Friday, February 29, 2008

Take Me To Your Leader, Grandpa

Here's an article that claims old people like dogs and robots. Dogs I can understand. You'd have to have a heart made of steel not to melt at the site of a golden retriever puppy. But robots? Old people like robots? It makes me wonder what kind of robots they enjoy. They probably like the robots that clean for them, like Roomba or Rosie from The Jetsons, but I'm guessing they're not too fond of, say, the robots that work in an automotive factory. And they probably hate robots that travel through time in order to kill the man who will lead us in the war against them. Or maybe they like those robots because they're old and want to die before the revolution begins.

No, I haven't read the article yet. I just thought it was a funny headline and needed some precious commentary. Hey, you people were the ones begging for more blog content.

Ur Catz Make Me Chortle

If you found the above picture funny, visit this site. I laughed a hell of a lot at some of the pictures and captions people came up with there. Who knew cats could be so entertaining?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No Oscars for Old Men

The best moment of the Oscar telecast Sunday night was Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova winning Best Song for “Falling Slowly” from Once. After being cut off by the Orchestra Nazis, host Jon Stewart brought Irglova back onstage after a commercial break to say what she should have said before being rudely interrupted. Get used to seeing this clip: It’s guaranteed to make every Oscar montage from this day forward.

I love Once and wish it had gotten more recognition than it did. It truly is a magical film and these guys deserve their little gold guys. Here’s their performance of the song from Sunday night, introduced by everyone’s favorite leprechaun, Colin Ferrell:

The other wonderful moment from the telecast was Marion Cotillard winning Best Actress. As I wrote last week, her performance in La Vie En Rose was the only reason to see the film. Her joyful and honest acceptance speech made me like her even more.

Tilda Swinton wasn’t my favorite, but her speech was interesting. George Clooney should just get used to the fact that everytime he shows up at an award ceremony, someone’s going to mention Batman and Robin.

And, because he gave the performance of the year, here’s the clip everyone talks about from There Will Be Blood. Yes, I’m talking about the milkshake speech.

You wouldn’t know it from that clip, but the rest of his performance was phenomenal. That scene…he’s a bit off the grid in that one.

And there you have it, the 80th Academy Awards ceremony in a Youtube approved nutshell. If you watched all five clips, I just saved you three and a half hours.

Oh, and I guessed 13 of the 19 categories correctly, which means I scored a 68%. A D+, just like in high school!

Friday, February 22, 2008

There Will Be Oscars

The Oscars are Sunday night and, since I’ve seen the majority of the films nominated, I figured I may as well weigh in with my opinions of who should and will win.

But, first, let me say that I pretty much despise the Oscars. They lost their relevancy for me in 1998, when they gave the award to Shakespeare in Love, a stupid comedy that disguised itself as important thanks to its English accents, over Saving Private Ryan. Ryan had its share of flaws – those bookends are God-awful – but it was an important film, one worthy of recognition. Since then, the Academy has favored giving awards to pretty women who make themselves look ugly (Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, etc.) and awarding the top prize to horrible films like Gladiator and Crash. Unfortunately, I can’t help but be swept up in the excitement of it all, so here are my picks. (Note: A * denoates a nominee I haven't seen.)

Michael Clayton
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood

Both Atonement and Michael Clayton were alright, nothing special but watchable. Juno was cute, and I laughed during it, but all I could think of when I left the theater was how hard some of that insufferable dialogue was trying to be hip. I loved There Will Be Blood, but it was more of a setpiece film than a cohesive whole. No Country for Old Men, though, was excellent from beginning to end. Plus it didn’t have a random milkshake speech near the end of it.

What Should Win: No Country for Old Men
What Will Win: No Country for Old Men

George Clooney, Michael Clayton
Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Johnny Depp, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tommy Lee Jones, In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen, Eastern Promises

I wasn’t a fan of George Clooney, but, then again, I’m not a fan of Clooney in general. Did anyone really believe he was a desperate lawyer at the end of his rope? He just came across as too slick for the character. Johnny Depp was fine, but the latter part of his performance was him scowling while slicing people's throats. Tommy Lee Jones was alright, but I thought his work in No Country for Old Men was more deserving of a nomination. Viggo Mortensen was good, but he was more of a supporting role than a major one. That leaves Daniel Day-Lewis, who was phenomenal in There Will Be Blood. Some have complained that he was overacting, but I thought his performance was suitably over-the-top. (Unlike a few years ago, when he was nominated for basically chewing the scenery of Gangs of New York.) It’s a memorable performance, and one that will more than likely win.

Who Should Win: Daniel Day-Lewis
Who Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis

Cate Blanchett, Elizabeth: The Golden Age*
Julie Christie, Away from Her
Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose
Laura Linney, The Savages
Ellen Page, Juno

In a just world, Marion Cotillard would walk away with this award. La Vie En Rose wasn’t very good, but her performance was astonishing. Poor Laura Linney will be another bridesmaid. The Academy can keep nominating her, but they’ll never make up for giving the award in 2000 to Julia Roberts over Linney's phenomenal work in You Can Count on Me. Julie Christie will probably take the award for staring into space. Away from Her was a confused film that didn’t know whose story to concentrate on, but it’s a quiet film about a sensitive topic (Alzheimer’s), so it’s pretty much a shoo-in. Plus Christie is Hollywood royalty and hasn’t won one of these things in 40+ years.

