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The Oscar Nominations… On Which I Have Opinions

The Academy Award nominations were just released this week. I’m not going to copy-paste the whole list onto my blog. Even without the technical awards it’s still pretty long. Just go here to see it.

Back? Okay, now let’s talk about what I think. (We could talk about what you think, but that’s what comments sections are for.)

It seems to me that the people who vote on the Oscars (that is, everyone in the film business) have very short memories. Not only do they focus on movies that have only come out in the last two months or so, they tend to have a couple of films on the brain and they’ll nominate those films for every single award it can possibly qualify for just so they don’t have to think of anything else.

If a film gets nominated for best picture, chances are it’s also nominated for everything else as well: screenplay, cinematography, costumes, etc. etc. I’m not opposed to recognizing good work, but other films can excel in one area even if they’re not worthy of best picture. I think they only get away with it because 95% of people watching the awards don’t even know what sound editing or art direction involves anyway.

The rules are that nominations should be decided upon by the people in the same field, so people with experience should pick the best films, right? Theoretically. In reality they vote for their friends, people they owe favors to, etc. And they don’t even have to have seen the movie.

I’ve seen some movies, and this is what I think of their choices:

Here I am, as me, again.


Jesse Eisenberg for best actor? What? Did he get this nod because Facebook is popular? Because The Social Network is a good movie? Or because his character is ever so slightly different from the same awkward loser he’s played in every one of his other movies? I suppose his nomination doesn’t matter that much, given that Colin Firth is a shoo-in. If he doesn’t win, I will burn down the Academy (not really).

Geoffrey Rush as best supporting actor? I love Geoffrey Rush, and The King’s Speech was fabulous, but though his role in it was important, it wasn’t anything special. It’s the same old Geoffrey Rush as always. Give it to Christian Bale. That guy is scary dedicated. Look how much weight he lost (again). He’s practically unrecognizable.

Give Ben Affleck some props already. The Academy seems to think that since he won a writing award like twenty years ago and in the meantime has acted in some terrible films, that no one needs to acknowledge that he’s an awesome director. But he is. What did David Fincher do to The Social Network that was so great? Its success is all in the writing. And stop nominating everything Joel and Ethan Cohen do. Their movies aren’t even original and they’re not that great. Give it to Darren Aronofsky. That bird feather crap is disturbing.

Barney’s Version for makeup?? Because they made that one guy look old? That’s not cutting edge at all. Everyone does that. What about Lord Voldemort’s face? That’s Ralph Fiennes under there!

Good music choices, except for The Social Network, which was generic at best. But Tron Legacy was awesome too. Does it not count because of the old Tron or something?

Toy Story 3 should never have been nominated for best picture. As much as I love animation and seeing it recognized, it wasn’t even the best in the series! Given that it’s the only animated feature also nominated for best picture, it’s pretty much guaranteed to win best animated feature, which is a shame, because How to Train Your Dragon was way better.

The King’s Speech for sound mixing? What sounds other than dialogue did that movie have? (Dennis?)

So totally awesome!!


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for special effects? What was so special about it? The animated sequence? That’s not even special effects. That’s a short in the middle of another movie. Tron Legacy should definitely have gotten a nod here. Its only competition should be Inception, which was also visually amazing.

How the hell does Toy Story 3 qualify as an “adapted” screenplay? Every screenplay is adapted from an idea. Do they ALL qualify now? The King’s Speech should be in this category because it’s adapted from history and memoirs. It’s hard to say who should win here, but 127 Hours, The Social Network, and Winter’s Bone are all deserving.

Christopher Nolan should get knocked off his pedestal. Seriously though, everyone thinks this guy is God’s gift to screenwriting. Probably he does too. How could he not, with such ridiculous amounts of praise being heaped upon him? Sure, Batman Begins rocks, but The Dark Knight was too long and structureless and Inception had huge consistency issues. Give him an MTV award for “coolness” and give the screenplay award to The King’s Speech or The Kids Are All Right.

Anyway, that’s how I feel. Want to weigh in?

