Saturday, January 28, 2012

Academy Award Nominations 2012 (With My Commentary)

The Academy Award nominations were just announced and there were some interesting things worth observing about this year’s crop of nominees.  For instance, among the nominees for…   

The Artist The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
Midnight in Paris
The Help
War Horse
The Tree of Life

A couple of things struck me here.  First was the fact that War Horse was on the list.  From the moment I saw the previews for this, I knew I didn’t want to see it.  It’s a horse movie, which is one of the worst kinds of animal movies.  Horses are never anything but noble, loving creatures.  There are no shades of grey, not even in their pelt- movie horses are always brown with big brown eyes.  It’s also a war movie.  Those are two genres that beg for a maudlin treatment and manipulative tear jerking.  Plus it is directed by Steven Spielberg.  He’s made some fantastic war movies, while still jerking some tears, but he can also verge on sappy at times, depending on his subject.  I have no confidence that he could make a serious, emotionally honest animal movie.  (Doesn’t that last sentence sound silly on every level?) 

 The next thing I noticed was that Moneyball was on the list.  I enjoyed that movie but I wasn’t sure if I would have considered it one of the best of the year.  I’m not saying it isn’t- I just haven’t yet decided how I feel about the movie, 4 months after seeing it.  I liked the subject, the script was well written and portrayed the baseball movie in a new way and Brad Pitt did an interesting job with his role (even though he chewed things way too much.  I don’t mean scenery either.  His character chewed tobacco, food, gum, sunflowers seeds, whatever, all the time, like every scene.)

Then of course I couldn’t help noticing Tree Of Life, the Terrence Malik film that even the actors in it didn’t totally understand.  After suffering through Malik’s Thin Red Line, another war movie, I had no interest in seeing this one in the theatres.  Plus I was already over my allotment of Brad Pitt dramas for the year.  Woody Allen is on the list with Midnight In Paris, a much less serious movie than most of the others and therefore one I really enjoyed.  I think it was nominated for an Oscar just because it was a nice relief from all the seriousness that came out this year.  It won’t win of course- no movie with Owen Wilson in the lead role is ever going to win an Academy Award.  Still, it is an entertaining film and one you should check out.  When you do, tell me what time period you would visit.  (You’ll understand that comment once you see the movie.)

The Help is on the list, as expected.  I haven’t seen that yet but everyone knew it would make the list but it probably doesn’t have a chance of winning the big prize.  The actresses might but not the film.  The Descendants also made the list, to no ones surprise.  I have to see that because Alexander Payne usually makes a good movie.  “Wife in a coma” movies don’t usually interest me but Payne has made interesting movies about high school elections (Election), wine and second chance love (Sideways), mid-life crisis (About Schmidt) and abortion (Citizen Ruth) so I figure I’ll give this one a chance.

At about this point, I realized that I had only seen two of the nominees- Midnight In Paris and Moneyball.  Usually I’ve seen the majority of the films by the time of the announcements.  I can understand some of the reasons- horse movie, Malik movie- but normally I would have gotten to a successful movie like The Help, an Alexander Payne movie or a Sandra Bullock movie (Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, even if it was a 9-11 drama).  The same for a Martin Scorsese movie, even though Hugo is a family oriented 3-D movie (and speaking of how weird it is to see certain words in the same sentence- Scorsese, family, 3-D?)  I really must be working too much if I’m feeling too tired to go see a movie on Friday night because it’s not like there weren’t any options- these nominees cover every spectrum of film.  I will say though that I have simply been putting off The Artist, because not only is it a black and white movie, it’s also a silent movie.  Are you kidding me?  In this day and age?  It had better be really good because otherwise that is an insufferably pretentious “artistic” statement.  So I think I will have to get to the movies pronto so I can see more of these ten movies.  Hey, wait a minute.  There are only nine movies!  What kind of dumb-ass list is that?  No one makes top 9 lists- it is always top 10 or top 5.  It turns out that the Academy list is based on how many of their voters select a film as their number one film.  If a film doesn’t get a certain percentage of the first place votes, it isn’t eligible for the best picture award.  The minimum number of nominees is set at five nominees though and the maximum is ten nominees but depending on the votes, we could get a list of movies anywhere between five and ten, so this year we got nine.  Next year it could be seven.  Sigh….

