AMC Best Picture Showcase

About a week ago, I shared that I had been invited to attend the AMC Best Picture Showcase at the Olathe Studio 30 for free as a part of a blogger outreach program headed up by AMC’s Social Media guru Justin Gardner. Starting at 10:30 in the morning with Milk and ending at almost midnight with Frost/Nixon, the Showcase required almost 14 hours of our Saturday. Were we up to the challenge?

Absolutely.

We arrived at the theater around 10:00 and were greeted by Justin and his team. We were handed our full day passes, our unlimited refill popcorn bags and some goodies. Just as we were about to join the throng of people in the main 400-person theater, Justin brought us aside and said, “I’ve got a surprise for you guys…you’re gonna watch it in the Fork & Screen.” Our amazing day just got a little better. We had planned to eat at the Fork & Screen between movies, but now we wouldn’t even have to leave our seats. This day just kept getting better.

Alli in the Cinema Suites 

We took our seats down the row from (jeff)isageek and vivid13 and listened as Gene from AMC Corporate told us all about the day. Then, almost in passing, he asked if any of us had a bee in the back of our badge booklet. Alli and I reached into our badges, pulled out the booklets and found that glorious little bee sticker on the back page. Could this day BE any better? The bee got us upgraded from the standard Fork & Screen theater into the grandaddy of them all, the Cinema Suites.

All of this happened within 15 minutes of us arriving at the theater. We hadn’t even begun the movies yet.

Snacks 

We took our seats in the Cinema Suites theater, kicked back in our seats and let the good times begin.

Milk

Milk

I do not know a lot about the gay rights movement. I’m not a homophobe and I don’t judge. It’s just something that I’ve never studied. Harvey Milk was one of the most influential leaders of the gay rights movement in the ’70s and was the first openly gay man to be elected to public office. Milk is portrayed by Sean Penn, who despite his truculent relationship with the media and…well…everyone else, is still one of the most brilliant and talented actors of our time. Not only that, but he is surrounded by other brilliant actors in this film, particularly James Franco, who (in my opinion) was one of the many actors we saw on Saturday who got totally robbed in the nomination process.

I like Gus Van Sant for the most part. He is, after all, responsible for my favorite movie of all-time. But there was an instance in this movie where I thought to myself, “Hey, wasn’t that a boom mic? What is a boom mic doing in this shot? Isn’t this movie supposed to be up for Best Picture?” But hey, it happens.

I can understand why Milk is up for Best Picture. With the controversy surrounding Proposition 8 as well as the catch phrases and speeches that the dynamic Milk gave during his political career, it’s easy to understand why this movie resonates with people. At the same time, it wasn’t my favorite of the day. Both of the movies that I’d already seen (Slumdog, Benjamin Button) were better, in my opinion. But it was a good start to the day.

In between movies, Alli and I ordered some food off the menu…quesadillas for me and fries for her. Then the AMC staff came in and did some Oscar trivia giveaways. The first three questions were as follows (there may or may not be prizes for the correct answers…and no using the Google): 

  1. How many Oscars did Titanic win?
  2. What movie did Sean Penn win his Best Actor Oscar for?
  3. How much does the Oscar statue weigh?

Time for another movie…

The Reader

reader

I fully expected to dislike this movie. I’ve got an aversion to Nazi movies except when they have Indiana Jones in them. But I really like Kate Winslet (remember that I predicted her double win at the Golden Globes) and I was very surprised by how much I liked this movie. After it was over, Alli turned to me and said, “I can tell that you liked that one because you didn’t Twitter at all during it.”

And she was right. The Reader looked like a Best Picture. It felt like a Best Picture. Beautiful cinematography, powerful acting…just a terrific movie. Kate Winslet is a shoo-in to win the Oscar tonight, although David Kross was robbed of a nomination…he was great.

