Friday, April 23, 2010

Acting Oscars in an alternate universe

Acting Oscars in an alternate universe:
I'm just sort of reimagining the Oscars here dating back to 1989. I tried to keep myself to a certain number of rules in limiting what I wanted and what was realistic. One rule was that the number of Oscar winners in the alternate version must equal the number of Oscar winners in history. For example, if I penciled in Russell Crowe for a second Oscar, that would make it one less Oscar winner total. It was a matter of balancing multiple Oscar winners with single Oscar winners.
Secondary rules were to balance dues, be realistic in who would win, and make sure that as many of the deserving actors, if I deprived them an award somewhere, I'd give it back to them later.
By dues, I mean the dues that go into whether an actor wins an Oscar is dependent on whether they've won one before and if so, how recently that would be.

Without further ado, let's start:
Best Actor: Tom Cruise, Born on the Fourth of July*
Best Supporting Actor: Martin Landau, Crimes and Misdemeanors*
Best Actress: Jessica Tandy, Driving Miss Daisy
Best Supporting Actress
: Brenda Fricker, My Left Foot
I was originally planning to just do the 20-year period of the 90's and 00's but I needed to strip Denzel Washington of his 89 supporting Oscar to even things out so I went back a year.

In this year, I decided to give the Oscar to Tom Cruise becasue as I wrote in a seperate post, Cruise really needs an Oscar somewhere for the good of Hollywood. I picked Cruise to get the Oscar for 4th of July because I realized when I replaced Day-Lewis for Brody in 2002, I deprived history of its first and only Best Actor winner under 30-years old. To take his place, I thought, I could either give it to Tom Cruise for Born on the 4th or snub Ryan Gosling for Lars and the Real Girl and I chose the former being that the latter wasn't particularly likely.

Best Actor: Jeremy Irons, Reversal of Fortune
Best Supporting Actor: Joe Pesci, Goodfellas
Best Actress: Kathy Bates, Misery
Best Supporting Actress
: Anjelica Huston, Grifters*
Everything here is kept as is. Kathy Bates performance in Misery was iconic and Joe Pesci gave one of the best supporting roles ever so there's no need to change either of them. Jeremy Irons is a well-respected theater veteran who deserves nothing less than an Oscar. I was considering keeping Whoopi Goldberg because she couldn't guest-star on 30 Rock as an INGOT winner without this award.

Best Actor: Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs
Supporting Actor: Harvey Keitel, Bugsy*
Actress: Laura Dern, Rambling Rose*
Supporting Actress: Amanda Plummer, Fisher King**
In 1991, I wanted to take the opportunity to reward either Bugsy and JFK with an acting Oscar and I ended up going with Harvey Keitel. Tommy Lee Jones and Ben Kingsley both deserve Oscars elsewhere and being that I found room for that, I thought I'd reward Harvey Keitel for his fairly distinguished career as mobster Mickey Cohen in Bugsy.
I decree Jodie Foster needn't have two Oscars so I took her Silence of the Lambs win away. This prevents Silence of the Lambs from being just the third film to win actor, actress, director, screenplay, and picture, but it's just a horror film anyway. Laura Dern is also Hollywood royalty and has had a relatively respectable career. Shy paramour Amanda Plummer stuck out more in The Fisher King than nagging girlfriend Mercedes Ruehl in my opinion.

Best Actor: Al Pacino, Scent of a Woman
Supporting Actor: Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven
Best Actress: Susan Sarandan, Lorenzo's Oil*
Best Supporting Actress: Greta Sacchi, Player**
I initially had thoughts of rewarding "The Player"'s Tim Robbins for his role as a creepy Hollywood executive a little too willing to get away with cold-blooded manslaughter. It would have compensated for my not awarding Robbins in 2003 and I still wanted to give him an Oscar (his acting wins me over, his politics don't). I was considering bumping Pacino down to supporting for Glengarry Glenn Ross but after 7 failed noms, Pacino deserves better than supporting actor. I could have even awarded Pacino a second supporting nom and a 9th nomination with the Insider in 1999 but I decided that Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman is one of my favorite performances and one that I needed to defend against the detractors and I feel equally highly of Eastwood in Unforgiven. I wanted to give Susan Sorandon something. 

