Sunday, January 27, 2008

Surprise Oscar Pick

This year's Oscar Nominations produced the normal assortment of previous nominees, press-popular films, unknown foreign films, and then there is Juno.  One of the most creative films of the year and perhaps my favorite, Juno tells the story of a pregnant teen and her developing relationship with the baby's father, her father and step-mother, and the adoptive parents.  The movie had an interesting mix of cast members, combining old and new.  Ellen Page and Michael Cera,  both young and new to the screen, play the teen couple.  Famed middle-age actors Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman portray the adoptive couple, and recognized actors Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons play Juno's parents.  All are from different walks in the film industry, yet they blend together for the quirky feel of the film.  It came as a surprise to me that it nagged several nominations this year for the Academy Awards.
You never know how this movie will do at the Oscars.  Page has won several awards already for her portrayal of the quirky teen Juno, and although her competition is steep, she could come out on top.  Up against Cate Blanchett, an Oscar winner already, and timeless actresses Julie Christie and Laura Linney, Page is definitely the newcomer in the Oscar circuit.  Not that the recognition isn't due, in my opinion Page was excellent.  The absurdness of her nomination, and of course role, could sway the envelop in her favor.  
Juno is also up for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen.  After seeing the movie the first time, I immediately appreciated the creative and quirky screenwriting.  Diablo Cody produced a brilliant script for director Jason Reitman.  I thought the movie was a given for the award, but on closer examination, the film may have more competition that Ellen Page does in her category.  Lars and the Real Girl and even The Savages are both the same sarcastic, witty style as Juno.  I am unfamiliar with Micheal Clayton, but the film has had so much press and buzz.  Finally, Ratatouille is the best family film of the season.  It is very difficult to say who has the best bet in Best Writing, but I am pulling for Juno in this category.  I would love for Juno take every nomination, however, it is rare that the out of place movie takes all the awards.  Dramas, in general, take home more Oscars than comedies.  The Academy, though, is known for surprises and even upsets, so I wouldn't place any bets.

Perhaps the best thing about this film, is the cameo by Rainn Wilson, best known as Dwight Schrute of The Office, as a drug store employee named Rollo.  By far my favorite sequence in the movie, Rollo is full of hilarious, rhyming pokes at Juno.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I realize that there has been nonstop buzz about the death of actor Heath Ledger, but I feel his life is worth me commenting on.  I grew up with him constantly in the spotlight, and I realized that this is the first celebrity to die that I have watched from beginning to end.  He rose to stardom just as I reached the age for his teen sensations and passed as I witnessed the Oscar nominee finally gain credibility for his work. 

I will admit that my junior high years were spent obsessing over the latest heartthrob, and at that time, Heath Ledger was the greatest out there.  My friends and I cared nothing for his talent or abilities, we just thought he was beautiful.  Now, however, I have grown out of the teen magazines and tabloid hotties and into a deep analyzation of actors.  I have watched Ledger grow from a teen star to an Oscar nominee.  Always slightly on the edge, Ledger challenged himself with complicated characters and unusual stories.  I think his best work started with the film Lords of Dogtown.  Although the movie was not a hit, I was shocked at Ledger's acting job; he was amazing.  Brokeback Mountain was the first controversial role for Heath Ledger, but when he gained an Academy Award nomination, I knew that Ledger had forever left teen stardom and reached a new level of talent and recognition.  He continued with I'm Not There, the artistic documentation of the life of Bob Dylan, taking on the role one of the most complicated musicians of the century.  With the announcement of the new Batman installment, I knew he had reached yet another level of excellence.  Ledger was not afraid of any role, and he would have continued to wow audiences.  He was just reaching true iconic status, and the world will never know what he could have accomplished.

As a person pursuing a career in the film industry, I think about the future in terms of who I would love to work with and what actors and actresses are talented.  I always thought Heath Ledger was a classic pick as a male lead.  He had sex appeal and genuine talent; I know h.  I had him pegged as a person to follow when I worked in the industry later in life.  Now, it is so surreal to know that could never happen. 

I think the world will quickly move on, for we can count on a new Brittany Spears scandal, but I feel we are truly at a loss.  Heath Ledger is the first actor of our generation to reach beyond the teen heartthrob status and gain a level of credibility in the acting world, and now he is gone. 

Monday, January 21, 2008


A recent late night conversation sparked an interest in a genre of film I usually avoid.  Thriller films are so unappetizing to me, but they remain ever so popular to those who enjoy suspense.  A friend of mine from Germany recommended an old movie called The Hole, and preceded to summarize the scary story.  My friends and I laughed at her description of the film; it did not sound scary at all.  The story was so stupid and confusing; all the thrills of the movie were lost in her storytelling.  It sounded like a movie that I would never want to see, but she thought it was such a great film.  I realized the reason I did not normally sit down to watch a thriller was the actual story.  Aside from the fact that I hate to be scared, the storyline in a traditional thriller is simple and often do not even make sense.  The plot can stay so simple because the suspense drives the story.  There is so little meaning to a typical thriller; it doesn't need an interesting plot for it has the scare factor.  These films are usually short-lasting in popularity, but they remain on the shelves namely for Halloween night movie rentals.

  The thrillers that I find myself willing to watch have more story than scary scenes.  Films such as The Village and Disturbia have an ending that ties all the knots and leaves the audience satisfied.  I think a movie like The Hole is only popular because it is a good scare.  I do not expect much from new thrillers.  I see movie after movie released as "the best scare ever," but I still see no interesting plot.  Sometimes though, I am pleasantly surprised to find a complicated thriller-- one that I can follow to the finish, maybe with a few frightening moments.  

Check out the trailer for The Hole.  Do you think it's as shallow as I do?

It is an early Keira Knightley film, which brings up another interesting aspect of thrillers.  Knightley is considered an Oscar-worthy actress today, so it is hard to believe she began her career in a quickly forgotten horror film.  Many talented actors and actresses get their start in unsuccessful thrillers.  Main characters are easy to cast because they are so undeveloped and exist only to give the horror a victim.  This is another reason I consider thrillers to be so unappealing.  

The undeveloped plot and expendable characters have subjected horror films to sarcasm and parody.  A recent trend is to produce a comic amalgamation of current horror films.  Scream and Scary Movie series are excellent examples.  They portray the idiocy of typical characters and suspenseful scenes.  

Yes, people will continue to pay to see thriller films.  Why?  I think they are just in the mood for a good scare.  I do not expect thrillers to change any, so  I will just wait for the one or two thought provoking and suspenseful films to come out.