Tuesday, January 10, 2006

ASC Announces Tomorrow

The American Society of Cinematographers will announce their nominees tomorrow at 9AM PST. Here's a quick preview.

The obvious givens are Rodrigo Prieto (Brokeback Mountain), who grabbed a surprise notice from the guild in 2002 for Frida, and Robert Elswitt (Good Night, and Good Luck.), racking up wins and pulling double duty this year (Syriana).

After that, the next best bet is Emmanel Lubezki for The New World. A lot of people are beginning to write Lubezki of of their Oscar predictions, but the guy has clout with his peers, and here if anywhere is likely place to find him score.

Speaking of respected veterans, Roger Deakins will pop up here for his work on Jarhead even if he misses for an Oscar nomination. I have a feeling Cesar Charlone will fail to grab recognition here for The Constant Gardner (is he ASC?), but still score with Oscar, so someone always fills the void.

That said, my fifth prediction for the ASC is Dion Beebe, though in the wake of Memoirs of a Geisha's decline, I could see Mr. Deakins rise up and claim an Oscar nod after all from this film next month, regardless of Jarhead's reviews (which were, after all, better than Giehsa's).

Others to watch out for are Salvatore Totino for Cinderella Man - great work that could begin an incline in guild support for the film; Donald McAlpine, a seasoned vet, for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeAdam Kimmel for Capote - we'll see if the rest of the industry loves the film so much; Janusz Kaminski for Munich, as we really need a tea-leaf reading on this thing.)

So that's it for now. Stay tuned tomorrow morning for the nominees. My final preidictions:

Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck.
Memoirs of a Geisha
The New World
(alt. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)

The Art Directors Guild announces their nominees tomorrow too, but I ave no idea what to expect, really, and try to steer clear of predicting at least those contemporary nods. Meanwhile, the editors (ACE) announce Friday.

And no comments on the BFCA wins, really. A big yawn if you ask me.

Be sure to check out the latest Movie City News column!

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

Around the Corner

Getting this up a day later than I wanted, but ah well.

My distaste for 2005, the year that was, is now infamous. Let’s move on, shall we? 2006 doesn’t throw up anything that rings my anticipatory bell considerably, however, there are a number of interesting projects on the way that definitely have my interest piqued in one way or another.

First, as is customary, there are a few flicks many seem to be awaiting anxiously that just aren’t doing it for me.
Films Others Are Anticipating That Are Leaving Me Cold

Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt, Benicio Del Toro, Ryan Gosling, Franka Potente
Written by Peter Buchman, Steven Spderbergh

This Che Guevera biopic, in addition to Soderbergh’s The Good German starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, is really something of an irritation for me. Had Terrence Malick taken the reins, as originally intended, maybe there would have been something there. But this project just feels like it’s setting us up for more of the same from a tired and somewhat unbearable stylistically married director. The Good German looks to be a bit of The Constant Gardener mixed with a touch of Syriana, to be quite honest. And I’ll say it: As much as I love politically inclined cinema, the wheel seems to keep going around and around lately with no real destination, and certainly no drive. As for Guerilla, I’d much rather see a project like Joe Carnahan’s Killing Pabloget off the ground.

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard
Written by M. Night Shyamalan

I’m sorry, you put the words “A bedtime story by...” in front of your name on a trailer, you’re officially trying too hard in my book. M. Night Shyamalan has so much going on in his head, he’s simply missing someone in his crew that can tell him “no.” That’s why we get something unfocused if well-meaning and full of potential in Signs one year, and something atrocious and half-baked in The Village the next year. Not to mention the overall lack of preparedness of a script likeUnbreakable. It seems he hasn’t done anything approaching his Best Picture nominated The Sixth Sense in a very long time.Lady in the Water has an interesting enough premise, but while his legion of fans cannot contain themselves, I’ll certainly not be desperate to see this one.

