Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oscar 2008

The Oscars this year were a classy show, with awards spread across 11 deserving films, some very low budget (Juno cost only a few million, and the tiny Irish film Once cost way under $1million). All four acting awards went to non-Americans - first time it's happened since 1964 (when Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews, Peter Ustinov and Lila Kedrova won). Marion Cotillard winning a Best Actress award made her the first French performer to receive one since Simone Signoret back in 1960. And Jon Stewart (whom I have a definite soft spot for) did a pretty good job as host.
Unfortunately all this class meant the show got some of the show's lowest ratings ever in the USA (possibly THE lowest ever - they're still checking). So if the producers get desperate next year and give a showfull of tacky stunts (nominated songs performed by Paris Hilton duetting with Michael Jackson, with awards announced by that gay guy off the internet who screams and cries about Britney Spears) then we'll know why.
* Channel 9 didn't start the broadcast till 8:30pm. As there was no red-carpet special at 7:30, I thought we were safe from Richard Wilkins, but sadly not so. My way of coping with him is to have the sound turned off, so you can still watch the stars (as they try to work out whether he's got anything meaningful to ask them, then try to remove themselves from his presence as quickly as possible without appearing too rude). It's also important to stay away from the pre-recorded interviews with the stylists and trainers and hairdressers to the stars, especially that Australian git Napoleon who keeps popping up unpleasantly in all kinds of places. With no sound from the tv for half an hour, I thought some film music might fill the silence. 30 minutes of the soundtrack from Xanadu was the result, and I blame the choosing of this particular cd on the sugar rush from the packet of raspberry-filled Tim Tams I'd started to consume.
* Poor Johnny Depp, nominated for the third time, and lost again. As Cade says, maybe the fact that he never wins will help him keep his 'Hollywood outsider' edge. But if taking on the Sweeney Todd role, with all that singing and that truly terrific hair didn't work for him, I'm not sure what it'd take for him to get a little gold man.
* Not that it wasn't good to see Daniel Day Lewis win. There Will Be Blood had lots of showy 'acting' scenes, and he obviously threw himself deeply into the role. So good for him.
* Having so many non-americans winning awards made for lower star-wattage, but more variety in the acceptances. Javier Bardem wanted to say something to his mum in Spanish. Tilda Swinton thanked her co-star George Clooneyand commented on his days as a caped crusader in a nippled Batman suit. And Marion Cotillard appeared quite over the moon.
* It was a treat to see a French actress win for once. I didn't think the voters would do it. Marion was great in La Vie En Rose, but unfortunately it does continue the trend of handing out Oscars to actors playing famous folks (Jamie Foxx in Ray, Reese Witherspoon in Walk The Line, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Capote, Cate Blanchett in The Aviator, Helen Mirren in The Queen). Maybe it's just a sign that complex fictional roles are hardto come by these days?
* The Coen's won the directing and Best Picture awards, but they seemed as unsurprised by it as everyone else. Still, they seem nice boys.
* Diablo Cody won a Screenplay award for her first film Juno. She looked all sparkled up for an awards night, and was said to have borrowed a pair of $1million shoes to wear walking down the red carpet. So she looked the part, and seemed to have travelled the road from being an 'exotic dancer' to 'academy award winner' with ease. But she became very emotional during her acceptance speech. She said a line that's often used - "I especially want to thank my fellow nominees because I worship you guys and I'm learning from you every day" but said it with passion and seemed to mean it 100%. She was struggling by the time she got to the end of her speech, and rushed out this - "And most of all, I want to thank my family for loving me exactly the way I am." before starting to break up and having to leave the stage in a rush. I couldn't tell from her face whether she was furious with herself or just trying not to break down in tears, but she was highly wrought up. Was the most moving moment of the night.
* Every year they have a number of montages, usually showing scenes from famous films. One of the nice moments of the night was when Jon Stewart gave some examples of what things might look like if the whole show was made up of montages - which included a short montage entitled 'Bad Dreams -The Oscars Salute!", a montage of scenes from famous films where people wake up in bed, frightened after a bad dream. Ahhh! Argh! Oh!
* The songs! A sweet, fairly simple number from Once won, but not before performances of 3 nominated songs from the Disney film Ella Enchanted, allof which might have been fine in the film but were deadly on stage. They were the kind of cheesy Disney-pastiche songs that might accompany a lunchtime parade at Disneyland, but without the fun of actually being there. Why don't they write decent songs for movies anymore?
