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Le Festival Du Film Français Commence Cette Semaine

   

The first two months of any film year is dominated by awards talk.  It’s a chance to celebrate / argue about the best films of the year.  Studios tend to release very few big releases at this time of the year also.  They’re saving up for the American summer.

 

We’re now in March, the Oscars are over and it’s time to move on.  The first big film festival of 2010 is about to start – the Alliance Française French Film Festival.  It kicks off on March 17 (this Wednesday) and runs for two weeks.

 

I love my French cinema.  Some of my favourite French films over the past decade include Persepolis, The Diving Bell & The Butterfly, The Class, Amelie, The Spanish Apartment, Russian Dolls, The Triplets Of Belleville and The Man On The Train.

 

I even tried taking a few French classes back in 2003.  I only lasted a few weeks but I deserve a pat on the back anyway (at least I tried).  And of all the places I’ve been in the world, Paris is still my favourite city.  Here’s a few snapshots from when I was there in 2004 including me outside the Musee du Cinema (trying to re-enact the famous 1968 student riots illustrated in The Dreamers).

 

Matt In Paris
Matt In Paris

Anyway, back to this year’s festival.  It’s now in its 21st year here in Australia and there are a whopping 43 movies being screened.  For most, this will be the only chance you’ll get to see them in Australia.  A handful will get a limited cinema release down the track but the others will not (as it’s not profitable to do so).

 

Here in Brisbane, the festival is spread across the Palace Centro and Palace Barracks (two excellent venues).  Ticket prices are $16 for adults and $14 for most concessions.  You can get small discounts by buying a 5 or 10 film pass.  A few films are a little more expensive (because they include drinks and/or entertainment).  You can get the full list of films on the website (which details on how to book) at http://www.frenchfilmfestival.org.

 

To make things a little easier, I’ve scoured through the program and have picked out the one film which interests me most from each night.  Below are the blurbs from the Festival website which tell you more about each film.  Hopefully there’s something to tickle your fancy.  If you’re tired of the same old films in your traditional multiplexes, he’s a chance to open your eyes to something new.

 

You can click on each title to find out more and view a few pictures.

 

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Micmacs – 6:30pm Palace Centro ($50 including after party)

 

A thrilling comedy from the director of Amelie centring on a group of misfits as they plan to bring down two big arms manufacturers.  Bazil (Dany Boon) is a man down on his luck following an accident that's left a bullet lodged in his brain, with a good chance that he could die at any moment.  The story of his revenge is populated by a ragtag of characters with unique foibles and abilities.

 

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Legal Aid – 6:45pm Palace Centro

 

An honest young lawyer sees his life radically change when he meets a more experienced lawyer, who will 'educate' him.  But one day, Marsac spills the beans: he didn't take Lahoud on for his legal skills, but because of his uncanny resemblance to one of his notorious clients, and that Marsac's interest in him is far from benevolent.

 

Friday, 19 March 2010

Anything For Her - 6:45pm Palace Centro

 

With a loving, stable marriage of many years, a devoted son and a quiet life in suburban France, life feels supremely happy for Julien and Lisa. Then one morning, police burst in and inexplicably arrest Lisa for a murder she appears to have no knowledge about. Unwilling to endure the time it will take to sort through French bureaucracy and reeling in turmoil, Julien resorts to a desperate plan of action...

 

Saturday, 20 March 2010

LOL – 8:45pm Palace Barracks

 

In text messaging, LOL means "Laughing Out Loud", but here it's also the nickname of 14-year-old Lola, who is returning to school after summer break. It's no laughing matter for her though when her boyfriend reveals that he has cheated on her over summer, leading her to hesitantly move on to his best friend Mael. Meanwhile her divorced mother Anne is secretly again seeing her father. In a world of virtual communication, faceless technologies, and oblivious parents, LOL is a tongue-in-cheek take on female self-perception and relationships.

 

Sunday, 21 March 2010

I’m Glad My Mother Is Alive – 8:00pm Palace Centro

 

Thomas is four years old when his teenage-mother gives him up, along with his infant half-brother, and the pair are adopted by a couple who wish to leave the boys' past well behind them. However, while his brother grows up with no desire to delve into his past, Thomas cannot let go. Unbeknownst to his adoptive parents, he tracks her down, firstly as an angry adolescent taken aback by what he finds – and later as a young adult.

 

Monday, 22 March 2010

No Pasaran – 6:30pm Palace Barracks

 

Maxence Lafourcade, a peaceful single man, raises pigs in the Pyrénées. His life takes a radical turn when he learns that a highway is going to cut through his farm. To confront the mayor and his project, he must join forces with the 'local American', Peter Konchelsky. This retired, cynical lawyer adopts the farmer's cause, while his stunned daughter, Scarlett, looks on. She's an eccentric artist, and in Maxence she discovers an unexpected human model.

 

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Every Jack Has A Jill – 6:30pm Palace Barracks

 

Twenty-six-year old Chloé lives by herself in between an invasive neighbour, a petty-minded colleague and a preachy kind of employee at a DVD rental store. It is a life that doesn't live up to her expectations. And yet a random course of events changes her luck. One day she stumbles upon a suitcase of young American Jack, who has won a vacation to Paris. As Jack is trapped inside his hotel with no money, clothes or French-language skills, Chloé falls in love with his belongings and, feeling fate has brought them together, sets out on a search to find him...

