Archive for December, 2008

The Best Albums of 2008

Friday, December 19th, 2008
  1. TV on the Radio – Dear Science
  2. Portishead – Third
  3. Why? – Alopecia
  4. Hot Chip – Made in the Dark
  5. Girl Talk – Feed the Animals
  6. Deerhunter – Microcastle
  7. Spiritualized – Songs in A&E
  8. Amadou & Mariam – Welcome to Mali
  9. Vampire Weekend – Vampire Weekend
  10. The Walkmen – You & Me

extra credit: Lonely Biped – Prevarication

The Best Songs of 2008

Friday, December 19th, 2008
  1. Portishead – Machine Gun
  2. Fleet Foxes – Mykonos
  3. Department of Eagles – No One Does It Like You
  4. Cut Copy – Hearts on Fire
  5. TV on the Radio – Golden Age
  6. The Dodos – Fools
  7. Deerhunter – Nothing Ever Happened
  8. Beck – Modern Guilt
  9. Tapes ‘n Tapes – Hang Them All
  10. Neon Neon – I Told Her on Alderaan
  11. The Magnetic Fields – California Girls
  12. Hot Chip – One Pure Thought
  13. The Fireman – Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight
  14. Santogold – L.E.S. Artistes
  15. Amadou & Mariam – Sabali
  16. Why? – These Few Presidents
  17. Elbow – Grounds for Divorce
  18. Vampire Weekend – M79
  19. Gentleman Jesse & His Men – Highland Crawler
  20. Coldplay – That song they stole from Joe Satriani

Updated Oscar picks

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Well, most of the major non-Oscar nominations are out, including today’s SAG press release. Best Picture is looking more and more like a duel between Slumdog and Benjamin Button, and I have a feeling it’s going to be that way down to the end. The other three spots are likely to be filled by Milk and two of Frost/Nixon, The Dark Knight, and Revolutionary Road. Knight looks to be struggling a bit, which is ridiculous, but I still have to believe it edges in.

Anne Hathaway now has a solid advantage over all her competition in the Best Actress category. There are six other contenders at this point, and no matter who gets left out it’s going to piss people off — this is probably the single strongest category in 2008. Meryl is in, the rest are anybody’s guess — Sally Hawkins, though a major hit on most critics’ lists, took a big blow today from the bastards in the SAG. Melissa Leo gets a boost, as does Angelina although I’m still not convinced she can break in over Kristin Scott Thomas.

Best Actor has not changed. Either DiCaprio or Eastwood could squeeze in, but at this point I think Jenkins, Langella, Penn, Pitt, Rourke is starting to look like a safe prediction.

Penelope Cruz is kind of running away with the Supporting Actress category, though Viola Davis is in some ways right there with her. It’s still going to be shocking if Cruz doesn’t win unless there are some upsets in Davis’s favor at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards.

Supporting Actor still belongs to Heath Ledger and regardless of TDK’s status in Best Pic that isn’t changing.

Slumdog v. Button will continue their battle in the Best Director category, where Danny Boyle and David Fincher are the major candidates. In the Screenplay categories, I predict wins for Benjamin Button and Milk.

Full prediction chart below, with five predicted nominees in bold and winners italicized.

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National Board of Review Awards

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

The first “real” awards of the movie season come from the National Board of Review, notorious for throwing a few curveballs at you while tending to solidify the status of several major Oscar contenders. You can’t be too sure about some of them — as I recall they gave “Best Director” to Tim Burton last year, and he did not end up receiving an Oscar nomination — but let’s take a look anyway and see if we can discern some of the major implications.

First, we have Slumdog Millionaire being named Best Film. In my previous entry I categorized this as a “likely” Best Pic contender; now I’m not only willing to say it’s a lock for a nomination, but I’d call it the frontrunner to win the big award in ’09.

