Thursday, December 29, 2005

2005: The Year in Review

Oh, 2005 – I liked you so.

Lagging box office and behind-the-scenes antics notwithstanding (on-set shenanigans of every kind, Russell Crowe’s phone throwing, Tom Cruise’s spinning out of Cruise Control), 2005 was actually quite good.

So here’s a review of the year that was. Happy 2006!

Truest Tagline: Rent’s No Day But Today

Cheekiest Poster: The Family Stone

Best Poster: (tie) The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Walk the Line

Best Fight: King Kong vs. several V. rexes, bigger and meaner evolutions than T. rexes (King Kong)

Sexiest Fight: Brad Pitt vs. Angelina Jolie (Mr. and Mrs. Smith)

Best Chemistry: Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers)

Sexiest Duo: Daniel Craig and Sienna Miller (Layer Cake)

Everyone Should See It (When It Comes Out on DVD): In Her Shoes

Everyone Should Have Seen It (But Wasn’t Released in Movie Theaters): Madonna’s I’m Going To Tell You A Secret

You Should Be Sorry You Missed It (But I Forgive You): (tie) Layer Cake and Serenity

Some TV Shows Do Deserve the Big Screen Treatment: Serenity (based on the brief Firefly)

Others Not So Much: Bewitched, The Dukes of Hazzard

Best Props: The shoes of In Her Shoes

Best Costumes: Memoirs of a Geisha

Not As Arresting As Her Costumes: Jessica Simpson in The Dukes of Hazzard

Most Villainous: Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, Red Eye)

Biggest Scene-stealer: Wedding Crashers’s Isla Fisher

So Didn’t Quite Fit In: Batman Begins’ Katie Holmes

Best Line Delivery: Reese Witherspoon's "Baby, baby, baby, baby..." as June Carter in Walk the Line

Best Comeback: Batman (Batman Begins)

Best Show of Skin: (tie) Jake Gyllenhaal in Jarhead and Garrett Hedlund in Four Brothers

Sexiest Man Alive Indeed: Matthew McConaughey (Sahara)

Hot: Jessica Alba’s leather chaps-and-bra and lasso bar top dance (Sin City)

Not: Paris Hilton on film, death scene notwithstanding (House of Wax)

Biggest Crowd-pleaser: March of the Penguins

Most Riveting: Documentaries (Mad Hot Ballroom, March of the Penguins, Murderball)

Most Popcorn: Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Guiltiest Pleasure: Herbie: Fully Loaded

Loveliest Classic Adaptation: Pride & Prejudice

Loveliest Contemporary Adaptation: Shopgirl

Most Underrated: Prime

Musical MVP: Composer Danny Elfman (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride)

Sweetest MVPs: The mentally challenged actors in The Ringer

Hooray For: Domino’s Mo’Nique

Best On-Set Shenanigan: Brangelina (Mr. and Mrs. Smith)

No one Cared About This One: The supposed rivalry between Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda (Monster-in-Law)

Having the Best Year Ever: Penguins (Madagascar, March of the Penguins)

Wishing She Was a Penguin: Jennifer Aniston (Brangelina; Derailed flopped)

Most Disappointing: (tie) Elizabethtown and movie musicals (Rent, The Producers)

Way Too Hyped For My Taste: Brokeback Mountain

Can't Get Enough – Female: (tie) Elizabeth Banks (Heights, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) and Keri Russell (The Upside of Anger)

Can't Get Enough – Male: Daniel Craig (Layer Cake)

Most Promising: Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds)

Breakthrough Performance – Female: Rachel McAdams (Wedding Crashers, Red Eye, The Family Stone)

Breakthrough Performance – Male: Steve Carell (The 40-Year-Old Virgin)

Most Deserving of Getting to the A-List: Terrence Howard (Crash, Hustle & Flow, Four Brothers)

The Best Film I Failed To See and Review: The Squid and the Whale

Best Indie Ensemble: Heights (Glenn Close, Elizabeth Banks, Jesse Bradford, James Marsden, John Light)

Best Mainstream Ensemble: The Family Stone (Claire Danes, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson)

Best Supporting Actresses: Amy Adams (Junebug), Diane Keaton (The Family Stone), Shirley MacLaine (In Her Shoes), Scarlett Johansson (Match Point), Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain)

Best Supporting Actors: Kevin Costner (The Upside of Anger), Matt Dillon (Crash), Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man), William Hurt (A History of Violence), Andy Serkis (King Kong)

