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.

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?

Nine

Alli has been wanting to see Nine ever since she heard of it and it seemed like a can’t miss film: a musical based on a Fellini movie that was directed by the guy who directed Chicago and starred Daniel Day-Lewis and like, a bajillion other Oscar winners. Oh, and it was also put out by perennial Oscar hoarder, Harvey Weinstein.

It really had the pedigree to be something special.

Yeah…not so much.

It wasn’t that it was bad…it had moments of brilliance, particularly the choreographed numbers with the Black Eyed Peas’ Fergie “Be Italian” and Kate Hudson’s “Cinema Italiano”. And Daniel Day-Lewis…well, that guy is just phenomenal. Even faced with sub-par writing and a flimsy plot, he really delivers as Guido “The Maestro” Contini, the famed Italian film director with writer’s block. He brings life to a completely unlikable character who is tortured because of the 7 women of his past and present: his wife (Marion Cotillard), his mistress (Penelope Cruz), his muse (Nicole Kidman), his makeup artist (Dame Judi Dench), an American journalist (Hudson), a prostitute from his childhood (Fergie), and his enigmatic, canonized mother (Sophia Loren).

Honestly, if this movie is about anything, it can be found in the 3-minute “Cinema Italiano” number with Kate Hudson, in which she actually sings that style is more important than substance and that’s why Contini’s movies are so great.

It seems like Rob Marshall took this nugget a little too close to heart because while the film is absolutely gorgeous (one of my favorite scenes was the opening one where we meet Guido for the first time in his sound stage…that shot is amazing), but it completely falls apart because it can’t deliver on any semblance of a story.

Without Daniel Day-Lewis and Marion Cotillard, this movie would be a complete travesty, but they manage to save it in their unique ways. Cotillard is so charming as Conini’s tortured wife who knows that he’s a scoundrel, but sticks with him “for the film”. I didn’t particularly like her in Public Enemies and was really bummed when she beat out Ellen Page’s Juno for Best Actress in the 2008 Oscars, but she is really likable in this movie, despite its many flaws.

Like I said, Nine has some moments and is buoyed by two very good performances, but it can’t overcome the terrible script and just didn’t deliver as the Oscar bait that Harvey Weinstein wanted us to believe that it was.

Up in the Air

On New Year’s Eve, Alli and I headed out with my folks for a double-feature at ye ole Olathe AMC.

This is such a fun time for movies. So many great flicks come out at the end of the year so they can be eligible for Oscar season and the two that we saw were early front runners: Up in the Air and Nine.

Up in the Air

I’ve heard nothing but good things about Up in the Air. It seems destined for Oscar gold and potentially the elusive Best Actor statue for Clooney. It certainly solidified to me that Jason Reitman is no one-trick pony. His last 3 films (Up in the Air, Juno, Thank You for Smoking) have really been stellar from a directorial standpoint. He’s got a unique voice and I’m looking forward to more from him as he continues to grow as a director.

Tweet Review of Up in the Air

The movie itself was interesting and heartfelt, but I think that my expectations may have failed me again. I went in expecting the best movie of the year and what I got was quite good, but I felt like it didn’t deliver in certain places. However, one place it certainly delivered was in the female performances. George Clooney is darn near overshadowed by Anna Kendrick (Twi-hards will know her as Jessica), who portrays Natalie Keener with an earnestness that I could completely relate to and I felt rang so true for the current generation of workers who have grandiose, unrealistic visions of how technology can completely change everything about how we live our lives. Now, coming from me, that may sound a little weird, but it’s a good life lesson that she receives.

Vera Farmiga (The Departed) is also quite charming as Clooney’s love interest, Alex, but I didn’t find her nearly as interesting as Kendrick’s Natalie.

OK, so let’s talk about George Clooney. He’s terrific. But I just felt like he was playing George Clooney, who I like…I just didn’t think it was that much of a stretch.

Writing this review has made me kind of want to see the movie again…to see if I missed something. I’m not sure that I did, but I want to make sure. I just didn’t see what all the fuss was about.