Monday, February 18, 2008

Oscar picks:

The Oscars are right around the corner, so i figured I would offer up my picks for all of the categories. These are not really the ones I think WILL win, but the ones I want to win. for your own full list of nominees got to: or for a printable list: Click here

Performance by an actor in a leading role:
Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood": His performance is beyond belief. A great actor that just gets better.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role
Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men": This movie was amazing and probably would have been half the film it was with anyone else in that role.

Performance by an actress in a leading role
Ellen Page in "Juno": She did a fantastic job as a relative newcomer in a difficult role with some iffy dialogue in the beginning.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role
Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton": A great movie that would deserve more awards any other year when the competition was not so tough.

Best animated feature film of the year
"Persepolis," Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud: Honestly, didn't see any of the nominees, but I would love to see a film not made for kids win this category.

Achievement in art direction
"Atonement," Art Direction: Sarah Greenwood; Set Decoration: Katie Spencer: Good movie with a weak, rushed ending, but it was beautiful to watch.

Achievement in cinematography
"No Country for Old Men," Roger Deakins: Always shoots beautiful pictures, and is competing with himself in this category, but No Country was just visually stunning.

Achievement in costume design
"Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," Colleen Atwood: Stylish and slick are almost always words to describe Tim Burton movies, and this one is no exception with the costumes being one of the main visual elements tying the style together.

Achievement in directing
"No Country for Old Men," Joel Coen and Ethan Coen: Always great directors. That is all.

Best documentary feature
"Sicko," A Dog Eat Dog Films Production: Michael Moore and Meghan O'Hara: Mr. Moore can do no wrong as far as filmmaking. His politic views are a point of contention for many people, but too many people can't see past the politics and see what a terrific filmmaker he is.

Best documentary short subject
I saw none of these movies, so I can't even try to pick one.

Achievement in film editing
"The Bourne Ultimatum" (Universal): Christopher Rouse: Even though it strayed almost completely from the book, fast-paced, enjoyable films that are well made can be forgiven for some oversights.

Best foreign language film of the year
Again, saw none.

Achievement in makeup
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (Walt Disney): Ve Neill and Martin Samuel: Norbit's makeup may be fantastic, but if Norbit wins an Oscar, there is no hope for the future of Hollywood.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)
"The Kite Runner," Alberto Iglesias: Great movie that should have been up for more awards, but the score was great too.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)
I don't care.

Best motion picture of the year
"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) A JoAnne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company Production: JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers: see a blog entry a couple spots down for mroe info on this one.

Best animated short film
Dunno about this one either.

Best live action short film

Achievement in sound editing
"Transformers" (DreamWorks and Paramount in association with Hasbro): Ethan Van der Ryn and Mike Hopkins: The kid in me wants this to get some kind of award. Even though it was too much talking not enough fighting robots.

Achievement in sound mixing
"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage): Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff and Peter Kurland: I don't really know enough about sound mixing to judge this one, so i'll just go with the one i like most.

Achievement in visual effects
"The Golden Compass" (New Line in association with Ingenious Film Partners): Michael Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris and Trevor Wood: Not a great movie, but the special effects looked great, as did most of the visual design overall.

Adapted screenplay
"No Country for Old Men" Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen: Great story, great dialogue, great use of silence.

Original screenplay
"The Savages" Written by Tamara Jenkins: See my last review for more on this one, but the script was touching and funny and thought-provoking, peppered with some well crafted banter between the brother and sister leads.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Savages

Writer/Director Tamara Jenkins (apparently a Philly native) hits the target pretty well with an interesting tale of a family scattered around the country and forced to cope with a tragedy.
Jenkins' previous semi-hit, "Slums of Beverly Hills," has a similar feel as a comedic look at some less-than-funny circumstances unfolding as disfunctional families bear down and power through.
The similarities are striking, but "The Savages" gives a much more developed story through multifaceted characters that offer insight to how different people deal with the same situations.
Anyone who has dealt with loss and aging parents can tell you, this is never a cut and dry situation. "The Savages" does touch on that, but fails to really capture how complex these issues can be.
Instead Jenkins concentrates more on the relationships between an estranged father and two siblings who have drifted apart from each other. Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is always a fine actor, delivers another stellar performance as Jon Savage, the older brother who needs to be the responsible one as the Laura Linney's character, Wendy, falls apart. His emotional disconnect allows him to make the rational decisions to help their father who is slipping into dementia and has just lost his girlfriend of 20 years.
Jon goes through the motions and tries to keep Wendy above water as he himself is sinking and trying desperately to hide that from his kid sister. Hoffman's strongest parts of the movie are his portrayal of the emotional side of Jon Savage being forced back by the rational, college-professor side of Jon Savage.
Both siblings have to reconcile the fact that the father who was never really there for them is now in desperate need of their help. Watching an aging parent become less of what they once were and falling in to a role of dependent is hard whether that parent was the hero or the villain before. Mustering the courage to help the parent who gave their all is difficult, but even more difficult is finding the good within yourself to pick up a parent who abandoned you decades ago.
Jenkins' script weaves its way through that journey fairly well, but could use more screen time to explore that further.
Overall, the movie brings an enjoyable story that is thought provoking and sad with touches of humor, sometimes in the most inappropriate moments, that provides a unique perspective on loss and mourning.
--John Berry
Times Herald Staff

Thursday, February 7, 2008

JB's Oscar pick: best picture

As a fairly serious movie nerd, I always enjoy the academy award season, if not only for the healthy discussions of all things movie-related.
Like most years, I've seen most of the movies in the major categories.
I went to see "Michael Clayton" to finish off the best picture candidates.
For once, I think all five of the best pic noms are actually all good movies.
Clayton was a solid story with a great cast. One of the weak points was Clooney's performance. While he was good in the lead role, I feel like I've seen him perform much better in other movies. He was better than a lot of actors out there, but it seemed like a sub-par performance from an actor who has proved he is capable of more.
"Juno" was a lot of fun. Funny, thought provoking script. Quality acting from some often underrated actors (including J.K. Simmons as Juno's father in a simultaneously amusing and touching performance and Jason Bateman whom I love from Arrested Development). There were a lot of minor flaws throughout the movie, like some awkward dialogue early on, that don't detract from the enjoyability of the film, but which I would consider serious enough to not deem it best-picture worthy.
"Atonement" had the makings of being a profound and intense epic love story. The cast all pulled though with some of the best performances I've seen each of them in. The story was compelling and kept me wrapped up in a movie that seemed a little slow at points, but kept rolling along. All the build up seemed rushed into a hasty final act that was forced and a let down.
"No Country For Old Men" was nearly perfect. A few minor flaws that involve anachronisms that are barely noticed as you watch didn't take away from anything. A unique story with some impressive performances, especially Javier Bardem, drive a long, involved plot with a sparse soundscape to a fevered plateau that makes it one of the best movies I've ever seen, let alone just in 2007.
"There Will Be Blood" brought another level to filmmaking. Daniel Day-Lewis is always strong, but this might be the finest performance of his already impressive career. This period piece takes you into the depths of the oil rush and gives a stunning portrayal of every aspect of life as both ends of society effected by the industry are pushed farther apart. While I'm not a fan of some of his work, Paul Thomas Anderson shows how good a talented filmmaker can be when he has a script that is perfect and a cast that cannot miss.
If I were voting for the best picture oscar, it would be hard to pick, but "There Will Be Blood" would just edge out "No Country For Old Men," even though my heart would be with the Coen brothers because of their perfect record for amazing films. "There Will Be Blood" was full on perfection. Nothing bad could be said about it. So I would call it the best picture because every aspect of the film was spot on. Personally though, I would happy to see it go to either Blood or No Country.

--John Berry, Online Editor

Times Herald Movies

Times Herald staffers weigh in on all things movie related. Want to get involved too? Send an email to