 

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Someone I Loved – 8:30pm Palace Barracks

 

Recently dumped by her cheating husband, Chloé and her two young daughters are spirited away to a remote cabin by her father-in-law, Pierre. Over the course of the night, Pierre shares an important secret with her. He reveals his illicit affair with a woman he met in Hong Kong 20 years ago, and for whom he didn't dare abandon everything, choosing instead a safer and more familiar path. Reflecting on his choice and its dramatic consequences, he attempts to help his daughter-in-law understand and overcome her pain.

 

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Wild Grass – 6:45pm Palace Centro

 

Director Alain Resnais delivers a career-crowning masterpiece with this delightful roundelay, based on Christian Gailly's novel "The Incident", about the fate-altering ripples triggered by a lost handbag.  The purse belongs to Marguerite, a dentist who flies airplanes as a hobby. Georges, an eccentric married man discovers it – and soon finds himself infatuated with the purse's owner, even though he hasn't met her. Resnais observes their elaborate dance of attraction and rejection, hesitation and impulsiveness with all the wisdom of an artist who loves his characters and revels in their misadventures.

 

Friday, 26 March 2010

Father Of My Children – 6:30pm Palace Barracks

 

Film producer Grégoire Canvel has it all – a wife and three delightful daughters he adores and a stimulating job that he's devoted to. On the surface he seems invincible, maintaining humour and charm as he tirelessly juggles the never-ending demands of his company with his domestic responsibilities. But when Grégoire's reserves, financial and emotional, reach a dramatic cracking point, his wife Sylvia and children are forced to cope with the repercussions...

 

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Welcome – 8:45pm Palace Barracks

 

17-year-old Bilal has spent the last three months travelling illegally across Europe in an attempt to reunite with his girlfriend in England. The difficult journey is almost over when he finally reaches the far northern coast of France, and can literally see his destination from across the Channel. But it's here that his journey comes to an abrupt halt. Spurred by his dream, with all legal options exhausted, Bilal decides he'll swim across. Here he meets Simon who impulsively risks everything by taking Bilal under his wing.

 

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky – 8:00pm Palace Barracks

 

The opening sequence sets the film's grand tone by unfolding one of the great artistic scandals in its original venue: the 1913 premiere of revolutionary composer Stravinsky's radically modernist ballet, Rite of Spring, at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Seven years later, rendered penniless by the violently negative reaction to his work, Stravinsky accepts the newly successful Chanel's offer to lodge him, his wife and four children, in her new villa 'Bel Respiro' in Garches. And so begins their frenzied liaison, paralleled by revolutionary ideas – the designer's desire to transform women's fashions and the composer's redefinition of musical taste.

 

Monday, 29 March 2010

One For The Road – 6:30pm Palace Barracks

 

Hervé, the head of a press agency, is traveling fast down a road headed in only one direction: self-destruction. He is an alcoholic, and his drinking is wrecking his marriage, family and career. In desperation and still in denial, he checks into a detox clinic in Geneva, his last-chance saloon. There he meets a group of fellow sufferers and one person in particular, a young woman named Magali (Mélanie Thierry), who help him to see life other than through the bottom of an empty bottle.

 

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

In Your Arms – 6:30pm Palace Barracks

 

Louis was abandoned by his mother when he was only a few weeks old. Now sixteen, he wants to know where he comes from and despite the reluctance of his adoptive parents he heads south to find the mother he's never known. Totally thrown by this unexpected visit, florist Solange violently rejects the child she never desired and had forgotten for so long. But Louis perseveres, and in the midst of this turmoil he searches for, and finds himself. Stumbling between obstacles and small victories, a fledgling but luminous relationship develops between Louis and his mother.

 

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Gainsbourg – 7:30pm Palace Centro

 

The Festival's Closing Night Gala for 2010 is graphic novelist Joann Sfar's audacious directorial debut, an amusing and fantastical biopic of the debonair Serge Gainsbourg.  This surreal and evocative record of Monsieur Gainsbourg (Eric Elmosnino) - iconic singer, poet, writer, actor and general provocateur - traces his youth growing up in 1940s Nazi-occupied Paris, through to his transformation into the hard-living showman, enfant terrible and successful songwriter during three decades.

 

Hopefully I’ll see you at the Festival!

Newsflash: Sandra Bullock Wins Oscar! Try And Remain Calm

 

We interrupt my Oscars summary for a special news report.

 

Des Partridge (recently retired movie guru from The Courier Mail) is reporting at The Regent Cinemas in the Queen Street mall will close on June 15.  This is a very sad day for Brisbane.  It’s one of Brisbane’s oldest running cinemas.  Here’s a picture showing the Regent and looking down the Queen Street mall from the mid 1960s - http://twitpic.com/15f7yb

 

It confirms what I suspected in that last year’s BIFF was the lucky last for The Regent.  I’ll start working on a tribute piece but I can think of many happy memories from that great theatre.

 

Oscar Betting

 

On with the show and yes, my 8 year streak of Oscar gambling success has come to an end.  This day is going from bad to worse.

