Tag Archives: Damien Chazelle

My Oscar Predictions 2017

The ad above shows Jimmy Kimmel explaining to us what it takes to win an Oscar. He’s hosting the show this Sunday for the first time and I’m sure he’ll deliver a solid performance. That’s what the Academy seems to be aiming for this year – I don’t think anyone’s eyebrows were raised at the news, there’s nothing surprising or controversial about it, but we can probably all agree it’s a competent, good choice. Anyway, most of the controversy will likely come from the winners themselves, many of which are certain to attack the Trump regime with everything they’ve got. I hope they do. 

And now the nominations:

* Live Action Short – Ennemis Intérieurs. An interview at a police station in the 1990s becomes an opportunity to take a closer look at France’s troubled colonial history. 

Animated Short – Piper. Charming, beautifully made little film from Pixar; this was the short attached to Finding Dory last summer. 

Documentary Short – Extremis. A film that follows patients that are near death and what that means for their families and doctors. 

Sound Editing – Hacksaw Ridge. This is the category that rewards the creation of sound effects in a film. The award often goes to war movies and action flicks.

Sound Mixing – La La Land. This is the category that rewards  how sound effects, dialogue and music are mixed in a film. The hit musical was a pleasure in this department.

Makeup and Hairstyling – Star Trek Beyond presented a real challenge to its makeup department: Find a unique look for 56 different alien species. 

Visual Effects – The Jungle Book took us deep into a jungle full of talking animals even though they only existed in computers. 

Original Song – “City of Stars” by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul from La La Land.  

Original Score – Justin Hurwitz will win for La La Land

Production Design – La La Land

Costume Design – It’s a narrow struggle between La La Land and Jackie, but I believe that the former will be on a roll.

Foreign Language Film – I wouldn’t dismiss Germany’s Toni Erdmann too easily, but this category has become very political thanks to Trump’s moronic travel ban, which makes Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian drama The Salesman a likelier winner. 

Documentary Feature – O.J. Made in America was just a stunning piece of film. Or miniseries.

Animated Feature – Zootopia. Although why this seems like such a given choice I have no idea. Moana and Kubo and the Two Strings were also wonderful achievements. And so was Finding Dory, which failed to get a nomination. 

Film Editing – Tom Cross won an Oscar for Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash (2014), and now he’ll win again for the same director’s La La Land.

Cinematography – I’m Swedish so it brings me pride and joy to say that Linus Sandgren will win for his extraordinary work on La La Land.

Adapted Screenplay – Moonlight. Barry Jenkins took an unproduced play by Tarell Alvin McCraney and added his personal experiences from growing up in the same place, with stunning results.

Original Screenplay – Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea.

* Supporting Actor – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Supporting Actress – This is the year when we reward veteran actress Viola Davis. The film is Fences.

Actress – Emma Stone, La La Land.

Actor – One of the evening’s toughest choices. It’s down to Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea and Denzel Washington in Fences. I’m going to have to go with the latter because it feels like he’s got the momentum after his Screen Actors Guild Awards win.

Director – Damien Chazelle, La La Land.

Picture – La La Land deserves to win. And it will.

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La La Land: An Enchanting Year in the Sun

HERE’S TO THE FOOLS WHO DREAM.

Remember that opening scene from Manhattan (1979)? It’s a montage of different New York City images beautifully captured in black and white by cinematographer Gordon Willis, set to George Gershwin’s ”Rhapsody in Blue” as it builds in intensity to an impressive display of fireworks. It is an unforgettable tribute to that city. There has been many love letters to Los Angeles as well, even though a lot of people have also taken pleasure in knocking it. Not Damien Chazelle though. The director likes L.A. In an interview with The New York Times, he talked about how you have to put in an effort to explore the city because it has a tendency to ignore its own history. Turns out there are many of us who are willing to go along with him on that journey.

Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) works as a barista on the Warner studio lot while also trying to get hired as an actress. She has an uncomfortable encounter on an L.A. highway with Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling), a jazz pianist who dreams of starting his own club, one that doesn’t try to reinvent jazz for bored audiences. Mia meets Sebastian again at a restaurant where he’s the pianist, but he gets himself fired and simply blows her off. Some time later, Mia sees Sebastian very reluctantly perform in a 1980s cover band at a party and she confronts him. Over several dates, they get to know each other’s dreams, but the possibilities that eventually open up for them become a test…

