Oscars Roundup

And the 2012 Oscars are now in the books.

For the most part, the awards went as I expected. The early surge of wins for Hugo made me think that it might have a chance in the Best Picture race, but by the time that The Artist won Best Lead Actor and Best Director, it was clear it would be not denied Best Picture. If you haven’t seen The Artist, and most of you haven’t, I recommend checking it out while it is still in the theater. Don’t let the black and white/silent movie premise scare you. I was hesitant going in, but the movie totally won me over. It really is quite charming.

It was a long night and a lot happened. My thoughts:

  • While Billy Crystal was better than the Franco/Hathaway combo last year, I didn’t think he was particularly great. He at least seemed to want to be there, which is an automatic improvement over Franco who checked out very early in last year’s telecast, but unfortunately earnestness does not necessarily mean funny. I did enjoy the opening film montage, but a lot of the other jokes fell pretty flat. He made a few jokes about race that didn’t work and a lot of his material seemed fairly dated. He wasn’t terrible, but to me it was a reminder that you really can’t go home again. The Academy really needs to figure out how to solve its hosting problem. FYI – I am available.
  • Not helping Crystal – or anyone else- was the TERRIBLE audio for the show. There seemed to be feedback through the entire show so it was either difficult to understand what people were saying (Crystal’s medley of Best Picture nominees was particularly affected) or there was a weird echo/humming noise in the background. Very distracting and shouldn’t happen on a show of this production level.
  • Is there a stylist strike in Hollywood? Because I saw a lot of beautiful people wearing a lot of terrible clothes. I don’t claim to be a fashionista – far from it – but even I knew some of those dresses were a mistake. Particular standouts were Sandra Bullock (we all know that was a fake ponytail); Emma Stone (what was up with that bow?); Glen Close (needed a different jacket to go with that dress); and, as much as it pains me to say it, Melissa McCarthy in a dress that had too much going on and just wasn’t all that figure flattering.
  • Fashion standout for me was Penelope Cruz. My goodness she was stunning.
  • I thought it was funny that everyone kind of decided to pretend that the nomination of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close didn’t happen. It got the shortest mention in the song montage (one line: “Hanks is a memory”) and got the fewest clips in the video montage. Well played, Academy.
  • I get that this is the Oscars and it is all about movies, but must we really be subjected year after year to montages whose sole purpose is to remind us how important the movies are? I’m no Cirque de Soleil fan to begin with, but that performance took up time that could have been allotted for the award winners to speak or to allow the best original song performances (yes, I’m still bitter about the song from the Muppets being excluded). I wasn’t aware that movies are a dying species, but that is the impression you get after watching the Oscars.
  • Speaking of the Muppets – how sweet was that when Jason Segal teared up when Bret McKenzie won for “Man or Muppet?”
  • The Gwyneth Paltrow/Robert Downey Jr. bit probably seemed like a good idea on paper, but fell completely flat in execution. And I’m not one of the many Gwen haters – if she is good enough for Jay-Z, she is aces in my book – but it just was kind of painful.
  • Banter that totally killed? The Emma Stone/Ben Stiller combo. Loved it. I’m already a big fan of Stone, but she really nailed it.
  • I am so over Angelina Jolie. I don’t know if it is the 6 kids at home or what, but she looks dreadful – way older than she actually is and there is something definitely weird going on with her arms. As someone on Twitter commented: “I’m pretty sure I now know what Jolie’s skeleton looks like.” She used to be so breathtakingly beautiful, but now she is way too skinny. Plus didn’t she used to have a sense of humor and be fun? Wasn’t this the same woman who was running around making out with her brother and wearing vials of Billy Bob Thorton’s blood around her neck? What happened to that person? In the immortal words of the Joker, “Why so serious?” I now find her insufferable. Funniest part of the evening was when Oscar winner Jim Rash (and Community star!) mocked her ridiculous pose.

 

 

  • If there indeed was a wardrobe malfunction with Jennifer Lopez’s dress, I totally missed it. I’m fine with that.
  • Uggie was in the house! HOORAY!!!
  • Meryl Streep is an amazing actress, but I don’t think she deserved to win this year for The Iron Lady. I didn’t think the film was very good and her performance was one of her weaker ones. This was the only win that I was legitimately surprised by.
  • I just love that Michelle Williams and Busy Phillips are best friends. They are so adorable and it is nice to see that something good came out of both of them appearing on Dawson’s Creek.
  • Why did they insist on panning to the musicians in the balcony so much? It seemed a little weird – both in placement and in how much they were highlighted. Was there a concern that there wasn’t enough electric violin?
  • So thrilled that Christopher Plummer won and I really enjoyed his acceptance speech. I hope I look as good as he did when I reach that age.
  • They finally got some things right: eliminating the audience  audio during the In Memorium segment and presenting the deceased in alphabetical order to avoid it deteriorating into a popularity contest and eliminating having a different actor come out to say something about each individual Best Actor and Actress nominees. The latter was usually awkward and took up too much time.
  • I think the Oscars erroneously assumes that everyone has already seen the movies and performances nominated because there were an awful lot of spoilers throughout the telecast.
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore – told you so.
  • Even though they didn’t take home any gold, I am glad that Bridesmaids got a lot of love during the telecast. Those women are great. I was familiar with all of them prior to the movie, but I hope now these actresses get more recognition.
  • I couldn’t sleep when I got home so I wound up staying up to watch Jimmy Kimmel’s post-Oscar show. Maybe I was punchy because of the late hour, but I quite enjoyed it. I thought his trailer for Movie: the Movie was great. And who knew Oprah could be funny?

