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Pre-AA Rambling Thoughts/Predictions

Saturday February 26, 2011

-The Red Carpet this year should be interesting amidst reports that it might be snowing tomorrow night, and, if not, it is predicted to be unusually cool (40's) come game time. So don't expect extended interviews on the carpet in beautiful L.A.

-Hollywood is going with the 2-host version again, but steering away from the tried and true. With last year's duo of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin you could expect a lot of humor. Will Anne Hathaway (at 28 she's the youngest host ever) and James Franco equally pull it off? Stay tuned. At least, from my perspective, these 2 (especially Anne) will be much easier on the eyes.

-I suppose The Academy deemed last year's decision to double the Best Picture nominations a success. We certainly have a well represented genre list this year from a small independent (the Sundance hit "Winter's Bone"), to an animation classic ("Toy Story 3"), to an expansive (albeit convoluted) sci-fi extravaganza ("Inception"), to a indy comedy ("The Kids are All Right") to a western ("True Grit"), to a psychological thriller ("Black Swan"), to a British historical drama ("The King's Speech") to . . . well-you get the picture. Personally, the 10 film list idea is more to give credence and respect to more than the usual five (hey-isn't it an honor just to be nominated?). What it comes down to, as in most years, are only two, possibly three having any chance of winning the top prize.

-Biggest surprise: Christopher Nolan NOT being nominated for Best Director. Nolan was absolutely robbed. His 10-year vision and creation of one of the most intelligent mind-blowing films in the last ten years should have been a no-brainer! Although four of the five on the list are well deserving of the nom, David O'Russell did, at best, a pedestrian directing job directing "The Fighter". Unbelievable.

-2nd biggest surprise: Putting 12-year-old Hailee Steinfield in the Best Supporting category-which might have robbed Melissa Leo of the Oscar. Hailee? A SUPPORTING actress??! She was practically in every scene, as well as the driving force in "True Grit". Someone will have to explain that one to me.

-Biggest Disappointment: Ryan Gosling not being nominated for "Blue Valentine". The Academy got it right nominating Michelle Williams, but Gosling equally deserved to be nominated. Although, frankly, all fire nominees were well deserving so someone had lose out and, unfortunately, it was Gosling. A terrific acting job by one of the best young actors in the business.

-2nd Biggest Disappointment: Snubbing Emma Stone ("Easy A") for best actress. She'll have her chances in the future, but her break-out acting in this comedy was mind-boggling. I would have put her miles ahead of Jennifer Lawrence ("Winter's Bone"). The argument that "Easy A" was a small teen comedy, certainly didn't keep Ellen Page ("Juno") from being nominated in 2008 and, IMHO, Stone gave a more superior effort in this wonderful film.

-So, here I go with my annual who will/should win list covering the major categories. One note of caution: several of my picks are toss-ups this year. Therefore, for some of these, I will be guessing along with you so, please, don't call your bookie to bet your mortgage on my selections.

The envelope, please. . .

BEST PICTURE:
What will win: "The King's Speech"
What should win: "The Social Network"
As most folks who have been following the movie scene over the past 6 months know, "The Social Network" was the hands-down leader up until December. However, the momentum gained by this small British historical drama has seemingly swept away any chance of TSN winning. I wouldn't be shocked if Fincher's film is announced, but surprised, considering the numerous awards "The King's Speech" has been raking in the past couple of months. That said, for me, "The Social Network" was the more satisfying and complete from production values, to score to acting to script-not to mention the topicality of the film. However, "The King's Speech" is a very close 2nd in my book .

BEST DIRECTOR:
Who will win: David Fincher
Who should win: David Fincher
I figure the voters will split the vote and throw Fincher this major bone. I rarely agree with splitting these two categories (and it wouldn't be split if I got my way-see above). But in this instance, his film should garner at least one of the top prizes and the director that should have received it 2 years ago for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", will finally get his well-deserved due.

BEST LEADING ACTOR:
Who will win: Colin Firth
Who should win: Colin Firth
You can mail him the Oscar! One of the three biggest locks of the night. A verrrrry close second, however, is James Franco. Like Ryan Gosling, this dude will win his share down the road. However, Colin's performance (he, arguably, could have won last year for "A Single Man" over Jeff Bridges) was as close to perfect as any I've ever seen on the screen. Riveting & poignant, his interpretation of the stuttering king is unforgettable.

