At Once, “Wild” and Predictable: The 2013 Oscar Nominations

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It’s flu season! I mean Oscar season! But, is there really a stretch between the two? The Academy Award nominations are like that film you see where you’re fairly satisfied walking out, but the more you think about it, the more you begin to dislike it (sort of like Les Miserables, but not as bad). Anyways, here’s my quick lowdown on what I thought of this year’s nominees. (Here is a complete list.)

  • Picture: Rather pleased with the Best Picture roster. Not surprised that Les Mis got in, but it doesn’t mean I like it anymore. Very, very happy that Amour slipped in. A little surprised that Django Unchained is in there at all.
  • Best Actor: Can I just say how overwrought Hugh Jackman was in Les Miserables? Okay, thanks. Other than that, all looks fine and predictable. Nice to see Phoenix in there for The Master.
  • Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin again. Please. Go away. Your one good line in Argo does not/should not equate with a nod. Honestly surprised that Waltz got a nod in Django Unchained over DiCaprio. No Javier Bardem for Skyfall bums me out hard.
  • Director: Woo, #TeamHanake! Did you know my birthday falls on Oscar night? Yep. It was my secret (okay, not secret) birthday wish that Tom Hooper would not get nominated for Best Director. And it came true!
  • Actress: Woo Riva, #TeamHanake! Cute to see Wallis in there for Beasts of the Southern Wild. But now I have to learn how to spell her name. A little surprised for Watts in The Impossible over Rachel Weisz in The Deep Blue Sea.
  • Supporting Actress: It’s just lovely to see Amy Adams because I love Amy Adams. The inclusion of The Master at all this year, in acting categories especially, is nice, even if it didn’t get Directing or Best Pic nods. Jacki Weaver represents the usual “out of left field supporting acting nod”.
  • Adapted Screenplay: surprised no The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
  • Original Screenplay: Yay Amour, #TeamHaneke!
  • Cinematography: WOO Deakins!
  • Documentary Feature: Woo Kirby Dick!
  • Foreign Film/The Movies with Subtitles: yay Amour again! #TeamHanake. You know what also would have been awesome, besides Holy Motors, of course? Oslo, August 31st.
  • The rest of the lot: I’m super bummed that The Cabin in the Woods and Looper didn’t get in for Original Screenplay. That would have been nice. Sad that Andy Serkis didn’t slip in for Supporting Actor, but I don’t think that will ever happen, regardless of how brilliant he is as Gollum. No Holy Motors at all is crazy. No The Dark Knight Rises or Cloud Atlas, even in tech categories, is very surprising. Especially the former. It would have been lovely had Keira Knightley been in there for Anna Karenina. That Ted nomination is BS. And that “Suddenly” nod for Les Miserables just proves what everyone had been saying: a shameless way to get the film eligible for Best Original Song. No Bigelow, Affleck, and Tarantino are a surprise.
  • Can I just say “Who Were We?” from Holy Motors should have been in there? Seriously.
  • What can we learn from this year’s nominees: we had an average year for films. But you can’t please everyone.
  • What you can learn from a variety of top ten lists from the year: we had a freaking great year in film. But you can’t please everyone.

But, the race ain’t over till Nate Silver puts in his two cents.

Some Thoughts on the 2012 Oscars

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Something that any movie buff will have to come to terms with eventually and probably never will is that the Oscars will never be able to satisfy everyone. Partly because it’s natural to be unable to please legions of cinephiles, and partly because we have old, white, not-even-Oscar winning voters making the decisions here. It’s like a more dramatic, though less important version of the electoral colleges.

Nevertheless, they are the night for me. I don’t watch sports, but this is essentially my Super Bowl or World Cup or whatever. Granted, though, after having watched and read so much Woody Allen, always a no-show at the Oscars, I’m starting to kind of hate them. Same reasons: “Why award one thing over the other and call it the ‘best’?” I think there should be some sort of large panel for each category, and each memeber of each panel lists off their favorites, and then they send out certificates for those of whom that were listed. Yay, win win for everyone!

