Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Man, even I wouldn't shoot someone for talking during a movie on Christmas.

And why does everyone keep guns in their sweatpants?
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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Frenchies Name Top 100 Films, Piss Off Brits and Confuse All

In an effort to make money by selling fancy books, the venerable Cahiers du Cinéma surveyed 76 French film experts to determine which 100 films most deserved to be featured in a fancy book. Setting aside certain reliables, the results are surprising in good ways, bad ways and most often perplexing ways.

"Citizen Kane" takes its predictable and hard-to-argue-against spot at number one, but the vote totals revealed that it did so by only one measly vote. Yes, had any single voter decided to bump Welles's masterpiece off his or her ballot to make a point about how "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" doesn't get enough respect, "Kane" would have split first place with Charles Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter" and Jean Renoir's "The Rules of the Game."

While a few nice surprises placed in the top 10, things only really get weird in the lower rankings, where many directors' best-known works were overlooked in favor of other efforts. Surrealist mischief-maker Luis Buñuel, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, only makes one appearance on the list with "El," the 1953 tale of jealousy and obsession from his Mexican period. The film, which tallied the minimum number needed to make the list, is certainly a worthy inclusion, but one wonders what happened to "The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie," "The Exterminating Angel" or—well, it's Buñuel, so I could go on listing films for quite a while. That Buñuel received the eighth most votes of any director and only had one film on the list testifies to the extreme quality of his remarkable body of work.

I certainly didn't expect to see my favorite Ernst Lubitsch film, "To Be or Not To Be," all the way up at number 12, with the better known "Trouble in Paradise" at 58. But that was the least of the oddities. Elia Kazan narrowly made the list, but not with his canonized "On the Waterfront" or even "A Street Car Named Desire." He did it with "America, America." Joseph L. Mankiewicz didn't make the list with "All About Eve," but "The Barefoot Contessa" (a good film with some inspired moments, but not one I expected to see on a top 100 list). And instead of recognizing Martin Scorsese for "Taxi Driver" or "Raging Bull" or "Goodfellas" or "Mean Streets" or "After Hours" or "The Last Temptation of Christ," uh… Oh. Hrm. Scorsese didn't make the list at all. And Leo McCarey placed with "An Affair to Remember" rather than "The Aw—

Wait a minute. "An Affair to Remember" made the list, yet no Scorsese film did? The fuck?

Italian Neo-Realism suffered a setback at the hands of the Frenchies, who relegated "Bicycle Theives," "Rome, Open City" and "Senso" to the lower tiers while ignoring "Rocco and His Brothers" entirely. But that's nothing compared to what happened to the entire country of Great Britain. No Powell and Pressburger, no David Lean, no Mike Leigh, no Carol Reed—yes, including "The Third Man!"

"An Affair to Remember" made the list but "The Third Man" didn't? Neither did anything by Kieslowski, Herzog, Malick or Fassbinder? Or "Last Year at Marienbad?" The fuck?

Fortunately, silents were well represented on the list, including "The Crowd," "Greed," "The Wind," "Intolerance" and three films by the great F.W. Murnau, including "Sunrise" at number 4. The French voters were apparently too busy trying to list every Charlot film they could think of to surprise us with an unexpected Keaton, and so only voted on "The General." How 1960s of them. It's time to wake up and realize that Keaton made quite a few other masterpieces, folks. Remember the one where the house falls on him or when he walks into the movie screen? Oh, mais regard!: Charlot habillé comme Hitler et joue avec le monde!

Anyway, here's the list. It's not bad, as far as lists like this go, but it is a bit confounding with its combination of obvious picks and out-of-nowhere inclusions. The Cahiers page is kind of confusing and other sites decided to just assign each film a numerical ranking, using the alphabetical ordering of the French title as the tie-breaker. I've formatted it with the intent to reflect the list's many ties (especially towards the bottom of the list), yet still make clear where each film ranks.

Rank 1 (48 Votes)
Citizen Kane - Orson Welles

Rank 2 (47 Votes)
The Night of the Hunter - Charles Laughton
The Rules of the Game (La Règle du jeu) - Jean Renoir

Rank 4 (46 Votes)
Sunrise - Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau

Rank 5 (43 Votes)
L’Atalante - Jean Vigo

Rank 6 (40 Votes)
M - Fritz Lang

Rank 7 (39 Votes)
Singin’ in the Rain - Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly

Rank 8 (35 Votes)
Vertigo - Alfred Hitchcock

Rank 9 (34 Votes)
Children of Paradise (Les Enfants du Paradis) - Marcel Carné
The Searchers - John Ford
Greed - Erich von Stroheim

Rank 12 (33 Votes)
Rio Bravo - Howard Hawkes
To Be or Not to Be - Ernst Lubitsch

Rank 14 (29 Votes)
Tokyo Story - Yasujiro Ozu

Rank 15 (28 Votes)
Contempt (Le Mépris) - Jean-Luc Godard

Rank 16 (27 Votes)
Tales of Ugetsu (Ugetsu monogatari) - Kenji Mizoguchi
City Lights - Charlie Chaplin
The General - Buster Keaton
Nosferatu the Vampire - Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
The Music Room - Satyajit Ray

Rank 21 (26 Votes)
Freaks - Tod Browning
Johnny Guitar - Nicholas Ray
The Mother and the Whore (La Maman et la Putain) - Jean Eustache

Rank 24 (25 Votes)
The Great Dictator - Charlie Chaplin
The Leopard (Le Guépard) - Luchino Visconti
Hiroshima, My Love - Alain Resnais
Pandora's Box (Loulou) - Georg Wilhelm Pabst
North by Northwest - Alfred Hitchcock
Pickpocket - Robert Bresson

Rank 30 (24 Votes)
Golden Helmet (Casque d’or) - Jacques Becker
The Barefoot Contessa - Joseph Mankiewitz
Moonfleet - Fritz Lang
The Earrings of Madame de… - Max Ophüls
Pleasure - Max Ophüls
The Deer Hunter - Michael Cimino

Rank 36 (23 Votes)
L'Avventura - Michelangelo Antonioni
Battleship Potemkin - Sergei M. Eisenstein
Notorious - Alfred Hitchcock
Ivan the Terrible - Sergei M. Eisenstein
The Godfather - Francis Ford Coppola
Touch of Evil - Orson Welles
The Wind - Victor Sjöström

Rank 43 (22 Votes)
2001: A Space Odyssey - Stanley Kubrick
Fanny and Alexander - Ingmar Bergman

Rank 45 (21 Votes)
The Crowd - King Vidor
8 1/2 - Federico Fellini
La Jetée - Chris Marker
Pierrot le Fou - Jean-Luc Godard
Confessions of a Cheat (Le Roman d’un tricheur) - Sacha Guitry

Rank 50 (20 Votes)
Amarcord - Federico Fellini
Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bête) - Jean Cocteau
Some Like It Hot - Billy Wilder
Some Came Running - Vincente Minnelli
Gertrud - Carl Theodor Dreyer
King Kong - Ernst Shoedsack & Merian J. Cooper
Laura - Otto Preminger
The Seven Samurai - Akira Kurosawa

Rank 58 (19 Votes)
The 400 Blows - François Truffaut
La Dolce Vita - Federico Fellini
The Dead - John Huston
Trouble in Paradise - Ernst Lubitsch
It’s a Wonderful Life - Frank Capra
Monsieur Verdoux - Charlie Chaplin
The Passion of Joan of Arc - Carl Theodor Dreyer

Rank 65 (18 Votes)
À bout de souffle (Breathless) - Jean-Luc Godard
Apocalypse Now - Francis Ford Coppola
Barry Lyndon - Stanley Kubrick
La Grande Illusion - Jean Renoir
Intolerance - David Wark Griffith
A Day in the Country (Partie de campagne) - Jean Renoir
Playtime - Jacques Tati
Rome, Open City - Roberto Rossellini
Livia (Senso) - Luchino Visconti
Modern Times - Charlie Chaplin
Van Gogh - Maurice Pialat

Rank 76 (17 Votes)
An Affair to Remember - Leo McCarey
Andrei Rublev - Andrei Tarkovsky
The Scarlet Empress - Joseph von Sternberg
Sansho the Bailiff - Kenji Mizoguchi
Talk to Her - Pedro Almodóvar
The Party - Blake Edwards
Tabu - Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau
The Bandwagon - Vincente Minnelli
A Star Is Born - George Cukor
Mr. Hulot’s Holiday - Jacques Tati

Rank 86 (16 Votes)
America, America - Elia Kazan
El - Luis Buñuel
Kiss Me Deadly - Robert Aldrich
Once Upon a Time in America - Sergio Leone
Daybreak (Le Jour se lève) - Marcel Carné
Letter from an Unknown Woman - Max Ophüls
Lola - Jacques Demy
Manhattan - Woody Allen
Mulholland Dr. - David Lynch
My Night at Maud’s (Ma nuit chez Maud) - Eric Rohmer
Night and Fog (Nuit et Brouillard) - Alain Resnais
The Gold Rush - Charlie Chaplin
Scarface - Howard Hawks
Bicycle Thieves - Vittorio de Sica
Napoléon - Abel Gance

Top Directors
Charles Laughton only directed one film in his career, but with the votes for that film he managed to beat out Preminger, McCarey, Cukor and Tati in the rankings for most votes. Well done, Chuck. (One wonders if Laughton would have split his vote had gone on to direct 10 more projects. But we'll never know.)

Jean Renoir 155
Alfred Hitchcock 146
Fritz Lang 143
Charles Chaplin 128
John Ford 124
Orson Welles 114
Ingmar Bergman 113
Luis Buñuel 110
Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau 108
Howard Hawks 105
Jean-Luc Godard 99
Federico Fellini 99
Ernst Lubitsch 98
Luchino Visconti 90
Robert Bresson 90
Kenji Mizoguchi 87
Akira Kurosawa 86
Max Ophuls 83
Alain Resnais 82
Carl Theodor Dreyer 76
François Truffaut 75
Stanley Kubrick 75
Vincente Minnelli 73
Joseph Mankiewicz 73
Roberto Rosselini 73
Josef von Sternberg 69
Michelangelo Antonioni 67
S. M. Eisenstein 65
Marcel Carné 64
Billy Wilder 61
Buster Keaton 61
Yasujiro Ozu 60
Eric von Stroheim 60
John Huston 59
Elia Kazan 55
King Vidor 53
David Wark Griffith 53
Maurice Pialat 52
Jean Vigo 51
Nicholas Ray 49
Jacques Becker 48
Woody Allen 48
Francis Ford Coppola 47
Jacques Demy 47
Charles Laughton 47
Jacques Tati 46
Otto Preminger 45
Leo McCarey 45
George Cukor 44
Raoul Walsh 44
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Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Rick Roll to End All Rick Rolls?

In what must've been the largest Rick Roll ever, The Cartoon Network went and Rick Rolled the entire Macy's Parade audience. Now may be the time to retire the Rick Roll for good.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

From Gus V. And William S.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

'The General' vs. 'The General'

Update: A few special features were left out of the "only on MK2" section. They're all there now.

I sit in on DVDTalk's Silent DVD column this week with a review of Kino's new edition of Buster Keaton's "The General." This edition aims to become the quintessential release, with a new HD transfer from the original camera negative and three different accompaniment tracks including a new 5.1 version of the beloved Carl Davis score from Keven Brownlow's Thames Silents TV broadcast.

Being the parade-rainer I am, I was compelled to point out that the French company MK2 also did an HD transfer of the film back in 2004, and spent more time on frame-by-frame cleanup, whereas the Kino edition shows the (relatively light) wear and decay of the source material. Now, some silent film aficionados believe that transfers shouldn't be overly repaired, but simply capture the surviving documents. I'm of the opinion that, for a home presentation like this, if you can make the film look as close to how it looked when Keaton premiered it, then that's the way to go. Anyway, read the review, which has a lot more on the film beyond PQ nitpicking. And if you're thinking about going PAL region 2 for the MK2 (I recommend the UK Cinema Club release), here's a comparison of the two editions.

KINO: Color-tinted HD transfer — Some of Keaton's compositions are particularly gorgeous in sepia tone, but I'm still partial to black-and-white, mainly when it comes to the blue nighttime scenes. Great detail and crisp image.
MK2: Black-and-white HD transfer — Brilliant image, free of the scratches and decay on most silent prints. Would be extremely difficult to top.

BOTH EDITIONS feature high-definition transfers, but neither companies will give us the film on a damn HD format. At least put it on iTunes, for crying out loud!

KINO: Carl Davis score performed by Thames Silent Orchestra (5.1 and stereo), Organ score by Lee Irwin — Davis's score is involving, exciting, and sounds great. Irwin's score is a nice bonus.

MK2: Joe Hisaishi score performed by Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra (5.1) — Hisaishi's beautiful score features some inspired moments, although at certain times is a bit detached from the film.

BOTH EDITIONS: The Robert Israel score that's on, like, every edition of "The General" ever (not really, but this one's been around for a while, and is featured on Kino's previous edition).

Special Features

Filmed introduction by Orson Welles — The great Welles offers an introduction that's at times insightful and astute, and always comedically Wellesian. Clips from "Coney Island" and "Cops" illustrate Keaton's development. (The Kino version maintains the old TV titles and credits for "The Silent Years: From the Collection of Paul Killiam," while the MK2 version doesn't.) (12:00)

Behind-the-scenes home movie footage (called "Filming the General" on MK2) — an interesting minute's worth of behind-the-scenes footage. Neither company makes an effort to add context via editing or voiceover.

MK2 Only:
"The Railroader" (actually "The Railrodder") — This 25-minute Canadian promotional short from 1965 is known as one of Keaton's most Keatonesque works from his later life. It and the documentary of its making (see below) give the MK2 release the upper hand, unless you already own them.

"Buster Keaton Rides Again" An excellent chronicle of the making of "The Railrodder." The film offers rare insight into Keaton's creative process, as well as a somewhat inaccurate history of his career. A great look at the man behind the stone face. (55:00)

Introduction by David Robinson — Robinson provides a nice overview of the film and its history, illustrated by clips and stills.

Featurette on movie restoration — The usual shots of original physical prints, the side-by-side comparisons, etc. (2:00)

Featurette on recording the 2004 score — This one is not subtitled in English, and features mainly footage of the recording process before some chanteuse shows up to sing a song about Johnny Gray to one of Hisaishi's themes.

Footage from the tinted version — In case you haven't seen it elsewhere, footage from the old transfer. (7:00)

Keaton filmography — Stills and clips from Keaton's Silent features. (11:00)

"The Return of The General" — 1962 publicity film documentary by the Louisville & Tennessee Railroad showcases the restored engine, which is featured in the present day on the Kino edition.

The trailer for "The Great Locomotive Chase" — Disney brought the same story that inspired "The General to the screen in 1956

"The Iron Mule" — This 1925 Al St. John silent two-reeler features the replica of the small, absurd train The Rocket that Keaton used in "Our Hospitality." The film (and its title) reference John Ford's "The Iron Horse" from the previous year. Keaton also appears, uncredited, as an Indian. (13:00)

"Alice's Tin Pony" — From Walt Disney's "Alice in Cartoonland" series, which combined animation with live-action photography, this 1925 short was also inspired by "The Iron Horse." (6:00)

Cinema Club distributed MK2's edition in the UK and includes a nice 24-page booklet with details on the film and the features, including the text of David Robinson's introduction. I understand that the French edition includes nice literature too—si tu parles français, naturellement!

If you already own "The Railrodder" and "Buster Keaton Rides Again," Kino might have the edge.

Filmed introduction by Gloria Swanson — This clip from TV's "Silents Please" is amusing in a campy sort of way. (2:13)

A video tour of the authentic General, presented in association with the Southern Museum — See the General, learn its history and how it operates. (18:00)

A tour of the filming locations, presented by John Bengston, author of Silent Echoes — Bengston's detective work is always impressive. (4:30)

"The Buster Express" — Kino describes this as "A brisk montage of train gags from throughout Keaton's career," and that about sums it up. It's a fun, free-association montage, but certainly not essential. (5:45)

Finally, the disc features a gallery of promotional photos, lobby cards from various countries and production stills, including some from a sequence deleted from the film.
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Insert Sad Joke About 'Pushing Daisies' Possibly Pushing Up Daisies

Remember "Pushing Daisies," the best new show on TV last year? It seems that the writer's strike, coupled with ABC's dumbass decision not to bring it back for some spring episodes after the strike ended, halted the show's momentum. It hasn't been doing so hot in the ratings department, despite some very good episodes and intriguing plot developments.

The show stars Lee Pace as a pie maker who can bring the dead back to life—with a few catches—and has one of the most unique, eye-popping visual schemes on television.

Production just wrapped on the first 13 episodes of season 2 (season 1 only had nine), and ABC doesn't seem likely to order more.

An ABC spokesperson said no decision has been made, and series creator Bryan Fuller said he has not heard a verdict.

"Our ABC exec was on the set last night saying they are still swinging in the fight to keep 'Daisies' on the air," Fuller said. "Spirits are high and hopeful and everyone here is very proud of our work and this show."

Fuller previously expressed interest in returning to the writing staff of NBC's "Heroes" if "Daisies" departs. He also has indicated that he would finish this season's story lines in comic book form.

