Category: Oscars

Oscars 2014: My Reviews

The Oscars are over, and now everyone can go back to forgetting that they never enjoy the ceremony so they can inevitably complain about the next host.

For those who haven’t been following me outside of this website, for the last year I’ve been writing reviews for Trespass Mag. Here are my reviews of some of this year’s big winners (though I saw Dallas Buyers Club, it wasn’t mine to review).

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Best Picture: 12 Years A Slave

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Best Animated Feature Film: Frozen

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Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine

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Best Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity

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Best Original Screenplay: Spike Jonze, Her

The Official Batrock.net 84th Oscars After Party!

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the Oscars this year. As a piece of television entertainment, there was barely any drag. Apart from the In Memoriam roll, which doesn’t count, there was only one montage, and it was twenty minutes in.

Last year I said that hosts were irrelevant, and that the Oscars are boring and bloated anyway. It may partly be thanks to the fact that I couldn’t watch it live this year and was able to skip the ads with extreme prejudice, but I was close enough to entertained by the pageantry and never felt bored or like cussing out the production.

 

So maybe this is down to Billy Crystal, who actually had a presence beyond last year’s intermittent appearances of Anne Hathaway and James Franco, everyone’s favourite scapegoats. Crystal’s opening song wasn’t particularly inspired (“Mr. Joey” was only marginally less engaging than War Horse itself) and, like every single “host inserted into famous movie scenes of the last year” segment to date, this year’s showreel ran out of steam fairly quickly after an impressive start.

Despite this, Crystal represents stability. He’s a safety blanket. As he said, “Nothing can take the sting out of an economic downturn like millionaires presenting each other gold statues.” He’s the host the people of Chapter 11 Theatre need, and it’s a happy coincidence that he’s also the one they wanted. Rather than taking a backseat, Crystal was all over the show. It’s unfortunate that the lesson we take away from this is not “give the Oscar hosts good material to work with and don’t make them come across as aloof bastids and the show might work better”, but “we should never give anyone new a chance; as long as Crystal draws breath we don’t have to risk employing Allen Ginsberg and his like e’er again”.

 

I’ve since looked this up and it seems no one liked Crystal. You vultures will never be happy! He wasn’t even the baffling part of the show: why was Edward Norton telling us what he thinks of movies? What’s he done lately? Nothing for nobody. At any rate, the ceremony is a life support system for giving a bunch of golden dudes to a bunch of rich or aspiring-to-be-rich dudes and dudettes. Let’s examine the outcomes.

 

Hugo and The Artist tied with five awards each, with The Artist taking out the bigger ones of those. Once Dujardin took away his Best Actor award, Crystal informed us that “France is going nuts right now. Or whatever they have instead of joy,” which was the weirdest and cheapest joke to make given the circumstances. What I learned from all of these wins for The Artist is that its cast and crew felt a genuine love and enthusiasm for their work, and that obviously translated across to a lot of the Academy voters. It’s a shame that this didn’t come across to me, and that I’m just going to look at the Best Picture and Director wins as oddities in the long history of the Oscars. I would try to watch The Artist again, but it’s a movie that’s not designed to be consumed repeatedly. By contrast, I’m eager to see The Descendants, Hugo and Midnight in Paris again.

Scorsese can be happy with the recognition that Hugo deserved, but I legitimately feel that his love is more apparent on the screen without overwhelming. Unlike Hazanavicius’ work, it feels natural rather than forced – which I realise now was not Hazanavicius’ intent at all. I’m quite happy with Dujardin’s win because he’s a genuinely cool dude who tried his darnedest and came through.

 

As for Meryl Streep, well. I’m not going to complain about her being a career nominee, because that makes no sense: if you’re consistently good enough to secure a nomination, then that’s just a fact. Equally factual is that Streep’s frustrating performance in a less than half baked film was not the best of the five nominees. Michelle Williams should have taken this away: the clip they used to showcase her performance was magical and reminded me that she really is one of the best actresses currently working.

 

Speaking of showcase clips: the Oscars were hell bent on spoiling the movies this year. Key scenes from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Hugo and The Artist were all prominently featured. When Natalie Portman recapped to Dujardin everything that he did in The Artist, including several of the small delights that the big reveals provided, I couldn’t help but recoil in horror. Most people who go to see The Artist because of its win will probably forget everything they’ve been told, but it’s the principle of the thing.

Also less ambiguous is footage of Daniel Craig being gassed and the identity of his antagoniser being shown. There may be a statute of limitation on spoilers, but I’m not convinced that one’s passed yet.

 

I was impressed with both screenwriting credits, because I was very fond of Midnight in Paris and Woody Allen was coming from a personal place of love, both indulging his nostalgic urges and recognising their dangers. The Descendants, apart from being a very good script, means that Jim Rash is now the recipient of an Academy Award. Community, a show that has been consistently lining up sharks and jumping them for a good season and a half now, now stars an Oscar winner.