I spent my pre-Oscar weeks prepping by finally watching The Tree of Life and then watching Midnight in Paris another dozen times. I had planned to watch Moneyball the a couple days before with my friend, who understands baseball jargon much better than I do, but we got caught up in watching Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and Drive, just before people arrived for my party. (And then we watched Pulp Fiction and it was the best day ever.) The following day, Oscar Night, I ended up going to a friend’s house to watch the ceremony. It has, I suppose, become somewhat of a tradition. Cory June Vigants, one of my best friends, has an Oscar party at her house every year (now), or at least her parents do. I met her in my freshman year of high school, and her parents are unbelievably kind to me and invited me last year as well.

By the time the red carpet was on, I had my laptop open, my iPod by my side, and I was ready to live blog the night away. Granted, though, I did not live blog anything about the Red Carpet. I’m a strictly ceremony guy. And come 8:30, I was as ready as I ever would be. So, here are my thoughts on Sunday’s Oscar telecast:

  • I’ve never actually been a huge fan of Billy Crystal. He was great in the TV sitcom Soap and I love Nora Ephron’s/Rob Reiner’s When Harry Met Sally…, but I’ve never loved him that much. Therefore, I didn’t have high hopes for him anyways. Regardless if he’s hosted the telecast nine times, he just seemed too corny for my taste. Granted, I’m probably the only person who kind of enjoyed James Franco and Anne Hathaway floundering at last year’s ceremony, but so be it. It has nothing to do with me being younger; I just don’t care for Crystal’s brand of comedy.
  • The beginning montage. Didn’t see that one coming.
  • Billy Crystal singing. Didn’t see that one coming.
  • The only presenters I enjoyed were Emma Stone and Ben Stiller (for Emma Stone), Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow (for Robert Downey Jr.), Tina Fey and Bradley Cooper (for Tina Fey), Chris Rock, and Angelina Jolie and her leg (for her leg).
  • I’m glad Sasha Baron Cohen thinks he’s funny. It must be lonely at the top.
  • The Cirque du Soleil thing was cool. I guess.
  • I was most impressed with the way the Original Song nominees were presented. Nice animation.
  • My favorite part of the night: Scorsese shots!
  • The In Memoriam was very tasteful this year. That, like, never happens.

And now some bitter comments about the winners, things you’ve probably already heard and are already tired of:

  • So, The Tree of Life lost Cinematography. Everyone can go to hell now.
  • Hugo was basically this year’s Avatar.
  • And, boom, Drive loses its only nomination. Thinks to self, “Okay, why am I still watching?”
  • Christopher Plummer’s speech was cute.
  • When The Artist took Original Score, I thought I could hear Kim Novak screaming.
  • The highlight of my night was Woody Allen winning Original Screenplay for Midnight in Paris, basically the only think I was happy about.
  • Meryl Streep wins her third Oscar after three decades. As happy as I am for her, I’m just surprised that it was for this movie.
  • I guess I need to see The Artist now.
  • Honestly speaking, I wasn’t wowed by the Best Pic nominees this year in general. As much as I love Midnight in Paris, I don’t think it deserved Best Picture. Out of all nine, I would have said Tree of Life, The Artist, or (I guess) Hugo. Would have liked something like Drive, Melancholia, or Shame to be in there. They were very safe picks this year.

All said and done, I found the ceremony kind of boring, the winners pretty predictable. I managed to get 18 out of 24 correct. Hopefully next year’s ceremony will be a bit more interesting and especially funnier.

Oscar Predictions 2012

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Will win: The Artist

Should win: The Tree of Life


Will win: Michel HazanaviciusThe Artist

Should win: Terrence Malick – The Tree of Life/ Martin Scorsese – Hugo


Will win: Jean Dujardin – The Artist

Should win:  Jean Dujardin – The Artist / Gary Oldman – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy


Will win:  Viola DavisThe Help (with the slight possibility of Meryl Streep – The Iron Lady)

Should win: Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn


Will win: Christopher Plummer – Beginners

Should win: Christopher Plummer – Beginners


Will win: Octavia Spencer – The Help

Should win: Jessica ChastainThe Help (maybe Melissa McCarthy – Bridesmaids)


