Post-Oscar 2010 Scorecard

8 03 2010

I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to watch an Oscar telecast as I was last night. It might have something to do with the fact that there was such a wide range of movies nominated this year or it might have been the fact that I had one of the best conversations of my life last year on Oscar day when I had to explain to two of my best friends that the Academy Awards and the Oscars were in fact the same awards show.

Either way, I feel it obligatory to score my predictions from yesterday.

BEST ANIMATED FILM: UP – Thank you Academy! You recognized the only best picture nominee of the group and honored it in the way it should be honored – as an animated film. And the Oscar for Best Original Score was icing on the cake. I forgot how moving that score was and you could feel the emotion in the snippet they played – though the dancers did absolutely nothing for it.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Christoph Waltz – The first non-surprise of many of the night. It was only natural that the Academy would recognize Tarentino’s Inglourious Basterds in some way tonight just because he’s Tarentino. However, with the movie up against a lot of better ones for Best Picture, and there being no way in hell that Kathryn Bigelow or James Cameron wouldn’t win for Best Director they had to give it to Waltz. He did give a damn good performance in the film, which was its only saving grace. It would have been nice for a nod to Christopher Plummer, though.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Mo’Nique – No surprise again. She deserved this award for going to the deepest recesses of her soul to become a monster and managing to come out on the other end of this film a stronger and more empowered woman. Still, she manages to be humble and recognize that her strength in the role was not from her alone but from a collaboration with a strong director, script and co-stars. Loved that she won.

BEST ACTOR: Jeff Bridges – Are you seeing the pattern here? No surprise once again that Bridges finally got recognized for his work. They made a huge show out of continuously saying that he came from one of the great Hollywood acting families and his fun nod to his parents turning him on to “such a groovy profession” was sweet and fitting for an actor who made his name playing “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski.

BEST ACTRESS: Sandra Bullock – Again, no surprise here. Bullock delivered a strong performance in The Blind Side, and it was probably a career-best up to this point. However, she did not deliver the best performance out of all the nominees. We all know where I stand on this category – Mirren was robbed – so I won’t rehash that in depth. The only saving grace in Bullock getting this award was that we got to see another emotional acceptance speech and she’s the only actor to ever win a Razzie (for All About Steve) and an Oscar in the same weekend. And was I the only person who really wished Gabourey Sidibe would win just so we could see her acceptance speech? Her excitement was palpable throughout the telecast and her tears as Oprah gave her performance praise were so sweet.

BEST PICTURE: – The Hurt Locker – Love it. That’s really all I have to say. It came down to Avatar and The Hurt Locker and the film with the stronger story and real feel won. Love it.

BEST DIRECTOR: – Kathryn Bigelow – I thought the Academy was going to split their votes and give one award to Avatar and one to The Hurt Locker, so I was surprised when Bigelow took home both. Still, I was happy. It’s amazing that she’s the first female to take home this award, made better by the fact that today is International Women’s Day. She deserved to win! And I’m glad we didn’t have to listen to another “I’m the King of the World!” speech in Na’vi.

Scorecard: I’m 7 for 7 on Should Wins and 6 of 7 on Will wins.

Other thoughts on the telecast:

  • Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin kind of rocked as hosts. Their opening monologue was light-hearted and witty. They could have been better had they actually pointed out all the nominated actors/actresses so that leaving Maggie Gyllenhaal out of the fun but continuously showing her sitting in the audience wasn’t so glaring.
  • What was the gag between Alec and George Clooney? I enjoyed it, but I feel like their uncomfortable staring had a history that I don’t know about that would make it that much better.
  • I’m glad Ben Stiller figured out that his Na’vi costume was a dud as soon as he stepped on stage. His visible uncomfort was the only thing that made that gag worthwhile. Plus, the fact that Avatar wasn’t even nominated for that award made it even more awkward.
  • The Oscars had their very own Kanye. WTF happened after they announced Roger Ross William’s film Music By Prudence as Best Documentary Short? One minute he’s in the audience hugging his Mom, the next he’s on stage and some lady wearing a purple blanket is wrestling the microphone away from him and spouting random crap about Zimbabwe the second he says Thank you. The interaction was uncomfortable, but Williams handled it with grace and made sure to point out that Prudence was in the audience before following purple blanket-lady backstage to presumably bitch slap her with his award. NOTE: Purple blanket-lady is apparently one of the producers on the film named Elinor Burkett. She and Williams aren’t speaking at the moment due to creative differences, but Williams is the true owner of the award as the movie belongs to him. So, suck it purple blanket lady! Read about it here.
  • Best Original Score. Umm, don’t we normally get performances of the Best Songs instead of the actual scores? And aren’t those normally better? The answer to those questions are yes and hell yes. Why did the Academy decide we needed interprative dances of the original scores? Break dancing can only go so far, people. It can’t capture the innocence and emotion of Up’s score (or many others, actually). And did it have to go on so long?? We get it, they can dance, now please cart another pretty celebrity out before us so we can see their outfit for the evening.
  • Rachel McAdams. Love your dress, girl, but I feel bad that you’re going to wake up today and see the footage of you presenting and realize that you had a random section of hair sticking straight out from the right side of your head.
  • Miley Cyrus. First, why are you at the Oscars? Second, why does your dress not fit? Third, why are you at the Oscars? Stand up straight at your next award show, honey, you look frumpy. Amanda Seyfried, you’re adorable as always. I’m sorry Miley took away from your beauty.
  • Why is Jane Seymour there?
  • Why did Keanu Reeves get chosen to present a Best Picture nominee?
  • Why was Twilight in the horror movie montage? And Young Frankenstein? Why was there even a horror movie montage?
  • Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in a double snuggie backstage. Awesome.
  • Colin Firth looked kind of sad that Jeff Bridges won. It’s understandable as he’s a great actor and this is the first time he’s been nominated. The puppy dog sadness only made him more attractive as well.




2010 Oscar Predictions

7 03 2010

Well dear readers, the fateful day is finally upon us.

Tonight the 2010 Academy Awards will go down in the annals of Hollywood history.

Who will be best dressed? Worst? Will Avatar and James Cameron have as big of a night as he did in 1997 when Titanic won 11 awards? Will Avatar and The Hurt Locker split the vote on the huge field of Best Picture nominees leading to a dark horse winner?

All of our questions will be answered during the live telecast at 8 pm EST.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the categories and examine who most likely will win as opposed to who should win.

I’m going to fit in one more Best Picture nominee this afternoon – Up in the Air. Can’t wait to see what’s going to happen tonight.

Best Animated Film

Nominated: Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog, The Secret of Kells, UP

Will Win: UP or Coraline.

Should Win: UP

This may seem like a pretty clear cut category. Of course the Academy would recognize one of the most brilliant animated films to be released in a long time, and Pixar seems to have a lock on the category which has only been around since 2001 (Ratatouille, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo and WALL-E have all won). However, with UP being nominated for Best Picture as well, it may split the votes. Some academy voters may want to see the second animated film ever nominated for the big award to win and might pick the second best animated film of the year for this category. In that case, Coraline would take the cake. It’s inventive plot and astounding visuals would sway voters to her side. Let’s hope the voters realize UP has no chance in the big dance and recognize it as it deserves – as an animated film.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Nominated: Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart), Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air), Penelope Cruz (Nine), Mo’Nique (Precious)

Will and Should Win: Mo’Nique (Precious)

Absolutely no question about this one, Mo’Nique will take this award tonight. Even without seeing the entire movie it’s apparent from the clips on the late night shows and at past award shows this season that Mo’Nique delivers an amazing performance as Mary, who physically, mentally and sexually abuses her daughter Precious throughout her life. The subject matter is Oscar gold as the academy loves films that delve into the gritty world of real life without glossing over the truly uncomfortable aspects of the world, and Mo’Nique is said to have delivered the performance of a lifetime. I can’t wait to hear her speech. If the Golden Globes was a warm up of her acceptance tonight, I expect a lot of tears from both her and myself.

Best Supporting Actor

Nominated: Matt Damon (Invictus), Woody Harrelson (The Messenger), Christopher Plummer (The Last Station), Stanley Tucci (The Lovely Bones), Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Will Win: Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds)

Should Win: Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)

The buzz around this category is leaning strongly towards Christoph Waltz, whose portrayal of a Nazi soldier in Inglourious Basterds is sadistic and cunning. There’s no doubt that he delivers a great performance, especially in the opening scene of the movie as he interrogates a German farmer about his former neighbors, a family of Jewish people. However, the movie drops the ball shortly after that scene and not even Waltz can rescue it. He does a decent job with what he is given, but thinking about what could have been overpowers his performance.

