The meeting today was short and sweet. Ernest talked around a lot of ideas he has for changes in the script. I was pleased to see Brandon was as weary as I’ve been. Ernest can do what he wants. My only concern is that talk of “rewrites” is going to scare investors and possible collaborators, including director BB, who is coming in to meet with us next Sat.
But on to The Oscars. I’ve fallen behind on reporting here, though I’ve managed to make it thru Variety‘s various preview issues. Eye on the actor. Eye on the actress. Eye on the director. My favorite has of course been their handicap of the screenplay race. I hope to do whole posts on each race before the nominations are announced (but I have no idea when that is).
So what I’ll talk about quickly is the two latest contenders I’ve seen: Million Dollar Baby and In Good Company. Both are solid films but not as good as the hype has had them. In Good Company doesn’t seem to be a contender for much of anything, unless there is an Oscar for Best Product Placement. For a movie whose thesis is pro-individual and anti-corporate-synergy, it sure sold out. Dominoes. Target. MasterCard. Please! Go whole hog and call “Globecom” Time/Warner; “Krispity Krunch” Kellogs Cornflakes; and “Sports America” Sports Illustrated.
Anyway, the movie was well-acted and never badly-written, if sometimes tonally inconsistent. The filmmakers really stole about ninety percent of their playbook from About a Boy, what with the copycat soundtrack and studied scene transitions. The Apartment keeps getting raised as a comparison, mostly I think by whoever has been retained to do Oscar PR. They need to stop. This movie isn’t in the same league.
Nor is Million Dollar Baby in the same league as any other boxing movie. That’s because it takes what most critics have been calling “an unexpected turn.”
Unexpected how? In that it falls perfectly at the end of the second act? Eastwood almost pulls off what my g.f. described as Girlfight meets The Sea Inside. But while it pulls off the girlfight better than Girlfight, it doesn’t pull off the life/death story like The Sea Inside, probably because such a harrowing, emotional story demands to be a full movie, not just a quick third. Whereas I didn’t know what to think, in the end, about The Sea Inside, I as least got more of an emotional charge out of it than I did from Million Dollar Baby. The whole movie seemed to be a ruse, pretending to be tough-as-nails just so brute Eastwood could unleash the waterworks. It’s artful manipulation, but manipulation nonetheless.
Nonetheless it will be a strong contender. The Academy skews old and loves Eastwood. Hilary Swank may get a nom though probably can’t win another Oscar until she breaks out of the tough-chick typecasting. I’d like to see her go uber-glamorous. Morgan Freeman is steady as a rock, even when somberly intoning some of the most over-wrought movie voice-overs this side of noir. The writer, Paul Haggis, did a great job, from all accounts, adapting the F.X. Toole short stories. The character Scrap, for instance, is not in them — nor are many key scenes, if reports are to be believed. This sort of originality in the Adapted Category makes him a strong contender against the more conventionally adapted Sideways. That and this movie is pure drama, which is the one reason I wouldn’t put my money on Sideways in any category, despite the critical concensus now emerging.
Oscar Chase, part 4: Aviator, Spanglish, Sea Inside
Oscar Chase, part 3: A Very Long Engagement, Closer
Oscar Chase, part 2 – Review: Kinsey
Oscar Chase, part 1 – a preview
Reviews: Finding Neverland and Ray