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The ACE and BAFTAs…A Shift in the Winds?

February 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Last week, I reported that “The King’s Speech” cleaned up at the British Academy Awards. However, this was to be expected. Records for acting awards and the first film to win both of their Best Film and Best British Film. Go figure, considering it’s the most widely popularized British film since “Shakespeare in Love.” However, on the whole, I almost have to say that “The King’s Speech” underperformed at the BAFTAs, and if one film had an equal, or possibly better night overall, it would have to be “The Social Network.”

No, this is not favoritism. No, it is not just just wishful thinking. I think at this point of the race, it is now more neck and neck between the two big contenders than it ever has been. For the first two weeks after nominations were announced, it was all all about “The King’s Speech,” especially after picking up its trio of key guild awards. However, after the BAFTAs, the WGA, and now the ACE victory, “The Social Network” has shown that it could very easily take home the big prize. One simply has to look at the past and the science behind it all.

Yes, it’s true that the PGA, DGA and SAG are all very heavy hitters when it comes to inducing a Best Picture win. However, in the long run, it looks like “The King’s Speech” will be down several big awards on Sunday night. This takes us back to why the BAFTAs were such a key event. While taking them for a sweep, “The King’s Speech” managed to lose Director and Editing, perhaps the two key awards in the Best Picture race. After winning the American Cinema Editors top prize, “The Social Network” seems to have Best Editing in the bag, along with the obvious Best Adapted Screenplay. And one has to wonder that if the Brits won’t even bestow Tom Hooper with the big director’s prize, how willing will the Academy be to snub David Fincher for what is quite possibly his finest work to date and maybe ever again.

Now, let’s look at the stats. Best Director and Best Editor are more engrained in the blood of a Best Picture winner than any other awards. An example of how important the editing honor is, no film has won Best Picture in over thirty years (not since “Ordinary People” in 1980) without being nominated for Best Editing. Many people believe that aside from the homophobia, this was the bane of “Brokeback Mountain,” being that “Crash” had the fervent support of the editors with both Oscar and ACE awards under its belt. Now, granted, both “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network” have been nominated for that award, so the race does not end on this stat.

However, here’s some other info to chew on. If “The Social Network” does win Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Editing, however loses Best Picture, it will be only the 3rd film in the history of the Oscars to do so. The other two were “Traffic” in ’00 and “A Place in the Sun” in ’51. Furthermore, in the situation that “The Social Network” wins Directing and Editing: Only 2 films in the last 20 years have won Best Picture without winning either of those two awards (“Gladiator” in ’00, “Shakespeare in Love” in “98). Going back even further, only 5 films in the last 50 YEARS have accomplished that task. In this regard, precedents for “The King’s Speech” winning peg it at only about 1 in 10.

If ancient history is too flimsy for some, let’s look at the last decade. Three of the last four films to win Best Picture (“The Hurt Locker,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” and “The Departed”) all took home Director, Screenplay and Editing. Also, in regard to the recent American Cinema Editors award, 7 out of the last 10 films to win Best Picture also won the ACE, and in the years that they didn’t, the winner of the ACE went on to take Best Editing at the Oscars, which speaks well for “Social Network,” as well.

There are a few big precedents to support a “King’s Speech” victory, most glaringly would be “Shakespeare in Love” over “Saving Private Ryan.” However, one event is strangely alike to the present year that stands behind a “Social Network” upset and that is 1995. Before Oscar night, “Apollo 13” had taken the PGA, the DGA and the SAG. “Braveheart” had taken the Golden Globe for Best Director, the BFCA for Best Director, the ACE and the WGA. Freakishly similar. “Braveheart” came out victorious. Perhaps the only thing that separates it would be that Ron Howard was not nominated for Oscar’s Best Director, while Tom Hooper is. However, “Braveheart” also did not have the added incentive of having won practically EVERY SINGLE BEST PICTURE AWARD THAT EXISTS up to the PGA.

A lot of jargon, right? What does it all mean? It means that I have made a decision to support “The Social Network” to the final moments in regards to my Best Picture prediction. Hope may be a dangerous thing in this game, but if ever there was a year that I had to hold on to it, it would be this one. Will I be wrong? Possibly. Probably. Yet, I imagine a scenario in which “The Social Network” won and I predicted against it. I’d never forgive myself.