* It felt like the oldies were a little ignored. Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson, and Helen Mirren, were among the few older stars to get a showing on stage, while some others spent the night sitting in the audience (Julie Christie, Dennis Hopper, Faye Dunaway, Sissy Spacek, Jane Russell...). Being the 80th Oscars, I'd thought they would have made more of a thing of past winners. Till the writer's strike was sorted out a few weeks ago, there was always a chance the show wasn't going to go on, so maybe the organising of the show was a little rushed? I'll stick with that idea, because otherwise I'll have to be offended on behalf of everyone wrinkly in Hollywood!
* The Last award, the big Best Picture, was accepted by the Coen brothers, and big-time producer Scott Rudin. His final words were to "my partner, John Barlow. Without you, honey, this is just hardware". In previous years, that kind of gay abandon would only have been expected from the out-of-towners. So presumably, from now on in, following Jodie Foster's lead perhaps, LA gay folk are going to gush about their partners as much as the straighties at these things.
* Couldn't see Carrie Fisher's name amongst the show's writing credits thisyear :-( I hope it's just that she had something else on. I wouldn't want to think The Academy has dumped Princess Leia!
* Cate Blanchett beat Nicole Kidman at being the most pregnant Australian, though both tummies seem to be coming along nicely.
* Everyone looked pretty, like anyone could care less. Only bad dress I saw on stage was sitting on Jennifer Hudson. Maybe they should bring some 'reality tv' style competition into it next year by obliging all actresses to dress themselves for under $30. That would be something to see.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Matthew's 2007 Film Awards

Before the Oscars are handed out tomorrow, I need to announce some of my own awards, for the films of 2007. The Academy are said to be favouring No Country For Old Men, which I haven't seen yet. And I know there are plenty of other fine films I missed out on, but that's not a significant enough fact to stop ME giving MY opinion. Not at all. So I'll start with -
My Movie of the Year
Last year it was Pan's Labyrinth, the year before, Brokeback Mountain. This time I just can't decide. Too many good films (Zodiac, Atonement, Hairspray, Control, The Darjeeling Limited, Hot Fuzz...), but no single one that stands above all else. If I force myself to pick, I might as well go with a couple of my heroes, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, who made me a personal treat in Sweeney Todd. Blood, songs, cannibalism (something a vegetarian always appreciates in a film), some really nice hair-dos. How could I say no! And thank you very much to my three pals (you know who you are) who saw it with me, as I would have been too terrified of all the throat-slashing to see it on my own!
Regrettable Hollywood Trend
There was a barrage of so-so sequels. The latest Harry Potter & Shrek films were less than their predecessors. Once again the cast in the Ocean's 13 film seemed to be having all the fun, instead of putting it in the movie. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 was a bore apart from some nice scenes with Johnny D. And Spider-man 3 went on and on and on.
Most Financially Successful New Hollywood 'Idea'
The pregnancy film designed to be equally appealing to males.Last time it was tried was when Arnie got up the duff in Junior. I don't think that really worked.Then someone thought of writing about a chick who gets preggers after a bit of meaningless sex; decides to go through with the pregnancy despite not really wanting it, and the fact it'll stuff up their life for a while; and doesn't make any demands on the ill-prepared father (though of course he's a sweetie who'll do the 'right thing' by the end). And then there's a secondary male character, who feels threatened by all the domesticity, voicing all the concerns of the young blokes in the audience who might be feeling a little queasy at all the baby-talk on screen. Mess it all around a little, adding gross-out jokes (Knocked Up), or a teen mom and an adoption sub-plot (Juno), and you have a hit!Hollywood has worked out that as long as the female lead doesn't really want the baby all that much, and doesn't go all 'gooey', the blokes in the audience won't run screaming. It's kind of like the previous 15 year run of romantic comedies with 'Wedding' in the title, which almost always followed the golden rule of not allowing the two leads to actually marry within the film, and which usually resulted in mega $ at the box-office.
Most Fun In The Cinema
I'm always a softy for musicals when they're good. Sweeney Todd was mesmerising. And though Hairspray was less ambitious, it was a pretty good time had by all. Hot Fuzz was also a lot of fun. And The Simpsons Movie did feature one great new character, in the 'Spider-Pig'.
