Kinematoscope Status Report!

Just so we're all keeping track, is now the number two result on Google for the search "kinematoscope"! (What does it take to beat Wikipedia? Damn.)

The IMDB countdown continues uninterrupted Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays- this coming week will see a Woody Allen movie I pretty much liked, a Clint Eastwood drama I was probably too harsh on, and an early Mike Nichols character piece that's depressing as hell. I also finally figured out the whole "putting text behind a cut" thing for Blogger (you have go mess with the html- there's no simple tag like on Livejournal, because no one at Google knows what they're doing. So future posts will not require lots of scrolling if you prefer not to read them! Web 2.0 baby!

I've been thinking- why limit Kinematoscope to just movies? Can't I expand this here blog into a media empire? I'm mulling things over here, to put it one way. Let's just say that is available, and I'm getting a good tax return this year. And I'm crazy, keep that in mind as well.

IMDB #230 Rocky

Hey we’re officially over twenty entries! I may well be serious about this. First, I have one question for you, internet: Do you believe that America is the land of opportunity? Because Apollo Creed does. That’s right, it’s 1976’s Best Picture winner, Rocky!

The best part about this particular obsessive past-time is that I’m doing miles of catching up on the films that ‘cause people jaws to drop when I mention I’ve never seen them. Yes, I’d never experienced Rocky, or Rocky (Roman Numeral) of any kind before, which makes me more of a tomato than a contender. But that ends now.

The Key Players:

Written by and starring Sly Stallone who, Rambo excepted, was launched to fame with this Academy Award nominated role (and screenplay). He mostly plays Rocky (six times), Rambo (four times), and other musclemen in films of lesser repute (of which I may have only seen Judge Dredd. Yeah.).

Our director is John Avildsen, who would go on to direct all three Karate Kids before returning for Rocky V, along with plenty of other films I’m sure. Here's the rest of our cast, along with what I know them from without looking it up: Carl Weathers (Predator, “Arrested Development”), Burt Young (uh.. the other Rocky’s I bet), Burgess Meredith (I think he was the Penguin in the Batman show), and Talia Shire (.... Jason Schwartzman’s mom. Nailed it!).

Is my knowledge of film history not breathtaking?

The Story:

Somehow without ever seeing this film I knew most of the story from references, parodies, Bill Simmons columns and other pop culture ephemera. Rocky (Stallone) is a loan shark enforcer and boxer that never got a shot at the big time. He pals around working-class Philadelphia folks, woos terminally shy pet store clerk Adrian (Shire), and does his best to get by without breaking people’s thumbs for his boss.

But then, undisputed heavyweight champion of the world Apollo Creed (Weathers), suddenly in need of an opponent for a Christmas day bout, decides to choose a local underdog to give a shot at the big time, and guess he who chooses!

Then it’s up to our boy Rock to get ready with the help of Adrian, her nosy brother (Young), and his suddenly interested trainer Mickey (Meredith), and it all culminates in the big fight. What’s gonna happen?

The Artisticness:

A much more austere and moody film awaited me than I expected, which is probably unfair of me, but hey- it’s a boxing movie. I liked the use of long tracking shots to give us a feel for the neighborhood Rocky lives in, or wide shots of Rocky and Adrian at the skating rink. Even down to the huge perspective on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a famous scene that inspired a statue somehow.

Plus there are plenty of great details in this film to make it a product of it’s time, and not just an underdog story- from impromptu a cappella groups on street corners to the gaudy lampshade that hangs right above Rocky’s pet turtles. The film takes plenty of time to put us in a real world before it gets a little fantastical.

Not to mention that no matter what you think of Sly, he was made to be Rocky. The rest of the cast hits the right notes too- nobody has that many histrionic Oscar speeches (yet four of them got nominations anyway). I liked the relatively drawn out romance between two lonely souls that keeps the film together- it’s halfway through the film before Rocky and Adrian even kiss.

And of course, Bill Conti’s score is by far the most familiar element to anyone, and gives Rocky an orchestral seventies pep that’s just too infectious to resist.


Rocky, doubtful of winning, tells Adrian he just hopes he can “go the distance” with Creed, which no opponent has done before. Being completely boxing illiterate, I kind of thought that meant last ten rounds, but it really means 15. Go figure.

After an early knockdown of Creed (who realizes he might have to fight, for serious), the match gets brutal and intense and other boxing terms for tough. After fifteen rounds, Creed wins by split decision (again, not really sure what that means), but Rocky doesn’t care- he just calls out his famous “Adrian!” and our two awkward lovebirds embrace. He went the distance and got the girl. Cue credits.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

I’d like to say I kept some sort of cynical reserve and found flaws, but come on- it’s Rocky. Like Apollo Creed said, there’s a whole lotta sentimental people out there that love an underdog story, and I’m one of them.