BEST LEADING ACTRESS:
Who will win: Natalie Portman
Who should win: Natalie Portman
Oh boy! This is probably the toughest one to pick. OK. I'm flipping a coin. Here goes: Although Bening is wonderful in "The Kids are All Right", how can you keep Portman from winning? Her portrayal of Nina as she slowly descends into the pits of hell as the troubled ballerina is mesmerizing and totally believable. She trained for 10 month and it shows it. However, that being said, Bening is long overdue and the voters love to impart the golden statue to actors in those situations. Also, Portman is just beginning what will be a long distinguished career. However, she deserves the Oscar just the same. It'll be interesting.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
Who will win: Christian Bale
Who should win: Geoffrey Rush
Another tough one! Here's my reasoning. I preferred Rush's performance over, for me, Christian's, slightly over the top acting. Rush is the glue that holds TKS together. And his interpretation of the therapist who tries to cure King George VI of his stuttering is a joy to behold and admire. However, Hollywood is gaga over first time nominee Bale and, no doubt, admires what physical pains he went through to portray the crackhead ex-fighter. And since they'll award the BP to "The King's Speech", this major award will go to Bale. Don't get me wrong, he's a truly accomplished actor who will get his reward down the road; however, the voters will get it wrong if he wins the statuette tomorrow.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
Who will win: Melissa Leo
Who should win: Hailee Steinfeld
Melissa was clearly the odds-on favorite before they, unjustly, put Hailee in this category. And, Hollywood might be fuming over the self-congratulatory ad Melissa placed in the Hollywood trades. However, I'm going out on a limb and predict she'll still win the award. Leo is a great actress (who maybe should have won in 2009 for "Frozen River",) who puts everything in her role as the mother/manager of Mickey Ward in "The Fighter". However, for me, although she is clearly in the wrong category, Hailee's acting is more expansive and believable. The voters don't often give major awards to child actors but it has been done in the past and could well happen again-but I doubt it. Amy Adams is the dark horse in this category, and gets an honorable mention for her tough-as-nails portrayal as Mickey Ward's gal, but Amy doesn't figure to get the Oscar this time around.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM:
Who will win: "Toy Story 3"
Who should win: "Toy Story 3"
The 2nd biggest lock of the night. One day, the unbelievably talented folks at Pixar might win Best Picture. (As one of the 10, I was close to saying it should win the BP award.) However, Hollywood would probably be crucified if they picked an animation film-even though this one took me through the full gamut of emotions that most films can't even come close to doing. This was my one of my favorite film of the year so, TS3, here's your bone.

BEST FOREIGN FILM:
Having not screened all the foreign nominees, I'm excluding my pick this year. (Although the buzz is on "In a Better World".) However, I smiled when I saw "Dogtooth" on the list. One of the most amazing films in this or any other year, this is a wonderful honor to bestow on this Greek masterpiece. The film stayed with me for months.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:
Who will win: "The King's Speech"
Who should win: "The King's Speech"
Another major award to the little film that could. A terrific screenplay that clearly defines the diverse personalities of the actors that voiced the words. A close second is "The Kid's are All Right". Christopher Nolan's script, although totally original, the problem is few people could understand it-at least without multiple viewings.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:
Who will win: "The Social Network"
Who should win: "The Social Network"
The 3rd mortal lock of the night. Aaron Sorkin's script is so powerful it becomes a character in the story. It will be a well-deserved win for one of the industry's most talented writers. Again, a verrrrry close 2nd to Joel & Ethan Coen's adaptation of Charles Portis' novel. I loved the language they used in the film-as much as the acting! However, Sorkin's script in "The Social Network" is in a class by itself.

BEST DOCUMENTARY:
Who will win: "Inside Job"
Who should win: "Restrepo"
The Matt Damon narrated film about the 2008 financial crises should take home the big prize. However, the amazing, you-are-there-in-the-middle-of-the-conflict-in-Afghanistan film, is my personal favorite this year.

There you have it. Now, here's hoping the extravaganza doesn't last much past the 3 1/2 hour schedule time. However, I wouldn't bet the house on that one either.

Stop back for my post-AA report next week.

