February 4, 2008

Artemis Eternal

Posted in Movies at 11:51 pm by Calico Jack

I’ve talked before about my friend Jessica Stover, how her commitment to excellence in Hollywood — something oft lacking in an era of sequels and endless remakes — has gathered passionate fans from all over the world to support her work. Now the website for her latest project is up and running, and I encourage everyone to check it out and financially contribute if able. Artemis Eternal is a short sci-fi film currently in preproduction, and — more importantly — is being financed independently. There is no Hollywood studio backing, no focus-grouped control over thematic elements, and no slavish adherence to the lowest common denominators in mainstream film. For many of us, that is reason enough to support Artemis Eternal; but I have something more: I know Jessica, and I believe in her work. I believe in her strongly enough to lend financial support to a film that I know nothing about, save the title. You might think this is blind faith, but it’s exactly the opposite. I’ve read Jessica’s blog for years, and I’ve talked to her quite a few times about Hollywood and about filmmaking. We’ve debated, discussed, and praised films, not only in a general sense but also their structure and coherence and writing and technique. And one thing has always been abundantly clear: Jessica Stover is an exceptional filmmaker.

So go check out Artemis Eternal‘s gorgeous website. Follow the timeline, and learn how a movie is created and made. And if you find that you believe as much as I and many others do, consider making a donation to this project, as you’ll be making a difference in the most literal of ways. Declare your support for a revolution in film. And, in Jessica’s own words,

“So forget everything you know about filmmaking, take a moment to examine your lifestyle and how much media and story you consume, think about what that means to you, give it all a moment…. And give it all up: All the years of marketing and E! News Live and red carpets and merchandizing and disappointing opening weekends and poor theater experiences. Give it up, walk with us and imagine the wider world that exists outside that conglomerate-controlled island.

This is the art of the possible.”

Are you in?

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February 3, 2008

Handicapping the Oscars: Technical Awards, Take 1

Posted in Movies at 2:47 pm by Calico Jack

BEST DIRECTOR:

Paul Thomas Anderson for There Will Be Blood
Joel and Ethan Coen for No Country for Old Men
Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton
Jason Reitman for Juno
Julian Schnabel for The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

We’ll have to eliminate Julian Schnabel immediately, since it’s rather unlikely that he could win Best Director without having his film nominated for either Best Picture or Best Foreign Film. Jason Reitman has had absolutely no buzz for Juno; the same goes for Tony Gilroy. It ultimately comes down to a clash of the titans, to use a tired cliché. My money is on the Coen brothers, since it’s long overdue for their award. But the Academy might feel the need to share the love and give Anderson the director nod while recognizing No Country for Old Men in the picture category. It’s happened many, many times before…

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Brad Bird for Ratatouille
Diablo Cody for Juno
Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton
Tamara Jenkins for The Savages
Nancy Oliver for Lars and the Real Girl

I personally think this is Juno‘s strongest category, as the tale of a performer-turned-screenwriter is just the kind of rags-to-riches story the Academy likes to highlight. “See, you can do it too!” There is a dark horse potential for Brad Bird, since Ratatouille has gotten nearly unanimous praise; but Diablo Cody is the one to beat. I’m personally happy to see a nod in there for Lars and the Real Girl; I know some despised the film, but I’m glad it wasn’t completely overlooked come Oscar season.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Christopher Hampton, Atonement
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Sarah Polley, Away From Her

I’d prefer to throw darts at a target than try to guess the winner of this category, and I doubt someone could make a stronger case for one of these films than any other. I do think it’s unlikely that voters will give the same nominee(s) both Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay; therefore my completely tentative pick goes to Anderson. There is a lot of Atonement-hate going around, and I think that Away From Her‘s screenplay was actually one of the weaker parts of that film going around. Once I see The Diving Bell and the Butterfly tomorrow, I’ll be able to make a more educated guess about its chances.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Atonement
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

I’m hoping against hope that the first film on this list gets the Oscar, but there is a strong possibility that Roger Deakins might split the vote against himself, since he’s nominated for both The Assassination of Jesse James… and No Country for Old Men. I’d be quite happy with a win by Seamus McGarvey for Atonement, however; and Robert Elswit’s work for There Will Be Blood is also quite astonishing. Consider this pick wishful thinking, although I think that there isn’t a film listed here that I would be disappointed with.

BEST ART DIRECTION:

American Gangster
Atonement
The Golden Compass
Sweeney Todd
There Will Be Blood

This category encompasses both art direction and set decoration, but does not include costume design. My money is on Atonement, although I’m wondering if Sweeney Todd might pick up the win instead. There isn’t anything particularly striking about American Gangster‘s designs, and The Golden Compass is a piece of terrible filmmaking any way you want to look at it. And I just don’t think that There Will Be Blood‘s spare set decoration likely to be rewarded in a category that previously gave the statue to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Moulin Rouge!, Pan’s Labyrinth and Chicago.