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The Queen (#110 of 9)

Poster Lab: 360

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Poster Lab: <em>360</em>
Poster Lab: <em>360</em>

Estamos todos connectados,” reads the tagline on the Brazilian poster for Fernando Meirelles’s 360, its English translation, of course, being, “we are all connected.” To this, a filmgoer’s first reaction may well be one of shock, particularly over Meirelles’s sheer audacity. Is there really anything new to be brought to the hyperlink-narrative subgenre, wherein characters’ overlapping and interlocking stories ultimately reveal their common humanity? As evidenced by dreck like last year’s Answers to Nothing, it’s a cinematic dead zone, whose knell rang out around the middle of the Aughts. Is Meirelles that deluded and out of touch, or is he a savvy resurrectionist with fresh tricks up his sleeve?

In his corner is tony English scribe Peter Morgan, whose credits include the screenplay for The Queen, and whose new tale seems to stitch together the requisite pieces: dark pasts, lies, secrets, and feigned emotions. Paired with the concept of universality, that patchwork approach is what fuels the Brazilian design, a freaky collage that literally fuses the faces of four stars, driving home the notion that all are more alike than different. In the film’s (rather benign) trailer, we learn that each aching soul is searching for something, be it an old man (Anthony Hopkins) searching for his daughter, an ex-con (Ben Foster) searching for redemption, or a wife (Rachel Weisz) searching for satisfaction her husband (Jude Law) can’t provide. Again, despite an enticing international cast (co-stars include Maria Flor, Jamel Debbouze, and Dinara Drukarova of Since Otar Left), this all seems drastically familiar, as if Meirelles felt the need to tip his hat to Mexican peer Alejandro Gonález Iñárritu, who helped bang the coffin nails into this brand of storytelling.

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions Original Score

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Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Original Score
Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Original Score

Colin Firth ain’t the only one riding The King’s Speech to an “overdue” Oscar win. Or, at least, he’s not the most arguably overdue for the award from within The King’s Speech’s fold. After all, Firth, let it be reiterated, was nominated for his first (his first) Academy Award last year and predictably lost to an unawarded Hollywood institution who was on his fifth nomination. To hear people spin it this year, you’d think that one, solitary loss constituted an injustice on the scale of Meryl Streep’s last three losses combined. In contrast, Alexandre Desplat has suffered three losses so far in this category in four years (for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Queen), and is frequently snubbed for arguably superior efforts (i.e. Birth, The Painted Veil, or even this year’s The Ghost Writer).

The 79th Annual Academy Awards

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The 79th Annual Academy Awards
The 79th Annual Academy Awards

PICTURE
The Departed

DIRECTOR
Martin Scorsese, The Departed

ACTOR
Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland

ACTRESS
Helen Mirren, The Queen

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Michael Arndt, Little Miss Sunshine

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
William Monahan, The Departed

ANIMATED FEATURE
Happy Feet

FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Lives of Others

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
An Inconvenient Truth

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Pan’s Labyrinth

FILM EDITING
The Departed

ART DIRECTION
Pan’s Labyrinth

MAKEUP
Pan’s Labyrinth

SOUND EDITING
Letters from Iwo Jima

SOUND MIXING
Dreamgirls

DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
“The Blood of Yingzhou District”

SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
“The Danish Poet”

SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
“West Bank Story”

VISUAL EFFECTS
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

COSTUME DESIGN
Marie Antoinette

MUSIC (SONG)
“I Need to Wake Up,” An Inconvenient Truth

MUSIC (SCORE)
Babel

SPECIAL OSCAR FOR CAREER ACHIEVEMENT
Ennio Morricone

JEAN HERSHOLT HUMANITARIAN AWARD
Sherry Lansing

Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions Picture

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Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Picture

Anyone who has followed this year’s Oscar race for Best Picture knows that the stats above are not meant as a joke. An intelligent case, pro and con, can be made for every single one of these films. Letters from Iwo Jima has the intelligence, grace, and prestige, but it’s told in a foreign tongue (a deterrent for those who claim to care about movies but really don’t) and enters the race having made very little money and without a DGA nomination, though a case could be made that Clint Eastwood failed to make that cut with his peers when his two war films split nomination votes. Stephen Frears’s The Queen lacks for passion, but there is something to be said about a film whose banal TV-ness offends no one except for elk. The Departed is a film fans of Martin Scorsese can be proud of without back-bending excuses, but there is still the fact that half its cast gets shot in the head at close range. (The Best Picture polls being conducted on the home pages of this site and The Film Experience would suggest the film is way out in the lead, but when cinephilles are your core demographic it’s easy to chalk up results like these to wishful thinking.) Little Miss Sunshine, a film whose only offense is the ridiculous fondnesssome seem tohave for it, won both the SAG ensemble award and the PGA prize, but there’s still the fact that comedies rarely win here and that Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris weren’t nominated in the directing category. Babel, a film that desperately wants to give the illusion of import, has kept people busy connecting its spurious dots for months now, but there is still a considerable amount of people who have seen through the gas it emits. The closest thing to an epic in the category, Babel may not inspire the same intense affection and loathing people have for Crash, but its epic-scale tapestry of interconnected stories should appeal to voters feeling a little global this year. Also, if there is one precedent that’s impossible to ignore it’s the fact that Oscar has a history of rewarding the very worst film in this category.

Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions Costume Design

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Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Costume Design
Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

The Academy has shown great resistance to awarding costumes without corsets, though Marie Antoinette’s Milena Canonero did previously win for Chariots of Fire (with, apparently, jockstraps standing in for laced bustiers). Still, every now and again a contemporary collection will sneak through and provide the acceptance podium with its flashiest duds of the evening—namely, when Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel managed to upstage even The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’s feather boas and ping-pong balls with Gardiner’s “don’t leave home without it” AmEx gown. Given that the category’s only two legitimate “period piece” candidates—Marie Antoinette and Curse of the Golden Flower—represent either film’s sole nomination, it’s hard not to see this one going the way of either Dreamgirls (for making Jennifer Hudson’s body look appropriately fat in those girl-group paper dresses) or The Devil Wears Prada, a film which wears costume design on its sleeve as much as it wears its designer tag in the movie’s goddamned title. It’s a close call, and there is the possibility some voters may simply assume the cast just grabbed its entire wardrobe from the titular designer’s open warehouse. But when a film pins each character’s shift on their change of clothing, it’s damn near impossible to ignore. Now the trick is to simply figure out whether that last sentence was in reference to The Devil Wears Prada or Marie Antoinette.

Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions Original Score

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Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Original Score
Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Original Score

To hear some tell it, Alexandre Desplat is just about the finest thing to happen to motion picture scoring since Bernard Herrmann or Franz Waxman, the sensualist who will redeem the most (in most cases rightly) denigrated of orchestral literature from John Williams or James Horner. Lucky for Desplat, he doesn’t have to face either of them down this year. The slate that Golden Globe-winner Desplat has to defeat contains but one Oscar-ubiquitous white elephant composer (Thomas Newman) and one composer who would probably be nominated a lot more often if it weren’t for his knack for selecting extremely Oscar-unfriendly projects (Philip Glass, who should’ve kicked Alan Menken’s ass in 1992 with Candyman but for Oscar’s narrow taste standing in the way). While Newman’s current total of eight nominations without a win can’t be completely ignored, The Good German certainly can. If he had been included for Little Children, he might’ve had a better shot, if for no other reason than he was one of the few people in the crew not performing variations on American Beauty. Glass’s score marks his third nomination. Even though his tacky ostinatos did as much to keep Notes on a Scandal walking that fine line between class and trash, it’s hard to imagine it playing well on Borders’ P.A. systems as do Desplat’s regal albeit icy themes (or Glass’s own nominated score for The Hours)—I can’t tell you how many times I found myself paging through an issue of Adbusters, The Believer, or Instinct while “Overture to Ennis Fucking Jack Nasty” twanged from the overhead speakers. Brokeback Mountain’s Gustavo Santaolalla may have won just last year, but I don’t think anyone would deny that the only thing he rehashed for his Babel score was that charango (well, that and his piece “Iguazu,” previously used in The Insider). More damaging to his chances is the fact that González-Iñárritu climaxes and closes his film with Ryuichi Sakamoto’s far-more-memorable “Bibo No Aozora,” written previously but which I will forevermore refer to as “Romance from Nympho Japanese Schoolgirl Being Embraced By Distant Father While Naked On Highrise Penthouse Deck.”

Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions Original Screenplay

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Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay
Oscar 2007 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay

Appropriately enough, we begin our Oscar prediction coverage by exorcising the foul demon spirit of Paul Haggis, who managed to slip into this year’s collection of writing nominees without even having to commit one dark-sided word to paper, summoning for himself a co-writer credit for helping craft Iris Yamashita’s story for Letters from Iwo Jima. We believe Haggis has no more to do with what is clearly the more sensitive, nuanced half of Eastwood’s diptych than we believe all the disparate pieces of Babel ’s four-ring circus of ethnography cohere properly. While it’s true that even those fully possessed by Haggis’s black magic are apt to feel the slight pang of wanting to reclaim their souls, Letters from Iwo Jima’s script is the most tolerable of any of his Oscar-nominated scripts. Ergo, its comparative lack of egregious grandstanding will have some Academy members deigning to reach for the strawberry sauce. Pan’s Labyrinth’s protracted fascist metaphors and its ghoulish grace notes are nearly as blunt and horrifying as anything in Crash, and the film may even register as realism to the same group of voters who actually bought Sandra Bullock embracing her Hispanic maid. But it’s hard to imagine anyone actually choosing to reward Guillermo del Toro’s scriptwriting prowess in lieu of his directorial command, especially in light of the absence of Pedro Almodóvar (stronger both as a writer and a director) from this race. The other Guillermo (Babel’s Arriaga) might pick up a few sympathy votes to mark the end of his collaboration with Alejandro González Iñáritu, but his fragmentation of narrative (and late-breaking would-be connections tying it all together) invite some people to pick their favorite and least-favorite stories; hardly the way to win an award. Arriaga could take a hint from Michael Arndt, whose stock characters in Little Miss Sunshine belong to each other about as much as a horny Japanese schoolgirl belongs with a Moroccan arms dealer. But, because they’re all thrown together in the same VW bus and called a family, apparently that gives him free license to Velcro as many quirks on his motley bunch as necessary to approximate indie zest. Nietzsche and Proust would probably both prefer The Queen, which at least implicitly rejects Little Miss Sunshine ’s democratic “we’re all losers at heart” message in favor of a wrinkled woman and her will to power, lording over a royal family, hounded by a press that scrutinizes more details than Remembrance of Things Past. Sometimes Oscar favors ordinary people. This time, we sense they’ll favor the elite.

The 79th Annual Academy Award Nominations

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The 79th Annual Academy Award Nominations
The 79th Annual Academy Award Nominations

Best Picture: “Babel,” “The Departed,” “Letters From Iwo Jima,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” “The Queen.”

Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, “Blood Diamond”; Ryan Gosling, “Half Nelson”; Peter O’Toole, “Venus”; Will Smith, “The Pursuit of Happyness”; Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland.”

Actress: Penélope Cruz, “Volver”; Judi Dench, “Notes on a Scandal”; Helen Mirren, “The Queen”; Meryl Streep, “The Devil Wears Prada”; Kate Winslet, “Little Children.”

Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, “Little Miss Sunshine”; Jackie Earle Haley, “Little Children”; Djimon Hounsou, “Blood Diamond”; Eddie Murphy, “Dreamgirls”; Mark Wahlberg, “The Departed.”

Navel Gazing with Burns & Dignan: Flags of Our Fathers, The Queen, & The Prestige

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Navel Gazing with Burns & Dignan: Flags of Our Fathers, The Queen, & The Prestige
Navel Gazing with Burns & Dignan: Flags of Our Fathers, The Queen, & The Prestige

Editors’ note: This is the debut appearance of a new Monday feature, the appropriately titled “Navel Gazing,” wherein House contributors Sean Burns and Andrew Dignan kick around a few recent releases. Feel free to join them in the comments section.

Andrew Dignan: I finally got a chance to see Flags of Our Fathers this weekend, after spending much of the past two weeks dreading it. Somewhere along the way, the film developed the reputation of a dull non-starter that, in a development I know both you and I despise, was deemed “out of the Oscar race” and thus somehow not worthy of serious discussion. So it was with some amount of surprise that I enjoyed the film quite a bit, with special note to the film’s structure which telescopes the timeline of the battle of Iwo Jima with the war bonds drive that found the film’s reluctant heroes rehashing and often trivializing the trauma of what they’d been through in order to package and sell a palatable version of war to the American public. And Clint Eastwood, that sly dog, seems to be grudgingly receptive towards the idea that such things are a necessary evil.

The film would seem to be mining the same bedrock of demystifying our heroes—and with the depiction of Ira Hayes, the way real violence eats at a man’s soul—that Eastwood’s been exploring as an artist for nearly 50 years. Acknowledging that the film is far from perfect (the last 20 minutes gave me something of a protracted, Lord of the Rings-type unease), why is it you think so many people have railed against it, and seem to so pleased to be perpetrating the belief that the film is both a financial and critical failure? Is this a Munich-type situation, where a handful of net-journalists with an agenda are trying to write history—a Paul Haggis backlash as a result of his last two films cleaning up at the Academy Awards? Or have some people simply grown tired of the themes and rhythms that Eastwood chooses to put onscreen? And more importantly, where do you see the film being ranked in his canon?