Oscar 2011 Post Mortem: One Giant SnoozeFest

You can look back and say that a handful of the Oscar telecasts in the past 20-30 years have been, at times, predictable, overly long, ostentatious, and even a bit egomaniacal. But never, ever should the glorious Academy Awards be viewed as BORING! Now I hate to say “I told you so,” but remember…what I told you a couple of weeks ago? I said the evening had “sleepy disaster” written all over it – and on top of this being (by leaps and bounds) the worst Oscar show I have seen in 25+ years, this was without a doubt, the most mind-numbingly tiresome telecast I have ever had the displeasure of sitting through. I haven’t seen any of what was being said this morning about the show (I am assuming they are all echoing my sentiments), but I wanted to make sure and put a bow on this baby and write some overall commentary about the evening – and let us promise to never speak of this ill-fated travesty again.

First, our hosts. This was an idiotic decision from Day #1. Did the producers really expect thousands of younger viewers to flock to their sets to sit and watch James Franco and Anne Hathaway? Both are terrific actors, but that is not the issue here. The issue is that although Hathaway was ready and game all night, her co-host looked completely disinterested and gave off the appearance of wanting to be anywhere but there. Hathaway tried her hardest, by golly! She was energetic, funny, prepared and looked thrilled to be there. It made for a very uneven and awkward chemistry every time the duo took the stage. Their skits were unimaginative and the few jokes (where were all the jokes???) they told were safe and trite. On top of boring, this was the unfunniest (I just made that a word) Oscar show ever. I expected a lot more from Franco and he disappointed in huge fashion. Huge.

And where the hell was all the glitz? The glamour? The romance of Hollywood? I saw none of it. Part of what makes Oscar night great is that it is a celebration of Tinseltown – old and new. Where were all the beautifully edited montages of films from yesteryear? They started with telling us that the Oscars started in 1929 and showed us a nice picture…and that was it. Did nothing with it. They started by showing us the famous illustration from Gone With the Wind…and that was it. Did nothing with it. There were no tributes paid to award-winning films from the past – and even the Honorary Award for the evening was rushed as our honorees were not even allowed to speak. The Tony Awards don’t do much right, but one thing they do is showcase their respective ‘Best Musical‘ nominees so that viewers can get a taste of what the show is about. After watching this Oscar telecast, I had no idea what any of the 10 nominated films were about. They could/should have at least displayed them to us so that those who missed a few could perhaps be enticed to see them. What did they do instead? When rattling off the names for all the ‘Best Picture’ nominees, we were treated to a poorly edited pastiche of them – without any of the actual sound! No, we got a monologue from (the now officially overrated) The King’s Speech to be the voiceover to it all. Painful.

Also, I always look forward to the moment when Hollywood pays respect to those artists we have lost during the past calendar year. It is a nice reminder and a gentle tribute. Forget that I had to sit and look at/listen to Celine Dion….there was no applause, no emotion…nothing. Even this staple of the evening was passed over and easily forgotten. Overall, the evening was really just presenters – most of whom have future films to pitch and sell us on – just coming up and giving out awards in very anti-climatic fashion. And with the exception of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg (and of course Coppola who wasn’t allowed to talk), there were no Hollywood heavyweights to really speak of…no Jack, no Al, no Clint. No George, no Brad, no Johnny. No Meryl, no Julia, no Angelina. On a good note though, I did get to see Marisa, Scarlett, and Penelope so I am not complaining THAT much.

I won’t repeat myself with everything that was wrong with the 83rd Academy Awards. You can go to my Live Oscar Blogcast to see all of that. Suffice it to say that when the most exciting part of the evening is Melissa Leo dropping the F-bomb, something is terribly wrong.

Something needs to be done – and fast. This cannot be allowed to happen again. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, this was nothing short of a disgrace. Someone knock on Billy Crystal’s front door and pay him. Drop a boat-wad of money at his doorstep and just pay the guy what he wants. Because the evening deserves much more than what we were witness to last night. And if Mr. Crystal is not willing, then fine. But you better pick a polished comedian – the perfect choice for an emcee at the Oscars. I know everyone is terrified of Ricky Gervais right now (who I think is simply brilliant and downright hysterical), but there’s one thing you can’t say about him – he sure ain’t boring!

83rd Annual Oscars – LIVE BLOGCAST!!!

The 83rd Oscars are just under two hours away and I am prepping for Magic Lantern’s 1st live blogcast of this celebrated event. Really, it’s just me typing away my own personal (and at times, ridiculous) comments during the course of the night — what went well, what seemed embarrassing, the nice touches, those deserving, and those (like last year’s Monique) that simply made fools of themselves. I really can’t sit and watch the Red Carpet affair…that in itself seems like an inane activity. I don’t care what these people are wearing and I never hear any intelligent questions asked of the stars anyway. So I tune in at 8:30 and enjoy the actual ceremony.

Hope you have a great Oscar Night! I will see you then — and please feel free to comment yourselves…. 

So I had the E! Channel on mute then changed the channel. Having to watch Ryan Seacrest before such a big, exciting night just ruins it for me. I liken it to having a rain delay before a big post-season baseball game.

Oh goodie — another Jake Gyllenhaal flop to look forward to in April. Poor guy keeps trying so hard…

Opening Montage: Meh. Nicely edited….not as funny as it could’ve been. Hathaway was actually pretty funny, especially in The Fighter bit.  Why are we giving Baldwin so much attention and credit anyway? Stop encouraging this guy.

Hathaway was so energetic and lively. So adorable. She was terrific — too bad Franco forgot to bring it. I didn’t need to see their relatives though. Poorly written opening….and stiff (nice, James).

Art Direction & Cinematography: Holy shit! Huge upset already in the Art Direction category. Would have never guessed Alice in Wonderland! I thought Inception was a shoe-in. “Alice” was a beautiful movie to watch, I must say.

Oh, Mr. Deakins (aka Susan Lucci)….looks like you’ll have to wait a bit longer for the Award that should have been yours long ago. So sorry to see…though the cinematography for Inception was glorious.  

Oooo!!! Caught sight of Mr. Francis Ford Coppola in the back. He looks great. Still one of our very best filmmakers. And sending Kirk Douglas out there like that??? I thought this was kinda tacky and a little sad. Will he be doing New Year’s Eve with Dick Clark in December? This was terrible and not necessary.

Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo!!!! It goes to the most deserving this year!!! So awesome and she looks terrific. Knew you’d win an Oscar when I saw you on “Homicide” years back. Everyone needs to see Ms. Leo in this…she was superb. (written AFTER the telecast – And your big F-bomb? In hindsight, the evening’s only spontaneous moment. Nice play, Melissa.( Someone take Douglas off the stage please…

Animated Films: Cute Bansky reference. Was waiting for that. Justin looked nervous and was tight….killed the whole bit. Made it up a bit when he said, “you know” when they opened the envelope….and Toy Story 3 wins Animated Film….no surprise at all there. That was the LOCK of the evening. No chance in hell it takes Best Picture though. And excuse me, I just have to say, Mila KunisGORGEOUS!!!

OK, so really James Franco and Anne Hathaway are done for the night, right? I mean, they did their work…and I am assuming will be doing very little else for the rest of the evening. Ugh….

Screenplays: I always like when the Oscars flash back and pay homage to the Hollywood from years ago, but that was lame. What was the point of showing that 1929 footage when you do nothing with it? Josh Brolin always comes off more smug than me. No surprise with The Social Network winning adapted screenplay….It was very good (though I can’t stand Sorkin). Was pulling for the Coen Brothers and their great adaptation. OK, so what was with the silly showings of the script/dialogue that showed absolutely nothing about the process and art of screenwriting? The King’s Speech wins as predicted. Great “late bloomer” line by our winner….a wonderful acceptance speech. Very witty, intelligent and well spoken.

Sets up a great two-way showdown for ‘Best Picture.’ And now I must prepare to hold my breath and not turn the TV off when Russell Brand comes on. Lord help us all….when are his 15 minutes up?

Anne Hathaway – you’re a real sport. Nice job…totally committed. Bravo. Hugh Jackman, you tool. Haha! James Franco makes an awful looking woman…great text line though. Please — everyone — I beg of you…don’t pay good money to see the Arthur remake…rent the brilliant classic that can never be duplicated. RIP Dudley…

I’m not doing so hot on my predictions. Surprised at the Foreign Language film. Dogtooth was brilliant, but oh-so deeply disturbing. I really thought it would go to Incendies.

Supporting Actor: I knew Bale would win when I saw it in November. I really didn’t go out on a ledge with that one. Don’t care for the guy, but as I stated before, he truly deserves this award. One truly heartbreaking and courageous performance. Bale looked somewhat humble — nice to see.

Is it me — or is this Academy Awards a bit anti-climatic? Seems a bit boring. The presentations for all the awards are so dull….Zzzzzz.

Some nice excerpts from the Best Score nominees. A bit surprised that Reznor took this one, though hearing a small protion of it again, reminded me of how good it was. Interesting that the Academy didn’t go the “safe” route with Desplat’s work on The King’s Speech.

OK, so here is where Inception wins two more awards (for sound categories). And…SCARLETT!!!! Giddy up! Not sure what she was wearing, but still…SCARLETT!!! No surprise at all with these two sound statues….get my batting average up a bit.

Oooo – Marisa Tomei….always up for a Marisa sighting. She should make anyone’s Fantasy 5. And she doesn’t need a sidekick. She looked stunning. Simply stunning.

Make-Up: Lousy nominees. Wolfman is very deserving, but there were many films this year with great make-up work. Should be a much more exciting category than it is every year. This was a lay-up, people.

Costume Design: Great nominees. Tough category. Look, I got another one right! Getting better as we go along. Gorgeous work by Ms. Atwood. She did look stiffer than James Franco though. There go two more awards — and the boring telecast continues! This is the worst in years, no?

Best Song: Randy Newman…same song, different title (even though I picked you to win). Uh…what was that watching everyone’s favorite song bit? That’s what they came up with to introduce this category? Someone needs to be fired. Nice to see the clip from Once – one of the best songs to win the award in recent memory. Weak category this year…very weak.

Hollywood is going to keep ramming this guy down our throats until we just accept him — for all his pathetic inadequacies. Way to even fuck that short bit up, Jake. You don’t get 30 takes to come off as semi-authentic on live TV. I won’t even pretend that I saw the shorts this year. I usually rent them when they come out on DVD. So no – I did not predict or project in these two categories. Though crazy hair guy gave a sweet acceptance speech, capped off nicely with a nice nod to his gal.

