Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012 Post-Oscar Thoughts!

Once again I kept a notes while I watched the Oscars. Yes, I live in the Stone Age!

I had to work on Sunday and I got home like literally seconds before the show started, so I was very happy I didn't miss any of it (although towards the middle, I started to check my Facebook and Twitter and my computer is in my room, so for awhile I was listening, rather than watching, the Oscars.)

I liked the opening with Billy Crystal inserted in the different clips from the nominated movies. It's a shtick he always does, but I always think it's fun. I thought the transition from The Help where he's just eaten that special pie to Bridesmaids where he enters the restroom and warns them not to eat the pie was funny and clever.

It was hard to hear what Billy Crystal was singing about the nine nominated movies because the music was so loud.

Have you noticed they always show the same movies during these movie montages? Did they include Twilight in that montage? WTF? I think there should be a rule that only movies that have been nominated for Oscars can be included in these montages. Leave Twilight for the MTV Awards....god knows they already dominate those!

I HATED Jennifer Lopez's dress. Ewwwwww. She and Cameron Diaz were so stupid with their let's turn around routine. What morons!

Sandra Bullock was funny and charming as always and I was impressed by her Mandarin, but her dress is a little on the boring side.

It's weird that Girl with the Dragon Tattoo won Best Editing because that usually goes to a movie that's nominated for Best Picture.

Cirque du Soleil was impressive, but what did it have to do with movies?

Robert Downey Jr's and Gwyneth Paltrow's "documentary" intro was funny at first, but perhaps went on a little too long.

I thought Emma Stone was hilarious, how she was acting all ditzy. Wasn't crazy about her dress and that huge bow growing out of the side of her neck. That's gotta be annoying!

LOL - Angelina Jolie looked like a proud mom when Christopher Plummer won. He is only two years younger than the Oscars! He is now the oldest Oscar winner at 82; I wonder who was the oldest before him?

Awwww - Uggie in the audience wearing a bowtie was the cutest thing I have ever seen at the Oscars. Maybe even the cutest thing I've ever seen in my life! (For those of you who don't know, Uggie is the dog from The Artist).

Penelope Cruz always looks pretty.

I loved Will Ferrel and Zach Galifanakis with the cymbals. Why can't they host? I think the best laugh of the night came when Zach said his name like jibber jabber hahahahahahahahahahahaha that was soooo funny. Then I loved how Will said they were going to announce the winner for Best Song and "how it would join the ranking of (names a bunch of classic songs everyone knows and loves) and "It's Hard Out There For a Pimp." LOL! I still think they should have nominated "Life's a Happy Song" - that was the best song from The Muppets!

Omaha got a shoutout at the Oscars when Alexander Payne won for Best Adapted Screenplay and mentioned his mom from Omaha was in the audience. Whoo!

I liked Colin Firth reminiscing about Mama Mia with Meryl Streep.

There really weren't any surprises with the acting winners, but I really thought Viola Davis would win Best Actress. I know it's been 30 years since Meryl won her last (and second) Oscar, and you can't help but like her. I still have no desire to see The Iron Lady and I don't know, but there's something about that role that screams GIVE ME AN OSCAR!!! Sometimes I like the showy performances, but most times I prefer the understated roles like the one Davis played in The Help...ah, well I'm sure she'll win a makeup Supporting Oscar in a few years.... Maybe this means Meryl will finally stop getting nominated for everything? We can only hope.

Now it's time for fashion!

Best dressed: Milla Jovovich

Worst dressed: Jennifer Lopez

Saturday, February 25, 2012

2012 Pre-Oscars Post! Rankings! Predix!

The Oscars are this Sunday, so I'm cutting it close with my predictions and ranking of the nine films that were nominated. I just saw the ninth movie tonight so I am ready to rank all the movies nominated for a Best Picture Oscar from my favorite to least favorite:

1. The Help - It was hard to rank the first three movies because I probably liked them all about the same and they all had really great casts and they all kept me entertained. But I'll give the #1 spot to The Help because I also loved the book it's adapted from and it was pretty cool to see all those amazing actresses in one movie and it's nice to know that a movie with a mostly female cast can make lots of money and not just be about shopping, relationships, fashion, and other frivolous stupid things Hollywood seems to think women like in their movies. This movie made me both laugh and cry and I am still wondering to this day (and this has actually been brought up in a couple of conversations I've had with people): how the hell did Minnie make that pie and Hilly not even notice what she put in it? I mean, she kept eating it! How could she not taste THAT? I mean you think you would be able to taste that even if there was also chocolate in there...

