AICN-DOWNUNDER: Oscar Etiquette, Black Sheep, And A Stack Of Reviews !!
Published at: Feb. 26, 2007, 6:13 p.m. CST by merrick
I'll show you the roof. It's upstairs.
So, I suppose it's too late to do my Oscar picks, huh?
Actually, I already did them. I did them weeks ago. Thing is, I took longer than expected to finish this column, and then when I sent it in... well, I have no idea what happened, but it didn't get posted. I'm going to pretend to be all huffy about how you didn't get to see how brilliant and clairvoyant I was, but the truth is I blew it. Oh, I picked the obvious ones like Martin Scorsese, Helen Mirren, and Forest Whitaker, but this year was the absolute worst I'd ever had for Oscar picks. It's more than a little embarrassing.
Hopefully, that embarrassment will be tempered somewhat by a video I'm quite proud of, which you can view by scrolling down to the bottom of the page.
BLACK SHEEP, the already-notorious horror film about killer sheep in New Zealand, has been confirmed for a Stateside theatrical release. June 22 is the date that all of you Yanks will be able to see it, which will please me no end on condition that I see it before you. Those attending SXSW will get to see it even earlier, as the film will be playing in nary a few weeks at the massive festival. In the meantime, there's a pretty damn awesome site for the film at www.blacksheepthemovie.com, which I've just spent way too much time playing on when I should have been writing this column.
Jedi Muppet sent me a pretty interesting and amusing rant about JB Hi Fi, and included a pretty interesting note on Australia's part in the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD competition: could HD-DVD be dead in Australia? Says Muppet: "If you live in Australia, then you'll know who JB HiFi is. Sony has bribed JB HiFi, if you ask me. JB's a very over-rated store to begin with, I hate the place. Unwrapping the security stickers and plastic that they wrap their cds and dvds in, is as much fun as sitting hogtied in Uwe Boll's loungeroom forced to watch his holiday slideshow." Muppet is the first person I've ever heard say they didn't love JB; it's a pretty popular place. I don't think this will be the death knell of HD-DVD in Australia, but it's certainly going to impact sales. The HD camp down here has got to be getting at least a little worried...
AWARDS, FESTIVALS AND SCREENINGS
Steve Baker of Queensland took out the top prize at Tropfest this year for his film AN IMAGINARY LIFE. There's a degree of controversy at every Tropfest... this year's? The film is being investigated for possible copyright infringement, as the plot comes awfully close to a US TV series "Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends". Having not seen either (just read the synopses), I have to say that it seems like a pretty easy coincidence. I think it's more than likely that two people came up with this idea independently of one another, but still. You never know. And that's my in-depth analytical contribution to the story.
Well, what do you expect? It's Oscar season, so naturally everybody's going to be flocking to... er... GHOST RIDER. Hm. Maybe it's the fact that it's shot in Melbourne? Who knows.
1. GHOST RIDER
2. MUSIC AND LYRICS
3. NOTES ON A SCNDAL
4. THE GOOD SHEPHERD
5. MISS POTTER
RELEASED THESE PAST TWO WEEKS
The FLY sequels become more misguided, Nic Cage proves how in need of another ADAPTATION he is, Robert De Niro proves he has no problem with a two hour and forty-five minute running time, Thomas Harris shows us exactly how talented Jonathan Demme is, a good-natured rom-com is still as formulaic is you think it will be, and Cate Blanchett recaptures her youth.
THE GOOD SHEPHERD
MUSIC AND LYRICS
NOTES ON A SCANDAL
MUSIC AND LYRICS
I'm getting a little sick of having to give rom-coms a free pass. It's almost like they're review proof. And I don't mean that in the sense that they make money no matter what the reviews are like, I mean that in the sense that your standard romantic comedy follows very strict rules (boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back again), and critics seem almost embarrassed to attack the conventions of the genre for fear of looking foolish. This film in particular, MUSIC AND LYRICS, sticks so closely to its conventions that to attack any aspect of the film feels like attacking the entire genre of romantic comedies, and if you want to maintain credibility with an audience that loves romantic comedies, you just can't do that.
So, my credentials: I love a good romantic comedy, but they're few and far between. Sticking to conventions does not, I believe, mean conforming to cliches. So why are we so quick to forgive Marc Lawrence for what is a pretty stock-standard exercise in ticking off a bunch of boxes?
The entire film is treading water. People told me that they'd seen the entire film after watching the trailer. I'd seen the entire film after looking at the poster. This isn't normally a huge problem, but the film itself seems so content with its own predictability, at no point does it feel like it's trying.
See, rom-coms aren't just all niceties and prettiness. They need to have conflict. They need to have obstacles. The problem is that the obstacles in MUSIC AND LYRICS are the most arbitrary and groundless obstacles that has ever been witnessed in such a genre. Hugh Grant wants Drew Barrymore to write lyrics for him! But she won't do it! How will he convince her?
Why doesn't she want to do it? There's some half-hearted reason involving a literature professor given later, but it's pretty thin. As is the way they meet. As is their "boy loses girl" moment. As is the humour in the film.
Look, it's not all bad. The 80s clip that opens the film is a spot-on send-up, and is actually very funny. There's a line about Bob Dylan that Hugh Grant absolutely nails. The rest of it, unfortunately, seems to rely on one conceit: that Hugh Grant will make a simple observation, and it will be funny because he's using big words and an English accent.