Musical nominee remix bit — the night just keeps getting sadder, doesn’t it…No wonder Jack doesn’t bother showing up. And Oprah, why are you here??? Go away…go away now! Haha, Joel Coen looked more bored than idiots like me who insist on keeping this sleepy show on.

Good docs this year (though thought Restrepo was a bit underwhelming). I kinda figured Inside Job would take this one. I’m like Mark Texeira…I started out really slow, but picking up steam now. Good mini-political statement and yes, you should watch the film…it’s alarming to say the least. Great, Downey and Law coming up….could Sherlock Holmes get any shittier the second time around?

Billy Crystal!!! Never thought I’d say this but GOD I MISS YOU TONIGHT!!! Robert Downey – no wonder the brilliant Gervais made fun of you. He had every right. Feel happy in your safe confines here? This show needs some Gervais — am I right???!!!!

4 technical Oscars for Inception. Very impressive. OK, we’re almost done with this people…thank God. When is the montage of those we lost in Hollywood this year? I always like that…Tony Curtis is my odds-on-favorite for most applause.

So I got 12 out of 16 right so far….not too shabby. Not shabby at all. Just sayin’….

Inappropriate movie title bit…it just keeps getting worse, doesn’t it? This is close to an abomination. Who did the writing of the jokes this year? Hey — who is the Enya wanna-be? And Gwyneth looks like she is going for heroin-chic. This award is between Toy Story 3 and 127 Hours, I think…Randy Newman not only won this Oscar (not deserving at all, but I did pick him), but he placed third in the Roger Ebert look-alike contest held in Knoxville, Tennessee. Kudos, Randy.

Even the stars in the audience are bored to tears! This was the first year there was no applause during the montage of those who passed away this year. Maybe they were all asleep too and didn’t realize it. Once again– R.I.P. Dennis Hopper!

Ah, I love when Oscar plays the race card. Doesn’t come off as patronizing at all. Another ineffective segment for your viewing pleasure.

Best Director: Ms. Bigelow won for that very reason…because she is a woman. Sorry folks. Someone had to say it. You’re all thinking it!!! Holy shit, Tom Hooper wins — that’s a sign for your Best Picture winner right there. I screwed that call up big time. I would call this a minor upset even though The King’s Speech was the odds-on-favorite. I did not find him to be deserving of this — but that is just me. Nice speech though, Mr. Hooper. Was cute. (BTW, James Franco — you brought NOTHING tonight. You’re better than that, dude.)

Brownlow/Coppola/Wallach – the night’s best moment. And they let it slip through their fingers. Couldn’t let them speak? They even fucked that baby up.

Speaking about her co-host for the night: “A fabulous job hosting tonight” — wow, Anne…you CAN act. Nice big fat lie.

JEFF BRIDGES!!!! THANK YOU, GOOD LORD!!! Look how fucking awesome he is. Just listen to this guy. So sincere, so prepared. And yes…still the best hair in Hollywood. Jeff — you remain THE MAN!!!

Best Actress: Oh where are you Ms. Noomi Rapace? Jennifer Lawrence looked beautiful – and you rocked, girl. This was such a weak category this year. A number of others that were so well deserving not here. Ms. Portman was very deserving, given the competition. It was a raw, multi-layered and brave performance in a very good (but not great) film. I’m glad they didn’t go politico and vote for Bening. A nice speech…seemed very genuine. She looked good too — way to go, LONG ISLAND GAL!!!!

Best Actor: Sandra Bullock — what the fuck you do with yo hair, girl??? JEFF BRIDGES…I have no shame in saying I have great man love for you. Jesse – just get on your knees and thank God that you are even part of this evening. Your nomination robbed so many others who were so well deserving. I have no gripe here…Colin Firth was excellent. It was a wonderful performance (though I do wish Bridges took it home). Sandra was very entertaining and playful here, but that “none better than you” statement to Franco was a bit too much. Mr. Firth – nice speech. Boring….but nice.

Best Picture: When Hooper won for Director it kind of let the steam out of the suspense. I think The King’s Speech was a very good film…a solid 3-star film, but am so surprised it took home the Award this year. Then again, nothing really stood out as an unbelievable or remarkable film, especially of the twn chosen here. BTW, hated the “King Speech” voiceover to all ten nominees — give each film its due and show a nice clip from all ten. This was another blundering decision. Weinstein campaigns himself to another Best Picture win…no one does it quite like him. Franco couldn’t look more disinterested at the end (as well as all evening through) – did he have reservations somewhere?

Eh…I predicted 15 out of 21. Not terrible. Not great, but not so terrible. How did you do at home? That is…if you are still up watching this travesty of an awards show. Maybe I should start watching the Spirit Awards again, just to see a bit of energy.

Tomorrow – I’ll make sure to write a brief write-up of my overall thoughts of this Oscar ceremony. Not much to say…just how terribly, terribly boring it all was. I’m sure most media outlets will be spewing the very same thing – BUT YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST!

Thank you so much to the handful of readers of this site who followed along with me tonight — and of course, for adding your own personal commentary. Always great to read what others are thinking and I thank you for taking the time to share with me. Greatly appreciated. 

THE WINNERS:

Best Film Editing – The Social Network
Best Costume Design – Alice in Wonderland
Best Art Direction – Alice in Wonderland
Best Cinematography – Inception
Best Make-Up – The Wolfman
Best Visual Effects – Inception
Best Sound Editing – Inception
Best Sound Mixing – Inception
Best Documentary Feature – Inside Job
Best Documentary Short Subject – Strangers No More
Best Live Action Short Film – God of Love
Best Animated Short Film – The Lost Thing
Best Animated Feature – Toy Story 3
Best Score – The Social Network
Best Original Song – “We Belong Together” (Toy Story 3)
Best Foreign Film – In A Better World
Best Original Screenplay – The King’s Speech
Best Adapted Screenplay – The Social Network
Best Supporting Actor – Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Best Supporting Actress – Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Best Actor – Colin Firth (The King’s Speech)
Best Actress – Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Best Director – Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)
Best Picture of 2010 – The King’s Speech

Oscar Picks for 2011!!!

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards are just around the corner, so I wanted to throw in my two cents about who you can expect to walk away with Mr. Oscar, arguably the world’s most recognized prize, on February 27th. Though I think that the co-hosting duo of James Franco and Anne Hathaway has “sleepy disaster” written all over it, I will surely be glued to the television that evening to watch – as I have each year since I was quite young. In truth, it’s the only awards show on TV that I allow myself to watch. There will be no sweep of awards by a single picture this year. Rather, I think Oscar voters will spread the wealth around. For each of the “major” categories I’ve cited here, I made sure to include “who will win,” “who should win” and perhaps my personal favorite, “who should have been nominated.” In any case, here they are…my scholarly predictions for this year’s Oscars:

Best Supporting Actress

Usually, if there are any big upsets it comes in the supporting categories. So don’t be surprised if the young Hailee Steinfeld pulls off a Tatum O’Neal/Anna Paquin stunner, even though Steinfeld is in fact a leading actor in the Coen Brothers’ wonderful remake of True Grit. I don’t see Jacki Weaver (though wonderful) nabbing it and frankly, I didn’t think Bonham-Carter was very deserving of a nomination, so out she goes. The odds-on-favorite here is Melissa Leo and rightfully so. She was sensational as the controlling mother of her large Boston clan in David O. Russell’s excellent film, The Fighter. Perhaps the ads she took out for herself may turn off some Oscar voters, but I’ll go with my heart and gut here and say that Leo gets the award she most certainly deserves.

Will Win:           Melissa Leo
Should Win:     Melissa Leo
Should Have Been Nominated:   Naomi Watts (Mother and Child)

Best Supporting Actor

I really can’t stand the guy, but I cannot deny his tremendous talent and versatility. Nor can I refute his masterful performance as the former boxer-turned-heroin addict in The Fighter. If voters can spot a stand-out performance, then this award will surely go to Christian Bale. I thought he had this award locked up when I saw it in November. The only competition here seems to be Geoffrey Rush who has an outside shot at best. Rush was very good and is well liked, but his prior win hurts him – and frankly, Bale was just frighteningly authentic. For the record, I must say that, for the second year in a row, I’m not sure why Jeremy Renner is nominated. Do people like, owe this guy a lot of favors or something?

Will Win:           Christian Bale
Should Win:     Christian Bale
Should Have Been Nominated:   Ben Mendelsohn (Animal Kingdom)

Best Animated Feature

Here’s your no-brainer lock for the evening. The fact that Toy Story 3 spoiled a perfectly good 10th slot in the ‘Best Picture’ category tells you all you need to know. Not that it isn’t deserving of a ‘Best Picture’ nom, but an animated film should not be considered here – being that, you know…the Academy created its own category especially for them. And this is it! Toy Story 3 walks away with this with no fight whatsoever. It is nice to see the smaller independent The Illusionist get some recognition here – but why the hell wasn’t the wonderfully delightful My Dog Tulip on this list? The beautiful animation, heartfelt story and terrific narration by Christopher Plummer made it one of the warmest films of the year.

Best Song

Is it me or does every Randy Newman song sound eerily similar to the last? Perhaps that explains why this is his 20th nomination, but only has one win to show for it. “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 will be his 2nd win. His only other competition here seems to be “If I Rise” from 127 Hours – a film that doesn’t really have a shot to win in any other category it’s nominated for. This is a 2-horse race and it is kind of a toss up. Though “If I Rise” is the better song, in the end, voters will side with Pixar and Disney. One last thought — every year it seems there were far better songs out there then the ones that end up vying for Oscar. This should be an exciting category, but more often than not – it ends up being pretty weak.

Best Original Screenplay

For all of its one-dimensional supporting characters and many plot holes, I’m still scratching my head as to why Inception is nominated here. This one is between The King’s Speech and The Kids Are All Right. I’m thinking The King’s Speech walks away with this one, and is a lock if The Social Network does indeed walk away with the night’s grand prize. Cholodenko’s screenplay was fine, but can she write about anything other than lesbians?

Will Win:           The King’s Speech
Should Win:     The Fighter
Should Have Been Nominated:   Mother and Child

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Coen Brothers did a wonderful job adapting True Grit, remaining very faithful to the novel, more so than the classic 1969 film. Winter’s Bone is also a solid screenplay – but that will have to bask in the Independent Spirit Awards glory. Here, The Social Network wins hands down. I’m not a big Sorkin fan and I feel much of his dialogue is overly melodramatic and does not ring genuine – it’s “TV talk.” But he does a solid job here and though I may not think it’s the best adapted screenplay of the year, Oscar voters will surely think so.

