For veteran Canadian composer Mychael Danna, his journey with “Life of Pi” began 10 years ago when he read Yann Martel’s novel. “I remember thinking, ‘I hope nobody makes a film of this book and wrecks it,’” he says.
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(Welcome to the Oscar Guide, your chaperone through the Academy’s 24 categories awarding excellence in film. A new installment will hit every weekday in the run-up to the Oscars on February 24, with the Best Picture finale on Friday, February 22.)
The sound categories this year ended up being quite the race. A publicity angle was even built around the work put into one nominee; it's been the presumed frontrunner for a while for a reason. You never can tell just which side of the Best Picture slate the branch will fall, though. Sometimes detours are taken into high gloss stuff, sometimes prestige takes over. Sometimes there's a balance.
This year featured a bit of a curve ball early on when the Cinema Audio Society added films like "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" into the serious discourse, while the Oscar nominations ultimately yielded, for both sound categories in fact, a bit of a surprise showing for the overall Best Picture Oscar frontrunner. But then, I suppose that shouldn't be such a surprise, in the final analysis. Coattails do exist.
The nominees are…
Yesterday, we led with "Lincoln" being taken to task for its factual infidelities; today, it's the turn of "Argo." Critical screeds against the Best Picture frontrunner are always a dime a dozen at this point in the season -- frankly, a defence of Ben Affleck's film would make for fresher reading right now -- but Andrew O'Hehir's Salon piece on why "Argo" doesn't deserve the Oscar is as cogently argued as any: "I’m less concerned with the veracity of individual details than with the fact that 'Argo' uses its basis in history and its mode of detailed realism to create something that is entirely mythological. It’s a totalizing fiction whose turning points are narrow escapes and individual derring-do designed to foreground Affleck and his star power." Personally, I don't think Affleck's star power is all that selfishly showcased -- but hey, I like the film. [Salon]
I finally finished Netflix's "House of Cards" late last week. As promised, I have a review of the entire first season — so don't read if you haven't finished yet and don't want to be spoiled — coming up just as soon as I put a spider outside my super's apartment...
I've heard of many ridiculous Hollywood parties in my time, most of them hosted by talent agencies. But never before have I heard of someone having a party for her nose, or, to paraphrase Kyle, a nose quinceanera. I had hoped Kim might really go all-out with the theme, giving people gift bags of tissue paper and decongestants and floating big, green blobs in her pool, but no such luck. Instead, she has some little fake lilies and Chinese lanterns and calls it a party. I call that a Friday night. What a wasted opportunity!
Has it come to this? Has the race for best picture become - gasp - anticlimactic? Will "Argo" really defy history and become on the fourth film ever to win best picture without a director nomination? According to all my peers and, um, myself that appears to be the case.
Severin Films normally handles things that fall closer to the sleazy end of the scale, and that's not a judgment of their overall identity, just an observation. You looking for the absolute best master ever of a particular European softcore title from the '70s? If anyone's put it on home video, it's probably Severin.
I can understand why they probably wanted to put out "Ashanti" as one of their latest releases. The film has a certain reputation, and I've never seen it before, in part because of that reputation. Finally having seen it, though, it's far less exploitative than I expected it to be, and instead, it's pretty much a straightforward adventure film using human trafficking as the backdrop.
While he's in Africa with his wife, Dr. Anansa Linderby (Beverly Johnson), Dr. David Liderby (Michael Caine) is horrified by her disappearance. She's taken by the slaver Suleiman (Peter Ustinov), and for the rest of the film, Caine does his best to catch up with Ustinov before she can be sold into a life of bondage. I was worried at the start of the film that it was going to be rapey and disturbing, but the film avoids that sort of thing entirely. Instead, it's all about the chase and the various allies that Caine is forced to call on in his quest to find his wife.
I need to get better about sharing thoughts on the mountain on home video that ends up on my shelves here at the house, and it doesn't need to be long-winded or overly-complicated. It's amazing how often I forget that. I also want to start including links out to Amazon (you'll find one at the very bottom of this piece) from these DVD and Blu-ray pieces so, if you choose to, you can support the ongoing efforts of Film Nerd 2.0 as I continue to add titles to the library to share with the boys in the months and years ahead.
For example, this morning's movie is one of those films that I know I've seen the cover of about a thousand times over the years. "Timerider" has been a home video mainstay since not long after its 1982 theatrical release, and for some reason, I've always put it off as one of those "that looks fun on some rainy afternoon" movies. Finally arriving on Blu-ray seems like a good enough excuse to finally watch it, and my first observation is that this is probably as good a print of this particular title as you are every likely to see.
I had no idea this was co-written and directed by William Dear, who was also responsible for the late-'80s Amblin' film "Harry and the Hendersons," or that producer Michael Nesmith was also a co-writer. The film is a somewhat goofy adventure film about a motorcycle racer who accidentally rides into the middle of a test of a time machine. He ends up in the Old West, where he squares off against a gang of bloodthirsty bandits made up of Peter Coyote, Tracey Walter, and, as unlikely as it sounds, Richard Masur.
It's time for home visits! These are always more than a little uncomfortable, as the parents don't want to look like they're sending a daughter head first into traffic but do want to be supportive. Or at least some of them want to be supportive. Basically, everyone looks a little miserable and hyper aware of the cameras, and half of the time you expect them to turn to the camera operator and ask if they look fat in whatever they're wearing. So, I hope Sean is ready for this, because I'm pretty confident most of the people he'll be meeting aren't.
Every year Oscar's documentary category seems to provide historical lessons for generations to learn from now and in the future. This year, "5 Broken Cameras" helps shine the light on non-violent resistance in the West Bank; "The Gatekeepers" reveals that many of Israel's greatest hawks are now doves; "The Invisible War" pulls the curtain on clandestine operations funded by the American government; and one of rock n'roll's forgotten heroes is rediscovered in "Searching for Sugar Man." One of the most important nominees, however, tells the tale of an incredible grassroots movement that began in New York City to fight the battle against AIDS when it appeared no one else was, "How to Survive a Plague." Noted author and journalist David France used amazing and rate video of this organization -- better known as ACT UP -- the centerpiece of his debut documentary. France took some time last week to chat about his cinematic journey, the reaction to the death of Ed Koch and why "Plague" is already a winner before he hits the Academy Awards red carpet.
Hear Mariah Carey like you’re never heard her...and that’s not a good thing.
[More after the jump...]