Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscar Reaction and Boredom

     Another year, another lame Oscar ceremony. The best thing about the show was sharing the wealth. 15 different films took home statues this year and that, without a doubt was the best thing about this past film year. There were a tremendous about of great, good and above average films. The Academy, in their infinite wisdom and old white boy club way took the easy, safe way on a lot of films. Lets start with Best Supporting Actor. First off, Christoph Waltz was a lead and should not have been in the supporting category. He is in almost every scene of the film, except towards the end. Second, how can a film dealing with slavery and revenge, and that has two wonderful performances by African American actors, not have one of them nominated. This is not to take anything away from Waltz and DiCaprio, but Samuel L. Jackson was absolutely scene stealing in Django Unchained. The best he has been in years. Third, Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master), Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln) and Robert DeNiro (Silver Linings Playbook) were more deserving. They showed so much range, depth and controlled intelligence and desire where Waltz (he is great in that film and I loved him in it, so I'm not saying he was bad or anything) was a gun for hire who I believe won because he delivered Tarantino's sculpted lines with clarity and charisma. Oh Well.
    And I am sorry, being that I really enjoyed Django Unchained and loved it so much more than the over hyped Inglourious Basterds, but Mark Boal's original screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty was easily the best screenplay of the year. I am surprised Tarantino won with his cocksure, masturbatory joy of movie history and spaghetti western lore. I love it and love him for making the movies he does but Boal's suspense thriller was so meticulous, dramatic and indeed, highly procedural take on the hunt for bin Laden was as close to perfect as it gets. He lost because I believe the Academy felt the film was pro torture and that being the case, caused the film to be the respected, but hell no we will not vote for it. Give it a technical award (tie for Best Sound Editing with Skyfall) and shut them up. We do not want to be perceived as supporting torture by the USA. It is the filmmaking too people. That leads us to Best Picture.
     Good for Ben Affleck. He directed a sufficient period thriller with class and fine technique. From a script by Chris Terrio (won Best Adapted Screenplay), the film was good but a safe and "lets make everyone satisfied" pick. Once again, avoid the brilliance and astounding craftsmanship of Zero Dark Thirty and go with the huh rah, America did it film Argo. I enjoyed Argo very much and it contains a brilliantly edited and acted finale (won Best Editing, which usually indicates a automatic Best Picture win) but it does not contain the relevance and honesty that Zero Dark Thirty does. It is a harsh, brilliant procedural suspense thriller that not only exemplifies the work, heart and frustrations of the search but it is a calculating piece of filmmaking that deserves better. I'm almost glad it did not win because it is better than that. Kathryn Bigelow should have been nominated and won for Best Director, sexism there. I know she won for The Hurt Locker but this is even a better film. Affleck not being nominated was wrong too. Good for Ang Lee (Life of Pi) but someone had to win. Actually, I wish it would have been Haneke. That would been a wonderful surprise or Russell. And by applause, they really loved Life of Pi which makes me wonder why it did not win Best Picture.
     Daniel Day-Lewis winning for Best Actor and Anne Hathaway winning Best Supporting Actress were foregone conclusions and both were deserved, even if Hathaway spoke like she deserved it all along. Annoying. Day-Lewis was humble, clever and funny in his acceptance speech, and although I would have picked Joaquin Phoenix for The Master, Lewis is the man. The best living actor. I was hoping for a surprise with Best Actress. I really thought Lawrence and Chastain were truly exceptional, but Riva's performance in Amour grew on me constantly after seeing that film. Heartbreaking, emotionally challenging and flat out brilliant. An acting legend and it would have been nice to have seen her take home the statue. It is not about being nice though and Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook had that youthful charm and cockiness that showed she was a great choice. She played off tripping on the steps well too. Shows she has a good head on her shoulders, can make fun of herself and is insanely talented.