Suffice it to say that I was taking notes while watching the movie (because I’m studious and all), but I have no notes from the beginning of the fight to the end because I got too caught up in it. Yeah.

The Legacy:

Three Oscars (Picture, Director, Editing) out of ten nominations (including Stallone, Shire, Young and Meredith), one of the best sports movies of all time, and so on.

It’s got the training montage that launched all other training montages, it spawned five sequels and a statue of Rocky Balboa in Philadelphia (which is crazy, but better than Milwaukee’s statue of The Fonz. Sigh). I think we can assume it’s a staple.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube

I don’t think I’m allowed to go with anything but the training montage, set to Bill Conti’s (Academy Award nominated) “Gonna Fly Now.”

Leftover Thoughts:

  • I thought I would recognize way more lines than I actually did, like when I watched Casablanca for the first time. Ones I had heard in places were “Adrian!” and “You're gonna eat lightnin' and you're gonna crap thunder!”
  • I liked how the announcers were hardly audible during the fight, instead of laboriously explaining everything very loudly like in modern sports movies, or every episode of “Friday Night Lights” that actually contains football.
  • I laughed the most when Rocky says hi to Adrian while on the news: “Yo, Adrian! It’s me, Rocky.”

IMDB #231 Young Frankenstein

Next up, a classic comedy that I haven’t watched all the way through in years, 1974's Young Frankenstein.

The Key Players:

Directed and co-written by Mel Brooks, making his only directorial appearance on the countdown (really, internet? Not even Spaceballs?). A producer, writer, and director of countless farces, Brooks is a comedy staple- sadly I have never seen Blazing Saddles, and I won’t have to watch it for this list.

Gene Wilder co-writes and stars. Best known as Willy Wonka and a couple of movies where he’s totally white next to Richard Pryor, Wilder is totally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which happens to be the best city in the history of people all living near one another in any form.

The cast is rounded out by Teri Garr (mostly known for this film), Peter Boyle (the dad from Everybody Loves Raymond? Huh), and Cloris Leachman (oh, so that’s why she gets “and” credit in movies like Spanglish and qualifies as a “star” of the “Dancing With The” variety. I knew there had to be something beyond tv shows I’ve never heard of from the seventies).

Marty Feldman totally steals every scene he’s in as well, with crack timing and crazy eyes (which were actually a result of Graves disease. Bummer. Still, he made it work for him.)

The Story:

Wilder plays the grandson of the Dr. Frankenstein we’re all familiar with, who has shirked his family’s history by attempting to make his own name in the field of neurology (which he pronounces Frahnk-en-steen). But then word comes that he’s inherited the family estate, so he says goodbye to his stuffy fiancée, and travels to Transylvania to a creepy castle populated by a wise-cracking butler with a suspiciously shifting hump (Feldman), a beautiful assistant (Garr), and a severe governess (or something?) whose name frightens horses (Leachman).

Soon he becomes obsessed with continuing his grandfather’s work, much to the distress of the townsfolk, who are led by a keystone kop with a fake arm and a funny accent. Much hilarity ensues.

The Artisticness:

Man, oh man, what ever happened to parodies? If ever there was a pinnacle of a loving homage to a genre, Young Frankenstein is the obvious forerunner. Nowadays, in this country at least, we’re reduced a flood of lazy mishmashes of terrible “references are the new jokes” type of “parodies” like Date Movie and Epic Movie, or whatever the Wayans brothers are up to. It makes the rare exceptions like Walk Hard or the Simon Pegg/Edgar Wright movies look way better than they are, just by not being awful excuses for celluloid.

Not that every Mel Brooks movie is a home run (witness: Dracula, Dead and Loving It), but they at least try to be funny, and he always tells a story. Young Frankenstein plays against the expectations of a 1930’s horror movie without ever breaking face (or only occasionally, when Feldman looks at the camera), and it gets more laughs for it.

A lot of that is thanks to Wilder’s ability to go completely over-the-top while staying in character, channeling the archetypical “IT’S ALIVE!!!” mad-scientist while somehow still playing straight-man. The whole cast is really a showcase of comedic subtlety- every time I watch this, I notice something Feldman in particular does: little things like the exaggerated way he throws dirt when they dig up a corpse, or spearing a piece of cheese with a pencil.

It helps that although the script gets silly (“What knockers!”), the camera and the set look authentically like the original Karloff movie (imdb trivia tells me some of the same props were even used). There are even long tracking shots like in horror films, and pretty decent effects.

