Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Man in Theatre Line a.k.a.The Insufferable Hardcore Film Buff (“IHFB”)

Remember that scene in Annie Hall?

Alvy Singer: [the man behind him in line is talking loudly] What I wouldn't give for a large sock with horse manure in it! 
Alvy Singer: [to audience] Whaddya do when you get stuck in a movie line with a guy like this behind you? 
Man in Theatre Line: Wait a minute, why can't I give my opinion? It's a free country! 
Alvy Singer: He can give it... do you have to give it so loud? I mean, aren't you ashamed to pontificate like that? And the funny part of it is, Marshall McLuhan, you don't know anything about Marshall McLuhan
Man in Theatre Line: Oh, really? Well, it just so happens I teach a class at Columbia called "TV, Media and Culture." So I think my insights into Mr. McLuhan, well, have a great deal of validity! 
Alvy Singer: Oh, do ya? Well, that's funny, because I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here, so, so, yeah, just let me... 
[pulls McLuhan out from behind a nearby poster
Alvy Singer: come over here for a second... tell him! 
Marshall McLuhan: I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my work! You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing! 
Alvy Singer: Boy, if life were only like this!

Every time I encounter an IHFB I cringe and think of this scene. I’ve done my share of cinematic pontification and it wasn’t until I started to encounter several incarnations of Man in Theatre Line all over Los Angeles, that I decided to keep my brilliant analytical insights to myself for fear that I might sound like an annoying IHFB. Thinking it’d be less annoying than verbalizing my opinions, I started to write reviews for an e-zine. At first it worked. It was much easier to send a link to a review when someone asked what I thought about a movie. But then I started to annoy and bore myself with the written version of my gushing, passionate pontification and parading of my vast film knowledge. It was also truly traumatizing to have to pan some of my favorite directors (including Woody) in the name of journalistic integrity and to fend off angry and offended moviegoers because my tastes were not populist and differed from theirs. Tell someone you hated the beloved Haggis’ Crash and Slumdog Millionaire and you might find yourself the victim of mainstream ire.

Anyway, last Saturday I finally got to see Lawrence of Arabia on 70mm at the Aero with my Film Enthusiast group. Because it was one of my mom’s favorite movies, I have seen it at least a dozen times on television and video. While waiting for the film to start I told this to someone in the group, and a self-proclaimed IHFB (minus the “I” of course) said: Oh, I’ve seen it way more than that. And all on the big screen. I only see movies on the big screen. It’s the only way to see movies. On the big screen that is.”

Okey dokey. Tell him what he’s won Vanna…

A few people said they had not seen Lawrence of Arabia and I asked if they had seen The Bridge on the River Kwai. They said yes and before I could complete my thought the IHFB interrupted with “Oh no. But Lawrence of Arabia is much more factual.” I turned around and gave up on the conversation.  The IHFB continued to spill out tomes and tomes of David Lean and Lawrence of Arabia information and analysis hardly letting anyone else from the group chime in. I had to sit through 20 minutes of that before my friends, who were driving all the way from San Diego for this special screening, arrived. I decided right there and then to pretend I knew nothing about film. When asked my opinion, I'll just say I liked it, didn't like it, or it was okay. That was to be my gift to my fellow humans. And this is how one gets to learn the true meaning of empathy folks.

Ok, so this post was supposed to be about the incredible experience that is Lawrence of Arabia on the big screen. It made me sad that $500 million had to be spent to make blue lizards on 3-D to “restore the wonder” to the movie going experience, when all you have to do is spend $10 at your local revival/arthouse theater. Oh what the masses are missing!

I’m a filmmaker and therefore I have to sit through two and a half hours of blue lizards to see what’s up. I am not looking forward to it, but I will check my cynicism at the door and go in with an open mind. In the meantime, I have to ask:

Would David Lean have used CGI instead of spending two years in the desert if the technology had been available to him?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Can we ban the word “pretentious” from the dictionary?

