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Michael Kahn (#110 of 4)

Summer of ‘90: Men at Work: Grasping at the Last Strands of ‘80s Nostalgia

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Summer of ’90: Men at Work: Grasping at the Last Strands of ’80s Nostalgia

Triumph Releasing Corporation

Summer of ’90: Men at Work: Grasping at the Last Strands of ’80s Nostalgia

Men at Work is patient zero for the plague of Charlie Sheen movies that infected the 1990s. One tends to forget that Sheen had steady work in that decade, turning out cocky fare like The Chase and Terminal Velocity. And while Men at Work isn’t the first film to use the actor in his then-typical role of a wiseass hot-shot lothario, the casual laziness that would infect his ’90s output has its origins in writer-director Emilio Estevez’s crime comedy. As Carl Taylor, Sheen can’t be bothered to do anything but exist on screen as he wades through his brother’s mercilessly overstuffed plot.

Estevez’s second feature is a major step down from his 1986 debut, Wisdom. For that film, Estevez was flanked by a massively talented crew: It was edited by Michael Kahn, scored by Danny Elfman, and produced by legendary Oscar-winning director Robert Wise, whom Estevez sought out for advice and guidance. Despite all that firepower, Wisdom is shocking in its ineptitude, a crime thriller saddled with far too many useless details and tangents. The more problematic Men at Work suffers from the same screenplay overcompensations, to the point where one wishes Estevez sought out Wise’s contemporary, Billy Wilder, for advice instead. Wilder would have burned the script for Men at Work.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Editing

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Editing
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Editing

As you might have noticed from our previous Oscar posts, one of the hottest topics among we Slant prognosticators is just how many trophies Argo is capable of collecting. Certain races (like Adapted Screenplay) have stirred up debate, but we all agree that Picture and Editing are surely Argo’s to lose, the latter thanks to the sharp, tension-mounting cuts of William Goldenberg, and, of course, that undying surge of support for “wronged” helmer Ben Affleck (natch, the film’s ACE triumph doesn’t hurt either). History has long proven that the Editing and Picture victor are often one and the same, and if there’s anything normal about Argo’s steady rise to the top, it’s the probable furthering of that time-tested tradition. Of course, it’s conceivable that Life of Pi’s likely tech-awards mini-sweep could reach this category, too, yielding a win for Tim Squyres, the man who spliced together all those bioluminescent set pieces. Squyres has a stronger shot than, say, Michael Kahn, who’s on par with all the other creatives who made Lincoln soar, but is also set to join them in the Corner of Ignored Subtlety. Silver Linings Playbook was an ACE winner as well, taking the top prize in the comedy/musical field, but like The Descendants, it’s a knee-jerky, head-scratcher of a nominee. Our favorite? Oh, it’s Goldenberg all right, but we prefer his ace (sorry) work on Zero Dark Thirty, which he also cut, along with Dylan Tichenor.

Oscar Prospects: Lincoln

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Oscar Prospects: Lincoln
Oscar Prospects: Lincoln

Though it boasts the strongest pedigree of all 2012 awards contenders, Lincoln doesn’t play like obvious Oscar bait while you’re watching it. Masterfully realized, the tame and talky saga spends most of its duration bucking the epic-biopic formula, unfolding with minimal spectacle and with characterization that’s as communal as it is subject-focused. From look to language, it’s no trophy-seeking construct, but a first-rate political drama made with consummate skill. So, how nice that it’s been so ardently embraced by critics, racking up—at this writing—more perfect-score reviews than any other Oscar candidate this year. That critical push is going to help voters take notice of all the un-showy aspects of Lincoln’s production, including Rick Carter’s Art Direction, Joanna Johnston’s Costume Design, and, yes, Steven Spielberg’s Direction. Say all you want about Argo and Life of Pi, but this is your Best Picture frontrunner, poised to be the film with the most nods come January 10. It looks to be a downright lock in at least nine categories, and a handful of other races seem well within its reach. Had it featured some CG cannons or, say, a fresh diddy to be sung by Sally Field, you’d likely be seeing it in damn-near every lineup.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions Editing

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Editing
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Editing

Since The Artist’s ubiquity is even growing tedious for those who kneel at its grayscale altar, let’s just stick to the facts: In all of Oscar history, only nine films have won Best Picture without an editing nod, and in the last 31 years, no Best Picture winner has been left out of the editing category. So, yes, this year’s intertitled frontrunner will compete here too, marking a first-time nomination for editor Anne-Sophie Bion (director Michel Hazanavicius is also credited as co-editor). Standing in the way will be fellow female splicer Thelma Schoonmaker, a bona fide Oscar treasure who’ll land her seventh career nomination—and possible fourth win—for cutting yet another contender for bestie Martin Scorsese. The third sure thing in this category certainly seems to be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, whose wickedly sharp work from last year’s winners, Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall (The Social Network), will yield its most deserving nomination.