Monthly Archives: February 2013

Oscars 2013: These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

It’s easy to be cynical about an awards show that’s basically an over long, overly expensive way for Hollywood to congratulate itself. But no matter what, I look forward to the Oscars every year. It’s like my Super Bowl. So instead of complaining and mocking, I will instead present some of my favorite things about this year’s ceremony (After the Jump):

Seth MacFarlene Makes Me Laugh

For those of you that know me, making me laugh is not necessarily the hardest thing in the world. However, I came into this expecting to hate MacFarlene’s hosting job. However, I need to learn not to underestimate one of the hardest working people in show business. The verdict on him has been split, but MacFarlene killed it in his monologue, with some zingers that were a bit too edgy for the bordering-on-PC crowd (come on guys, are you really offended by a Mel Gibson joke?). MacFarlene maintained and a high energy and self-deprecating mood throughout the show. Also a big hit for me was the boob song. I laughed. A lot of people found it sexist. So either a lot of people are way too sensitive, or I’m just sexist.

James Bond Tribute

Outside technical categories, 007 has never been a favorite of Oscar voters. However, the series is becoming harder to ignore in recent years. Maybe to compensate for the egregious snub of Javier Bardem, the Oscars paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of James Bond. The clip show was fine and maybe not necessary, but getting to see Shirley Bassey belt out the classic “Goldfinger” theme was a treat. I really do wish they also could have brought Nancy Sinatra and Paul McCartney to sing “You Only Live Twice” and “To Live and Let Die,” respectively.

Surprise Wins

Winners have been pretty predictable the past few years, and there were certainly some sure things tonight. However, this was the first ceremony where I felt that a majority categories were completely up  for grabs. Ang Lee looked just as shocked as everyone else when he was called up to the stage for directing “Life of Pi.” Not to mention, there was even a tie tonight. Also, “Django Unchained” surprisingly stole a few categories. Speaking of “Django Unchained”…

Django Unchained Gets Some Love

I expected “Django Unchained” to walk home empty handed. Instead, Christoph Waltz is now 2 for 2, and Tarantino got his first Oscar since “Pulp Fiction.” Waltz was truly the lead in “Django Unchained,” but had he actually been nominated there he surely would have lost to Daniel-Day Lewis. I do hope he shares that statue with the unfortunately snubbed Leonard DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson, who I think both deserved that award just a little bit more (I’m not complaining, though). As for Tarantino, this win is perhaps an apology for the fact that “Inglourious Basterds” lost to Mark Boal’s script for “The Hurt Locker” in the same category three years ago. With Boal nominated this year for “Zero Dark Thirty,” Quentin got his own little taste of vengeance.

Jennifer Lawrence

No one was surprised when the 22-year-old won for “Silver Linings Playbook.” However, no one could have foreseen her tripping on her dress to be more memorable than her speech. Lawrence, per usual, handled it with grace and good humor. Then backstage, she lit up a stuffy press conference by confessing “I just took a shot.” She is the rare movie star who doesn’t seem like a PR spewing machine. She’s the rare celebrity who’s not afraid to say what she means, and always manages to be the more likable for it. Oh, and yes, she acted the hell out of that movie.

Daniel Day-Lewis the Comedian

Of course Daniel Day-Lewis won for his convincing transformation into Abraham Lincoln. When he went up to accept his award, he suddenly took his serious face off with some great jokes. The best might have been the one about Meryl Streep originally auditioning for the part of Lincoln. I’m not sure if this whole speech was genuine, or if Daniel Day-Lewis was just method acting for a future George Carlin biopic.*

Ben Affleck’s Speech

I liked “Argo” a lot, but I don’t think it deserved to win Best Picture. However, Affleck’s speech made it worth it. Here is someone who’s career nearly ended 10 years ago (2003: the year of “Gigli” and “Daredevil”). After he slowed down, Affleck delivered a speech that was humble, moving, and inspirational. Affleck has come a long way, but to me he will always be the guy with the best lines in “Mallrats.”

