Tag Archives: In Memorium

Oscar? My, A Wiener!

When the best line of the night is delivered by a hologram, that’s not a good sign…

Old Hollywood crossed swords with New Hollywood last night, and it’s quite possible that they both took two steps backwards. Despite a blatant attempt to drag itself into the 21st century through young hosts and a plethora of social media references, most reports on the Oscar telecast agree that it was a major fail. Ironically, the two best presences on stage were Billy Crystal and Bob Hope – the former nailing two great jokes in a row before paying tribute to the legacy of the latter. And yes, the line of the night came from a hologram.

To paraphrase Neil Young, the show “started out real slow and then fizzled out altogether“. The opening montage placed co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco in an amusing maze of Best Picture references; digitally inserted into scenes so they could interact with the stars, and surprising us with cameos from Alec Baldwin and Morgan Freeman.

But from that point forward, it went down like a lawn dart.

Ratings were off ten percent as viewers started to bail during the telecast, knowing they could get updates without siting through some of the most painful banter ever written for a major awards show. Maybe they should have taken Ricky Gervais up on his offer to script a few jokes. Sure he’d offend a few people, but at least they’d be awake.

I like James Franco. But the dude seemed to disappear for large stretches of time, and judging by his performance I suspect they were for (wink wink) smoke breaks. Either that or he decided to channel his Freaks And Geeks stoner character because he realized that the “guy in a dress” thing had short shelf life.

I like Anne Hathaway. I think she’s talented and fearless and funny, and she’s as good of a singer as she is an actress. But she was a disaster as a host. Fawning over presenters like a tipsy schoolgirl at an adult party, she showed neither respect nor a sense of belonging. If people had concerns that a relative newcomer is not who people feel comfortable with to steer them through the night, she made their case.

I like Kirk Douglas. I’ve been a fan all my life and several of his films are on my all time list of greats, and I’m thrilled that he has battled through a debilitating stroke at an advanced age and continues to be involved in the industry. But what first started out as uncomfortable soon nose-dived into painful, whether he was milking the joke or truly addled. Watching him twist five nominees in the wind was as sad as watching Dick Clark trying to keep up with the New Year’s Eve countdown, and both were in front of a global audience. I know some thought that was the highlight of the show, but haters gotta hate.

Two presenters who tried hard

I like Randy Newman. And hey, no complaints. He was actually funny, and self-deprecating, and irreverent and grateful. Truly an oasis in last night’s desert. I think he has a future in the business.

I like Melissa Leo. I’ve been a fan of hers since Homicide, and I’ve been thrilled to watch her finally get recognition in recent years for strong roles in independent films. But as much as I love the F-bomb, it’s her OMG! persona that is starting to wear thin. Not quite Sally Field territory, but after accepting a slew of nominations for Frozen River and now The Fighter, I think the “pinch me” days are behind her. Still, kudos to a great actress.

I like short witty speeches. If you were still awake when Tom Hooper and Colin Firth accepted their awards, both were great examples of  how to leverage the opportunity with wit and humility. Firth put it best, saying “I have a feeling my career just peaked“. Aaron Sorkin also nailed his speech – wordy but fluid, naturally – with the right balance of deference and pride plus the bonus point for a closing personal remark that makes people like me remember to compliment him.

I like Lena Horne. But why did I get the feeling that singling her out was pandering to the race card issue rather than a genuine bow to her greatness? Yes, she was a trailblazer, and yes, it is Black History Month, but the fact that we still have Black History Month and still have to have actors like Halle Berry acknowledge that a trail was blazed for them shows just how far we are from being a society that has put prejudice in its rear view mirror.

As for the awards themselves, I was stunned that Tom Hooper won Best Director. It was reminiscent of Putney Swope, where voters didn’t want to tip the scales to a serious candidate so they cast a vote for someone they were sure wouldn’t win…and of course, he did. Hooper did a fine job, of course, but the exclusion of Christopher Nolan was just that much more obvious. I thought The King’s Speech was a fine film; I enjoyed it very much. But it was a character study, a play transported to screen, that was dwarfed by at least half its competitors.

