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Russell Crowe (#110 of 10)

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Sound Mixing

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Sound Mixing

It’s at this point we had to ask ourselves, “Is Argo really going to end up a two-Oscar Best Picture winner?” Because while it seems almost certain to buck all sorts of precedent and take Best Picture, which of its six other nominations will be there to back it up? Honestly, the way things have been developing among the guild awards, the only nod that seems entirely out of reach is Alan Arkin’s bid for supporting actor. We’ll cover Best Editing in the next few days, but the movie still seems more of a spoiler than a frontrunner for original score and adapted screenplay*. In theory, that leaves Argo’s two sound bids to prevent the movie from achieving a dubious feat not achieved since Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show on Earth. Some of us are going to hedge on our Oscar-pool ballots and give Argo one or both of them, but unless the topsy-turviness of the race infects every category, both it and Lincoln seem to lack the “bigness” this category seems to require.

Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions Supporting Actress

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Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress
Oscar 2013 Winner Predictions: Supporting Actress

Blergh. Weeks ago I dreamed a dream where all the particulars of my presently contentious relationship with Anne Hathaway, a typically smart and endearing performer who was robbed of an Oscar in 2009 for Rachel Getting Married, were manifest. At the actual Oscar ceremony, which resembled a standing room-only dinner party, I hugged Hathaway, who I referred to as my sister, as she paraded around in her Catwoman outfit, working the room with the same jacked-up excitement she exhibited days earlier opposite Chelsea Handler and Jon Stewart and hinting at all the things she’s going to do to her hubby once she gets home. Someone, probably Christopher Plummer, announces the winner in this category and the award goes to Sally Field, for illuminating through her two excellent meltdowns in Lincoln, one opposite Tommy Lee Jones, the other opposite Daniel Day-Lewis, the essence of the Steven Spielberg film as a study of the conflict between public and private modes of behavior in the arena of American politics. Shock ripples through the room, and while I should be sad for my sister, who puts on a predictably brave face, I can barely sustain my excitement at Oscar turning his beefed-up buttocks to a performance every bit as cloying as Anne’s contrived acceptance speech at the Golden Globes.

Oscar Prospects: Les Misérables

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Oscar Prospects: Les Misérables
Oscar Prospects: Les Misérables

With its Oscar clout and inevitable crowd-pleasing matched by widespread critical ire, Les Misérables is easily the year’s most divisive awards contender. The film does have its champions, like the oft-snarky New York Post critic Kyle Smith, who gave it the top spot on his 2012 top 10 list, but by and large, Les Mis has endured ample lashings from reviewers, as diverse as David Edelstein, Richard Corliss, and our own Calum Marsh. The divide between journos and tearful devotees has become one of the season’s buzziest narratives, most recently prompting helmer Tom Hooper to “respond to his critics,” whose qualms, as expected, couldn’t stop the musical from squashing the box-office competition on Christmas Day (the movie raked in $18.2 million, history’s second-largest holiday opening). What does it all mean for the movie’s Oscar fate? To be honest, probably not much. It seems unfathomable that Les Misérables won’t end up on the Best Picture shortlist, an outcome that was in the cards before a frame of footage was seen (or, arguably, before a frame of footage was shot).

Oscar Prospects: Beasts of the Southern Wild

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Oscar Prospects: Beasts of the Southern Wild
Oscar Prospects: Beasts of the Southern Wild

Will the Academy really go for a star-free, Sendak-esque allegory, whose rugged charms are tied to its loose lack of answers? At this point, it certainly seems like it. There will be those who’ll struggle with what’s behind the journey of young Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), but the openness of this film’s metaphors (ecological statement? simple coming of age?) grant it a broad accessibility, with oodles of obstacles represented by those encroaching horned hogs. What’s more, the movie is anchored by a powerful father-daughter story, which steadily stops short of piling on mush, and brings gracious warmth to a tough and unforgiving film environment. Beasts of the Southern Wild is this year’s all-bases-covered, Oscar-y indie, boasting worldly subject matter, a standout lead performance, dizzying critical acclaim, and true originality of vision. It ably fills a necessary slot in the Best Picture field, and the refreshing truth is that it’s also arguably the year’s best film thus far. Backlash is inevitable, and already well underway in certain circles, but it’s hard to imagine any major buzz derailment. Films with this much widespread love historically reach the finish line, and thanks to a recent media push from Oprah Winfrey, you could say that any levees restraining the movie’s influence have officially been broken.

Poster Lab: Lincoln

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Poster Lab: <em>Lincoln</em>
Poster Lab: <em>Lincoln</em>

When the poster for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln first dropped, there was little to say apart from “it’s arrived.” However handsome, this grayscale shot of Daniel Day-Lewis sporting familiar facial hair is void of ambitious design elements. The use of profile calls to mind the 16th president’s most famous likeness, but beyond that, the only flourish of note is the Gladiator title font.

Of course, that hardly mattered to the millions who clicked, viewed, and shared the image, the first official ad linked to this beefy merger of actor, director, and subject. It was about this time last year when we were given the first poster of Meryl Streep as The Iron Lady, another baity promo that didn’t need to reach beyond an announcement. Such momentous roles from such venerated thespians—both of whom hurdled to Oscar’s front line with a single in-character photo—basically sell themselves. If there’s anything provocative within the Lincoln poster, it’s a dose of quiet audacity, a knowing awareness that no bells and whistles are necessary here. If posters could talk, this self-satisfied specimen would merely echo the common sentiment: “I’ve arrived. Ogle me.”

