Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Oscar Nominations Breakdown

Alright so I promised I would break-down the Oscar nominees and now I’m finally going to do it. So let’s take a look at my predictions and then the real nominees: (Green is for correct predictions, red is for incorrect ones)

My Predictions Actual Nominees

Best Picture
- Babel - Babel
- Dreamgirls - Letters From Iwa Jima
- The Queen - The Queen
- The Departed - The Departed
- Borat! - Little Miss Sunshine

Best Actor
- Forest Whitaker - Forest Whitaker
- Leonardo DiCaprio (for The Departed) - Leonardo DiCaprio (Blood Diamond)
- Sacha Baron Cohen - Ryan Gosling
- Will Smith - Will Smith
- Peter O’Toole - Peter O’Toole

Best Actress
- Helen Mirren - Helen Mirren
- Meryl Streep - Meryl Streep
- Kate Winslet - Kate Winslet
- Perennial nominee, Dame Judi Dench - Judi Dench
- Beyonce Knowles - Penelope Cruz

Best Director
- Martin Scorsese - Martin Scorsese
- Clint Eastwood (For Letters...) - Clint Eastwood (Letters...)
- Stephen Frears - Stephen Frears
- Alejandro González Iñárritu - Alejandro González Iñárritu
- Bill Condon - Paul Greengrass

So to sum that up for you, I correctly predicted 14.5 out of 20 (I give myself half a point for Leo, because I knew he would be nominated but I predicted he would be nominated for the good movie, not the preachy one. Sorry, I forgot I was dealing with Hollywood instead of rational people). Not bad. So now that I’ve graded my predictions for the nominees its time for me to make my predictions as to who will win, and sadly I think this task will be substantially easier.

As I said before, Forest Whitaker and Helen Mirren have already picked out where in their respective houses they plan on displaying their Best Actor and Best Actress awards, and in accord with that Leonardo DiCaprio is working on trying not to scowl when they don’t call his name. Again. (I wonder if Leo must be insufferable to work with, because the Academy, which is made up of many of his peers, just keeps teasing him even though he is most certainly one of, if not the, most talented actors in Hollywood.) And now it seems that based on the last few weeks it is becoming more and more apparent, thanks to wins at the Producers Guild Awards and at the Screen Actors Guild awards Sunday night, that the Best Picture award will go to Little Miss Sunshine. And I know, last year around this time we were all sure that Brokeback Mountain would win, but Little Miss Sunshine hasn’t become the national joke that Brokeback became in the months after its bizarre popularity. And also remember, I correctly predicted Crash would win, so I think you should just trust me on this one (sorry, I just had to bring that up again because it was such a great prediction by me).

Also pretty much in the bag are the awards for Best Supporting Actor and Actress which will most likely go to Dreamgirls co-stars, Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson, which I think seems awfully weird considering that the movie wasn’t even nominated for Best Picture. But perhaps enough of the people in the Academy saw Beyonce’s performance in The Pink Panther and Austin Powers 3 and just decided that no movie starring her should ever be considered the Best Picture. And if that’s the case, then I certainly can’t disagree with their choice. Although it really will be a damn shame if Marky Mark doesn’t win, because he was awesome. Can’t he get some kind of special Academy Award for Most Amazing Excessive Swearing in a Good Film? Who Framed Roger Rabbit? got a special award for being awesome, so really I don’t see why Marky Mark can’t as well? And this, I suppose, is why I’m not allowed to hand out awards that matter.

The only real mystery in this year’s Academy Awards lies within the Best Director category (well that’s not true, I’m sure that there is some question as to who will win the Best Editing award or one of those other awards few people care about outside of people in that specific field and the mothers of those people) where once again Martin Scorsese finds himself in position to win an award he should have won many times already. Part of me thinks that this one is a sure thing, because really, he has to win sometime, doesn’t he? He’s definitely one of the most talented directors we’ve ever had, much better than that Steven Spielberg (who’s won TWO!!!), so at some point you’d figure he’d have a shot to pick up the Best Director award. And we also have to remember that the Academy loves handing out awards as a way of honoring all of a person’s body of work after numerous snubs, kind of like a makeshift Lifetime Achievement Award, (remember Denzel anyone?).

