Sunday, February 24, 2008

Live Blogging the Oscars from... The Couch

I hadn't really planned to do this, but after seeing Daniel Day Lewis' wife's dress without having anybody to scream at... Well, I shall scream at the world! WHAT is that thing between her breasts?!

John Travolta has a bad wig.

I LOVE Amy Adams.

Cameron Diaz tactfully dodges the "Is Daniel Day Lewis crazy?" question.

Ellen Page is charming, but she needs a new stylist. Unless she is attempting formal goth.
Hilary Swank is gorgeous - inside and out. BIG hands though.

Regis is annoying as he attempts to intimidate chorus kids.
Maybe Bill Conti will HIT Regis.

That was an annoying red carpet. But I guess they usually are.

starting! please be brilliant!

Jon Stewart looks pasty.
Ooooo! I do like a good Hillary jab!

What is Diablo Cody wearing?! I hope we get a FULL FIGURE!

Fun asteroids and politics joke. BAD Gaydolf Titler joke.

Jennifer Garner needs to get the hair out of her gorgeous face.
Costumer Designers can not dress themselves.

This Hybrid commercial PISSES me off! It is "Sisyphus", nominated for an Oscar in 1975.

George Clooney has a dull speech before a silly self-tribute.

Carrell said "shit"!! Woo hoo! Thank gawd they did not do the CUTE animated characters presenting animation.

Does Katherine Heigl know she's gorgeous? Pity she is being wasted on Best Makeup.
Hm. La Vie En Rose got something? Well, that's nice. Ironic, that a makeup designer is sort of... missing an eye?

ooooo! The Happy Working Song! Let's watch...!
If Amy Adams is actually singing LIVE, I am totally impressed! What a bitch of a song!

Dwayne Johnson, THE ROCK, is an Oscar presenter?!
Visual Effects goes to.... NOT Stardust! >:( But to four companies.

Cate Blanchett, always lovely, Art Direction goes to... SWEENEY?! WOO HOO!!!!
Why is the art director thanking Johnny Depp?

sigh. Another clip reel.

Jennifer Hudson looks like a pillow.
Hm. I've only seen ONE of the Best Supporting Actors. And the other four films do look tiresome. Javier Bardem is GREAT. Wish it were more of a surprise, though.

Did they bleep Javier in Spanish?

Oh dear. A joke clip reel? Jon's sort of dull...

Keri Russell looks 40 in that dress. Who saw AUGUST RUSH? My gawd that's a great little voice on the 11 year old!

Jon Stewart is forcing this.

Owen Wilson is allowed to present Live Action Short film, before he... >:)
Yep, as I guessed the cute French one won.

Oh dear. I LOATHE Animated presenters...
Animated Short goes to Peter and the WOlf?! And they're not even playing the MUSIC?! AND... they're bringing up the DOLL?! ohmigod.

hm. Another clip reel, though Ruth Gordon is always enjoyed.

I forgot that Alan Arkin won last year!
hm, I only saw ONE of these, too?! Hmmm... Tilda Swinton (?!) did NOT kiss her boy-toy?!

Jessica Alba hosted the Tech Awards?! In a bathing suit?

Josh Brolinnnnnnnn... An alarmingly large head, though. Babs is his step mom? >:)
Adapted Screenplay, which I've actually seen ALL FIVE!
The Coens, eh? Fine.

Oh gawd is it time for "the Academy Speech"? I wish I had snacks here.
Well at least it TRIED to be funny. I guess.

Why is Hanna Montana here? She scares me.

AH!! Kristen Chenowith!! Though I'd like to have seen Amy Adams do this too!
Cute. I hate CUTE. I could have sworn I saw one of the tuba players wink at someone.

Stupid pregnant joke.

Sound editing as presented by the writers of 40 Year Old Virgin, et al.
I don't really "get" sound editing, I guess... OR sound mixing for that matter...
I just tend to think that if it's animated the entire track was "created". But I LIKED the Bourne Ultimatum anyway.

