February 25, 2010

Oscar! What Have Ye Become?

A week and three days. That's all the time we have to wait to see who will win, Avatar or The Hurt Locker, Bullock or Streep, Bigelow or Cameron, etc. Now, unless you've been living in a cave somewhere for the last year, you are no doubt aware of a couple of changes being made in the telecast this year, all in the name of wrangling in viewers! A few of them are well implemented, and the others... well, let's just say that if you thought Zac Efron shouldn't have even shown his face at the Oscars last year, then you're in for quite a treat!
First up, we have ten Best Picture nominees, instead of the usual five. This was meant to remedy the public backlash that sprung up when The Dark Knight was snubbed last year. Verdict? Completely unnecessary, but still welcome. The Dark Knight of 2009, that is to say, the biggest money grubber out there, Avatar, was always going to get nominated! Even so, with that out of the way, they had room to recognize some other films that would have been forgotten had we only five. Quality, genre films like District 9, and Up, and small, oft-ignored gems like A Serious Man or An Education all made the list, and deservedly so. They're great. If the ten Best Picture thing showed a flaw in the Academy, it showed how much emphasis they are putting on pleasing the public, as they snubbed such great, but commercially ignored, works as (500) Days of Summer and Where the Wild Things Are in favor of The Blind Side. What we have here is desperation, in it's most organic form!
Second up, we have two hosts this year. I don't have anything to complain about here. It will take nothing short of a full Na'vi army to prevent Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin from cracking us up on March 7th. I am very much looking forward to seeing what antics Baldwin has in store, and I am especially looking forward to Martin redeeming himself in my eyes.
Ok, now on the problematic issues. As news starts to trickle in about who is hosting, one thing is clear. The talent of the hosts will be quite questionable this year. Instead of getting great artists like Steven Speilberg, Christopher Walken, Daniel Day-Lewis, or Clint Eastwood, we get... Zac Efron, Kristin Stewart, and Taylor Lautner? What? I understand wanting to reel in as many viewers as possible, Academy, but come on. All three of these were in terrible movies this year, and they all sucked in them. Well, Efron did redeem himself, somewhat, in Me and Orson Welles, and Stewart was on fire at Sundance, but seriously! These people have not proven themselves to be of Oscar flavor, and have no business presenting. Give them another year, and see if they deserve it then. Stewart's almost there, but Efron and Lautner have a ways to go. Hopefully, they don't surprise us with Robert Pattinson again, because if they do, I just might throw my computer at the TV.
The next change I want to address, yet again, further highlights how friggin' low the Academy will stoop to get viewers. They are changing the framework of the acceptance speeches so that winners will only get 45 seconds to say what they have to before the music starts playing on the telecast, and then, they have a place backstage for longer expressions of gratitude that will be viewable online. Come on. Really? Half the fun of Oscar night is watching the winners make complete assholes of themselves on stage! I'll be the first to admit that some of them can go on for forever and a Wednesday, but these people just won an Oscar. They deserve the spotlight! Let em' have it!
And finally, the biggest change, that has me in a righteous fury, is that the Academy has decided to do away with the performances of Best Original Song. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Yeah, I know, the mash-up they did last year of the three nominees failed miserably, but at least it was interesting. The performances always do a lot in mixing up the telecast, ensuring that it doesn't stay boring for too long. Doing away with them all together is just wrong! The nominated writers deserve to have their work heard on Oscar night; a 10 second blurb does not cut it. And before you get all up in my face, no! I am not railing against this change because of my, likely, vain hope that Marion Cotillard would reprise her striptease dance for "Take It All" from Nine. If anything, I am pissed that we won't get to see Jeff Bridges croon out his song from Crazy Heart. The Academy is so desperate for viewers that they are willing to reduce the work of the five nominated writers from a full fanfare to a miniscule, iTunes demo. It's just wrong!
Regardless of my opinion on these matters, one thing's for certain! Oscar will be very different this year. Who knows? Maybe all these changes will turn out for the better, and the show will be the best its ever been. Maybe they will all crash and burn, and the Academy will go back to its public snubbing ways. We have to wait and see! Alright. That's all for now. See you next time!

February 23, 2010


My continued attempts to legitimize this blog have progressed in a big way! As of today, I am a member of the L.A.M.B, or the Large Association of Movie Bloggers. It's a neat site that acts as an archive for any and all film blogs out there. There's a link with a menu of all the members in the side bar. Check it out!

