Thursday, February 19, 2009

just a bad movie where there's no crying

It seems that it’s worth posting something kind of silly and superficial at the moment. So here’s a little rundown on the Oscars, or more accurately, my rationale for why I watched various Oscar-baiting movies, why I did not watch others, and my unsolicited opinion of them. It turned out to be a lot longer than I expected it to be, but I haven't been posting much of late, and have some things going on that will prevent me from posting for a while yet, so here's some drivel in the meanwhile.

Oscar Bait #1: Slumdog Millionaire
Why I watched it:
Anil Kapoor. Danny Boyle. A desire to escape the doledrums of December after finals.
Unsolicited opinion:
Light as a feather, substantial as cotton candy, but as fun as a pillow fight or munching on a confection. I am kind of shocked at how likely it is that this movie could take home an Oscar or two, but then I realize that Gladiator and Titanic have won Oscars, and it becomes clear that the academy is all for slick entertainment over substance if the mood is right. When Network was released, Rocky beat it out because it’s a feel-good film. Sorry, Milk.

Oscar Bait #2: Frost/Nixon
Why I didn’t watch it:
I watched NPH’s Frost/Everyone skits instead (I know this is a poor excuse, but there are really only so many movies a person can watch in a few months while trying to bake various things and not fail out of school). Also, I am not a fan of Ron Howard movies.

Oscar Bait #3: Milk
Why I watched it:
San Francisco shout-outs galore. I love Harvey Milk-lore. SpyDaddy plays the mayor of SF!
Unsolicited opinion:
I am kind of shocked at how unlikely it is that this movie could take home Oscars, and that it hasn’t been an awards darling. I only saw this movie recently (a true sign that I no longer live in SF, it was impossible to find companions willing to go see this movie with me out here in EBF), and I was amazed by it. Sean Penn is obviously a fantastic actor, because he didn’t seem self-important or like the d.b he comes off as when defending Jude Law’s honor. I’m not really kidding about Harvey Milk-lore. If you read about San Francisco, specifically about the Castro, the stories about Harvey Milk are boundless, and he is always known for being a genuinely nice guy. And wonders upon wonders, Spiccoli actually comes across as genuinely good-hearted. Josh Brolin is creepily good. The shots of the Castro and Eureka Valley made my heart swell three sizes. And the film is talking about a lot that is relevant. One reason I love Milk-lore and the Castro is that it’s a demonstration of what has to happen. If you think that gay folks only live in the Castro in San Francisco, you’re sadly mistaken. Similarly, all the Indians in the Bay Area do not live in Fremont. But sometimes, you need to have a home base, a place to have enough of a presence that you have to be acknowledged, and then you can actually be accepted everywhere else as a result. And perhaps my favorite thing to think about in the movie is one of the first things Milk says to his boyfriend before he moves to San Francisco and becomes the Milk everyone knows: “Forty years old and I haven’t done a thing that I’m proud of.

Oscar Bait #4: Doubt
Why I didn’t watch it:
I didn’t get around to it. I think I would prefer to see Amy Adams in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. And I figure if Meryl Streep wins the Oscar, her acceptance speech will be more entertaining than her film performance, only because the woman seems to be innately hilarious, moreso as she has grown older. It’s my not-so-secret fantasy that Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson and Helen Mirren should perform stand-up together. Maybe Tracy Ullman could help write it for them.

Oscar Bait #5: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Why I watched it:
I’ve asked myself every day since I’ve seen the movie. I blame David Fincher. Come on. The dude made Fight Club, and I think that might have been the last time Brad Pitt was truly entertaining in a movie.
Unsolicited opinion:
I’ve revealed myself as a sap in the past (I mean, put Before Sunrise and Before Sunset in front of me, give me some See’s, and call it a day), but I’m not this much of a sap. I think you can determine whether you will like this movie or not based on the following: did you and do you still like Forrest Gump? If so, then by all means, run out to the theater. If, like me, you thought Gump was overrated even when it came out, then this movie is probably going to drive you crazy. Blanchett looks a little befuddled to be in the movie. Swinton shows up and decides she is the new Meryl Streep- she doesn’t care if she’s in the middle of a sh*t-fest, she’s going to come in and steal every scene. The special effects are, of course, well done, but unless you’re crazy about Brad Pitt, and long for his Thelma and Louise days, they’re not enough to be captivating.