A return to jazz
Anyone who saw Chazelle’s last movie, Whiplash (2014), shouldn’t be surprised to learn that this one also treats jazz like a special music genre worthy of admiration like no other. On the one hand, that passion is wonderful and part of the film’s immense charm. On the other hand, Gosling’s character is at times an insufferable snob whose attitude threatens to undermine the sentiments the filmmakers are trying to create. But it’s as if Chazelle is aware of what might be perceived after these two films as his own personal snobbery, because even the scenes of Sebastian ”selling out” are still very engaging for the rest of us, either fun in a dorky way (when Mia spots Sebastian at that 1980s party) or featuring good music even if it isn’t what Sebastian worships. We’re supposed to ”dislike” a song that John Legend performs (with Sebastian on keyboard), but it’s not really possible. This is largely a traditional musical, with original songs, and colorful choreography and set design, but Chazelle wanted to take all the hallmarks of that genre and fuse them with the modern world. That means we get a tribute to the old Hollywood, an idealized Los Angeles (as in that riveting opening scene where everybody starts dancing on the highway) and scenes of pure imagination – but we’re also always reminded of modern times. That means a nod to Rebel Without a Cause (1955), an imaginative and in every way uplifting, romantic visit to the Griffith Observatory as seen in that movie – but also another musical performance that’s abruptly interrupted by a familiar ringtone. The story takes a different turn than expected from old musicals, but still cleverly offers a happier alternative in the shape of a fantasy near the end, which brings a bittersweet touch to a film that is otherwise joyously entertaining. 

Gosling and Stone are perfectly matched and handle their musical challenges with aplomb. But above all, this is a technical triumph, including cinematographer Linus Sandgren’s lush vintage California look, Tom Cross’s rhythmic editing, Justin Hurwitz’s delightful song score and Chazelle’s steady hand at the helm. The story may be simple, but the movie is a complex achievement.

La La Land 2016-U.S. 128 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Fred Berger, Gary Gilbert, Jordan Horowitz, Marc Platt. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle. Cinematography: Linus Sandgren. Editing: Tom Cross. Music: Justin Hurwitz. Songs: ”Another Day of Sun”, ”City of Stars”, ”Audition” (Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul), ”Start a Fire” (John Legend, Marius De Vries, Angelique Cinelu, Justin Hurwitz). Production Design: David Wasco. Costume Design: Mary Zophres. Cast: Ryan Gosling (Sebastian Wilder), Emma Stone (Mia Dolan), John Legend (Keith), Rosemarie DeWitt, Finn Wittrock, Jessica Rothe… J.K. Simmons.

Trivia: Miles Teller and Emma Watson were allegedly considered for the leads.

Quote: “That’s L.A. – they worship everything and they value nothing.” (Gosling)

Oscars: Best Director, Actress (Stone), Cinematography, Original Score, Original Song (”City of Stars”), Production Design. Golden Globes: Best Motion Picture (Comedy/Musical), Director, Actor (Gosling), Actress (Stone), Screenplay, Original Score, Original Song (”City of Stars”). BAFTA: Best Film, Direction, Actress (Stone), Cinematography, Original Music.

Last word: “At the end of the day, I wanted everything to remain really human in the movie. Never to let the numbers become purely technical execution of steps; it’s one thing that I think [1950s musicals] were really good at, and it’s partly why I wanted actors and not professional dancers or singers. I wanted them to approach those things as actors, as everything coming from the character and the idiosyncrasies of the character; never favouring technique over character or story.” (Chazelle, The Independent)

 

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They Will Win Golden Globes 2017

The Golden Globes are already coming up. The show will be on NBC this Sunday and Jimmy Fallon debuts as host. It’s the year of the two Jimmys, as Kimmel is hosting the Oscars in late February. Solid, albeit not terribly exciting, selections. 

Now here’s my predictions – category by category.

FILMS:

  • Motion Picture (Drama): Tough category. The choice is between Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea. I believe in the former. 
  • Motion Picture (Comedy/Musical): La La Land.
  • Animated Feature: Zootopia.
  • Foreign Language Film: Elle has its fans, but I think Toni Erdmann will win.
  • Director: Damien Chazelle, La La Land. Even though Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) might put up a fight.
  • Actor (Drama): Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea.
  • Actress (Drama): Natalie Portman, Jackie.
  • Actor (Comedy): Ryan Gosling, La La Land.
  • Actress (Comedy): Emma Stone, La La Land.
  • Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight.
  • Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Fences.
  • Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea.
  • Score: La La Land.
  • Song: “City of Stars” (La La Land).

