Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscars: The Good, The Bad, What I was on the Fence On

Check out my Last Edition of this Segment:

Great things about the Oscars:

1. Getting an early start on the awards and saving the best supporting actor for a little into the ceremony-The awards were being given out so fast at first, it was seeming to be a sure bet that they’d clock in at three hours. It’s also good to work your way up to supporting actor

2. Presenting the awards by talking about the process-Every year they seem to mix things up just a little in terms of how they present the awards. Sometimes, they show detailed clips of the editors or show us actual pages of the screenplay. This year they had the directors pay tribute to their technical staffs.

3. Jean DuJardin preserves over the great wall of Clooney-Score one for integrity! Pundits were predicting that because George Clooney is a lovable guy people were thinking he might just pull off a second win. I don’t doubt that George Clooney would be a wonderful guy to hang out with and, when given the right script, he’s a good actor at times. Still, is that enough to justify not one but two Oscars and might we be looking otherwise great guys and better actors by always pointing our cameras at Clooney? In this case, DuJardin was the victor and rightfully so.

4. Three live action directors won Oscars Tonight-Because they only award one per year, there will likely be a lot of great directors who will never be awarded an Oscar, which is why it was a delightful surprise to see two directors get Oscars tonight. Gore Verbinski won in the animated category for Rango while Terry George won for best short. George is best-known for Hotel Rwanda while Verbinski is best known as the man who turned a theme park attraction into one of the most fun blockbuster franchises of recent times with the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy.

5. Billy Crystal Sticking With His Guns-A lot of people thought Crystal was outdated an urged him to do something new. I think a fresher host might have definitely mixed things up but once we were stuck with Crystal, I think he played it as best as he could by sticking to what he did best. I happened to enjoy the song parodies. I also thought Justin Beiber was used quite well. He might have bigger acting chops than Zac Efron.

7. Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell’s best song presentation-This closely mirrors the 2004 Oscar ceremony where Will Ferrell stole the show with Jack Black during the presentation of the same category. Interestingly enough, Galifanakas’s rise to fame came through the Hangover which he got because Jack Black backed out of the movie. Todd Phillips’ stated reaction in a GQ interview: “I thought, 'Fuck this fucker. I'm going to make a new Jack Black out of Zach Galifianakis.” Looks like he succeeded.

8. Best screenplay not matching the winners-It’s nice when the academy can separate the best films from the best screenplays. Oftentimes, (e.g. The Social Network/King’s Speech, Milk/Slumdog Millionaire, and Brokeback Mountain/Crash) the two front-runners split the awards, but this year the Academy had enough foresight to recognize that the best two pictures weren’t especially strong in the screenplay department.

9. Chris Rock reminding us of the days of edgier hosts-Rock’s presentation for best animated film was a pretty good bit and just what the ceremony needed to shake things up.

On the fence:

1. Meryl Streep- Streep last won an Oscar two days after I was born and has since been nominated 12 times without winning. For comparison, no one else has ever been nominated more than 12 times. It was a complete shock and pleasant surprise to finally see Meryl earn her Oscar. At the same time, the reviews I’ve read have indicated that this is the kind of film I hate to see earn nominations in the best actress category: Films made solely for the purpose of winning someone an Oscar in this category. The reviews indicate that this isn’t a strong film at all, and offers little outside of Meryl Streep. Viola Davis was a strong choice too. I’m not sure if I wanted to see Meryl a 13th time so I’m on the fence here. I would have preferred to go back to 2009, and reengineered a Streep victory over Bullock if it comes down to it.

2. Woody Allen winning-On the one hand, it did provide some diversity and it’s slightly different than some of Woody’s other films. It even looks good on paper. At the same time, does Woody need three screenplay awards? Maybe, because he’s been nominated so many times. See, I told you I’m on the fence…I can’t even complete this passage.

3. The Bridesmaids Presentation-A good occasion to have more than one presenter onstage and to also remind us of one of the year’s best films to not make the short list. I’m also pleased that they knocked all those pesky short film categories out in under five minutes. I just personally don’t find double entendres about penis length humor that funny.

4. Brett McKenzie-I’m  a Flight of the Concords fan, but I can’t but feel that in this case it was a little bit of a matter of choosing the more popular guy as of now. I don’t think Brett is comparable to Sergio Mendes as a musician. On the plus side, Brett was very eloquent backstage.


