Movie Reviews by Paul Preston
Reviews in alphabetical order

Oscar Rant 2007 & The Top Ten Movies of 2006

CB056255OSCAR RANT 2007

(Honoring the best films of 2006)

Performance by an actor in a leading role:
Leonardo DiCaprio in “Blood Diamond” (Warner Bros.)
Ryan Gosling in “Half Nelson” (THINKFilm)
Peter O’Toole in “Venus” (Miramax, Filmfour and UK Council)
Will Smith in “The Pursuit of Happyness” (Sony Pictures Releasing)
Forest Whitaker in “The Last King of Scotland” (Fox Searchlight)

Glaring Omission: Sacha Baron Cohen. Even though the Globes divide the acting awards into categories so there’s more of a chance for Cohen to win a “Comedy” award, I thought the buzz was building to the point where he’d pull off an Oscar nod. I also thought DiCaprio was going to get a nomination for “The Departed”.
Runners-up: Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky Balboa” – his speech to Paulie at the meat-packing plant is the stuff of Oscar telecast clips. Matt Damon’s work in “The Departed” was equally as compelling as DiCaprio’s and he even handled a few scenes with more finesse. Will Ferrell is both funny and empathetic in “Stranger Than Fiction”. Daniel Craig as the new James Bond seems to have elevated the role beyond slick action hero by adding a toughness and new sense of danger. I LOVED Greg Kinnear in “Little Miss Sunshine”, it’s a shame his co-stars have overshadowed him in awards season. I also liked Derek Luke in “Catch a Fire”. Here’s a young actor that always makes it look easy and he’s been good every time he’s been cast.
Great Inclusion: Will Smith. He was excellent in a movie that really, really affected me.
Will win: Forest Whitaker, for winning nearly every award up till now
Should win: Whitaker. It’s a great race this year, with no unworthy nominee, but Whitaker really shined with scary charisma.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role:
Alan Arkin in “Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
Jackie Earle Haley in “Little Children” (New Line)
Djimon Hounsou in “Blood Diamond” (Warner Bros.)
Eddie Murphy in “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Mark Wahlberg in “The Departed” (Warner Bros.)

Glaring Omission: MICHAEL SHEEN!!! Given the numerous Oscar nods, you’d think the Academy would have no problem nominating Sheen in his excellent performance from “The Queen”. He holds his own line for line with Helen Mirren in two-thirds of the film. I also thought Oscar-favorite Jack Nicholson would get a nod, too, for “The Departed”, although I thought it was only “standard” Jack.
Runners-up: Ben Affleck, “Hollywoodland”. After a lot of hack flicks, Affleck was quite good as George Reeves, generating a lot of sympathy and pulling off the character with style. Brad Pitt gave a great performance in “Babel”, I thought that was a favorite for a nomination, too, as Hollywood loves him. I also have an affinity for Stanley Tucci in “The Devil Wears Prada”. He’s making a career out of giving quality, very real, grounded performances in comedies. Lastly, I loved the acting job Ben Sliney did in “United 93”, playing himself. To re-live the experiences of 9/11 with the authenticity he did was remarkable.
Great Inclusion: Djimon Honsou! He was the emotional heart of “Blood Diamond”, and it’s hard to believe the Golden Globes didn’t nominate him. Good to see the Academy has better sense.
Will win: Eddie Murphy, they’ve wanted to award him for straight comedy, but Oscar still has a stick up their ass about that. Stretching his talents for “Dreamgirls” will probably win him the statuette.
Should win: Honsou. This guy just keeps showing up in prestige projects and giving great performances.

Performance by an actress in a leading role:
Penélope Cruz in “Volver” (Sony Pictures Classics)
Judi Dench in “Notes on a Scandal” (Fox Searchlight)
Helen Mirren in “The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada)
Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” (20th Century Fox)
Kate Winslet in “Little Children” (New Line)

Glaring Omission: Not really too many GLARING omissions. I thought Annette Benning might pull off a nomination, but the movie she’s in is just really bad, and Renee Zellweger had an outside shot for “Miss Potter”. Maggie Gyllenhaal was a longshot for “Sherrybaby”. I do, however, know a runner-up I was rooting for:
Runners-up: Keke Palmer, for a powerful debut in “Akeelah and the Bee”. She held her own with heavyweights Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett and was in pretty much every scene.
Great Inclusion: Kate Winslet. I LOVE Kate Winslet. There is certainly no other actress out there of her generation that I’m excited to see in a film. She always knocks it out of the park, handily building on the promise she had when she arrived on the scene a decade ago. Also, she has 5 Oscar nominations and she’s only in her early thirties. She will win soon. Count on it.
Will win: Helen Mirren – like Whitaker, she’s going broke flying around the world to pick up all the pre-Oscar awards she’s winning.
Should win: Mirren. She’s mesmerizing. And she’s a dame, for god’s sake.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role:
Adriana Barraza in “Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage)
Cate Blanchett in “Notes on a Scandal” (Fox Searchlight)
Abigail Breslin in “Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Rinko Kikuchi in “Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage)