I guess funny people make funny movies. Were there terrible genre parodies in the seventies that just don’t get mentioned anymore?


Hey, does it really matter? It’s funny, everyone should see it. Frankenstein embraces his name, creates a monster, saves it from destruction, and gets the hot assistant. The monster gets his former fiancée, and a real brain. Everyone is well-endowed and happy.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

I’m always of the opinion that comedy is much harder to achieve than tragedy, so I’m of course saying higher.

The Legacy:

Would you believe that Young Frankenstein was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay (yes, that makes sense, you say) and Best Sound (uh, sure, why not you follow) at the Oscars?

Plus it’s on all sorts of “Greatest Comedies Of All Time” type lists, in the national film registry, and so forth. And it pervades pop culture as much as any classic- from Family Guy references to part of the music score being used with that clip of a prairie dog dramatically turning around.

Also it is now a stage musical, like everything else ever. Next up: Schindler’s List, The Musical.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube

Maybe you’d like some clips set to Black Sabbath? No? Then how about my favorite site gag of the film, involving some real human skulls and Marty Feldman’s awesome manic energy.

Leftover Thoughts:

  • Wait, Gene Hackman is in this film? I had no idea. Oh, he was the blind hermit!
  • Mel Brooks loves showtunes, when they work (the “Puttin’ On The Ritz” routine) and when they don’t (when Wilder and a boy awkwardly reference “Chattanooga Choo Choo” at the train station).
  • Somebody told me that “Blucher” means “glue,” which is why the horses whinny, but apparently that’s not true at all, although Brooks might have thought so when he wrote it. I like it better as an inexplicable running gag.
  • “Werewolf?” “There wolf…. There castle.”

IMDB #232 Let The Right One In

Next up is an amazing 2008 Swedish film, Let The Right One In, a popular but so far obscure film not even eligible for the Best Foreign Language Oscar until next year- in fact, it was never in more than 53 theaters in this country, so hardly anyone has seen it (legally, anyway).

The Key Players:

Director: Tomas Alfredson. Writer: John Lindqvist, adapting his own novel. They are surely famous for other things in the Swedish language of which I am scarcely aware, because I am a Midwestern American yokel.

Our stars are two previously unknown child actors, Kare Hedebrant as our young protagonist Oskar, and Lina Leandersson as Eli, his mysterious new neighbor.

The Story:

Oskar is a boy of twelve who shares time with divorced parents, and gets bullied at school by a pretty typical douchebag-bully type. He spends evenings playing alone in the snowy, quiet courtyard of his mother’s apartment complex, until he meets Eli, the girl next door, that is very pale, and doesn’t need to wear warm clothes for some reason.

This is because she’s a vampire (not really a spoiler), but also still sort of a twelve year old like our hero. She lives with a caretaker that seems to love her greatly, to the degree that we see him make several botched attempts to murder innocent people for her to feed on, before getting caught. This leaves Eli unsupervised to get her own food, all the while striking up a friendship of quiet companionship with Oskar.

Then it becomes sort of two pretty standard stories blended together, as we see Oskar growing confidence from this new alliance, and the townsfolk slowly become aware that people are disappearing for a reason. But how will these two threads collide?

The Artisticness:

I’ve never been to Sweden, but this film makes you feel the cold- it opens with a minutes long shot of falling snow, and pays plenty of attention to the beauty of the white landscape in Oskar’s city. In fact, this film is nearly entirely in white and at night, which only make the swatches of red and daylight stand out more starkly.

It’s also not afraid to let the story unfold at its own pace- the long opening fade into snow is a good indicator of the willingness to let the events tell themselves.

The only bum note would be some pretty shaky CGI in places, but it passes quickly and I can’t imagine the budget was terribly high. Otherwise, even the child acting seemed great to me (though this could be behind the mask of subtitles- it can often cloud bad performances, or so my friend who knows Mandarin once told me about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).

THE ENDING! SPOILERS WITH TEETH (Okay, that was terrible)

So Eli is tracked down by a vengeful villager right after Oskar discovers she’s a vampire, but he warns her in time to get the better of the guy. She then has to flee the town before there are mobs with torches and so forth.

Meanwhile, Oskar has clouted his bully on the ear, which results in the bully’s even douchier older brother coming to threaten him with a switchblade while Oskar is in the pool. He tells our hero if he can hold his breath for three minutes, he’ll just nick him, but if he can’t, he’ll lose an eye. And he holds Oskar’s head under the water, and we expect the worst because this has been sort of a gruesome film so far.

But then Eli comes to the rescue, and the way in which she does so is framed in one of the best shots of the year. It’s an awesome sequence, you just have to trust me. Oskar and Eli then run off on a train for parts unknown (Eli, being hundreds of years old, is pretty wealthy). Happily ever after?


