Movies - 2012 Oscars posts

Sunday March 03, 2013

In Defense of Seth MacFarlane's 'We Saw Your Boobs'

I was wrong on Oscar night. Not so much in our Oscar pool—although I lost to my nephew, Jordy, 11—but in my contention that Seth MacFarlane’s musical number “We Saw Your Boobs” was the best thing to happen to Oscar in years. I thought it was funny, aimed at dudes (the untapped demographic), and got out in front of the usual Monday-morning Oscar-hosting carping.


A lot of those attacking MacFarlane’s Oscar hosting in general, and “We Saw Your Boobs” in particular, began by admitting they were fans of MacFarlane’s work, so let me begin by saying I’m not. I’ve watched maybe  20 minutes of “Family Guy,” which is weak tea compared to “The Simpsons,” and I panned “Ted,” the blockbuster comedy from 2012. I admitted it was often funny but it made me feel unclean afterwards. It was too racist and sexist, too inured of crappy ’80 culture.

I didn’t feel that way with “We Saw Your Boobs.” I just laughed. It’s the funniest thing I’ve seen Seth MacFarlane do.

Why is it funny? E.B. White once said you can dissect humor as you can dissect a frog, but afterwards you simply have a dead frog. Well, here’s my dead frog.

I think the framing device actually sets up the joke. Others don’t. Amy Davidson, one of the harshest critics (her New Yorker post is called “Seth MacFarlane and the Oscars’ Hostile, Ugly, Sexist Night”), writes:

The song was part of a larger skit whose premise was that William Shatner, as Captain Kirk, sends MacFarlane a message from the future about the dumb things he might do while hosting the Oscars. But that premise is not an excuse.

Maybe not an excuse but definitely a set-up. Because one immediately wonders, “What could this guy do that would be so awful that Capt. Kirk would need to come back from the future to correct it?” And then we see him singing.

The joke, in other words, is on Seth MacFarlane, or “Seth MacFarlane,” the Oscar host too stupid to realize that gleefully reducing our greatest film actresses to their body parts is not something you do at an event meant to honor those very actresses.

The joke is also on men in general, who are rarely above this tendency. Seven years ago, I wrote a piece for MSNBC on famous movie kisses, which included the following:

Did Leo kiss Kate on the prow of the boat or was that just in the poster? More memorable for me are the two of them steaming up the car windows, and Leo drawing a topless Kate. It’s like what my friend Seth admitted when I asked him for kissing scenes: “I only remember the boob shots,” he said. He was only half-joking.

Seth later told me, “Half joking? I wasn’t joking at all.”

But to take this juvenile attitude … into the Academy Awards show … in a rousing song-and-dance number … well, only a moron would do it. And there’s our moron.

MacFarlane’s critics don’t see it that way. They think the joke is on the actresses. Davidson again:

The women were not showing their bodies to amuse Seth MacFarlane but, rather, to do their job. Or did they just think they were doing serious work? You girls think you’re making art, the Academy, through MacFarlane, seemed to say, but all we—and the “we” was resolutely male—really see is that we got you to undress. The joke’s on you.

This implies that MacFarlane, and not “MacFarlane,” actually meant it. Haw haw on Meryl Streep, Halle Berry and Kate Winslet. We saw your titties. Which leaves the joke exactly where? Nowhere. It wouldn’t be funny. No wonder Davidson and others aren’t laughing.

But to me that’s an incorrect reading. Davidson, again, with footnotes:

Getting Charlize Theron and Naomi Watts to pre-record looks of mortification didn’t help, either.1  (It was hard to tell watching at home, unless you were keeping track of what each woman was wearing, that these weren’t live shots. 2) It just seemed like a way for MacFarlane to make fun of viewers for being prudish and not “getting it.” 3 (See, the cool girls think that it’s funny!) We got it. 4

My footnotes:

  1. The reaction shots made it funnier for me.
  2. Not hard to tell. I assumed Theron, etc., were in on the joke, since the joke was on MacFarlane.
  3. Wait, MacFarlane’s making fun of viewers now? Including me? Even though I got the joke?
  4. What does “We got it” refer to? Is Davidson implying that most viewers didn’t get the simple joke of the reaction shots but they “got” the complex joke that MacFarlane included these reaction shots to make viewers feel prudish afterwards? Does that make any sense?

