Sunday, March 7, 2010

Oscars tonight, aka this is much longer than I had intended

I will be tweeting throughout the Academy Awards tonight. Usually I attend an Oscar party, but I'm still stuck in Tallahassee for another couple of weeks, so there we are.

Most years, I make it a point to see at least all five Best Picture nominees before the Oscars. But then the Academy had to go and expand to 10 nominees this year. Between that and having fewer opportunities to see the smaller-release films (I mentioned I'm in Tallahassee, right?), I'll go into tonight having not (yet) seen An Education or Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.

(I just had to use the whole title because, fine as that film apparently is, that's a remarkably stupid title).

(And yes, I know poor Precious had to change its title from Push so as not to be confused with a dumbass action flick starring Dakota Fanning and Johnny Storm, but dammit, I'm not cutting it any slack.)

(This sentence has no reason to exist; I just thought it would be funny if I had another parenthetical comment.)

(Apparently I was wrong.)

Anyway, this is where I'd usually be talking about the film I'd like to see win Best Picture. I usually blow off other people's opinions on this subject, for one simple reason: If you haven't seen all the films, you're in no position to judge. So shut your hole.

And I used to feel awfully goddamn superior because I had seen all the Best Picture nominees. But not this year. So I'm going to follow my own advice and shut my hole.

Well... mostly.

A brief aside: Look, I'm going to be rooting my ass off for Jeff Bridges tonight for several reasons, and the fact that he's The Dude isn't even the top one (though it's up there). The guy has been super-cool for decades. He's been a great actor in a ton of films, including several most people haven't even seen (it's time to put The Fisher King, Fearless and American Heart in your Netflix queue). And he kicked all kinds of ass in Crazy Heart.

Now then: I've seen George Clooney and Jeremy Renner's performances, and both were excellent. (Clooney remains an unfairly underrated actor, but when you're rich and handsome, who gives a shit, right?) But I haven't see Morgan Freeman or Colin Firth's performances. So do I have any business saying Jeff Bridges should win for Crazy Heart? Hell no. But do I want him to win, and do I know he damn well deserves (finally) a Best Actor Oscar? Hell yes.

By the same token, take Christoph Waltz, by far (far, far, far, far, far) the best thing about Tarantino's indisputably cool but seriously flawed Inglourious Basterds: He's so damn good in that film he should win every statue they give tonight, including Best Sound Design. But I haven't seen any of the other performances in this category. So do I know that he deserves the trophy tonight over the other actors? I have no clue. But can I say indisputably that he deserves an Oscar? Hell yes.

Back to Best Picture. So I've seen eight of the 10 films nominated. I can't say which film should win, because that's unfair to An Education or Push: Based on the Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah. But here's what I can do: For each film I saw, I can give my opinion -- as with Jeff Bridges or Christoph Waltz -- whether the nominated film is deserving of being Best Picture.

So here it is...

Whether the Eight Best Picture Nominees I Actually Got A Chance To See Deserve to be Best Picture

Avatar: You've got to be fucking kidding me. Fun, cool technology, but you don't get to be Best Picture with a cliche-ridden story we've already seen dozens of times. NO.

The Blind Side: It's a sappy, obvious crowd-pleaser full of manufactured moments intended to pull the heartstrings. I''ll give the movie credit: That was the intent, and it accomplishes that extremely well. It doesn't help that I know Oher's story and how dramatically this film veers from reality for the sake of sentimentality. NO.

District 9: Great to see a real "genre" picture in the mix, considering The Dark Knight damn well should have been nominated last year (despite the awful "Batman voice"). In much the same way, this is as good as genre filmmaking gets. Not everything is spelled out, which I totally love. Though it doesn't have a chance in hell, I say YES.

The Hurt Locker: I'm hoping Kathryn Bigelow wins Best Director, because she made this fairly straightforward story into something special. She used to be all about big stylistic flourishes (Blue Steel, Point Break, Strange Days), but Hurt Locker was brilliantly understated. The film suffers from a lack of scope, granted, but three main performances are all spot-on, so I say YES.

Inglourious Basterds: Impressed as I was by the quality of Quentin Tarantino's filmmaking, the too-long scenes only accomplish his goal of "ratcheting of the suspense" a couple of times. For the most part, he just ratcheted up my desire to take a whiz. NO.

A Serious Man: Joel and Ethan Coen are quite possibly my favorite filmmakers, or at least the ones I find most consistently rewarding. Most of their films really begin to resonate once you've seen them a few times, and I only got to see A Serious Man once so far. So maybe I'm not giving the film its due, but while I enjoyed it, right I can't see it in this company. NO.

Up: I just love the very fact that a Pixar film is up for Best Picture. I'd love to see more animated and genre films get the distinction. Up is funny, touching, moving, exciting -- everything you want in a Best Picture. And unlike Wall-E, it's not front-loaded with a perfect first half and an entertaining-but-unspectacular second half. So I say YES.

Up in the Air: Jason Reitman really is becoming a hell of a director, and this one resonated with me because I could empathize with Clooney's character. Overall, though, I'm not sure it quite has the weight I want in a Best Picture. So I have to go NO.

So there you have it. I'd be fine with District 9, Hurt Locker or Up winning Best Picture, though we all know only Hurt Locker has a snowball's chance. I wouldn't feel one way or the other about An Education or Push: This Joke's Getting Old because I haven't seen 'em. As for the others, I'd be pretty bummed if Avatar, Inglourious Basterds or Blind Side won, because they're all seriously flawed. Which means I stand a decent chance of being pretty bummed tonight.

And that's more than you've ever wanted to know about... anything.

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