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Fighting for the liberation of blog posts from awful pun headlines

The past few months I’ve included Carlos on my top five lists. “What is Carlos?” some of my fellow Grouches asked me.

When I told them, they then tried to disqualify it from our lists.

I clearly do not work with serious people.

Carlos is the latest from Olivier Assayas, the director of one of my favorite 2009 films, Summer Hours. It showed at Cannes to wonderful reviews.

Also it’s 5.5 hours long not including intermissions.

The length has made has made it something of a curiosity. It was commissioned as a French miniseries and IFC took the full-length version on a US roadshow. A condensed version got a larger release while Sundance aired it as a miniseries.

The film tells the story of Carlos “The Jackal,” the terrorist and revolutionary. In the early 70s he is a idealistic young man fighting for Palestinian liberation. He attempts some assassinations, kills police officers who try to arrest him, and leads a daring raid on the OPEC headquarters. By the 90s, he’s a pudgy mercenary relying on unsavory friends and exiled in Sudan, barely giving lip service to his former ideals.

Édgar Ramírez is remarkable as Carlos and undergoes a striking physical transformation. Young Carlos is strong and sure, full of conviction and a Cassanova. Old Carlos is desperate, paranoid, delusional, and haggard. Thankfully, Ramírez has received some awards season attention, albeit often in the miniseries category.

The film itself flies by despite its length. The action comes and goes and is mostly concentrated earlier in the film, but it succeeds as an in-depth and engrossing character study. Carlos is in every scene and is a thrill to watch. By taking its time developing the character and charting his rise and fall, the audience really understands him.

That said, you don’t necessarily need to watch it all in one sitting. It works great in its long form, but I doubt it would lose anything if watched in its three miniseries chunks.

I am curious about the abridged version. I feel like it wouldn’t work just by chopping half the scenes since its greatness is derived by its deep dive into the character. It would require a whole new edit to maintain its power, I would think, re-editing scenes instead of cutting out plots.

It’s not eligible for the Oscars, I think because its commercial debut was on French television. If not, I think Edgar Ramirez may well have been a player for Best Actor.

Anyway, well worth seeking out.

Oscar nominees are announced on the 25th.  Yay!  So let’s summarize what we (the royal we, at least) know.  Keeping in mind, of course, that when it comes to the Academy, no one knows anything.  Especially me.  This time: Best Supporting Actress.


  • Nobody

There are at least ten women you could legitimately claim to have, based on precursor awards, a shot at a nomination.  Coupled with the fact that the Oscars have a tendency to go crazy in the supporting categories (as commenter Sarah astutely pointed out) and you are looking at a category impossible to call with any certainty.


  • Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
  • Melissa Leo, The Fighter
  • Helena Bonham Carter, The King’s Speech

Everything I’ve read about True Grit suggests two things about Steinfeld: that’s she absolutely deserving of a nomination; that nomination should be for a leading role as she’s in every single scene.  I haven’t seen the movie yet so I can’t weigh in there.  Best Actress is a crazy tough category to break into this year, so I understand why she’s been campaigned as supporting, but Oscar voters are free to place her as they see fit.  I’m enjoying the Melissa Leo buzz because it means Adam gets to rant about Frozen River some more.  She plays a mother quite easy to hate, desperately close to going over the top as a scheming, manipulating manager/mom, but never quite doing so.  Impressive considering how much of a hack job that script was.  I loved The King’s Speech and I’m always a fan of nominations for muted performances, but I don’t know, I think Helena Bonham Carter is riding the coattails of the movie and her co-stars.  Not her fault, her character is really only given two or three instances to shine.


Mila Kunis, Black Swan
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

I reserve the right to change my predictions, but here’s where I’m at right this instant.  Black Swan has been getting widespread support in the precursors, suggesting to me there’s an opportunity for it to pick up a nomination in this category.  I’ll get to the other contender shortly, but, if you’ll forgive my crassness,  given that I’m predicting a forty-something, fifty-something, sixty-something, and a fourteen year old, I think the Academy will find a place for the incredibly sexy Mila Kunis.  Which, please understand, isn’t meant to take away anything from her performance as the sometimes real, sometimes friend, sometimes rival, sometimes missing half to Natalie Portman’s character.  Animal Kingdom will be arriving very shortly, so I can’t speak to it, but from everything I hear, the only way Weaver doesn’t get the nomination is if not enough voters saw the movie.


  • Amy Adams, The Fighter
  • Barbara Hershey, Black Swan
  • Lesley Manville, Another Year

Amy Adams has garnered a number of precursor nominations, is ridiculously cute, and is a damn fine actress, but her character lacks depth.  Given the crowded race, I think if voters have to choose only one supportive partner, they go with Bonham Carter or one actress from The Fighter, they go with Leo.  But if/when I’m wrong, it most likely will be her.  Way  back before people had really seen the film, Hershey was touted as strong favorite here.  Her star has dimmed a little since then, perhaps because there are so many other actresses playing mothers with severe issues handling their offspring.  I’m stunned I can’t find a place for Manville, given director Mike Leigh’s consistent ability to create strong, Oscar-friendly female characters.  I’m told she’s wonderful, it again may just come down who did due diligence and watched her film.


  • Dianne Wiest, Rabbit Hole
  • Olivia Williams, The Ghost Writer
  • Dale Dickey, Winter’s Bone
  • Pretty much anyone from For Colored Girls

Everyone was talking about Dianne Wiest and then no one was, I don’t quite get it.  Dollhouse proved to me that Olivia Williams deserves more recognition, and she’s actually quite good in The Ghost Writer, the film just can’t get any traction in the U.S. (and rightly so).   If I had done this two months ago, I would have put Dickey in the top five, given the buzz for Winter’s Bone, and she’s absolutely deserving of a spot.  I hope whoever did the awards promotion for For Colored Girls learned some lessons from the near total failure to get the film out there.  Granted, I hear the subject matter is difficult and it is can be hard to narrow down an ensemble, but we’re looking at a year with twenty white nominees.


Marion Cotillard, Inception
Rosamund Pike, Made in Dagenham
Ellen Wong, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Rebecca Hall, Please Give
Ellen Burstyn, Lovely, Still
Julianna Margulies, City Island
Patricia Clarkson, Easy A
Annette Bening, Mother and Child

I think I’m leaving out at least a half-dozen interesting performances.  A pretty strong year for supporting actress roles, if you ask me.

January 2011