Sadly, it sounds like the show either needs a ratings boost, fast, or it'll need it's own pie maker to bring it back to life. (Sorry! But how could I resist?)
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Friday, November 14, 2008

A Tale of Two Marriages

Since the passing of California's Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage, the discussion in Utah (and the rest of the country) has grown louder than ever. It's a dialogue that we should have engaged in so ferociously prior to the election.

Utah has been particularly hopping. The state is home to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose leadership encouraged its members across the country to donate more than $20 million to the Yes on Prop 8 cause. During the many conversations I've had over the past couple weeks, two marriages keep popping up in my head, and I wonder which one most people would prefer to exist in their neighborhood.

Next door, two people love each other dearly and decide to get married and spend their lives together in a caring relationship. There will be good times and bad times, and the couple hopes that they will make it through the tough parts and live a happy life together. Because this couple happens to consist of two men or two women, many consider this marriage an abomination and lobby to legally erase it from existence.

A few houses down the street, another relationship, this time heterosexual, plays out, but it veils a deep secret. The man is so ashamed of his homosexuality and so pressured by the bigotry facing homosexuals that he stays in the closet. To prove something to himself and others, he marries a woman whom he doubtlessly cares about, but the sexual desire isn't there, no matter how much he wants it to be. The woman does her best to ignore the signs that everything isn't right, and hides her unhappiness. They have some children and love them, but a nagging feeling haunts both husband and wife, because something is missing.

Unwilling to abandon his wife and unable to form a meaningful homosexual relationship, the man instead finds himself seeking meaningless, anonymous sex in public restrooms and highway rest stops. This goes on for some time, until one day an undercover police officer apprehends him in the act. Now his family is shattered, his children confused and ridiculed, his wife heartbroken, his career possibly ruined.

If he happens to be a public figure, like a church leader or a politician, then the embarrassment plays out in public. His traumatized and humiliated wife must stand beside him as he delivers a speech for a media circus press conferences.

And here's where I get a bit confused: Which of these scenarios is supposed to damage the sanctity of marriage?

The crux of anti-gay-marriage rhetoric is based on falsehoods. Some people who belong to faiths that oppose marriage equality tell us that if the government acknowledges gay marriage, that their religion must perform marriages that they don't believe in. The people who make these claims are at best misinformed and at worst spreading fear-mongering that they know to be lies.

I have a hard time believing that the people who engineer this messaging actually believe it. But it's stunning how successfully they distort the issue of religious rights to the opposite of the truth. No church would be forced to conduct weddings that it doesn't believe in. Hell, your religion could consider marriage to be the union of the two sides of an Oreo cookie, bonded by cream. No one forced the LDS church to allow blacks into the priesthood before the leadership decided to do so in 1978. That's what freedom of religion means. However, anti-gay legislation invalidates the practices of the many religions that do believe in marriage equality. I doubt Mormons would like it if California said, "You can get married in the temple, but don't expect us to acknowledge it!"

Prop 8 and other anti-gay legislation bring religion into secular law—exactly where it shouldn't be. No one can stop a religion from disliking a minority population's way of life—or the majority's way of life—even if that way of life in no way affects the religion or its members. But Prop 8 does strip homosexuals of their rights. And no matter how you feel about the homosexual lifestyle, it's something to consider before taking a stance on any law that deprives others of their rights.

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Obama Pals Around With People Too Unsavory to Mention

So an odd exchange just occurred on Rick Sanchez's CNN show. Sanchez discussed the Khalidi non-story with McCain Campaign National Spokesmann Michael Goldfarb. Things started off with the usual stuff about how we have the right to see the video that the LA Times described several months ago and promised its source it would not show.

But then, it got pretty weird. Goldfarb, in a sleazy, non-commital sort of way, tried to tie Obama to…well, someone.

My quick transcript:
Goldfarb: The point is that Barack Obama has a long track record of being around ant-Semitic, anti-Israel and anti-American rhetoric.

Sanchez: Can you name one other person besides Khalidi who he hangs around with who is anti-Semitic?

Goldfarb: Yes, he pals around with William Ayers, who…[continues talking point while interrupted]

Sanchez: William Ayers is not—no, no. The question I asked you is: Can you name one other person he hangs around with who is anti-Semitic, because that's what you said.

Goldfarb: Look. We all know there are people who Barack Obama has been in hot water—


Goldfarb: Rick—

Sanchez: You said he hangs around with people who are anti-Semitic. You—OK, we've got Khalidi on the table, give me number two. Who's the other anti-Semitic person that he hangs around with that we, quote, "all know about."

Goldfarb: Rick, we all know who number two is.


Sanchez: WHO? [Pause] Would you tell us?

Goldfarb: No, Rick, I—I think we all know who we're talking about here.

Sanchez: Somebody who's anti-Semitic who he hangs around with?

Goldfarb: Absolutely.

Sanchez: Well SAY IT!

Goldfarb: I think we all know who we're talking about, Rick.

Sanchez: Alright, alright. Again, you charge that Khalidi is anti-Semitic. He would say that his policies on Israel differ from those of Barack Obama and many other people. But, either way, I guess we'll have to leave it at that. …

So the question is, what exactly is Goldfarb implying? From what he says, we all know who this anti-Semitic person is. So, who do we know who is anti-Semitic? Mel Gibson? T.S. Eliot? Hitler? Is he or she from the USA, or is Goldfarb trying to say that The Big O has ties to overseas terrorist organizations. Given the campaign that McCain has run, who knows?

Crossposted at Daily Kos.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Utah Makes the National Movie News

Well, Larry H. Miller's trusty Megaplex theater chain has got itself in the national news once again by…well, take a guess.

If you guessed "endorsing Barack Obama for president," or "saying no on prop 8," you're wrong again. Man, you really suck at guessing. But if you said, "refusing to show another movie," you're right!

The movie in question is Kevin Smith's "Zach and Miri Make a Porno," starring pudgy funnyman Seth Rogen and not-so-pudgy funnywoman Elizabeth Banks. And it wasn't banned because Smith's movies show the directorial grace of an episode of "Married…With Children." Nope, it was because of the most unpleasant thing in the world: sex.

Sean P. Means filed the story for The Salt Lake Tribune, and the New York Post got the insight of Cal Gunderson, who once told me that 1.66:1 isn't a real aspect-ratio, and that I made it up.

…"we feel it's very close to an NC-17 with its graphic nudity and graphic sex."

Megaplex banned "Brokeback Mountain" while it was playing "Hostel," and as Means points out, Miller's company again endorses violence over sex:

The ban on "Zack and Miri" also comes a week after the horror movie "Saw V" opened nationwide, including at four Megaplex theaters. Among the grisly images in "Saw V" are a woman decapitated by blades in a collar and a man forced to crush his hands to escape being cut in half by a pendulum.

When asked by The New York Post about the apparent double standard of screening the violence of "Saw V" but not the sexuality of "Zack and Miri," Gunderson replied, "No comment." (By deadline, Gunderson had not responded to calls from The Salt Lake Tribune seeking comment.)

Update: The Megaplex at The District is definitely thinking of the children:
Friday night, managers at the Megaplex Theatre at the District, 11400 South Bangerter Highway, switched one of the showings of "High School Musical 3: Senior Year" to a larger auditorium to accommodate more people. They forgot, however, to switch the movie that had previously been scheduled for the room.

So rather than the family-friendly, G-rated "High School Musical 3," the beginning of the very nonfamily-friendly R-rated "Sex Drive" came on the screen. The opening minutes of the movie include nudity.

"I could not carry my little children out before they were exposed to extremely vulgar and sexually explicit material," one parent complained in an e-mail to the Deseret News.
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Say it Ain't So…Uh, What Was Your Name Again?

Joe the Plumber is a registered Republican, which anyone who read my previous post will find totally shocking. Also, his name's Sam and he's not licensed. You gotta love the McCain campaign.
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McCain Drops Patraeus Obsession to Focus on Joe the Plumber

Senator John McCain went into tonight's third and final presidential debate with a new game plan. He would be meaner, more bitter, more petulant, and more prone to fake outrage. This plan, he hoped, would be enough to revive his fading campaign. But in case it wasn't, he had a secret weapon—a weapon named Joe.

The debate confused the aliens from a distant solar system who, three weeks ago, figured out how to decode our Satellite TV and translate English. After studying the first two presidential face-offs, they'd concluded that General David Petraeus was one of the most influential figures on the planet.

Based on the pale, wrinkled organism's constant references, they inferred that the American people held the good General in an affection usually reserved for the likes of Jesus Christ, William Shakespeare, Albert Einstein or Harrison Ford. "Obama insulted General Petraeus by opposing the surge—which is much worse than supporting a disastrous war that cost us the lives of brave young men and helped put the country in financial ruin. General Petraeus thinks that Obama's an inexperienced sissy," said McCain's extraterrestrial translators.

Yet there was no mention of Petraeus in the final debate. Instead, McCain spent most of his time addressing one single person, Joe "The Plumber" Wurzelbacher. At this point, the alien leader said, "Fuck it. Let's get caught up on 'Lost'."

In a recent campaign event in Toledo, Ohio, Joe the Plumber asked Senator Barack Obama why the small business that he hypothetically might buy and that hypothetically might make slightly more than $250,000 a year would see a minor tax increase under his plan. As seen on video, The Big O articulately explained to Joe the Plumber that only his hypothetical income above $250,000 would hypothetically be taxed at a higher rate. He also used the phrase "spread the wealth around," which is code for either "turn the country into a Communist dictatorship" or "leave the middle-class with enough money to afford services like plumbing. Joe the Plumber replied that he worked hard, and shouldn't be punished for his hard work. He works hard.

The Big O thought that those five minutes were the end of his conversation with this McCain supporter posing as an undecided voter, but it turned out he had about 90 more. McCain had big plans for this man whom Obama would tax an extra $0 to $900 a year (not counting other deductions built into The Big O's plan), depending on where he fell in his possible income range of $250-280K a year.

McCain has a knack for leaching onto something and harping on it so insistently as to become a parody of himself. He did it with Petraeus, the Chicago Planetarium's projector and anything else remotely resembling an earmark. Now it was Joe's turn. McCain awkwardly attempted to turn Joe the Plumber into an average Joe with an above-average income, an everyman whom Obama wants to tax to death. McCain began nearly every response with phrases like "My old buddy Joe—Joe the Plumber—is out there…" before launching into rambles on healthcare, taxes, or whatever else came up.

It was inevitable that Joe the Plumber would be the hot target of the media's post-debate coverage, and Joe turned out to be a ready and willing interviewee. On CBS, he revealed that, while he may be an everyman who doesn't get the fancy GOP talking-point memos, he can pick things up quick. "Sure, I've heard nothing but Barack-this and Obama-that for the past 200 years of this god-forsaken, everlasting election cycle," he seemed to say, "but I just don't know enough about him. He's a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma! McCain on the other hand—I know where he stands. He stands against quality educational facilities like planetariums. He stands for expensive wars, under-qualified running mates and any strategy that might boost his sinking poll numbers. But perhaps most importantly, he stands with the good General Petraeus."
Crossposted at Daily Kos.
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Monday, September 29, 2008

What I've been doing

Many have been wondering why I haven't been posting. Well, I've been working on recording some delectable, popadelic, hauntingly poetic indie-pop to bop your head and drink away your sorrows to. Check out the NSPS Facebook page.
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Craig Froehlich: 1971-2008

If ever a situation required a laugh, Craig Froehlich was the man to provide it. Whether he was addressing a calamity of international proportions, celebrity news fodder or a personality that was at-odds with his own, Craig cut it down to its essence with his acerbic wit and insight. Whenever I hear something that makes me throw my arms in the air in disbelief, I think "I can't wait to hear what Craig has to say about this!"

As long as the world spins on with its foibles, ironies and outrages, that thought will no doubt reverberate in my head. But it breaks my heart that I will no longer have the pleasure of finding out. Craig died Monday morning after a long battle against alcoholism and depression. He left behind many devastated friends and family members who still remember him in his most happy and inspired moments. They include sister Carmen Watkins and her three daughters, brother Kevin Froehlich, mother Gertrud Anderson and father Darryl Froehlich.

Craig moved to Salt Lake City from Detroit in 1994, and completed his BA in Mass Communications at the University of Utah in 2002. We met when he came to the Daily Utah Chronicle and RED Magazine to pursue his love of writing. There, I had the pleasure of working with him and reading his material on a regular basis.

Craig was a ferocious reader, a lover of literature, history, humor, music and film. It was rare to find a topic on which he wasn't knowledgeable, and rarer still to find one from which he couldn't yank laughs. His drive to know everything spilled into his writing. Even the breeziest of his comedic gems entailed a great deal of research—he wanted to know his target before he lambasted it, to ensure his jokes were spot on.

Once, when I was his editor at the University of Utah's RED Magazine, he called a local burger joint near campus because he wanted to make a joke about the "World-Famous Pastrami Burger" sign outside their restaurant. Nevermind that his piece was about John Kerry, he needed to make sure he quoted the sign correctly. Unfortunately, the employee who worked there wasn't so aware of his surroundings, and didn't even know the sign even existed. Much to Craig's dismay, the minimum-wage-earning mope wouldn't go outside and check, and since we were on deadline, we couldn't check it ourselves. I suggested an alternative to the gag, but he remained bemused that this employee wouldn't aid his mischievous comedic scheme.

I've been going over the writing Craig left behind since receiving the news, and reading it is the best way to lift my spirits after. It doesn't replace having him here in person—the charming banter, the off-the-cuff remarks so clever you're not sure you really heard them, the hilarious storytelling and excited declarations—but it certainly reminds us of his unmistakable spirit. He was able to find the perfect way to cut down his subject with the wrong end of his axe, whether commenting on the shortcomings of ethnic nomenclature ("Many blacks feel far more American than African. Many whites have no idea what "Caucasian" means and refuse to be called European Americans for fear their women will stop shaving their armpits."), Republican political strategy ("God, Guns and Gays—or more specifically, threatening the latter with the first two.") or tourist souvenirs ("Sea turtles swaggered through town in flashy clothing and demanded money from helpless artisans and shopkeepers. To combat this menace, a Mexican freedom fighter known only as Señor Frog built countless resort hotels on Cancun’s immaculate stretch of beaches. These hotels decimated the habitat where the turtles laid their fragile eggs. Fertile turtles of yesterday now face extinction (a serious blow to their intimidation factor). Many of Cancun’s grandest shot glasses and T-shirts now bear the name of the heroic frog.").

Craig wouldn't abide sugar-coating—he avoided sentimentality and never hesitated to tell friends—or complete strangers—exactly what was on his mind. When people were building Miis at a Wii party, he took pleasure in pointing out when people were selecting features they wish they had, rather than ones that resembled their real-life looks. Of course, no one could accuse him of hypocrisy after seeing the comically sad little avatar he cooked up.

Once, I took him to an emergency room to receive treatment for a kidney stone that would not pass. His extreme pain combined with the tedious banter of the people sitting near us and, of course, his own personality to generate a reaction I'll never forget. As the man talked nonsense about celebrities, gun laws and stem-cell research, Craig cut him off. "Oh, will you shut the hell up!" he snapped, adding a disgruntled "PLEASE!" after seeing the unimpressed expression on the offender's face.

As his incessant banter suggested, the talking man wasn't as frightened of a confrontation as me, the silent fellow sinking in his seat. "If you don't like it, go somewhere else," he replied. While Craig mercifully relented from pushing the point further and apologized, he later mused about where he was supposed to go. "I'm in a freaking emergency room, for crying out loud." The detail he most ardently brought up, however, was that he did, after all, say please.

While Craig's social form may have been a bit unconventional, it let you know that he was never blowing smoke up your ass. If he asked about how something was going or how people were doing, you knew it was because he really cared.

So I can't sugar-coat this memorial, lest I hear him say, "You've gotta be kidding me!" in my head. The last several years of his life saw his addiction to alcohol grow worse and worse, and we saw less and less of the Craig we know and love. There was only so much time his loved ones could devote to enacting a recovery before becoming frustrated and exhausted. But even when he was sick in the hospital and experiencing great pain, he still took the time to ask about how everyone was doing, and tell some jokes to put our sad selves at ease.

Like most people who see the absurdities of the world in a special way, Craig was frustrated that others couldn't see them so easily. He loved his country, and his planet, but was continually upset that neither were as perfect as they should be. And while he never reached the levels he aspired to in life, he left us with a tremendous collection of work that makes us laugh while we shake our heads at how ridiculous it all is.

Below are links to some of Craig's best writing. Please share your own memories and thoughts on Craig in the comments section. This is a very sad moment, but Craig would be displeased if we didn't spend it laughing.

RED Through the Ages. To kick off the school year in Fall 2003, Craig wrote this introduction to RED Magazine. Sending up more than 100 years of history through the eyes of imagined college A&E publications. "1912—The Titanic sinks with 1,500 souls on board. 'It would make a smashing moving-picture show,' the editor of The Ute Artful Dodger muses, 'if only one could seamlessly write the gratuitous display of boobs into the story.'"

Façade: Interactive Videogames Take a Small Step Forward. A Review of an ambitious, but buggy-as-hell artificial intelligence game (or interactive drama). "If you want to shoot people or baskets, chances are you can find a video game that satiates your needs. If you want interaction and a chance to express personality and intellect, chances are you’ll need to stoop to speaking to other Homo sapiens."

