Tag Archives: Oscar

On The Artist…and artists

I squirrelled out of the house last night to see The Artist in a theatre. Unusual move for me; besides the limitations of my schedule, I just find it frustrating to hit the multiplex anymore. Sure, I miss the camaraderie of enjoying a film in a crowd and sharing the experience – horror and comedy benefit greatly, of course – but the tradeoff of rude talkers, thin walls and the cattle-like process that it has become is just not worth it. I have a large screen TV, a great sound system, and frankly I’d rather watch what I want on my schedule knowing that clean bathrooms and superior food and beverage are just a pause button away.

But I digress.

Back in the day Cia and I would make a point to see all of the nominated films prior to the Oscar telecast so that we could make an informed wager on who might take home the gold. As we reminisced about that while enduring twenty-plus minutes of trivia and advertisements on the multiplex screen, we laughed remembering how often the votes went the other way, and more often that not, how performances that moved us failed to even draw a nomination. I could write a long list from this year, of course, but I’ll save that for the recap tomorrow. It’s Oscar time.

Don’t forget to Tweetroast!

I felt that I had to see The Artist; it looked to be an incredible story and paid homage to an era I have much respect for. And Jean Dujardin seems to be as charming in person as his George Valentin character…at least as charming as George was when things were going well. I was totally swept away – the leads were incredible; the supporting characters as over the top as they would have been if they were in the film within a film (a wise choice by the director) and the score was exquisite. Not only did I wind up streaming the soundtrack when I got home, but I looked up some old Gene Krupa footage on You Tube and then dug out the biopic where Sal Mineo gave his masterful performance of the swinging drummer. Now that’s a tangent.

I guess what I felt during the artist was a smorgasboard of emotions – it was funny, romantic, dramatic and moving. When it was over I wished there was another reel; not because it was unfinished, but because I did not want those characters to leave me. And as I spent the better part of this morning spinning some music by old favorites like Ian Hunter, Herman Brood and The Kinks, I realized that I was feeling the same core emotion – the connection – that artists can bring to your soul if you’re open to it.

And tangents be damned, it made me realize that immersing myself in music and film and comedy isn’t a hobby, but it’s part of who I am, and I need to make more time to indulge myself. I saw my friend Ray Paul performing some Beatle covers earlier in the week and when the opening line of Norwegian Wood rolled off his lips, I immediately thought “that’s one of the best lines anyone ever wrote”. Synapses are firing. They might not all be Grade-A, but I need to get into fighting shape again.

So I find myself typing as the red carpet bullshit is droning in my ear. It’s time to throw out some predictions – and yes, I’m really pulling for The Artist – but I’ll circle back tomorrow with my thoughts on the Brit Awards (classy and funny), The Independent Spirit Awards (under-attended and surprisingly tame) and of course the Academy Awards. Let’s see how I do:

Best Picture: The Artist

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Best Supporting Actor:  Christopher Plummer, Beginnings

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help

Best Director: Michael Hazanivicius, The Artist

Best Screenplay: Margin Call (Chandor)

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants (Payne/Faxon/Rash)

Best Score: The Artist

Best Documentary: Undefeated

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R.I.P. Peter Falk

With apologies to Philip RothGoodbye Columbo.

Peter Falk passed away yesterday at 83. Probably most famous to most people for his longtime role as the rumpled but intelligent Lt. Columbo, Peter Falk had a long and storied career as a film and television actor. In fact, his breakout role was as psychopathic hitman Abe Reles in 1960’s Murder Inc., an Oscar-nominated performance.

Video: Murder Inc. trailer

I’ve always appreciated Falk’s versatility. He could play serious or demented characters, but also excelled in comedy roles in Murder By Death, The Great Race and The In-Laws; even his cab driver cameo in It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World was memorable.

He was great friends with John Cassavetes and made several films with John, Gena Rowlands, Seymour Cassell and Ben Gazzara. Husbands and A Woman Under The Influence got bigger press, but my favorite Cassavetes collaboration was Mikey and Nicky (directed by Elaine May), a story about a tragic and twisted friendship.

Video: Mikey and Nickey trailer.

And following on yesterday’s TGIF about Boston criminals, I would be remiss in not mentioning The Brink’s Job. Falk could do it all.

Just one more thing…goodbye Peter Falk. Thanks for a lifetime of great work.

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A Genuine Horror Movie

Finally got to see the Oscar-winning documentary Inside Job last night. When you hear that phrase, you normally think “bank robbery”, and you’d be right on the (ahem) money if you did. The problem is that the crooks did it in broad daylight while the security guards sat on their hands…or more likely, their wallets.

I avoid politics in this blog as much as possible, so in case anyone is reading anything into my intentions let me clearly state that this is not a Democrat vs. Republican argument – clearly both sides were complicit, ignorant, or both. But it’s absolutely frightening to consider that people elected to the public trust could not figure out that this Ponzi scheme of predatory lending coupled with betting the house on its failure would only lead to the inside investors getting ridiculously wealthy on the backs of millions of people who thought they were protected by institutions like The Securities and Exchange Commission…and their own government.

