Wednesday, February 02, 2005

POPCORN: The First Annual Brain Drain Popcorn Honors

2004 Popcorn Honors

First I would like to say that I haven’t seen most of the “buzz worthy” films from this award season. In fact, any desire I once had has been overshadowed by the mundane and boring award season. Since when has television been more exciting than film? I have no desire to see Sideways. I’ll watch it eventually, maybe, just to say I did. I really disliked About Schmidt and that’s probably why I’m hesitant. I haven’t had a chance to make it to the theater to catch Million Dollar Baby or The Aviator, both of which I very much want to see. I just need to fit it into my schedule. And finally, two films released on DVD, Ray and Friday Night Lights are on top of my must see list, especially before the Oscars. Since I haven’t seen these films, and also since Darren yelled at me, I’m cutting back the classic “Top Ten” list to my “Favorite Five Films of the Year”.

The Brain Drain would like to honor those who made the films of this year so freakin’ great.

Supporting Actor: David Carradine, Kill Bill v2
As we all know, a girl’s life can always be improved by the right support. This year's stand out supporting performance with out question is David Carradine for his Kung Fu grip and dear ol’ dad role in Kill Bill v2.
Honorable Mention: Clive Owen for making his brutally honest and oversexed character in Closer not nearly as victimized or despicable as a less talented actor might have done.

Supporting Actress: Natalie Portman, Closer
My what a year Miss Natalie Portman has had. Thank god that whole Star Wars thing is over (almost) so she can get back to doing what she does best, making us fall in love with her. Natalie delivers the performance of her young career in Closer. If you have yet to fall in love with her, rent The Professional, Beautiful Girls, and Garden State as well.
Honorable Mention(s): Radha Mitchell and Julie Christie are both chilling in Finding Neverland while Téa Leoni captures what it means to be a desperate housewife in Spanglish.

Cinematography: Dion Beebe, Collateral
Collateral is the most beautiful film of the year and wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. Damn you academy. From previews alone, The Aviator, House of Flying Daggers, and A Very Long Engagement have suburb camera work as well. It upsets me, that beautiful films that lack flashy locations or period costumes are often overlooked in this category. For a film that takes place entirely at night in a grimy downtown LA, Dion Beebe, flawlessly blends light and shadow into a stark wonderland. For reference, Beebe credits also includes Chicago and the upcoming Memoirs of a Geisha.
Honorable Mentions: Maybe I’m just in a dark world this year with my favorite pics, but both the fantasy Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban and the 21st century spy thriller The Bourne Supremacy get my vote for best looking pics.

Editing: Sally Menke, Kill Bill v2.
Can anyone really compete with a Tarentino film?

Music: As long has there have been films, music has been pushing the plot and decorating the soundscapes (long before there was even sound mind you). The soundtrack of the year is without question music “that will change your life” – Music from Garden State. With tracks from the classic - Simon & Garfunkle, to the melancholy - Coldplay, to indie sensations - The Shins, to chillout favorites – Zero 7, the mellow compilation does more than compliment the images of the film, but it’s an artistic masterpiece of its own. As for score, the clean and classic sounds of Finding Neverland gets my vote. For song, while not a “break away pop hit” my favorite of the year was the children’s choir performing "Something Wicked This Way Comes" in Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban. As for use of a song, Natalie Portman walking to Damien Rice's "Blower's Daughter" is a beautiful as it gets.

Original Screenplay: Charlie Kaufman, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Charlie Kaufman is a mad genius. Anyone who has seen Being John Malkovich knows this. This year, from the mind of Charlie Kaufman came Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind which takes a radical science fiction concept and in the end delivers the most realist essay on love ever scene in the history of cinema. Yes, I just said that and will stand by those words.
Honorable Mention: Edgar Wright & Simon Penn who’s Shaun of the Dead both honors and escalates the zombie genre to new heights. After all have you ever seen a romantic comedy, with zombies?

Adapted Screenplay: Tina Fey, Mean Girls
Adapting a book to screen can be very hard. Just ask Charlie Kaufman; he wrote a whole film about it… and he’s a mad genius. Now, add to the difficulty that you have decided to adapt a self help guide for frustrated parents of teenage girls. There are no main characters and pretty much no story. This is the task Tina Fey was faced with when she began work on Mean Girls. The SNL head writer, most famous for resuscitating Weekend Update from the wretched Colin Quinn, not only conquered these obstacles, but she delivered a suburb comedy loved by women and men of all ages. As Homer Simpson once said, “It’s funny ‘cause it’s true.”
Honorable Mention: Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke, Before Sunset
The creative force behind the okay 1994 film Before Sunrise decided to make a sequel - far better than the first - that follows the characters a decade later as they take a stroll through Paris and talk for an hour and a half. The team perfectly captures words and subtext making what could easily have become boring into a philosophical conversation about love, attraction, and growing older.

