The Oscars

This was the first time in four years that Alli and I have not hosted an Oscar party at our house. With the job change and everything going on, we needed to take a break this year and just enjoy the show on our own. HOWEVER…

Why is it impossible for them to stay on schedule? My DVR cut off and I missed the final 4 awards (read: THE MOST IMPORTANT ONES). Fortunately, the Internet came to my rescue and I was able to see the acceptance speeches from Jeff Bridges, Sandra Bullock, Kathryn Bigelow and…Kathryn Bigelow.

I have to be honest. Last night’s awards were somewhat of a disappointment to me. Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin weren’t funny (nor really were both of them necessary…why two hosts?) and the outcomes — well, I just can’t get on board with The Hurt Locker. Look, I appreciate the significance of Bigelow’s win. It’s ludicrous that a woman has not already won a directing Oscar. But I think that Peter Sciretta from /film said it best in his tweet:

What I liked:

  • Pete Doctor wearing the bottlecap pin on his tux to commemorate Up.
  • The way that the Best Original Score nominees were presented by the League of Extraordinary Dancers.
  • Ben Stiller dressed up as a Na’vi from Avatar, which was hilarious.
  • John Hughes tribute. The man was responsible for some of the funniest movies of the 80’s and 90’s.
  • Christoph Waltz finally getting his acceptance speech right. Everything else he had said in acceptance speeches had been an incoherent mess.
  • Up winning for Best Score (seriously, I was probably happier about this than anything else during the evening). Giacchino is amazing.
  • Doug Benson’s (host of the I Love Movies podcast) live tweets during the show. Hilarious.

The big surprises:

  • Precious winning the Best Adapted Screenplay award. Really was certain it was going to Up in the Air.
  • The Hurt Locker winning Best Original Screenplay (although once you saw how much the night was swinging towards Bigelow’s movie, it wasn’t as surprising). I thought this would be Tarantino’s for Inglorious Basterds.
  • Farrah Fawcett being left out of the In Memoriam montage, but not Michael Jackson.
  • Mo’Nique didn’t get played off the stage. I was sure that when she won that she would ramble on for 5 minutes.

What I didn’t like:

  • Baldwin and Martin. Just not very funny.
  • Really shocked about Up in the Air getting shut out. After seeing all 10 Best Picture nominees, I truly believe this was in the top 3. Fortunately, Jason Reitman is young. He’s doing great work and will continue to do so.
  • The pre-show hosted by Kathy Ireland was just PAINFUL to watch.

So, what did you think? Did you watch the whole telecast?

Best Picture Showcase – Weekend 2

So, it’s one of my favorite weekends of the year — Oscar Weekend. And that means that we also finished up the Best Picture Showcase at AMC today.

First things first, a disclaimer: I am recently employed by AMC and have to state that these opinions are my own.

Last weekend, we had Avatar, Up in the Air, Precious, The Blind Side and Inglorious Basterds. (If you want to read about weekend 1 of the Best Picture Showcase, you can revisit my previous post.)

So to complete the 10 Best Picture Nominees today, the lineup was:

As we did last weekend, we arrived late since we’d seen (and own) Disney Pixar’s brilliant UP.

So technically our day was supposed to start with A Serious Man, but we actually kicked it off with the movie I was most looking forward to today: An Education.

I really loved An Education. Carey Mulligan is just unbelievably charming and complex in a terrific coming-of-age story penned by one of my favourite (with added ‘u’ because he’s British) authors, Nick Hornby. Filled with great performances from Peter Saarsgard, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson and that dude who is supposed to marry Amanda Seyfried in Mamma Mia!, all are eclipsed by Mulligan, who just brings so much wonderful charm to Jenny, the main character. The story is one we’ve heard before, but I just really connected with this story and thought to myself, “It’s too bad that nobody has a clue about this flick.”

