Oscar Picks, First Pass

Christopher Plummer, who is an old guy pivotal to the movie, as opposed to Von Sydow, who is an old guy, who has less dialogue than Jean Dujardin

I tend to think of movie years from Academy Awards night to Academy Awards night, not so much because I’m an Oscars fan – though I am – but because some of the movies that get nominated don’t even make it to small markets such as Albany, NY until January or even February. Yeah, I know the Oscar nominations were very conservative this year, for the most part.

*means I have actually seen it

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

Saw 6 out of 9, so far, 3 in the last couple weeks. War Horse is still playing, so maybe I’ll still see it. I’d love to watch Moneyball, which is available on DVD.
WILL WIN: The Artist, which I liked. It’s a film about film. I mean, so is Hugo, but not as directly.
WANT TO WIN: Midnight in Paris, or The Descendants
PLEASE! NOT: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Best Actor
Demian Bichir, A Better Life
George Clooney, The Descendants
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Brad Pitt, Moneyball

WANT TO WIN: George Clooney. Used to be that when an actor had a good year, a couple of strong performances, that’d help him. I heard good things about Ides of March.
WILL WIN: Clooney or Jean Dujardin; can’t decide yet.
DON’T KNOW: the movie A Better Life, or its star

Best Actress

Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs
Viola Davis, The Help
Rooney Mara, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Michelle Williams, My Week With Marilyn

WANT TO WIN: Meryl Streep, who’s been nominated about 117 times, but has won only twice and not since the early 1980s
WILL WIN: I keep predicting Streep, so why stop now? Naturally, then, it’ll be Davis.

Best Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh, My Week With Marilyn
Jonah Hill, Moneyball
Nick Nolte, Warrior
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
*Max Von Sydow, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

WANT TO WIN, WILL WIN: Christopher Plummer, who is an old guy pivotal to his movie, as opposed to Von Sydow, who is an old guy, who has less dialogue than Jean Dujardin

Best Supporting Actress

Berenice Bejo, The Artist
Jessica Chastain, The Help
Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer, The Help

WANT TO WIN: actually any of the ones I’ve seen for different reasons. McCarthy because comedy is undervalued.
WILL WIN: Spencer.

Best Director
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Martin Scorsese, Hugo

WILL WIN: Hazanavicius

Best Original Screenplay
Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris
JC Chandor, Margin Call
Asghar Farhadi, A Separation
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
*Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo, Bridesmaids

WANT TO WIN, WILL WIN: Woody Allen. The screenplay categories have traditionally consolation prizes, and I think, since Woody’s not going to get film or director, this is where he’ll get some love.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxton, Jim Rash, The Descendants
John Logan, Hugo
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, The Ides of March
Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian, Moneyball
Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughn, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

WANT TO WIN, WILL WIN: Payne, et al, who will lose out on picture and director, but likewise takes this prize.

What Oscar-nominated movies did you see this year, and what are YOUR picks?

Movie Anagrams

These aren’t necessarily who I want to win – I’d take Rush over Bale, for one – but who I THINK will win.

During the trivia contest in which a friend regularly participates, one of the categories was ‘movie title anagrams’. Since it’s Oscar week, see how many you can get in the same allotted ten minutes.

1. The Rave Bra
2. That Mixer
3. Tiger Rut
4. Haled Wirer
5. Local Rattle
6. Whale on Plate
7. Mayfly Raid
8. Pan Tool
9. New Tramp Toy
10. Greet a Pest Ache

I won’t approve any quiz answers for the first 24 hours, so everyone will be on equal footing.

I had written about my early Oscar picks here four weeks ago. I had intended to see several more films in the intervening time, but life (and death) got in the way. The only full-length movie I’ve seen since then is Blue Valentine, about which I will write soon. So I guess I’ll let my picks from last month stand: Firth, Bale, Portman and Steinfeld in the acting categories; The Social Network and The King’s Speech in the screenplay categories; The King’s Speech for Best Picture. Which means I have to actually make a selection for Best Director, and my gut says The Social Network’s David Fincher over The King’s Speech’s Tom Hooper, with the Academy spreading the wealth. These aren’t necessarily who I want to win – I’d take Rush over Bale, for one – but who I THINK will win.

The Best Picture vote uses Instant Runoff Voting. What does that mean? See HERE.

Film Review-Oscar shorts, live action

It was Valentine’s Day. The wife and I had a long-standing commitment for a child sitter, and movie passes for The Spectrum Theatre in Albany. Obviously, my grandiose plan to see more Academy Award films had put aside in the past two weeks, so seeing a nominee was my preference. But what? She didn’t want to see True Grit. Watching Blue Valentine, a movie about a disintegrating romance, didn’t seem quite right. Nor did seeing separate movies – she wants to see The Social Network, I The Black Swan.

So we decided to see five movies instead, those Oscar-nominated for best live action short films. The descriptions are from Oscar.com.

The Confession – Tanel Toom (UK-25 minutes)
“A young boy preparing for his first confession worries that he has no sins to report, so he enlists a friend’s help in committing one.”
And it’s a pretty minor one, actually, but one that has consequences. Moody, with a bunch of pointed symbolism, well acted, especially the lead boy. I’m told it’s got the Oscar buzz. A brief clip.

Wish 143 – Ian Barnes and Samantha Waite (UK-24 minutes)
“When a terminally ill young boy is granted a wish by a charitable foundation, he makes a surprising request.”
Actually, he’s an older boy, though not an adult, and what he wants is not to die a virgin, which is a bit of a conumdrum to his priest friend. It has humor and pathos, and it was my favorite of the five. A clip.

