Tag Archives: sean penn

My Oscar Predictions!

jackman_tuxThe Oscars are finally here! I’m looking forward to seeing Hugh Jackman in a tux and hopefully shaking his money maker a little. There’s a rumor that Anne Hathaway will be doing the opening musical number with him (click here to see him rehearsing, sans Anne). Hathaway can definitely sing (have you seen Ella Enchanted or her hosting stint on SNL?) and we have plenty evidence of Jackman’s musical prowess so it should be entertaining if it does happen.

Now, I know everyone and his best friend’s second cousin’s lip waxer have already done predictions so I wasn’t gonna do any more than the ones I already made back in December and January. But then I thought, Why not? Maybe I can help someone win fifty bucks in an Oscar pool to put towards next week’s groceries. I’ve seen all the nominated movies, except for the shorts and foreign films (you’re on your own there!) so I’m not making wild guesses based on hype. These are my (hopefully) informed opinions based on the actual quality of the films. I know—the Oscars are sometimes more about PR but I can hope, right?

Here goes:

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Actor: Sean Penn — Milk

Best Actor: Kate Winslet — The Reader

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger — The Dark Knight

Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz — Vicky Christina Barcelona

Best Director: Danny Boyle — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Animated Feature: WALL*E

Best Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black — Milk

Best Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt (Art Direction); Victor J. Zolfo (Set Decoration) — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle — Slumdog Millionaire 

Best Costume Design: Michael O’ Connor — The Duchess (no contest—Keira’s dresses were eye-popping)

Best Editing: Chris Dickens — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Makeup: Greg Cannom — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Score: A.R. Rahman — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Song: “Jai Ho” — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Sound Editing: Glenn Freemantle and Tom Sayers — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Sound Mixing: Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty — Slumdog Millionaire

Best Visual Effects: Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Foreign Film: Waltz with Bashir 

Best Documentary Feature: Man on Wire

Do you agree with my choices? Who are you rooting for? Post a comment then check back Monday for scoopy stuff from inside the Oscars from my sources who will be there!

My Oscar Picks

Though nominations haven’t even been announced, I think the following actors are going to win Oscars come February 22, 2009. This is not based on counting how many nominations/wins they’ve racked up from other organizations; I’m going strictly by my opinions of their performances and feel confident about my choices. If you’re participating in an Oscar pool, feel free to steal my predictions. When you win, just send me 10% of your winnings!

pennBest Actor: Sean Penn for Milk. This is Penn as we’ve rarely seen him—smiling, vulnerable, in love, inspiring—instead of angry, grim or high. He brings Harvey Milk vividly to life and makes us feel the loss of the real man all over again. 

2008_revolutionary_road_0131Best Actress:  Kate Winslet for Revolutionary Road. I’ve liked some of her other performances better—Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Sarah in Little Children—but this year has been light on female contenders so I think Winslet will finally get her little golden man for this harrowing performance.

2008_milk_010Best Supporting Actor:  Josh Brolin for Milk. The film’s cast is very, very strong but, besides Penn’s, Brolin’s performance as Dan White is the one that stayed with me long after I saw the movie. It’s a beautifully nuanced portrayal of a man in conflict with himself and the changing world around him.

2008_vicky_christina_barcelona_001Best Supporting Actress – Penelope Cruz for Vicky Christina Barcelona. She is on fire in this film. She’s passionate, electric, crazy, and just uninhibited. When she’s on screen, you can’t watch anyone else. Considering the other actors include Javier Bardem and Scarlett Johansson, that’s saying a lot. 

I’m not going to pick Best Picture because I’m not passionate about any of the contenders. There are some good films but none made me say, “Wow, I LOVE that movie!” I remember back in 1981, my favorite movie was Raiders of the Lost Ark but Chariots of Fire won. Chariots was respectable, but it didn’t blow my mind like Raiders did. In 1995, I admired the production values and talent involved with Braveheart, but I was rooting for Babe on Oscar night.

2008_in_bruges_011At least Raiders and Babe were nominated for Best Picture. My favorite film this year, with probably no chances for any Oscar nominations (though I was thrilled it received 3 major Golden Globes noms), is In Bruges, a film starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes that I saw back in January and has long been out on DVD. This movie is well-acted, brilliantly written, suspenseful, hilarious, twisted and most important (to me), it was damn entertaining. 

What are your favorite films this year that you think have about as much chance of being nominated as Oprah has of being poor? Leave me a comment below.

Here’s hoping you’ve enjoyed yourselves at the movies this year and will have many good reasons to go to the theater next year.

COMING SOON: An evening with the director (Edward Zwick) and cast of Defiance (Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos), and the stars of Revolutionary Road (oh, you know who they are).