Take Two #5: 3:10 to Yuma (1957) & 3:10 to Yuma (2007)

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Take Two #5: <em>3:10 to Yuma</em> (1957) & <em>3:10 to Yuma</em> (2007)
Take Two #5: <em>3:10 to Yuma</em> (1957) & <em>3:10 to Yuma</em> (2007)

[Editor’s Note: Take Two is an occasional series about remakes, reboots, relaunches, ripoffs, and do-overs in every cinematic genre.]

In the late 1960s, Polish national and California transplant Czeslaw Milosz wrote an insightful little essay called “On the Western,” where he argued that the most quintessentially American cinematic genre had yet to truly express the full terror of its subject and setting:

Besides the skillful shot, the hand barely leaving the hip, there is also the wound which might fester for weeks on end, the fever, the stink of the sweat-drenched body, the bed of filthy rags, the urine, the excrement, but this the Western never shows. One is not supposed to think past the colorful costumes to tormenting lice itch, feet rubbed bloody, all the misery of men’s and women’s bodies thrown together, trying to survive when the rules they had learned no longer counted for much.

“On the Western” was published in book form the same year that Sam Peckinpah released The Wild Bunch, thus irreversibly changing the visual language with which westerns address the very horrors that Milosz enumerated. Seven years earlier, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance had made the entire concept of traditional western heroism seem hopelessly ambiguous, while subtly shifting the genre’s central focus to examinations of people living precisely “when the rules they had learned no longer counted for much.” A decade of revisionist expansions followed Milosz’s essay, and by 1985, when the cinematic genre seemed all but spent, two novels—Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian and Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove—came along to close the coffin lid. Both represent a kind of western-to-end-all-westerns, the former projecting Peckinpah violence on a bibilical scale and the latter stretching The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’s elegiac tone into a panorama worthy of the 19th-century Russians.

Robin Hood Episode I: Robin Hood Begins

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<em>Robin Hood Episode I: Robin Hood Begins</em>
<em>Robin Hood Episode I: Robin Hood Begins</em>

Hollywood’s infatuation with sombre reinventions continues in Ridley Scott’s depressingly dull Robin Hood, a revisionist take on the classic tale that reinvents the eponymous character as a Trotskyite dedicated to the cause of permanent revolution. Granted, the character has always been known for his proto-Marxist ideals vis-à-vis the redistribution of wealth, but the film takes this one step further, and makes the outlaw of Sherwood Forest instrumental in not just forming a nation from the scattered English fiefdoms, but pits him as a direct influence on the drafting of the Magna Carta. England, FUCK YEAH!

Ridley Scott has been dining out on the fact that he directed The Duellists, Alien, and Blade Runner for the best part of three decades, and here, once again, he churns out completely mediocre product. The only reason the film doesn’t totally flounder is due to occasional flourishes of directorial ingenuity and intermittently inspired acting. Robin Hood is a wholly unnecessary exercise in excess, as if, given the money and the power to do anything, the filmmaker decided to tackle the most frivolous of subjects with his signature dourness. I can’t wait for his reinvention of Tom Thumb as a molested black girl. (I am surprised, by the way, it’s never the other way round: a chirpy 3D animated reboot of, say, Shoah. But I digress.)

Shallow Depths: 3:10 to Yuma

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Shallow Depths: <em>3:10 to Yuma</em>
Shallow Depths: <em>3:10 to Yuma</em>

If Unforgiven and Dead Man razed the Western, there have been few subsequent films to rebuild it. In fact, its best exemplar in ages was a television show. James Mangold’s remake of 3:10 To Yuma won’t be the genre’s savior: it continues the trend of simply attempting to reestablish the tired clichés so deftly skewered by Clint Eastwood and Jim Jarmusch. Mangold’s picture is so encumbered with rote elements that when they appear one after another over two not-quite-tedious hours, one is tempted to question whether (a) this is plain bad or (b) if, perhaps, this is a kind of genius parody.

GTA, B.C.: Zack Snyder’s 300

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GTA, B.C.: Zack Snyder’s 300
GTA, B.C.: Zack Snyder’s 300

Zack Snyder’s 300, which depicts the battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. between a small company of Spartan soldiers and a couple hundred thousand invading Persians, is a twin fount of humorlessness and turgidity (the logical amalgam of these being humidity; wholly appropriate given the number of sweat-drenched soliders on display).

Like Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City (2004), the film is an adaptation of a graphic novel by industry titan Frank Miller, and as in Sin City, the celluloid canvas proves unsuited to conveying the artist’s vision. On the page, Miller’s hyper-real compositions—all jagged landscapes and hard, stately silhouettes—can seem exhilaratingly cinematic, but with the exception of Tim Burton, whose two Batman pictures unofficially and successfully subsumed the dark tone and punchy visual language of the author’s vaunted Dark Knight series, no filmmaker has yet found a satisfactory way to bring Miller’s still-lifes to movie life.

Genie Was Right

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Genie Was Right
Genie Was Right

The blogosphere being what it is, I’m sure the expiration date on Golden Globes commentary has passed. But since Monday night was a grotesque revelation, I’m going to talk about it anyway.

After being released from press tour coverage, I drove to the home of my pals Margy and Robert and watched the Pacific Coast feed of the Globes, and got there in just in time to watch the last 45 minutes of red carpet coverage on E! Between the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it interviews and the gratuitous iris-shaped split screens and the director’s inability or unwillingness to identify who, exactly, we were looking at, I felt as if I was watching not a live telecast, but a pop physics event: the atomization of celebrity culture.