Sunday, February 25, 2007

Why I Don't Gamble

The Oscar winners are in and here are the final tallies:

Correct Predictions: 9

Wrong Predictions: 11

Winners That Agreed with my "Should Win" Picks: 8

I was happy to see The Departed win Best Picture and Scorsese win Best Director. For me, the biggest surprise was Happy Feet for Best Animated Feature, which I thought was easily the weakest of the three nominated films. The show itself was fairly good. Ellen made for a good host and the show ran an acceptable length, although I think they could assemble it better by cutting out some of the extra crap in between awards (the dancing in this year's show was obnoxious) and give more time for the winner's speeches.

My Oscar Predictions

As broadcast on Maverick at the Movies today, here are my predictions for tonight's Academy Award ceremony:

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

  • Gustavo Santaolalla - BABEL
  • Thomas Newman - THE GOOD GERMAN
  • Philip Glass - NOTES ON A SCANDAL
  • Javier Navarrete - PAN'S LABYRINTH
  • Alexandre Desplat - THE QUEEN

Who Will Win: Alexandre Desplat - THE QUEEN
Who Should Win: Philip Glass - NOTES ON A SCANDAL

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

  • "I Need to Wake Up" Music and Lyrics by Melissa Etheridge - AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
  • "Listen" - Music by Henry Krieger and Scott Cutler; Lyrics by Anne Preven - DREAMGIRLS
  • "Love You I Do" - "Love You I Do" Music by Henry Krieger; Lyrics by Siedah Garrett - DREAMGIRLS
  • "Our Town" - Music and Lyrics by Randy Newman – CARS
  • "Patience" - Music by Henry Krieger; Lyrics by Willie Reale – DREAMGIRLS

Who Will Win: "Our Town" - CARS
Who Should Win: "I Need to Wake Up" - AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

Achievement in art direction

  • DREAMGIRLS
  • THE GOOD SHEPHERD
  • PAN'S LABYRINTH
  • PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST
  • THE PRESTIGE

Who Will Win: DREAMGIRLS
Who Should Win: PAN'S LABYRINTH

Achievement in cinematography

  • THE BLACK DAHLIA
  • CHILDREN OF MEN
  • THE ILLUSIONIST
  • PAN'S LABYRINTH
  • THE PRESTIGE

Who Will Win: CHILDREN OF MEN
Who Should Win: CHILDREN OF MEN
Who Absolutely Should NOT Win: THE BLACK DAHLIA

Achievement in costume design

  • CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER
  • THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
  • DREAMGIRLS
  • MARIE ANTOINETTE
  • THE QUEEN

Who Will Win: THE QUEEN
Who Should Win: CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER

Achievement in makeup

  • APOCALYPTO
  • CLICK
  • PAN'S LABYRINTH

Who Will Win: PAN'S LABYRINTH
Who Should Win: PAN'S LABYRINTH

Achievement in film editing

  • BABEL
  • BLOOD DIAMOND
  • CHILDREN OF MEN
  • THE DEPARTED
  • UNITED 93

Who Will Win: UNITED 93
Who Should Win: UNITED 93

Achievement in sound editing

  • APOCALYPTO
  • BLOOD DIAMOND
  • FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
  • LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
  • PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST

Who Will Win: BLOOD DIAMOND
Who Should Win: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST

Achievement in sound mixing

  • APOCALYPTO
  • BLOOD DIAMOND
  • DREAMGIRLS
  • FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS
  • PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST

Who Will Win: DREAMGIRLS
Who Should Win: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST

Achievement in visual effects

  • PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST
  • POSEIDON
  • SUPERMAN RETURNS

Who Will Win: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST
Who Should Win: PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST

Best animated short film

  • THE DANISH POET
  • LIFTED
  • THE LITTLE MATCHGIRL
  • MAESTRO
  • NO TIME FOR NUTS

Who Will Win: Your guess is as good as mine.
Who Should Win: Your guess is as good as mine.

Best animated feature film of the year

  • CARS
  • HAPPY FEET
  • MONSTER HOUSE

Who Will Win: CARS
Who Should Win: MONSTER HOUSE

Best live action short film

  • BINTA AND THE GREAT IDEA (BINTA Y LA GRAN IDEA)
  • ÉRAMOS POCOS (ONE TOO MANY)
  • HELMER & SON
  • THE SAVIOUR
  • WEST BANK STORY

Who Will Win: Your guess is as good as mine.
Who Should Win: Your guess is as good as mine.

Best documentary short subject

  • THE BLOOD OF YINGZHOU DISTRICT
  • RECYCLED LIFE
  • REHEARSING A DREAM
  • TWO HANDS

Who Will Win: Your guess is as good as mine.
Who Should Win: Your guess is as good as mine.

