Oscar Nominations 2011

Here are the ten movies you might like to watch before the 83rd Academy Awards on Feb. 27:

Best Picture Nominees:

  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • The King’s Speech
  • 127 Hours
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter’s Bone

For a complete list of nominees and to watch the announcement from this morning in case you missed it at 5:30 am (PT) or 8:30 am (ET), CLICK HERE.

The nominations count are as follows: King’s Speech = 12, True Grit = 10, Social Network = 8, Inception = 8, The Fighter = 7, 127 Hours = 6

The King leads the pack.  A royal flush they say, hope that’s the hand on Oscar night.  Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter, Geoffrey Rush, and director Tom Hooper all get nods. Other categories include Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Editing, Original Score, Sound Mixing, Screenplay.  To read my review of The King’s Speech, CLICK HERE.

The surprise here is True Grit.  The Coen brothers’ film got snubbed at the Golden Globes and comes back with a vengeance.  Two years in a row they get the nod for Best Picture, after last year’s A Serious Man (my review here).   True Grit is a remake of the 1969 Western for which John Wayne got his Oscar.  Here we have a distinct Coen style film with smart dialogues and great acting.  “Nothing is free except the grace of God,” the beginning voice-over says, matched with the tune of the old hymn ‘Leaning on the Ever Lasting Arms’… I was amused to see how these two notions echo at the end of the film. At 13, Hailee Steinfeld beat out 15,000 other girls in the audition to get the role of tough and articulate Mattie Ross, seeking justice for her daddy’s death.  Now one year later, she has landed at the Oscars. Amazing. Also, Jeff Bridges gets the nom again, after snatching the Best Actor Oscar from Colin Firth last year.  It’s interesting to note that, while Colin Firth can act with half a voice, Jeff Bridges here shows us he can act with just one eye.

I’m excited to see Mike Leigh finally getting recognition for his poignant original screenplay for Another Year.  Unfortunately, the film does not get any more Oscar nods.  Veteran British actors Jim Broadbent, Ruth Sheen, and Lesley Manville give a performance of deep resonance.  Lesley Manville is no less deserving than anyone on the list of Best Actress nominees.  This is one of the most neglected movies of 2010.  I saw it at the Calgary Film Festivals last year.  I know some cities are just showing it now. Don’t miss it.  CLICK HERE to read my review.

Toy Story 3.  The animated feature that gets into the major league, following the only two other animations ever to be nominated in a Best Motion Picture category, Up (2009) and Beauty and the Beast (1991).  The theme of growing up and parting with your beloved and familiar finds its way into a touching animation that may well appeal to parents more than kids.  The idea of a child leaving home for college has been used in several movies in recent years, most notably, The Blind Side (2009) and The Kids Are All Right (2010).  I’ve watched all of this year’s ten Best Picture nominees. But, don’t laugh, Toy Story 3 was the only time I’d shed a few tears.

For Best Documentary Feature, I’m glad to see our notorious graffiti artist Banksy’s film Exit Through the Gift Shop has not evaded the Academy.  To read my review CLICK HERE.

The Academy Awards will take place on Sunday, Feb. 27.  This time Anne Hathaway and James Franco (a Best Actor nominee himself for 127 Hours), the youngest of Oscar hosts, are set to offer a fresh new look.  Hathaway had proven her versatility dancing and singing with Hugh Jackman two Oscars ago, and Franco has been hailed as the new Renaissance Man…  Just hope they will live up to expectations.

History Made At The Oscars: Kathryn Bigelow Wins Best Director

The 82nd Annual Academy Awards has made history on several fronts.

Probably the most talked about is Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first woman to claim the Best Director Oscar. And lesser known is the fact that her film “The Hurt Locker” has also distinguished itself as the lowest grossing movie to win Best Picture. With $15 million spent on its production, “The Hurt Locker” has gained back $14.7 million in its domestic gross, and a total worldwide sale of $21 million, paltry compared to Avatar’s $2.6 billion. Bravo to the Academy voters.

Another major breakthrough at Oscars 2010 is Geoffrey Fletcher winning Best Adapted Screenplay for his work “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.”  He is the first African American ever to win a screenwriting Oscar.  Let me re-direct you to an inspiring post on Geoffrey Fletcher’s win from the blog Screenwriting From Iowa.

