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’s “Top 25 Comedies of the Decade”: Part Due

I posted the first part of my “Top 25 Comedy Films of the Decade” (2000-2009) a few days ago. What I find fascinating about these lists is that, no matter which films you include/omit, you’re likely to get a lot of beef about it: “How can you put so-and-so on the list?” “How can you leave out such-and-such a film?” Don’t get me wrong, I love any & all comments and I’m always up for a good debate (especially when it comes to movies I feel strongly about). But everyone’s list is going to be different from someone else’s…it’s all just one writer’s opinion (though I do happen to be right…HA!).

Now, I tried very hard not to include too many “obscure” films on the list (whatever the hell that means). But hey, what am I going to do? If I saw the movie and thought it was funny as hell, am I not supposed to include it simply because it is lesser known than “Napoleon Dynamite” (which you won’t see on this list and you’d have to threaten to do me severe bodily harm for me to even consider its inclusion). It sounds silly to me to omit a small film like “The Amateurs” (which I think is a terrific film and pretty damn hilarious) on the basis that not many have seen it. If anything, perhaps someone reads the list [cricket sounds], learns a little about a film they haven’t yet seen, and decides to rent it. I know when I read another writer’s list (on a blog or magazine, etc.) and I am not familiar with a movie…if it sounds good, I’ll put it in my queue for sure! So no, I am not in any way trying to go out of my way to put these little known films on the list (not that anyone is accusing me). And I’m not including a movie just because it seems to be on everyone else’s list covering the same genre. All I did was go through all the comedies I have seen from 2000-2009 and go from there. Like I said in my earlier posting, I started with about 50 and did my best to condense it to 25 funny films. In the end, I only tried to be true to myself and go with the movies I thought were the 25 funniest (in addition to being a good film, which was part of my criteria). It is all a moot point anyway, as the films that follow are mostly all very well-known. Here it is…Part Due of the Best Comedies of the Decade! Let the debate continue!!!

#15. Adaptation (dir. Spike Jonze)

Welcome to the wonderful, wacky world of Charlie Kaufman, ladies and gentlemen. Directed by Spike Jonze, this is an unbelieveably unique and oftentimes hilarious, offbeat film that unmistakably comes from the mind of Kaufman himself. The movie features a comically complex performance by Nicolas Cage as a writer who is trying to adapt Susan Orlean’s non-fiction, un-adaptable book “The Orchid Thief” into a screenplay. We watch the action of the book as we watch Kaufman (Cage) struggle to put it on the page. Cage also plays Charlie’s twin brother Donald who is much more carefree and dreams of becoming rich and famous for his own screenplays. Cage is the cornerstone of this film and he actually does a brilliant job in this dual role of the opposing brothers, which echoes Sam Shepard’s terrific play, “True West.” We also watch Meryl Streep (Orleans) interview and slowly fall in love with her subject, John Laroche (Chris Cooper). Both Streep and Cooper are terrific to watch here and all of the stories intertwine at some point with surprising results. The film is so bizarre and so quirky — if you enjoyed “Being John Malkovich” or “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” then you must definitely give this a watch. Kaufman has his own unique brand of comedy which not only challenges his audience to think, but gives them a tremendous payoff by being funny as hell.

#14. Pineapple Express (dir. David Gordon Green)

Seth Rogen hasn’t shown us much range as an actor and pretty much plays the same type of character, but you know what? He makes us laugh. Here, he plays lazy stoner Dale Denton who pisses people off every day by issuing them court-ordered subpoenas. He also is trying to manage his relationship with a high school girl eight years younger than he is. What does he do to escape? He visits his dealer, Saul Silver (James Franco). Franco has shown pretty good versatility as an actor and here, you can tell that he must have had a ball playing the languid, chilled-out, munchie-eating Saul. The two make a great pair in this incredibly funny buddy film. After purchasing the new Pineapple Express weed (Saul explains to him: “What you do… is you light all three ends at the same, and the smoke converges, creating a trifecta of joint-smoking power. This is it, man. This is what your grandchildren are gonna be smoking.”), Dale witnesses a murder by a crooked cop and leaves his new weed behind at the scene of the crime. bad news for Dale as it can of course be traced back. Dale’s hum-drum life is turned upside down as he and Saul spend the rest of the movie running for their lives from bad cops and other bad dudes. The camaraderie between the two is terrific, the one-liners are outrageously funny and the supporting cast lends their own comic talents as well. Danny McBride, Craig Robinson, Gary Cole and the under-rated Kevin Corrigan are all terrific to watch. There is a lot of action, a lot of vulgarity, a lot of witty banter — all adding up to this movie being a whole lotta fun.