Glaring Omission: Emily Blunt was awesome in “The Devil Wears Prada”. Her part was richer than Anne Hathaway’s, not to take anything away from Hathaway, but the comedy and sympathy came pouring out of Blunt at a NY Fashion Week pace. I’d replace Kikuchi with Blunt in a heartbeat. Kikuchi’s segment of “Babel” was my least favorite. There was a longshot Emma Thompson would be nominated for “Stranger Than Fiction” because she’s a perennial favorite.
Runners-up; I did love Thompson in “Fiction”, and she was perfectly cast. Diane Lane was also quite good in “Hollywoodland”, an underrated mystery.
Great Inclusion: Adriana Barraza. Her performance in “Babel” was heartbreaking. I could feel the desperation in every wrong move her character made, and I just wanted her to be happy.
Will win: Jennifer Hudson. Hollywood is certainly responding to her “arrival”…
Should win: Barraza. However, I was not as impressed as the rest of Hollywood.

Best animated feature film of the year:
“Cars” (Buena Vista) John Lasseter
“Happy Feet” (Warner Bros.) George Miller
“Monster House” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Gil Kenan

Glaring Omission: Two other nominees!! Never before have animated pictures been so in demand and in abundance. Granted, that just means that a greater percentage of them now feel free to be BAD, but I thought they’d at least nominate five this year.
Runners-up: However…I didn’t go out and see many. I only saw “Open Season”, which is kind of funny, but certainly shouldn’t be aligned with Oscar. I haven’t even seen “Monster House”!
Great Inclusion: “Cars”. “Cars” is one of the best films of the year of any kind, and we all know this category exists because of Pixar.
Will win: “Cars”. Pixar doesn’t make bad films.
Should win: “Cars”

Achievement in art direction:
“Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
“The Good Shepherd” (Universal)
“Pan’s Labyrinth” (Picturehouse)
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (Buena Vista)
“The Prestige” (Buena Vista)

Glaring Omission: “Children of Men”. These are some of the best-looking war-torn sets since “Full Metal Jacket”. It’s a unique look at the future in that it doesn’t overreach with “futuristic” devices. Also, “Blood Diamond” took me to Sierra Leone, and the results were terrifying. The most you-are-there movie of the year is successful as such because of the look.
Runners-up: “Apocalypto” – the Mayan civilization in this film was fantastically realized. “Marie Antoinette” – BEAUTIFUL looking film, despite what you think of the drama. Also, “World Trade Center” re-created the twisted wreckage of Ground Zero with haunting results.
Great Inclusion: “The Prestige”. Although I was iffy with the direction this film went, I loved the old theaters and crazy Tesla inventions that populated this movie.
Will win: “Pan’s Labyrinth”. This flick is a critic’s darling, and will most likely win many of it’s nominations
Should win: “Pan’s Labyrinth” – AND IT LOOKED AWESOME.

Achievement in cinematography:
“The Black Dahlia” (Universal) Vilmos Zsigmond
“Children of Men” (Universal) Emmanuel Lubezki
“The Illusionist” (Yari Film Group) Dick Pope
“Pan’s Labyrinth” (Picturehouse) Guillermo Navarro
“The Prestige” (Buena Vista) Wally Pfister

Glaring Omission: “United 93”. Paul Greengrass’ wandering camera told the story of the doomed 9/11 flight with a style that yielded unexpected emotion. “Apocalypto” was also great. Whatever you think of Mel Gibson, it was technically solid.
Runners-up: There was a lot of good work behind the lens this year – “The Queen”, “Blood Diamond”, “Babel” and particularly the work done in “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima”.
Great Inclusion: “Children of Men”. Lubezki’s long takes (a signature of Cuaron) during the battle scenes are very exciting.
Will win: “Children of Men” – this the kind of film that wins this award.
Should win: “Children of Men”

Achievement in costume design:
“Curse of the Golden Flower” (Sony Pictures Classics) Yee Chung Man
“The Devil Wears Prada” (20th Century Fox) Patricia Field
“Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount) Sharen Davis
“Marie Antoinette” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Milena Canonero
“The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada) Consolata Boyle

Glaring Omission: Can’t really come up with one. These are good nominees.
Runners-up: “Flags of Our Fathers” and “Letters From Iwo Jima” had lived-in soldier-wear. “Hollywoodland” had Hollywood noir-era fashion nailed.
Great Inclusion: “The Queen”. I’m always a fan of someone really getting modern dress perfect. Movies like “Golden Flower” and “Antoinette” did a great job of creating flashy period costumes, but I’m a fan of Consolata Boyle, whose designs for Queen Elizabeth were as much a defining characteristic of who the she was as Mirren’s scowl.
Will win: “Dreamgirls”. Musicals have taken this award a lot.
Should win: “The Queen”

Achievement in directing:
“Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage) Alejandro González Iñárritu
“The Departed” (Warner Bros.) Martin Scorsese
“Letters from Iwo Jima” (Warner Bros.) Clint Eastwood
“The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada) Stephen Frears
“United 93” (Universal and StudioCanal) Paul Greengrass

