My Picks for the Oscars

It’s that time of year again. In honor of the Oscars, I have produced my picks for the Academy Awards. I cannot make any predictions about short films, art direction, cinematography, costumes, and documentaries because I haven’t seen the short films and documentaries and I am not an expert on the other topics, nor do I pretend to be one.

Best Picture
First Pick: Slumdog Millionaire. It’s a juggernaut. In the possible chance it doesn’t win…
Second Pick: Milk. I’ve actually seen this film and thought it was absolutely fantastic. It is much more than a film about an important point in the gay rights movement. It tells the incredible story of what Harvey Milk did and gives a bit of a history lesson.

Best Actor
First Pick: Sean Penn in Milk. He owned the roll and made it his own. Penn is completely different from the individual he portrays and I can’t really formulate the words to tell you how wonderful of a job he did in the film. He also won the SAG Award for this role.
Second Pick: Frank Langella in Frost/Nixon. I’ve read very positive things about his performance. Haven’t seen it though.

Best Actress
First Pick: Kate Winslet in The Reader. She’s already won the Golden Globe and SAG Award for this role. However, she won those as Best Supporting Actress, but I think her chances are pretty good for this award.
Second Pick: Meryl Streep in Doubt. We are talking about Meryl Streep, but she also won the SAG Award for this role.

Best Supporting Actor
First Pick: Josh Brolin in Milk. Again, a fantastic job in this role. In some points, Brolin could make me sympathize for Dan White, Milk’s assassin, which really says something. I found his portrayal of the character to be very human and not over the top. Brolin also won at the NY Film Critics Circle for this role.
Second Pick: Michael Shannon in Revolutionary Road. Every review I’ve read of Revolutionary Road has praised his performance. Also, he plays a lunatic and I’d like to think that Shannon doesn’t go over the top with his performance as someone insane. I’ll have to see it to tell you.

Best Supporting Actress
First Pick: Viola Davis in Doubt. She’s not in the film very much, but I keep reading gushing praise about her performance in the film. I think that if someone’s not in the film very much and they’re receiving quite a bit of praise, that might be a good sign.
Second Pick: Taraji P. Henson in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Like Viola Davis, she’s getting quite a bit of buzz about her performance in this film.

Best Director
First Pick: Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millionaire. He won the Golden Globe and SAG award for this. And, as I stated earlier, it’s a juggernaut.
Second Pick: Gus Van Sant for Milk. The film was brilliant and I think that Van Sant’s directing had quite a bit to do with it.

Best Adapted Screenplay
First Pick: Slumdog Millionaire. Same reasons as to why the other Slumdog nominees will win.
Second Pick: Frost/Nixon. I don’t know why, but that’s what my gut is telling me.

Best Original Screenplay
First Pick: In Bruges. I’m a bit biased since I really like Martin McDonagh’s plays, but this was apparently a very funny film. Also, it’s not nominated for anything else.
Second Pick: Happy-Go-Lucky. Again, it’s what my gut is telling me and it did win at the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award.

Best Animated Feature
First Pick: Wall-E. It could have been nominated for Best Picture, which it would have deserved a nomination for. Granted, the Annie Award just snubbed it, but the film is phenomenal and isn’t just for kids.
Second Pick: There is no second pick. If Wall-E doesn’t win, I will be more shocked than when David Hyde Pierce beat out Raul Esparza for the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. Some liquid will come out of my nose.

Achievement in Film Editing
First Pick: The Dark Night. Two words: Fight scenes.
Second Pick: Milk. In many parts of the film, the news clips seamlessly flowed into the film itself. That is rather talented.

Best Foreign Language Film
First Pick: Waltz with Bashir. Won the Golden Globe. Highly acclaimed.
Second Pick: The Class. It received the Palme D’Or at Cannes. Highly acclaimed.

Achievement in Makeup
First Pick: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I think it would be criminal if Benjamin Button doesn’t win for Achievement in Makeup. Come on, they had to make Brad Pitt look really old.
Second Pick: Hellboy II: The Golden Army. There is some impressive make-up and prosthetics in that film.

Best Original Song
First Pick: “Down to Earth” from Wall-E. I like the song quite a bit.
Second Pick: Either “Jai Ho” or “O Saya” from Slumdog Millionaire. They’re from Slumdog Millionaire.

Achievement in Sound Editing
First Pick: The Dark Knight. Again, fight scenes. Usually films with fight scenes win awards like this.
Second Pick: Wall-E. Lots of voiceovers and fun noises for robots.

Achievement in Sound Mixing
First Pick: The Dark Knight. See above.
Second Pick: Wall-E. Again, see above.

Achievement in Visual Effects
First Pick: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. As I said with makeup, I feel as though it would be criminal because of the whole aging-backwards key plot point.
Second Pick: Iron Man. Massive robot fight scenes, reactor explosions, explosions, explosions.

My Father on: “Thriller” the Musical

After watching All About Eve last night, I talked with my father, who happens to be rather theater savvy, occasionally surpassing my knowledge and tastes. (His tastes also happen to not be as high-brow as mine.)