Will Win:           The Social Network
Should Win:     True Grit
Should Have Been Nominated:   The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Best Cinematography

A strong category this year with some great work across the board. Even though I didn’t go nuts for Inception, I cannot deny the beautiful camera work done. Black Swan was also quite visually stunning at times. But Roger Deakins’ work is hailed by everyone in Hollywood and anyone who loves film. The man has been nominated nine times in the past and has yet to walk away with Oscar. Since True Grit really doesn’t have much of a shot at the “bigger” awards, this one ends Deakins’ Susan Lucci streak and he gets his much deserved award (that he should have had long ago).

Will Win:           True Grit
Should Win:     True Grit
Should Have Been Nominated:   The Ghost Writer

Best Actress

I find this to be an especially weak category this year – with no suspense as to who will even win, which takes much of the steam away from it. Natalie Portman has this baby in the bag – she was very good in a very demanding role, but I don’t think she gave the year’s finest performance. Of these five, I would say she deserves it – but Noomi Rapace gave one of the most courageous performances in years and Hye-ja Kim was devastating in Mother. These are the two ghastliest oversights of the year. Annette Bening is certainly deserving of a nomination this year – they just chose the wrong film to nominate her for. Portman – in a landslide.

Will Win:           Natalie Portman
Should Win:     Natalie Portman
Should Have Been Nominated:   Noomi Rapace (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Best Actor

Another category with no drama to it this year. Jeff Bridges won last year (deservedly so), so he won’t win. Jesse Eisenberg did what he does in every film – with the same delivery and same mannerisms – so what the hell is he doing here? Many thought Colin Firth should have won the ‘Best Actor’ prize for his terrific work in the sub-par A Single Man…add to that his excellent performance in The King’s Speech – and we have ourselves a winner! Oscar voters love a good physical handicap that is overcome…and stuttering suits that bill just fine.

Will Win:           Colin Firth
Should Win:     Colin Firth
Should Have Been Nominated:   Robert Duvall (Get Low)

Best Director

David Fincher’s films are hit-or-big miss with me. Seldom does the ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Picture’ awards get split up, but it does happen on occasion. I don’t think this is one of those years. In a mild upset, I think Fincher bests Tom Hooper’s period piece in one of the few categories that actually has some suspense to it.

Will Win:           David Fincher (The Social Network)
Should Win:     David O. Russell (The Fighter)
Should Have Been Nominated:   Niels Arden Oplev (Dragon Tattoo)

Best Picture

We have two films with a serious chance this year – if any other film other than The Social Network or The King’s Speech wins, it would certainly be considered a tremendous upset. The 10 nominations is silly – look at the ‘Best Director’ nominees and you can immediately eliminate five films. The Social Network is a critics’ darling. The King’s Speech has gained much momentum with some recent Guild award wins. Oscar voters are smitten with British accents, but I’m going to go with my gut on this one. I enjoyed The King’s Speech, but didn’t feel it had nearly as much weight as Fincher’s film. I know The King’s Speech is the favorite right now, but I’m thinking voters will “Like” (get it?) the societal relevance of The Social Network in the end.

Will Win:           The Social Network
Should Win:     The Fighter
Should Have Been Nominated:   The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Picks From Other Categories

Best Make-Up:
The Wolfman (as always, terribly lame choices in a category that should be filled with excellent work)

Best Costume Design:
The King’s Speech
(though Alice in Wonderland, the more deserving film here, may pull a minor upset)

Best Film Editing
The Social Network

Best Art Direction
Inception

Best Documentary Feature
The very timely Inside Job ekes out a victory over the fascinating Exit Through the Gift Shop

Oscar Nominations 2011: My Thoughts

The nominations for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards were announced early this morning and, like most years, it seemed to be quite the ho-hum affair – very few surprises, many who were snubbed, and even more who won a nomination thanks in part to fervent studio campaigning and “bandwagon word-of-mouth” via the blitzkrieg that is the media. Though it doesn’t lead the pack in nominations garnered, David Fincher’s The Social Network looks to be the early odds-on favorite – and though I thought it was a very good film, I can’t help but think how lucky it is to be released in what was yet another weak year in motion pictures. I look at the titles of the 120+ films I have screened so far this year (and still a few I must soon see) and see many good films that made their way to movie screens in 2010. What I fail to see are many great films released. One, two….three? Does anyone see three? Can I get a three? Anyone? [insert cricket noise here] It seems to me, to be indicative of last year and the recent years that preceded it – a bunch of solid, quality films and very few truly remarkable ones.

In any case, I thought I would share with you my immediate reactions to the list of nominations for this year’s Oscar. Please feel free to comment and leave your own thoughts on the Oscar race.

And let’s be real. All of these Awards ceremonies, the gluttony of presentations we see with each new year are just fodder…they really don’t mean very much at all…To be honest, it is all just meaningless filler – that is, until my own prestigious Magic Lantern Award nominations are announced! The most distinguished always makes the final entrance – and, if I may say, that holds true here as well. I will make sure to post the 1st Annual Magic Lantern Awards noms within 7-10 days. Sorry for the delay – I just need to make sure and see a few more select films.

OK, enough. My quick reactions to the Oscar noms:

What is the point of having a category for the ‘Best Animated Feature’ if you are just going to consider these films for the ‘Best Picture’ category? It seems to me that nominating Toy Story 3 for ‘Best Picture’ is an absolute waste – and completely unfair to a number of films that were very deserving of the 10th slot. We all know how this plays out anyway – no chance in hell of winning ‘Best Picture,’ but a shoo-in to win the Animated category.

I was afraid that Jesse Eisenberg would win a ‘Best Actor’ nom and sure enough, he did. Eisenberg did what he always does in the very same manner. He just happened to do it in a critically acclaimed film. What’s next? Michael Cera gets a nod for the one role he doesn’t wear a hoodie for?

Kudos to the voters for remembering and honoring much smaller/lesser seen films that deserve recognition such as: Jacki Warner’s chilling performance in Animal Kingdom, John Hawkes’ terrific work in Winter’s Bone, the intriguing documentary Waste Land, the very nice costume designs in the otherwise lackluster I Am Love, the impressive art direction and costumes in Alice in Wonderland.

Did Robert Duvall do or say something to piss Hollywood off at some point? His performance in Get Low was one of the year’s best and I thought, a shoo-in for a ‘Best Actor’ nom. Seems a shame that James Franco and Eisenberg get these slots. Don’t worry, Bob…there’s always the Magic Lantern nomination soon coming.

Speaking of James Franco – it has crossed my mind that if he were not co-hosting the Oscars this year, he would not have been voted in for ‘Best Actor.’ So he cut off an arm. Big deal. Not many stand-out performers by lead actors this year, but I can think of 5 better right off the bat. And while on the topic of hosts – this odd experiment of Franco and Anne Hathaway has boring flop written all over it.

Thank you voters for not encouraging the pretentiousness of Christopher Nolan with a ‘Best Director’ nomination. It’s bad enough the film is nominated for Picture (though certainly deserving of its Cinematography and Art Direction nominations). Thank God it was left out of the Editing category too – because that could have used some chopping up.

I saw Rabbit Hole (good) and Blue Valentine (not so good). Nicole Kidman and Michelle Williams give good performances. That’s it. Good. So many others are far more deserving this year – we nominate male leads in foreign films…why not Hye-ja Kim (Mother) or Noomi Rapace for giving the year’s gutsiest performance in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The omission of Rapace is this year’s biggest snub. And, Annette Bening surely deserves a nomination here – they just picked the wrong film to nominate her from.

I am thrilled to see little-seen The Illusionist nominated in the ‘Best Animated Film’ category. But where the hell is the absolutely charming and intelligent My Dog Tulip? The film has received nothing but praise and they only nominate three films anyway. Seems to be a glaring omission from here. Gorgeous animation, wonderful narration by Christopher Plummer and one of the year’s smarter films.

Jeff Bridges. That is all.

Looks like comedies get left out in the cold again. It’s tough to squeeze them in, I understand – but in looking at all of the nominations – there aren’t a lot of laughs going around. City Island, Kick-Ass, Wonderful World, Please Give are all fine films…just couldn’t break through here. I know I piss all over the Golden Globes, but maybe the Oscars should start thinking of having a ‘Best Comedic Film’ category. Something to mull over, at least.

I still strongly believe there needs to be an award for “Best Performance by a Child.” There always seems to be a few solid performances given by actors under the age of 16. It is my belief that the work of a young child of say, 12 should not be compared to the work of an actor with years of experience and training. This would also avoid the whole Tatum O’Neal and Anna Paquin disasters. The Academy made the smart step in creating a category for animated films – this needs to be the next step. Chloe Moretz was too good this year to be excluded and Ms. Hailee Steinfeld (who was wonderful in True Grit) should not be going up against the multi-layered talents of Helena Bonham-Carter and Melissa Leo.

We’ll see how the race takes shape over the next few weeks. The King’s Speech made a mighty statement by winning the most nominations, perhaps putting a small dent in the momentum of The Social Network. Right now, it seems like a 2-horse race, but again…we’ll see how the media’s influence starts to shape the outcome.

As always, I am looking forward to watching the telecast, despite the inane choice in hosts and predictable ‘Best Picture’ nominations.

Next Up – The Magic Lantern Award Nominations!!!

You know…the real shit!

Peter Eramo Ranks: The Top 10 Worst ‘Best Picture’ Oscar Winners Ever!

Let’s face it, the Oscar for “Best Picturerarely goes to the actual best picture of any given year. Since the inception of the Academy Awards in 1928, there have been a number of doozies that walked away with the industry’s most prestigious award – some sub-par films, some average, some just not very good at all. In light of this thinking, I have compiled my own list – “The Top 10 Worst Best Picture Winners of All-Time

Of course this is only my personal opinion, so I encourage you to comment and give me your own thoughts here. In looking over my Top 10, there aren’t many “bad” films listed (well, two or three of them, perhaps). But, by including these films, I am not saying they are “bad” per se, but rather, either (1) they are average, decent films that probably should not have even been nominated or (2) given the competition of that particular year, said film had no business winning at all.

Take a look at this past year, for instance. “The Hurt Locker” won the highest honor and I wouldn’t even put that in my Top 15 films of the year. However, it was sort of a weak year for great films and because of that, I excluded it from this list. I know everyone says “Ordinary People” (1980) and “Dances with Wolves” (1990) were undeserving of winning “Best Picture” – that “Raging Bull” (1980) and “Goodfellas” (two phenomenal films by Martin Scorsese) were the better films. This is probably true and I would agree with this sentiment. However, I could not include the films of Robert Redford and Kevin Costner on this particular Top 10 List because, quite frankly, I think they are both 4-star films in their own right. Is “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979) a better film than Coppola’s masterpiece that is “Apocalypse Now”? I certainly don’t think so. However, “Kramer vs. Kramer” won and I love the movie, so this too is also omitted.