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Well, it’s already climbed above 200, so we’ll let the people decide where it ends up eventually I suppose. But I love particularly the way it just decides to be a coming of age film and a vampire film at the same time, and doesn’t really worry that that might not make sense. It just tells a story.

The Legacy:

Well, because it was released after September 30 in Sweden, it won’t be eligible for the Best Foreign Language Oscar until next year's ceremony, which is goofy. But it’s won a bunch of other things and appeared on a crazy number of top ten lists from critic.

And it’s going to be immediately remade in English (sigh), which everyone who’s seen it is up in arms about. But hopefully it’ll just expose more people to this film, in the end.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube

Well, the studio behind the film is pretty good at flagging down anything that’s not a trailer, but check out this clip of the two meeting for the second time- note that half of the clip is silence and snow. Also note that vampires, much like Extra-terrestrial Vegetation Evaluators, are aces at solving Rubik’s Cubes.

Leftover Thoughts:

  • (more spoilers) The movie makes is pretty clear, upon re-watching, that Eli isn’t even a girl to begin with, that he(?)’s a castrated boy. But it’s all the same to Oskar, really. The novel also makes it clear that the adult provider from earlier was a pedophile essentially trading services with the vampire- the movie leaves this obscure and makes it seem like Oskar will eventually grow into a devoted servant and meet the same fate. (end spoilers)
  • New awesome addition to the rules of vampires in this story- what happens when vampires enter homes uninvited.
  • I like that, unless I missed it, nobody says or mentions something similar to the title, but it’s easy to apply.

IMDB #233 Howl's Moving Castle

And now it’s time for a wonderful entry on the list, 2004’s Howl’s Moving Castle (Hauru no ugoku shiro).

The Key Players:

Hayao Miyazaki, a box-office star in his native Japan, is the co-founder of Studio Ghibli animation and the writer/director of some other films on this countdown. He’s got lots of animation-related awards, including an Oscar for Spirited Away. His films are uniquely crafted, yet by far the most accessible anime for those of us that aren’t anime people.

When I watch Miyazaki films dubbed into English, I like to play a game called Guess That Celebrity Voice! I believe, when watching this for the first time, that I correctly called Christian Bale as the voice of the titular wizard Howl and Billy Crystal as the fire demon Calcifer. I missed Emily Mortimer as the protagonist Sophie, Jean Simmons as an older version of Sophie, and Lauren Bacall and Blythe Danner as evil witches.

And finally, this film is the perfect melding of Miyazaki’s sensibility with the author of the young adult novel by Diana Wynn Jones on which it’s based. The first half of the movie mirrors the book closely, but then it diverges in a way much more suited to Miyazaki’s pacifist, man v. nature themes.

The Story:

Is it really important? Miyazaki films are always pretty similar- a young girl has an adventure, there’s a evil witch-type character that turns into an ally by the end, and there are little cute companions of some kind. What more do you need?

But okay- this film is about a girl named Sophie, a wallflower who works in her late father's hat shop, offends the Witch of the Wastes and is cursed to appear as an old woman. So she flees her home, eventually ending up working as a maid for the mysteriously cantankerous young wizard Howl, who lives in a castle that moves on the strength of a talking fire demon named Calcifer. Then more things happen, but really that’s enough for now.

The Artisticness:

This is truly, to me anyway, a case of a book and film that are equally great, but in completely different ways (my all time top example might be The Prestige, number 83). Miyazaki takes Jones’ novel, which is a much more individual coming of age tale (and way more, you know, British and stuff) and makes it nearly entirely his own thing, with Howl being employed by both sides of warring kingdoms, turning into a dragon-type thing and combating huge warships that float on the sky.

Plus it’s a beautiful film, of course. And even with the presence of Billy Crystal as a fire demon apparently straight from the catskills, the dubbing in Studio Ghibli films is pretty easy to stand- normally any sort of dubbed dialogue makes my eye twitch, but it’s easier with anime.


Miyazaki always ends things in relative balance, and HMC is no exception- Sophie saves Howl’s soul, freeing the captive fire demon in the process, and even finds the missing prince that started the war. It would really take longer to explain than it would to just get you to watch the film- this is a fantasy in the truest sense, and one of the best qualities of all Miyazaki films- they don’t explain their complex mythologies bit by bit. You just sort of flow along with them, and things make sense.


Overall: Should It Be Higher, Lower?

Much, much higher. Look, I love Pixar films as much as the next person, but it’s beyond me why they only apply the vast army of technology and creative minds at their disposal to making films that only bend the laws of reality just slightly- they imagine microcosms of things like rats that can talk, toys that can talk, bugs that can talk, but we already know what these things and their environments look like. That’s why Wall-E is by far my favorite, because he shuts the hell up and shows us something new.

