Here are my thoughts about Oscar nominations in the main categories.



It might be the first time in my history that I have not seen any of the films that these men are nominated for. That being said, although it is great to see that the very talented and underrated Ryan Gosling has been recognized, my money is on Forest Whitaker for The Last King of Scotland. DiCaprio was great in The Departed, and I’ve heard as much for Blood Diamond, but I don’t think the Academy is ready to reward him yet. Just a hunch. Peter O’Toole’s nod forVenus is an obvious vote of respect and sentiment, and Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness) was good but has been better.



Helen Mirren has all but walked off with the golden guy already for The Queen. I really enjoyed both Mirren and the movie, but my favorite performance of the entire year was Kate Winslet in Little Children.  This is her record-breaking fifth nomination at only 31, so I have no doubt that a few of these statues will be on her mantle in the near future. As we all know, Judi Dench (Notes on a Scandal) is a beloved and seemingly perennial Oscar contender, but even she can’t top the year of Queen Mirren. I have not seen Volver yet, and although I’ve never been on the Penélope Cruz bandwagon, I hear she is damn good in this role. As for Meryl Streep, who is now the most nominated female of all time (14!)…she was fantastic in The Devil Wears Prada, but the fact that the film was a popular comedy may hurt her chances. Her international counterparts all tackled darker material, which may be interpreted as more challenging.



Although I would love to see Alan Arkin win for Little Miss Sunshine, I believe he is the underdog in this category. I do not understand the logic behind the nomination of Mark Wahlberg (The Departed) over Matt Damon or Jack Nicholson. At all. His role was brief and memorable, but certainly not as meaty in terms of screen time and screenplay significance. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Eddie Murphy win for Dreamgirls, but I hope he conveys more surprise and joy and less indifference this time if he is indeed victorious (see: his acceptance speech at the Golden Globes). I was very disturbed by Jackie Earle Haley’s character in Little Children, but his nod is well-deserved considering that this film marked his return to the big screen 30 years after his big break with The Bad News Bears. Djimon Hounsou, who has already won several critics awards for his role in Blood Diamond, could be the one to steal the win out from under Murphy. Many were surprised that Hounsou didn’t win in 2004 for In America.



Similar to Arkin, I would be shocked if Abigail Breslin won for Little Miss Sunshine. But she certainly shined in the title role, and this was the perfect role to jumpstart a long career (she stars alongside Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart in her next film, No Reservations). I already like her more than Dakota Fanning. But my vote is for Jennifer Hudson, who made her co-stars look like amateurs in Dreamgirls; an amazing feat considering this was her first acting role and she was discovered on a reality television show. Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi truly deserve their nominations for their work in Babel, but only Kikuchi poses a real threat to Hudson’s seemingly shoo-in win.



Bill Condon won an Oscar for writing Gods and Monsters, which I loved. Then he wrote Chicago and Kinsey (which he also directed), so I added him to my short list of favorite screenwriters. But I was less than thrilled with Dreamgirls on the whole. I am not surprised that Condon was denied a nod in this category, nor do I mind that Dreamgirls was shut out of Best Picture contention. The Academy is quite fond of Clint Eastwood (Letters from Iwo Jima), but my vote is for Scorsese (The Departed) or Iñárritu (Babel).



Based upon last year’s unfortunate victor (Crash), I have a feeling that Babel will win. I liked the film but I think The Departed has all of the elements in place to earn this one: stellar cast, script, direction and execution.  It is fantastic that Little Miss Sunshine has traveled the long road from Sundance to the Academy Awards, but I don’t believe it will earn this top honor. The Queen is a very good movie, but I didn’t leave the theater thinking that it was the best of the year. And I have honestly never aspired to see Letters from Iwo Jima in the theater.  



Little Children absolutely deserves to win. I’m frightened that Borat might, and frankly it would be a disappointment considering the amount of improvisation. My gut feeling is that Notes on a Scandal will prevail, but The Departed is as deserving.



