2015 Oscar Predictions

Over the years, I’ve gone as low as 9 for 24, up to a career best last year of picking 17 of 24 (71%). The Oscars are a cruel mistress. Just when you think, “Yeah! I got this,” Crash comes along and wins Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich and Capote everyone else, Sandra Bullock beats out Carey Mulligan for Best Actress, or Million Dollar Baby dominates over all contenders. So here’s my attempt to tell the Academy I know who should or will win.

Best Picture: Birdman

Best Director: Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Best Actor: Michael Keaton for Birdman

Best Actress: Julianne Moore for Still Alice

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons for Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette for Boyhood

Best Adapted Screenplay: Damien Chazelle for Whiplash

Best Original Screenplay: Richard Linklater for Boyhood

Best Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki for Birdman

Best Animated Feature: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Best Foreign Film: Ida

Best Documentary Feature: Citizenfour

Best Documentary Short Subject: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Best Short Film – Animated: Feast

Best Short Film – Live Action: The Phone Call

Best Production Design: Adam Stockhausen & Anna Pinnock for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Costume Design: Milena Canonero for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Make-up/Hair: Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou & David White for Guardians of the Galaxy

Best Film Editing: Sandra Adair for Boyhood

Best Visual Effects: Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett & Erik Winquist for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Best Sound Editing: Richard King for Interstellar

Best Sound Mixing: Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins & Thomas Curley for Whiplash
*this is the end scene, sooooo Spoiler Alert!*

Best Original Score: Jóhann Jóhannsson for The Theory of Everything

Best Original Song: “Glory” from Selma; Music & Lyrics by John Legend & Common

10 Films to See This Summer Besides The Dark Knight Rises & The Avengers

I don’t have any reviews for this weekend. I went to a Renaissance Faire, hung out with friends and family, and I didn’t particularly want to see The Lucky One (It’s Nicolas Sparks, so it’s probably stupid, and was dragged out 45 minutes longer than needed to be by a previously unmentioned terminal disease related subplot) or Think Like A Man (looked OK, like Tyler Perry without the pandering stereotypes, but… I wasn’t interested).

So with no reviews, time for the stock filler of a TOP TEN LIST! Top 10 Films To See This Summer Besides The Dark Knight Rises & The Avengers. Those are obviously the big ones, everyone already knows about them, everybody will probably go see them. I will. I hope you do, too. You don’t need to be told about them. Here are the films that aren’t those ones that you should see this summer. It’s all releases, May through August. May starts the summer movie season, if not the solar season.

Chernobyl Diaries – May 25th

I’ve made quite a bit of fun at the expense of Oren Peli. And in my defense… not all of it’s completely undue. From the ret-conning of the Paranormal Activity plots as the sequels progress, to the lather, rinse, repeat method those films utilize to churn a new one out every year… But I was quite taken with his TV show The River, and am disappointed we won’t be getting more (though Netflix has expressed interest in picking it up and releasing new episodes). It was less of a “found footage” and more of a “Well… it was a film crew, so they shot everything.” And there was more of a narrative arc than Paranormal Activity. Which is why I’m looking forward to Chernobyl Diaries. There’s an actual plot driving this horror offering,  his crew is opting for the handheld look over the found footage look. Handheld usually means shaky-cam, which I’m definitely not a fan of. But there’s just something about Peli and his brand of horror that I can’t get enough of. Maybe it’s that it brought us out of the torture-porn era. I don’t know. But I like his stuff, and I’m actually looking forward to this one.

Prometheus – June 8th

I know this is some how being branded as an Alien prequel, which is a move I’m on the fence about. I’m all for Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi, he’s directed two of the most influential films in the genre (the other being, of course, Blade Runner). I was listening to an interview with Prometheus writer Damon Lindelof, and as he describes it, it’s more a film that exists in the same universe and crosses over with plot/characters, but as a narrative, has little to do with the other property, in the same vein as the works of Stephen King or Quentin Tarantino. That is an easier pill to swallow concerning this film. More so… Scott directing a script penned by Lindelof, featuring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Guy Pearce… I’m having trouble finding any fault in there.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – June 22nd

Say what you will about Wanted, I liked it, as well as director Timur Bekmambetov’s Russian horror/fantasy epics Night Watch and Day Watch. But even that’s not what has me most excited about this adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith’s novel (which if you haven’t read, I suggest you do. You’ve got 2 months to read it. GO! NOW!). Nor is it the phenomenal cast that includes Benjamin Walker, Rufus Sewell, Dominic Cooper, Alan Tudyk, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Anthony Mackie. No, it’s the fact that this film is a) being made, and b) getting a summer tent-pole release. This is a property that is way on the extreme of genre works, and doesn’t quite have that broad, mainstream appeal. Not that that’s a bad thing. It just sets a (good) precedent for genre films to get a wider audience, and if it’s any good, could lead to more exciting films in the pipe-line.

