Oscar Winners 2011

The Academy Awards ceremony is over and the statuettes have been given all away exactly to who we thought might win… Once again, Oscar disappoints in originality, courage, boldness, and predictability reigned.  But in most cases what was to be expected was also the best available choice.

If you really asked me Toy Story 3 should have won and Christopher Nolan should have been recognized at least as a screen-writer, or even better as a director for what was one of the most inventive and original film of the year: Inception. Instead the Academy opted for the most obvious Tom Hooper: his directing on “The King’s Speech” was showy, obvious, by number and lacked of any subtlety (you can see read my review, which was written long before the film even got released).

Is this guy really worthy of standing in the same league as Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, Roman Polanski,Oliver Stone, Milos Forman, Francis Ford Coppola, Robert Wise, George Cukor, Billy Wilder, Martin Scorsese, Vincente Minnelli, David Lean, John Ford, Michael Curtiz, just to mention a few?

And yes, of course, Colin Firth was good, but was he really better than James Franco in 127 hours, a film that was entirely dependent on him stuck in a hole? No, he wasn’t. However he deserved the Award last year for “A Single Man” and even Colin himself knows that (that’s why he thanked Tom Ford in his speech).

The Social Network, even though that too was a flawed movie, felt more like a solid piece of film-making.

Well, you can obviously tell I am a bit disappointed…. Oh well, that’s the way it is. The King’s Speech joins the list of Oscar winner crowd-pleasing films, like Shakespeare in Love or Crash, Ordinary People, Driving Miss Daisy and so on. Films that found themselves at the right time in the right place and got away with winning (Let’s face it, even the Hurt Locker last year). Not bad ones, but not that great either.

On the whole this was one of the lamest show in the last few years. James Franco was under-used and Anne Hathaway she felt stiff and was confined by a silly, bitty, and unfunny script.

There was nothing remarkable about the show itself: no glamour, no drama, no surprises… It makes me wonder whether I should have gone to bed earlier and watch the highlights tomorrow…

Few nice moments but that’s about it, just nice: Natalie Portman’s speech, Colin’s Speech (though he has been better before), Melissa Leo cursing and droppping the “F” bomb at one point (hahaha), Christian Bale showing that he has got a heart and that nerd guy who got the Oscar for the short film who said “I should have got a haircut”.

On the whole a pretty forgettable show, with very forgettable hosts.

Here’s the list of all the winners and some comments:

BEST PICTURE

The King’s Speech – WINNER

BEST DIRECTOR

Tom Hooper – The King’s Speech – WINNER

BEST ACTOR

Colin Firth – The King’s Speech – WINNER

BEST ACTRESS

Natalie Portman – Black Swan – WINNER

Beautiful performance and a well deserved Oscar.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Christian Bale – The Fighter – WINNER

A very showy performance, but still a good one. Also Christian redeemed himself for all the bad he did, by getting moved and giving a nice speech.I just hope that beard is there for some reason!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Melissa Leo – The Fighter – WINNER

I knew it the moment I saw the fighter.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

In a Better World – Denmark – WINNER

I haven’t seen this yet, but it’s winning awards left and right… I’m getting curious.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

David Seidler – The King’s Speech – WINNER

Yawn… How predictable… Poor Nolan

BEST ANIMATION

Toy Story 3 – WINNER

Was there any other choice? This should have got the Best feature film too!!

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Aaron Sorkin – The Social Network – WINNER

Well, of course.

BEST ART DIRECTION

Alice in Wonderland – WINNER

mmm.. Not so sure, really. A tilted tree is really not enough for getting an Oscar. But then again, it was the easiest and laziest choice.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Inception – WINNER

This was a surprise, but a very welcome one. It was certainly a harder film to light that True Grit. However Rogers Deakins will have to win sooner or later.

BEST SOUND MIXING

Inception – WINNER

BEST SOUND EDITING

Inception – WINNER

Both this and the previous award are very very hard to differentiate for me, so it’s good to see them going to the same film.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

We Belong Together (from Toy Story 3) by Randy Newman – WINNER

20 nominations for Randy Newman and this is only his second win. Also it brings the Oscar count to “2” for this wonderful film, so I’m just happy for it.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

The Social Network – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – WINNER

The most original score for sure. Totally deserved!!