Glaring Omission: As ever, all the Best Picture nominees should have the directors nominated as well. That means that Dayton & Faris of “Little Miss Sunshine” should get nominated here. The direction they gave the great actors of that film is deserving of a nod.
Runners-up: Edward Zwick of “Blood Diamond”. This guy has always been a great director, but “Blood Diamond” is much better than the slightly stilted drama of “The Last Samurai”, and it does away with the grandiose theatrics of “Glory”. It’s a pared-down, powerfully energetic glimpse into a little known world and I was very impressed. Alfonso Cuaron’s direction was the star of “Children of Men” and certainly award-worthy.
Great Inclusion: Paul Greengrass! What a monumental challenge to tell the story of “United 93” under such intense scrutiny. And to pull it off the way he did with respect, talent and a distinct style makes his work the best of the year as far as I’m concerned.
Will win: Martin Scorsese. And it’s way, WAY overdue. The title of World’s Greatest Director is one thing, but frosting the cake with an Oscar elevates and already great career that’s far from over.
Should win: Paul Greengrass. Hate to do it, Marty, but as well as all the tech and story achievements I’ve already mentioned, Greengrass directed a roster of unknown actors to flawless performances. He impressed the HELL out of me. I wouldn’t take Marty’s Oscar away for a second, and “The Departed” is a great film, so I’m due to be happy on Oscar night whatever happens.

Best documentary feature:
“Deliver Us from Evil” (Lionsgate) A Disarming Films Production
Amy Berg and Frank Donner
“An Inconvenient Truth” (Paramount Classics and Participant Productions) A Lawrence Bender/Laurie David Production
Davis Guggenheim
“Iraq in Fragments” (Typecast Releasing) A Typecast Pictures/Daylight Factory Production
James Longley and John Sinno
“Jesus Camp” (Magnolia Pictures) A Loki Films Production
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
“My Country, My Country” (Zeitgeist Films) A Praxis Films Production
Laura Poitras and Jocelyn Glatzer

Glaring Omission: As well as computer-animated movies, it seems like documentaries were in high production this year. And, like computer-animated movies, I didn’t see that many documentaries either. But from what I’ve heard of this year’s crop, I’m surprised that “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room” wasn’t nominated, as well as “Who Killed the Electric Car?”.
Runners-up: “Jackass 2”. I kid.
Great Inclusion: “An Inconvenient Truth”. HA! I saw this one!
Will win: Tough call. The subject matter is pretty hot-topic no matter what wins – molestation, global warming, the war in Iraq, religious extremism. But I’m still gonna go with “Truth” because of the hype and the unique documentary style of the movie. Strong central characters tend to draw voters, too, like with “Bowling for Columbine”, so I think Gore’s flick wins.
Should win: “An Inconvenient Truth” Again, it’s all I saw.

Best documentary short subject:
“The Blood of Yingzhou District” A Thomas Lennon Films Production
Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon
“Recycled Life” An Iwerks/Glad Production
Leslie Iwerks and Mike Glad
“Rehearsing a Dream” A Simon & Goodman Picture Company Production
Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
“Two Hands” A Crazy Boat Pictures Production
Nathaniel Kahn and Susan Rose Behr

Haven’t seen any of them. Are they on YouTube? Man, that YouTube is fun stuff, eh? You see the one with the David Hasselhoff video? Classic. But, um, haven’t seen these…

Achievement in film editing:
“Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage) Stephen Mirrione and Douglas Crise
“Blood Diamond” (Warner Bros.) Steven Rosenblum
“Children of Men” (Universal) Alex Rodríguez and Alfonso Cuarón
“The Departed” (Warner Bros.) Thelma Schoonmaker
“United 93” (Universal and StudioCanal) Clare Douglas, Christopher Rouse and Richard Pearson

Glaring Omission: “Dreamgirls”. Again, I’m not “Dreamgirls” biggest fan, but the quick-cut musical sequences were put together with a palpable energy and the film just won the ACE award from the Editor’s Guild for musical/comedy.
Runners-up: “Children of Men” is a great inclusion, as action movies usually get nominated here, and in that vein, I would nominate “Letters from Iwo Jima” for it’s exciting war scenes slipping in and out of Eastwood’s trademark slow drama seamlessly. “Apocalypto” also had solid editing, along with it’s numerous solid production elements. That being said, these nominees are excellent. These are quite honestly the best examples of editing this year. Well done, Academy.
Great Inclusion: “Blood Diamond”. The excitement of that movie was the product of fierce success in editing and cinematography. And, any nomination for the year’s best film, “United 93” is a good nomination.
Will win: “Babel”. “Babel” does a great job of weaving a grand landscape of locations and characters with panache. Also, it just won the ACE award for drama (tied with “The Departed”, but I believe the Academy will vote more for the editing job done with the more challenging script).
Should win: TIE. Just as “Babel” cuts across the globe, “United 93” cuts from NORAD to Boston to NY City to a doomed airplane, creating a bewildering atmosphere or building tension as the script demands. A tie – “Babel” and “United 93”

Best foreign language film of the year:
“After the Wedding” A Zentropa Entertainments 16 Production/Denmark
“Days of Glory (Indigènes)” A Tessalit Production/Algeria
“The Lives of Others” A Wiedemann & Berg Production/Germany
“Pan’s Labyrinth” A Tequila Gang/Esperanto Filmoj/Estudios Picasso Production/Mexico
“Water” A Hamilton-Mehta Production/Canada