Catching up: 6 REVIEWS OF FILMS NOMINATED FOR ACADEMY AWARDS

"The Fighter" (***-114 minutes)-Monday December 6, 2010
Critically acclaimed Director David O. Russell directs yet another boxing tale that is at the heart and soul of lead actor, ex-Backstreet Boy, Mark Wahlberg who spent years trying to get it made. Based on the true-to-life story of Massachusetts boxer, Mickey Ward, the film, strangely, is focused more on the people around him: Alice, his domineering mother/manager wannabee (Melissa Leo who was nominated for her riveting performance last year in the indy film "Frozen River" and who gives a bravura performance in this role); his crackhead ex-boxer older brother Dicky (Christian Bale who gives a somewhat over-the-top interpretation of a guy whose only claim to fame is that he might have once knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard), his tough-as-nails girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams, giving a feisty memorable turn as the barmaid who tries to wrestle Mickey away from his mom and take over Mickey's future); and, in a supporting role, 7 (very annoying) sisters who are more caricature than real in the several scenes they appear. The storyline, of Mickey attempting to step in and fill the shoes vacated by his loser brother, and his journey to succeed, well, we've seen this all before. In addition, the fight sequences are pedestrian at best when compared to such classics as "Raging Bull", "Body & Soul", and even "Rocky I". However, this film gets an above average three stars more for its endearing characters and acting chops from the principals, than from its familiar storyline.


"Black Swan" (*** 1/2-108 minutes)-Monday December 13, 2010
Director Darren Aronofsky's 2008's "The Wrestler" put Mickey Rourke back on the map. His latest should put actress Natalie Portman squarely in the middle of the map-especially come Oscar night. Her interpretation of Nina Sayers, the troubled ballet dancer trying to win the dual roles of the white/black swan in Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake", is clearly one for the ages. Portman actually trained for ten months to prepare her for the physical and psychological challenges the script demanded-and it all paid off in spades. Nina has always dreamed of landing the lead role and knows that it demands professional perfection. Unfortunately, Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), the creative director, sees her only as the white innocent swan and incapable of transforming herself into the darker black swan. Driven to get the part, she realizes that to achieve perfection, and to successfully gain the dual roles, she must submit to the iron wills & devious motives of everyone around her. This realization starts her spiraling down to professional, personal, and psychological hell. Of particular note are the top notch supporting roles of Barbara Hershey in a wonderful, long overdue comeback, as Erica, Nina's failed ex-ballerina stage mom who sees Nina as merely a reflection of her long abandoned ambition, and Mila Kunis ("Date Night", "Forgetting Sarah Marshall") as Lily who is the understudy Nina fears is vying for her job. Also, look for Winona Ryder as the aging ballerina, & Leroy's lover, who is about to be replaced by Nina. And always in the background is a wonderful score provided by Clint Mansell as well as the continuous swirling sounds of the great 19th century Russian composer whose ballet is the backdrop of the story. However, it is Aronofsky's talent of portraying the devious inner workings of professional ballet companies, as well as the inner minds of driven, talented artists who cannot determine what is real and what is not, that makes this a potent unforgettable thriller.




"True Grit" (*** 1/2-110 minutes)-Tuesday December 14, 2010
The great Coen Brothers are at it again. This time, they are applying their enormous talent and vision to a somewhat surprising new project: a remake, of sorts, of the John Wayne 1968 western that earned the late veteran an Oscar. Of sorts because, unlike the original, their story more closely follows Charles Portis' 1968 novel about an old grizzled U.S. Marshall who is more interested in drinking whiskey than helping a young girl track down and bring to justice the murderer of her father. And that young girl takes the original Kim Darby part and turns it on its ear, as newcomer Hailee Steinfeld turns in a memorable performance opposite Jeff Bridges. Although his turn does not top Wayne's, Bridges interprets a very believable, albeit, slightly different "Rooster" Cogburn . A solid supporting cast includes Matt Damon, practically unrecognizable here as the Texas Ranger LeBoeuf (I love that name!) who briefly joins the tracking party in search of Tom Clancy, played by the always reliable Josh Brolin-who doesn't appear until the final reel. Of particular note is Barry Pepper as "Lucky" Ned Pepper, leader of the bad dudes, who is the absolute personification of evil. What really stood out for me is the language. Joel & Ethan have created words and sentences that sing. (In any other year, I would predict they'd take home the Best Adapted Screenplay-if not for the extraordinary screenplay by Aaron Sorkin for "The Social Network"). And their longtime cinematographer, the great Roger Deakins, has created a feel for the old west that is glorious on the big screen. (My jaw dropped when I saw the western town in the opening 5 minutes. I started brushing the dirt off my clothes.) The Coens are defined by their offbeat films and characters so, it was refreshing in a way, to see them successfully tackle a new genre and, for them, play it straight.