Next up, there are quite a few films that, on first glance, are worthy of anticipation. But little things here or there are giving me pause and a tingling feeling that disaster could await as potentially as success.
Looking Forward...with Reservations

Directed by Mel Gibson
Starring: Bueller? Bueller?
Written by Mel Gibson, Farhad Sainia

I’m one of those that thinks the frame in the trailer with Mel Gibson next to his cast, Saddam Hussein beard and cigarette filled grin and all, is hysterical. But the guy has undoubtedly gone off the deep end. But what’s more entertaining than someone slipping into insanity? All kidding aside, the story of the Mayan empire is an intriguing one that, to be honest, only a slightly aloof personality could weave into a truly mesmerizing cinematic experience. So while this film could derail at any moment, I have to say I’m a bit intrigued.

BABELDirected by Alejandro González Iñárritu
Starring: Gael García Bernal, Cate Blanchett, Mahima Chaudhry, Brad Pitt, Shilpa Shetty, Kôji Yakusho
Written by Guillermo Arriaga

I feel as though this is a project that could fall on either side of the line. I was very enchanted by Iñárritu’s and Arriaga’s last two collaborations, 2000’s Amores Perros and 2003’s 21 Grams, but last year’s The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada left a bad taste in my mouth. And it was Arriaga’s script more so thanTommy Lee Jones’ direction of it that left me wanting. I also feel as though these intermingling stories, this new sub-genre of cinema that boasts a direct line from Jean Renoir to Robert Altman to Paul Thomas Anderson to Iñárritu and now evenPaul Haggis may have run its course. Haggis was able to creatively infuse something of artistic merit into his narrative, and the burden is on these filmmakers that continue the balance to add ingredients to the mixture rather than continue cooking the same old stew.

BOBBYDirected by Emilio Estevez
Starring: Harry Belafonte, Mos Def, Emilio Estevez, Laurence Fishburne, Heather Graham, Anthony Hopkins, Helen Hunt, Lindsey Lohan, William H Macy, Demi Moore, Mandy Moore, Martin Sheen, Christian Slater, Sharon Stone, Elijah Wood
Written by: Emilio Estevez

Just look at that cast! The set up really sounds promising, centering around 22 people who were at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles the day Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated there in June of 1968. And I don’t know if Emilio Estevez called in a thousand favors or if the cast is really responding to the material, so I have to anticipate this one with caution. But the potential is there, and this is one hell of a leap from Men at Work!

Directed by Ron Howard
Starring: Paul Bettany, Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen, Alfred Molina, Jean Reno, Audrey Tautou
Written by Akiva Goldsman

Like the rest of the world, I loved Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. It was great excitement, history and overall edge-of-your-seat storytelling. And when Hollywood took a death grip on the formula in 2004 with National Treasure, I loved it then too – guilty pleasures. But something has me anxious about this adaptation. I’m not sure if it is the Jim Belushi hairdo Tom Hanks is sporting in the film or if it is the lingering thought that disappointment awaits when you’ve done a thing to death. Regardless, I’ll be there, front row center, this summer. As will the rest of the world.

Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Cliff Curtis, Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz
Written by Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel

If you ask me, Darren Aronofsky has not yet matured past a post-film school mentality with his filmmaking. Pi was great for what it was, but Requiem for a Dream was far too painfully exploitative, not only of the cinema but of the subject matter, with not an ounce of the commentary most seem to think it boasts. All that said, the premise of The Fountain is an intriguing one to say the least, with a hip (if a bit arrogant) trailer to boot. So maybe we’ll get something of relative substance. I certainly do not hope for more of the same from the film’s director, which is interesting as most anticipating this film hope for the opposite.

Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring: Kate Bosworth, Marlon Brando, Frank Langella, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Brandon Routh, Eva Marie Saint, Kevin Spacey
Written by Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris

The comic book fan in me has to anticipate this, but even I can say quite clearly that this film looks like a train wreck waiting to happen. Maybe Kevin Spacey can provide a fun and believable Lex Luthor, but more likely is his drifting into camp. Maybe thisBrandon Routh kid can put forth a great performance as the iconic superhero, but a no-name actor worked once for this series, and will never work so wonderfully again. And lack of ethics involved with the use of old Marlon Brando footage is troubling. It bothered me with Lawrence Olivier and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow as well. Having the entire team from X2 behind this eases the anxiety somewhat, but I am fearful. Very fearful...which brings me to:

Directed by Brett Ratner
Starring: Shohreh Aghdashloo, Shawn Ashmore, Halle Berry, Ben Foster, Kelsey Grammer, Hugh Jackman, Famke Jansen, James Marsden, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Rebecca Romijn, Aaron Stanford, Patrick Stewart
Written by Simon Kinberg, Zak Penn

The character death rumors already make me hate this film, while the choice of director remains horrifying. Nothing in Ratner’s past suggests him as a good choice for this. Ditto when the buzzards were circling his name at Warner Bros. for the next Superman project. The trailer looks decent enough, but it’s all an obvious regurgitation of the look of Bryan Singer’s films, so who knows what kind of a story we’re left with on the page? AndHalle Berry wins an Oscar for a terrible performance, now she can demand things like inserting a pointless romance between her character, Storm, and Wolverine. I’m sorry, if you follow up an Oscar-winning performance with a film like Catwoman, your pull should be null and void. Oh, and squeezing Psylocke into the mix may be too much of the mutant gene for one film.

Alright, let’s get to the stuff I’m actually looking forward to this year and holding out all hopes that the following films will deliver.

My 10 Most Anticipated Films of 2006

Directed by Robert Towne
Starring: Colin Farrell, Salma Hayek, William Mapother, Idina Menzel, Donald Sutherland
Written by Robert Towne

We were supposed to set eyes on this one in 2005. Hopefully the push to 2006 isn’t a bad sign. Here, writer/director Robert Towne undertakes his dream project, taking him back toChinatown territory with Ask the DustColin Farrell andSalma Hayek head the cast, while Donald Sutherlandsupposedly offers a potentially awards-caliber supporting performance.

THE GOOD SHEPHERDDirected by Robert De Niro
Starring: Alec Baldwin, Billy Crudup, Matt Damon, Keir Dullea, Timothy Hutton, William Hurt, Angelina Jolie, Joe Pesci
Written by Eric Roth

Eric Roth is one of the finest screenwriters working today. I don’t know what happened on Munich, or if most of that screenplay’s blame can be laid at the foot of another excessively talented scribe, Tony Kushner, but Roth typically cranks out fantastic material. So with that, looking forward to Robert De Niro’s second directorial effort, The Good Shepard, becomes a simple task. The film depicts the 40 year history of the CIA through the eyes of one of it’s founding fathers, James Wilson (Matt Damon).


Directed by Gore Verbinski
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp, Naomie Harris, Keira Knightly, Bill Nighy, Jonathan Pryce, Geoffrey Rush, Stellan Skarsgård
Written by Ted Elliot, Terry Rossio

How can you not eagerly anticipate this follow-up? Johnny Depp again dons the Oscar nominated persona of Captain Jack Sparrow (still the coolest Oscar nomination ever) as the whole gang is back for more in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s ChestGore Verbinski has become a director I’ll follow into any endeavor as his stellar work has grown into something of a new artistic statement – the cinematic enhancement of the mundane.

Directed by Brian De Palma
Starring: Aaron Eckhart, Josh Harnett, Scarlett Johansson, Mia Kirshner, Hilary Swank
Written by Josh Friedman

Something bothers me about The Black Dahlia opening at the Sundance International Film Festival. I can’t put my finger on it. But nonetheless, I can’t wait to see what Brian De Palma can offer to the world of James Ellroy. Hopefully this won’t pale too excessively in comparison to L.A. Confidential. And when are we going to see a filmic imagining of White Jazz?