Brave – June 22nd

Pixar has a lot of making up to do. Cars 2 was a positively dreadful film. It was a quick grab at cash. They had built up this reputation for lovingly putting quality films into the world, and almost destroyed that notion with Cars 2. That said… they look to be well on their way back into all our good graces with Brave, their first film featuring a female lead. It’s the closest they’ve come to Disney’s classic princess film model, but since this is Pixar, we know it will be anything but. Maybe I’m biased because I’m for anything that involves Scotland. With Brenda Chapman at the helm, who directed the better-than-it-gets-credit-for Prince of Egypt and a good strong voice cast, I think Pixar will return to glory with Brave.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World – June 22nd

There’s something about a people centric, apocalypse themed comedy that just screams “WHY WASN’T THIS MADE SOONER?!” There’s something sweet and charming about the trailer that grabs me and makes me want to see it. Just to see Steve Carell and Keira Knightly play off one another would be worth the ticket price alone, but then add in the brilliant ensemble supporting cast of Nancy Walls, Patton Oswalt, T.J. Miller, Gillian Jacobs, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry and many more, and this a sure-fire crowd pleaser. To top it off, it’s non-franchise, non-sequel, non-book, non-unoriginal… everything the internet forums could possibly want in a film.

The Amazing Spider-Man – July 3rd

Swing the pendulum the other way from Seeking a Friend…, here comes a reboot of a franchise we last saw just 5 short years ago, Spider-Man. The first and second Raimi/Maguire Spider-Man films were what ushered in comic-book era of films. They’re still landmarks in the genre and stand as some of the best of the super-hero films. The third one was a ridiculous piece of crap that did it’s best to undo all that the first two had built up. I still don’t know how I feel about a reboot this soon after the previous franchise… but director Marc Webb helmed the fantastic (500) Days of Summer a few years back, and with Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans and Denis Leary (a particularly inspired bit of casting for Cpt. Stacy) in roles, and studying the trailer like the good little Spider-fan I am, it’s hard not to feel excited about it.

Savages – July 6th

Where 09 was the year of Sam Worthington, 2012 seems to be the year the studios are trying to push Taylor Kitsch. Two big budget action films (the bomb John Carter and May’s Battleship, which let’s say bombs, too, probably), and a stylized Oliver Stone drug drama. I’m not alone in not buying Taylor Kitsch as the next big thing, but it’ll be cool if he’s able to get a Emile Hirsch thing going. Flying under the radar, but doing consistently solid work. That’s why I’m looking forward to Savages. I like Oliver Stone, though he has been hit & mostly miss for the past decade or so. But when a good ensemble cast (including Kitsch and Hirsch, Aaron Johnson, Blake Lively, John Travolta, Salma Hayek, Uma Thurman and Benicio del Toro) and solid script come together, he can actually make quite the compelling film.

Ted – July 13th

Seth MacFarlane’s a love him or hate him kinda guy (as far as his career goes). There’s not much middle ground. I enjoy his work. Sure Family Guy isn’t the same show we fell in love with in 1999, and The Cleveland Show has been a gigantic piece of shit since day 1, but American Dad has actually gotten much better since its freshman season. And if you haven’t listened to his 2011 album “Music Is Better Than Words,” do so, right now, it’s amazing. Anyway, now we get to see how his comedic stylings translate to the big screen. I’m sure we won’t get cutaway gags, and rapid fire pop culture references, but that bawdiness, that crudeness, yet still something faintly intelligent, will all be there. And it’s Mark Funkybunchberg talking to a teddy bear! That’s hilarious. If you’re on the fence about Wahlberg doing comedy, see I Heart Huckabees (which would have been lost without him) and The Other Guys.