Read More




There’s nothing quite like watching a disturbing film about child abuse at 8:30 in the morning. But because it was premiering at Sundance and I had been in line for it for two hours already, I was prepared. An American Crime is a chilling tale based on a true story about an overwhelmed, ill mother who mentally and physically abuses a child on her watch. The dark subject matter may not translate into box office success, but the performances alone are worth the discomfort and price of admission. Last year I wrote a blog lamenting the sight of Catherine Keener in big budget movies (The 40 Year Old Virgin, The Interpreter), because she seems a more natural fit and shines in independent film (Capote, Being John Malkovich, Your Friends & Neighbors). Watching An American Crime, I honestly could not think of any actresses other than Keener who could have pulled off such a controversial and gut-wrenching role. Her performance is Oscar worthy, and I hope the distribution deal reaches wider than just art-house theaters.  


Believe it or not, 19-year old actress Ellen Page has a more physically and emotionally arduous role than Keener in An American Crime, and this is hardly her first venture into scandalous territory (see: Hard Candy).  She is as talented onscreen as a young Jodie Foster or Reese Witherspoon. Keep your eye on this one; I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.




ba•bel [bab-uhl]: 1. (usually lowercase) a scene of noise and confusion.


People who disliked Babel must not have ‘movie patience.’ It is a beautiful, compelling film that weaves in and out of four stories about the consequences of making poor decisions and the lack of communication. In my opinion, Babel deserves all of the accolades, although I am disappointed that Cate Blanchett was not nominated for Best Supporting Actress (she did garner a nod for Notes on a Scandal, however). Her role is small but pivotal; Blanchett is on my short list of those I would watch in absolutely anything (along with Bening, Linney, Streep & Winslet). And frankly, this is the first time I’ve ever been impressed by Brad Pitt. Misery, age and heartache seem to work for him now onscreen.


Although I did not let it affect how I felt about the film, seeing Babel happened to be the worst movie-going experience of my life.  To give you insight into my anger, I wrote a letter, borrowing a tactic from the very funny Jennifer Eolin, who writes letters to stupid people on her blog...


Dear Rude Lady Sitting Behind Me on Tuesday:


It was a weeknight. You could have saved yourself $20, stayed at home and talked out loud for as long as you liked. But no, you chose to come to the local theater to explain every scene to your husband. While I appreciated your attention to detail (i.e. when Brad Pitt had his wallet and you said ‘look, he has his wallet’), I was not thrilled with your running commentary. Not only did you ignore the many occasions when I whipped my head around to glare at you with evil stink-eye, but you whispered loudly throughout the entire 2.5 hours. Your husband was not wearing any hearing devices and was not a senior citizen, therefore you have absolutely no excuse for such disrespectful behavior.


You are worse than cell phones and frequent trips to the bathroom. Please do not attend movies anymore.


- Jo





Quite simply, this movie had a lot of potential and buzz at Sundance, but it fizzled out completely for me. The entire audience was left scratching their collective heads due to an abrupt ending with no plot points tied together whatsoever. I won’t go into too much detail because I seriously doubt that it will be coming to a theater near you.  





While at Sundance last weekend, we attended a brunch at the Queer Lounge, and had front row seats to view this wonderful short film from the UK. Private Life, which is a period piece about two working-class women in England who are forced to hide their relationship in 1952, was rewarded the Grand Prize at the 8th Annual PlanetOut Short Movie Awards.

Read More


I am absolutely exhausted and my sinuses are severely swollen. But it was more than worth it!   I have just returned from three days at the Sundance Film Festival. And do I have details to share with you!


Later this week I will review the two movies I saw yesterday. Right now I am too tired, and all I can handle are the photos and star sightings.


First of all, here is proof of just how cold it/I was. I was attempting to photograph a building across the street, but my breath got in the way.

