February 2012 posts
So SML Readers, what did you think? Looks like the Academy got just what they — well, really, more like what Harvey Weinstein wanted. The Artist took the big awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actor, and Meryl Streep got her 3rd Oscar. You do realize that Mr. Weinstein was the big campaigner behind all those wins, right? Including a last-minute slightly objectionable email to voters pitching Streep as “Past Due” and possibly not going to have another chance (what? well, she is in her 60s, right?) Anyway, with thanks to our Ace Reporter Ms. Kimberly Faulhaber, following are our takes on Best and Worst of the Show. Read On! And give us your opinion in the comments.
Best: The montage of death, a surprisingly classy tribute to our fallen comrades (I always appreciate when they cut out the applause so we will never know if a dead Little Rascal is more popular than a dead talent agent), Chris Rock, Dean Pelton <http://www.greendalecommunitycollege.com/faculty-admin/craig-pelton.shtml> as Oscar winner and Jolie mocker.
Worst: Billy Crystal’s hair color and tired Bob Hope jokes, J.Lo and Cameron Diaz trying to pretend they’re galpals <http://news.yahoo.com/photos/actresses-jennifer-lopez-cameron-diaz-present-84th-academy-photo-031806902.html> even though they’re both Diddy daters, the general feeling of malaise that set in after realizing that I am not invested in a single movie this year (the Take Shelter <http://seriousmovielover.com/2011/11/04/an-ominous-oscar-contender/> shutout was unfortunate).
Moments that caused the most mixed feelings: That Cirque du Soleil tribute to the movies (I think it was the fifth or sixth Salute to the Movies at that point in the ceremony?). I did not want to like it, but it was preferable to Debbie Allen dancers or another clip montage. Also, Sacha Baron Cohen spilling faux ashes on a very uptight Ryan Seacrest <http://www.justjared.com/photo-gallery/370021/ryan-seacrest-teri-hatcher-kissing01/> . I hate pranks (especially when they’re pranks that received an early OK from the people in charge), but I also don’t like people who work for E! and take themselves seriously. I’m looking at you too, Kelly Osbourne!
As we prepare our Oscar menus and make our picks for our Oscar pools, one of our favorite Oscar past times is less than 24 hours away. That past time is judging the whether Academy made the right decision. So we will take a look at the films that almost were the “Best”. We’ve gone over the best of the best pictures, so now we look at the nominees that did not win. We used the same criteria as before: Must be an Oscar Nominee for Best Picture, must be on AFI’s top 100 Movies list, AMC’s Top 100 list, and must be on Roger Ebert’s Top 100 List (why because he is the best). Out of 337 films we narrowed it down to 10, we picked the top five, in our opinion.
5.It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) – This holiday classic is the standard bearer for the phrase Capra-esque. However, it was released in a very good year for the best picture category. In the end, it lost to our favorite The Best Years of Our Lives, but as we all know, it has gone on to be part of everyone’s video library since then, while Best Years faded.
4. Apocalypse Now (1979) – The horror, the horror that this is in fourth place. This epic, that nearly killed Martin Sheen and Francis Ford Coppola, is one of the best films of all time, and is placed here because the following movies just had something a little more. Unfortunately, Apocalypse faced a similar problem during its year, Kramer vs. Kramer won the statue that year appealing to the Academy’s heart strings and not their fear of decapitation.
3. The Wizard of Oz (1939) – This classic gets to number three because of three reasons. One, if you have not seen this movie during your childhood, then we hope you enjoyed growing up in Soviet Russia. Two, the songs for the film are still classics and are still sung to this day. Three, whether it is a story of a crazy munchkin or Dark Side of the Moon matching up, this movie is constantly reemerging into the social consciousness every ten years or so. Unfortunately for the producers, it had to go up against the juggernaut of Gone With the Wind.
2. Citizen Cane (1941) – Regarded as the best movie of all time, this classic was snubbed by the Academy and apparently us as well. There is no denying Orson Welles‘ genius, and this was literally a flip of a coin for us. It’s year or nomination it was in competition with other classics like The Maltese Falcon and Sergeant York, but all lost to How Green Was My Valley.
1. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) – Stanley Kubrick was one of the most ignored filmmakers by the Academy. Three of his films were nominated for best picture, and none of which were 2001, which he won his only Oscar for best special effects. Strangelove makes the top of our list because it is a classic film and snub by the Academy. It was a black comedy about nuclear annihilation during the Cold War, Peter Sellers give three pitch perfect performances in one film, George C. Scott is unforgettable, one name Slim Pickens, and many more reasons. Perhaps the most annoying though is looking at its fellow nominees. Becket, Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady (which won), and Zorba the Greek joined Strangelove. None of which made any of the lists that we used to filter the nominees. Strangelove is regarded as timeless classic, but this is concerning the same organization that did give Crash the Oscar.
ALL THINGS OSCAR.
Each year the Oscars look at three categories of short film: animated, live-action and documentary. These are the ballot categories that can make or break an Oscar office pool, mind you. But they are well worth viewing and luckily for us, in the last few years, packages of the shorts have been available for viewing both before and after the Oscars in art house cinemas. I usually try to catch at least one of the categories and this year it was the Documentary Shorts.
While there are actually five films nominated, only four can be seen in the program—this it turns out is a problem of rights (and run time) which prevents us from seeing “God is the Bigger Elvis,” the story of Dolores Hart, an early 60s Hollywood starlet who became a nun. I was sorry to miss seeing this since it has already received an Op Ed from none other than Maureen Dowd of the NYT! But we will be able to catch it on HBO where it will premiere on April 5.
Nonetheless the other four films were seriously good and well worth watching. In the order shown:
Incident in New Baghdad by James Spione takes one of the most shocking moments of the Iraq War – the 2007 videotape, released to the public by WikiLeaks, of a US helicopter attack that resulted in the deaths of two journalists and several unarmed Iraqis – and views it from the vantage point of US infantryman Ethan McCord, who pulled two wounded children to safety and has since become a vocal proponent for peace.
“Saving Face’’ by Daniel Junge introduces us to number of Pakistani women whose husbands and boyfriends have thrown acid in their faces. 100 such attacks are reported each year in Pakistan with many others going unreported. Junge focuses on two victims, Zakia and Rukshana, as well as a London-based Pakistani plastic surgeon who donates his time and talent to helping them. In the course of the film, we get to see legislation passed which for the first time will punish the men who comment these horrific acts. The courage of particularly Zakia is remarkable. This documentary was produced in part by HBO and will air on March 8.
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom’’ by Lucy Walker opens with a remarkable single four-minute video shot from a hand-held camera (probably a cell phone) showing us a small town being steadily wiped off the map by a giant wave, while individuals desperately try to run up a hill in front of them to save themselves. The footage makes real what we just read about or see on TV. While the film does show the aftermath of the tsumani, it more importantly concentrates on the will to survive and rebuild, using the Japanese love of beauty as represented by the annual blooming of the cherry trees as a metaphor of acceptance and transcendence. An inspiring piece for sure.
The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement was directed by Gail Dolgin and Robin Fryday and allows us to meet 85 year old James Armstrong, a barber who participated in the 1955 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, as well as many others. Armstrong is a wonderful and colorful character with humor and amazing dignity. His barbershop is covered in photos which document the years of struggle for civil rights. The movie catches Mr. Armstrong on the eve of Obama’s inauguration and believe me, he is thrilled that, as Martin Luther King promised them all, the marchers have reached the promised land. A poignant reminder to all of us who are becoming cynical about politics and voting that there are those among us who sacrificed for the privilege.
And the Oscar goes to….who knows? The current fan favorite is the Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. With that said, fans aren’t the ones voting. So good luck with your choice!
- Get your ballots ready (print one here) and tune into E!’s Red Carpet rundown starting
- THIS SUNDAY, February 26th at 1:30 p.m. ET .
- Then pray for Billy Crystal when the show starts on ABC at 8:30 p.m. ET.
- Check out our Oscar Menu for this year —and feel free to add some more ideas of your own!
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS black vodka martinis
THE DESCENDANTS pineapple salsa with Hawaiian chips
MONEY (cheese) BALL with crackerjack
THE ARTIST BLACKened WHITE fish (served in silence)
EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY GREEN steamed broccoli
THE HELP—Chocolate pie, naturally!
THE TREE OF LIFEsavers after dinner
This weekend, Serious Movie Lover will be attending the AMC Best Picture Showcase for the third consecutive year. Hooray for tradition! Or ruts! Have you heard of this thing? Every year AMC shows all of the Best Picture nominees (either divided up over two consecutive Saturdays before the Oscar ceremony or all in one day, for the real crazies) in most of their theaters. (Check here for one in your area!) If you love candy, stadium seating, other kinds of candy, introverts, and the delirium that can only come with watching several disparate films in quick succession, this is the event for you! And in between the films, while you are powering up on soft pretzels and a bucket of Sprite, the theater manager often comes out and asks how everyone enjoyed the last film (“Woo!”) and gives out prizes like Jane Eyre bookmarks and Green Lantern T-shirts for correct movie trivia answers. This gets VERY competitive when you have been drinking Sprite all day. It is great!
Tomorrow’s lineup, “Two Traditionally Attractive Men and a Horsey,” features War Horse, Moneyball, The Tree of Life, and The Descendants. The Saturday, February 25 lineup, “Movies We Must Endure So We Can Yell Snide Things During the Oscar Ceremony,” is Hugo, The Help, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Artist, and Midnight in Paris. 2011: Year of a Bunch of Duds? Where the hell were the Coens? Should we sneak in flasks on the 25th or what? Maybe that is not the best idea. Never Forget the day we were booted from Creve Coeur 12 for loudly throwing shade at a fictional 9/11 orphan.
It is that time year, OSCAR‘s is soon to be upon us. For us movie lovers, this is the culmination of a year of disappointments and triumphs. So we thought before we hear the winners from this year we look back at the best of the best of Oscar. These are the top five movies that won the Best Picture award since the Academy Awards began back in 1927. We whittled the over all list of 83 winners down to five by using the following criteria: Must be an Oscar winner for Best Picture, must be on AFI’s top 100 Movies list, AMC’s Top 100 list, and must be on Roger Ebert’s Top 100 List (why because he is the best). Then we here at Serious Movie Lover chose from the remaining 10.
5. Annie Hall – (1977) The lone comedy on this list, and maybe one of the best ever. The instant classic that made Woody Allen not just another funny comedy writer also stands as the last comedy to win the statue. Along with Allen’s steady self doubt, Diane Keaton gives her Oscar winning performance.
4. On the Waterfront - (1954) The most analyzed movie on this list gives us the quintessential Brando performance of all time. Elia Kazan‘s anti-Communist film centered around the dock worker who could (everyone say it together) “Have been a contender.” With its win, On the Waterfront became a classic and one of the most divisive Cold War/Black List Era movies of all time.
3. The Godfather 1 & 2 – (1972 & 1974) We know, they are two separate movies, but let face it, you cannot watch one without the other. Go ahead and try. It is like baseball and beer, one should not be enjoyed without the other. So we place this as one movie for right now. Do we really need to describe these to you? No, you know them you love them, and the Michael Corelone in you wants to know why it is not number one.
2. Casablanca – (1943) In some circles this is regarded as the best movie of all time due to its near perfection of movie making. It has one of the best casts in a non-heist type movie. It is tough to top Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Raines, Peter Lorre, just to name a few. Then throw in some Nazi’s long lost romance, a budding friendship, and the oddly appealing acting style of Peter Lorre…you can’t lose.
1. The Best Years of Our Lives – (1946) Sure this can’t beat the star power of Casablanca, but how about a ton of seasoned character actors. The Best Years tells the story of three returning World War II veterans. Each has a different path. One is haunted by his experiences and turns to liquor, another finds the fan fair of a war hero to be non-existent and instead of finding a better life has to return to his job of being a soda jerk, and finally a disabled veteran who survives only to lose his hands and be the object of pity to everyone. This earned an Oscar for the lead actor Fredric March, and a supporting one for Harold Russell who was the living embodiment of his character having lost his hands in a grenade accident during training. This was also a feather in the cap of William Wyler who took home best director. All said this movie is the benchmark by which the Academy should judge best picture nominees by.
PINA (2011/ In Theaters) With this film, Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire, Buena Vista Social Club) delivers a fascinating and moving 3D tribute to the late choreographer and dancer Pina Bausch. The documentary had been planned for many years when Bausch died suddenly of cancer at the age of 68–just before filming was to start. Wenders continued on and created his “Film for Pina Bausch” using clips of actual performances, intercut with new interpretations and moving tributes danced and spoken by members of her company. If you, like me, are unfamiliar with the work of Pina, here are a few things to know before you buy your ticket to this film. First, this is modern dance in the fullest sense, with a typical Germanic bent for the avant-garde. For example, the two most famous of Pina’s works are shown: her interpretation of the Rite of Spring (1975) performed on a stage filled with dirt, and Café Müller (1978), in which dancers stumble around the stage crashing into tables and chairs in a stark space. Second, there is no real storyline here—Wenders was not out to tell us Pina’s story; rather, we are watching the results of her work over 40 years and more importantly her influence over the members of her company. The modern dance performances and re-interpretations are shown to us several ways, including in the studio of today, as recorded originally, or in naturalistic settings (i.e. on the subway, in gardens, in streets, etc.). Finally, just as a warning, there are some rather disturbing themes which emerge in the dance pieces particularly involving interactions between women and men—often with women in what appear to be highly subservient positions. Not a film for everyone, but I found it well worth the price of admission, even with the 3D up-charge.
Posted for Justin by Sarah G.
THE GREY (2012/In Theaters)
Do you like wolves? Plane crashes? Watching Liam Neeson struggle to survive? If so, then you will love The Grey. This is a fantastic movie about a group of men trapped in the Alaska wilderness who have to combat the cold, the snow, and intruding wolf packs. Directed by Joe Carnahan, this movie depicts a survival situation that no one would want to find themselves in. This movie is intense and emotional, especially the effective lead performance by Neeson (along with many others). It is loaded with great cinematography, great effects, and no CGI. The cast and crew worked outside in the freezing cold while making the movie and surrounded themselves with actual wolf packs. In fact, Neeson is under fire from PETA for eating wolf meat during the shooting. (Being a movie star, I don’t understand why he just didn’t go for filet mignon.) I am a huge fan of survival movies and this one is one of the best I’ve seen in a while. I compare it to Deliverance, Into the Wild, and Alive. Anyone will enjoy this film, and a lot already have, seeing that it won the box office on its opening weekend. See it and be prepared to be scared the next time you see a big dog on the street.
HAYWIRE (2011/IN THEATERS) The previews for Stephen Soderbergh’s latest effort looked pretty darn good. Featuring a boatload of good looking faces including Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton, and Michael Douglas, and introducing real-life kick-ass MMA superstar Gina Carano as the main character Mallory Kane (a woman’s version of Jason Bourne), the previews promised lots of action combined with classic Soderbergh arty filmmaking. Critics like the film and have given it an 86% positive Rotten Tomatoes rating. Audiences on the other hand have reacted quite differently, voting the movie a D+ Cinemascore and a low 46% on RT. The plot of the film (which is very thin) has us following Mallory Kane as she makes her way from upstate New York to her father’s house in New Mexico, pursued by her former employer and lover Kenneth (McGregor) who has set her up in her last jobs in Barcelona and Dublin, and is clearly looking to polish her off. Why, we don’t know and won’t know until a final “reveal” at the end. As Mallory waits in a small coffee shop, her friend/colleague (or enemy?) Aaron (Tatum) enters and asks her to leave with him. When she refuses, he throws hot coffee in her face and starts to smash her head into the floor. Not to worry, though, since our girl is able to eventually break his arm and knock him unconscious. Hey! It is an action picture after all. Through a series of flashbacks we see that Mallory’s past week has been full of action—including at least one person posing as her partner who is also trying to kill her (Fassbender, in a small but well played part). He dies too. I won’t spoil the movie for you by giving more plot details, but let’s just say this is no “Bourne Identity.” For some reason, despite all these attractive and talented actors, and some cool editing and music, the picture is not at all suspenseful and feels slow. It could be the story-line and the absence of any clever dialog. But perhaps the biggest problem is Gina Carano herself. She is a real-life MMA superstar and that shows on screen. But unfortunately she can’t act and since she is the centerpiece of the picture, that’s a problem which is hard to overcome. My advice: wait for the DVD—this will be a perfect popcorn movie one of these long winter nights.
ALBERT NOBBS (2011/IN THEATERS) Congratulations are in order for Glenn Close who has been working for years to create this film after playing the part of Albert Nobbs on stage in 1982. Set in 19th century Dublin, the movie tells the story of Albert, who works as a waiter in an upper middle-class residential hotel owned and run by Mrs. Baker (Pauline Collins). Albert is “an odd little man,” according to both hotel guests and staff, but he’s good as his job and attentive in his own way. Little do they know just how “odd” he is—since he’s in fact not a man at all, but a woman, who has been disguised for over 30 years without detection. Exceedingly quiet, Albert observes much and says little, but up in his room he is stashing away his tips under the floorboards. Life seems to be moving as normal until one day when Mrs. Baker assigns him a roommate in the form of Mr. Page, a painter working in the hotel for a day or so. Albert is petrified of being discovered but instead finds a kindred spirit in Page (a very strong Janet McTeer) and begins to dream of using his savings to buy a little shop and start a new life. As part of that life, he’ll need a wife and so he also begins to pursue the young and high-spirited waitress Helen (Mia Wasikowska) who is already in love with the handsome “waster” Joe (Aaron Johnson) who works as the handyman for the establishment. It’s an odd little movie with the feel of a BBC period production. The costumes and detail are wonderful, and the performances of the ensemble cast (which includes Brendan Gleeson and Jonathan Rhys Meyers among others) are uniformly strong. Still, it’s hard to identify with the story. Perhaps it’s best to appreciate it as the labor of love it is for Glenn Close—she not only stars as the title character but also is one of the producers, co-wrote the screenplay, and even wrote the lyrics for “Lay Your Head Down,” sung by Sinead O’Connor during the closing credits. You have to admire that much dedication and of course, we’ll be seeing Ms. Close at the Oscars where she is nominated for Best Actress. Good luck to her!
BTW: Janet McTeer is also up for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and for the same award from the Independent Spirits.
ALSO: The movie is up for a 3rd Oscar for Makeup. To learn more about the transformation of Glenn Close into Albert Nobbs, be sure to watch the featurette at IMDB.