Na Wewe– Ivan Goldschmidt (Belgium-19 minutes)
“In 1994, as the Rwandan genocide spills over into neighboring Burundi, a bus is attacked by a group of rebels.”
Very tense; I was awaiting the slaughter, yet imdb called it a comedy? Well, maybe a subtle comedy. Na Wewe means You Too in Kirundi. Looks like the kind of film the Academy would like. A clip.

The Crush -Michael Creagh (Ireland-15 minutes)
“Eight-year-old Ardal has a crush on his teacher and is devastated to learn she has a fiancé.”
And Ardal finds the fiancé unworthy and calls him out. My wife’s favorite film. A clip.

God of Love – Luke Matheny (US-18 minutes)
“A love triangle between two musicians and a young woman takes a surprising turn when one of them finds a collection of magical darts.”
Appropriate for Valentine’s day, though probably the most lightweight of the five. Feels Woody Allenesque somehow. The trailer.

Unsurprisingly, all of the filmmakers are first-time nominees. “The Academy’s entire active membership is eligible to select Oscar winners in all categories, although in five – Animated Short Film, Live Action Short Film, Documentary Feature, Documentary Short Subject, and Foreign Language Film – members can vote only after attesting they have seen all of the nominated films in those categories.”


The familiar hellholes Bad plays in is reminiscent of the familiar, easygoing and peaceful characters Bridges has played in the past.

Strange. I saw Crazy Heart back in March, in the theater, just before the Oscars, and was going to write about it then, but couldn’t find the right angle. Then I figured that the next movie I saw would motivate me to finally write about it, but I haven’t SEEN a film since then, aside from a partial one. Now it’s three months later, the movie’s available on video. I was going to say at the time that it was a good rental rather than necessary to see in the cinema, but now I’ve waited so long, that’s about the only way you’re likely to see it.

As you probably know, Jeff Bridges won the Best Actor Oscar for playing rundown country singer Bad Blake, an alcoholic on the downward slope of his career, forced to play small venues such as bowling alleys. He manages to hook up with his female fans as he travels from town to town. His former protege, Tommy Sweet (Colin Farrell), makes it known through Bad’s manager that he wants buy some of Bad’s songs, but Bad’s hidden pain blocks his creativity. Meanwhile, a roving reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal) falls for him.

The familiar hellholes Bad plays in is reminiscent of the familiar, easygoing and peaceful characters Bridges has played in the past. It’s a good role, and he plays it well, but it is not groundbreaking cinema, and the award, I suspect, is as much a reward for lifetime achievement as for this particular performance.

It’s not that I didn’t like Crazy Heart – I did – but it had a certain “I’ve seen this before” feel. And I didn’t quite buy the hookup between Bad and the reporter, though, oddly, I did believe the relationship subsequently.

Oh, for Christmas 2009, I got the soundtrack for this movie, which is quite good. But it’s better once you see the movie and understand the context. Both Bridges and Farrell do their own singing, and they’re quite competent.

30-Day Challenge: Day 2: Favorite Movie

I wish I could pull out a Marshall McLuhan to shut down an arrogantly wrong comment.

Considering all of the movies I’ve seen, all the GREAT movies I’ve ever seen, it is surprisingly easy for me to pick my favorite:

Annie Hall (1977).

It was my touchstone picture for a number of years. I saw it four times in the movie theater, and it was one of the first films I purchased on VHS.

It’s the roller coaster in Coney Island, which I loved as a child. It’s early Christopher Walken, bizarre as he would later become.

The opening of the film was more story, fewer jokes, my kind of humor. It reminded me of seeing Woody Allen on Ed Sullivan in the 1960s. The film also features Paul Simon, one of my music icons of that decade.

I related to Alvy Singer. Many is the time I wish I could pull out Marshall McLuhan or an equivalent person to shut down an arrogantly wrong comment. I have an aversion to driving. I hate going into a movie after it’s started. I came to believe that, “A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”

Annoyingly, I used to say “la-di-dah, la-di-dah, la-di-dah” a lot. Incidentally, Diane Keaton won an Oscar for this role, though I always thought it was REALLY for her acting in that same year in Waiting for Mister Goodbar.

But mostly, in Annie Hall, it’s the split screenshot of Annie and Alvy with their respective therapists:
Alvy’s Therapist: How often do you sleep together?
Annie’s Therapist: Do you have sex often?
Alvy: [lamenting] Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.
Annie: [annoyed] Constantly. I’d say three times a week.

It defined how two people can experience the exact same events, yet see them very differently. This is a useful lesson when dealing with most human interactions. For instance, a Protestant and a Catholic can both take communion; for the Protestant, it’s representational of the body and blood of Christ, while Catholics believe that transubstantiation takes place. still, it’s the same act, for presumably the same God, and the chasm that exists over this seems unnecessary.

Other contenders: Groundhog Day, West Side Story (not a great movie, but a great musical), Young Frankenstein.

Oh, and one other: Star Wars, with the retronym Episode 4: A New Hope (meh). The Empire Strikes Back may be the better picture, but this one started it all. Star Wars lost the Academy Award for Best Picture to…Annie Hall.

Two long-running television shows end Monday night.
24 (FOX) will be over after eight seasons, and I’ll be happy about that. I fear that people have confused the fiction of the former CTU operative with real life. the United States Attorney General just recently was compelled to say, “We’re not Jack Bauer.” The TV Guide article about the show’s ending asks cast members, “What’s your favorite scene?” I watched the first season, but as the writers/producers decided how much more Jack can take, and deliver, I bailed.

Law & Order is gone after 20 years, after NBC failed to get a cable company to purchase reruns of season 21. I must admit I pretty much stopped watching it when the late Jerry Orbach left about eight years ago, but I’ll watch one more “ripped from the headlines” vignette.