BEST COSTUMES

Alice in Wonderland – WINNER

The only redeeming feature of that film.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Inside Job – WINNER

Pity for “Exit through the gift shop” which was an extremely entertaining doc (and it would have been good to see who would have collected the award). But this one was clearly a better one.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Strangers No More – WINNER

BEST FILM EDITING

The Social Network – WINNER

Clearly this was some of the best edited film (especially if you’ve seen the special feature on the DVD). 127 Hours was a more flashy one and slightly more interesting, but they say that the best editing is the invisible one.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

The Lost Thing – WINNER

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM

God of Love – WINNER

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Inception – WINNER

Well, was there really anything else?

BEST MAKE-UP

The Wolfman – WINNER

A lazy Award. I’m sure voters just saw Baker’s name and voted for him. The film was rubbish and in fact it’s impossible to tell what was make-up and what was CGI (including the clip that was shown during the show)

To conclude, the only thing I am pleased about is that a little film like The King’s Speech once again follows the a trend set in the last couple of years whereby small, indie movies do better than Hollywood biggies… But hey, they could have done the same thing just by rewarding “Black Swan” or “Blue Valentine” or even “Animal Kingdom”.

OSCAR 2011 – Nominations for Best Animated Short Film

While waiting for the 2011 Oscars (tomorrow night, Sunday, February 27th) these are the five 2011 Oscar animated short nominees.

DAY AND NIGHT

Directed by Teddy Newton. Starring Wayne Dyer. US (Pixar Animation)

The personifications of daytime and nighttime learn to get along.

THE GRUFFALO

Directors: Max LangJakob Schuh. Helena Bonham CarterJames CordenTom WilkinsonJohn Hurt. BBC. UK

A cunning mouse goes for a walk in the forest and outwits a succession of predators

LET’S POLLUTE

Directed by Geefwee Boedoe. Starring Jim Thornton. USA

In the spirit of 50’s & 60’s educational films, ‘Let’s Pollute’ is a modern satire on how pollution is our heritage and keeps our economy growing strong, while instructing us how to be better polluters for a better blighted tomorrow.

THE LOST THING

Directed by Andrew Ruhemann, Shaun Tan. Starring Tim Minchin. Australia, UK

A 15 minute animated short film based on the highly acclaimed picture book by multi award winning author and illustrator, Shaun Tan. A boy finds a strange creature on a beach, and decides to find a home for it in a world where everyone believes there are far more important things to pay attention to

(OFFICIAL WEBSITE)

MADAGASCAR, CARNET DE VOYAGE

Director: Bastien Dubois. France.

“Told in the form of a travel notebook, the story follows the steps of a Western traveler who is brought face to face with the Malagasy customs and rituals, especially the Famadihana, the ritual of the turning of the bones.”

(CLICK HERE TO WATCH IT IN FULL)

BAFTA AWARDS 2011

BAFTA AWARDS 2011 – RESULTS & COMMENTS

The BAFTA Awards for 2011 have just been given out. Once again it proved how biased these awards are towards British Films. The King’s Speech was the big winner of the evening (no surprise there), grabbing all sorts of awards (7 in all). Here’s the list of all the winners and some quick comments from me.

Best Film – The King’s Speech

Like it was predicted. I wonder if in a few years time we’ll be remembering this film, or Inception and Toy Story 3. Oh well, it was so predictable.

Leading Actor – Colin Firth – The King’s Speech

Well deserved I supposed, but my votes would have gone to James Franco, especially since Colin had won it last year.

Leading Actress – Natalie Portman – Black Swan

She was pretty amazing in that film, so totally deserved. And I am so happy that annoying  HAILEE STEINFELD didn’t get it for True Grit

Director – The Social Network – David Fincher

Well, I am happy it wasn’t Tom Hooper.. but it should have gone to Nolan for INCEPTION

Cinematography – True Grit – Roger Deakins

Totally deserved, though it was a hard choice, Matthew Libatique did a great job for BLACK SWAN and INCPETION (Wally Pfister) looked amazing!