Will win: Rango

Should win: Rango



Will win: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

Should win: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore



Will win: A Separation

Should win: A Separation


Will win: Pina

Should win: Pina


Will win: Midnight in Paris

Should win: Midnight in Paris


Will win: The Descendants

Should win: Hugo


Will win: Hugo

Should win: Midnight in Paris


Will win:  The Artist

Should win: The Artist


Will win: Emmanuel LubeczkiThe Tree of Life

Should win: Emmanuel LubeczkiThe Tree of Life


Will win: Ludovic BourceThe Artist

Should win: Ludovic BourceThe Artist


Will win:  The Artist

Should win: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


Will win: Albert Nobbs

Should win: Albert Nobbs


Will win: Drive

Should win: Drive


Will win: Hugo

Should win: Hugo


Will win: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

Should win: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2/Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Rambling Thoughts on the Oscar Nominations

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  • Best Pic: Glad Tree of Life snuck in there, but, as everyone else is lamenting, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close? Really?
  • Director: Yay Terrence Malick! Surprised no Spielberg. Yay Woody Allen! First nod in 18 years!
  • Actor: Surprised Demian Bichir got a nod. It’s this year’s Javier Bardem! Also surprised no Leo. Poor him. Also, yay Gary Oldman!!
  • Actress: Surprised with Rooney Mara and no Tilda Swinton. Sad face.
  • Supporting Actor: Nick Nolte? Surprising. Jonah Hill? sort of. Max von Sydow? Sort of. No Albert Brooks? Blasphemy!
  • Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain and Melissa McCarthy EFF YEAH!
  • Adapted Screenplay: Yay Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy! otherwise no surprises
  • Original Screenplay: YAY BRIDESMAIDS!
  • Animated Film: YAY RANGO! (totally called Cat in Paris, btw)
  • Cinematography: If Tree of Life does not win, I will shoot someone.
  • Sound Editing: YAY DRIVE. Boo, no other nominations for Drive. Where s Albert Brooks? damn.
  • Original Score: The Artist…looks like Kim Novak can suck it.
  • Original Song: only two nominations? I bet Juan is happy Muppets got a nod.
  • Documentary: I hated If a Tree Falls. Hope PINA wins.
  • do you think we’ll ever reach a time where they have a special 3D category?
  • other thoughts: disappointed with no Death Hallows 2 nods except tech categories. No Drive. No Melancholia. sad face. Really disappointed with no Lars von Trier nod and no Kirsten Dunst nod. At least she had Cannes. Also, no Fassbender for Shame. Very surprised, but I guess masturbation isn’t a thing the Academy likes. Or does. xD
  • also…FUK YEAH WOODY ALLEN. FOUR, count ‘em, FOUR nominations for my beloved Midnight in Paris. Best Picture, his first since 1986’s Hannah and Her Sisters, Best Director, first since 1994’s Bullets Over Broadway, Best Original Screenplay, first since 2005’s Match Point, and Best Art Direction! YES. My day has been made by this.

You Can Stop the Beat: Review of the “Musical is Back” Number form the 2009 Oscars

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Back in 2009, perhaps the biggest showstopper of the Academy Awards was the musical number they performed to celebrate Mamma Mia! becoming the highest grossing movie musical of all time. Its leads were Hugh Jackman, who hosted the ceremony that year, and Beyoncé. And the behemoth of a ceremony performance was directed with all the “bigger is better” attitude by none other than Baz Luhrman. Next to Michael Bay, I would say that Luhrman is one of my least favorite directors. This is because he does not know when to say “no” or “that’s enough”. He has fantastic ideas, but he always goes over in his execution. Make a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Julie”, retaining the dialogue? How nifty! Ah, but let’s add explosion, gun fights, and what I think is “visual panache. Use contemporary pop songs to tell a tale of La Boehme? That’s awesome! Let’s add even more “visual panache” and make it an assault on your senses!

