Archive for February, 2009

Great scene from the sitcom ‘Extras’ by Ricky Gervais.
Funny, her plan worked.

I wonder if Sam Mendes will ‘polish’ her Oscar now…


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Hooray! Sean Penn wins his second Oscar for his portrayal of gay rights activist, Harvey Milk.  A well-deserved award.  And a great speech.  He flat out cried for gay rights. Thank you, Mr. Penn.

“For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think it’s a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that support.  We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.”

Well done, Penn.  And thanks for the support.

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Congratulations to ‘Milk’ screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black,  for his Oscar win for Best Original Screenplay.  I’m so happy for him.  His acceptance speech was so inspiring and honest.  I’m glad he gave a plea for gay rights.  Here is what he had to say.

“When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe even I could even fall in love and one day get married.

I wanna thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he’d want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally, across this great nation of ours. Thank you. Thank you. And thank you, God, for giving us Harvey Milk.”

Thank you, Dustin!

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I’m winging it on some of these, but it’s still fun.  Let’s see how many I get right.

Actor in a Leading Role

My pick: Sean Penn
Prediction: Sean Penn

Actor in a Supporting Role

My pick: Robert Downey Jr.
Prediction: Heath Ledger

Actress in a Leading Role

My pick: Kate Winslet
Prediction: Meryl Streep

Actress in a Supporting Role

My pick: Taraji P. Henson
Prediction: Penelope Cruz

Best Animated Feature

My pick: WALL-E
Prediction: WALL-E

Art Direction

My pick: The Dark Knight
Prediction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button


My pick: Slumdog Millionaire
Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire

Costume Design

My pick: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Prediction: The Duchess


My pick: Danny Boyle
Prediction: Danny Boyle

Documentary Feature

My pick: Man on Wire
Prediction: Man on Wire

Film Editing

My pick: The Dark Knight
Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire

Foreign Language Film

My pick: ?
Prediction: Waltz with Bashir


My pick: The Dark Knight
Prediction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Score)

My pick: Thomas Newman (WALL-E)
Prediction: A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire)

Music Written for Motion Pictures (Original Song)

My pick: “Down to Earth” from WALL-E
Prediction: “Jai Ho” from Slumdog Millionaire

Best Picture

My pick: Milk
Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire

Animated Short Film

My pick: Presto
Prediction: This Way Up

Live Action Short Film

My pick: ?
Prediction: The Pig

Sound Editing

My pick: The Dark Knight
Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire

Sound Mixing

My pick: Slumdog Millionaire
Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire

Visual Effects

My pick: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Prediction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Adapted Screenplay

My pick: Slumdog Millionaire
Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire

Original Screenplay

My pick: Milk
Prediction: In Bruges

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Hooray it’s Oscar Night.  I’m looking forward to see who will in each category.  But my favorite category is achievement in music written for motion pictures (original score).  I love film scores.  Every movie I watch I’m always listening for the music.  I know, I’m strange, but I think the film scores are so important and sometimes can either really kill a movie or add to it.  So what about this year’s nominees?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Well, I thought Alexandre Desplat’s score for The Queen was much better. This movie, I thought, was so long and flat and unfortunately the music didn’t really help.  It’s beautiful score, the string and harp melodies were wonderful, but that’s it.  It was basically a two hour lullaby.  Wonderful to listen to, but nothing really note worthy.


How can you go wrong with Joshua Bell?  Bell is designated violinist for film, just like Yo-Yo Ma is the designated cellist.  I can’t really say much about the score because, well, I haven’t seen the movie.  All I can say is James Newton Howard is no stranger to Academy Award nominations (The Village, Michael Clayton).


This is a surprise score from Danny Elfman.  Yeah, Danny Elfman is known for his campy soundtracks, but he is also known for composing some beautiful pieces.  I thought Big Fish was a great score and Milk is another one of his greater works.  This was a well deserved nomination.  It was so haunting, yet strangely beautiful.  The piece during the main titles of the film is what I think got Elfman the nomination.  It’s a strange mix of string melodies, a piano, an electric guitar, and a saxophone, yet somehow it all fit.  The saxophone solo was the perfect instrument to feature.  It’s something that you don’t really hear in a film score, but Elfman proved the saxophone can be just as soft and beautiful.  A great soundtrack, it has some of the unique Elfman qualities that most people are used to hearing, but overall the score is very different from his previous works.

Slumdog Millionaire

O…Saya!  Well certainly, like the film, this is a clear standout from the rest.  A.R. Rahman is insanely talented.   He is a huge Bollywood composer and has sold over 100 million records.  At first I wasn’t sure about the music of this film, but after watching it, that is what made the film.  It’s so complex and unique and unlike anything I’m used to hearing.  This soundtrack grew on me, I loved how modern it sounded yet it incorporated styles and instruments from the traditional Indian film soundtracks.  One of the best tracks is the scene when the children are running away from the gangster.  The sitar player is amazing and it’s not the usual way a sitar is used.  Another great track is ‘Ringa Ringa’, which is a  typical Bollywood sounding track.  It’s so driving and fun and features the popular Indian singer Alka Yagnik.  This score is so rich and full of layers it’s impossible to not give it a nomination.


Thomas Newman never disappoints.  His is in his own genre.  I love his compositions.  Each of them are so different, yet it has that Thomas Newman signature sound to them.  WALL-E is no exception.  The score has a driving percussive feel, but manages to sound other worldly.  The harps and guitar beats mixed with the strings sound so beautiful.  Newman was the perfect fit to put music to outer space.  It’s a joy to hear all of these weird sounds and mixes put into lovely sounding score.  WALL-E is Newman’s tenth Academy Award nomination.  Two this year, one for the score and one for the song “Down to Earth.”  Maybe he’ll actually win an award this time.

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It’s a sure bet Slumdog Millionaire will get the Best Picture Oscar.  So what’s so great about this movie?  Well, I can say it’s wonderfully shot and rich.  The movie sort of slams you in the face.  It’s so loud and lively.  It’s about a boy from the slums of Mumbai, India who made it big on the show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”  The movie constantly cuts back and forth from the boy on the shows ‘hot seat’ to the boy getting interrogated by the police.  The questions on the show are somehow related to the boys past and the police suspect he is cheating.  What a crazy premise for a film.

Anyway, the film is just full of gritty lively scenes.  The opening sequence shows just how massive these slums on the outskirts of Mumbai are.  It makes you wonder just how crowded are these poor places?  It was unbelievable to see people live in those conditions.  The lifestyle looked so real and authentic almost to the point that it was distracting.  I guess that’s the point.  Getting a bit of a culture shock, although I’m sure Indian audiences wouldn’t agree.  But, I’ll admit the cinematography was incredible.  And, for me, the highlight of the film is the music.  A.R. Rahman is new to me, but he has sold more than 100 million albums and has composed music for over 130 films in India.  The film’s music is a blend of classical Bollywood Indian styles with modern electronic fast-paced beats.  The music is moving and loud and puts you on edge.   In all, the movie was a joy to watch.  Although it wasn’t a very beautiful setting, you can see a lot of work was put into this film.  Such as, the huge dance number during the credits of the film.  And yes, it’s during the credits, not during the actual film.  I thought, there would be a few Bollywood dance numbers in the film, but not so much.  Just the one.  It was an incredible shot, filled with extras, but I wish you were able to see the dance.  There were a lot of annoying cuts and it took away from the choreography.  Anyway, we’ll see if all of that hard work filming in India gets them the big prize on Sunday.

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Check out this redesign of the Harry Potter book series by artist M.S. Corley.  They were made to look like the Penguin Classics.  What a cool project.  My favorite is Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. (more…)

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