Adapted Screenplay – The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin

Well, there was no other choice for this, was there? He should get an Award every year just for his West Wing!!

Orange Wednesdays Rising Star Award – Tom Hardy

Well deserved. He stole every scene in Inception and he’s going to be huge with the next Batman movie. Let’s face it ANDREW GARFIELD was Ok on the Social Network, but very transparent on Never Let Me Go

Animated Film – Toy Story 3

Well, of course. What else was there?

Original Screenplay – The King’s Speech – David Seidler

This was to be expected, but it’s a shame Inception couldn’t make it.I can see this might be one of those differences at the Oscars.

Supporting Actor – Geoffrey Rush – The King’s Speech

One of the most controversial win, not because Geoffrey Rush didn’t deserve it, but because we all thought it was going to go to Christian Bale. I guess it was probably a way to punish Bale for his recent behavior. Anyway, his Oscar is coming soon…

Outstanding British Film – The King’s Speech

All pretty predictable of course, however since it got the Best film, this award should have really gone to somebody else. Mike Leigh’s Another Year for example was left empty-handed.

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer – Four Lions – Director/Writer – Chris Morris

This was also pretty predictable, but a lot of people though THE ARBRO  was a better film. My vote would have gone to EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP , a documentary which I really enjoyed, but also I would have loved to see Banksy collecting the award… hehehe.

Supporting Actress – Helena Bonham Carter – The King’s Speech

A bit of a travesty in my view. This performance was a real caricature and pretty one-dimensional. Brits love Helena, so it was all rather predictable. It’s a pity for LESLEY MANVILLE or ANY ADAMS

Special Visual Effects – Inception – Chris Corbould, Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Peter Bebb

Well deserved.

Production Design – Inception – Guy Hendrix Dyas, Larry Dias, Doug Mowat

As Above

Costume Design – Alice in Wonderland – Colleen Atwood

A pretty obvious choice considering the nominees.

Film Not in the English Language – The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Søren Stærmose, Niels Arden Oplev

I don’t really get this. I never really understood the success of this film, especially in a year when you have films like THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES, and OF GODS AND MEN. However I’m happy BIUTIFUL didn’t get it, since it was the most depressing film of the year!

Make Up & Hair – Alice in Wonderland – Valli O’Reilly, Paul Gooch

Well, the only other choice was HARRY POTTER, but then again, they’re probably waiting for the next one.

Editing – The Social Network – Angus Wall, Kirk Baxter

Following the rule that the best editing is the invisible one, then this is probably a deserved award. However it should have gone to Lee Smith for INCEPTION

Sound – Inception – Richard King, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A Rizzo, Ed Novick

Well deserved, but the sound on 127 HOURS was truly amazing.

Original Music – The King’s Speech – Alexandre Desplat

It was the obvious choice, but INCEPTION‘s music by Hans Zimmer was almost revolutionary and it is still the most memorable.

Short Animation – The Eagleman Stag – Michael Please

Short Film – Until the River Runs Red – Paul Wright, Poss Kondeatis

After writing this list, I wrote to the Evening Standards the following email, an extract of which, once again, got published on the 15th of February. (It’s the second one they publish, the first  one was for Harry Potter)