Will Joke For Food. Craig profiles the hardships of local standup comedians for Salt Lake City Weekly. "Being a professional comedian requires compromises and obedience to the gods of income. Decisions to wring a living out of making people laugh demands diligence and a smidgen of insanity. A hard-working comedian can still skirt the poverty level, but it’s a world where only bad timing, horrible pay and a Klan rally discourages a comic from accepting a gig."

The Salt Shaker's 1977 Star Wars review. In honor of the prequel trilogy, Craig wrote this "archival review" of the original "Star Wars"—a 1977 article by "Anakin Mathews." It ran in our inaugural issue. "With or without the wars, Hamill’s star is definitely on the rise."

RED Magazine's endorsement of John Kerry. Note that because Craig couldn't get confirmation on B & D Burgers' world famous pastrami sign before deadline, he had to settle for the Training Table's claim to world-famous cheese fries. He always regretted the compromise and remained convinced that the B & D pastrami burger would have resulted in a funnier gag.

Christ and Comic Books on Main Street of SLC. Craig wonders if Chick Tracts will be distributed in downtown Salt Lake City. "Approach your stroll through the Main Street "Free-Speech-O-Rama" Plaza as would a cultural anthropologist. Observe outsiders with attentive impartiality and read comic books with the utmost caution. Those booklets are designed to convert unsuspecting sinners after only one reading."

The Best Film Fest in the West. Craig's send-up of the Sundance Film Festival was so funny, I ran it during two different festivals. "Sundance is devoid of the pretensions and exclusivity of other festivals. Any moron can get a ticket, and they do so in droves."

The Original Draft of the Bill of Rights. "Excessive bail shall not be required although every bail is excessive when you’re poor; nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted such as eating Pop-Tarts in front of a hungry person or dressing up like a pirate and pelting someone with stale pancakes."

In Memoriam: Richard Pryor. Craig looks back on the life of one of his heroes.

The Top News Stories of 2005. Craig's last published work. "President Bush, since he has always held the media in such high esteem, believed that the Big Easy had truly dodged a bullet. He continued a well-deserved 27th vacation at his Crawford, Texas ranch—riding bikes, clearing brush and barbecuin’ up some of that tasty "pork" imported from Guantanamo Bay."
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Sunday, July 13, 2008

SFSFF: Stephen Horne Brings Kinugasa to Life

Pianist and silent film accompanist Stephen Horne just electrified the Castro Theatre with a stunning performance that glorified a gorgeous 35-mm print of Teinosuke Kinugasa's "Jujiro" ("Crossways"). He captured the film's mesmerizing, experimental visual language and draining emotional content. The score incorporated flute and other sounds to great effect, and ended in an exhausted, emotional entanglement.

Prior to the feature, Horne accompanied an early experimental color short from the Kodak labs called "Kaleidoscope," which was a perfect prelude, as the performance reflected the film's building blends of shapes, colors and light (I know, it sounds like one of George Lucas's upcoming projects).

There have been a lot of fine performances by orchestras, oranists, quartets and pianists at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival this year, but this one (Horne's third), I'll never forget.
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Saturday, July 12, 2008

SFSFF: 'The Kid Brother'

The Silent Film Festival opened last night with a screening of Harold Lloyd's "The Kid Brother," the silent clown and filmmaker's second-to-last silent feature, and by some accounts his favorite.

The festival, which has gone from a one-day event to a three-day marathon since I last attended, projects pristine prints of a variety of silent masterpieces, all on the giant screen of the historic Castro Theatre—one of the best places in the world to watch movies. Even Leonard Maltin, who one would assume has been to his share of fabulous screenings by this point in his career, expressed his amazement at the size of the screen and the clarity of the newly restored Buffalo Bill short that played before the main feature.

Before "The Kid Brother" screened, Maltin interviewed Lloyd's granddaughter, Suzanne Lloyd, who has devoted her life to the preservation and promotion of her grandfather's work. Lloyd shared her memories of her grandfather while Maltin demonstrated his passion and knowledge.

Maltin attributed Lloyd's diminished stature compared to contemporaries Keaton and Chaplin to his refusal to let his work be shown on television. (Personally, while Lloyd's films are always packed with clever gags and exciting comedic action, I find his everyday bozo to lack some of the magic of Keaton.) Suzanne remembered Harold saying that if all these people took the time to get together and create gags and shoot and edit and re-work a movie, it shouldn't be chopped up and interrupted by car salesman. She credited channels like Turner Classic Movies for allowing Harold's work to be widely seen on television without betraying his wishes.

The festival screening revealed, as it always does, the stunning image quality that the silents had when they were first shown. Lloyd's best moments, like the tree-climbing shot, feel all the more magical when you can see them with the detail and attention that was intended.
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Friday, July 11, 2008

Wall-E and Buster Keaton: Vaguely Related to this year's SFSFF

I just arrived in San Francisco for the city's annual Silent Film Festival and am mega-excited about seeing a collection of films as they were meant to be seen, in 35-mm with live musical accompaniment.

This year, the festival arrives with great timing. Next week, the Batman film "The Dark Knight" comes out; and this week, SFSFFF's centerpiece is "The Man Who Laughs," the film that inspired Batman's greatest villain, The Joker. And two weeks ago, the largely silent "Wall-E" charmed filmgoers everywhere.

The brilliant offering from Pixar Animation Studios is chock full of references and echoes of great films past, my favorite of which involves my favorite filmmaker, Buster Keaton (none of whose films are on this year's SFSFF roster).

One Keaton's trademarks was his characters' logical deduction in the face of repeating oddity. Keaton knew not only how to create great gags, but how to build them into increasingly absurd scenes of comedic genius. Take, for example, the scene in "The General" in which he tries to give orders to a number of soldiers, all of whom fall victim to an unseen sniper before he can complete instructions. At first, Buster handles the situation calmly and proceeds to the next soldier, only to see that one drop dead as well. Puzzled, he slowly inches toward the next one with a suspicious look on his face, hesitant to give the order that will bring about the inevitable.

In the case of Wall-E, the trash-compacting has encountered a cleaning robot whose task is to tidy up all external contaminants on a resort space station. Wall-E, having spent the past 700 years rolling around on a trash-contaminated earth, is understandably filthy. He rolls, a trail of dirt is left on the shiny white floor, the cleaning robot spazzes and quickly cleans up the mess. But of course, as soon as Wall-E moves, there's more mess. This interplay of aggravation builds up, and Wall-E begins to pick up on his friend's peculiar behavior. So curiously begins some experiments of his own. He sticks his wheel-chains out just a little bit, and sees the robot address the little dirt smudge with the same level of ferocity. Having detected the pattern, Wall-E tried something new: He smudges the dirt right across the robot's face. Pure brilliance. Pure Keaton.
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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Our Action Sequence of Discontent

Hancock is the first movie super-hero to deserve a write-up for drunk-flying. As he soars through the skies of Los Angeles, bitter that a young boy woke him from his drunken bus-stop slumber so he could intervene in a high-speed chase, his flight stands out from all the other crumby CG scene in every other super hero movie. It's erratic. If there were lanes in the sky, he'd be swerving in and out of his, and knocking over some bus stops, too.

It's not that he's still learning how to use his powers, it's that he doesn't care.

"Hancock" goes a long way simply with the ingenious casting of Will Smith in the title role. The imminently likable Smith has established himself as the quintessential action hero of his generation, and now he offers us a malcontent anti-hero who doesn't like his job.

In the film's best scene, a giant crowd surrounds Hancock after he rescues a man who couldn't get out of his car, which was stuck on the track of an oncoming train. The crowd isn't there to praise Hancock, but to critique his admittedly inept way of handling the rescue. He should have done it different, and if he had, he would have caused a whole lot less damage. They have a point, but we get the feeling that Hancock might be a little better at heroics if he weren't so insecure about the way people think of him.

The man Hancock rescues turns out to be a public-relations wizard, and he offers to help turn around the hero's image. Jason Bateman is funny as usual in the role, but Vincent Ngo and Vince Gilligan's screenplay could have provided more dimension (the tacked-on plot about his charity brand that will change the world notwithstanding). Nevertheless, he and Smith have a slap-happy awkward chemistry as he gets to know the hero and brings him home to meet his wife (Charlize Theron), who looks upon Hancock with suspicion and mistrust, and son, who actually likes the guy.

Running around 90 minutes, "Hancock" could have benefitted from a longer runtime to develop all its themes. As it is, it seems to throw ideas at us, then abandon them for something else. The film's villains are so poorly set up that they might as well not be in the film at all, and the third act, while full of interesting developments, devolves into aimless action right when it needs to build on its ideas.

But in its best moments, "Hancock" is good for some nice laughs and character humor, along with the requisite summer excitement.
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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Is "WALL•E" a Godless Commie, or Just Adorable?

Bill Wyman's new column notes that many critics, although I am surely not among them, ignore the material in "WALL•E" that "[attacks] the American way of life." The claim is fair enough, but one can't help but wonder if there wasn't simply too much interesting stuff going on in Andrew Stanton's film to cover in a short review.

For example, imagine that you're a critic for a major daily, and have 450 words to write on a film that you think is fantastic (as most of "WALL•E's" reviewers do). Because you love the movie so much, you want your readers to go see it to. At this point, you can either talk about issues of exercise or obesity, or you can talk about visual bedazzlement, touching characters and perfect storytelling. Which one would you discuss?

What Wyman misses, however, is that kids movies have somehow become, over the past decade, the safest corner of mainstream cinema for political discourse. He opens his piece with:

If Michael Moore, or Oliver Stone, or, God forbid, some effete French director, had crafted a feature film that was a thinly disguised political broadside portraying Americans as recumbent tubbos who moved around on sliding barcaloungers with built-in video screens and soft drinks always at the ready, don’t you think there’d be some sort of notice taken?

But Pixar does it and …

… the reviewers barely mention it.

The thing is, a new Michael Moore movie is such a hot button issue in itself that everyone has already heard about it in the news by the time reviews run on release day. The interest buzzing around over a new Pixar film isn't its underlying political message, but the anticipated high-quality filmmaking and top-rate entertainment. Maybe reviewers decided to let that remain the headline, and let the audience figure out the underlying messages of lifestyle choices on their own.

Truth is, it's easier to get a political screenplay greenlit when it's "Antz" than when it's "Michael Clayton." Add a dash of whimsy and some cute comedy, and the topics of edgy adult dramas make great stories for the kids. While one would expect blowhard TV pundits to be most concerned about the material that appeals directly to the children, family-oriented movies tend to get a free pass as long as they aren't out to convert the tots to atheism or teach them to hate their religious leaders.

Take for example "Robots," 20th Century Fox's 2005 release from its computer-animation studio. The film comes from the same conglomerate responsible for the Fox News Channel and the New York Post, yet delivers a cry for socialism that would feel at home in an Upton Sinclair novel. The world of "Robots" is one in which corporations care only about the bottom line—where greedy CEOs abuse the downtrodden, lower-class worker robots, then discard them when they are no longer useful. The politics are overt enough before the film's rallying cry of a third act: The robots violently overthrow their corporate overlords, take over the means of production and transform their city into a utopian paradise. By comparison, "WALL•E's" commentary on wastefulness, civic responsibility and obesity seems downright tame.

Perhaps theses radical animation directors tapped into the perfect shield from controversy: the lessons people want to teach their kids. No one really wants to look their kid in the eyes and say, "Sorry Skippy, but if that cute little robot is no longer profitable to the company, it's the CEO's responsibility to discard him. He has to think of the shareholders! And there's nothing wrong with sitting on the couch all day staring at a TV screen—you don't need any exercise. Also, sorry I named you Skippy—I hope you don't get the shit kicked out of you at school." So those who disagree with the underlying political principals probably find it easier to pretend they're not there.
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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

WALL•E: The Robot Who Rediscovers Humanity

The first five minutes of "WALL•E," place so much visual wonderment on the movie screen that my eyes almost danced out of my skull trying to take in all the details. And it never stops dazzling. Pixar Animation Studios' latest effort presents one among hundreds of cinematic visions of a post-apocalyptic future, but in this one there are no down-and-out humans living in cyberslums or sinister corporate goons who lord over them. With the exception of a cockroach, there's no life at all besides a run-down robot that may be humanity's last hope.

In an uninhabited city whose towering skyscrapers are actually giant stacks of compressed trash cubes, the plucky little robot zips from place to place, scavenging alone on the dusty brown landscape. The scenes of him rolling through the desolate nothingness recall the opening shots of last year's "I Am Legend" (a similarity that's surely unintentional, given the extensive pre-production required of Pixar's computer animation). But there are two key differences between the films. The hero of "WALL•E" is never as dour as Will Smith in "I Am Legend," and there are no vampiric monsters with whom the little fellow has to contend. Also, Smith wasn't cranking the "Hello Dolly" soundtrack while he worked. This is a film about connection, not fear.

It's 800 years in the future, and Earth has become a land of garbage. The humans abandoned it 700 years ago, with plans to return in a few years, when trash-gathering WALL•E robots were supposed to have disposed of it. But the humans never came back, and the sole functioning robot goes about business in his own idiosyncratic manner.

Fred Willard—who is so consistently good that his presence alone earns a smile, plays the film's only live-action part, in old footage of the president of the company that pledged to clean up earth's mess. His is the only voice that says more than a word during the first act of the film.

The trash-filled wasteland is a commentary on a wasteful society, and Willard's promises are ones that appeal to mankind's laziness. Don't stay behind to fix the problem, he says, take a pleasure cruise through space and everything will be fixed when you return. Now, the ignore-the-problems attitude has been passed on for several generations, resulting in an obese human who only knows how to pass the time by looking at computer screens while traveling on hovering chairs.

Director Andrew Stanton, who previously made "A Bugs Life" and "Monsters, Inc.," reaches the highest level of visual storytelling. The personalities of the film's many different robots come through in their movement and sounds—dialogue isn't necessary. WALL•E's mannerisms makes for great comedy and great action. One scene, in which he aggravates a cleaning robot by trying to deduce his motivations, comes right out of Buster Keaton's handbook. The supporting human characters who speak almost feel trite by comparison.

Stanton and his collaborators brilliantly designed their characters and environments, both on the depleted earth and on WALL•E's ensuing journey to outer-space. The designs are both original and full of references, including the most iconic robot-computer of all time, the HAL 9000 from "2001: A Space Odyssey."

WALL•E's solitude must have given his processors lots of time to consider the greater purposes of existence. And so he became a deeply sentimental robot, hungry for interaction and extremely attached to the trinkets that Earth's former inhabitants left behind. He doesn't plow the trash and compact it without thought, as his programmers intended. He sorts through it, looking for special trinkets that interest him—a hand-powered food mixer, a jewelry case (the ring inside, not so much) and, most of all, a VHS player and an old cassette of "Hello Dolly," which shows him the magic of singing, dancing and holding hands.

He brings this hunger for interaction to a human race that has started to forget it. Whether you're a baby or a senior citizen, you can't help but notice the robot's steadfast commitment to friendliness, and the difference it makes. "WALL•E" reminds us of the joys to be had in life's simple gestures, like a wave, a handshake or the beautiful act of holding hands.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dear George

The Scotsman's Andrew Eaton has written an open letter to one George Lucas, whom you may know as a famed filmmaker, CGI-lover, compulsive masturbator and regular in The Same Dame's comments section (come on, what are the odds that it's not really him?) In it, Eaton references George's long-planned career in small art films that somehow never actually get made, although there is a new Star Wars film out in August!. Maybe that's the small, experimental film about light, movement and color that he described in a Cannes press conference.

Indiana Jones took up loads of your time too. For years, Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg kept arguing that a giant alien spaceship wouldn't work in an Indiana Jones movie! They weren't the only doubters either. Lots of people felt that the Indy movies are about an intrepid archaeologist digging up mysterious relics from the past, and that putting a giant alien spaceship in it would be a bit like, well, writing a fantasy epic about a noble warrior turning to the dark side, and ending up so hideously deformed that he needed to wear a black metal suit to stay alive, and then deciding that what it really needed was a comedy Rastafarian alien sidekick, with a stupid, racially insensitive voice, to provide "comic relief" by falling over and getting his arm trapped in machinery. It would be, you know, a bit incongruous.
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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Amazing Sites, No Computers

Roger Ebert reminds us just how nice it is to have him back with his interview with director Tarsem on his latest film, "The Fall."

Reading the interview, it becomes apparent that Tarsem accomplished a feat simply by willing the film into existence. The Indian director ("The Cell") made his career directing commercials and music videos, making a lot of money while living under modest means until one day, he decided to spend his millions on something he cared about.

The agencies that made commercials, he said, "gave me very good money and I didn't complain about it. I put it aside like a little squirrel and at the end I ended up with a project that I wanted to do very badly and threw it all away, so now I’m penniless but as happy as a pig in poo. I told my brother, sell everything, I’m going on this magical mystery tour. When I finish it, I’ll let you know. I called him when it was almost done. He said the house was almost up for sale. But I was finished."

He has a quick smile and makes his struggle sound like a lark.

The film combines a touching relationship between a suicidal, paralyzed Hollywood stuntman (Lee Pace) and a young immigrant girl (Catinca Untaru) and the surreal fantasy he tells her from his bedside. Tarsem accurately portrays the fantasy as the young girl sees it in her mind. The storyline resembles a dream in its extremely simplistic yet murky execution. Excursions and sideshows distract from the main plot, which would cause the film to unravel if the plot in reality weren't actually the one that mattered.