The Bourne Legacy – August 13th

I’m a huge fan of the Bourne franchise, as it completely revitalized the spy genre which limped through the post-Cold War 90s trying to find its relevance. What excites me is that this builds on the established story, bringing back established characters Noah Vosen and Pam Landy (David Straitharn and Joan Allen, respectively) while introducing us to Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), another agent in the Treadstone project who’s “gone rogue.” I’m most intrigued by the addition of both Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton, two phenomenal actors who we haven’t heard much from lately. Tony Gilroy steps up from writer to director, as he has written all of the Bourne films to-date. I’m approaching with caution, only because it lacks Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass, who built the franchise.

Lawless – August – 31st

Lawless
Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy in Lawless

I still don’t know if it’s Lawless or The Wettest County in the World, but last I checked it was Lawless, so that’s what we’ll call it from here on out. But this is a new Prohibition Era film from John Hillcoat, longtime collaborator with Nick Cave, and director of The Proposition in 05 and The Road in 09, both fantastic and you should definitely check those out. Tom Hardy and Guy Pearce anchor a cast that also features Shia “I Hate the 80s” LaBeouf, Mia Wasikowska and recent Oscar nominees Gary Oldman and Jessica Chastain. It’s got a solid pedigree, with a script from Nick Cave (who wrote a script for a Gladiator sequel I would actually want to see, see item #1). This could be one of those quite summer releases that’ll gain some traction heading into the Oscar race, let’s just hope it doesn’t get tragically left in the dust like 2011’s Drive.

83rd Annual Academy Award Nominations

Like most film buffs, I awoke yesterday morning at the crack of  8am when my alarm went off, shuffled around, did my morning routine, got my coffee on, ate a yogurt (part of my New Years Resolution to be more like Michael Westen) caught the end of the Saved By The Bell episode when Zack accidentally knocks over Screech’s parents’ bust of Elvis, then gambles away Screech’s dog… not the best episode, but OK. And THEN, at 8:30, I turned to the Oscar nomination announcement ceremony.

My take is one of watching from the sidelines, having not seen all of the nominated films, nor even all of the Best Picture nominees (will be at 8 of 10 this weekend), but being a fan of not only film as an art, but the Oscars as a celebration of the art, I want to chime in, have my say.

I’m going to focus on the Big 5 (Picture, Director Writing, Actor, Actress, and technically 6, since there are 2 writing categories) & the supporting role categories, because I’d be lost trying to dissect “Best Documentary – Short Subject.”

As for locking in my predictions, that will happen a week before the ceremony on February 27th.

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published


127 Hours; The Social Network; Toy Story 3; True Grit; Winter’s Bone

It’s interesting that Toy Story 3 got the nod for adapted screenplay, as it, according to the rule, is based on the screenplay for the 95 original. I don’t see it, but hey, I don’t make the rules, or nominate films. But looking at the list, I’d say Toy Story 3 is the only serious contender to upset Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant script for The Social Network.

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Another Year; The Fighter; Inception; The Kids Are All Right; The King’s Speech

This is a category that’s just wide open. All the scripts are just so different, with their own merits and nuances. But ultimately, it’s a three-way race between the heavy family drama of The Fighter, the sometimes comedic character study of The King’s Speech, or the intricacies of Inception.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Amy Adams for The Fighter; Helena Bonham Carter for The King’s Speech; Melissa Leo for The Fighter; Hailee Steinfeld for True Grit; Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom

As with most of the major categories, there were snubs. And as with most of the major categories, the field just became too crowded to fit them all. Who would you swap, and why? Personally, the two biggest snubs for Supporting Actress are Mila Kunis in Black Swan, who keeps pace with Natalie Portman (who did get a nomination) and Chloe Moretz in Kick Ass who  exhibited a reckless bravado that blindsides you when you realize that she was (at the time of filming), in fact, a mere 11 years old. But who do you kick out? Steinfeld, who showcased a calm intensity against Bridges & Damon? Weaver? Bonham Carter?

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale for The Fighter; John Hawkes for Winter’s Bone; Jeremy Renner for The Town; Mark Ruffalo for The Kids are All Right; Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech

This one was a much less crowded field, only if you discount just about everyone from The Social Network. It seems almost criminal to have left out Andrew Garfield or Armie Hammer and, to a lesser extent, even Justin Timberlake. But like the Supp. Actress category… who would take out? Renner? It seems more criminal that he’s the lone nomination for the superb The Town. Ruffalo?