Best Actress already? Seems early! Hmmm... It's just hauling along!
Hm. I only saw two of these. And, well, that's a bit of a SURPRISE! She looks incredible in it, but its so long... Sort of like her speech. She should have been helped off stage. I feel bad for Julie Christie.

The song from ONCE... :))) What an odd little film. A DULL first 20 minutes and I almost cried at the end. Love the song!

(Forty minutes to go and there are... 2 documentary awards, score, song, director, editing, actor and film to go.)

A Best Picture clip reel? Why?

Renee Z is offering up Film Editing, eh? ok.
HA!!! LOVE the picture of "Robert James" for NO COUNTRY...!
DAMMIT!! I wanted "Robert James" aka the Coens to win, just so they could play with the psuedonym. But, I liked the Bourne Ultimatum, which at this point has won the most Oscars this year!

OHMIGOD!! Nicole has Patty Duke Beads!!!
OHMIGOD!! What an OLD man! Phew!! They cut away before the Code Blue!

OHMIGOD!! Penn Gillette is on Dancing with the Stars?!! Woo hoo!

Foreign Language films, of which only two have actually screened, I think! I don't "get" the rules for this one. I saw BEAUFORT and that's all. I think it's the only one anyone has seen. Stupid nominating committee.

Patrick Dempseyawn. I just wish Amy Adams would sing this one too. Who is John McLaughlin? Looks like an Ice Capades rehearsal. He has an unfortunate vocal break.

Now, that should be ALL of the songs, yes? YES?!

Did I mention that I loathe Travolta's wig?

Bringing back the song writer?! That was really GRACIOUS!! FINALLY!! Maybe it'll make up for another clip reel...

Cameron Diaz looks like she's wearing a dress by Rami (Project Runway) and it does not please me. Cinematography! I forgot about that one! There are a LOT of these! Oh. There Will Be Blood. Fine. (DIVING BELL and BUTTERFLY is A R T!!!)

Ah! The March of the Dead! I suppose there'll be a standing o for Heath Ledger, who they left for the last BIG CHORD. ugh.

Amy Adams presenting score. Perky, but a bit ull. :(
I saw some of these, too. Though I do not remember Atonement's score as being of any note. HA!! I crack myself up!!

What's left...? Documentaries, Actor, Director, Film. Is that all??

What's Tom Hanks doing there? After pitching his fit about the "Gump" music intro a few years ago? Documentary shorts, huh? Oh this is sily, especially since nearly ALL the documentary features are ANTI Iraq! Maybe they're trying to make up for that...? Oh my. She is HAPPY to be there!I think she's gasping! I think she may die!! FREEHELD? Was that the one about the partner who was denied death benefits when her NYPD officer was killed.

Ok. Documentary Features. Let's see how they handle this. Ok! TAXI... the US Torture doc! I'm bracing myself. (TAXI's poster isn't even allowed in some theaters!) Well, THAT was a nice, pithy speech!!

I'm drifing off to the dolcent tones of Harrison Ford.... zzzzz... zzzz...
Oh. My Gawd!! We get to see THE DRESS!! I'm not sure WHO I thought would win this, but NOT JUNO. So, Diablo Cody used to be a pole dancer? Can you tell? But it was a sweet little speech.

Are coming up to Best Actor?! I don't suppose there will be a SURPRISE and Depp will win?? There is something about Mirren's dress that I think I LOVE.
Oh WHY do they show Daniel Day Lewis SCREAMING at me?? Oh. That's what eh ALWAYS does!! Oh no. Daniel Day Lewis has been vindicated for SCREAMING at me. Again. Oh, my, he has a SPEECH prepared. I would like to simply thank... la la la la la. I just thin he is the Rod Steiger of our generation.

What's left? Director and film? Is that IT?!

