Archive for February 20th, 2009

Sam Juliano’s Choices: For Best Director Nominees:

Best Director Nominees:

Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant, Milk

The five Best Director nominees match up exactly with the films they directed in the Best Picture race, and this is relatively unusual, as there is normally at least one director whose film fails to get nominated. Four of the five directors here are most deserving, even if my own personal top pick, Andrew Stanton for Wall-E, missed this shortlist. Only Ron Howard, seems like a “filler” choice for his competent if unimaginative direction of the Broadway adaptation he helmed.

Gus Van Sant, a celebrated art house director, whose Paranoid Park, also from 2008, was even more impressive than the very good biopic he won his nomination for, will surely draw votes from the serious cinema lovers in the Academy, as well as perhaps from a number of people who are still hurting over the fiasco of 2005, when the year’s best film, Brokeback Mountain, was upended by Crash for the top prize, even as Ang Lee won the director prize. Van Sant is an ever thoughtful and dazzling craftsman.

David Fincher,who startled many by moving away from the dark thrillers that have commanded his attention throughout his career, is surely a creative guiding force behind the moving The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which leads in total nominations with 13. Fincher’s direction of the film divides those who loved the film, and others who had issues with it, but he’s respected and could win if the film should pull a major upset, much as Van Sant could be carried in if his film should win.

The British director Steven Daldry, has had success with literary and theatre adaptations with The Hours and Billy Elliot, two rich, emotional films where he guided actors to exceptional performances. Again here, he achieves much the same, especially with Kate Winslet. Not everyone connects to The Reader, but for me it’s the finest film of the five nominated, edging ahead of Slumdog Millionaire and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Daldry’s long-shot hopes would rest with a surprise with The Reader in the Best Picture race.

This brings us to Danny Boyle,whose direction of the year’s popular feel-good movie Slumdog Millionaire is a prohibitive favorite. In fact, at this point it’s considered even more of a lock than Heath Ledger in the supporting race according to some pundits. Boyle’s visceral, dazzling and eclectic filmmaking of a film that showcases an operatic intensity. Years back he impressed many with Trainspotting, and he’s had some other fairly-good films after that. At this point, everyone’s speculating what Boyle will be saying for his acceptance speech.

(Sam Juliano’s Personal Choice: Stephen Daldry, The Reader)
(Sam Juliano’s Prediction to Win: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire)

Alexander Coleman…from Coleman Corner in Cineman: Prediction For Best Director:

Danny Boyle, will win for Best Director come Oscar night, as David Fincher, Ron Howard, Gus Van Sant and Stephen Daldry have yet to gain much momentum in this category. Boyle won the LAFCA, Critics Choice Award, National Society of Film Critics Award and Directors Guild Award. The Best Director Oscar is always the least surprising winner of the evening, and there is no reason to believe Boyle will go home without a Best Director Oscar with him.

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by Allan Fish

(France/West Germany 1955 110m) DVD1

Not so frivolous Lola

p  Ralph Baum, Albert Caraco  d  Max Ophuls  w  Max Ophuls, Jacques Natanson, Frank Geigar, Annette Wademant  novel  “La Vie Extraordinaire de Lola Montes” by Cecil Saint-Laurent  ph  Christian Matras  ed  Madeleine Gug  m  Georges Auric  art  Jean d’Eaubonne, Willy Schatz  cos  Georges Annenkov, Marcel Escoffier

Martine Carol (Lola Montes), Peter Ustinov (Ringmaster), Anton Walbrook (Ludwig I of Bavaria), Oskar Werner (student), Ivan Desny (Lt.James), Will Quadfleig (Franz Liszt), Lise Delamare, Henri Guisol, Paulette Dubost, Helena Manson,

It may almost seem a sin to remotely associate Ophuls’ gorgeous masterpiece with that piece of artless smut from the talentless Tinto Brass, but I can only crave the reader’s forgiveness as I just couldn’t resist it.  It’s a film that Andrew Sarris memorably hailed as the greatest ever made, and one which several major critics have similarly praised to kingdom come.  In truth it does have some flaws, and the original 140m version is seen as often as Hale Bopp comet, so one has to take what one has.  Likewise we must put up with a very bleached print of the film on video and DVD in the States, as it has yet to receive the digital remastering it so needs and deserves.  Though it may not be quite as perfect as his Letter from an Unknown Woman or quite as elegant as his Madame de…, it’s his most ambitious film by far. 

            The film begins with Lola now approaching middle age, penniless and relying on virtually token appearances in the New Orleans circus of an unnamed ringmaster.  There we see pageants and recreations of her famous love affairs (including with Liszt and Ludwig of Bavaria) that scandalised the courts of Europe.  Over the course of this, Lola looks back herself at her life as a courtesan, from her teenage marriage to an English aide de camp, through numerous affairs to her ultimate poverty.   (more…)

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