February 23, 2007

Friday Talkback (02/23/07)

FFC fiddles while Britney burns:
Hard to believe the Oscar (whoops, am I allowed to use that word?) telecast is just days away. I suppose we should talk about them, but for some reason I'm feeling more apathetic about the whole circus than ever before.

46 comments:

Patrick Pricken said...

The Academy is fed up by their own award, I believe. They want to destroy it themselves, so they ban all speaking about it until the public has forgotten it even existed.

Alternatively, they are just jackasses, and Vern's editorial is right.

"The first rule of the Oscars is, you don't talk about the Oscars."

Chris said...

At some point, something's gotta give, right? It's not just that everyone votes for their friends, it's that everyone *knows* everyone votes for their friends, and everyone knows everyone knows. There's an elephant in the room - what will it take for some intelligent Hollywood player to stand up and say "fuck this"?

That said, at the screening of The Number 23 tonight, when the clock turned to 11:12, the guy two seats down from me whispered, in awe: "23!" Maybe he was a plant.

James Allen said...

The shame of the whole thing is that the woman who runs Oscarwatch.com would probably win the case, but can't afford to litigate it. Look for more of this kind of website bullying as more and more legal tentacles find their way into the internet.

Anyway, in regards to "those things that they give to movie people in February," I found this mildly amusing piece:

"Helen Mirren's performance was so amazing -- every time I looked at her, it was like staring at a piece of Canadian money."

James Allen said...

The shame of the whole thing is that the woman who runs Oscarwatch.com would probably win the case, but can't afford to litigate it. Look for more of this kind of website bullying as more and more legal tentacles find their way into the internet.

Anyway, in regards to "those things that they give to movie people in February," I found this mildly amusing piece:

"Helen Mirren's performance was so amazing -- every time I looked at her, it was like staring at a piece of Canadian money."

James Allen said...

Sorry for the double post, for some reason I can't delete my posts anymore and the link got wrapped around the wrong thing. Oh well.

Dave Gibson said...

The Oscar winners have never been a very useful arbiter of artistic excellence, but it seems to me that they’ve become even more shallow (if that’s possible) over the past 10-15 and another by-product of the media consolidation which has virtually bankrupted the last vestiges of originality from mainstream films. They’ve rarely been right; but this is still the same body which once awarded major prizes to: Midnight Cowboy, Annie Hall and The Godfathers. Even the so-called “prestige” or “issue” films have been lethally dumbed down—I recall the time when “Kramer vs. Kramer” and “Ordinary People” were considered unworthy; they are genuine masterpieces compared to most of the nominated films this year. Hell, I’d take “Out of Africa” any day over another round with the “Dreamgirls” or “National Lampoon’s Vacation 4: Little Miss Sunshine”.

Anyone see Ebert’s “Oscar Predictions” wherein he declines to indicate his preference for Best Director in the interest of “Tact”. Ebe doesn’t want to offend his buddy Marty while predictably lauding “Babel” I s’pose.

Ian Pugh said...

How about Peter Travers' insane predictions/complaints in Rolling Stone? In his push for Dreamgirls (a film that he once called "a story about America," whatever that means outside of blurb-friendly terms) he likens its snub for Best Picture to Joe Biden's infamous quote about Barack Obama. Still trying to figure that one out.

Seattle Jeff said...

I haven't seen Dreamgirls but Travers seems to make the point that it features uniquely well-groomed African-Americans.

jer fairall said...

“National Lampoon’s Vacation 4: Little Miss Sunshine”.

Heh, good one. Though it'd actually be Vacation #5. Additionally, I'd argue that it is not even as good a film as the first and third Vacations.

Kevin said...

shame about the number 23. i read the script about a year and half ago; the first half was well-done, i thought, and the second half abysmal. it needed one or thirty more passes through the screenwriter mill.

once schumacher got involved, clearly disaster was unavoidable.

theoldboy said...

The talkback on that link James Allen posted is horrid. The anti-Departed sentiment amongst the psuedo-literates is ridiculous. I'm rooting for it, because if it won, it would be delightfully subversive.

Nate said...

I still feel the need to care about the Oscars, probably because it's the only nationally-recognized "event" that has any inherent interest to me. I don't watch sports or television, and the Grammys strike me as a pointless fashion show. The Oscars is my Super Bowl, except my favorite teams are never playing.

That said, I have a sneaking suspicion that "Little Miss Sunshine" will take the big prize this year, which will make that two films in a row that I despise winning Best Picture.

Anyone ever had their favorite film of the year win Best Picture?

Bill C said...

Anyone ever had their favorite film of the year win Best Picture?