Jack Nicholson Has No Idea Where He Is

Nicholson is a staple of the Oscars. Granted, the man is getting old, but I don’t think he knew why Michelle Obama was suddenly on a giant screen above him. I almost expected him to shout, “go Lakers!”

Russell Crowe Sings

Quite simply put, this was by far the funniest moment of the night. Please let this man host next year. And please make him sing the entire ceremony while reading off all of his Tweets.

Basically his entire Twitter feed.

*Or Richard Pryor, if Daniel Day-Lewis actually decides to be a real life Kirk Lazarus.

The Oscars: Who Will Win

Best Picture

Who knew that Ben Affleck’s Oscar snub would be the best possible thing for him? Ever since his name was not included on the Best Director list, Hollywood has rallied around “Argo.” Lately, I have been rooting for Affleck, because I love a good redemption story. However, the fact that Affleck still doesn’t have an Oscar isn’t as bad, considering Scorsese just won his first one less than a decade ago. Affleck is still young and he has a long career of Oscar nominations ahead of him. But that won’t stop the Academy. “Argo” is a good, old-fashioned thriller about Hollywood. And if Hollywood loves anything, it’s congratulating themselves. Expect “Argo” to be the first film since “Driving Miss Daisy” to win Best Picture without a nominated director to accompany it.

Best Director

“Life of Pi” was lauded nearly across the board for its visuals. “Amour” is a critical favorite and Haneke could score a surprise win from that. But I doubt it. Spielberg certainly doesn’t need any more praise heaped his way. However, that won’t stop Spielberg from winning this year for bringing an era to life with precise detail. This will be Steven Spielberg‘s third win for Best Director. I don’t think it will be long until he gets a fourth and ties John Ford’s record.

Best Actor

There are some fine performances in this category. Any other year, Bradley Cooper would have walked away with the award. But when Daniel Day-Lewis is nominated, no one can compete.

Best Actress

This race started off as a duel between Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence. For a while, I thought Chastain had it in the bag for her challenging and commanding performance in Zero Dark Thirty. There is a slight chance that veteran Emmanuelle Riva could score a late-in-life sympathy vote. This race though seems like a clear victory for Jennifer Lawrence. Lawrence may only be 22, but she is one of the most likable stars working today and her performance in “Silver Linings Playbook” was so good that she even took Robert De Niro to school.

Best Supporting Actor: 

Tommy Lee Jones held his own against Daniel Day-Lewis in “Lincoln,” which is no easy task. Alan Arkin was a joy to watch in “Argo” as always, but he just won a few years ago. Seeing Christoph Waltz win again would be great, not only because he’s a terrific actor but also because that guy can rock any stage he steps on. This is the toughest race to call, but I think I’m going to have to settle with Robert De Niro in “Silver Linings Playbook.” There’s nothing wrong with honoring a good, heartfelt comeback.

Best Supporting Actress

No analysis needed. Anne Hathaway (for “Les Mis,” not “The Dark Knight Rises,” in case you were confused) has this one in the bag.

And the rest:

Best Original Screenplay: Zero Dark Thirty
Best Adapted Screenplay: Argo
Best Animated Feature: Wreck-It Ralph
Best Documentary: Searching for Sugar Man
Best Foreign Film: Amour
Best Editing: Argo
Best Cinematography: Life of Pi
Best Visual Effects: Life of Pi
Best Costume Design: Les Miserables
Best Production Design: Les Miserables
Best Makeup: Les Miserables
Best Original Score: Lincoln
Best Original Song: Skyfall
Best Sound Mixing: Les Miserables
Best Sound Editing: Argo
Best Documentary Short: Open Heart
Best Animated Short: The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare
Best Live Action Short: Asad

Oscars 2013: Who Should Win

Best Picture: Django Unchained

I probably don’t need to bring this one up again. But this is my blog so back off! Anyway, Quentin Tarantino continues to push the form forward more and more as others try to resist change. More than anything, “Django” was the most interesting, and often the funniest, film of the year. By embracing inaccuracy, it provided a more accurate satire of backwards southern nobility than any serious historical film could ever dream up. The fact that “Django” both balanced a somber condemnation of slavery with farce on the level of “Blazing Saddles” is still a marvel to me. As the Academy voters grow younger and younger, one day they will embrace Tarantino for the master he is, and his films for the masterpieces they almost always are.