In between movies #2 (Reader) and #3 (Benjamin Button), AMC treated us in the Cinema Suites to some tasty free appetizers. We had their terrific chicken tenders as well as their fried shrimp and some cheese sticks, although after the quesadillas, I wasn’t sure I was up for all that fried food. They also brought us a hot towel, which was a nice touch and allowed us to freshen up before the longest movie of the day (and also my favorite):

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

button

I’ve said it before and watching it again did nothing to change my mind: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was my favorite movie this year. It is gorgeous in every aspect.

Things I noticed this time around worth mentioning:

  • Cate Blanchett was amazing. Her performance was sorely overlooked. Especially the hospital scenes.
  • If Taraji P. Henson loses Best Supporting Actress to Penelope Cruz, it will be a crime.
  • The fog/stage/dance scene is so memorable.

I didn’t change my mind about this movie. It’s brilliant.

I had to run home in between The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire to let Dreyfuss out. Alli’s parents had been kind enough to stop by while in town and let him out earlier and one more time would get him through the final two movies.

Slumdog Millionaire

slumdog millionaire

This movie, along with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, was one of two Best Picture nominees that we had already seen. I reviewed the movie here when we saw it and the easiest way to summarize my feelings is to quote myself:

I still don’t feel like it was better than The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. There were times when I wanted to be surprised or taken aback during Millionaire, but found it somewhat predictable. I enjoyed it still, but I wasn’t blown away… 

Slumdog Millionaire is a terrific movie. It’s a gritty look at the city of Mumbai, but more importantly, it’s a story about love which is a theme that can live in any ghetto, any slum, no matter what.

Nate Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight.com was the place to go for political projections has predicted with a 99% certainty that Slumdog Millionaire will win the Best Picture trophy. I’m OK with that. It is a great film and certainly my second favorite out of those nominated. I’ve made my peace with the fact that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button may earn very little out of its 13 nominations. Slumdog Millionaire is a deserving movie and one that has a great message and lots of people should see.

Frost/Nixon

frostnixon

I wish that I knew more about the Watergate scandal. It’s an era of American history that I know very little about and so I was skeptical going into this movie. But since it was directed by Ron Howard and had generated as much buzz as it had, I was looking forward to the final movie of the evening. Alli and I settled in with our dinner (burger for me, veggie tray for her) and sat back for the final movie in an amazing marathon of films.

I’ll spare you the historical details, all of which I’d just be lifting from the Wikipedia page. Ultimately, this movie is about Frank Langella and his portrayal of Richard Nixon.

Langella transcends everything I ever thought about him as an actor. He inhabits the role of Richard Nixon (a role that he also played on Broadway) and makes the former president appear almost sympathetic. It starts a little slow, but by the third act, you are at the edge of your seat as Frost and Nixon finally sit down to discuss Watergate.

Of all the movies, this one surprised me the most. I didn’t know what to expect, but I ended up really enjoying this historical movie. Certainly there are places where the truth is stretched, but Howard manages to make us believe as if we’re watching a documentary, yet with all the high production values of an Imagine Entertainment film.

It’s unfortunate that Langella will not be honored this evening when the Best Actor Oscar is given out. He’s a guy who has worked tirelessly as an actor (the same could be said of all the nominees), but Langella was the one I saw who never once looked like Actor A playing Role B. He was just wonderful.

Summary

What a day! The AMC Best Picture Showcase is an event that I’m not going to miss ever again. It’s such a blast and AMC truly knows how to make it work. Big kudos to Justin Gardner, who put together the blogger part, but also to Gene at AMC Corporate, who organized the Olathe group (which was running in 3 separate theaters) with ease.

If you have a Saturday and you love the movies, I’d put this one on your calendar for next year. It’s totally worth it.

To see my pictures of the event, check out my Flickr photostream.

Author: Shane

Shane Adams is a marketer, designer, blogger and preacher man who lives in the Kansas City area with his beautiful artist wife Alli and his corn-chip-smelling dog, Dreyfuss.

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