Friday, October 28, 2016

2004--The Year in Review

Goodness, what a difficult puzzle this was to work out. Initially, I was ready to go with Jonathan Glazer's Birth, a stunningly gorgeous take on a horror story, with Nicole Kidman as a woman in such longing for her dead fiancee that she's willing to devote herself to a child claiming to be his reincarnation. But then I rewatched it, and found minor but significant flaws. I was then almost willing to go with the Academy's choice, Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, but I always had issues with some of its iffy acting, lesser scenes, and problematic plot points. I see Martin Scorsese's Howard Hughes bio-pic The Aviator as a well-produced, highly entertaining mixed bag that gets better as it goes along. Meanwhile, Mike Leigh's Vera Drake is beyond reproach, yet seems a bit dark for Best Picture (the same goes for Hirokazu Kore-Eda's beautifully depressing tale of child abandonment Nobody Knows). I momentarily toyed with Napoleon Dynamite (way too light, though it might be the 2004 movie that's provided me with the most joy, repeatedly), Downfall (too dour, though its lead actor was a powerhouse shoo-in even against the popular choice: Jamie Foxx's uncanny Ray Charles), and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (too knowingly hip). But, in the end, I had to find for the year's critical favorite, Alexander Payne's Sideways, a gloriously performed and scripted movie I find I can watch repeatedly without it falling apart before my eyes (yet I ended up choosing Mike Leigh for Best Director; his Vera Drake is just too magnificent to ignore, with his superb script and Imelda Staunton's lead performance its primary drives). This is a year of many fine films, but few seem like totally suitable, "oh, yeah, of course..." or even "I can see that" Best Picture winners. Even Sideways feels a curiously akin to its title. 2004 is yet another sign that things are changing for movies, and not necessarily for the better. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are only occasionally reflective of the selections made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka The Oscars). When available, the nominee that actually won the Oscar will be highlighted in bold.

PICTURE: SIDEWAYS (US, Alexander Payne)
(2nd: Vera Drake (UK, Mike Leigh)
followed by: Nobody Knows (Japan, Hirokazu Kore-Eda)
Million Dollar Baby (US, Clint Eastwood)
Downfall (Germany, Oliver Hirschbiegel)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (US, Michel Gondry)
The Incredibles (US, Brad Bird)
Napoleon Dynamite (US, Jared Hess)
The Aviator (US, Martin Scorsese)
Birth (US, Jonathan Glazer)
Before Sunset (US, Richard Linklater)
In The Realms of the Unreal (US, Jessica Yu)
2046 (Hong Kong, Wong Kar-Wai)
Primer (US, Shane Carruth)
Shaun of the Dead (UK, Edgar Wright)
Team America: World Police (US, Trey Parker)
I ♥ Huckabees (US, David O. Russell)
Moolaadé (Senegal, Ousmane Sembene)
Head-On (Germany, Fatih Akin)
Spider-Man 2 (US, Sam Raimi)
Kung Fu Hustle (Hong Kong, Stephen Chow)
The Assassination of Richard Nixon (US/Mexico, Niels Mueller)
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (US, Wes Anderson)
Keane (US, Lodge Kerrigan)
Tropical Malady (Thailand, Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Maria Full of Grace (US/Colombia, Joshua Marston)
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (US, Kerry Conran)
Ray (US Taylor Hackford)
Teacher’s Pet (US, Timothy Bjorklund)
The Bourne Supremacy (US, Paul Greengrass)
Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (US, Xan Cassavetes)
Born Into Brothels (US, Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman)
Collateral (US, Michael Mann)
The Girl Next Door (US, Luke Greenfield)
C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America (US, Kevin Willmott)
Moog (US, Hans Fjellestad)
Millions (UK, Danny Boyle)
The Machinist (US, Brad Anderson)
Howl’s Moving Castle (Japan, Hayao Miyazaki)
The Village (US, M. Night Shymalyan)
Fahrenheit 9/11 (US, Michael Moore)
Tarnation (US, Jonathan Caouette)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (US, Alfonso Cuaron)
Kinsey (US, Bill Condon)
Closer (US/UK, Mike Nichols)
The Sea Inside (Spain, Alejandro Aménabar)
The House of Flying Daggers (China, Zhang Yimou)
The Passion of the Christ (US, Mel Gibson)
The Motorcycle Diaries (Brazil, Walter Salles)
Last Days (US, Gus Van Sant)
Hotel Rwanda (US, Terry George)
Finding Neverland (UK, Marc Forster)
A Very Long Engagement (France, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
The Libertine (UK, Lawrence Dunmore)
Troy (US, Wolfgang Petersen)
Shrek 2 (US, Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury and Conrad Vernon)