A chance to void Marissa Thomei's controversial win, fortunately, gave me the opportunity to award Altman's film with a win for unnominated Greta Scacchi, who played the "Ice Queen"-Robbins' equally dark lover whom he meets in the most immoral of circumstances.

Best Actor: Tom Hanks, Philadelphia
Supporting Actor: Ralph Feinnes, Schindler's List*
Best Actress: Holly Hunter, Piano
Best Supporting Actress: Anna Paquin, Piano

As a fan of Anna Paquin and Holly Hunter, I didn't want to mess with their Oscar wins and the back-to-back wins that defined Hanks career (as well as cinema in the 90's) didn't need tampering either. Tommy Lee Jones gets his own down the road, and Ralph Feinnes one of the UK's finest, gets his for Schindler's List.

Best Actor: Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump
Best Supporting Actor: Martin Landau, Ed Wood
Best Actress: Jessica Lange, Blue Sky
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Tilly, Bullets over Broadway*
94 was such a great cinematic year and I didn't really want to mess with anything here. I like that also-rans Ed Wood and Bullets Over Broadway got love in the acting categories and I think Jessica Lange (in a bizarre win) deserves a second Oscar. I switched Dianne Weist for Jennifer Tilly, however. This avoided a double win for Weist, who's career has been unremarkable.

Best Actor: Sean Penn, Dead Man Walking
Best Supporting Actor: Ed Harris, Apollo 13*
Best Actress: Elizabeth Shue, Leaving Las Vegas
Best Supporting Actress: Mira Sorvino, Mighty Aphrodite
Apollo 13 is my favorite film of the 90's and wanted to award Ed Harris for it, who conveys all the tension and drama of the space race with his frenetic pacing as mission director Gene Kranz. Presidential portraits seem award-worthy enough and giving Hopkins a second Oscar ensures that he won't be remembered just for his performance as a serial killer. Let's switch up Dead

Best Actor: Ralph Feinnes, English Patient
Best Supporting Actor: Armin Muehler-Stahl, Shine*
Best Actress: Frances McDormand, Fargo
Best Supporting Actress Juliette Binoche, The English Patient
James Woods for Ghosts of Mississippi and Tom Cruise were under consideration here. I wasn't particularly impressed with Rush in Shine but I felt Rush deserved an Oscar and couldn't give it to him in 2000 or 1998. Gooding Jr. who has single-handedly diminished the value of the award with poor post-Oscar career choices, gets to be erased and a man with a mesmerizing performances gets in instead.

Best Actor: Rob Duvall, The Apostle*
Best Supporting Actor: Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting
Best Actress: Helena Bohman Carter, Wings of the Dove*
Best Supporting Actress: Kim Bassinger, LA Confidential

Best Actor: Joseph Feinnes, Shakespeare in Love**
Best Supporting Actor: James Coburn, Affliction
Best Actress: Fernando Montonegro, Central Station*
Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Griffith, Hillary and Jackie*

Best Actor: Matt Damon, Talented Mr. Ripley**
Best Supporting Actor: Michael Clarke Duncan, Green Mie*
Best Actress: Annette Benning, American Beauty*
Best Supporting Actress: Chloe Seveigny, Boys Don't Cry*

Best Actor: Russell Crowe, Gladiator
Best Supporting Actor: Benicio del Toro, Traffic
Best Actress: Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovitch
Best Supporting Actress: Kate Hudson, Almost Famous*

Best Actor: Russell Crowe, Beautiful Mind*
Best Supporting Actor:Jon Voight,Ali*
Best Actress: Halle Berry, Monster's Ball
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Connelly, Beautiful Mind

Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York
Best Supporting Actor: Dennis Quaid, Far From Heaven**
Best Actress: Rene Zellweger, Chicago*
Best Supporting Actress: Meryl Streep, Adaptation*

Best Actor: Ben Kinglsey, House of Sand and Fog*
Best Supporting Actor: Jonny Depp, Pirates of the Carribean**
Best Actress: Charlize Theron, Monster
Best Supporting Actress: Scarlett Johannsen, Lost in Translation**