Parodies have already cropped up—”We Saw Your Balls,” “We Saw Your Junk”—but none are funny. MacFarlane’s joke is on “MacFarlane” and men in general. These others are like the haw haw interpretation above: vindictive. More, “boobs” is the way men (and Hollywood) reduce women. That’s hardly news. Is “balls” or “junk” the way women reduce men? Even if it’s true, that reduction is not prevalent in our culture, and certainly not in the movies, which is still a male-dominated industry. The joke only works the way MacFarlane played it.

But there’s a greater criticism of the number. Margaret Lyons on Vulture wrote, “As a fun game, count how many actresses he mentions in this song who are portraying rape victims.” Salon did—and came up with four.

These are the actresses and movies he sang about, with Salon’s highlighted:

  • Meryl Streep, “Silkwood”
  • Naomi Watts, “Mulholland Drive”
  • Angelina Jolie, “Gia”
  • Anne Hathaway, “Brokeback Mountain.”
  • Halle Berry, “Monster's Ball”
  • Nicole Kidman, “Eyes Wide Shut”
  • Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler”
  • Kristen Stewart, “On the Road”
  • Charlize Theron, “Monster”
  • Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”
  • Scarlett Johansson, our phones
  • Jessica Chastain, “Lawless”
  • Jodie Foster, “The Accused”
  • Hilary Swank, “Boys Don’t Cry”
  • Penelope Cruz, “Vanilla Sky”
  • Kate Winslet, “Heavenly Creatures” and “Hamlet” and “Titanic” and “Iris” and “The Reader”

The Foster and Swank references probably should’ve been excised but it’s obvious why MacFarlane chose these actresses. With the exception of the kids—Stewart and Johansson—each is Oscar-nominated. Most have won a statuette or two. To do this properly, you need to do it with Oscar-winning actresses rather than, say, Denise Richards.

Again, I don’t particulary like Seth MacFarlane’s brand of humor. But I like even less all these Monday-morning misreadings of the funniest thing I've seen him do.

Seth MacFarlane singing "We Saw Your Boobs"

He's the boob. That's the joke.

Posted at 08:53 AM on Sunday March 03, 2013 in category Movies - 2012 Oscars   |   Permalink  

Monday February 25, 2013

Deadblogging the Oscars - 2013

My nephew, Jordy, 11, won our Oscar pool from way over in Minneapolis. I came in second. The torch has been passed. Or the Archie McPhee's Oscar statuette anyway.

I'm not much of a fan of the morning-after overanalysis of the Oscar show: who wore what, who said what, OMG. The Oscar show isn't meant to be watched and analyzed as if it were a movie up for an Oscar. It's an excuse to throw a party, drink a little too much, talk back at your TV. If I was sitting on the couch taking notes, I might've been as disappointed as Nikki Finke. Although hopefully less self-important.

As it was, I thought Seth MacFarlane was fine. Richard Brody on The New Yorker site accuses him of being a parody of a host, a kind of SNL version of what a controversial host might be, but I liked the sensibility he brought. Brody makes some salient points but he's wrong in one regard. He says MacFarlane never conveyed “authentic joie de shtick.” Again, I don't watch, or much like, MacFarlane's shows. Way too many misses among the hits. But you can't watch five minutes of them without realizing their creator is a huge movie fan. What was that “Sound of Music” takeoff if not the authentic joy of a movie lover being able to act out a scene from a favorite movie in front of the moviemakers themselves? Plus the “We Saw Your Boobs” number has way more subtext than Brody, or anyone, seems willing to admit. It's saying outright what's merely alluded to.

Brody sniffs at it:

The gross miscalculation of the “boobs” number set the tone for the evening—the wrong one. It seemed as if MacFarlane wanted to announce his hiring of Mr. Skin as a musical consultant. I’ve long thought that the nudity of women in movies has often been used by producers as a sort of ugly rite of passage, a public refraction of the casting couch—but, rather than lampooning the industry potentates who pay for it and market it or, for that matter, the male voyeurism that they serve or the societal sexism that underlies the practice, MacFarlane seemed to be mocking and embarrassing the actresses themselves (as Charlize Theron’s ice-cold gaze, caught on camera during the number, made clear).