However, there is another part of me that wonders why hasn’t he won it yet? He certainly could have two years ago when The Aviator lost out to Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. He also could have picked up the award at the 1989 show when his excellent work, The Last Temptation of Christ, lost to Rain Man, which was directed by Barry Levinson (what? He’s won an Oscar? Weird.). So maybe he’s just not going to win one. Alfred Hitchcock never won one. Neither did Robert Altman. Sometimes the very best of us don’t get recognized for their achievements simply because their consistent greatness gets them overlooked by works that are extraordinary for an individual (Manny Ramirez has never won an MVP award, but I don’t think anyone could argue he isn’t a legitimate MVP candidate every single year. And on the flip side of that, Jeff Kent has won an MVP award. I rest my case). I don’t think that Eastwood could beat him again, but I do think its possible that someone like Greengrass or Iñárritu could pull it off since their works are extraordinary compared to the rest of their careers (or at least most people would think that). It seems highly unlikely that that would happen, but I bet Barry Levinson thought similarly on Oscar Night in 1989.

As for the other awards, well frankly, I don’t really care. I guess I don’t want Happy Feet to win an Academy Award, and I suppose I’d prefer it if Click didn’t win for Best Makeup since I really didn’t like that movie, but honestly, if they won, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. The thing that most upsets me about the Academy Awards this year is the lack of respect for Borat! It wasn’t the greatest movie ever, but it was the first true comedy I can remember that actually had a shot at an Oscar, or so I thought. But I’ve already written more than a 1000 words, so I’ll save that discussion for a later date, or rather, the next time I want to write something, but can’t think of anything to write about.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

“24 is to conservatives what The West Wing was to liberals”

I mentioned last week that I wanted to write a piece about 24, which I started watching again this season after having only watched the first few episodes of season one and then missed everything else. However, during my daily procrastination I found an article on imdb talking about a CBS News blog which discussed the controversy surrounding Fox’s non-singing hit show. Apparently many TV critics across the country have decided that 24 is right-wing propoganda, with the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal’s Eugene Kane saying that “24 is to conservatives what The West Wing was to liberals.” Now I found this interesting for two reasons. First, after watching the 2-DAY, 4-HOUR SEASON PREMIERE OF 24 I have become a huge fan of the show. However, I also really liked The West Wing, so what does that make me? Second, I can’t figure out what it is about 24 that these columnists believe makes it popular with conservatives. The first point is probably more a matter of taste and therefore not really what I want to talk about here. The second point though has something to it and that’s what I want to discuss.

Suffice it to say, I didn’t go out and read all the critics work regarding 24, so pretty much all of what I’m saying here is speculation, rather than fact. So far as I can tell from the imdb piece though, the claim that this show is preaching for the right wingers all comes from the fact that the hero of the show, Jack Bauer, played somewhat robotically by Kiefer Sutherland, often resorts to torture as a means to acquiring useful information in his war on terrorism. The problem with arguing that a show which highlights the value of torture in fighting terrorism is right wing is that President Bush and pretty much every member of his party that I’ve ever heard speak on the issue of torture doesn’t go around saying that torture is the best weapon against terrorism that we have. I will admit that the president certainly hasn’t spoken out against torture and has claimed that American interrogators do use “alternative” methods for extracting information, but I wouldn’t say that this is therefore a characteristic of a right-winger. Just because the President says we sometimes torture prisoners to fight terrorism doesn’t mean that he thinks its right and it doesn’t mean that the conservatives in this country think its right. So honestly, it baffles me to suggest that conservatives are for torture. I don’t want to sound like Rush Limbaugh or one of those wackjobs on Fox News, but really, isn’t this kind of a left-wing conspiracy to make conservatives look bad? And aren’t they only saying this because 24 airs on Fox? Am I the only one who thinks that if this show aired on NBC that people wouldn’t even begin to make up this nonsense?

Here’s the other problem with the argument that 24 is a show for conservatives, and not liberals; this show is most certainly supporting liberal ideas. Now I can’t speak to the past of the show, because like I said, I didn’t watch virtually any of the show before last Sunday’s premiere. But at least in this season the show is speaking out against ideas that would certainly be associated with the current administration’s handling of the war on terrorism. One of the big issues that the show has dealt with so far is how the country should handle Muslims during a time in which Islamic extremists are attacking the country from within. There is a character on the show who plays one of the President’s top advisors and he is always pushing for more internment of Muslims in America and more suspension of civil liberties as a way of trying to restore order in a country filled with chaos. Now these are ideas that I would relate to more conservative politicians as there are several that have been essential in passing legislation such as the Patriot Act and that have allowed the President to detain suspected terrorists without cause for any length of time and without right to council. The thing is though, the advisor presenting these ideas is not shown to be a smart individual who is doing what’s best for America, he’s presented as a total creep. There is no way that anyone could like this guy, even if you thought we should round up all of the Muslims and deport them. And I think that that is the key here. How could a show that makes a semi-villain out of the person who wants to extend the things that our President and our government are basically doing right now be considered a piece of right-wing propaganda?

