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Dustin Lance Black Wins!

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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My Predictions

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

Cinematography

My pick: Slumdog Millionaire
Prediction: Slumdog Millionaire

Costume Design

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

Directing

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

Makeup

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

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.

Defiance

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).

Milk

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.

WALL-E

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.

Slumdog Millionaire

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.

Harry Potter Penguin Classics

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. Continue Reading »

Milk

Hooray, the Oscars are coming up.  Yeah, whatever.  So what if I’m a nerd for watching the Oscars?  I just happen to be a fan a film and Hugh Jackman is hosting.  So, of course I’m going to be glued to the television set.  Hugh in High Definition–Glorious.

Anyway, I recently saw Milk and I just had to write about it.  I’m not sure how everyone else felt (I’m sure not like this), but I was an emotional wreck during this film.  Already from the start of the film, I got so emotional.  Watching the archival footage of police raiding gay bars set to a beautiful weeping saxophone solo was so moving to me.  The score and the saxophone solo piece was the perfect tone for the opening sequence.  A really sad but fitting opening for the film.

It was great to see gay characters in their element portrayed on screen.  Although, I think it would have been interesting to see the earlier stages of Milk’s life.  The closeted Milk, working in New York, like many other gay men afraid to disclose their sexual orientation out of fear of losing their job.  The film also seemed to avoid Milk’s personal past.  He had more than one ex-lover who suffered from depression and attempted suicide.

The film covers Milk’s effort to defeat Proposition 6 or the Briggs Initiative, proposed by the then state legislator John Briggs, that would have banned all gay and lesbians, and anyone who supported gay rights, from working in California’s public school.  Proposition 6 was also a part of a larger movement to strip rights away from all gay and lesbians.  Watching Anita Bryant and her ‘Save Our Children’ organization repeal local gay rights ordinances was so disheartening and frustrating.  It was sad to see these unfortunate events, after having recently watched the passage of Proposition 8, the same-sex marriage ban, pass in my home state of California.  Watching the film, I couldn’t help but remember how I felt the night before the election.  Just like the film, we were all so nervous and agitated and hoped for the best, while watching the results unveil.  Unfortunately, Proposition 8 didn’t have the same outcome as Proposition 6.  So, watching Proposition 6 get defeated on film, was a bit of a blow for me.

Overall, I’m happy to see these moments in history relive onscreen for today’s generation.  Sean Penn gave an amazing performance.  I thought his speeches were so believable and moving. He just seemed so natural leading the gay movement.  I thought the film’s score was beautiful and serene, but a bit haunting, which fit the political stage and struggles of the film.  All 8 Academy Award nominations are well deserved.  We’ll see if the film takes home any on Sunday night.

Frost/Nixon

I just saw the movie and wow, what an exciting movie.  I know, sounds weird.  What’s so exciting about a series of interviews?  But, to me, this movie was like watching a good boxing match.  Would the flashy, lightweight, underdog Frost pack a punch to the sly, experienced and dominating Nixon? It seemed that Frost was no match to beat the heavyweight champion. It was interesting to see how these interviews came about.  We get to see just how much the both of them were invested in these interviews.  And they had a lot at stake.
The best scene of  the film was the late night phone call a drunken Nixon made to Frost’s hotel room.  Nixon belittles Frost and tells him how people of higher class tried to bring him down.

“That’s our tragedy, you and I Mr. Frost. No matter how high we get, they still look down at us…No matter how many awards or column inches are written about you, or how high the elected office is, it’s still not enough. We still feel like the little man. The loser.”

Nixon goes on to tell Frost that only one man can get the spotlight.  Only one man will win glory, while the other will lose heavily and will surely see the end of their career.  This revs up Frost and he finally realizes he’s “got to work.”  Suddenly there is a shift in gears and the final interview has dramatic change in tone.  Right before the interview Frost asks Nixon about the phone call, but Nixon responds with, “What phone call?” and suddenly  looks so nervous and on edge.  That scene also put me on edge.  I was just waiting to see the condescending Nixon fall apart on screen.  But when Nixon confessed he “let the American people down,” I actually felt sorry for him.  This man tried so hard to maintain his legacy, but  just couldn’t handle the pressure.  It was a very depressing and disappointing moment in his life.  And it showed on screen.  Although, he was a criminal President, Nixon is still human, and humans make mistakes.  Grant it, it’s no excuse for the way he abused his power, but it was an interesting take on the former President.  A great adaptation for the screen and an enjoy to watch.  Hopefully, I’ll get the chance to see the stage version it at the Ahmanson Theatre in L.A.