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Oscar Preview 2014

This Sunday night is the 86th Academy Awards, known to you and me as “The Oscars”. A little while ago I wrote a panicky blog post despairing over the fact that I had only seen one of the nine nominated films for Best Picture. The blog post was really just a little pep talk to myself, telling me that it was okay that I hadn’t seen more of these films, and to just CALM THE HELL DOWN. Which  I did. And I’m happy to report that I’ve now since DOUBLED the number of Oscar nominees viewed, so I’m half-way there people! (I’m not that great at the maths.) I’ve also ordered all of the best picture nominees through my connections at the library, so I’ll be viewing them in the comfort and privacy of my living room in the near future, pants optional!

Having said all that, we pulled ourselves out of our funk here at the MBM offices, stuck on a clean shirt and brushed our teeth, and now we are ready to run down the nine nominees as you get ready to make your Oscar predictions this weekend. We bring you the OUTSIDE SCOOP.

Philomena

You've just been PHILOMENAED!

You’ve just been PHILOMENAED!

Sir Steve Coogan and Dame Judi Dench play fictional versions of themselves as they tour around little hotels and pubs in the north of England. The best scene in this movie is when the two leads try to outdo each other’s Sean Connery impressions. Delightful!

Gravity

"Gravity may bring you down, but Hope Floats."

“Gravity may bring you down, but Hope Floats.”

ACTUALLY ONE OF THE MOVIES I SAW. Last October. I’m happy to report that I was a real man about it and watched it not only in 3D but in IMAX 3D. The only enhancement we didn’t go for was the “D-Box” technology. Were you aware of it? A row of seats in some theatres are rigged up so that at certain exciting points of the movie the seats will actually shake, rumble and vibrate. We were actually sitting a row in front of these “D-Box” seats and I could STILL feel a slight rumble at certain parts. I think you can control the intensity with a dial on each seat, but if you actually pay the extra $10, why wouldn’t you want to have it cranked to a 10, despite its vomit or orgasm inducing consequences (or both!). Gosh, what would that be like? A pukegasm? No thanks, friend.  All I know is that I sat in these seats for Blue Jasmine and they only rumbled when Louis C.K. was on the screen. What’s THAT all about?

12 Years a Slave

"Before he spent Seven Years in Tibet, he was Twelve Years a Slave."

“Before he spent Seven Years in Tibet, he was Twelve Years a Slave.”

Speaking of vomiting, I haven’t seen this film, but my brother-in-law and his girlfriend saw this Brad Pitt vehicle back in October. They were a ways into the movie when the guy in front of them leaned over and PUKED IN THE AISLE. (No, he wasn’t in a D-Box seat, everybody!). The guy could not stop puking and they actually stopped the movie and put the lights up and made the classic call, “Is there a doctor in the house?” and sure enough there WAS. And the doctor checked him out and apparently he ate some questionable clams before the movie which made me already queasy, and apparently there is a quite a graphic scene of torture near the beginning of the movie that set this guy off. Well, they cleaned up the puke, ushered the guy out, apologized to the theatre (no offer of free passes, though, which kind of sucks) and then they BACKED THE MOVIE UP ABOUT 5 MINUTES, so everyone had to sit through the violent torture scene again, but this time you had the added bonus of puke/bleach in the air. Despite all that, they enjoyed the film and on that note alone it is my pick for Best Picture. (Although I’d rather be having orgasms in Gravity than puking in 12 years, but that’s just me.)

Captain Phillips

"The cah is pahked in the yahd."

“The cah is pahked in the yahd.”

Paul Greengrass is known to pay remarkable attention to detail when he makes “based on true events” kinds of movies. For example, when he and his producers decided to make United 93, the story of one of the doomed flights on 9/11 (the one that crashed in Pennsylvania) they decided they would only make it if they got permission from the families of every passenger on the flight. (I’m assuming this didn’t include the terrorists). This process took years, and when they finally got the permissions, they wanted to portray each character as accurately as possible, discussing with the family things like “would your husband have been reading the NY Times or the Wall Street Journal” or “would your son have been into Marvel or DC comics”, and then tried to make sure that each passenger was given an appropriate look that would ring true for the families. Having said all this, I can only assume that the real Captain Phillips, captain of the hijacked Maersk Alabama, has an unconvincing Boston accent in real life too.

Dallas Buyers Club

You guys don't mind if I take off this shirt, do you? It's awfully tight.

You guys don’t mind if I take off this shirt, do you? It’s awfully tight.