February 20, 2010


I'm sorry. I've been a little stingy with the posts as of late. None of the movies coming out really appealed to me. The Wolfman just looked like yet another tired reboot of a horror classic; Percy Jackson and the Olympians just looked stupid, and did you really expect me to go see Valentine's Day, a movie that celebrates the stupidest and most insulting holiday of our society? No. But, all that can change now, as Shutter Island, the oft-delayed, new Martin Scorsese picture, is here! Should you see this movie? Ummm... duh! It's Martin Fucking Scorsese! Get your sorry self to the theatre! Now!
Shutter Island starts off on a pretty solid, if unoriginal note. Two Federal Marshals, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, are dispatched to Ashcliffe, a institution for the criminally insane, on the remote Shutter Island in Boston Harbor, to help in the investigation of the disappearance of a particularly dangerous patient. It's clear from the beginning that something is not quite right with Teddy. This offness persists and becomes more apparent as Teddy and Chuck get deeper into a supposed conspiracy on the island. Things really go to shit when a hurricane hits, setting some of the more violent offenders loose, and causing Teddy to really lose it. He doesn't know who he can trust, when everyone seems ready to throw him in a cell in the very place he's investigating. The script is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, who is also the virtuoso behind Mystic River. It's not the most original story on the market. There's an enormous twist that I will talk about in a little bit, that, I'll be honest, I could see coming, but more on that later. But, I'll be frank. Narrative is not the point of this movie. The point of this movie is to freak you the fuck out and look damn good doing it, and in that sense, Shutter Island succeeds.
Leonardo DiCaprio teams up with Scorsese for the fourth time to play Teddy. I hope DiCaprio and Scorsese keep doing movies together for years to come, because they know each other's quirks, and DiCaprio just gets better and better because of it. He's a bundle of feverish paranoia, solid and confident on the outside, but an absolute wreck on the inside. He's great, capturing all the craziness and fear that a guy like that must be feeling. Mark Ruffalo plays Chuck, who is so much more level headed then his partner. Ruffalo does a nice job combatting DiCaprio's screen chewing with a certain manner of calm and collectiveness. Ben Kingsley is the head doctor on the island, and he is positively terrifying! That's all I'll say on the matter for fear of giving something away. Other performances include Emily Mortimer as the escaped convict, Michelle Williams as DiCaprio's wife, Max von Sydow as a deranged doc, and Jakie Earl Haley in a chilling cameo. Do I need to say anything more about the performances? No! It's Scorsese, arguably the best character director living today.
There is no one like Martin Scorsese working in the business today. This guy is so good, that even his less then spectacular works would be considered masterpieces in any other director's hands. Shutter Island is nowhere near as good as some Scorsese's more recent films. Rather then join the ranks of Gangs of New York or The Departed as modern day classics, Shutter Island falls in with The Aviator as good, not great, but still better then 100% of the movies playing right now. Shutter Island marks Scorsese's return to the mind bending, freak you out, thriller genre since his absolutely brilliant Cape Fear in 1991. He's back in fine form, as he successfully chills the hell out of you watching this movie. Everything from camera angles, to the awesome use of shadows, to the overbearing tension, to the startling, jump out of your seat moments, are all used exceptionally well and do a great job at capitalizing the fear in Teddy's mind. And, finally, the twist. Like I said, it's a little predictable, but, HOLY SHIT, THAT IS A GOOD TWIST! This is not some, run of the mill, oh the good guy is the killer, twist. No, this is a Gwenyth's head in a box, Tyler Durden is the narrator, type twist, the kind that changes your whole view on the movie, and sparks heated debates on what actually happened when the credits roll. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking about it.
There are problems. Don't get me wrong, Shutter Island is a great movie, and certainly one that will be talked about come awards season, despite its February release date. But, it has its issues. There are parts of the movie where Teddy will hallucinate, and, while they are chilling and violent and all the stuff we've come to expect from films like this, some of them just don't fit and drag on for way too long. There's this one in a concentration camp as Teddy reflects on his war days that goes on forever! It's cool, but it draws you out of the story a little bit. Also, the script is weak in parts. All these complaints are for naught though! If Shutter Island accomplishes anything, it only reassures you that Scorsese is here, and he is just as good as he ever was! See this movie. Just be prepared to have your mind blown! A-

February 2, 2010

The Nominations for 2009

They're finally here!