 I desperately wanted to include “Titanic” (1997) on this list. It’s not a very good film and has not aged well at all (even though it’s only been 13 years). I find the film manipulative on many levels and the script is downright hokey and poor. However, I understand why it won and it was, at the time, a great cinematic achievement on a technical level. On top of this, there were not many other films that stood out in 1997, so sadly, I could not include the over-hyped “Titanic” on this prestigious list. I don’t think “A Beautiful Mind” (2001) is a very good movie at all. The guy-with-a-disease does make for great Oscar bait, but there wasn’t much to admire in this histrionic film. And really – there wasn’t much to pick from during that anemic year for films, so I couldn’t even include this either!

A “Best Picture” Oscar winner should be an instant classic. It should stand the test of time. It should be a film that, years and decades from its release, will be remembered and looked at as a testament to its time. Some “Best Picture” winners that encapsulate this tenet are: “Gone with the Wind” (1939), “The Godfather” films (1972, 1974), “Schindler’s List” (1993), “Unforgiven” (1991), “From Here to Eternity” (1953) and “On the Waterfront” (1954). In any case, look it over, tell me what you think – and enjoy!

10. The English Patient (1996)

I actually like this film, but given the other notable films of that year, I had to put this on the list. I mean, come on…who actually fell in love with this movie and can watch it over and over? It certainly has the looks of a “Best Picture” winner. It’s grand and epic in scope – Oscar loves that, I know. But with films like “Fargo,” “Secrets and Lies,” “Breaking the Waves,” “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” “Sling Blade,” (my personal #1 film for 1996) and “Big Night,” I sadly had to include this. Elaine Benes from “Seinfeld” had this film pegged – she was at least honest enough to admit her displeasure of this film – and was alienated by everyone (including her current boyfriend) for her candor.

9. Gigi (1958)

There have been a number of musicals to win for “Best Picture” (“Oliver!,” “The Sound of Music,” “My Fair Lady”), but this is an average-at-best MGM musical that no one really remembers today.  It’s overlong and there is hardly any dancing in the film, if at all. The passage of time also shows “Touch of Evil,” “Vertigo,” “Mon Oncle,” “The Defiant Ones” and “A Night to Remember” as being much stronger films. I mean, really…what film class is breaking down and analyzing “Gigi” over classics by Orson Welles and Jacques Tati from that same year?

8. Chariots of Fire (1981)

Another example of a good film that, for some reason, got away with the grand prize. I would think most people look at this movie and think how slow and boring this is. How engaging can a movie about running be to begin with? I know it’s considered by many to be a classic “sports” film, but, like golf and billiards, running is not a sport. I think Warren Beatty’sReds” was a masterpiece of a film. Also, released in 1981 and remembered with much greater fondness than the scintillating “Chariots of Fire” are “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “On Golden Pond,” and the extraordinary “Das Boot.”

7. Forrest Gump (1994)

Run, Forrest, run! For 15 minutes of film, just run! I know, I know, it’s a modern, American classic right? You laughed, you cried, it had great music and Tom Hanks was amazing. Whatever. I did like it though. It was hard not to like. The visual effects of putting Forrest next to a whole slew of notable 20th century figures was cool (but really, how many times could you do it?) and the love story at the core of the movie is sweet and touching. But 1994 was actually a great year for film. I couldn’t even put this movie in my Top 15 with other great achievements like: “The Shawshank Redemption,” “Quiz Show,” “Il Postino,” “Hoop Dreams,” the masterful “Natural Born Killers,” Krzysztof’sRed” and yes, even “Pulp Fiction” which is over-rated in its own right, but still, a better choice than this schmaltzy, calculating, and poorly edited film. For Academy voters, this was the easy, safe pick for that year. Yeah, Forrest…keep running!

6. The Departed (2006)

The year of the “Long Overdue” award masking as “Best Picture” and “Best Director” respectively. I love Martin Scorsese and am a huge fan of so many of his films, but this had no business winning the top two awards of the night, let alone have the honor of being nominated. If any film actually stood out that year, Scorsese would have gone home empty-handed once again. But alas, no such film existed. Here, the thinking was, “Well, he’s made some brilliant films in the past, but because there was stiff competition those years, he just never won the big one. Let’s give him his Oscar now.” Nicholson is over-the-top (shocker), Wahlberg (who I actually like) was a disaster and really, it doesn’t even measure up to the original 2002 film “Infernal Affairs.”

5. Cavalcade (1933)

The movie is downright dull and overlong. There’s no way around it. It made for a boring play and here, it is a boring and stilted British movie. The film follows a pair of British aristocrats over the span of three decades and the turbulent times in which they live (1899-1933). There have been some terrific British films over the years. This is not one of them. If I wanted to see how World War I, the death of Queen Victoria, & the sinking of the Titanic affected society, I could watch a special on the History channel and be more entertained. Some excellent films that were snubbed in lieu of this snoozefest were: “King Kong,” “I am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang,” “Little Women” and “She Done Him Wrong” (yes, even at 66 minutes…it leaves much more of an impact than the siesta that is “Cavalcade”).

4. How Green Was My Valley (1941)

I am not sure how this film beat out a film that changed the face of motion pictures as we know it (“Citizen Kane”), but it did. I’m not one of those people who think that “Citizen Kane” is the end-all-and-be-all, but come on…it changed the way we view and create cinema. John Ford was a terrific filmmaker, but this is another lackluster, tedious film whose only claim to fame is that it bested Orson Welles’ magnum opus. The movie centers on the sorrowful lives of coal miners and is better suited for viewing in a college class on sociology or labor relations than as a piece of entertainment. Other worthy films that were released this year besides “Citizen Kane”: “Suspicion,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “Little Foxes,” and yes, even Disney’s “Dumbo” is the greater work.

3. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

This is a sweet film with some very touching moments. Morgan Freeman is outstanding here as is Jessica Tandy (who won a “Best Actress” Oscar here). But “Best Picture”??? Do you really look back to 1989 and think back on this as being the year’s Best Picture?! If you are saying, “Yes” as you read this now, I’m calling you a liar. The film’s director wasn’t even recognized as a “Best Director” nominee. This was a year where voters wanted to feel good about themselves by selecting a movie that (haphazardly) shows the evils of racism. On that level, I felt the film to be a bit insulting, to be honest. It treats its viewers like idiots, thinking we had no idea how poorly blacks were treated in the South in 1948 and that yes, racism is bad. Thank you. It ranks so high on the list for these reasons and because it indefensibly beat out such grand triumphs of film such as: “Cinema Paradiso,” “Dead Poet’s Society,” “Born on the 4th of July,” “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Sex, Lies and Videotape.”

2. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)

On any list like this one, this film you will most surely find. For all of its impressive locations and cast of actors, this is another long (3+ hours), tedious, uninteresting film. It is outdated, to be sure, with no sense of adventure or wonder to it at all (unlike the Jules Verne story that it is based on). Watch it now – tell me it doesn’t feel like you’re watching some homemade travel videos – or even those archaic educational videos you used to watch in the 6th grade. How this won “Best Picture,” I have no idea – but with cameos by more than 40 of Hollywood’s stars at the time, my thinking is that there were so many people associated with this film in one way or another, that enough votes went its way. “The Searchers,” “The Ten Commandments, “Giant” and “Anastasia” would have been much more admirable picks – all films that when we watch them today, over 50 years later, still entertain and engage us.

1. Chicago (2002)

This one was a travesty. I’ll start by saying that I did see it on Broadway years ago and loved it. It was great, sexy entertainment filled with wonderful choreography. And unlike some Broadway musicals that made successful transitions to the world of film, this just plays as silly entertainment geared to the “Glee” demographic. It plays more like the failed musical adaptations such as “Rent” and “Phantom of the Opera” than it does the ones which actually encapsulate the essence of what made the musicals great in the first place (like “West Side Story” or “An American in Paris”). The songs are great, sure – it’s a great musical. But when you leave it to a Hollywood cast who are there for box-office power and not their singing chops (John C. Reilly, Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere), the songs fall flat. It was a weak year for good movies, but no one is ever going to look back at 2002 and think, “Oh, ‘Chicago’ was the best movie that year!” “Chicago” isn’t a good movie that beat out the more deserving…it is a poor, glitz-over-substance film that beat out the more deserving. Those films would be: “Adaptation,” “Talk to Her,” “Gangs of New York,” “Frida” and “The Pianist.”


Digg!

Peter Eramo’s Postmortem on the Oscars – The Highs & Very Lows of the Ceremony

OK, so I went 14 out of 21 in my picks (I wasn’t even going to bother venturing a guess in the ‘Live Action Short,’ ‘Documentary Short,’ and ‘Animated Short’ categories). Not so very bad. I went out on a limb on a couple and was thinking that some of the awards would go to those who, you know, actually deserved it, rather than those who ran stellar Oscar media campaigns. In the end, if you bet on the chalk in most of the categories and just stuck with the favorites, you probably fared better than me. I am surprised because Oscar usually likes to distinguish itself from the other, “lesser” awards ceremonies.

In any case, it is a few days later and I thought that since I wrote two posts on this blog leading up to the Academy Awards ceremony, that I would tie a nice little bow on it and write a postmortem on the actual telecast: the highs, the lows, the funny, the embarrassing, the deserving, the unworthy, and the simply moronic. And I’m not getting into who wore what – whose dress was “to die for” and who picked a catastrophic ensemble….I don’t care about that. Not important. Unlike the previous few years though, I thought the ceremony for the 82 Annual Academy Awards was not nearly as boring. True, the list of winners was all pretty hum-drum and predictable, but the show itself…not half bad this time around. Here is a list of all the highlights and lowlights in no particular order:

OUR HOSTS

All things considered, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin played off each other quite nicely. Really, the host of the Oscars has only the first 10-15 minutes to worry about. It’s pretty much gravy from there, making a brief showing here, a quick cameo there. And they were relieved of most of their opening by Neil Patrick Harris’ song and dance number, “No One Wants to do it Alone.” Martin and Baldwin did have some very funny jokes written for them including one where Mr. Martin referred to his role in “The Jerk” when he said to Best Actress nominee “Gabourey Sidibe and I have something in common: In our first movies we were both born a poor black child.” Some good one-liners throughout and the two did an admirable job as hosts.