Oscar Bait #6: The Wrestler
Why I didn’t watch it:
Mickey Fricking Rourke. Sorry, but I already took a chance on one reformed sleazebag, and the gamble paid off with Colin Farrell in In Bruges. I’m not going to tempt fate. Plus everyone who has seen it has remarked on how depressing the movie is.

Oscar Bait #7: Rachel Getting Married
Why I watched it:
Small movie. I heard there were saris. The idea of Anne Hathaway playing someone edgy seemed funny to me.
Unsolicited opinion:
Surprisingly good movie. I quickly forgave the saris especially because I feel like they might have been there just so Hathaway got a chance to make a sarcastic comment about the necessity for ‘fittings.’ What was refreshing about the movie was also what was frustrating about the movie. The wedding itself, to me, was the most interesting part of the movie—how did these two people meet, how did they get together, how did the wedding turn into the ceremony it became? But everything takes a backseat to Hathaway’s troubled character- which might have been the entire point of the film. Anyway, not great, but not horrible. I’m not really sure Hathaway deserves to beat out a powerhouse such as Viola Davis, however.

Oscar Bait #8: The Reader
Why I didn’t watch it:
Already saw Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road. Nothing about The Reader compelled me to see it, except perhaps the Extras episode where Gervais basically got Winslet to make a crack about getting an Oscar for getting into a movie about the Holocaust. This allowed Gervais to give himself a shout-out at the Golden Globes, which only 50% of people understood was a reference. I thought Revolutionary Road was alright.

Oscar Bait #9: In Bruges
Why I watched it:
No explanation except good luck. The trailer kind of entertained me.
Unsolicited opinion:
What a surprise. This movie has messed me up for good about Colin Farrell. He and Brendan Gleeson were fantastic together in this movie. Gleeson’s performances are always great though. But watching Ralph Fiennes relish a villainous role was also a nice, unexpected turn. What’s more, as much as Farrell’s character endlessly makes fun of it, Bruges grows on you over the course of the movie. Now I’d like to visit.

Miscellaneous Oscar Bait Performances:
  • Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight: so I know Ledger is going to win. And there’s no doubt that his creepy turn as the Joker was his best performance ever, and redefined the way villains are played (sorry, and see ya, Nicholson). But I have to say that I think both the performance and the movie are hyped. The Dark Knight is impressive for its genre, but a lot of its messages are murky, and I am really tired of the incapability of summer blockbusters to write anything interesting as far as women’s roles go.
  • Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder: I think this is a ‘good job RDJ, stay off the sauce’ nomination by the academy. Unlike Ledger’s performance, I think Robert Downey Jr’s performance got overshadowed a bit by all the glee regarding Tom Cruise’s performance as a fat, foul-mouthed, gyrating studio head. But the fact is, someone else could have played that goofy studio head role. I can’t think of another actor that could have pulled off RDJ’s role, which could have been a political landmine that, in anyone else’s hands, probably would have blown up in everyone’s faces. I’m not a big Ben Stiller fan, but I have to give him credit for having the good sense to cast RDJ.
  • Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona: All I can say about this is that, prior to watching this movie (I had not seen Elegy yet), I put Cruz in kind of the same category as Colin Farrell. But wow, throw her opposite a powerhouse like Javier Bardem, and she steals every scene she’s in?!? I wouldn't have guessed that. The problem with Vicky Cristina Barcelona is that you very quickly don’t give a crap about Vicky or Cristina, because you’re far more interested in screen time being devoted to Cruz’ Maria Elena. Then I saw Penelope Cruz in Elegy, and now I have to begrudgingly admit that the woman can act. And her English is improving considerably.
  • Richard Jenkins in The Visitor: Jenkins first caught my attention in Flirting with Disaster. The he became well known for his sometimes somber, sometimes hilarious portrayal of a dead father in Six Feet Under. The Visitor seems to have been tailor-made for him. He is so quiet about his performance that he takes what could have been schlocky cheese and turns it into a believable and compelling metamorphosis. He has no chance in hell of winning any awards for it, but maybe more people will go see The Visitor as a result of the nomination.

Wow, that was probably all rather haughty. I'd be more curious to hear what others thought of various performances this year. It should be noted that I didn't see any of the animated films in contention this year. This is because medical school is filled with cartoons, so I could not bring myself to watch them on the large screen.

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