My friend John Luke Retard e-mailed me and a mutual Critic friend the Toronto Film Festival best of the decade list. John Luke confessed he had fallen asleep during Syndromes and a Century and the Critic sent a brief reply dismissing the list as pretentious. I expect that kind of shallow reaction from an intimidated and insecure mainstream moviegoer, but coming from a critic it really bothered me. Especially after he had already said the same thing about The Hollywood Reporter’s list, pointing out that, even though he had not seen The White Ribbon, any list with that much Michael Haneke had to be pretentious. I don’t know if it was his use of one of my most hated words, his disdain for one of my favorite directors or the chile relleno I had for lunch, but my gut started to burn. I took a Zantac, meditated for a bit and proceeded to grill him on his definition of “pretentious.” He sent back this lovely definition: “long, slow films that most audiences will not care about or enjoy.” I popped a Paxil.

“Great artists are people who find the way to be themselves in their art. Any sort of pretension induces mediocrity in art and life alike.”—Margot Fonteyn

I abhor the word “pretentious” because it’s thrown around willy-nilly, as if it’s supposed to be a grandiose and meaningful statement in of itself. It’s quite the opposite. I have used the word before in a film review. But to me, pretentiousness is the antithesis of honesty; it lies within the context of the artist’s intent. The Critic was using it to judge the TIFF list-maker’s intent, as if his/her choices had no relevance because it was unlikely they would appeal to a wide audience. As a member of a smaller audience that seeks out more original and artistic films, I am offended that someone would suggest that what I want to see doesn’t matter. It was as if the Critic was saying, “your hunger for these obscure arthouse films is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. If you refuse to be part of the herd, then risk being called a pretentious twit."

I started to review movies out of a need to, not just write, but to promote worthy films outside the mainstream radar. Voltaire said that “no statue has ever been erected for a critic.” While it’s true, the profession doesn’t have to be without merit. It is certainly a noble pursuit to support and promote worthwhile efforts outside the mainstream. I wrote the Critic, that where he saw pretentiousness and the list-maker’s selfish self-aggrandizing, I perceived advocacy. As a filmmaker, I hope one day my work will be championed by a critic. Anyone, actually.

I am sure The Dark Knight and Up will be on many lists, but really, do they need it? Christopher Nolan and Pixar are doing all right. Better than all right. The same can’t be said for dozens of brilliant filmmakers that cannot get financing off the ground and distribution for their films. They’re calling it the Indie Bloodbath.

I thank and applaud those who bring attention to lesser known movies. Making discoveries would be difficult without those generous, caring souls. Someone is going to read the TIFF list and discover a filmmaker they have never heard of before and maybe love her movie. (I’ve added Distant, Platform and Colossal Youth to my bulging Netflix queue.)The hope is always that someone, somewhere, will notice your work and give it some attention so that you can find your audience.

I am working my way through the decade’s movies trying to figure out what I think are the best. I can tell you right now that ranking my picks will be downright impossible. I don’t watch that many Hollywood movies because it’s a waste of my time. However, I hope you don’t see me and/or my list as pretentious. I don’t have an agenda. I like what I like and I champion what I think should be championed. It’s as simple as that. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Beyond the Shitty First Draft

There is no such thing as a first draft, or an OK first draft, or a pretty good first draft. There are only Shitty First Drafts and Super Shitty First Drafts and the only way to graduate from Super Shitty to just Shitty is to write several Super Shitty First Drafts.

Every screenwriter, at least the ones that live in the reality of this planet (believe me, there are many who don’t and most reside in Los Angeles) knows that the first draft is not even good enough to show your mother. This is particularly hard to stomach if you are a beginner screenwriter and you think everything you write is super clever and compelling. Write a few scripts, show them to some people, and watch that six figure spec deal delusion crumble.

I’ve completed many Shitty First Drafts and the road to the rewrite is always excruciatingly painful because, after all that work, the thought of taking it apart and risk making it worse, is horrific to me. Last night I attended the Notes on Craft: Rewriting session at the WGA in an effort to come to terms with that fear. The impressive panel was moderated by Daniel Petrie, Jr. and was composed of John August, Jack Epps, Jr. and Scott Frank.