MORON OF THE NIGHT

Easily Elinor Burkett. What a train wreck this one was. “Who is Elinor Burkett?” you ask. She is the producer of the Oscar-winning documentary short, “Music by Prudence.” When writer/director Roger Ross Williams came up to the podium to accept his award, he just started his speech when Barracuda Lady came up and pulled her best Kanye impersonation. Yes, the two have had tremendous artistic differences with the film and even had a lawsuit between the two (which was settled out of court). I have no idea who is right and who is wrong – but Ms. Burkett made herself look like a fool, ambushing Mr. Williams in such fashion. Look at the YouTube video – he just stands there dumbfounded, almost wanting to laugh, while she is ranting and raving in a semi-incoherent manner.

IT’S ABOUT TIME

No, not Meryl Streep winning (more on that in a bit) – but Oscar’s tribute to the horror genre in their well-edited Horror Montage. I’m no horror buff by any stretch, but horror films play an integral role in the motion picture industry and this brief mosaic was a nice reminder of that. Just because horror films are rarely recognized come Awards season, that doesn’t mean there is no merit to them. In fact, so many great horror films (domestic and international) have gone straight to DVD without much of a theatrical release at all. Here, we got to see a nice mixture of some of the most memorable horror films in cinematic history, from “The Blob” to “The Shining” – and did I see a quick glimpse of “Leprechaun” in there for good measure???

NOT VERY ‘PRECIOUS’ AT ALL

Boy, did Mo’Nique come across like Queen Diva or what??? They can spin this any way they want – as if she wasn’t backslapping her fellow nominees, but when she started off her pompous speech with, “I would like to thank the Academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics,” a backslap was exactly what she delivered. I’m not saying she deserved the award or didn’t deserve it – she just came across here as arrogant and bitter – no class or grace whatsoever. And to bring up Hattie McDaniel? Give me a break. I was shocked to read all of the kudos pointed at her in the blogs and articles after-the-fact. Were they watching what I was??? Show a little humility…Come on! Even Samuel L. Jackson was rolling his eyes after this disaster of a speech!

The second Oscar that the film took (in a bit of an upset) was the Adapted Screenplay award which went to Geoffrey Fletcher. In doing so, Mr. Fletcher became the first African-American to win the screenwriting Academy Award. A terrific honor. But was it me, or did it sound like this guy ran 26 miles before coming up to the podium? Have a clue as to what you wanna say, guy. His speech was so incoherent and so bad that Steve Martin had to immediately joke about it by saying, “I wrote his speech,” which was met with laughter throughout the theatre.

BLUE MAN BEN

Why is everyone all over Ben Stiller? I give this guy credit. He is absolutely willing to commit 100% to the joke and make an ass out of himself to get a few laughs. Good for him. Last year, if you recall, he came out looking like Joaquin Phoenix, mimicking his much publicized stupidity on David Letterman’s show. That was funny. This year, he came out in complete Na’vi make-up and wardrobe from James Cameron’s Avatar.” Mr. Stiller was there to present the award for Best Make-Up, which, ironically, “Avatar” wasn’t even nominated for (a glaring oversight to begin with). Stiller was absolutely committed to the role (especially when he spoke in the ancient tongue of the Na’vi) and had some outrageously funny lines. Great delivery – and whoever did the work on those piercing yellow eyes – great job! I thought this was a great, humorous highlight of the evening. I don’t think he disrespected “Avatar” in any way (though a few of Mr. Stiller’s peers did just this throughout the evening) – and I thank him for being such a willing sport.

INTERPRETIVE DANCE OVER SONG

Did we really need to see all of those dance numbers choreographed to all five nominees for Best Score? Was this necessary? How many people watching on their flatscreens at home used this allotted time as their bathroom break for the evening? Come on – you know you did! I have nothing against dance at all – in its time and place. What bothers me greatly about this was that the producers decided to go with this bit (which took a bit of time) over actually having us hearing the songs that were nominated in the Best Original Song category. I am still upset that I did not get to hear “Take it All” (from “Nine”) and of course, the beautifully written “The Weary Kind,” which rightfully took home the gold. I was thrilled to see that it won the Oscar and I would have loved to see Ryan Bingham perform it. That moment was taken from us – all in the name of interpretive dance – show me your Fosse hands, people!

A FITTING TRIBUTE

The “In Memoriam” tribute dedicated to those in the motion picture industry who died during the year is conducted without fail during each Oscar ceremony. I look forward to this part of the telecast as I find it to be a pleasant reminder of those who have passed on – those who we have admired from afar whether it be an iconic celebrity or a cinematographer who most don’t know, but we love their work.

This year was especially exciting for me because the legendary troubadour James Taylor sang live on stage while the video montage was being shown. I have loved J.T. for years and years and he is without a doubt my all-time favorite musical artist. His appearance was a total surprise to me and I instantly received a text message from my brother saying: “J.T. and the Oscars? Is your head about to explode?” True, I could barely contain myself as I watched the names and faces pass on screen and listened to the voice that, like a very fine bottle of wine, only gets better with age. He performed the classic Beatles song, “In My Life” and did a wonderful, stirring job with it. And dressed in his black tux and bowtie – he looked handsome, elegant and skilled. I equated the event to that of the delectable Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup: two totally separate entities coming together to make a most delicious noise. A wonderful Oscar moment – and done with class, taste and heart.

While I am on the subject, those of you screaming about the omission of Farrah Fawcett –SHUT UP! All I’ve been hearing for the past few days was how “shameful” it was that she was left out of the tribute. Please! Yes, it is true that she did do some film (she was actually damn good in Robert Duvall’s powerful “The Apostle”), but (1) she is recognized mainly as a television star and (2) the tribute is never able to squeeze in every single person connected with the film industry. In fact, I give those who make these decisions some credit for keeping some in that most may have never heard of (composers, editors, et al) and not the iconic Charlie’s Angel. On top of this, I have to hear Ryan O’Neal vent about this like it’s a slap in the face?! Perhaps Mr. O’Neal should pay attention to more important matters like how to properly parent his son so he doesn’t wind up dead or in jail again.

THE DOLPHIN IS CENSORED

The Cove” took home the Oscar for Best Documentary. A truly remarkable, horrific, eye-opening film for sure. The award is well-deserved and I was elated to see it win. During his acceptance speech, producer Fisher Stevens referred to the main subject of the film, the courageous, dedicated and heroic Ric O’Barry. Mr. O’Barry then (remarkably in character) lifted a poster-board reading “Text Dolphin to 44144.” The orchestra immediately started to play (their cue to walk off the stage) and director Louie Psihoyos was never able to give his brief speech. I thought this was uncalled for. Let the man hold up his harmless sign – if you saw the film, you know how worthy this cause is! It makes me more upset because of all the previous political statements made by presenters and winners of past telecasts. Were they cut off as promptly as the artistic team of “The Cove” was? I don’t think so. I simply thought it was a poor decision.

In case you were interested, this is what Psihoyos emailed the media regarding what he would have said had he been allowed to: “We made this film to give the oceans a voice. We told the story of The Cove because we witnessed a crime. Not just a crime against nature, but a crime against humanity. We made this movie because through plundering, pollution and acidification from burning fossil fuels, ALL ocean life is in peril, from the great whales to plankton which, incidentally, is responsible for half the oxygen in this theater. Thank you, Black OPS Team for risking your lives in Japan — and thank
you Academy for shining the brightest lights in the world on THE COVE……Japan, please see this movie! Domo Aragato!” Wish I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth!

THE VICTORIOUS BAD BLAKE

At last, Jeff Bridges gets his Oscar. Great performance, great speech – long overdue. Though of no surprise to anyone, it was a pleasure to watch. I no longer get to call him our country’s most under-rated actor (as I have been for well over a decade), but it is absolutely worth it now. Great to see the Kodak Theatre stand for the Duderino. Touching to hear him speak of his parents. And Michelle Pfieffer’s introduction was poignant and sincere as well. Here’s to you Bad Blake!

BABS OVERDOES IT

When Martin Scorsese took home the Best Director award a few years ago for his much over-hyped, and somewhat over-rated “The Departed” we knew he was going to win before the winner was even announced. Why? Well, the choice of presenters for this category that year was clue enough – with Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas handing the statue to their longtime colleague. This year, when we saw Barbra Streisand make her way across the stage, the odds-on-favorite to win became a shoe-in. We knew right then and there that Kathryn Bigelow would make history by becoming the first woman to ever win the award. True, she was the favorite here; I picked her to win though I surely did not feel she was deserving – and still don’t. Plus, I also considered this to be an anti-Cameron vote as well, with James Cameron rustling many Hollywood feathers over the years.

So there was Babs. And she looked so giddy right off the bat with the prospect of a woman finally winning. I thought her commentary here was not necessary either. Upon opening the sealed envelope, she commented, “Well…the time has come.” A bit over-the-top, don’t you think? Perhaps I am just upset because I still don’t believe “The Hurt Locker” was all that it is cracked up to be and that the media helped enormously in its many wins on Oscar night. I will give it a second viewing and perhaps I will feel differently. Perhaps not.

STILL RECUPERATING

I am still trying to get over what I perceive to be those undeserving who actually went home with an Academy Award. I knew Sandra Bullock was the media darling and the favorite to win. I couldn’t pick her. I think Ms. Bullock said it best with the very first thing she said in her speech: “Did I really earn this or did I just wear y’all down?” She knows it herself and she’s saying so right there. Way to get out there and campaign, campaign, campaign! And see what ya get? A nice, shiny Oscar. Again, very weak category this year and very few great leading roles for women in 2009, but Carey Mulligan clearly gave the strongest, most multi-layered performance of the five. Ms. Bullock is fine and I hope she continues to choose better roles in better films, but I will say it again: This is not an Oscar-worthy performance by any stretch of the imagination. I am still having trouble saying it: “Sandra Bullock…[gulp]…Oscar-winner.”

And even though the Best Picture category seemed like it was down to two films (“Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker“) and there was no surprise to it, I am still trying to cope with the idea of Bigelow’s war film winning the evening’s most prestigious award. I feel very strongly that “Up in the Air,” “District 9” and “Inglourious Basterds” were all superior.

“VOICE OF THE 80’S” HONORED

Being in my late 30’s, I sadly had no choice but to grow up during the horrid decade that was the eighties. I graduated high school in 1989 and the films touched by John Hughes permeated the decade. “The Breakfast Club,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Pretty in Pink” and “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” are pretty much a staple of 80’s films, right? It is safe to say that John Hughes was “the voice” of film in the eighties on a certain level. I see that, I understand that, I accept that.