ACTOR: Jamie Foxx, RAY (2nd: Bruno Ganz, Downfall, followed by: Paul Giamatti, Sideways; Sean Penn, The Assassination of Richard Nixon; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator; Jon Heder, Napoleon Dynamite)

ACTRESS: Imelda Staunton, VERA DRAKE (2nd: Nicole Kidman, Birth, followed by: Hillary Swank, Million Dollar Baby; Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace; Annette Bening, Being Julia)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Morgan Freeman, MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2nd: Thomas Hayden Church, Sideways, followed by: Phil Davis, Vera Drake; Jon Gries, Napoleon Dynamite; Cameron Bright, Birth; Mark Wahlberg, I ♥ Huckabees)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Virginia Madsen, SIDEWAYS (2nd: Cate Blanchett, The Avitator, followed by: Natalie Portman, Closer; Irma P. Hall, The Ladykillers; Lily Tomlin, I ♥ Huckabees; Laura Linney, Kinsey)

DIRECTOR: Mike Leigh, VERA DRAKE (2nd: Alexander Payne, Sideways, followed by: Michel Gondry, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Nobody KnowsClint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby; Jared Hess, Napoleon Dynamite)

NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: NOBODY KNOWS (Japan, Hirokazu Kore-eda) (2nd: Downfall (Germany/Italy/Austria, Oliver Hirschbiegel), followed by: 2046 (Hong Kong, Wong Kar-Wei); Head-On (Germany/Turkey, Faith Akin); Moolaade (Burkina Faso/France, Ousmene Sembene); The Sea Inside (Spain, Alejandro Amenábar); Howl’s Moving Castle (Japan, Hayao Miyakazi); Kung Fu Hustle (Hong Kong/China, Stephen Chow))

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: IN THE REALMS OF THE UNREAL (US, Jessica Yu) (2nd: Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (US, Xan Cassavetes), followed by: Born Into Brothels (US, Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman); Moog (US, Hans Fjellestad); Fahrenheit 9/11 (US, Michael Moore))

ANIMATED FEATURE: THE INCREDIBLES (US, Brad Bird) (2nd: Howl’s Moving Castle (Japan, Hayao Miyakazi), followed by: Teacher’s Pet (US, Timothy Bjorklund))

ANIMATED SHORT: RYAN (Canada, Chris Landreth) (2nd: Guard Dog (US, Bill Plympton), followed by: Lorenzo (US, Mike Gabriel); Birthday Boy (Australia, Sejong Park))

LIVE ACTION SHORT: TWO CARS, ONE NIGHT (New Zealand, Takita Waititi) (2nd: Six Shooter (Ireland, Martin McDonagh), followed by: Wasp (UK, Andrea Arnold); Agent Orange (US, Tony Scott))

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2nd: Mike Leigh, Vera Drake, followed by: Jean-Claude Carriere, Jonathan Glazer and Milo Addica, Birth; Jared Hess and Jerusha Hess, Napoleon Dynamite; Brad Bird, The Incredibles)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, SIDEWAYS (2nd: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, Before Sunset, followed by: Paul Haggis, Million Dollar Baby; Bernd Eichinger, Downfall; Jose Rivera, The Motorcycle Diaries)

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Robert Richardson, THE AVIATOR (2nd: Harris Savides, Birth, followed by: Robert Yeoman, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou; Caleb Deschanel, The Passion of the Christ; Christopher Doyle and Pung-Leung Kwan, 2046)

ART DIRECTION: THE AVIATOR, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, A Very Long Engagement, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

COSTUME DESIGN: THE AVIATOR, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Ray, Troy, Finding Neverland 

FILM EDITING: ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, The Aviator, Million Dollar Baby, Sideways, Napoleon Dynamite