Biggest Miscalculations
I can think of a couple - Across The Universe, the musical based on Beatles songs. It wasn't completely without merit, but should have been either grittier, or cuter, rather than sitting limply somewhere in-between. Sunshine was a great sci-fi thriller, till a crazed killer 'sun man' turned up and silly-fied everything. Beowulf had some awesome 3D effects (easily winning the Best Dragon Of The Year award), but hollow-eyed animated humans are CREEPY. And I was quite taken with The Golden Compass, which had some great ideas for what on the surface seems a kids film, till it ended. It was designed as Part 1 of a trilogy, but the studio hasn't guaranteed the next parts will actually be made, so leaving almost ALL the plotlines up in the air, and hardly evenhinting where the story was likely to go from here, made for a frustrating ending.
Biggest Piece of Crap
According to the Golden Raspberry Awards, the worst films of the year featured performances by Eddie Murphy (Norbit) and Lindsay Lohan (I Know Who Killed Me). I didn't see them. Hopefully you didn't either, and we can all sleep better at night for that.
Most Annoying Remake
ripped off Rear Window (which if you still aren't aware, is THE BEST FILM EVER), and left out most of the stuff that made that film great, dumbifying everything. Shia LeBouf is an appealing actor, and the whole thing was over quickly, but shame on them. Shame.
Most Inappropriate Use of Music
The young lead in Juno shows that she's not a cutesy girlie-girl by constantly discussing super cool rock bands, yet the soundtrack is full of tinkly-tankly acoustic songs, just dripping in adorable cuteness. What IS with that?
Best Non-Hollywood Films
The film La Vie En Rose, and Marion Cotillard's performance as Edith Piaf, was up there with Walk The Line, and superior to Ray, in the current spate of glossy musical biographies, even with it's messy non-linear structure. Control showed how to do the musical bio on a mini-budget, which suited Ian Curtis' rather depressing short life. The technicolour superstar life would never have suited him.
Best Blood-letting
Tim Burton did head-lopping (repeatedly) in Sleepy Hollow. Took ray guns to Hollywood's biggest stars in Mars Attacks! And this year sliced the tender vulnerable necks of men, good and evil, in Sweeney Todd. So much icky, nasty, blood. Naughty Tim! But thanks Tim.
Most Disturbing Killer
was brilliantly complex, and thankfully not overly sensationalised. And the fact that the real killer was never brought to trial, well, let's say it's not a good film to watch alone and in the dark.
Showiest Nudity
RayWinstone's buff 3D animated bod in Beowulf. Body hair and beads of sweat animated to perfection as he battles beasts in the nude, as you do.The censors were pleased that appropriately phallic-shaped objects got in the way whenever too much was about to go on display. Angelina Jolie, as Grendel's mum, also nudded it up. But then her designers decided she didn't need nipples. Odd. And very silly. But attention grabbing.
Sweetest Moments
John Travolta and Christopher Walken were a pretty neat couple in Hairspray.
And the brotherly love in The Darjeeling Limited was easy to get caught up in.
Special Award In Comedy
Goes to Knocked Up, for having the guts to actually show where babies really DO come from.
Worst Performances (or miscasting if you're being kind)
The entire cast of 300
David Morse, as an unbelievable and thoroughly incompetent serial killer in Disturbia, though it wasn't his fault that the role was so badly written.
Best Lyrics
"Spiderpig, Spiderpig,Does whatever a Spiderpig doesCan he swing, from a web?No he can't, he's a pigLookout, here comes the Spiderpig"
Memorable Performances
Daniel Day-Lewis, doing a John Huston drawl in There Will Be Blood. A great performance, even though his character became less believable as the film wore on (did I mention previously that There Will Be Blood was quite good but also won the Most Tediously Pretentious Film Of The Year award?).
Ellen Page in Juno, a bit too smart-mouthed to be a convincing teen, but charismatic all the way.
Shia LeBouf, was the only good thing in Disturbia, and brought a bit of charm to the CGI-fest that was Transformers.
Sam Riley, as Ian Curtis (lead singer of Joy Division), in Control.
Johnny Depp (singing!), and Sacha Baron Cohen for putting his hand up for a quite confronting and most definitely unfunny death scene (gosh, he can really bleed, can't he), both in Sweeney Todd
Worst Dialogue
Spartan army: "Ha-OOH! Ha-OOH! Ha-OOH!" (300)