 

To be honest, I’m not too phased.  I got great odds which is all you can ask for.  I had $100 on Hurt Locker at the Golden Globes (at odds of $5.50) and Avatar won.  I had $500 on Avatar at the Oscars (at odds of $3.00) and Hurt Locker won.  That’s the way it goes sometimes.  With a few other speculative bets on the Globes and Oscars also going down the drain, I finished the year with a loss of $830.  Ah well.  Let’s see how that looks on the scoreboard…

 

1996 – profit of $750 – won on Susan Saranadon

1997 – profit of $300 (cumulative $1,050) – won on Frances McDormand

1998 – loss of $250 (cumulative $800)

1999 – loss of $250 (cumulative $550)

2000 – profit of $620 (cumulative $1,170) – won on Kevin Spacey and Michael Caine

2001 – loss of $190 (cumulative $980) – won on director Steven Soderbergh

2002 – profit of $480 (cumulative $1,460) – won on Halle Berry

2003 – profit of $275 (cumulative $1,735) – won on Catherine Zeta-Jones and Adrian Brody

2004 – profit of $150 (cumulative $1,875) – won on Sean Penn

2005 – profit of $214 (cumulative $2,089) – won on Hilary Swank

2006 – profit of $350 (cumulative $2,439) – won on Reese Witherspoon

2007 – profit of $1,463 (cumulative $3,912) – won on Murphy at Globes, Arkin & West Bank Story at Oscars

2008 – profit of $268 (cumulative $4,280) – won on Tilda Swinton and the Coen brothers

2009 – profit of $253 (cumulative $4,533) – won on Mickey Rourke & Kate Winslet at Globes, Winslet at Oscars

2010 – loss of $830 (cumulative $3,703)

 

I’m still up $3,703 in career earnings so I have no right to complain.  I’ll refocus next year and start the streak once again.

 

Oscar Competition

 

It was my 10th Annual Oscars competition this year and I had a nice total of 58 entrants.  Thanks to everyone for giving it a crack.

 

I tried to pick some tricky upset categories although there weren’t as many as I hoped.  Peter Black won this year with a score of 4 out of 5.  There were a few tied on that score but Peter guessed the age spot on – Tom Hanks presented the best picture statuette and is currently 53 years of age.

 

Those who also scored 4 out of 5 were – Damara McAndrew (just one off the correct age), Peter Taggart, Chris Hodge, Ben Harlum, Simon Miraudo, Lee Watson and Nicole Sawyer.

 

Curiously, the 8 people who scored 4 out of 5 all correctly picked best picture, actress, costume and score. None correctly “guessed” the documentary short subject category.

 

Those on 3 out of 5 were – Glenn Hampson, Peter Timms, Scott Sues, Adam Conwell, Sue Aitken, Nigel Bridgeman, Joseph Ferguson, Matt Smith, Shannon Molloy and Jane Furey.  Most of these slipped up on the best picture category (as well as best documentary short subject).

 

Special mentions have to go with Scott Sues, Shannon Molloy and Yvette Atkins.  They were the lucky 3 (out of the 58 entrants) to correctly pick the documentary short subject category.

 

To quickly recap, the correct entries for the competition were:

 

Best Picture:  The Hurt Locker (26 out of 58 got correct)

Best Actress:  Sandra Bullock (41 out of 58 got correct)

Best Score:  Up (22 out of 58 got correct)

Best Costume Design:  The Young Victoria (26 out of 58 got correct)
Best Documentary Short Subject:  Music By Prudence (3 out of 58 got correct)

 

There were 4 people who managed to score 0 out of 5 (which is actually pretty impressive) but I better not mention by name…

 

Oscar Ceremony

 

On the whole, I was pleased with the ceremony.  It came it at right on 3 hours and 30 minutes which is a good length.  My quick positives and negatives:

 

Positives:

 

 - 
Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin’s introduction.  Martin is still the best Oscars host going around.  Great to see them poke fun at everyone.
 - The longer clips of the supporting actors and actresses – really showed the breadth of their roles.
 -Continuing on from last year, the detailed introductions of the best actors and actresses.  The people they got to do these intros were all well selected (unlike last year).
 -The way that the 10 films were introduced for best picture.  Again, with a worthy person to introduce.
 -The presentation of the animated film category and the interviews with the “stars” of each film.
 -The performances of the best songs being booted off the show.  No big loss for me.  There’s usually only one or two which are any good.
 -The set – I liked it a lot.  Great layering of the stage.

 

Negatives:
 
 - 
The Neil Patrick Harris musical number to kick things off.  Sound quality not good.  Could hardly make out what he was singing.
 -The lack of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin in the show.  After the intro, they disappeared.
 -The speed at which Tom Hanks read the best picture Oscar winner.  Um, shouldn’t he have gone through the nominees and producer’s names?
 -Some of the presenters seemed nervous / unprepared.  Their jokes didn’t zing like in past years.  Ben Stiller was good though in his Na’vi make-up.
 -Barbara Streisand “grandstanding” with her presentation of the best director Oscar to Kathryn Bigelow.  What a loser.
 -The lack of great speeches.  No one really knocked one out of the ballpark.  Not enough emotion sadly.  Maybe this was because most went as planned?
 -The lack of money in my wallet.