Glaring Omission: “Volver”! Much beloved director Pedro Almodovar finally won an Oscar for “All About My Mother”, so maybe they feel they don’t need to recognize this film. I haven’t seen it, but I thought it was a front-runner, for sure. I’m also surprised “Letters from Iwo Jima” didn’t get the double nomination that “Life is Beautiful” did for Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film.
Runners-up: The Academy has no balls for not nominating “Apocalypto”. I think Oscar has it in his head that foreign-language films must maintain a high level of intellectuality that is often associated with “foreign” or “European” theming. So when an action movie comes along in a foreign language, it isn’t quickly nominated. In the past, that’s included “Run Lola Run” and “Kung Fu Hustle”. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was the only cross-over, and I believe “Hero” was nominated, but it seems historical drama was required. I’m just saying that straight, commercial drama and comedies like “The Departed” and “Little Miss Sunshine” can be nominated for Best Picture, but Best Foreign Language still traditionally has a stick in it’s ass.
Great Inclusion: “The Lives of Others”. I haven’t seen this, but I hear the director is a young kid and it’s good to see Germany have a John Singleton.
Will win: “Pan’s Labyrinth”. “The Lives of Others” and “Days of Glory” will get some talk, but the critical perfection and modest box office success of “Labyrinth” will push it over the top.
Should win: “Pan’s Labyrinth”

Achievement in makeup:
“Apocalypto” (Buena Vista) Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano
“Click” (Sony Pictures Releasing) Kazuhiro Tsuji and Bill Corso
“Pan’s Labyrinth” (Picturehouse) David Marti and Montse Ribe

Glaring Omission: As before, two more nominees! I know there was a lot of CGI in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”, but there was also good makeup FX seamlessly worked in.
Runners-up: “Marie Antoinette”, perhaps? The paleness of the royal family members was practically a separate character. And isn’t it time to nominate the brilliance of the person who put Rebecca Romijn in blue paint and frills in the “X-Men” movies? Well, “X3” came out this year, and Ms. Romijn was as hot as ever. Give that genius makeup artist an award!
Great Inclusion: “Apocalypto”. The Mayan makeup was excellent, but the fact that each character was given individual attention mad the work magnificent.
Will win: “Pan’s Labyrinth”, in a night of many tech awards for the film.
Should win: “Apocalypto”. Don’t get me wrong, the Faun looked great AND so did the Pale Man (Doug Jones is the next Andy Serkis), but the design and MAINTAINENCE of the makeup in the Mayan jungle had to be a chore.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score):
“Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage) Gustavo Santaolalla
“The Good German” (Warner Bros.) Thomas Newman
“Notes on a Scandal” (Fox Searchlight) Philip Glass
“Pan’s Labyrinth” (Picturehouse) Javier Navarrete
“The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada) Alexandre Desplat

Glaring Omission: “The Painted Veil”. Didn’t see it, but didn’t it win the Golden Globe? I thought Desplat would get the double nod.
Runners-Up: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”. Although it was a BAD movie, the music has been exciting in this movie and last. “Cars”. Randy Newman paired with Pixar is always a slam dunk. I wasn’t such a big fan of the song he wrote this time out, but the score captured the nostalgia of this movie and the fun Pixar movies always have.
Great Inclusion: “The Good German”. Another BAD movie, but a clever score that captures the era of the movie and, more importantly, is an homage to the WWII espionage movies of the ‘40s. I thought Elmer Bernstein’s “Far From Heaven” score was a great nomination four years ago, and Newman’s score here is good, too.
SPECIAL CATEGORY: Worst Inclusion: Philip Glass’ nomination here is the worst nomination in any category in all the Oscars this year. The score of “Notes on a Scandal” is a great disservice to the otherwise engaging film. Glass had an equally obnoxious score for “The Illusionist” in 2006. Glass’ scores in general are intrusive, self-indulgent and they just won’t STOP FOR TWO SECONDS SO WE CAN ENJOY THE ACTING, THE DRAMA, THE SILENCE, ANYTHING! Philip Glass scores both continue to suck and continue to get nominated. It’s a mystery.
Will win: “The Queen”. Even though Alexandre Desplat was overlooked for “The Painted Veil”, he’ll win for his other great score of the year.
Should win: “Babel”. The guitar strumming and plucking in this film is haunting. In fact, there’s a chance it could win.