I can’t begin to tell you how helpful and inspiring the experience was. It wasn’t that I heard earth-shattering information although the advice and tips from the writers were great. No, what I discovered was that even established and wildly successful screenwriters have the same fears and tackle the same problems as hopefuls.

The three writers had three different processes and approaches to writing. Epps is organized, uses note cards and has to have a clear vision and outline before he begins. August needs to know the beginning and the end and then works towards the middle. Frank just writes and writes until he discovers the story and finds its heartbeat. He confessed this was an extremely arduous, agonizing and long, long, long method.

They agreed that the greatest rewrite fear comes from having to risk everything that works to fix what doesn’t. It’s tricky to navigate around what’s working. So how do you figure out what doesn’t work? You need to trust yourself and your instinct and remember why you wanted to write this story in the first place. You should also have a few trusted friends and colleagues that will read your script and give you helpful notes. Some trusted readers should be people who’d love the kind of movie you are writing and others who wouldn’t consider it their thing.

The Shitty First Draft exists to be torn apart, and almost always, the second draft process will be more difficult. A writer must find the inspiration to tackle the second draft with fresh eyes and the courage to be brutal and savage. You should perceive the task as a challenge and not a mechanical chore and you need to continue to locate yourself in the material so that it’s a living, breathing story.

These writers were telling me exactly what I instinctively knew and they confirmed why it was so difficult to tear that first draft apart.

Interestingly, Frank commented that the reason you start a script hardly ever winds up in the final draft.

The screenwriters spoke about their rewriting assignments and they agreed that the common denominator of bad scripts is the lack of good characters. They get called in to “fix the girl, make her sound human.” Too often, writers concentrate on plot and populate the story with “attitudes.” These “people” do not act like humans, the plot and where it’s going dictates what the characters do and say. Frank said that the only way you can have an artful script is to have great characters. Story is easy, great characters are not.

Because it’s so tough to discern what works or doesn’t, Epps urged us to formulate a plan of attack and concentrate on only one thing with each pass. He added that most of his rewriting consisted of figuring out character motivation and deepening relationships and subplots. He offered Tootsie as an example. Michael Dorsey’s story and arc are pretty clear, but each of his relationships is what drives the story and makes it compelling.

The single most valuable tip involved audience consideration. The writers pointed out the importance of the audience’s point of view: what do they want to see? August mentioned the evolution of Iron Man. The filmmakers were smart enough to realize that the audience wanted to see Robert Downey, Jr. creating his inventions, so they cut a lot of the action and plot from the final film and gave them more of what they wanted to see.

Other helpful tips/exercises:

• Give yourself the freedom to write off the page and get your characters talking.

• Imagine the story from each character’s point of view, change the dynamics of the scene, i.e. which character drives it and have fun writing it.

• Pay close attention to scene transitions and focus on them to improve pace. Frequently, if scene transitions are not effective, that means one of the scenes is unnecessary.

• Change up obligatory genre scenes, i.e. the “meet cute” in a romcom. Think of ways to change the formula and write it differently.

• Ask yourself: if the inciting incident didn’t happen, would I watch these characters anyway? If the answer is no, you have to go back to characterization.

Burn down the house. Be horrible to your main character. Things can always get worse for her.

• Always be on the lookout for lack of conflict. It doesn’t matter how small a scene is, it should always have conflict.

• When it comes to polishing, be mindful of rhythm, flow and tone. Vary sentence structure or else the read will be very boring. Say a lot with the least amount of words possible and make every word count. They recommended Dashiell Hammett’s “Red Harvest” as the quintessential example of saying a lot with little.

• If you can tell what your script is about without getting long winded or digressing, then the draft is ready for other eyes.

Finally, Frank expressed that the best reason to write was to amuse yourself. But because writing is such agony, it must be an obsession. And yes, successful writers also move commas around and mess with the settings of their screenwriting program to cheat page count and call it rewriting.