TELEVISION:

  • Drama Series: This is Us might very well win, but another newcomer, The Crown, is my choice.
  • Comedy Series: Atlanta.
  • TV Movie/Limited Series: American Crime Story: The People vs. O.J. Simpson.
  • Actor (Drama): Billy Bob Thornton just might win for the new show Goliath, but Rami Malek (Mr. Robot) is a contender.
  • Actress (Drama): Claire Foy, The Crown. Even though Evan Rachel Wood was magnificent in Westworld.
  • Actor (Comedy): Donald Glover, Atlanta.
  • Actress (Comedy): Issa Rae, Insecure.
  • Actor (TV Movie/Limited Series): I definitely believe in Courtney B. Vance for The People vs. O.J. Simpson, but some think the award belongs to Tom Hiddleston for The Night Manager.
  • Actress (TV Movie/Limited Series): Sarah Paulson, The People vs. O.J. Simpson.
  • Supporting Actor: Looks like John Lithgow will win for The Crown, but Sterling K. Brown might put up a fight for The People vs. O.J. Simpson.
  • Supporting Actress: Thandie Newton, Westworld.
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Whiplash: Blood, Sweat and Tears

THE ROAD TO GREATNESS CAN TAKE YOU TO THE EDGE.

whiplashFamous jazz drummer and bandleader Buddy Rich had a short temper. His outbursts were caught in secret recordings made in the early 1980s and have become the stuff of legend; another time, Dusty Springfield allegedly slapped Rich after putting up with his insults for several days. When young filmmaker Damien Chazelle wrote a script about a teenager who wants to become the best jazz drummer in the world, Buddy Rich became an inspiration. Not only for his excellent work behind the cymbals, but for his wrath.

Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is 19 and a first-year jazz student at Shaffer Conservatory in New York City. He’s ambitious; this is one of the best schools in the country and Andrew will not accept anything less than reaching the very top in jazz drumming. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) is a legend at the school, feared and admired. After watching Andrew play one night, he accepts him as an alternate for his drummer in the studio band.

Andrew makes the mistake of thinking that Fletcher regards him as a wunderkind and is thoroughly humiliated in class for not being able to perfectly match Fletcher’s tempo when he’s conducting. The 19-year-old doubles down on his efforts to reach perfection, but it comes at a cost…

A role actors dream of
The original script appeared on the 2012 Black List of great screenplays not yet produced and part of it was turned into a short film in 2013. Simmons was hired to play the ruthless teacher and when he got the chance to expand his role for this full motion picture version he seemed to relish it. After working as a respected journeyman actor for years he was suddenly provided with a role that most of his peers only dream of – a man who is a monster at heart, driven by ambition but also love for and respect of music. Chazelle, himself once a drummer student, had a similar teacher but wrote an exaggerated version of him for this film, and encouraged Simmons to truly go all the way to bring out that monster within. But the actor gets to show a wide range of emotions, grief as well as a sense of humor, which makes it a complex character.

The questions we as well as many others in the film ask ourselves are, What is the price of excellence? Why are some of us prepared to pay for it? Where do we cross the line between the pursuit of excellence and commonplace sadism? It’s easy to hate Simmons’s character, but we also grudgingly acknowledge the truth of his reasoning. Young Andrew’s journey is just as complex as the portrayal of Fletcher; we follow him as he breaks his back trying to please this tyrant (almost literally in one shocking scene), then watch him mature a little bit until the final showdown arrives in the shape of a trap that Andrew turns against his nemesis.

There were times when I was comparing Teller in his breakthrough with Sylvester Stallone in Rocky (1976), partly because there’s a slight physical resemblance, partly because of the screenplay’s structure. It’s very easy to root for him, even when he behaves like an ass.

Whiplash was a big hit at the 2014 Sundance festival and will forever be a major moment in the careers of its director, Simmons and Teller. But we should also praise other talents involved, especially Tim Simonec who arranged the amazing big-band jazz music of the film, Tom Scott whose editing makes some of the key scenes as rhythmic and exciting as a boxing match (Rocky, again) and Sharone Meir whose cinematography puts the blood, sweat and tears involved in drumming into heartbreaking (and nauseating) focus.

Whiplash 2014-U.S. 107 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Jason Blum, Helen Estabrook, David Lancaster, Michael Litvak. Written and directed by Damien Chazelle. Cinematography: Sharone Meir. Editing: Tom Cross. Cast: Miles Teller (Andrew Neiman), J.K. Simmons (Terence Fletcher), Paul Reiser (Jim Neiman), Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang.

Trivia: Dane DeHaan was allegedly considered as Andrew.