Directed by David Fincher
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Anthony Edwards, Jake Gyllenhaal
Written by James Vanderbuilt

The story of the Zodiac killer’s decade-long rampage through the San Francisco Bay Area in the 60s and 70s is finally on its way to the big screen. Springing from the work of San FranciscoChronicle staffer Robert Graysmith (portrayed in the film by Gyllenhaal), Zodiac could be the film that puts director David Fincher back on track after a severely lacking 
Panic Room in 2002.

THE DEPARTEDDirected by Martin Scorsese
Starring: Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Vera Farmiga, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Winstone
Written by William Monahan

Why is no one else incredibly excited that Jack and Marty are in business together – FINALLY? Adapted from the Hong Kong thrill-ride Infernal AffairsThe Departed stars Matt Damonand Leonardo DiCaprio as moles from the Boston Police Department and the Irish Mafia respectively. The story is a fantastic one and I’ll be honest, I’m looking forward to the Americanization of it. I wasn’t too keen on Infernal Affairs, personally, even if it is quite easy to recognize the high drama involved in the concept.

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Bruno Ganz, Tim Roth
Written by Francis Ford Coppola

It’s been nine years since Francis Ford Coppola released a film, and at least 16 years since his last seminal work. 23 years if you want to take it all the way back to Rumble Fish. And I somehow get the feeling Youth Without Youth could be one of his greatest works, potentially the best film of the year. Bruno Ganz stars with Tim Roth in an adaptation of the Mircea Eliade novel. Megalopolis can’t be far behind.

WORLD TRADE CENTERDirected by Oliver Stone
Starring: Maria Bello, Nicolas Cage, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena
Written by Andrea Berloff


Directed by Paul Greengrass
Starring: Opal Alladin, Alan Basche, Starla Benford, et al
Written by Paul Greengrass

Rather impossible to split these two up. I have ultra-mega-super respect for Oliver Stone when it comes to films about America’s place in the world. So World Trade Center (or September or whatever it’s going to be called) has a lot of potential. TheNicolas Cage haters will be up in arms, and it is indeed a shame that he’s gracing the screen as the Ghost Rider next year. Regardless, I’ll give Stone a chance with anything.

On the flip side of things, politically geared filmmaker Paul Greengrass is currently wrapping Flight 93 for Universal Pictures. A real time account of the events of that ill-fated flight on September 11, 2001, fit with long takes and improvised scenarios, this could really hit the mark. In lieu of having to move away from Watchmen (one of many Paramount blunders), Greengrass came to this project with a passion that should come through clearly.

Starring: Casey Affleck, Zooey Deschanel, Brad Pitt, Mary-Louise Parker, Sam Rockwell, Paul Schneider, Sam Shepard
Written by Andrew Dominik

Those who’ve been reading my work the past four years know how much of a fan I was of Andrew Dominik’s Chopper andEric Bana’s star-making performance as Chopper Read. I have high hopes for what could come across as Shakespearean, to be truthful, Dominik’s Ron Hansen adaptation, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Keep that title. It’s brazen and slightly unbearable. I love it. Brad Pittwill star as the bandit and Casey Affleck will star as his Judas...his Brutus...the assassin Robert Ford. I’m also hoping for a great turn from the always fantastic Sam Rockwell.

Directed by Michael Mann
Starring: Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx, Gong Li, Naomie Harris, John Ortiz, Luis Tosar
Written by Michael Mann

What can I say? When it comes to anticipating a year’s cinematic product, I don’t hold out for the Oscar bait. Last year it was Sin City and Batman Begins. This year, my favorite working director (as you well know) puts the class back into the sleaze with a modern revisiting of his hit 80s television program in Miami Vice. The trailer for Michael Mann’s latest looks like a full energy burst, strands of Heat and Collateral, and hell, even Bad Boys. I’m there. I’m DEFINITELY there.

That about does it. Let’s look forward to a great year of cinema in 2006. Now, back to the grind...Oscarwatching for the 05-06 season.