#13. Hamlet 2 (Andrew Fleming)

Listen, any movie with a musical number entitled “Rock Me, Sexy Jesus” deserves a spot on this list just based on that alone. Steve Coogan is getting much more notice the past few years and looks to be a comedic force to be reckoned with. Here, he plays Dana Marschz, a failed actor who has relocated to Tuscon, Arizona to become an even worse high school drama teacher. Most of the comedy stems from Dana’s own limitations as an actor (“I’m having a herpes outbreak, right now – but you’d never know it. Thanks, Herpocol!” he says in a horrible looking commercial) and his completely inept teaching. He is informed by administration that drama will be cut the next semester due to budget cuts and when confronted with a student who writes for the school newspaper, Dana decides he’s going to save the theatre department or at least go out with a bang! He writes his own play, “Hamlet 2,” a sequel to the classic Shakespeare tragedy whereby the Prince of Denmark is paired with Jesus Christ to go back in time (via….you guessed it, a time machine)  to save the lives of Gertrude and Ophelia. I hate political correctness and this film is so politically incorrect that I absolutely loved it. Coogan is an absolute riot and carries the film extremely well. Though it has hints of the failed actor in “Waiting for Guffman,” Fleming’s comedy stands completely on its own. The students in Dana’s class provide even more humor and the way Coogan relates to each of them is great fun. Elisabeth Shue also has a delightful small role here. What makes everything more outrageous is Dana’s pomposity and delusions of grandeur…he truly believes that he is in the midst of creating a theatrical masterpiece. Sometimes it is painful to even watch, but in the best of ways.

#12. I ♥ Huckabees (dir. David O. Russell)

Certainly not a film for everyone. A somewhat polarizing film as many I know either loved it immeasurably — or hated it, with great prejudice. I belong to the former and consider O’Russell’s existential comedy to be one the most original, challenging comedies to come out in recent years. The stellar cast — Dustin Hoffman (reminding us of his brilliance), Lily Tomlin, Jude Law, Mark Wahlberg (who should have received a supporting actor nom for this one), Naomi Watts, Jason Schwartzman, and Isabelle Huppert are all in top form. Hoffman and Tomlin play a husband-and-wife detective team that don’t take on traditional cases. No, they are existential detectives and they are hired by Albert (Schwartzman) to solve the coincidence of seeing the same complete stranger three times in a day. The tecs insist that they spy on his every move as they share with him their views on life and other philosophical issues. This film stands by itself on this list as being one that will constantly challenge its viewers — it is daring, creative, wholly unique, articulate, intelligent and yes, pretty damn funny. You catch something new with each viewing and O’Russell refuses to spell it all out for you. It is an affecting film, with an array of quirky and memorable characters. A daring film that is unlike most everything that Hollywood churns out — and never has to sacrifice any of the (very many) laughs in the process.

#11. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (dir. Nicholas Stoller)

Not much new in the overall plot: boy loses girl, tries to get over his broken heart, finds true love. However, it’s how this story is told that make this a refreshing, sweet, & funny movie. Jason Segel’s script makes an old plot arc come alive with newness and, with Stoller’s direction, the two bring its own unique voice to the screen. Here, Segel plays the likable, romantic Peter Bretter who is dumped by his TV-star girlfriend Sarah (Kristen Bell). He is completely devastated and goes into a tremendous funk. His stepbrother (a very funny Bill Hader) suggests he take a vacation and so he does. Without any planning, he heads off to a heavenly resort in scenic Oahu, Hawaii. Can you guess who he bumps into there? Yup. Sarah…in tow with her new boyfriend, Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) who is a world-famous, perverse rock star who can’t get enough of the ladies or himself. Peter is befriended by the hotel’s clerk (Mila Kunis) and all four of them try to make the best of a very awkward situation. A very funny film with out-loud laughs throughout. Segel is an endearing romantic lead who we empathize with and root for. Some added comedy by Paul Rudd and Jonah Hill in supporting roles here as well. Kunis is a striking female ingenue here and is not only heavenly to look at, but is strong and funny in her own right. A great date movie, though not a “chick flick” by any means. Like most films out by this crew, it doesn’t skimp out on the trashy language, sex humor and overall vulgarity….but it never goes off course, managing to keep its heart and charm throughout.