Having said that, I had very mixed feelings about the tribute to Mr. Hughes on Oscar night, which was led by 80’s prom queen Molly Ringwald and the very talented (and still working) Matthew Broderick. On one hand, this was a very sweet, touching, tasteful homage to the late filmmaker who passed away much too soon in August 2009. The video medley of films that he worked on was edited quite nicely and when 80’s stars such as Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, & Ally Sheedy came out to speak about their mentor and friend, it was a nice touch. I get all of that.

But was this honorary tribute truly necessary? I mean, in all, John Hughes directed only eight films…eight. He mainly worked as a writer and a producer. Not a big deal at all, as he was still surely a very creative aspect to the films that he did not helm. What bothered me was I don’t remember any Oscar tribute resembling this one for much more accomplished directors who have died – I’m talking about the great Sidney Lumet, Alan J. Pakula, the exceptional Sydney Pollack, John Sturges, the ingenius Ingmar Bergman, the auteur that was Stanley Kubrick, Richard Attenborough, Akira Kurosawa, and the list goes on and on. Why does John Hughes merit this? Because his movies were more “popular”? He was never at all nominated for an Academy Award and his films were mainly targeted towards adolescents. We like them now in part because it is nostalgic – it brings us back to our own days of graduation. So though touching and well-done, I felt that this tribute to Mr. Hughes was gratuitous. Will Woody Allen get this sort of treatment when he passes? (And let us hope that is a far, far way off.) What about Mr. Coppola? Scorsese? David Lynch? After this, I sincerely hope so….but I’m not holding my breath.

MISCELLANEOUS TIDBITS

Cameron Diaz: Rehearsal would have been nice. Come prepared.

Sean Penn: I love ya! I really do. But I’m still trying to figure out what you were saying.

Tina Fey and Robert Downey, Jr.: Loved the writer vs. pampered actor schtick. Great stuff.

– Zac Efron, Tyler Perry, Taylor Lautner, Miley Cyrus, Kristen Stewart, Amanda Seyfried: WHY???!!!

Tom Hanks: Was he just running late for a dinner reservation or something? Never saw an envelope ripped open faster than that.

– What was with the bizarre Lamps-R-Us backdrop?

James Cameron knew that eyes were on him and played a good sport throughout the night, taking all the ribbing in stride. At least on the outside. And he stood and clapped for Ms. Bigelow before just about anybody. Well played, Mr. Cameron.

– I want to see more clips from the actual performances being nominated! Each year they never show enough. Showcase the films being honored so people at home will think, “Huh…that looks good. I gotta go out and see that.”

– “Up in the Air” goes home empty. Cold, man. I thought it was a dead-ringer for Best Adapted Screenplay. You could make the argument that the film deserved Best Picture honors – as it was a much stronger film than “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker” in addition to be more topical and making a great, subtle statement on our country today. Years from now when we look back at the films of 2009, this is the one that leaves its mark.

So it’s now mid-March 2010…a new year of films to catch up on. I hope it is a stronger year than last. A lot of new blockbusters that will start to rear their heads in a month or so. I will keep posting on this blog with various “Best and Worst” lists as well as film reviews throughout the course of the year…until the Awards season is upon us once again in December 2010.

As always, I cannot wait.

Predictions for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards (2010)


The nominees have been announced, the studios all campaigning wildly, and the film critics and pundits all making their annual predictions as to who will take home the revered statues come the evening of March 7, 2010. As I do every year, I try to come to grips with those who have been snubbed of well-deserved recognition (see my previous posting on this blog) and those who are nominated for reasons I cannot yet fathom. In addition, this year brings the new anxiety of trying to brace myself of having to sit and watch Alec Baldwin co-host the ceremonies….I feel it does not bode well for the millions of viewers across the globe. As I stated earlier, it hasn’t been the strongest year for film. Even the nominees were somewhat of a bore…a bit anti-climatic. Not many great races to speak of as well, with a few categories already being viewed as semi-locks. I am hoping that this is not an omen of a 4-hour snoozefest on Oscar night, but the realist in me says that this is most likely what we will get.

So here are my predictions for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards in all of the major categories — complete with a listing of “Who Will Win,” “Who Should Win” and finally, “Who Should Have Been in the Running.” Enjoy — and please feel free to post your comments in agreement or heated disagreement!!! I welcome it all….

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

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

This one is a slam dunk. As soon as I left the theatre, I vividly remember thinking, “This guy has the Oscar wrapped up.” Many months later, that same sentiment holds true. This “guy”? Christoph Waltz as Colonel Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino’s very strong “Inglourious Basterds.” He’s already won numerous accolades for his performance and I don’t see what is to stop him from receiving the grandest accolade of all – especially when I don’t think the film has a legit shot at Picture or Director here. The only competition comes from the wonderful Christopher Plummer, portraying the celebrated author and idealist Tolstoy. He was (as always) truly a marvel to watch – and has never received an Oscar in his prolific career. But in the end, I don’t believe enough people saw the film. Same goes for the other nominees – not many at all saw “Invictus” or “The Messenger” and both Woody Harrelson and Matt Damon are deserving of their nominations here. As for Stanley Tucci, I confess, I did not see the film, but have heard he was one of the very few bright spots in Peter Jackson’s critically (and publically) roasted failure. He nearly ruined King Kong…might as well hurt Alice Sebold’s prose while he’s at it, right?

Who Will Win: Christoph Waltz
Who Should Win: Christoph Waltz
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Burghart Klaubner (The White Ribbon)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Penelope Cruz (Nine)
Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air)
Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart)
Anna Kendrik (Up in the Air)
Mo’Nique (Precious)

I’m in an odd position here and I’ll readily admit this – that based on all that I have read and heard, the winner may very well be the only performance I have missed (“Precious” being the only film of the nominated 10 that I unfortunately missed). But I cannot believe that Maggie Gyllenhaal would win (Lord help us) as I don’t feel a nomination was warranted. And what’s with Penelope Cruz? Why do voters have a fixation with everything she does? Her best work is in Almodovar films – yet she wins for a Woody Allen film when clearly, Amy Adams or Marisa Tomei should have won last year. Go figure. Anyway, she plays the same unbalanced lover here in the subpar “Nine” so I don’t see her winning in back-to-back years. The race comes down to Vera Farmiga and the heavily favored Mo’Nique. Mo’Nique has won just about every “Supporting Actress” award this year and there was some bad press over the fact of whether she would do press for the film or wouldn’t she. That’s all been cleared by now. I liked what Ms. Farmiga did in the Jason Reitman’s wonderful “Up in the Air.” Sadly, I think the film will, for the most part, be going home empty on Oscar night – and the two actresses nominated here may also split the votes. I can’t speak to Mo’Nique’s performance, but because none of the other four “wowed” me and the glowing press so far received, I have to believe that she will take home the Golden statue.

Who Will Win: Mo’Nique
Who Should Win: since I didn’t see ‘Precious’ I can’t say with authority
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Kate del Castillo (Julia) or
Diane Kruger (Inglourious Basterds)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Avatar
Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
Inglourious Basterds
The White Ribbon

An interesting list of nominees this year in an all-important category. As impressive as “Avatar” and “Inglourious Basterds” is from a photography standpoint, I would think that the beautifully shot black-and-white film, “The White Ribbon” will steal this one. It’s got a couple of strikes against it in that (a) it’s a foreign film so hence (b) not many have seen the film. I’m certainly not picking it simply because it’s a B&W film. I was just overly impressed with the film as a whole, cinematography included. In addition, the film did just win the A.S.C. award, so it has a little steam going in.

Who Will Win: The White Ribbon
Who Should Win: The White Ribbon
Who Should Have Been Nominated: The Road

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Coraline
Fantastic Mr. Fox
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Up

One of the few locks of the evening for sure. The fact that “Up” happens to be nominated for the actual “Best Picture” award tells you all you need to know. I thought “Up” was sweet…a strong 3-star film and not much more. The highlight of the film was the very moving montage between Carl and the love of his life Ellie – without dialogue. Quite beautiful. A sweet film, no doubt, but not one of Pixar’s best. I didn’t get into “Coraline” at all and if you can sit there and tell me that you saw “The Secret of Kells” playing at a theatre near you, I’ll call you a liar right now. “Up” is the sure winner here, but “Fantastic Mr. Fox” was the stronger work and greater achievement in film. I was hoping “Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs” would get a nomination as I did find that film to be great fun.

Who Will Win: Up
Who Should Win: Fantastic Mr. Fox
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

“Almost There” (Princess & the Frog)
“Down in New Orleans” (Princess & the Frog)
“Loin de Paname” (Paris 36)
“Take it All” (Nine)
“The Weary Kind” (Crazy Heart)

This is a two-horse race, but I really don’t see “The Weary Kind” (by T-Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham) losing. The two selections by Randy Newman are, let’s face it, Randy Newman songs. No knock on Mr. Newman, but there’s not much new here. A “Best Song” should capture the essence of a character or a specific scene or the film as a whole – or all three. No song has done that better in recent years than the marvelous “Falling Slowly” featured in the little indie-that-could “Once.” Eminem’sLose Yourself” (from “8 Mile”) back in 2002 also is a great example. There have been some wonderful songs featured in this category over the years. Sadly, the producers of this year’s telecast have chosen NOT to showcase each song individually and have the artists sing it. This was a great disappointment as some of the most memorable moments in Oscar’s history have come from the musical artist performing the piece live for us. The only competition that “The Weary Kind” may have is “Taken it All” from the musical “Nine.” This is a wonderful song written specially for the film – and is performed with raw passion by Marion Cotillard. It encapsulates her character and everything she has gone through in her failure-of-a-marriage to her ingenious husband. “The Weary Kind” however, is near perfect and will take home the gold. Bingham’s raspy, old vet voice fits splendidly. The lyrics and music perfectly complement the feel of the film (“Crazy Heart”) and depicts the man that is Bad Blake – (“Your body aches/Playing your guitar and sweating out the hate”….” this ain’t no place to fall behind/Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try.”) I only wish we were given the opportunity to watch it sung for us live on Oscar night.

Who Will Win: “The Weary Kind”
Who Should Win: “The Weary Kind”

Listen to the song here:

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”)

Lock. L-O-C-K! And well deserved, I might add. Mr. Bridges is 0 for 4 as an Oscar nominee, but America’s most under-rated actor (can we now say that anymore?) will be winning come Sunday night. It’s a vulnerable, gritty, honest and seemingly effortless performance and his Bad Blake is truly a character to remember. We sympathize with Bad, we root for him, we want him to succeed and get well. That’s what Mr. Bridges brings to the table here. Also, he’s got a nice set of pipes on him! He looked the part and looked quite the natural in all of his vocal scenes. Perfect casting and it is always such a pleasure to watch him work in indie films such as this one – and the bigger blockbusters that he sometimes does. I’m still trying to get over the fact that nominating Jeremy Renner is an utter waste of a perfectly fine 5th slot here. Colin Firth was terrific and the one shining star in what I found to be an unremarkable film. George Clooney is the tricky one here. He was wonderful in a great movie. However, if I am truly honest about it – it was George doing what George does best…the kind of role he can do in his sleep. He is charming, witty, charismatic and at times, susceptible. I enjoyed his performance, but could never think of him beating out the work that Jeff Bridges turned out this past year – it will be a pleasure to watch his acceptance speech. The Dude prevails….