NBR also lists their ten runners-up, in no particular order. First, the non-surprises: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, Gran Torino, Milk, WALL-E, The Wrestler. That leaves three movies I’d call surprises (mostly due to what’s been left out): Burn After Reading, Changeling, and Defiance. Burn After Reading is a complete left-field pick, a fun but extremely odd and very slight Coen Brothers effort. Defiance isn’t out yet, but all the early reviews I’ve seen so far have been pretty uniformly disappointing. Changeling is not a huge surprise, especially because the NBR has such a huge Clint Eastwood fetish, but it’s a little jolting to see it here rather than Revolutionary Road, The Reader, Doubt, or Rachel Getting Married. This doesn’t mean those four movies are out of contention for Best Picture, and it doesn’t mean Changeling is suddenly in. But it does confirm to me that four of the five nominees are now very likely to be Slumdog Millionaire, Benjamin Button, Milk, and Frost/Nixon, with the fight for that fifth spot looking like something of a free-for-all (though if the Academy is smart they’ll put in Dark Knight). Could both of Kate Winslet’s highly anticipated films be denied?

NBR’s Acting awards don’t help Winslet’s cause much, either. They did give Best Actor to Clint for Gran Torino, but I’m pretty sure these guys would have given it to Clint if he were in The Love Guru. I guess this does confirm he’s a reasonably likely nominee this year, though I’d still put Sean Penn, Mickey Rourke, and Frank Langella ahead of him. If Clint is in there that leaves a spot for Richard Jenkins, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Brad Pitt, and right now Jenkins has the most buzz for the little-seen The Visitor. So there’s another door potentially slammed on Revolutionary Road.

For Actress, Anne Hathaway gets the call for Rachel Getting Married. This maybe does give her a slight lead in the Oscar crowd, though frankly hers wasn’t even the best performance in that film let alone any other this year. Meryl Streep will inevitably receive her billionth nomination (but probably will not win). Kristin Scott Thomas has been widely expected to get in for I’ve Loved You So Long, but that movie gets no mention from the NBR. Hmm. I’ll still classify her as “likely,” although she probably now falls behind Melissa Leo (who shares the “Spotlight Award” with Richard Jenkins) for her raved about peformance in indie Frozen River. The fifth slot may well go to Angelina Jolie, horrifying a prospect as that is — particularly if that means Sally Hawkins gets dissed for her transcendental role in Happy Go Lucky.

And Kate Winslet? Not impossible, but…well…could be at the back of the line. We will see.

NBR did not give Supporting Actor to Heath Ledger (why so serious, NBR?) but he’s still winning his posthumous Oscar. This one goes to Josh Brolin’s very serious turn in Milk, which vaults him into position as a likely nominee. Philip Seymour Hoffman will probably end up in there too for Doubt, as he’s supposed to be typically brilliant. I think James Franco might get in there for Milk as well, and maybe surprisingly the last spot seems destined to go to Robert Downey, Jr. for Tropic Thunder. I guess I’ll actually have to watch that now. If anyone else fades, Bill Irwin could sneak in there for Rachel. Another dark horse is Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road, but so far that isn’t getting nominated anywhere else so why here?

Supporting Actress goes to Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. She and Viola Davis in Doubt are the only pretty sure nominees in this year’s most wide open acting category. Who else? Could have Marisa Tomei, Rosemary DeWitt (the superior female performance in Rachel), Sophie Okonedo. Benjamin Button contains a bunch of well-received supporting performances from women, including Taraji P. Henson. This may actually be Kate Winslet’s best shot at getting nominated for her Nazi turn in The Reader, but I’m not 100% she’s being submitted for the Supporting category. If she wants a shot, she should be.

Best Director has been given to David Fincher, and it’s fair to say he probably will get his first much-deserved Oscar nomination this time for Benjamin Button. Hard to believe Danny Boyle isn’t also automatically in there, although he’s listed alongside an Indian co-director for Slumdog (Loveleen Tandan) so I’m not sure if that complicates things. Gus Van Sant and Ron Howard are extremely likely as well, so once again you’re left with that mysterious fifth spot, as in the Best Pic category. The Academy will often take this chance to reward a beloved director whose film is not in Best Picture contention, as they have in recent years with Julian Schnabel, Paul Greengrass, and Mike Leigh. That could mean Leigh stands a shot again this year for Happy Go Lucky, or possibly Thomas McCarthy for The Visitor. Of course, Clint Eastwood could always swoop in and spoil everything, too.

NBR’s Adapted Screenplay award is a tie between Simon Beaufoy for Slumdog and Eric Roth for Button, and they probably will remain the two on top fighting for the Oscar. Best Original Screenplay goes to Nick Schenk for Gran Torino, who now enters a potentially fierce battle with Dustin Lance Black (Milk), Robert Siegel (The Wrestler), Woody Allen and others.