The Legacy:

I’m not really sure what studio imports these type of things to these hallowed American shores, but it makes little sense to me to go to the trouble of preparing a well-versed English translation of a screenplay, securing a top-notch voice cast, dubbing a film, and then marketing them in such a way that Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away gross a combined $14 Million in the US. This is in comparison to a combined $500 Million in the rest of the world. Five. Hundred. Million. Dollars. Not a typo.

So beyond being immensely popular everywhere else, it’s a bit soon for this specific entry in the Ghibli oeuvre to have a legacy. But give it time.

The Best Video Of It On YouTube

Some enterprising soul has posted the whole thing on there in 24 inexplicably sequenced parts (it’s cool though, he put the disclaimer “I DO NOT OWN” in the info, so it’s totally legal). But anyway, watch the opening shot of the film as Howl’s castle emerges from the mist, and then the brief scene establishing Sophie’s character. You know what’s noticeably absent? Any sort of cloying voice-over explaining why there’s a castle walking around, or that Sophie is a quiet person, or anything. Kind of gives us credit to pick that up ourselves.

Leftover Thoughts:

  • In one scene of the film when Howl is injured, Christian Bale’s dubbing does lapse briefly into what will forever be known as “The Batman Voice.” I enjoyed it. Did you know Clint Eastwood does The Batman Voice 24/7?
  • The only part of the novel I missed, really, was John Donne’s “Song” being a key to understanding the relationship of Howl and Calcifer.
  • It’s like Miyazaki thinks war never solves anything, or something. Huh.

Ugh. Just... Ugh.

Go here for the complete list of Oscar nominees. Normally I do a whole number crunch on how many I got right versus how many wrong, but for some reason this year I don't give a rat's ass.

I wonder why? Maybe it's because the only film I saw this year four times got shut out of all the indicators that it was a good film, with the exception of Heath Ledger's "oh but he was too handsome to die so young" nomination.

But The Dark Knight got seven other nominations, you say. Sure it did. But who cares? Effects, sound mixing/editing, cinematography, editing, art direction, and make-up: all great indicators that it was "well-made" as Frank Marshall put it today, but who gives two shits if it's apparently not any good. If it's about comic books, god forbid.

We can't nominate a movie about comic books! Quick, is there something about the Holocaust?

And this is probably going to sound harsh, but fuck the Holocaust. Make some movies about 9/11, make movies about the fucking Indian Ocean Sunami, Darfur, global warming, pandas that won't fuck, AIDS in Africa, the crisis in the Middle East, anything but the Holocaust already. Can we just fucking decide this? By all means, keep making documentaries, let's use concentration camp metaphors in everything, let's compare people to Hitler, but we have to find a different fucking bogeyman to live under our cinematic beds, because god damn they're everywhere and they weren't all decades ago.

So I'm sorry, Acting branch of the Academy, if you looked into modern times and decided to bury yourselves in the past, where everything is clear. Let's give a three years too late apology to the gay community (Milk) even though the only award we're even thinking about giving that film is to Sean Penn for pretending he's gay and (gasp!) kissing a man! (That's gotta be up there with gaining thirty pounds of Oscar weight, right?) Let's give fourteen nominations to the picture in some fairytale Louisiana where race relations are never mentioned (Button), because most of us feel good about that half-black guy we voted for- but that's only one race we don't have to feel guilty about anymore, and we just realized India existed! Is there a flashy, simplisitic, overwrought Dickensian fable we can give Best Picture to (Slumdog Millionaire) in the spirit of white-guilt and overblown worldliness? But only if it reduces an entire nation's history of poverty to a few music videos! Plus, let's give Richard Nixon "the trial he never got" (Frost/Nixon) and congratulate ourselves for being alive at the time and doing nothing, ultimately, and doing even less the last eight years in the face of larger corruption.

And finally, man oh man, let there be a movie with mediocre reviews about the Holocaust (The Reader), because it's been a little while and Israel is doing some things we really would rather not face right now, and we like to know that evil is evil and good is good, although sometimes people just follow orders, but at least it's a story we know. Don't let their be a movie that's popular, explosive, well-fashioned and well-put together that makes us face the fact that the world is in chaos. Don't let there be a film about people in costumes breaking down the walls of movie genres into artistic territory, because we just wouldn't know what to think.

Wow, I got more bitter the more I was writing that. But I'm not editing this post, because nobody reads this and I just don't care.

