they are great, but even then may not indicate who will take a golden boy home. I adore that randomness, it makes for a more exciting show, but makes it harder for me to pick a winner. I usually average between 13 to 16 categories correct out of the field of 24. Of course, there was 2009, where I scored 20 - I was on fire that year!!!!
I am beyond excited about the return of Billy Crystal, I hope he does not disappoint. People complain about him doing the same thing and that he is old school, but that is exactly why he works, it fits in perfectly with what you should (or at least what I) expect from an Oscars broadcast. At the very least the sweeping orchestration of Harry Connick Jnr's take on It had to be you will be expected! I adore film and the golden age of Hollywood and see no need to update the broadcast to be hip with younger viewers...respect the academy or don't watch is my advice. When they mix old school with new faces it works, when they try to be hip it just doesn't...that's not what the Oscars are about. I could go on, but have done so two years ago, so follow the link to see why I love film and the Oscars.

Well, that was a bit ranty...apologies...down to business.

Best Picture - The Artist
There are some great films nominated in the main category. But it will go down between Hugo and The Artist. With The Descendants and The Help close on their heels.

I think The Artist will win - it's the kind of film the academy love, it's clever, a homage and a brilliant film. I would be very pleased to be proved wrong and have Hugo come through as it was my favourite film of the year. But my money is on The Artist.

Directing - The Artist
Very rare for the movie to be separated from it's director and vice versa, so The Artist will shine. However, if Marty shines through, you will hear me shrieking across the globe!

Leading Actor - Jean Dujardin
Oh this is difficult, but I think Jean Dujardin will be taking home Oscar. It's a great collection of acting in this category and I think viewers would love to see Pitt or Clooney take this home, but it belongs to Dujardin, he carried a movie saying barely a word - that is acting. I loved Clooney's against type turn in The Descendants, and again be happy for him to win, but I think Jean just might out-suave George on the night.

Leading Actress - Viola Davis
Viola is a powerhouse actress, she won the SAG and I think will pip Meryl here. I really thought MS had it in the bag early on, but seems to be the underdog here. I also considered Michelle Williams for some time, as votes could split between Meryl and Viola and thus hand the Oscar to her. Also the academy love to give Leading Actress to the younger stars and also love to reward biopics. But I think it will be Viola. This is the one I am most unsure about, so we'll see on the night.

Supporting Actor - Christopher Plummer
Both supporting character categories can be a wild card, the least expected can win. This is a stunning role call in this category, but a well respected actor in a charming role - well Plummer should have it in the bag. Having said that, how cool would it be if Jonah Hill won or how classy would it be if Kenneth Branagh is still on Plummer.

Supporting Actress - Octavia Spencer
I would love to see Melissa McCarthy win - who doesn't love an underdog (or a former Gilmore Girl) and you know her speech will be brilliant, Octavia has this locked in - bright, brave and gorgeous...expect tears.

Foreign Language Film - A separation
A field of devastation - In darkness's Holocaust (from Agnieszka Holland of the brilliant Europa Europa); Canada's Monsieur Lazhar about an Algerian refugee healing grieving children after the suicide of their teacher; Israel's Footnote about father/son rival scholars; and Belgium's Bullhead about corruption and crime within the meat industry. But A separation, an Iranian film about a family torn apart by a custody battle and crime has been very popular at the cinemas and making it to the best films of 2011 list - it is well known, very dramatic and features solid acting.

Animated Feature - Rango
Only seen Kung Fu Panda 2 - none stand out in the way Toy Story or Up have in previous years. Rango is the one being mentioned by all my sources, so I shall go with them!

Adapted Screenplay - The Descendants
Alexander Payne's script from the book of the same name, carefully crafts a human, family story amidst a tragedy with the Hawaiian land council backdrop. Apparently the book wasn't that great a read, so to adapt it so successfully deserves kudos and will also be a reward for not winning best director.

Original Screenplay - Midnight in Paris
Probably between The Artist and this, but the lack of dialogue in The Artist and the exquisite, clever and witty dialogue in Midnight in Paris gives Woody the edge. A fabulous premise delivered perfectly, nothing new about time travel, but to present it in a way that it does not appear like time travel is great and to tie it up so perfectly shows a gifted artiste. Woody won't be there, but we (me) can all live in hope!