The Celluloid Ceiling

Does Bigelow’s win signify the turning of a new page for all female directors and woman workers in the film industry? Or is it just a one-time victory? Throughout Oscar history, there have only been three other women nominated for Best Director: Lina Wertmüller for “Seven Beauties” in 1976, Jane Campion for “The Piano” in 1993; and Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation” in 2003. None of them won.  It has taken 82 Academy Awards to arrive at this point today.

The annual ‘Celluloid Ceiling’ report compiled by Dr. Martha Lauzen at the Center For the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University tracks women employed in the film industry over the years. Her 2009 study records the following findings:

  • Women comprised of 16% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents a decline of 3% from 2001.
  • Women accounted for 7% of directors in 2009, a decrease of 2% from 2008, and no change since 1987.
  • As for behind-the-scenes employment of 2,838 individuals working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2009, women represented 2% of the cinematographers and 8% of writers.

Has Bigelow shattered the Celluloid Ceiling once and for all? The answer is yet to be seen.  Considering the gender disparity in the film industry, it remains a long and arduous journey for aspiring woman filmmakers.

But I admire Kathryn Bigelow for one thing: she downplays the gender issue and pursues the universal role of ‘director’, shunning being called a ‘female director’.  When accepting her Award, she did not even mention the history-making significance of her win but rather acknowledged the troops at war.

Of course, she won on her own merits and not on account of her gender.  So just let me help Barbra Streisand utter what is unsaid in her statement, the all important subtext:

“Well, the time has come … for us to recognize the excellent work of a director despite the fact that she is a woman.”

Bigelow, a painter turned filmmaker, was first trained at the San Francisco Art Institute and later won a scholarship for the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum in New York, “which gave her the opportunity to study and produce conceptual art that was critiqued by the likes of Richard Serra and Susan Sontag.” Later she re-directed her passion to film theory and criticism at Columbia University.

When asked about her movies not being “female”, Bigelow, gives a thought-provoking answer from the point of view of an artist [1]:

But you don’t get exasperated with this notion that your movies are not “female”?

No, because I respect it, and I understand it. The thing that’s interesting is that I come from the art world, or that’s where I was creatively, aesthetically, and intellectually formed and informed.

Certainly at the time I was there, there was never a discussion of gender per se. Like, this is a woman’s sculpture or a man’s sculpture. There was never this kind of bifurcation of particular talent. It was just looked at as the piece of work. The work had to speak for itself. And that’s still how I look at any particular work.

I think of a person as a filmmaker, not a male or female filmmaker. Or I think of them as a painter, not a male or female painter. I don’t view the world like that. Yes, we’re informed by who we are, and perhaps we’re even defined by that, but yet, the work has to speak for itself.

Hopefully the film industry can learn from the art world, such that we would never have to give a movie a gender, or stigmatize its filmmaker for being a woman.  Then we can comfortably call them all artists.


[1]  CLICK HERE to read the full interview by Willa Paskin on Slate Magazine “What Kathryn Bigelow learned from Rembrandt.

Oscar Results 2010

For Oscar Results 2011 CLICK HERE.

We’ve just watched history in the making at the 82nd Academy Awards:  The first woman to win a Best Director Oscar, deservedly, Kathryn Bigelow for “The Hurt Locker.”  “The Hurt Locker” is also the major winner of the night, garnering 6 Academy Awards from its 9 nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Directing
  • Original Screenplay
  • Film Editing
  • Sound Mixing
  • Sound Editing

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“Well the time has come…” Barbra Streisand said as she announced the Oscar for Best Director.  It took 82 Academy Awards to arrive.  Only three other women had ever been nominated in this category, but none had won.  I’m excited to see Kathryn Bigelow turn a new page of Oscar history last night.

She was clearly moved by this honor, describing it as: “The moment of a lifetime.”  Bigelow gave credits to many, but especially to Mark Boal who was an embedded journalist in a bomb disposal team in Iraq for writing the story, and dedicated the award to “women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis. May they come home safe.”

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To me, the last half hour was the most worthwhile, as with all Oscar award shows, but especially this one.  The comedic duo of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin was a disappointment.  I expected better.  When jokes were made at the expense of color and race, personal relationships of exes, and Meryl Streep’s record Oscar losses, you know they could have put in more effort.  Was that a postmodern, deconstructing comic gig?  Or simply denigrating the very films the night was supposed to honor?  Of course, the audience could take a joke, or two… but I didn’t see all of them laughing.  After Neil Patrick Harris’s enthusiastic opening musical, Martin and Baldwin paled in comparison. We might have just discovered who could be the next Oscar host.