 

That’s about all I can think of without mentioning winners.  So let’s get to that now…

 

Oscar Winners

 

These lucky folk took home Oscars in the major categories:

 

Best Picture – The Hurt Locker

Best Director – Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)

Best Actor – Jeff Bridges (Cray Heart)

Best Actress – Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side)

Best Supporting Actor – Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Best Supporting Actress – Mo’nique (Precious)

Best Original Screenplay – The Hurt Locker

Best Adapted Screenplay – Precious

Best Animated Film – Up

Best Foreign Language Film – The Secret In Their Eyes (Argentina)

 

Hurt Locker Conquers Avatar

 

Well, I’ve been saying that The Hurt Locker has been going to win since it won the Producer’s and Director’s Guild Awards and that has come to fruition.

 

I’m still struggling to accept it.  Avatar is a film that has reinvigorated people’s love of movies.  The box-office totals it has put up are obscene.  Now I know box-office doesn’t mean everything (ala Alice In Wonderland’s ridiculous $116m opening weekend – that’s another story) but it’s Avatar’s longevity at the box-office which talks in my opinion.  No film since Titanic has spent seven consecutive weeks atop the box-office charts in the U.S.  If the film was bad, trust me, it would out of the top 10 within a matter of weeks.  Word of mouth spreads like wildfire.

 

Now again, this doesn’t mean the film is Oscar worthy but I come back to my original review and describe it as a stunning, breathtaking adventure.  Just because it’s science fiction doesn’t make it any less of a film than say, a war flick or drama flick.  And yet, Avatar has fallen victim to the Academy’s mantra that science fiction and comedy films aren’t worthy of the top prize.  It’s just how it is.  I saw it twice and loved it just as much the second time.  It’s got all the elements of a wonderful movie.

 

Not everyone agrees.  We took talkback calls on 612ABC this morning with most very vocal in their support for The Hurt Locker over Avatar.  You can listen to the podcast of the show on the ABC Breakfast Blog by clicking here.

 

Anyway, what’s done is done.  Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first woman to win the best director Oscar and I admit, the direction is the best part of The Hurt Locker.  That’s two years in a row though (after Slumdog Millionaire) where I’ve felt underwhelmed by the best picture selection.

 

Hurt Locker finished with 6 wins and Avatar went home with 3 wins.  Other films with multiple wins were Precious, Up and Crazy Heart.

 

And The Oscar Goes To Sandra Bullock

 

I guess the other talking point is Sandra Bullock.  I wrote a blog a month ago about all the bad movies she’s made.  If you’d have said to me twelve months ago that Sandra Bullock would win an Academy Award next year, I’d have laughed in your face (with probably a little spittle coming out too).

 

That opinion wouldn’t have changed during the year.  The Proposal and All About Steve (which she won the Razzie for yesterday) were both ghastly.  Along came The Blind Side.  I liked it.  I liked Bullock in it.  The best thing she’s ever done.

 

I’ve also enjoyed Bullock on the awards circuit this year.  She speaks well and has a great sense of humour.  She followed in Halle Berry’s footsteps by accepting her Razzie for The Blind Side in person.

 

That said, she didn’t deserve to win.  Carey Mulligan and Gabourey Sidibe were both better in my eyes.  I had a late hunch that Sidibe might win after Precious upset Up In The Air for best adapted screenplay.  Not so.  Bullock’s performance certainly wasn’t the worst to win an Oscar but I’d have voted against her.

 

Surprises?

 

Anyone who follows the Oscars on a regular basis hopes for a few surprises.  It’s always nice to see the shocked look on someone’s face as their name is read and they start walking to the stage.  There were too big upsets which stood out for me.

 

Firstly, Precious winning best adapted screenplay over Up In The Air.  This one came out of left field.  Up In The Air had won almost every award in this category.  It won the BAFTA, the Golden Globe and the Writers’ Guild Award.  Precious hadn’t won a thing (except for the Independent Spirit Award).  Yet, Precious took the Oscar and a stunned Geoffrey Fletcher (writer) gave a nice speech on stage.  I feel bad for Jason Reitman (Up In The Air) – I thought his time had come after 3 great scripts in a row – Thank You For Smoking, Juno and now Up In The Air.

 

Secondly, The Secret In Their Eyes from Argentina won for best foreign language film.  I don’t know many people who saw this coming.  Most fancied A Prophet and The White Ribbon which had dominated lead up awards.  This can be a tricky category as only those Academy members who see all 5 nominated films can vote.  It doesn’t take too many votes to win and I guess Argentina’s entry won them over.  It’s the second time that Argentina has won (after taking the prize in 1985 for The Official Story).  Rolling Stones columnist Peter Travers summed it up best – “The Argentine film beating A Prophet and White Ribbon for best foreign film officially marks this category as nuts.

 

One of the more interesting moments of the Oscars came when Music For Prudence won best documentary short subject.  You can view the award being presented here.  You could definitely sense tension between the two winners.  There’s a good reason for that and you can read more here.

 

The unseen categories (documentary short subject, short film live action, short film animated) didn’t go as I’d hoped.  I bombed out there and went 0 for 3.  I managed 17 out of 21 for the remaining categories missing only actress, adapted screenplay, foreign language and cinematography.  So I guess that’s a pretty good result for me – 17 out of 24 in total.  I still wish I was wrong about Avatar.