2. Midnight in Paris - What a delightful, charming movie! I can see why it was nominated for an Oscar. You know, this is only the third Wood Allen movie I've seen (Annie Hall and Match Point being the other two) because he is such a prolific director that I guess I just assume his movies can't be that good because he makes so many of them...plus I can't keep up with them, but now I will have to check out his higher-rated movies. It stars Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams as a couple about to get married joining McAdam's parents on a trip to Paris. Wilson plays a screenwriter who is struggling to write a novel. While they're there, they run into an old male friend of McAdam's who she used to have a crush on and who Wilson calls a "pseudo-intellect" because he's obnoxious the way he's always sprouting out facts and acts like a know-it-all all the time. One evening, at midnight, while Wilson is walking around the city to get inspiration, an old-fashioned car from the 1920s with a bunch of laughing and smoking people come up to him and pick him up to take him to a party where he meets people such as the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo Picasso and realizes he's time traveled back to the 1920s and does this every night at midnight where he gives his manuscript to Gertrude Stein to read. He goes back and fourth from the 1920s and present day and falls in love with a free-spirited French woman (Marion Cotillard) while he and his bride-to-be are having problems back in the present day. I can see why this is Allen's highest-grossing movie to date. It won't win Best Picture but I think it has a very good chance of winning Best Original Screenplay.

3. The Artist - A black and white silent movie made in 2011? Call me crazy, but I actually thought it was pretty good! There were scenes that made me smile like the one where Peppy Miller is getting close to George Valentine's coat. And Uggie has to be the cutest dog onscreen since Verdell from As Good as it Gets.

4. Moneyball - I hate sports and I hate math, so I was all prepared to hate this movie which is all about baseball and trading players and money and statistics and other fun things with numbers that should have bored me to tears, but the script did a good job of explaining things and kept everything interesting. Brad Pitt as Oakland A's manager Billy Beane is good as is Jonah Hill, the young kid from Yale  he hires who has a method for choosing players. I just saw this movie tonight so maybe I'm feeling charitable placing it so high. If I'm being honest, numbers 4-6 I probably liked about the same.

5. Hugo - I hate 3-D, but this movie does it well and the entire look of the film is absolutely gorgeous. It is a lovely tribute to the Golden Age of cinema even though it does get a little eye roll inducing at times. A fine movie, but I thought The Artist was the better "love letter" to old cinema.

6. The Descendants - Like I mentioned in my review for it, this is my favorite Alexander Payne movie and George Clooney is great in it and if he won the Oscar for Best Actor, it would be fully deserved. It may seem a little low to rank it at #6, but I guess that means I liked most of the movies that were nominated for Oscars because I thought this was a pretty good movie....just liked five others a little better!

7. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - I probably like this one and War Horse about the same. They weren't bad, but there were some problems. This one, for instance, I didn't understand why this kid went all over the city to talk to people to find out about this mystery key he found in his dad's closet after his dad died on 9/11. It was stated earlier that the kid had a hard time talking to strangers and now he's just talking to so many people a day and then all he had to do....well I don't want to spoil the ending, but it made me go, "Really?" Well, there were things I did like about this movie and I thought it was touching and it made me cry so it did touch me.

8. War Horse - Pretty movie and it made me cry (I cry at pretty much every movie, so that really doesn't mean anything!) Not Speilberg's best and dragged a bit at times. Still, a decent enough movie.

