Sunday, February 22, 2009

chris-brad wins; Oscars rocked

What can we say? chris-brad is invincible. He picked all of the major categories perfectly and that won it for him. Timothy Miller and I came in second, but Timothy didn’t make selections in all categories! I think we both squeaked by a spanking.

This year’s Oscars ceremony was the best is recent memory because of its throwback classiness, its freshened up awards presentations, and its elegant sense of history.

I really liked the presentations for the actors/actresses categories, where five past winners introduced the five nominees. The idea made us feel as if we were being invited into a conversation -- however scripted -- between the best talents in Hollywood, and that's pretty cool. The Oscars needs to draw those connections to history, and doing it so simply -- from one actor to another -- was super smart.

The show’s directors/producers employed onstage projection technology in a way that was fun, informative and imaginative. Loved the onstage orchestra. Loved the best script presentations. And Hugh Jackman’s homemade opening act was the best since Billy Crystal. Oh, hell. It was better than Billy. Hugh's dance number for “The Reader” was hilarious.

And by the end, we got two speeches that were good: Kate Winslet getting a whistle from her dad, and Sean Penn calling everybody commie-, homo-loving sons of guns. Good stuff.

The only thing missing was a true surprise in one of the wins for the major categories. Those moments of shock, like last year's best actress or that Brody win years ago, are what really survive.

But perhaps Penn's surprisingly funny and serious acceptance speech will be enough. (The closest we came to a big moment was Dustin Lance Black's speech for his "Milk" screenplay. I know Hollywooders get criticized for turning the Oscar stage into a soapbox, but it's very appropriate with these films. To deny these artists an opportunity to represent themselves truly would be the biggest disservice to their art. Which means I like the edgy stuff.)

Enjoyed the night. This show will really help the Oscars as it moves forward, especially if more popular stuff gets nominated.

22 comments:

ChrisBrad said...

Quick thoughts...

1) The show was ten times better this year than in years past. I liked the acting intros very much, as well as the "throwback" feel. Also, the pace was improved. At least it was at the beginning and end. We started to slow in the middle, but not having corny little jokes throughout helped moved even the slower parts along.

2) There were few surprises. In fact, the only real upsets were in the short documentary, short animated film, foreign language film, and sound mixing. I really wish Tim had filled it all out, but I doubt the winners in those categories were on anyone's radar --- Smile Pinki and Departures? REALLY? And Slumdog getting a SOUND award? REALLY?

3) Live music during the In Memoriam piece was a fine addition. Keep it around. And get Judd Apatow to make a short film for the show every year. Oh, yeah, and let's have an annual "Joaquin Phoenix" impersonation along with some Sean Penn name-calling. Brilliant in every way!

4) Have this improved format next year...

5) ...BUT NOMINATE MORE DESERVING FILMS!

Thanks again to all the competitors. It was a knuckle-biter and a lot of fun.

And Alexandyr, I'll be expecting that certificate soon! Have a great night all.

Alexandyr Kent said...

Certificate? I'm printing you a banner on I-20.

ChrisBrad said...

Honestly,

I was kind of hoping for a tickertape parade. I wonder if the Mayor would go for that?!?

Alexandyr Kent said...

We'll work it into Fat Tuesday at the Boardwalk. Work for you?

Alexandyr Kent said...

For Louisianans, the biggest disappointment is that "Benjamin Button" didn't get more love. 13 noms, but just two awards. It wasn't surprising, but a semi-traditional romantic epic didn't have a chance against 'Slumdog.'

ChrisBrad said...

Any other year and Ben Button would have likely come out a big winner as Slumdog did tonight. But you cannot overcome all the hype, publicity, and push of brilliant marketing.

I think Slumdog will be an embarassing winner (when we look back) even more so than Crash. And I really, really, really did not agree with Crash's Best Pic win. I just do not see the redeeming film value that Slumdog brings to cinematic history. I just don't see it... Then again, that is just my three cents.

Alexandyr Kent said...

I don't know if "Slumdog" is Crash 2.0, as I suggested to you a few days ago. It's certainly not my favorite, and I have some ethical/artistic problems with it, but the Academy has spoken ... what I did appreciate tonight was the graciousness of the artists behind "Slumdog." They behave like underdogs, and that's cool. And "Slumdog" did push me to think about global cinema - and defend what I think are better examples - so the net effect is good.

I guess what makes me think is the distributor: Fox Searchlight. "Juno," "Full Monty," "Little Miss Sunshine," "Sideways." That specialty division is doing pretty well for itself.