“Remember that insult that was thrown at the Nederlander Organization in the Times’ review of ‘Soul of Shaolin’?” I said.

“How could I forget it,” he said.

“Well, the Nederlander Organization has acquired the rights to do a stage version of ‘Thriller’.”

“‘Thriller’ as in Michael Jackson?” he said with a tone hoping that I was joking.


“Good God,” he said in disgust. “Is nothing sacred? Is American Theater about to be turned upside down?”

“Just Broadway,” I said pessimistically. “I’m hoping this means that there will be a new dawning for off-, off-off-Broadway and Regional theater.”

He agreed.

News Flash

This evening, I was watching one of my favorite films, All About Eve. In the a scene in a restaurant where Margo, Mrs. Lloyd Richards, Eve and Addison run into each other, Addison tells the first two women mentioned to read his column and brandishes the newspaper at them.

At that moment, I had the amazing realization that newspapers used to be larger.

If You Show Live Met Opera for $20 at the Movie Theater, Will People Come?

Cedar Falls, Iowa is not lacking in culture. The town houses University of Northern Iowa and with that the Gallagher-Bluedorn Performing Arts Center where touring companies of several performing arts come every year. Usually, at least one opera is performed per season at that venue, but the only opera performed there was the Cedar Rapids Opera Theatre’s production of Madama Butterfly, after being displaced by the flooding.

The movie theater located in that city is on the opposite spectrum of the fine culture offered by the University. The owners of that theater seem interested in only showing the biggest films possible on multiple screens. Although, this continues to leave me flumouxed after seeing The Simpsons Movie on it’s opening weekend in an empty theater, which was one of three it was being shown on. I was rather thrilled when I discovered that they were airing the HD Live series of the Metropolitan Opera on certain Saturdays.

As I’ve recanted earlier on this blog, the operas are $20, something Marcus Theaters, which is the chain the theater belongs to, failed to tell me on their website. This is not a price that Fantom, the distributor, is charging. According to Fantom’s website, prices vary by theaters.

There may be some people who enjoy opera enough, and can afford the price, to go and see these at the College Square Theater. While I greatly enjoy opera, I can’t afford this, especially during months where they show two operas. I need money to buy tickets to review plays which is what I’m a bit more concerned with. You can get discounted vouchers from Iowa Public Radio, lowering the price to $12. (See this website.) These vouchers, however, are in limited quantity and if you’re not the first, you still have to pay $20.

What are those craving culture or opera in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls area to do?

Well, Iowa Public Radio broadcasts the operas live every Saturday at 12 p.m. Sure, you’re not getting to watch the operas and there is no translation, but it’s free and live. And listening to it in the comfort of your home sure beats sitting in a movie theater where people wanting to see Bolt will come in before the opera’s over.

PBS also airs several Met operas months after they close, but again, it’s free and in the comfort of your home. (FYI: La Damnation De Faust airs Feb. 28 at noon eastern.) My mother has pointed out, on this topic, that something she sees as a downside of watching a filmed opera is that you have to watch what the director wants you to watch, something you have the freedom of when watching it un-filmed. If this bothers you, wouldn’t it be better to watch it without paying for it?

By the way, I have yet to speak to an individual that would pay $20 for an opera at the movie theater. In fact, most people were aghast at this price and these were people both with high brow tastes and those that would probably be considered an average movie going audience.

What it boils down to is that especially now with the sinking economy, this is not reasonable. For so many of us, we’ll just wait for an opera to air on PBS, where it will be more comfortable and free.

Idea for a Play

I’m not fond of political theater, but I’d love to dramatize the Blagojevich scandal for the stage. Act One could occur in Illinois while Act Two focuses on his Media Blitz in New York.

I just hate to think about how expensive the wig would cost for such a production.

Oh, and Classics at Brucemore’s production of “Coming Home” was recognized for theater programming at the Ickys on Monday night.

Thermometer-less ‘Speed-the-Plow’ Gets Re-reviewed


Pretty much, everyone likes William H. Macy in Piven’s role.

The reviews come from American Theater Web, AM New York, Talkin’ Broadway, Theater Mania, Variety, and the New York Times.

Personally, I’d like to see someone who really didn’t like Piven’s performance review it, but I find these rather interesting.

Brantley says that all of the actors bring something different to the table, like eating a different sushi everyday (okay, he doesn’t say that, but I couldn’t resist). He also says that the bit about the thermometer is the funniest Mamet one-liner in years. The critics seem to be in agreement that Macy brings a very interesting take to the role, probably due to his familiarity with Mamet.

Although, the best quote goes to David Rooney of Variety:

“New! Improved! Now with less mercury!”

Culture News Round-Up

Neil Gaiman won the Newbery for The Graveyard Book. Hooray for Mr. Gaiman, one of my favorite writers in both prose and comics. (NY Times)

Prop. 8: The Musical is headed to Broadway as part of a one night benefit at the Gershwin. (Variety)

The Nederlander Org. has also picked up the rights to do a musical version of “Thriller.” I’m not too sure if I would rather pay $100+ to see this, or Bye Bye Birdie. (Variety)

And the Ickys are happening right now. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.