Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oscar the Slouch

Okay, it's that time of year again. The time of year where a bunch of movies you didn't see are nominated for Academy Awards and you feel this weird anxiety to try to catch up with it for some reason, so watching the Oscars on TV will not be a complete waste of your time. So, you go to the theater and someone tells you there are TEN Best Picture nominees this year and then you throw up your hands, say "fuck it" and go see Adam Sandler's JUST GO WITH IT. You feel comfortable with this because hey, you saw TOY STORY 3 and INCEPTION. Well, you think you saw INCEPTION. You were really drunk at a party and it was on in the background. You at least saw enough commercials for TRUE GRIT to fake your way through a water cooler conversation about it. They made a movie about Facebook? Seriously?

Anyway, they happen this Sunday whether you are prepared for it or not. I personally don't give a fat shit about what a bunch of over the hill industry professionals think is the best of cinema in the year 2011. You came close to returning to relevance, but when THE DARK KNIGHT was ignored in many major categories...the best reviewed, the most talked about, and highest grossing movie of 2008, well I don't want to know about you after that. I know Ledger was nominated and deservedly won an award for it. But that isn't enough. I mean they give the same award that Heath Ledger got for quite possibly the most chilling performance of the last few decades to a person named Mo'Nique for chasing around a little girl with a frying pan like a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Yeah, the Oscars are kind of dead to me. Yet I still have opinions. Hey, it's the internet. What do you want from me?

So, let's picture a world where people eat breakfast for dinner, Christmas takes place in July and DERICKS PICK THE OSCARS! Some of these picks may conflict with my last blog post where I pick my favorite movies of the year. To understand my logic when it comes to deciphering Academy politics, career trajectories and my current mood is a futile exercise. Just strap in and hold on to something.

Best Visual Effects

* Alice in Wonderland – Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas, and Sean Phillips
* Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 – Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz, and Nicolas Aithadi
* Hereafter – Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski, and Joe Farrell
* Inception – Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, and Peter Bebb
* Iron Man 2 – Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright, and Daniel Sudick

The Breakdown: IRON MAN 2 had a guy slicing race cars with electric ropes, which is cool. INCEPTION fooled people into thinking Christopher Nolan figured out a way to make people float in midair (fizzy lifting drinks?). DEATHLY HALLOWS almost had a naked Emma Watson, ALMOST, so that's out. HEREAFTER, I didn't see. I would saw ALICE IN WONDERLAND was the most impressive. I've never met Helena Bonham Carter or Crispin Glover but I would wager that her head is NOT that big and he is most definitely not a rubber man. Movie magic! Also, there was that severely awkward Mad Hatter dance at the end. Oscars are jokes. Give that dance an Oscar.

Best Art Direction

* Alice in Wonderland – Art Direction: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara
* Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 – Art Direction: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
* Inception – Art Direction: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
* The King's Speech – Art Direction: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
* True Grit – Art Direction: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

I would give this to HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART I - EPISODE IV - SEGEMENT 10 because I prefer to have my fantasy epics look like smokey ash trays. On that note, ALICE looked pretty blurry too. I've had enough fog machine effects at my 8th grade dances, thank you. I don't need them in movies.

Best Original Score

* 127 Hours – A.R. Rahman
* How to Train Your Dragon – John Powell
* Inception – Hans Zimmer
* The King's Speech – Alexandre Desplat
* The Social Network – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

As much as I love blaring air horns, I just don't think this is Zimmer's year. His work was definitely memorable. I can't walk through an airport without hearing the final bits of his INCEPTION score or seeing a bunch of people I saw in my dreams. I think this one belongs to Trent. It's very Clint Eastwood-esque. Yes, Clint Eastwood also scores movies. It's fun to add exes on Facebook while listening to this score. I highly suggest it. It is so choice.

Best Original Song

* "Coming Home" from Country Strong – Bob DiPiero, Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey, and Troy Verges
* "I See the Light" from Tangled – Alan Menken and Glenn Slater
* "If I Rise" from 127 Hours – A.R. Rahman, Rollo Armstrong, and Dido
* "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3 – Randy Newman

Sorry, A.R. Rahman. Maybe if the Pussycat Dolls covered it, I would have remembered it. COUNTRY STRONG is something I saw late in the year and fell in love with. If it was a CW series, I'd watch it every week. And it could be, too. It's the mellowest drama you could ever hope to enjoy and "Coming Home" not only shows us how awesome Gwyneth Paltrow's voice is, but (not to spoil anything) brings her character full circle. Wait, nobody saw COUNTRY STRONG? Oh. How did they make Joseph Gordon-Levitt fly like that? Whoa. I feel incepted.