Evan said...

Generally, I don't get the Oscars or why they're regarded so highly when the nominations/awards often seem so political and sometimes even random.

But this year, while I was very disappointed with a lot of the nominations I was very happy with Slumdog winning.

I think the Dark Knight and Wall-e both deserved more for redefining both of their respective genres, and Revolutionary Road certainly deserved better acting nods, but when it's all said and done I think SM deserved best picture, and Danny Boyle especially deserved best director. He seems to be one of the most under-appreciated directors of recent years. He's really brought credibility back to stylistic directing, whereas people like Quentin Tarantino use style as a gimmick, and most directors are too afraid to stray too far from the book. Visually you can pretty much lump the other 4 best picture nominees together (along with most typical Oscar type films). They always look more or less the same, but SM really stood out and had it's own unique visual personality.

Boyle's also brought credibility to shooting on digital, doing stuff in SM that you could never pull off with a big 35mm camera. His films consistently have fantastic cinematography though. "Sunshine" while not a great story, was a wonderful film to look at.

I don't think there's anything embarrassing about SM's wins. I think in 10 years Danny Boyle is going to be looked at as one of our great contemporary directors, probably getting many more nominations.

I think the sound mixing award is justified too. Most people assume only action movies can have good sound because you only ever think about listening to bullets, car crashes, and explosions, but most people don't even notice how many recycled sound effects are used in most action movies, and how tired it gets to think of sound in such a limited way. But if you really listen to SM, it's really well put together. The ambiance of Mumbai is captured really well. There are lots of layers to the sound.

ChrisBrad said...

Evan,

The discussion about films is why I enjoy the awards. I'm not a sucker for the glitz and glamour, but I truly relish the chance to talk about films.

After a night of sleep, though, I will admit that using the word embarassment was likely too strong. But I have no doubt, none, that we will look back at the list of winners in a few years and find that "Slumdog" sticks out. And not in a good way. It has no real lasting value, no groundbreaking cinematic importance, and its relevance is already in question (you don't have Indian critics using the term "poverty porn" lightly). None of that. It is the "Juno" and "Little Miss Sunshine" from the past few years --- a quirky little indie flick that capitalized on initial critical praise and well-timed publicity. Was it a fun little flick? Yes. But it was far from the best picture. FAR from from it. Best pictures should make film fanatics stop in their tracks, whether on DVD or while flipping through the TV channels. But "Slumdog" already lacks that appeal. I have nothing personal against the movie, please don't get me wrong, but I do not see the BEST in our newest best picture. I saw it in "The Reader." I could even see it in "...Button." But not "Slumdog."

And Danny Boyle IS a great contemporary director. And he is right now, not in 10 more years. That is why he won the award last night instead of the more deserving Fincher.

The one place where I will agree with you compltely is the sound award. My mystification was not HOW it could have won the award, but THAT IT DID WIN! There are so very few times when the sound categories are split. If you win sound editing you are practically guaranteed the sound mixing statue as well. So when "Dark Knight" took the sound editing prize it was a lock for the sound mixing. But "Slumdog" nabbed it, shockingly. Heck, even the tech guilds had awarded both to "Dark Knight" and those are generally the Academy members that pick the Oscar winners. Just a surprise, not a disappointment!

Hope to see you around here often. And feel free to tell me when I am wrong -- it has been known to happen!

Chris Lyon said...

I did much better on Oscar night. I got something like 17 at the RFC. Too bad I'm an employee... :(

Chris Lyon said...

I have to sort of interject here on the Oscars not representing "lasting" cinema in regards to Slumdog Millionaire. How many of the films released this year are truly "lasting?" When was the last film you saw REALLY going to stick in your mind like, say, Titanic or Schindler's List? I mean who thinks of Annie Hall or Dances With Wolves when thinking of greatest movies of all time? The Oscars are a celebration of filmmaking for that year. And in recent years full of ultimately forgettable cinema in terms of the last century of movies to remember, I think the Oscars serve their purpose.

I agree with pretty much everything Evan has to say about last night. Boyle deserves a bit of recognition for taking a chance on the film he made. Everything else seemed "safe" in comparison from a filmmaking standpoint. The only film to really push the boundaries of cinema in any way was Slumdog and therefore, I agree that it deserves the best picture for 2008.

Alexandyr Kent said...

"Annie Hall" not a great? Come on, now. It's arguably Woody Allen's best.

Last year there were no great, lasting films? "No Country." "There Will Be Blood." "Michael Clayton." All brilliant.