Best documentary feature

  • DELIVER US FROM EVIL
  • AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
  • IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS
  • JESUS CAMP
  • MY COUNTRY, MY COUNTRY

Who Will Win: AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
Who Should Win: IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS

Adapted screenplay

  • BORAT CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN
  • CHILDREN OF MEN
  • THE DEPARTED
  • LITTLE CHILDREN
  • NOTES ON A SCANDAL

Who Will Win: THE DEPARTED
Who Should Win: NOTES ON A SCANDAL

Original screenplay

  • BABEL
  • LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
  • LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
  • PAN'S LABYRINTH
  • THE QUEEN

Who Will Win: THE QUEEN
Who Should Win: LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE

Performance by an actor in a leading role

  • 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

Who Will Win: Forest Whitaker - THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND

Who Should Win: Who the hell knows? Only two of these five films opened in southern Minnesota.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

  • Alan Arkin - LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
  • Jackie Earle Haley - LITTLE CHILDREN
  • Djimon Hounsou - BLOOD DIAMOND
  • Eddie Murphy - DREAMGIRLS
  • Mark Wahlberg - THE DEPARTED

Who Will Win: Eddie Murphy - DREAMGIRLS
Who Should Win: Jackie Earle Haley - LITTLE CHILDREN

Performance by an actress in a leading role

  • Penélope Cruz - VOLVER
  • Judi Dench - NOTES ON A SCANDAL
  • Helen Mirren - THE QUEEN
  • Meryl Streep - THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA
  • Kate Winslet - LITTLE CHILDREN

Who Will Win: Helen Mirren - THE QUEEN
Who Should Win: Judi Dench - NOTES ON A SCANDAL

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

  • Adriana Barraza - BABEL
  • Cate Blanchett - NOTES ON A SCANDAL
  • Abigail Breslin - LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
  • Jennifer Hudson - DREAMGIRLS
  • Rinko Kikuchi - BABEL

Who Will Win: Jennifer Hudson - DREAMGIRLS
Who Should Win: Adriana Barraza - BABEL

Achievement in directing

  • Alejandro González Iñárritu – BABEL
  • Martin Scorsese – THE DEPARTED
  • Clint Eastwood – LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
  • Stephen Frears – THE QUEEN
  • Paul Greengrass – UNITED 93

Who Will Win: Stephen Frears – THE QUEEN
Who Should Win: Paul Greengrass – UNITED 93

Best motion picture of the year

  • BABEL
  • THE DEPARTED
  • LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
  • LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE
  • THE QUEEN

Who Will Win: THE QUEEN
Who Should Win: THE DEPARTED, although I would love to see LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE pull an upset.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Centered Magazine

Centered magazine is now in circulation throughout the southern Minnesota area. I have taken on the role of editor and I will contribute a regular column called "Axis." The new magazine is a replacement for Static, which I contributed to from 2005 to 2006. This new publication will carry over Static's media features, such as coverage of local bands and CD reviews, but Centered will have a broader scope, with a deeper focus on the community. The goal of Centered is to explore the world right around us and how art and culture reinforce one another. My first column for the magazine, "Hitler and Wagner in Valhalla," explores this kind of relationship.

Thanks to Joe Tougas, Kristi and Wes Schuck, and our contributors and designers for all their hard work getting this first issue out. Centered is available for free throughout southern Minnesota. Check out the Centered website here.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Vlad the Impaler Video

I found this very interesting music video about Vlad III Dracula on youtube.



The song is "The Mourning Palace" by Dimmu Borgir (see their video of the song here) and the footage is taken from Bram Stoker's Dracula, Dracula: The Dark Prince, and Discovery Channel documentaries (see part one of three here).

Although this is not the only video on youtube about Vlad the Impaler (view an amusing fan-made music video to Gwar's "Vlad the Impaler" here) it is much more interesting to me because it is so close to how I imagine The Prince, my Dracula screenplay, might look as a finished product. I had always liked how Man on the Moon used the music of REM and how Apocalypse Now used the music of The Doors, and I thought using black metal in a similar way would be fitting for a Vlad Dracula film. Now I see how right that was. The black metal sound and the visual style of Coppola's prologue merge together very nicely.

That the short was apparently made by Nazi sympathizers (note the epigraph in the opening and the symbol at the end) is unfortunate but also interesting, as I had envisioned The Prince to evoke a fascist aesthetic, and some of the transitions between the dramatic films and the documentary footage remind me of Riefenstahl's Olympia. Dracula, of course, did fight the Muslims to defend his homeland and the Church, and for the most part he fought them off successfully. What the makers of this video ignore, however, is that in the process Dracula became one of the great symbols of evil in Western civilization and his methods for maintaining peace and stability (an excuse used by tyrants throughout history, including the Nazis) in Wallachia were barbaric even by Middle Age standards. The parallel to our own age and the lessons to be learned should be fairly clear.

This is part of what is so paradoxically interesting about fascism and the fascist aesthetic - fascism is an ideology of perfectionism and idealism, and applied to the arts it can produce some great work, but the pursuit of idealism is fleeting and ultimately unattainable and applied to nationalism and politics it may lead to the ugliest in humanity.