Best Animated Short Film

* Day & Night – Teddy Newton
* The Gruffalo – Max Lang and Jakob Schuh
* Let's Pollute – Geefwee Boedoe
* The Lost Thing – Andrew Ruhemann and Shaun Tan
* Madagascar, a Journey Diary – Bastien Dubois

Honestly, if you saw any of the shorts other than the one that was on the HIGHEST GROSSING MOVIE OF THE YEAR, then by all means, email me your thoughts and I will post them in this section. 'Let's Pollute' sounds awesome, though.

Best Documentary – Feature

* Exit Through the Gift Shop – Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
* Gasland – Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
* Inside Job – Charles H. Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
* Restrepo – Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
* Waste Land – Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley

I have only seen one these again. I am horrible at this so far. I know that INSIDE JOB is a documentary on why our economy went to shit. Ah, cinematic escapism at it's finest. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP lit the hipster world aflame. It's not about the end of theme park ride queues like I was hoping, but about this street artist who becomes a big deal after an even bigger street artist helps him become a big deal. I know many people that loved this. I just don't understand it. I am not one to rain on anyone's parade, but I think there is a lack of love in this category for WINNEBAGO MAN and BEST WORST MOVIE, which both made my top ten list. Whenever I get depressed about this kind of thing, I just remember the name Mo'Nique and move on with my life.

Best Animated Feature

* How to Train Your Dragon – Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
* The Illusionist – Sylvain Chomet
* Toy Story 3 – Lee Unkrich

I take issue with the fact that the Academy really limits the animation category to just three films. I know there wasn't a lot to praise this year unless you thought that movie where Justin Long and Hayden Panfriedtiara played wolves on a road trip was positively earth shattering. But the category itself is kind of like the kiddie table at Thanksgiving dinner. It's going to take a whole hell of a lot for voters to consider giving a Best Picture win to a cartoon while this is still around. Sure, with the new ten Best Picture nominees, Pixar has managed to edge itself in for the past two years. But I still think it takes away from the impact of the nomination. I think TOY STORY 3 should stand a fantastic chance to take the big prize home, but the reality is that it's not really in contention. Does animation or even plain old moviemaking get any better than TOY STORY 3? No. There you go again, Oscar. Making those same ol' DARK KNIGHT mistakes again.

Oh, and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON should win.

Best Writing – Original Screenplay

* Another Year – Mike Leigh
* The Fighter – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson
* Inception – Christopher Nolan
* The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
* The King's Speech – David Seidler

This is kind of a weird category. THE FIGHTER and KING'S SPEECH are true stories. INCEPTION was prooooobably based on a dream by Nolan. And Mike Leigh's nomination? Well, I just consider all British stories based on true stories. THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT dared suggest that well-to-do Southern Californian lesbians who only buy local produce and named their kid Lazer somehow consume meat on a regular basis. Suggesting that they are anything less than vegan is a pretty fucking original thought to me. So, here's your Oscar, Cholodenko. Akiva Goldsman has one, why not you?

Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay

* 127 Hours – Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy from Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
* The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin from The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
* Toy Story 3 – Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich; characters based on Toy Story and Toy Story 2
* True Grit – Ethan Coen and Joel Coen from True Grit by Charles Portis
* Winter's Bone – Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini from Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell

Finally, a meaty category. Making someone stuck in a crack interesting for 90 minutes is a pretty tough feat. Making us on the edge of our seat is even harder and I think they did it. 127 HOURS as a screenplay is one of a kind storytelling. TOY STORY 3 is probably the most important story for my generation's continued growth as adults. TRUE GRIT was classic Coen brother thriller/comedy/amazing entertainment and WINTER'S BONE was a movie I saw. The edge is clearly given to THE SOCIAL NETWORK for being what is probably the best screenplay to come out in a few years. I have a feeling Fincher and producers did not meddle with this one too much and allowed Aaron Sorkin to do what he does best. Having people at the top of their game work together without too much interference from the other cogs in the machine is incredibly rare, and I think a script like this is something that comes around once in a blue moon.