"The King's Speech" (*** 1/2-118 minutes)-Tuesday January 25, 2011
Little known director Tom Hooper (he did a TV drama in 2007, "Longford", and a critically well received sports movie in 2009, "The Damned United") has created a small ($15 million) intimate historical drama that is gaining Oscar momentum, the likes of which has not been seen in years. When King Edward abdicated the throne to marry Baltimore-bred socialite, the twice divorced commoner Wallis Simpson, it fell upon his brother Albert (who would become the father of Queen Elizabeth II) to take over the realm in 1936. The only problem was, the shy reserved Albert had absolutely no desire to take the job. Another reason was that he had been suffering from stuttering since an early age. The film opens with him giving a speech to a vast British audience to open The British Empire Exhibition in 1925. Considering how hard it must have been to deal with the malady in private conversation, imagine the terror he must have felt delivering speeches to what essentially was 1/4 of the world's population at that time! When visits to various speech therapists failed, he happens upon an Australia actor-turned therapist Lionel Logue who realizes that, to be successful, a friendship must be established first & foremost if Albert was to see any progress. Looming in the background is that speech referred to in the title (as well as referencing his speech malady). Due to the ever-growing German threat, it will be up to the monarch to address his vast kingdom-as well as the rest of the world knowing that strength of speech is paramount. Until I witnessed Colin Firth's performance, I thought James Franco ("127 Hours") had given the best male performance this year. Now, make that second best. Colin, who missed out last year for "A Single Man", will not lose out two years in a row. You can mail him The Oscar. This is a brilliant nuanced performance that had me spellbound throughout. Equally impressive is Geoffrey Rush as Logue and he could easily get his second (after winning BA in 1996's "Shine"). Also, on hand is the always-dependable Brit, Helena Bonham Carter as Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mum). A wonderful score by the great Alexander Desplat, with a welcomed well-placed sprinkling of Beethoven, further enhances the total experience. Of particular note is the brilliant screenplay by David Seidler, who, as it turns out, also was a stutterer. Having always identified with Albert and wanting to write the story, he properly asked Queen Elizabeth if he could proceed with his dream. She asked him to wait until after her life was over as it was still too painful for her. That opportunity finally came in 2002 when she passed at the age of 102. Finally, what makes the story even more fascinating is the discovery of diaries and letters by Logue's grandson that chronicled the relationship between the two men that forms the backdrop for this wonderful human drama and glorious peak into recent history.


"Another Year" (***-129 minutes)-Sunday January 30, 2011
The latest human drama from the great, critically acclaimed writer/director Mike Leigh ("Secrets & Lies", "Vera Drake", "Happy-Go-Lucky") is not one of my favorites but is definitely worth seeing on many levels. First, is the (always) outstanding acting; second, is the story that grabs you and takes you along without telescoping any of the plot paths; and thirdly, his use of actors that, physically, are as far from attractive Hollywood-types as the moon is from Earth. In other words, real people whom everyone can identify & empathize. Leigh writes and directs characters & depicts slices of life that, I am certain, you will constantly be shaking your head in recognition. As the title suggests, the film expands over the course of a year in the lives of Tom & Gerri (played by Leigh regulars Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen)-still very steadily & happily married after 30 years. What makes the year so diverse are the folks who swirl around them-bouncing in and out of their lives as the story unfolds. Their stable lives and homestead serve as a focal point for much of the action. However, the story concentrates mainly on Gerri's co-worker, Mary, played by Lesley Manville, another Leigh staple, in an incredibly exact performance. We have all come across a "Mary" in our lives. Attractive, middle-aged, still single, drinks a little too much, and is always looking for Mister Right, Mary is constantly calling on Tom & Gerri for companionship and acceptance. They, reluctantly, serve as sounding boards to her longings. Other characters come and go as each of the four seasons arrives, but it is Mary's story that is constantly changing with the seasons. We first see her as quite happy & affable, if somewhat annoying, but by story's end, our feelings for her have changed which is a tribute to the wonderful coloration Lesley brings to the role. Gary Yershon, who contributed the music for "Happy-Go-Lucky", provides another fine unobtrusive score. Yet another terrific effort from Mike Leigh who continues to be one of the world's leading dramatists and filmmaker of our generation.