 

The rest of the show was pleasant enough, and for the first time in years I didn’t get bored and wish for the embrace of death. Good show, Academy. Good show.

 

PS. In my notes I may have referred to Gwyneth Paltrow as “Goopy McGee”. I’m not proud, but I have no regrets.

 

The Official Batrock.net 84th Academy Awards Hoedown!

The annual bloodbath is upon us! The most notable films of 2011 have been filtered through the old white man machine, survived the gauntlet of lesser awards, and have been dragged onto the world stage for the only event that truly matters: the Academy Awards.

 

As always, I shall take you on an 11th hour guided tour of the films that have enchanted and frustrated audiences the world over and caught the eye of the Academy over the last year. Some are worthy, some decidedly less so. Only one film can win each category, and the rest will be consigned to the scrapheap of history. Unless you ask Matt Dillon, who insists that no one remembers the winner, only the nominees (he lost that year to George Clooney).

If anyone can remember anything positive about Crash, I don’t want to know them.

 

Let the games begin, and may fortune be ever in your favour!

 

Oscars 2011 Post-Mortem

For at least the past decade, the Oscars have been the same every year: a boring ceremony lacking in spectacle or pageantry that drags too long and ultimately disappoints. The excitement generated by the Oscars is never actually justified by the show that we end up with. It’s been the same for the longest time, and I can’t remember when it was last great. My most vivid Oscars memory is Billy Crystal’s intro to the movies of 1998, and my most violent Oscars protest was seeing Brokeback Mountain for a second time instead of watching the ceremony as a way of boycotting Crash (what an outrage).

 

But no, the Oscars are not a good show any more. We’re going to keep on doing it ad infinitum, and we’re going to find excuses for the severe lack of entertainment occurring. By the time we got to the In Memoriam phase of the evening, a lot of people on Twitter were saying that it should have contained “90% of the show” or at least James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Now, this isn’t fair. Franco and Hathaway did the best they could with what they were given, but the ceremony is so bloated that regardless of their performances people will just blame them for every shortcoming.

Observe Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin last year: a lot of people hated them, even though they were kinda funny. The identity of the host is mostly irrelevant, although some, like Jon Stewart, are undeniably worse than others. They simply don’t matter.

The hosts show up at the start of the show and introduce the evening, and then they occasionally come out just to remind you that they’re the hosts. Because they’re the sole focal point of the show (and this year they couldn’t even stick to their weird conceit of “let’s celebrate Gone With The Wind and stuff” beyond a few seconds), people focus on them. We blame Franco and Hathaway for the lack of momentum, for the rigidity of the system.

If we’re Ricky Gervais we somehow make it all about ourselves, writing a bizarre script suggesting that all of the jokes would be made at our own expense rather than talking about movies – a fine way of doing oneself absolutely no favours beyond the salvageable damage of the Golden Globes. One would think Gervais would be smart enough not to personally attack Franco and Hathaway, but … he’s not.

 

So let’s ignore the show. The show was boring, beyond a few key speeches. Let’s look at results!

 

Let’s just say it felt like a weird night. I didn’t make a lot of concrete predictions, but the only real upset was the romping home of The King’s Speech. Because The King’s Speech is both a late-2010 upstart and a British production, it’s been getting a lot of flack from people who think that it should have been roundly ignored. The Social Network had, of course, been the big favourite. That someone would dare make a film about the dreaded monarchy of the UK set in a time when the symbolism and power of the throne meant considerably more than it does today was an affront to steadfast and true American patriots and small r republicans the world over. The Nazi smear, popularised a couple of years back to throw the scent off Kate Winslet, proved ineffective.

While you should prepare yourself to weather a huge storm of backlash the likes of which have not been seen since Slumdog Millionaire, keep in mind The King’s Speech is actually a well crafted boutique or cottage film. I don’t mind it winning Best Picture, because this was a strong selection of ten and the movie was very good indeed. Firth definitely deserved his Best Actor nod, although it could just have easily found its way into Bridges’ hands. Many have railed against its direction, but I think that everything was perfectly measured. It’s not that strange a selection, but I would have expected Best Director to go to someone more flashy, like Aronofsky or, more likely, Fincher.

 

What went wrong with Fincher? I should make it clear that now The Social Network did not end up the winner I feel kind of sad for it. It had all of its hopes riding on it and it’s sad to see it punctured. It’s amazing what a difference 24 hours can make, but I’d like to see it again. Now that it doesn’t have the official overall backing of the Academy maybe I can appreciate it for what I always knew it to be: a well made movie about awful people that I thought was okay if nothing special (I’m listening to the Academy Award winning score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross right now and frankly it’s not doing that much for me). Poor kid.

At least Aaron Sorkin won his award, even if his source material for adaptation was surely very loose indeed.

