Monday, February 28, 2011

Post Oscar Bliss 2011

Another year, Another Oscars

Here's to hoping they return to using comedians to host the show instead of using movie stars. It worked with Hugh Jackman. Alec Baldwin had Steve Martin with him. James Franco and Anne Hathaway? It didn't work. Although, it might have. Anne Hathaway alone would have worked better in my opinion. I like James Franco, but they didn't use what he's best at. And one would think Seth Rogen would have popped up somewhere in a bit. Hathaway was charming and funny, but yelled "Wooooo!!!" FAR too often. All in all, it was still an entertaining 3 hours.

I can't really complain about my #3 movie of 2010 winning Best Picture, although it did end my streak of having my #1 and Best Picture syncing up. (If you can call 2 years in a row a streak). The King's Speech is a fine film. But I think The Social Network will be considered a classic. Several Oscar pundits compared a King's Speech victory over Social Network to How Green Was My Valley beating Citizen Kane. In yesterday's blog, I compared it to Rocky beating Network, but I would say now it's more akin to No Country for Old Men beating There Will Be Blood. Both highly respectable movies, but the latter simply expected to be more memorable as time passes. I mean, I doubt anyone in 1941 thought Citizen Kane would be regarded as the greatest movie ever made, so you can't really fault the Academy for not getting it right at the time. I would have liked The Social Network to have won, but The King's Speech isn't exactly an embarrassing choice.

I have to admit though, early on in the night, I was thinking King's Speech might not win. Art Direction and Cinematography were two categories where it was a strong contender. Alice in Wonderland winning was not as big a surprise as Inception taking Cinematography. In fact, at that point, I was anxiously awaiting Original Screenplay. If King's Speech lost there to Inception, there might be an upset of epic proportions, i.e. Inception as Best Picture. But it didn't happen.

5 biggest surprises of the night:

1. David Fincher losing Best Director. It shouldn't be a surprise since Tom Hooper did win the DGA, but to me, it was a surprise. I did learn that Hooper directed half the HBO miniseries John Adams, so maybe he's not some noob who just got lucky and we'll never like anything else he ever does. (I'm looking at YOU, John Madden!)

2. Randy Newman gets a 2nd Oscar for a song that sounds like it could be about stalking. He won for "We Belong Together". His first win was for "If I Didn't Have You".

3. A rock star wins Best Score. It's rare when rock stars are nominated, period. Daft Punk got snubbed this year. Danny Elfman and Clint Mansell have been snubbed repeatedly. Oscar geeks still gripe about the There Will Be Blood snub. So, it was nice to see the Academy give a non-traditional score recognition, especially to a very non-traditional rock star.

4. True Grit goes 0 for 10. I would have gotten 15 right if I avoided True Grit. It should also be mentioned that this is the second year in a row that the Coen Brothers got a Best Picture nomination and didn't win a single award. Although, A Serious Man going 0 for 2 was not as surprising.

5. Almost HALF of the 10 Best Picture nominees went home empty handed. Four to be exact. Last year was the first year of the experiment of returning to 10 nominees. How many went home empty handed last year? 4. I'm detecting a trend.

And now, for the most popular segment of my annual Post Oscar Bliss, your nominees for Best Picture at the 84th Annual Academy Awards.

Before I get to that though (channeling Kirk Douglas here), here are the films I picked to be nominated for last night:

How Do You Know
Tree of Life
Love and Other Drugs
The Social Network
The American
Eat, Pray, Love
The Debt

So 2 of them were actually nominated for Best Picture. (The Social Network and Inception. Yay me!) Hereafter got a single nomination. Secretariat had its supporters, namely Roger Ebert. The American and Eat Pray Love failed to live up to expectations. 2 got pushed back to Summer 2011 (Tree of Life and The Debt). How Do You Know and Love and Other Drugs were outright bombs.