Best Director: Michael Haneke (Amour)

Maybe “Amour” went on a little too long for my taste, but I cannot overlook Haneke’s haunting work. Sometimes, the emotions behind “Amour” are too overwhelming for me to even think about. Haneke presented aging and old age in such a removed way that it actually draws us closer to the characters. By stepping back, all of the small details and actions are allowed to unfold.

Best Actor: Joaquin Phoneix (The Master)

Phoenix was the unsung hero of cinema in 2012. After his surreal performance art hoax that culminated in the documentary “I’m Not Here,” Phoenix shows why he is secretly one of the best actors working today, in a performance that could define his career. As self-destructive outsider Freddie Quell, Phoenix had to take on the task of both being the observer and the weirdest guy in the room. He roams around with slouched posture, almost resembling an alcoholic caveman. And in a film so dark and difficult to interpret, he provided some very overlooked comic relief. If you didn’t laugh at that fart, then you’re not human.

Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)

As Tiffany, Jennifer Lawrence is masterful at controlling the character’s turbulent mood swings, and channeling all of the right emotion at the right time. That is why the most unforgettable scenes of this film, including one that takes place outside a movie theater on Halloween, and one in which Lawrence basically gets to dig in to Robert De Niro, revolve around her outstanding performance.

Best Supporting Actor: Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)

I was tempted to put Christoph Waltz here for his eloquence and being able to basically be a living embodiment of Tarantino dialogue. However, it wasn’t until I watched Robert De Niro’s return to form in “Silver Linings Playbook” that I realized how much I missed his presence on screen. Unlike his classic performances in “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” De Niro, while tough, actually provides some of the film’s most moving moments. While he manages to steal the spotlight from the two fantastic leads every time he asks that someone hold the remote, he never tries to dominate the screen. In that, he does what every supporting actor should. Only someone with as much experience and talent as De Niro could strike that perfect balance.

Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)

While I never reviewed, anyone who knows me knows that I wasn’t necessarily taken by “Les Miserables.” However, I have just as many good things to say about Hathaway’s performance as I do bad things to say about the film.* In just one scene, she combined acting and singing in a way I’ve never seen before. My biggest complaint about musicals is that big musical numbers can often distract from the emotional core of a scene. However, this was not the case for Hathaway’s big solo. After she finished singing “I Dreamed A Dream,” my only thought was, “Anne Hathaway just won the Oscar.” I stand by that thought.

Best Original Screenplay: Django Unchained

Yes, I’m giving out more “Django” love. Tarantino really does belong near the top of the greatest screenwriters of all time. Some would think that he would have never been able to top his early career Oscar win. However, he keeps getting more and more ambitious with every film. Besides twisting history, “Django Unchained” hits a perfect balance of hilarious absurdity and dead serious historical social commentary. Plus, now that Tarantino has figured out how to write for Christoph Waltz, he was able to create one of his best characters ever. Some scenes might feel like they go on for so long, but I always felt like I could keep watching and listening. Also, Quentin is a man so gifted and knowledgeable that he knows how to create violence that is sometimes silly and other times realistic (listen to his recent Fresh Air interview. He also talks about his mom dating Wilt Chamberlain. Seriously.).

Best Adapated Screenplay: Argo

I was tempted to give this one to “Silver Linings Playbook.” But as well written as that one is, I think it is overwhelmingly a triumph of acting. While “Argo” mostly could have done without the backstory of Mendez’s son (“I just wanna go home and read to my son!” should be a new movie trope), the rest of the film is a classic thriller. The Hollywood scenes are fun and self-referential, but the film also splits equal time with the seriousness of the hostage crisis. “Argo” serves as a study of the fascinating politics of both the U.S. government and the film industry. Mainly, “Argo” delivers the most memorable line of dialogue written in any film this year: “Argo f**k yourself.”