Review of Gus Van Sant’s MILK

penn-milkAfter seeing Milk (opens Nov. 26, one day before the 30th anniversary of his murder), I predict that one of the five slots on the Academy-Award Best Actor wheel has been claimed by Sean Penn as Harvey Milk. I don’t think this comes as a surprise to anyone who has followed Penn’s work. Some actors, when they try to stretch by putting on weight, ugly makeup, accent, physical handicap, mental illness, etc., just look like themselves playing dress-up. But Penn, like Daniel Day-Lewis, can completely metamorphose into someone else right before our eyes. His embodiment of Milk is so accomplished, when a video clip of the real Milk appears at the end of the movie, I thought, “Oh yeah, I’ve been watching Sean Penn, not the real man.”

The real Moscone (L) and Milk (R) - Rink Photo

The real George Moscone (L) and Milk (R) - Rink Photo

This effect is aided by the film’s documentary style and ’70s feel. It begins with black and white footage, interspersed with newspaper clippings, of police raiding gay bars, loading men by the dozens into police vans. Then we see Penn as Milk in 1970 New York, boldly propositioning Scott Smith (James Franco) in a subway station. The men became lovers then moved to San Francisco two years later. Milk opened a photography shop called Castro Camera on Castro Street and became active in local politics after being initially shunned by other merchants for public displays of affection with Smith. He was elected to the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors in 1977 and became the first openly gay elected official in the U.S.

from the Scott Smith Collection

from the Scott Smith Collection

In his short term before he was shot along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone in 1978, Milk successfully fought Proposition 6, which sought to remove all gay teachers from their jobs. The scenes of Milk campaigning against this measure echo the recent California fight against Prop 8, which bans gay marriage. These scenes made me wonder if the election results for Prop 8 would have been different if Milk were still alive.

Over the years, actors such as Robin Williams and Jim Carrey have been attached to a Milk project. I’m glad it eventually came to Penn because I can’t imagine the others doing it. Penn displays qualities in Milk we’ve rarely seen in his past work. First off, he smiles a lot. When he’s excited about something or someone, his whole face sparkles like a child who’s been given a puppy. He’s vulnerable but determined, humble but proud, speaks softly but carries a bullhorn. Thankfully, Penn makes Milk full-blooded and doesn’t employ stereotypical gay mannerisms.

2008_milk_004The cast consists of many talented actors but the standouts for me are Franco, Josh Brolin and Emile Hirsch. Franco, as Milk’s long-time partner “Scotty,” has developed quite an interesting career for himself, mostly staying clear of bland pretty-boy trappings. His chemistry with Penn is palpable and his gravitas grounds Penn as Milk’s political dreams take flight in the film.

brolinBrolin plays Milk’s assassin Dan White as a man seemingly more in conflict with himself than with Milk. He has a smooth veneer that doesn’t quite cover the anger simmering just below the surface. Brolin deftly handles White’s slow unraveling and this is the most mature, interesting work I’ve seen him do (and he’s done some good work in recent years). Startlingly, in a medium shot, Brolin looks almost exactly like the real Dan White (check out the YouTube video below), down to the parted hair and tan blazer. The hair, makeup and wardrobe people were spot on.

Hirsch, unrecognizable as Cleve Jones in a ‘fro and oversize glasses, is just loose and having fun. It’s hard to imagine this is the same guy who played the tortured Christopher McCandless in last year’s Into the Wild.

I like Van San’s choice of documentary style for the film, as if he knew he had a good story (captured in a script by Dustin Lance Black) and great actors and just rolled camera and got out of the way. The events were incendiary enough; Van Sant didn’t need to take a heavy-handed approach. He didn’t have to feed us the outrage; he let us see for ourselves. His decision to incorporate real news footage of Anita Bryant as one s-anita-bryant-pie-homosexualof Milk’s antagonists is inspired because no one could have played that role and uttered those anti-gay proclamations quite like Bryant herself.

Rating: Good

The clip below is from NBC Nightly News, with David Brinkley reporting the news of Moscone and Milk’s assassinations. It includes footage (used in the movie) of then-Board of Supervisors President Dianne Feinstein confirming the shootings at a press conference.

Exclusive Backstage Look at the BAFTA/LA Awards–Conclusion

This is Part Two of an exclusive report from inside the BAFTA/LA Awards. Click here for Part One. All pictures are also exclusive.


The next award was The Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award for Excellence in Film. This was presented to Sean Penn with introductions by Patricia Clarkson and then by director Paul Thomas Anderson. In a moving tribute, Clarkson read a self-written ode.

p-clarkson“He has raised American acting to a whole new level by not acting at all. There is beauty to his raw truth. Watching him, one may encounter everything from beauty, darkness, light, unpredictablity. He’s like the weather!” exclaimed Clarkson.

She added, “He looks into your eyes and feels what you’re feeling.” It was at this point that I remembered Penn’s greeting to me earlier in the evening. I was genuinely happy to see him. Evidently, he knew it and acknowledged it. It was a circular moment for me.

After Clarkson’s speech, many clips from Penn’s career were shown. The obvious clips from Carlito’s Way, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Dead Man Walking, I am Sam and Mystic River were strewn in with appearances from television shows like Friends and Ellen. One of the loudest rounds of applause was for a clip from the Penn-directed/written film Into the Wild.

