What I’ve Seen Recently

Since I haven’t posted in quite some time, I figured I should fill everyone in on some of the movies I’ve seen in the past few weeks.

Here it goes:

The Underdogs of the Oscars

With this year’s Oscar buzz being focused on Helen Mirren and Jennifer Hudson, it’s easy to forget that many of the other races do not have clear frontrunners or that the best movies nominated are not nominated for Best Picture.

Best Actor

On Sunday night Peter O’Toole, one the greatest living screen actors, could become the most-nominated actor never to win an Academy Award.

The fact that O’Toole has never won a competitive Academy Award (he received an honorary Oscar in 2003) is a crime. However, this year is his best chance to finally win. Despite Forest Whitaker’s obvious domination of the Best Actor category, O’Toole is the most likely actor to an Oscar upset.

The Academy loves to honor actors who have never won, especially those who may have just delivered their last great performance. Think of Henry Fonda winning for On Golden Pond or Jack Palance for City Slickers.

O’Toole’s touching performance as the aging actor Maurice in Venus could (and should) allow him one final moment to shine.

Best Foreign Language Film

When Pan’s Labyrinth, Mexico’s submission in the Best Foreign Language Film category, received six Oscar nominations, there was a common expression of surprise among entertainment reporters.

Compared to the two films that received more Oscar nominations, Babel and Dreamgirls, Pan’s Labyrinth has gathered the least publicity and it is without a doubt the best of the three films.

Director Guillermo del Toro has created a cinema masterpiece. The film is about a young girl who uses a fairy tale to escape her troubled life. Don’t be surprised when this wonderful film walks away with not only the Academy Award in this category, but in other categories as well.

Best Picture

The award show season unofficially begins sometime during December. By the time the Golden Globes occur in early January, the frontrunners in most categories are obvious. Yet, this year is unique because there is no apparent leader for Best Picture.

The favorite flip flops between Babel and The Departed, and then other days Letters from Iwo Jima or The Queen seem [to be] the likely victors. Little Miss Sunshine has always been the underdog.

Maybe after last year’s Crash/Brokeback Mountain fiasco, critics are more wary to pick a winner. Or maybe it is because this has been a superb year for performances and not a great year for movies. Honestly, the Best Picture of 2007 is anyone’s call and the only certainty is that Dreamgirls doesn’t have a shot at winning.

Published: The Mount Holyoke News
February 22, 2007

2007 Best Actor Nominees

Today’s Oscar preview is of the Best Actor nominees.

Unfortunately, I have only seen The Last King of Scotland but Half Nelson is my Netflix that is arriving tomorrow. (Who knows, maybe I will get two snow days in a row and be able to watch it!)

Leonardo DiCaprio as Danny Archer, an ex-mercenary and diamond smuggler, in Blood Diamond

This is DiCaprio’s third Oscar nomination; he has never won.

What the critics have said:

Blood Diamond works because of the performance from DiCaprio, which is stunning. Talk about rising above the material.” — Liz Braun, Jam! Movies

“DiCaprio gives a masterful performance. He’s become a man’s man with powerful on-screen presence.” — Victoria Alexander, Filmsinreview.com

“What you will remember from the film though, is the performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, in his most impressive work since he was a teenage wunderkind.” — Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail

Ryan Gosling as Dan Dunne, an inner-city teacher battling a drug addiction, in Half Nelson

This is Gosling’s first Oscara nomination.

What the critics have said:

“Gosling inhabits Dan with every feature of his face and particle of his body and soul.” — Ruthe Stein, San Francisco Chronicle

“Gosling’s acting is the highlight here. He sets the bar for the rest of the cast, and those around him rise to the challenge.” — Krista Vitola, Premiere Magazine

“The star of the piece is definitely Gosling: so sweet, so smart, so troubled, and so much the jerk. There’s no vanity in the actor as Dan gives in to his demons.” — Pam Grady, Reel.com

Peter O’Toole as Maurice, an aging actor whose life is turned upside down when he meets a teenager, in Venus.

This is O’Toole’s eighth Oscar nomination; he has never won.

What the critics have said:

“It may be Peter O’Toole’s last truly great performance.” — Don Willmott, Filmcritic.com

What makes this film the perfect career nightcap for Peter the great is the nimbus of rakish doom he has always cultivated.”– Kyle Smith, New York Post

“O’Toole gives a staggering performance — fearless, defiantley untamed and in its own way a work of art.” — Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

Will Smith as Chris Gardner, a single father who works Wall Street by day and is homeless by night, in The Pursuit of Happyness.

This is Smith’s second Oscar nomination; he has never won.

What the critics have said:

“What ultimately keeps Happyness on track is Will Smith’s perfectly pitched performance.” — Ethan Alter, Film Journal International

“Smith hasn’t delivered this kind of earnest, emotionally raw performance since Ali, and his Chris Gardner is every bit as complex.” — Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Will Smith has the right quality for the role — he’s an easy man to root for — but he augments this by channeling some inner quality of desperation and need.”–Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin, the dictator of Uganda, in The Last King of Scotland.

This is Whitaker’s first Oscar nomination; he is the favorite to win.

What the critics have said:

“Whitaker carries the film on his broad shoulders, creating a realistic and frightening portrait of one of the world’s most elusive and notorious figures.” — Kim Voynar, Cinematical

“The movie’s real power, and true greatness, comes from Whitaker. Whether or not it’s forgotten at awards season, it’s guaranteed to be remembered for a long time to come.” — Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger

“We are in awe not that the character is so wildly unstable, but that Whitaker has made such a wildly unstable character seem so natural.” — Erice D. Snider, EricDSnider.com

Peter O’Toole’s Ten Best Films

Screen legend Peter O’Toole currently stars in Venus.

O’Toole plays Maurice, an elderly actor who develops a relationship with his friends great-niece (played by newcomer Jodie Whittaker). O’Toole performance is gaining award buzz, already receiving a Golden Globe nomination and it seems that the 74-year-old actor will receive an Oscar nomination. It is hard to believe that he has never won an Academy Award despite seven nominations. Could this be O’Toole’s year?
While we wait to see what happens, here are Peter O’Toole’s 10 best films according to John Hartl of msnbc.com. [SOURCE]
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)


Becket (1964)

Night of the Generals (1967)

The Lion in Winter (1968)
Goodbye, Mr Chips (1969)

The Ruling Class (1972)

The Stunt Man (1980)
My Favorite Year (1982)
The Last Emperor (1987)

This is something to think about. If Forest Whittaker wins the Best Actor prize for The Last King of Scotland, which he most likely will, Peter O’ Toole, if he is nominated, would set a new Academy Award record.
8 nominations, no wins. I wish that would change.