Friday, February 23, 2007

The oscars

There was a time when I actually looked forward to watching the Oscar awards ceremony. That was a long time ago. As much as I like movies, they tend to disappoint me more often than thrill me these days (which only makes sense since I'm no longer the target audience for most movies--plus, I think that after you've seen a lot of movies the novelty begins to wear off and you get the sense that the movie industry is just recycling proven formulas for the next generation of young moviegoers). But I still make the effort to try to see the movies that have garnered a consensus of critical acclaim (even though this year that wasn't always much of a guarantee) . So, without further ado, here are my two cents on the nominees.

Best Picture: I've seen all of the nominees except Babel (I'm still steeling myself for that overwrought experience). Of the ones I have seen, I enjoyed The Queen and Letters from Iwo Jima. Scorsese is one of my favorite directors, but The Departed was a let down for me. I thought there were serious problems with the plot and Jack Nicholson's antics didn't help (also, I always have a bit of a problem taking babyfaced actors like DiCaprio, Damon, and Wahlberg serious as grown men; they always come across as kids playacting as adults to me). I still can't believe that Little Miss Sunshine was even nominated. It was mildly diverting at best. I wouldn't mind if The Queen or Letters from Iwo Jima won, but if I had to pick between the two, I would go with Letters from Iwo Jima because it was more visually stunning.

Best Actor: the only nominee in this category I've seen is Ryan Gosling in Half-Nelson. He does a decent enough job as an out-of-control addict/teacher (must every serious actor play an addict at least once in their career? is it on a checklist or something?), but I didn't buy the story at all (and one listen to the director and writer on the dvd commentary was enough to tell me why--you can tell that neither of them were personally invested in the story, basically they were just slumming; a lot of well-heeled white people seem to think the poor and the addicted live more fascinating lives and nothing could be further from the truth). So, I'll stick with the favorites in this category Forest Whitaker (crazy dictator, now that's taking it up a notch!) and Peter O'Toole (because he's always good even when I saw him years ago, visably drunk, walking, or should I say being guided, down 8th Ave.)

Best Actress: Judi Dench and Helen Mirren were both good (I haven't seen the others). I'll give the nod to Judi Dench because her character was much more unlikeable than The Queen, so she had to work that much harder for you to feel sympathetic towards her.

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin is the only one I've seen. His character was ridiculous, so I have no idea why he was even nominated (I wonder if he's feeling slighted for his role in The In-Laws now?). I'll go with Eddie Murphy because everyone seems to like him (let's not forget the Oscars are also a popularity contest).

Best Supporting Actress: I've only seen Cate Blanchett and the kid from Little Miss Sunshine. Between these two, I'd go with the kid only because she had to humiliate herself more (although Ms. Blanchett on the bowl was a valiant effort). But everyone loves American Idol, so Jennifer Hudson will win.

Best Director: Of the four nominees I've seen, I'd go with Clint (this would be more deserving than the overrated Million Dollar Baby). Frankly, I think it would be a shame if Scorsese won for The Departed as a consolation prize for not having won for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas etc. With his body of work, who cares if he's never won an Oscar?

Best Screenplay (original): I'll go with The Queen.

Best Screenplay (not original): I'll go with Borat for remaining so faithful to the book (I didn't think they would be able to pull off the naked wrestling scene, but they did it with aplomb!)


Blogger ope said...

gosling was great. glad i didnt hear the commentary. i bought the film hook line sinker. a very subtle and immediate slice of life. a guy my age raised on liberal arts and the city, conflicted, impotent but idealistic. dont get the well-heeled white thing. what poor people? and the addiciton struck me as almost a phase, not a down and out bullshit suburban image. more like your buddy doin too much coke lately. cept your buddy works for a bank, not as a "role model" in the skool down the street. lord knows the guilt i felt coaching jv basketball reeking of last nights cuervo. aint hollywood. just boredom and recklessness. but who gets to be reckless? student. teacher. parent. elected official?

10:01 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Everything from the nominees to the choice of host this year screams boring, although I guess Ellen is a more "appropriate" choice than Jon Stewart and Chris Rock, who are funnier but obviously had contempt for most of the people in the room. I thought the only reason to watch would be the Ennio Morricone tribute, but then I found out Celine Dion is grafting lyrics onto music from Once Upon a Time in the West (I'm not kidding), so there goest that.

10:18 AM  
Blogger ope said...

ugh. somwhere lee van cleef puts on a pencil skirt.

10:29 AM  
Blogger yakimba said...

Ellen will be miserable ... again. I have no interest in her self-indulgent (self-deprecating) musings. She's funny but not in the right way to entertain me and the other 1/6 of the earth's population during the Oscars.