After the clips, director Paul Thomas Anderson approached the stage, stating he was shocked that a clip from Shanghai Surprise was omitted. Penn laughed from his seat. Then Anderson continued by describing Penn’s humanity. “Yesterday, he was in Venezuela, today he was in New Orleans, and tomorrow he will be in Cuba,” Anderson informed us.

As Penn approached the stage, he received the only standing ovation of the evening. True to form, he was humble and in complete gratitude, making remarks about the positive outlook of the presidential election.

After his speech, he exited the stage. Host Harry Shearer made closing comments, the lights came up, and the ceremony came to a close.

I was fortunate to be part of an evening that honored individuals for their body of work vs. a singular performance. It was refreshing to attend an event in which the awards recipients were free from competition and nominees didn’t go home as “losers.”honorees

Exclusive Backstage Look at the BAFTA/LA Awards–Part One

Here I go again with another exclusive behind-the-scenes look at a star-studded event that wasn’t televised. I did some Googling and am confident that this detailed write-up isn’t published anywhere else. Other media outlets may have been present and spoken with the stars on the red carpet but no one has a backstage report like this one (there’s even a description of the dinner menu!) from one of my sources. The writer also took all the photos so they’re exclusive as well. Since the account is rather comprehensive, I’ll publish this in two parts. Read on for fun anecdotes about Hugh Laurie, Don Cheadle, Sean Penn and Tilda Swinton!


Although all of the ingredients for a glamorous Hollywood awards show were present (celebrities, the “Academy”, awards and such), Thursday night’s British Academy of Film & Television’s Los Angeles annual awards show was everything but typical. Held at the Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel on November 6, 2008, the annual awards show had only three awards and was not televised.

Beginning with a modest red carpet, pre-reception and a VIP after-party, the star-studded event honored director Stephen Frears and actors Don Cheadle, Tilda Swinton and Sean Penn. Each award was preceded by back-to-back presenters (including Annette Bening, Jack Black, and Patricia Clarkson) and tributes.

As guests arrived on the secondary ballroom level, they were segregated into two groups: celebrities and non-celebrities. The non-celebrities were to attend a silent auction and pre-reception while the celebrities were escorted to the red carpet. If there was a theme to the event, it would be “arriving sans partner.” Bening came sans Warren Beatty, performer Gavin Rossdale arrived without Gwen Stefani, Sean Penn was without on-again, off-again spouse Robin Wright Penn, and presenter Ben Affleck arrived without wife Jennifer Garner.

bening-swintonCelebrities were escorted off the carpet into a small room where candid photos were taken. This was where celebrities caught up with each other. Swinton chatted with Bening, and Penn greeted me saying, “It is SO good to see you again.” (I had just seen Penn a couple of weeks before at another event.) Here was also an opportunity for a quick drink prior to entering the show.

hugh-bafta-croppedSeveral exchanges were observed. A fan requested a photo with presenter Hugh Laurie. Ever the gentleman, Laurie agreed, holding a bottle of beer. After the photo was snapped, Laurie said, “Great, this is my beer-lushing endorsement photo.”

Penn’s assistant for the evening offered Penn another drink.

“I need another drink, but I don’t think the BAFT/LA people would want me to have another one,” replied Penn, pronouncing the organization’s name “Baftalah.”

As honorees Penn, Swinton, and Frears were escorted to the main ballroom, guests started pouring in. About twenty minutes later, Affleck, Cheadle and presenter Eddie Izzard were seen being wrangled as a group to exit the press area and go directly to the show.

At 8 p.m., a salad was served, followed by an entree of Chicken Wellington wrapped in puff pastry and ending with lemon white chocolate sponge cake. Plenty of wine and spirits were provided.

The first award was presented to Frears. There were protesters outside who were upset over the passing of Proposition 8 (they were probably drawn to the event because Penn plays Harvey Milk in the upcoming movie) so I was distracted and stepped out to see what was going on. Unfortunately, when I came back in, Cheadle’s award had been presented and I’d missed most of his acceptance speech. What I did hear was characteristically humble. (Later, a fan followed himbafta2-1 into the restroom, requesting a photo, and Cheadle obliged.) After Cheadle’s award, the audience was treated to a special acoustic performance by Rossdale singing two songs: “Love Remains the Same” and “Forever May You Run.”

The third award of the night went to Tilda Swinton, who was honored with the Britannia Award for British Artist of the Year. The presenters were Angelica Huston and Hugh Laurie, who shared anecdotes.

bafta6“I haven’t seen any of Swinton’s films,” joked Laurie. “Actually, when I was twenty, I requested her to work on a student performance project with me. I was enraptured by her luminous and alabaster beauty.”

Overwhelmed, Swinton accepted the award and shared that it has only been recently that she has basked in the awards spotlight.

“The only thing I’ve won prior to these types of acting awards was a raffle at the age of twelve. I won Pagan Man aftershave that I re-gifted,” said Swinton.


Check back tomorrow for Part Two, which includes a gushing tribute to Sean Penn.