People are talking about the wonderful performances of Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto in this film, but this story about one man’s fight to get access to outlawed AIDS medication is not without its controversy. For example, Matthew McConaughey did not actually lose all that weight for the role, he just wore baggier clothes. And some people were upset that they didn’t cast an actual transgendered person in Jared Leto’s role. That reminds me of the flack that the producers of Glee got when they cast that able-bodied Woody Alleny looking chap in the role of that fellow in the wheelchair. And remember all the fuss when people hoped they would cast an actual black man to play Ray Charles, but they went with Jamie Foxx instead? Oh, Hollywood! I don’t know about you, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing this movie, and I’ve heard that it was such a success that they are already working on a sequel, tentatively titled, “Houston Buyers Club”. I smell a franchise, baby!

Nebraska

Nebraska!

Nebraska!

I know ZERO about this movie, except that it has that MacGruber guy in it, it’s shot in black and white, and it’s from Alexander Payne. I’m all over the map with Alexander Payne. I liked Citizen Ruth and Election. Skipped About Schmidt. LOVED Sideways and HATED The Descendents. So who knows? I went to see Inside Llewyn Davis over the holidays, and I turned to my friend 5 minutes in and said, “I thought this was in black in white”. and he corrected me. “You’re thinking of Nebraska.” Was I? I just hope you get to set a lot of corn. #cornwatch2014

American Hustle

Everyone Hustle to Survive

Everyone Hustle to Survive

I’ve wanted to see this one ever since it was released on Christmas Day, but just haven’t made the time for it. David O. Russell is a little like Alexander Payne for me, in the sense that I’ve had an uneven history with his films. Here’s the quick low down: Didn’t see Spanking the Monkey (sounded painful), hated Flirting with Disaster (but to be fair it starred Ben Stiller), loved Three Kings when I originally saw it in the theatre with my Mom, but when I saw it more recently on TV with my wife I was APPALLED at how violent it was. I thought I Heart Huckabees was trying too hard, but there is that wonderful footage of Lily Tomlin yelling on set, so we’ll always have that. The Fighter did nothing for me, but Silver Linings Playbook was my favourite movie from last year. So I don’t know what to think of American Hustle. It has some of the cast of SLPB with the addition of Amy Adams’ boobies (yay!) and serious Batman guy’s gut (meh), so it’s a real mixed bag! I’m thinking an interesting double feature will be to watch this movie and The Sting in the same evening. Both are heist movies, but the The Sting was filmed in the 1970’s but took place in the 1920’s. American Hustle was filmed recently but took place in the 1970’s (I think), so: connections.

Her

Everytime I saw the poster, I thought of Dave Stieb

Everytime I saw the poster, I thought of Dave Stieb

THE SECOND MOVIE IN THIS LIST THAT I’VE ACTUALLY SEEN. I had a feeling I’d like this one, and I did. Spike Jonze has a wonderful way of taking a simple idea and riffing on it over the length of a film. I was super skeptical of anyone trying to adapt Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are into a movie a few years ago. I mean, the book is like 8 pages long and there are like 10 lines of text (I’m guessing here, but I welcome your corrective emails). I was afraid that it would super shitty like all those Dr. Seuss adaptations, but it was such a great movie, thanks to Spike Jonze.  I could just watch it again and again, and I’ll admit something here: (I’m not that huge a fan of the original book, so I didn’t really have a vested interest in it turning out well). So it goes with Her. In the near future, a man downloads a new operating system (think Suri from Apple, but voiced by Scarlett Johansen), and slowly develops a close relationship with it, and eventually falls in love. It’s sort of a traditional love story in some ways, except that the dude is making it with his phone. But this description is sort of short-changing the experience of watching it. It leaves you with so many feelings, and I was thinking about this movie for days afterwards, which doesn’t happen all that often.

The Wolf of Wall Street

"Money was only the Beginning"

“Money was only the Beginning”

When Wes Anderson released his debut film Bottle Rocket in 1996, Martin Scorsese was one of the first directors to recognize Mr. Anderson’s brilliance and hailed him as the next big thing. Interesting that things have come full circle, with Scorsese filming a live action remake of Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox. and calling it The Wolf of Wall Street! I’m not sure why they changed the main character from a fox to a wolf, and got Leonardo instead of Clooney, but those are artistic decisions best left to closed-door meetings between Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker. Word on the street was that Anderson was so taken with this loving homage, that his next project will be a remake of Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, with Bill Murray in the Jerry Lewis role and Jason Schwartzman in the Robert DeNiro role. Oh Hollywood!

Enjoy the Oscars, everyone!

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Oscar

The Artist is simply a delight!” Everyone who has seen The Artist.