 

The Fighter’s contingent was the obvious pairing of the rather boring Christian Bale and the ultra-mother Melissa Leo. Bale failed to surprise and the truest victory would have belonged to John Hawkes. Leo redeemed her dull if entertaining victory with the best speech of the night, because it’s always fun when someone forgets that American ears are too delicate to process profanity without opening a portal of sin and immorality in the mind. Leo’s speech almost justified a victory that should have gone to any one of the five in the field – although it would have been really nice to see Jacki Weaver take that stage. All of the clips that they showed for the other actresses were standard issue, but Weaver’s excerpt from Animal Kingdom was electric.

 

The Blackest Swan of them all was of course Natalie Portman, the most foregone conclusion of the entire event. I think that we won’t see a lot of performances like this one in attempts at Oscar bait simply because of the physical and emotional demands entailed. It would have been nice to see Nicole receive recognition for Rabbit Hole, but all of these actresses save Bening deserved the award, so I have no regrets.

 

The last film deserving of mention is, of course, Inception. It took away some technical awards and I guess you can’t say fairer than that. It was a movie of fine tuning and physical crafting.

 

The Oscars as a ceremony left me feeling empty, a sensation that I experience every year but conveniently allow myself to forget so that the magic of Oscar can live in my heart. The results, however, are not terrible. I can get behind these statues … and far away from school children singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

 

Oscars 2011: Woody’s Roundup

The Oscars! The one night of the year when everything is grand. This year they have corrected the error of having to scrounge to find ten Best Picture nominees to present a pretty good spread. I’m hoping for some upsets, because if everything plays out the way it has been going, I will be sorely disappointed. Let’s go into the hopefuls in the categories that I care and know about!

Oscars ’10: Deadblog

Last year I “deadblogged” the Oscars in a notebook which I was too exhausted to transcribe. At a glance, the best note was the following:

“Who knows which [of these movies] are already on their journeys to next year’s Academy Awards?”

-The ones in the fourth quarter.

As always, the “Deadblog” is entirely optional, as it boils down to 2600 words of stream of consciousness typed in real time watching my recording of the Oscars (and a Youtube video). Think of it as a distilled, more inane version of my Twitter feed.

I will venture a more professional write up soon. Needless to say, the following contains Oscar spoilers.

Bit of an underwhelming year, but what can you do? It went almost exactly as expected, except for … I’m furrowing my brow here. But know my rage and read on.
As always, Mark’s legitimately live blog can be found here.

Oscars 2010: The Last Second Primer

The Oscars, once again trying to do something to mix it up, have further diluted their already severely degraded brand. Much as Chris Rock said that the Oscars are about movies only white people watch (being as the world is divided into two distinct groups: white people and black people; white people talk like this and black people like this), this year they’re trying to make the whole thing that much more populist – and therefore meaningless.
Ten Best Picture nominees, but only five Best Director nominees. This is the same thing as there being only five Best Picture nominees. The Best picture and Best Director don’t always line up; one need only look at 2005, when Ang Lee rightly won Best Director for Brokeback Mountain, and Paul Haggis’ execrable Crash took Best Picture.

You may have noticed that Brokeback Mountain still gets mentioned for many reasons, not least of which being the still somewhat raw tragedy of Heath Ledger (a bizarrely opposite parallel to the movie itself), while Crash is mentioned largely for the fact that it undeservedly won Best Picture and the various shallow implications it had for race relations.

Ten Best Pictures! What a spread! They run from the criminally overrated (An Education, Up in the Air), the way out there (District 9), the sadly without a chance (Up), the extremely popular (Avatar), to the totally mystifying (The Blind Side).

Oscars ’09 Deadlex

You know what? I stayed up until midnight watching these Oscars and writing a good million words (or something like 2,500, I don’t know) by hand in a notebook. I can’t stay up much later transcribing them, and the scanning process will be flimsy. You’ll get them later.

That said, I was pleased with the process. Hugh Jackman was unimpressive but the ceremony wasn’t terrible, the speeches were reasonable, and the results were pretty good – especially Sean Penn! Way to upset the narrative, guys!

I can’t be the only person who thinks that Sophia Loren has become angry in her advanced years, surely?

Now everyone should go out and see Slumdog Millionaire, the little movie that could ’08.

After that, look at Mark’s Liveblog Hoedown.

Oscar Nomination Round Up 2009!

With the Oscars a mere two days away, I present the partially written ages ago …

Oscar Nomination Round Up 2009!


Or, “The Latikas”, as they shall henceforth be known.

So I’ve had a week (hah!) to think of these babies, and here’s some initial thoughts. As with every year, it’s a hodge podge mix of what I would like to happen and what I think will happen. I’ll most likely deadblog the event again this year. I mean, seriously, I care about the outcomes but the ceremony itself eventually grinds you down regardless of who the host is.
Three years ago I went to see Brokeback Mountain for a second time instead of staying home and watching Crash win. I still think I made the right decision.
(I’ve updated parts where necessary, and marked the parts out. Everything past Original Screenplay was written on February 21 or later)

An underline means what I think will win, a bolding means what I kind of think should win but might not be 100% certain about on a case by case basis.

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