Update: I’m being told that Mr. Pauls is still dead. Thoughts and prayers continue to go to his family.
Alright, since I’m contractually obligated to mention Mr. Pauls in every posted written in January, I’m glad to get this out of the way.
So: on to our annual “Oscar” preview blog post, which has become a bit of a tradition around here. We here at the lighthouse enjoy watching movies, but we enjoy EVEN MORE talking about movies we haven’t yet seen. So with that in mind, let’s look at the contenders: So we’ve got eight movies in the “Best Picture” category this year, just to keep us on our toes. Nobody knows how they end up with the final number. I hear it involves the masons and the ghost of former president of the MPAA Karl Malden, (known as “Hot Karl” to his friends), but I shan’t comment on the process. As we like to say, it is shrouded in mystery, as it should be, as all great mysteries are.
The Grand Budapest Hotel Well, I think this is a Mountains Beyond Mountains new record. At the time of the writing, I have seen only one of the eight best picture nominees. I think other years I average around three, but gosh I’ve really let my local theatre down this time. And the only one I have seen is “The Grand Budapest Hotel” way back in March 2014, not because I was gunning to get all my Oscar noms in before the big day, but because it is a Wes Anderson movie, and by God I just love that guy and everything he’s all about. Even though I may not always love all of his movies to the same degree, I’m just glad we have him in the world, working away at his projects and producing something on a semi-regular basis for me to enjoy. It’s always fun to meet another Wes Anderson fan, because when you do you’ve met a kindred and you have all this shared vocabulary and experience that you can quickly short-hand. “Where’s that red one gonna go?” “Let me tell you about my boat.” “On the run from Johnny Laws. Ain’t no trip to Cleveland”. “You get the rich kids in the cross-hairs and you take them down.” “I love you but you don’t know what you’re talking about”. I could keep going. I’ve only seen “The Grand Budapest Hotel” that one time in the theatre, but I recall lavish set pieces, wonderfully dry humour from Ralph Fiennes’ character, and rich narration from F. Murray Abraham which took me right back to that summer of 1984 when I saw “Amadeus” in the Clear Lake theatre with my brother and Dad. I really should see it again, and I plan to. Wes Anderson movies are one of the few things that I tend to revisit again and again, although the two that seem to get the most attention from me are Rushmore and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The Grand Budapest Hotel would get my vote for “Best Picture” this year, not only because it’s the only one I’ve actually seen, but because I can’t imagine what an Oscar win for this movie would do for Wes Anderson and his group of regulars. Open some doors? Allow him/them to do more? I certainly hope it doesn’t change their aesthetic. I know it’s uncool to mention him, but I think of Wes Anderson as I think of Woody Allen. Both are artists that do their thing and make just enough money to let them to keep doing their thing year after year. Some of their things connect with a wider audiences and are considered “hits” while others don’t and are forgotten by everyone except the most loyal of fans. Oh gosh, I could just talk about Wes Anderson all day, but we’ve got another seven movies to get through today.
Right. Ever since I saw “Silver Linings Playbook” I’ve really come to love Bradley “Coops” Cooper, but there’s NO WAY I’m going to sit through a drama about an American Sniper, unless you can prove to me that a character says at one point, “Sniper? I hardly KNOW her.” Plus, Jennifer Lawrence isn’t in this, is she? My wife is still convinced that the Coops and Jenns are doing it and how could I argue?
I think fans of a certain age will remember the anticipation of 1989’s Batman. I still remember its release date: June 19, from all the promotional posters leading up to its release. I saw it three times in the theatre. The first time was after the last day of grade 9. You remember that weird half day where you’d go in to clean out your locker and pick up your report card in the morning? My friends and I took the bus downtown to the long gone Northstar theatre that afternoon and were blown away by what we saw. It was the first “comic book” movie I ever saw that took its subject seriously. (Okay, I mean compared to Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, 1989’s Batman looks a bit goofy, but at the time it captured all of our imaginations). I went back a couple of weeks later and took my little brother who I felt HAD to see this movie in the theatre. The third time was at the end of August (it was still in theatres in August, you guys) when I dragged my parents to see it. I think my Dad was kind of interested because I spent all summer talking about how excellent it was, and if you remember my Dad did this thing where he would go to a theatre and “preview” a movie for my brother and me before letting us see it ourselves, and so this was a little bit of a “passing of the torch” moment for my Dad, I think, because here I was, previewing the movie for him. Needless to say, my Dad loved it too, and as it turned out it would be the only Batman movie he would see, since the sequel would come out a year after he died. Another thing about this movie (that my 15-year-old self probably didn’t appreciate) was that Prince wrote all original songs for the soundtrack. The soundtrack was by Prince, you guys. (Orchestrations by Danny Elfman, it was a Tim Burton movie after all, but STILL). I imagine this meeting between Prince and a couple of Warner Brothers producers, taking place a year earlier at Paisley Park.
Prince: “You want me to write the theme tune, sing the theme tune? Star in this screamer?”