First, I'm pretty sure the reaction shots of the actresses involved were pre-taped and part of the bit. Weren't they wearing different clothes, for example? Second, anyone who doesn't own up to the power there, to the power of sex and beauty, and to the culpability from all involved, including the women who dress up and dress down, is mistaking completely what Hollywood is about. Brody's chivalry might be better practiced elsewhere.

This E! writer is worse. He condemns MacFarlane for the sexism in the boobs number then drools over an imagined shirtless-as-Oscar Channing Tatum a paragraph later. Dude, your double-standard is showing.

As for the awards themselves? “Argo” wasn't bad, “Pi” wasn't bad, “Les Miz” wasn't bad. The evening was a celebration of the not-bad. Which is what the Oscars are.

But Daniel Day-Lewis is genius. So we got that.

The Archie: a fake Oscar from Archie McPhee in Ballard

The Archie: After a year with Mr. B, it's back with me. Unless I ship it to Jordy in Minneapolis.

Posted at 08:38 AM on Monday February 25, 2013 in category Movies - 2012 Oscars   |   Permalink  

Friday January 25, 2013

Comfort vs. Questions: Taking the Kubrick Test with This Year's Best Picture Nominees

My friend Vinny alerted me to this short clip of Terry Gilliam talking about Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick, and why the latter is superior to the former:

The dynamic Gilliam is talking about, the massive success of Spielberg versus the “what the hell?” response to Kubrick, is our fault, of course. We want what we don't have: comfort and answers. We don't even want clever answers. We don't want to work. That's the point of the movies for most of us. We go to the movies after work so we don't have to work. Critics, for the most part, are atwork. Watching and writing about movies is their job, and everyone wants their job to have a little meaning. So that's what they search for.

Spielberg's “Lincoln,” as good as it is, gives us comfort and answers. The dilemma the president goes through is a tough one—freedom or peace?—but it's really not presented as much of a dilemma. We sense the right path, and we follow the film's protagonists onto that path, which is a path to victory. If you're in the mood, questions can be raised—chiefly: should Lincoln have just let the South go?—but you have to do the heavy lifting yourself. The movie doesn't help you in this regard.

The rest of the best picture nominees? Should we see how they do with the Kubrick test?

  • AMOUR: Opens in Seattle today. I assume it provides little comfort. It's Michael Haneke, for fuck's sake.
  • ARGO: Initially raises questions about U.S. and CIA involvement in Iran, but quickly becomes a thriller. The point is for the hero to get the scared people away from the scary people.
  • BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD: Questions are raised, chiefly “Is this post-Katrina? Global warming? What the hell is going on? And who would want to live here anyway?” But the ending is an answer: “Ah, that's what Wink was up to.” Preparing Hushpuppy for that. It's a great final image--Hushpuppy not being meat--but it's NPR wish-fulfillment fantasy. 
  • DJANGO UNCHAINED: No questions raised. QT is here to entertain us motherfuckers with guns guns guns.
  • LES MISERABLES: How hard do you have to work to make a movie about poverty and fomenting revolution and still provide comfort? You work this hard. Look down, look down.
  • LIFE OF PI: This is a movie that leaves us with a kind of O Henry question: Gérard Depardieu or the tiger? Which story do you prefer? Do you want the one where human beings are horrible, cannibalistic and isolated? Or do you want the story with the tiger? We want the story with the tiger, of course, which is the one we get. But even as it gives us this answer, this comfort, it reminds us that the whole of human history, certainly the entirety of religious history, is receiving just this comfort. We're part of the problem.
  • LINCOLN: Slavery is ended. Lincoln is martyred. His words ring on and on and on.
  • SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK: Smothered in comfort. As comfortable as watching a Sunday afternoon football game in sweats.
  • ZERO DARK THIRTY: It ends with a kind of question: What price, victory? Or: Who are we now, now that we've done this? But it could've raised the most important question of all and didn't. It suggests no one within the CIA questioned our enhanced interrogation program when many did. It dramatized the efficacy of that program when that's completely in dispute. It drank some bitter CIA Kool-Aid and spun it as heroics. This movie will never be nothing but a vast shame to me. Obviously it's a shameful period in our history, but it's also shameful for what this movie, created by very talented people, could have been. But it's not that. It's merely a murky Hollywood genre picture with a somber end.

So none of these movies (“Amour” pending) really pass the Kubrick test. You know a 2012 movie that does? “End of Watch.” But few bothered with it. Maybe for that reason.

Thanks for the clip, Vinny.

