Friday, January 29, 2010
I want every single Best Picture race from the past 20 years changed to incorporate the year’s cheesy, “true story” sports melodrama.
Rudy, Remember the Titans, Miracle, Invincible, Coach Carter, Pride, Seabiscuit (wait…), the list goes on. In short, The Blind Side being nominated for film’s top honor is a crock, a complete and utter crock.
Ok I’m done. Now for some highlights:
COOL that The Hurt Locker matched Avatar for most noms= 9 each.
INTERESTING that Avatar didn’t pick up a screenplay nom (same as Titanic)
COOL COOL COOL that The Cove earned a Best Documentary nom
COOL that Inglourious Basterds picked up 8 noms, the most of any QT film
COOL that Maggie Gyllenhaal and Jeff Bridges are doing exactly what Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei did last year
VERY COOL that Kathryn Bigelow is the 4th woman nominated for Best Directed (and could very well be the first winner)
ODD that Up can be nominated for Best Animated Feature AND Best Picture. Why is that? The Cove can’t be nominated for Best Documentary and Best Picture… when are they going to get rid of this Best Animated Feature nonsense?
Basically, even though there are a few surprises in this year’s race… the end result won’t matter. It’s still between Avatar/The Hurt Locker, Bridges/Clooney, Bullock/Streep, Waltz/no body, Mo’Nique/ no body.
The only real surprise I suspect will happen on March 7th is that Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep will spilt the Best Actress vote, giving an Adrien Brody-type win to Gabourey Sidibe.
We shall see.
MY ALTERNATIVE OSCARS
With the "real" nominations just a few days away, I present one of my favorite film traditions: creating my own Oscar list. If I was the sole member of the Academy, which films and performances would I nominate and which would I choose to win? Keep in mind there are 10 Best Picture contenders this year. My winners are in bold.
The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
The Girlfriend Experience
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
A Single Man
Up in the Air
Kathryn Bigelow- The Hurt Locker
Lee Daniels- Precious
Tom Ford- A Single Man
Jason Reitman- Up in the Air
Quentin Tarantino- Inglourious Basterds
Jeff Bridges- Crazy Heart
Nicolas Cage- Bad Lieutenant
George Clooney- Up in the Air
Matt Damon- The Informant!
Colin Firth- A Single Man
Marion Cotillard- Nine
Charlotte Gainsborg- Antichrist
Michelle Monaghan- Trucker
Carey Mulligan- An Education
Gabourey Sidibe - Precious
Woody Harrelson- The MessengerChris Messina- Away We Go
Alfred Molina- An Education
Stanley Tucci- The Lovely Bones
Christoph Waltz- Inglourious Basterds
Vera Farmiga - Up In The AirMaggie Gyllenhaal- Crazy Heart
Mariah Carey- Precious
Julianne Moore- A Single Man
(500) Days of Summer
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
An EducationThe Informant!
A Single Man
Up in the Air
The Girlfriend Experience
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
A Single Man
A Single Man
Where the Wild Things Are
The Girlfriend Experience
The Hurt Locker
A Serious Man
Thursday, January 28, 2010
10. “Are you cussin’ with me?!” – George Clooney, Fantastic Mr. Fox
9. “Bye bye Blackbird.” – Stephen Lang, Public Enemies
8. “Here… it make me feel, here.” - Gabourey Sidibe, Precious
7. “After that, I knew no one was ever gonna fuck with me again.” – Mike Tyson, Tyson
6. “The dolphin smile is nature’s greatest deception, it creates the illusion that they’re always happy.” – Ric O’Berry, The Cove
5. “Whoooa, whooa, whoa whoa whoa whoa, Terry. Whoa. Big mistake. Aw yeah. Whoa whoa whoa whoa. Big. Mistake. Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa…whoa. OH YEAH.” – Shea Whigham, Bad Lieutenant
4. “I wanna talk about how bad you make this room look.” – Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
3. “Me… there’s only one thing I love.” – Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
2. “You know somethin’, I think this just might be my masterpiece.” – Brad Pitt, Inglourious Basterds
1. Mo’Nique’s final monologue in Precious (quite simply the best delivered monologue in years)
5 Biggest Disappointments of 2009
I’m not interested in telling what movies suck, as you may have already guessed (ahem, Transformers 2). Instead, this list is for movies that I thought/hoped would be good but completely under-delivered.