"Biutiful" (*** 1/2-148 minutes)-Sunday February 6, 2011
Like Mike Leigh, writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu is accumulating a catalogue of successful films that is firmly establishing him as one of the planet's best. The director of such films as "Amores Perros" (2000), "21 Grams" (2003), and one of my personal favorites, 2006's "Babel", has enlisted the services of one of the greatest actors working today: Javier Bardem who won a supporting Oscar as the frightful Anton Chigurh, in the Coens' "No Country For Old Men". Here, Bardim turns in another stunning performance as Uxbal, whose criminal activities involving sweatshops and illegal immigrants in Barcelona are just one of several life issues he is struggling to deal with. There is also his on-again off-again relationship with his bipolar wife (Maricel Alvarez), raising his two children, and (not a spoiler as he learns of this condition in the opening reel) an illness that threatens his life. Uxbal, however, is not a cold, heartless criminal. On the contrary, he is quite sympathetic, despite living an amoral existence. He wants to do good-but is incapable of deciding how to accomplish that goal. Instead, he pours his love and soul into his children and is determined to successfully pass his legacy, both tangible & intangible, to them. This is a gritty, somewhat depressing tale that makes one of the beautiful cities on earth look like a slum town. Despite that, the story & artistry by the incredibly charismatic Bardem is so compelling that it makes it all worthwhile. Although, in general, the audience I screened it with thought it could have been considerably shorter, I did not check my watch at any time during the nearly 2 1/2 hours. By the way, the ironic title refers to an incorrect spelling of "beautiful" he gives to one of his kids. On the contrary, like Todd Solondz's (unhappy) "Happiness" (1998), "Biutiful" is anything but. However, it is unrelenting and unforgettable.

"127 Hours" (*** 1/2-93 minutes)-PLUS Discussion/Q&A with dir. Danny Boyle

Director Danny Boyle at the screening of "127 Hours"

Tuesday October 12, 2010

The story of Aron Ralston and his incredible survival journey made a helluva book (Ralston's own "Between a Rock and a Hard Place") and documentary (2006's "Survivor: The Aron Ralston Story with Tom Brokaw"). But who in their right mind would try and make this a narrative story and then try and sell it to audiences around the world? How would this gruesome story, (and this should be no spoiler as it's been almost 8 years after the event was reported worldwide) of how a guy freed himself & survived being trapped by a bolder for 6 days in a deserted canyon with virtually no food or water, sell?

Well, leave it to none other then the brilliant "Slumdog Millionaire" English director Danny Boyle to figure out a way to uniquely make one of the most compelling and, yes, one of the most entertaining films of the year.

James Franco (who played James Dean in a TV movie in 2001), giving the best male performance I've seen so far this year, plays the reckless, carefree lad who doesn't inform his family and friends of his whereabouts the day he sets out alone for his usual wilderness jaunt. As he is trying to maneuver around the canyon walls, a boulder is jarred and comes crashing down pinning his arm to the rocks. He quickly finds that no amount of effort will successfully free him.

Equipped with a video camera, a still camera, minimal food and water, a couple of climbing tools, and a pen-knife, he fears that his young life can now be measured in days unless he takes drastic action to free himself.

Boyle will never be typecast as a director. His repertoire includes such diverse topics as 1994's dark noir "Shallow Grave", heroin addicts in 1980's Edinburgh (the brilliant 1996 film"Trainspotting"), zombies running amok in London as a result of a monkey virus outbreak (2002's exciting original "28 Days Later"), a children's fable (2004's well received "Millions"), 2008's crowd-pleasing, Academy Award winning salute to Bollywood, and now this extraordinary true tale of survival. Boyle ingeniously manages to pull in the audience by using a style that is all his own. Through the outstanding use of music, editing, and storytelling, the talented director manages to hold your attention throughout the entire ordeal-despite knowing the outcome.