Trailer for Inside Job

Simple math will tell you that if you inflate the value of a house to twice its realistic value and then let someone borrow 95% of that amount, that person only has at best a 5% equity stake in the property. Drop the house value a mere 10% – still 90% overvalued, mind you – and now the person owes more money on the house than it’s sellable for. Drop that value down 50% and the owners are in a hole they can’t escape from unless they forfeit the house and everything else they own and declare bankruptcy. And then the banks can write another mortgage on the reclaimed property and leave that owner in a grave.

That’s not to say that individual greed didn’t fuel the economic collapse. Bankers and traders funneled absurd amounts of cash up their noses and down their throats, while people barely out of college were buying homes for hundreds of thousands of dollars and living way beyond their means. A shell game is just that – there’s only one marble, and when it moves somewhere the others are left empty. If someone is raking in millions of dollars, someone else is losing that same amount. Had an accountant tried this at a small company they would be fired and jailed; a student who crafted this as their Doctoral thesis for economic solvency would flunk out of school.

The fact that no one from a major bank, insurance firm or investment house went to prison is far more frustrating than watching athletes and celebretards skate free for crimes you and I would do hard time for. Groups of people who live beyond the law brazenly raped and pillaged millions of people, paid comparatively tiny fines and were able to do so without admitting wrongdoing. Inside Job is a collection of interviews and media clips covering the global economic collapse, and who is willing to speak is almost as interesting as who isn’t. In particular, you will come away looking at Eliot Spitzer in a whole different light and start to wonder whether his fall from grace was engineered for a bigger reason than you thought.

Although the film is obviously targeting one point of view, Matt Damon’s narration of filmmaker Charles Ferguson’s script is even-keeled. There’s no need for hysterical pitch and emphasis when the horror speaks for itself.

The official website.

They shot the sherriff...

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Tweety Birds

Six months have passed since my last Tweet, so I am wondering if I should blast out another message. Since I post every day, I guess I don’t see the need to tell people that they should stop by, since twenty-six months of daily posts should be enough to subtly infer that you might want to stop by regularly. I mean, after all, I’m trying to attract readers and thinkers, not someone with the attention span of a gnat on fire.

I really don’t want to waste anyone’s time telling them daily what the daily post is about – you can sign up for email or use an RSS feed for that. and frankly, I don’t think you’d really care that I ate a really great cheeseburger or that I went to a movie in a theatre for the first time in four months or that Mountain Dew still tastes like dog piss, or at least how I imagine dog piss would taste, not having actually sampled the nectar first hand.

But I do occasionally check in on some comedians who Tweet, and for them, the recent Oscar broadcast was like shooting fish in a barrell. I’ve had a long week, so let’s keep it light with Ten Tweeters you should check out – at least for their Oscar wit! Have a great weekend!

(01) – Norm MacDonaldBy the time the dead guy montage starts, Kirk Douglas will be in it

(02) – Nick KrollStutter is the new retard

(03) – Bill MaherIf you’re black and want to make it in Hollywood you better be a swan

(04) – Joan Rivers The smart nominees get Botox injections before the Academy Awards so if they lose, we won’t see the rage lurking behind their frozen faces.”

(05) – Chelsea Peretti I know nothing about fashion but I wanna say shoulder cut-outs were a miscalc

(06) – Drew Carey To everyone disappointed in last nights Oscars: Serves you right for watching in the first place.”

(07) – Moshe Kasher Wow Franco is ruining lines that were pre ruined by the writers.”

(08) – Natasha Leggero Anyone know what corporation is shoving Anne Hathaway down our throats?”

(09) – Patton Oswalt  Whoever hugs Reese is gonna slit their jugular on her jawbone…”

(10) – Whitney Cummings When did Gwyneth Paltrow become the Sarah Palin of country music?

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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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Brit Film Awards and Dead Namesakes

The 64th Annual British Academy Film Awards were announced today, and I guess it’s no surprise that The King’s Speech would take Best Picture over there. But that is some serious momentum in a category that was all but conceded to The Social Network  not so long ago. Only two weeks until the Academy Awards, and it looks like we might have a couple of horse races after all. The major awards went this way:

Best Picture: The King’s Speech

Best Actor: Colin Firth

Best Actress: Natalie Portman

Best Director: David Fincher

Best Supporting Actor: Geoffrey Rush

Best Supporting Actress: Helena Bonham Carter

That’s four of the big six going to The King’s Speech; only Carter would be considered an underdog for the Oscar, although Christian Bale still looks like the favorite over Rush. The Brits do love their own (Rush is an Aussie, close enough) but momentum-leading Melissa Leo wasn’t even nominated for a BAFTA.

I’m just thrilled that the brilliant dark humorist Chris Morris won an award as first-time director for Four Lions. Maybe there is hope for award ceremonies.

The full list of nominees and winners can be found here.

