Friday, February 26, 2010

T-Minus One Week and Counting...

...until Oscar weekend! Where does the time go? We are so deep into awards season that we even have a scandal on our hands. For those who haven't heard, the apparently naive, possibly just stupid, probably well-intentioned producer of The Hurt Locker, Nicolas Chartier, sent an e-mail to a lot of Academy members asking them to vote for The Hurt Locker for best picture. And asking them not to vote for the movie that cost $500 million (Avatar, for those of you living under a rock). Because we need independent film and films like The Hurt Locker to be recognized, so tell your friends and they'll tell two friends and so on...

All of which was, as the Los Angeles Times put it, "a direct violation of Academy etiquette and rules." So Nicolas Chartier has since sent a second e-mail apologizing for being naive and stupid as a first-time nominee. With the Oscar ballots due any day now, the question on everyone's minds is, what effect will this have on the Best Picture votes? The Hurt Locker was all set to be the Best Picture frontrunner; has he now shot himself in the foot (so to speak) and handed the prize to Avatar? Or will the e-mail "work" even though it was retracted? Will The Hurt Locker still win but NOT because of the last-ditch "campaign"? Or, and here's my favorite option, maybe will everyone in the Academy (who hasn't yet mailed off a ballot) realize from this that they are sick of the whole Avatar-Hurt Locker Cameron-Bigelow thing and vote en masse for Up in the Air or Inglourious Basterds, which I personally would prefer to see win?

And frankly, I'm still curious to see what exactly the Academy "Oscar campaign" rules say. I love me some L.A. Times but I haven't seen any details, even from them. One blog commenter suggested that it's because ol' Nicolas Chartier specifically campaigned against another film, instead of just plugging his own. Others say contacting members directly with the e-mail was the offense. The Academy won't comment officially until the ballot deadline, at 5 p.m. this coming Tuesday.

However, the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon ("That's because they were crouching! And hidden!" - Steve Martin) people apparently ran afoul of some Academy rules back in their 2000 day, sending both DVD and VHS screeners, when you are allowed to send only one media format to the Academy members. Bad tiger! Naughty dragon! Their punishment? They were docked four ticket to some awards season event. If The Hurt Locker is found guilty in its military tribunal of enemy combatants necessary to protect our -- oh, wait -- by the Academy, they might, like, lose some seats at the Kodak Theater on Oscar night rather than being disqualified or anything.

So - oh. Okay.

Speaking of Oscar seats, I had the most amazing dream that I was in them! It was a couple nights ago. I was totally nominated for an Oscar in the "Animal Handling" category. Haha! (No, it doesn't exist. I'm so glad you get internet service under that rock, there, to read my blog.) I was apparently the animal handler for some film about rats. I was totally excited (obvio) but had forgotten to tell my friends, apparently, so I had to blog really quick and tell everyone to be sure and watch the early, small categories portion of the ceremony. When I got to my seat, I decided I was not the front runner because I was seated in the middle of the row, and one of my competitors in the Animal Handling category was on the aisle. Brian was supposed to be with me, but we didn't get a limo, so he was looking for a place to park and missed the whole red carpet and everything. It was such a long, involved, vivid, and detailed dream, but it unfortunately ended right after that and so I didn't get to see whether The Hurt Locker beats Avatar.

Back to real life, today we saw The Last Station. I had to finish the book first, then let it settle for a few days. I liked the movie even more than the book, and I thought Helen Mirren was wonderful! Won't it be exciting if she snatches the Best Actress Oscar away from the Meryl/Sandra who's-it-gonna-be-anyone's-guess match-up? I could see anyone in that category winning, actually. The other nominees are Gabourey Sidibe, which, generally the whole first-time-nominee-first-time-actress thing is just a nomination and everyone knows it, but you never know. And Carey Mulligan in An Education was fantastic! I mean, she was REALLY good. And I feel like voters will recognize a really good Best Actress performance, regardless of all the odds and favorites and whatnot. It would be so crazy and great to see her win! But I'm wondering if it's not going to be Meryl's year, again, finally.

I really have no idea what the upsets of the night will be, but I am pulling for a Best Picture upset. No offense intended to The Hurt Locker, and totally not because of the scandalous e-mail (whatever! Awards season is one long campaign, way more intrusive than a silly email. Did he update his Facebook status and tweet "Vote for my film!" too? Please) but just because I think Inglourious Basterds was the better film. A magnificent achievement, in fact.

Next time, we'll talk Shorts.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Official Inaugural Chicago Post

I have never lived this close to a movie theater! I have never lived this close to a lake! And to live so close to both a movie theater and a lake at the same time? It must be some kind of miracle. I believe the miracle's name is Chicago.