Best Supporting Actor

* Christian Bale – The Fighter as Dicky Eklund
* John Hawkes – Winter's Bone as Teardrop
* Jeremy Renner – The Town as James "Jem" Coughlin
* Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right as Paul
* Geoffrey Rush – The King's Speech as Lionel Logue

Christian Bale hopped around a lot as Dicky Eklund in THE FIGHTER and proved that he can definitely ACT like a crazy person when the duty calls for it. WINTER'S BONE... Jeremy Renner is probably getting residual HURT LOCKER love and Geoffrey Rush is a worthy candidate for an Oscar this year, delivering a very entertaining and uplifting performance. But Mark Ruffalo played a dude to utter pitch perfect percision who had the FUCKING BALLS to ride into the lives of two lesbians with his BMW motorbike and try to have a relationship with the kids that he fathered through sperm donation. The kids sought him out, and the parents are none to pleased about him. But never once do I think Ruffalo is not in control of the situation. He is so cool and slick and offsets the browbeating he gets from every member of that family that a reward is in order. For the past three years, the Best Supporting Actor award has basically been The Javier Bardem Award for Excellence in Bad Ass Villainy with Bardem as Anton Chigruh, Heath Ledger as The Joker and Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa all taking home the trophy. I say, let the reign of terror be over and rename the award The Mark Ruffalo Cool as Cucumber Award for most Laid Backness while the White Upper Class Try to Get You Down. Long title, but I want to see more of these guys.

Best Supporting Actress

* Amy Adams – The Fighter as Charlene Fleming
* Helena Bonham Carter – The King's Speech as Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon / Queen Elizabeth
* Melissa Leo – The Fighter as Alice Ward
* Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit as Mattie Ross
* Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom as Janine "Smurf" Cody

As much as I want to give the award to a lady playing a Smurf, I think TRUE GRIT should get some true recogniton (shoot me) through it's most surprising asset. Li'l Haliee Steinfeld. Her burden in this movie is almost too much for a girl of any age, and this 14 year old shows a staunch bravery and determination that you just can't fake. She gives a performance that is more than solid, because she's going toe to toe with some of the most hard ass actors working today at their most hard assiest. Never does the character of Mattie Ross feel like she doesn't belong at the side of Rooster Cogburn, tracking the no good bum that killed her father. It takes Cogburn far too much longer to see what the audience sees fairly quickly. Ruin this young girl's life with an Oscar please. Heroin ain't cheap.

Best Actor

* Javier Bardem – Biutiful as Uxbal
* Jeff Bridges – True Grit as Rooster Cogburn
* Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network as Mark Zuckerberg
* Colin Firth – The King's Speech as Prince Albert / King George VI
* James Franco – 127 Hours as Aron Ralston

Bridges is pretty amazing as Rooster Cogburn, even if we don't know half of what comes out of his mouth. Jessie Eisenberg is great too, internalizing the fears and regrets of Mark Zuckerberg and channeling them into chilling ambition. I just do not understand all the hullabaloo about Colin Firth in KING'S SPEECH it is a fine performance, do not get me wrong. But it was not that slow of a year. The evidence that James Franco should be the first Oscar host to win an Oscar while he's hosting is all in the scene where he interviews himself with his camera while he's stuck in the crack. At the same time, he's clearly gone insane while simultaneously showing restrained remorse for his simple but epic mistake. It should be shown in every acting class because at no point does Franco ever lose subtly which seems impossible considering what I just described. He never mugs or overdoes it. I can't even compare that scene to anything else I've ever seen. It's such a deserved moment for the character. When I was younger, I always thought I would be the first Oscar host to win an Oscar on the air. How adorable am I?