2012 best picture nominees: Academy Awards

Do any of these movies pass the Kubrick test?

Posted at 08:19 AM on Friday January 25, 2013 in category Movies - 2012 Oscars   |   Permalink  

Monday January 21, 2013

The 2012 Best Picture Nominees Ranked by IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes Scores

Here are the best picture nominees as ranked by their Rotten Tomatoes scores:

BP Nominee R. Tomatoes Top Crits Difference
Argo 96% 95% -1
Zero Dark Thirty 93% 90% -3
Amour 91% 97% 6
Lincoln 91% 95% 4
Silver Linings Playbook 91% 91% 0
Life of Pi 89% 88% -1
Django Unchained 88% 76% -12
Beasts of the Southern Wild 86% 77% -9
Les Miserables 70% 58% -22

I've included Top Critics rankings and the difference between the two. Top Crits obviously less enamored of “Les Miserables” and “Django Unchained.” The love “Amour.” They revere “Lincoln.” “Beasts” is interesting. I would've thought that would be a top-critic darling. 

Now here are the best picture nominees as ranked by IMDb readers:

BP Nominee IMDb
Django Unchained 8.7
Life of Pi 8.3
Silver Linings Playbook 8.2
Amour 8.1
Argo 8.1
Les Miserables 8
Lincoln 8
Zero Dark Thirty 7.7
Beasts of the Southern Wild 7.5

I did this last year when “The Artist” was on top and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” was at the bottom, but that's not necessarily good news for “Django.” I can't conceive of a “Django” victory. I can't conceived of a “Life of Pi” victory unless the other films cancel each other out. Jeff Wells is still imagining his “Silver Linings” victory. Maybe. “Crash” won once, too. You can never tell. I still assume “Lincoln” but I'm waiting for the DGAs.

Finally, here's where each film ranks on each list:

BP Nominee R. Tomatoes RT's Top Critics IMDb
Argo 1 2 4
Zero Dark Thirty 2 5 8
Amour 3 1 4
Lincoln 3 3 6
Silver Linings Playbook 3 4 3
Life of Pi 6 6 2
Django Unchained 7 8 1
Beasts of the Southern Wild 8 7 9
Les Miserables 9 9 6

The biggest difference between critics (as represented by Rotten Tomatoes) and moviegoers (as represented by IMDb score) is “Django”: near the bottom for the critics, particularly top critics, and at the top for moviegoers. IMDb's readers love themselves some QT. “Pulp Fiction” is at 9.0 (the fourth greatest movie of all time), “Reservoir Dogs” is at 8.4, “Inglourious Basterds” at 8.3, etc., etc. No QT-directed feature film is below 7.0. His lowest is “Death Proof” at 7.1. “Django” will drop, but probably not much. IMDb is his core audience at the moment.

There's also some vast discrepancies between “Life of Pi” (6, 6, 2) and “Zero Dark Thirty” (2, 5, 8). Everyone seems to agree on where to place “Silver Linings”: 3, 4, 3. Everyone except me. My rankings, without having seen “Amour” yet, would probably put “Lincoln” first, “Argo” second ...


BP Nominee R. Tomatoes Top Critics IMDb Me
Argo 1 2 4 2
Zero Dark Thirty 2 5 8 5
Amour 3 1 4 n/a
Lincoln 3 3 6 1
Silver Linings Playbook 3 4 3 8
Life of Pi 6 6 2 3
Django Unchained 7 8 1 6
Beasts of the Southern Wild 8 7 9 7
Les Miserables 9 9 6 4

But overall I don't have much enthusiasm for this year's picks. I'd put three of last year's best picture nominees (“The Tree of Life,” “Moneyball” and “The Descendants”) ahead of this year's favorite.

2012 best picture nominees

You have a favorite? Feb. 24 is closer than you think.

Posted at 09:45 AM on Monday January 21, 2013 in category Movies - 2012 Oscars   |   Permalink  

Thursday January 10, 2013

Jeff Wells: Alone Against an Army of Haters!

“I was expecting to feel really badly this morning. Now not so much. The nominations are what matter & what sells so hooray for David O. Russell's Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay nominations for Silver Linings Playbook, and also Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro and Jackie Weaver's noms — four for effing four. Eight nominations in all. That's industry emotion. I knew. And I stood alone, all alone, against an army of haters who are now silent and seething. Bitches!”

