Anders Bergstrom's blog on Words, Films, and Music

Saturday, February 24, 2007

I'm going to interrupt my long in gestation top ten list to post my predictions and a few comments on tomorow nights 79th Annual Academy Awards. Please bear with me. I just have to throw in my two cents.

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Who Will Win: Little Miss Sunshine
Who Should Win: The Departed
Missing: Children of Men

In all fairness, it could go to either The Departed, Little Miss Sunshine, or Babel. It's too close to call with certainty, but in the spirit of such silly predictions I will make a choice.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Who Will Win: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Who Should Win: Helen Mirren, The Queen
Missing: Ivana Baquero, Pan's Labyrinth

Really this is Mirren's category, and one of the few awards that the Academy will get right. Her performance was astounding. Sometimes I wonder why the Academy still gives out awards based on gender. I guess it's so you can give out more awards. Silly, naive me.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Who Will Win: Forest Whitaker, The Last King of Scotland
Who Should Win: Leonardo Dicaprio, Blood Diamond
Missing: Sascha Baron Cohen, Borat: Cultural Learning's of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

From what I hear Whitaker is great, but it's hardly a "Leading Role." Leo was nominated for the wrong film, though he was great in both. And Sascha Baron Cohen gave one of the greatest comedic peformances of all time. Peter Sellers would be proud.

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Who Will Win: Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls
Who Should Win: Djimon Honsou, Blood Diamond
Missing: Jack Nicholson, The Departed

Regardless of no Best Pic nod, Dreamgirls will rake in the awards and Murphy will get this one (Norbit aside, the Academy loves sentimental favourites). Djimon Honsou was great, though his was arguably a co-lead with Leo in the film. And as good as Wahlberg was, Jack was the real firecracker in The Departed.

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Who Will Win: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls
Who Should Win: Rinko Kikuchi, Babel
Missing: Maribel Verdu, Pan's Labyrinth

See the Dreamgirls comment above. Kikuchi was by far the best part of a film that I really don't feel worked at all, so that's saying something.

Best Achievement in Direction

Who Will Win: Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Who Should Win: Martin Scorsese, The Departed
Missing: Darren Aronofsky, The Fountain

This is Marty's year. Finally. Though if he doesn't win he is in good company (Kubrick, Hitchcock, Welles).

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Who Will Win: Pan's Labyrinth
Who Should Win: The Queen
Missing: The Fountain

As good as Pan's Labyrinth is, The Queen is a remarkable work of speculative fiction (which is good to keep in mind when we criticise United 93 for being speculative).

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Published or Produced

Who Will Win: The Departed
Who Should Win: Children of Men
Missing: Casino Royale

The Departed is great, don't get me wrong, but Children of Men is a fantastic revisioning of P. D. James' novel. And Casino Royale sucessfully adapts Fleming's novel for the 21st century, while staying true to the source material.

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Who Will Win: Children of Men
Who Should Win: Children of Men
Missing: The Fountain

Best Achievement in Editing

Who Will Win: The Departed
Who Should Win: The Departed
Missing: The Prestige

Best Achievement in Art Direction

Who Will Win: Dreamgirls
Who Should Win: Pan's Labyrinth
Missing: A Scanner Darkly

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Who Will Win: Dreamgirls
Who Should Win: Curse of the Golden Flower
Missing: The Prestige

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

Who Will Win: Babel
Who Should Win: Pan's Labyrinth
Missing: The Fountain

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Who Will Win: something from Dreamgirls
Who Should Win: "Our Town," Cars
Missing: "You Know My Name," Casino Royale

Best Achievement in Makeup

Who Will Win: Pan's Labyrinth
Who Should Win: Pan's Labyrinth
Missing: The Queen

Best Achievement in Sound

Who Will Win: Dreamgirls
Who Should Win: Flags of Our Fathers
Missing: Children of Men

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Who Will Win: Letters from Iwo Jima
Who Should Win: Letters from Iwo Jima
Missing: Children of Men

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Who Will Win: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Who Should Win: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Missing: Children of Men

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

Who Will Win: Happy Feet
Who Should Win: Cars
Missing: A Scanner Darkly

Best Foreing Language Film of the Year

Who Will Win: Pan's Labyrinth
Who Should Win: Pan's Labyrinth
Missing: Letters From Iwo Jima (ineligible though)

Best Documentary, Features

Who Will Win: An Inconvenient Truth

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

Who Will Win: Recycled Life

Best Short Film, Animated

Who Will Win: The Danish Poet

Best Short Film, Live Action

Who Will Win: Eramos pocos

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I recommend checking out The Arcade Fire's official myspace page to check out their latest post from the upcoming album Neon Bible, "Keep The Car Running." I think they might have done it again. (Album out on March 6th.)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

