Saturday, February 23, 2013

Academy Awards 2013 Preshow Pre-Extravaganza!!!

Its that weekend again!  The Academy Awards, the holiest weekend in the movie-watching calendar.  What will happen inevitably is a firestorm of cynicism, as people declare that the Oscars don't matter, they focus on an overly-narrow band of filmmaking, they're nothing but a marketing device, they aren't even entertaining to watch, blah blah blah.  I get it.  At this point, we're all very much aware of the Academy Awards' failings, most painfully the sad fact that "The Raid" was not recognized in any way because its nothing but a perfectly stupid action movie.  So we can mourn what the Oscars should be in our fantasy minds, or we could enjoy what they actually are and appreciate the dignity and respect they bring to the institution of cinema.

This year, I actually have a good feeling that these Oscars won't be quite so dull as the last pile.  Seth McFarland is a genuinely funny person and many of his creations are quite entertaining, the first few seasons of "Family Guy" are fantastic, and when that show became a pile of unwatchable gross-out humor crap, McFarland made "American Dad".  "Ted" was a very funny movie besides from a few strange "Family Guy"-esque jokes that break the movie's reality.  And if he focuses on his natural silliness, his love of musical theater, and his soulful baritone voice, Seth McFarland might be able to put on a great show.  Or if he decides to bang his shin into a Oscar statue, fall on the floor, and moan for five minutes straight in an exercise in anti-humor, then this will be the worst Academy Awards show ever.

As I like to do every year, I'm going to review the Best Picture nominees and see which ones actually deserve to win, after the break.  However, before that, I'll quickly go over the other awards real fast.  I'd really like Quvenzhan√© Wallis to win Best Actress, since her performance in "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is truly like nothing I've ever seen before.  My favorite male performance over the year actually would go to Michael Fassbender's fascinating and chilling role as the cyborg David in "Prometheus", but the Academy disagrees with me, so I guess Daniel-Day Lewis should win.  "Lincoln" would also get Best Supporting Actor with Tommy Lee Jones' fantastic run as Theddeus Stevens.  Supporting Actress should go to Anne Hathaway, that's a barreled fish.  Best Director I feel should actually go to "Skyfall"'s Sam Mendes, but in the real world it should either go to Spielberg or Ang Lee - also, why the heck was Ben Affleck snubbed?  Animated feature should go to "Pirates! Band of Misfits", Best Effects to "Prometheus", and Editing rightly deserves to go to "Cloud Atlas", but it got villainously overlooked, so instead I'm protesting that category and say none of those movies should win.  Finally Best Animated Short needs to go to "Paperman" for being some of the best few minutes of my entire life.

This year we got nine nominees.  The Academy made sure to have only nine so that they could be very passive aggressive to "The Master" which apparently very badly disappointed the art house crowd.  I skipped it due to lack of interest.  I wonder if the Academy is always going to have nine out of ten nominees, because 2012 was one of the best years for movies in a long time.  This is the best field the Oscars have given since 2011, that magical year when they nominated an action Blockbuster, a Western, a cartoon, and a horror movie.  Never again, I'm sorry to say.  Anyway, to the point:

1. "Amour" is that Best Picture Nominee that comes out every year that I've never heard of, and neither has anybody else.  Its the only movie on this list that I have not seen, actually, and for a simple reason.  Nobody has seen "Amour" and there are no records of this movie being played in any theater ever.  In fact, "Amour" does not really exist, its actually a massive scheme put together by sinister aliens to conquer the world.  "Amour" is an illusion, a trick, and everybody who thinks they've "seen" "Amour" have actually been brainwashed and become part of the new Alien Zombie Army.

Or well, I wish because that would actually be interesting.  Its actually about old French people.  I'm sure its well-made for what it is, and whoever the market is for stories like this probably enjoyed it greatly, but I don't care at all.  Neither does the Academy really, since this has no chance at all to win.

2. "Argo" is a great movie, and it won the "Starcrash Award for Best Movie Where Hollywood Saves America" in my Best of 2012 Countdown.  With those credentials, its one of three of my favorite movies from 2012 to be on this list.  Which is pretty cool since its currently the favorite.  I thought it was a strongly-made drama film with plenty of humor and a fantastic premise.  However, being a junkie of B-movies, especially silly space operas like "The Black Hole" or "Message From Space", I kinda want to see the movie within a movie that the CIA was using as a cover for their Iranian rescue operation.  Can somebody make that a real movie?  Ben Affleck has definitely been born again hard, going from being the loser second-fiddle to Bruce Willis in "Armageddon" to one of the most celebrated directors of the last few years.  "Argo" is just the latest and greatest creation he's brought to us, part thriller, part comedy, part historical drama, all awesome.  I would not be upset to see this win, however... I feel like some other movie needs the award.

3. "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is another one of my 2012 favorites, winner of the "Drunken Redneck Award for Best Cultural Drama".  I think Quvenzhan√© Wallis' performance in this movie was simply the most powerful acting roles of 2012, a feat of unique strength all the more shocking and impressive considering that Wallis is still only a small child.  I've sung this movie's praises twice before now, and its simply incredible.  We get to see into the underbelly of America, a dark poverty-stricken land so bleak and full of poverty that you'd wish this were merely fantasy.  And yet the denizens of this dying town are such strong characters, full of pride in a culture that does not need mending from outsiders.  I would like this movie to win, but it has no chance at all.  But I don't feel that bad, my personal favorite to win Best Picture is still coming up.