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song):
“I Need to Wake Up” from “An Inconvenient Truth” (Paramount Classics and Participant Productions)
Music and Lyric by Melissa Etheridge
“Listen” from “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Music by Henry Krieger and Scott Cutler; Lyric by Anne Preven
“Love You I Do” from “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Music by Henry Krieger; Lyric by Siedah Garrett
“Our Town” from “Cars” (Buena Vista)
Music and Lyric by Randy Newman
“Patience” from “Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Music by Henry Krieger; Lyric by Willie Reale

Glaring Omission: “The Song of the Heart”. Prince’s tune won the Golden Globe, so I thought it would be nominated. However, it is just a end-credits song, so it doesn’t meet my criteria of being a song both GOOD and ESSENTIAL to the story.
Runners-Up: “You Know My Name” from “Casino Royale”. Chris Cornell’s song was a good rock tune in the grand tradition of the Bond opening titles, and was good enough to also have shades of it’s chorus reflected in the score (another Bond movie tradition).
Great Inclusion: “I need to Wake Up”. Sure it plays during the end credits, but so does the list of actions to take to fight during global warming. The two team up to send the audience out of the theater with the movie’s theme fully intact.
Will win: “Listen”. And this will be disheartening. Take into account the role of the song in the movie, and you’ll see that it’s a horrible nomination. It’s determined early on that Effie is the best singer in the group, but Deena is moved to the front of the trio because she’s more glamorous. So why does Deena get a total belt song at the end of the show? I thought she wasn’t as good as Effie? This song is here to push and placate star Beyonce and it’s a farce. I hope it loses. None of the new songs for the movie “Dreamgirls” are as good as the songs from the original musical.
Should win: “I Need to Wake Up”. This is totally slanted ‘cause I LOVE Melissa Etheridge, and when I watched “Dreamgirls”, I felt like every ten seconds another girl was screaming at me. I just don’t dig that kind of singing.

Best motion picture of the year:
“Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage)
An Anonymous Content/Zeta Film/Central Films Production
Alejandro González Iñárritu, Jon Kilik and Steve Golin, Producers
“The Departed” (Warner Bros.)
A Warner Bros. Pictures Production; Graham King, Producer
“Letters from Iwo Jima” (Warner Bros.)
A DreamWorks Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures Production
Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz, Producers
“Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
A Big Beach/Bona Fide Production
David T. Friendly, Peter Saraf and Marc Turtletaub, Producers
“The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada)
A Granada Production
Andy Harries, Christine Langan and Tracey Seaward, Producers

Glaring Omission: Again, I don’t agree, but it seemed like the stars were aligning for “Dreamgirls”. There’s much being made of “Dreamgirls” getting eight nominations, but no Best Picture. If you take away the song nominations, you only have five, without Director or Script nods. That’s ‘cause the script it thin, and the movie is thin. It got passed over, but for good reason.
Runners-Up: All you have to do is look at my Top 10 of the Year to know what I think is missing here. I would’ve nominated “United 93” in a heartbeat, and “Blood Diamond”. Take out “Babel” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” and replace it with those two and you’ve got five nominees I can get behind. But thankfully this year there is no ridiculous nominee we all hate. These are all good films. I was hoping “United 93” would get the nod when I saw director Paul Greengrass get nominated. It obviously would’ve been more of a statement to nominate “United 93” than “Iwo Jima”. The love affair between the Academy and Clint is certainly valid, Clint’s movies are great, but I think we can all agree that it’s a safe nomination, and “United 93” would’ve shown some guts.
Great Inclusion: “Little Miss Sunshine”. It’s always good to see the indies make a mark, and this is the acting piece of the year.
Will win: “Little Miss Sunshine”. There is NO front-runner for the first time in years and no win would be called an upset! But I’m throwing my hat in the “Sunshine” ring, just over “The Departed”.
Should win: “The Queen”. Stephen Frears huge return to form is his best film since “Dangerous Liaisons”. Everything about it is good.

Best animated short film:
“The Danish Poet” (National Film Board of Canada)
A Mikrofilm and National Film Board of Canada Production; Torill Kove
“Lifted” (Buena Vista)
A Pixar Animation Studios Production; Gary Rydstrom
“The Little Matchgirl” (Buena Vista)
A Walt Disney Pictures Production; Roger Allers and Don Hahn
“Maestro” (Szimplafilm)
A Kedd Production; Geza M. Toth
“No Time for Nuts” (20th Century Fox)
A Blue Sky Studios Production; Chris Renaud and Michael Thurmeier

Some big names are at play here, but I haven’t seen any of these shorts. Pixar, Disney and Blue Sky are in the ring, but I would never bet against Pixar. Blue Sky’s “No Time for Nuts” has some buzz, but I don’t like their animation style as on display in the “Ice Age” movies.

Best live action short film:
“Binta and the Great Idea (Binta Y La Gran Idea)”
A Peliculas Pendelton and Tus Ojos Production; Javier Fesser and Luis Manso
“Éramos Pocos (One Too Many)” (Kimuak)
An Altube Filmeak Production; Borja Cobeaga
“Helmer & Son”
A Nordisk Film Production; Soren Pilmark and Kim Magnusson
“The Saviour” (Australian Film Television and Radio School)
An Australian Film Television and Radio School Production; Peter Templeman and Stuart Parkyn
“West Bank Story”
An Ari Sandel, Pascal Vaguelsy, Amy Kim, Ravi Malhotra and Ashley Jordan Production; Ari Sandel

Um…haven’t seen these either, but it certainly looks like it could be a list of nominees for Foreign Language Film, doesn’t it? I’m gonna pick “Helmer & Son”, just from what I’ve heard…