Next flick up was The Hurt Locker, many critics’ pick to win the coveted Best Picture Oscar. I guess I just didn’t see the same movie because to me, it did NOT live up to the hype. It was a decent enough movie, but it really reminded me a lot of Jarhead (hat tip to Alli, who helped me remember the name of that movie). It’s a decent movie, but I really didn’t like it as much as I wanted to for whatever reason. Anthony Mackie was really the saving grace here.

A Serious Man was one of the worst movies I’ve seen in a long time. I have never really liked the Coen brothers, but have tolerated them. This flick was just incomprehensible. And I wasn’t alone in this assessment. Nearly everyone in our theatre felt the same way, wondering how it’s possible that this horrible, make-you-want-to-blow-your-brains-out-depressing movie could have a chance as the Best Picture of the year. Absolutely hated it.

My feelings on A Serious Man may have helped me to hate District 9 considerably less. I got a text from my brother telling me that he guaranteed I would hate it. Well, Jake, you were wrong. I didn’t hate it. It was unbelievably ambitious, but we’ve come to expect that from Peter Jackson. The beginning of the flick was a bit disjointed, but once it, *ahem*, takes its “turn”, it becomes a lot more entertaining. For those of you that have seen District 9, I have a question for you: did you think that the story had some parallels with Avatar? Alli brought that up after the movie and I had to chuckle because it’s not terribly far off.

So, after 2 weekends, Alli and I tackled 8 out of the 10 Best Picture nominees, having seen the other two multiple times. The Best Picture Showcase experience is such a blast (and I’m not just saying that because I work for AMC) if you love the movies. I happen to love the movies.

So my final rankings of all 10 films (my opinion, based upon how much I actually liked the films…I realize that I have no ability to judge these films based on anything else but my own personal opinion):

  1. Avatar
  2. Up
  3. An Education
  4. Up in the Air
  5. The Hurt Locker
  6. Inglorious Basterds
  7. District 9
  8. The Blind Side
  9. Precious Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire
  10. A Serious Man

I realize that putting The Blind Side as high as I did leaves me open for ridicule. But I really didn’t like Precious or A Serious Man. AT ALL. As far as what is going to win? I think it is a two-horse race between Avatar and The Hurt Locker. I’m giving the edge to Avatar right now. But The Hurt Locker has a ton of momentum. We’ll have to see…

So what were your thoughts? What do you think will take the Oscar for Best Picture Sunday night?

How to Win an Oscar

The Oscars are only a week away, so it’s fitting that this story came out on The Daily Beast today: 10 Ways to Win an Oscar:

So I think we can lock up the four acting awards right now (not that they weren’t already):

  • Best Actor: Jeff Bridges (Get fat, go ugly)
  • Best Actress: Sandra Bullock (Speak with a funny accent)
  • Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz (Holocaust, Accent)
  • Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique (Go ugly)

Now that those awards are decided, the real battle comes down in Best Picture and Best Director. Now, usually, that award goes to the same film. It’s certainly had exceptions in the past and I get the feeling that this year might be another exception.

See, I’m not sure that the Academy will discount the juggernaut Avatar in favor of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker for Best Picture. However, I am pretty sure that Bigelow is going to win the Best Director award. Now, those two might flip-flop, but I am not sure that one movie will take both those awards. Lord knows that most of Hollywood is rooting against James Cameron. You have to imagine that many of them are thinking, “Doesn’t he have enough? Top two box office movies of all-time? And Aquaman!”

Whether or not Avatar/Cameron or Hurt Locker/Bigelow win remains to be seen, but at least actors now have a formula on winning an award, if they so desire.

