About Grant

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New York, NY, United States
Film director and screenwriter. Cinephile since birth. Director of DREAMS OF THE WAYWARD (2013). Film Studies MA student at Columbia University.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Oscar Predictions and Wishes for The 85th Academy Awards

On February 24th 2013, The Academy Awards will be held for the 85th time - recognizing the films from the previous year that were deemed "the best".  The importance of the Oscars is often questioned, but regardless of who is nominated, this celebration of film is a great tool for encouraging people to see films they might not have seen otherwise.  Inevitably, the Oscars invite discussion and debate over an art that is often overlooked as simply entertainment.
A personal note about the nominations: I was quite thrilled to see Michael Haneke's Palme d'Or winning film Amour nominated outside of the foreign language category in writing, directing, and ultimately the best picture category.  This nomination brings to mind the Academy Awards in the 1960s and 1970s when it wasn't as surprising to see a non-Enlish speaking film nominated (thanks to the films of Fellini, Bergman, and Kurosawa).  However, it was surprising to see Paul Thomas Anderson not get nominated for best directing or best screenwriting for his latest masterwork The Master (even cinematography and costume design would have been welcome).  Additionally, the technical aspects of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom were certainly praise-worthy.
THE PREDICTIONS
On the left - under each category - is the film that I believe the Academy will select.  These will be highlighted in red. On the right - under each category - is the film that I would personally select as the winner.  These will be highlighted in blue.
BEST PICTURE
Lincoln                          Amour     

BEST DIRECTOR
Steven Spielberg (Lincoln)                   Michael Haneke (Amour)

BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)                       Joaquin Phoenix (The Master)

BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Emmanuelle Riva (Amour)                    Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty)

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)               Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master)            

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)              Amy Adams (The Master)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Amour             Amour

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Zero Dark Thirty (Mark Boal)        Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Lincoln                Lincoln

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Skyfall               Django Unchained

BEST FILM EDITING
Argo             Zero Dark Thirty

BEST SOUND EDITING
Django Unchained           Django Unchained

BEST SOUND MIXING
Les Miserables           Argo

BEST MAKEUP
The Hobbit (Pt. 1)           The Hobbit (Pt. 1)

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Anna Karenina        Anna Karenina

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
John Williams (Lincoln)         Dario Marianelli (Anna Karenina)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
Skyfall          Skyfall

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Life of Pi        The Hobbit (Pt. 1)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Wreck-It-Ralph           Brave

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Paperman            Paperman

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
Death of A Shadow            Death of A Shadow

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Searching For Sugarman          How To Survive A Plague

BEST SHORT SUBJECT DOCUMENTARY
Kings Point        Kings Point



Thursday, January 3, 2013

Film Review: "Holy Motors" (2012) by Leos Carax 5/5

     It can often be frightening, yet all the same, a wonderful experience when watching a film that can essentially go in any direction because of the director's control of the audience's disbelief and the nature of the narrative.  The film can go anywhere, and there may not be an ending in sight, but you're there for the ride.  Filmmakers like Luis Buñuel and David Lynch became famous for the constant twists and turns that create a level of unease within viewers, and Holy Motors follows in a similar fashion, but with Leos Carax's own spin.  Carax's return to feature-film directing after a thirteen year hiatus is marked by this 2012 film Holy Motors which features an oddball cast nearly as odd as the film itself (featuring Denis Lavant, Kylie Minogue, Eve Mendes, Edith Scob, and Michel Piccoli).  It premiered at the 65th Cannes film festival this past year, and is a film about a man with an odd profession as much as it is a film about the odd profession of being a filmmaker.
     The film begins with an audience sitting in a movie theater.  They are still, almost as though they are waiting for the film to begin (perhaps they are our reflection, though I must admit that I was sitting much more enthusiastically than this crowd of spectators), and then we realize that we are witnessing Holy Motors' director's dream.  Flashes of film studies on the human body that Eadweard Muybridge did in the 1870s appear during the opening credits, and we are now certain that this is a film about cinema's history.  Leos Carax, the director of the film, wakes up from his dream of a waiting audience and begins pacing around the room only to arrive at a wall that looks like a forest.  He places his hand against the wall and feels "the forest" and his hand becomes a key which fits into an arbitrary hole in the wall that we had never noticed.  The wall breaks open revealing a movie theater on the other side.  This is essentially the announcement of his return to cinema as he is no longer dormant, the transition from thought to reality is finished and on the screen is the film Holy Motors.
     Mr. Oscar (Denis Lavant) has grey hair and is wearing a slim business suit as he approaches a limousine driven by Céline (Edith Scob).  She opens the door for him, and he enters the limo.  As they drive away, Céline informs Mr. Oscar that they have nine appointments that day and a dossier for each appointment is provided.  Instantly, Mr. Oscar pulls off his hair (revealing it's a wig) and disguises himself as a homeless old lady who begs for coins on the street.  After a few minutes, he gets back into the limo and prepares for his second appointment.  Instantly, we (as an audience) question what we just saw.  What kind of "appointment" was that?  What does this man do?  Why does he need to dress up like an old lady?  His next "appointment" requires Mr. Oscar to wear a motion-capture suit.  This particular appointment begins to cross the lines of surrealism as the film transitions between slow-motion and a normal frame rate with distortion of sound, but only for that appointment.  
     The film progresses with appointment after appointment, and with each appointment we're there for the ride (and so is our protagonist who is riding in the back of the limo).  Slowly, it becomes clear that this is a film about the mechanisms of film.  With each appointment, a different genre seems to be portrayed, but it's all within the level of disbelief that Carax has created in us.  One appointment might be a musical, while the next may be an odd French-modern-western of sorts - and the next may be something entirely different.  Gradually, the film begins to introduce ideas concerning the future of photochemical film.  Michel Piccoli, a French actor and international film icon who has worked with the likes of Jean-Luc Godard (1963 Contempt) and Luis Buñuel (1967 Belle de jour) plays Mr. Oscar's boss in a scene which discusses how cameras used to be the size of a man but are now smaller than a man's head.  This discussion is filled with nostalgia and fear of the unknown.  Later within the film, Mr. Oscar dreams that he is driving through a cemetery (a cemetery that, as Carax explained at Cannes, represents the history of film), as he progresses through the cemetery, the film begins to pixelate and ghost as though a computer is glitching.  This feels reminiscent to Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) which concluded with the film burning in the projector, but is instead a digital recreation.  This "glitching" is ugly and alarming - compared to the beauty and colors of film igniting in the gate of a projector.
     With each persona that Mr. Oscar takes, and a song that is sung by Kylie Minogue entitled "Who Were We", this film could be about the ever-changing landscape of cinema, the desire for film to return to the Lumiere brothers instead of so distant from their vision in 1895, the power of a director over his actors, the struggle to find one's voice as a filmmaker, and much more.  It could also be a film about a man who has several odd appointments that are at times exciting and dramatic.  There are endless ways to enjoy this film, and just as many ways to think about it later.
     I went to the Regal Downtown West Cinema 8 in Knoxville, TN to see Holy Motors on December 21, 2012.  I didn't think the world would end as the Mayans believed even though the wind roared and power went out in various areas throughout Knoxville, but had the world ended that night, I would have been happy that this was the last film I ever saw.  It is a film about the beginning of cinema, and the future of cinema (which is not the end of cinema, but maybe something that will join the rest of film in the cemetery).

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2076220/

My ranking: 5/5