So, you're 2011 Best Picture nominees will be:

1. Tree of Life - Rather than rehash what I said last year, here's the trailer:

2. The War Horse - Steven Spielberg seems like a shoo-in most any year. Particularly in years where he puts out 2 films: A serious picture and an audience pleaser. It worked in 1993 (Jurassic Park/Schindler's List) and 2005 (War of the Worlds/Munich), but not in 1997 (Lost World/Amistad) or 2002 (Minority Report/Catch Me If You Can), but it can easily be argued that in a 10 picture year, Amistad and Catch would have made the cut. Usually, however, it's been one film released in the summer and one at Christmas. Right now, and I can only assume this will change, The War Horse is scheduled to be released on December 28. Spielberg's other film, The Adventures of Tintin is scheduled for release on December 23. Peculiar.

3. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - The first in the Millennium trilogy being directed by David Fincher has a lot of things going for it. For one, the Swedish version of the film did well at the box office. Two, the novels are still pretty popular. Three, it's a unique story in that it is a classic, Hollywood-style mystery told in a very, non-traditional way. And after The Social Network and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the Academy will be itching to give some love to Fincher.

4. Hugo Cabret - Speaking of mysteries, here's another one that I think could get some play. It's about a young boy who lives in a train station. He's very resourceful and solves mysteries with the help of a young girl. You're probably wondering what the hell I'm thinking even including such a childish movie on this list. It doesn't sound like an Oscar contender at all. Until you read who's behind it. John Logan, who wrote the screenplays for Gladiator, The Aviator and Sweeney Todd. How can it not, right? Oh. Did I fail to mention it's directed by Martin Scorsese? Yeah. I think I left that part out. :)

5. Anonymous - Sometimes, it's fun to throw one of these out there even though you know it sounds like it could be a spectacularly bad film. Choosing a film starring Rhys Ifans, Joely Richardson, David Thewlis and Vanessa Redgrave isn't exactly a huge gamble. All are respected actors. A fictionalized costume drama set in the Elizabethan era involving politics, greed and Shakespeare certainly has some Academy appeal, I'm sure. But, unlike Hugo Cabret, which gets on this list because of its director, Anonymous is a shocking addition to this list because of who is helming it. The reigning king of disaster movies, Roland Emmerich. God, I hope this makes it.

6. The Whistleblower - Academy award winning actors Rachel Weisz and Vanessa Redgrave. Academy Award nominee David Straithairn. Political film involving the UN cover up of sex trafficking in Bosnia. And it's a comedy? Okay. I'm kidding about the last part. But this does sound like Oscar bait to me.

7. We Bought a Zoo - Matt Damon, Scarlett Johannson and Thomas Haden Church in a film about a guy who buys a zoo and deals with his wife dying of brain cancer. Hey. It's the latest from Cameron Crowe. Why not?

8. Larry Crowne - Nia Vardalos, who's only known for My Big Fat Greek Wedding at this point, and Tom Hanks got together and did a script about a guy who reinvents his life after getting downsized out of job. Hanks co-wrote, directs and stars in this one. Julia Roberts is along for the ride. Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston seems like a perfect partner in crime for Hanks. Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson is in it as well. But so is Cedric the Entertainer. I guess it all depends on how much balance there is between the comedy and the drama.

9. Water for Elephants - This one only makes it if it connects with audiences (Yes, some movies get nominated that make no connection with audiences). The bestselling book did. But a sweeping epic romance set in a circus and the guy they get to direct it is the guy who made I Am Legend? It's a high wire act of a story (Honest, no pun was intended) but the job of writing the script is in the more than capable hands of Richard LaGravanese who's made a career out of making these stories work. Reese Witherspoon is a fine actress in the right roles and looks good in the trailers. The wild card here is Robert Pattinson. Sink or swim time, vampire boy. Fail here and your non-bloodsucker career is probably over. You do have to appreciate the irony that both Witherspoon and Pattinson made movies called Twilight early in their careers. Witherspoon got naked in hers. Pattinson, thankfully, did not.