Good question, Nate. Strictly speaking, I can't say that I have, though The Silence of the Lambs and Unforgiven were both close to my heart. I feel fairly confident in saying that The Godfather and The Godfather Part II are my favourite films of 1972 and 1974, respectively, but one rarely gets to experience the full breadth of a calendar movie year for which they weren't yet born or are too young to remember.

Nate said...

I guess I was talking more about witnessing your favorite film of the year actually take the prize (I agree with all the movies you listed, except maybe Unforgiven).

At the risk of sounding like a cinematic philistine, both Titanic and The English Patient were my favorite films of their respective years. I still love them both, but I doubt I'd feel that strongly about them if I saw them for the first time today. Also, Return of the King was I think my third favorite of 2003.

Just as often, a film I truly dislike ends up winning (Million Dollar Baby, Crash, A Beautiful Mind, etc.).

Walter_Chaw said...

About to have a go at reviewing Idiocracy which is both a delight and painful. I don't remember getting that angry during a film in some time - not at the film, mind, but incensed by the truthiness of it. I think it misses the ball a few times - a lot of it feels suspiciously like it's a product of post-prod tampering - but, again, with all the apathy I've been feeling about the shit that's out there, there's something to be said about a film that makes me feel so hopeless about everything.

The theme of last year's crop seems to be that we're doomed, but the least we could do is go down swinging.

United 93, Pan's Labyrinth, Children of Men, Idiocracy, Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima, Babel. . . even Inconvenient Truth and Happy Feet dance around that fatalism. That gathering doom.

Anyone read the McFarlane run of Spider-Man in the early nineties? I like how he used "Doom" as an onomatopaeia for a monster's thundering footsteps. Seems I heard "DOOM DOOM DOOM" a few times over my shoulder, watching 2006 flickers.

Anyway - what's this about Oscarwatch? Did they sue to get her to pull her site? What a bunch of assholes.

NATE - good question - I'm with Bill on Unforgiven but, like you, more often than not, something wins that I genuinely, genuinely dislike. I wouldn't have been turning cartwheels if Brokeback won, but Crash? Jesus fucking H. Christ.

Ditto on Ordinary People being something like a masterpiece nowadays. If they made a film like that this year, people'd be passing out.

What nettles most is that once people find out what profession you're in, it's all they want to talk about and what can I say but that I don't care?

Thanks Bill, by the way, for not making us write an Oscar piece this year. No point anyhow, I guess, in that we'd get a letter from a lawyer.

Rick said...

I can't wait to see the Idiocracy review from Walter. The movie did seem tampered with in post, but I think the driving ideas behind the film were so strong that it overcame the semi-botched execution.

James Allen said...

Oldboy:

I didn't read the talkback when I posted the link. Wow, one guy has a real hard-on against The Departed.

Anyway, to a more general point, if Scorcese gets his gold statuette thingie (I think I'm going to trademark that phrase), it will be for a film most would not put at the top of his filmography (even though the film is quite good). Wouldn't be the first time in general that happened, of course.

That said, I don't think he's going to win this time out either. I do look forward to see who he wears on Sunday, though. (God, I hope it's a Bob Mackie.)

jer fairall said...

Anyone ever had their favorite film of the year win Best Picture?

Annie Hall is sometimes my favorite film of all time.

Ian Pugh said...

("Oscar Telecast Spoiler" ahead, apparently.)



Apparently, Spielberg, Lucas and Coppola will be presenting the Best Director award. If Marty doesn't get it, well, I don't know what.



(End "spoiler.")

Was actually going to blog about Idiocracy in relation to Epic Movie--a film that somehow despises stupidity as much as it uses it as a shield from criticism. (How stupid, exactly, do you have to fall under Epic Movie's aim?) Note that the morons of both films use the word "dumbshit" a lot.

Anyway, I couldn't quite flesh out my feelings on Idiocracy to blogworthy status, but here's the gist: Sure, I felt despair and outrage when I watched it, but I was deeply reminded of Iraq war films The Road to Guantanamo and The War Tapes, which were angry, angry films--and I wondered how "useful" any of them were in making their point, exactly. Basically, my question is, in keeping with Walter's comment about "going down swinging" -- how unfiltered can outrage be before it just becomes outrage for its own sake?

Speaking of Spidey, I just took my first look at the Venom action figure prototype from Spidey 3. Looks like the "Anti-Spider-Man" angle is being taken to the hilt.

Nate said...

United 93, Pan's Labyrinth, Children of Men, Idiocracy, Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima, Babel. . . even Inconvenient Truth and Happy Feet dance around that fatalism. That gathering doom.

