Monday, March 01, 2010

Oscars 2010

Watching a genre movie, especially one of those scifi action films, you make a bargain with the filmmaker: as long as they entertain you, you'll suspend your logical faculties for two hours. Sometimes the filmmakers will take advantage of you in that bargain, and you feel betrayed. I know that I was going right along with Speed, despite all the absurdities, but when that bus jumped over the incompleted overpass, it lost me. The Spider-Man movies have a similar problem. There's absolutely no logic, scientific or otherwise, to the idea that being bitten by a radioactive spider should give you the powers of a spider. But you accept it, because you're having fun. But I'm sorry, when the alien symbiot comes to earth, and out of all the people on earth, finds Spider-Man to latch onto, then Spider-Man gets rid of the symbiot, and by total coincidence the guy who has sworn a blood oath to kill Peter Parker walks into the church and picks the symbiot up, I have to sign off. You're taking advantage of our bargain, Mr. Raimi!

And that's how I feel about the 10 nominees for Best Picture. We all know Oscars are meaningless bullshit, but you don't have to rub our faces in it. I already feel like a sucker for getting into it every year. Of course, I'm still going to get into it this year, because I really am a sucker, and Steve is co-hosting, but I feel really cheap about it.

The L.A. Times has been running a series where they ask celeberities what they would change about the Oscars to make the ceremony better. What would I change? Actually, I'm not sure how I would fix it, but I do know what's wrong with the ceremony. It's this idiotic idea that the ceremony is "too long," which makes the producers constantly look for ways to cut it. Case in point: the event I was most looking forward to at this year's ceremony was the lifetime acheivement award being given to Roger Corman. So I was not pleased to find out that Corman won't be a part of the telecast. He was already given his award, along with Lauren Bacall, cinematographer Gordon Willis (who did Woody Allen's Manhattan and the Godfather films) and producer John Calley, at a special dinner in November. What should have been the most entertaining moment of the night was thrown out because the Oscars are always "too long."

Another case in point:

At today’s annual luncheon for this year’s group of Oscar nominees, the show’s producers told the 121 nominees they should prepare two speeches for the big night on March 7: one 45-second speech for the audience on “what the Oscar means to them,” and then a second speech to be given backstage to a “Thank You Cam” during which the winner can thank specific people.

The typical acceptance speeches - in which winners thank every family member, agent, crew member and hair stylist to ever have brushed past them - are “the single most-hated thing on the show,” producer Bill Mechanic said, urging the nominees to save the names for the backstage cam.

The backstage video will be posted online, co-producer Adam Shankman said, telling the nominees they could e-mail them to friends or even post them on their Facebook pages. At which point Meryl Streep asked if TwitVids would also be acceptable.

A third case in point: EW just informed me that none of the best song nominees will be performed, although considering the crop, maybe that's not such a bad thing. But I mean, come on. We just need to accept that four hours is how long an Oscar ceremony lasts, and that's a perfectly reasonable amount of time. The problem, of course, is that it's live on the west coast, so for people back east, it goes on until midnight or something. Moving the ceremony to Sunday was a big improvement, but apparantly people still hate staying up til midnight when they have to be at work the next day. So they want to cut out all the "unnecessary" stuff, which is the stuff that makes the show entertaining in the first place. Not sure how you fix that--move it to 3:00 pm maybe?--but THAT is the problem with the Oscars.

Anyway, here's my list. Some of the stuff I'm rooting for is for films I haven't even seen yet (I'm still hoping to catch Precious between now and Sunday), but it's just more fun if you go into it rooting for someone. In cases where I didn't have a personal preference, I just went with the nominee I expect to win.

Best Picture: Inglourious Basterds (but really, as long as it's not Avatar, The Blind Side or Up in the Air, I'll be happy)

Director: Katheryn Bigelow!!!

Actor: The Dude (only because Sam Rockwell didn't get a nomination for Moon)

Actress: This is a tough one, because Meryl Streep really was amazing in Julie & Julia, fusing her comic character roles of recent years with her dramatic roles of earlier times for one of her best performances. I'm not a Streep cultist, but she definitely deserves to have that cult. Still, rooting for Meryl Streep for an Oscar seems so boring. Hopefully, I can catch Precious before the show, as I'd like to root for underdog Gabourey Sibilde. Otherwise, Meryl Streep, just to block Sandra Bullock from getting it.

Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique
Supporting Actor: Christopher Waltz
Those two are pretty much locks, so no reason to go into them.

Original Screenplay: A Serious Man or Inglourious Basterds
Adapted Screenplay: In the Loop!!!

Animated Feature: Up, Mr. Fox and Coraline are all great films, and Secrets of the Kells looks fantastic. Even The Princess and the Frog doesn't look horrible. I think Up is the best of the batch, and will probably win, but as with Meryl Streep, rooting for Pixar seems so dull, I'm going to go for an underdog again: The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Documentary Feature: First of all, this award isn't based on the artistic acheivement of the filmmakers, but on how important the subject matter is. That's just a fact, so we may as well accept it up front. In that respect, there are two movies here that really challenge the way people look at our world: Food, Inc. (the only nominee I've seen) and The Cove (which I've purposely avoided because I just don't think I can watch it--I'd prefer to just read the information). Part of me wants to root for Burma VJ, since it (like The Messenger) was released by Adam Yauch's Oscilloscope Laboritories (go Team Beastie!), but judging from the reviews, it sounds like The Cove is gonna be hard to beat. When a documentary has been spoofed on South Park, you know it's making a cultural impact.

Documentary Short: Haven't seen any of these, but let's see, The Last Truck sounds like the kind of thing that would win an award. But then there's Music by Prudence, the story of a wheelchair-bound girl in an African village with an inspiring singing career. OK, that's gonna win, come on. But then what about Rabbit a la Berlin, a cute nature documentary with political overtones about the bunnies that lived between the Berlin Walls? If the filmmakers could do something interesting enough with that, it might win, but I haven't seen it, so who knows. One more worth mentioning: The Tears of Szechuan Province: China's Unnatural Disaster. This one is on YouTube in full. I haven't watched the whole thing, but I've watched this first segment, and it gives you a pretty amazing view of what life is like in a communist country (a real one, not like Canada or something):

Animated Short: Of the five nominees, three can be viewed on YouTube. Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty is kinda funny, not really great. La Dama y La Muerte is very nice looking, and also quite funny. And French Roast is just fantastic. Dig it:

The staging is so interesting, and perfectly suited to the story. I also like how clearly the characters are rendered, so you know everything about them at one glance. The other two are Logorama, which uses more than 2,500 corporate logos. It looks pretty clever, but from what I can tell, doesn't have much to say about it's subject. The other one, A Matter of Loaf and Death, is A NEW WALLACE AND GROMMIT SHORT. I had no idea this existed, and it looks pretty cool, but even if it's better than The Wrong Trousers (doubtful), I don't think it would be quite as interesting as French Roast. One thing Loaf and Death has in its favor is that it is the only nominee that's not primarily CGI, but being anti-computer animation in 2010 is like being one of those stupid folkies that was anti-electric guitars in 1965. So my pick is French Roast.

Live Action Short: Haven't seen any of them, but Kavi seems like the clear winner.

Visual Effects: Avatar (duh!)

Art Direction: I'm sure this will go to Avatar, which has a lot of good design work, but mostly looks like a bunch of shit from old Yes albums and Bros. Hildebrandt illustrations. I'm rooting for the much more imaginative designs in The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus.

Film Editing: The Hurt Locker

Sound Editing: The Hurt Locker
Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker
These two categories are ones where I'm never sure exactly what I'm supposed to be looking for, but those high-tension scenes in THL are incredibly effective, and I have to think the sound mixing and editing was some kind of factor there.

Cinematography: This is another one where I'm never sure what I'm supposed to be looking for. I think all these had some good moments.

Costume Design: Haven't seen any of the nominated pictures except Parnassus, but since Coco Before Chanel is pretty much ABOUT costumes, it seems like a safe bet.

Makeup: No idea.

Original Score: You know, I don't really pay much attention to scores. I guess I'm left with a vague recollection of enjoying the score in Up, so I'll go with that.

Original Song: I checked all the songs out on YouTube, and none of them are particularly terrible or particularly memorable. My first impression is that each one is a likeable enough pastiche. With no reason to prefer one over the other, I'll go with what I think has the best chance of winning: T-Bone Burnette's "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)".


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