Best Actresses: Joan Allen (The Upside of Anger), Felicity Huffman (Transamerica), Gwyneth Paltrow (Proof), Naomi Watts (King Kong), Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)

Best Actors: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Viggo Mortensen (A History of Violence), Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line), David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck)

Best Screenplays: A History of Violence (Josh Olson), Capote (Dan Futterman), Crash (Paul Haggis and Bobby Moresco), Good Night, and Good Luck (George Clooney and Grant Heslov), Match Point (Woody Allen)

Best Directors: Woody Allen (Match Point), George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck), David Cronenberg (A History of Violence), Paul Haggis (Crash), Peter Jackson (King Kong)

10 Best Films of the Year: (in alphabetical order)
A History of Violence
Good Night, and Good Luck
Hustle & Flow
In Her Shoes
King Kong
Match Point
The Upside of Anger
Walk the Line

Photos: Columbia Pictures (Rent); Sony Pictures Classics (Layer Cake); Columbia Pictures (Memoirs of a Geisha); Dimension Films (Sin City); DreamWorks (Madagascar); DreamWorks (Red Eye); Universal Pictures (Cinderella Man); Universal Pictures (King Kong).
Welcome to Brokeback Mountain

To review Brokeback Mountain I had to keep in mind two different things: the movie’s undeniable cinematic quality and its political assignations. Here’s the thing: Ang Lee’s "gay cowboy movie" (I strongly dislike that easy description) disappointed me, and here's why.

The movie follows the story of two cowboys (Heath Ledger’s repressed Ennis Del Mar, and Jake Gyllenhaal’s optimistic Jack Twist) who are sent to wrangle sheep on a Wyoming mountainside in 1963 – the titular Brokeback Mountain – and end up falling in love with each other.

The story then unfolds over two decades, during which the two men marry women they don’t love (played by Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway), and live their lives looking forward to the "fishing" trips that serve as their clandestine journeys back to Brokeback Mountain, Ennis and Jack’s love’s safe haven.

The movie’s quite good-looking and well paced, thanks to Lee’s skilled direction and script, and boasts revealing performances by Williams, Gyllenhaal, and Ledger especially. The love story is epic, but then again the movie isn’t. I’m afraid that it is just much too introspective and its emotional climax arrives much too late.

The script, based on Annie Proulx’s award-winning 1997 New Yorker short story, while full of emotion, lacks the one redeeming scene that would’ve made Brokeback Mountain otherwise great. Something was missing – no, not the sex…that we get, and it’s honest and dignified – and that is why I was disappointed.

For this I cannot jump on the Brokeback Mountain bandwagon. Many in the GLBT community see this movie as a step in the right direction, yet I found it to be more comfortable than comforting. Read on as my very special guest, E! Online’s Ted Casablanca, and I discuss Brokeback Mountain.

First let me thank you for doing this. It’s the first time I’ve invited someone to discuss a movie with me – I figured it would be a holiday treat. So, we've both seen the movie, and to be honest I didn't think it lived up to the hype that surrounded it...and something was off with the story. What did you think about it?

Ted Casablanca: It’s not that it didn’t live up to its hype – it’s quite glorious, actually, just gorgeous stuff. But, I’m friggin’ sick of the tragic end to gay movies. It’s enough.

I know! Take away the gay factor, and it's Cold Mountain. The end was what it was, but what did you think of the core relationship? Was it believable or not?

TC: Believable for 1963, for sure. But, I’m sick of stories that still have us stuck back when it was okay to keep your sexuality tighter than Nicole Kidman’s face. Enough, already! Gimme some damn progress here, don’t ya think?

Totally – so far we've had to settle for touch-and-go or cartoonish portrayals in shows like Six Feet Under and Queer as Folk. Transamerica, though, shines a new light on the transsexual set…but I digress. Brokeback's being touted as "daring," but I don't get how it is so. It's this "feel-good" movie – for Hollywood. Do you think a gay story with a happy ending is still far away?

TC: I disagree – I don’t think Six Feet Under and Queer as Folk were cartoonish. The latter maybe was soap-opera-ish, but why the hell not? It’s sexy stuff. And the former was some of the most poignant and real writing on TV, with the gays, as well. They weren’t mainstream like Brokeback is though. They were cable shows with cult-like audiences. Brokeback is yet another big-screen stab at portraying gay life in this country. But, like Philadelphia and The Birdcage before it, Brokeback joins the insulting parade of, if you’re gay, you: A) Have AIDS, B) wear a dress, C) die tragically, or D) all of the above. It’s sickening.