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My Abysmal Award Predicting Record

I’m definitely not psychic, despite what some of my library patrons think. If I was, I’d have been able to pick more than five of the correct answers on the “who will win at the Golden Globes” fun tests that all those entertainment websites always put out. Five out of twenty-five. And only two of them were serious picks, the rest were all blind guesses. That’s got to be some kind of record. Even blind guessing, I should have gotten more right than that.

So why am I so awful at predicting these things? Well, part of it is that I’ve almost never seen all of the nominated movies, so how could I possibly make an intelligent guess? I’ve got two real jobs and two fake ones (don’t ask), so I don’t have time to torture myself watching molasses-slow foreign and independent films just so I can have a better chance at telling whether it will or won’t win an award I don’t care about.

And then there’s the someone else factor. I’m not trying to pick winners that can be ranked by some sort of objective means, like an algorithm. I’m trying to guess what hundreds of people I have never met will like best. And these hundreds of people rarely agree with me.

I’m pretty good at predicting what people will like when I know them. That’s why my some of library patrons think I’m psychic. I can go: “read this, you’ll like it,” or “don’t watch that, you’ll hate it,” and be right because I know what they have or have not liked in the past. So I guess if I want to improve my record for the Golden Globes, I have to get to know every member of the Hollywood Foreign Press personally. That would be a lot of phone calls. I imagine if you were listening to my end of it, it would sound something like this:

“Hi, yeah, I was just wondering: what’s your favorite movie of all time? …..Uh huh. Really. ….. Oh and in the original Swahili? Isn’t that something. ….. No, I haven’t heard of it, but I’ll definitely check it out (not).”

“Yes, hello. I just wanted to ask what you bought your mother for her last birthday. …. A bidet? And how did that go over? ….. Oh, you still aren’t speaking. That’s a surprise (not).”

And even then it would be pointless, because it doesn’t matter so much what they actually like as it does who they owe favors to, who their friends are, who’s banging their brother’s girlfriend’s driveway paving specialist, who they’re trying to get on the good side of, etc. Especially with the Oscars. So really, I’d have to do one of those complex social dynamics math equations and… oh the hell with it.

Next time, I’m just pinning the sheet to a dart board and throwing some sharp things at it.

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Trailer Reviews for December 23, 2010

It’s almost Christmas, which means it’s slim pickins if you’re looking to see something new in theaters. The only types of movies that come out the week before Christmas are the ones that are about Christmas or that nobody really expects to do well… or both. Anyway, this year we ended up with Little Fockers, Gulliver’s Travels, and True Grit.

LITTLE FOCKERS



Ugh, another one? I didn’t like Meet the Parents or Meet the Fockers, so I don’t exactly hold high hopes for the third installment in the franchise. Even if I had liked them, the third movie is usually around the time that the horse dies and producers keep kicking it anyway. Apparently they either didn’t get the memo about how you’re supposed to put the film’s funniest jokes in the trailer or those ARE the funniest jokes. Either way, not lookin’ good, Little Fockers. If I remember correctly there were only ever two jokes in the whole franchise: 1) Greg has a stupid name and 2) Jack used to be a spy. If I have any choice at all this week, I’m picking something (anything!) else.

GULLIVER’S TRAVELS



As usual, I spoke too soon. I think I’d like this one even less. There are two rules of adaptation: 1) you owe nothing to the original, and 2) you owe everything to the intention of the original. So either the point of Jonathan Swift’s novel was actually that being really big is funny, and everyone’s been misinterpreting it as a cutting satire on human nature all this time, or screenwriters Joe Stillman and Nicholas Stoller are idiots. I’m betting on the second one. After all, the film does star Jack Black. I predict that this movie will bomb just as bad as Land of the Lost, which was also about big stupid things in another land… and it wasn’t even based on anything more profound than a television show from the 90s.