9. Tree of Life - Oh, God. Okay. I know a lot of critics and people (mostly those who are huge movie buffs) LOVED this movie and are all talking about how it changed their life. I can respect that if you are one of those people. However, I could not get into this movie. At all. I like the occasional movie that makes me think and would like to think I am a philosophical person - you would be surprised at some of the things I have pondered, but I do not think I am spiritual enough to "get" this movie. I think another thing it had going against it was that it had Terrance Malick as its director. Dear God, I have never been able to get through one of his movies...this is the first one of his I've watched all the way through. His films just bore me. I don't mind movies that aren't always in the traditional linear storyline, but this one just seemed to be all over the place. There's this whole segment about the creation of earth that's put in towards the beginning of the movie. If I wanted to see how the earth was created, I would watch a documentary about it on the Discovery Channel and hopefully it would be narrated (by Morgan Freeman with any luck) so I would know what was going on and learn something. There are dinosaurs in this movie. It was cool to see dinosaurs but I couldn't help thinking that they were probably thinking, "Uh, we ain't  in Jurassic Park!" Yes, I know computer animations don't think; that's how bored I was! The main plot revolves around a family in Texas with Brad Pitt as the stern father to three young boys; one of whom grows up to be Sean Penn who is in a few scenes. Even Sean Penn has said he doesn't know what this movie is about and he's one of the most pretentious douches in Hollywood! My DVD came with a message before the movie started saying that I should have my volume all the way up to get the maximum effect or something like that. I didn't do that, but I kind of understood why they had that. There's barely any dialogue in the movie and when there is, it's almost like you're being dropped into the middle of a conversation and sometimes the person's voice is really low or a whisper, so it's hard to hear. There is no soundtrack to this movie...when music is played, it's usually a record or a piano that the characters are also hearing, but other than that you just hear the sounds of nature in the background. The ending was just a big WTF. Like, it did not end at all. I really can't blame people for walking out of this, but at the same time, they should have educated themselves and have seen what the movie was going to be like before they went to it. I know some people don't like watching trailers or reading reviews because they might be spoiled, but I always make sure I know what a movie is going to be like before I go see it. It doesn't always mean I'll love it, but I only have myself to blame if I don't like it. My parents saw this movie when it came out in the theaters and I was shocked when my mom told me this because I, being the educated film nerd (haha) knew the response this movie was getting and how critics loved it, but it was polarizing for audiences. My parents aren't huge movie nerds so I have no idea what possessed them to see this one. She said she and my dad were either going to see this one or Midnight in Paris, which is way more up their alley. Needless to say they thought the movie was weird and didn't like it that much. I told them the next time they're not sure about a movie, they need to call me and I can tell them a little about it and probably predict if they will like it or not! If there's anything positive I can say about this movie it's that it did have some beautiful images and it does provoke discussion!

Now it's time for my predictions!

Best Picture:
The Artist
The Descendants
War Horse
The Tree of Life
Midnight in Paris
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
The Help

I really wish the Academy would go back to five pictures instead of this new "at least five but no more than ten" non-sense. You know, it they had just nominated The Dark Knight back in 2009, none of this would have happened! It's kind of a pain having to watch all these movies! Anyway, I would be shocked if The Artist didn't win. It already won the Bafta and GG for Best Musical/Comedy and it's the clear frontrunner.

Best Director:
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Michael Hazanavicius, The Artist
Terrance Malick, The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorses, Hugo

This reminds me of the category last year when you had a bunch of seasoned directors and one newcomer and the newbie won. Now here you have four seasoned directors and one (fairly) new director (Hazanavicius) and like with Tom Hooper winning for The King's Speech last year, Hazanavicius (I feel like I am always spelling his name wrong) will win this year. You can't deny the DGA he's already won; whoever wins that always wins Best Director Oscar. I can't even think of a time when that didn't happen. I am secretly rooting for fellow Omaha native Alexander Payne to take it though, but hopefully he can win a Best Screenplay Oscar!