After 63 years of BAFTA and 82 years of Oscars (and everything else in between), It must be really hard for these poor people to come up with an acceptance speech that is original, succinct, sharp, witty, but most importantly memorable.
Sam Leiht’s hit the nail right on the head: “better embarrassed than forgotten”. Last thing you want to do is to give a lousy speech: and yet there are still those who end up just making long list of boring names nobody knows anything about, or those who read from cue-cards!
For crying out-loud people: you’re actors!! Act! Remember your lines!! And perform for your audience!
I am not necessarily saying you have to do what Roberto Benigni did at the Oscars in ’99 (though that was pretty awesome.. and definitely memorable!), jumping up and down and shouting “I want to make love with all of you”, but I’m sure you could do better than just thanking your mom and your agent or your beautiful husband/wife.
That Bafta show last night was on the whole pretty lame, in my view, and the only real memorable speech was the one from Helena Bonham Carter (mainly because for some reason she was allowed to break the rule and to go on for a lot longer than she was allowed to).
In their defense, it must be said that nowadays there are too many Movie Awards around and, if you are Colin Firth, from the King’s Speech, you know you’re going to have speak more than once: so what do you do in that case? Do you give the same one over and over again, do you give your best earlier on (maybe at the Golden Globes), or do you hold out for the Oscars (because let’s face it, that’s the one that gets remembered).
I really hope Colin Firth opted for the latter as the one from last night was pretty forgettable… in fact I can’t even remember what he said.
It’s all probably part of a bigger discussion on whether we really need all these awards…
Warren Beatty was right on his acceptance speech in ’76 when he said “We want to thank all of you for watching us congratulate ourselves tonight”, because that’s essentially what they all do. C’mon guys, be a bit more creative!

Blake Edwards (1922 – 2010)

Goodbye Mr Edwards

2 days ago, Hollywood (and the whole world) lost one of the greats icons of American comedy.

So many of Blake Edwards’ s movies hold a special place in everyone’s memory. Who doesn’t like his adaptation of Truman Capote‘s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, with the splendid Audrey Hepburn in possibly her most memorable roles? Every time I watch that movie I end up saying “they don’t make them like that anymore, do they?”

Who hasn’t quoted Inspector Clouseau‘s lines from The Pink Panther movies at least once.

But the one that tops my list is Victor/Victoria. Yes, it’s a slightly self-indulgent film an d probably goes on for a tad too long for a comedy but I absolutely love it. The story of Julie Andrews who play a woman who pretends to be a man who pretends to be woman is a classic, classic, classic!!!

I love the musical numbers, I love the comedy in it, I love Henry Mancini‘s tunes and I adore Julie Andrews in it: I was lucky enough to see her performing the same role in a theatre in Broadway. That was also her last stage appearance.

He made so many films that listing them all is going to fill up all this page, among the most famous (and some of my favourites) I should certainly mention: 10The Great RaceS.O.B. (famous of infamous for Andrews  baring her breasts), The Party,  Micki & Maude (which I remember loving at the time…), Blind Date and the semi-autobiographical That’s Life! in 1986  starring Jack Lemmon.

Mario Monicelli (1915 – 2010)

CIAO MARIO, the Last Italian Maestro

I don’t really want this blog to become the “dead people’s blog”, but I feel I should acknowledge  and pay respect to one of the last remaining legend of  Italian Cinema. Film writer and director Mario Monicelli committed suicide, jumping out of the window of a room in a hospital where he was receiving treatment for a terminal prostate cancer. He was 95. During his active life, he was always in control… And so he decided to be in control of his death too.

I was lucky enough to be able to see a lot of his work back in film school. Sadly most of his movies today are not available in their English subtitled versions, so either you speak Italian or you’ll need to find a way to download them somewhere on web (www.allsubs.org, www.opensubtitles.org for example), or just hope for a re-run in somewhere.

Monicelli wrote and directed over 70 films, but I decided to pick up 3 of them out of all the ones he directed. These are  in my view, the ones you should look out if you can catch them somewhere.

I soliti Ignoti (Persons Unknown. Aka “Bid Deal on Madonna Street”). Made in 1958, this is probably the first of the great heist movies of all time. So many directors got inspired by this film, including French director Louis Malle with Crackers in 1986, Woody Allen with Small Time Crooks, George Clooney with Welcome to Colliwood, and even Steve Soderbergh with  “Ocean’s 11”. (and possibly many many others).

It i s also considered the one that started the “commedia all’Italiana” genre drawing from the neo realism and driven by a strong screenplay.The genre rose to prominence in the ‘50s, giving notoriety to a long string of highly talented actors like Totò, Alberto Sordi, Vittorio Gassman, and Ugo Tognazzi, just to name a few.