SOUND: THE AVIATOR, The Incredibles, Ray, Kung Fu Hustle, Spider-Man 2


ORIGINAL SONG: “Je T’Aime Tant” from BEFORE SUNSET (Music and lyrics by Julie Delpy) (2nd: “A Waltz for a Night” from Before Sunset (Music and lyrics by Julie Delpy), followed by: "America, Fuck Yeah!" from Team America: World Police (Music and lyrics by Trey Parker); "I'm So Ronery" from Team America: World Police (Music and lyrics by Trey Parker); “Ocean Man” from The Spongebob Squarepants Movie (Music and lyrics by Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo); "Al Otro Lado Del Río" from The Motorcycle Diaries (Music and lyrics by Jorge Drexler); "Look To Your Path (Vois Sur Ton Chemin)" from The Chorus (Music by Bruno Coulais, lyrics by Christophe Barratier))

ORIGINAL SCORE: Alexander Desplat, BIRTH (2nd: Michael Giacchino, The Incredibles, followed by: Howard Shore, The Aviator; John Debney, The Passion of the Christ; Edward Shearmur, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow)

ADAPTED OR SONG SCORE: Trey Parker, Marc Shaiman and Harry Gregson-Williams, TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE (2nd: Craig Armstrong, Ray, followed by: Cheri Steinkellner, Randy Petersen, Kevin Quinn, Bryan Woodbury, Peter Lurye, and Stephen James Taylor, Teacher's Pet)

SPECIAL EFFECTS: ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Kung Fu Hustle

MAKEUP: THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, Hellboy, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Saturday, October 8, 2016

2003--The Year in Review

This year, documentaries explode with excellence. There's Capturing the Friedmans, Andrew Jarecki's joltingly heartrending look at a family collectively accused of child molestation; The Fog of War, Errol Morris' ultimately Oscar-winning confessional for Kennedy-era Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara (side note: after seeing the film at the NY Film Festival that year, I told Mr. Morris that he'd win the 2003 Oscar for it; he gently but emphatically stated he didn't think the Academy would ever anoint him so); Ted Demme and Richard LaGravenese contributed a lovingly exhaustive overview of '70s cinema with A Decade Under The Influence, while modern social, political and financial constructs were harshly grilled in films like The Yes Men and The Corporation. But, after much back-and-forthing, I've joyfully found in favor of Thom Andersen's Los Angeles Plays Itself. It's a movie that, after hearing much acclaim, I finally discovered online in 2010. It's recently become easier to see via The Criterion Collection (who miraculously found a way to get clearance for the film's inclusion of hundreds of clips from studio works and indie obscurities). I emphatically recommend every movie lover check out this documentary--it's a mindblower. Film expert and USC professor Andersen has crafted an epic portrait of Los Angeles, framed simultaneously as his constantly-changing hometown, a setting for famous movies, an architectural marvel, and as a sullied jewel in the crown of American cities. Andersen's film gets your mind racing about scads of things at once, and though its three-hour-length might seem like a chore, it's nevertheless a constantly surprising work that appeals to your brain's better nature. It leaves me breathless. I can't even express how exciting it is, for instance, to hear low-key narrator Encke King (it's NOT Andersen, but he sounds like a perfect stand-in) as he exactingly delineates how H.B. Halicki's 1974 action film Gone in 60 Seconds highlighted a rarely-filmed side of Los Angeles (this is only one of a thousand moments like this). Los Angeles Plays Itself is an indomitable education into the city's layout and history, and the sheer diversity of clips here (everything from Laurel and Hardy's errant piano in The Music Box to the air-lifted city bus from Swordfish) keeps us absolutely captivated throughout. I like how the film's gears change at each hour mark, continually getting more detailed and personal as it goes along.

There are many narrative films I loved this year--Gus Van Sant's eerie, superbly constructed Columbine recreation Elephant; Sofia Coppola's gorgeous real-love-story Lost in Translation; David Gordon Green's similarly effusive All the Real Girls (led by the astonishing Paul Schneider and Zooey Deschanel); two very different but radically memorable action pieces in Park Chan-wook's Oldboy and Peter Weir's Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World; Terry Zwigoff's immutable cult film Bad Santa (I was THIS CLOSE to voting Billy Bob Thornton as Best Actor but at the last minute, I realized Murray really deserved it); Vincent Gallo's much-maligned The Brown Bunny (which I still see as one of the year's most graceful films); Lars Von Trier's stark, shocking Dogville; Ingmar Bergman's REAL final film Saraband; Sylvain Chomet's thrilling animated film The Triplets of Belleville; the genre-bending Harvey Pekar bio-pic American Splendor (so wonderfully acted); Billy Ray's tense account of journalistic delusion Shattered Glass; Normal, Jane Alexander's eloquent tale of a radically shifting family; Mike Nichols' regal HBO adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer-winning play Angels in America; and Lawrence Bridges' stunning, little-seen mini-L.A.-epic 12. Meanwhile, in 2003, the Academy over-emphatically paid tribute to Peter Jackson's brown-tinged, mega-hit Lord of the Rings series by handing 11 Oscars (even Best Song) to its final entry The Return of the King. Sorry, but I've never been a Tolkien fan, so I keep my wits about me here. Though I recognize Jackson's films ARE an achievement, I happily go another way in 2003. NOTE: These are MY choices for each category, and are only occasionally reflective of the selections made by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka The Oscars). When available, the nominee that actually won the Oscar will be highlighted in bold.