Original Score - The Artist
It was magnificent, sweeping and I have been meaning to purchase it - I rarely feel that way about scores. Obviously, as a silent film, it relied on its score more than all other films, and that alone should make it a winner, but it is grand, so fingers crossed!

Original Song - The Muppets
Really!?! Only 2 songs this year and nothing to be performed on the show - you know The Muppets will win, no competition really!

Cinematography - The Tree of Life
I have this, but yet to watch it, I have heard such mixed reviews, but the one thing I have heard constantly, is how magically it was filmed. I still think Hugo has stunning cinematography and the best use of 3D I have ever seen. So that is who I would like to win, but I suspect Tree of Life will...we'll see on the night!

Film Editing - The Artist
Almost always same as best Film.

Sound Editing - Hugo
I have no idea about this category, except it almost always goes hand in hand with Sound mixing. I've gone with Hugo because it deserves some Oscar appreciation and the sound was very important to the film, think about the train station, the train, the clocks etc.

Sound Mixing - Hugo
see Sound Editing!

Visual Effects - Harry Potter
There is usually one stand out film that snags this one - eg Avatar, Inception. This year it is difficult - Rise of the planet of the apes was excellent, as was Harry Potter and then there was Hugo. I have absolutely no idea and will go with Harry Potter.

Art Direction - Hugo
The sets of Midnight in Paris, Hugo and The Artist were perfection - how does one choose!!! I think Hugo did it better, especially in recreating George Melies and his fabulous glass studio.

Costume Design - Hugo
Going with Hugo again - especially for the Melies section.

Makeup - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow Pt 2
It's competition is Albert Nobbs and Iron Lady - basically making 2 American women into older English faux men;) Harry has so much more!!!

Documentary Feature - Undefeated
Up until recently I had my money on Pina - about Pina Bausch, the choreographer; and she died whilst the film was being made by the incomparable Wim Wenders. However Undefeated keeps popping up, about an underdog football team - the kind of stuff the academy loves. Mind you the other docos, Hell and Back Again about war; If a tree falls about ecology; and Paradise Lost 3 about the decade long tale of freeing The West Memphis 3, are also great academy bait.

Documentary Short - Saving Face
Tough field this one. The Barber of Birmingham - civil rights; God is bigger than Elvis - Dolores Hart who left Hollywood to be a nun, her last film was with Elvis; Incident in New Baghdad - war; Saving Face - about plastic surgeons performing constructive surgery on Pakistani women who have had acid thrown at their faces by their husbands; and The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom - a survivors tale. Have heard great things about Saving Face and it's HBO, so you know it's quality.

Animated Short Film - The Fantastic books of Mr Morris
Always difficult! A morning Stroll and The fantastic Books of Mr. Morris and La Luna all look great. My preference would be La Luna, but given it's Hurricane Katrina backdrop, I think Mr Morris will win.

Live Action Short Film - The Shore
Couldn't find much information about these this year that helped my decision, except that The Shore was directed by Terry George who directed Hotel Rwanda - so I'll pick that!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Nostalgia on the Big Screen

It is serendipitous that the best three films I have seen over the past few months have much in common.

I am surprised at three individual films being released so close together having anything (good) in common, yet managing to remain so unique. can actually surprise us...when you try!

They all feature the romantic yearnings and appreciation of times long gone...and Paris!

(even more amazing as I am finally heading to Paris later in the year for the first time after years of planning)

I wish I had been around during the periods featured in these films, and of course adore all things Parisian - you can see why I am so enchanted.

It is actually a shame - in terms of awards and the like - the three are out roughly at the same time.

I find it very hard to say which one I loved the most. I saw Midnight in Paris some months ago (it still resonates), Hugo earlier in the year and The Artist recently.

I loved Midnight in Paris for many things - the humour and wit, fabulous characters and dialogue, the return to form of my beloved Woody, and mostly for Paris. It made me laugh...a lot.