 

Other Thoughts

 

This was the first time I’ve watched the Oscars live and it was great to be able to do so.  Tired I was of covering my ears at work and trying to avoid hearing any spoilers on the way home.  It was also great on Twitter – following the random thoughts of others on the web.  There was plenty of mud slinging and a lot of Avatar bashing.

 

@scrivenersfancy came up with the best Oscar zingers.  I won’t even try to match his sense of humour in this blog but if you’d like a few laughs, here are a sample of his offerings…

 

 -
Is Barbra thinking 'If only "The Mirror Had Two Faces" had been in 3D'?
 - I'm sorry, is someone putting the Razzies to air by mistake?  (following Sandra Bullock’s win)
 - I was in the next room. Did 'Dante's Cove' just win an Oscar?  (following the win of The Cove for best documentary)
 -Thankfully James Taylor didn't die before the end of the montage.  (as Mr Taylor played during the in memoriam tribute)
 -Thank God they didn't let Roger Corman or Lauren Bacall make a speech. I really need to hear what Miley Cyrus has to say.
 -Maybe if Tarantino had spelt the title right, he might have won the writing prize.
 -Sounds to me like Randy Newman has been nominated 16 times for the same song.
 -Someone give an award to whoever pulled the plug on Richard Wilkins!

 

Also worth a read is this blog from Peter Taggart who compares the Oscars to a Parents & Citizens Association meeting.

 

I do love the Oscars.  They’re a great way to promote the medium of cinema and to honour those who have achieved the best (or close to it) in their respective fields.  The feeling that one must have when their name is read and the walk to the stage (while their “theme” music is playing) must be amazing.  I’m guessing most of guests are pretty drunk right now and so on that note, I bid you farewell.  We’ll do it all again next year!

Matt's 2010 Oscars Form Guide: Hurt Locker Set To Sweep

 

The time has come once again.  The 2010 Oscars are just a week away.  I’ve rambled on about my love for the Academy Awards too many times so I won’t repeat myself.  It’s just exciting to see a bunch of great films and performances honoured.  Hopefully they’re ones I approve of.

 

Don’t forget to enter my 10th Annual Oscars competition.  I have selected 5 of the more wide-open categories below (some trickier than others) and everyone is invited to pick who they think will be the winner.  You can enter through the front page of my website.

 

Now yes, I have gambled on the Oscars yet again this year.  Just two bests.  The first was $500 on Avatar to win best picture at odds of $3.  I got very good odds because I backed it in early January before the Golden Globe Awards.  Unfortunately, The Hurt Locker has picked up huge momentum in the meantime and looks like winning.  The second is a roughie - $80 on Carey Mulligan to win best actress at odds of $11.  I don’t think she’ll win but after snatching the BAFTA (where she had home field advantage), she may yet have a chance if there’s a vote split between Streep and Bullock.  That said, my 8 year winning streak looks set to come to an end.  I am up just over $4,533 for the past 15 years so I’m not complaining.  Fingers are crossed a little tighter this year though.

 

The ceremony kicks off at 11am next Monday and for the first time ever, I’ve taken the day off work to watch it live.  Back when Channel 9 only showed a delayed telecast, I used to have to hide somewhere so as not to hear the results.  Thankfully those days are behind us.  I can’t wait and you’ll be able to follow my thoughts on Twitter – http://twitter.com/icestorm77 - on the day.  A full blog wrap will follow as well as details of my competition winners.

 

There is much to discuss so here’s my 2010 form guide with details on who I think will win.  Enjoy!

 

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Avatar
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up
Up in the Air

 

Ok, I’m going with The Hurt Locker.  It’s won the British Academy Award, the Director’s Guild Award (the most important of all lead up awards) and the Producer’s Guild Award.  It’s also won the majority of critics prizes.  This has been talked about as a “David v. Goliath” race over the past 2 months.  Can a film which made $12m defeat a film which will make in excess of $700m?  The answer looks like being yes.  The strange thing is that now The Hurt Locker is the Goliath in this race with Avatar being David.  Avatar still has a chance but I can’t say it’s a strong one.  Inglourious Basterds is the only other film with any sliver of a hope.  It won the best ensemble award at the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards and could sneak home in a Crash-like upset.   Matt’s Pick:  The Hurt Locker.

 

Best Achievement in Directing

James Cameron, Avatar
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Lee Daniels, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Jason Reitman, Up in the Air
 

Kathryn Bigelow has this one in the bag.  She’s about to make history and become the first woman to ever win the Oscar for best director.  Only 3 women have been previously nominated in this category which is astonishing.  I don’t know the answer to this question but it’s worth debating if you’re tired by this part of the ceremony – has the fact that The Hurt Locker is directed helped its chances?  Are people giving it extra praise and attention because it’s directed by a woman?  I don’t know the answer to those questions but I do know Bigelow will win this Oscar.  Matt’s Pick:  Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker.