So that’s it. The 2012 Oscars in a nutshell. Time to start working on seeing the films for 2013!

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Oscar Predictions

The 84th Annual Academy Awards (aka The Oscars) are this Sunday. This is the only awards ceremony that I actually look forward to and watch every year. It will be nice to have Billy Crystal hosting again after the train wreck that was the James Franco/Anne Hathaway pairing last year, though I do hope that they figure out a way to make the Oscars a little fresher in the coming years. Some of that banter the presenters have to engage in is just painful to watch.

I am disappointed that they will not have performances of the best original song nominees, mostly because that means that Jason Segal and the Muppets will not be performing (though the Muppets will apparently be presenters). I would have thoroughly enjoyed that as I love all things Muppet.  It is also unclear if Uggie, the adorable dog from The Artist, will be performing or in attendance on Sunday night. I’ve read conflicting reports. I hope he does do a bit because that dog is amazing. I’m not a dog person by any stretch of the imagination, but after watching The Artist I turned to my friend and said “I would totally own a dog if you could guarantee it was just like Uggie.” Being part of Hollywood’s big night would be a fitting sendoff for the pup, who is retiring from show business due to a neurological disease.

How cute is this face????

I’ll also miss the days when Jack Nicholson was sitting in the front row and became an informal participant of the show. George Clooney seems the heir apparent for this position and is a worthy choice (seriously – is there ANYONE cooler than Clooney?), but there was just something about seeing Nicholson in his shades yucking it up with the host that was so enjoyable.

Since I’ve managed to see just about everything this year, here are my best guesses for the major awards and who will be standing victorious at the microphone on Sunday night:

Best Picture

Who I think will win: I’m guessing that The Artist walks away with the big prize. It has a lot of momentum going into the Oscars as it has been racking up the hardware at other award shows. Plus, since the average Academy voter is an older white man, the tribute to the bygone era of cinema is kind of in their wheel house. A safe and noncontroversial choice.

Who I think SHOULD win: I actually really enjoyed The Artist, so it is a fine choice for Best Picture. None of the films blew me away this year. The only other movie I’d consider would be The Descendants, which I really wanted to love more than I actually did.

And if either War Horse or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close win, end times must indeed be upon us.

Actor in a Leading Role

Who I think will win: I think this is Clooney’s year. He played a character in The Descendants unlike anyone he had played before. He was convincingly a frumpy and confused middle aged dad. That bears repeating: George Clooney was frumpy. He has plenty of good will in Hollywood so I think he’ll pick up his second Oscar. There is a chance of a Jean Dujardin (The Artist) upset if Clooney and pal Brad Pitt (Moneyball) somehow split the vote.

Who I think SHOULD win: I’m all in on Clooney. Dujardin was pretty amazing in The Artist – I don’t know how many actors could have pulled that role off – but the Academy likes to reward a career rather than necessarily a single performance, so I don’t think Dujardin will dance off with the Oscar. Brad Pitt was also darn spectacular as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane. I don’t think Pitt gets enough credit as an actor. He is more than just a pretty face (but what a face!).

Actress in a Lead Role

Who I think will win: I’m guessing Viola Davis (The Help) will take this one. Though the movie has been criticized, I don’t think anyone would disagree that Davis gave a subtle and nuanced performance as maid Aibileen. She really was the heart of the film. Plus the Academy loves nothing more than a beautiful woman putting on some weight for a role (David gained 25 lbs.) or otherwise down playing their looks.

Who I think SHOULD win: I was really mesmerized by Michelle Williams’ portrayal of Marilyn Monroe in My Week with Marilyn.  She really became Marilyn, which is no easy feat. I’ve always really like Williams and think she has made some very interesting choices as an actress. So I’d like to see her win.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Who I think will win and SHOULD win: I think this is the closest thing to a lock this year – Christopher Plummer for Beginners. I absolutely loved this movie and a lot of that is due to Plummer’s performance as a father in his seventies who finally comes out as a gay man after the death of his wife. One of my favorite performances of the year. If you haven’t seen Beginners, definitely check it out.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Who I think will win: Octavia Spencer for The Help. A solid performance that already won her a Golden Globe.