Here is the requisite photo of the infamous Egyptian Theater on Main Street, where I saw two films.

And here is why I captured so few photos of the famous. The crowds on Saturday were insane and we had more luck across the street, where celebrities were purposefully avoiding said crowds.

We happened upon a swag lounge, where actors and actresses were given bags and bags full of free goods from companies hoping that they’ll be photographed wearing or using those products.  There was a bodyguard at the front door, and the first person to emerge was Ione Skye. I fought the urge to hold a boombox above my head and serenade her with Peter Gabriel schmaltz. Instead, we took her picture and that was that.

Minutes later, however, we ran right into John Cusack! If only they were there at the same time! An accidental Say Anything reunion would have made my day. Alas, Cusack was quickly ushered into an SUV before we could snap a photo. But he was our most A-level sighting of the day, and we loved it.


It appears that I am a reality TV magnet. First, I recognized David from Real World: Seattle walking by. He was more than happy to stop and pose for the camera. Apparently he is a fifth grade math teacher now.


A little while later, I met the winner of first season of The Apprentice, Bill Rancic, and his fiancé, E! News anchor Giuliana DePandi. They were incredibly nice.


Next, the very strange Crispin Glover briskly walked by. Known primarily for mainstream franchises like Back to the Future (McFly!) and Charlie’s Angels, Glover has transitioned into a writer/director of darker independent films.


This is actress Vera Farmiga, who was sporting a new look but you might know her as the only female lead in The Departed. She was also polite and didn’t seem to mind that she wasn’t being recognized by the throngs of fans stalking the swag doors.

Although it was from a distance, I was able to get a photo of Ellen Page (Hard Candy, X-Men: The Last Stand) after a screening of her new movie An American Crime. Her performance was incredible and she is going to be one hell of an actress.

Other star sightings that do not have accompanying photos included: Illene Chaiken (creator/executive producer of The L Word) and former child actor Chad Allen (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman), who has a film premiering at Sundance later this week.


Overall, we spent 14 hours at Sundance yesterday. It snowed and the temperature dropped precipitously, but it was good exercise and an experience I’ll never forget. As a matter of fact, I’d like to make it an annual trip, but would like to stay for the entire week next time.


Stay tuned later this week for full reviews of the incredible Catherine Keener and Ellen Page in An American Crime, the Australian crime film Noise, and a few short films as well.

Read More


Arriving in Salt Lake City

At the rental car counter, there was a special sign welcoming E. Kennedy and R. Kennedy, a not-so-thinly veiled note to let all of us know that Senator Edward Kennedy and his niece Rory, the acclaimed documentary director/producer, were on their way too. They probably rented a hybrid.


Screech (Dustin Diamond) from Saved by the Bell walked by quickly. Yawn. Am I in for a handful of D-list star sightings?!


The guy next to me on the plane was watching Sundance filmmaker interviews on his video iPod. I was jealous. He also had a spreadsheet highlighting films he was going to see. I was jealous of that too (the spreadsheet, not the tickets).


Day 1: Friday

Got up at 4:30am. Put on so many layers that I looked like Ralphie’s kid brother running in the snow in A Christmas Story. Drove over the treacherous pass in the dark from Salt Lake to Park City. Arrived at 6:30am. Secured a precious parking spot for $20 (so worth it…the traffic snaked throughout the town all day as annoyed locals and lost tourists fought for the few spaces left). Waited for a coffee shop to open at 7am. Ate a warm bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar. Received an official Wait List number for the first film of the festival, Strange Culture. Walked up and down the street, cursing my decision not to purchase the thicker thermal long underwear from REI. The rest of me was warm; my legs are still recovering from the numbing chill.