We’re just a week away from the 84th Academy Awards, so it’s time to talk about the Oscars. It’s the only awards show that really matters to me. It’s the flag-ship, the “Survivor” of awards shows if you will. And hey look! They even have Billy Crystal hosting ever since the producer Brett Ratner quit after making homophobic comments to the media. This prompted Ratner’s host, Eddie Murphy to quit as well. We all got the feeling that Eddie Murphy never really wanted to host the awards in the first place, and  that this was a good excuse for him to back out, which is too bad because it would have been the closest thing to an Eddie Murphy stand-up routine in about twenty years. I like Billy Crystal, but he seems like the safe, obvious choice. Don’t you get the feeling that the Academy has been keeping Billy Crystal in a glass box these past few years with a label saying “Break Glass in Case of Emergency!”?

Just so you know, nobody knows how the Academy decides which movies get nominated. They may publish a complicated formula on their website, but it’s all lies. They went from a manageable 5 best picture nominations up to 10 a couple of years ago. This really just meant that movies like “District 9” and “Winter’s Bone” could stick a “Best Picture Nominee” on their DVD boxes. This year, just to fuck with us, the Academy has nominated 9 movies for Best Picture. You can use Roger Ebert’s trick and look to see which Best Picture nominees also have nominations for Best Director. His point is that a movie shouldn’t ever win if it’s director isn’t nominated either. The only movies you need to concern yourself with then, are “The Artist”, “The Descendants”, “Hugo”, “The Tree of Life “and “Midnight in Paris”.

Nevertheless, let’s look at all nine.

Just like last year, I haven’t seen all the pictures, but that sure doesn’t disqualify me from telling you what I think about every one. When you work in a library, you get used to recommending or panning books without ever actually reading them (true story) so why should movies be any different?

Let’s start with the ones I haven’t seen.

The Descendants

I know several people who have seen this one, and none have really come out and said that they loved it. Some people outright hated it, some cried all the way through, and others “quite liked it”. I’m a big fan of Election and Sideways, two of Alexander Payne’s other movies, so I’m definitely interested in seeing this one, eventually. Also who doesn’t love George Clooney? One thing I keep hearing is that the “scenery is pretty” because its filmed in Hawaii. Well, the scenery is pretty in “The Thin Red Line” too but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good movie. Speaking of Terrence Malick films…

The Tree of Life

There is no bloody way you’re going to get me to sit through this one.

War Horse

I’m sorry, but the wrong Spielberg movie got nominated this year. “The Adventures of Tintin” was innovative and fun and hit all the right notes, but didn’t even get an animation nomination? What DID get nominated? Rango was okay. I never saw Kung Fu Panda 1, let alone number 2, and a couple of weird European movies no one’s ever heard of? Come ON.

Anyway, War Horse is the story of a really smart horse who falls in with a bunch of stupid humans. That horse gets sent off to World War 1 and despite being put in harm’s way numerous times, always comes out safe the other side. Maybe the horse isn’t so smart as it is lucky. Not only that, but after the war ends he enlists AGAIN and fights Nazis in WWII. He then becomes a spy and provides valuable information to the British during the Cold War. He gets sent to Korea and later fights in Vietnam. He then retires to Montana where he gets molested by Robert Redford and Scarlet Johannsen. The horse then COMES OUT OF RETIREMENT and somehow gets beamed up to Mars and helps John Carter and Dejah Thoris fight aliens up there. That is one lucky horse. I used to have a goldfish called “Ish” when I was a kid, and that fish lived for years. My wife think that my parents just kept replacing Ish with a different fish every time it died. I don’t think so, but if that’s true that’s a shitty thing to do to a kid. I kinda think that’s what they did in War Horse. They just kept changing the horse and pretending it was the same one. Especially the one on Mars.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I tried reading the novel on which this movie is based. Although I liked the premise, the book was just too difficult to read. It’s written in the voice of the main character, nine-year old Oskar, who happens to have some ill-defined disability. I gave up on the book around page 70 and have no real desire to see this movie. Plus, everyone knows that “United 93” is the best movie made about 9/11 and we should just leave it at that.

The Artist

You're getting sleepy. SLEEPY...