Admittedly, I did love his first film, Strictly Ballroom, a theatrical, flamboyant, and funny independent New Zealand film. But, it kind of went to hell from there. Apparently, what modest flamboyancy he could contain in that film, he wanted to really up the ante in his others. But, yes, he was hired to arrange and direct “The Musical is Back”.  Actually, I don’t remember it really going anywhere since 2003, when Chicago won Best Picture at the Oscars. And then there was The Phantom of the OperaRentDreamgirlsSweeney Todd, and Hairspray. But apparently, it needed to be brought back.

I guess if there is a distinct thing about Luhrman is that he starts fairly minimalistic and simplistic andthen he jumps into it head on. And he does the same with this number. Hugh Jackman starts off the number in front of the stage, the curtain closed, singing Irving Berlin’s “Putting on my Top Hat”. Hoofing his way across, he embodies the class (that he “reeks” of), the effortless smoothness, and gaiety of the stars like Astaire, Kelly, and Crosby. You can tell that Luhrman wanted to be faithful to the musicals of yore, for even the choreography is reminiscent of films like Top Hat and Singin’ in the Rain. Dressed to the nines, the curtain opens up and it reveals a large staircase. And this is where it starts getting bigger. However, it remains just fine for now.

A legion of dapper dancers dressed in the same costume come out to the top of the moving staircase to join Jackman in his number. All in all, they remain kind of a side piece, something to look at, but not truly engaging. It makes sense, since all eyes should be on Jackman, and it could merely be the camera work of the telecast, but nevertheless, it leaves one wanting more. Jackman then breaks out into the chorus of Singin’ in the Rain, but stops, when he realizes that “something’s missing”.

That “something”, of course, is a female lead. Making an impactful entrance, Beyoncé utilizes her big, brassy vocals to burst in with “Hey, Big Spender” from Sweet Charity. It’s perfect for her choice, and I guess the sequence is supposed to be a small narrative between Beyoncé and Jackman, but it’s a strange song selection. The film version of Sweet Charity was released in 1969 with Shirley McLain and was directed by Bob Fosse and is fairly unknown o the general public. The original musical that starred Gwen Verdon is better known. Jackman returns, calling out her name in much bravado, singing “Maria” from West Side Story.

She also sings “Putting on My Top Hat” and her vocals are flawless. In enter the female dancers, who are dressed in a skimpy and more questionable costume than the men, but in the same style. As if to reflect how he feels, Jackman sings “You’re the One that I want” from Grease, and the background dancers are at a standstill, leaving us to marvel at the pair and what seems like a love game. Some of the notes that Beyoncé hits are really amazing. They’re smooth and controlled, but added is her R&B know how and her deliciously sexy style.

And then, for some reason, Jackman sings “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” from The Sound of MusicIt doesn’t technically make sense if this is supposed to be some off kilter narrative, something that was equally troubling in Moulin Rouge!, but perhaps he’s questioning her leading him on? I’m not sure.

Perhaps my favorite part of the number, the lights turn blue, maybe to reflect Jackman’s mood, and Beyoncé croons the sexiest version of “All That Jazz” from Chicago I have ever heard. She makes it suggestive and sultry, and these tasty vocals are matched with equally suggestive choreography. In a slightly narcissistic move, Luhrman interjects this nonsensical number with “Lady Marmalade”, which was used in his Moulin Rouge! To no one’s surprise, her voice is perfect for the song, but it’s unnecessary, and makes her “Maria” sounds like a questionable prostitute. She is joined by teen stars Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens from the High School Musical franchise and Dominic Cooper and Amanda Seyfried from Mamma Mia!, where the women look especially…slutty. I understand that the outfits are supposed to be a sexier black tie version of the men’s costumes, but it doesn’t work. And personally, I don’t think the four of them should have been at the ceremony at all. They’re tween stars, and the only one I feel who has acting potential is Seyfried, and possibly Efron (since he did the indieMe and Orson Welles), but really. Just to draw in more viewers, I say.