I’m still afraid, but it’s comforting to know that there are others out there who are with me in my suffering. I think I’m ready to face the imaginary paper shredder. And anyway, what choice do I have? This is an obsession.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wilder’s Eleven Tips on Screenwriting

This year, as a screenwriter and also as a film critic,  I have learned to take the audience into consideration and even respect it. And believe me, for a born and raised film snob and idiosyncratic filmmaker, it was a long and painful process.  I think Billy Wilder expressed it best:

"An audience is never wrong. An individual member of it may be an imbecile, but a thousand imbeciles together in the dark - that is critical genius."

In the documentary Billy Wilder Speaks, Volker Schlondorff asked Wilder what should be in a screenplay. He responded: "Interior. Exterior. Day. Night. That's it."

Watch Billy Wilder speaks in Celebrity & Showbiz  |  View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

It's advice I have taken to heart and which has enabled me to demystify the craft of screenwriting and realize the supremacy of the Story. Sitting through readings of over-written screenplays has helped a lot too. Don't do unto others...

Wilder's screenwriting advice below reflects his respect for the audience and his approach to filmmaking. It's great advice from a filmmaker that gave us one of the most articulate, enjoyable and influential body of work in the history of cinema.

1. The audience is fickle.

2. Grab 'em by the throat and never let 'em go.

3. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.

4. Know where you're going.

5. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.

6. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.

7. A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They'll love you forever.

8. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they are seeing.

9. The event that occurs at the end of the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.

10. The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then

11. That's it. Don't hang around.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Is it true that the few remaining truths are graffiti, suicide notes, and shopping lists?

Umberto Eco recently said in an interview "I like lists for the same reason other people like football or pedophilia." Read full interview here.

I agree that lists can be anti-democratic, discriminatory, elitist, and sometimes the print is too small. Still, I make lists to try to put my life in some kind of order, but once I make them, I never look at them again. Even shopping lists. The list below is an attempt to make sense of my movie watching experience this year.

The Best:

The Headless Woman
The Hurt Locker
The Beaches of Agnes
You the Living
Lorna’s Silence
Women Without Men
Tokyo Sonata
An Education
The White Ribbon

I can’t believe I actually sat through and endured these, one of which almost turned me into a francohater:

Paris 36
Little Ashes
The Stoning of Soraya M
Blue Balls aka The Watchmen
What Goes Up
State of Play

Three of the most disappointing came from three of my favorite directors:

Broken Embraces
The Limits of Control
Whatever Works
The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
The Road

Documentaries I enjoyed:

The Guest of Cindy Sherman
No Impact Man
Food, Inc.
Chelsea on the Rocks
The Yes Men Fix the World

Treats on the big screen:

A Foreign Affair
Rosemary’s Baby
Imitation of Life (Sirk’s)
Le Doulos
The best movie watching experience of my life:
A restored print of The Gold Rush at Royce Hall.

It was an okay year I guess. I did not list the mediocre movies since there are too many of them and they are mostly forgettable. There’s still 6 weeks left in the year, and, since it’s Oscar Hopeful Rollout Season, I doubt this list will change much. Also, I’m sure I’m leaving out some films, but that’s another list for another day.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's the end of the decade and you know what that means:

lists and more lists.

While there were many, many great movies this decade, I had to settle on one. My first choice would have been Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but since I'm always quoting from Ghost World (Dir: Terry Zwigoff, 2001, that was a more obvious and personal choice.

The trials and tribulations of teenagers all over the world are beautifully summarized in the old Zen saying: "Awkward in a hundred ways, clumsy in a thousand, still I go on." It fully applies to recent high school graduates Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), best friends who can't wait to say goodbye to all the "retards"--the popular kids who buy into the consumer culture. They are searching not only for their identity, but their place in a world dominated by plastic versions of interaction and satisfaction. In Ghost World, Terry Zwigoff bridges the imaginary gap between arthouse and mainstream filmmaking with a very funny and insightful look into the psyche of modern America. Through his characters, he shows us both the ugly and beautiful, the phony and the real, while trying to connect with something authentic.