This is also the first time in Italian comedy where we witness the death of a character. However this doesn’t take anything away from the fact that this is still one of the funniest Italian film ever made.

It is the fusion between drama and comedy that will become Monicelli’s trademark. The film was so succesful that 2 more sequels were made (in 1959 and in 1985). It also received an Academy Award nomination for best foreign film in 1958.

La grande guerra (The Great War). Made in 1959 and starring Alberto Sordi (in one of his best performances ever!) and Vittorio Gassman this is still considered among the masterpieces of Italian cinema. It won the Venice Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award. It perfectly encapsulate the type of cinema Monicelli was best at, mixing tragedy with comedy as it depicts the story of a group of Italians during the first World War using a style which is both realistic and yet at the same time romantic.

It is a wonderful film, very funny in places and incredibly moving at the same time. It’s the type of film that Roberto Benigni was certainly inspired by when he made “Life is Beautiful” (though his film was a lot more forced and contrived).

Amici Miei (My Friends). The film originally belonged to Pietro Germi who had written it and was going to direct it. But he fell ill the project was handed over to Monicelli who directed it and edited it. When the film was released in 1975, a year later Germi’s death, its opening credits rea: “A film by Pietro Germi”, Directed by Mario Monicelli.

Incidentally, two more sequels came after this one (the second one, also directed by Mario Monicelli, is just as good, or maybe even better than the first)

Still today these are is some of the most quoted films in Italy and it’s quite surprising that in an age of remakes and sequels, nobody has yet remade this one in English… Hey Hollywood, I’m giving you a tip!! This is a beautiful film about  friendship, seen (typically for a Monicelli film)  from a rather grittier and bleaker point of view. It tells the story of four middle-aged friends in Florence who organize together idle pranks (called zingarate, “gypsy shenanigans”) in a continuous strife to prolong childhood during the adult life. The plot is mostly composed by the elaborate practical jokes (some of them are truly memorable, especially in the second film) organized by the friends, including pretending to be mafia mobs committing “criminal acts” against a very annoying and not very likable old pensioner.


Leslie Nielsen (1926 – 2010)

Leslie Nielsen: Don’t Call Him Shirley

According to Wikipedia, over the span of his career, Nielsen appeared in over one hundred films and 1,500 television programs, and yet, despite appearing in many famous movies  (The “the Forbidden Plane” in 1956 and The Poseidon Adventure in 1972, just to mention a few), he’ll be remembered forever for his “second youth” when he started to show his perfect deadpan comedy skills. First, the supporting role in Airplane! (possibly one of the funniest film I’ve ever seen) and then of course, Lt. Frank Drebin the Naked Gun Series.

When it was suggested that his role in Airplane! was against type, Nielsen protested that he had “always been cast against type before,” and that comedy was what he always really wanted to do. And it clearly shows. Leslie Nielsen had the perfect comic timing and his deadpan deliveries in the mist of the most chaotic situations were impeccable.

And even if ins his later films he probably became a spoof-making machine and his movies degenerated into complete rubbish, we still love him for that child in him that never grew up and for the stomach aches he’s been giving us throughout the years just out of laughter.

EMPIRE MAGAZINE online run a tribute page with his best quotes, but my favourite is not from any movie in particular, but from the man himself  “Doing nothing is very hard to do…you never know when you’re finished”. So true.

He’ll be missed by all of those who grew up watching him, but his comic genius will remain forever for the future generations.

Winners at the London Film Festival

How I ended this summer has just won the first prize at the 54th London Film Festival this year: the film about 2 meteorologists isolated in a polar station gathering data, is a fairly slow (actually very slow) but visually beautiful (punctuated by striking time-laps) minimalist psychological drama. It’s a film about communications between people, responsibility, self preservation and I’ll stop here, because the least you know about this film, the better.

The British director Clio Barnard won for the documentary “The Arbor“. The prizes have been officially announced during the latest episode of “Film 2010” presented by Claudia Winkleman. Both presenters didn’t seem particularly impressed by the choice… She sounded like she really wanted Black Swan to win.

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