However, there were a few more memorable moments that saved the show:


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The tribute to John Hughes was especially touching. Passed away last year, Hughes was the legendary director whose movies were themselves expressions of teen angst.  They represented a generation of youth striving to belong and to connect, in whatever way they knew how.  It was quite a moment to see these actors come on stage to honor their director.  The now middle-age Molly Ringwald and Matthew Broderick, stars of the iconic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” gave a moving tribute.  They were later joined on stage by Jon Cryer, Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, the truant youths of “The Breakfast Club”.  And who would forget “Sixteen Candles”, “Pretty In Pink”, and a bit more recent, the “Home Alone” movies. Macauley Culkin also joined in.  The Hughes family was in attendance to acknowledge the tribute.

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Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for her role in The Blind Side.  “Did I really earn this or did I just wear you all down?” she asked.  Just a day ago she won another acting award, the Razzie, the Worst Actress Award for “All About Steve”.  But she took it all in stride.  “I had the best time at the Razzie… it’s the great equalizer. No one lets me get too full of myself,” she said after the Oscars. Ahh… what a deserving Oscar winner.

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Jeff Bridges won Best Actor finally after four nominations, his first one dating back to 1971 for “The Last Picture Show”.  On the red carpet, when asked what his late father Lloyd Bridges would have said to him if he were here tonight, he answered: “He’d say, atta boy, atta boy!”  I was most impressed by his performance in “Crazy Heart” as a washed-up country-western singer, not just acting, but singing as well.

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While I had expected Jason Reitman to win Best Adapted Screenplay, I was glad to see Geoffrey Fletcher getting the recognition for “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire”, the first African American to win a screenwriting Oscar, and with his first feature screenplay.  He was definitely moved, “This is for everybody who works on a dream every day, Precious boys and girls everywhere.”

When interviewed after the show, Kathryn Bigelow had this to say to all prospective female directors: “Never give up on your dream.”

So, it was a late-winter night’s dream for many.  And it’s gratifying to see some deserving talents have theirs realized in a most amazing way.

For a full list of Oscar Winners, CLICK HERE to the official site of The Academy of Motion Pictures of Arts and Sciences.

Popularity versus Art

This year’s Oscars marks a new battleground for the dichotomy of art-house vs. blockbuster movies.  By increasing the Best Picture category from 5 to 10 selections, it looks like the Academy is aiming at allowing the blockbusters a shot at the coveted statuette, and not the other way round.

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Why do I say that?  A look at the past winners in recent years would give a hint or two:  Slumdog Millionaire (2008), a production of just $15 million and a cast of unknown, foreign actors; No Country for Old Men (2007), a $25 million production and not a big hit domestically in terms of box office sales.

Several of the Best Picture contenders in recent years are represented by low-budget indie films, such as Juno (2007) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006).  Mind you, they might have reaped millions from their Oscar nods after the fact.

Not that blockbusters are necessarily artistically deficient, or that indie films must be artistically worthy, but it’s safe to say that blockbuster movies are crowd pleasers and more readily received. Art-house films are offered only in limited release, and appreciated by a much smaller audience.  Their low budget usually means no A-list stars.  It also restricts the profuse use of innovative technology as in big budget productions such as Avatar (2009).  So their general appeal is the essence of the screenplay, the acting, the storytelling within very limited means.

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The two front-runners of this year’s nominations best illustrate this point. The battle of the ex-es aside, Avatar and The Hurt Locker are neck and neck with 9 nods, competing in many of the same categories. But The Hurt Locker appears in two that are crucial in defining its artistic value as a motion picture:  Best Actor (Jeremy Renner) and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (Mark Boal), while Avatar falls short in these categories.

From the popularity angle, some refer their contention as David and Goliath.  The Hurt Locker, with a production cost of just $11 million and box office sales of $12.6 million, is miniscule when compared to that of Avatar’s $635 million, so far, and a reported budget of $237 million, one of the most expensive movies ever made.

Another way of seeing the two is the number of theatres screening the movies.  Avatar has over 3,000 theatres domestically, while The Hurt Locker, well, you’re lucky to catch it before it disappears from its limited release.  The DVD is out, so that really helps if you want to see it before the Awards night.

The other contenders pose a similar scenario.  Other than Avatar, four Best Pictures nominees have passed, way passed, the $100 million box office sales:The Blind Side ($242 million)Up ($293 million)Inglorious Basterds ($120 million), and District 9 ($115 million). Slightly trailing behind are Up In The Air ($77 million) and Precious: Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire ($46 million).