I loved Hugo for it's stunning recreation of that period, the intricate sets, Paris and mostly for the homage to silent films and Melies. It made me cry... a lot.

I loved The Artist for being brave in presenting a silent, black and white film in 2011/2, I loved it's homage to great film making, it's characters and mostly Jean Dujardin, for basically carrying the film and barely saying a word. It made me proud.

I love The Academy Awards...all three are up for best film, It will go down between Hugo and The Artist - I have no idea which way to 'vote'...this is fabulous as it is great to have a surprise and actual quality films, that mean something to film buffs, up for the awards, but being this does not help me towards scoring what will win on the night!

Midnight in Paris is so beautifully filmed, that alone, makes it grand. The film has two distinct periods. Paris today - filmed crisply, bright with a blinding palate of clean, light, white and fresh. I suspect Paris is not quite so 'clean', but it works on the big screen and cinema is all about magic, so who am I to question. Then, there is Bohemian Paris of the 20s/30s - it is dark, mysterious, softened, deep colours...just as you (I) imagined it. The fact the main character features in both periods could be a turn off - do not let it be - this is handled with utter perfection, and also wrapped up rather nicely at the end.

The characters are great, well cast and well acted. Owen Wilson, is great - I knew he would be. Before he moved into the shlockbuster comedy roles he is better known for, he made small thoughtful comedy/dramas and was excellent. I am certain Woody knew this casting him, his casting is legendary and he rarely gets it wrong. The casting of the 'legends' featured was also inspired, with wonderful character actors playing these wonderful characters. Most especially Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein, Alison Pill as Zelda Fitzgerald, Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway, and Adrien Brody as Salvador Dali.

But it wasn't just that, it was the set - for both periods, the locations that were used - from Versailles, to Rodin's Garden, the markets, little streets filled with antique shops, the hotels, the little cafes.

...I suppose you can't go wrong in Paris. The costumes - especially those in the older period/s - lots of stunning flapper outfits, velvet, jewels, dark hues of purple, blue, green and burgundy. It was the dialogue - Hemingway in particular had me beaming, and the music - Allen's soundtracks are always a favourite for me as a Jazz fan, this is no exception. There was no wrong note in it...a true piece of art.

In any other year, this would be best film...unfortunately for Woody (not that he'd care!) Hugo and The Artist raise the stakes a little more. Think what you will of Woody Allen the person, but Woody Allen the auteur is on fire at the moment...I always say a bad Woody Allen film is better than most of the crap released...but believe me this is almost as good, if not in the same league as the films he released from the late 70s to the mid 80s.

And then I saw Hugo.

Hugo is based on the amazing book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Hugo is an orphan who lives in a large Parisian railway station working secretly as a clock keeper. He befriends Isabelle, another orphan who lives with her godfather. Her godfather is Georges Melies, the famous film-maker from the turn of the century. His greatest masterpiece is the fantastic, Le Voyage dans la lune from 1902.

The story is based around Hugo, keeping one step ahead of being discovered and sent to an orphange; and the back story of George Melies, and how he came to be working in a toy store at the station when he was thought dead. Add in the delightful friendship between Hugo and Isabelle, some adventures, automatons, the characters within the railway station, and a whole lot of movie nostalgia and you have a movie that is as close to perfection as I have ever seen. Filmed in 3D (something I do find rather annoying), it had moments where the 3D was an absolute must and added to it's fantastical appeal.

The attention to detail, especially in the set design is second to none. Scorsese crafts another world, but a world you believe actually existed.

And mostly it did!

The sequences where he recreates the making of Melies' films (with some actual footage spliced in) are beyond magical and incredibly sentimental without being saccharine. Whilst, essentially a children's movie, this is a movie for everyone, but especially the silent film enthusiast.

And that is me...I wept with joy throughout most of the film.

A-ha, now this will surely win Best Film at the Oscars...

But, then I saw the Artist.