Achievement in sound editing:
“Apocalypto” (Buena Vista) – Sean McCormack and Kami Asgar
“Blood Diamond” (Warner Bros.) – Lon Bender
“Flags of Our Fathers” (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by Paramount) – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
“Letters from Iwo Jima” (Warner Bros.) – Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (Buena Vista) – Christopher Boyes and George Watters II

Glaring Omission: “Cars”! I’m always a believer that when there’s NOTHING real about the movie (all CGI), the sound editing is crucial. So, to pull off “Cars” is a real feat, even more so than the above nominees.
Runners-up: “Pan’s Labyrinth”. The sounds that Pan and the Pale Man make just moving around are wonderfully creepy, and they are reflected in the fabric in the soldier’s uniforms. Well done. Not to mention the numerous otherworldly creatures that needed effective sound editing. “World Trade Center”. The sound effects of the Twin Towers collapsing was very effective and even more ominous was the creaking of the wreckage as two firemen were caught in the middle of it.
Great Inclusion: All the nominees. These are a great nominees all around, and not all that surprising as action movies tend to provide great challenges for sound designers.
Will win: Tough call. Maybe “Letters from Iwo Jima”?
Should win: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”. Again, bad movie, but there were so many visual effects here, the sound editing was CRUCIAL to bring them to life.

Achievement in sound mixing:
“Apocalypto” (Buena Vista)
Kevin O’Connell, Greg P. Russell and Fernando Camara
“Blood Diamond” (Warner Bros.)
Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer and Ivan Sharrock
“Dreamgirls” (DreamWorks and Paramount)
Michael Minkler, Bob Beemer and Willie Burton
“Flags of Our Fathers” (DreamWorks and Warner Bros., Distributed by Paramount)
John Reitz, Dave Campbell, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (Buena Vista)
Paul Massey, Christopher Boyes and Lee Orloff

Glaring Omission: I guess it would just be “Letters From Iwo Jima”, as every other nominee here except “Dreamgirls” was also nominated for Best Sound Editing.
Runners-up: “Children of Men”. I looked around the theater, thinking there were actual bullets being fired. Haven’t done that since “Saving Private Ryan”.
Great Inclusion: “Dreamgirls”. Pretty much all big-budget musicals end up nominated here. In the last few years that has included “Ray and “Walk the Line”.
Will win: “Dreamgirls”
Should win: “Blood Diamond”. Along with “Children of Men”, that’s the best you-are-there movie of the year.

Achievement in visual effects:
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (Buena Vista)
John Knoll, Hal Hickel, Charles Gibson and Allen Hall
“Poseidon” (Warner Bros.)
Boyd Shermis, Kim Libreri, Chas Jarrett and John Frazier
“Superman Returns” (Warner Bros.)
Mark Stetson, Neil Corbould, Richard R. Hoover and Jon Thum

Glaring Omission: Visual effects are so ingrained in movies these days, that films like “The Good Shepherd” have effects, they’re just so seamlessly worked in that you don’t notice. But I believe this award is meant for the truly impressive movie magic. And there are more and more movies like that each year. So I think it’s time to expand the category to more nominees. This year, that would include “X-Men 3” (the scene with the Golden Gate bridge was really impressive), and “Flags of Our Fathers” (re-creating the battle at Iwo Jima).
Runners-Up: “X3” and “Fathers”, as well as “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “Night at the Museum”, which did comedy well with effects.
Great Inclusion: “Superman Returns”. As soon as we saw Neo fly, we all knew the next “Superman” movie would look great.
Will win: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”
Should win: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”. The sheer volume of effects in this picture is staggering, and they pulled all of them off. I didn’t agree with the choice on how some of the demon characters looked, but pulling off the choice was done with style. Best effect of the year: Davy Jones. I thought actor Bill Nighy wore a costume that the effects artists added moving parts to, like tentacles, slime, etc. I was shocked to find out that there’s not a single, real-world-tangible thing about Davy Jones. He’s ALL CGI and it’s impressive as hell.

Adapted screenplay:
“Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (20th Century Fox)
Screenplay by Sacha Baron Cohen & Anthony Hines & Peter Baynham & Dan Mazer; Story by Sacha Baron Cohen & Peter Baynham & Anthony Hines & Todd Phillips
“Children of Men” (Universal)
Screenplay by Alfonso Cuarón & Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby
“The Departed” (Warner Bros.)
Screenplay by William Monahan
“Little Children” (New Line)
Screenplay by Todd Field & Tom Perrotta
“Notes on a Scandal” (Fox Searchlight)
Screenplay by Patrick Marber

Glaring Omission: “Dreamgirls”. This was one of the film’s biggest snubs. But the story is thin, and the adaptation to the screen apparently made unnecessary changes.
Runners-up: “Casino Royale”, for bringing back Bond without the BS, just a lot of good action and drama. I thought “The Devil Wears Prada” had a great shot at a nomination here. The dialogue and characters are a trip. “Thank You for Smoking” also delivered really smart satire in a sharp screenplay.
Great Inclusion: “Borat”! I know it’s based on a character from a TV show, so it’s Adapted. But “Screenplay”? I wonder what they actually planned, and what became film-worthy footage as they went along. Either way, the movie was hilarious.
Will win: “The Departed”. Scorsese’s complex cop story will triumph here, although it may not take the big prize.
Should win: “The Departed”. Barely beating out “Children of Men”. Style was so important to “Men”, but the script in “The Departed” was king.