Quick Thoughts on the Oscar Nominations

  • I need to see The Hurt Locker. I’ve got the Redbox DVD, but haven’t had time to watch it yet.
  • Is UP the first picture to be nominated for Best Picture and Best Animated Picture? I’m assuming so, but not sure.
  • No big surprises for the acting nominations except perhaps
  • Really want to see An Education, especially since Nick Hornby (one of my favorite authors) wrote the screenplay

There are lots of opinions on what’s good and what’s not, but here are the certainties (at least in my mind):

  • The acting awards will go to Bridges, Bullock, Waltz, Mo’Nique
  • Up in the Air will win Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Inglorious Basterds will win Best Original Screenplay
  • Avatar will win all the technical awards

All the rest of the major awards are kind of a crap shoot. Momentum seems to be favoring The Hurt Locker right now, but Avatar or even Tarantino’s Basterds could come out of nowhere to win. It’s anyone’s guess right now.

What do you think?

Full Oscar Nomination List

Performance by an actor in a leading role

  • Richard Jenkins in “The Visitor” (Overture Films)
  • Frank Langella in “Frost/Nixon” (Universal)
  • Sean Penn in “Milk” (Focus Features)
  • Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
  • Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” (Fox Searchlight)

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

  • Josh Brolin in “Milk” (Focus Features)
  • Robert Downey Jr. in “Tropic Thunder” (DreamWorks, Distributed by DreamWorks/Paramount)
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Doubt” (Miramax)
  • Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.)
  • Michael Shannon in “Revolutionary Road” (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage)

Performance by an actress in a leading role

  • Anne Hathaway in “Rachel Getting Married” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Angelina Jolie in “Changeling” (Universal)
  • Melissa Leo in “Frozen River” (Sony Pictures Classics)
  • Meryl Streep in “Doubt” (Miramax)
  • Kate Winslet in “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company)

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

  • Amy Adams in “Doubt” (Miramax)
  • Penélope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” (The Weinstein Company)
  • Viola Davis in “Doubt” (Miramax)
  • Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.)
  • Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler” (Fox Searchlight)

Best animated feature film of the year

  • “Bolt” (Walt Disney), Chris Williams and Byron Howard
  • “Kung Fu Panda” (DreamWorks Animation, Distributed by Paramount), John Stevenson and Mark Osborne
  • “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Andrew Stanton

Achievement in art direction

  • “Changeling” (Universal), Art Direction: James J. Murakami, Set Decoration: Gary Fettis
  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Art Direction: Donald Graham Burt, Set Decoration: Victor J. Zolfo
  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Art Direction: Nathan Crowley, Set Decoration: Peter Lando
  • “The Duchess” (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films), Art Direction: Michael Carlin, Set Decoration: Rebecca Alleway
  • “Revolutionary Road” (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage), Art Direction: Kristi Zea, Set Decoration: Debra Schutt

Achievement in cinematography

  • “Changeling” (Universal), Tom Stern
  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Claudio Miranda
  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Wally Pfister
  • “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company), Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Anthony Dod Mantle

Achievement in costume design

  • “Australia” (20th Century Fox), Catherine Martin
  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Jacqueline West
  • “The Duchess” (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films), Michael O’Connor
  • “Milk” (Focus Features), Danny Glicker
  • “Revolutionary Road”  (DreamWorks, Distributed by Paramount Vantage), Albert Wolsky

Achievement in directing

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), David Fincher
  • “Frost/Nixon” (Universal), Ron Howard
  • “Milk” (Focus Features), Gus Van Sant
  • “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company), Stephen Daldry
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Danny Boyle

Best documentary feature

  • “The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)” (Cinema Guild), A Pandinlao Films Production, Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath
  • “Encounters at the End of the World” (THINKFilm and Image Entertainment), A Creative Differences Production, Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser
  • “The Garden” A Black Valley Films Production, Scott Hamilton Kennedy
  • “Man on Wire” (Magnolia Pictures), A Wall to Wall Production, James Marsh and Simon Chinn
  • “Trouble the Water” (Zeitgeist Films), An Elsewhere Films Production, Tia Lessin and Carl Deal