Director, eh? I wonder who is going to present...
Oh, Scorsese, eh? That's nice. You will hear me scream if it is Schnabel!
But it is the Coens. So, that pretty well seals that deal for picture, unless they decide to split it again this year.

And Denzel gets to award best picture? He seems sort of a dull choice for that. Oh, that's right! They underscore this with a DRUM ROLL!! NO COUNTRY... Well. Ok. I guess. Scott Rudin is annoying... But Frances McDormand is genuinely sweet!

Boom! 11:48 and it's done! Not TOO overtime...

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Academy Award Nominated Shorts - Live Action

The Academy Award Nominated Short Subjects (both animated and live action) are in limited distribution around the country this week, from Magnolia Pictures. Luckily, they are screening at the Landmark Midtown Arts, here in Atlanta! As you should know, there are five nominees in each category, so it is a combined program of ten shorts. The animated portion lasts approximately 90 minutes, which I recapped here. Forebodingly, the live action portions lasts two hours and 20 minutes. I have this pet peeve about the running time of short subjects. Technically, anything under an hour is a short subject. However, for my taste, and possibly due to a semester concentrating on the exceptionally pithy and surprising O'Henry stories, anything running over 25 minutes is either an under developed full length feature or a short subject in need of some editing. Most, if not all shorts, are presented as part of a program. So as that "revolving door" of pieces begins, one lasting a half hour typically stalls the program. There are exceptions to the rule, but I can't think of any off the top of my head. I bring this up because three out of the five nominees run more than thirty minutes. It made for a long afternoon. In presentation order:

TANGHI ARGENTINI (dir. Guido Thys, Belgium, 13 minutes, 2007, French w/ English subtitles) For my taste, this was the best of the bunch! Excellently written and paced as our hero enlists an office colleague to teach him the tango to prepare for a blind date. The film is filled with some truly gifted character actors who do not even need dialogue to fill their roles with a rich, emotional history. Director Guido Thys creates simple yet effective visual gags, while keeping the humanity of his characters intact, for an exceptionally rewarding finale. A lovely little piece that I'd love a copy of!

AT NIGHT (OM NATTEN) (dir. Christian E. Christiansen, Denmark, 40 minutes, 2007, Danish w/English subtitles) This would be the one exception to the rule in this group of exceptionally long short subjects. The story is bleak. Very bleak. Three women spend the holidays in a cancer ward. Christiansen creates a cold, sterile and nearly frozen atmosphere in which the women are cut off from the outside world. The three of them are impressionistically caught in their own bubble. They seem to have no one else with whom to share their difficulties and lives. It is an effective poetic reference to the isolation that trauma can create. The performances are all understated in that Denmark-acting-method way (think Dogme 95), but it only makes you want to delve into them even more. A special and unique little piece that flew by considering its forty minute length.

IL SUPPLENTE (THE SUBSTITUTE) (dir. Andrea Jublin, Italy, 17 minutes, 2007, Italian w/ English subtitles) A raucous and joyful seventeen minutes of a substitute teacher's startling and mesmerizing effect on a class of high school students. It's a subversive "Mary Poppins"-like story of transformation through the most outlandish means. At times sadistic but never without heart, the substitute takes the children's "roles" into a pressure cooker to break them open. Well, almost all of them. He learns as much from one of them as he hoped to teach them, in a fabulous and completely off the wall twist. LOVED it!

THE TONTO WOMAN (dir. Daniel Barber, United Kingdom, 36 minutes, 2007) This definitely falls into the category of a short that wants to be a feature. The pacing may be realistic to the period, but I found it nearly painful to get through. Though the performances by Francesco Quinn and Charlotte Asprey are quite commendable, there is a great deal of story before and after the events in this short that could have been included to create a feature length film. Apparently a SLOW feature length film, but perhaps with the inclusion of background to the physical abduction and then abandonment that our heroine experiences, it would have laid enough emotional foundation to bring us through her exceptionally slow self reclamation. It just made me antsy to leave, which had it been the last of the program, I probably would have done before it finished.

