Monday, February 25, 2013

Post Oscar Crap

I'm acknowledging Nagisa Oshima who inexplicably was left out of the In Memoriam segment

I realize that yes it's a day late, so sue me.  Unlike previous years I happen to work a job with soul crushingly awful hours which makes typing a fresh reaction blog to the Oscars impossible.  Oh speaking of which did you notice the telecast was called "The Oscars"?  I did, and as far as I can tell this is the first time it was officially called this.  In nearly every year I can remember it was still referred to as it's classic name with many more syllables The Academy Awards.  Now you know, anyways on to the good and bad of it all.

The Good

I'll keep this brief because there wasn't much.  Quentin Tarantino won another best original screenplay Oscar, I'm happy for him, really considering this was my favorite movie of the year.  I will also say bravo to Michael Haneke for winning at least the foreign language award even if his film didn't stand a chance against his Hollywood produced competition.  

I mentioned that I was pulling for Jessica Chastain for best actress but had no problem with Jennifer Lawrence winning.  She had a pretty good year, and well it's all downhill from here so enjoy it.  She was pretty damn good in Silver Linings and I'm happy for her.  Good for Anne Hathaway as well.

I was legitimately surprised Christoph Waltz won again, that man should probably never make another movie not directed by Tarantino.  I was convinced Tommy Lee Jones would snag one for Lincoln but I was obviously wrong.  Based on audience reaction it seemed like no one in the theater was rooting for Lincoln to win anything.  Every time the film was announced I heard only the mildest of applause.  When Daniel Day Lewis won his anti-climatic third Oscar people just seemed to say "Yeah big surprise can we get to the best picture already?"

For some reason Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild seemed to get the most applause throughout the night.  Beasts is the type of film that makes me angry when people like it.  If I have to hear one more thing about how brave and courageous the actors in that film are I'll probably puke.  Stop liking movies about poor black people to prove to the world that you're not racist Hollywood.

The Bad

Oh good heavens where do I start?  I'd say Seth Macfarlane did a decent job as a host so I won't get on him too much.  I realize that many, many people go into writing the show so if the jokes were terrible it's not always the host.  I will say this I have never been more conscious of an Oscar telecast catering to gay audiences more in my life.  Even Macfarlane cracked a joke about it.

So I did research like a good blogger and found that this year's show was produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.  Ever hear of them?  Me neither but you guessed it they're both openly gay.  So this would explain why we had a powerfully unnecessary tribute to musicals of the last decade.  I mean, really?  The last decade, if you wanted to salute Warner Bros. musicals from the 30s and have people perform "42nd Street" or something that would have been cool in a flaming gay sort of way.  However suffering through Chicago, Dreamgirls, and Les Miserables I just felt like saying "too soon".  Come on they didn't want Daniel Day to come out and sing a number from Nine?  

Oh there was also that Shirley Bassey performance of "Goldfinger", and there's a few things about this.  First of all I wonder if the team of Zadan and Meron thought they had to butch up the show a bit so that it wouldn't alienate all the non-gay people who were watching, so they figured Bond was the manliest thing they could put on the show so we got a slightly pointless tribute to celebrate the franchise's 50th year.  They dropped the ball big time with including Bassey because to be honest I don't care about seeing ancient singers who were never that good to begin with sing bad songs (hint hint this also includes Barbara Streisand in what was easily the worst produced "In Memoriam" segment I've seen).  Long story short the song from "Goldfinger" sucks, like really bad, almost as bad as "Diamonds are Forever" and who sang that?  Oh that's right Dame Bassey strikes again.  

Now if I was producing this and say I was told a Bond tribute had to be included and a musical number was part of it I'd do one of two things.  First I'd say let's get Paul McCartney who clearly recorded the best Bond song ever for "Live and Let Die".  This might seem like a stretch, but Christ they got the first lady to hand out an award, why not a Beatle?  If this didn't work I'd say let's just have Adele sing her song from Skyfall because she's going to sing it anyways and it would tie in nicely with the tribute.  Instead we had to suffer through that, and then suffer through Adele who gave a very uncomfortable and awkward looking rendition.  The song isn't terrible and congrats to her for winning an Oscar but man that girl has no rhythm.

As for the rest of the show, too fucking long again.  It was worse this year because I had to wake up to go to work at 2am so every agonizing segment was just more time I wouldn't be sleeping.