TRUE GRIT



What an odd movie to put out on Christmas. It’s neither heartwarming nor holiday based. Perhaps it’s meant to give all those misanthropes something to do on Christmas day. This is not a movie I’d be at all interested in either, unfortunately. I’ve got nothing against Westerns per se (I really liked Gunless) but the Cohen brothers are not my favorite directors… or directors I like at all. Actually, I’d probably go out of my way to avoid seeing one of their movies. So I guess I’m going to have a hard time picking something to see this week. Maybe I’ll do something crazy: like stay home and actually enjoy my holiday!

Given the quality of the films releasing this week, I’m going to have to make a special recommendation to those of you whose tradition it is to see films on Christmas Eve. Choose something else. If Tron Legacy, The King’s Speech, Tangled, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, or even Harry Potter are still around in your area, see one of those instead.

Merry Christmas.

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Tron Legacy Review

poster from the Walt Disney Pictures film Tron Legacy

When the original Tron came out in 1982, it was like Star Wars in terms of how many people flipped their lids for it. Back then, computers were glorified calculators that took up whole rooms and could only be afforded by very important universities and used for very important scientific research. A movie about using a computer to go inside a video game just about blew people’s minds. So naturally, Disney waited 28 years to make a sequel. It’s called Tron Legacy, and here’s the storyline:

The delinquent heir to a computer company investigates a page from his missing father and finds him trapped inside the computer world he created several decades ago by a tyrannical computer program.

It’s a cool idea for a movie, but Disney completely missed several boats, which will undoubtedly hurt its bottom line. First, there’s the technology boat. People who have grown up watching Reboot cartoons no longer find stories about the insides of computers new and different, even if Tron did do it first. And second, there’s the 3D technology. A year ago, it was new, and people flocked to Avatar just for the experience. And now it’s old and people don’t care anymore. So Tron Legacy is effectively stripped of its novelty factor and left to stand on the old fallbacks: story, character, setting, and special effects.

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Trailer Reviews for December 10, 2010

Coming out this weekend: The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Tourist, The Company Men, The King’s Speech, and The Tempest.

CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER



I really liked the first Chronicles of Narnia movie, but I felt the second one, Prince Caspian was just more of the same. This new one, the third in the film series, looks like it should be cool and different by virtue of it being on a ship instead of in a field. They also swapped out Peter and Susan (the oldest Pevensie children) with for their cousin, who’s played by that boy from Son of Rambow (Will Poulter). Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and Lucy (Georgie Henley) were always the most interesting of the four children anyway. Ben Barnes is back as Prince Caspian, there’s a tiny mouse with a sword, and also, there’s a dragon. What more could you want?

THE TOURIST



Super spy lady + unsuspecting man = actioney shenanigans? It’s Knight and Day, but backwards. The plot does look a little more involved than: “he’s got the McGuffin! Get him!” so it could be quite good even if it doesn’t look as hilarious as Knight and Day was. Those are some funny lines that Johnny Depp is delivering, but they don’t really sound funny coming out of his mouth, which is a problem. I can see that being an impediment to my enjoyment of the film. Usually Johnny Depp is so good! Angelina Jolie (who is awesome in action movies) and Paul Bettany (who is awesome period) are also in this too, so I’ll probably give it a shot, just maybe not this week.

THE COMPANY MEN



A year ago, they put out Up in the Air, which was a movie about people who went around firing other people on behalf of large companies. Now we’re getting the story from the other end – from the people who get fired. It’s maybe a few years late, given that the worst of the layoffs were two years ago, but a lot of people are still struggling. The question is, are they going to want to watch a movie about how crappy their lives are, or are they going to watch something like The Tourist, which will help them forget about their problems for two hours? This looks like a pretty decent drama, I just can’t see it generating much interest among the ticket-buying public, even if Ben Affleck is in it.

THE KING’S SPEECH



It is a bit weird to see Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) married to Bellatrix Lestrange (Helena Bonham Carter), being coached by Phillip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) and pressured by Wormtail (Timothy Spall), but the The King’s Speech looks good. Really good. So good that I’m almost positive it won’t come within 500km of my theater. It’s British, it’s inspiring, it’s set around World War II, and it stars a whole bunch of people I like doing a really good job (I mean, Colin Firth doesn’t really sound like that). The only glitches I saw were the obvious setup for the “I have a voice” line and the fact that Timothy Spall is not nearly bald enough to play Winston Churchill. Please come here, movie. I would like to see you. And not in six months when you come out on DVD. Now.