Original screenplay:
“Babel” (Paramount and Paramount Vantage)
Written by Guillermo Arriaga
“Letters from Iwo Jima” (Warner Bros.)
Screenplay by Iris Yamashita; Story by Iris Yamashita & Paul Haggis
“Little Miss Sunshine” (Fox Searchlight)
Written by Michael Arndt
“Pan’s Labyrinth” (Picturehouse)
Written by Guillermo del Toro
“The Queen” (Miramax, Pathé and Granada)
Written by Peter Morgan

Glaring Omission: Nothing glaring. These nominees are all Best Picture or Best Foreign Language Film nominees as well.
Runners-up: “Rocky Balboa”. It was at the script level that Stallone first hit found what would work about his new film. Some moments seem contrived, but overall, he nailed it. “Blood Diamond” shed a fascinating light on a scary, scary part of Africa. “United 93” laid out a great framework in which to tell the 9/11 story with minimal exploitation, “Cars” proves once again that Pixar dominates over every other studio in its storytelling skills. “Akeelah and the Bee” had a singularly strong female child lead and presented her as strong and intelligent, yet still a kid (a similar feat done with “Little Miss Sunshine”’s Olive). Plus “Stranger Than Fiction”, “The Pursuit of Happyness”, “Hollywoodland” – it was a GREAT year for movies!
Great Inclusion: “Babel”. I saw a Q&A with writer Guillermo Arriaga and it turns out he writes free-form beginning to end, so when he cut from chaos on a bus in Morocco to a volleyball with deaf students in Japan, that was his stream of consciousness. He tied it all together later. Interesting.
Will win: “Little Miss Sunshine”, squeaking past “The Queen”
Should win: “Little Miss Sunshine”. The script drives the movie.

It’s been a great year for movies! If you haven’t seen many of the nominees, take this weekend to go!


10. “BORAT” – Easily the year’s funniest movie, containing one of the single funniest scenes I’ve ever witnessed. Not kidding – it’s ALL-TIME funny when Borat and his manager fight and wrestle. I literally disrupted the whole theater laughing. Sacha Baron Cohen is a fearless comedian, and “Borat” works because the precedent is set early that anything can happen, and usually does. Also surprising is that “Borat” is not only a funny movie, but also an eye-opening comment on America. Sounds like a lofty description of a movie that you might dismiss as juvenile, but, again, it’s the year’s most surprising movie.

9. “ROCKY BALBOA” – I LOVED this movie. Stallone treats his iconic character with dignity and humanity, proving that the decline of the champ is just as interesting as the rise of the underdog. In fact, “Rocky” and “Rocky Balboa” prove that Rocky’s winning streak (“Rocky”’s 2-5) looks boring by comparison. Sly knows that his years as box office gold are past, and after making a hard pitch to get this movie made, he does it right, bypassing flashy filmmaking in favor of good human drama. I cried like a FOOL at the end, that’s all I have to say.

8. “APOCALYPTO” – Mel Gibson’s astonishing epic is a brutal, fascinating thrill ride. As you can probably tell from the posters and previews, Gibson’s story takes viewers to a place never before seen in the movies. The ancient Mayan civilization is masterfully brought to life and the sense of tranquility at the top is quickly replaced by true dread. The instability that surrounds the characters makes the film a suspenseful masterpiece. And the second half is one giant chase scene. AWESOME.

7. “THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS” – I had a HUGE emotional reaction to this film. Bought every moment and bought Will Smith the whole way. He IS the film and carries the whole thing on his shoulders. I can’t say the filmmaking is innovative, but the whole emotional experience of the film was exceptionally involving. Working in the entertainment industry, my whole life has been a hustle. Smith’s character is in constant hustle to care for his son and keep his head above water, and I rooted for him the whole way. They way the ending is underplayed is brilliant.

6. “THE DEPARTED” – I wish Martin Scorsese would make two or three movies a year. Their energy and brilliant execution are a welcome relief any year. And now Scorsese has returned to the crime drama genre that made him famous. This movie is driven by tough-guy talk, and William Monahan’s script provides plenty of it worth quoting for weeks after viewing. This story of moles in the police and in gangs gives great roles to some of our best actors today: Leo, Damon, Nicholson, Wahlberg, Martin Sheen & Alec Baldwin. There is shock and surprise around every corner as this brutal story unfolds. Keep it comin’, Mahty.

5. “LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE” – Every year, there’s a great human family story, and this year the best is “Little Miss Sunshine”. Not to mention that “Sunshine” is funny! The broken horn in the van is one of the best supporting inanimate objects since Wilson. It’s not surprising they won Best Ensemble at the SAG awards, EVERYONE is good here, especially Greg Kinnear, who is in a great project every year. The script is king here, with fleshed-out and flawed characters we really, really love, and the joy is watching the other characters learning to love each other at the same time.