So the things to look forward to while fast forwarding are Sacha Baron Cohen breaking the boundaries of propriety and any kind of zealous politically motivated (Iraq/Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee/Kyoto) remonstrations.

12:05 PM  
Blogger BayonneMike said...

Considering the state of the school and the thriving drug trade, I assumed the movie was set in a poor neighborhood (and I'm not saying interesting stories can't come from this milieu--it just seemed, judging from the commentary, that the creators were in unfamiliar territory and I think you could tell from the details in the story--it felt very inauthentic to me). It also seemed very unlikely that a teacher who regularly looked like he just rolled out of the gutter wouldn't have raised more red flags among the staff. I don't think they did a good job in detailing why this guy was on this path (it was hard even to tell whether he was purposely being self-destructive or whether his reckless partying was catching up with him). They hinted that the break-up with his girlfriend may have been behind it, but he didn't seem to have any problem attracting other women (and he certainly didn't seem to care all that much about his ex anymore). I got the sense the writer began with the character of an addict not because she had any insight into what that character might be like, but because addicts are always more interesting than "straights" (like Dan's family who are shown as hypocritical buffoons). And the whole idea of the kids (or the one girl in particular) saving him was just too hard for me to swallow. That girl seemed to have enough on her plate, why the hell on earth would she even think of getting involved with an out of control teacher? It just seem very farfetched.

12:10 PM  
Blogger ope said...

man. i feel sad you saw it that way. i feel like you missed the movie completely. dude looked like shit and people noticed the decline. but he was a favored teacher and was given a longer leash. feasible and very real life. (i even picture here a certain teacher we play softball with.) and im not sure how much the student helped the teacher, how much she went out of her way beyond holding on to the idea that teach gave her something to believe in beyond the school walls --ideas, a mentor, a big brother, intellectual curiosity, whatever. she seemed completely conflicted as to how much she could help. Or whether she should. and i dont think she really did anything extraordinary, did she? except acknowledge his fallibility and be just be there i think. a very human and comforting ideal.

the girlfriend angle? spoken as if movies have to have specific constructions. that angle seemed to me completely consistent of character -- a guy dismayed by liberalism. goodness rejected. by his girl, prolly for some schlub. by most of the students in not hearing. symbols of helplessness, idealism punched in the nose over and over. they dont cripple, dudes gonna git laid and keep teaching the dialectics, but contributes to growing existential doubt. and its attendant self-destruction. that subtle scene where he gets sexual at the dance, then suddenly bounces back to consciousness? deep man! An instance of what kept it from being the usual goodie white savior of beastly blackness hollywood flick. a deep deep movie man. could talk about it all day.

now i got to see the commentary. [the bball coaching angle, time required, etc. completely wack.]

1:51 PM  
Blogger BayonneMike said...

True, it wasn't the white savior thing, but it comes very close to that other standby, the noble black coming to the aid of the confused white. Plus, the opposites thing seemed to be pushed so hard to the point of being manipulative: Good teacher/bad addict, good student/bad drug runner, good family friend/bad drug dealer etc.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Xmastime said...

I havent seen the flick (of course that dont stop me 2 cents ;) ) but my instinct is always to bristle at any version of "slumming" it movies, going to the Nest if you're Ivanka Trump etc etc...don't dance on the edge of blight because it's thrilling without having to actually dip your toe in it, giving yourself "street cred." We cheer certain characters and their dangerous coolness on tv etc, we act like we know/relate to them but in real life probably wouldn't cross the street to piss on them. Same as don't fucking wear poor-looking clothes if you're not poor, it's fucking insulting. And to show up every day looking like Bill the Cat, you'd have to be a pretty AMAZING teacher to not get called into Woodman's office. That's just my gut, tho like I said I aint seen it yet. I look forward to seeing it on cable, but unfortunately will go into it with a little bit of skepticism. too bad for the flick and myself, I guess.

However, Wikipedia reveals that ryan gosling was a mousketeer, which is cool.

3:24 PM  
Blogger ope said...

ah well. we see the movie from 3 wildly different places, i suppose.

america rocks!

[just left the nest, G in one patty meat hook, J in the other. L sneaking tecates from the back room. missed you boys.]

4:51 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Speaking of inauthentic scenes (from an Oscar winner for Best Screenplay): Affleck in GOOD WILL HUNTING drinking a can of beer on a construction site with his pinkie out. The drinking is unlikely yet possible, but not the pinkie.

9:35 PM  
Blogger angelissima said...

I missed THE QUEEN but loved LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, if not for anything else - the family dynamic was spot on. I mean, who can really relate to the family dynamic of the english monarchy? I guess its more of a chic-flick. I've no idea why it was nominated, I'll join you there, but I've always been a fan of the underdog.

7:53 AM  

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