Who I think SHOULD win: Comedies get absolutely no love at the Academy Awards, but Melissa McCarthy’s performance in Bridesmaids was so fearless and weird that I’d love to see her get an Oscar to go along with her Emmy. She’s come a long way from Gilmore Girls.

Best Director

Who I think will win: I’m going with Martin Scorsese for Hugo. Again, I think the nostalgia factor with his film will appeal to many of the voters. As I noted in my review, Hugo was also an interesting departure for Scorsese and I believe the Academy will want to reward that.

Who I think SHOULD win: I’m a big Scorsese fan, so I’d be pleased to see him win. I didn’t really get all of The Tree of Life (they lost me with the dinosaurs) but I do think what Terrence Malick tried was interesting and daring so he would be an unconventional choice. Really, I’d be OK with any of these directors winning.

Oscar 2012 Animated Shorts

This year I am being particularly thorough in my Oscar preparation. Not only will I have seen all the movies nominated for Best Picture and all the acting and directing categories, but this Sunday I had the chance to see all of the best animated shorts. The shorts are the one category that I tend to ignore simply because the opportunities to see them are very limited – they usually are not available on-line and have very short theatrical runs at art house cinemas. Unlike prior years when I have been scrambling to finish up the best picture nominees (like the year I drove 45 minutes to watch Precious on Valentine’s Day), I’m way ahead of the game so I decided to expand my horizons and perhaps get introduced to an artist before they became more established. I really liked Logorama, which was nominated in 2010 for best animated short, so I was hopeful that I would discover some other gems. 5 films were nominated for Best Animated Short, but we also got to see 3 additional films (Amazonia, Nullarbor and Hybrid Nation) which I guess were given “honorable mention” status.

  • Dimanche/Sunday is one of two Canadian films nominated. It tells the story of a typical Sunday in the country through the eyes of a small boy – the trip to church, the visit to grandma’s and being surround by adult conversation that isn’t of much interest to you. The animation of this short is the simplest of the nominees and that unfortunately made this short appear less polished than its competition. The humor is a little dark, which may hurt its chances to take home the prize. This one was my least favorite of the bunch. I just didn’t feel like very much happened.
  • A Morning Stroll is from the UK and retells the same joke in three different times – the past, the present and the future. The animation style and music evolve in each retelling of the same basic premise. I thought this was the funniest of the shorts and really enjoyed the evolution of each subsequent segment. Plus this short has the distinction of being the only one featuring zombies. Probably a little too hip for the Academy members, so I don’t expect to see this one win.
  • Wild Life tells the story of a British man who decides to take up residence in the Canadian frontier of the early 1900s despite being completely unsuited for it. The short contrasts his optimistic letters home to his reality: his “ranch” is actually a one room cabin and his “veranda” is the field that surrounds his home. This is definitely the most “arty” of the bunch and focuses a lot on atmosphere. It also has the most realistic and linear story. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t blown away by it. Apparently I’m not a fan of Canadian animation (sorry Canada – I love your poutine though).
  • The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is, at 15 minutes, the longest of the shorts and one of the two entries from the United States. In this fantastical tale, book lover Morris Lessmore is carried away by a tornado to a place where books are living and breathing entities that have personalities and can apparently grow sick and die if neglected. The film is a tribute to the transformative power of books as characters move from black and white to color as they embrace reading. A sweet film that will appeal to bibliophiles, I believe this is one of two contenders to win the Oscar. It is also the only film that is easily accessible on the internet.

  • La Luna comes from the powerhouses at Pixar, who may be licking their wounds a bit from the failure of Cars 2 to be nominated for Best Animated Film, a category where they have previously dominated. This may garner them some sympathy votes from the Academy, but they are not necessary because La Luna is an incredibly charming film. Pixar has set the bar for animation and this does not fail to deliver. The film is visually beautiful and tells the story of a little boy learning the peculiar job that his father and grandfather have. I really loved this film and believe it is probably the frontrunner. I have mixed feelings about this because though this is a wonderful little film, Pixar doesn’t really need the boost that an Academy Award would give. It would be nice for the little guy to win who needs the recognition more. And yes, as a die-hard Yankees fan, I realize the irony of that last sentence.

All in all, watching the animated films was a fun experience. I’m glad they threw in the three bonus films to give you a little more bang for your buck as I believe the price of admission was the same for a full length movie. My guess is that the either of the United States films will be victorious, though Wild Life could be an upset win. The majority of the films were family friendly (Nullarbor does feature cigarette smoking), though I don’t know how interested kids who have been raised on Pixar would be in some of the films.

Many of the films are available on iTunes or on cable on demand channels beginning February 21st.