Who Will Win: Jeff Bridges
Who Should Win: Jeff Bridges
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Michael Stuhlbarg (“A Serious Man”)

BEST ACTRESS

Sandra Bullock (“The Blind Side”)
Helen Mirren (“The Last Station”)
Carey Mulligan (“An Education”)
Gabourey Sidibe (“Precious”)
Meryl Streep (“Julie & Julia”)

What a weak category this year. W-E-A-K! It also illustrates a year where there were not very good roles for leading women in cinema. As written in my previous blog, I have no idea why Tilda Swinton was completely forgotten and not nominated for giving the year’s best performance in the very powerful, but little known film “Julia.” Having said that, if Sandra Bullock wins, I will weep. I like Sandra Bullock. I have nothing against Sandra Bullock. She was fine here…gave a good performance. But Oscar worthy?! Please! Years from now we’re going to look back at this film and see an actress truly shine? Hardly. She is here because voters approve of the fact that we’re not seeing her in another piece of crap – plain and simple. That, plus the poor roles for leading women in 2009. But sadly, she does have a legit shot. The movie raked in millions and America loves her. Despite my animosity towards the nomination, her chances are very good…scary, right? The winner, I’m afraid will be Ms. Streep in the very mediocre “Julia & Julia.” I adore Meryl Streep – love her in just about everything she does. With more nominations than anyone in Oscar history now, she surely is one of the greatest actors to ever grace the silver screen – period! Having said that, this is NOT the film she deserves to win for. Not after Oscar has shot her down in much better films in which she has given outstanding performances in like “Doubt,” “Adaptation,” “One True Thing,” and “Out of Africa” to name a few. So why will she win this year? Hollywood adores her (as they should) and she hasn’t won since 1982 – it’s been a while! She’s always there; each year, smiling gracefully each time she is defeated. I feel she will be rewarded for that this year at the expense of Ms. Mulligan who turns in a multi-layered, well-crafted performance in a film that few went out to see. I love Helen Mirren and she is great in “The Last Station,” but she won just a few years back and nobody saw this under-rated film about Tolstoy and his wife in their latter years. It’s a battle for the two undeserving this year. Bullock vs. Streep. It will be nice to see Ms. Streep walk up to accept, and I guess I can swallow that after years of hoping that she would win…however, this year, I know better. You just watch – she’ll give a breathtaking performance in another film this year or next – and will lose out once again.

Quick Change of Heart as of Sunday, March 7th: I can’t stand this anymore. I can’t sleep well knowing I picked Streep or Bullock to win for performances they surely don’t deserve the gold for. I’m going with the evening’s upset special: Carey Mulligan. Why? Simply because she deserves it. I did this a couple of years back and went out on a limb picking Marion Cotillard for her brilliant performance in “La Vie en Rose” and that turned out well. So I’m going with my gut and hope the Academy sees that Carey Mulligan gave the most winning performance.

Who Will Win: Carey Mulligan
Who Should Win: Carey Mulligan
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Tilda Swinton (“Julia”)

BEST DIRECTOR

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

This seems to be a very competitive two (wo)man race – between James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow. Those two seem to be the darlings of past awards presentations over the past couple of months. In my opinion, both simply do not deserve it. Of the five nominees, I would say that Tarantino’s work is the most deserving – and I don’t even care for the man. I hate listening to him speak in that self-important, supercilious way that he does. In truth, I can’t stand watching him, but I can be objective here and say that the man can make a fine film from time to time (“Jackie Brown” and “Kill Bill: Volume I” as examples). I thoroughly enjoyed “Inglourious Basterds” and put it in my Top 10 of the Year. Though he is deserving, he won’t win. It’s between the couple that once was. Not many people like James Cameron – especially after he made a bit of a spectacle of himself when he won for the over-glorified “Titanic” and just a few weeks ago when he dissed Meryl Streep. NOBODY disses Meryl Streep and gets away with it! Not in Hollywood, at least. My feeling is that this year, the “Best Picture” and “Best Director” awards will be split – and history will be made with the first female director ever taking home the Oscar. This does not mean she actually deserves this distinction though – but voters like to congratulate themselves for this kind of thing. You can make a strong argument that Lina Wertmuller deserved to be the first back in 1976 (“Seven Beauties”), but it will instead be for the very over-rated, much ballyhooed “The Hurt Locker.”

Who Will Win: Kathryn Bigelow
Who Should Win: Quintin Tarantino
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Neill Blomkamp (“District 9”)

BEST MOTION PICTURE OF 2009

So “Avatar” took home a zillion dollars, or something like that and was, for all intents and purposes, cutting-edge as far as film achievement goes. It was a wonder to watch in the theatre. I cannot deny the remarkable triumph in that regard. It will continue its phenomenal success by taking home the “Best Picture” Oscar and raking up more zillions in the theatre, in merchandise and in Blue-Ray sales. Having said that, it is not the best film of the year. Think about why it didn’t even garner a screenwriting nomination. The story was not very good at all – highly predictable and took from so many other films in years past. You couldn’t sit through “Avatar” and not be reminded of a film here and another film there (“Dances with Wolves” in particular). Glorious to watch, for sure…but I wouldn’t put it in my Top 10 or Top 15 of the year. It will win though – there are years when Oscar likes to go to the big blockbuster (“Titanic,” “LOTR: Return of the King,” and “Gladiator” to name a few). This will reward the millions watching at home who actually saw one of the nominees and rooting hard for it.

I already made my feelings known about “The Hurt Locker.” Though a critical darling and on many Top 10 lists around the country, I simply do not see it. I feel it is overvalued. Maybe I missed something. Maybe I was in a cranky mood when I saw it. I have no idea. I simply know that when it was over, I thought, “Hmph, that was it?”

District 9” deserves the win, but has no chance at all, especially when the director is not nominated here – and I don’t see another “Driving Miss Daisy” year coming. Of the ten, it was the strongest and most powerful piece of original filmmaking. I’m not a sci-fi guy by any stretch, but the film works as a marvelous parable to our world today. It is riveting, haunting and at times, quite touching. I’ll be rooting hard for it, but to no avail, I’m afraid.

Up” has its own category all to itself – way to waste a place Oscar voters! That’s why the “Best Animated Feature” was created to begin with – to prevent this!

I loved Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air.” What a fine filmmaker with this work following the wonderful dark comedy, “Thank You for Smoking” (I felt “Juno” was the weakest of the three by far). “Up in the Air” is probably the most topical film of 2009 and makes a profound statement on our economy and the job market during a historical recession. Great performances across the board and a sharp, clever, thoughtful screenplay. This would be my personal #2 choice. An outside shot at best – if “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker” split the votes, this could creep in and surprise everyone. Let’s hope it does!

A Serious Man” (besides “Intolerable Cruelty” the Coen Brothers have not made a bad film!) is along for the ride here – but I was thrilled to see it not forgotten and in the running for the evening’s grand prize – kudos to the voters for including this insightful, funny and splendid film.

Who Will Win: Avatar
Who Should Win: District 9
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Watchmen or (500) Days of Summer

OTHER PICKS:

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Who Will Win: Inglourious Basterds
Who Should Win: A Serious Man
Who Should Have Been Nominated: (500) Days of Summer

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Who Will Win: Up in the Air
Who Should Win: Up in the Air
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Julia (or Where the Wild Things Are)

BEST FILM EDITING

Who Will Win: The Hurt Locker
Who Should Win: District 9

BEST ART DIRECTION

Who Will Win: Avatar
Who Should Win: Avatar

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Who Will Win: Avatar
Who Should Win: Avatar

BEST MAKE-UP

Who Will Win: Star Trek
Who Should Win: Star Trek

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Who Will Win: The Young Victoria
Who Should Win: (did not see 2 of the films nominated)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Who Will Win: The Cove (if you haven’t seen it – rent it!)
I felt “Food Inc.”, as informative as it was could have been more “viewer-friendly” if that makes any sense. Michael Moore – pay attention…this is what documentaries are supposed to be….they are not editorials.

So those are my picks – for better or for worse. I hope I am wrong about a number of them. I’ve been watching the Academy Awards each year without fail since I was about eight or nine years old. Too young to even care, I suppose. My friends and family have always joked with me, calling Oscar night my Christmas. In many ways, it is. I love film just about more than anything. It is what I do…I watch movies. I watch too many movies – but there are very few things that give me greater pleasure than going to a theatre, sitting in the darkened room and watching a work of art on the screen. And film is art – there is no question about that. And that art is celebrated each year in grand fashion at the Kodak Theatre. I could care less about the Red Carpet – I never even watch that. I could care less about the dresses. I watch no other Awards show prior to the Oscars (could never be bothered with the SAG awards or the over-hyped Golden Globes). It’s all about the little golden guy they have called Oscar since 1928. No matter what films are nominated, which films or actors win or lose, I am glued to the television – and they become a part of motion picture history. The past few ceremonies have been somewhat boring, true. Here’s hoping that this year will be a pleasant surprise – and that the best artists in each category win!

Again, I welcome any and all comments here. Feel free to share your own picks on this page. That would be great. I’m hoping some are even reading this blog and that I’m not writing for my own sake. That would just be sad.

Most of all – to each of you – enjoy your Oscar Night!!!

(Next Posting Coming Soon — Best & Worst Films of 2009)

Peter Eramo’s Thoughts on the Oscar Noms – 2010

Nominations for the 82nd Academy Awards were released a couple of weeks ago — with the telecast right around the corner on March 7, 2010. I’ve been doing my very best to catch up on all of the year’s films (especially those nominated), which is why it has taken me a bit to post this blog in reaction to the list of nominees announced. Overall, I must say that this year’s nominees were quite predictable, with very few pleasant surprises, if any at all. If anything, there were a handful nominated that I find to be undeserving, and simply riding the Oscar-media wave, campaigning quite well. But unlike most years where there is a surprise here and there, this year’s list of nominees is, in a nutshell, somewhat bland.