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right; Nicole Kidman for Rabbit Hole; Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone; Natalie Portman for Black Swan; Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine

This is another crowded category (which is surprisingly unusual) where you could bemoan the snubs, but who would you take out. The biggest snub I’m hearing is Julianne Moore instead of Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right. I’ll reserve my judgement after I see it this weekend. I’m also disappointed in, again, no love for Chloe Moretz, this time for her raw, emotional and entirely beautiful performance in Let Me In, achieving emotional highs that elude actresses more than double her age and experience. Ultimately, this category belongs to Natalie Portman.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role


Javier Bardem for Biutiful; Jeff Bridges for True Grit; Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network; Colin Firth for The King’s Speech; James Franco for 127 Hours

Lead Actor will essentially come right down to the wire. Firth is the heavy favourite, coming into this with two previous nominations and a multiple wins for this role, but I think newcomer Eisenberg will be the spoiler. The Social Network is a strong contender in all categories, and Eisenberg breathed life into not only the character (or, caricature? perhaps) of Mark Zuckerberg, and the story of Facebook. But Bridges and Bardem are previous winners, and Franco could also prove to be a viable dark horse. Perhaps the biggest acting snub belongs to this category with the absence of Mark Wahlberg, considering The Fighter picked up nominations everywhere else. But, yet again, the slogan for this year’s Oscars is “Who would you bump?”

Best Achievement in Directing


Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan; Ethan & Joel Coen for True Grit; David Fincher for The Social Network; Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech; David O. Russell for The Fighter

This boasts a stellar, and interestingly diverse cast of characters, who all have their own distinct style. Unfortunately, this also contains a major snub, and the “Who would you bump?” question is easier to answer. As much as it pains me to say this, as I’m a huge fan of their work, I’d drop the Coen Brothers in favour of the more finely orchestrated work of Christopher Nolan on Inception.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

127 Hours; Black Swan; The Fighter; Inception; The Kids Are All Right; The King’s Speech; The Social Network; Toy Story 3; True Grit; Winter’s Bone

Last year, the Academy started to experiment with expanding the Best Picture category to 10 nominees, in a bid to bridge the gap between audiences and voting members, and to a degree it worked. And I think we’re slowly seeing a trickle down that could, over time, open up the other categories to “non-traditional” Academy movies. The race is still wide open, with no clear front-runner. The Social Network is the heavy favourite for this category, but The King’s Speech is gaining momentum, with The Fighter and Black Swan also on track to be spoilers, and you can’t, of course, count out the great Toy Story 3.

Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2011 part 4 of 4

What movies am I looking forward to as we close out 2011, here they are, the flicks of October through December!

October

Real Steel – It’s robots boxing. While it may be an expanded episode of “Futurama,” a decent enough cast could make this an enjoyable popcorn flick.

Rum Diary – Johnny Depp made a promise to Hunter S. Thompson that he’d make sure Rum Diary made it to the silver screen, and come October, we may finally see that promise fulfilled. I’m excited to see Bruce Robinson’s return to directing following a nigh 20 year absence.

Rum Diary

November

11-11-11 – Sure it seems gimmicky to title your movie after it’s proposed release date, and construct an entire plot around it. And sure it could be another 2012, but I’m giving this horror thriller the benefit of the doubt till more details emerge and a trailer is released.

The Muppets – Jason Segel got the job of writing the screenplay and some music for this new muppets movie after his work in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I love the muppets, and I’m hoping this could lead to a full length Dracula musical.

The Muppets

December –

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – I’ve liked the original Swedish trilogy so far, I’ll be seeing …Hornet’s Nest at the end of the month, but I’m less cautious about this remake. Let Me In and True Grit proved that you can do well by readapting the source material. I think we’re in good hands with David Fincher directing. What’s going to be key is Rooney Mara’s take on Lisbeth Salander.

Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2011 part 3 of 4

Part 3 of the ongoing blog postings about the movies of 2011, we’re now in quarter 3, July to September

July

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 – To be fair, the franchise hasn’t been as good as it was with Prisoner of Azkaban, but part 1 of Deathly Hallows was up there, and it’s been a surprisingly consistent franchise (except for Half Blood Prince). I think this will be  a fitting end to the franchise.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Captain America: The First Avenger – Much like Zack Snyder, sometimes I feel like I’m in the minority with Chris Evans, but I like the guy. As with Thor, I applaud Marvel’s ambition, and I’m hoping this project pays off, big time, for them.