Best Actor: 
George Clooney, The Descendants

Brad Pitt, Moneyball

Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Damian Bichir, A Better Life

It's hard to believe this is Gary Oldman's FIRST oscar nomination! I have not seen his or Bichir's movies. All signs point to Dujardin winning this - he's already won the Golden Globe (comedy), Bafta, and SAG. His Oscar win would be very deserving; however I wouldn't be totally surprised if George Clooney won. He may already have an (undeserved, IMO) Oscar for Best Supporting Oscar for Syriana back in 2006, but he is George Clooney and Hollywood likes to kiss ass. I'm going to predict Dujadin (because the Oscars are always predictable), but won't be totally surprised if Clooney sneaks in a win. I hope if Dujardin wins, he jumps all over the seats just like the last European man to win one of these!

Best Actress: 

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs

Meryl Strep, The Iron Lady

Viola Davis, The Help

Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

You know, even if Meryl Streep was a sure thing to win the Oscar, I still wouldn't want to see The Iron Lady because that movie looks SO boring to me! I also haven't seen Albert Nobbs or My Week with Marilyn. I like Meryl Streep, but I feel like she is nominated for everything she's in. I have no doubt she's good as Margaret Thatcher, but should she really have been nominated for Julie and Julia? The Devil Wears Prada? The Music of Our Hearts or whatever that one was called? It's like stop already! Meryl may be 60 something but she's still got plenty of time to win another Oscar. Look at Christopher Plummer .... he's 82 and he's going to win his first Oscar tomorow! Why don't we wait ten or so more years before we give Meryl another Oscar, okay? Meryl may have won the Golden Globe (but she always wins those - she's Meryl freaking Streep!) and the Bafta (well they are the British Oscars and she did play a famous British person in her movie!), but I think (well, hope anyway) that Viola Davis (who won the SAG) will end up victorious this Sunday. As much as I love Octavia Spencer in that movie as well, if only one person could win an Oscar from that movie, I would want it to be Viola.

Best Supporting Actor:

Kenneth Branagh, My Week with Marilyn

Jonah Hill, Moneyball

Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Nick Nolte, Warrior

That nomination for Nick Nolte came out of nowhere, didn't it? Well, it doesn't matter because Christopher Plummer is winning this one. He's the one that's a sure bet. The supporting actor category is mostly reserved for elderly actors that the Academy want to recognize before they die. Of course there are exceptions. Poor Max von Sydow; I think he's the same age as Plummer, but Plummer has the edge because he's more well known and more beloved. I have seen his, Von Sydow's, and Hill's movies.

Best Supporting Actress:

Octavia Spencer, The Help

Jessica Chastain, The Help

Berenice Bejo, The Artist

Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs

Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids

The only nominee in this group I haven't seen is McTeer. I think everyone was really good and while it would be really cool for Melissa McCarthy to win - because you never see a comedic performance win an Oscar - it is going to be Octavia Spencer. Hey, she may not have done THAT in a sink, but she did make a very special pie! 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Weekly Movie #7

The Descendants
Director: Alexander Payne
Cast: George Clooney, Shailene Woodley, Matthew Lillard, Judy Greer
Released: December 9, 2011
Viewed in theaters: February 16, 2012

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to The Artist)
Best Director - Alexander Payne (lost to Michel Hazanavicus for The Artist)
Best Actor - George Clooney (lost to Jean Dujardin for The Artist)
Best Adapted Screenplay - Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash (won)
Best Editing (lost to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

Living in Omaha I know I should be a huge fan of Alexander Payne and while it's cool that some of his movies have been set in my - and his - hometown (like Election and About Schmidt), I'm not a really big fan of his movies. They're by no means awful, just not my particular cup of tea. However, I have to say I really liked The Descendants and can say with absolute certainty that it is my favorite Alexander Payne movie.

Instead of taking place in Nebraska, like most Payne movies, this place take in Hawaii and while they do show the beautiful (and required) shots of gorgeous sunsets and photographic beaches, they also show the everyday life of Hawaii and what probably most residents of the 50th (or is Alaska the 50th?...hmmm.....) state are accustomed to. Hawaiians: they're just like us! (Except they have palm trees and nicer weather!)