Click here to continue….

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Feel Bad Movie of the Year

After the tragic 2000 "election," I coped by joining every tree-hugging, peace-marching, polar bear-saving organization I could afford. In exchange for my 20 bucks I received bumper stickers and frightening e-newsletters, but none as disturbing as the Organic Consumers Association Organic Bytes. Here's a recent one, #176: Alert of the Week: Stop Monsanto's Genetically Engineered Wheat; Related Quote of the Week: The Hazards of Genetic Engineering, etc. I became afraid of food but I still managed to maintain my 22% body fat thanks to hunger-induced amnesia, eventually prompting me to mark the Organic Bytes harbinger of doom as spam right before heading to my favorite taco stand.

There's no way to sugar coat it. Food, Inc. is the feel-bad movie of the year; a terrifying and eerily prescient, non-fiction version of Soylent Green, the 1973 movie which depicted a dystopian future wherein overpopulation and the destruction of the environment have rendered human life cheap, but food--that is, real food--is very expensive. The government dispenses rations of synthetic food substances made by the Soylent Corporation: Soylent Yellow, Soylent Red, and the newest product, Soylent Green. It's all about the cheap food and so is Food, Inc.

Continued at...


Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Dog Again

I’ve been thinking a lot about Slumdog Millionaire, not really because I choose to, but because that damn song is being played over and over again everyfuckingwhere I go. (I actually got up and tried to do the Bollywood dance the other day.) Thanks to this reluctant reflection, I’ve decided I did not like the movie that much and if I continue thinking about it I may grow to hate it. Actually, I just may be one Danny Boyle or Dev Patel interview away from such contempt.

Slumdog suffers from is the same affliction that curses just about every American made movie: the closed narrative loop. What makes most Hollywood movies numbingly boring and irrelevant is the structure: premise, plot, sub-plots, a protagonist, one or more antagonists, climax, resolution, and the warm-happy sunset to ride off into. Contrivance is the necessary tool to fit reality into a neat two hour narrative package. Hollywood teaches us to deny reality and that’s why the USA is the most ignorant major industrial nation on earth.

This self-billed "feel good movie of the year" may help us "feel good" that we are among the lucky ones on earth, but it delivers a patronizing, colonial and ultimately sham statement on social justice for those who are not.

What might Slumdog look like in the hands of Satyajit Ray, Ken Loach or John Sayles?

There may be just one good thing to come out Slumdog’s popularity. I predict once it’s out on DVD it will dethrone Haggis’ Crash (the worst movie ever made) as the No. 1 rental on Netflix.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

My Oscar predictions.

Mickey Rourke--actor
Heath Ledger--supporting actor
Kate Winslet--actress
Penelope Cruz--supporting actress (Viola Davis might take it)
WALL-E--animated feature, original screenplay
Benjamin Snooze Button-art direction, make-up, visual effects
Slumdog--picture, director, adapted screenplay, cinematography, score, film editing
The Duchess--costume design
Man on Wire--documentary feature
The Witness--doc short
Waltz with Bashir-foreign pic
Jai-Ho from Slumdog
The Pig--live action short
Presto--Animated short

Corndog Millionaire

I finally got around to watching Slumdog Millionaire. I thought it would be embarrassing to go to my Oscar party and not have seen at least one of the nominated movies. And I wanted to see it on a big screen since the consensus was that it was a big screen movie. I’m not going to write a full analysis/review since I’m a bit backed up in my writing, but here are some observations.

First, I have to defend myself. My friend John Luke Retard called me a Scrooge after I told him what I thought of Slumdog. Someone who chokes up during the previews is not a Scrooge (yes, it’s true, I don’t mind admitting it). She’s a film lover who hopes the movie she’s about to see is great.

From the very first sequence, Boyle tells us that “this movie is going to be INTENSE. If, at some point, you find yourself thinking ‘I need a massage after this,’ don't loathe yourself for the juxtaposition of your upper-middle class problems with the abject poverty shown in the film. This movie is heartbreaking from beginning to (almost) end, and it will take you through every emotion.” I have to admit I felt guilty for cursing the Governator on Friday and for checking the blue book to see if my car was worth more than $15,000. Anyway...