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
George Clooney, Up in the Air
Colin Firth, A Single Man
Morgan Freeman, Invictus
Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
 

With The Hurt Locker sweeping many guild awards, Jeremy Renner isn’t without hope here.  However, I’m confident that 5-time nominee Jeff Bridges will break his duck and finally win an Academy Award.  He’s a highly regarded actor who has made some great speeches along the way.  This is his time to shine.   Matt’s Pick:  Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Helen Mirren, The Last Station
Carey Mulligan, An Education
Gabourey Sidibe, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
 

Most of the acting races look fairly predictable but if there’s going to be a surprise, it’ll be in the best actress category.  Meryl Streep was the early favourite.  Yes, she’s won twice before but her last victory was in 1983.  She’s had 11 consecutive losses since that time.  Streep is well overdue and this looked to be her year.  Along came Sandra Bullock.  She won the Golden Globe and then the ever important Screen Actors Guild Award.  This makes her the favourite.  But let’s not be too hasty.  The Guild win was significant but did they give it to Bullock only because Streep won in that category two years ago (for Doubt)?  It’s possible and if so, the Oscars may be a different story.  How much love is there for Bullock within the much smaller Academy?  Let’s not rule out Carey Mulligan either.  She won the BAFTA and there are a lot of people who are members of both the American and British Academies.  But did she win mainly because she’s British and was on home turf?  That seems more likely but don’t rule out a Mulligan victory – particularly if Streep and Bullock split their votes.  I need to tip at least one upset so I’m going with Mulligan.  Matt’s Pick:  Carey Mulligan, An Education

 

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Matt Damon, Invictus
Woody Harrelson, The Messenger
Christopher Plummer, The Last Station
Stanley Tucci, The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
 

And the Oscar goes to Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds.  I hope he’s got room in his house for his Oscar statue.  Given that he’s won 10,000 other awards this season, I have my doubts.  Matt’s Pick:  Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds.

 

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Penelope Cruz, Nine
Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Crazy Heart
Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air
Mo'Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
 

The same thing can be said of Mo’Nique.  When the same actor wins every single award, it makes you wonder if they ever run out of speech material.  Do they just say the same thing at every awards show?  Or do they save up their best material for the Oscars?  We’ll find out soon when Mo’Nique steps to the stage.   Matt’s Pick:  Mo'Nique, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire.

 

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

District 9
An Education
In the Loop
Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
Up in the Air
 

Academy voters tend to spread their support in the major categories.  Up In The Air won’t be winning any other categories but as one of the more popular best picture nominees, it’s strongly tipped to win this category.  Many see its script as its strongest asset and it’s won a bunch of awards to date.  I think it’s a deserved win.  Matt’s Pick:  Up in the Air.

 

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The Messenger
A Serious Man
Up
 

This is a tricky one.  The Hurt Locker is the frontrunner given it will win best picture and best director.  But let’s not forget the brilliant writing of Quentin Tarantino in Inglourious Basterds.  Tarantino has won in this category before – back in 1995 for Pulp Fiction – but I don’t know if too many voters will remember this.  Now comes the part of my form guide where I have to make my biggest decision.  When it comes to the Academy Awards, there are two possibilities – (1) the Oscars will be shared around, or (2) one film will sweep most categories even if it doesn’t deserve it.  Slumdog Millionaire did this last year (8 Oscars, really?).  If I tip Hurt Locker here, I’ve got to lean towards it in the technically categories too.  It pains me to say it (because I think Avatar is a better film) but yes, I think a Hurt Locker sweep is on the cards.  It won a lot of awards at the BAFTAs (not so easy for an American film) so I don’t see how it won’t happen back home.  Matt’s Pick:  The Hurt Locker.

 

Best Achievement in Editing

Avatar
District 9
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
 

The editing award is an interesting one as it’s often the barometer for the best picture Oscar.  It is either won by a big action film (e.g. Speed, The Matrix, The Bourne Ultimatum) or the film which goes on to win the best picture Oscar.  I don’t think I can pick anything else here but The Hurt Locker.  Matt’s Pick:  The Hurt Locker.

 

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Avatar
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon
 

I’m getting angry now.  I feel I’m in another position where I have to pick The Hurt Locker over Avatar.  The White Ribbon took the guild award (in somewhat of an upset) but I think it has little chance against the Avatar v. Hurt Locker battle.  I see voters being anti-Avatar in this category (unnecessarily I believe) because of its reliance on visual effects.  Sigh.   Matt’s Pick:  The Hurt Locker.

 

Best Achievement in Art Direction

Avatar

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
Sherlock Holmes
The Young Victoria
 

Now, this is interesting.  No Hurt Locker here.  Were the voters not impressed by the military uniforms?  The good news is that it’s someone else’s turn to win.  But which film?  Avatar looks to be the favourite as it’s the only best picture nominee in the list.  Hmmm, this is tricky though.  Will there also be a voter backlash against Avatar because they don’t believe the sets are real?  The Guild was shared between Avatar, Hurt Locker and Sherlock Holmes.  Does this mean Holmes has a realistic chance here?  It did make a lot of money – something that Nine, Parnassus and Young Victoria did not.  Tricky, tricky, tricky.  It’s definitely between these two films but which one?  Avatar won the BAFTA so I’ll give it my preference. Yay Avatar!   Matt’s Pick:  Avatar.

 

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Bright Star
Coco Before Chanel
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Nine
The Young Victoria
 

Now this is where it gets really interesting.  I’ve deliberately selected this category in my pick the Oscars competition because there’s no Hurt Locker and no Avatar.  In fact, none of these films made much money at all the box-office.  How many voters have actually seen them?  The Academy tends to favour historical dramas in his category (The Duchess, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Marie Antoinette) but that doesn’t rule any of these five films out.  The Young Victoria won the BAFTA and the Costume Designers Guild Award so it’s earned my selection.  Matt’s Pick:  The Young Victoria.