George Clooney plays Matt King, a father of two girls who describes himself as the "back up parent". His wife is the one who takes care of their daughters while he is busy with work. His family owns quite a big percentage of land and he has to decide if he's going to keep or sell it. When his wife is in a bad boating accident and is told she most likely won't wake up from her coma, he has to learn how to be a parent again to 17 year old Alexandra (Shailene Woodley - she played Felicity in one of those American Girl TV movies! I had the Felicity doll!) and her little sister, Scottie (some annoying actress). Alexandra has been living in a boarding school because she's had problems with drugs and little Scottie is just annoying and a brat.

Matt never had a good relationship with his wife to begin with, so it's not a total surprise to the audience when we find out - along with him - that his wife had been having an affair with some guy Alex saw her mom with. Haha, when I first saw the guy I was thinking how much he looked like Matthew Lillard and it turned out it was him, duh. No offense to Lillard, but if you were married to George Clooney, why would you be having an affair with Matthew Lillard. That just does not make any sense! Well, at any rate, Matt finds out who the guy is and where to find him and confronts him about how he knows but is discreet about it because the other guy is married with two young boys.

I think this movie's strongest contenders for winning an Oscar are Best Adapted Screenplay and possibly Best Actor. So far Jean Dujardin has been winning most of the awards, but I wouldn't be totally surprised if Clooney came away with a win. His performance in this is much better than when he won in 2005 for Best Supporting Actor for Syriana.  His Oscar would feel deserved and it wouldn't feel like they were giving it to him because he's George Clooney (which is what I felt when he won back then).

Stay tuned for my upcoming posts where I'll rank the nine Best Picture nominees and post my predictions for the Oscars!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Weekly Movie #6

The Artist
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, John Goodman, James Cromwell
Released: November 23, 2011
Viewed in theaters: February 8, 2012

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (won)
Best Director - Michel Hazanavicius (won)
Best Actor - Jean Dujardin (won)
Best Supporting Actress - Berenice Bejo (lost to Octavia Spencer for The Help)
Best Original Screenplay - Michel Hazanavicius (lost to Woody Allen for Midnight in Paris)
Best Score - Ludovic Bource  (won)
Best Art Direction (lost to Hugo)
Best Cinematography (lost to Hugo)
Best Costume Design (won)
Best Editing (lost to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

The Artist is not only a black and white movie, it's also a silent film. It looks like it belongs in the nineteen-twenties rather than in the twenty-first century. I've never seen a silent movie and I can only think of a handful of black and white movies I've seen, so this was a first for me. Many critics have been describing The Artist as a love letter to the Golden Age of cinema and it's easy to see why. Jean Dujardin (super famous in his native France; I had never heard of him before) and Berenice Bejo (she was in A Knight's Tale! She played Shannyn Sassafrass's hand maiden!) are 39 and 35 respectively, but they look like they could be stars in the 1920s.

Dujardin (which means "of the garden"; thanks high school French!) plays silent film star George Valentine whose co-star in every movie is a cute terrier named Uggie. He needs a new leading lady and that's where newcomer Peppy Miller (Bejo) steps in. Pretty soon she becomes just as big a star as he is, if not bigger and even though he is with another woman, the two become quite close. When Valentine's manager (John Goodman) tells him that talkies are going to be the next big thing in cinema, Valentine refuses to leave the silent film medium even though Peppy has already started starring in talkies.

This movie may have no sound, but it is still easy to follow what's going on in the story. There are title cards and even when there's not, all the actors faces are so full of expression it's easy to understand what they're emoting. For the majority of the movie, the only sound is the score. Even when they show people applauding, you do not hear any clapping sound. There is one dream sequence where you can hear sound effects and is there any talking at all in the movie? Well, you will have to go and see (hear?) for yourself!

Going to the movies in the twenties must have been a much difference experience than it is now! At the beginning of the movie, one of George Valentine's films is playing at a lavish theater (complete with a balcony) and all the seats are filled and the entire audience is dressed up to the nines. These days when I go to a theater, unless it's a really popular movie on opening night, it's usually not that full and everyone just wears their everyday clothes. And there's certainly no balcony! (Although I have once been to a theater that had a balcony). The movie going experience has certainly changed in the last 90 years!