Demian Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Brad Pitt, Moneyball

For this race, I don’t know who to pick.  I’ve already expressed my ambivalence at Brad Pitt’s performance but since discussing the best pictures above, I have seen The Descendants.  I thought that George Clooney’s performance was good and a bit of a stretch for him but I don’t know if it was enough to give him a win.  I didn’t see him do anything any other decent actor could have done.  Gary Oldman was much better.  In fact, he was so good I almost forgot it was Gary Oldman in the role.  That’s saying something because Oldman can be very magnetic and demanding of your attention but in this movie, he fit in seamlessly.  I don’t think he even spoke for the first 10 minutes he was onscreen.  You watched everything going on in the scenes around him and wondered why this George Smiley, a mouse of a man, was getting any respect from the other characters.  Then gradually you started realizing the quiet power he has and by the end of the movie you are thinking that people must have been idiots to underestimate or ignore Smiley.  He adds layers his character bit by bite as the movie goes along.  At the end, you realize Gary Oldman has done it again- he mesmerized you.  This time it was with quiet power instead of aggression or grandstanding, which is why I think he will win.  It was a fantastic job even if the movie was simply okay.  It’s possible that Brad Pitt might win or maybe the guy from the Artist but I’m pulling for Oldman.

I’m also glad to see that Ryan Gosling is not on this list.  I liked Drive but can’t why everyone is so hyped on Gosling (at least here- on Crazy Stupid Love I might have agreed) or the movie.  It was decent, not fantastic.  Just because something doesn’t suck should not mean that you go nuts over it.  Put things in perspective.

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

I have no idea who will win this category.  The only one of the performances I’ve seen is Rooney Mara’s.  She did a very good job with a role that was already perfected by Naoomi Rapace in the Swedish version of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  I will enjoy seeing her in the next two remakes though since the Swedish versions of those were poorly done (through no fault of the two Swedish leads.)  I do wonder why Charlize Theron didn’t get a nomination for Young Adult.  Granted, it was kind of painful to watch at times, especially the big confrontation scene at the end which had me squirming in my seat, and it was a downer of a movie and only funny in a dark way but I think the job she did in it was equal to her role in Monster which not only was nominated but gave her a win.  The Academy likes to see their picks do well because it enhances their prestige so they should have picked her instead of a newcomer like Mara.  That said, it might mean that it is Streep’s turn to finally win again instead of always just being nominated but Viola Davis also has a legitimate shot, based on other awards groups wins.  

Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

When I saw these nominees, my initial thought was “Jonah Hill?  Really?  The guy from Superbad and Cyrus?  Yeah, he portrayed an interesting and realistic human being but playing a normal person should not merit an award.  Most actors do that every day and even add nuance to it.  Nick Nolte did it in Warrior, and did it well enough to be noticed in a mediocre “fight movie.”  If Real Steel hadn’t been so ludicrous  a concept (a family oriented movie about fighting robots), Hugh Jackman could also have been picked for a fight movie and been a better choice than Hill. 

Five years from now when I’m thinking about acting heavyweights, I might think about Von Sydow, Plummer or Branagh but I will not be discussing Jonah Hill, even if 21 Jump Street doesn’t turn out to be as lame as it looks.  If you want to reward funny guys playing contrary to type, why not put Albert Brooks on the list for his role in Drive?  He was legitimately scary and he has paid his dues as well.  Hill is too young to even know what dues are.  As much as it pains me to say this, I also have to wonder why Patton Oswalt was overlooked for Young Adult if you are handing out Oscar nominations just for not being in a funny role.  He did just as good a job playing a real person as did Jonah Hill.  Not that I want Oswalt get a nomination since I jealously hate him but Jonah Hill?  Really?  Next weekend I think I’ll have to see EL&IC because Sydow might be my pick if he’s as good as I think he is in this role.  If not, I’m going with Plummer with Branagh being the dark horse.  No way Nolte will win, not for that movie.

Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help

Academy, you are really trying to get me to see The Artist, aren’t you?  Also, that reminds me I need to move The Help to the top of my Netflix queue.  Once those two things happen, I’ll make a pick.  It would be fun to see McCarthy win too, but Bridesmaids is a comedy so she has no chance.  It was a good comedic role but that’s not what wins, at least not since Marisa Tomei bucked the status quo ages ago.  I thought Elle Fanning might have a chance for a nom for Super 8.  She did a great job in that particularly in the scene at the train station where she delivers her lines and then is asked to add more to it for the next take and she just ups her game to a breathtaking level.  Maybe she’s too new, although that didn’t stop Rooney Mara from getting nominated.  Perhaps the voters were swayed by how hot Mara is when she isn’t wearing all those grungy clothes and you can’t see her bowl-cut bangs. 

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo

I can’t pick a winner here since I’ve only seen two of the movies so far.  I actually think Allen does a better job on his movie as the director than he does as the screenwriter but I think he will end up winning screenplay and not director, or picture.  I’ll see Hugo but I’m not partial to Scorsese’s style in non-gangster pictures.  It strikes me as too dark and slow moving.  Maybe Hugo will convince me otherwise since it is a complete 360 for the director.  Yes I know that a 180 degree turn signifies a complete change in direction but Hugo is such a radical departure for him that it is more like his head spun completely around his neck and no one is the same after their head makes a 360 degree rotation.  Try it if you doubt me.  I’ll come visit you in the hospital/morgue.  (I won’t, really, because I hate funerals.) 