I have been so - um, busy - that I have not got around to posting. Maybe I was just letting the goodness of our move to Chicago sink in. But folks, it's true. Brian and I have set up shop in a tiny apartment in the Lakeview neighborhood, barely a mile from Wrigley Field and about half a block from everything one could ever want: cheap restaurants, great bars, multiple coffee shops (including DD!), a delicious Mexican restaurant, a fantastic pub with weekly all-you-can-eat fish & chips that is no-kidding-right-next-door, the gym, the aforementioned cinema, and so on. Not to mention that my run is now along a Great Lake and the city bus two seconds from our building's front door runs frequently, although we are also a mere few minutes' walk from the train.


Oh, sorry for the outburst there. I just love it. Careful readers will recall that I have been kicking around the idea of moving to Chicago for some time. First of all, it's the next logical choice after having lived in Los Angeles and New York. (Wait, you mean there are people who don't think that way about where to live?) Secondly, now that I'm all Midwesterly connected via Brian, it was a logical choice for us, because he likes it too and has a gazillion friends here. Plus we were just sitting there with all our stuff in the garage in Grand Rapids and we really needed to get the eff out like tout de suite, and in considering the nearest largest cities Chicago had it all over Detroit-Ann Arbor, even though I have friends there too, because a.)Michigan is currently an economic wasteland and b.)Michigan is like the essence of let-me-please-have-a-car-and-drive-drive-drive while Chicago is public transit, baby! And the longer I put off buying another car, the longer I can convince myself that I am going to get to live abroad again before I, ahem, "settle down" somewhere here in these United States.

And in the two weeks we have lived here I have already seen: Ajami, The White Ribbon, Nine, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Messenger, and Crazy Heart. Not only is there a movie theater AROUND THE CORNER from us, but there is another excellent theatre just over a mile away, walking distance or a short bus ride. (Let me be clear that chez Mom in Phoenix I also had the nearby AMC Deer Valley that was walkable/bikeable, and although it was a mega-multi-eleventy-billion-screens-plex, it does run a fair amount of good stuff, but while Grand Rapids offered the not-so-far-away Celebration! Cinema Woodland, it failed to offer SIDEWALKS along 28th Street on which to walk there. So, you know. Kind of problematic.)

We are less than two weeks away from the Oscars, people!!! I will definitely get on the stick and offer up some Oscar bloggage here in the home stretch. Today I believe I am going to see the Live Action Short nominees, at my theater AROUND THE CORNER! Yeah.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vice-President of the Taliban

A story in today's New York Times caught my eye and made me wonder, haven't we killed/captured the second-in-command of the Taliban like eight or nine times already? I mean, seriously, does this really continue to fail to dawn on our illustrious military leaders and politicians?

The scary thing is that I really don't think it does dawn on them. They continue to conduct missions and the dutiful media sycophants continue to breathlessly report that the #2 Taliban dude -- in this case, "He ranks second only in influence to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban's founder" -- has been eliminated. Until he is replaced by the next #2 Taliban dude.

Or maybe it's just like your typical big shiny modern self-important corporation with a slew of Vice-Presidents. My Grandpa Curtis, who worked all around the U.S.A. from the South to the Midwest, from East Coast factory towns to sunny Southwest suburbs, always used to joke, "In California, nobody's job is lower than Vice-President." Maybe the Taliban adopted that approach.

What might some of the Taliban Vice-Presidents' titles be? They would probably still have a Vice-President of Strategic Planning and a Vice-President of Operations. But instead of VP of Corporate Sales and the like, maybe they'd have the VP for Video Threat Distribution, VP of Fundamentalist Behavior Adherence, VP of Sex Segregation and Oppression, and maybe a VP of Extreme Dress and Grooming Code Enforcement.

Geez, the Taliban. What a pathetic group of people. They would be so laughable if they weren't murderous and evil. It's mind-blowingly sad to think that there are vast numbers of people whose life opportunities are so awful that the Taliban is a better alternative.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Oscar Noms By Day and Lost at Night

Oscar nominations and the beginning of the end of Lost all in one day?! It was too good to be true, I thought, when I first entered these events into my calendar several months ago. And yet, it is true. Both glorious events were set to take place on February 2nd. Take that, Punxsutawney Phil.

Not only are the Oscar nominations and the season premiere of the final season of Lost all together in one day, but we also have an even more traditional major event this week: moving! PLUS, we just got back from a road trip, plus we have a concert (including one of my favorite musicians) and a sporting event to attend this week. I heard at the end of this week there will be some big football game that billions of people watch or something? Yeah, pretty funny how the biggest game of the year is like not even in my top five due to the timing of fate! "What a WEEK I'm having!" (As Kornbluth/Eugene Levy said in Splash. Mine sounds a bit more cheerful though.)