Best Picture
The Blind Side
District 9
An Education
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
A Serious Man
Up in the Air

Well, there they are! I'm generally pretty happy with these, although I did not see The Blind Side getting nominated at all. I can't really blame them for doing so; they had to fill out all ten spaces, and Blind Side made a shit ton of money, so, why not throw it in there. I think it's great that they are recognizing movies like District 9 or Up, movies that would definitely get snubbed if it were still five nominees this year. It doesn't matter though. It is between Avatar and The Hurt Locker. This critic is betting on Avatar.

Best Director
James Cameron (Avatar)
Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker)
Quentin Tarantino (Inglourious Basterds)
Lee Daniels (Precious)
Jason Reitman (Up in the Air)

With the exception of Lee Daniels, I was right on the money with this one. If you just take the time to notice, you'll see that the Academy is more predictable then... something that's predictable. (Sorry. A little out of it right now.) This one has been won already as well. Kathryn Bigelow is going to win here. Even though she got snubbed at the Globes, she took home the trophy at PGAs and DGAs, virtually clearing the field for her to waltz on up to that stage. James Cameron may pull a fast one out of left field, but, if all goes according to plan, Kathryn's gonna be flipping her ex the bird on this one.

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart)
George Clooney (Up in the Air)
Colin Firth (A Single Man)
Morgan Freeman (Invictus)
Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)

Again, this one has been won already. Clooney, Firth, and Freeman put up a good show, and I'm thrilled that Jeremy Renner is finally getting recognized, but Bridges has this one in the bag. He has won, literally, every single award leading up to the Oscars, or at least all the ones that matter. That, and that it's the first time he's getting recognized, even though he has consistently turned in great performances. The Dude, anyone? His under appreciated streak is officially over.

Best Actress
Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) ugggg...
Helen Mirren (The Last Station)
Carey Mulligan (An Education)
Gabourey Sidibe (Precious)
Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)

Carey Mulligan should win this award, hands down. But she won't. Why? Because the world is stupid! Sandra Bullock will win for a performance, that, while better then the shit she usually turns out, doesn't even deserve to be considered for a nomination. Yes, Meryl and Gabourey are quite good in their roles, and Helen Mirren should be recognized for her glorious overacting, but Mulligan was so good, she was almost a shoe in for this award, until her PR man righteously fucked her awards campaign. Time to hire a new guy, Carey. Just putting it out there.

Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon (Invictus)
Woody Harrelson (The Messenger)
Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones)
Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Mad props to Tucci for picking up Bones' sole nomination, and even more so to Harrelson for capping off his revival year with a nom. Matt Damon was good in Invictus, and Plummer was alright in Station. But, it doesn't matter. Waltz has far too much momentum to be slowed at this point. He is the clear winner.

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz (Nine) Huh?
Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air)
Mo'Nique (Precious)

In keeping with this years tradition of playing it safe, Mo'Nique will walk away with the statue on Oscar night. She shouldn't, but there it is. Farmiga or Kendrick should win, as they gave the best performances here, by far. Gyllenhaal was just thrown in there, but I have no problem with her nomination. I do, however have a problem with Cruz. What the hell is she doing here? If anyone should be nominated from Nine, it should be Marion Cotillard, who was actually better in Public Enemies, but we'll let that pass. Again, blame the PR guys, who pushed for Cotillard as a Best Actress contender. They had to know what they were doing. Damn, I hate the press.

Adapted Screenplay
District 9
An Education
In The Loop
Up in the Air

It's going to Up in the Air. No, there's no debate. It's going to happen.

Original Screenplay
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The Messenger
A Serious Man

I am seriously ticked off at the lack of (500) Days of Summer love, but I accepted a long time ago that the Academy would always disassociate themselves with my favorite movie of the year. It happened last year with The Dark Knight, and it happened this year. If Summer was a shoe in for anything, it was screenplay, but, what's done is done. Basterds will walk away with this one, because, quite frankly, Oscar voters have a big hard on for Tarantino, and justifiably so. I'd like to see Up win, but Basterds is the clear favorite.

So, there it is. I don't think there has ever been a year that was so easy to predict. I guess it's nice in that sense, but it takes some of the fun of watching the show away from us. Oh well. On the topic of other, not as major, awards, Up will, without a doubt, win Best Animated Feature and Best Score, Avatar will sweep the technical awards, and The White Ribbon will win Best Foreign Feature Film. Ok, that's done. Expect some more coverage as we inch closer to March 7th. See you next time.