"If you think it’s hard raising money for a film, try telling people that the script is going to be written by a 4-year old. It’s going to be dictated to me by a child. For seven years wherever I would shoot a commercial I would send people out with a camera to schools, and one day I got a tape of this girl at a school in Romania, in the middle of students talking. I was amazed. She was perfect. She didn't speak English. The penny dropped. She was six, but if she didn’t speak the language she would be using, the misunderstanding would buy me the two years that I needed. Because she had to seem four.

Tarsem also reveals the secret behind his striking visuals: location scouting. The locations all exist in reality, although in some cases the director helped bend the reality to his will.

"Jodhpur, the blue city, is a Brahmin city where you’re only supposed to paint your house blue. I made a contract with the city; we would give them free paint. We knew legally they could only choose blue. So they painted their houses blue and it looked more vibrant than it ever had before."
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Friday, April 11, 2008

Where will HD Go? Nobody Knows

In Which I Talk About How Great HD is While I Complain About What's Wrong with Every HD Format That Crosses My Mind

As someone who was never particularly impressed with the digital projection craze or HD movie productions, I didn't expect to be blown away by either of the competing HD media formats. But when I saw "2001: A Space Odyssey" on HD DVD, I bought into it quicker than George Lucas would pay for a digital whore (that he made for himself at ILM, of course).

The leap in home video quality is revelatory. While I'd love to watch every movie I see in its original film format, that's a pipe dream. Given the sorry state of repertory films in all but a few cities in this nation, most film lovers have no method outside of the home to view classics or undiscovered gems that were released more than a year ago. I jumped at the prospect of watching films at home with some of their detail and color accuracy restored.

Of course, I backed the wrong horse and picked up an inexpensive HD DVD player because it was clearly the more consumer-friendly format, and presented more opportunities to indie filmmakers and studios. (Short filmmakers, for example, could author HD transfers of their films onto a regular DVD or DVD+/+DL/-R for HD DVD playback. Think of the low production costs for "Cops" or "Un Chien Andalou" in HD, damn it!)

I misjudged the amount of money Sony was willing to pour into this war—especially for Warner Bros. exclusivity. As it happens, I'm still happy with the purchase—I have a great up-convertor for my regular DVDs and don't plan to invest in any of the remaining HD solutions until they come down in price and/or prove themselves the dominant format. And I somehow wound up with nearly 50 HD DVDs and a $50 gift certificate by spending less than I would have for a Blu-ray player.

With Blu-ray Disc as the remaining optical-disc medium, we now have a herd of HD options that aren't particularly conducive to consumer adoption. While I hope that one will win out, ensuring more and more HD transfers and releases, it's possible that none will, and that BD will exist only as a niche format. The Super Audio CD offered better sound than CDs, but most music-listeners were too busy ripping and downloading lower-than-CD-quality mp3s to notice. And while more and more people have been investing in HDTVs, they've more likely grabbed a cheap up-converter than a Blu-ray or HD DVD machine. So it's really anyone's game.


Buried amongst Blu-ray Disc's pain-in-the-ass DRM, region coding, in-fighting, and inconsistent and unfinished specs is the best picture and sound quality of any HD option still standing. Blu-ray also shares its size and dimensions with DVD, making the discs familiar and the players hospitable for old (or new) DVDs. (When the war was still being waged, Sony execs said that people should just by regular DVDs of the HD DVD studios' films and up-convert with their BD player.)

Now that Sony has won the war, it needs to launch an assault on DVD, but Sony actually raised one of its player's since HD DVD's demise. If the players weren't so damn expensive, they might appeal to the folks who are buying up-converters for a quarter to an eighth of the price.

People forget that the DVD didn't kill VHS with only its picture quality and loads of versatile features. It offered the new, superior movie experience for a fraction of the price people were paying for VHS tapes or Laserdiscs. If studio execs think they would have sold nearly as many catalogue movies and TV shows at two to four times the price, they are sadly delusional.

There are plenty of early adopters who are willing to pay premiums, but those adopters can only make Blu-ray a niche format. Certain people, like those who owned laserdiscs (I still have mine), are willing to pay a premium to watch films in the best quality available for their home theaters, but others want to play the movies they own in many different places.

The majority of consumers (including those who own BD and/or HD DVD players) still purchase DVDs with gleeful disregard of their inferior picture quality. You have to wonder how many movies most people will add to their Blu-ray collections. Even if everybody decided to get a BD player, they'd probably only get one, to use in their nice home theater setup (yes, I know that not everybody has a "nice home theater setup"). It'd be pointless on the small TV in their car, overkill for the bedroom, too costly for the kids' playroom. So they're still going to have DVD players around the house. That means that every time they buy a movie, they'll have to decide whether to purchase a DVD that they can play anywhere, or a BD that they can play in one room.

A lot of people ragged on the HD DVD combo format, which included DVD on one side and HD DVD on the other, but I experienced its usefulness multiple times when I lent friends the combo discs of "Knocked Up" and "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." Maybe now that HD-DVD is dead, Blu-ray can reach an agreement that allows for a combo disc format.

The longer it takes Sony and its Blu-ray pals to make their format cheap and flexible, the more time they give other options to come in and take their place. Luckily for them, the most threatening option isn't as close as we think.

Many have predicted that Blu-ray will soon die out to downloaded content, but this assumption jumps the gun and overlooks key factors. First of all, we who use the Internet nonstop sometimes forget that there are many among us who do not. When a blizzard hindered the Utah Film Critics Association's awards voting, I tried to setup a chat group via AIM and iChat, only to learn that several of my colleagues had only slow dial-up connections at home and had no idea how to do anything but check their email. (I hope my colleagues appreciate that I didn't go for the easy addition of "and look up porn" to that joke. Just for you, guys. Just for you.)

So let's not get carried away about how quickly downloadable movies will catch on. While popular amongst its users, Xbox Live, like Blu-ray, feels too tied to its videogame system to reach success amongst the masses. Even the best device for this type of thing, Apple TV, comes with several negatives.

As I wrote when it first came out, Apple TV does what it does incredibly well, yet lacks the consumer appeal of the iPod. There's no reason that Apple's normal strategy of implementing a few key features amazingly well shouldn't work for the Apple TV, except that most people can't easily use the device to play any digital video that they want—not true for their iPods in regards to their music collection.

In my case, I'd be on Apple TV in a second if I could actually use it to watch all the movies I want to watch. But it can't play all the formats Quicktime can, and the iTunes store doesn't have the movies I want to watch. I do much better with an HD DVR and channels like World Cinema HD.

Consumers can't rip their DVDs through iTunes due to DRM and the laws that protect it, (Downloadable programs like Handbrake won't crossover to the mainstream.) And even if they could, most of us don't have the hard disc space to make it work.

When the Blu-ray and HD DVD of "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" came out, several reviews complained about the image quality, and how the transfer was on a single-layer Blu-ray Disc, meaning it's less than 25 GB.

How about a moment of thought.

How much free space do you have on your hard drive right now? An Apple TV comes with a 40GB hard drive or a 160 GB hard drive. Gee, that gives us either two or eight movies at sub-BD quality. Those who just rent anyway might not mind, except for the selection factor I mentioned earlier.

Given the Apple TV's fantastic design, it could become a hit if only Apple could come up with a reason people should buy one. New implementations, such as ordering movies direct from the Apple TV device, are an improvement. But as John Gruber pointed out, 24 hours is too short a window to start and finish their movie. And I'd like to feel like I'm not just buying the device so I can go spend money at the iTunes music store.

Apple isn't even going for the super-HD crowd, using 720p as Apple TV's native output. This strategy may prove a cost-effective way to keep prices down, especially when many can't see the difference.

Video-On-Demand Cable
On-Demand may very well become a popular way for people to expand the use of their already installed cable receivers. But let's not hope for it to become the standard.

As iLounge found in their comparison of "Live Free or Die Hard" on four different formats, on-demand cable has a higher resolution than DVD, but also uses higher compression. The result is a more detailed picture when there isn't much motion, but increased compression artifacts during fast action. Unconverted DVD offered the better presentation of the film in many instances.

Just as important (for me, anyway), on-demand was the only service that didn't offer the film in its correct aspect ratio.

And in the particular case of "Live Free or Die Hard," what the fuck's up with the colors?

My prediction? Well, I'd like an Apple TV, but expect that I'll eventually end up with a Blu-ray player once they can be purchased for less than $200. But whichever format gets Buster Keaton's complete catalogue from 1920 to 1928 on HD first will have my support. (I'll even give you—I'm addressing the format, here—a break and let you leave off "The Saphead," if you must.)
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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Disney Still Not Over the Whole 3-D Thing.

Yesterday, the folks at Disney demonstrated their belief that digital 3-D is not merely a re-hash of a short-lived fad from 50 years ago. They plan to release their animated film schedule from 2009 onward in the format, and expect filmgoers to pay a few bucks extra more for the trouble.

"Up," set for release May 29, 2009, will be Pixar's first 3-D title, and thereafter every Pixar toon will be produced in 3-D. Disney has been an early proponent of the format, starting with 2005's "Chicken Little," and all its own toons going forward will use the format as well. Lasseter noted he is such a fan that his wedding pictures were done in 3-D. Along with its new pics, Disney is also releasing Pixar classics "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" in digital 3-D in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Meanwhile, Disney's Blu-ray release of that Hannah Montanna concert is slated to include 3-D glasses. Like my great granddad used to say, it's always more fun to watch teenage girls perform when you feel like you can reach out and touch them.

As Disney blazes this bold, 50-year-old trail, I only hope they bring Robert Zemeckis along to shove some swords in our faces.
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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Morris Premieres New Doc, Patiently Answers B.O.-Related Questions

Defamer caught up with the great documentarian Errol Morris at a screening of his upcoming Abu Graihb film, " "Standing Operating Procedure." If the film is as engaging as Morris makes it sound, I don't really think it matters whether the film takes in more money than other recent Iraq-themed flops.

"It's not a movie about torture or about whether the Iraq War shouldn't have been fought. I have strong opinions about that myself. But I made a movie about people like yourself or myself trapped in the middle of this — people we never would have seen or would have forgotten about, who we just would have assumed are really monsters. And I've brought them back across the line back into humanity. And I think it's an interesting story — and a human story."
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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Don't Make Woody Angry

Woody has taken clothing line American Apparel to task for using a still from "Annie Hall" in one of their ads.

In a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, the actor-director said he does not endorse commercial products or services in the United States, which makes the May 2007 American Apparel billboards in Hollywood and New York and Web site displays "especially egregious and damaging."

Or maybe Woody's just April foolin'.
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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

George Lucas Admits He's a Hack

(*Headline lifted directly from the subject of an email from Brent Sallay.)

George Lucas remembers the excitement that grew during the lead-up to "Star Wars: Episode I—The; Phantom! Menace," only to collapse in a flaccid heap of exposition and digital overkill prior to the anti-climax of the film's pod race. So he devised a new marketing message for the upcoming Indian Jones sequel: Don't get your hopes up, folks.

Lucas assured USA Todaythat people shouldn't assume the movie might be good just because Steven Spielberg is directing it. Lucas did have final script approval, after all.

"When you do a movie like this, a sequel that's very, very anticipated, people anticipate ultimately that it's going to be the Second Coming," Lucas says. "And it's not. It's just a movie. Just like the other movies. You probably have fond memories of the other movies. But if you went back and looked at them, they might not hold up the same way your memory holds up."

Lucas says he learned his lesson about unrealistic expectations when he revived the Star Wars franchise in 1999. "When people approach the new (Indiana Jones), much like they did with Phantom Menace, they have a tendency to be a little harder on it," he says. "You're not going to get a lot of accolades doing a movie like this. All you can do is lose."

Whereby "lose" he means "make a fucking shitload of money. I mean, a giant fucking shitload. I mean, I'm gonna make such a giant fucking shitload of money off this motherfucker."

"We came back to do (Indy) because we wanted to have fun," he says. "It's not going to make much money for us in the end. We all have some money. … It would make a lot of money if you weren't rich. But we're not doing it for the money."

And so comes Vernon Hardapple's question: "If you didn't think it was more than just a movie…why were you making it?"
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Monday, March 24, 2008

If You Don't Count 'Russian Ark' or Mention 'Rope'…

Director Aram Rappaport wants to shut down Chicago for five days to shoot a 100-minute film that will take place over a single take.

It sounds like a cool project, but Wired blogger John Scott Lewinski doesn't seem to know its full history.

In the Orson Welles classic Touch of Evil, the director's opening scene was a long, elaborate tracking shot famed for its intricate choreography. The feat was later duplicated in Goodfellas and The Player.

Writer/director Aram Rappaport is taking the idea and blowing it up for his new thriller, Helix.

Rappaport might be the first non-Russian to accomplish such a feat in a major production, although Hitchock, as usual, receives notice for trying it first in 1948.
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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Paramount Launches Online Clip Library, World Collectively Shrugs

Well, Paramount launched its own video library via Facebook. Says the Washington Post:

Paramount, which is owned by Viacom, launched the service yesterday on Facebook, the popular social-networking site. The application is called VooZoo; it is a combination clip library and media player. It includes scenes from such films as "Braveheart," "Sunset Boulevard," "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "School of Rock." The clips include a link that sends users to http://Amazon.com to buy DVDs of the movies.

My guess is that most people will just think, "But I can already watch those on YouTube." I'd be more impressed if you could buy the films via HD download, rather than order a DVD. But whatever.
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Monday, March 10, 2008

Out Utah This Week

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

Old-School Censorship Lessons

As the Irish Censorship Office prepares to close its freedom-hating doors for good, The Independent offers a look at its past antics.

In the old days, the censor would solemnly set out his reasons for prohibiting all showings of films such as King Creole. "I have had much trouble, particularly from headmistresses of girls' schools," he explained, "regarding the antics of Elvis Presley with his most suggestive abdominal dancing."

Another censor, who banned 200 films in one year alone, was appalled by the amount of kissing. He protested that Hollywood depicted kissing "to the accompaniment of the most sensuous music, lavishing miles of celluloid on this unsanitary salute".
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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Ramblings on Oscar Speeches

Let them ramble, I ramble.
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Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscars Afterthoughts

Well, I was certainly correct when I predicted that I didn't know what the hell was going to happen in the two Actress categories. I was happy for both winners (although I would have liked to see "I'm Not There" win an Oscar.)

Overall, the wounds of the writers strike clearly didn't heal quick enough, and it makes you wonder how terrible the ceremony might have been if the strike were still going on. Jon Stewart made the most of what he had, and encapsulated the feelings of all the viewers at home at the end of an inexplicable documentary on the Price-Waterhouse vote tabulation process. "Wow," he mocked, "that was exciting."

The best part of the evening came when Stewart brought Best Original Song winner Markéta Irglová back on the stage after the assholes in the orchestra played her off.

The "In Memoriam" montage again failed to celebrate the life and works of the diseased, opting instead for a lifeless series of photos. (I urge next year's producers to get Gary Ross to do it again.)

Another great moment: Jennifer Hudson shows off the skills that won her Best Supporting Actress last year—by not being able to competently read off a TelePrompTer (seriously, that's how my spellcheck intercaps it).

And props to the winners for giving good speeches instead of crying like babies and reading us their grocery lists.
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Friday, February 22, 2008

Chris Bellamy's Top Ten Films of 2007

In case Oscar-Rama wasn't enough for you, dig Chris's list of the best films of the year. Read Bellamy as he goes ape-shit over "Beowulf," fawns over "The Savages" massages the prostate gland of "The Year of the Dog" and fondly remembers "Feast of Love." Not to mention his number one film, "The Golden Compass." A great year for film, indeed.
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Oscar-Rama 2008 Now in Full (But Still Shortless) Glory

Oscar-Rama 2008 is totally go, except we haven't done the shorts category yet because we just got ahold of the screeners. If you've already read part one, and for some inexplicable reason don't want to read it again, start from part two.
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Oscar-Rama 2008

We've come a long way since 2007 kicked off with the likes of "Code Name: The Cleaner," "Wild Hogs" and Oscar nominee "Norbit." And now it's everyone's favorite time of year again, when Hollywood joins together to give itself a collective pat on the back, and finally back a single high-def format (the one that's twice as expensive, damn it!).

Some argue that it's silly to write 20,000 words on the Oscars in these troubling times. They ask, "Do the Oscars really matter?" But people only ask such questions after their prediction skills prove inept.

Chris Bellamy, Jeremy Mathews and Brent Sallay have set aside their petty squabbles, the quietly stewing resentment and the popcorn to give you the longest version yet of The Only Oscars Article Longer Than the Oscars[TM]. We hope you can handle it.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Cate Blanchett, "I'm Not There"
Ruby Dee, "American Gangster"
Saoirse Ronan, "Atonement"
Amy Ryan, "Gone Baby Gone"
Tilda Swinton, "Michael Clayton"

Look at that cute old Ruby Dee. Sure, she didn't do much in "American Gangster," but she's cute! And old! We best not pass her by. She could be dead by next year. Cuteness and oldness were the primary criteria for the Screen Actors Guild this year, so what the hell, let's give her an Oscar, too. Maybe she'll show us pictures of her grandkids!