But don't all those movies (except The Departed and United 93) end on a note of hope? Actually, for me, they all end on the exact same note of hope - that we're right on the brink of losing everything for good, but if we take control now, we still have a chance. It's almost too late, but not just yet. Anyway, for a group of such diverse (and mostly excellent) films, it is pretty amazing how they're all saying just about the same thing.

Jason said...

I can deal with the monochrome Spidey suit, though I wish Raimi would have used this oppurtunity to branch out. But doing this makes Venom look kind-of low rent in comparison. I know Raimi has expressed an overall disdain for the Venom character (which may or not may be true), but does that mean they had to cheapen the character (this, and shoving the kid from "That 70's Show" inside of it)? This, on top of the Sandman (who no one gives a shit about... ever) and the "kid in black kevlar" Not Green Goblin, doesn't give me much hope for Spider-Man 3. I hope I'm wrong.

As for the Oscars, it seems that in their race to diversify, the Academy is still taking the safe route. Because if they ignore some particularly devastating films (like Children of Men, Pan's Labyrinth, United 93) for Best Picture, they can slot in movies to show they're SO diverse, but which can still be fit into specific roles. Like, "Hey, We've Got Indie Street Cred" (Little Miss Sunshine), "Good British Acting" (The Queen), or "That One Foreign-ish Film That's Really Westernized But You Don't Care 'Cuz It Makes You Feel Smart to Name Drop It In Conversation" (Babel).

Heck, the same thing can be said of a lot of the other nominees (Eddie Murphy, Jennifer Hudson, Will Smith with his Oscar-bait "Single Tear of Obvious Despair", 2 different Babel Best Supporting Actress nominees, and so on). That, and that the Special Effects Oscar is now the race to create the most hideous and obvious CGI possible.

Still, while this is probably Marty's year, this need to look like the Academy is heeding it's "Not White" audience may tip the scales over to Inarritu (not a bad thing, just not for this movie). Plus, even though we're looking to have three African-American Acting winners this year (Forrest Whittaker, Murphy, and Hudson), Jesse Jackson still isn't happy. This may have an overall backlash at next year's Oscars - if everyone's unhappy and complains about the Academy's skittishness when it comes to choosing both nominees and winners, they may go back to obvious choices and vanilla nominees. It's happened before: look at the difference between the 2002 and 2003 Oscars.

Plus, Ellen DeGeneres is no Jon Stewart. There's pretty much no reason to watch this year's Oscar broadcast at all.

Anonymous said...

I guess this doesn't really make a difference, but from my point of view, there are three good films nominated (two of which were on Walter's top 10), one bad film (Babel), and one film I didn't see (Little Miss Sunshine). Granted I only saw two of last year's nominees (the awful winner, and the mediocre purported front-runner) but this does seem like an improvement. I agree with Jason's comment above, in that I too would have greatly liked to have seen nominations for the three films he mentions in place of the three films he criticized the nominations for (The Queen was good but clearly inferior to the other three) but it seems like they haven't done all that bad this year. Sure, it's infuriating to think that either of the bad films (I'm taking everyone's word on Sunshine) could win, but you have to have a bad guy to make it interesting, right? Besides, an entire slate of nominations for good films would just have made our heads explode.

That said, Ellen DeGeneres... ack. Maybe I'll just look up the winners afterward, as I usually do.

Carl

Anonymous said...

The very moment I saw that Down in the Valley had been reviewed on the homepage, I knew that Walter had written it and the rating would be one-star. I've been reading this site too long...

But anyway, I loved it. Dismissing it as a half-assed Taxi Driver strikes me as a lazy criticism. Did anyone else like it?

corym said...

nate
At the risk of sounding like a cinematic philistine, both Titanic and The English Patient were my favorite films of their respective years. I still love them both, but I doubt I'd feel that strongly about them if I saw them for the first time today. Also, Return of the King was I think my third favorite of 2003.

I shall never forgive "Titanic" for winning Best Picture over "LA Confidential". That was the exact moment I stopped caring about the Oscars.

Bill C said...

But anyway, I loved it. Dismissing it as a half-assed Taxi Driver strikes me as a lazy criticism. Did anyone else like it?

Oh, I dunno: "Taxi Driver rip-off" may be the default criticism, but I think Walt articulated it better than anyone has. I had no use for the movie myself, but I think it'd make a swell double-bill with Wim Wenders' Don't Come Knocking.

Nate said...

I shall never forgive "Titanic" for winning Best Picture over "LA Confidential". That was the exact moment I stopped caring about the Oscars.