At the risk of sounding like Old Hollywood, maybe I just miss times like these instead of an era when Chicago is the best we can do. And no, I’m not bitter just because I got my clock cleaned on my ballot after an early run of success. I missed on a few key gambles but hey – I beat the people in Mom’s basement.

And of course the In Memorium list missed some names…as always. Why is this so difficult every year? Who does this? They can’t keep track of famous dead people when there are gambling sites devoted to tracking that very list of names? (Attention witless Keepers of the Oscar Obituaries: Jane Russell is now on board for your next montage.)

But I’ll be back next year. Hope they hire a comic who can work the room.

Even if he’s dead.

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…and now, The Oscars

Finally, the big daddy of the back-patting events is upon us.

Tonight’s Oscar hosts are James Franco and Anne Hathaway, as the industry makes an obvious ploy to skew younger. That sentiment probably won’t carry over into the actual voting, where veteran actors who might have been bypassed earlier in their careers get rewarded at the expense of a newcomer who has his whole career ahead of him. Really…Al Pacino won for Scent Of A Woman? Paul Newman won for The Color Of Money?

And sometimes this screws over a more deserving veteran actor. Yes, I’m talking to you, Henry Fonda! No way Burt Lancaster shouldn’t have won in 1981 for his amazing performance in Atlantic City!)

But I digress. The Oscar host thing has always been a conundrum. Bob Hope owned the role for years, as did Johnny CarsonBilly Crystal did it well and got to keep the job for a while, seemingly alternating every couple of years with Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg. But lately it’s been as volatile and unpredictable as a Charlie Sheen alibi; the only repeat host in the last ten years was Jon Stewart in 2006 and 2008 (Steve Martin hosted in 2003 but co-hosted in 2010). Stewart was excellent, but has the grind of his Daily Show schedule. But Wolverine Hugh Jackman was incredibly game and entertaining and got raves for his stint, yet wasn’t asked to repeat?

Perhaps tonight will be fine; Franco is a likeable guy, and Hathaway proved she is as fearless as she is talented when she joined Jackman onstage a few years ago. But for the self-proclaimed “Hollywood’s Biggest Night“, one would expect a real game-changer at the helm. And as afraid of him as they obviously are, I think any awards show not hiring Ricky Gervais is settling.

Here is the list of nominees.

I’m pretty much sticking with the picks I made right after the nominations came out, although The King’s Speech has picked up incredible momentum since then, along with Geoffrey Rush. But I have a feeling that the Darren Aronofsky magic touch will again become the Darren Aronofsky curse; Mickey Rourke lost to more established Hollywood veteran Sean Penn, and Annette Bening has never won for Best Actress despite four nominations. (No truth to the rumor that Natalie Portman got pregnant to sway the sympathy vote.) I also wouldn’t bet my life on Supporting Actress, as this is a category where teenagers can and do win, especially when they are playing more of a lead role.

My predictions for tonight’s winners:

Best Picture: The Social Network
Best Director: David Fincher, The Social Network
Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
Best Actress: Annette Bening, The Kids Are Alright
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan, Inception
Best Cinematography: Wally Pfister, Inception
Best Score: Trent Reznor, The Social Network

While you await tonight’s ceremony here are some treats to pass the time:

Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter act out the Best Picture nominees

Ricky Gervais wrote an opening script for Franco and Hathaway

You can bet on anything – even the In Memorium montage.

Racetrack odds on tonight’s favorites to Win…Place and Show mean nothing!

***

Tomorrow: The winners, the losers, the analysis.

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Awards Weekend! First, The Indies…

The Film Independent Spirit Awards will be broadcast this evening. Hosted by Joel McHale, the event is known for being a loose and casual affair; the last two events were held inside a tent on the Santa Monica beach (2009) and in a downtown LA parking lot (2010). Libations flow, no one plays a winner off the stage, and some memorable speeches come tumbling out of the mouths of the presenters and nominees. And as the last awards show prior to tomorrow’s Academy Awards presentations, many will ponder about the momentum that some of these films and actors have built up.