THE TEMPEST



I have two questions:
1) Was Shakespeake suffering from dementia when he wrote this?
and
2) Were those CGI sperm swimming on the title screen?
Seriously, this movie looks like it makes even less sense than The Fountain and Across the Universe put together, and that’s saying something. And yet somehow it’s loaded with famous, respected people (Helen Mirren, Chris Cooper, Russell Brand, Djimon Hounsu). This is either because they all felt like acting like total nutters for a while or because it was Shakespeare (actors flock to Shakespeare like teen girls flock to Twilight, for some reason). It is unlikely that I’ll ever be induced to watch The Tempest, because I don’t smoke weed and I think you’d probably need to in order to make any sense of this film.

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Trailer Reviews and Predictions for August 13th, 2010

The summer movie onslaught continues this week with four new titles coming out to join the approximately 4 million that are already in theaters vying for our attention/money. A movie will have to be pretty good to draw our attention away from films like Inception and Despicable Me, but that’s not going to stop Eat, Pray, Love, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, and The Expendables from trying. I’ll review the trailers for you so you can see if any of them are going to be worth your time (and money).

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Trailer Reviews and Predictions for August 6th, 2010

If you’re looking to see a new movie in theaters this weekend, you’ve got three choices: Flipped, Step Up 3D, and The Other Guys: a sort of kids’ movie, a dancing movie, and yet another one of those “two cops who don’t get along” movies. Whether any of them are worth your time/money remains to be seen.

FLIPPED



Okay, so Flipped is less of a kids’ movie than it is a nostalgia movie for adults. That’s why it’s (seemingly arbitrarily) set in the 50s, when the filmmakers were young, instead of now, when actual kids are young. It still looks cute though. Those two kids (Madeline Carroll, who was really good in Swing Vote and Callan McAuliffe, whom I’ve never heard of before) are just adorable. I just hope the “flipping” of the boy’s opinion on girls isn’t something that happens at the END of the movie, seeing as how it’s the whole point. This trailer could either be a good one that gives away just enough or a bad one that shows the whole thing depending on when the flip happens. I guess we just have to trust that Rob Reiner knows what he’s doing.

STEP UP 3D



“Now in 3-D for no reason other than it’s cool!”
“With hot new tracks by a bunch of bands you’ve never heard of, because you’re old and out of the loop!”
That’s fine, I can honestly say this is not a loop I want to be in. The dance moves are neat looking I guess but I hate the music and the story/dialogue in these movies is always a) painfully clichéd and clunky and b) trying way too hard to be “hip”. Both of the main characters in this movie look like they’re well on their way to thirty, especially the girl. I hope they’re not going to try and convince us that these people are all teenagers. I am ashamed to admit I’ve actually seen the first two Step Up movies (and not entirely because my friends dragged me) but this trailer effectively killed my morbid fascination with the series. I have no desire to see this one, even for free.

THE OTHER GUYS



This is the second of two “pair of cops who suck” movies coming out this year (the other one being Kevin Smith’s Cop Out), and it looks just as unfunny as the previous one. I only like Will Ferrell in some of his roles, because I don’t think the one character he plays over and over is funny in and of itself. I do like Mark Wahlberg, but he’s mostly just there so Will Ferrell isn’t talking to himself all the time. I’d like to see Wahlberg carry a comedy on his own. I think he could do it. Steve Coogan is in here too, but I doubt he gets to do much other than get thrown around. Some of the material in here doesn’t look too bad, but I’d only have seen it if they picked a frontman other than Will Ferrell.

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Trailer Reviews and Predictions for July 30, 2010

Things are starting to slow down a little bit on the premiere front. Only three coming out this Friday: Cats and Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, Charlie St. Cloud and Dinner for Schmucks. They’re all so widely different from one another and they all obviously fit into a specific genre, so it’s likely that you already know which one you’re going to see. But on the off chance that you don’t, here are the trailer reviews for the weekend of July 30th.