Eh...I like L.A. Confidential, but I've never understood why anyone thinks it's great. A solid story, well told, but in a world with Chinatown, what's the big deal?

Patrick Pricken said...

Regarding the "Spoiler" above, there's something else behind the posted link that while written as "spoiler" only concerns the opening monologue and, to me, really brings home what the Oscars are about:

"Along with other movie scenes from other studios in which she inserts herself, Ellen DeGeneres will be dancing with the Happy Feet penguins. You see, Ellen dances on her talk show, the birds dance in the movie, so we're supposedly talking synergy. Especially since Warner Bros., which is the producer of both the toon and Ellen's syndicated series, spent an enormous amount of money to make this segment happen and hired Happy Feet director George Miller to do it. (DVD out next month.)"

This "DVD out next month" is such a perfect statement to end this... it's not about finding the funny, but sales.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Hey Guys!

William Monaghan just ones the OscarTM for Best Adapted Screenplay of the JAPANESE film Infernal Affairs!

jer fairall said...

I thought it was the Grammys job to suck American Idols dick, not the Oscars.

theoldboy said...

Well, there's no harm in confusing two nations, especially when one of them has committed genocide against the other within the last hundred years and still hasn't formally apologized. This confusion attributable to the US's ethnocentric ignorance will not cause any international incident of any kind that will probably end with a deaf Asian flashing her cooter.

Maybe Pan's Labyrinth had too many people getting shot in the face to win Foreign Language and maybe the shots in Children of Men were too long for them to count as cinematography.

Is it just me or has Nicholson finally completed his transformation into a gila monster?

corym said...

nate
Eh...I like L.A. Confidential, but I've never understood why anyone thinks it's great. A solid story, well told, but in a world with Chinatown, what's the big deal?

Does the existence of Chinatown negate the worth of every noir set in that time period? The world is littered with the bones of films that wanted to be Chinatown. LA Confidential came closer than any and it was easily the year's best. The Victory Motel was just as poetic--and twice as subtle--as Jake's Chinatown.

oldboy
Well, there's no harm in confusing two nations, especially when one of them has committed genocide against the other within the last hundred years and still hasn't formally apologized. This confusion attributable to the US's ethnocentric ignorance will not cause any international incident of any kind that will probably end with a deaf Asian flashing her cooter.

It's a stupid mistake that shouldn't have been made, I'll admit. But must every instance of stupidity be turned into a case history of American ignorance?

tmhoover said...

This will be the first time in two decades that I didn't choose to watch the Oscar telecast- though that was partly due to the fact that I had just sat through all 14 hours of Rivette's Out 1: Noli Me Tangere and was in no mood to further pound my optic nerve. Did I miss anything?

Dave Gibson said...

All told, it was a pretty flat Oscar telecast (though, to be fair, has any Oscar show actually been: “good”?). I do miss the misguided tackiness of past shows like the year Debbie Allen did the choreography and the time they opened with Walter Matthau doing the hand-jive. I was happy enough that “The Departed” and Scorsese won—though having Scorsese’s chums present the award seemed to be either evidence of foreknowledge or a relatively ballsy, albeit calculated risk (watching those 3 hand it over to one of the other four directors would have been a classic Oscar moment) Some surprises in Foreign Film, Best Song and Best Supporting Actor (and the sight of PSHoffman who looked like he’d just returned from Tijuana) gave the night a few drops of juice—though the fact that Al Gore was the wittiest presenter is a testament the overall vanilla quality of the show.

Seattle Jeff said...

Didn't watch the whole thing, but seeing Coppolla, Lucas, and Spielberg walk out, the entire world could pretty much figure out Scorsese was winning.

I just wished the mockery of Lucas never winning Best Director had been followed by some repartee that Coppolla and Spielberg were no longer threats to win it either.

Scorsese is obviously the more vital of the four.

Alex Jackson said...

Maybe Pan's Labyrinth had too many people getting shot in the face to win Foreign Language and maybe the shots in Children of Men were too long for them to count as cinematography.

Maybe I'm a glass half full kinda guy, but all this Oscar bashing strikes me as a little pissy.

Not enough that Scorsese actually won this year and Departed won best picture, because his film brat friends presented the award to him the whole thing felt calculated. Not enough that Pan's Labyrinth won Best Cinematography because Children of Men lost it.

Are you going to bitch about Babel winning an award? Even if it was only for Best Score, which to these unsophisticated ears, sounded pretty fucking good? I understand why people don't like Babel, it's utterly empty but fools you into thinking that it's something profound. But come on man, I think it's utter bullshit to run it across the cheese grater when it comes to the score, cinematography, editing, and performances. Inarritu embodies both the greatest virtue and the greatest flaw of this decade's filmmaker. He's a technical savant with absolutely nothing to say.