The Artist
will most likely (okay, who are we kidding, of course it will!) win the Oscar for Best Picture this Sunday and it will be well deserved.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Weekly Movie #5

Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley Chloe Moretz, Sacha Baron Cohen, Emily Mortimer, Christopher Lee
Released: November 23, 2011
Viewed in theaters: February 1, 2012

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to The Artist)
Best Director - Martin Scorsese (lost to Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist)
Best Adapted Screenplay - John Logan (lost to Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash for The Descendants)
Best Art Direction (won)
Best Cinematography (won)
Best Editing (lost to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
Best  Costume Design (lost to The Artist)
Best Sound Editing (won)
Best Sound Mixing (won)
Best Visual Effects (won)

Despite having a bad viewing experience (at least for the first hour) and despite it being in 3-D (which I loathe) and despite the self-importance with all the "movies are great!" mantra embedded in this film, I actually did enjoy Hugo for the most part.

Let me explain each of these points.

Since this movie had been out for a good two months I wasn't at all surprised when I was the only one in the theater...until these two guys came in and sat in the back (I was seated in the middle) and proceeded to talk in Spanish throughout the movie. During the loud parts I couldn't hear them (and maybe they weren't talking during those parts), but I could hear them talking (in a regular speaking voice) when there were two characters onscreen talking to each other. It was highly distracting and really irritating. Thank God, though, they left one hour into the movie (I know because I checked my phone) and I could enjoy the movie in silence! I don't know why they would pay ten and a quarter to watch a movie they (presumably) couldn't understand only to walk out an hour later, but I was glad when they left. A quick public announcement: SHUT YOUR MOUTHS DURING MOVIES!!!

As for the 3-D, yes it was impressive, but I think the movie would have been just as fine in 2-D. I really hate wearing those glasses because your peripheral vision is blocked and it's really weird when you take off the glasses and see Ben Kingsley with four pair of eyes. Yes, I realize I shouldn't take off the glasses in the middle of viewing a 3-D movie, but it is a bad habit I have. I think 3-D is a passing gimmick and it doesn't add anything to the movie and I will try at all costs to avoid it, but sometimes you can't like with this film and the upcoming re-release of Titanic (which I will see hell or high water!) But I will admit the 3-D was top notch.

Being that Hugo is a love letter to the very first movies in cinema, it does get a little heavy-handed in its "movies are the best thing ever!"It reminds me when singers (mostly rappers) sing, er, rap about how awesome and rich they are. It's just so self-indulgent. I love watching movies, but when movies have to tell me how great movies are, it makes me roll my eyes. Show don't tell!

So despite those three things, I did like this movie. It's a beautiful movie to look at, even more beautiful than War Horse. It's about a boy named Hugo (Butterfield), as you may have guessed, an orphan who lives in a train station in Paris where he winds the big clock. Since he has no money he's always stealing food and other little knick knacks and a toy shopkeeper (Ben Kingsley) catches him and makes him empty his pockets and give all his possessions to him. This includes a notebook that is very dear to Hugo's heart because before his dad (Jude Law in one scene) died, they were working on a project together and the notebook has all the notes and sketches for the project. Hugo follows the toykeeper home after he threatens to burn the notebook and asks his granddaughter (Moretz) to make sure her grandfather doesn't burn the notebook and she promises she will look after it.

They get into a discussion about movies and the girl tells Hugo that her grandfather doesn't allow her to watch movies. We later find out that her grandfather is Georges Melies, a French magician who became one of cinema's first and famous directors. He had a love for movies and made many of them but once the war started he had to give up his dream because nobody had time for fantasy anymore. Hugo and his granddaughter find out about his past and persuade him not to hide who he is and be proud of all his accomplishments. A very nice tribute to the Golden Age of cinema even if it does become a little heavy-handed at times.