#10. Monsters, Inc. (dir. Pete Docter)

A film for all ages, “Monsters, Inc.” remains my favorite Pixar motion picture so far. Here, Monsters, Inc. is a corporation that hires monsters of all kinds to scare children at night, channeling these nighttime screams into power for the city. However, they are terribly afraid of being infected by these children, so when a little girl named Boo (Mary Gibbs) enters this world, it disrupts the city and mainly the life of the company’s top scarer, Sulley (John Goodman). This is an adorable film, with constant laughs. What Robin Williams did to animated films in “Aladdin,” Billy Crystal does here with his green, one-eyed character, Mike. As Sully’s best friend (and agent in many ways to keep Sully at the #1 spot), Crystal lets the one-liners fly throughout. Steve Buscemi’s voice is perfect for the weasley Randall Boggs and Jennifer Tilly is very sweet as Celia, an employee of the corporation and Mike’s love interest as well. Sulley may be gigantic and intimidating on the outside, but he is just a big cuddly monster at heart and Goodman adds a tremendous warmth and tenderness to him. His bond with Boo is a touching one. The story is innovative, the animation is impressive, the talent inspiring and the movie…simply delightful.

#9. Death at A Funeral (dir. Frank Oz)

Before Hollywood decided to remake this very same film for an American audience — a whopping three years later (shame on you, LaBute), there was this outrageously funny comedy. And I don’t get it…it’s a British friggin’ movie! You didn’t even need to read subtitles or anything!!! Anyway, I have no desire to see the new version, but would recommend to anybody and everybody to rent this movie — for its clever and creative script, pitch-perfect timing, great cast and non-stop hilarity. The patriarch of a highly dysfunctional family dies and it is up to his son Daniel (Mathhew Macfadyen) to organize his funeral. In the gravest of circumstances, all chaos breaks loose and in that chaos, pure comedy: an undertaker screws up his job, his cousin’s fiance accidentally takes acid and is tripping the light-fantastic, his selfish brother flies back from the States, and a handicapped uncle who is an outright pain in the neck. On top of this, is the mysterious presence of a dwarf (Peter Dinklage) who no one seems to know, but threatens to reveal a dark family secret. I remember when I saw this, I could not stop laughing. I’m usually not even much of a fan of British humor, but I instantly fell in love with the characters and the storytelling. There are moments of dark humor to be sure (it’s a funeral for Jiminy’s sake), but most of the comedy is dry as the characters are all put into very compromising positions. There is something very “real” about the characters as well as we sympathize with their mourning, though the film never gets over-dramatic at all. There is also a very “theatrical” feel to it all, as if it had been written for the stage in the same manner as “Noises Off” was — something is always happening, and it comes at you fast — and funny.

#8. Elf (dir. Jon Favreau)

Upon its release in 2003, “Elf” quickly became one of my all-time favorite holiday films thanks to its ever-so enchanting screenplay (David Berenbaum), astute direction, marvelous casting, picturesque art direction and of course, its leading man, Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf. And though I cannot deny that yes, it is a holiday film, I find it much more than that. This is a wonderful motion picture and can make me laugh out loud anytime of the year, including the dog days of summer. From the day he was born, Buddy is an outsider, raised as an elf at the North Pole by his father (how awesome was the casting of the stuttering Bob Newhart as Papa Elf?). Though he tries and tries so very hard to do well, Buddy just creates all kind of havoc while there and is eventually sent to New York City to find his real father — and in the process, finding his real self (how profound is that?!). Will Ferrell is nothing short of marvelous here and his childlike, inexperienced enthusiasm resembles that of Tom Hanks in “Big.” Ferrell is a polished comedian and here, we see him play a role that seems to be unfamiliar terrain to him, and he nails every aspect of it. He takes all of his fervor and energy and manages to put it into a sweet family film rather than his usual fare. Just answering the phone, he picks it up saying, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” and we laugh. In another great casting move, James Caan plays Buddy’s real father…the polar opposite of Buddy who is all work and very little play and has absolutely no time to play in his son’s reindeer games. Ed Asner is a wonderful Santa Claus and Zooey Deschanel is the woman who  steals Buddy’s heart. The love story within this comedy is heartwarming and Deschanel is simply quite captivating. The movie is simply contagious and makes you laugh from beginning to end. “I just like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite,” Buddy says. If you too like to smile, then this is a must-see.