Arguing that “24 is to conservatives what The West Wing was to liberals” would be like saying that I’m a conservative because I believe in fiscal responsibility, even though all of my other beliefs are generally thought to be liberal ideas. Or it would be like saying that I’m a Michigan Wolverines fan because I want Michigan to be undefeated when they play Ohio State, even though the only reason I want that is so that we can humiliate them and ruin their season. My guess is that most of these critics are just trying to fulfill their deadlines and they basically stole someone else’s argument to save time. Or they’re complete morons.

On an unrelated note, the Oscar noms were announced today and my predictions were way off. But I’ll wait until tomorrow to talk about that so that you can have a full day to process the nominations on your own before having your opinions completely changed my persuasive arguments.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Quick Movie Reviews

As I’m sure many of you have guessed, I saw a few movies while the site was down. But rather than write full reviews for all of them, I figured I would just do quick reviews so you know what I thought about the movies that I saw. Sure it’s the lazy way out, but it really doesn’t seem worth it to do full reviews for most of these movies anyways. I promise in the future I’ll go back to writing longer reviews of the movies I see, but for now you’ll have to make do with this.

Déjà VuDéjà Vu starts out like a crappy episode of Law & Order, then becomes a bizarre, illogical sci-fi film highlighted by an amazing chase scene involving the future and the past simultaneously on screen, and ends surprisingly well despite all of that. I have no idea why Denzel Washington agreed to do another cop movie, especially this one, but he definitely adds a modicum of credibility to a film that sorely needed it thanks to it being helmed by Hollywood’s craziest director, Tony Scott. It’s not as out there as Scott’s last film, Domino, which is a good thing this time around because if it had been, this film would have been virtually impossible to watch. There’s no reason to rush out to your dollar theater and see this movie, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be fun to watch if you can suspend disbelief for 128 minutes and have that much time available to kill.

Rating 53%

Rocky Balboa – I was preparing a huge celebration on the site for the return of Rocky to the big screen. I was in the process of re-watching all four of the films that preceded it so that I could publish something every day leading up to the release of the film discussing the Rocky series, and then some stupid jackasses destroyed my site and so I gave up this endeavor. I still saw the movie however, so at the very least I can talk about that. And I can also say that watching those movies again really made Rocky Balboa a much better experience, which is completely the opposite of what happened when I watched the old Superman movies before I went and saw Superman Returns. Part of it was the fact that Rocky Balboa references the past a great deal in bringing back characters from earlier films, and part of it was the fact that when I watched those movies again I started to realize that they weren’t quite as silly as I had once thought them to be. Sure, Stallone’s dialogue and acting isn’t top notch, but there was a poetic quality to them. My girlfriend likened Rocky’s words of wisdom to Bruce Springsteen, I said it was more like a retarded Bruce Springsteen. Either way, the old movies made me respect Rocky even more, which made Rocky Balboa a lot of fun to watch. It was great being able to enjoy a Rocky fight with a packed theater, something I had never done before, but I also liked the message of the film. It isn’t an Oscar candidate or anything like that, but it truly was one of my favorite movies of the year.

Rating 77%

Children of Men – The previous works of Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) suggested to me that he was a director with a lot of style. Children of Men however is pretty much the opposite of that. This film could have been directed by any one of a handful of somewhat talented directors; it simply doesn’t have much going on besides the story. The long takes in the final scenes are impressive, but the rest of the film just doesn’t match that. There’s nothing wrong with the way it was shot, but it simply isn’t up to the standards that he set with his previous work. As far as the acting goes, I liked what Clive Owen did, but I almost always do, and I liked Michael Caine a lot, but Julianne Moore simply didn’t need to be there and she acted as such. If you like apocalyptic visions of the near future then you’ll like this movie, but I think most will find its depressing tone to be too much. I know I did.