 

Best Achievement in Makeup

Il Divo
Star Trek
The Young Victoria
 

What an odd category.  Just three films – an Italian film which no one will have heard of, a sci-fi action blockbuster which made oodles at the box-office, and a period piece film also nominated in the costume design category.  Interesting indeed.  It’s got to be between Star Trek and The Young Victoria.  Given it’s popularity, I’ll lean towards Star Trek but I think it’ll be a close race.   Matt’s Pick:  Star Trek.

 

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

Avatar
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Hurt Locker
Sherlock Holmes
Up
 

This is one of my favourite categories.  I have a collection of close to 200 film scores.  My favourite for this year is the score for A Single Man but sadly it’s not nominated.  The Hurt Locker inclusion surprises me.  Given all the action, I don’t even remember it having much of a score.  Perhaps I’m wrong.  It does show much support for the film though (which I’ve alluded to earlier).  Avatar is probably the favourite but composer James Horner has won before (for Titanic).  Disney films tend to do well in this category which gives Up a strong chance.  I don’t know if I agree with their choice but yes, I do think Up will sneak home.  Matt’s Pick:  Up.

 

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Almost There from The Princess and the Frog
Down in New Orleans from The Princess and the Frog
Loin de Paname from Paris 36
Take It All from Nine
The Weary Kind from Crazy Heart

 

The Weary Kind from Crazy Heart is a beautiful song and surely it must win here.  The two noms for The Princess & The Frog all but eliminate its chances (votes will be split).  Paris 36 would seem unlikely (it’s foreign language and this is its only nomination) and Nine was so poorly received by both the public and critics.   Matt’s Pick:  The Weary Kind from Crazy Heart.

 

Best Achievement in Sound

Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
 

Two choices – Avatar or The Hurt Locker.  I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again – The Hurt Locker sweep is on the cards.   Matt’s Pick:  The Hurt Locker.

 

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Avatar
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Star Trek
Up
 

Ditto.  And let’s be honest – how does a normal Academy member (who is entitled to vote just like anyone else) distinguish between sound and sound editing?  Beats me.   Matt’s Pick:  The Hurt Locker

 

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Avatar
District 9
Star Trek

 

The easiest category of the night.   Matt’s Pick:  Avatar.

 

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

Coraline
Fantastic Mr Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up
 

I’d like to see Fantastic Mr. Fox spring an upset but let’s be honest, Up is the only best picture nominee in this list so how could it lose?  Bonus points at any Oscars party goes to anyone who has actually seen The Secret Of Kells.   Matt’s Pick:  Up.

 

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Ajami (Israel)
El Secreto de Sus Ojos (Argentina)
The Milk of Sorrow (Peru)
The Prophet (France)
The White Ribbon (Germany)
 

You have two choices here.  France and Germany have been pitted against each other once again.  Will it be The Prophet (which won the BAFTA and the runner-up award at the Cannes Film Festival)?  Or will it be The White Ribbon (which won the Golden Globe, the European Film Award and the top prize at the Cannes Film Festival).  I’ve seen A Prophet and think it’s overrated so I’m going with The White Ribbon.  Upsets can happen in this category though because to be able to vote, you must have gone to special screenings to prove that you saw the film.  I guess they don’t trust the likes of George Clooney and Julia Roberts when they say they checked out El Secreto de Sus Ojos at their local multiplex.  Matt’s Pick:  The White Ribbon.

 

Best Documentary, Features

Burma VJ
The Cove
Food, Inc.
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers
Which Way Home
 

Documentaries are becoming more and more prominent each year in cinemas.  Gone are the days when this category was the perfect time for a toilet break.  Recent winners included Man On Wire, An Inconvenient Truth, March Of The Penguins and Fog Of War.  They’re often better than the films which take home the best picture Oscar.  I have issues with the film but The Cove has won the lion’s share of best documentary awards to date.  I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t win here.  Matt’s Pick:  The Cove.

 

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

China's Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
Music by Prudence
Rabbit à la Berlin
 

Now this is the part where you can go to the bathroom.  It’ll take them long enough just to read through the list of nominees – such long titles!  I don’t know which film to pick.  Your guess is as good as mine.  Given the significance of the global financial crisis in America, let’s go with The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant.  Matt’s Pick:  The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant.

 

Best Short Film, Animated

French Roast
Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty
The Lady and the Reaper
Logorama
A Matter of Loaf and Death
 

Let’s hope they get these categories out of the way early.  I’m sure they’ll get some young stars (e.g. Miley Cyrus, Zach Efron, Taylor Lautner) to present so that the audience won’t be switching channels.  A Matter Of Loaf and Death is a new Wallace & Gromit short from Nick Park.  Wallace & Gromit films won in this category back in 1994 and 1996.  They also won best animated film in 2006.  The Yanks seem to love them so I dare not tip against them.   Matt’s Pick:  A Matter of Loaf and Death.