 Payne has a chance with The Descendants but for me the movie was a bit too.  A little too depressing .  Too serious even though there was some humor.  Too good of a cast with not too much to do.  (Judy Greer, Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, all did great with very little screen time.)  Too many abrupt scenic shots at the end.  Too small an ending for the themes it delved into even though paradoxically it was a perfect ending.  Today might be the day to see The Artist so I can tell if it will sweep the Oscars or be a total washout.  

Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
JC Chandor, Margin Call
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids

I think if The Artist does really well in other categories, Allen will win here.  It is also just as likely that Wiig will win for Bridesmaids.  This category has always been the consolation prize for pictures that Academy voters liked but not liked enough to pick for the bigger prizes.  One of those two will take it, unless The Artist takes everything.

Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton, Jim Rash, The Descendants John Logan, Hugo
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, The Ides of March
Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, Stan Chevren,  Moneyball
Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughn, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

This one is anyone’s guess.  It is picked by screenwriters, not the general population, and all of the scripts are solid.  Since I haven’t read any of the source material I don’t know who had the hardest job getting a good script out of the original material.  This may be another consolation prize.  It could be either The Descendants or Moneyball but I’m leaning towards Moneyball since it seems pretty hard to make a compelling movie out of using financial statistics to build a baseball team.  Plus the voters really seemed to like the movie.  (Jonah Hill?  Really?)

A Cat In Paris
Chico & Rita
Kung Fu Panda 2
Puss in Boots

To those people who wondered if there were enough worthwhile animated films this year to get a full slate of nominees, here is your answer.  I bet you, like me, forgot to consider foreign animated films too since those usually suck.  Has anyone actually seen Triplets Of Belleville and able to prove me wrong?  I want Puss In Boots to win because Rango was only so-so, I can’t imagine Kung Fu Panda 2 was any good (come on- it’s about a panda who does kung fu and it’s a “squeakquel” so how could it be good) and I doubt the foreign anime is that great.  Plus, I really really want to see Antonio Banderas go onstage and accept the award while talking like a cat.

In Darkness
Monsier Lazhar
A Separation

Eh.  I haven’t seen any of them and for the first in years I haven’t heard any particular buzz around any of them.  Let’s go with A Seperation.

The Artist Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Midnight in Paris
War Horse

I don’t see how it won’t be The Artist.  Maybe Midnight In Paris since it deals with several different time periods and the voters like the retro stuff?

The Artist
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Hugo
The Tree of Life
War Horse

This seems like the one thing that War Horse could win.  It’s got the epic scope necessary and a horse movie won’t win anything other award that doesn’t have the word “editing” in the name of it.  If not War Horse, then I’d go with Dragon Tattoo or Tree Of Life. 

The Artist
Jane Eyre

The Artist, for sure.  The only other thing with any chance is Jane Eyre.

Hell and Back Again
If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

I’ll pick either Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory or Hell And Back Again.  I just have to go look up what they are about before I decide.  I recognize both names but I don’t know why.  It’s not like I usually watch documentaries.

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
God Is the Bigger Elvis
Incident in New Baghdad
Saving Face
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom

How the hell should I know?   The third one.  Or maybe the second one since it has a cooler title.  Or maybe the first one since the theme is a noble one.  Again, how the hell should I know?  I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that Jonah Hill has an Academy Award nomination.  Really?  Is Adam Sandler next?  Why not Cameron Diaz for Bad Teacher?  I enjoyed her performance more than his.

The Artist
The Descendants
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

For this category, I always just guess the night before the show.  As of now, I’m going to guess Moneyball.

Albert Nobbs
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
The Iron Lady

Iron Lady.  I can barely recognize Meryl Streep.  I just see Thatcher.

The Adventures of Tintin
The Artist Hugo
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
War Horse

Was there music in these movies?  I’m going to go with The Artist, even though I haven’t seen it because if you are making a movie with no dialogue, you better have a damn good score to fill the silence.

Man or Muppet from The Muppets Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie Real in Rio from Rio Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown Lyric by Siedah Garrett

You know I have to go with The Muppets.  I own the soundtrack and liked this song, although my favorite was Life’s A Happy Song and Me Party.  Why not add one of those to this list since clearly you have the space available.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
La Luna
A Morning Stroll
Wild Life

Another last minute guess category.  I’ll go with the flying books one.