But wait. Saoirse Ronan is young and cute! Don't you love it when kids win Oscars, and they're smiling and can barely reach the microphone? They're all up on their tippy-toes and you can't barely even hear what they're saying...we just laugh and laugh...and they get all self-conscious. Good times, good times. If Ronan pulls the upset, she could be headed for a long and illustrious career, following in the footsteps of the long, illustrious, legendary, illustrious career of Anna Paquin. Or she could lose, in which case she'd follow in the footsteps of Keisha Castle-Hughes and totally get knocked up when she's 16.

Jeremy says: There are four award-worthy performances in this category. And Ruby Dee was nominated, too. Now, Dee has had a rich and impressive career, and that's well and good, but she didn't have a whole lot to do in "American Gangster." She loves her boy and what he does, but doesn't want to know about his gangster ways, and that's about it. It's not a bad performance, but it doesn't compare to Saorise Ronan's fragile youth, Tilda Swinton's neurotic corporate whore or Amy Ryan's irresponsible but sympathetic druggy mother.

While Ryan seemed the clear favorite early in the season, she seems to have faded from memory a bit. That leaves the door open for my favorite, Cate Blanchett's performance of 1968 electric Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There." Blanchett personifies Dylan's anger, frustration and confusion with his own identity, both personally and as a pop culture icon.

But then again, Blanchett plays a dude, and she's totally a chick. Isn't that weird?

Chris says: That's what I was wondering about. I mean, Blanchett totally has a vagina, and Bob Dylan doesn't have a vagina. How can she play him in a movie? Seems like an inaccurate portrayal to me. In all seriousness, I think this same issue confused the hell out of increasingly senile "critic" and former shoplifter Rex Reed. He seems very flummoxed by this. And by movies in general.

But this is the best supporting actress category – it's always full of surprises. It prides itself on being kooky. After all, this is the same category that awarded Judi Dench when she played herself in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo in "Shakespeare in Love." This is the category that gave Kim Basinger an Oscar because people thought she was nominated for "Sullivan's Travels." This is the category that awarded Renee Zellweger because she did a really cute, broad Southern accent, and Jennifer Hudson because she has a really loud voice and threatened to unleash the Lion's Roar from "Kung Fu Hustle" if they didn't "give me my fucking Oscar."

But if the voters were really all that creative, they would have nominated Imelda Staunton for her bubbly, cheerfully ruthless villain in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."

As it is, for me it's a toss-up between Blanchett – who far transcended mere mimicry, creating a portrayal of anxiety and contradictions that works even if you don't know who the hell Bob Dylan is – and Amy Ryan. Those two were the obvious favorites for months until Ruby Dee inexplicably came out of nowhere to snag some momentum – in the process reminding people that she was actually in "American Gangster," since we had all forgotten. And now some folks – notably Entertainment Weekly – are calling a win for Tilda Swinton.

With my back against the wall, I'll say it goes to Ryan – who, prior to her great performance in "Gone Baby Gone," was excellent in a supporting role in Season 2 of "The Wire." And since most of the industry has conspired to never give a single fucking award to the best show on television, I'll say the Academy does something about that. [Note: Omar from "The Wire" was in "Gone Baby Gone," too.]

Brent says: I also like "The Wire." Give it to Amy Ryan.

That being said, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that, while women should still be permitted to act, the Academy should probably still do away with this category altogether. I know I'm not going to make any female fans by saying this, but this category is routinely a bore, with at least four nominees that are a complete stretch, for people who were either hardly in the movie or who "really showed their range" in such "dynamic" roles as "wife," "mother," "sister," or "daughter." Hell, the most likely winner in this category this year is for a woman playing a man. Until Hollywood starts writing riveting roles for women, we should stop pretending that their performances are riveting. The only performance by a woman that really knocked me off my seat this year was by Marley Shelton (or rather, Marley Shelton's eyes) in "Grindhouse."

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Casey Affleck, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Javier Bardem, "No Country for Old Men"
Philip Seymour Hoffman, "Charlie Wilson's War"
Hal Holbrook, "Into the Wild"
Tom Wilkinson, "Michael Clayton"

Look at that cute Hal Holbrook. Sure, he didn't do much in "Into the Wild," but he's cute! And old! We best not pass him by. He could be dead by next year. Cuteness and oldness were NOT the primary criteria for the Screen Actors Guild this year, so what the hell, let's give him an Oscar, dammit! Maybe he'll show us pictures of his grandkids!

Do we really need to nominate anyone in this category, though? Jeremy Mathews called it for Bardem back in May at the Cannes Film Festival, and he's always right. Except when the Cannes jury gives its award to some fucking Russian guy instead. Thankfully, there are no Russkies in this year's supporting actor race, so Javier Bardem may be in the clear.

But wait! Philip Seymour Hoffman played a guy who fucking killed Russians for a living. He actually got paid to go and kill him some Russians. If That Guy who won at Cannes were in "Charlie Wilson's War," Philip Seymour Hoffman totally would have killed his ass. So what makes Bardem thinks he's in the clear after all? Russian beats Bardem, Hoffman kills Russian, ipso ergo sum, Hoffman beats Bardem.

Then again, Casey Affleck killed Jesse James...and if he killed Jesse James, he totally could have killed Philip Seymour Hoffman, who is much fatter than Jesse James and therefore can't as effectively avoid danger.

So: Russian beats Bardem, Hoffman kills Russian, Affleck theoretically kills Hoffman, ipso ergo sum, Affleck beats Bardem. Mathews resigns in shame.

Or not.

Chris says: Bardem pretty much has this thing wrapped up. Mostly because voters are terrified to vote against him. The man has his principles, you know.

And a deserving win it will be. But I have an inner conflict here – an inner conflict brought on by the silly disconnect between the nature of some performances vs. the category in which they are nominated. Casey Affleck's sad, affecting portrait of Robert Ford was the lead role, not supporting, in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." He was the center of the film, he had the most screen time. Jesse James (in a great supporting turn by Brad Pitt) was the most important symbol, but Ford was the most important character. The complexity of Affleck's performance – how whimpering insecurity would spontaneously morph into confident overcompensation, how the character carried a mass of conflicting intentions and emotions that Affleck laid bare with his face, his voice, his body language – may have made it the best lead performance of the year.

And yet, with Pitt getting first billing, Affleck was relegated to the supporting category. So while it may be true that Bardem is the year's best supporting actor, Affleck – who also gave a strong lead performance in his brother's "Gone Baby Gone" – is equally deserving, if not more so. It's just in the wrong category. Affleck gets my vote, but Bardem will take the gold.

Jeremy says: I feel slightly guilty about saying that Javier Bardem easily deserves to take home the Best Supporting Actor statuette, because, as Chris explained, Casey Affleck delivered one of the best lead—not supporting—performances of the year in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." But, like Bardem, I have principles, and must vote for the Best Supporting Actor of the year. While both performances will remain cherished performances in cinema history, I'm standing by the prediction of Bardem's victory that I made in May.

Bardem's portrayal of Anton Chigurh embodies evil of an unforgettably peculiar sort. Calculated, methodical, sinister and sadistic, his Chigurh is a haunting presence. He reminds us that even if we could see what's coming, we wouldn't necessarily understand it. Bardem intersperses unexpected humor into this individually horrifying entity that looks like a human being. It's uncomfortable, it's startling and it's exhilarating.

Did I mention that I predicted Bardem's victory in May?

Brent says: Gee Jeremy, I wonder what other Oscar predictions you made last May, and how the rest of them panned out. Given that this is the only one that you're gloating about, I think it's safe to assume that you were wrong about every single other category.

But seriously, this is not Jeremy's Oscar. It is Bardem's Oscar. (With Affleck and Hoffman also very deserving.) And for the record, I called it in February. Which comes before May. Sort of.

Jeremy says: It's still kind of my Oscar.

Best Achievement in Makeup
Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald, "La Môme" ("La Vie en Rose")
Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji, "Norbit"
Ve Neill and Martin Samuel, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End"

In case anyone missed it, "Norbit" received as many Oscar nominations as "I'm Not There."

Brent says: It is a shame that there are only three available slots for this category. The makeup work also looked phenomenal for "Epic Movie," "Bratz" and "The Hottie and the Nottie," but sadly, this work will forever be lost to the annals of time.

Jeremy says: This one seems all too obvious. Eddie Murphy is a man of average build, yet he played a fat woman in "Norbit." How did he do it? Through the magic of makeup. It's quite possible that if makeup didn't exist, there would be no "Norbit" (unless Robert Zemeckis did a motion-capture version—which, let's face it, he probably will sooner or later).

So since they made it possible for "Norbit" to exist, Rick Baker and Kazuhiro Tsuji should win.

Wait, sorry, I got that wrong. They should be shot. Which leaves the stage wide open for the work of Didier Lavergne and Jan Archibald in "La Vie en Rose." Their makeup both places Marion Cotillard in every stage of Edith Piaf's life and subtly captures her emotional state during those stages.

Johnny Depp's mascara is pretty cool too, though, and it got men everywhere wearing eye makeup. I know because I read it on the Internet.

Chris says: How many times do I have to tell you, Jeremy? It's not mascara and eyeliner! I just, uh...I just fell down some stairs.

Anyway, "La Vie en Rose" will be the deserving winner...though really it's by default, since "Norbit" and the third "Pirates" movie never actually happened. By the way, what's the ETA on "Beverly Hills Cop IV"?

Best Achievement in Costume Design
Albert Wolsky, "Across the Universe"
Jacqueline Durran, "Atonement"
Alexandra Byrne, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" Marit Allen, "La Môme" ("La Vie en Rose")
Colleen Atwood, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"

The Best Costume Design category, also known as "Let's Throw the Tim Burton Movie a Nomination," is and has always been an affront to the beauty that is the naked human body. Costumes are nothing but symbols of authoritarian repression of our sexual nature. As such, we demand that this category be removed from this and all future Oscar ceremonies until the people of the world can recognize the beauty of our bodies, our selves. Until that happens, I guess we better put in some predictions.

[Editor's Note: For the record, Jeremy and Chris are both naked right now.]

[But not in a gay way.]

[Brent would be too, but he is a never-nude.]

[Not gay that is, but naked.]

[Picture goes here.]

Chris says: I didn't notice anyone wearing a costume in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." Huh.

Well anyway, the voters face a virtually unprecedented dilemma. Those who vote in the costume design category are genetically engineered to vote for whatever old-timey period piece featuring royalty looks identical to all the old-timey paintings featuring royalty we've seen a thousand times in museums. A sign hangs outside the Costume Design voting booth that reads: "Corsets, wigs, Elizabethan dresses, castles, parasols = quality costume design." You see how it goes.

The problem this year is that the best [read: only] asset of "The Golden Age" – Cate Blanchett – doesn't count as a costume. Contrary to some suspicions brought on by the movie's visual "style," she's actually an actress, not an extension of the set design. And since nobody saw the movie, its chances are low...despite tradition.

That leaves "Atonement" as the favorite in this category. Indeed, the film's visual qualities are its greatest distinction, as director Joe Wright and his team of artists created an impressively imagined period. Plus, the famous green dress is the one in which Cecilia Tallis presumably had her hymen broken (unless she was a total slut and got de-flowered by someone else years previous). I may have to double-check this, but I believe the Academy bestows a bonus for coital entry points.*

What's consistently frustrating about both this category and the art direction category is that, on the surface, they should represent the best and most creative of films' creative artists...and yet they so often just end up mirroring whatever Oscar-bait movie has the most momentum. My favorite in this year's category is Albert Wolsky's work on Julie Taymor's endlessly creative and unique "Across the Universe," but it's a highly unlikely winner. Ditto anything with Tim Burton's name on it – sure, they'll throw his movies a technical nomination or two, but when it comes to actually handing out the trophies, the Generic Period Piece or whatever is favored in the Best Pic race always win out.

* Vagina.

Back to you, Jeremy.

Jeremy says: Um, the very word makes some men uncomfortable, you know?

I'd give it to "Across the Universe," but the Academy won't. I don't know, they might actually lean to Atwood on this one, but I might be underestimating "Atonement," especially considering the coital entry factor. But "Sweeney Todd" does indeed take place in the past, which could give it the leverage it needs. Oh boy oh boy, what to do? For the record, I won't predict "Elizabeth" on principal. "La Vie en Rose" had some nice design work, too. Wow. This is a real puzzler. I'm gonna go with "Sweeney Todd."

Brent says: What's this I hear? Accolades for "Across the Universe"? In its defense, I didn't actually see it, for the simple reason that the sheer idea of the movie rendered all of my coital entry points permanently useless.

I'm going to have to go with "Sweeney Todd" on this one. Because every costume looks better…drenched in blood.

Best Achievement in Visual Effects
And the nominees are...
"The Golden Compass": Michael L. Fink, Bill Westenhofer, Ben Morris, Trevor Wood
"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End": John Knoll, Hal T. Hickel, Charlie Gibson, John Frazier
"Transformers": Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Russell Earl, John Frazier

In case you missed it, "Transformers" received as many Oscar nominations as "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," I'm Not There," "Knocked Up," "Grindhouse," "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," "Zodiac," "Sunshine," "Manda Bala" and "Hot Fuzz" combined.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention. Please welcome special guest Robert Zemeckis to introduce the special effects category.

Robert Zemeckis: Hello, there. It's a pleasure to once again contribute to The Same Dame. I'm a bit dismayed that "Beowulf" was snubbed in this category. I mean, the whole fucking movie was one big special effect! What the fuck?!? Sure, "Transformers" used digital versions of actors during the action scenes, but that pussy Bay didn't have the balls to use them during the dialogue sequences. Live-action actors? Welcome to the new millennium, asshole. Remember all those times when people are talking to each other? And that LaBeouf (or whatever the fuck) guy is like making facial expressions and expressing emotion? "Look at me! My eyes aren't hollow, lifeless and creepy! I'm a real human being! La-di-fucking-da!" God, stop doing that shit with your face! I can do it on my cocksucking computer, you little shit!

If that LaBeouf (or whatever the fuck) guy had been in my movie, I would have made an even better version of him. Why would you go for the real thing when you can have digital? I'm touching myself just thinking about it.

All these nominees are bullshit. Go watch my expressionless zombie freaks in "The Polar Express" if you want to see a "best achievement in visual effects." I'm making my own Academy Awards next year, with fucking digital presenters. Fuck you, real things.

Chris says: Prior to whittling down their choices for this year's Visual Effects Oscar, members of the Academy held a top-secret symposium – under the clever guise of an Amway sales conference – in the grand ballroom of a prestigious downtown Los Angeles hotel in order to discuss the important category's qualifications, which have remained up in the air for years now. Minutes turned to hours and hours to days, as a heated discussion stretched late into the night and the next several mornings. The diligent Academy members – who, needless to say, always try their damnedest to see every qualified motion-picture, instead of merely relying on hearsay, reputation and money – went through many pots of coffee (digital, of course) until finally bearing fruit for their intense labors.

The sweeping conclusion reached by the committee was this: Voters should operate under the mantra that, if something changes shape and costs $200 million, it must be a great special effect.

With that in mind, the Academy narrowed it down to the year's three most obvious choices given that framework.

Now, all of that has already been reported in various outlets such as Variety and Hollywood Reporter. What has been less publicized is the method by which the voters will decide this year's winner. A round table discussion – hosted by a small, little-known experimental filmmaker by the name of George Lucas in his underground lair – was put together at the last minute and quickly erupted into controversy. Mr. Lucas insisted that he personally put together a film version featuring all the fantastical creatures and special effects of all the category finalists, and let them digitally fight to the death. This would include armored polar bears with British accents, shape-shifting animals and Nicole Kidman's facial expressions from "The Golden Compass"; shape-shifting automobiles that turn into giant, weaponized robots from "Transformers"; and human/fish hybrids, giant octopus monsters and Orlando Bloom from "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End."

Though several academy members passionately voiced their dissent, Mr. Lucas – seated in a large throne atop a small pillar erected in the middle of his lair – was not deterred, presenting an elaborate demonstration on exactly how the competition would play out, which he created on his computer while furiously masturbating the entire time.

The results were these: The sea creatures and inanimate boyish would-be heroes from "At World's End" were perceived by their competitors as a non-threat, as they insisted on sitting around talking about expository plot details that no one gave a shit about instead of actually getting on with the fight. That tacit pacifism was their undoing, as they were quickly and efficiently extinguished (Mr. Bloom's CGI death was particularly gruesome), leaving only the robots and giant bears to fight to the death. What looked like a mismatch in the robots' favor, however, quickly turned into a dogfight. Despite much more impressive visual design, physical capability and versatility, the Transformers shockingly met their downfall when the great Optimus Prime repeatedly and unnecessarily foreshadowed his Kill Move. The armored bears were able to easily anticipate the move, thwarting the robots' aggression and answering with a sneak attack; the bears mauled the robots to death to pull off the Visual Effects upset as Michael Bay spontaneously disintegrated into a pile of ashes and Mr. Lucas climaxed.

Not surprisingly, the category still faces controversy, as all three of the nominated films completely sucked and smaller-budgeted films with superior effects – such as Danny Boyle's visually stunning "Sunshine" – were completely overlooked.

When an unnamed audience member brought up the merits of "Sunshine," Mr. Lucas just stood there and did a jerk-off motion with his hand and then walked away. The visual effects voters followed suit.

Brent says: Wow, I am speechless.