Rating 68%

The Pursuit of Happyness – I knew before I even saw this movie that I wasn’t going to like it, and it wasn’t just because they misspelled happiness in the title (although they did explain that in the movie). The trailer just looked so stupid with Will Smith running around all the time all over the place. But what I really didn’t like about the movie when I saw it was the fact that the film only focused on one part of his life; the part leading up to his first big job. That part, while sad and I suppose poignant, was the part of his life story which I could easily have guessed beforehand and so I was bothered that the film didn’t go farther than that since it seemed to me what happened after that first job was the more interesting part (they did tell you what happened in titles after the film was over though). I’ve seen plenty of feel good, turn your life around movies in the past, so it’s a shame that this one couldn’t have been a little different. Also, the voiceovers in the film were really stupid.

Rating 35%

Little Children – However the voiceovers in this movie were even more stupid than the ones in The Pursuit of Happyness. I generally don’t like voiceovers that much, especially because film is supposed to be a visual medium, but the voiceovers in Little Children were the worst I’ve ever heard. They were like descriptive passages out of a long-winded, pompous novel (just a thought here, but this film was based on a book, so maybe they just lifted these crappy voiceovers right out of the book) and I found them more distracting than anything else, especially because they didn’t really offer anything that couldn’t be easily interpreted by just paying attention and watching the movie. I think that the film was supposed to be a scathing commentary on suburbia and marriage, but like with The Pursuit of Happyness, I’ve seen that film before, and I didn’t need to see it again. The real surprise here though is the dark, creepiness of the film. This aspect took me completely by surprise and definitely made the movie less enjoyable. I might have liked it a bit more if I had known it was coming, but probably not because the story is so incredibly slow and boring. I have no idea why this movie is receiving award hype because it flat out sucked.

Rating 25%


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Golden Globes Wrapup

Golden Globes Wrapup

There really is nothing better than getting a bunch of celebrities together in a ballroom, getting them drunk, and then handing out awards. Well okay that’s not quite true. There are actually a lot of better things. World peace for instance. But when it comes to award shows, I generally find the Golden Globes to be pretty enjoyable. Sure its just as masturbatory as any other show, but for some reason the celebrities are just a little looser for this show than say the Oscars, the SAG Awards, or the Emmys (I say some reason, but we all know, it’s the booze) and that makes things much more palatable.

I called this piece a wrapup, but in fairness, I missed the first part of the show and then didn’t pay that much attention for the parts I watched, and since it went past 11pm, I missed the last award to be handed out, Best Motion Picture Drama, because I only scheduled my Tivo to record until 11pm (you’re probably wondering how I missed the first part since I Tivo’d the show, well the answer is from 8pm-10pm I was Tivoing the second night of the TWO NIGHT, FOUR HOUR, SEASON PREMIERE OF 24 ON FOX!!, but I’ll get to that on another day). So this isn’t going to be a complete wrapup, but more a vague outline of what happened and what we learned. So here we go:

What Happened

I didn’t take notes during the broadcast like I would normally do for anything I’m going to write up in any length, so I can only give you the things that I remember today, which aren’t that numerous and probably aren’t remembered that accurately. Sorry, I had no idea I was going to start doing this last night, I just decided today that I needed to bring back my writing to the internet, so please excuse the lack of preperation.

- My favorite moment of the night was when Sacha Baron Cohen picked up the award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Comedy or Musical and his acceptance speech brought down the house. The strange thing was, it wasn’t that funny. I’ll admit it was humorous, but you could sense his heart wasn’t in it as he spoke, but yet the celebrities ate it up. Perhaps it was because they were into their third hour of drinking and since many of them are too skinny for their own good they can’t hold their liquor as well as a group of drunken frat boys, but whatever it was, they were nuts for it. I’m pretty sure I actually saw Teri Hatcher crying because she was laughing so hard. All in all, it reminded me of the time I did my George Bush (the first one) impersonation at my Dad’s leaving the OSU Board of Trustees dinner. Considering I was ten years old and I wrote the thing myself, it was pretty impressive, but the reaction to it went way overboard. Those adults were practically falling out of their chairs, and in all honesty, I’ve seen the tape, it didn’t warrant that kind of a response.

- The tribute to Warren Beatty went on way too long. First, Tom Hanks’ introduction where he overused the term “balls” to describe Beatty’s daring artistic vision, and then second Beatty’s actual speech. I actually fast-forwarded through Beatty’s speech on my Tivo and it still took a few minutes to get it over with. That’s just not right.