Maybe to represent the specialness of the evening, they break out in “One Night Only” fromDreamgirls, which is only fitting in style because of the previous track and its salacious rhythm. I think it was from that Moulin Rouge! song that it got out of hand. It just gets bigger and bigger, and more annoying. The cast then obnoxiously does, not exactly a mash up, or even a medley, but a layered number of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” from Hairspray and “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” fromJesus Christ Superstar. It doesn’t really work, with the loudness and intensity of “You Can’t Stop the beat” taking over and distracting from the tenderness and perfection of “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”. The latter song only makes the narrative worse.

And then, the mood lighting sets in again, with Jackman saying a really awful line: “the best part of breaking up is getting back together again.” What the hell? It’s not even from anything. Singing another not-technically-a-song-from-a-musical, Beyoncé purrs Etta James’ “At Last” (which was featured inCadillac Records). This seems to have been chosen just to show off Beyoncé, which wasn’t really needed since she has already done enough, like with “Lady Marmalade”. And then Efron and Hudgens sing over her with “Last Chance” from High School Musical 3: Senior Year. Yet another stupid song choice, chosen merely because of its stars. Really, by now, it’s getting a bit much with the song selections.

Jackman jumps back in with “Maria” as the other two stars continue singing their song, and then it transitions slowly with “Mamma Mia!”, from the eponymous movie, and then, trying to salvage the narrative, Beyoncé sings a couple bars from “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” from Evita. Basically, too much is going on here. They are singing four songs at once and trying to maintain focus on each one, and it fails abysmally.

“Mamma Mia” goes into full swing, but in a really weird way. It’s sung partly in the form of a drum line, with strange choreography. It looks and sounds terrible. I guess it makes a little sense to use the song, since Jackman introduced the huge number because the movie had made more in England thanTitanic or something, but all in all, it’s kind of a weird selection.

The finale is a conclusion of the beginning song, and it ends with Beyoncé singing the final bars of “Over the Rainbow” form The Wizard of Oz and Jackman singing the final bars of “Somewhere” from West Side Story. It’s all very loud, but Beyoncé sounds good. And it ends, thank god.

I can say that the beginning of it, and up to “All That Jazz”, was fine, even very good, but it got out of control. I don’t like Hugh Jackman’s voice, for, as trained as it is, it’s not smooth. It’s hampered by vibrato and a shaky quality that probably appeals to people my mother’s age, who think that Gerard Butler made the perfect “Phantom” and that Rod Stewart is still popular. (Though, Rob Stewart doeshave a helluva sexy voice.) The only other star who manages to shine, regardless of the wretched material he’s given, is Zac Efron. Having proven his chops in Hairspray, he seems to be a veritable cast member. Cooper, Seyfried, and Hudgens all fail to sing above a whisper. It’s a testament of whether you’re made for the stage or not if you can sing above everyone else and manage to make some sort of impact. But those actors do not. I honestly wasn’t a big fan of Cooper in Mamma Mia! when he sang “Lay All Your Love on Me”. Seyfried’s voice is very frail, but it’s melodious.

Besides it being a general pain inducing onslaught of sensory massacring, the biggest problem to me was the song selection. This was supposed to honor the greatest musicals the screen’s ever known, right? Then why go with songs from High School MusicalEvita (the song is memorable only for its stage production), Sweet Charity (ditto), and Dreamgirls? They certainly haven’t made the impact on the musical that Singin’ in the Rain and West Side Story have. Why not choose something from A Chorus LineRent, or My Fair Lady or Cabaret? The former two won Pulitzers for their stage productions and received good reviews, and the latter two won Best Picture. Also, were they or weren’t they trying to create a narrative? What was with that? Addressing Beyoncé as Maria, using songs about love and leading on, Jackman’s horrid line about breaking up…none of it made sense with the other songs. The layering mash ups become cumbersome to listen to. It makes one question whether they were pulling songs from a hat or trying to create some linear if abstract narrative or plot or relationship dynamic or simply trying to get the most memorable songs from musicals. They, or Mr. Luhrman, failed on all accounts.

Guilty of Luhrman’s “distinctive theatrical” brush, this gigantic musical number was a miserable piece in Academy Award Ceremony history. IT really was just awful. No wonder why it was one of the lowest rated telecasts in 9 years.

Grade: D