Most folks I know, when hearing of the subject matter, have said that this wasn't the type of film they would be interested in experiencing. All I can say is, not only is this one of the best films of the year, but one that is, ultimately, uplifting in a way that can't be related in words. It must be seen to be believed-and admired.

This was a rare opportunity to attend a screening with one of the world's finest A-list directors and the post-screening discussion/Q&A with Danny Boyle, fresh off his well-deserved success directing last year's Best Picture, "Slumdog Millionaire", didn't disappoint.

Moderated by D.C. film critic, Kevin "Big Daddy Kev's" McCarthy, (who humorously began by remarking how guilty he felt drinking water), the discussion granted rare fascinating insight into the director's strategies as well as pertinent background in the making of the harrowing film.

In talking about James Franco, Danny recognized him as a really great actor who has been underused. He said he & James watched the 45 minutes of Aron's actual video that he shot over the 6 days-video which he had previously shared only with a couple of close family members. Referring to the footage, Danny mentioned they were "weirdly controlled . . . because his thought processes is that he thinks he is going to die, he didn't want his mom to see him in a terrible stage as his last message to her; he wants to look dignified and purposeful and coping as best as he can. It was really moving . . . and helped James act here." Aron revealed to Danny that he changed a couple of messages after reviewing them while trapped in the canyon because he thought it showed that he was too upset. That gave the director the (fictional and somewhat humerous) idea of James imagining himself as a talk show host interviewing people talking about him. However, the video message he left for his parents (where he said "I'm sorry that I haven't appreciated you in my heart the way I know I should") was taken verbatim from the tape.

The film was partially shot at the actual remote site: Horseshoe Canyon in southern Utah's Blue John Canyon in Canyonlands National Park. Danny mentioned it was tough getting a crew there and they ended up camping out for 5 days to shoot. Aron joined the set on location,which just happened to be on the 7th anniversary of his ordeal. Although it must have been strange to revisit the site, at least, as Danny pointed out, this time he wasn't alone.

An audience member asked what inspired him to write the screenplay (he co-wrote it with Simon Beaufoy) and direct the tale. He responded that he was intrigued when he first heard of the story back in 2003 when it happened and it just "snagged" in his brain. Although not on the same scale as what had just happened to the trapped 33 Chilean miners, he couldn't help put himself in Aron's place thinking what would he do if he was caught in that predicament. That gave the story an "amazing resonance beyond the survival" aspect. So, after reading the book in 2006, he approached Aron telling him that he had a specific idea about how to make it by essentially putting the audience in the canyon with him until he was released-"a first person immersive experience". Aron at first wanted to make a documentary with him narrating in order to keep control of it. Boyle's success with Slumdog helped sway him and convince him to make a narrative. Also, that success gave him a window of opportunity to get the funding for the project-which, understandably, was not attractive to the studio. By that time Aron had changed as a person and had met his wife "who helped him complete the journey".

When Kevin asked if Aron's parents has seen the film, Danny replied that only his sister has seen it. At the first test screening in New Jersey, at the point in the film when he amputates his arm and steps back from the canyon wall, the crowd cheered wildly and Aron was "pouring tears" from the reaction. When Danny approached him afterward, Aron remarked that it was strange watching it because there were parts of it he was very cold and distant from, while during other parts, he was overwhelmed and that he couldn't control himself. Boyle added wryly that Aron liked the film ("thank goodness").

When asked about the wonderful use of music, Danny said that it was the one variance, other than editing, that was important to changing the film since he was essentially dealing with one character and location (he even tried using 2 different cinematographers,
but that failed when both shot their sequences the same way). He chanced upon Free Blood, an American band from Brooklyn (which happened to be friends of Suttriat Larlarb, the production designer), while traveling around Utah looking for locations and used their song "Never Hear Surf Music Again" in the opening sequence. He mentioned his use again of composer A.H. Rahman (who composed for Slumdog) who also composed the wonderful song over the end credits.