Captain America: The First Avenger

Cowboys & Aliens – I love alien invasion films. I like westerns. With a cast that includes Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig and Sam Rockwell, and Jon Favreau in the director’s chair, I’ve got high hopes for this niche blockbuster.

August

The Darkest Hour – Like I said, I love alien invasion movies, and this appears to be a bleaker take on the subgenre, with Emile Hirsch leading an impressive young cast. But truly, I’m looking forward to seeing Chris Gorak’s follow-up to 2006’s underrated Right At Your Door.

30 Minutes or Less – The most exciting aspect of this comedy crime film is the reuniting of Zombieland director Ruben Fliescher and his star Jesse Eisenberg.

September

Colombiana – The films that come out of Luc Besson’s crew of writers and directors are always a guilty pleasure (or regular pleasure) of mine, and with Zoe Saldana in the lead, this could be a fun late summer escapist film.

Drive – Ryan Gosling strays from his indie safe house to do a B-Action movie, but could elevate it to be the right amount of cheese as we head into the fall. I’m expecting big things from Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn’s major American debut.

Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2011 part 2 of 4

Building on yesterday’s entry, the movies I’m looking forward to in the second quarter of 2011, April to June.

April

Super – I’m a fan of James Gunn, I like off book superhero stories (Kick Ass, Defendor) and a good strong cast including Rainn Wilson (who’s much better than what Dwight has become), Ellen Page and Nathan Fillion make this one of my most anticipated films of the year.

Scream 4 – Say what you will about Wes Craven’s last picture (the so-so at best My Soul To Take), the man’s a legend, and the Scream trilogy is one of the best and most consistent horror franchises. I’m looking forward to this with cautious optimism. Can it call back to true satirical spirit of the original, or will it cave in to the constructs of the genre like the third? We’ll find out in April.

Your Highness – I think the best way to describe this is… Why not? James Franco and Natalie Portman are terrific actors, Danny McBride has been a great second fiddle for the past few years, why not make a raunchy Medieval comedy. Could go either way, but chances are good.

May

Thor – I applaud Marvel’s ambition in rolling out their heavy weights as one big franchise. Iron Man 2 was troubled, but still good, same with The Incredible Hulk. With a strong cast, a great director, and a relative unknown in the lead, this teeters on the brink, but I think it’ll be well received.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – I think this is what the third movie should have been, instead of one film spread out over two movies. A singular, stand alone narrative. The only thing that truly worries me is Rob Marshall replacing Gore Verbinski in the director’s chair.

The Hangover II – When The Hangover came out, it was one of those films where everything came together to be a truly funny movie, that didn’t hold back, and certainly didn’t take the easy way out. Can the crew catch lightning in a bottle again? With everyone on board for a second venture, this time to Thailand, let’s hope so.

The Hangover II

June

X-Men: First Class – The third film and Origins: Wolverine were disappointments, but with fresh eyes and talent, here’s hoping they can revive the franchise. Especially with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Professor X and Magneto, respectively.

Super 8 – The new J.J. Abrams film is shrouded in mystery, but should we expect anything less from Abrams? After Cloverfield, Star Trek and “Lost,” I’ll follow him anywhere.

Cars 2Cars is perhaps my least favourite Pixar film (not that it’s bad, just… not as good) and probably the least deserving of a sequel. Should we be worried that their production slate features only one (Brave) original film, of three (the other being Monsters, Inc. 2) to be released between now and the end of 2012? I hope not, but it doesn’t inspire optimism. But Pixar has a proven track record, and they won’t jump in without making sure the story is worth it, first.

Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2011 part 1 of 4

I closed out 2010 with a look back on the films that made up the year, but here are the films I’m looking forward to in the first quarter of 2011, January through March. Unfortunately, the movie calendar doesn’t start to get exciting till March.

January

The Green Hornet – I’m approaching this with cautious optimism. Sure it could end up being mostly forgettable, but Seth Rogan in a genre shift, the great Christoph Waltz back in villain mode and visionary director Michel Gondry, the stars may align on this one.