Got in to see Strange Culture, and sat in the first row.  The director introduced the film and the man whose life it was based on. It is a very sad and alarming story about an artist who was arrested by the FBI after his wife died suddenly, because they suspected he was a bioterrorist (his art focused on how bacteria affected food; some Petri dishes were on display at their house and they panicked that he had contaminated and/or poisoned her). This outrageous injustice is presented in interesting fashion; the film intermixes documentary footage with actual actors both portraying the protagonist’s roles and commenting about the story as themselves. We learned that this man’s wife loved the actress Tilda Swinton, so Swinton signed on to play her in the film (for little to no money). It was a very sweet footnote from a man who is still awaiting trial for a nightmare he’s trying to escape. I have no idea whether or not Strange Culture will receive a distribution deal, but if you see it out on DVD down the line, it would be quite an educational and eye-opening rental.  


For lunch I treated myself to an excellent bowl of soup at local Vietnamese restaurant while scouring the film guide to decide my next move. I chatted up a large group of ladies that I dubbed ‘The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City.’ Decked out in their fur coats, Ugg boots and big hair, they were in line for a film they knew nothing about. They “just wanted to see a movie.” Sigh.


I met a really nice couple this afternoon on their way to a theater at 2pm. For a midnight premiere. Of their film (they produced it)! Here is the asinine part – they didn’t even have tickets! To quote them directly, “we had to give our tickets to Winona.” As in Ryder. Awesome. That is why I’m here. To soak it all in quietly and with a huge grin beneath my ski mask.


Later, I went to a theater further away from Main Street, hoping my chances to get a Wait List ticket would increase. Apparently that was a very unoriginal idea. The line was long and I was tired. I called it a day and went back to Salt Lake to rest up for tomorrow.


Star sightings: ½ (I think I saw Stanley Tucci). Here’s the thing – every single person at Sundance today was wearing a beanie or hat, sunglasses, and a warm bulky jacket. Frankly, there could have been famous people among the masses, but the cold weather attire masked their celebrity. I’m not disappointed though, because the city and the films and the atmosphere more than fulfilled my expectations. Besides, I’m heading back out there for a full day tomorrow. And I’m here for the experience and the culture. Seeing actual celebrities would just be an added bonus.


Random Observations & Stories:


* I love my rental car – a Subaru Outback 4 wheel drive with heated seats. It might have to be my next car.


* Everyone here drives like my grandma. And she’s 96. No offense, Utah.


* Salt Lake City is surprisingly smoggy. Park City is beautiful; it reminds me of Squaw Valley.


* Teenagers in Park City must be acclimated to this type of weather; some were wearing shorts and tank tops.


* Everyone involved with Sundance is really nice, from the vendors to the volunteers to the bus drivers who schlep filmgoers from theater to theater for hours on end.


* All of the people I met in various waiting lines today were from California. Not from Utah or anywhere else. It is a small world indeed.


* It is f’ing cold. Before any of you from the Midwest and East Coast give me a hard time, keep in mind that I have lived in California my entire life, so this is by far the coldest weather I’ve ever endured. Tahoe? Ha. Not cold. Not like this.


* It is f’ing dry. Here are the adjectives I would use to describe the air here: arid, bone-dry, moistureless. Good times!


* I walked today. ALOT. I know…it’s good for me, cry me a river, etc. But I feel like I skied all day in heavy boots. Uphill. In the wind. So I would like to take this opportunity to say: Thank You, Advil. You are there for me every single time.


* In casual conversation I used the word ‘crap’ to describe a certain actor’s body of work, and a woman next to me gasped. Out loud. I almost expected her to slap my wrist, shake her head at me and say ‘Language, young lady!’ with much disdain. Clearly, a local. Again, no offense to the entire state of Utah.


Stay tuned for my second and final Sundance blog…on Sunday. After I return home to my laughably comfortable 53 degree weather.

Read More


I’m heading to Sundance early tomorrow morning! Stay tuned for updates on Friday and/or Saturday; I aim to blog every evening after attending films and experiencing all things Sundance…hopefully with photos and star sightings! I am a kid right now, and Park City is my candy store.

Read More