I think much of that has to do with the year in film that was 2009. It was a relatively weak year, with very few great (let alone extraordinary) films released. The decade has been a good one, no doubt. Recent years have been good ones, with some wonderful films battling each other out for Oscar supremecy. Not this year. Not when your two leading front runners (so it seems) are “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker.” You know there is a problem. But more on that later. I have managed to see 9 of the 10 nominated films for “Best Picture” (I have yet to see “Precious” so I will say to you up front, that of course I am not able to write about the movie with any first-hand knowledge whatsoever). Anyway, here are just a few random thoughts on the Oscar race this year…I hope you enjoy!

THE 5 BIGGEST SNUBS

A list of this year’s 5 biggest Oscar snubs, plus a handful of others for good measure:

Tilda Swinton (Best Actress for “Julia”)
In a “Best Actress” category that I find to be very weak this year, Ms. Swinton gave the year’s most raw, electrifying performance as the title character. Not only was she snubbed of a mere nomination, but I would have given her the Oscar outright. It’s the type of leading female performance seldom seen and was the most courageous and gutsy accomplishment I have witnessed since possibly Mimi Rogers in the wonderful (and overlooked) 1991 film “The Rapture.” I know few filmgoers actually saw “Julia,” but I wish the studio gave it a bigger push. If it had, then I am sure Tilda Swinton would not have been so egregiously overlooked.

(500) Days of Summer (directed by Marc Webb)
How this originally delightful film was overlooked, I do not know. In a year where the “Best Picture” race ballooned up to ten nominees, I was shocked to see that this film was not in the Chosen Ten. And if you are going to ignore it in the “Best Picture” category, then at least honor it with a well-deserved Screenplay nomination. It was fresh, witty, melancholic, and yes, hopeful. In addition to be snubbed for Picture and Screenplay, one could make the argument for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and/or Zooey Deschanel being honored in their respective roles. This slight is still hard to swallow, especially when films like “The Blind Side” and “Up” are nominated for Oscar’s grandest prize. Alas, the film goes away empty-handed. Hopefully it will fare well at the Independent Spirit Awards where it was not forgotten. Regardless, if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and rent it!

Watchmen (directed by Zack Snyder)
I found this to be one of the year’s best films, much better than your typical blockbuster/superhero type of films that have been released. I can understand it being snubbed for the heavyweight categories like “Best Picture” and “Best Director” (though I feel it would have been most well deserved considering the list of films), but to completely ignore it for Visual Effects, Make-Up, Art Direction and Screenplay was quite remarkable. There are 3 nominees in the Visual Effects category (which “Avatar” will most assuredly win) and 3 nominees in Make-Up… ”Watchmen” deserved a nod in each here. The Art Direction was stellar (clearly better than 3 of the 5 nominees up for the distinction), and even though the Cinematography was glorious as well, that is a tough category this year and I did not expect such notice. “Watchmen” ranks in my Top 10 films for 2009 – I was hoping Oscar voters would agree.

The Road & Viggo Mortensen (directed by John Hillcoat)
A crowd-pleasing film this is not. A non-stop action ride? Again, not the film. This is a haunting, powerful film that moves at its own pace – but stays with you long after the final credits roll. I was taken aback at how the film did just that. Again, I did not expect it to find a place in the ten nominated films (though so much more deserving than a number of them – and “Up” has its own “Best Animated Film” category and because of that, should never have been eligible here). However, the Cinematography was unbelievably effective and should have been noticed in that category. Also, you could have nominated so many more worthy leading male performances than Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker”) – Viggo Mortensen would have been an admirable choice as the desperate father doing his utmost to protect his son from death. His performance here is understated, but commanding in every sense. A much more commendable work than a handful of other films that will be mentioned come March 7th.

Michael Stuhlbarg & the Coen Brothers
Yes, it was a very pleasant surprise to see “A Serious Man” justly nominated in the “Best Picture” category. The same holds true for its only other nomination for the evening – “Best Original Screenplay” (which it absolutely deserved). I’m glad enough people saw — and remembered this wonderful film to not completely snub it. That said, the fact that the Coen Brothers were not nominated in the “Best Director” category leaves me thinking that it has no chance whatsoever at the top prize. Also, having won in the screenplay category before, it’s a long shot to capture that prize as well. A subtle, dark, funny piece of cinema, “A Serious Man” is one of the stronger works in the canon of the remarkably talented Coen Brothers. I thought it was actually better than “No Country for Old Men” and was the closest they’ve come in mood and style to their masterpiece “Barton Fink.” The real snub here is Michael Stuhlbarg – not a film star at this point by any stretch. He’s mostly known as a “theatre guy” at this point. He gives a terrific performance here in a very complex role. I cannot imagine why Jeremy Renner made the Top 5 (I’m not picking on the guy – but see the film and you tell me what’s so special) and even George Clooney, but not Stuhlbarg. Clooney was fine but come one, he could’ve played that role in his sleep. And Richard Kind as Uncle Arthur should have also been given serious consideration. So in the end, though it was not snubbed for “Best Picture” (thankfully), I do strongly feel that the film should have been remembered in a few other categories.

OTHER SNUBS — IN SHORT

Sam Rockwell (Best Actor for “Moon“)

The Invention of Lying (Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay)

Sin Nombre (directed by Cary Fukunaga)

Sunshine Cleaning (directed by Christine Jeffs)

Two Lovers (Screenplay; performances by Gwyneth Paltrow & Vinessa Shaw)

THE FEW NICE SURPRISE NOMINEES

The White Ribbon (Best Cinematography nominee)
A gorgeous film. Tough to sit through at times, but profound and potent without hitting its viewer over the head. Very Bergman-esque in scope, character and themes covered which is perhaps why I loved it so much. I was glad to see it recognized in a category other than “Best Foreign Film.” A Screenplay nod would have been merited here as well – in addition to a supporting performance or two. A haunting, riveting piece of work – all in spectacular black-and-white….

Vera Farmiga (Best Supporting Actress nominee for “Up in the Air”)
This was a nice surprise and well deserved. After her nice work in Scorsese’s “The Departed,” Ms. Farmiga gives a multi-layered, complex performance opposite George Clooney. Unpredictable, alluring, clever and quick – her character in this wonderfully written film is a memorable one thanks to her.

Christopher Plummer & Helen Mirren (Best Supporting Actor and Best Actress nominees for “The Last Station”)
I was glad to see these two master thespians were not forgotten in a film that very few saw (and I thoroughly enjoyed). Plummer’s Tolstoy is a great piece of character work. He is funny, seductive, authoritarian and forever wise. And Mirren’s ever-loving (and obsessive/paranoid) Sofya is a pleasure to watch. We see why Tolstoy is so smitten with her despite the forces trying to tear them apart. Both are marvels here, but that should be of no surprise to anyone.

“Take it All” (Best Original Song nominee from the film “Nine”)
Though the film was a bit underwhelming (I was expecting so much more from such a marvelous Broadway musical) in the incapable hands of Rob Marshall, there were some fine performances from this all-star cast and one of them was from Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard who sings this nominated song. Of course the musical numbers from the original musical cannot be nominated, but this song written (by Maury Yeston) especially for the motion picture is a memorable moment in the film. If you haven’t heard it, YouTube it, iTunes it, whatever…just listen to it. The vocal work here is gutsy, naked and raw. The lyrics fit so well with the character of Cotillard’s underappreciated and vulnerable wife whose genius of a husband has been with countless other vixens who throw themselves in his direction. This piece captures the essence of character of Luisa Contini perfectly which is what the song should do.

District 9 (multiple nominee, including one for “Best Picture”)
I was so glad to see that this film was recognized come Oscar time. It is still my favorite film of 2009, and I am in no way a fan of science fiction films, though it is so much more than that. I wish that, in addition to its 4 nominations, that it would have been chosen in the fields of “Best Director,” Cinematography, and possibly a “Best Actor” nod for Sharlto Copley).

In the Loop (Best Screenplay nominee)

TWO OF THE UNDESERVING FEW

Every year that the nominees for the Academy Awards are announced, there are those few satisfying surprises that manage to squeak in, many favorites that have long been considered shoe-ins, and then there are those that…well, to put it quite bluntly, are just not worthy of the esteemed nomination. These are known as “The Undeserving Few.” Perhaps the timing was just right or the Oscar campaign backed by the studio was highly effective, or the popularity game went into effect. Whatever the reason, they get in each and every year and we learn to deal with it. Sometimes, sadly, they even win (anyone remember Jack Palance?). These are the Undeserving Few (in my humble, yet outspoken opinion) that eked in to this year’s race:

The Hurt Locker (Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay)
Fine, you want to nominate this film for “Best Picture” and “Best Director?” I get that. I must state though that, as well done and as powerful as it was at times, I felt overall that this film is highly overrated…highly! This film is the perfect example of the critics all hopping on the proverbial bandwagon and very few having the guts to stand out from the crowd. Again, I can understand why it’s in the two aforementioned categories (though it’s not in my Top 10 of the year) – but there is no way that this Screenplay deserves Oscar recognition with so many other Original Screenplays out there that are more fresh and creative (“The Invention of Lying,” “Management,” and “Funny People” to name a couple). On top of this, Jeremy Renner should kneel down and thank the Lord that he is nominated here. He has no business being here when Sam Rockwell (“Moon”), Michael Stuhlberg (“A Serious Man”), Michael Caine (“Is Anybody There?”), and Viggo Mortensen (“The Road”) are home watching on their flat screens.

The Blind Side (Best Picture, Best Actress)
A very nice feel-good film. I saw it. I enjoyed it. It was sweet. And yes, it was nice to see Sandra Bullock select a project that wasn’t complete crap. She’s a beautiful woman with a strong screen presence, charisma, and so much potential still untapped. Here she is fine and gives a good performance – just not Oscar nominee worthy! I guess those who vote thought that they would reward Ms. Bullock for turning in a good performance after years of poor, mainly silly films (for the most part). Those women who suffer this year because of the mistake: Emily Blunt (“The Young Victoria”), Jessica Biel (“Easy Virtue”), and Maria Heiskanen who turned in a wonderfully crafted performance in “Everlasting Moments.” The film has made a ton of money, so maybe by opening up the “Best Picture” field to ten, the telecast will get some more viewers who are rooting for this film, though it has absolutely no shot. Just consider yourself lucky to be there.

I will make sure to post a new blog before March 7th with my thoughts and predictions on who will win in each category for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards.

*Note: As of February 25, 2010, I have yet to view the following notable films of 2009:
Summer Hours, Antichrist, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call, Precious, The Lovely Bones, Tickling Leo, and Where the Wild Things Are.

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