Me and several other people were actively rooting for Joaquin Phoenix to win best actor if for nothing else because he probably would have walked up stage told everyone to go fuck themselves and then politely walking off, making it easily the best acceptance speech ever.  The Master didn't surprise me by getting shut out repeatedly, oh well time will probably be a lot kinder to this film.

Life of Pi looks like a crappy video game.  The tiger in the boat looks less realistic than the repulsor rays coming from Iron Man's suit.  How this won a best visual effects Oscar blows my mind, especially when a film like The Avengers didn't even get nominated.  I mean this is special effects were talking about here, this is the one category where it's perfectly acceptable for a summer blockbuster to win, but well the Academy still hates comic book movies.  

Speaking of Pi, I'm hungry.  On another note Ang Lee won another best director Oscar for a film that wasn't nearly as good as people seem to think it is.  Granted Brokeback Mountain was a much better film than this, I was a little surprised to see Lee being a two time winner without directing a best picture winner.  Now John Ford's first two best director Oscars were for films that didn't win best picture but let's hope Ang Lee doesn't have a third in store, because he is not that great.

Argo did defy the odds, and you can tell people you know it's the first best picture winner since Driving Miss Daisy that wasn't nominated for a best director Oscar, bravo.  Truthfully though I feel like this is one of those "could have been worse" best picture winners.  I don't think in twenty years anyone anywhere will think it was the best film of the year (does anyone think it was the best film of the year now?).  However I don't think it will invoke the same kind of passionate hatred some other best picture winners have and most likely will generate. 

Speaking of more useless trivia it features John Goodman.  You know what else Goodman was in?  The Artist.  So he joins a small group of actors; Clark Gable (1934-35), Christopher Walken (1977-78),Meryl Streep (1978-79),  and Russell Crowe (2000-01) to appear in consecutive best picture winners.  There might be some more out there but I'm drawing a blank, feel free to let me know if you think of any.
There's probably more about the show I hated but I wouldn't mind getting some sleep now so good night world, more blogging to come.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My annual pre-Oscar post

Well here we are with roughly an hour to go before Seth Macfarlane begins what's sure to be a painfully awkward monologue mixed with a musical number no one wants to hear as random nominees are shown in the audience awkwardly smiling and Jack Nicholson pops up for no reason at all.  We've all seen it before just substitute whoever you want for the host or the nominees it's usually the same which brings me to my theme of this year's program, who gives a shit?

Alright I'm jaded I admit it.  I got off to a very late start with this year's crop, and although there is only one film I haven't seen from the four major categories (The Impossible) I have never felt particularly informed with this group.  For starters I have avoided nearly all pre-Oscar predictions on forums/blogs/magazines/tv/etc.  For this reason I don't really know what's going to win anything, and seeing how all the nominees do very little for me I can't say I care.

So let's make a quick run through of what's what and maybe you give a shit so that's why you're checking this out before the big night.

Best Picture

Ok well a few of these films nominated I actually liked.  In fact as of now I'd probably give my best picture award to Django Unchained, but I admittedly have a lot to see before I put out a top ten.  Thing is even though the film has the mighty Weinstein brothers backing it they don't seem to concerned with buying this film Oscars, certainly not to the extent that they whored our The Artist or King's Speech.  Perhaps they figure every couple of years they need to take a step back so people don't think the entire thing is some crooked scheme cooked up by them.  That said I have heard not one soul agree with my pick or anyone even suggest the film has more than say a 5% chance of winning.  This is a shame.  You can also question why The Master and Moonrise Kingdom, arguably the best reviewed American films of the past year weren't among the nine nominees.
Which brings me to my next point, really Academy?  In the years of 1944-2008 if a film was shut out of the best picture race there might be some grumbling but you realized hell there were only five nominees so well it's just a matter of opinion.  Now that they can nominate up to ten when a film that gets as much acclaim as the Anderson's respective films it just seems downright rude and moronic to leave them out of the running even if they wouldn't stand a chance of winning.  After all does anyone really care that Life of Pi, Les Miserables, or Beasts of the Southern Wild is up for best picture.  I'm not even bad mouthing these movies per se I'm just saying that I can't imagine anyone (other than a very enthusiastic musical theater fan) complaining that one of these films were "snubbed" if they were left off the ballot.  However the long standing history of the Academy being clueless continues. 