Best Actor: Jamie Foxx, Ray
Best Supporting Actor: Alec Baldwin, Aviator**
Best Actress: Hillary Swank,, Million Dollar Baby
Best Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen, Sideways*

Best Actor: Joaquin Pheonix, Walk the Line*
Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney, Syriana
Best Actress: Reese Whitherspoon, Walk the Line
Best Supporting Actress: Rachel Weicz, Constant Gardener

Best Actor: Ken Wattanabe, Letters from Iwo Jima**
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, Little Miss Sunshine
Best Actress: Judi Dench, Notes on a Scandal*
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, Dreamgirls

Best Actor: Virgo Mortgensen, Eastern Promises*
Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, No Country for Old Men**
Best Actress: Julie Christie, Away from Her*
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, I'm Not There*

Best Actor: Sean Penn, Milk
Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, Dark Knight
Best Actress: Kate Winselt, Reader
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Milk

Best Actor: Morgan Freeman, Invictus*
Best Supporting Actor: Christophe Waltz, Inglorious Basterds
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, Last Station*
Best Supporting Actress: Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air*

Existing multiple oscar winners who have lost Oscars (unless otherwise noted, they've gone from 2 oscars to 1 oscar) in my multiple reality: Jodie Foster, Michael Caine, Jack Nicholson (3 Oscars to 2 Oscars), Hillary Swank, Kevin Spacey (2 to 0), Denzel Washington
Existing Oscar-winners who have gained an Oscar in this alternate timeline: People who have gone from 1 oscar to 2 oscars (or 2 to 3): Meryl Streep, Rob Duvall, Ben Kingsley, Martin Landau, Julie Christie, Russell Crowe, Anjelica Huston, Jon Voight

People who no longer have Oscars: Mo'nique, Jeff Bridges, Jim Broadbent, Gwenyth Paltrow, Cuba Gooding Jr., Maria Thomei, Chris Cooper, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Nicole Kidman, Adrian Brody, Roberto Begnini, Whoopi Goldberg, Sandra Bullock, Helen Hunt, Marion Cotillard

People who are now suddenly very much due an Oscar: Nicole Kidman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kevin Spacey

Long due people who now finally have an Oscar in this alternate timeline: Ed Harris, Annette Benning, Ralph Feinnes, Tom Cruise, Lynn Redgrave, Harvey Keitel


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Film #28: Blind Side: A Post-Racial Movie?

Again, to give me revenue, pleeease click here:

Still have watched zero films in 2010 in hopes of keeping up my films in 2009:

The Blind Side:
The Blind Side is one of the beneficiaries of the expanded field having rode sedimental appeal, a star performance, and a respectable box office draw to an Oscar nomination for best picture.
The film tells the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless teenager who became an NFL player and college graduate with the help of a loving family (played by Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw).

The story runs into the same problem as Invictus in the sense that by being true to the events as they happened, there is a lack of conflict. In Invictus, Morgan Freeman says, "hey everyone, I want to cheer for the rugby team" and Matt Damon says "sure" and everyone else says "ok, let's all cheer for the rugby team." That's what actually happened in history and there's no shortage of heartwarming moments but there's definitely a lack of dramatic tension.

Similarly, in the Blind Side, I might have expected, due to the fact that the story takes place in Central Tennessee and a white family is taking in a black teenager that it would be story largely about racism. In real life, however, Leigh Ann Tuohy was remarkably colorblind and so was her husband and the movie doesn't dare contradict that. A couple confused relatives and a suspicious NCAA infractions investigator is about all we get for a reminder of racial tension in the deep south, but hey, it's the post-racial era, what can we expect?

Unlike Invictus, however, this is a picture that works. The drama is authentic but it also engages because it's centered around a struggle that takes many forms and stages: the central figure has to learn to open himself up, to trust, to succeed on the field and in the classroom, etc.

As for the acting:
Sandra Bullock has a strong consistency to the way she approaches the character. The real-life woman is somewhat of an enigma in her motivations and Bullock makes it believable. Bullock won an Oscar for this role but I would have just given her a nom. Streep gave a better performance in my opinion.