Christopher Plummer on the other hand is being nominated for the first time after a long and storied career. He delivers a masterful performance as Leo Tolstoy in The Last Station, all but disappearing into the character. Unlike Waltz’s character, Plummer’s allows him to explore different emotions and Plummer manages to exude them all with a grace that can only come with age and experience. If Heath Ledger could win this category last year just because he was dead (let’s be honest with ourselves, his performance in The Dark Knight was amazing, but it was made so because he was no longer with us…) then Plummer should take it home based on the breadth of his performance in this particular role, and as a testament to his entire career.

Best Actor

Nominated: Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), George Clooney (Up in the Air), Colin Firth (A Single Man), Morgan Freeman (Invictus), Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker)

Will Win: Jeff Bridges

Should Win: Can’t answer – have only seen one of these films

It’s Jeff Bridges year for this category. Bridges has won the Golden Globe, SAG Award, L.A. Film Critics and Broadcast Film Critics awards for his portrayal of the singer Bad Blake. He has the award season momentum to take this performance all the way to the Oscar podium. If anyone can take it from him it will most likely be Morgan Freeman, who will win because the Academy seems to enjoy when actors step into the huge shoes of historical figures like Nelson Mandela.

Best Actress

Nominated: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side), Helen Mirren (The Last Station), Carey Mulligan (An Education), Gabourey Sidibe (Precious), Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia)

Will Win: Sandra Bullock or Meryl Streep…with a heavy emphasis on Sandra Bullock

Should Win: Helen Mirren (The Last Station)

You’d think that only two women were nominated for this category if you listen to any sort of pop culture. Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock are supposedly duking it out for the top spot with Bullock stating she doesn’t expect to win at all. Her modesty may net her the award for her portrayal of Leigh Ann Touhy in The Blind Side. Admittedly, Bullock delivered an outstanding performance in the drama, given that she’s mostly known for her romantic comedies, but it’s not that hard when you’re given a strong woman who really exists to portray. What did Bullock truly do in the movie? She wore a blonde wig and spoke with an accent. The great character came through the true story aspect of the film. Meryl Streep’s performance is very much in the same vein. She played Julia Child and she played her well. She had her mannerisms down pat, she captured her voice¬† (though, I have to say, she seemed to match Dan Aykroyd’s Julia Child more often that the actual woman) and she had fun with the role. But she didn’t deliver the performance of a lifetime.

Helen Mirren on the other hand did the same thing as Streep and Bullock. She played a woman who existed in real life and she played her well. What makes her performance different is the passion conveyed every moment she’s on the screen. It sucks you in and makes you root for her as every emotion possible plays across her face. She became Sofya Tolstoy in all every sense of the word. It will be a sin for her not to win, and that sin will be committed tonight.

Best Picture

Nominated: Up, Avatar, The Blind Side, An Education, The Hurt Locker, A Serious Man, District 9, Up in the Air, Precious, Inglourious Basterds

Will Win: Avatar

Should Win: The Hurt Locker

This is the first year that there are 10 nominees for Best Picture, and the extended field is showing it’s weaknesses. Sure, 5 might be too few a number, but 10 is way too many when films that fall short of excellence, like Inglourious Basterds are making the cut. That being said, Avatar will take this one home. Just like Titanic, Cameron is being glorified as a genius this awards season and the fact that he created an entire world with new creatures, flora, a language and characters will sway the votes towards him. There’s no doubt that the visual aspect of Avatar was amazing. It was pure eye candy. But the story falls flat as it’s been seen everywhere from animated films like Fern Gully and Pocahontas to Dances With Wolves. Conversely, The Hurt Locker proved to be a movie heaped in tension. This film has both a plot and depth as it explores a bomb squad in Iraq, both key aspects to a best picture that Avatar lacks. It wouldn’t exactly be an upset if The Hurt Locker wins, though. It’s running a close second as we get closer to show time.