Who Should Win: Marion Cotillard
Who Will Win: Julie Christie

Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford*
Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Wilson’s War
Hal Holbrook, Into the Wild
Tom Wilkinson, Michael Clayton

Like the Best Actor race, this one is all sewn up. Javier Bardem will deservedly take home the prize for his chilling performance in No Country. Poor Hal Holbrook was misdirected in Into the Wild and came across as more creepy than caring. Philip Seymour Hoffman was the only reason to see Charlie Wilson’s War, but he was more effective in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. And Tom Wilkinson was fine in Michael Clayton but he didn’t blow me away. It’s all for naught, though; Bardem will walk away with the gold.

Who Should Win: Javier Bardem
Who Will Win: Javier Bardem

Cate Blanchett, I’m Not There*
Ruby Dee, American Gangster*
Saoirse Ronan, Atonement
Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone
Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Of the three nominees I’ve seen, Amy Ryan was easily the best of the bunch. While Gone Baby Gone was uneven, she was easily the main reason to see it. I didn’t care for Saoirse Ronan that much. Like the film itself, she seemed to keep her emotions in check instead of letting them messily spill forward. And Tilda Swinton didn’t have much to do in Michael Clayton besides sweat and work out on a treadmill. However, unlike the other categories, there isn’t a sure bet here. Early predictions were for Cate Blanchett, but she’s already won an Oscar for playing a famous person, so I don’t think she’ll win for doing it again. Ronan’s too young and Swinton and Ryan aren’t very well-known, which hurts them. I think this will be another instance of an unofficial Lifetime Achievement Award being given out, this time to Ruby Dee. I’ve heard she’s fine in American Gangster, but it's just a typical Ruby Dee performance. However, she’s never won an Oscar before and the Academy loves to reward legends.

Who Should Win: Amy Ryan
Who Will Win: Ruby Dee

Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Jason Reitman, Juno
Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly*

First off, let me complain that a crap movie like The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie will play in this area for months while something unique and interesting like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly only plays for a week. At least give me two weeks to see it, you bastards! From what I heard, Schnabel did an excellent job helming what many called an unfilmable script. Not that I would know because computer animated vegetables were occupying its theatre and I didn’t get a chance to see it. You can rule out Tony Gilroy and Jason Reitman right away. Gilroy directed a decent film, but there’s nothing to distinguish it from your typical John Grisham blockbuster. And Reitman handled Juno well, but he allowed a bit too much quirk to get through. (The hamburger phone should have disappeared.) That leaves the Coen brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson to duke it out. The Coens will probably take the award, which I’m totally fine with. They’ve made nothing but interesting films since they started in the mid-80’s, and they deserve the recognition not only for No Country but for their entire body of excellent work. But Paul Thomas Anderson did a magnificent job with There Will Be Blood, and my vote goes to him.

Who Should Win: Paul Thomas Anderson
Who Will Win: Joel and Ethan Coen

Brad Bird, Ratatouille
Diablo Cody, Juno
Tony Gilroy, Michael Clayton
Tamara Jenkins, The Savages
Nancy Oliver, Lars and the Real Girl*

I have to be honest: Of the four nominees I’ve seen in this category, there was something in each of them that really bothered me. In Ratatouille, I hated the way the rat was able to use the human to cook food by pulling on the cook’s hair to control his hands. It was a terrible cheat. Juno was full of horribly unnatural dialogue that seemed to be saying, “Look! I can make a lot of dumb cultural references! Pay attention to me!!!!!” Michael Clayton was a by-the-numbers legal thriller with nothing to distinguish itself from all the other legal thrillers out there. And The Savages had some silly transitions between the acts, like the curling of the toes. (You know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen it.) The one nominee I haven’t seen yet, Lars and the Real Girl, is about a man who claims a blow-up doll is his girlfriend. So this is a strange category for me. I would have to say that Diablo Cody has the best screenplay of the lot, even though I wanted to tell her to shut her gob every once in awhile. She’s easily going to win as well.

Who Should Win: Diablo Cody
Who Will Win: Diablo Cody

Paul Thomas Anderson, There Will Be Blood
Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men
Christopher Hampton, Atonement
Ronald Harwood, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly*
Sarah Polley, Away from Her

Once again, it’s a race between No Country and Blood. While I liked Blood and it’s story structure, the dialogue is pretty awkward at times. (“I….DRINK…..YOUR…..MILKSHAKE!!!!!”) Atonement was more of a directorial achievement than a written one, so it’s out. And Away from Her was too bland. Again, those damn vegetables barred me from seeing Diving Bell, so I have no idea what it’s screenplay is like. That leaves No Country, which will more than likely win. It gets my vote as well. Some of that dialogue is extremely memorable, and not in a milkshake kind of way. Right, friend-o?

Who Should Win: Joel and Ethan Coen
Who Will Win: Joel and Ethan Coen

Those are the major categories. For historical sake, here are the rest of my pics. Again, I only choose between films I’ve seen, since I don't like to consider something I haven't seen. If a category is missing, that means I haven't seen any of the nominees. Here goes:

BEST ART DIRECTION – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
BEST COSTUME DESIGN – Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
BEST FILM EDITING – No Country for Old Men
BEST MAKEUP – La Vie En Rose
BEST MUSIC (SCORE) – Atonement
BEST MUSIC (SONG) – “Falling Slowly”, Once
BEST SOUND EDITING – There Will Be Blood
BEST SOUND MIXING – The Bourne Ultimatum