     The safe bets usually win and films that give an emotional uplift are right in the Academy's wheel house. Life of Pi, Les Miserables, ArgoLincoln and the ending of Silver Linings Playbook are positive, make you hoo-rah or cry films that, although techncially with Pi shows talents that deserve attention but do not show the realism that I think is necessary for the Best. This is not to say that films need to be all pessimistic but those films I'm drawn to more. In a way, the wins for Django Unchained were good in that sense but it was not the best in those categories. And who is to say what the best is. The critics went for Zero Dark Thirty, Moonrise Kingdom (to an extent and I wish Wes Anderson's film got more attention) and The Master while the guilds and the Academy were in love with Argo. It is a matter of opinion and politics, but beneath it all, a films merit is not determined by an award. It is determined by its relevance to the times and its ability to show exquisite craftsmanship and forward thinking. It should say something about life and our place in the world. Be about something and about the forward movement and growth of film. A good film should never go old and always be relevant, i.e. The Third Man, Manhattan and Vertigo. Not formulaic garbage that bogs down the medium in malignant boredom and a happy ending. Be real.
     The ceremony was safe, safe, safe, safe. No political rants. No surprises. No true, deserved love for quality pictures. Nominations for some, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild are just to please the critics and film nerds. I'm not discrediting the Academy but it just seems they are afraid to break out of the mold of conformity. Give me something. Give me an injection of excitement and fun. Not this good old time with our adult, feel good films. Avoid confrontation and avoid pissing off the Right. Eventually, we will get a producer(s) that will change the broadcast to something more and the Academy will begin to vote for films that mean something or at least have more meaning. The thing is is what that is and how will that happen. In due time we might find out but with the recent wins for The King's Speech over The Social Network, The Artist over, I guess The Descendants, and Argo over Zero Dark Thirty it is evident that cultural awareness and cinematic realism is on the back burner compared to a film that makes us feel good and looks pretty.
     As for the host Seth MacFarlane, not so good. He is not a stand-up comedian. Is jokes were all over the place and the opening was meandering and stupid. He is a good song and dance man, but is joke about Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth were funny but did not seem to work in the room. He should have just said fuck it, I'm going for broke. Rude, honest, clever is what needed to happen and MacFarlane was mild. Nothing like some of his rants and episodes of "Family Guy" or anything like what I was expecting. More proof that the Academy is boring and sweet. Nice try, but he was right when he mentioned we need Amy Poehler and Tina Fey to host next year. Correct, we need them to host next year. Then it will be funny, which it should be to get through the 3 to 4 hour run time.
     The musical numbers were good, other than Catherine Zeta-Jones obvious lip-synching, her dancing was on point though for Chicago. Jennifer Hudson was phenomenal singing for Dreamgirls and the Les Miserables cast singing was real good too. Go Russell Crowe. He cannot sing for shit but he did not care and good for him. Still a wonderful actor and its good to see him branching out to new ideas and testing himself. The Bond tribute could have been more, a lot more. I loved seeing the montage from the films, but Dame Shirley Bassey singing the penultimate Bond song "Goldfinger" was the true highlight of the night. It would have been nice to see more singers come out and sing some Bond songs or have the living Bond actors come out on stage but it is what it is. They also should of had Adele sing "Skyfall" during this tribute but she sang it later and was fantastic. I really enjoy that song and it is one of the best ones in a long time. Also, the whole night was summed up by the cut to Joaquin Phoenix when he was announced as a nominee for Best Actor. Morosely bored, uninterested and damn ready to get the hell out of there. Awards, love it and hate it.
     Overall, the best thing was that the awards were spread out. Even though I am still hoping Roger Deakins gets his overdue cinematography win sometime, the awards were safe and not really surprising. There are so many awards given out going into the Oscars that it feels like a relief when there over. You kind of have a feel of what the outcome is going to be before it starts and hope a surprise or two will arise, but nothing like that this year. The Academy needs to toughen up and start going out on a limb. Stop going with the momentum and popular choice at the time. Pick more films from around the world and get rid of the politics. Well, that will never happen and studio executives will always sway, push and campaign the hell out of a film to get a win and more money, i.e. Harvey Weinstein and Django Unchained. It is all opinion and bullshit. But in a year where there were so many well made films, the fact the awards were spread out left a little excitement to the awards. Not much though. Here is going to next year and hope the films are as good as this year, if not better.

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