--Jeff Wells on his “Hollywood Elsewhere” site after the annoucement of the 2012 Oscar nominees.

Wells is often interesting to read but he's also a pompadoured chest-beater who seems to imagine himself the hero of his own action movie--even as he disparages most of the action movies coming out of Hollywood. “I stood alone! All alone! Against an army of haters!” Every person contains a paradox, a contradiction, which they live with everyday, but most people's paradoxes and contradictions aren't so immediately apparent. Jeff Wells' is right out there.

As for “Silver Linings Playbook”? Liked the beginning, got worried in the middle, hated the end. “Let's ignore everything thus far for a bet and a dance competition. And two attractive people, the stars of the movie, coming together in the end. To watch football.” For the Academy this meant eight nominations. Add it to the list of things they get wrong.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook"

“I know you're bi-polar, I know I'm nuts, I know your dad is OCD: But if we just have your Dad bet double-or-nothing on both the Eagles game and you and I in this dance competition, I bet we can win his money back and fall in love! Just in time for the ending!”

Posted at 07:56 AM on Thursday January 10, 2013 in category Movies - 2012 Oscars   |   Permalink  

Thursday January 10, 2013

Unprecedented Disagreement Between the Academy and the DGA

The Director Guild of America announced its nominees for best feature film directing on Tuesday. They were:

Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announced its nominees for best director in a feature film. They were:

Only two agreements: Lee and Spielberg. How common is that?

Last year there was one disagreement: DGA's went with David Fincher (“Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”), the Academy with my man Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life”).

In 2010, one disagreement: DGAs: Chris Nolan and “Inception”; Academy: the Coen Bros. and “True Grit.”

In 2009, no disagreements.

In 2008, DGAs once again went Nolan (“The Dark Knight”), Academy Stephen Daldry (“The Reader”).

In 2007, the disagreement was “Into the Wild” vs. “Juno”; in 2006, it was “Dreamgirls” and “Little Miss Sunshine” vs. “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “United 93”; in 2004, “Finding Neverland” vs. “Vera Drake.” There were no disagreements in 2005.

Generally, the two bodies agree. But when they disagree the DGA tends to be more populist, as in 2003, choosing Gary Ross for “Seabiscuit,” and the Academy more arty, going for Fernando Meirelles and “City of God.”

On rare occasion they disagree on two of the five choices. But have they ever disagreed on three?

No. Since 1970, when the DGAs began nominating five directors in the Academy tradition, the two bodies have never disagreed on more than two directing choices. This year's disagreement is unprecedented.

*  *  *

ADDENDUM: And Sasha Stone with the reason why:

Sasha Stone tweet on DGA

Posted at 07:18 AM on Thursday January 10, 2013 in category Movies - 2012 Oscars   |   Permalink  

Thursday January 10, 2013

And the 2012 Nominees Are...

Immediate reaction: No Kathryn Bigelow or Ben Affleck for best director? No Marion Cotillard for best actress? No John Hawkes for best actor? No “Intouchables” for best foreign language film?

Interesting. But keeping Marion Cotillard away from the proceedings is not the best way to get me to watch.

Also: No best documentary feature announcements? Am I part of that small of a minority who cares? And we got eight best-picture nominees and none was “The Master”?

Host Seth MacFarlane (“Family Guy”) and this year's hottie/serious actress Emma Stone, made the announcements, engaged in some banter, which seemed at odds with the hour. It was like it was too early for bad jokes. Maybe instead of 5:30 AM, they should do it at night, throw a party, and announce the nominees in semi-drunken fashion. A thought. More thoughts, and a complete list, later, but here's the immediate one: It's now “Lincoln.” The DGAs and the Oscars agree on only two directors, Spielberg and Lee, and “Life of Pi” won't win it. It's “Lincoln”

Here you go:

Best Picture

  • Amour
  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Django Unchained
  • Les Miserables
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook
  • Zero Dark Thirty

Best Directing

  • Michael Haneke, Amour
  • Ang Lee, Life of Pi
  • David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
  • Benh Zeitlin, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Best Actor in a Leading Role

  • Bradley Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
  • Hugh Jackman, Les Miserables
  • Joaquin Phoenix, The Master
  • Denzel Washington, Flight

Best Actress in a Leading Role

  • Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Emanuelle Riva, Amour
  • Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

