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Archive for February 13th, 2009

Sam Juliano’s Predictions for Best Actor













actor Sean Penn, in….
Milk












actor Frank Langella,….
in Frost/Nixon












actor Brad Pitt, in….
The Curious Case of
Benjamin Button












actor Richard Jenkins, in….The Visitor

The Best Actor race has turned into a barn-burner between two actors who have shared the pre-Oscars accolades. Sean Penn, a winner from the New York Film Critics Circle and the Los Angeles Film Critics Society, wowed critics and audiences with a dazzling turn as gay activist Harvey Milk in a performance that must surely be seen now as the most impressive of distinguished career. He won the Oscar several years back in Mystic River, and has been nominated a few times as well.

Fellow veteran actor Mickey Rourke is mounting a serious challenge to Penn, and in fact some plaudits are making a very convincing argument as to why he will win as comeback wrestler Randy”The Ram” Robinson in Darren Aronofsky’s raw and uncompromising boxing film. Rourke has already won the Golden Globe for his work, and several critics groups nationwide have named him the top actor. Rourke has never won the award, and his own comeback story, mirroring his film role, is always appealing to Oscar voters.

The other three actors who received nominations are basically there for the ride, with their placement in the top 5 being the reward for their work. Richard Jenkins was given the first lead role of his well-respected career as widowed economics professor Walter Vale in Tom McCarthy’s deeply-affecting The Visitor. His subtle role, which was unforced and natural, may well have been the most impressive performance by any actor this year, but the film he gave it in is a low-budget independent, and Jenkins is facing two powerhouse opponents.

As Richard Milhouse Nixon, Frank Langella certainly can’t match Anthony Hopkins, who played the same character in Oliver Stone’s film, but his manner, inflection and economics professor Walter Vale in Tom McCarthy’s deeply-affecting The Visitor. His subtle role, which was unforced and natural, may well have been the most impressive performance by any actor this year, but the film he gave it in is a low-budget independent, and Jenkins is facing two powerhouse opponents. As Richard Milhouse Nixon, Frank Langella certainly can’t match Anthony Hopkins, who played the same character in Oliver Stone’s film, but his manner, inflection and delivery are still striking in Ron Howard’s stage adaptation, Frost/Nixon. Langella has no chance to win, yet his nomination is certainly a victory of sorts.

The same reasoning applied to Langella, again holds true for Brad Pitt, who gave an affecting performance as the title character in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but is up against stiff competition. But Pitt did win a victory of sorts by just landing this nomination ahead of two others who were thought to have strong prospects of reaching the Top 5: Leonardo DiCaprio for Revolutionary Road and Clint Eastwood for Gran Torino. Pitt’s long-celebrated “looks” and general popularity is thought to have fueled his success in being nominated ahead of those two, but again, he faces a juggernaut with the Penn-Rourke duo.

[Sam Juliano’s Final Prediction:]

Final Verdict: Penn has won before, and his victory at SAG was a way of awarding him with something significant. But Penn is also unpopular with many in the industry, as he’s headstrong, and although he goes against-type in his exceptional turn, he is playing a character that may not sit well with some voters, even if other actors playing gay people have won. i.e. William Hurt, Tom Hanks, Hillary Swank, Phillip Seymour Hoffmann, etc. Then again, some will take the position that gay characters need to get more recognition, especially with the snub in 2005 of Brokeback Mountain, which was favored to win. But films and actors command different perception. In any case, Rourke is indeed the inspirational comeback story and in the end I believe (by a nose) that Oscar won’t be able to resist.

[Sam Juliano:Personal Choice…Richard Jenkins,in….The Visitor]

[Sam Juliano: Prediction to Win…Mickey Rourke,in…. The Wrestler]

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 burmese-1

by Allan Fish

(Japan 1956 117m) DVD1

Aka. A Harp of Burma/Biruma no tategoto

Wherever I wander

p  Masayuki Takagi  d  Kon Ichikawa  w  Natto Wada  novel  Michio Takeyama  ph  Minoru Yokoyama  m  Akira Ifukube  art  Takashi Matsuyama

Shoji Yasui (Mizushima Yasuhiko), Rentaro Mikuni (Captain Inouye), Tatsuya Mihashi (Defence commander), Tanie Kitabayashi (old woman), Yunosuke Ito (village head), Jun Hamamura (Ito), Taketoshi Neito (Kobayashi), Ko Nishimura (Baba),

An apt choice of tagline for Ichikawa’s anti-war classic, for not only does the protagonist who bears the eponymous instrument do a lot of wandering during the course of the film, but the tune that haunts the soul throughout is none other than that western and Japanese standard ‘There’s No Place Like Home’.  It’s a theme that brings to mind the work of Yasujiro Ozu, despite being as diametrically opposed to Ozu’s style as could be.  Either way, it’s one of the forgotten great films of Japanese cinema.  It’s a film that may have been shot virtually concurrently in time and place with Lean’s The Bridge on the River Kwai, but whose message could not be more apposite.

            At the end of World War II Mizushima is a scout in a Japanese unit who are captured and placed in a POW camp to await repatriation.  There he volunteers for a rather dangerous mission, a trek to the distant mountains to persuade his remote countrymen to surrender rather than die in a futile gesture.  But when the garrison are massacred and a Buddhist monk helps him to safety, he takes the monk’s garb and wanders the countryside burying the dead soldiers of his homeland otherwise left rotting in the sun.  Meanwhile, his old comrades seek to find news about him, and keep hearing the melodious sound of his harp… (more…)

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