Jeremy says: OK. Well, I guess Chris settled that up well enough. "Transformers" might win for its very impressive technical specs, but the lack of distinguishing character design (yes, there were two yellow ones) remains a major flaw in the film. Of course, the screenplay and the direction were greater flaws. "The Golden Compass" sucks ass, and it's CG sucks—no offense to those great Coca Cola polar bear ads. That leaves "Pirates of the Caribbean," which had the best overall effects of the bunch. The most impressive effect: The movie never ends. Seriously. I can still sense one more scene around the corner.

Best Achievement in Sound
"The Bourne Ultimatum": Scott Millan, David Parker, Kirk Francis
"No Country for Old Men": Skip Lievsay, Craig Berkey, Greg Orloff, Peter F. Kurland
"Ratatouille": Randy Thom, Michael Semanick, Doc Kane
"3:10 to Yuma": Paul Massey, David Giammarco, Jim Stuebe
"Transformers": Kevin O'Connell, Greg P. Russell, Peter J. Devlin

Best Achievement in Sound Editing
"The Bourne Ultimatum": Karen M. Baker, Per Hallberg
"No Country for Old Men": Skip Lievsay
"Ratatouille": Randy Thom, Michael Silvers
"There Will Be Blood": Matthew Wood
"Transformers": Mike Hopkins, Ethan Van der Ryn

Without sound, movies would be silent. We know this because 80 years ago, it was the case. Then "The Jazz Singer" came out and people said, "That kind of sucked. Maybe we should stay silent." But it turned out that good movies could be made with sound, too, and the whole thing stuck.

And now, we present the opening of "The Bourne Ultimatum," for the hearing impaired.

Dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada, dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada... [continues]

Beee-tuh-tuh-tuh-tuh-tuh [Computer readout sound]

Shhiii-ccchhhhh, boom!

Dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada, dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada-dada... [higher-pitched, with violins]

Shoes crunching in snow

Berrrrrrrrrrng [Train whistle in background]

Weee-oooh-weee-oooh-wee-oohh-wee-oooh [Police sirens]

Heavy breathing

SCREEEEECH! [Cars coming to screeching halt]

Unintelligible Russian yelling [Kill all Americans!]

Train station announcement, in unintelligible Russian woman's voice [Make love to us and drink lots of our vodka!]

BRRRRR! BRRRRR! [Car horn honking]

Feet on steps

Creeeeek! [Train screeches to a stop on tracks]

Unintelligible Russian shouting [We will make moon landing before you dirty Americans!]

Low rumble of sliding door

Creeeeeek! [Train screeches on tracks again]

Heavy breathing, unintelligible Russian shouting

Door slams open

BERRRRRRNG! [Another fucking train whistle]

Low rumbling of large stringed instruments

BANG! Rat-tat, bang! [Door shuts]

Plop! [Jason Bourne falls on ground]

"Aaaargh!" [Jason Bourne does Charlie Brown impersonation]

Brent says: There is no contest. The sound editing in "No Country for Old Men" was practically as much a star of the film as were its three leads. They should teach from this movie in film classes. Plus, "No Country" seems to have enough momentum that even the people who don't know what sound and sound editing are, but just check all the boxes on the Oscar ballot for their favorite movie, will still vote for it.

Jeremy says: A quick note about sound design for Academy members: Just because it's loud and constant doesn't mean it's good. So relentless are the pows, bangs and clanks in "Transformers" that the climax (and I use the word charitably, much in the same way one of Chris's lovers might—zing!) that a fellow critic fell asleep during it. "It's like white noise," he later told me. So let's just pretend that four films were nominated in each of these two categories.

With its sparse score and several scenes that play out with little dialogue, "No Country for Old Men" required the most delicate and precise sound design of all the nominees. And Skip Lievsay and his team delivered in every scene. "No Country for Old Men" owes much of its tense atmosphere to each crunch, shuffle and breath, brought to you by the sound design team.

But will it win either of the categories? It might not be flashy enough. "There Will Be Blood's" sinister design, which is a major part of its atmosphere as well, could take sound editing, but so could the big action movies of the category. Then again, Academy voters might just vote for their favorite film of the bunch, likely to be "No Country." So "No Country" for the sweep, I suppose, though I might change my mind.

Chris says: Obviously you just don't appreciate good sound design, Jeremy. I mean, Michael Bay is an artist. You don't understand how much vision went into the sound work on "Transformers." I mean, when they first put the rough cut of "Transformers," there wasn't any sound at all – whenever things banged into each other, a garish title card like the ones from the 1960s "Batman" series flashed on the screen. It was like, BAM! CRASH! THWAP! And then Michael Bay, the visionary, was like, "You know what? What if – instead of title cards, we actually tried to make real sounds, and then we recorded them? That's what dear old Daddy Frankenheimer would have done." And so he got together a sound design team, went back to his house and got all his pots and pans and electronic appliances, turned on the tape recorder and had everyone bang them all together at once and voila! Sound design.

Anyway...I would like to think that the Academy wouldn't honor "Transformers" just because it was loud. Plus, if that movie were an Oscar winner, it might hurt Bay's street cred. The sound work on "No Country" was a miraculous feat in and of itself – the film wouldn't be the same without it. Consider Llewelyn's initial meeting with his anonymous hunter as he's waiting in his hotel room. The slow, almost-absent creaking of the hardwood floors. The phone ringing downstairs in the lobby. The slow, methodical unscrewing of the lightbulb in the hallway. I would probably like to see "No Country" win both of the sound categories, but wouldn't mind seeing it split with "There Will Be Blood."

Best Documentary, Short Subjects
"Freeheld," Cynthia Wade, Vanessa Roth
"La Corona," Amanda Micheli, Isabel Vega
"Salim Baba," Tim Sternberg, Francisco Bello
"Sari's Mother," James Longley

Best Short Film, Animated
"Même les pigeons vont au paradis": Samuel Tourneux, Vanesse Simon
"I Met the Walrus": Josh Raskin
"Madame Tutli-Putli": Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski
"Moya lyubov": Aleksandr Petrov
"Peter & the Wolf": Suzie Templeton, Hugh Welchman

Best Short Film, Live Action
"Om natten": Christian E. Christiansen, Louise Vesth
"Il Supplente": Andrea Jublin"Mozart des pickpockets, Le": Philippe Pollet-Villard
"Tanghi argentini": Guy Thys, Anja Daelemans
"The Tonto Woman": Daniel Barber, Matthew Brown

We just got ahold of some screeners, so we'll fill you in on these categories soon.

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score
Dario Marianelli, "Atonement"
Alberto Iglesias, "The Kite Runner"
James Newton Howard, "Michael Clayton"
Michael Giacchino, "Ratatouille"
Marco Beltrami, "3:10 to Yuma"

Hear that? Well, if you're deaf, you can't. And we're not going to sit here and transcribe what is going on musically; that would just take too long. We already did that for sound design, you greedy bastard. Suffice it to say the music is really fucking pretty, and I enjoy listening to it. What's that? I don't speak sign language! And this is a written medium! I can't even see you doing anything with your hands! Bastard in a basket!

Bastard in a basket!!

Chris says: Fuck the Academy for disqualifying the score that had the greatest impact this year – Jonny Greenwood's from "There Will Be Blood" – based on their stupid, arbitrary rules. Yeah, we'll see what gets remembered 30 years from now: A) The anxious, manic, powerfully offbeat work of Greenwood, which sets the film's atmosphere and, teetering on the brink of spiraling out of control, signals the trajectory of the main character's point of view? Or B) the fucking "Kite Runner."

"The Kite Runner," seriously? Was the score playing during that idiotic scene when our hero gets saved when a kid kills the bad guy from his childhood with a slingshot and then he jumps out the window and escapes? Well then I'm disqualifying it.

Oh yeah, spoiler alert.

Anyway, the Academy also failed to recognize the ethereal mournfulness of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' work on "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," but it did nominate three excellent scores from "Atonement," "Michael Clayton" and "Ratatouille." Though I wasn't as enamored with the film quite as much as some were, "Atonement" may be my favorite score of the bunch; the use of a typewriter as percussion was a stroke of genius. That particular element has garnered a lot of attention and makes it the most likely winner in this category; however, I would still be happy to see Michael Giacchino ("LOST") win for his work on "Ratatouille." Same goes for James Newton Howard, one of the two or three best working composers who is on his seventh Oscar nomination with no wins. He has done some of the best scores of recent years ("King Kong," "Unbreakable"), even making bad movies sound better if you just listen to the soundtrack ("The Village"). Unless I'm vastly underestimating sentimental value for a six-time loser or the Oscar viability of "Michael Clayton," I'd say Howard walks home empty-handed once again.

But there's always next year. Then again, he's working on a Holocaust-era movie, and those never win any Oscars.

Brent says: Ditto on Jonny Greenwood's score. It's the best thing anyone from the Radiohead camp produced last year, and it's a travesty that it wasn't even nominated on a technicality, but "Atonement" probably would have beat it anyway. Of the nominees, it's the most safe and memorable, and we could do worse I suppose. Though I wouldn't quite call its use of typewriters a "stroke of genius." I was also quite fond of Alexandre Desplat's sexually explicit score for "Lust, Caution," but sadly, it was not gay enough (like the score from "Brokeback Mountain") to merit a nomination.

Jeremy says: Dario Marianelli's lush score for "Atonement" draws enough attention to itself with the typewriter for voters to remember it, but not so much that it gets disqualified. Well played. Giacchino's score is my favorite of the bunch, but only has an outside shot of taking home the gold.

(The Oscar is made of gold.)

(I think.)

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song
"Raise It Up" from "August Rush," Jamal Joseph, Charles Mack, Tevin Thomas
"Happy Working Song" from "Enchanted," Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz
"So Close" from "Enchanted," Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz
"That's How You Know" from "Enchanted," Alan Menken, Stephen Schwartz
"Falling Slowly" from "Once," Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová

It is now in the Oscar bylaws that one film must receive three nominations for Best Original Song. Hopefully, Beyoncé will sing them all. Hopefully some orphan who never touched an instrument in his life will deliver a rousing percussive guitar solo during "Falling Slowly." Then Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová's eyes will meet and they'll realize that it's their fucking son. And then confusion will set in when Jamie Foxx comes down from the balcony and is all like, "No, wait, that's MY son! I can tell because I looked at him from across the room!"

Jeremy says: Every time I peruse the list of Oscar nominees, I experience a nightmarish flashback. "Oh, Best Original Song," I say, "at least 'Once' got one Oscar nomination, though it deserved recognition in some other categories. And Jesus, 'Enchanted' got three nominations in one category, presumably to make up for the Amy Adams snub. What was the fifth nominee again…? 'August Rush?!?' NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!"

Then I shake on the ground for 113 minutes, remembering every contrived, unbelievable second of that horrible film. Robin Williams thinks he's channeling Bono? Please Mommy, tell me everything will be OK. The saddest part is that I block the trauma from memory, ensuring that I re-live it. Robin Williams thinks he's channeling Bono? Please Mommy, tell me everything will be OK.

Chris interrupts: I guess that's what August Rush gets for rooting for a team like Arsenal.

Jeremy again: What's with the Academy and triple nominations for Best Original Song? I liked "Enchanted" quite a bit, but don't feel the need to watch a production number of every song from the film during the fucking Oscar ceremony.

"Falling Slowly" is clearly the best song of the bunch, and "Once" has to win at least one Oscar. Why? Because what if "Norbit" wins for Best Makeup, and years from now we have to explain to our grandchildren why "Once" didn't win any Oscars, but "Norbit" did. (They may also want to know what the hell happened to the ice caps and/or their social security.)

Robert Zemeckis says: Actually, I convinced the Academy to make up for my Visual Effects snub by allowing my dead-eyed zombie train-car waiters from "The Polar Express" to sing all the nominated songs. And I promise you – it will be just as creepy as that inexplicably terrifying song about hot chocolate.

Tom Hanks: Hot! Hot! Hot! We got it!

Stephen Tyler from Aerosmith says: Ooh, ooh, can I come?

[Chris kicks Robert Zemeckis in the face; Stephen Tyler runs away in fear.]

Chris says: Well, on that note...

(Get it? Note?)

("Note" – because we're talking about music. It was a pun.)

...I feel it's important that we give the Academy a nice big pat on the bum for having the courage – the scrotal fortitude, if you will – to nominate a family fairy-tale movie like "Enchanted" in the all-important Best Original Song category instead of something small and inconsequential like, I don't know, Best Actress. You definitely wouldn't want to give anyone the wrong idea for nominating a brilliant performance in a movie like "Enchanted." Wait, what category is this?

Yeah, for me it's a toss-up between "Falling Slowly" and the hilarious "Happy Working Song." The edge goes to the former, as "Enchanted's" three nominations will likely have a detrimental effect.

Brent says: Yes, just like last year, when everyone was shocked that Melissa Etheridge's "We Are the World" for retards beat out "Dreamgirls" and its three nods, this year, "Enchanted" will fall victim to vote splitting, and "Falling Slowly" will win, or more likely, the song from "August Rush" will, because, to my knowledge, the Academy has not awarded a decent song Oscar gold since the advent of the phonograph.

Jeremy says: I predicted the Etheridge win. I might have even predicted it as early as May.

Best Achievement in Art Direction
Arthur Max and Beth A. Rubino, "American Gangster"
Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer, "Atonement"
Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock, "The Golden Compass"
Dante Ferretti and Francesca Lo Schiavo, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Jack Fisk and Jim Erickson, "There Will Be Blood"

Dennis Gassner and Anna Pinnock's daemons, Ricky Raccoon and Stanley the Serpent, respectively, at the Oscars:

Ricky Raccoon: Hey Dennis, we're at the Oscars!
Gassner: Shh! I know we are. I had to get this tuxedo and shit.
Stanley the Serpent: We walked down the red carpet. Now we're in our chairs!
Ricky Raccoon: You noticed that too? I was about to say the same thing!
Stanley the Serpent: Our movie was nominated for an award!
Ricky Raccoon: Dennis, Anna's daemon keeps saying what I'm going to say. She's mean!
Gassner: Hey Anna, why is your daemon always such a prick?
Pinnock: Fuck off!
Ricky Raccoon: Dennis, Anna just told you to fuck off!
Stanley the Serpent: Hrumph!
Presenter: And the Oscar Goes to…Jack Fisk and Jim Erickson, for "There Will Be Blood."
Ricky Raccoon: We didn't win!
Stanley the Serpent: Jack Fisk and Jim Erickson won! For "There Will Be Blood!"
Ricky Raccoon: Hey Dennis, we're at the Oscars!

Chris says: To be fair, maybe the art direction in "The Golden Compass" would have looked a bit more impressive if the movie hadn't completely sucked. But even then, it would be hard to defend the work of Gassner and Pinnock against the snubbed art direction of "La Vie en Rose" (likely my favorite in this category all year, with the possible exception of "There Will Be Blood"), "Sunshine," "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," "The Orphanage" or even the otherwise lifeless "Youth Without Youth."

As for the nominees, this is one of the few categories that a Tim Burton movie ever has a chance of winning, with "Sleepy Hollow" and "Batman" picking up art-direction Oscars. The other category is makeup ("Ed Wood" and "Beetlejuice" both won.) Since "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street" – Burton's best film in years – was so well-received, the Academy might want to honor the film in this category. It seems to be between that and "There Will Be Blood" (which gets my vote), unless I'm grossly underestimating momentum for "Atonement."

Jeremy says: Yes, I'm also curious about "Atonement's" momentum. It seems to have died out after a healthy start, but it is much more an Oscar film than "There Will Be Blood," which is my favorite of the bunch. Just look at that damn bowling alley. I can see this race going three ways. I hope "There Will Be Blood" will take it, but suspect that "Sweeney Todd" may put in a strong showing.

Like Chris, I spent most of "The Golden Compass" trying to make sense of its nonsensical three hours of repetitive exposition, and completely missed the fact that there were in fact sets, costumes and what not.

Oh, "American Gangster" was nominated, too. Did you know Ruby Dee is in it?

Brent says: I also like "Sweeney Todd" and "There Will Be Blood," but I'll give "Sweeney Todd" the edge.

Best Achievement in Editing
Christopher Rouse "The Bourne Ultimatum"
Juliette Welfling, "Le Scaphandre et le papillon" ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly")
Jay Cassidy, "Into the Wild"
Roderick Jaynes, "No Country for Old Men"
Dylan Tichenor, "There Will Be Blood"

Says Oscar.com, "This is the second nomination for Roderick Jaynes. He was previously nominated for 'Fargo.'" Also, he is a fictional character created by Joel and Ethan Coen, who actually edited "No Country for Old Men" under a pseudonym. If Jaynes wins, there will only be one statuette, so Joel and Ethan are going to have to battle it out for who gets to keep it. It's gonna get ugly, especially if it's anything like the fight the brothers had over directing and producing credits—that we just made up.

"The Bourne Ultimatum" had a shitload of cuts in it. So did "Transformers," but it wasn't nominated. Insiders tell us that "Bourne" won out on the fifth slot because you could actually tell what the fuck was going on. Insiders also say that if "Transformers" had been a sprawling movie with eight different interconnected storylines, it would have gotten the nod instead. Because if a movie has a ton of interconnected storylines, that must mean you're doing a lot of editing. "There Will Be Blood" only has one storyline—ipso ergo sum, there wasn't any editing. "No Country for Old Men" only had two storylines—so there was like a tiny bit of editing. "Into the Wild" used flashbacks—definitely a lot of editing involved there.

