Friday, December 19, 2008

There's much to laud in the SAG nomination, but what in the world are "enemble stunts"?

It may have seemed to most critics like a big dose of silly hokum, but I really had a blast with Baz Luhrmann's "Australia," so I'm very glad to hear he's getting right back to work - and on something he should really have a lot of fun with.

Hollywood likes nothing if not a trend (don't get me started on "Cloverfield" director Matt Reeves wasting his time on an American remake of the simply sublime Swedish vampire flick "Let the Right One In"), so with David Fincher's "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" looming as the Best Picture co-favorite (with "Milk," I'd have to guess), why not more F. Scott Fitzgerald?

Luhrmann, aiming to get back to work as soon as the awards season ends (though I can't imagine it will be a terribly busy one for "Australia"), has acquired the rights to make yet another version of "The Great Gatsby." There are certainly a lot of things the world needs more than that, but the opulence of America's Jazz Age is right up his alley.

But here today, however, it's all about the Screen Actor Guild nominations which, since actors do most of the Oscars voting, is probably a pretty good predictor of what those acting nominations will look like too. Before any more commentary from me, here they are:

Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn - Milk
Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie - Changeling
Melissa Leo - Frozen River
Meryl Streep - Doubt
Kate Winslet - Revolutionary Road

Josh Brolin - Milk
Robert Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
Dev Patel - Slumdog Millionaire

Amy Adams - Doubt
Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis - Doubt
Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Kate Winslet - The Reader

Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Iron Man

My first question from all that was "aren't there more women out there acting today than Kate Winslet"? I mean, she's good and all, but two nominations? Sheesh.

And since I've made it my personal mission to promote the candidacy of Richard Jenkins for the nearly flawless little film "The Visitor," a hearty huzzah to that (and especially if it came at the expense of - once again - Leo DiCaprio). I would have loved to have seen Brendan Gleeson sneak in here for "In Bruges" like he did at the Golden Globes, but I knew that was more than a long shot. If these are indeed the final five, I'd have to guess I'd be happy with that (I'll know for sure next week, when I finally get to see all these flicks.)

Not surprisingly, if unfortunately, "Doubt" leads the pack with five nominations in total, though I never quibble much with any acclaim for Amy Adams. Now, I haven't seen John Patrick Shanley's flick, and if I do it will have to be with my nose closed. As a somewhat regular Catholic, I can't say that the subject outright offends me, but it certainly does just seem tired at this point.

In the category of best actress, I'm happy and more than a bit surprised to see Melissa Leo's name in the final five, probably at the expense of Sally Hawkins in Mike Leigh's "Happy Go Lucky." No offense to her, but I'm really hoping "Frozen River" is still playing somewhere in New York when I make it next week, because the "Homicide" veteran Leo is just one of my favorite actresses around today.

For supporting actor, kudos again for the inclusion of Dev Patel, which certainly bodes well for the Oscar chances of "Slumdog Millionaire." How in the world, however, can he be a supporting actor when the entire tale is framed with a love story in which he's one of the two main players? More than a bit mystifying. And thanks from the bottom of my heart for recognizing that Robert Downey Jr.'s profane but perfect turn in "Tropic Thunder" is just comedy gold.

In the supporting actress category, more love for comedy in the form of Penelope Cruz's manic turn in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," my favorite comedy of 2008, and she'd certainly get my imaginary vote if this category didn't contain one of my very favorite actresses working today. I've been in cinematic love with Taraji P. Henson ever since "Hustle and Flow," so it's wonderful to see her nominated here for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," and I can't wait to watch her in it as one of my Christmas presents to myself.

This has probably gone along long enough now, but I can't leave without some bile for the ensemble category. My doubts about "Doubt" aside, the two best ensemble casts I've seen this year were in Oliver Stone's "W." and Darnell Martin's "Cadillac Records." The common denominator in those too is Jeffrey Wright, as Colin Powell and Muddy Waters, respectively, and that's certainly never a bad thing. Martin's fun flick is deserving of more love.

And finally, just what in the hell is "Best ensemble stunts"? If there is a more demeaning category name, I certainly haven't heard it. Though I'm sure it's been around for more than a few years now, it sounds like it was created just to give "The Dark Knight" some kind of seat at the table, even if it's only for scraps. Peace out.


kat said...

I actually have high expectations with "Doubt" regardless of the topic. I get the sense that it is less about the tired topic of priests and alter boys but more about the generational differences in the church and the sweep of liberalism in (such as it as). I find it interesting that even though accusations are vaguely made in the film, there is no evidence of any such thing, merely suspicion against a backdrop of two people from two different generations and schools of thought about the church.

Then again, I'm an athiest with no real dog in this fight, just love seeing Phillip Seymour Hoffman in just about anything. :-)

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm with you on Philip Seymour Hoffman, Kat, and certainly look forward to hopefully seeing Synecdoche, NY, next week .. As to "Doubt," I hope you're right, and I'll give it a chance to find out

Bob said...

I'm Catholic as well but I'm really really eager to see "Doubt." Incredible cast and it looks like John Patrick Shanley has written the kind of dialogue driven screenplay that I love.
I would go this weekend but western Washington has been hit with the worst snow and ice we've seen in 18 years. I don't think a 30 plus mile drive to Seattle will be in order over the next few days. Maybe I'll make it to "Seven Pounds" though. Or if ONLY to see Zooey, "Yes Man." Those are playing significantly closer (like about three minutes from my house).
I'm annoyed because I missed "My Name Is Bruce" during its one week only run in Seattle. I'm a big Bruce Campbell fan so I really wanted to make it to that one. I hate snow. :(

Reel Fanatic said...

I love Bruce Campbell too, so I would have loved to have seen that, but I don't think it got even a week in Atlanta ... As for this weekend, I'm gonna take a chance on "Nothing Like the Holidays" if only because if you put that many Hispanic actors in one movie that I really like there's no way it can be awful, and I might check out "The Tale of Despereaux" too, though not with terribly high hopes

Mercurie said...

I'm not Catholic, but I have my doubts over Doubt. It just seems as if the subject has been done too death. I can't help but thinking, no matter how well done it is, that it will feel like I've seen it all before....

And I suspect "Best Ensemble Stunts" may be the strangest name for a category in film award I've ever seen (discounting the MTV Awards, but they're not real awards in my opinion...).

Reel Fanatic said...

I have to confess that I still tune in for the MTV Movie Awards, if only because as silly as they are they're also usually funnier than most sitcoms on right now

jeremy said...

I was so happy to see Melissa Leo nominated. Frozen River is one of those small films where everyone feels completely real, even moreso, I would say, than Richard Jenkins in The Visitor which I enjoyed, but promptly forgot.