The Artist is a black and white, silent film...this has apparently taken many people by surprise...I do find that amusing. I love silent film, so I was thrilled to see a new silent film. One that was actually shot in the way true silent films were actually shot. Silent films - to work - need expressive over the top acting, however, not hams. The acting in The Artist is honed carefully, but absolutely expressive and therefore express the story quite wonderfully without words. The sets need to be simple, but also express plot and be almost a character itself. The score must portray the feeling usually portrayed by tone in speech.

The Artist is a French film, written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius with love and dexterity. He captures the essence and charm of silent film, whilst paying homage to the best. I was surprised to see scenes that borrowed from Chaplin, Welles, Keaton and Berkley, amongst others. His use of light and shade, integral in a black and white medium, was perfection. The acting was beyond superb. Jean Dujardin was Valentino, Keaton and Chaplin rolled into one. His expressive features suited the role and in the later, darker part of the film was when he truly shone. Berenice Bejo, a mix of Paulette Goddard, Clara Bow and Claudette Colbert, as the ingénue was bright, cute and funny.

All of these films should bring home something at The Academy Awards this year, but who will win the Best Film - even I cannot work it out. My preference is Hugo, but I suspect The Artist will win...I have roughly a week to work that one out.


Herb and Dorothy

Herb and Dorothy is a wonderful and inspiring documentary from 2008. Herb and Dorothy are The Vogels, a postal clerk and a librarian. They collect art, especial Minimalist and Conceptual Art and the documentary is not just about The Vogels, but about the Art they collected, and the Artists themselves.

Herb and Dorothy started to collect minimalist and conceptual art in the early 1960s, around the start of it's inception. They lived solely on Dorothy's salary and dedicated Herb's to purchasing pieces they loved, they could afford and that would fit into their 1 bedroom rent controlled apartment in Manhattan. They became visionaries of the movement, and ended up with priceless pieces of art from artists that went on to become famous or popular. Most of the art was purchased because they liked it, and the artist was usually beginning to produce work. The Vogels almost always became friends with the artists.

Once their collection started to grow, they organised many exhibitions and they became quite famous themselves. No one else had collected the type of work they did, or at the depth they did. Their small apartment soon became cluttered with pieces. There was no space left on any wall or ceiling (including the bathroom) and as pieces or artists became more famous and the work was worth more, they were wrapped and stored within the apartment.

The Vogels considered themselves caretakers of the pieces, with the thought that when they were finished with them, they would go into museums. Indeed many museums courted them in hope of purchasing some of the pieces. But The Vogels were never interested in selling, it wasn't about money. Plus most museums on sold or de-accessioned from time to time and they did not like the idea of that.

The National Galley in Washington soon came to the rescue and took many pieces away to value and inventory. 5 semi trailers took art from The Vogels humble apartment. The director was bemused and shocked at the excess of pieces and the amount stored. He speculated about fire and water damage. The gallery took 2000 pieces (not even half the collection) and have a dedicated space to this collection. The Vogels visit twice a year - they likened it to children leaving for college, they need to make their own way in the world. The Gallery actually paid them an annuity, in hope they might get a nicer apartment, but they just bought more art...

The Vogels themselves are unassuming, humble people, they admit that looking back it would appear they were possessed and that collecting was like a disease. Dorothy said they had been married 45 years and could count on one hand the times they had been separated, "that's the way we like it". They said they blended their aesthetics and had fun and were still having fun...this you could see! They never had children, but they had their art, a cat, Herbie's fish and turtles and of course each other. Their love of each other and their art makes my heart swell.

This would be an amazing documentary if it was only their story, but it also tells the story of conceptual art and the artists. The Vogels never collected because they thought the art/artists would become famous, but because they liked what they saw, and often collected more of one artist as they become friendlier with them. But the Artists did become famous and there were many featured within this film. Sol Le Witt, Chuck Close, Robert Mangold, Richard Tuttle and Jean-Claude and Christo to name but a few. They all thought of Herb and Dorothy as friends and loved hearing their opinion on their work.