Best Director

Nominees: James Cameron (Avatar), Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker), Quentin Tarentino (Inglourious Basterds), Lee Daniels (Precious), Jason Reitman (Up in the Air)

Will Win: James Cameron or Kathryn Bigelow

Should Win: Kathryn Bigelow

It’s the battle of the exes in this category as well. Both directed critically acclaimed films and both stand a decent chance of winning tonight. However, Bigelow should take this one, especially if The Hurt Locker loses out on Best Picture. Sure, Cameron directed an epic film, but most of his directing took place on a green screen and everything external to the actors was added digitally after filming. Bigelow, on the other hand, dealt with filming in the desert in Amman, Jordan. No comfy Hollywood sound stages here, Bigelow dealt with all the external forces of directing her actors in the real world.





Pre-Oscar’s Nominee Round Up

4 03 2010

As part of my pre-Oscar night flurry of watching as many movies as possible, I’ve managed to fit in quite a few films that I don’t have the mental stamina to write full-reviews for. And so, to make sure I have all my facts straight come tomorrow when I put together my list of “will win/should win” based upon the movies that I’ve actually had a chance to see. Most of these movies are also relatively old, or have been talked about left and right in the press so this reduces the risk of sounding repetitive. That being said, here we go!

UP

Directors: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
Starring: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai
Release Date: May 29, 2009

One of the two 3-D movies I’ve seen in the past year, UP delivers as a feel-good children’s movie that both adults and kids can enjoy together. If I were 15 years younger, I would have enjoyed the story of an old man who tries to escape from the busyness on interruptions of city living by attaching a ton of balloons to his house and floating away with it not realizing he has a stowaway, Russel. The two travel the skies as they try to make their way to Angel Falls, where Carl, the old man, always wanted to travel with his darling wife as they sought to be like their role model, the adventurer Charles Muntz. The physical hijinks Russel and Carl encounter would have been laugh-inducing and the character of Dug, the dog, would have been lovable. Seeing it as a 23 year old (or rather, I was 22 at the time), I loved it even more. Not only did the comedy and hijinks appeal to me, but I was able to enjoy the deeper undertones of love and loss as well. The first five minutes of the film are a magical look at how love blossoms, grows, and endures and are well worth the price of admission. And exploring the visually stunning world Docter and Peterson created around the Angel Falls was a treat alongside the friendship Carl and Russel strike up. Final Verdict: Good

2010 Academy Award Nominations – Writing (Original Screenplay), Music (Original Score), Sound Editing, Animated Feature Film, Best Picture

Inglourious Basterds

Director: Quentin Tarentino
Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger
Release Date: Aug. 21, 2009

Tarentino is known for his violent, uncomfortable and all-around WTF plotlines and his latest film, Inglourious Basterds, is no exception. The first scene featuring Christoph Waltz as a deliciously devilish Nazi officer conniving his way to getting what he wants during WWII set the stage for a fast-paced thriller that actually makes you think. And then, all too soon, that compelling tale dries up into the pulp medium Tarentino seems most comfortable in. The Basterds, a team of Jewish-Americans bent on raising hell in the Nazi regime, is introduced in a confused sort of way that leads viewers to ask “well, wait, who are they?” And just as they start to figure out just what it is the Basterds do as a group, Tarentino once again shifts the action to only include 5 of them. There are moments in the movie that are delectable, most notably Diane Kruger’s entrance as an actress holding her own among a group of Nazi soldiers as a few Basterds try to infiltrate the ranks as Nazi officers, and any scene with Waltz, but for the most part the movie falls flat. Had Tarentino not attempted to rewrite a huge part of history – namely, Hitler’s death – the movie would have been a darkly comical look at WWII. As it is, Pitt and co. are entertaining – and at times disturbing, as when he shoves his finger into a bullet hole to torture Kruger – but it is Waltz that carries the movie and saves it from being an abysmal failure. His supporting actor nod is well-deserved (if not head-scratching worthy – who did the academy decide was the primary actor? Pitt?), but the Best Picture nomination is sorely lacking and may be a case of the Academy needing to fill out their inflated 10 spots. Final Verdict: Mediocre

2010 Academy Award Nominations – Best Supporting Actor, Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Film Editing, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Best Original Screenplay