Whereas in previous Boyle efforts the music and style serve the story, here they carry the movie. I didn't mind the corniness since the movie embraces it, but the performances and the writing have to be there to support the corn. (Despite my reputation, I love corn, as long as it’s good and the manipulation is flawless.)

My guess (as a screenwriter) is that the story was originally meant to focus on the brotherly relationship which was sufficiently developed and infinitely more interesting than the love story. Jamal was probably slated to save his brother, not a chick he really didn’t have chemistry with because he hardly saw her during the entire two hours. But of course, you have to have the love story to pull in the female audience. That’s fine, but develop it man!

The last third of the movie is filled with forced, and sometimes cringe inducing dialogue that we’ve heard before. I’m baffled that Boyle couldn’t think of a more original situation for Latika. A pretty girl forced to be the mistress of a gangster? Really, Danny? For instance, why not have her buried alive in a shallow grave while ravenous zombies try to dig her out?

I’ve seen all of Boyle’s movies and, as far as I can recall, he’s never blatantly pandered to the audience. I lost all respect for him after being subjected to the end montage of scenes from the movie to remind us the hell the characters went through and to nudge that last tear. With that, everything that was right with the movie went to hell.

Note to Danny: Now that you’ve got your Oscars, success and money, please make up with John Hodge and make a good movie again. And what the hell was that business with the bathtub and the money?

Slumdog reminded me why I don't usually watch Oscar-nominated movies, but is also the type of movie that makes me wish I was a regular filmgoer so I could enjoy it just like everyone else. If you expect to taste boloney when you bite into a boloney sandwich, then you won’t feel disappointed when you don’t taste fois gras.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I found Hope.

I went to a self distribution talk tonight at Film Independent. It was an eye opener and I learned a lot. I still have a lot of research to do, but the most important thing I learned was that independent filmmakers must start marketing their films before they even shoot them. Toward that end, I will start a new blog called "LA, I Hate You," the title of my first feature. More about this later, but now, here's the link to Ted Hope's blog:


Every independent filmmaker should be reading it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Life is like a box of bad southern accents.

These are just my current observations since I’ve only seen three (In Bruges, The Dark Knight, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) of the nominees. I will see Milk and Frozen River soon. I have no intention of watching Forest Gump Reloaded. For the rest, I will wait to get my free screening invites. I know I’m not supporting the local economy, but I only pay for foreign language movies.

Best motion picture of the year

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" As I said, Forest Gump Reloaded.

"Frost/Nixon" I think I’d rather see the actual interviews, which are out on DVD.

"Milk" Forget it. Brokeback Mountain already got it.

"The Reader" A holocaust movie would normally have a better than good chance but the top contenders are Benjamin and Slumdog. They’ll give it to Kate.

"Slumdog Millionaire" Danny Boyle has yet to make a bad movie, so, even if this one is not his best, it has the feel good factor on its side. It’d be an upset if it didn’t win. Plus, Mumbai, you know…terrorists and all. Yea, it’s gonna win.

Performance by an actor in a leading role

Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor”: Crap. I missed the free screening. I’ll push it up my Netflix queue.

Frank Langella in "Frost/Nixon"

Sean Penn in "Milk"

Brad Pitt in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button": Only one thing comes to mind when I see or hear this name. Brad is fucking JC.

Mickey Rourke in "The Wrestler": I think this is pretty much a done deal unless Bono starts campaigning for Brad.

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Josh Brolin in "Milk": I like Josh, but he’s a wife beater.

Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder": This is the Academy’s idea of an African American nominee this year. They must have missed Forest Whitaker in Vantage Point. Denzel, where are you?

Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight": I suspect they gave him the Globe so they wouldn’t have to waste the Oscar on a dead dude, but there isn’t much competition in this category. Slam dunk.

Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road”: I don’t even know who this dude is.

Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt": As if he cares.

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married": Cue ball eye lids has no chance against Kate.

Angelina Jolie in "Changeling": Probably not, since the consensus was that the movie was not very good. Newsflash: I like her now that I found out Brad is screwing JC. Turns out Angie has a tattoo of a crucifix on her khunt-adjacent region. Now, that’s what I call a sense of humor.

Meryl Streep in "Doubt": Hey, what happened to Mamma Mia nomination?

Kate Winslet in "The Reader": Holocaust movie and British actor. I can’t think of a more winning combination. Can you?

Melissa Leo in "Frozen River"

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

This is where the big bucks will be made. I’m waiting to see what the Vegas odds are. But since there are no other African American nominees and The Messiah is now Prez….you do the math. Viola or Taraji.

Amy Adams in "Doubt"
Penélope Cruz in "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"
Viola Davis in "Doubt"
Taraji P. Henson in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Marisa Tomei in "The Wrestler": You have to be kidding me. She should show up and return the Oscar she already got.

Best animated feature film of the year

"Bolt" Chris Williams and Byron Howard
"Kung Fu Panda" John Stevenson and Mark Osborne

"WALL-E" Andrew Stanton: The geniuses of Pixar will definitely get it.

Achievement in cinematography

"Changeling" Tom Stern
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" Claudio Miranda
"The Dark Knight" Wally Pfister
"The Reader" Chris Menges and Roger Deakins

"Slumdog Millionaire" Anthony Dod Mantle:
Tony, I call him Tony, shot Festen (The Celebration to you philistines), one of my top twenty (I love you Ulrich!) and many cool movies. I really, really, really hope he wins.

Achievement in directing

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" David Fincher: I have nothing against Fincher, just Brad and Forest Gump.

"Frost/Nixon" Ron Howard: I have lots against Opie. As a director, not as a person.

"Milk" Gus Van Sant: As long as his movies are financed, I don’t really care. He can direct Will Good Hunting Redux and I wouldn’t diss him

"The Reader" Stephen Daldry: Sorry. Tough competitors. There’s always next year.

"Slumdog Millionaire" Danny Boyle: Fincher is his only competition. And Boyle has directed more and better movies.

Best documentary feature

"The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)": A woman cinematographer’s first directorial debut. Love it.

"Encounters at the End of the World": I just want to see if Werner shows up to the ceremony. I have to admit I’d be very disappointed if he did.

"Man on Wire": This is the best suspense thriller of the year, bur frankly, I don’t know if I can sit through it. The subject unnerves me.

"The Garden"

"Trouble the Water"

Best foreign language film of the year

I haven’t seen them. I know I said I only pay for foreign movies, but what I meant by foreign was, French movies through the 1960s.

"The Baader Meinhof Complex" - Germany
"The Class" - France
"Departures" - Japan
"Revanche" - Austria
"Waltz with Bashir" - Israel

Adapted screenplay

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" Screenplay by Eric Roth: Eric shamelessly plagiarizes a movie he already won an Oscar for. F. Scott Fizgerald my ass. Roth is my screenwriting role model.

"Doubt" Written by John Patrick Shanley: It’s a play, not a movie. Blah, blah, blah…

"Frost/Nixon" Screenplay by Peter Morgan

"The Reader" Screenplay by David Hare

"Slumdog Millionaire" Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy: Start making room on your mantle Simon.

Original screenplay

"Frozen River" Written by Courtney Hunt

"Happy-Go-Lucky" Written by Mike Leigh: Mike deserves an Oscar for every film he has written and directed. Period.

"In Bruges" Written by Martin McDonagh: My kind of movie. Scabrously funny, gloriously irreverent and black as night. No chance in hell.

"Milk" Written by Dustin Lance Black

"WALL-E" Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon

I will update as I see more movies. I have to admit I’m very disappointed in the Academy. Only three black nominees in this entire list, including Robert Downey Jr. Whatever happened to Change and Hope? Oprah is not going to be happy. No siree.