On commenting on a question about his varied career, Danny revealed his silly theory that "your first film is always the best", although it might technically not be the best, but is the one where "you really don't know what you're doing and there is something wonderful about that; there is an innocence that you never get back again . . . so you're always trying to get back to the beginning again if you can." He went on to say that one of the ways that you can try and generate that is by changing genre or scale of a story. This was the first time he's done a one-actor film and was inspired to do that after seeing Darren Aronofsky's "The Wrestler" where you just follow an actor. Figuring out how to do that kind of film is what makes it challenging and interesting. "It keeps you vibrant"-like it was for him at the beginning of his career.

When quizzed about how he approached the amputation scene, knowing full well that the audience knew the end result, Danny went on to explain the dynamics of shooting the trapped sequences. He said they were done in a series of uninterrupted 20 minute takes of him trying to escape the bolder. During that time, James lost himself in the role "which is a wonderful way of getting a performance . . . forgetting who he was in the process." He added that he thought the intensity of his performance is conveyed as a result. Boyle felt an obligation to be true to the story adding that it, in reality, it took Aron a total of 44 minutes to remove himself from the rock. However, the euphoria of freeing himself resulted in his leaving a more complete man-that it represented a kind of rebirth.

Danny then talked about how Franco got the role. He stated that a number of actors read for the part but that James always looked "stoned". However, Boyle was familiar with his range of work and that it was really important for the actor to play a character with various moods and tones in order to sustain the film. He was finally convinced when Franco read for the second time. He added that he personally didn't think that a lot of actors could have pulled it off.

An audience member commented on the kinetic visual energy of the film on what must have been a very passive experience. Danny responded by saying there were 2 ways to approach this. He could have, on a purely business level, done it as a meditative wilderness experience-but then no one would come to watch it. But disagreed that people go to movie to escape since folks generally see films dealing with their urban existence-implying they aren't really escaping anywhere. And although it appears to be a wilderness theme, and that Aron is escaping his urban existence, on the contrary, Boyle considers it an urban film. He went on to explain that the rhythm of it is urban, pointing out that "he takes with him an invisible umbilical cord back to the city" (a video and still cameras, as well as having the rock group Phish on his IPod). He added that he "always considered it an action movie where the hero can't move . . . that's the puzzle in terms of tactfully how to make it".

As to the decision of injecting humor into the proceedings, the director merely responded by saying "that you can get away with so much if you can find humor in stuff." He added that it was very important that you are drawn into the character and realized that it was incredibly important to your tolerance to be able to live through the film with him because, obviously, you are not going anywhere, you're staying in the same place the whole time. Further explaining that "the danger with the film is that it is very still, but it must never be inert. . . and humor is one of the ways of avoiding that. It refreshes everyone who hears it and, therefore, it is a crucial element in the film."

Commenting on a couple of his previous films, when asked about a possible sequel to "Trainspotting", Danny said he considered picking up the story using the same actors when the characters are in their middle age. However, he inferred that dealing with vanity issues with those actors would be a concern to pull it off. And he would be open to doing a "28 Months Later" sequel to his "28 Days Later" & Juan Carlos Fresnadillo's
"28 Weeks later" but his schedule won't permit it right now. He's directing "Frankenstein" in early 2011 at London's National Theater and will be doing the opening ceremonies at London's 2012 Olympics.

Boyle then shared a humorous story of how he managed to show a deserted London in "28 Days Later" without using CGI. Not having a major studio involved, he had to be creative in getting the natural effects he needed. Shot pre-9/11 in the summer of 2001, at 3:30 AM, he employed students to help out in crowd control-including his 18-year-old daughter. In order to make predominantly male drivers comply with his request to stay off the roads, she enlisted her female friends and found that, by their wearing short skirts, male drivers were much more easily convinced to pull over while filming.

Danny closed the entertaining session adding that he keeps the prosthetic arm used in the film in a shoebox.

I've been to scores of screenings locally as well as various film festivals around the country and usually discussions with A-list actors and directors are concluded with organizers, publicists, etc., stepping in at the end to whisk away the celebrity. When the half-hour was over, an attempt was made to "protect" Danny from the audience, to which the director clearly refused. Instead, he proceeded straight to the lobby where he took photos, signed autographs, and spoke to whoever wanted to ask further questions-or just to shake his hand. In short, Danny Boyle was so approachable and down-to-earth that I am in total awe and respect of both his professional talents as well as his incredible people skills.



Aron (James Franco) before the incident