I'm glad AMPAS, coming off the lowest rated Oscar telecast in ever, decided to find a few ways to make it get even worse. Not only did they ignore the most popular movie of the decade in all the major categories, they even decided to cut down Original Song to just three nominees, two of which went to songs mostly in Indian.

There were a few consolations in the rough here (In Bruges for Original Screenplay, M. I. A. at the Oscars), but they weren't enough to make me care for today. Maybe next week or something. I just wanted TDK to be there- I've resigned myself to a in-no-way-deserved Slumdog Millionaire victory for a couple months now. I just convinced myself it was going to be in.

The nominations from the guilds of the Directors, Writers, Producers, Editors, Art Directors, Sound Mixers, Costumers, and the truckload of critical acclaim might have done their part too. In fact, only the Screen Actor's Guild, by extension a group that overlaps with the acting block of AMPAS, the largest one, didn't really seem to think much of TDK in their awards. So hopefully they can get fucked in their contract negotiation, for all I care. I try not to come down on Hollywood as not caring about the public, but I can't muster the effort today.

Dave's Oscar Nominee Predictions

Dave's Oscar picks, emailed to me today.

Oscar Picks...


Elfman - Milk
Newman - Revolutionary Road
Howard and Zimmer - The Dark Knight
Rahman - Slumdog Millionaire
Desplat - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Sneaky: Eastwood Junior for Gran Torino. Doesn't deserve it, but could get in on lineage.
Sentimental Favorite: The Dark Knight, followed by Revolutionary Road.


"Down to Earth" - Wall·E
"The Wrestler" - The Wrestler
"Jai Ho" - Slumdog Millionaire
"Once in a Lifetime" - Cadillac Records
"Gran Torino" - Gran Torino

Sneaky: "Another Way to Die" - Quantum of Solace
Sentimental Favorite: "The Wrestler," but I really enjoyed Danny Elfman's "Little Things" and Jason Segel's "Dracula's Lament."

Visual Effects:

Iron Man
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Sneaky: Hancock - I thought the last spot comes down to Hellboy and Hancock, but the enormous plant fight in the street sequence is more challenging than most of Hancock's sequences.
Sentimental Favorite: Death Race and The Dark Knight, you know why? Practical effects, that is harder to do than some computer wizardry.

Best Make Up:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
The Dark Knight

Sneaky: Slumdog Millionaire - How? That little blue boy, that's how.
Sentimental Favorite: Burn After Reading - See Brad Pitt's hair.

Best Sound:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man,
Quantum of Solace

Best Sound Editing:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Quantum of Solace

Art Direction:

The Dark Knight
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
Revolutionary Road
Quantum of Solace

Sneaky: The Duchess
Sentimental Favorite: All of Dominic Greene's places in Quantum - being the exposed house and bunker were pretty awesome.

Best Editing:

The Dark Knight
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
Quantum of Solace

Sneaky: Revolutionary Road
Sentimental Favorite: Wall·E

Best Costume Design:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
The Duchess
The Reader
Revolutionary Road

Sneaky: Cadillac Records
Sentimental Favorite: The Dark Knight or Iron Man. Someday, a comic book/superhero movie must be recognized for the extraordinary effort these suits take.


The Dark Knight
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Revolutionary Road
The Reader

Sneaky: Slumdog Millionaire
Sentimental Favorite: Quantum of Solace

Original Screenplay:

The Wrestler
Vicky Christina Barcelona
Rachel Getting Married

Sneaky: In Bruges
Sentimental Favorite: In Bruges

Adapted Screenplay:

The Dark Knight
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire

Sneaky: ?
Sentimental Favorite: Seven Pounds - For ripping off some six year old's idea of a fucked up "Spongebob Squarepants" episode.

Supporting Actress:

Winslet - The Reader
Tomei - The Wrestler
Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Davis - Doubt
Cruz - Vicky Christina Barcelona

Sneaky: Adams - Doubt
Sentimental Favorite: Dewitt - Rachel Getting Married or Farmiga Nothing But the Truth because I love swearing and pretty people.

Supporting Actor:

Ledger - The Dark Knight
Hoffman - Doubt
Downey Jr. - Tropic Thunder
Patel - Slumdog Millionaire
Brolin - Milk

Sneaky: Franco - Milk Shannon - Revolutionary Road or Sheen - Frost/Nixon
Sentimental Favorite: Fiennes - In Bruges or Brad Pitt's Hair - Burn After Reading


Winslet - Revolutionary Road
Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
Streep - Doubt
Hawkins - Happy Go Lucky
Jolie - Changeling

Sneaky: Leo - Frozen River
Sentimental Favorite: Beckinsale - Nothing But the Truth, again, pretty people and Blanchett - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.