(2nd: Elephant (US, Gus Van Sant)
followed by: Lost in Translation (US, Sofia Coppola)
All the Real Girls (US, David Gordon Green)
Oldboy (South Korea, Park Chan-wook)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (US, Peter Weir)
12 (US, Lawrence Bridges)
Bad Santa (US, Terry Zwigoff)
Capturing the Friedmans (US, Andrew Jarecki)
The Brown Bunny (US, Vincent Gallo)
Saraband (Sweden, Ingmar Bergman)
The Triplets of Belleville (France, Sylvain Chomet)
Dogville (Denmark/UK, Lars Von Trier)
The Fog of War (US, Errol Morris)
American Splendor (US, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini)
Shattered Glass (US, Billy Ray)
Angels in America (US, Mike Nichols)
House of Sand and Fog (US, Vadim Perelman)
Normal (US, Jane Anderson)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (US/New Zealand, Peter Jackson)
The Dreamers (France/US, Bernardo Bertolucci)
Gerry (US, Gus Van Sant)
Jimmy’s Story (US, Billy Yeager)
The Inheritance (Denmark, Per Fly)
The Barbarian Invasions (Canada, Denys Arcand)
21 Grams (US/Mexico, Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Mystic River (US, Clint Eastwood)
A Decade Under The Influence (US, Ted Demme and Richard LaGravenese)
Down with Love (US, Peyton Reed)
School of Rock (US, Richard Linklater)
Kill Bill (US, Quentin Tarantino, both parts included)
Shelter Dogs (US, Cynthia Wade)
The Five Obstructions (Denmark, Lars Von Trier and Jorgen Leth)
Swimming Pool (France, François Ozon)
The Corporation (US, Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott)
My Architect (US, Nathaniel Kahn)
Girl With a Pearl Earring (UK, Peter Webber)
Blind Shaft (China, Yang Li)
The Cooler (US, Wayne Kramer)
The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill (US, Judy Irving)
Open Range (US, Kevin Costner)
Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (US, Nick Broomfield and Joan Churchill)
My Life Without Me (Spain/Canada, Isabel Coixet)
The Best of Youth (Italy, Marco Tullio Giordano)
Good Morning, Night (Italy, Marco Belluchio)
Coffee and Cigarettes (US, Jim Jarmusch)
Holes (US, Andrew Davis)
Monster (US, Patty Jenkins)
End of the Century (US, Jim Fields and Michael Gramaglia)
Finding Nemo (US, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich)
Dark Blue (US, Ron Shelton)
The Movie Hero (US, Brad T. Gottfred)
Touching the Void (UK, Kevin MacDonald)
Intolerable Cruelty (US, Joel Coen)
The Station Agent (US, Tom McCarthy)
A Mighty Wind (US, Christopher Guest)
Big Fish (US, Tim Burton)
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (US, Jonathan Mostow)
Cold Mountain (US, Anthony Minghella)

ACTOR: Bill Murray, LOST IN TRANSLATION (2nd: Billy Bob Thornton, Bad Santa, followed by: Paul Giamatti, American Splendor; Tom Wilkinson, Normal; Choi Min-sik, Oldboy; Al Pacino, Angels in America; Paul Schneider, All The Real Girls)

ACTRESS: Zooey Deschanel, ALL THE REAL GIRLS (2nd: Nicole Kidman, Dogville, followed by: Liv Ullmann, Saraband; Charlize Theron, Monster; Jessica Lange, Normal; Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation; Jennifer Connelly, House of Sand and Fog)