Producers: “Oh gosh no. Just the music. The music would be great. We are thinking something dark, something moody.”
Prince: “I have just the thing. In fact, I just finished filming my own feature length Batman movie where I play all the parts. Oh, you’ll never see it. No one will ever see it. It’s just for me.”
Producers: “Um, why are all the doors locked in this room. Wait! What’s that purple gas coming out of those nozzles in the ceiling??!!…wait!!!!.”
And that’s how the world got “Batdance”.
Look, I don’t know anything about Birdman, except that it stars Michael Keaton playing a guy who used to play a superhero, and I hear that Edward Norton gets a boner in it or something. Hats off to you, good sir! Can’t wait!
Richard Linklater is a bit “hit and miss” with me. I saw “Slacker” back when it played in our local “art house” theatre in the early 90s. It came out in the same year as one of my all time favourite movies, “J.F.K.” and there is one scene in “Slacker” where they just let this Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorist talk and talk and it’s just wonderful. “Dazed and Confused” was equally marvelous, launching the career of friend of the blog, Matthew McConaughey. Then somehow Linklater got caught up with that shady character, Ethan Hawke, and was tricked into filming all those talky European style movies where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy walk around and ride on trains and look out windows, and all the while you just want them to stop talking or maybe keep walking away from the camera or maybe get off the train and accidentally cross another railway track and get HIT BY THE SOUTHBOUND EUROSTAR or something, but they just KEEP FUCKING TALKING. I’m sure Linklater’s done other movies too, but how can we ever get over the TAINT left by those 17 films with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy? This new one stars Ethan Hawke too, which immediately puts it into the category of “movies I’ll never see unless you trick me into watching it”. And you know how movies like to pride themselves in saying that “No animals were harmed in the making of this film”? Well what about kidnapping a 6 year old and holding him against his will for 12 YEARS, forcing him to act in a feature length film for just a week out of every year, like that creepy guy in Austria a few years back. We shouldn’t be celebrating this movie, we should be prosecuting the producers for child endangerment. Who does Linklater think he is? Prince?
Imitation Game/Theory of Everything Ah yes. Isn’t it always the way? If one company produces a movie about a tortured British math genius, you just know a rival company will be producing another version of another tortured British math genius in the same year. But which one is the splashy Armageddon, and which one is the critically favoured Deep Impact? Which one is the fan favourite Volcano and which is the ill-fated Dante’s Peak? Which one is Academy award-winning Capote and which one becomes merely the also-ran Infamous?
I have not seen Selma, but this is as good a spot as any to talk about the year of the snub. Although this movie got a “best picture” nomination, it got precious little else, as if the Academy were saying, “We really like this movie, but we can’t tell you about one part of it that is actually worth talking about, but Oprah had something to do with it, right? So let’s nominate it because who wants to get on the bad side of Oprah? Stedman found out the hard way and let’s just say he isn’t around anymore.” People are saying that there are no “people of colour” (which is different than “coloured people”, please take note Benedict Cumberbatch) nominated in any of the major categories, and all of the nice big award categories are filled with so many white dudes, it looks like an insurance company picnic in Topeka Kansas in the 1970s, PLUS THE LEGO MOVIE WASN’T NOMINATED FOR ANIMATED FEATURE. Okay, to be fair, it looks like all of the actress and supporting actress nominees are women this year, so that’s progress, right? And actually, aren’t these “actor” and “actress” categories a little discriminatory in our newly found “post gender” world? Why not just nominate 10 people in each category, regardless of sex or gender, race or creed, and see what happens? Or why not get creative with the categories, we could have a “men with the nicest beard” category, or “lady with the nicest smile” category. I’d like to vote on that. (Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence get my vote in each category. Jennifer in the smile category, obvs, although why couldn’t the Coops be in the beard and the smile category at the same time? and who’s to say that Jenny Law couldn’t grow a nice beard if she took the right hormones. I mean, she can do anything!) But I’m getting off topic here. Getting back to Selma: I haven’t seen it. I checked out a “Sisters of Selma” PBS documentary from the library, but I haven’t watched it either. I’d like to, though.
All I know is that J.K. Simmons is winning all kinds of awards for his role as a music teacher in this movie about a music teacher who teaches music to a boy called WHIPLASH. I suppose it’s a prequel to the Iron Man movies, which I think is the first time that a movie from the Marvel Universe has been nominated for a best picture. I bet Stan Lee has a cameo as the school’s cranky janitor. Will the post credits scene give us any insight into the upcoming Inhumans movie? Will we get a cameo from Agent Coulson or Nick Fury? I hate when they cast the same actor in different roles in the same universe, and they’ve done that again since J.K. Simmons played J. Jonah Jameson in those Sony Sam Raimi movies, but I guess they don’t really count because Sony owns the rights? I guess that’s how they get around Chris Evans playing the Human Torch in those terrible Fantastic Four movies and also playing Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America in those excellent Captain America movies. I wish those Fantastic Four movies were never made, but just today I see a teaser trailer for some new Fantastic Four movie was released and it doesn’t look terrible.