The Artist is a silent movie from France that is sweeping the nation garnering awards left and right. Every one who sees this movie can’t say enough good things about it. The reason for this, of course, is that the movie isn’t actually silent. That’s right. The movie is using it’s silent format to transmit subliminal messages and feelings of “enjoyment” and “contentment” to unsuspecting audience members. The U.S. Army has been working on this for years, but it took the sneaky French to bring it to the masses. This is incredibly unethical and possibly illegal, and so I urge those of you who have not yet seen this film to AVOID IT LIKE THE PLAGUE. If you are still skeptical, let me tell you that as I typed this blog-post and imported poster images, the entire blog-post was deleted at the very moment I imported the poster art for “The Artist”. I’ve had to completely type this post again from scratch (the things I DO for you people) and this time I’ve saving it after every sentence. Coincidence? I think NOT.

So let’s get on to the movies I actually saw last year.

The Help

I enjoyed this movie about the relationships between black maids and their white socialite employers in 1960’s Mississippi. It’s the type of movie you’d expect to be nominated for Best Picture and definitely belongs in the list. It’s just that there isn’t anything that I really LOVED about this movie. It kinda reminded me of “Fried Green Tomatoes” although this movie sadly does not open with Chris O’Donnell getting hit by a train. You know, every movie should open with Chris O’Donnell getting hit by a train.

Moneyball

Anyone who reads this blog and who knows me at all knows that I love baseball and baseball movies. It’s a cliche to say that baseball is chock full of allegories that can apply to life, but the game just seems to lend itself well to storytelling. When I saw this movie last fall, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I wasn’t sure if it would be loved by those who fall outside the “baseball” and “baseball movie” loving public. I’m pleased to see it’s getting so much attention. I love that Jonah Hill is nominated for supporting actor and that he’s up against a bunch of old white guys. Christopher Plummer is the favourite in that category, but I would be so happy to see Jonah Hill win this. It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball, or baseball movies for that matter.

Midnight in Paris

Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams with the newly cloned Woody Allen 2.0

I love Woody Allen. I love Owen Wilson. I love that Owen Wilson was in a Woody Allen movie. I wish science would get it’s act together and clone Woody Allen so that we’d be guaranteed a new Woody Allen movie every year from now until the sun explodes. Lord knows they haven’t all been good, but most of them are watchable and sometimes one comes along that is just so charming and lovely that it rises about the “Woody Allen movie” pigeon hole. “Midnight in Paris” is one of those movies. You just need to see it. And how wonderful is it to see Owen Wilson back in movies, after nearly losing him to suicide a couple of years ago?

Hugo

Martin Scorsese takes on 3D. Martin Scorsese pays homage to the origins of film. Oh, and it’s also a kid’s movie. I actually put aside my temporary boycott of 3D just to see what Mr. Scorsese did with it, and I wasn’t disappointed. I had read “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” when it came out and marveled at the way it told it’s story through a unique use of words and pictures. Scorsese makes the most of the Paris Railway station where much of the action takes place, and the 3D really felt like it was an important part of the storytelling, not just a gimmick to make you blink. Even though I fear “The Artist” will win Best Picture this year, my heart is with “Hugo”.

How will it all go down?

It’s interesting that Best Picture will probably come down to a showdown between “Hugo” and “The Artist”: two movies that take as its subject the early days of film. One film explores the joy and wonder of movies through the eyes of two young friends who are on an adventure. The other is a gimmicky, manipulative piece of trash that uses subliminal psychotropic methods to force you to love it. Both have well-trained dogs, however. Why not just bring the dogs from each movie out on the stage, Michael Vick style, and see what happens? The last dog standing wins the Oscar. I would totally go for that, because I’m sure Hugo’s dog would totally kick The Artist’s dog’s ass.

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It’s a wundaful night for Oscar

I love the Oscars. It’s probably the only awards show that I always make a point of watching, and I can only remember one year in the past ten that I missed it. In the end, it doesn’t really matter what happens, does it? The movies I enjoyed last year are still enjoyable whether they win anything or not, and just because something wins “best picture” doesn’t change anything in the movie itself. Having said that, there is something fun about pulling for the movies you loved, booing the movies you hated and generally taking in all the glamour and glitz that the evening has to offer. It’s even more fun to watch the evening unfold with a group of like-minded friends. I’m looking forward to Sunday night with a group of friends who also enjoy all the fun and stupidity of the Oscars. In preparation, I thought I’d run down the list of the ten nominees and give my two cents on each of them. I don’t think it really matters that I’ve only seen three of them. Working in  a library, I’m used to suggesting books that I’ve never opened. There is a misconception out there that librarians get to read all day. I wish that were the case. Wouldn’t that just be the best job in the world? We actually don’t get any “on the job” time to read anything. All of that is on our own time, like everyone else. I like to tell people that I am familiar with the covers of all the new books, and the dust-jacket description if I’m really lucky. Having said that, I am trying to read “a book a week” or thereabouts this year, which would mean I knock off about 50 titles this year. Not sure if I can keep up the pace, but its a goal. One of my secrets: choose short books! (Enjoying Jack Kerouac’s “The Subterraneans” at only 120 pages right now!)