So what stand out are two little films, meager in comparison in terms of box office sales:  An Education ($9.6 million) and A Serious Man ($9.2 million).Their high acclaim from critics do not materialize in popular reception from movie goers, which is not surprising, for generally, these two groups don’t always see eye-to-eye.

Box office sales are the mark of popularity.  They measure how many have flocked to the theatres and are willing to pay to see a movie. Low ticket sales of course is related to how widely released the movie is, but it also gauges popular taste. There’s the rub, would the Academy members vote for a movie that has been seen by just a fraction of the viewing public?  Would they judge a movie only on its artistic and technical merits rather than the sales it generates?

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Michael Phillips of Chicago Tribune calls the inclusion of The Blind Side in this year’s Best Picture pool “a triumph of the till”.  Many critics are surprised to see it on the list.  And I suppose for Hollywood insiders and members of the Academy, they know very well what the bottom line is.  I’ve heard the argument before: If you want to see indie films and artsy productions, go to Sundance and Cannes.  I can hear them grumble … be realistic, the Oscars is a celebration of the movie business in all its glory and glamour.

I’ve appreciated what one entertainment writer has noted:

… popularity is the spiritual currency of Hollywood’s art. That’s why we call it ‘pop culture.’

It seems that nowadays, spurred on by reality talent shows which generate winners through popular votes, the contention of popularity versus skills or artistic merits is tipped way out of balance.  The critics are now made up of the populace; the panel of judges can only voice their opinion, however biting, but they do not get to vote.

And for the lesser known gems like An Education and A Serious Man, I’m glad they are included in the Best Picture pool, thanks to those who have nominated them despite their meager showing at the box office. After all, besides the money-generating function, film is in essence an art form.  Art for art’s sake or for profit remains the on-going debate.  Of course, the two need not be mutually exclusive… reality is, the financial component often is the main sustenance of a production.  It’ll be interesting to see though how the battle of David and Goliath turns out at the Oscars this year.  The implications could be more far-reaching than just churning out another winner.

Oscar Nominations 2010

February 2, 2010 was a big day for announcements.  We’d all been waiting for this special occasion… yes, groundhog day.  For us who live in the Calgary area, we welcomed the news as we began the day: our very own groundhog Balzac Billy did not see his own shadow.  A reward for us resilient folks: an early spring.

But even hours before Balzac Billy popped his head out of his burrow, another excitement stirred at 5:38 am PST.  At the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, CA, Academy President Tom Sherak and actress Anne Hathaway got up on the stage and announced this year’s Oscar Nominations to a house full of early risers.  What a way to start the day.   Click here to watch the announcement video.

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The major change this year of course is the expansion of the Best Picture category from 5 to 10 selections.  I’ve pondered the pros and cons about this move.  While more films can be included so not to snub deserving ones, it also begs the question of what’s so deserving if the number of contenders are increased.

For the full list of nominations, CLICK HERE.  I won’t repeat them here but I’ll just highlight some items that pique my interest.

The Golden Globes and the SAG Awards remain the best predictors of the Oscars.  So, there are no surprises, just delights, for the three films I’ve reviewed here on Ripple Effects have all been nominated for Best Picture.

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Up In The Air receives 6 noms.  Other than Best Picture,  Jason Reitman gets a nod for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.  Clooney, Kendrick, and Farmiga all nominated in their respective acting category.

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An Education gets a Best Picture nod with Nick Hornby nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, while Carey Mulligan, who plays 16 year-old Jenny, gets to compete with Meryl Streep, 16-time Oscar nominee, this time as Julia Child in Julie and Julia.

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I’m glad too that the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man gets a nod for a chance at the Best Picture Oscar Award as well as a nom for Best Original Screenplay.

Are these deserving smaller films getting the nods reaping the benefits of the expanded Best Picture category?  Or, is it just the other way round, that popular, big box office hits get a chance to be included because of their mass appeal?  It’s that same old art vs. popularity debate again… well, some other time.

Avatar and The Hurt Locker each receives 9 nominations. Both are contenders in the coveted Best Picture and Best Director categories.  Yes, James Cameron will be competing with his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow for these two coveted prizes.  In all of the Academy Awards’ 82 years history, there have only been three female directors nominated, and none has won. Kathryn Bigelow is the fourth.  Will she make Oscar history this year by being the first woman Director taking home the statuette?  After all, it’s a decade past the twenty-first century now.