Of course, the Oscar tabulations are already signed, sealed and delivered. But what’s Tinseltown without a little drama?

More and more films blend the line between “indie” and “studio”, a separation that is more about funding than location. Luminaries like Quentin Tarantino and The Coen Brothers have their heart and mind firmly in the independent mode when it comes to the type of material that they choose, but their successes have moved them into a financial category that dwarfs their former associates. I’d rather focus on the fact that films like Black Swan and The Wrestler are finally being appreciated by a wider group of people (Oscars, Globes) rather than pinch pennies and mince words. Despite some thundering clunkers, 2010 had its share of good films.

Here is a list of the nominees. You can watch the broadcast at 10pm ET/PT and guess along with me, but since the ceremony took place earlier today, the list of winners is no doubt all over the web. Don’t Google! Walk away from your computer and enjoy the suspense. If you must sit at your keyboard, avoid the news sites and watch and chat live with IFC host Matt Singer.

I’ll be back later with a review of the show and my comments.

Well, that was pretty boring.

Host Joel McHale did what he could, opening with a sense of irreverence, a wink at some of the nominated films, and a gaggle of cunnilingus jokes, but no one else picked up the ball for the rest of the evening. The filmed bit combining the “reading of the rules” and “the magic of 3D” was amusing, but the only other attempt at humor was presenting In Memorium 2011 a year early. Celebrating the industry deaths that would occur over the next twelve months had great potential, but a technical glitch ruined the pace and sucked the life of it. Still, it’s good to prepare oneself for the loss of Mad Men star Jon Hamm from excessive consumption of clove cigarettes and fake alcohol.

Presenters joked all night about the cold (the tent was on the beach) but people were visibly bundling up, and the slick surface caused many to slip (and one winner to fall not once but twice). And the noise level increased exponentially, no doubt from attendees hitting the bar to pound down more Jameson’s in a show of support for one of the evening’s sponsors.

Another oddity was the announcement of two awards that had been presented prior to the telecast – one for cinematography and the other for screenplay. Really? You couldn’t squeeze two more awards into a two and a half hour program? Overall, no huge surprises. But no memorable speeches and no water cooler moments.

Well, unless you want to count Paul Rudd’s threesome with Rosario Dawson and Eva Mendes

Here is a list of the winners:

Best Feature: “Black Swan”
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky, “Black Swan”
Best Screenplay: Stuart Blumberg, Lisa Cholodenko, “The Kids Are All Right”
Best First Feature: “Get Low”
Best First Screenplay: Lena Dunham, “Tiny Furniture”
John Cassavetes Award: “Daddy Longlegs”
Best Female Lead: Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
Best Male Lead: James Franco, “127 Hours”
Best Supporting Female: Dale Dickey, “Winter’s Bone”
Best Supporting Male: John Hawkes, “Winter’s Bone”
Best Cinematography: Matthew Libatique, “Black Swan”
Best Documentary: “Exit Through the Gift Shop”
Best Foreign Film: “The King’s Speech”

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Award Weekend Redux

The Hurt Locker. And James Cameron was shoved into it.

Lame. Tame. And almost predictable

That’s the story of Award Weekend, where despite the stellar comedic talents of Eddie Izzard, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, jokes fell flatter than a pancake. Or in other words, as tired as that analogy. No, this isn’t sour grapes because I only went 6-for-10 on my predictions (more on that later) but it’s a little sad when the biggest event of the film year isn’t…well, big

First, the 82nd Annual Academy Awards 

I watched the show with my daughter; she Tweeted while I scribbled notes on the back of a nominee ballot. From her laughter, it seemed like the jokes on Twitter were funnier than the ones on the telecast. 