1. Old-Timey Montages-Everything they put in the show means they have to take something out of the show to keep it from being overlong and losing the audiences. Ideally, a montage-heavy Oscars show should only be used every few years when they hit some anniversary. This was done beautifully when they had the 75th Anniversary show in 2003 (I believe this was the 2nd Ceremony I watched) and accompanied it with a living Oscar winners’ reunion. In most other years, it’s out of context, and highly repetitive. If you’re familiar with movies (or remember last year’s ceremony), you’ve seen these scenes before already and if you’re not, you probably won’t care.

3. Jessica Chastain Losing-I’m  not unhappy for Octavia Spencer because she has a great personality and I feel a kinship with people who’s name starts with the same letter as mine. At the same time, Jessica had the stronger performance and also killed it in “Tree of Life” as well.

4. The ceremony mostly being preordained-Stupid guild awards and gluttonous pre-cursor awards. Without them, there might actually be legitimate suspense on everything.

5. Treating the Supporting and Lead Categories Differently-Like the 2010 ceremony, the nominees in the lead categories get to be sweet talked by the presenter while the supporting nominees get shafted. There’s nothing inherently less honorable about acting in a supporting role and it’s pretty clear that Plummer has a better pedigree than DuJardin anyways.

6. Oprah Winfrey gets an honorary award-Oprah Winfrey was in one prestigious movie ever and hasn’t been associated with movies in over 25 years. Albert Finney is still around, let's honor him  instead.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review of "Our Idiot Brother"

“Our Idiot Brother” features Paul Rudd as a congenial hippie named Ned with a penchant for getting himself and others into trouble despite his saint-like good will. One can even make a case that with his long hair and beard, Ned is a thinly-vieled Jesus clone. I’m sure if you graze through other reviews, someone already has.

At the start of the movie, Ned’s working at a farmer’s market with a cop who asks him if he could spare any pot. Ned responds that he’s not an idiot. The officer says, “Come on I’ve had a rough week” and prays on Ned’s compassion. When Ned feels sorry for the guy and decides to give him pot, he’s promptly arrested. That we’re supposed to believe a cop would devote his resources to stinging a recreational pot user is one of the biggest plot holes of the film. The scene might be read as thin social commentary on the War on Drugs, but it underlies the film’s basic question. Is the world an inherently fair place and would an inherently fair person succeed in it?
The characters are all pretty strong with Kathryn Hahn as a hateful hippie (that oxymoron is played for all its worth, don’t worry), Shirley Knight (Oscar-nominated in 1960 and 1962) as the clan’s matriarch and Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschannel, and Elizabeth Banks as the sisters. The three girls in particular boast an excellent chemistry and are well-drawn enough to avoid becoming clich├ęd. Paul Rudd also has great chemistry with TJ Miller and that becomes a most amusing bromance. My only complaint is that while Paul Rudd is many things, he doesn’t come off as that much of a stoner/hippie character. It feels like Rudd was the casting director’s back-up after Owen Wilson or Seth Rogen turned it down.

Overall, it’s a surprisingly good movie. I might even use the adjective endearing here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Updated list of best picture appearances based on 2011

As a result of not having had any time to post throughout the month of February, I'd like to present a list I made when I was born or actors who have now appeared in three or more best picture nominees who appeared in a 2011 nominee:

Tom Hanks 6-Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, Green Mile, Toy Story 3, Extremely Loud and Up Close

Brad Pitt 5-Babel, Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons, Inglorious Basterds, Tree of Life, Moneyball

Sissy Spacek 5-Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Missing, JFK, In the Bedroom, The Help

Max von Sydow 5-Exorcist, Soldier's Story, Hannah and Her Sisters, Awakenings, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Up Close

George Clooney 5-Thin Red Line, Good Night and Good Luck, Michael Clayton, Up in the Air, Descendants

James Cromwell 5-Babe, LA Confidential, The Green Mile, The Queen, The Artist

Christopher Lee 5-Ivanhoe, Lord of the Rings 1-3, Hugo

Allison Janney 4-American Beauty, The Hours, Juno, The Help
Ben Kingsley 4-Gandhi, Bugsy, Schindler's List, Hugo

Beth Grant 4-Rain Man, Little Miss Sunshine, No Country for Old Men, The Artist

Sandra Bullock 3-Crash, Blind Side, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Kathy Bates 3-Titanic, Blind Side, Midnight in Paris

Adrian Brody 3-Thin Red Line, Pianist, Midnight in Paris

Phillip Seymour Hoffman 3-Scent of a Woman, Capote, Moneyball

Viola Davis 3-Traffic, The Help, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close