Posts published under “All Things Oscar”
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (2012/ DVD) Ever heard of a musician named Rodriguez? Me neither until I watched this wonderful 90-minute documentary from Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul who apparently has a calling for producing films about musicians. Who knew? This one begins in South Africa with fans of a U.S. singer/songwriter/guitarist named Sixto Rodriguez, a mysterious performer from Detroit who put out two albums in the early 70s. Both were critical hits but neither made the charts. In fact, both of them bombed big-time and Rodriguez “disappeared” like so many others before and after him. Come to find out, bootleg copies of those albums, especially the first one entitled “Cold Fact,” found their way to South Africa and became rallying cries for the young white “hippies” who were ready to over-throw Apartheid. Of course, all those young fans in South Africa assumed that Rodriguez was a huge rock star, equal to Bob Dylan, the Stones and others. Eventually they heard wild stories about the singer dying—setting himself on fire—shooting himself on stage following the rejection of his latest songs.
Finally, in the late 1990s, two Cape Town fans–Stephen ‘Sugar” Segerman and Craig Bartholmew Strydom–decided to find out what really happened to their hero. This documentary follows their efforts and cleverly makes us pursue the trail along with them, sharing in their discoveries that turned out to be nothing short of fabulous. Even if you find the start of the film a little hard to follow, don’t worry. You’ll be rewarded as you stick with this tale—maybe you already know the ending. I won’t spoil it here. But let’s just say….Mr. Rodriguez might just be performing in your town soon!
P.S. Here’s a Wikipedia fun fact for you film fans. “Initially using 8 mm film to record some scarce, stylized shots for the movie, director Bendjelloul ran out of money for more film to record the final few shots. He resorted to filming the remaining stylized shots on his smartphone using an iPhone app called 8mm Vintage Camera to complete the film.” Cool….
Soooo…what did you guys think of the Academy Awards? Was Seth MacFarlane a great host or the greatest host? Was Kristen Stewart’s hair the most beautiful and well-combed? Sigh. 2012 was a strange year, so we suppose our Oscars should be the same. Here are some of the most cringe-inducing and breathtaking moments, as judged by your SML friends, which will be as scattered as the ceremony. It’s a theme.
Cringe inducing moments:
Kimberly: *The odd banter between the stars of The Avengers–after ABC promoted their “reunion” on stage all week, it ended up being so awkward and anticlimactic. The chemistry they had in the movie was nonexistent.
*Poor Kirsten Chenoweth performing that song about losers over the closing credits–she’s always a good sport, but that was tacky. Also, this isn’t the Tonys!
*Kristen Stewart’s hair/attitude were a little lacking.
*Jennifer Lawrence winning over Emmanuelle Riva was disappointing. She hasn’t earned it yet.
Rebecca: *What exactly was that awkward intro from Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy? Did they practice that? Not good that it came so early in the broadcast either.
* How about Catherine Zeta Jones’ obvious lip syncing in that unnecessary “Chicago” tribute? Lame.
*And speaking of Chicago, Renee Zellweger both looked and acted seriously out of it, yes? Booze or botox? Rumor blames it on the latter (as in, so much you can no longer move your mouth or speak clearly).
Sarah: *That suuuper long intro featuring Captain Kirk was not very funny (aside from the sock puppets) and, like a lot of the broadcast, oddly outdated. Blog jokes? Really?
*Same goes for Mark Wahlberg and Ted’s anti-semetic bit. In addition to being straight up offensive, that whole “Jews run Hollywood” schtick is also plain lazy.
*John Travolta in his fanciest lace-front wig trying to pronounce “Les Miserables.”
*Finally, I have nothing but love and respect for our First Lady, but that speech at the end seemed a little out of place, yes? Kick ass dress, though, Michelle. Gorge.
Kimberly: *Babs, of course (especially loved how she bantered right into the song–classic).
*Hugh Jackman running up to help Jennifer Lawrence when she stumbled on the stairs (always the gentleman).
*Jane Fonda’s dress/bod.
*Quentin Tarantino and his askew tie winning Best Screenplay–not sure that it was deserved, but it was a fun surprise.
Rebecca: *The “Flight” sock puppets cracked up my group—we had seen the movie together and felt they were dead on!!
*The Les Miserables cast was seriously rousing in their live perrformance–better than the movie really (shorter, for one thing!).