 

Best Short Film, Live Action

The Door
Instead of Abracadabra
Kavi
Miracle Fish
The New Tenants
 

Last… and most certainly least.  I believe in the importance of short films but this is one category which doesn’t interest me at the Oscars.  There’s no chance to see them (well, some are available on Youtube) and I don’t care much about who wins.  There is an Australian connection this year though with Sydney-born Luke Doolan nominated for Miracle Fish.  He’s done amazingly well to get this far so let’s hope the “miracle” continues.  Go the Aussies!   Matt’s Pick:  Miracle Fish.

 

That’s it from me.  Let’s hope it’s a great Oscars and that Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin do a super job as hosts.  A few upsets would be nice too.  Go Avatar!

BAFTAS 2010: The Hurt Locker Juggernaut Rolls On

  

In next week’s issue, I’ll have my huge Oscars form guide and details on how you can enter my 10th annual Pick The Oscars contest.  Which 5 categories will I choose this year?  They certainly won’t be any of the acting categories which seem all but locked in.

 

I thought I’d use this blog to catch up on a few little things which I’ve neglected to mention over the past few weeks.

 

BAFTAS 2010

 

The last piece of the Oscar jigsaw was fitted into place with this morning’s BAFTA Awards.  The British tend to favour their own but it was still nice to see the wins of Colin Firth (for A Single Man) and Carey Mulligan (for An Education).  I’m utterly convinced that Mulligan gave a better performance than Streep and Bullock but it won’t count for much at the Oscars.  I can always hope for a surprise.

 

Best supporting actor and supporting actress went to Christoph Waltz and Mo’nique respectively.  Both have plans to extend their homes to accommodate the 15 million awards that they’ve won over the past 2 months.

 

And yes, The Hurt Locker juggernaut rolls on with its win in the best picture category.  It’s now the clear favourite.  Centrebet has it listed at $1.75 with Avatar at $2.00.  I expect it to shorten further in the coming days.  The race is run as far as I’m concerned – The Hurt Locker has the Oscar in the bag.

 

Oscars – Special Screenings

 

Quite a few of the Oscar best picture nominees are currently showing in cinemas but a few opened during the middle of 2009.

 

Dendy Portside are putting on special screenings over the next two weeks for those nominees you might have missed.  They are for District 9 (Mar 6, Mar 7), Inglourious Basterds (Mar 6, Mar 7), A Serious Man (Feb 24, Mar 3) and Up (Feb 27, Feb 28).  You can find out more info on the Dendy website.

 

Having seen The Blind Side over the weekend, I’ve now chalked up all of the best picture nominees.  If I were an Academy member, my votes using the new preferential voting system would be:

 

1. Avatar, 2. An Education, 3. Up In The Air, 4. A Serious Man, 5. District 9, 6. The Hurt Locker, 7. Precious, 8. The Blind Side, 9. Up, 10. Inglourious Basterds.

 

I know that sounds harsh putting Inglourious Basterds in the 10th slot but I actually thought all of this year’s nominees were pretty good and there were just a few issues I had with Basterds (relating to the ending) that don’t sit well with me.

 

Avatar - $100m In Australia!

 

On 12 February 2010, Avatar passed the $100m mark in Australia.  Many people thought it would be big but I don’t think many thought it would be THIS BIG.  To put it into perspective, here are the top 5 films of all time at the Australian box-office…

 

1.     Avatar (2009) - $102.6m

2.     Titanic (1997) - $57.6m

3.     Shrek 2 (2004) - $50.3m

4.     Lord Of The Rings; The Return Of The King - $49.3m

5.     Crocodile Dundee (1986) - $47.7m

 

Prior to Avatar, just 2 films had cracked the $50m barrier.  So aside from Titanic, Avatar can now say that it has more than double the box-office of every single film ever released in Australia.  It has obliterated the previous record and when it finally finishes up, it’ll set a new benchmark that will seem unattainable.  It’s been a great few months to be a cinema owner.

 

Brisbane International Film Festival

 

Still no news on a venue but the Brisbane International Film Festival has been confirmed for November 4-14 this year.  This is the first time it’s moved away from its traditional July to August period and it should give the festival a fresh feel.  All those scarves and jumpers I bought last year will be of no use this time around.  It’ll be interesting to see if the new dates attract a better list of films and marquee guests.  Time will tell.

 

French Film Festival

 

Outside of BIFF, one of the biggest film festivals of the year is the French Film Festival.  This year’s dates are March 17 to 31 and it will be hosted by the Palace Centro and Barracks.

 

There will be over 40 new French films in 6 distinctive sections.  Micmacs, the new film from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie), will launch the festival on its Opening Night.  Jeunet will be in Australia to promote the film but sadly won’t be coming to Brisbane.

 

You can check out the program by visiting the festival website at http://www.frenchfilmfestival.org.  Tickets are already on sale with most films costing $16 for adults.

 

Hamlet

 

Last but not least, I caught my first play of 2010 on Saturday night.  I know the story of Hamlet pretty well but I still struggle with Shakespearean dialect when it’s delivered at breakneck speed.  Some of the contemporary elements were also a little too modern for my liking.  They’re the only qualms I can think of.

 

The play was very good with Toby Schmitz strong in the leading role.  I really liked the opening minute – where the theatre was plunged into darkness (I couldn’t even see the person in front of me) and a loud, thundering soundtrack could be heard.  It’s on at the La Boite theatre for the next few weeks so be sure to check it out.  Next on the menu is The Little Dog Laughed – tickets booked for March 12.