Do I really believe Revolutionary Road is going to be universally shut out from all major categories? No, not yet. But it’s definitely been hurt today, and it’s difficult to see where it’s going to fit in with all these other highly competitive films. One thing we can say after today is our big buzz winners are Gran Torino and Slumdog Millionaire, which as I mentioned now has a very clear path to Oscar immortality.

Early Oscar Odds

Monday, December 1st, 2008

The first stab — as in most years, I have yet to see the vast majority of these films at this point. But I’m still usually pretty good, considering. Potential nominees are split into “lock” (guaranteed nom), “likely” (would be considered a surprise if omitted), “possible” (definite contender but nothing is certain), and “unsure” (not enough information on the film at this time to say). Have at it.

Picture Chances
Slumdog Millionaire Likely
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Likely
Milk Likely
Revolutionary Road Possible
The Dark Knight Possible
Doubt Possible
Frost/Nixon Possible
The Wrestler Possible
Rachel Getting Married Possible
Gran Torino Unsure
The Reader Unsure
Actress Chances
Meryl Streep (Doubt) Likely
Kristin Scott Thomas (I’ve Loved You So Long) Likely
Anne Hathaway (Rachel Getting Married) Likely
Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky) Possible
Kate Winslet (Revolutionary Road) Possible
Melissa Leo (Frozen River) Possible
Angelina Jolie (Changeling) Possible
Actor Chances
Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler) Lock
Sean Penn (Milk) Lock
Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon) Lock
Richard Jenkins (The Visitor) Possible
Leonardo DiCaprio (Revolutionary Road) Possible
Brad Pitt (Benjamin Button) Unsure
Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino) Unsure
Will Smith (Seven Pounds) Unsure
Supporting Actress Chances
Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) Likely
Viola Davis (Doubt) Likely
Marisa Tomei (The Wrestler) Likely
Elsa Zylberstein (I’ve Loved You So Long) Possible
Rosemary DeWitt (Rachel Getting Married) Possible
Sophie Okonedo (Secret Life of Bees) Possible
Amy Adams (Doubt) Possible
Taraji P. Henson (Benjamin Button) Unsure
Tilda Swinton (Benjamin Button) Unsure
Cate Blanchett (Benjamin Button) Unsure
Kate Winslet (The Reader) Unsure
Supporting Actor Chances
Heath Ledger (Dark Knight) Lock
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Doubt) Likely
Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) Possible
James Franco (Milk) Possible
Josh Brolin (Milk) Possible
Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road) Possible
Robert Downey, Jr. (Tropic Thunder) Possible
Eddie Marsan (Happy Go Lucky) Possible
Liev Schreiber (Defiance) Unsure
Ralph Fiennes (The Reader) Unsure
Director Chances
David Fincher (Benjamin Button) Likely
Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) Likely
Jonathan Demme (Rachel Getting Married) Possible
Gus Van Sant (Milk) Possible
Sam Mendes (Revolutionary Road) Possible
Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight) Possible
John Patrick Shanley (Doubt) Possible
Ron Howard (Frost/Nixon) Possible
Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler) Possible
Mike Leigh (Happy Go Lucky) Possible
Thomas McCarthy (The Visitor) Possible
Baz Luhrmann (Australia) Possible
Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino) Unsure
Stephen Daldry (The Reader) Unsure
Adapted Screenplay Chances
Eric Roth (Benjamin Button) Likely
Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire) Likely
Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road) Likely
John Patrick Shanley (Doubt) Likely
Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) Likely
Jonathan Nolan & Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight) Possible
David Hare (The Reader) Unsure
Original Screenplay Chances
Woody Allen (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) Likely
Robert Siegel (The Wrestler) Likely
Dustin Lance Black (Milk) Likely
Andrew Stanton & Jim Reardon (WALL-E) Possible
Jenny Lumet (Rachel Getting Married) Possible
Thomas McCarthy (The Visitor) Possible
Baz Luhrmann, et al (Australia) Possible
Mike Leigh (Happy Go Lucky) Possible
Philippe Claudel (I’ve Loved You So Long) Possible
Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York) Possible
Nick Schenk (Gran Torino) Unsure
Grant Nieporte (Seven Pounds) Unsure