Of course, the crowd I saw it with lapped it up. The film's going to make an absolute mint because it understands its audience through and through. And it's the closest thing Marc Lawrence has come to writing a good movie, so I don't want to give it too much flack. It's actually a pretty pleasant movie, and despite it being about fifteen minutes too long, it's kind-of enjoyable to sit through.
The point is that we haven't had a good romantic comedy in a very long time, and when one comes along that doesn't absolutely suck, everybody is a bit too eagre to forgive it for its excessive laziness. I'm sure there's someone out there who's able to make a film in this genre that isn't completely predictable and by-the-numbers. It's okay to expect a little more from the genre.
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
It's been a while since I've seen a film squander its own good will to such an extraordinary degree.
It starts so well. It's beautifully shot, the acting is superb, the music is excellent... but just as "MASH" got some criticism for running eleven years despite the Korean war only lasting three, my problem with LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA is that World War II only lasted six year. I didn't check my watch, but I'm pretty sure the film exceeded this running time to some significance.
This is why I'm shocked at how sentimental Eastwood's inclusion in the Best Director category is. Regardless of his prowess during production, his post-production skills are practically non-existent. Almost as if they just decided to put all the footage they shot back-to-back in the hope that some sort of narrative will form. It's incredibly indulgent that the film drags on for so long, and you can't help but feel that Eastwood has mistaken length for import. It's a pity, too, because this should be a much more important film than it is. In fact, it should have been the film that it thinks it is.
It's interesting how they choose to depict Ken Watanabe's general. When he arrives, he's seen as a great man by his troops, and a madman by his senior officers. He changes the strategies they'd been working on and forms an entirely new defensive procedure. Now, he does this calmly and with a smile that suggests he knows something we don't. In the meantime, all of the other officers fluster about and can't believe he'd do such a thing and so on and so forth. Naturally, this obvious characterisation leads us to think that Watanabe's Kuribayashi knows exactly what he's doing. Problem is, (spoiler alert) the Japanese lose Iwo Jima. Now, while this is probably more to do with the sheer number of US troops as opposed to Japanese troops, it does make me wonder what sort of film this would have been if Kuribayashi had been played as a flustered, misguided army man, and his lieutenants had been portrayed as handsome visionaries.
Oh, and "fans" of "writer" Paul Haggis will enjoy a scene that is undoubtedly written by him, occurring about two thirds into the film: "I always thought the Americans were cowards... but now I've learned that they're just like us." I'm not paraphrasing nearly as much as you think I am. Why, Paul, why? I get that racism is bad. You told me so fifty times in CRASH. But surely the point of making films like FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS and LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA back-to-back is to show this very fact, right? Anyway, I should be appreciative of this scene. It did give me the only laugh of the entire film.
As I said, all good will this film built up is squandered after (at most) an hour. As with FLAGS, when I think back to individual elements (the performances, the cinematography, etc), I remember it being a work of excellence, and yet, as with FLAGS, it doesn't come close to working as a whole. Mr Eastwood, you're an incredible filmmaker and I will continue to see your films, but for the love of all that is holy, learn to edit.
It's disappointing for the makers of both THE ILLUSIONIST and THE PRESTIGE that we can hardly talk about one film without acknowledging the other. It shouldn't be that way, and yet it is. Or, at least, it is for lazy film critics like myself. Bottom line, THE PRESTIGE is the far superior film.
I mention this because THE PRESTIGE takes careful care to explain exactly what it's doing, and yet never loses its sense of mystery. THE ILLUSIONIST does not do this. In fact, THE ILLUSIONIST can't figure out if Edward Norton's character is actually an illusionist, or someone who can do real magic. They seem to switch back and forth depending on what's convenient for each scene, and this gets a little frustrating. In fact, it gets very frustrating.
Almost as frustrating is watching two of my favourite actors (Norton and Paul Giamatti) completely miscast in their roles. Jessica Biel, who is not one of my favourite actors, is also miscast, and Rufus Sewell is ridiculously typecast. Seriously, how many times do we need to see Sewell play the bastard rival love interest?
And who was monitoring the accents in this film? Norton manages to maintain his throughout, but everyone else seems to switch constantly between a slight Viennese accent, and a much safer English accent.
Sorry, I know I'm just reeling off a bunch of things that pissed me off about this film, but... well... they did. And I'm annoyed, because I quite like a lot of what's in here. It has so much potential, this film, and yet it doesn't seem to do much with it. It's got a pretty nifty ending (that, as both myself and someone else pointed out, appears to be lifted straight out of THE USUAL SUSPECTS), but that doesn't save it. It's a pretty good film that will probably annoy and entertain in equal measures.
PREVIOUSLY ON THE BAZURA PROJECT
Our final episode for season one has aired, and what an ending it was. All the season arcs were wrapped up satisfactorily, and yet there was a cheeky cliffhanger that left the audience teased for more.
It looks like we'll be coming back in June for our second season, so this will be the last you hear me go on about it until then (stop cheering). In the meantime, here's a clip from our last episode, in which we instruct potential Oscar winners on Academy Awards Etiquette.
- George Lucas confirms that Harrison Ford will not be appearing in the new INDIANA JONES film, as there was no room for him what with Sean Connery as his father, Natalie Portman as his daughter, Shia La Bouef as his son, Kevin Costner as his brother, Randy Quaid as his cousin, and Rainn Wilson as his retarded nephew
- David Ogden Stiers to reprise his role as the Martian Manhunter in the new JUSTICE LEAGUE movie
- Ghostface Killah to join Andy Garcia in romantic drama WHEN A MAN LOVES A WU-TANG