  • Alan Arkin, Argo
  • Robert De Niro, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, The Master
  • Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
  • Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Amy Adams, The Master
  • Sally Field, Lincoln
  • Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
  • Helen Hunt, The Sessions
  • Jackie Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook


Best Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • Amour
  • Django Unchained
  • Flight
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • Zero Dark Thirty

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • Argo
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild
  • Life of Pi
  • Lincoln
  • Silver Linings Playbook

Best Animated Feature

  • Brave
  • Frankenweenie
  • Paranorman
  • The Pirates: Band of Misfits
  • Wreck-it Ralph

Best Foreign Language Film

  • Amour
  • Kon-Tiki
  • No
  • A Royal Affair
  • War Witch

ADDENDUM: the full list of nominees here.

Posted at 06:06 AM on Thursday January 10, 2013 in category Movies - 2012 Oscars   |   Permalink  

Wednesday January 09, 2013

My Oscar Picks! (Wishes Not Predictions)

Oh, what the hell. I said I wasn't going to do it this year since I didn't see some of the bigger movies, but here goes anyway.

Proviso: I have yet to see, because they have yet to arrive, or because I've been too busy or lazy or just have no interest, the following films: “Rust and Bone,” “On the Road,” “Amour,” “Arbitrage” “Magic Mike,” “Killer Joe.” Probably more. That thing with Liam Neeson in the snow that's getting late  and odd attention. “The Grey.” A slew of foreign films. Yet somehow I saw “Men in Black 3.” Skewed priorities.

Further proviso: These are wishes, not predictions. Fuck predictions. To quote George W.S. Trow: You say/Survey says...  You say/Survey says... For greater detail of why I want what I want, feel free to click on the review. Also feel free to go, “What the fuck, Erik?”

OscarHere goes:

Best Picture:

Best Actor

Best Actress

Best Supporting Actor

Best Supporting Actress

Best Director:

  • Paul Thomas Anderson, “The Master”
  • Wes Anderson, “Moonrise Kingdom”
  • David Ayer, “End of Watch”
  • Ang Lee, “Life of Pi”
  • Steven Spielberg, “Lincoln”

Original Screenplay:

Adapted Screenplay:

  • Stephen Chbosky, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”
  • Tony Kushner, “Lincoln”
  • David Magee, “Life of Pi”
  • Tom Stoppard, “Anna Karenina”
  • Chris Terrio, “Argo”

Documentary Feature:

A weak year for movies but not for acting or writing.

As for my choices from these choices? My final picks? I'd go: “Lincoln,” Day-Lewis, Wallis, Clarke, Hathaway (“Les Miz”), Paul Thomas Anderson, Penn and Whedon, Kushner, and “The Central Park Five.”


"Lincoln" starring Daniel Day-Lewis

“Lincoln” would win three of my big awards: picture, actor, screenplay.

Posted at 07:47 PM on Wednesday January 09, 2013 in category Movies - 2012 Oscars   |   Permalink  

Monday January 07, 2013

My Under-the-Radar Oscar Nominations

On Thursday, January 10, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences announces its 2012 nominations. Normally this is the time I'd announce my nominations, just for fun, but now it's crunch time. That is, movieogers like me are now getting crunched between the studios, who release prestige pictures later and later, and the critics groups and the Academy, which announce nominees and winners earlier and earlier.

Not having seen everything (“Amour,” “Rust and Bone,” “The Gatekeepers”), I'll hold off for a bit. In the meantime, here are some less-talked-about performances I wouldn't mind seeing nominated but which probably won't be:

Best Picture

Best Actor

Best Supporting Actor

Best Supporting Actress

That's about it. As I've said before, and despite Roger Ebert's pronouncements, this has been a shitty year for movies.

What about you? Who would you like to see nominated?

"End of Watch" screenshot

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena in “End of Watch,” an underrated movie in an overrated movie year.

Posted at 02:44 PM on Monday January 07, 2013 in category Movies - 2012 Oscars   |   Permalink  

Sunday December 30, 2012

The Return of the Disagreeables: Disagreeable No More!

The New York Times "T"he Disagreeables are back, and this time they're more agreeable!

Three years ago, the three film critics for The New York Times—A.O. Scott, Manohla Dargis and Stephen Holden—told the world, a few weeks before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did, what “the nominees should be...” There were 45 possible choices and all three agreed on just four. I think Congress does better than that. (Three of their four, all “Hurt Locker” related, would win Oscars.)