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Inglorious Basterds is another major contender with 8 nods.  Quentin Tarantino’s altered-history fantasy is ingloriously riveting.  Christoph Waltz, who brilliantly plays the cold, callous, and calculating Nazi Colonel Hans Landa, is likely to continue his winning streak following the GG and SAG.

Christopher Plummer gets a nom for his role as Tolstoy in the film The Last Station, a biopic about the last years of the great Russian author.  So, why is he nominated in the Best Supporting Actor category?  Who is he supporting?  Mrs. Tolstoy? … whose star Helen Mirren gets to be nominated for Best Actress, not supporting.

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It’s interesting to see the animated feature Up get to compete with the other nine feature films, aiming for the highest prize in the Best Picture category.  I believe only Beauty And The Beast had that honor in the past.  Animated features have taken on a brand new versatility in recent years, with all sorts of technical innovations creating fresh new visual effects.  But it’s always the story that is the winning factor.  Up deserves the nom.

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So hopefully March 7 will not only bring star-studded excitement but the warm and gentle breeze of spring for me as well.

**All photos from the copyright-free picapp.com**

The Oscar Results 2009

CLICK HERE for Oscar Results 2010

The film that defies all odds,  Slumdog Millionaire, was the big winner at the 81st Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in LA last night.  It won 8 Oscars:  Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Film Editing, Original Score, Original Song, Best director and Best Picture.

Its major rival, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which led the nominations with 13 nods, took only three golden statuettes, mainly in the technical categories.

Click here for the complete list of Oscar Winners.

Actually, the Academy Awards Show itself may well be the winner, thanks to a talented, Tony Award winning Hugh Jackman. After the slumping ratings in the past few years, the Oscars could well have been resuscitated last night.  Which previous Oscar host can sing and dance Broadway style so naturally, and bringing out the musical talent of Anne Hathaway at the opening gig, plus performing a tribute to previous musicals from West Side Story to Mamma Mia! with Beyoncé?  And, who says it takes a comedian to crack jokes?

Speaking of musical numbers, who could have thought the two songs of Slumdog Millionaire, with traditional Indian melodies, can be performed together with the other nominee, “Down To Earth” from the Sci Fi Animation Wall E.,  a collaboration of John Legend and A. R. Rahman.   It was a colorful post-modern rendition of musical fusion.

Entertainment aside, there are some moving moments that I’ve appreciated:

  • Penélope Cruz in her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress: “… art in any form has is and will always be our universal language and we should do everything we can to protect its survival.”
  • Heath Ledger’s posthumous award for Best Supporting Actor was accepted by his parents and sister who delivered some heartfelt words of thanks, ending with: “… we proudly accept this award on behalf of your beautiful Matilda.”
  • The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award was presented to Jerry Lewis, who began fundraising for muscular dystrophy since the 1950’s.
  • Kate Winslet paying tribute to Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack, two talented directors and producers who passed away last year, two months apart: “Anthony and Sydney, this is for you, this is for both of you.”
  • Previous winners in Acting categories came out together as a group to announce this year’s nominees.  Kudos to the writers for some moving intro narratives.  So, it was a night of gathering of veteran actors like Sophia Loren, Alan Arkin, Anthony Hopkins, Shirley MacLaine, Anjelica Huston and 85 year-old Eva Marie Saint, who won her Oscar in 1955 for On the Waterfront.
  • All the children who play major roles in Slumdog Millionaire came from India to attend the Awards and had the honor of winning an Oscar, no doubt a surreal experience for them.

A word about Slumdog Millionaire:  The two young actors Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto are the future stars to watch for.  They are poised, articulate, modest, and carry themselves marvellously in the limelight of fame and glamour.  I wish this Hollywood episode is the springboard to further career opportunities.  And for the children who still have to go back to the slums of Mumbai, I hope this experience would open doors for them to a better life in the days ahead.


81st Academy Awards Nominations (2009)


CLICK HERE to read The 2009 Oscar Results.

So, the news is out. For a complete list of the 2009 Oscar nominees, click here to go to the official Oscars website. For those who didn’t bother getting up at 5:30 am PT to watch the announcement live, here’s the video clip.

The clear front runner is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, grabbing 13 nominations, just one short of the record shared by All About Eve (1950) and Titanic (1997).