February

Unknown – I get a distinct Frantic meets Taken vibe off of this one, but both were tight thrillers and I’m a Liam Neeson fan, so we’ll have to see where this one goes. The inclusion of Diane Krueger is also enticing.

March

Rango – Gore Verbinski re-teams with his Pirates of the Caribbean crew and star to bring us this interesting animated feature.

The Adjustment Bureau – It’s a sci-fi thriller with a great cast in Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. It could be a modest hit, but the trailer looks good.

Apollo 18 – A smallish sci-fi flick from Spanish director Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego. It’s another “found footage” style film, but handled right, it could be the best of the sub-genre.

Poster for Apollo 18

Battle: Los Angeles – This looks like the film that 2010’s Skyline wanted to be, but didn’t because it was horrible every step of the way. Mature sci-fi has seen a resurgence over the past few years and I’m hoping this keeps the tradition alive.

Paul – The comedy giants from both sides of the pond join forces for this geek-tastic film. Simon Pegg & Nick Frost team up with Seth Rogan and director Greg Mottola (Superbad and Adventureland).

Sucker Punch – I get the feeling that I stand in the minority as far as Zack Snyder goes, but I’m a big fan of the guy. He’s one of the most visually exciting directors around, he  has tight plots, great characters. He’s just had the misfortune of adapting properties with built-in fan bases (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen) that didn’t like HIS vision. So I’m excited for his first original work.

Ledger vs. Nicholson: Who is a better Joker?

I’m going to forgo my usual stock trailer entry where I just present it for your viewing pleasure. I’m also going to forgo a supplemental Top 5 list for now (I’ll do that tomorrow). What I am going to do is do a commentary/preview. Yes, a preview. I’m not going to review a film. I’m going to preview a film. And not just preview it. But put it in a historical perspective, and get a bunch of people pissed at me.

I’m going to incur the wrath of many a movie fan with the following proclamation, but it’s something I feel very strongly about. Even though the release date for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is still around 8 months away, and I have yet to see the actual film and have only seen the trailer (see trailer at the end of the post), Heath Ledger is a better Joker than Jack Nicholson.

What?! BLASPHEMOR! HERECY! HOW DARE YOU! You, sir, are a liar and a braggart! Apparently my reading audience is comprised mostly of villagers from an early 19th century horror novel. Anyway, I’ll say it again for those of you who don’t really believe I said what I just said. HEATH LEDGER IS A BETTER JOKER THAN JACK NICHOLSON!

Why would I say something like that? Especially a full eight months before I’ll be able to see his full actual performance? Well there are many reasons why. And I do intend to explain myself. Trust me, I’m not all talk on this one. I can back it up.

1) The actor is not bigger than the character.

This is the primary reason (hence it’s number). When Batman came out in 1989, he was JACK FUCKIN’ NICHOLSON! He still is. But he was then. Biggest goddamn star in the world. And the way it worked, the movie needed Jack more than Jack needed the movie. And he came in, and was Jack Nicholson. He wasn’t the Joker. He was Jack. It seemed like they had based the character on Jack. Someone explain the difference between the following four characters to me: Randle P. McMurphy, Jack Torrence, Jack Napier/Joker and Frank Costello. The only difference is that when it comes to mainstream pop-culture, The Joker was a pre-existing, long standing character. Sure McMurphy and Torrence existed in novels, and Costello based on an actual guy, but they weren’t part of pop culture till the films came out.

But the Joker has been around for, at the time Batman came out, 50 years. He had a few incarnations in comic books, and on TV by both Ceasar Romero on the live action series in the 60’s and Lennie Weinrib in the 70’s animated series. So he was a long established character for comic book nerds (it’s ok, I’m one of you) and mainstream fans a like. Then JACK FUCKIN’ NICHOLSON comes in. And he’s bigger than god at this point. Meaning he’s also bigger than the character. So Jack’s not going to come in and find the nuance of Jack Napier/The Joker. He’s gonna do whatever the fuck he wants to do. And that’s exactly what he does. He comes into the production, that Tim Burton and Michael Keaton seem pretty jazzed about, and says “So what’s this, a movie about a flying rat? As long as I can watch the Laker game I’ll stand wherever the hell you want me to stand.” It shows in his performance that this is just a paycheck to him. And of course, because he’s JACK FUCKIN’ NICHOLSON he gets one of the most lucrative upfront deals ever brokered. So there it is. Jack is bigger than an iconic character, and it shows, and the audience suffers. Because all we get is Jack Nicolson, sorry, JACK FUCKIN’ NICHOLSON playing JACK FUCKIN’ NICHOLSON, while wearing a funny suit with goofy make-up on.