*Happy to see Ang Lee get his 2nd Directing Oscar–well deserved both times.
*Daniel Day Lewis gave the best of the speeches IMHO. Loved his Margaret Thatcher swap line.
Sarah: *As Kimberly already noted, Babs’ “We shared so many…meeemmrieeeees…” was incredible. National treasure. See also, “GOOOOOLDFINGAH!”
*Christoph Waltz! Two time Oscar winner!
*The long flowing silver locks of at least three male Oscar winners that I can think of. Let it fly, gentlemen! It’s your night!
*Halle Berry’s dress. Charlize Theron’s face and hair and dress and whole being. Perfection.
*Adelle’s classy understated performance of the best Bond song since Goldfinger was the man with the Midas touch.
Classy New Yorker thoughts.
A history of Oscar ties (not the bolo vs bow variety).
Slate’s always fun discussion of the festivities.
OSCAR WEEK PLANNING–- It’s that time again and we are excited. Although this year’s list of nominated Best Pictures presented quite a challenge for menu planning, our fearless SML contributor and follower Be has come up with courses the fit the occasion.
Check them out! And let us know your plans in the Comments section. Happy viewing and eating this Sunday. Be sure to catch our continuing Oscar themed posts all this week and next Monday.
Beasts of the Southern Wild:
Fried catfish tidbits with bathtub gin martinis
Warm salad of pigeon breasts “smothered” in a light bacon and shallot sauce
Life of Pi:
Vegaterian Indian potato pie served with “mock” tiger sauce
(Actual restaurant name in Ohio) Django western tacos with negra refritos
(As in “argonaut,” a band of heros sailing with Jason in quest of the golden fleece) Iranian lamb kabobs
Silver Linings Playbook:
Crazy, mixed up cake with silver dragees on top
Lincoln log rolls of cream cheese mixed with southern peaches and pecan nuts
Zero Dark Thirty:
Thirty pieces of zero-calorie dark chocolate
If all this food is making you miserable, stop eating, lose weight and you’ll sing the praise of oatmeal and gruel.
It’s that time again! Can you smell the smuggled booze in the air? For the 4th year running (nope, sitting/slouching), SML will be attending the AMC Best Picture Showcase! For a full explanation of the magic, click here and enjoy an Uggie joke. We miss you, doggie!
Saturday’s lineup, “Let’s Get These Two Out of the Way Nice and Early,” is Amour, Les Miserables, Argo, and Django Unchained. Hope you like dead ladies! The body count will be nearly as high as our soft pretzel intake. (Sometimes we wish we were instead going to see Side Effects, then maybe enjoying a leisurely dinner/discussion about Channing Tatum’s ability to veer between lunkhead and cutest-boy-in-your-grade, but that’s OK! We press on so we have more things to shout during our Oscar viewing party, which will be Reform, as usual.)
The Saturday, February 23, lineup patronizes our intelligence with Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Lincoln (Tommy Lee Jones: it’s all led up to this history wig), and Silver Linings Playbook–then we kill Bin Laden and all go home! USA! USA!
AMOUR (2012/IN THEATERS) “Bittersweet”—that’s the best word to describe this loving and realistic portrait of a Parisian married couple in their 80s, whose cultured life is coming to an end. Anne and Georges (Emmanuelle Riva and Jean Louis Trintignant, both in their 80s in real life) live in their well worn but elegant apartment–a home filled with books and paintings, lovely carpets and simple furniture. They ride the subway home from a concert where Anne’s former student, now a famous classical pianist, has mesmerized an audience. Life appears to be a comfortable duet. Yet the next morning, everything changes. Anne freezes at the table, after presenting Georges with his traditional soft-boiled egg. She is gone for several minutes but returns, though unable to pour her tea. When we see Anne again, she is home from the hospital but is paralyzed on her right side, “bad luck” after a fairly routine medical procedure. Responding to her urgent and stern request, Georges promises she will never visit a hospital again. And so it begins. For anyone who has cared for an elderly parent, friend or relative, this movie will look so familiar. It doesn’t matter that this is France—it could be anywhere. The rest of the film is a day-to-day look at the continuing slide in physical capacity for one person plus the devotion and challenges of the caretaker. Georges and Anne are clearly devoted to one another. Though they have a daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), she lives overseas and has her own challenges. Her father tells her she is no help and this is true. She is outside the routine and habit that these two have built over many years. It is difficult to explain just how powerful this film is—it moves slowly, befitting the subject. And while my friend and I came ready with tons of Kleenex, we didn’t need them. The end is inevitable and both face it as they must, still with love for one another. Up for 5 Oscars– Best Picture, Best Director, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay—this film is already the winner of the 2012 Palme d’Or at Cannes and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. It was written and directed by Michael Haneke who also gave us The White Ribbon, Cache, The Piano Teacher and many more. French audiences are thrilled to see two of their favorite actors back on screen and so magnificent. Maybe you remember Jean Louis Trintignant in “A Man and A Woman”—so handsome. I remember Emmanuelle Riva well from “Hiroshima Mon Amour.” Beautiful and sad, even then. Amour is just what it’s title says–a portrait of love. Be sure to see it.