8. A Scanner Darkly

Dir. Richard Linklater
100 min; R

Linklater's Waking Life was a fascinating experiment of a film -- a series of vignettes about life and dreams shot on digital film and then animated over top. The result was a psychedelic, dreamlike film. And though it was interesting, the film (purposely) was not unified in visual style or narrative. If you were wondering what it would be like to take that style and apply it to a story in an effective manner, wonder no longer: A Scanner Darkly is such a work. Based on a novel by Phillip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), this film is a fascinating examination of identity, drugs, and a society that is frighteningly not too dissimilar to our own (a theme which comes up in more than one film on my list). Keanu Reeves is suprisingly effective in the film, playing his own "stoner" image
to tragic results. The first time I watched the film in the summer I enjoyed it a lot though I wasn't sure it would end up a favourite; a second viewing in the fall confirmed in my mind that it was a bold visionary statement. This film ranks among Linklater's best films (Before Sunset, Dazed & Confused) and while it is ostensibly science fiction, it also revisits the themes of human relationship and identity that seem to be Linklater's -- and Dick's -- interest.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

9. The Prestige

Dir. Christopher Nolan
128 min; PG-13

Christopher Nolan's follow-up to Batman Begins was one of my most anticipated films of the year. It had, what in my mind was, a fantastic cast: Jackman, Bale, Scarlett, Oscar-winner Michael Caine, David Bowie, and even Andy Serkis. The novel was great source material and Nolan's past projects left nothing but anticipation for what he was going to do next. Even with all my expectations, and knowledge of the source material, Nolan managed to surprise me. The Prestige - which refers to the final stage of the three parts to a magician's act - in that respect is a filmed magic trick. We are the audience of the magician - Nolan. While some have compared this film to The Illusionist, the similarities end after the subject matter. The Prestige is more elaborate in its set up and in the payoff. It's not a fairy tale or love story. It's a carefully constructed piece of entertainment, like a good detective story or murder mystery. And while some have complained that the film is too emotionless and calculating, I feel that those elements work well to give the film its unique feel. In the end, it's a fantastic piece of craftsmanship and definitely one of my favourite films of the year.

Monday, January 29, 2007


2006 ended up being a good year for films. It seems that the good films continually get pushed back until the very end of the year, and many don't open in Saskatoon until after the new year has started (e.g. Pan's Labyrinth, Letters from Iwo Jima). With that in mind, this list is the best of what I've seen over the past year of films that had their theatrical release listed as 2006 in North America. That means that it is limted to films that played in Saskatoon or Victoria, and that I got around to seeing.

It was a year for originality. Last year we saw some really good franchise films, but this year only one franchise film made my list (and it is a fairly radical revisioning of the franchise at that). A couple of franchise films -- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and Mission: Impossible 3 -- almost made the list, but I'm going to give honourable mention here for improving on the films that came before them and offering some of the best thrills of the summer. Other franchise films left me cold -- or seething: Superman Returns failed to impress and X-Men: The Last Stand made me glad to see the franchise end.

That said, my top ten this year is dominated by original films, adaptations, and personal projects that all were the best film going experiences of the year. With the intro out of the way, here's number ten.

10. El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan's Labyrinth)

Dir. Guillermo del Toro
112 min; R

Del Toro presents here a fairy tale for grown ups: a dark moral fable set during the Spanish Civil War, in which a young girl (Ofelia) faces the challenges of a faerie world and the horrors of fascist Spain. Del Toro is best known for his imaginative horror/fantasy comic book films (Hellboy, Blade II) which I love, but here he creates a moving and challenging film that dazzled me with its creative vision and moved me with its compelling characters. Pan's Labyrinth only made it to Saskatoon in the last week of January, so I only recently saw it, but it stands up with the best films of 2006 and was justly rewarded with six Oscar nominations as well. Definitely worth catching, though not for children.

Wow. It's been ages since I've posted. I don't have the desire to blog as much as I used to, but inspired by Aren's and Luke's year end TOP TEN lists, I feel like sharing mine. So, those of you who used to check this blog and still do occasionally, there should be some content in the next few weeks.

Also, I'm going to be playing around with the cosmetics of the blog, so bear with me as I fumble my way through that. I'd like for this blog to be a place where I can post my movie reviews, music discoveries, and general thoughts on culture and art -- and for people to comment back. In the months since I stopped regularly posting, it seems that blogger has improved as a venue for commenting and dialogue, so that's encouraging. I hope to hear your comments as I begin to post again.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Just a heads up that they're streaming the new Bob Dylan album, Modern Times over at AOL Music.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Here goes Sean Penn again, following in his Mystic River mode. Translation: taking an otherwise really good-looking film and ruining it with his "realistic acting" and a laughable accent. Check out the trailer for All the King's Men.

No joke, Penn's accent reminds me of Bob Odenkirk's southern right-wing Senator Tankerbell from HBO's Mr. Show with Bob and David. Of course, Penn wouldn't get the joke. He had his sense of humour removed during a fund-raiser for Iraqi Hurricane victims.