Fast forward to 16 years later. Batman Begins gets made by Christopher Nolan. Christian Bale and Gary Oldman, two actors widely regarded as the finest of the era, are portraying Batman and Lt. Gordon. Liam Neeson, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson and Ken Watanabe were tapped to play the villains. Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Rutger Hauer and Linus Roache rounded out the supporting cast. Oh… and Katie Holmes was in it too. But that’s 10 Oscar nominations with three wins. You’ve got a cast of consummate professionals, particularly in Bale and Oldman who are known for just burying themselves in their characters.

So what does Nolan do for the sequel? Gets that cast back (this time with a real actress for Rachel Dawes, thank you Maggie Gyllenhaal), and adds two equally fine actors to round out the sequel cast. You get Aaron Eckhart who gave one of the more brilliant performances of 2005 in Thank For Smoking as Harvey Dent. And he gets Heath Ledger. “Who? The kid from A Knight’s Tale? Heath Ledger? That gay cowboy?” Yes the very same. Because believe it or not, Heath Ledger has blossomed into one of my favourite contemporary actors. Really, it’s been since Lords of Dogtown that I finally began to take notice of his talent, as I had initially written him off as a pretty-boy pin-up actor. Then he does Brokeback Mountain, which despite my misgivings with the film (standard love-story hampered by bland filmmaking), still has stand-out performances from all involved, but particularly Ledger.

But Ledger is still Ledger. He’s not HEATH FUCKIN’ LEDGER. He’s just Heath Ledger. But The Joker is THE FUCKIN’ JOKER! Ever since about 2:30am on June 15th, 2005, people have been wondering who is going to play the Joker in the sequel. And then they announced it. Heath Ledger. And at the time, I think I was the only one I knew that really defended the choice. Because I had recently come around to him as an actor, and I had seen what he was capable of. In one year he was four wildly different characters with Skip Engblom (Lords of Dogtown), Jacob Grimm (The Brothers Grimm), Ennis del Mar (Brokeback Mountain) and Casanova (Casanova). I had seen what he could do, and thought he could bring something to the character.

Now that I’ve seen the trailer, and seen him in action, based on a two minute clip, he’s definitely the right choice for the role. Can anyone watch that and tell me that they’re seeing Heath Ledger in that. Is that Heath Ledger playing Heath Ledger with a funny suit and goofy make-up? Or is it Heath Ledger playing The Joker? I think it’s the latter, as opposed to the former. Now go back, watch JACK FUCKIN’ NICHOLSON as the Joker, and try and tell me that it’s not just Jack playing Jack with a funny suit and goofy make-up.

Heath Ledger is not bigger than the character, which makes it easier for him to become the character. And he can do a better job as the character because he can really explore the Joker. Which I think he does.

2) Batman gets top billing

You sure as shit don’t give the villain top billing over the titular hero. But noooooooo, JACK FUCKIN’ NICHOLSON had to be top billing. Above the title on promotions. It was Jack Nicolson in Batman, with Michael Keaton and Kim Basinger. Now, I realize he’s JACK FUCKIN’ NICHOLSON, and don’t get me wrong here, I enjoy most of what he does. But, in Batman, shouldn’t the guy actually playing Batman get top billing? In Batman Begins, there were six names above the title, and who was first? Christian Bale. Christian Bale wasn’t the big star he’s become. Outside of certain circles, people were saying “Christian who?” And he’s getting top billing over Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman (the sixth name was Katie Holmes, but I think at this point, anyone could get billing over Katie Holmes). Because for a Batman movie, the guy playing Batman is the most important. Not the ego of the guy playing the villain.

I had another point to go here, but I think that has come out in my previous two. I just want to take this opportunity to say, that while it may seem like it, this is not an “Anti-Nicholson” rant. I’m a fan of his work, and have a good portion of his good movies. But I’m just tired of hearing everybody say “Well, Heath Ledger’s no Jack Nicholson.” Of course he’s not. If Nolan wanted Nicholson, he would have cast Nicholson. He cast Ledger because he wanted to see what Ledger could bring to the character. Nolan’s quoted as to saying “Because he’s fearless,” when asked “Why Heath Ledger?” Ledger beat out the likes of Paul Bettany, Adrien Brody and Sean Penn for the role. I think we all need to end this love affair with the Nicholson take on Joker, as when you really look at it, it’s just Nicholson in a funny suit with goofy make-up. Ledger actually immerses himself in the character. If you didn’t know that it was Ledger, you wouldn’t know it was Ledger.

Anyway, after pissing off so many fans, I present you with the trailer. This copy doesn’t really do it justice, but I can’t really post the HD versions. Go to the Dark Knight video page here, and check the HD versions for both Quicktime and WMP.

What the hell… let’s talk television.

Hey Brodie Fanns,

The fall TV season is about to start, and what the hell… here’s my two cents. Most critics usually give a preview of ALL shows coming up for the fall season. Well… I don’t have the means that most critics do, so I’ll just be talking about what I watch, and what I’m interested in.


Fall TV Preview

I’ll keep this short and sweet, as it would be way too long of a post if I were to go into detail on every single show.

As per usual, my TV and DVD-R will be pretty much permanently affixed to NBC and FOX this fall.

FOX
Returning-
House, M.D.
returns without the aid of his entire staff. Oh no, what’s a grumpy doc to do?
Family Guy and The Simpsons are both my favourite animated families, and their outlandish highjinks keep getting better. Even The Simpsons are on an upswing.
Let’s see if 24′s return in January can make up for the less than mediocre 6th season. I hope it can.

New-
K-Ville is about cops in post-Katrina New Orleans (or Nawlins as some call it). It could go the route of last year’s Stand-Off, but with Anthony Anderson and the under-rated Cole Hauser, it may actually make it through to the second season.
Back To You marks Kelsey Grammer’s first time not playing Fraiser on a series in over 20 years. And with Patricia Heaton in tow, I for one am excited for this one. I just hope this newsroom centered comedy fairs better than Sports Night did 9 years ago.
New Amsterdam and The Sarah Conner Chronicles are both slated to be mid-season replacements, which means we’ll see them soon (let’s face it, FOX is cancellation trigger-happy, if I were to compile a list of the top 10 cancelled before their time TV shows, 11 of them would have been on FOX, except for Sports Night). New Amsterdam is about an immortal trying to break his infinite life curse, while The Sarah Conner Chronicles is a series based on The Terminator films. Both shows could really go either way, it all depends on how they handle the subject matter.

NBC
Returning
I will be completely unreachable on September 24th, from 9-10pm, as that’s when the second season of Heroes starts.
The two Law & Orders that are still on this network, only because they’ve never really been bad… just mediocre at times.
ER. Now this is a show I once loved and wouldn’t miss. Now… I pay attention out of habit and curiosity. I just want to see how and when they’ll finally end it (which should be in about 3 years ago).
And of course, the best medical show on television- Scrubs. It’s actually going to have an end in this, it’s 7th season. It will be missed, but good job Scrubs. Way to bow out when your time is up.

New
Only one new show on NBC’s fall line-up intrigues me, and that’s Journeyman. And it only intrigues me because I’m a sucker for time travel. Luckily it’s got primo real estate behind Heroes on Monday night, so it may actually garner an audience.

ABC
Returning
I only watch Lost on ABC. Most of their shows are geared toward the females, of which I am not. Lost is coming back in January, kicking off it’s final 48 or so episodes. It’s good that they gave it a timeline, meaning that the show HAS to end. It’s bad that they’re splitting that into three 16 episode seasons, meaning we have to wait longer for a shorter season.

New
Pushing Up Daisies could be entertaining. It’s an interesting premise. A guy is able to bring dead things to life, but only brings back murder victims so he can solve the crime and collect the reward money. There’s good internal and external conflict to be had there. So I’ll give it a shot.
Caveman, a new show based on the Cavemen from the Geico ads. I’m really looking forward to it. It could be very funny. Or it could really suck. I hope it’s the former.

CBS
I’m about 40 years too young to watch anything on CBS, except Jericho. And that’s only coming back for 7 episodes, to wrap up the storyline. The show is definitely canceled. But strong negative fan reaction mandated that CBS order conclusion episodes. So I’ll be watching it. But only for a few months. So long Jericho. You were pretty good.


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