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?

Best Picture Showcase – Weekend 1

Since the Academy upped the number of Best Picture nominees for this year’s Oscars from 5 to 10, the Best Picture Showcase format at AMC had to change. While 5 select cities (New York, Chicago, LA, Washington D.C. and Toronto) will have 24-hour marathons, Kansas City hosted two venues, including my home theatre, Studio 30, which sold more Best Picture Showcase tickets than any other city in America.

The lineup for the first weekend was:

Since Alli’s been sick (and we’ve seen it twice), we decided to cut out on seeing Avatar again and showed up about 15 minutes prior to Up in the Air. We settled into our seats (which we purchased ourselves…I went as a fan, not as a Community Manager) and enjoyed the day.

Mostly.

The experience of the Best Picture Showcase is a blast for movie lovers like us, but one thing you can never avoid is the gut-wrenchingly uncomfortable movie. This year, that movie was Precious: Based on the Novel PUSH by Sapphire.

Brutal. Just utterly brutal. Stereotype-filled to the brim. Good performances from Mo’Nique and Gabourey Sidibe, but they are certainly a type. Their performances reminded me of something I heard Matt Damon say once that it’s easy to win an Oscar, you just have to pick the right role (I think it was Damon…I can’t find a link to the quote, but I’m pretty sure it was Damon when he was on Inside the Actor’s Studio).

As far as the other movies go…

The Blind Side was a nice movie. I’m not convinced that Sandra Bullock would win Best Actress any other year but this one. It’s certainly her best performance since Crash, but is it Oscar-worthy? I don’t know. I can certainly see why people love that movie. It’s inspirational. It’s about our national past-time, football. But The Blind Side is definitely one of the movies that benefited from the expansion to 10 Best Picture nominees. That being said, the kid that plays SJ is hilarious.

Inglorious Basterds was what I expected. Tarantino certainly has a style that can be appealing to some. But the typography nerd in me was annoyed by the opening credits where he managed to stuff at least four different typefaces in, which is a big design no-no. Christoph Waltz was absolutely brilliant as Hans Landa and deserves every single bit of acclaim that he’s received. The story itself…*shrug*. There were people who’ve said that Inglorious Basterds is Tarantino’s best work so far. I respectfully disagree…and not just because of the typography.

On second viewing, Up in the Air was my favorite film we saw. Jason Reitman, like Tarantino, also has a very specific directorial style. But where Tarantino’s style has seemingly remained the same, Reitman’s is evolving into something fantastic. The shots he captures of Ryan Bingham’s America are really beautiful and the performances from leads — Clooney, Kendrick and Farmiga — are all terrific, with Anna Kendrick (who we’ve really only known as Jessica from the Twilight movies before now) really doing an amazing job as Clooney’s young understudy Natalie.

Just a quick comment on the Best Picture Showcase itself. Now that I work for AMC as a Community Manager, it was an interesting experience. I didn’t attend as an employee, but a fan of the movies, just like most everyone else in the theatre. And for people who love the movies, the Best Picture Showcase is an amazing time. I’m looking forward to finishing it up next weekend, with:

I’m most looking forward to seeing An Education and The Hurt Locker. An Education was written by one of my favorite authors, Nick Hornby, while The Hurt Locker…well, I’m anxious to see what all the hype is about.

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.

A Day at the Movies

Apparently, AMC liked my write up of the new Fork & Screen experience so much that they invited me to their annual Best Picture Showcase on the day before the Oscars.

This is an awesome experience. For $30 (only $25 for MovieWatcher members), you get to watch all five Best Picture nominees back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. It’s a whole Saturday, starting at 10:30 in the morning and ending well after 11 at night. Kansas City is one of many cities across the country hosting this event and here in town, it’s at both my home court theater (Olathe Studio) and at the BarryWoods 24.

I plan on live-tweeting the event along with bloggers across the U.S. If you’re also planning on live-tweeting, the official hash tag (which yours truly put into play) is #amcbps.

If you want to join in the fun, make sure to pick up your tickets soon. If you want the $5 discount, you’ll have to go to the box office to pick up your pass.

I love the Oscars and I love the movies. This is like the perfect storm of awesomeness. Plus I get to cross something off my Bucket List (spend all day at the movie theater with Alli).

And just in case you’re wondering…here are the showtimes:

  • “Milk”- 10:30am
  • “The Reader”- 1:05pm
  • “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”- 3:45pm
  • “Slumdog Millionaire”- 7:15pm
  • “Frost/Nixon”- 9:45pm

It’s gonna be legendary.