Funny PeopleAfter his brilliant 40-Year-Old Virgin and the equally funny, if not too long, Knocked Up, Judd Apatow had to get all serious on us. Funny People doesn’t suck all of the time; its first few minutes are well done, but then it just drags on. And on. And on. Every “serious” moment in this movie fell flat (and had audience members laughing when Apatow wanted them crying).
The Lovely Bones
Visually, Peter Jackson can work his magic. But what he does in every one of his recent films (LOTR, King Kong) is overdirect. There is way too much going on in The Lovely Bones. I wasn’t sure who I was supposed to care about or fear or like. I know this is a common question, but: why leave out the best parts of a book, and leave in the lamest parts?
The Men Who Stare At Goats
Dear God, what a disaster. Given the fabulous cast, it isn’t asking a lot to expect a genuinly good time. Such is not the case with this dud. I had no idea what the hell was going on, and more importantly, I couldn’t care less what was happening. A complete waste of time.
Ang Lee, one of the best foreign directors of American films, struck out bad with this coming-of-age story surrounding the biggest concert in history. You catch on pretty quick: “Oh ok, we’re not going to see or hear any of the music.” After you come to that conclusion, you’re let down for the rest of the film. No redemable quality whatsoever.
Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself
Oh good Christ. I saw this for one reason only: to break my personal record of amount of movies seen in one month (this awful film was my 22nd in October). But holy shit was it painful to sit through. I had never seen a Tyler Perry flick before this, and bet your ass, I won’t be seeing another one.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Watching The Lovely Bones, you quickly understand why it was pushed back a year from being released: it simply isn’t any good.
Why? Take your pick. Like all of Peter Jackson’s films, The Lovely Bones is over-directed. There’s way too much happening here. Wait, am I supposed to feel bad for the family? Feel bad for Susie? She really seems to be enjoying herself in heaven. Feel angry toward Stanley Tucci? Laugh at Susan Sarandon? Because, she... isn’t that funny.
I’ve said it a dozen times, and you’ve heard it all before, but why do filmmakers leave out the best parts of a book and leave in the worst parts? The mother’s affair with the police officer in charge of her daughter’s case is one of the best, most desperate, parts of Alice Sebold’s novel. But no, in Jackson’s film the mom (played by the underrated Rachel Weisz) goes off to grieve at in… apple orchid? Really?
Maybe I’m being a little too rough. Watching the film I thought, “wow the acting is AWFUL”. But it isn’t. Only Mark Walberg is awful. The dude can act, but he’s been distracted lately (remember The Happening? yesh). Maybe these latest roles were just paychecks to tide him over before his much-anticipated turn as real-life boxer ‘Irish’ Mickey Ward in David O. Russell’s The Fighter. Time will tell.
The only nomination this will get is Best Supporting Actor for Tucci, which is well deserved. He’s quite good, but isn’t really in it that much. The heaven scenes may garner a few technical Oscar noms, but this movie looks nowhere near as good as Avatar.
One final jab: why would you end your film with the same exact awful line that made the end of the book so terribly didactic? D
Take a wild guess which category The Book of Eli falls under? Seriously, what’s with American cinema’s recent fetish of making barren end-of-the-world flicks? Looking at parts of The Road, 2012 and now this, I’m starting to think the Hollywood suits need some new ideas.People looking to escape Oscar-heavy movies, may very well scurry to this faux-action trash. Which puts Denzel Washington (watch it dude, your career is slowly losing credibility a la Nicolas Cage), on Earth 30 years after a “storm” wiped everything out.
He’s heading “west” to take a precious book… where? West? What the hell is that? Some small-town baddie (Gary Oldman) wants the book for himself so he can become a God-like figure, having everyone bow at his feet. (PS, why are a lot of the main villains in films today skinny little pussies? I love me some Gary Oldman, but the dude is not physically intimidating.)Oh and that ending? Pretty cool until you put roughly 13 seconds of thought into it. Moving on. D
Monday, January 18, 2010
Here's the thing: I actually like Bullock as a person. In interviews (or even in her speech last night) she is always humble and honest. She seems like a really cool woman, and I've even enjoyed her in certain roles (Speed, Crash), but The Blind Side, and her performance in it, is a crock, a complete and utter crock.
I've been hearing that Best Actress is now between Bullock and Meryl Streep (for the painstakingly boring Julie and Julia).