Half the shots from "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" had to be lifted directly from the main character's brain tissue, as it was shown directly from his point of view and told—LITERALLY—through his eyes. Underneath his eyelids and everything. That's a shitload of post-production work, and Juliette Welfling deserves our commendation.

Of these movies, "Le Scaphandre et le papillion" (we speak French) was the shortest, and therefore was the most-edited movie. "There Will Be Blood" was the longest, and therefore was the least-edited movie. It's pretty simple. [What's simple is that shorter movies mean the editing is better. Did you get that? That's what I was talking about. Length.]

"Le Scaphandre et le papilion" (we speak French) had the longest shot of a penis of all the nominated films, and therefore wasn't edited enough. Insiders tell us that the two lengthy shots of a penis in "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" were the reason it was disqualified from the editing category. "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (we speak English) just made the cut.

Get it? Cut?

Get it?

("Cut" is another word for "edit." That's the joke.)

("Cut" could also reference circumcision. We were talking about penises. It was a multi-layered joke.)

Most importantly, the job of the editor is to keep things at a proper pace. For example, if you feel like a movie, or a particular scene in a movie, maybe the introduction (or simply an introduction to a specific scene in a movie) is dragging, going on forever, will never end, then it's probably due to bad editing. It's the same in writing. If you're reading something, and it never gets to the point—I mean, it just meanders all over the place, bringing up things that are completely off-topic, like penises or baseball cards or..well, really anything that's not on-topic - it's bad editing. It's not about cuts and timing, it's not about the emotion of the scene. It's about keeping things moving. Not dragging on. And on. Because that gets really annoying. Especially when you want to hear the fucking predictions for Best Editing.

Or any category, really. I mean, the principle is the same no matter what. If you want to hear predictions on any category, you don't want to have to sit through endless, aimless yammering about this and that—or, in some cases, yammering about the fact that you're sitting through endless yammering instead of being able to finally get to the predictions for the Best Editing category (or any category, for that matter). I mean, you never want that. Wouldn't that be aggravating? I mean, wouldn't you just want to punch your computer screen? But no—don't punch your computer screen. Because then you REALLY would never get to the predictions for the Best Editing category for the 80th annual Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards, presented on Sunday, February 24, 2008 at 8 p.m. ET.

And like I said earlier, it doesn't just apply to Best Editing. It's the same principle no matter what.

Brent says: I want something other than "No Country for Old Men" to win (assuming it wins Best Picture) so that people will stop saying that this category predicts the Best Picture category. Sometimes I worry that in all the spectacle of the awards season, we lose sight of the true meaning of these awards. This category shouldn't be about hedging your Oscar bets, but about which movies are under 90 minutes and have the shortest-duration penis scenes. Also, this category was invalidated when "Requiem for a Dream" didn't win seven years ago. That's all I have to say on the matter.

Jeremy says: I give the edge to, uh, Roderick Jaynes. He's due.

Watch any "No Country for Old Men" and you'll see a scene of perfectly constructed cinema, with each shot timed perfectly for maximum impact. To see Jaynes at work, study the pursuit from the hotel room to the empty streets as it builds and builds on the film's relentless pursuit. It's suspense filmmaking at its finest.

Christopher Rouse's work in "The Bourne Ultimatum" is also noteworthy. While action films routinely cut quickly to create the feel of excitement, "The Bourne Ultimatum" actually replicates its character's fractured memories and runaway lifestyle. Rouse pieces together Paul Greengrass' handheld camera work into a chaotic yet comprehensible scramble of intense action, including the absolutely perfect Waterloo Station sequence.

Chris says: Since this category is often a precursor to the Best Picture winner, Jaynes is the clear favorite. However, I wouldn't count out "The Bourne Ultimatum," either. It's not great editing simply because there are so many cuts – that's irrelevant. It's great editing because there's so much information packed into such a briskly paced film. It's a miracle "Ultimatum" is as crisply told as it is, and that miracle was created in the editing room.

My personal choice would either be that or Dylan Tichenor's work on "There Will Be Blood." Tichenor also deserves props for editing "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." Plus, he totally got shafted for "Cold Creek Manor" a few years ago. Um...

Best Achievement in Cinematography
Roger Deakins, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
Seamus McGarvey, "Atonement"
Roger Deakins, "No Country for Old Men"
Janusz Kaminski, "Le Scaphandre et le papillon" ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly")
Robert Elswit, "There Will Be Blood"

Remember last year's cinematography race? Remember how Universal couldn't even get "Children of Men" a fucking Oscar for Best Cinematography, even though it was the obvious fucking choice? And a god damn Universal screensaver is floating on Jeremy's TV right now. Think about that. Fucking Universal.

What's funny this year is how two of the nominees have the exact same name. What are the chances of that? I wonder if the voters will notice. And there's even a French movie called "Le Scaphandre et le papillon" (we speak French). Weird category this year, huh?

Chris says: Roger Deakins is the best cinematographer in the business and has been for years...and yet he's never won an Oscar. Unfortunately for him, he's up against himself this year, and that should only pave the way for Robert Elswit to take the prize for his stunning work on "There Will Be Blood." It would be a well-deserved honor; Elswit has been doing great work for years now.

But the prize should go to Deakins. Problem is, the likely Best Picture winner, "No Country for Old Men," is the most prominent of his two nominees...but his best work – and in my mind, the best work of his career – came in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." The photography of the film alone is an incredible work of art.

Brent says: I agree that Deakins should win, and for "Jesse James," but vote splitting could do him in, paving the way for, I don't know, one of the other three nominees. They're all more or less deserving. But it's not really any sweat off Deakins' back, Deakins being a fictional alias for Joel and Ethan Coen. They'll be winning enough other Oscars as it is that I think they can throw one of these other guys a bone.

Jeremy says: This year's cinematography category is notable because no matter who wins, I won't be pissed off.

While the Academy usually completely screws up the cinematography nominations, this year they've highlighted nothing but excellent work. The great, Oscar-less Deakins is surely due for a win (I'd pick "Assassination," the Academy will likely favor "No Country" between the two of them, but you never know), but strong cases can be made for Elswit's visceral combination of form and anger in "There Will Be Blood" and Seamus McGarvey's elegant use of dramatic highlights and long takes in "Atonement." Januz Kaminski distinct work from "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" may also win it because his point-of-view camerawork and surreal colors will be sure to impress less-savvy voters as well as those who know their cinematography. I'll put my preference to Deakins for "The Assassination of Jesse James," and my prediction to him as well, for "No Country for Old Men" (although I think Elswitt and McGarvey just as good of a chance).

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published
Christopher Hampton, "Atonement"
Sarah Polley, "Away from Her"
Ronald Harwood, "Le Scaphandre et le papillon" ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly")
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"

Coincidentally, every single nominee in this category based their movie off an already-existing book. So it's like, "I'm reading this book here," and then it's like, "hey, they're making a movie about this book! It's like I'm actually SEEING what I'm READING!"

Here's the thing, though: This category is easy to figure out. Look at the nominees. There's a fucking French movie in there—definitely not going to win on American soil. Then there's a British movie – no taxation without representation, motherfuckers. That ship has sailed, Great Britain (if that's your real name). You'll imperialize us no longer.

And then there's a Canadian movie, which is probably about hockey. So there you go.

I hope neither of the remaining American movies star actors from other countries. This is an election year, dammit.

Brent says: I give this one to one of the frontrunners, the Coens or Anderson. "No Country" is much more of a faithful adaptation of its source material, and its screenplay and dialogue are one of the film's many highlights (whereas "There Will Be Blood" is more memorable for its acting, direction, and musical score). On the other hand, the guy from "Diving Bell" died something like a week after he finished his book, dictated entirely from the blinking of his eye. If this were an award for the best book, he would totally win as a sentimental favorite, but since it isn't, chalk another one up for "No Country."

Jeremy says: The nominees for Adapted Screenplay are collectively of much higher quality than those of Original Screenplay, but the screenplays for "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood" work on a much higher level than their competition.

I would like to see Anderson win for his complexly layered life story. With Daniel Plainview, he crafts a loud, larger-than-life character, but examines him with quiet, small strokes. Where lesser screenwriters might offer belabored explanations of Plainview's anger and cruelty, Anderson refuses, dropping quiet hints but no clear, reassuring explanations.

"No Country for Old Men" probably has the edge for the Oscar though, and I'm not complaining. There are several passages of pure beauty in the film, and the "call it" scene's series of scary, funny and wholly uncomfortable lines cannot be undersold. If either of these contenders win, it'll be a great year for the screenplay award.

Chris says: Yes Jeremy, "No Country" is clearly the favorite, but there are a few intangibles that you aren't taking into account. First, It's rare that any filmmaker (or filmmaking team) takes home four Oscars in one night. They usually like to spread the wealth a bit. Of course, that could mean Anderson takes director, or "The Bourne Ultimatum" takes editing....but screenplay seems as likely a category as any. Second, some may give Cormac McCarthy as much or more credit for the screenplay as the Coens themselves, since so much of the film is lifted directly from McCarthy's spare, screenplay-like text. That's not my opinion, but I've heard the opinion voiced for this film in particular – and not for the other four nominees. Third, "Atonement" isn't likely to win Best Picture and wasn't nominated in the directing or acting categories...and since everyone except me seemed to go apeshit over the script (instead of the far-superior direction and technical elements), this might be "Atonement's" time to shine.

But for my money, Christopher Hampton's overly controlled, shallow screenplay – which basically just goes through the motions of storytelling and character-building after the first act, making the film's war-time setting seem like no more than set decoration, since it (and its characters) are so limply explored – would be an unfortunate winner. Andrew Dominik's fleshed-out character work in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" – a fully realized study in thematic, historical and emotional contrasts – is the perfect counterpoint to "Atonement." But oops, Warner Bros. apparently hates this movie.

"There Will Be Blood" would still be my choice – for all the reasons Mr. Mathews stated – but "No Country for Old Men" would be a worthy victor.

Jeremy says: Chris, you're assuming that voters know that Roderick Jaynes isn't a real person. For shame.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen
Diablo Cody, "Juno"
Nancy Oliver, "Lars and the Real Girl"
Tony Gilroy, "Michael Clayton"
Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava and Jim Capobianco, "Ratatouille"
Tamara Jenkins, "The Savages"

This category is totally sexist. The movies in the Original Screenplay category teach us that all women are either baby-making whores ("Juno"), neurotic self-important homewreckers ("The Savages"), plastic sex dolls ("Lars and the Real Girl") or should be in the kitchen ("Ratatouille"). Shame on you, Hollywood.

Chris says: OK, OK, OK, OK....here's what we're gonna do. We're gonna play a little game. I'm just not even going to look at this list. Instead, we're going to pretend like five deserving scripts were nominated. God, this is gonna be fun. We'll give a free pass to Brad Bird for his brilliant work on "Ratatouille," easily the best choice of this category and one of the best scripts of the year. And we'll give a free pass to the excellent "Michael Clayton."

Here we go. Alright, close your eyes first.

Good. OK then...

Hey Jeremy, Isn't it awesome how the Academy grew a pair and honored the freshest, most honest human comedy of the year, "Knocked Up"? I mean, they totally didn't give Judd Apatow an unprotected shafting just because his movie was an R-rated celebration of boyishness. It definitely wasn't completely overlooked just because some other pregnancy movie had a bunch of adorably pithy teenagers and found a family-friendly audience. That would never happen. The Academy loves summer comedies.

Jeremy says: You said it, Chris. "Juno" is a lovable film thanks to its collection of excellent performances. But some who have fallen under its spell fail to recognize the limitations of Diablo Cody's uneven and immature screenplay. Those people are probably pissed that it wasn't nominated, but grow up. This is one snub that can't be unsnubbed. Cody certainly understands her characters' feelings and motivations (part of the reason those performances are so good), but she's too obsessed showing off her cleverness, much to the detriment of her obnoxious and eventually monotonous dialogue, home skillet! I'm glad that "Knocked Up" was recognized as the superior film, otherwise I might have had to predict "Juno" as the big winner.

Chris says: Yeah, and then Diablo Cody would probably have won and gone up on stage with that hilarious hamburger phone.

Jeremy says: Exactly. Horrifying.

And let me be the first to commend the nomination of "I'm Not There" in this category. The Academy could have easily gone for some gimmicky screenplay about a guy who thinks his sex doll is real, so it's awesome to see a complex and challenging screenplay on the list instead. Todd Haynes and Oren Moverman threw out every convention of the musical biopic to create a labyrinthine exploration of a complicated man whom no one can truly understand. The film isn't only about the different personae of Bob Dylan, but the pressure and importance we place on those personae due to the music they stand behind.

Chris says: Yeah, thank God the Academy was able to nominate six films in this category this year, leaving room for Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's brilliant deconstruction of the action-movie genre, "Hot Fuzz," as well as Kelly Masterson, who dug right to the heart of pain and human desperation in Sidney Lumet's tragic noir, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead." So thank God there are so many good nominees in this category this year. In a lesser year, the Academy might give a nomination to a totally mediocre and painfully obvious script like "The Savages." Phew!

Aren't you glad the Academy didn't make such an unforgivable mistake?

Jeremy says: Indeed. And Brad Bird's script totally rocks, by the way.

Brent says: OK, if you guys are done, I'm going to go out on a limb and say I actually loved "Lars and the Real Girl," though more for Ryan Gosling's performance than the screenplay. However, "Juno" will most likely win, partly because of its huge momentum right now, and partly because the last hour or so of the film actually deserves it.

Jeremy says: I'm lucky I saw that hour, as I almost walked out after the first 15 minutes.

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year
"Persepolis," Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi
"Ratatouille," Brad Bird
"Surf's Up," Ash Brannon, Chris Buck

This category has a French film in it! And another one takes place in France. Luckily, the clear victor, "Surf's Up," is pure Americana.

Jeremy says: Brad Bird has already proved himself to be the best living director of feature-length animation, so I don't know why he felt the need to go and make another of the best films of the year. "Ratatouille" works as a thrilling action film, a hysterical comedy, a whimsical fantasy and a heartfelt drama.

Bird presents us with some of the most the most emotive characters and stunning visuals of any film this year. He will take home his second Oscar in this category, and deservedly so. "Persepolis" is also a worthy entry, lacks the same level of artistry, and the characters, designed for a graphic novel, don't lend themselves as well to animation. "Surf's Up," in stark contrast to its other nominees, is mediocre and boring. and should have been passed in favor of "The Simpsons Movie," which is better written, crafted and animated.

Chris says: "Surf's Up" is boring…coming from the guy who liked "Home on the Range" and "Robots"? The Dude is personally offended. Hey, at least "Surf's Up" had a few solid voice performances and found a few clever things to do with its mockumentary motif...even if the basic elements of the film were generic and predictable. Plus, James Woods was in it.

But I'll admit it's not that good of a movie and certainly doesn't belong as one of the three finalists. No animated movie even comes close to "Ratatouille" this year, so there's no use arguing about it. "The Simpsons Movie" – a triumphant return to form for what was once the best show on TV – could have easily filled that slot and made this one of the strongest animated film categories we've seen since its inception. Ditto for Satoshi Kon's "Paprika," a thrilling experiment that created a universe in which reality and fantasy aren't just confused for one another (which is common enough) but which become essentially interchangeable. Kon was able to tie his sci-fi ideas to modern technological possibilities and concerns, and it worked exceptionally well. Unfortunately, "Paprika" never got much beyond the art-house circuit.

Jeremy says: Hey, "Robots" is a damn call to overthrow the capitalist system, but, you know, for kids! It's appropriate that you bring it up, given the presence of an Upton Sinclair adaptation among the major nominees. And the mockumentary style was executed so haphazardly that it only felt like a documentary during the lazy gags.

I liked all (well, most of) the voice actors, though—too bad animation involves moving pictures, too.

Brent says: I agree on Brad Bird, "The Simpsons," and "Paprika." However, unfortunately, I am not free to comment further, as this category was invalidated when the Academy failed to nominate "Waking Life" five years ago.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
"Die Fälscher" (Austria)
"Beaufort" (Israel)
"Mongol" (Kazakhstan)
"Katyn" (Poland)
"12" (Russia)

I'll make it easy for you:

Austria = Arnold Schwarzenegger
Kazakhstan = famine, poverty, disease, Borat
Poland = conquered by Hitler (an Austrian)
Russia = lost the space race
Israel = Hollywood
*correction: Austria = Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hitler

An interesting possibility: Arnold Schwarzenegger vs. Hitler. Titillating, no?

Brent says: Yeah, I thought I would actually be in pretty good shape this year when the foreign nominations came out, what with all the foreign films that I saw this year. I'd seen all the Golden Globe nominees (with the exception of "The Kite Runner," which didn't even bother to have its title or director be in a foreign language) but not a single one of them made the cut. Not even heavily buzzed films like "Persepolis" or "4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days" made it. As such, I am forced to choose my favorite foreign film based solely on which foreign country is the most fun to pronounce. Therefore, I go with "Mongol." Which I believe means retard.