Avatar

Director: James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Joel Moore
Release Date: Dec. 18, 2009

Coming in at the tail-end of the Avatar madness there’s no way I was ever going to see the movie without a preconceived notion of what I was walking into. It’s like Pocahontas in Space! It’s Fern Gully on crack!Hell, James Cameron even admitted that it’s Dances with Wolves in space! That said, there’s no way that I could have not seen it prior to the Oscars. And I had to see it in 3-D to get the full effect. Avatar is visually stunning. There is no doubt about that. The world which James Cameron created holds intrigue and wonder and I was constantly looking forward to what creature we would be introduced to next. From the six-legged horses to the scary panther who chases Jake’s Avatar and leads him to the Na’vi to the flying ikran’s and toruk the introduction of each new species was a pleasure to behold and kept things interesting in an otherwise dull story. The scenery was also spectacular. The floating mountains, the home tree, the tree of voices and the tree of souls are gorgeous and each sweeping panorama is almost as breathtaking as the next as Jake and Neytiri run through the forest at night. The plot, though, causes the film to fall a little flat. We get it, humans are bad for destroying Earth, Cameron disagrees with the war in Iraq, humans are too caught up in materialism. Yes, we had a fantastic little movie called Wall-E which reminded us of this all two years ago. Still, the love story, while predictable, was entertaining, and it was pleasant to watch Jake’s interactions with the Na’vi move from ethnocentric to familial. Final Verdict: Mediocre plot, Good Visuals

But the big question is: Did it need to be in 3-D? To an extent, the 3-D helped to capture the immensity and wonder of Pandora, but the entire movie did not need to be in 3-D. While the landscapes and battle scenes were visually compelling, the scenes in the RDA colony containing only human beings were awkward and slightly jarring. I don’t think I’d see it in 3-D again, but it might be interesting to see it in 2-D so as not to be distracted by the extra dimension.

2010 Academy Award Nominations: Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Visual Effects (honestly…this is a category? Just hand the award to Avatar now (up against District 9 and Star Trek)…there’s no point in even taking the time to announce it at the show) and Best Picture

Julie & Julia

Director: Nora Ephron
Starring: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina
Release Date: Aug. 7, 2009

A light-hearted romp through time, Julie & Julia is probably the fluffiest of the films on this list – and that’s not saying much when you remember this list includes an animated movie. The film, based on a true story, follows Julie Powell (Amy Adams) as she works her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogging about the experience. At the same time, we’re treated to a secondary plot following Ms. Julia Child herself (Meryl Streep) as she moves to France with her husband, Paul (Stanley Tucci), and tries to find something to keep her occupied during their stay. She settles on cooking and shortly becomes one of the best cooks in her class regardless of the fact that she was supposed to fail, according to the woman running the cooking school. The two stories touch on highlights of the women’s lives as they parallel each other as Julia tries to write her book, and Julie tries to cook her way through it. Sounds like a fail-proof plot, and yet, it fails. The Julie side of the story is unbecoming of Adams, who has proven herself to be versatile as both a princess (Enchanted) and a lower class woman trying to make ends meet in a gruesome way (Sunshine Cleaning). She’s shrill, she’s whiney and she’s at times downright obnoxious which causes her husband to leave her for a few days. While this may be an excellent character study by Adams, it’s detrimental due to the fact that her character isn’t compelling at all. Who cares if Julie makes it through the cook book? Not I. And certainly not Julia Child, who had a dismissive attitude towards the Julie/Julia blog. The directors should have taken a cue from the master herself. If Julia doesn’t care, the viewer won’t either. Instead, we should have been treated to an all Julia, all the time movie. The glimpses of France are beautiful and the in-depth look at just how a cook book is produced is interesting. But it is the character interactions between Julia and Paul that truly shine. Streep falls in the role of Julia wonderfully. She perfectly captures her mannerisms and her character, and Tucci is the perfect compliment as he offsets Julia’s eccentricities with his loving, yet solid demeanor. And the food looks so appetizing. Julie Child could definitely cook and she (and Streep) proved that much better than Julie Powell ever could. Final verdict: Mediocre

2010 Academy Award Nominations: Best Actress in a Leading Role