10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow Part II - I really hope this makes the list. It's rare enough when a non-horror film series lasts 8 movies. Even rarer when they maintain the quality that the Harry Potter series has achieved over the last 10 years. Simply as recognition of a job very well done, this one should be given a place on the list. It's kept a LOT of British actors from starving.

Until next year.... Cheers.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Final Go....

I'm not sure if it's the increase from 5 Best Picture nominees to 10, but this is the second year in a row where, the day of the Oscars, it almost feels like a toss up. In 2010, while I was pretty certain The Hurt Locker would prevail, I was far from 100% sure of it. This year, while it feels like The King's Speech will take the top prize, it sure doesn't feel like a lock. In fact, it seems the buzz when the final votes were submitted, The Social Network got the support it had the first half of the awards season. What's more shocking to me is how many categories are toss-ups. It's tough to say whether it's because so many excelled in different areas or no movie was particularly outstanding. (See nominees for Best Makeup) It's a tough year for guessing and I won't be surprised if I miss half the winners this year. Here's my final guesses.

Best Picture:

Who Will Win: The King's Speech
Who Should Win: The Social Network

Several pundits have compared a King's Speech victory over Social Network to How Green Was My Valley over Citizen Kane. What they mean is that the film that seems tailor made for winning awards prevailed over a truly brilliant and unique film. The difference with this year is that The King's Speech is a terrific, well made film on its own and more unique than the die hard Social Network fans would like you to believe. That said, it's still no Social Network. No, I would say a King's Speech victory is more akin to Rocky defeating...well...everything else it was up against. Rocky didn't challenge audience the way Taxi Driver or Network did, but it was still a respectable choice.

Best Director:
Who Will Win: David Fincher
Who Should Win: David Fincher

And this is how the Academy will rectify its choice of King's Speech.

Best Actor:
Who Will Win: Colin Firth
Who Should Win: James Franco

Colin Firth gives an amazing performance, with a speech impediment, which voters like. James Franco IS 127 Hours. Everything about the film could be perfect (and it almost is) and the movie would be a disaster if the actor playing Ralston failed. 127 Hours is not up for Best Picture if it weren't for Franco.

Best Actress:
Who Will Win: Natalie Portman
Who Should Win: Natalie Portman

This one is a gimme.

Best Supporting Actor:
Who Will Win: Christian Bale
Who Should Win: Christian Bale

Because Batman should have an Oscar in his utility belt.

Best Supporting Actress:
Who Will Win: No Idea
Who Should Win: Jacki Weaver

My paper ballot right now is empty. Melissa Leo seems like a good choice. But her Oscar campaign has been an embarrassment to the Academy. Hailee Steinfeld shouldn't even be in this category. She may lose because it's a lead role. On the flip side, the amount of screen time, the most fully formed character of the choices and that all of the non-adult actors who've won, won here gives her a good shot. Bonham Carter could win just for a strong quarter century of performances. Jacki Weaver doesn't stand a chance. But her performance in Animal Kingdom is akin to Joe Pesci's in Goodfellas. And the scene in the grocery store is worth an award by itself.

Best Original Screenplay:
Who Will Win: The King's Speech
Who Should Win: Inception

If for no other reason because The King's Speech should have been in violation of Academy rules for what is considered "original". While never produced as a play, the script was discovered at a play reading. But it's a technicality.

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Who Will Win: The Social Network
Who Should Win: The Social Network

As big a lock as you'll ever see at the Oscars.

Best Animated Feature Film:
Who Will Win: Toy Story 3
Who Should Win: How to Train Your Dragon

Just part of my own personal bias against awarding sequels. Toy Story 3 is not as good as its predecessors and a little too self-referential. It's here because of the last 20 minutes, which, again, has as much to do with parts 1 & 2, as the third. And I'll say the same thing when HTTYD parts 2 & 3 are released.

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