Best documentary short subject

  • “The Conscience of Nhem En” A Farallon Films Production, Steven Okazaki
  • “The Final Inch” A Vermilion Films Production, Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant
  • “Smile Pinki” A Principe Production, Megan Mylan
  • “The Witness – From the Balcony of Room 306” A Rock Paper Scissors Production, Adam Pertofsky and Margaret Hyde

Achievement in film editing

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Lee Smith
  • “Frost/Nixon” (Universal), Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
  • “Milk” (Focus Features), Elliot Graham
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Chris Dickens

Best foreign language film of the year

  • “The Baader Meinhof Complex” A Constantin Film Production, Germany
  • “The Class” (Sony Pictures Classics), A Haut et Court Production, France
  • “Departures” (Regent Releasing), A Departures Film Partners Production, Japan
  • “Revanche” (Janus Films), A Prisma Film/Fernseh Production, Austria
  • “Waltz with Bashir” (Sony Pictures Classics), A Bridgit Folman Film Gang Production, Israel

Achievement in makeup

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Greg Cannom
  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O’Sullivan
  • “Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (Universal), Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original score)

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.),Alexandre Desplat
  • “Defiance” (Paramount Vantage), James Newton Howard
  • “Milk” (Focus Features), Danny Elfman
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), A.R. Rahman
  • “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Thomas Newman

Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song)

  • “Down to Earth” from “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel
  • “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
  • “O Saya” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman andMaya Arulpragasam                   

Best motion picture of the year

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), A Kennedy/Marshall Production, Kathleen Kennedy, Frank Marshall and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
  • “Frost/Nixon” (Universal), A Universal Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and Working Title Production,Brian Grazer, Ron Howard and Eric Fellner, Producers
  • “Milk” (Focus Features), A Groundswell and Jinks/Cohen Company Production, Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, Producers
  • “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company), A Mirage Enterprises and Neunte Babelsberg Film GmbH Production, Nominees to be determined
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), A Celador Films Production,Christian Colson, Producer

Best animated short film

  • “La Maison en Petits Cubes” A Robot Communications Production, Kunio Kato
  • “Lavatory – Lovestory” A Melnitsa Animation Studio and CTB Film Company Production, Konstantin Bronzit
  • “Oktapodi” (Talantis Films) A Gobelins, L’école de l’image Production, Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand
  • “Presto” (Walt Disney) A Pixar Animation Studios Production, Doug Sweetland
  • “This Way Up”, A Nexus Production, Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes

Best live action short film

  • “Auf der Strecke (On the Line)” (Hamburg Shortfilmagency), An Academy of Media Arts Cologne Production, Reto Caffi
  • “Manon on the Asphalt” (La Luna Productions), A La Luna Production, Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont
  • “New Boy” (Network Ireland Television), A Zanzibar Films Production, Steph Green and Tamara Anghie
  • “The Pig” An M & M Production, Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh
  • “Spielzeugland (Toyland)” A Mephisto Film Production, Jochen Alexander Freydank

Achievement in sound editing

  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Richard King
  • “Iron Man” (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment), Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Tom Sayers
  • “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
  • “Wanted” (Universal),Wylie Stateman

Achievement in sound mixing

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Mark Weingarten
  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
  • “WALL-E” (Walt Disney),Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt
  • “Wanted” (Universal), Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt

Achievement in visual effects

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron
  • “The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin
  • “Iron Man” (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment), John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan

Adapted screenplay

  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Screenplay by Eric Roth, Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
  • “Doubt” (Miramax), Written by John Patrick Shanley
  • “Frost/Nixon” (Universal), Screenplay by Peter Morgan
  • “The Reader” (The Weinstein Company), Screenplay by David Hare
  • “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

Original screenplay

  • “Frozen River” (Sony Pictures Classics), Written by Courtney Hunt
  • “Happy-Go-Lucky” (Miramax), Written by Mike Leigh
  • “In Bruges” (Focus Features), Written by Martin McDonagh
  • “Milk” (Focus Features), Written by Dustin Lance Black
  • “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter

Just the nominations. I’ll give you my picks later today.