#7. The 40 Year-Old Virgin (dir. Judd Apatow)

After years of writing for television, Apatow made his debut as a film writer/director with this foul-mouthed, yet very appealing movie. Steve Carell (who co-wrote the script) stars as Andy. He’s 40 years old and yes…much to his male friends’ surprise, he’s a virgin! Andy rides a bike to work, his apartment is clustered with collectors’ item action figures and in his spare time, he likes to paint his miniature figurines in silence. He is surely the odd-man out of his bawdy group of male friends that include Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, and Romany Malco. Feeling mounting pressure (no pun intended) by his pals to finally do the deed, Andy meets Trish (Catherine Keener), a single mother with three kids. Because she’s been with a lot of creeps in her past, Trish jokes that they should take it slow and begin their relationship with a no-sex policy…that is fine for Andy and they agree on no sexual activity for the first twenty dates. Carell is perfect here as he creates an awkward, nervous and very endearing character. Andy is a nice guy looking for love — and no one, not even Trish can fathom that such a man still exists (“You know what? I respect women! I love women! I respect them so much that I completely stay away from them!”). Much of the laughs stem from Andy’s sexual naiveté and his lame efforts into bedding a woman. The supporting cast is terrific here. In addition to the aforementioned actors, Elizabeth Banks, Gerry Bednob, and Jane Lynch as Andy’s not-so-discreet boss all make the very best of their running time. The chest-waxing scene became an instant classic and the “You know how I know you’re gay?” repartee is scathingly funny (“You know how I know you’re gay?” “How?” “You like Coldplay.”). “The 40 Year Old Virgin” does not tire with repeated viewings and remains the foundation for the Apatow comedies and the myriad of Apatow-like comedies released since then. I find it amazing that a film so crude and so dirty can still manage to be so pure and engaging. A credit to sir Apatow on finding a wonderful balance.

#6. Thank You For Smoking (dir. Jason Reitman)

One of the truly great satire comedies of recent years, to be sure. Before the over-rated “Juno” and the delightful “Up in the Air,” Reitman wrote and directed this wonderful comedy with an all-star cast. Aaron Eckhart truly shines as Nick Taylor who is the #1 spokesperson for the tobacco industry. Nick loves his job and he is a master at the art of speech and spin. In a time when the health risks involved in smoking are so obvious for all the world to see, Nick’s job has become all the more difficult. But Nick uses his skillset and twisted logic to promote the act of smoking against anyone willing to take him on. His biggest nemesis? Vermont Senator Ortolan Finistirre (a very funny William H. Macy) who wants to bring Taylor and the entire industry down. The script is smart and fast-paced, mocking a number of industries all at once. The supporting cast is wonderful, especially J.K. Simmons, Rob Lowe, Katie Holmes, Sam Elliott and David Koechner. There is also a great subplot following Taylor’s relationship with his 12-year old son Joey, who looks up to him like he’s a superhero. Joey escorts his father on an important business trip and Nick must figure out how to juggle doing his job and being a role model to his adoring son. The MOD Squad (“Merchant of Death”) scenes are very clever as the three lobbyists (for smoking, alcohol and gun control) fight over whose industry has killed more people. Reitman’s dialogue is pitch perfect and very clever. There haven’t been many good satires in recent years, so this stands out even more. A comedy with a lot of bite and a lot to say…

Only five more funny films to go! I will post what I thought to be the 5 Best Comedies of the decade that was 2000-2009 in the next day or two. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts and opinions on the very best comedies of the decade.

All I know is that it’s a sad day when I look at a full decade and realize that Woody Allen or Albert Brooks is not a part of such a list. What did Dylan say? “The Times, They are A-Changin…”

%d bloggers like this: