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The 84th Oscars: Aftermath and Postgame Coverage

March 1, 2012 2 comments

As I watched the telecast of Sunday’s awards, going over the mixture of predictably safe choices, three words kept circling through my head, like scrolling text on the side of a blimp: BUSINESS AS USUAL. It’s been known for a while that the French silent film “The Artist” was scheduled to take home many of the top awards including Best Picture and Best Director. However, what was not expected was that the sweep would be split between it and Martin Scorsese’s family film (I feel like my hatred towards it spawns mostly from having to join those four words together), “Hugo,” which matched “The Artist’s” total of five wins. In simplest terms, I’d describe these wins as safe, mundane and boring, but honestly, what else is new? Read more…

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My Reaction: The Good, the Meh, and the Ugly, Part 2

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

When writing the last post, I had realized that it would be too difficult to boil these nomination down into two categories of “good” and “bad,” because, honestly, so much of this morning’s announcement was just vanilla, to me. I don’t love them, I don’t hate them. They’re just kind of there. I wish they weren’t, but they could be worse. Some may say that this is kind of a useless post, but for me, this post pretty much defines the 2011 movie season. I don’t hate it, I’m just ready to move on.

THE MEH

 

Without a doubt, this year’s best picture line-up was the most mediocre I think I’ve ever seen. I look back at the sorts of ballsy, edgy choices that the AMPAS were putting on the table no more than few years ago, with nominees like “Brokeback Mountain,” “Capote” and “There Will Be Blood,” and on top of that, winners such as “The Departed,” “No Country for Old Men,” and “The Hurt Locker.”

Then I see this year, and I am BORED. “Hugo?” “War Horse?” And of course everyone’s favorite that’s rife with controversy, “The Artist?” Now, okay, I’m not saying that all of the year’s movies have to piss people off or twist people’s minds. My favorite on the year definitely doesn’t (though it makes up for it with astounding quality). Yet, as artists, filmmakers have a responsibility, to shake things up. To be bold. I don’t see a lot of that, here.

What could have shaken things up, you ask? Plenty. What about “Shame?” Steve McQueen’s quiet, yet somehow epic tale of sex addiction and deprivation is already probably better than anything else in the line-up. Then there’s Nicholas Winding Refn’s hardcore crime study, “Drive,” which isn’t exactly one of my favorites on the year, but it’s a nomination I could certainly respect the Academy for putting up. This should prove that there’s no accounting for taste with what I’m talking about. Hell, some of my least favorite nominations today were those surrounding Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” because at least that decision had some audacity to it. It’s films like that, whether I like them or not, that are going to be talked about and discussed, decades from now.

Then there’s the Christmas turkey. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” which received more guild nominations than half of the other nominees (obviously popular within the industry), was left off, and it might be the most important of the bunch. That’s because the viewers can’t get through it’s gritty and uncompromising demeanor and see through to the beautiful and vital message it presents of sexism and the triumph of diversity in a quiet and unoffensive world. This film deserves to be in the conversation and should be on the Best Picture ballot.

When “The King’s Speech” won Best Picture, last year, I believed that that particular nightmare was over. I thought that the Academy had gotten it out of their system. This year, I was proven wrong. The Oscars, it seems, will never fully evolve into a body that respects style, nuance, and, more than anything else, change. The Academy needs to move out of the twentieth century and into a new era. Yet, more than any of these things, it needs to understand that sometimes, feeling bad is feeling good. Sappiness, melodrama and things that warm your heart are not necessarily tools of good filmmaking, at least not good enough to clog the higher ranks of these nominations with them.

Grow up, Oscars. As Billy Beane so eloquently put it, “Adapt or die,” before it’s too late, and nobody gives a crap, anymore.

Wow, look at that. I got all hot and bothered and I haven’t even gotten to “The Ugly” segment of this article, yet. I will try to have that part of the article done by tonight.

My Reaction: The Good, the Meh and the Ugly, Part 1

January 24, 2012 Leave a comment

All right. Here we go. I’ve been awake for the last six hours, and as if that didn’t put me in a cranky enough mood, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences always manages to take care of that for me. There were some good things. I won’t lie. The voters always find a way of sneaking in a few items that even I can respect and say thank you for. However, if you look at this reaction on the whole, “Thank you” is not going to be the word you’d use to sum it up.

Note, I’m not going to go through and talk about every one of the 104 nominations. I’m sorry, but that would be madness. Instead I will simply focus on the true standouts of the morning, mostly the surprises and the hard-fought battles. If you’re curious about a nomination that I don’t mention, ask me, or simply wait for the 2nd Annual Edgy Awards. The nominations should be ready within the next two weeks.

Let’s do this in chapters, shall we? Starting with the facets I enjoyed:

THE GOOD

 

The ultimate highlight of the morning, and the thing that will probably be most remembered from this year’s Oscars as a whole, is Gary Oldman’s nomination for Best Actor. I think you would be hard-pressed to find an actor who has taken his licks, paid his dues, delivered some absolutely fantastic and groundbreaking work, and gone so long without being being honored with so much as a single Oscar nomination. Maybe Donald Sutherland, but I would easily say that Oldman’s talent surpasses his in so many ways. For all of its faults, this morning was made great because of this irrefutable fact: we now live in a world where Gary Oldman is an Oscar nominee. The world just got a whole lot better.