At the end of the show I used the power of my mind to read James Cameron‘s thoughts… “I wonder how drunk I can get for two billion dollars?” (Which at least will clear his mind of his prior thought – “Why did I dump Kathryn Bigelow to hook up with Skeletor?“) 

I start to wonder whether the Oscar crew does know who’s going to win when I see them do things like have Barbara Streisand present the Best Director Award; how ironic that she didn’t win for Yentl, yet gets to be part of the breakthrough moment. (How uncomfortable a comment would she have dared utter if Bigelow lost? And if Lee Daniels had won…would Spike Lee be pissed that he was snubbed for that sweet presenter slot?) When Streisand tried to milk the moment by stating “the time has come“, poor Daniels looked like Stephen Boyd during the climactic scene from The Oscar.

Oops...

Mo’Nique gave an awesome performance and deservedly took home the award (why are people still shocked that stand-up comics can be great dramatic actors?) and I appreciate that she wore a blue dress and flower in her hair to match Hattie McDaniel. But when the speeches started flowing about following in Hattie’s footsteps and how after so many years it was time, I so wanted to slip her a note to remind her that Halle Berry already cashed that chip several years ago

How ironic that Chris Pine had to introduce a groundbreaking science fiction film, when Star Trek wasn’t even nominated after the category was expanded to ten movies? 

After watching the music from Crazy Heart win so many awards, I realize just how much better it would if Steven Bruton was still around. 

Did Robert Downey Jr. actually pronounce the word specificity? Proof positive that his rehab problems are behind him. Finally a moment of humor as he and Tina Fey exchanged writer/actor barbs, but he won by calling writers “sickly little mole people” (a line, of course,  that has Tina Fey’s hand print all over it). 

Nice John Hughes tribute until Judd Nelson creeped me out visually with his almost-Downey look. Molly Ringwald would have scared me worse, but she was brought out previously, and slower. 

Not to kick a dog when it’s down, but how does a move that is about eighty percent animated win for Best Cinematography? Just sayin’. 

Ever want to run to see a movie two seconds into the trailer? Must, must, must go see Logorama ASAP. And how funny was Nicolas Schmerkin‘s acceptance speech thanking his “three thousand unofficial sponsors” and saying “no logos were harmed in the making of this film”? Then closes with a knockout punch: “It took, like, six years to make this sixteen minutes, so I hope to come back here with a long feature film, in about…thirty-six years.”  So a Frenchman with a thick accent not only has better comic timing than our hosts – but better writers, too? 

And why was Kanye West dressed up like a fat drunk woman in a bad Snuggie when he interrupted poor Roger Ross Wilson‘s acceptance speech for Best Documentary Short? (Yes, I know it wasn’t Kanye, but to mention the real name of that boorish cow would only extend her Warholian fifteen minutes. I’m hoping that the Japanese fishermen from The Cove watched the exchange, mistook her for a dolphin, and fileted the bitch backstage.) 

Better hosts would have jumped on that horribly rude moment and ridden it like a pony for the rest of the night. Billy Crystal would, and I know that Ricky Gervais would have had a field day. Are you telling me no one in that stable of writers could come up with a smack-down? Maybe they should have been tweeting for help

Ben Stiller needs to be involved in every awards show. And while James Cameron seemed to be grimacing like Stiller somehow didn’t have the Na’Vi language down perfectly, he should at least have appreciated Stiller’s close: “After I announce the winner I will stand as far away as possible so I don’t demean their moment of triumph“. (Seriously – how could Avatar not be nominated for Best Makeup? Hollywood really hates someone.) 

Star Trek won more Oscars than Avatar last night. Ouch

Was it me, or did the ceremony at the Governor’s Ball featuring Lauren Bacall and Roger Corman look like waaaay more fun that the main ceremony? The jokes were funnier and the tributes more sincere. 

Robin Williams, check. Testicle joke, check

Rude moment number two – The Costume Bitch starting off her acceptance speech by saying “I already have two of these” and then somehow getting more derogatory from there. Last. Nomination. Ever. 

My first thought upon seeing Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart come out to introduce the tribute to horror films: “Bite each other and die“. No montage is ever going to be perfect, but there were many startling omissions and a few (Edward Scissorhands??) that were head-shakingly out of place. Not to mention that the promo for Happy Town that aired during the commercial break looked scarier than anything in that clip reel. 