True. Let's talk about the acting a little. Personally, I think Heath did a tremendous job. And Jake was so quietly and increasingly angry and frustrated. What did you make of them?

TC: Heath was magnificent. He’s really woken up with this role. I guess he got tired of hanging out with Tara Reid in bathroom stalls. Oddly, he’s the one I was most moved by, as he’s the more stoic of the two – I mean, Jake was ready to settle down and buy a house together after the first time he got poked! Oh, please. I thought Heath was great portraying a gay man who didn’t want to be a gay man. There’s so many of them around in real life today, it’s just depressing to watch, at least for me.

You’re terrible.... Heath was immersed in the role. Could it have been because Michelle Williams was giving him something to be inspired by? [Ledger and Williams met on set and are now married.] Isn't it funny that of the Dawson's Creek alumni, she's the one posed to perhaps win an Oscar the first? I would've bet on Katie Holmes, but not anymore.

TC: Don’t hold your vitamin-charged breath, but remember, everybody said the same thing about Nicole when she and Tom Cruise first hooked up, and look at what happened with that broad! Yes, Michelle’s great, but it’s just such a puny role.

She was so raw and intense, though, unlike Anne Hathaway and her bad wig. Love the two broads, but their characters, too, suffer from this disappointing case of arrested development the movie seems to have plenty of. For every "daring" move, one oh-so tamed followed. Can you tell I didn't find this movie satisfying or what!

TC: Hey, lay off Anne’s wig. I’m from Texas – hair’s important to us. Aren’t you gay? Don’t you know things like that?

I'm just saying a little aging makeup would've helped – how’s that for gay? Let me tell you about what else I did like. I liked how honest Jack was. He knew his love life was to be limited, but he still went for it. And I agree with what you said about Heath’s portrayal. And I liked especially how their love was shown to be real and enduring in spite of everything else. Love's a funny thing, no?

TC: I wouldn’t know. Can’t we switch gears back to hair and homophobia? I seem to have more experience there.

Oh, come on. Do you think the movie will show come Oscar time? Cold Mountain didn't, and Brokeback is very Cold Mountain (the pedigreed filmmakers and actors, the doomed-lovers story, the majestic scenery…).

TC: Yeah, but, don’t forget the all-enticing homo card, which – when "straight" actors are playing the roles – the Academy loves! Cold Mountain didn’t have that – it just had Nicole’s Botox. Remember, the Academy has a friggin’ orgasm every time the heteros play us as murderers, victims, perverts, deviants, cross-dressers, and just plain freaks. Can you say Hilary Swank or Charlize Theron?

I can, and I'll you raise you a Tom Hanks. Going back to Michelle's chances, I got two words for you: Judi Dench. She pulled quite the upset when she won for her 10 minutes in Shakespeare in Love. Heath's performance is quite strong, and though he's not in my Top 5 of the year, he's in the short list. It's been a very gay year at the movies, wouldn't you say, with Capote, Brokeback, and Transamerica. Is it a trend or is it progress?

TC: It’s guilt. Hollywood realizes it’s shoving it to the pooftahs every once in a while – so it puts out the obligatory Philadelphia or Kevin Kline flick [In & Out], then it’s back to self-hating gay Hollywood exec biz as usual.

It’s a grim outlook but oh-so real. I know a lot of people in the GLBT community are beside themselves with this one coming out, but I can't help but see right through it. It's a fantastic story to tell, but something was missing, one pivotal scene, you know, some warmth. I do recognize, however, the message the movie sends out, that love is this force of nature that can’t be helped. The "gay cowboy movie" thing that surrounds Brokeback is both its best asset and its worst liability – so sensational, so salacious, so periphrastic.

TC: It’s homo-lite. No wonder the self-hating fruits are singing its praises: it still allows them to stay in the closet – don’t be too threatening, now! – and yet hook into some sort of pathetic self-esteem-raising, politically correct carousing in the process. It’s so predictable. And, yes, I agree; there needed to be at least one self-affirming scene of warmth, something to at least make us believe why these men would keep meeting on the sly for all those years. Wasn’t there. Just like the soul of the movie wasn’t there.

