Here at Zembla, we've got Oscar fever, and the only prescription is more movies. As we approach Sunday night's Academy Awards telecast, Zembla wants to bring you cutting edge analysis of all of the nominated films. Admittedly, we're less than 96 hours away from the ceremony, and there are a lot of films still unseen, but just like Gael Garcia Bernal's character in Babel, nothing's gonna stop us. Not the INS, not pissed-off border guards, and certainly not logic.
First up is Dreamgirls, the story of the fake Supremes and the fake James Brown and their manager, the fake Berry Gordy.
Nominations: 8 total. Best Supporting Actor (Eddie Murphy), Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Hudson), Art Direction, Costume Design, Sound Mixing, and three for Best Song ("Listen", "Patience", and "Love You I Do").
Plot Summary: The Dreams - Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce, and What's Her Face - get their big break when Jamie Foxx hooks them up with fake James Brown, played by Eddie Murphy. Jennifer Hudson sleeps with Jamie Foxx and gets kicked out of the band for offscreen alcoholism, truancy, and being a lot fatter than Beyonce. She is replaced by So and So. After Beyonce starts sleeping with Jamie Foxx (also offscreen), the group becomes really popular. Later, Eddie Murphy turns into Lionel Richie and dies of an overdose. Do you think the Dreams reunite at the end?
Title of the porn version: Creamgirls
Strengths: Jennifer Hudson's singing, Beyonce's singing, Eddie Murphy, sparkly costumes, any scene where people are signing on stage.
Weaknesses: Jennifer Hudson's dancing, Beyonce's acting, Jamie Foxx's presence, any scene where people are singing to each other like it's a conversation, character development, number of characters, the boring final hour that nearly made me walk out before it was over.
Drug use: Hudson is supposedly a drunk. Eddie does cocaine.
Physical or mental impairments: None, except maybe the person who wrote "Patience".
Portrayals of real people: Most characters are based on real Motown legends, but no one plays a specific real person. The fake Jackson Five is pretty great.
Cute children: One child, marginally cute.
Physical transformations: Beyonce lost 20 pounds for her role, but she said, "I wish I could have gained 20 pounds and played Effie." In other words, "Enjoy your Oscar, fatty."
Does a man cry?: Yes.
Box Office: $93 million, against a budget of $70 million.
Running time: 131 minutes.
Feels like: 160 minutes.
Favorite scene: The one where Murphy teaches the Dreams their first song, and it segues into the stage performance of same.
Least-favorite scene: Any of the musical numbers where one character sings to another, offstage. It's awkward that the first songs take place as real Dreams songs, whereas some songs are just people talking to each other, even though later the Dreams will still perform them, Invariably, the addressee stands wordlessly in place for the length of the song, while the camera swoops around trying desperately to create some action. Jamie Foxx has to do this on a few different songs, and thus come up with fifteen minutes worth of different "listening" faces.
Eddie: Eddie Murphy is the favorite for Best Supporting Actor, because Oscar loves it when comedians prove they can be unfunny. He's not bad, but he's a lot better in other movies. In some of those movies, he gives more than one performance that's better than this one (Nutty Professor, Bowfinger, Coming to America Dreamgirls). Of course, he doesn't cry, sing, or do cocaine in most of those films, either.
Personally, this is about my fifteenth-favorite Eddie Murphy movie - better than Dr. Doolittle, but not quite as enjoyable as Beverly Hills Cop 3.
Jennifer Hudson: I fully expect her to win Best Supporting Actress, and her singing is impressive. I'm not a big fan of her acting or the her spastic hand motions during songs. We hear about the most interesting things about her character second-hand. Her drinking happens offscreen. The romance and cheating with Jamie Foxx happens offscreen. She says she blew through half a million dollars in two years, but of course, it happens offscreen. That's the interesting story! Instead of showing us Hudson's expensive boozing or Eddie's coke binges, we get to see a five-minute Beyonce photo shoot and Danny Glover negotiating record contracts.
Overall theme: Songs lie. The Dreams sing "We Are A Family" to reassure Hudson, a few screen minutes before Beyonce steals her boyfriend, they kick her out of the band, and her brother starts dating her replacement. Hudson sings, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going", before she, well, goes. It's like Rob Schneider's subway guitarist, only in reverse.
Prediction: One acting award but not both, Best Song for "Listen", and Best Sound Mixing. As for Art Direction and Costumes, I have no idea what I'm talking about, but I bet they win one but not both. Four Oscars.
(Edited 2/22/07, 9:03)