SUPPORTING ACTOR: Tim Robbins, MYSTIC RIVER (2nd: Peter Sarsgaard, Shattered Glass, followed by: Tony Cox, Bad Santa; Benicio Del Toro, 21 Grams; Judah Friedlander, American Splendor; Jeffrey Wright, Angels in America; Alec Baldwin, The Cooler)

SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Hope Davis, AMERICAN SPLENDOR (2nd: Lauren Graham, Bad Santa, followed by: Meryl Streep, Angels in America; Shohreh Ashdashloo, House of Sand and Fog; Marcia Gay Harden, Mystic River; Christina Ricci, Monster; Hayden Pantierre, Normal)

DIRECTOR: Gus Van Sant, ELEPHANT (2nd: Thom Andersen, Los Angeles Plays Itself, followed by: Park Chan-wook, Oldboy; Sofia Coppola, Lost in Translation; David Gordon Green, All The Real Girls; Jane Anderson, Normal; Vincent Gallo, The Brown Bunny)

NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE FILM: OLDBOY (South Korea, Park Chan-wook) (2nd: The Triplets of Belleville (France, Sylvain Chomet), followed by: Saraband (Sweden, Ingmar Bergman); The Inheritance (Denmark, Per Fly); The Barbarian Invasions (Canada, Denys Arcand); Blind Shaft (China, Yang Li); The Best of Youth (Italy, Marco Tullio Giordano); Good Morning, Night (Italy, Marco Belluchio))

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF (US, Thom Andersen) (2nd: Capturing the Friedmans (US, Andrew Jarecki), followed by: The Fog of War (US, Errol Morris); The Yes Men (US, Dan Ollman, Sarah Price and Chris Smith); A Decade Under The Influence (US, Ted Demme and Richard LaGravenese); The Corporation (US, Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar); My Architect (US, Nathanial Kahn); Shelter Dogs (US, Cynthia Wade); Jimmy’s Story (US, Billy Yeager))

ANIMATED FEATURE: THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE (France, Sylvain Chomet) (2nd: Finding Nemo (US, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich))

LIVE ACTION SHORT: CHERNOBYL HEART (Russia/US, Maryann DeLeo, won as Documentary Short) (2nd: Competition (Poland, Maciaj Ademek), followed by: Aspara (UK/India, Colin McGreal); In/Out (US, Daryll Woon)

ANIMATED SHORT: DESTINO (France/US, Dominique Monfrey) (2nd: Ward 13 (Australia, Peter Cornwell, followed by: Harvie Krumpet (US, Adam Elliot))

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Sofia Coppola, LOST IN TRANSLATION (2nd: Glenn Ficara and John Requa, Bad Santa, followed by: David Gordon Green, All The Real Girls; Thom Andersen, Los Angeles Plays Itself; Denys Arcand, The Barbarian Invasions)

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Billy Ray, SHATTERED GLASS (2nd: Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman, American Splendor, followed by: Hwang Jo-yun, Lim Chun-hywong, Lim Joon-hyung, and Park Chan-wook, Oldboy; Jane Anderson, Normal; Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King)

CINEMATOGRAPHY: Harris Savides, ELEPHANT (2nd: Russell Boyd, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, followed by: Vincent Gallo, The Brown Bunny; Chung Chung-hoon, Oldboy; Harris Savides, Gerry)

ART DIRECTION: GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING, Down With Love, Dogville, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World 

COSTUME DESIGN: THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Down With Love, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, The Last Samurai

FILM EDITING: LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF, Elephant, Kill Bill, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Oldboy

SOUND: ELEPHANT, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Oldboy, Gerry

SOUND EFFECTS: MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Finding Nemo

ORIGINAL SCORE: Howard Shore, THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, followed by: Alexander Desplat, Girl with the Pearl Earring; Thomas Newman, Finding Nemo; Gabriel Yared, Cold Mountain; Danny Elfman, Big Fish)

ORIGINAL SONG: “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” from A MIGHTY WIND (Music and lyrics by Michael McKean and Annette O’Toole) (2nd: “Belleville Rendezvous” from The Triplets of Belleville (Music by Benoit Charest, lyrics by Sylvain Chomet), followed by: “You Will Be My Ain True Love” from Cold Mountain (Music and lyrics by Sting); “Into the West” from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Music and lyrics by Fran Walsh, Annie Lennox and Howard Shore))

SPECIAL EFFECTS: THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

MAKEUP: MONSTER, Angels in America, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King