The siloutte stuff was impressive, stupid, weird and very funny. I loved Will Ferrell and Jack Black's musical number.

And I can't wait to see tonight's Colbert Report. A lesbian host, fawing over Al Gore, and the Mexican Pan's Labyrinth winning tons of the early awards. This is the year that liberal Hollywood tells "mainstream America" to kindly go fuck themselves.

That said, kind of spooky that an American Idol has now produced an Oscar winner. Mistaking Penelope Cruz for Mexican was kind of offensive. And a lot of the Oscar speeches were pretty boring. These people don't know how to talk.

theoldboy said...

On the whole the show was unexpectedly bearable. There weren't really any unpredictably, apocalyptically retarded decisions, given the nominees. Cinematography irked me, though, because regardless of how great Pan's Labyrinth looks, all of its wins felt a bit too much like giving That Fantasy Picture all the technical awards because they're too chickenshit to reward it for anything else, ignoring the more significant achievements in the process. I'm also just perfectly happy with Babel's score win, thank you very much.

Would it have killed them to get a translator for Morricone instead of Clint, who didn't form a coherent sentence the whole night? There was probably one good speech, but I can't think of what it was.

Seattle Jeff said...

I liked the Whitaker speech...that was a nice moment.

Chad Evan said...

I thought Forrest Whitaker gave a hell of a speech.

And calculated or not, I thought the New Hollywood reunion for Scorsese's win was a great moment, even if Lucas has long since sold his soul.

Seattle Jeff said...

Who needs the Academy Awards when there are the

Seattle Jeff said...

Damn...There was a link there....here it is:

http://www.movieguide-awards.com/

Jared said...

Down in the Valley has a lot of chutzpah but not a lot of brains. Jacobson clearly has good taste in movies, he loves Taxi Driver and Badlands and takes the best stuff from them at every turn. There's even a liner note in the DVD about how much he loves movies (Hey, buying it for 5 bucks doesn't make less sense than renting it for 4.69) and how he used to theater go constantly. The actors all hit the right notes but the movie doesn't do anything fresh and new, and it could've been a little more tactful about its Taxi Driver referencing (like pretending Harlan has seen the movie and knows it exists, or not having him quote lines right out of it). At least the movie was smart enough to know that shooting a gun at something that might have people in it is something only a psychopath would do, which I can't say about Babel which was nominated for best picture this year.

I thought Return of the King was pretty much the best film of 2003, Lost in Translation is up there for me but I think it was a little too "slow" for the Academy voter tastes. If they voted for anything but Lord of the Rings, which they wouldn't want to do and sabotage their TV ratings, it probably would've been Mystic River or....ugghh....Seabiscuit.

The Al Gore love in was pretty fucking disgusting, we're aware of global warming, doesn't change the fact that Al Gore lives in multiple homes and uses a private jet to travel. Put your money where your mouth is hot-shot.

Jared said...

Jeff, Coppola is retired from filmmaking, he hasn't done anything in 10 years because of his vineyard thing. Spielberg was nominated for best director just last year, it's not like he faded out of the public consciousness or something.

Agreed that Eastwood was horrible, come on Clint, can the presenter for the honorary Oscar not be drunk or high for a change? I guess he wasn't as bad as Al Pacino's rip roaring drunk presentation of the Oscar to Sidney Lumet; but God, Eastwood was nominated for best picture and best director too and could've waited until the post show to have a few.

Rick said...

It's nice to see people going easy on the Oscars in this blog. It wasn't great or terrible, but I thought everyone would lay it out on the show. I am just glad to see people aren't blaming an awards show for their naturally miserable demeanor. But in the east there is always the weather to blame ( aka seasonal mood disorder ) Hooray for diverting personal responsibility!

Reno 911! Miami was mildly amusing I guess ( people collectively do not close curtains while masterbating? ) But this movie and others show why improv is very overrated. How can off the top of the head compete with calculated, layered scriptwriting? Which makes me believe that Curb Your Enthusiasm is much more scripted than Larry David and friends want you to believe.

Bill C said...

Actually, Coppola's far from retired. He shot a WWII thriller last year that Walter Murch just finished cutting (Youth Without Youth), and he's already in pre-production on another, as-yet-untitled movie due out next year. He seems to have rediscovered his mojo--maybe it's Sofia envy.

Walter_Chaw said...

Yep - I heard something about Coppola Sr. crediting Sofia as his mentor. Interesting.

Seattle Jeff said...

Didn't Francis really retire after Apocalypse Now?