Chris says: Unlike last year, when four of the five nominees had actually been released stateside, none of this year's Foreign Film nominees have been distributed in the U.S. as of yet. So I can't speak from any experience regarding the quality of the films themselves. I can, however, complain about one film's lack of inclusion. Roy Andersson's absurdist/surrealist masterpiece "Du Levande" ("You, the Living") – a brilliant comic look at human grief and apocalyptic dread – was Sweden's entry, but missed the cut. The lesson is clear: Hollywood hates the Swedes.

I was part of a lengthy standing ovation given to "Du Levande" last May at the Cannes Film Festival, and it deserved every second of it and more. In fact, I'm still standing.

Jeremy says: Yeah, I have a hard time believing that any of these films are as good as "Du Levande." But I haven't seen any of them, so who knows? From what I've heard, it'll either be "Beaufort" or "The Counterfeiters." I'm gonna guess…"Beaufort!" No! "The Counterfeiters." That's it.

Best Documentary, Features
"No End in Sight," Charles Ferguson, Audrey Marrs
"Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience," Richard Robbins
"Sicko," Michael Moore, Meghan O'Hara
"Taxi to the Dark Side," Alex Gibney, Eva Orner
"War Dance," Andrea Nix, Sean Fine

Jerry Seinfeld told us not to see these movies, because they're all a bunch of depressing downers. That's what documentary filmmaking is all about. Bringing people down.

By the way, is there a war on or something?

Jeremy says: I'm still bummed that Jason Kohn's "Manda Bala" didn't make the short list, let alone the final nominees. Jason Kohn dazzlingly explores the many facets of Brazil's kidnapping industry with haunting imagery, an ambitious film narrative structure and a complex understanding of details. The film weaves among the poverty and political corruption in which crime thrives, the scarred victims and fearful wealthy class, and finally the businesses that make money off reconstructive surgery and bullet-proof cars. "Manda Bala" was simply one among many great documentaries, including "Protagonist," "The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters," "Manufactured Landscapes" and "My Kid Could Paint That." Oh, I could go on and on about them, but I suppose I should discuss the nominees.

"Sicko" was good, but not great, and I don't think that Michael Moore has been on good enough behavior to get another Oscar. "No End in Sight" will probably take home the award for its damning historical account of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The film lays out its well-researched information with confidence and clarity, allowing any emotional response one might have to come from the subject matter. It might be a bit too cold and methodical for the voters' taste, but its power is still apparent.

I haven't seen "Taxi to the Dark Side," but hear good things.

Chris says: For anyone who hasn't yet seen "No End in Sight," I'm going to make it easier for you and tell you what happens at the end: there's no end in sight.

For the war, I mean. Did you get that I was talking about the war? Well, I was. The war totally sucks.

Now, use those two free hours I just gave you, go to your local Blockbuster – Hey, put that copy of "Why We Fight" down! Now! – and rent "The King of Kong," then add "Manda Bala" and "My Kid Could Paint That" to your Netflix queue. Do it.

Brent says: I am adding "Manda Bala" to my queue as we speak. Otherwise, I don't know why people think all these war documentaries are so important. "The King of Kong" deals with many more pressing issues of our day.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Cate Blanchett, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
Julie Christie, "Away from Her"
Marion Cotillard, "La Môme" ("La Vie en Rose")
Laura Linney, "The Savages"
Ellen Page, "Juno"

French actress Marion Cotillard came out of nowhere at the beginning of award season and rapidly proved herself one of the front-runners in the Best Actress category. She plays legendary songstress Edith Piaf in "La Môme," which is French for "La Vie en Rose." A win here would be a great lead-in to Cotillard's next project – from the people who brought you "Freddy vs. Jason" and "Alien vs. Predator," – "A Good Year Vs. Under the Tuscan Sun."

Chris says: Oh, that's right Academy. Go ahead: Hate Sienna Miller 'cause she's beautiful. I didn't know actresses were deemed ineligible for being smokin' hot. My mistake.

Surely if she hadn't been disqualified on the basis of hotness, you would have noticed the dexterity of Miller's performance – an actress playing an actress who herself is consciously (and subconsciously) playing a dozen different roles over the course of a single night. The blurring of the line between performer and character is almost Cassavetes-esque – only with another filter.

I trust you noticed the performance, Academy – but I guess rules are rules, right?

And it's definitely against the rules to nominate a pitch-perfect performance from someone like Amy Adams in a family-friendly fairy-tale movie. That would be so uncouth. So your best bet is Marion Cotillard, who – just when we thought all was lost – somehow brought her career back from the black hole that was "A Good Year" and delivered a knockout performance in "La Vie en Rose." She and Julie Christie have been the favorites in this category for months now, splitting almost every Best Actress award along the way.

But folks, I'm about to do the unthinkable. I'm calling an upset here. Keep in mind I'm not basing this on my own personal choice at all. Because of the nominees, my favorite is actually Cotillard. But I'm calling an upset for Ellen Page in "Juno." Yeah, I said it. She's America's new favorite star, she's been getting more attention than any single actor over the last two months and I think enough voters will have been swayed her way. People just adore "Juno," you see. This seems to be one of those movies that everyone is talking about while simultaneously underestimating its Oscar chances.

Also: Never underestimate the power of Roger Ebert. The man singlehandedly turned "Million Dollar Baby" into an Oscar favorite, and singlehandedly forced an upset of "Crash" over "Brokeback Mountain," even though he was the only major critic in the entire country who thought it was the best movie of the year.

Sunday night, he does it again....sadly for him, he doesn't quite have what it takes to pull off a Best Picture shocker, so Best Actress will have to suffice.

Jeremy says: Chris is a fucking bastard. For the past 1500 words, I've been plotting the great unveiling of my shocking Ellen Page prediction. And then Chris goes and beats me to the punch. And how does he set it up? "I'm about to do the unthinkable." Bravo. You all know that I would've come up with something better than that. Bastard. Yeah, Cotillard is the best of the nominees too.

Now, it seems the Academy's Internet hasn't been working for the past four months, and they let their subscription to the L.A. Times expire. How else explain that they never got the news flash that "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" doesn't count as a movie. Its only contribution as a historical drama is that the experience of watching it is not unlike that of the Spanish Inquisition's torture. Blanchett is my favorite supporting actress of the year, but there was absolutely no reason to nominate her for standing around while a camera does 360 degree shots to show off all the expensive art direction. That doesn't quite live up to Nicole Kidman's quiet self-destruction in "Margot at the Wedding" or Markéta Irglová's warm presence in "Once." But I guess she's Cate Blanchett, so that's that.

Brent says: This category is only marginally better than Supporting Actress, because at least all of these actresses are the main characters in their movies. I don't think the Ellen Page prediction is all that shocking really. She is all anyone can talk about these days, and, as her delightful turn in "Hard Candy" proved a few years ago, she really is a fine actress actually.

Jeremy says: I think that's the first time I've heard "delightful" used to describe anything onscreen during "Hard Candy."

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
George Clooney, "Michael Clayton"
Daniel Day-Lewis, "There Will Be Blood"
Johnny Depp, "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
Tommy Lee Jones, "In the Valley of Elah"
Viggo Mortensen, "Eastern Promises"

All of this year's actors sacrificed a bit of themselves to get into character. Daniel Day-Lewis went bat-shit insane, Viggo Mortensen covered his body in tattoos, Johnny Depp learned how to give someone a perfect shave in five seconds flat, George Clooney sold out to corporate America, and Tommy Lee Jones had to work with Paul Haggis.

Brent says: In any other year, I would be all about Viggo Mortensen, who gave probably his best, most daring role ever in "Eastern Promises." If this were, say, the 90s, I would be all about Johnny Depp, who I didn't feel quite brought his usual flair to the lead role in "Sweeney Todd." And George Clooney was admittedly fairly convincing in Tony Gilroy's taut corporate thriller, "George Clooney." But none of these performances even come close to Daniel Day-Lewis, whose role in "There Will Be Blood" had me going back and watching many of his previous performances, and even going so far as to adopt many of his mannerisms from the film (i.e. walking with a limp, placing napkins on my head). I don't know, I've never felt this way about another man before. If DDL doesn't get the Oscar, I don't know what I might do.

Jeremy says: The prediction for this one is a no-brainer. Daniel Day-Lewis will win. I'm as sure of it as I was that he'd win for 2002's "Gangs of New York." I've still got that year's ceremony on tape. I can't wait to watch his speech. Who else was gonna win? Adrien Brody? No one had even heard of him back then!

As oil magnate Daniel Plainview, Day-Lewis portrays a man who tries to grow himself into a giant, only to turn into a monster. Day-Lewis conquers the role without fear of exploring the frightening parts of the human mind, but with as much attention to small tells as to his grandiose gestures. While some have accused Day-Lewis of over-acting, his character isn't a man who sits around drinking tea and speaking quietly. I don't think the accusations will stick, especially considering the reputation that precedes the presumptive winner.

As for Viggo Mortensen, George Clooney, Tommy Lee Jones and Johnny Depp—well, it's a strong category this year. Mortensen was creepy yet enigmatic. Jones was quiet, deliberate and poignant in a film that didn't deserve such wonderful work. Clooney straddled the conflict between morals and monetary concerns wonderfully.

There are, however, two great performances that should be here. One is Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford," which we already discussed in the Supporting Actor category. The other is Seth Rogen, who brought heart and humor to his slacker character in "Knocked Up." While it's foolish to expect a comedic actor to receive a nomination for a comedic role, Rogen deserves one for adding weight and empathy to his cool, razor-sharp lines.

And I didn't even mention James McAvoy in "Starter for 10," Ulrich Mühe in "The Lives of Others," Simon Pegg in "Hot Fuzz," Michael Cera in "Superbad" or Kurt Russell in "Death Proof."

Chris says: You're forgetting about Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" and John C. Reilly in "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story."

As for the actual nominees, I admire all five performances but don't see how any can or should beat Daniel Day-Lewis.

Daniel Day-Lewis drinks my fucking milkshake, you see. He drinks it up.

Best Achievement in Directing
Paul Thomas Anderson, "There Will Be Blood"
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, "No Country for Old Men"
Tony Gilroy, "Michael Clayton"
Jason Reitman, "Juno"
Julian Schnabel, "Le Scaphandre et le papillon" ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly")

And now, ladies and gentleman, the prestigious category that honored such auteurs as Kevin Costner, Barry Levinson, Sydney Pollack, Robert Benton and John Avildsen but never gave an Oscar to that hack Alfred Hitchcock: Best Director, everyone, let's have a round of applause!

Chris says: I would like to take this time to apologize, on behalf of the Academy, to Andrew Dominik, Todd Haynes, Judd Apatow, Brad Bird, Sidney Lumet and Edgar Wright for failing to recognize their directorial efforts this year. Yes, there are only five spots, so there are bound to be people overlooked, just as there are bound to be petulant critics who insist on pointing out such snubs. But I just had to make that apology on the record.

Having said that, Joel and Ethan Coen will win this category, and I won't complain. Hey, at least it's not Kevin Costner. The Coens can legitimately stake a claim to being among the finest American filmmakers of all-time, and they've made their way from the unfair label of Quirky Indie Curiosity to Oscar frontrunner by doing it their way. I will applaud when they take the stage to pick up directing honors.

You may notice that my personal choices have been going against them this whole time...but it's really nothing personal. "No Country for Old Men" was No. 4 on my top-10 list. It is a masterpiece. It is perfectly executed cinema. However, Paul Thomas Anderson (who, I insist, will go down as this generation's Scorsese, the most influential of his generation) not only crafted a masterpiece but re-invented the expectations of cinema while doing so. Like "Boogie Nights," "Magnolia" and "Punch-Drunk Love" before it, "There Will Be Blood" is virtuoso filmmaking at its best and most creative. Anderson re-invented the epic, creating an unforgettable and completely idiosyncratic portrait – exemplified by its main character, of course – of ambition, greed, envy and power. Anderson is the best and ballsiest filmmaker working today, insisting on taking risks – with the film's spare, "2001"--esque opening sequence; with Jonny Greenwood's anxious, offbeat score; with the already-infamous ending. The risks paid off and then some.

While an Anderson upset in this category wouldn't be shocking, I won't predict it. And hey, it might be better that he doesn't win an Oscar; then he can be one of those Scorsese/Kubrick/Welles/Hitchcock types that is too good to be recognized be the Academy (at least for a few decades). I see a Thalberg Award in PTA's future. That'll work.

Brent says: Even though I like "No Country" a little more, I'm all about giving credit where credit's due. So even though the Coens are probably my favorite directors working today, and even though "No Country" is as expertly directed as their best films, I have to give this one to PTA, if only because it is greatly due to the direction that "There Will Be Blood" is such a masterpiece.

Jeremy says: There is definitely a great split vote in both Best Director and Best Picture. Most years, I can easily single-out my favorite of the five nominees in these categories, but this year provides a bit of a challenge. I'm also a bit stunned to actually see Paul Thomas Anderson nominated for Best Director, having opined the lack of recognition he receives since I was writing for my high school newspaper. I say let the Coens have their year, they deserve it. And if Anderson never wins one, well, at least I'll have some Oscar injustice to complain about.

Also, Jason Reitman should be disqualified from competing in this category for his failure to cut the line "That ain't no Etch-a-Sketch. This is one doodle that can't be undid, home skillet." Joe Wright did some amazing directorial work in "Atonement" (if anything, problems in the screenplay held the film back) so I'm a bit perplexed that the Academy snubbed him after all the Oscar love "Atonement" received this year.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

And the nominees are...
"Atonement" - Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster
"Juno" - Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick, Russell Smith
"Michael Clayton" - Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox, Kerry Orent
"No Country for Old Men" - Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Scott Rudin
"There Will Be Blood" - Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Lupi, JoAnne Sellar

If you put all these movies together, it would be about a pregnant Daniel Day-Lewis who is stripped of his one true love by a little girl, and then discovers a secret that will bankrupt a corporation and is forced to go on the run from a contract killer played by Javier Bardem.

Brent says: To start off, this is probably the least pissed off I have been at the Best Picture nominees in recent memory. As should be abundantly clear by now (I think we have collectively used the word "masterpiece" in this article at least 27 times by now), either "No Country for Old Men" or "There Will Be Blood" would be a welcome winner in any year. The only problem with this is the potential for vote splitting, wherein all smart people are torn between these two films, while all not as smart people are drawn towards "Atonement," or perhaps "Juno." Though "Atonement" is the only one serious enough to have a chance at an upset.

Of course, the nominees aren't perfect. I've soured just a little on "Atonement" and "Juno" since first viewing, the former for expecting us to believe that just because James McAvoy (who I still hated in "The Last King of Scotland") sees Keira Knightley in a clingy wet dress and tells her he wants to eat her "sweet, wet cunt," that they have THE GREATEST LOVE EVER KNOWN BY MAN AND WOMAN, and the latter because it became popular. That leaves Tony Gilroy's "George Clooney," which I actually admire more as time passes, but still suffers a little because they should have gotten a better actor to portray the character of George Clooney.

Actually, "No Country" and "There Will Be Blood" are not even quite the best work of their respective directors. (For those honors, I'm going to have to go with "Fargo" and, wait for it…"Punch-Drunk Love.") But, it's a testament to the talent and vision of these directors that they could make "just another movie" and it could still stand high above all the competition. Honestly, I'd be happy if either one win. And "There Will Be Blood" certainly has momentum going for it, but "No Country" seems like the more conventional pick, and the likely winner.

Jeremy says: Sure, "I'm Not There" only received one nomination and the Academy completely snubbed "Knocked Up," but luckily this year had at least five masterpieces, and Oscar simply couldn't figure out how to snub all of them. Two truly great films up for Best Picture is damn good by Oscar standards. Film snobs of the future will look fondly on this year's award whether it goes to Joel and Ethan Coen's "No Country for Old Men," which it almost surely will, or Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood."

The filmmaking masters have had one of the most significant careers of the past three decades, yet only ever won a Best Screenplay Oscar for "Fargo." "No Country for Old Men" is simply too memorable, too haunting, too brilliantly executed to ignore. Of course, so is "There Will Be Blood," but the Academy isn't quite ready for Anderson yet.

Of the other three nominees, "Atonement" was an early front-runner, but excitement has died down for Joe Wright's study of envy, betrayal and guilt. While the screenplay has a couple forced reveals and the second act stagnates a bit, "Atonement" is nevertheless an emotionally affecting work, with some of the most beautiful images of the year and an honest, devastating ending.

"Michael Clayton" excels thanks to the performances of George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson and Tilda Swinton.

"Juno" isn't bad either, but certainly reached an unreasonable level of appreciation in recent months. I only pray that its momentum diminished rapidly enough to ensure a victory for "No Country for Old Men."

Chris says: Here's how the Best Picture nominations look to an organazized, orderly mind:

1. [Error: film not recognized by Academy]
2. "There Will Be Blood"
3. [Error: film not recognized by Academy]
4. "No Country for Old Men"
5. [Error: film not recognized by Academy]

Wait a second...only two of the five best movies of the year were nominated? Que? (We speak Spanish.)

OK, so like Jeremy said, two legitimately brilliant films made the final cut, two very good movies made the cut, and one half brilliant/half disappointing movie. Not bad, not bad. Not perfect...but the kids did alright. The Academy will likely make up for not giving Best Picture to "Fargo" 11 years ago and finally give the Coens their due. But the possible-but-unlikely spoiler, P.T. Anderson's primal masterpiece, "There Will Be Blood," is the worthy winner. This is the one they'll be talking about 50 years from now.
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