Jean-Claude and Christo (who I absolutely adore) were very close to them and had fabulous stories to tell. The Vogels discovered them a little too late, their first work cause such a commotion, their pieces were priced too high and Herbie said they could not afford anything. Christo always sketched plans of their installations prior to the wrappings etc, and they sold these to fund the actual installations. Christo ended up ringing Herb and offering a piece free, but Herb declined. Jean-Claude intervened and said it wasn't exactly free, they were going away and needed someone to look after their cat and knew Herb and Dorothy loved cats, so The Vogels looked after the cat and got their first Jean-Claude and Christo. They also said when they got caught up in a project, they would loose track of what was going on in the art world, all they needed to do was organise dinner with Herb and Dorothy and within an hour they were back on track - The Vogels missed nothing!

Herb and Dorothy is a great film, it is interesting in that no one has ever collected art in the way they have, they are pure people with the love of the pieces being solely behind their collecting. They thought the idea behind the piece was often more important than it's actual execution, for conceptual art it is always the concept and chain of mental process and that will find a form artistically in time.

At the time of filming The Vogels had purchased 4782 pieces of art, and at 86, Herb and 73, Dorothy, were still going strong.

1977 drawing of Dorothy and Herb by Will Barnett
early photo of The Vogels
In their cluttered apartment, note the art on the walls
Recent photo outside the National Gallery in Washington



When friends mentioned going to see Hall and Oates, I wasn't so sure, but I said yeah and then a few days later regreted it. I liked them when I was a teen, when I listened to their best of there were more songs than I remembered - in fact enough to make a cool concert...but would they be any good? Well, it was too late anyway, I had already forked the money over.

So, when it was time to head to Sydney Entertainment Centre on Feb 8, I was not expecting much. I then realised the support was Icehouse, got a little bit excited and thought the night could be ok.

Well, it was better than ok, it was a blast.

Icehouse - Iva in black at the front

Icehouse were the support, but more the equal, their set of hit after hit was longer than the usual support band slot- and fair enough too. Iva Davies looked and sounded better than in their heyday.

They played a lot of early songs which was an absolute thrill - they opened with Icehouse, followed by We can get together - I was sold. They ended with Love in motion, Walls, Can't help myself - even better. Final song, Great southern Land - a classic Australian song if there ever was one. The banter was light, and frothy with a touch of odd - just what you want from these Aussie veterans. Of course, there were more great songs, but these are my favs...see the setlist below.

John Oates came out and sang with Iva on Electric blue - he had helped write it and worked with Icehouse on that album.
But the star of the show was Iva, his rock swagger, guitar slung over the shoulder towards his back was the epitome of rock and roll cool, he looked damn fine ....glad I finally got to see Icehouse.

Shot from the second half - Darryl on keyboards and John on guitar

Hall and Oates started off shaky, Daryl's guitar was not coming across right , but ever the performer he soldiered on. Took a few songs to sort it, but it didn't matter. They sounded great and looked pretty good (from my seats anyway...wasn't that close!) for dudes in their mid 60s!

They opened with Maneater, which got the crowd on their feet. This is my least favourite of their songs, but was excellent to hear. Although I do remember getting a 45 of it for Christmas one year - along with Bananarama's Shy Boy, I am guessing I was all of 13 (I also got lovely pastel green jeans that year - a very good Christmas). They moved from hit to hit, not a song in the set I didn't know (see below for setlist).

By the time they got to I can't go for that they were on fire and really had found their groove. The 2 encores consisted of 4 of the best: Rich girl, You make my dreams come true, Kiss on my list and Private Eyes. There was some bitchin' online they did not banter enough or exchange much between each other, fuelling the gossip of Daryl hates John or vice be honest it never occurred to me until I read it and I suppose you could say that...but you know, that's not what I was there for...I went for the music and they delivered well above my expectations.

Icehouse - rough setlist
We can get together
Hey, little girl
Cross the border
Man of colours
Miss Divine
Don't believe anymore
Electric Blue
Love in Motion
Can't help myself
Great Southern land

Hall and Oates - rough setlist
Out of touch
Family man
Adult Education
How does it feel to be back
Say it isn't so
Las Vegas Turnaround
She's gone
Sara smile
I can't go for that
Rich Girl
You make my dreams come true
Kiss on my list
Private Eyes