4. “CARS” – John Lasseter’s labor of love is more proof that Pixar’s storytelling is unsurpassed in Hollywood. The cars at the center of this timeless film take on real human characteristics. There aren’t a lot of ACTORS who can play characters as well as the combination of voice talent and animation here. While other computer-generated stories concentrate on how to visually amaze, Pixar continues to engage the heart, and flawlessly back it up with amazing visuals. Lasseter’s love of cars is clear, but what’s really impressive is his reverence for the past, for the time when Route 66 was special. Disney was young then, too, yet Pixar captures Disney’s most core values better than any other wing of their company.

3. “THE QUEEN” – Helen Mirren’s performance is bound to take an Oscar this year, but make no mistake, her acting anchors a brilliant film. Director Stephen Frears has crafted a near perfect film. You know how a pitcher can pitch a perfect game? All the elements have aligned here – great script, beautiful photography, good performances, gorgeous locations, and subject matter I was not too familiar with. There just simply is not an extraneous scene in this movie. Michael Sheen’s performance as Tony Blair is excellent, too. Blair’s struggle to get the old and formal ways of Queen Elizabeth to translate to a new England that demands quick results makes for great drama, and Mirren’s controlled performance makes this British Royal surprisingly human.

2. “BLOOD DIAMOND” – Edward Zwick’s kinetic story of diamond-hunting in Sierra Leone is one of the scariest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Every year a movie comes out about Africa that just scares the bejeezus out of me. But this year, there were four – “The Last King of Scotland”, “Babel”, “Catch a Fire” and “Blood Diamond”. But “Diamond” is certainly the most viscerally exciting. Zwick’s film explores the human loss connected to the mining of diamonds in Civil War-torn Sierra Leone, from the enslavement of the people forced to scower the rivers for stones, to the tribal warfare, to the West’s most powerful nations failing to help. Most amazing is Zwick’s re-creation of the total anarchy that erupted in Africa. The filmmaking is mesmerizing. Throw in two great performances from Leo DiCaprio and Djimon Hounsou and you can’t look away from the screen.

1. “UNITED 93” – SHAME on the Academy for not nominating this film for Best Picture. If it’s “too soon”, I’d like to see that piece of trash “Pearl Harbor” made in 1946. People would have Michael Bay’s scrotum on a spear! If we wait fifty years to address 9/11, we may get a crap Ben Affleck vehicle. Paul Greengrass has made a scary, vitally important and impactful film that I will never, ever forget. We all know the story of “United 93”, but seeing it played out with “everyday” regularity adds to the ominous memories I already have of that day. But it also stirs awareness in me to think of the world beyond “American Idol” and “what’s Britney Spears not wearing?”. Greengrass never condescends to present you with pedestrian movie gimmicks to force a feeling on you. This film is a noble reminder that the greatest, most honest and most successful retaliation against terrorism since 9/11, happened immediately.

“Flags of Our Fathers” – I’m in the minority on this one and actually like this better than “Letters from Iwo Jima”. I’ve never seen the most “patriotic” of our 20th century wars get the honest treatment. Most WWII films focus on the bravery and nobility of the soldiers involved, but “Flags” showed me the dark side and how the soldiers who appeared in the famous photo from that battle were used to sell war bonds and the toll their unrequested fame took on them. As always, Eastwood succeeds on every front. I went on about this one ‘cause it hurt to exclude it from my Top 10.
“Children of Men” – Director Alfonso Cuaron’s dark vision of the future mostly succeeds by sheer will of the director. Cuaron’s technical mastery is in full display, and nothing in his career, not even “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”, prepared me for how complete and powerful this movie is. “Children of Men” tells how a future with no children runs society into total chaos, and the story hits numerous topical buttons with ferocity – immigration, martial law and a war on terror. But the whole film is driven by the movie’s action, made visceral and tangible by Cuaron. It’s the year’s second best action movie, and one of the smartest in years.
“Pan’s Labyrinth” – There’s no hope in this movie at all, yet it remains captivating throughout. It’s a unique drama about a child dreaming in that the dreamland the child envisions isn’t all that pleasant an escape. But anything is better than the main character’s current situation in war-torn Spain. Guillermo Del Toro fashions a violent, yet strangely charismatic and totally unique film. And, DAMN, it looks AWESOME.

“Casino Royale” – The year’s BEST action movie. Bond is back in fine form, and the poker game in this film is awesome. See it and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
“Akeelah and the Bee” – Smart family film with real emotion and a great performance from newcomer Keke Palmer.
“Stranger Than Fiction” – Brilliant comedy with Will Ferrell in a movie that becomes more interesting the more it goes on. That is so refreshing.
“Babel” – I wasn’t as intrigued by some storylines in this film as I was with others, but overall the effort is really remarkable.

“Poseidon” – Great effects can’t save this sinking ship
“Snakes on a Plane” – Not “entertaining” bad. Just BAD.
“The Marine” – “The Marine” is one of the worst movies I have ever seen in my life.
“Running With Scissors” – Oddball story of oddballs doing odd stuff is just odd.
“The Good German” – A cold movie with no reason to give a rat’s ass.
“Happy Feet” – The weirdest movie I’ve seen in a long time, with action scenes that seem desperate.
“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” – Overblown and overdone. Shame they’re making “Pirates 3”, ‘cause I still enjoy my memory of the first one.

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