Quote: “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’.” (Simmons)

Oscars: Best Supporting Actor (Simmons), Film Editing, Sound Mixing. Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actor (Simmons). BAFTA: Best Supporting Actor (Simmons), Editing, Sound. 

Last word: “The shoot itself was 100 percent grueling. No one was sleeping and everyone was exhausted. And J.K. cracked two ribs when Miles tackles him in that scene. And I got into a car accident halfway through the shoot. And relationships crumbled because of the shoot. There was a lot of shit going on outside of the shoot, but the actual process of shooting? For the most part, people got along. The only thing that made the shoot possible, let alone successful, was the actors and the crew. No one was getting paid a lot. They were working insane hours and they were so focused on the work at hand. All of us felt passionately about the movie and getting it right. And a lot of people involved in the film, whether cast or crew, had music experience or came from that world. So we were all on the same page, trying to make as authentic a portrait as possible of that world.” (Chazelle, A.V. Club)

3 kopia

 

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They Will Win Oscars This Sunday

Red carpets are being rolled out, female stars are deciding which fashion giants to promote, and big Oscar statues outside the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles are getting their last golden polish. The 87th Academy Awards will take place this Sunday and I feel confident that host Neil Patrick Harris will do an excellent job. After all, he’s been elevating Tony and Emmy shows for years now. Still not convinced? Just take a look above at how effortlessly he played around with the whole awards show thing together with Hugh Jackman at the 2011 Tonys.

The time has come for Oscar predictions, and it’s not a job for cowards. Several of this year’s categories are tricky. Let’s go through all of them, one by one.

* Live Action Short – The Phone Call. Starring Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent; watch the trailer above.

Animated Short – Feast. This Disney production might be in better luck than last year’s Get a Horse!, which failed to win the Oscar.

Documentary Short – Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. Watch the trailer for this HBO film above.

Sound Editing – American Sniper.

Sound Mixing – Whiplash. In the sound categories, the race is down to these two films. Really, it’s anyone’s guess how the Oscars might be divided between them since there are so few who understand the difference between the categories. The Dolby blog explains it – the art of sound editing is creating the sounds; the art of sound mixing is taking those sounds and the music and make all of it gel as a whole.

Makeup and Hairstyling – Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose in Foxcatcher will have to forgive us, but the Oscar looks likely to go to The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Visual Effects – Definitely belongs to Interstellar, which made us believe that we were traveling far away from Earth.

Song – “Glory” by Common and John Legend in Selma.

* Original Score – The Theory of Everything might win, but I’m definitely rooting for The Imitation Game; Alexandre Desplat’s score is the best of the bunch.

Production Design – The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Costume Design – The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Foreign Language Film – Ida. Far from a safe bet, and I was wrong when I predicted it for the Golden Globes; Leviathan and Wild Tales are fierce competitors.

Documentary FeatureCitizenfour, Laura Poitras’s film about Edward Snowden, looks likely to win.

Animated Feature – How to Train Your Dragon 2.

* Film Editing – This is a tough one. Yes, Sandra Adair of Boyhood deserves recognition for creating a rhythm and balance out of 12 years worth of material, but it could be argued that Tom Scott’s work on Whiplash is what really made that movie. So I’m going with Scott.

Cinematography – The work on Ida is amazing, but I’m betting that Emmanuel Lubezki will collect his second Oscar in a row for Birdman (after Gravity).

Adapted Screenplay – A very tough category. Damien Chazelle could and should win for adapting his own short film for Whiplash, but he faces competition from Graham Moore for The Imitation Game.

Original Screenplay – Wes Anderson looks more than likely to win for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

* Supporting Actor – J.K. Simmons for Whiplash.

Supporting Actress – Patricia Arquette for Boyhood.

* Actress – Julianne Moore, Still Alice

Actor – This has suddenly become a very difficult category. I believe now that Eddie Redmayne will win for The Theory of Everything, but it pisses me off. This is exactly the kind of performance that always wins the Oscar. Michael Keaton created a rich, full character out of the script for Birdman and his achievement is great; he’s the one who deserves to win.

Director – Another very hard category to predict now. Richard Linklater looked like a shoo-in for Boyhood a month ago; now he’s facing fierce competition from Alejandro González Iñárritu for Birdman. In the end I believe that Linklater will win and he deserves it; this 12-year-long odyssey has been masterfully engineered by him. 

Picture – The fun thing about the Oscars this year is that we have no clue which film will win the top prize. It’s either Boyhood or Birdman. The former looked certain to win for several months, but the race is so tight now. I’m still going to go with Boyhood.

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