Slumdog Millionaire is not far behind, a fantastic rags to riches exemplar in itself, garnering 10 nominations.

When I look at the Best Picture categories, I notice that four of the five nominees are produced from an adapted screenplay.  Here are the origin of these now famous movies, the source materials that first spark and channel the creative energy of screenwriters,  causing them to propel a much lesser known work into the orbit of box office profits:

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:  Loosely based on a short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  The imdb site does not even mention this source material.  But for those of you who want to acknowledge the original writer’s work, click here to read the short story online.
  • Frost/Nixon:  Based on a play by Peter Morgan.  To read the NY Times review of this theatre production, click here.
  • The Reader:  Based on the novel by the German writer Bernhard Schlink.  To read the discussion of book into film at guardian.co.uk, click here.
  • Slumdog Millionaire:  Based on the novel Q & A by the Indian novelist Vikas Swarup.  To read his interview on guardian.co.uk, click here.

So I say, kudos to all the original writers out there, without getting as much notice, not in this part of the world anyway, until their work is chosen to be made over into a movie, or picked by Oprah (The Reader).  It says a lot about our consumer and celebrity driven culture, that a piece of writing gains recognition only when it is released in a movie tie-in edition, or favored by a TV icon.

Well,  the message of Wall-E is relevant here.  I’m glad to see it getting 6 Oscar nods including Best Original Screenplay.  The last time an animated feature received 6 nominations was Beauty and the Beast (1991), itself a case in point with the hype of commercialism boosting the literary form.

And then on another note, I read about the first edition of Emma that Jane Austen signed and gave to her friend Anne Sharp (thought to be the inspiration for the character of Mrs. Weston in Emma) was on sale at the Antiquarian Book Fair in Hong Kong last week, asking price HK$3.95 million (approx. US $500,000).  I wonder also how much all those movies profited from adapting her novels.  I lament Jane who died impoverished.

Photo Source: guardian.co.uk



3:10 to Yuma (2007)

How many movies have inspired you to read the original book or story right after you’ve watched it? You might think of films like The Kite Runner, Atonement, or Away From Her. But a cowboy flick?

Yes, it sure did for me. And while I’m still looking for Elmore Leonard’s book Three-Ten to Yuma and other stories to read his short story, the source material for this film, I can’t wait to write the movie review. It’s also timely because of the recent release of the DVD.

This is one film that should have received a lot more attention at the Oscars. It got two nominations, one in Original Score, the other in Sound. Well it did get a nod from the Screen Actors Guild for an Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture nomination. It’s also a nominee for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Ben Foster) Satellite Awards.  But if it’s being touted as the best Western since Unforgiven, then why aren’t there any more commotion? Anyway, I’m here to stir some ripples.

This is a modern remake of the highly acclaimed 1957 movie with Glenn Ford. I missed that one. This new version sees Russell Crowe, Christian Bale, Ben Foster and Peter Fonda join hands to create an action movie with a heart and mind. In a way, it’s one typical western, with gunslinging outlaws, headed by the notorious Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), aided by his despicable right-hand man Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), a defenceless cattleman (Christian Bale) and his family, and a few lawmen pathetically trying to enforce some sort of law and order.

I’m captivated by the riveting sequences and twists of the plot leading to the engrossing climax at the end. Anything typical is only a backdrop for the ultimate moral dilemma it sets up for its main characters. Basically it’s a duel of will and conscience for Crowe and Bale. 15 year-old Logan Lerman is right on a par with these two veteran actors.

The movie surprises me with the intense and deep depiction of psychological battles, internal conflicts, and moral choices one has to make in the face of life and death. Its fast action scenes, effective camera works and great acting from the whole cast mask the deeper issues the story is challenging us to ponder: What makes a man? What is the most important legacy a father can leave to a son? I say mask because you think you’re just watching, but actually you’re thinking. How we need this kind of movies these days. The poignant ending is what makes the film beautiful and rewarding.

From Jane Austen to Elmore Leonard…it’s all about life.

~ ~ ~ Ripples

The Oscar Results 2008

Kodak Theater L.A.

CLICK HERE for Oscar Results 2010

CLICK HERE for the 2009 Oscar Results.

Well I didn’t get to see my favorites winning an Oscar, as expected. But it was exciting seeing them walk down the red carpet and seated in the Kodak Theatre as nominees. For a full list of Oscar winners, you can go to the official Oscars website.