Best Actress

* Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right as Nic
* Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole as Becca Corbett
* Jennifer Lawrence – Winter's Bone as Ree Dolly
* Natalie Portman – Black Swan as Nina Sayers
* Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine as Cindy

None of the women in this category are even close to being in the same league as Michelle Williams. She seems to be that rare breed of actress that actually cares about the roles she gets and doesn't bother herself with being cast in empty romantic comedies (I'm looking at you, Hershlaag). She seems to always find great roles, albeit in small under seen films. Williams plays a woman in two stages of her life, falling in and out of love with the man whom she married. Williams has her fucking shit together in this one convincing us that even though she's breaking the heart of probably the most charming character of the decade, that she's not the bad guy. Threads of the same emotions tether the two different time periods together while still being different. This is professional work here. She creates a living, breathing person who probably exists a thousand times over in this world. Someone we invest far too much emotion to in two hours, who leaves our hearts shattered in the wake of the closing credits. She probably won't win, but I think she accomplished a career highlight this year.

Best Director

* Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
* Ethan Coen and Joel Coen – True Grit
* David Fincher – The Social Network
* Tom Hooper – The King's Speech
* David O. Russell – The Fighter

Three of these knuckleheads do not deserve to be here. First off, Darren Aronofsky lost the very little credibility he had left with me the second that goose neck shot into the air. More on that later. There is/was nothing special about the way Tom Hooper made THE KING'S SPEECH and David O. Russell made a gigantic SNL sketch. We are missing Danny Boyle and Christopher Nolan up in dis bitch. Some dudes that really threw their fucking balls over the wall this year. Edgar Wright created the first ever live action comic book this year. I would give the award to him if there was any justice in this world. But Fincher definitely deserves an Oscar for his amazing films. And this one is a return to form after all that razzle dazzle bullshit with BENJAMIN BUTTON. Fincher has a lot of style, and it's what he's known for. But with ZODIAC and now SOCIAL NETWORK, he told a compelling story about fascinating characters while leaving all the movie magic to work in silence in the background. Tons of people didn't figure out that Armie Hammer played both twins, or that on a consistant basis, Hammer's face was CGI'd onto a double. It's the ideal kind of special effects at work throughout the movie. Where you don't know special effects are happening. I think he's got a strong chance of winning, and I'm glad it's for some of his best work.

Best Picture

* 127 Hours – Danny Boyle and Christian Colson
* Black Swan – Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, and Brian Oliver
* The Fighter – David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, and Mark Wahlberg
* Inception – Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas
* The Kids Are All Right – Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, and Celine Rattray
* The King's Speech – Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, and Gareth Unwin
* The Social Network – Dana Brunetti, Ce├ín Chaffin, Michael De Luca, and Scott Rudin
* Toy Story 3 – Darla K. Anderson
* True Grit – Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, and Scott Rudin
* Winter's Bone – Alix Madigan and Anne Rosellini

Ah, the big nut. Don't get scared now. We've talked about all of these films a bit already, but let's boil them down. 127 HOURS is perfect and triumphant. BLACK SWAN had the audacity to SPOILERS -----------have Portman be turning into a fucking swan. If you're going to be retarded, at least be COMPLETELY retarded and give me a swangirl monster eating everyone that showed up to the ballet. No, we get a regurgitated THE WRESTLER ending. Fuck you, Aronofsky. Stop contributing to the continued ruination of my beloved Wolverine character in film and go peddle your maudlin art house garbage elsewhere. THE FIGHTER is a joke, inside and out. INCEPTION is a good watch, and satisfying entertainment. I'll allow it to hang out here. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is one long awkward staredown between the screen and your eyes. THE SOCIAL NETWORK is better than we deserve. TOY STORY 3 is the triumph and crown jewel of the best studio in Hollywood. TRUE GRIT is the Coens delivering on the promise that they are the most consistantly entertaining filmmakers working today and WINTER'S BONE wandered in here probably looking for the bathroom. You're lost, WINTER'S BONE! You have no business in here, take it outside! It's incredibly rare when my favorite movie of the year gets nominated for Best Picture. Hell, three of them made the list this time around. I think the 10 nominees idea is actually starting to work. TOY STORY 3 is the winner in my heart, but realistically I will root for THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Just today I told someone that there is no difference between what you want to win and what should win. Well, this is my blog and in the McWorld, kids rule. So I'm putting it that way.

Now that awards season is over, let's stop pretending that most of these movies were ever actually important and venture into more classic territory...

Which is exactly what we'll do next time on PICTURE START. If any of this opinion actually makes you some money in the Oscar pools, I want my cut.

- D

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