Jesus, I guess I was the only one that saw Carey Mulligan in An Education, or Gabourey Sidibe in Precious?
At least Actor, Supporting Actor and Supporting Actress promise to be worthy.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
I’m not even going to say it. I’m not going to say, for the fourth time in a month, that I have a new favorite for the Best Actor Oscar. Instead, I’ll go a little safer and predict that the Best Actor race will be stronger than it has been in years.
There’s a movie like Crazy Heart every year. A movie virtually no one has heard of, gets seen by enough studio execs and gets bumped to a late year opening, just in time to qualify for awards. For a film that was inches away from being released on cable TV, Crazy Heart packs one hell of a wallop.
The film tells a clichéd story, but wisely leaves out the clichés. There’s the old, washed up country singer. He’s a hard drinkin’, hard smokin’, hard livin’ fella. He had a string of hits early in his career, selling out massive venues, but is now reduced to small gigs in bowling alleys dumped in Middletown America.
Sound familiar? Actually, Crazy Heart is a lot like my favorite film from 2008, The Wrestler. Washed up famous guy. Parties too much. Has a long-lost kid. Meets a girl that turns him around., etc.
In the Mickey Rourke role, we have Jeff Bridges as Bad Blake. While I was watching the film, I wasn’t really impressed with Bridges, and then something clicked. I had a grand epiphany in the theatre: I’m not impressed because it looks like Bridges isn’t doing anything. But he’s actually doing everything. His performance is so nuanced, so subtle, that I’m sure it will lead to Oscar gold. Think about it, how many great Jeff Bridges performances have you seen?
The Last Picture Show, Starman, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Fisher King, Fearless, The Contender, The Door in the Floor, and lest we forget is revelatory turn as ‘The Dude’ in The Big Lebowski. I mean seriously, this Dude can act. But why don’t we remember him all that much? Why isn’t he mentioned among the greats? When was the last time you saw De Niro or Pacino deliver work as good as this?
Well, you get the point, I’m a fan. And Crazy Heart is Bridges’ swan song. I haven’t really talked about the film, written and directed by first-timer Scott Cooper. I haven’t mentioned Maggie Gyllenhaal (always good) as Bad’s new muse. She plays the role wonderfully, never giving too much, never going the way we think. And there’s Colin Farrell… playing a famous country singer with beautifully restrained conviction. Colin Farrell can sing country music? No shit.
Oh yeah, and the songs, produced by O Brother, Where Art Thou maestro T-Bone Burnett and Stephen Bruton, prove to be as enduring as the story itself. Ryan Bingham’s theme “The Weary Kind” should be a shoo-in for Best Song. (But then again, so should’ve Springsteen’s “The Wrestler” last year, and that wasn’t even nominated.)
There are some good flicks out there to see. Stop treating yourself like a moron with the cookie-cutter garbage currently spewing out of the most multiplexes. Venture to an indie theatre. That’s where the gold is.
PS, Jeff Bridges has a line of endearment in this film that is so perfect, so exquisitely executed, that I’d be shocked if it wasn’t featured as his Oscar clip. Stay tuned. A
Is it really that complicated? Meryl Streep - divorced, successful, three grown kids - hooks up with ex husband Alec Baldwin - successful, hot wife, annoying step kid- at their son’s graduation party. She feels weirded out, he feels like it’s a new start. Then, randomly, for no reason whatsoever except to add “star power” to the film, we get thrown a new love interest, Streep’s reserved, considerate architect, Steve Martin.
How complicated is that? It’s a simple love triangle. Which will she choose? She sleeps with her ex again, OH NO! She has feelings for her architect today, OH NO! This movie thinks it’s clever. We’ve all seen the twentysomething love triangle before, so here director Nancy Meyers thought, “Hey, why not make ‘em old, we’ll hit a whole new demographic." YAY!
Meryl Streep is always good. I thought Julie and Julia was a complete waste of time, but she’s good in it. And she is here too, I guess. Don’t expect the Jack Donaghy-esque humor that Baldwin so excellently brings to 30 Rock in this film. I think it’s best summed up like this: every major player in this movie seems bored. Like they are just coxing along, getting a paycheck. I’m sure the film’s five-month shooting schedule didn’t help (most films shoot for a month), but It’s Complicated ain’t it all complicated, it’s just lame. D
PS: why is this film rated R? The MPAA says for “some drug content and sexuality”. So two 60-year-olds smoking one joint and seeing a body double of Alec Baldwin’s ass earns an R rating? You saw Diane Keaton naked in Something’s Gotta Give, and that was PG-13. That, my friends, is complicated.
Plot? Dear God. A thousands of years old man (Christopher Plummer) travels around London in a huge moveable cart, attracting passer-bys with his unique gift: that they can go into his mind while he creates a dreamscape for them based on their actual fantasies. Parnassus’ crew picks up a drifter (Ledger), the devil shows up... I don’t know. Make sense? Of course not. But who cares.
So, is Ledger any good? Does this final film do him justice? Yes, and yes/no. Ledger was never bad. Even when he was stuck in very mediocre films, he was always the standout, as he is here. Ledger, as he proved in director Terry Gilliam’s previous film The Brothers Grimm, fits well into the warped world of Mr. Gilliam. The movie is borderline incoherent, sure. But when Ledger is on screen, you can’t take your eyes off him.
When he’s on screen. You heard the story: Gilliam was in a scramble when Ledger died, as he hadn’t finished shooting this film. Stop the film? Get a stand in? No, and this is where the movie gets interesting. In three separate scenes, Ledger’s character follows people into Dr. Parnassus’ mind. Once he crosses the threshold into the imaginarium, he magically turns into a different looking person (as Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell). When these different actors step into the character, they openly acknowledge that they look different. It’s a real ballsy move. Something Gilliam deserves much credit for.
However, the rest of the film simply blows. It’s boring, dumb and lacks any real humor. If you want to see Ledger’s final role, then by all means take your shot. But I’m not promising that you’ll be thrilled. D
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Case in point: Tom Ford’s A Single Man, which is, to say the least, a Top 10 dealbreaker.
Colin Firth stars as George, a homosexual Brit college professor who is wallowing in his grief after the sudden death of his lover. That’s it. Boom. It only took once sentence to describe what the film is about, but it’d take 10 pages to tell you how good it is.
Where to begin. Let’s start with the film’s style. Tom Ford, famous fashion designer, is known for his intricate steps and tedious details in making clothes. Tom Ford, first-time director, has begun his new career with a film so detailed, so precisely executed, that he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Hitchcock and the Coen brothers.
It’s hard looking (and hearing) a film like this, without taking into account its beautiful story. It’s basic style vs. execution. The film’s brilliant use of sound and magical string score (by the Oscar-worthy Abel Korzeniowski) help propel the film’s stirring images. A Single Man is one of those rare films that is actually fun to look at. Watch when George talks with someone that excites him. Their face, from his point of view, slowly gains color. So instead of the film’s grainy, textured look, it slowly shifts to a dazzling, Technicolor delight. Really, very detailed stuff.
Now for Colin Firth. Firth has been around for a while, but honestly, has he ever really been tested? Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary, What a Girl Wants, Easy Virtue… you get the point. These are cookie-cutter roles. But as George, Firth is a sheer revelation. He doesn’t say much, but that matters little due to Firth’s shocking ability to act with emotion. Watch him in the scene when he recalls first hearing of his lover’s death. He’s talking on the phone, not saying a word. The man is acting… with his eyes. I feel like a broken record. A few weeks ago I said no actor could beat Morgan Freeman for the Oscar. Then it was George Clooney. But now I gotta admit, I’m team Firth.
The film is backed by a trio of superb supporting performances, namely Julianne Moore as George’s neighbor and confidant. Moore has three scenes in the film (one of them wordless), and surprise surprise, she steals the show. When is she going to win an Oscar?
A Single Man is easily the best film from a debut filmmaker released in 2009. I don’t know how, if, or where Tom Ford studied filmmaking, but he is a hell of an artist. His film does have a stamp of a first time filmmaker (I’ll admit that his editing of conversations is a bit jumpy) but that stamp is one of approval, not failure. I’m genuinely excited about Ford’s future film career. But even more so, Firth’s new direction as an actor. I’m glad Ford chose Firth in this role instead of a more typical British leading man (Clive Owen and the like). This is the role of Firth’s career in a film that aches passion and tragedy. Forget Top 10, A Single Man just jumped to my Top 5 of 2009. A+
Note: In addition to being a great film, A Single Man has the very best trailer of the year. Check it out.