Two years ago, they were more agreeable, seven of the 45, and two would go on to win Oscars: Natalie Portman for best actress and Christian Bale for supporting actor.

They shrunk the best picture category from 10 to five last year and agreed on only 3.5 of the 40 possible nominees: adapated for “Moneyball”; and screenplay and director for “A Dangerous Method.” The half was for Brad Pitt, whom all three agreed on for different pics: “Moneyball” or “The Tree of Life,” depending. None of their 3.5 won squat. “A Dangerous Method” wasn't even nom'ed. 

I don't know if it's a good or bad sign for the movie year that our disagreeables are so agreeable this year. Of the 40, all three agree on a record 14 nominees:

  • Best Picture: “Amour” and “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Michael Haneke (“Amour”)
  • Best Actor: Joaquin Phoenix (“The Master”), Jean-Louis Trintignant (“Amour”) and Denzel Washington (“Flight”)
  • Best Actress: Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Philip Seymour Hoffman (“The Master”) and Tommy Lee Jones (“Lincoln”)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Amy Adams (“The Master”)
  • Best Original Screenplay: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola (“Moonrise Kingdom”) and Michael Haneke (“Amour”)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”)

Most of the agreement this year stems from two movies, “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Amour,” neither of which has opened for anyone not in an abbreviated city: N.Y. or L.A. So it goes. The movies with critical buzz keep opening later and the Oscar nominations keep getting announced earlier. The official noms are now just 10 days away by Nathaniel's clock. One day the Academy will announce and we'll all go, “Huh?” Or *yawn*.

Manohla was the one who withheld most of the “Lincoln” love: no best picture nom, nothing for Kushner, and either Jack Black (“Bernie”) or Denis Lavant (“Holy Motors”) over Daniel Day-Lewis.  Yet somehow she found all this love for “Silver Linings Playbook.” I think some critics get caught up in auteur love—witnesss the agreement last year on the less-than-dangerous “A Dangerous Method”—and no amount of logic or argument will stand in the way.

Supporting tends to be where the good surprise nominees come in. I like A.O. Scott's nom of Charlize Theron for “Snow White and the Huntsman,” for example. But the most contrarian nomination has to go to Manohla (of course) for the voicework of Hugh Grant in “The Pirates! Band of Misfits.”

So all that agreement—good or bad? Probably because I feel this way already, I think it's a bad sign that the Disagreeables are so agreeable this year. It indicates that there's not many great 2012 movies from which to choose. They agreed, in the end, because that had nowhere else to go.

The Disagreeables: A.O. Scott, Manohla Dargis, Stephen Holden

The Disagreeables: Scott, Holden, and the mysterious, unphotographable Dargis.

Posted at 08:56 AM on Sunday December 30, 2012 in category Movies - 2012 Oscars   |   Permalink  

Wednesday March 07, 2012

It's Early March: Do You Know Where Next Year's Best Picture Winners Are?

Two weeks after the 2011 Oscars, Jeff Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere already has a list of 10 potential best picture nominees for 2012. That's ahead of even the boys over at In Contention, which still lists the winners from, you know, two weeks ago. Whatever they were. Kidding. “The Artist,” etc.

Among Wells' guesses? Two presidential biopics (Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln in “Lincoln” and Bill Murray as FDR in “Hyde Park on Hudson”); two remakes of classic literature (“Great Gatsby” and “Les Miserables”); and some of the usual directorial suspects (Spielberg, Paul Thomas Anderson, Alfonso Cuaron).

Of course where was “The Artist” a year ago, or even last summer, when everyone was talking up Clint Eastwood's “J. Edgar” and Stephen Daldry's “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”? That's what interests me. Which of these movies will be the “J. Edgar” of 2012?

BTW: the FDR pic? Murray's “Rushmore” paramour, Olivia Williams, plays Eleanor to his Franklin, and it's set in 1939 during a weekend visit by (oh no, please, no) King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Because we haven't seen enough of them recently.

Daniel Day Lewis as Abraham Lincoln and Bill Murray as FDR in two 2012 presidential biopics

The presidential-election year of 2012 is seeing two presidential biopics. A rarity, as we know.

Posted at 09:21 AM on Wednesday March 07, 2012 in category Movies - 2012 Oscars   |   Permalink  

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