4. "Django Unchained" is the movie with the least possible chance of actually winning this year.  But then again, there can be little doubt that Quentin Tarantino is one of the best directors of our time.  He was able to make a movie with a full-on exploitation gun battle in the middle of a Southern Gothic mansion, with squibs exploding and fake blood splashing all over the finely painted walls, and the Academy simply could not overlook his mastery.  Who else could make an revenge fantasy against the Slave South and get away with it?  I honestly don't think "Django Unchained" is a bad movie, but it was a movie that never quite "popped" for me, I don't fully understand why myself.  There are scenes that truly show nothing but pure directing talent on a glorious scale, and these feats should be forgotten.  Yet, it won't win Best Picture, and I don't think it deserves it.  Tarantino has made great movies in the past, he'll continue to make great movies, this was an entertaining ride... but its not one of his best.

5. "Les Miserables" is probably the worst movie on this list.  I think the only reason Tom Hooper's bloated and mostly joyless adaptation of one of the best musical I've ever seen.  Yeah, "Les Miserables" has fantastic music and has a timeless classic tale or redemption, revolution, and romance, but that's not Tom Hooper's doing.  He made it slow, plodding, and dreary, painfully slow.  This is the kind of movie that makes you acutely aware of your watch and how time has to pass before it ends.  Despite a strong showing by Anne Hathaway and her glorious rendition of "Dream a Dream", this movie has nothing to offer that you probably couldn't find on Broadway or the West End right now, and better. The only reason this movie is even nominated is because Tom Hooper made "The King's Speech", and it has no chance on Earth for actually winning.  Even the Academy knows how bad this one actually is.

6. "Life of Pi" is a fairly solid movie that I rather liked.  Its definitely the prettiest movie on this list, creating a surreal journey across the sea as a metaphor for mankind's difficult struggle to understand both our place in the universe, and what faith really means.  The movie's conclusion is almost cynical but still as powerful as bottled lightning:  we believe in God because the alternative is simply too depressing.  God makes for the better story.  "Life of Pi" is also a very exciting journey movie, pulling it hero through a magical adventure across the Pacific complete with flying fish and an island that eats people.  But it pretty much sits right at the middle of the Oscar pool, being the least of the Good Movies and still well above the Bad Movies.  So I'd say this one does not have any chance of winning.  Still Ang Lee's creation is something that should not be missed, because its a very pretty movie.

7. "Lincoln" is yet another of my 2012 favs, winning the honorable and coveted "Four Score and Seven Years Ago Award for Best Political Drama".  Just last month, apparently "Lincoln" was the front-runner, being one of the best movies of 2012 and directed by the most respected director of our time, Stephen Spielberg.  Honestly, I loved this movie, as it was able to not only bring a largely authentic and humanizing face on our deified sixteenth President but also presented the complex political and legal challenges he was facing without turning the entire situation into broadly back and white.  How many political dramas present corrupt, smoke-room dealing, manipulative crooks as the heroes?  And then have the conviction to say right to the audience that all this patronage was fine as long as the results, the Thirteenth Amendment, made the world a better place?  "Lincoln" probably has the second-best chance to win Best Picture, and I would like for it to win, being such a solid movie.  But it looks "Argo" has it in the bag.  Though, that's a bad thing.  I mean, the next two movies could win.

8. "Silver Linings Playbook" is almost incoherent in how it transforms from realistic psychological family drama into a completely phantasmagorical romantic comedy.  This is a movie that goes from a character having a full nervous breakdown and beating his own elderly parents, and then all this gets settled with a big dance.  I guess a lot of people were charmed by the blue collar family issues, or maybe most critics couldn't get their eyes off Jennifer Lawrence's backside (and it is quite difficult to get your eyes off Jennifer Lawrence's backside).  But I was paying attention, and despite some decent performances here and there, this movie does not deserve half the praise its getting.  In fact, I'm confused how so many critics were so fooled by this thing.  Maybe the Academy just wants to nominate a movie starring hot actors like Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper so they appear hip**?  Weirdly, this has the third-best chance of actually winning Best Picture.  And I really don't want it to win.  At all.

9. "Zero Dark Thirty" is boring.  You'd think a movie depicting the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his eventual destruction would be something exciting, or at least something interesting.  If they were going for the Hollywood Bleeding Heart route, it could have been challenging, but they just skirt the issues of American war guilt.  I wouldn't have liked the movie more if it were more directly anti-War on Terror, but I would have respected it more.  Instead its just dreary.  This is simply a miserable movie to sit through, seemingly by design, since if this movie were actually entertaining or crowd-pleasing, then this material would lose credibility.  And yet there's "Argo", which despite having all kinds of factual problems, still presented a real-life drama with narrative speed, real characters, and suspense - though I guess wanting those things in a movie makes me an idiot, right?  And "Lincoln" covered extremely weighty and controversial moments, never chickened out by refusing to pick a side, yet still remained an entertaining and well-paced movie.  "Zero Dark Thirty" does have a realistic depiction of modern intelligence gathering, though framed in such a way as to focus directly on its most flat and drawn-out moments.  Worse, Jessica Chastain's character is non-dimensional.  She does one thing in this movie:  hunt Osama bin Laden, she has nothing else in her life, and no other character traits.  That's simply unacceptable.  I'd say "Zero Dark Thirty" has a chance of winning, but its low.

* I hate anti-humor.  I hate Tim and Eric, I hate "Family Guy"'s endless jokes that are supposed to be funny just because of how blatantly non-funny they are.  This is awful.

** If they wanted to appear hip, they should have had Anne Hathaway and James Franco host again.  And pass out to the audience whatever James Franco was smoking behind the curtain.

1 comment:

  1. I want James Franco to get so ridiculously faded this year and pull a Kanye.