As to the second part of today’s title, I was stunned ten days ago to read that Neil Young, Robert Young and Tony Levin all died on February 3rd.

I was briefly logging on to a news website and almost spat out my coffee wondering why the loss of a rock legend, a classic TV Dad and one of the best bass players ever to walk the Earth had not gotten even a crawl mention on CNN. Turns out that while celebrity deaths do happen in threes, the deceased were not the people I imagined but instead were an English footballer, a former Olympian and a jazz drummer.

Condolences to the families and friends of the actual deceased of course. And while I should have remembered that TV’s Robert Young left this mortal coil twelve years ago, I’m happy to report that Neil Young and Tony Levin are still alive and rocking. Like Meatloaf sang, two out of three ain’t bad.

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Ricky Gervais: Golden Balls

Thank God for Ricky Gervais, even if Ricky is an athiest.

Gervais, as he did last year, relentlessly skewered any pretense of dignity that some think the event has. Although it has been elevated to major award status, the fact remains that it’s just one more opportunity for Hollywood to pat itself on the back and ensure global domination of its main export, the American film. So widespread is its reputation for bribery, favoritism and hero-worship that even Robert DeNiro took several shots at the HFPA when receiving its highest honor.

I had to laugh when reading reports this morning chastising Gervais for being irreverent and mean-spirited, and I was astounded to see that some didn’t even find him funny. Are you kidding me? Aside from a couple of good podium moments (David Fincher, Jane Lynch) and two good introductory bits (Robert Downey Jr. and the always-gold Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin combination) the show was an insufferable snore-fest. When he was off-screen for close to an hour, the show dragged. There were no huge upsets in the film categories (Paul Giamatti and Melissa Leo being the closest thing to surprises) and as usual the attendees were more interested in socializing between announcements than paying attention to the proceedings. If they’re not focused, why should I be?

Ah, but when Gervais was at the podium, they had to focus, because he’s fearless; you never know what he’s going to say and when. Are people really upset that he inferred that Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr. have had personal issues? Was poking fun at some of the turkeys in a film resume really that insulting to a famous actor? And the joke about the omission of Jim Carrey’s performance in I Love You Philip Morris was brilliant; a one-two punch that savaged the voting board for its inconsistent temerity regarding homosexuality and launched a dig at pushy Scientology salesmen Tom Cruise and John Travolta

Also not nominated: I Love You, Philip Morris. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. Two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay. Sort of the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists then…My lawyers helped me with the wording of that joke.”

Most of the celebrities seemed to get it; Downey countered with a great quote (“Aside from the fact that it’s been hugely mean-spirited, with mildly sinister undertones, I’d say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn’t you?“) and even long-suffering Office doppelgänger Steve Carell dutifully played the fall guy for what must be the hundredth time. Only the HFPA President seemed truly miffed – or maybe his comic delivery just sucks – but I think he has bigger problems than a temporary insult most people will forget faster than they forgot his name. Perhaps those who didn’t laugh prove the old adage that “the truth hurts“, because the Sex In The City actresses are long in the tooth, Cher is not a hot commodity in 2011, and Tim Allen, nice guy that he is, doesn’t have a resume like that of Tom Hanks.

But there were some painful moments, too. I love Robert DeNiro, and few actors have had the kind of career he has assembled (even discounting most of the past decade). But anyone who has seen him on Saturday Night Live knows that he is abysmal when reading cue cards, especially when it is comic lines obviously written by someone else. It started awkwardly enough, dove into some racist territory and ended with a fairly creepy reference to Megan Fox. Within the speech there were some pretty great barbs deflating the HFPA, but it was as painful to watch as…well…Little Fockers, for one.

The biggest surprises of the evening were on the TV side of the fence; 30 Rock going home empty-handed, Modern Family losing to Glee (when their sophomore seasons have been such polar opposites, quality wise) and the lovely but absent Laura Linney grabbing the honor for The Big C. I was thrilled that Chris Colfer won for Glee; they handed him the ball this year and he really ran with it. Ditto Katey Sagal – not only finally getting noticed for her amazing work on Sons of Anarchy, but getting to take home the award.

The Observer from Fringe alongside Edgar Winter

So how did I do? Seven out of ten, but missing on three biggies. I guess the best movie can’t direct itself, but I think Nolan’s film was a superior effort. Loved seeing humble Colin Firth win, although if he stuttered during his speech that would have been much funnier. And I’m thankful that Natalie Portman won but was surprised by Paul Giamatti’s win, although he’s always good for a great speech, even when they censor the first ten seconds of it. The censors were uneven with their cut-offs and their music cues, but what the hell, I’ll be back next year to watch.

If the HFPA has even one-tenth the balls that Gervais does, so will Ricky.

The list of nominees and winners is here.

Here’s a link to a great page that lists the major category winners for the Critic Associations and provides a schedule for (and links to) all of the award ceremonies. Next up are the BAFTA nominations on Tuesday, with the Academy Award nominations the week after.

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