Rourke - The Wrestler
Penn - Milk
Langella - Frost/Nixon
Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Eastwood - Gran Torino

Sneaky: DiCaprio - Revolutionary Road
Sentimental Favorite: Downey Jr. - Iron Man - Did any actor have more fun with a role this year?


Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire
Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Nolan - The Dark Knight
Howard - Frost/Nixon
Van Sant - Milk

Sneaky: Arnofsky - The Wrestler
Sentimental Favorite: Mendes - Revolutionary Road


Slumdog Millionaire
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight

Sneaky: Doubt
Sentimental Favorite: Revolutionary Road

- Dave

Duncan's Oscar Nominee Predictions

Plenty of people predict the Oscars. I predict the nominees. With the exception of categories in which I’ve seen no entries at all (both shorts, both docs, and foreign language), I’ll do my best to handicap the other 19 categories.

Best Original Score:

Thomas Newman, Wall∙E
Danny Elfman, Milk
James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer, The Dark Knight
A. R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

These seem like the five to beat to me- some of these composers face upset potential from themselves, however: Newman’s Revolutionary Road work, Howard’s Defiance score, and Zimmer’s Frost/Nixon score could easily take one of the spots.

Sentimental Favorite: I’d be miffed if Newton and Howard’s work on TDK was overlooked after a brief eligibility controversy, but really I’m already sad that Carter Burwell’s fine music from In Bruges won’t come close- hands down my favorite score of the year.

Best Original Song

“Down To Earth” Thomas Newman and Peter Gabriel, Wall∙E
“The Wrestler,” Bruce Springsteen, The Wrestler
“Jai Ho,” A. R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
“Once In A Lifetime,” Beyonce (and five others), Cadillac Records
“Something From High School Musical 3,” Some Songwriter, High School Musical 3

Hopefully, with any luck, god willing, good lord please, High School Musical 3 doesn’t get more than one nomination, if any. Please. The others I see as pretty likely- Bruuuuce’s ballad and the song over Wall∙E’s credits are all but locked in, and Slumdog is the reason for the season so far. Plus the Academy likes Beyonce. But then, this category is always the most bonkers one to predict…

Sentimental Favorite(s): There are so many songs on the list of 49 eligible songs I like more but probably won’t make it that I have an alternate five I’d like to see more:

“The Little Things,” Danny Elfman, Wanted- who knew Elfman was a badass? Either this or Jack White’s underrated “Another Way To Die” from Quantum Of Solace.
”O Saya,” A. R. Rahman and M. I. A., Slumdog Millionaire- people are leaning toward the big ending number of Slumdog, but I’d love to have them go with the opener so M. I. A. can perform at the Oscars to cap off her crazy year.
“The Call,” Regina Spektor, The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian- Regina Spektor is one of my dream girls.
“Little Person,” Jon Brion, Synecdoche, New York- Jon Brion, meanwhile, is one of my heroes.
“Dracula’s Lament,” Jason Segel, Forgetting Sarah Marshall- Just watch.

Best Visual Effects:

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Iron Man
Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Of the seven finalists, these seem like clear favorites: Button for innovation, Hellboy for flair, and Iron Man for precision.

Sentimental Favorite: I kind of want to see The Dark Knight lead Button in overall nominations, but I can’t justify a nod here over the above. Personally I’m sad The Fall didn’t land in this category for originality alone.

Best Makeup:

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Again, these run the table of impressively complete (Button), creatively elaborate (Hellboy), and downright memorable (TDK).

Sentimental Favorite: You’d hope Tropic Thunder could get some recognition for actually very impressive blackface. But, you know, maybe not.

Best Costume Design:

The Duchess
Revolutionary Road
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight

Somehow I nearly forgot this category.

Best Sound Editing:

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Quantum Of Solace

Loud noises!

Sentimental Favorite: Shrug.

Best Sound Mixing:

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Slumdog Millionaire

The sound categories never match five for five. Otherwise, you got me.

Sentimental Favorite: Buh?

Best Art Direction:

The Dark Knight
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire
Revolutionary Road
The Duchess

Sentimental Favorite: The Fall should really get a bunch of art noms, in my mind.

Best Editing

The Dark Knight
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire

I think Wall∙E sneaks in to this all-important indicator of BP.

Sentimental Favorite: I think Revolutionary Road was a well-put together film that’ll mostly get forgotten about in the technical categories.

Best Cinematography:

The Dark Knight, Wally Pfister
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Claudio Miranda
Revolutionary Road, Roger Deakins
Milk, Harry Savides
The Reader, Deakins and Chris Menges

Deakins for the consecutive double nominations! Hopefully Milk gets a few smaller award nominations, and I see TDK and Button continuing to roll.