The Shore
Time Freak Tuba Atlantic

Um, Time Freak?  Can we combine some ofthese and have a movie called Raju The Tuba Freak?  I’d definitely pick that to win.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

War Horse?  Or maybe Drive as a consolation?  Not Transformers even though it probably deserves it since those movie are all about sound and sight instead of plot and script.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Transformers: Dark of the Moon
War Horse

See above.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
Real Steel
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Transformers: Dark of the Moon

This is tough since I’ve only seen two of them but I think I’ll go with Harry Potter.  So what do you think about this year’s nominations?  (One more time I shake my head in disbelief.  Jonah Hill?  The guy from Knocked Up and The Sitter?  Really?)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Books I've Read This Year (2011)

I guess I haven't read too many books this year. I'll have to read more next year. (Or finish the things I'm halfways through.) First up this month is The Hunger Games, so I can finish it before the movie comes out.

Books I've Read This Year
Mr. Monk Is Cleaned OutLee GoldbergMysteryB
Lady Sings The CluesDiane VallereMysteryB-
Mysterious Benedict Society & The Prisoner's Dilemma Trenton Lee StewartYoung AdultB
Girl Who Kicked The Hornets NestSteig LarssenThrillerB+
Mr. Monk On The RoadLee GoldbergMysteryB
Pride & PrejudiceJane AustenDramaB+
Food RulesMichael PollenNon-FictionD
Outwitting TrollsWilliam G. TapplyMysteryB
Zombie Spaceship WastelandPatton OswaltMemoirB
Burn Notice: The ReformedGoldberg, LeeThrillerB
Designer Dirty LaundryDiane VallereMysteryB
Commencement J. Courtney SullivanDramaB
More 5 Minute MysteriesKen WeberMysteryB

Russell Brand And Katy Perry End Their 14-Month Marriage

I am shocked to hear this news.  Completely shocked, I'm telling you and I'm not being sarcastic.  14 months ago when these two young kids got married, I was skeptical that it would last.  He is a known womanizer and addict and she is a formerly Christian pop singer (albeit it a really hot one).  I expected them to pull a Kardasahian a couple months later, but no- they kept on going.  He must not have cheated on her or relapsed either or else he did and she forgave him and they kept on being married.  There was no Sinead O'Connor/Britney Spears/Shannon Daherty/Lisa Marie Presley moment where the marriage was annulled shortly afterwards.  That's why this annoucement took me by surprise. 

Now, please don't misunderstand me.  I'm not the least bit surprised they are getting a divorce since I've been expecting it every time she showed up on the news.  There's Katy Perry- she's going to make an announcement.... oh, it's about being booted off Sesame Street.  Here she is again- she's going to say that... oh, it's just to say she'll be on Saturday Night Live.  What  startled me was that it was Russell Brand that asked for a divorce.  I was totally expecting her to get fed up with him cheating on her or doing drugs or something she couldn't forgive him for.  I never thought that he was initiate things.  Was she cramping his style or something?  What gives?

Russell Brand And Katy Perry End Their 14-Month Marriage

(By Associated Press, December 30, 2011)

British actor-comedian Russell Brand is divorcing “California Gurls” songstress Katy Perry after 14 months of what had appeared to be one of Hollywood’s happier marriages.  “Sadly, Katy and I are ending our marriage,” Brand said in a statement to The Associated Press on Friday. “I’ll always adore her and I know we’ll remain friends.”  Brand, 36, offered no other details, but in papers filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, he cited irreconcilable differences.

He and the 27-year-old pop singer were married in October 2010 at a resort inside a tiger reserve in India, and their mutual affection had become a rather sweet feature of the celebrity circuit.  The couple announced their engagement in January 2010 after meeting at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, where Brand hosted and she performed.  The comedian, who once struggled with substance abuse and sex addiction, was effusive about his bride while promoting projects earlier this year, saying marrying Perry has “given me much more strength in what I do.”  “For a long while, what I do professionally was all that mattered to me really,” he said in March. “Now I think, well, whatever I do, I’ll just go back to her, and that’s incredibly comforting.”

Perry praised her husband backstage at the 2011 VMAs in August, where she won three awards and he offered a tribute to Amy Winehouse.  “I’m proud of him, whatever comes out of his mouth, and sometimes it’s very colorful, right?” Perry said of Brand. “That’s why I married him, because he’s smart and I learn a lot.”  Attorneys for Perry, whose name is listed as Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson in the divorce papers, did not respond Friday to calls seeking comment.

The Internet had been abuzz recently with rumors about possible trouble for the couple after they were seen during the holidays without their wedding rings.  Perry’s run of No. 1 singles earned her the distinction of becoming MTV’s first artist of the year earlier this month. She hosted “Saturday Night Live” on Dec. 10 and gave no indication any marital woes.  Brand’s recent film credits include “Arthur,” ‘’Hop” and “Get Him to the Greek.” He is among the ensemble starring alongside Tom Cruise in “Rock of Ages,” set for release next year.  Both Brand and Perry were absent Friday from Twitter, where they often shared kind words for each other.