Actor: Jim Carrey, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Darren is found of saying that the only reason I love this performance so much is because I’m in love with the character. He’s 80% right seeing that Joel Barrish pretty much encapsulates everyman I’ve ever loved. BUT, that doesn’t mean this is an amazing performance for which Jim Carrey has been widely over looked this year. Granted, how do you compete with Ray Charles. Really? While Carrey has annoyed me for years, his dramatic turns not only surprise me, but often result in some of my favorite films like The Truman Show. I hope he keeps taking dramatic roles and that one day he finally gets the recognition he deserves.

Actress: Julie Delpy, Before Sunset
This is the first year in a while that there hasn’t been a definite actress that clearly deserves the win. The past three years, I’ve been ecstatic to see the most deserving ladies take home the trophies. You just couldn’t argue with their performances. In fact, you’d have to go back to Julia Roberts win for Erin Brockovich to see me get really mad about the winner. This year, not only is there no one whom I believe whole heartedly deserves to take the award home, but my favorite performance of the year didn’t even get a nomination. Julie Delpy’s performance in Before Sunset captures modern femininitiy from subtle, smart, and sly to disappointed, bitter, emotional.

Director: Zack Braff, Garden State
Not since Pi in 1998 have I been so blown away - cathartic even - and in awe of a first time writer - director. Braff is clearly the next great American Auteur. Garden State’s shot composition, story, and performance was executed and blended into a perfect commentary on self-medication and motivation in the world of a working class twenty-something. Why again is Zack Braff on "Scrubs" and not making more films? Why has no one honored his brilliance?
Honorable Mention: Michael Gondry took the genre bending script of Charlie Kaufman for Eternal Sunshine and made it real. In the process he pulled two of the greatest performances ever delivered by his leads Jim Carrey & Kate Winslet.

And now, for my Five Favorite Films of 2004

5. Closer
Why: This film is about the basic elements of people, how they love and stop loving each other. Why some leave, and why some don’t. While on a surface level the film examines infidelity, it delves much deeper to type of people we are, the people we can be, and the people we love. Personal character, both weak and strong, and how that effects every aspect of a relationship, a sort of balancing act, is laid out in this film in a way that has make us examine our own motivations, proclivities, and inner demons. It’s maliciousness at it’s most poetic.
What makes it exceptional: Natalie Portman crying by a window, Natalie Portman stripping in pink wig, Natalie Portman at an art exhibit…

4. Shaun of the Dead
Why: Among the recent resurrection of the Zombie genre, "Shaun" smacks of wit and satire while staying true the genre. The film does for zombies what Scream did for slasher films acknowledging cliches while still adhering to the rules. Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, Day of the Dead, and the Evil Dead Trilogy were all paid tribute with honor instead of the too standard Scary Movie style mockery. Shaun is an all around solid film. Writing, Acting, Directing, Editing, and even the music were all top notch. This film is all about laughes. The "horror" only comes by the realization that you too might be a working class zombie. If you're looking for thrills, chills, and screams go elsewhere. But if it's blood, guts, and guffaws you crave, don't skip this film. Shaun of the Dead is an instant classic to be watched again and again and again making it the Office Space of Monster movies.
What makes it exceptional: The sight gags - Without any cheesy message moments, Shaun delivers strong visual commentaries. The shot composition and sight gags are no less than brilliant making this one of the funniest films that I've ever seen.

3. Mean Girls
Why: Mean Girls is smart, stylish, and in it's own way, socially conscious. Can a girl be gorgeous and good at calculus? Can she honestly get a man by honestly being herself? Whether you're a 20 or 30 something feeling you've grown up too fast, a 13 year old girl dreading the transition to high school in the fall, a 15 year old boy looking for some eye candy, or a mom or dad looking to understand the wacky ways of your 17 year old daughter, this film has something for everyone of every age. Mean Girls breathes new breath into a sometimes played out genre. As the heir apparent to Fast Times, The Breakfast Club, Heathers, and Clueless, Mean Girls is the queen of the Spring Fling.
What makes it exceptional: Tina Fey - The screenplay adaptation by Tina Fey garnered more laughs per minute than most comedies in recent memory.

2. Garden State
If you've never tried to pull yourself out of the working class traps then had to return to the small town woes to face the skeletons you left behind, I don't know how much you'll like this film. If you've never experienced the fact that you've ascended the world you once belonged in, I don't know if you'll like this film. If you've never fallen in love in a way that changes your entire life in only 4 days, I don't know if you'll like this film. If you've never carried guilt - If you've never self-medicated, you might not understand, you might not appreciate how beautiful this film is. If you've never laughed through sadness, it might not give you giggles, but, if you have, this could be the greatest film you'll ever see.
What makes it exceptional: Zack Braff's vision – Every frame is a piece of art.

Not only is this next film my favorite film of the year, but it has usurped the title of my favorite film of all time previously held by Fight Club, and before that Reservoir Dogs. I have never actually written a review of this film for The Brain Drain only because I feel anything I say will detract from the film. I can’t find words to do it justice. All I can say, is….

You must see this film:


At 11:52 AM, Blogger Darren said...

We seem to agree on lots of stuff which is kind of creepy: supporting actor, supporting actress, actress, cinematography, editing, and movie of the year. Our adapted screenplay choices are reversed. How odd. And we did the same thing with Eternal Sunshine. Let's celebrate this occasion with the adding of chocolate to milk.


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