So, for as much as Brokeback Mountain disappointed me, I’m glad it’s out there. I suppose I come from a generation that’s less and less rattled by gay-ness, which is why that "gay cowboy movie" thing bothers me so. The movie’s got plenty of heart, but that heart, much like the characters, isn’t allowed to beat.

My Rating **1/2

Photos: Focus Features.
Awards Season Is On - The Golden Globes

You can find the nominations for the 63rd Annual Golden Globes here.

I would totally post them myself, but A) that would be too much work, and B) I'm kind of mad at the TV snubs. Where was Veronica Mars (and its star Kristen Bell)?

How about Gilmore Girls (and that show's Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, and Kelly Bishop)? Or The Closer, or Arrested Development?

Friday, December 16, 2005

Awards Season Is On - The National Board of Review

Here's the rundown of some of the winners as selected by the National Board of Review:

Film: Good Night, and Good Luck
Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Actress: Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
Supporting Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain
Supporting Actress: Gong Li, Memoirs of a Geisha
Director: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Adapted Screenplay: Syriana
Original Screenplay: The Squid and the Whale
Ensemble Acting: Mrs. Henderson Presents
Breakthrough Performance – Actor: Terrence Howard, Crash, Get Rich or Die Tryin', Hustle & Flow
Breakthrough Performance – Actress: Q'Orianka Kilcher, The New World

Photos: The Weinstein Company (Transamerica); Paramount Classics (Hustle & Flow).
Awards Season Is On - The New York Film Critics Circle Awards

Here's a look at some of the winners of the 71st Annual New York Film Critics Circle Awards:

Picture: Brokeback Mountain
Actor: Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Actress: Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line
Supporting Actor: William Hurt, A History of Violence
Supporting Actress: Maria Bello, A History of Violence
Director: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Screenplay: The Squid and the Whale

Photo: New Line Cinema.
Awards Season Is On - The American Film Institute

Here's AFI's official selections for Movies of the Year (listed alphabetically):

Brokeback Mountain
The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Good Night, and Good Luck
A History of Violence
King Kong
The Squid and the Whale

Photos: Focus Features (Brokeback Mountain); Universal Pictures (The 40-Year-Old-Virgin).
Awards Season Is On - The 2005 Broadcast Film Critics Association

Nominees for the 11th Annual Critic’s Choice Awards include:

Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Cinderella Man, The Constant Gardener, Crash, Good Night, and Good Luck, King Kong, Memoirs of a Geisha, Munich, Walk the Line.

Best Actor: Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), Heath Ledger (Brokeback Mountain), Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line), David Strathairn (Good Night, and Good Luck).

Best Actress: Joan Allen (The Upside of Anger), Judi Dench (Mrs. Henderson Presents) Felicity Huffman (Transamerica), Keira Knightley (Pride & Prejudice), Charlize Theron (North Country), Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line).

Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney (Syriana), Kevin Costner (The Upside of Anger), Matt Dillon (Crash), Paul Giamatti (Cinderella Man), Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain), Terrence Howard (Crash).

Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams (Junebug), Maria Bello (A History of Violence), Catherine Keener (Capote), Frances McDormand (North Country), Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener), Michelle Williams (Brokeback Mountain).

Best Writer: Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale), George Clooney, Grant Heslov (Good Night, and Good Luck), Dan Futterman (Capote), Paul Haggis, Bobby Moresco (Crash), Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana (Brokeback Mountain).

Best Director: George Clooney (Good Night, and Good Luck), Paul Haggis (Crash), Ron Howard (Cinderella Man), Peter Jackson (King Kong), Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain), Steven Spielberg (Munich).

Photos: 20th Century Fox (Walk the Line); New Line Cinema (The Upside of Anger); Warner Independent Pictures (Good Night, and Good Luck).

Awards Season Is On - The L.A. Critics Association

The L.A. Critics Association announced their picks for the best of 2005; here are some of the winners:

Best Picture: Brokeback Mountain
Best Actor: Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
Best Actress: Vera Farmiga (Down to the Bone)
Best Supporting Actor: William Hurt (A History of Violence)
Best Supporting Actress: Catherine Keener (Capote, The Ballad of Jack & Rose, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, The Interpreter)
Best Director: Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
Best Screenplay: (tie) Capote and The Squid and the Whale
Best Foreign Language Film: Caché
Best Documentary: Grizzly Man
The New Generation Award: Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow).

Photo: Sony Pictures Classics.