LE MOZART DES PICKPOCKETS (THE MOZART OF PICKPOCKETS) (dir. Philippe Pollet-Villard, France, 31 minutes, 2007, French w/ English subtitles) Currently the odds-on-favorite to win, it is an exceptionally pleasant half hour, which would easily make the transition to feature length. A pair of thieves, whose sexual ambiguity is something of a gag in itself, reluctantly "adopt" a homeless deaf boy. The performances are all endearing and sincere. The cinematography is perhaps the most exceptional of the group of nominees. The screenplay is particularly disciplined and never goes for easy gags, but takes its humor from the subtle conflict between characters. It is charming and ends so abruptly that one almost feels cheated.

Maxxxxx says
re TANGHI ARGENTINI: "Dooby dooby dooo-oooo!"
re AT NIGHT: "sickie poo"
re IL SUPPLENTE: WILD screaming
re THE TONTO WOMAN: "Is it bedtime?"

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Academy Award Nominated Short Subjects - Animation

The Academy Award Nominated Short Subjects (both animated and live action) are in limited distribution around the country this week, from Magnolia Pictures. Luckily, they are screening at the Landmark Midtown Arts, here in Atlanta! As you should know, there are five nominees in each category, so it is a combined program of ten shorts. The animated portion lasts approximately 90 minutes. Forebodingly, the live action portions lasts two hours and 20 minutes. I will go into a rant about the live action "shorts" in a post to follow. But the animated nominees cover a broad spectrum of technique and style. It is as if the nominating committe found a representative from each possible technique: painting, drawing, cgi, clay, and puppets. In presentation order.

MEME LES PIGEONS VONT AU PARADIS (EVEN PIGEONS GO TO HEAVEN) (dir. Samuel Tourneux, France, 9 minutes, 2007, French with English Subtitles) Created in CGI, it is a witty little fable about religion, faith, life and death. I know, it sounds all so HEAVY, but the silly plot about a priest trying to sell an old man a machine that he promises will transport him to heaven, was in the end, a nice evil chuckler! Visually, the paradise sequence is glorious to look at! However, my only reservation is that technically, there are no apparent innovations for a CGI created short. Not to say that is a requirement, but I've come to expect it. The short is apparently and deservedly in the competition due to its irreverent screenplay.

MY LOVE (MOYA LYUBOV) (dir. Alexander Petrov, Russia, 27 minutes, 2007, Russian with English subtitles) Alexander Petrov, Oscar winner for The Old Man and the Sea (2000), continues his technique of painting on glass to beautifully tell the short story by Ivan Shmelev. Set in nineteenth-century Russia, it follows the romantic yearnings of a teenage boy between two women. As I said, the impressionistic paintings are gorgeously animated, the language is lyrical to listen to, the pacing is deliberate and since it extends past my "25 minute short subject threshold", I fell asleep. I'm sort of ashamed of that, considering the enormous effort (five years!) that Petrov and his crew put into a half hour of animating via painting! But it was just so... quiet!

MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI (dirs. Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada, 17 minutes, 2007, Silent) In the spirit of full disclosure, I LOVE and am not very impartial towards the National Film Board of Canada! This gorgeously produced and technically wild blend of claymation and CGI continues to support the NFB's place as an international leader in animation. Now, I will admit that sometimes they will lose track of their screenplays in deference to their experimental artistic vision. And that sort of happens here. A brilliantly rendered train is the setting for a series of nightmares (or are they?) that frighten a timid and beautifully designed woman. My hesitation on this short is that there really isn't any point to the series of events that befall her. However, it is gorgeous to look at and stunningly edited.