The top prize seems to be between Argo and Lincoln this year, and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.   Oh sorry fell asleep there did I miss anything?  Did the show start yet?  Oh we're good, anyways I was saying something about zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.   In all seriousness though if this is the great Oscar race this year wake me when next year's show starts.  Argo does have one major handicap, and that is Ben Affleck isn't nominated for best director.  This might not seem important especially considering all the things Argo has going for it, but the last time a film won best picture without having a best director nomination was Driving Miss Daisy, all the way back in 1989.  So it's not impossible, but certainly a rare occurrence if this film wins.  Argo does however meet a great many Oscar requirements.  At its core it's a stupid potboiler complete with last minute rescue scene.  It is "controversial" in that ultra-safe way that won't offend anyone.  It's a period picture that can evoke emotions from a time the older members can recall.  Perhaps most importantly it shows actual Hollywood people being heroes, something voters couldn't help but pat themselves on the back for.  

I don't think it's a bad film by any stretch even though I would point to Lincoln and Les Miserables as the two worst films nominated, but it's not terribly good either.  Zero Dark Thirty, Django, and Silver Linings Playbook are my favorite nominees.  Of these only David O. Russell scored a best director nomination.  He has proven over the last 13 years that he's one of the best American directors working today and you might wonder in a somewhat wide open race if this isn't the year where Academy members feel it's good enough.  I likewise haven't heard any real buzz about this film winning, so who knows, but it would be a hell of a lot better than most of the nominees.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a big stinking turd, sorry I said it.  If you haven't seen the film yet, don't worry all you need to know is the main character who inexplicably got a best actress nomination is named Hushpuppy.  Both her and this film will be forgotten in approximately two months when this film fades into obscurity and is occasionally dug up by some Oscar historian wondering how it got all those nominations.  Benh Zeitlin got a surprise best director nomination and let's say he'll get a pass to see what he does with his career from here, but let's not be too surprised if he goes David Gordon Green on us and directs such future classics like The Babysitter or Your Highness. 

Anyways I don't care about the rest of the nominees so there.

Best Actor

Daniel Day Lewis is gunning for his third Oscar because that's what he does.  I don't care if he wins, sure he was good but well I've never been overly impressed with someone who impersonates a historical figure for a movie.  It worked for Meryl Streep last year but that might be more because people were just sick of her being nominated every year and just were hoping she'd stop for awhile if they just gave her one (similar to Susan Sarandon in the early 90s).  I'm pulling for Joaquin Phoenix because he was amazing and has been consistently amazing in nearly all of his movies to date.  Denzel was damn good as well in Flight, and I was very impressed with Bradley Cooper for the first time ever in Silver Linings.  Hugh Jackman did a fine job in a film I didn't like so really may the best man win I won't be terribly upset regardless of the outcome.

Best Actress

I have no idea who is supposed to win this year.  I haven't kept up on the countless other award shows but it seems Jessica Chastain has a shot.  She gets a couple of "Oscar moments" in Zero Dark and maybe she can turn that into gold.  Emmanuelle Riva was a surprise nomination in her return to the screen for Amour, and I haven't bothered learning that 5 year olds name who plays Hushpuppy in that film I already forgot because she won't win I'll bet you $80 billion she won't win.  So maybe Jessica gets her gold or Jennifer Lawrence who has had a mighty impressive year.  Neither of these choices would surprise me.  I still haven't seen Naomi Watts in The Impossible so I can't comment on it, but the fact that no one saw this movie makes me think this is one of those be happy you were nominated nominations.


The supporting categories aren't terribly exciting because they never are.  From what I'm told Anne Hathaway is going to win, so good for her she's a robo-babe and I've been a fan of her work for years.  Tommy Lee Jones seemed like an early favorite for Lincoln and well that wouldn't be too bad.  In fact he was probably my favorite thing about the movie.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was probably the best in The Master but we already know that the Academy didn't think too highly of that film.  I suppose as long as Alan Arkin doesn't win again I'll be happy.  Maybe another kind of nostalgia will pop up because Robert De Niro gave his best performance in two decades for Silver Linings.  Again may the best man win.
Foreign Language film is a snore fest this year because again the backwards and antiquated system of nominating films leaves much to be desired.  Amour is the only one of these nominees anyone has probably seen and this is always the case.  In a perfect world Holy Motors would have been nominated but well that would make too much sense, certainly it would make more sense than the film itself. 
As for the rest who cares?  That's my overwhelming theme of this year's show.  I don't care, at all really.  If you want I will make my picks of what I would like to see win, but again this isn't what I think will win, because I have no idea and I certainly don't expect to be right on any of these.

Best Picture - Django Unchained
Best Director - David O. Russell
Best Actor - Joaquin Phoenix
Best Actress - Jessica Chastain

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

RIP Film Journal

Well some things have changed here in 2013.  I have decided, independent of anyone else to forgo my usual monthly film journal posts.  This is due largely to the fact that I'm a lazy bum and also I don't think anyone was particularly concerned.  Obviously if a huge outpouring of support for the film journal crops up I'll reconsider but otherwise consider it retired.  I will however be posting sporadic updates about what I've been watching which reminds me.

Catching Up on 2012
Here we are less than a month from the Oscars and I'm doing only moderately well on my research.  I've only seen four of the nine best picture winners thus far but I do have the remaining ones available.  In fact Argo is being released today on DVD/Blu-Ray so I guess I don't have to worry about catching that in the theater anymore.  I'll be fairly caught up with the actor/actress/director races once I get those last five films watched.

2011 was a year of massive disappointment in the world of music for me.  It seemed every band/artist coming off a great album put out a mediocre one in 2011.  Some of these ranged from passable to downright awful to the point where I just repeatedly lowered my expectations for everything I heard.  I'm starting to wonder if 2012 isn't in a similar boat when it comes to cinema.  Even some of the better films this year came from directors who were coming off of much better work.  Granted I'm sitting at about 30 films on the year so I'm a long way to making definitive conclusions but I can't help but feel like shrugging my shoulders at the whole year.

Of the underwhelming films I've seen this year would include one of the most recent ones I watched Les Miserables.  Granted my expectations weren't terribly high for the film, but that didn't stop me from praying for it to end.  I'm not sure when exactly it happened but there have been some recent trends in period pictures lately.  For starters there is more CGI in these films than the Star Wars pre-quels.  Even the first shot of Les Miserables starts with a bunch of prisoners pulling a boat that looks like it was straight out of the first God of War game, I mean almost identical really.  Maybe these effects are better hidden on a big screen but I couldn't help feeling like the film looked like a video game.  To be honest I don't understand how every single set looks fake and animated.  It isn't just Les Mis that's guilty of this, I suppose Gladiator probably started this trend but the human eye is incredibly good at spotting forgery.  How I long for the days when people built sets and shot in real locations.  This is one of the reasons why The Young Victoria looks even better by comparison.

The other thing I noticed is all of these films are cloudy.  I mean what gives, was the sun never shining in France?  I get that England is known for it's drab and rainy weather but even films that take place in other countries seem to adopt the British standard for historical pictures (same reason everyone in all these films has a British accent regardless of nationality).  Les Miserables is guilty of this as well, but maybe it's to show what a horrible time everyone was having. 

Most people look at the past as a time of smelly people who were plagued by disease and well the plague.  Remember when you'd see a film like Ben-Hur and there were some lepers?  Well they were pretty filthy right?  Well everyone else was clean, even when Ben-Hur was rowing those giant oars he was a bit unshaven but not terribly filthy.  Nowadays virtually everyone who isn't royalty is covered in shit like they just rolled around in raw sewage (which happens here as well).  You'd figure poor people living by the water would at least occasionally wash up and even the trashiest of prostitutes would at least take some time to make themselves look presentable other than wearing grotesquely comical makeup.  I mean I have no idea what they're basing their depiction of the past on, but personal hygiene wasn't THAT bad.  Well one of Les Miserables Oscar nominations is for best makeup so I guess people seem to like the whole rub dirt all over your actors style of makeup.

Anne Hathaway covered in dirt and nowhere near sunlight
Looking ahead
Well I've just stopped by my local library to rent a few movies and I'm excited about them.  Some of these movies I've been wanting to see for a long time but with the recent list research I had to put of watching anything for the first time.  I plan on tackling much more of Jonathan Rosenbaum's top 1000 which I deliberately put on hold for the last couple of months.  I'm also looking forward to catching Rainer Werner Fassbinder's World on a Wire.  So stay tuned for more of my witty and insightful commentary.