Last night’s SAG awards were rather boring and unflatteringly attired, but they did provide some stuff for the Internets to talk about today. Highlights for me were acting wins for Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin on this, the last week ever for 30 Rock. (Best joke of the night: In her acceptance speech, Fey shared the award with fellow-nominee Amy Poehler saying “I’ve known you since you were pregnant with Lena Dunham.” Love those two.) Voting for these awards actually overlaps more with the Oscars than the Globes voting does, so I’ll be interested to see if last night’s wins for Jennifer Lawrence (Best Actress) and Tommy Lee Jones (Best Supporting Actor) carry over to The Big Show.
Vulture wonders if Argo’s win for Best Cast means it’s a stronger bet than previously thought for Best Picture over Lincoln:
The full list of winners: http://www.vulture.com/2013/01/sag-awards-2013-winners-list.html
And, most notably, dresses:
ZERO DARK THIRTY (2012/IN THEATERS) Up for 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Original Screenplay, it is still shocking to think that Kathryn Bigelow was left off the Oscar Best Director nominee list. Of course, the common assumption is that she is being punished by liberal Hollywood for including realistic (and very uncomfortable) scenes of Americans using torture in her picture. Depiction is not endorsement, says Bigelow, most recently in her LA Times Op Ed. Why not focus your disapproval on our government that even now allows some level of “enhanced interrogation” in the continuing war on terrorism. Bigelow stands by her film, scripted by former journalist Mark Boal who also wrote the screenplay for their previous Oscar winning partnership on “The Hurt Locker.” Of note, the two had originally been working on a film about the search for Bin Laden, centering on the December 2001 failed Tora Bora effort and in fact, were about to begin filming when news broke that he had been killed in Pakistan. They quickly redirected their focus and created a film as intense as anything you will see in the theater and completely absorbing. The 157 minute movie basically breaks into three parts, all anchored by the character of Maya (Jessica Chastain), a tough as nails CIA analyst who just won’t take no for an answer. It’s the opening portion that introduces the audience to torture and to Maya, who looks slim and frail but quickly reveals her steely self.
“Washington says she’s a killer,” says one of her new cohorts in Afghanistan. Working with a seasoned analyst named Dan (Australian Jason Clarke), Maya soon becomes a major force on the Bin Laden team. Joining her at the table is Jessica (Jennifer Ehle), another woman who has been working hard to find the needle in the haystack….and that’s what this movie really depicts so well. My favorite part is right in the middle of the film, when a ground crew uses a cell phone signal to track the courier who will eventually lead them to Bin Laden himself. As the CIA ground team drives literally in circles trying to spot someone they have never even seen, the camera pulls back to reveal the chaos of the marketplace. It’s an effective reminder of just how difficult this task was and how impressive the ultimate CIA effort was. The final part of the film is equally effective, re-enacting the raid on the compound in Pakistan where Bin Laden was located and killed. The Seal Team 6 guys are portrayed as focused but still human and the use of night vision green makes it all seem real. It’s hard to think of any way that this film could be better—I highly recommend it. Kudos to Bigelow and Boal—they are every bit as tough as their heroine Maya.
Jodie Foster, what? The real story about last night’s Golden Globe Awards is that Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler KILLED as hosts. They should be all-time hosts of everything from now on. Done. Stay home, MacFarland. Don’t even try, seriously.
Here’s a sampling of what the Interwebs are saying about the highs and lows of the show and the dresses…
THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012/IN THEATERS) Based on a true story, this film presents the harrowing experience of one family who happened to be vacationing in Thailand when the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami hit. While the real life family is Spanish, in the film they are British and enjoying a Christmas beach holiday. The tsunami, as you may remember, hit with literally no warning on December 26th (Boxing Day) when the Thai beaches were overflowing with European tourists, many of whom died. The event is depicted in an incredibly realistic fashion…and it is truly horrifying. As the movie opens, we meet Maria (Naomi Watts) and her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor), who are flying in with their three boys: Lucas (Tom Holland), the oldest at 10 years; Thomas (Samuel Joslin), the middle child, a bit of a whiner, is 7 1/2; and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast), the youngest, is 5. We see the family as they arrive at their beachfront hotel, which looks lovely and boasts a nice swimming pool. Christmas arrives, presents are opened and everything is going great until tragedy strikes—and it strikes so quickly and so devastatingly. If you’ve seen the preview, you’ll remember the wave hitting as the family is enjoying their morning in the pool. The impact is unreal…with water destroying everything in its path. When we finally see Maria again, she is holding onto a palm tree for dear life. Amazingly she sees Lucas floating by and begins to yell for him and to swim toward him. The two eventually manage to pull themselves out of the waters, though by this time, Maria has been stabbed deeply in both her leg and chest by a sharp plant and is bleeding, while both are beat up by the debris that swirled in the tsunami waters. Luckily a group of local individuals transport them to the nearest hospital—which is itself a chaotic scene of injured and lost individuals.
Meanwhile, Henry has found the two youngest boys and is desperately searching for Lucas and Maria—we feel his growing panic. The bulk of the film actually deals with the miracle of uniting all five members of this family and of the increasingly desperate condition of Maria—an incredible story and the telling of it is extremely well done. Kudos to Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona (The Orphanage) and to Sergio Sanchez, who created the screenplay which is based on Maria Belon’s story — thankfully she survived to tell her tale. Naomi Watt’s strong and realistic portrayal of Maria has been nominated for a serious trifecta: an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a SAG Award. Good for her, I say, and well deserved. But my personal favorite actor in the movie is young Tom Holland (Lucas) who has already been nominated for a number of “break through” awards. Let’s watch for more from this talented young man.
A SEPARATION (2011/IN THEATERS) This year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film was awarded to an Iranian film, a first for the Oscar. Universally admired, “A Separation” is a well acted, well scripted and well shot small film that shows us a side of Iran we seldom, if ever, hear about—that is, the real life of the middle class there and how a legal system works in concert with the Muslim religion. Written and directed by Asghar Farhadi, the film introduces us to Nader and Simin (Peyman Moadi and Leila Hatami), a married middle-class couple in Tehran, who have a sweet 11-year-old daughter, Termeh (Sarina Farhadi). Nader’s senile father also lives with them. They have agreed in principle to move abroad, where they hope Termeh’s prospects might be better. Simin is ready to leave now—in fact, she’s in a hurry, since the Visa they have been granted will expire in 40 days. Nader feels the responsibility to stay for his father’s sake and firmly decides to remain in Iran, leading Simin to file for divorce. In the opening sequence of the film, the two sit in front of a family court judge who decides that their problems do not warrant divorce and rejects Simin’s application. Disappointed, Simin (who comes across as a very modern woman, IMHO) leaves her husband and moves back in with her parents—thus, the title of the movie. Made to choose between her parents, Termeh elects to stay with her father, hoping all the time for her mother’s return. Nader hires Razieh, a young, pregnant and deeply religious woman from a poor suburb, to take care of his father while he works at a bank. But the task is literally overwhelming for Razieh who, according to her religion, should not be working for a single man at all, particularly without asking her husband’s permission. The plot thickens and eventually we meet Razieh’s hot-headed husband and find ourselves back in front of another judge, this time for criminal charges which are being filed from both sides. I won’t spoil the story for you, but suffice it to say that the film is a brilliant illustration of good intentions gone bad. while the characters are so well-rounded that we alternately sympathize with each one and yet are terribly frustrated with all of them. The movie is a little over two hours long but I think you will be completely absorbed by the story right up to the end. Highly recommended for foreign film lovers of all stripes.
BTW: “A Separation” has many other awards, including the Golden Bear for Best Film and the Silver Bears for Best Actress and Best Actor at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival, where it was the first Iranian film to win these awards as well. It was also nominated for a 2nd Oscar for Best Original Screenplay—that award, of course, went to Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris.”