- I’m pretty sure it was Peter Morgan who when accepting the award for best screenplay for The Queen was almost immediately cut off during his speech. He started talking about some time when millions of British crowded the streets in 1997 to get a stubborn 70-year-old woman to do something (I assume he meant Queen Elizabeth II, but I’m not sure) and then talked about how public protest is important. Right after finishing this semi-incoherent moment of free speech, Morgan got the “wrap it up” sign, and I’m pretty sure it was because they were afraid he might say something too controversial at any moment so they got him off-track and forced him to just thank the people who helped him. The whole thing was pretty bizarre and that’s part of the reason I can’t remember who was the one was said it all. (Someone please tell me what this protest was though. I did a quick search on Google and came up empty.)

- My second favorite moment of the night came as Ugly Betty actress, America Ferrera, winner of the Best Actress on a TV Comedy or Musical, was interviewed by some random women as they went into commercial right after America won the award. Not only was this the only time I saw that random woman all night, leading me to believe that she wasn’t actually a reporter for the broadcast, but rather a crazed fan, but this woman produced one of the most awkward interviews of all-time. One of her very first questions to Ms. Ferrera, who was still stunned by her victory, was a question that would stun her even more. She asked, “what do you say to all those people out there who didn’t want you to be Ugly Betty?,” to which America answered, “what people?” Apparently, as the random interviewer went on to explain, some people didn’t think that America Ferrera was the right person to be cast for the role, but executive producer Salma Hayek fought for her. But isn’t this something that happens for every role in every show or movie? Isn’t there always someone who says, I’m not sure such and such is right for this role, but then someone else says that they are and they get the job? Either way, horrible question.

- Last thing I want to say for what happened is this: Billy Nighy, after winning the award for Best Actor in a mini-series or TV movie, went up and apologized to Robert Duvall, who was also nominated in the category for his performance in Broken Trail (or at least that’s what he said he did when he got up on stage). I hate when actors and actresses do that. Frankly, I think it’s rude. The person just lost and somehow its okay to go up and say to them, I can’t believe I won, you should have gotten it. Isn’t that just rubbing salt in the wound? Would you go up to someone who was up for the same job as you, but didn’t get it, and tell them that it should be them who got the job that you just got, that they were better qualified for the position? Unless it was your best friend, the answer should be no.

What We Learned:

- They can go ahead and mail the Oscars for Best Actor and Best Actress out right now because Forest Whitaker (The Last King of Scotland) and Helen Mirren (The Queen) are winning those things. Whitaker topped Hollywood heavyweights Will Smith, Leonardo DiCaprio (twice), and Peter O’Toole this time around, so is there any reason to think he won’t win the Oscar? And Mirren is just having a banner year. She picked up two Golden Globes last night for her performances as Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Elizabeth II and was nominated against herself in the Best Actress in a mini-series or TV movie for her role in Prime Suspect. There simply aren’t many strong performances in the female category this year (again), so you can be sure Mirren is going to take home her very first Oscar this year.

- If you didn’t believe Hollywood was stupid before last night, here is proof they are: The Best TV Drama – Grey’s Anatomy, The Best TV Comedy – Ugly Betty. Both very bad shows that were up against superior competition.

- Two solidly directed movies from Hollywood living legend, Clint Eastwood, won’t be enough to stop Martin Scorsese this time. He’s definitely going to get Best Director this year. Probably.

- This Dreamgirls movie is for real. Perhaps I should go see it so I can properly make fun of it rather than just be incredulous that Beyonce is receiving acclaim for this movie.

- Along those same lines, is there really any chance that Eddie Murphy’s performance was better than Jack Nicholson’s or Marky Mark’s in The Departed?

- Having a Best Foreign Language Film category is stupid if two American films can get in the race and one of them can actually win it.

- There is some justice in the world as Kyra Sedgwick won for Best Actress in a TV Drama. If Ellen Pompeo had won that award I think I would have broken my TV.

- Last but not least, last night’s award show has lead me to give you predictions for the Oscar nominees in the categories that people actually give a crap about. And just so you know, I haven’t even cracked open the issue of Entertainment Weekly which I just got where they predict the nominees, so these are all mine.

Best Picture
- Babel
- Dreamgirls
- The Queen
- The Departed
- Borat!

Best Actor
- Forest Whitaker
- Leonardo DiCaprio (for The Departed)
- Sacha Baron Cohen
- Will Smith
- Peter O’Toole

Best Actress
- Helen Mirren
- Meryl Streep
- Kate Winslet
- Perennial nominee, Dame Judi Dench
- Beyonce Knowles

Best Director
- Martin Scorsese
- Clint Eastwood (For Letters From Iwo Jima)
- Stephen Frears
- Alejandro González Iñárritu
- Bill Condon