Quinton Aaron is amazing and had as much of a role in carrying the movie as Bullock. He has such presence (partially because of his size) but appears so uncomfortable with that presence at first and gradually transform into it.

And wow, Tim McGraw. I once dated a girl who had a humongous crush on Tim McGraw and I was not only jealous of him because of the way she'd talk about him, but I also didn't think much of him: it seemed like he was trying too hard to create this cowboy image. I now see he has the ability to shed that and reinvent himself.

Kathy Bates shouldn't be so heavily advertised because her role basically amounts to a cameo.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Film 27: Food Inc.

Food Inc.:
I think I still struggle with the nonfiction genre. Whether I'm qualified to judge anything is variable, because I'm just blogging, but if I were to draw the line somewhere as what I know and don't know, it would be documentaries. By and large, I'm not even a fan of the documentary as the ideal medium.

Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock make great documentaries because Spurlock makes it into a story arc and Moore is just plain entertaining and inflammatory.

I think this particular film is educational and it's interesting, but there's no reason that it wouldn't make an equally great coffee table book or museum exhibit.

So on the whole, the film educated me and by the end of the film I was passionate about something that was wrong in society and needed fixing. The film accomplished it's goal by that end. As for whether the film was entertaining, to some degree yes, but I might have gotten more entertainment in a different format.

The film even comes across like reading a book as it is divided up into different chapters: one on corn, one on costs, one on the cover-ups of government. There's even the filmic equivalent of an introductory blurb in the form of an introductory segment before the title credits that anyone can download or stream for free.

The film makes a few sharp points filmically. The juxtaposition of the wholesome rural image on food products in supermarkets against the very unpleasant image of real life farm life is poignant. There's also one scene in which the top of the roof is shown with text that tells us the animals never receive sunlight.

It's a difficult call to make as to whether this is suited to film but it did empassion me to the issue. Far more than Supersize Me, in fact.

Film 26: The Informant!

The Informant! and Food Inc.

"The Informant!" is an adaptation of Kurt Eichenwald's expose on a most curious price-fixing scandal on account of the fact that the whistle blower was an unideal candidate for the FBI to work with because he was pretty much nuts.

Everything is pretty much up in the air here. Mark Whitacre (played by Matt Damon), a top executive at a food enrichment products company, might be tipping off the CIA to an enormous price-fixing scandal to cover up for a smaller lie he made up, because his wife is nagging him to, because amid all the racing thoughts in his head (this is one of the main motifs of the film as that internal monologue is done by Matt Damon in voice over) he just hasn't thought it through, or because he sees it as some convoluted master plan to get a big raise and take over management. Stephen Soderbergh, one of the premiere directors of the decade, is a master of experimentation and here he is experimenting with story to a great degree: The story is constantly in flux because the plot is driven by what's going on in the protagonist's head, and the the viewer is never entirely sure what is going on there.

That being said, sometimes the movie comes off as cleverer than it thinks it is, expecting the viewer to jump on board every twist that comes aboard every 3 minutes. The score comes off as a little desperate. It reminds me of how hard the film is trying to market itself as a comedy when it's really nothing of the sort.

The cast is also the most curious thing I've ever seen in my life. I would imagine that the kind of supporting roles needed for this movie would have gone to character actors like Alec Baldwin, Tom Wilkinson, Brian Cox, and Chris Cooper.

Never in a million years if I were to make a movie about a price fixing scandal at an industrial company would I have thought: Joel McHale from the Soup (he hadn't yet done Community) or Scott Bakula from Quantum Leap/Star Trek with more minor roles going to Arrested Development's Tony Hale, 30 Rock's Scott Adsit, Best Week Ever's Paul Thompkins, and Back to the Future's Thomas Wilson.

I don't think I mind because these guys are all just as serviceable as the serious choices. I mean, it makes sense, Scott Bakula is a trained actor and probably needs a job, I'm just surprised.

More power to Stephen Soderbergh, I guess, he probably saved a lot of money.