And in all honesty, I really think it’s going to happen.

Well, I’m off to work on the Edgies. Stay tuned for the winners’ announcement on Thursday evening, while my final Oscar predictions will have to wait until Saturday night. I spare not a second.

“Robin Hood” Review

November 18, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been a long time devoted fan of Ridley Scott, and after viewing one of his most recent films “American Gangster,” I thought that he was up among the likes of Martin Scorsese as being one of the best depicters of violence, its causes and consequences, in American cinema, maybe the best, as well as just being an all-around cinematic visionary. After viewing his latest, the adaptation of the old Robin Hood fantasy, it’s my humble opinion that he needs to reevaluate his craft.

Everyone knows the story of “Robin Hood,” even if the gist of many people’s knowledge comes from a fox in a green outfit or God forbid, Kevin Costner. A freedom fighter who resided in the woods with his merry men that steals from the richer classes of a brutal medieval king and redistributes among the poor. This telling of the famous character is actually more of a prequel, showing how the hero began his escapades. Sad to say, the backstory is just not as interesting as the tale, itself.

Russell Crowe plays the title character, obviously, and tries his absolute damnedest not make it appear that he’s playing General Maximus all over again, though has a tough time succeeding. I’ll tell you that if Crowe’s character in this had a fraction of the amount of depth or inner angst as that which he portrayed in “Gladiator” (and won an Oscar for), his performance might have blossomed more. The other roles, however, are filled quite well. Scott Grimes and William Hurt shine as Will Scarlet and Marshall Bell. Kevin Durand, who almost always finds himself in the part of a villain or proverbial asshole, plays the Little John sidekick role perfectly. I would have preferred someone more attractive to play Maid Marion, but Cate Blanchett still pulls her weight in the acting department. Eileen Atkins and Mark Strong are both fantastic. Yet, while Danny Huston is superb in the role of King Richard, someone with a bit more experience and clout could have been better cast as Prince John over Oscar Isaac.

The script isn’t a terrible thing. The story is a valiant effort with a decently concocted structure. The characters, however, are really quite shallow in their quality and value. They seem to exist merely for the sake of the role they play in the story, rather than thrive in their own right. Those backstories and motives that are actually touched on are done so briefly and vaguely. Little John, Friar Tuck and Eleanor of Aquitane are all stupendous character concepts, and yet in the film, their bones are bare of much substantial story meat. This is all very disappointing for a scribe like Brian Helgeland who has produced some of the most layered and complex characters in film history in previous efforts like “Mystic River” and the incomparable “L.A. Confidential.” The story also suffers from a climax that is utterly anticlimactic and unsatisfying.

Scott has most of his usual stylists on line for this production, including cinematographer John Mathieson and editor Pietro Scalia. Sadly, Oscar-winning costume designer Janty Yates, whose stunning work is evident in “Gladiator,” “Kingdom of Heaven” and “American Gangster,” is absent, and that absense is evident. Overall, much of the production value that I would expect of a Scott film is surprisingly not up to par. I miss the creative angles and gritty texture of the camerawork and the rapid fire cuts turned into rhythmically golden editing. I wanted a thunderstorm of a visual experience and got calm seas instead.

Not to be too much of a pragmatist, because this issue shouldn’t bare that much weight in the grand scheme, but the film is really lacking with a PG-13 rating. These are medieval times, when weapons were anatomically destructive enough to make a grown man cringe. When people would behead each other practically for sport. Ridley Scott simply does not perform as well when constrained, but rather superb when he is turned loose. The violent nature of Scott’s mind should be allowed to roam free and let the blood flow and thus would the story, the style and the viewer’s satisfaction.

Overall, Robin Hood is a disappointment. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but simply an average one. Scott, it appears, just didn’t take it seriously enough to really add his signature touch. It lacks the sense of grim tonality in both artistic texture and value of story. Instead, it feels like live action Disney adaptation, unwilling to delve into the more stark and foreboding aspects that could have been brought out of such a story. Hopefully Ridley will regain his touch for the upcoming “Alien” prequels or we may begin to miss his unique contributions to the world of cinema.

GRADES:           C+           * * 1/2 / * * * * *           5.4 / 10.0