I MET THE WALRUS (dir. Josh Raskin, Canada, 5 minutes, 2007, English) This mind blowing stream of consciousness,2D animation of fourteen-year-old Jerry Levitan's 1969 interview with John Lennon (captured on his reel-to-reel tape recorder) is rumored to be the front runner for the Oscar. Director Josh Raskin combines the pen illustrations of James Braithwaite (whose sequences are of the inteviewer) and Alex Kurina, computer illustrator, who breathlessly animates Lennon's answers. There are no real transitions between the two, however Raskin does maintain a palette and transfer quality for some visual continuity. One can argue about the significance of Lennon's profundities, however as visually presented here, they are mind blowing! The short is not necessarily technically groundbreaking, but it is artistically awesome!

PETER & THE WOLF (dir. Suzie Templeton, UK and Poland, 27 minutes, 2007) Suzie Templeton uses puppet animation to dramatize Prokofiev's classic musical piece. Templeton does give her film a definite visual style, though there are no technical innovations. What remarkable qualities there are in her film are the characterizations of the animals, particularly the Duck, Bird and Cat. She softened the story up a bit as far as the hunters' violence is concerned, though the Wolf's gulping down of the Duck is surprisingly graphic. Oh, and cat hater's everywhere will LOVE her for this film!

Maxxxxx says
re MY LOVE (MOYA LYUBOV): "Is it bedtime?"
re MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI: "Belle! Belle!"
re I MET THE WALRUS: "What!"
re PETER AND THE WOLF: evil cackle

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

ASIFA Annual Meeting

Submitted for posting on Southern Screen Report.

The Atlanta Chapter of Association International du Film d'Animation, aka ASIFA-Atlanta, held its annual meeting in Atlanta on February 12, 2008. Most of the officers of the Chapter and a couple dozen members were present for "the opportunity to fill holes with new blood" according to outgoing president, Joe Peery. As he proceeded through a list of positions and committees, discussion prompted a review of the past year, as well as pointed out goals for the group.

ASIFA Chapters are eligible for non-profit status. However, each chapter is a separate entity, so it is up to the individual chapters to pursue this. "Our effort towards non-profit status has fizzled" said Peery. However, by the end of the evening, it was decided not to forgo that goal and they would be taking another go at it. There was an update from webmaster Jennifer Barclay about plans to update the ASIFA-Atlanta website ( to provide a way of attaining membership (currently membership is processed via a printed form and USPS).

The success of the Chapter's participation in International Animation Day held last October 29 was discussed. The Chapter sponsors a "Roll Yer Own" program of shorts featuring work from the membership.
This program was submitted to the other chapters of ASIFA for inclusion in their International Animation Day screening and the group was pleased to have had their work seen all over the world. Future screening events were discussed. The next screening event will be Tuesday, February 19, with a program of WWII shorts, all in 16mm, and curated by C. Martin Croker. The screening will be at the Plaza Theatre on Ponce de Leon Street.

For the final portion of the meeting, the membership acted as a caucus to establish the officers for 2008, as well as filling committees. Brett Thompson was selected as President, and he will be closely assisted by Joe Peery, who continues to represent ASIFA-Atlanta on the International Board. Vella Torres, who was unable to attend, will continue in her position as Secretary, though she announced plans that she would not be able to finish her term. She will receive significant support until that time and a successor is announced. Joe Kubesheski will continue as Treasurer. Positions on the various committees were filled by the membership that was present.

More information, as well as membership, can be obtained at the ASIFA-Atlanta website:".

"Life with Movies and Maxxxxx"
"Southern Screen Report"
"Lyfestyles Ezine"

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Monday, February 04, 2008


PENELOPE (dir. Mark Palansky, US, 2006, 102 mins.) The film stars Christina Ricci, Catherine O'Hara, Peter Dinklage and Reese Witherspoon. 'Nuff said? No? Well, Ricci plays a girl born with the face of a pig as part of a family curse and must find love to reverse it. Catherine O'Hara plays her H Y S T E R I C A L mother! You need more? Well, ok. Dinklage plays O'Hara's arch-nemesis as a tabloid reporter who has stalked the girl from birth. Do you need MORE?! FINE.