With no further ado, here are some quick, brief thoughts on the Oscar nominations, to be expanded later.

1. Far and away my favorite, happiest thing about the Oscar nominations is the screenplay nomination for In the Loop. That is my favorite film of the year. Now, if only it can win! It is competing against Up in the Air, An Education, Precious, and District 9. While I do love the Up in the Air and An Education screenplays, and would love to see Nick Hornby win for the latter, my preference is ever so slightly for In the Loop. It was just phenomenal. I'm totally going to watch it again to celebrate.

2. Nothing else really stands out as amazingly marvelous and wonderful, although a few things stand out as surprisingly odd. Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique are such sure things, and Jeff Bridges is a surer and surer thing, leaving all the acting competition to Meryl Streep versus Sandra Bullock. I suppose we are a little surprised that Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart) and Penelope Cruz (Nine) were nominated for Best Supporting Actress instead of Julianne Moore (A Single Man), but those are the three movies I haven't seen yet, so I can't fully comment. I will, however, be seeing them soon. Did I mention that our new apartment is AROUND THE CORNER from an independent movie theater? Back flips. I am going to do back flips.

3. But speaking of Sandra Bullock and surprises, there is this little matter of the Best Picture nomination for The Blind Side. Really? Really, though? Now, I am not a Sandra Bullock hater and I found her and Tim McGraw to be very enjoyable when I watched The Blind Side. But Best Picture? No. It is cliche after cliche, stereotype after stereotype, predictable scene after predictable scene, and one of the most annoying Token Cute Kid performances in recent (or long past) memory. When you say it's cliched, people say, "But it's based on a true story!" Those people don't understand what cliched storytelling is. You can take the oldest plot in the world (Shakespeare, Bible, Greek myth) and turn it into a wonderful piece of art; it's not about that. Every writing group participant in the world knows that "But that's how it happened!" is no excuse for bad writing. The scenes where rich, white Sandra Bullock waltzes into the ghetto had their charm, and then quickly gave that charm away with some pathetic line delivered by One-Dimensional Scary Black Thug Character instead of a human being. The script itself was just amateur, amateur, amateur.

4. Then there's Up. Look, I know that I don't appreciate animated films as much as other people do, and that I don't appreciate them as much as I appreciate live action films. But this isn't about that. This is about suspending my disbelief and watching the animated film and just not seeing what other people apparently see. So, it's The Incredibles all over again: someone, anyone, please tell me what was so great about Up? What makes it unique or special? I see Pixar being Pixar again. But I hear you all saying "It was sooooooo amaaaaazing!" Please, articulate why. I am perfectly capable of being blown away by an inventive, awesome animated film. See The Triplets of Belleville and Ratatouille. So tell me: what is the awesomeness of Up? What? I am not appalled or disgusted that it got one of the ten Best Picture nods -- but I am rolling my eyes.

5. And the final Best Picture eye roll goes to District 9. I wanted to adore District 9. I saw the trailer, I read about the making of it, I thought it was a genius premise, and it was about society and human rights and international law and stuff! Well guess what. The genius stopped at the premise. The script was actually cheesy and it was so predictable. It was a great idea ruined by becoming a TV movie plot. I'm not 100% sure whether I care enough to be opposed to the ten-instead-of-five Best Picture nods, but I could have filled that category with better stuff. In the Loop, Where the Wild Things Are, The Men Who Stare at Goats, maybe The Invention of Lying and The Road. Or, we could have just kept the five nominees like always. What kills me is that there are probably ten even better films out there that I haven't seen, because I moved to middle America this year, and that many of you haven't seen either, because the movie theaters were too busy cramming widely opened crap down our throats. But we are too busy nominating Up, The Blind Side, and District 9 to care?

6. I hope Fantastic Mr. Fox kicks Up's ass in the Animated Feature category.

7. Happy about Fantastic Mr. Fox being nominated for score.

8. Genuinely satisfied with the Film Editing nominees: Avatar, Precious, District 9, The Hurt Locker, and my fave, Inglorious Basterds. Any of those winning Editing would be good; they were all done well.

9. I am less happy about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince being nominated for Cinematography - because now I will have to see it. Harry has reared his Oscar nominated head in the past, but sometimes I can ignore my lowest priority one or two films if they are in "non-major" categories and I'm really busy with law school or whatever and don't make it ALL the way to the bottom of my list by Oscar night. I did see Prizoner of Azkaban, which was nominated for Score and Visual Effects in 2004 because I had made it through ALL the other multiple nominees I could get my hands on and had even seen Spider Man 2. Well, guess I'll be watching another Harry for Oscar purposes.

I have a lot to see - partly because of our stints in middle America, and partly because my Netflix watching has been thwarted a bit of late. But all that is changing in this Amazing Week of Weeks!

Onward to March 7th!