Sound Editing – any time we get to see more of The Dark Knight is OK by me. Tell me again how that movie did not even get nominated for Best Picture

In Memorium: I love James Taylor, but this is a tribute that deserves silence or a best a subtle orchestral score. Especially when you sing lyrics like “some are dead and some are living” as the montage of clips slides by. (What does James know that we don’t?) 

Late in the show I’m wondering whether Alec Baldwin is offstage yelling at his daughter’s voicemail, because it sure seemed like Steve Martin was soloing for almost an hour. 

Unfortunately for the producers, one of the highlights of the evening was shown during the commercial break. 

I finally aligned with the world of Twitter when I let out an audible “WTF?” when Dancing With No Stars came out to misinterpret the Best Score nominees. According to daughter Eli, that was the white-hot Tweet of the moment. (For the record, the biggest score in Oscar history was Adrien Brody bending Halle Berry over for a deep dive smooch at the 2003 ceremony.) 

More proof the writers don’t know a good joke, nor did audience: When El Secreto de sus Ojos won for Best Foreign Film, the producer opened with this gem: “”I want to thank the Academy for not considering Na’Vi a foreign language“. Dead silence. Come on, people! 

I get it, Sean Penn. You’re a rebel. Yawn

Best Actor and Best Actress gimmick: hate, hate, hate the one-on-one tributes to the nominees. Besides the fact that the show is already dreadfully long and the back story for each nominee has been rehashed a thousand times, what does the fact that this actor is a humanitarian or this actress is a good mother have to do with their performance? Or are you finally admitting, Hollywood, that it is about politics and favoritism rather than the best performance of the year? At least it produced a couple of good lines, thanks to Stanley Tucci and Tim Robbins (“It is Ted, isn’t it?“). 

No big shock on the four major acting awards. Jeff Bridges (has it really been almost forty years since his nomination for The Last Picture Show?) proved once again that The Dude abides. Sandra Bullock disappointed me by not getting all Sally Field on us and Christoph Waltz finally made an acceptance speech I could understand (his prior speeches sounded more like ideas for future Quentin Tarantino movies). 

I was surprised that Hollywood was able to ignore a movie that has already grossed two and a half billion dollars (and still selling) in favor of a movie that struggled to get financing, distribution and promotion and tackled a controversial subject. But I couldn’t be happier for director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal

Spirits? Many were served.

The less said about Friday’s 25th Annual Independent Spirit Awards, the better. Maybe it was the decision to move the event from a beach tent to…well, a tent in a parking lot. Maybe the booze started flowing earlier. But when Eddie Izzard bombs so badly that he has to start improvising with props and free-stlying in the audience to wake up the seated corpses, that’s a sad day for what used to be the most lively and raucous awards of them all. 

Then again, Izzard refused to let his “God is Dead” joke die, insisting on reviving it every time he came back on stage if for nothing else than to punish the audience. There were very few funny moments, but thankfully Will Arnett and Ed Helms saved the day when presenting the John Cassavetes Award, as did Ben Stiller’s speech and the clip reel of Roger Ebert viciously panning movies. (I was thrilled to see that Ebert was present for the event, as was the crowd that gave him an extended standing ovation.) 

Sorry, but Laura Dern being one of the original fourteen people present when the Independent Spirit Awards was founded makes me feel really old. If it was Bruce Dern, maybe I’d feel better. 

As for the winners, it was a big night for Precious. I’m sorry…I meant to say Precious Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire©®™ 

(Someone should tell the producers that every movie is based on something, which is why we have Original and Adapted screenplay nominations, but I guess that wasn’t good enough for the author. Or would that have screwed up the tie-in to Oprah’s Book Club?) 

Lynn Shelton wins for Humpday. Yes


And I was thrilled that Anvil won for Best Documentary, and anyone who has seen that movie – a real, live Spinal Tap – had to be moved when stunned band member Steve “Lips” Kudlow came back onstage and hugged the filmmaker, thanking him for changing his life. I still cannot believe that Anvil was not even nominated for the Best Documentary Oscar. 

And now it starts all over again! 

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