CATS AND DOGS 2: REVENGE OF KITTY GALORE



The first Cats and Dogs came out in 2001… though it seemed earlier than that to me… anyway, I dunno why they waited 9 years to make a sequel. They’ve definitely jumped on lamer sequels faster before (Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel). Maybe they were waiting for computer animation to get better so it would look less fake and creepy when the animals talked. If that’s the case they failed horribly. I hate movies where “real” animals move their mouths when they talk. It looks so unnatural. It also bothers me that this movie is called “revenge of kitty galore” like Kitty Galore was the villain from the first movie, but the villain from the first movie was Mr. Tinkles. There is, however, a small chance I might see this movie eventually, since the cats aren’t actually total evil bad guys like they ALWAYS are (see my cats in movies article). People who will see this movie are either under ten, have kids under the age of ten, or are nostalgic for the first one (this last category contains about three people).

DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS


I love Paul Rudd, and Ron Livingston, too (who was in the trailer, in the background, for like five seconds). I even like Steve Carrell most of the time. This is not one of those times. I wish fewer films relied on the “painfully embarrassing” type of comedy. It may be easy to write but it’s like torture to watch. If you like it you’ll probably think this movie is hilarious, but if you have to bury your face in a pillow every time someone on TV embarrasses themselves, this is not the movie for you. It’s definitely not the movie for me. Dinner for Schmucks is the movie of choice for Judd Apatow fans (i.e. men who still think the armpit fart thing is funny).

CHARLIE ST. CLOUD


I guess this is Zac Efron trying to be a serious actor instead of just a Tiger Beat cover boy. I hope he makes it, I really do, just because he’s actually tying to have a real career instead of milking the High School Musical thing until he’s 45 (which would probably work). The only problem is they’re hurting his efforts to attract a new audience (or the same audience to a new movie) by SHOWING THE ENTIRE FILM IN THE TRAILER! I can’t tell you how much I hate this. Also bugging me: when that teen girl goes “He’s misunderstood… like James Dean.” Get real. No one under 30 knows who James Dean is. In the 80s, stuff from the 50s was retro. Now it’s just ancient. That “modern teenagers with an 80s obsession” thing is an invention of older writers who want to milk their own teenage years for material but not write historical fiction. Even so, I think I’ll still see Charlie St. Cloud this week. I mean, look what it’s up against. No contest. Other people (besides me) who will want to see this movie: teenage girls who love Zac Efron… and people who love to cry at sappy drama.

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Paul the Octopus Oracle

The other day, my dad was telling me about Paul the Octopus, a clairvoyant octopus who lives at the Sea Life Aquarium in Oberhausen, Germany. By choosing from among a set of mussels with national flags painted on them, Paul correctly predicted the outcome of every one of Germany’s games in World Cup soccer.

That’s pretty amazing, considering most octopuses are so dumb that they’ll squish themselves down to the size of a pencil and worm their way out of their tanks so they can flop around in the air and die. Either he’s such an octopus genius that he build a secret time machine to see into the future or there’s mystical stuff going on in that tiny brain of his.

Naturally everyone wants to own such a talented octopus. Spain especially wanted to buy him after he predicted that they would win over Germany in the final. The aquarium’s not selling, though, and I couldn’t afford him even if he was. But some days I need a magic octopus to tell me what to do. So I’ll have to settle for the next best thing.

Oh Squidley the Magical Movie-Predicting Octopus, which movie is the best one to go to?

squidley the movie predicting octopus

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Trailer Reviews for July 23rd, 2010


It’s a slow weekend for Hollywood movies: only Salt and Ramona and Beezus are coming out this Friday, along with a couple of foreign films. But that’s no comfort to me. I’ve still got a backlog of movies I want to see that’s as long as my arm. I envy the “real” critics. They get to go to whatever they want for free! As for us, we have to spend our hard earned cash buying tickets. $12 on the weekend! $15 if it’s 3D! Highway robbery if you ask me. I’ll tell you what’s worth it and what isn’t.

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