But enough of all that. On to the Movies…

And the nominees are…

Black Swan

Darren Aronofsky’s movies are loved by the Oscars. Last year’s “The Wrestler” case in point. I’ve only seen his “Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream” both of which are really hard to watch for different reasons. I put him in the same boat as Paul Thomas Anderson Vincent Cassel always seems to go for the pervy roles, and I’ve got a feeling this movie is no different. I have a feeling I wouldn’t like this film, and if you have a hankering for a good ballet inspired drama, try Robert Altman’s The Company or Powell and Pressburger’s “The Red Shoes” instead.

The Fighter

Boxing movies have had a history of doing well at the Oscars. “On the waterfront”, “Rocky” “Million Dollar Baby” and “When we were Kings” come to mind. I absolutely loved David O. Russell’s “Three Kings” but didn’t get “I heart Huckabees”, so I don’t know what I’d make of this movie.

Inception

Just watched this last night. Holy crap what a horrible movie. Christopher Nolan: you’ll always hold a special place in my heart for what you’ve done with the Batman franchise, but good lord what the hell was this all about? About three quarters of the way through the movie I turned to my wife and said “I officially don’t care what happens to any of these characters at this point”. I love science fiction, but I hate when science fiction sets up its own rules within the context of the story and proceeds to not follow them. Maybe I’m a stickler, but when they  said Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character has only two minutes to complete his task, there is no way he could break into that hotel room, round up all those bodies, get them down the hallway into the elevator in zero gravity and then diddle with the elevator to make it drop. That was at least a 10 minute job. And I know time is different in dreams, but damn watching that van fall off the bridge was tedious. Michael Caine looked more bored than he did in “Jaws 4 The Revenge” and any movie that has depictions of suicide upset me without exception. To summarize: an awesome cast wasted.

The Kids are All Right

Haven’t seen this one, but since I love Julianne Moore, Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo and I like everything I’ve heard about it, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it when I do.

The King’s Speech

My favourite movie of the year, and my hope for best picture winner. When I think of my favourite movies, most of them are made up of excellent moments, and “The King’s Speech” is filled from top to bottom with great “moments”. It was the first movie in a long time where the audience erupted into spontaneous applause at the end, a story I’ve heard repeated by others who have seen the movie. Also, it was just about the only movie I saw in a  theatre last year, so I think I would have enjoyed anything.

127 Hours

So Danny Boyle follows up “Slumdog Millionaire” by sticking James Franco under a boulder and making him cut off his arm and eat it? Okay, maybe he doesn’t eat it, but the rest is true. There’s nothing about this that makes me want to see it, even though the soundtrack looks good. Is this the first time in Oscar history that a host has also been a nominee?

Toy Story 3

Since this is nominated in the “Best Animated Feature” category as well, I think we can safely assume it will win there and not here. In fact, I think movies nominated in the animated category shouldn’t be eligible for the best picture category. What’s the point? I love the first two installments (who doesn’t?) but haven’t brought myself to see this third one. I hear it’s terribly sad in parts, and sometimes I find sad animated films harder to watch that live action ones. I’m not ashamed to admit I sobbed through the prologue of “Up” ( Pixar version not the Russ Meyer one), and to this point I haven’t felt the need to seek out something sad on purpose. Sad things seem to find me quite well on their own.

True Grit

I love the Coen brothers. I read this novel just before Christmas and even though it was written in the 1960’s the dialogue and situations seemed to be written expressly for the Coens themselves. I can’t wait to see this, and maybe even before Sunday. Love live “LA BEEF”.

The Social Network

This movie has alot going for it. David Fincher brings all his experience and skill to bear in telling the personal stories of the creation of Facebook. The screenplay by Aaron Sorkin is crisp and economical, based on the book by Ben Mezrich. I’ve found Mezrich’s books in the past to be heavy on drama and light on facts, and this feeling makes it way into the Facebook story too. Aside from Andrew Garfield’s Eduardo, none of the characters seemed to be very likable and as a result, like everyone from Inception, I didn’t really care what happened to them.

Winter’s Bone

Okay. It’s great that with 10 nominees a no-name movie like this gets some recognition, but I have no desire to see it. Take a look at this poster. It looks and feels depressing. Even the  title has two depressing words in it: Winter and Bone. Thank you, no.

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