While this year’s Best Picture lineup may set a record for lowest coinciding with my own choices (I think only 3 films will end up overlapping), there is one movie that I am infinitely proud of the Academy’s rally of support around it. Earning a total of six nominations, tied for third highest amount, that film is Bennett Miller’s sophomore effort and absolute stunner of a film, “Moneyball.” When it came to searching for a film that raised my heart rate and got my blood flowing as much as last year’s masterpiece, “The Social Network,” this was the only film that came close (ironically co-penned by the Shakespeare of our time, Aaron Sorkin). Not only is it arguably the greatest sports movie ever made (barring “Raging Bull,” if you consider that a movie about sports), it is a touching character study of what we’re worth as human beings and what we come to expect of ourselves. This movie will forever hold a place of high honor in my mind and heart and I could not be happier that the Academy agrees with me.

As far as the female categories are concerned, there’s two nominations that really made me smile. The first is Melissa McCarthy’s well-deserved mention for “Bridesmaids.” The film, itself, was funny and decent enough, but without McCarthy’s absolutely hilarious and fearless performance, it would have been a fraction of what it turned out to be. This woman is fantastic and I am so happy for her and the year she’s having. Secondly, I am not only shocked, but overjoyed at the Best Actress nomination for Rooney Mara. This is a talented young actress who came out of nowhere, took on a highly anticipated role that has already been portrayed by another actress not less than three years ago, and against all expectations from many skeptics, knocked it completely out of the park. Her embodiment of Lisbeth Salander will forever live in infamy and now she has an Oscar nomination to show for it. Congrats.

There’s a few other nominations that tickled my fancy, here and there. An outstanding surprise in the writing categories was J.C. Chandor’s Best Original Screenplay nomination for his debut film, “Margin Call.” And I could kick myself square in the face for not predicting it. This film was a current of pure energy and intelligence that is more relevant than perhaps any of the nominated films. I cannot wait to see what this gentleman does in the future. Speaking of relevance, I also had a brief moment of joy over the nominated documentary “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front.” It has flown largely under the radar throughout the year, but is a valuable lesson on the damage we’ve done to our world, as well as how far we are willing to go to reverse that. Finally, even though it might be to many others’ chagrin, I’m pleased to see Janusz Kaminski score his fifth nomination for Best Cinematography through “War Horse.” It may not be his best work, but there are some shots in that film that are indisputably among the best of the year. Bravo my favorite working DP.

Well, that about wraps it up for my moments of elation, obviously few and far between. Perhaps after a while, I might be able to look back on this day and acknowledge a little more as being positive. For now, I brood.

I’ll be back later today with parts two and three, so stay tuned to The Edge of the Frame.

2011 Spirit Awards: My Thoughts

December 1, 2010 Leave a comment

The “Winter’s Bone” love definitely does not meet a front on this blog. The film is an incredibly solid piece that has a great sense of its characters and its setting, with a tense story and fantastic acting. While I haven’t seen half of the field of Best Feature nominees, at this point, I would have no problem with it taking home the win.

It was kind of obvious that certain films would do well here. “The Kids Are All Right” is this year’s quirky, off-beat, crowd-pleasing Sundance hit. It seems to be tradition in recent years (Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Slumdog Millionaire). An independent film like that can’t help but get noticed here. Same thing for “Rabbit Hole.” Even though it somehow missed out on a Best Feature nomination (to “Greenberg,” of all things), John Cameron Mitchell has done a lot for independent film in the last decade and has an excellent track record with the Spirits. Therefore, I’m not surprised it got nominations for Kidman, Eckhart (who might have more to offer in this movie than I thought), Screenplay, and Mitchell for Director.

Now, on to that which baffles me. The “Greenberg” love. Isn’t it a little bit too pedestrian to hold such stature here, or does it just seem that way because of Ben Stiller? Because it managed to beat out films the likes of “Rabbit Hole,” “Tiny Furniture,” “Never Let Me Go” and, by God, “Blue Valentine?”

Speaking of “Blue Valentine,” where the hell is it? I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about this film, its stars and its makers. That it’s going to turn the world of cinema on its heels. If it was going to excel anywhere, I would imagine it be here. Yet, all it manages is a one nomination for Best Actress? Where in the world is Ryan Gosling?

Meanwhile, Bill Murray gets a nomination for a fairly average turn, while Robert Duvall is passed over in a performance that’s been talked about for going on two years now. Also, “Jack Goes Boating” gets 3 nominations, yet it seems that they went out of their way to avoid nominating the film’s director and star, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Strange times.

My predictions for the wins (3 months before the win so probably incorrect):

BEST FEATURE
Winter’s Bone

BEST DIRECTOR
Debra Granik – Winter’s Bone

BEST SCREENPLAY
The Kids Are All Right

BEST FIRST FEATURE
Jack Goes Boating

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY
Tiny Furniture

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD
Daddy Longlegs

BEST ACTRESS
Jennifer Lawrence – Winter’s Bone

BEST ACTOR
James Franco – 127 Hours

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Allison Janney – Life During Wartime

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
John Hawkes – Winter’s Bone

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Black Swan

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Exit Through the Gift Shop

BEST FOREIGN FILM
The King’s Speech