I’m glad to see Juno’s Diablo Cody getting the Best Original Screenplay, and Atonement receiving a nod for Best Original Score. As predicated by many, this year’s Oscars belong to those that portray the killer instinct, with No Country for Old Men grabbing the major ones: Best Picture, Best Director(s), Best Supporting Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Daniel Day-Lewis winning the Best Actor Oscar for There Will Be Blood. The Bourne Ultimatum getting three golds, that’s a little surprise.

I’ve enjoyed the E Talk pre-Oscar show with Ben Mulroney interviewing stars on the red carpet. I just love 65 year-old Julie Christie’s answer to the question about the age disparity in her friendship with Sarah Polley, the 29 year old director of Away From Her: “She’s the old one, I’m the juvenile.” The lady sure has some wit.

What impress me most are the credits and tributes many of these Hollywood celebrities give to their mother and father for their achievement. My admiration goes out to them for that. Here are a few that I’m really fond of:

  • It’s heart-warming to see Javier Bardem honoring his mother and thanking her in Spanish during his acceptance speech.
  • Another one is Daniel Day-Lewis, acknowledging his grandfather, father, and his sons. How sweet is that?
  • While still on the red carpet, Jason Reitman, director of Juno, gives the ultimate credit to his mom and dad, acknowledging that everything he is today he owes it to his parents, and getting a kiss from dad Ivan Reitman for that.
  • And Diablo Cody, screenwriter for Juno, thanking her parents for accepting her the way she is…

These are just some examples I remember, and I’ll remember them for a while.

The 80th Academy Awards

Just a few days to the Oscars and I still haven’t written my take on the grand event of the year. Let me catch up.

I’ve been asked about my view on the nominees. Having seen all of the movies in the Best Picture category, I’ve to admit my opinion may very well differ from other critics’. Case in point is No Country For Old Men, one of the two favorites to grab the Best Picture Oscar. I may well be ostracized for saying this, but I feel that the movie is way overrated. In this already dysfunctional and desensitized world of ours, why would we still need a 2-hour movie showing the dark and evil side of human by graphically depicting the deepest hell evil can raise through a psychotic killer let loose, introducing new ways of killing and getting away with it, on and on with no end in sight? I admit I haven’t read Cormac McCarthy’s book, maybe he’s more well-meaning than the film adaptation, having chosen William Butler Yeat’s line for his title.

Call me ‘traditional’ or ‘moralistic’, when I go to see a movie, I still look for something ‘wholesome’. Yes, I’ve long passed that stage when, as a child watching a movie, I would constantly be asking whether a character is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But now as a meaning-seeking adult, I still yearn for the ‘point’ of the film. Despite the chaotic world we’re so used to nowadays, I believe there still remains in us a vacuum that can be filled only by ideals transcendent and relationships meaningful. And film, being a visual form of communication, can be a powerful medium to express this kind of human quest. And that is one of my main criteria of a worthwhile piece of entertainment.

Ok, so here’s Arti’s take on the major categories.  Who will win and who I’d like to see winning can be very different.

Best Picture: Even though No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood are the critics’ favorites, I prefer Atonement.

Best Actor: While I haven’t seen Johnny Depp’s performance in Sweeney Todd, I think Daniel Day-Lewis has done an impressive job in There Will Be Blood and may well get to take home the golden statuette.

Best Actress: I’d love to see Julie Christie win another Oscars. The last time was more than 40 years ago, which I didn’t get to see. I think she well deserves another one with her performance in Away From Her.

Best Director: Although the favorite is the Coen Brothers for NCFOM, I’d like to see Julian Schnabel receiving it for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

Best Adapted Screenplay: I have 3 favorites here, Atonement, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, and Away From Her. If I must choose one, I’d just wish to see lovely Sarah Polley winning it for Away From Her.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the movie Atonement, I don’t think it’ll grab the hearts of the voting members of the Academy. I can see it winning a couple in the minor categories like Best Costume, Best Art Direction, Best Music (Score), and hopefully Best Cinematography.

And, with all the rave Canada is making about Juno, and I’m glad to see it receive 4 major nominations, Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay, I’ve a feeling that the ‘Little Miss Sunshine episode’ may not be repeated this year. And, if I’m right, let’s just say getting these 4 Oscar nods is already phenomenal for so young an ensemble.

Click on ‘Movies Reviewed’ above to read my reviews on some of this year’s Oscar Nominees.

And…let’s occupy ourselves with meaningful endeavors to pass these three long days of anticipation…