Sentimental Favorite: The Fall, again- beautiful film. Also I think it’d be cool if Deakins pulled a hat trick with his work for Doubt.

Best Animated Feature:

Waltz With Bashir
Kung Fu Panda

Like we even need to waste time announcing the other nominees, come presentation time.

Sentimental Favorite: Actually, beyond Bolt (which I haven’t seen), I can’t think of any other animated features this year? Something about a mouse?

Best Original Screenplay:

Milk, Dustin Lance Black
The Wrestler, Robert Siegel
Rachel Getting Married, Jenny Lumet
Wall∙E, Andrew Stanton
Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Woody Allen

Unfortunately Allen’s terribly overrated VCB will take a spot, and maybe even the Cohen’s ho-hum script for Burn After Reading, just because they are who they are. Milk and The Wrestler are locked in, and I say the Lumet name plus the warm feelings for Rachel Getting Married puts it over the bubble.

Sentimental Favorite: It’ll be a crying shame if/when Martin McDonagh’s flawless script for In Bruges gets left out. And I haven’t seen The Visitor, but I’m a big Todd McCarthy fan- he knows how to craft a tale.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

The Dark Knight, Christopher & Jonathan Nolan
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, Eric Roth
Doubt, John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon, Peter Morgan
Slumdog Millionaire, Simon Beaufoy

A boring category dominated by contenders. Although, how hard can it be for Shanley and Morgan to adapt their own plays?

Sentimental Favorite: I think the team behind Iron Man did a great job making a tight story out of a less thematically clear mythology than the Batman people.

Best Supporting Actress:

Kate Winslet, The Reader
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
Taraji Henson, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button

I gotta say, it gets pretty locked down from this point on. Tomei is probably the weakest link here.

Sentimental Favorite: How can everyone forget about Rosmarie Dewitt, the Rachel that’s Getting Married and also holding the film together while Hathaway has Oscar scenes.

Best Supporting Actor:

Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire

Probably the most open acting category- Emile Hirsch or James Franco could be the one in for Milk, who knows? Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road remains a dark horse.

Sentimental Favorite: Ralph Fiennes in In Bruges is a villain for the ages. Mostly I’m just glad we avoided a token little kid this year.

Best Actress:

Kate Winslet, Revolutionary Road
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky

I think Melissa Leo got attention too long ago to be remember next week. The top three are all in a dead heat for the statue, with the edge to Winslet because she’s overdue (while Hathaway hasn’t put in her dues, and Meryl has two).

Sentimental Favorite: Rebecca Hall is my favorite part of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and long overdue for mainstream attention (and bigger roles).

Best Actor:

Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Sean Penn, Milk
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Clint Eastwood, Gran Torino

After the late-breaking box office of Gran Torino, I say Eastwood knocks DiCaprio out of contention for Road.

Sentimental Favorite: Golden Globe winner Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleason should both be nominated for In Bruges (which isn’t just a comedy, HFPA. Come on.)

Best Director:

Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher, The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Christopher Nolan, The Dark Knight
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Darren Arnofsky, The Wrestler

Arnofsky pushes Gus Van Sant (Milk) out of the power five. I’d rather it was Howard missing the cut, but that’s not what my gut says.

Sentimental Favorite: Can’t Andrew Stanton get some props for coordinating a picture (Wall∙E) that you essentially have to film in your head years beforehand?

Best Picture:

The Dark Knight
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
Slumdog Millionaire

Boring, I know- the big five that have won all the early plaudits. For the record, this in order of most to least favorite (Slumdog is great, but overrated. Frost/Nixon continues to mystify me in it’s acclaim, not that it was terrible).

Sentimental Favorite: Have I mentioned In Bruges and The Fall enough yet? You should Netflix these films.


The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button- 14
The Dark Knight- 12
Slumdog Millionaire- 9
Wall∙E- 7
Milk- 6
Frost/Nixon- 5
The Wrestler- 5
Revolutionary Road- 4
Iron Man- 3
Doubt- 4
Hellboy II: The Golden Army- 2
The Reader- 2
Rachel Getting Married- 2
Vicky Cristina Barcelona- 2
The Duchess- 2
Changeling- 2
Cadillac Records, High School Musical 3, The Duchess, Quantum Of Solace, Waltz With Bashir*, Kung Fu Panda, Tropic Thunder, Happy-Go-Lucky, Gran Torino- 1

*Waltz With Bashir is also a lock for the Best Foreign Language category. Also, while we're here, I do know that Man On Wire is a lock for best documentary and Pixar's Presto is a shoe-in for Animated Short, but that's all I got.

We'll see how I did Thursday morning.

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