Witherspoon produced this and appears nearly unrecognizable as a Vespa striding courier, who befriends our pig faced heroine. Oh, and the love interest is James McAvoy, who I find likable enough, but have yet to develop any kind of strong feelings for towards his technique or personage. But with Ricci, O'Hara, Dinklage and Witherspoon performaning actor's studio backflips around the set, he as well as Richard E. Grant (as her father) should just step back and out of the way. There are other notable performances filling out the ensemble: Ronni Ancona, Lenny Henry and Burn Gorman were all little standouts.

Leslie Caveny's script can be a bit bumpy here and there, but the cast is like a 4-Wheel drive vehicle and they slam through it as the farcical pros they are. The script actually has some self awareness during its epilogue that was refreshing and only added to my enjoyment. The production design by Amanda McArthur sets the tone of the fable that the script sometimes falls short of establishing (with the exception of the nose, of course). The music and sound design were fabulous. The pacing was nearly breathless at points, and I only wish that director Palansky would have allowed O'Hara and Denklage more screentime TOGETHER!

The film releases during the last week of February, and could quite possibly be one of my Spring faves, in the likes of STRICTLY BALLROOM so many years ago...

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P.D.Q. Bach in Atlanta

I've been one of the adoring faithful of Peter Schickele since I was 14 years old, when I had chicken pox and was laying there, listening to the local PBS radio station and they played "Ipheginia in Brooklyn". I was in a hysterical delirium! For those of you in the know who are adding up the years, yes, this would make Professor Schickele a fairly old man, today. When once he would make his entracne from the audience balcony on a rope, this past Friday night, he ambled on, fumbling with the curtains to find his way on stage. Though his long time associate William Walters is still present, his participation was limited to the "Manager of the Stage" and shuffling around instruments and furniture, albeit in trademark deadpan fashion.

Professor Schickele was introduced to the audience at the Ferst Center for the Arts (at Georgia Tech in Atlanta), by David Dusing, who would be the featured tenor of the evening's program "P.D.Q. Bach: "What's Your Sign?". He would be later joined by "off-colorara soprano" Michele Eaton and the company was accompanied by Margaret Kampmeier on keyboards. After his typical punfest of a monologue, featuring a nifty jab at Fred Thompson (the "newly elected president of the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople... The groundskeepers union needed someone to bring the lawn in order." har!), the program began with the Allegretto Gabinetto, for plumber and itinerant keyboarder (S.2nd door on the left), featuring the professor performing on the pipes, as it were.

Though the centerpiece of the evening was Twelve Quite Heavenly Songs (Arie Prporio Zodicate), S.16, the program included pieces that Schickele took direct credit for. In fact, he set quite a personal tone as he performed pieces written for family and friends, including a song for his grandmother's 80th birthday and his Songs From Shakespeare, which are soliloquies he gave jazz arrangements to while he was in college. In fact, of the program, Schickele performed only one other P.D.Q. Bach piece in addition to the two previously mentioned: The Art of the Ground Round.

Kampmeier was more than capable on the keyboards, though nearly invisibly so. Dusing's tenor was a bit long-in-the-tooth, and conspicuously enough that soprano, Eaton, was comically used to cover up his shortcomings. Eaton is an exceedingly pleasant performer. Perhaps almost too much so, as some of the vintage humor of P.D.Q. Bach comes from the austere professionalism, bordering on snobbery, of the performers. Schickele himself has mellowed his performance as "P.D.Q.'s artistic vigilante" to professorial musings on his past and the works of "P.D.Q.". The cynicism and faux bitterness of his mission has been replaced by an evening of nostalgia.

Though he has amassed quite a catalog from which to "pitch" the audience, the great news was that after a ten year "sabbatical", he has released a new P.D.Q. Bach album: P.D.Q. Bach: The Jekyll & Hyde Tour!!

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