ChrisBrad said...

Uh oh..... What have I started???

Lasting is Schindler's List.
Lasting is not The English Patient.
Lasting is Silence of the Lambs.
Lasting is not Crash.
Lasting is Ben Hur and The Godfather.
Lasting is not Million Dollar Baby and Chicago.

My point was to say that a lot of recent winners seem to be winning on politics and publicity rather than merit and magnitude.

Maybe that is the idealist in me --- wanting the best films to win. And wanting better films in general.

And I am still scratching my head over Danny Boyle. I just don't get the risk-taking aspect of his direction. And Slumdog breaking cinematic boundaries? (That hush is the sound of my confused astonishment.)

I know I am in the minority here. Nearly every person I know LOVES Slumdog and looks at me like I am diseased when I speak ill of the film. I get that it's a feel-good, cool-to-love flick. But I just wonder how many people are going to see it in a different light in a few years.

Being honest, I could very well be wrong. (It wouldn't be the first time!) I may very well change my tune on Slumdog, and if that happens I'll be sure to let you all know...

Finally, I am thinking last year was a fluke. Having not one but two deserving films has jaded me. Here's to hoping for a lot of great films in 2009. Fingers are crossed, popcorn is buttered, and I am waiting to get my tickets.

Bring it on, Hollywood.

Alexandyr Kent said...

Word has it that someone got all 24 categories right last night at the Robinson Film Center watch party. Details?

Evan said...

Well, and the end of the day who really needs the Oscars to validate which movies they like?

That's sort off the problem with award shows. For too many people the shows tell them whats good and what to see. And when people try to guess whose going to win they're often not picking who they want to win but who they think probably will win.

Most years, my favorite films aren't nominated. This year, happily, one of my favorites swept the awards. But that doesn't really validate my opinion of the film.

If anything, I'm happier that less predictable films didn't win. I liked Benjamin Button, but it was also a movie that had "Oscars" written all over it from the start and not necessarily in a good way.

And I think SM didn't have "Oscars" written on it at all, and in a very good way. And that makes it more exciting that it won. It's purer in a way. The film has no celebrity power at all, and it's still good and can still win awards.

Also, one of my initial thoughts about SM was that if any other director had directed it, it probably would have been a bad movie. Admittedly the story is simple with a classic "feel-good" kind of vibe that could have easily been cheesy. So maybe because of that it isn't a "Best Picture" or didn't deserve "Best Screenplay". I'd concede those if I felt there was anything more deserving. But regardless, I'm going to watch that movie over and over for it's atmosphere and style and just quality of directing. It's rare that I watch a movie where I'm constantly thinking "Man, this guy really knows his shit." To me it's lasting.

But then again, I hate Citizen Kane, so what do I know.

Timothy Miller said...

I have to say that I enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire more than any movie I've seen in several years, possibly since American Beauty. As a screenwriter I loved the narrative device (and the narrative reflexivity) used to tell the story. As a movie-goer I loved the operatic ambition of the visuals.

I also have to say that I'm going to court to get a recount and overturn this "win" by ChrisBrad, making sure that he is stripped of all his titles and made to walk in chains in the dust behind my triumphal chariot.

This injustice will not stand.

ChrisBrad said...

Tim....

You better be careful. The ChrisBrad "victory" party left the station already! And you surely don't want to upset the tranquil peace here at LaMovBlog. I have an army of one ready to do battle (literally one --- everyone else I know is too busy to cover my back).

In all seriousness, it was a fun night. And I am already looking forward to next year. So shine up the chariot, because odd are good I am going down hard very soon!

ChrisBrad said...

Evan,

While we will disagree about about the merits of Slumdog, I can't thank you enough for bringing up the "validation" point. A lot of folks I know will not see anything outside of summer popcorn flicks and horror movies until awards season rolls around. And that fact drives me crazy. Why wait to see films just because of end-of-year lists and award nominations? I have never understood the logic in that.

Granted, when award season arrives I make sure to see any of those I hadn't had a previous chance to catch. But no one should use these nominations and wins as the SOLE reason to see a film. And it is extremely frustrating, as a film lover, to understand why many people do ...

And as far as picking the winners is concerned, I always have two lists (for the Oscars, any way, I don't follow any of the other shows closely). One is who I think will win (because understanding the mindset of the Academy is a challenge most of the time) and the other is who I wish would win (because having a mind and opinion of your own is necessary in the world of film). I have to say, even in years where I am completely infatuated with the best picture nominees, I rarely agree with the actual winners. My tastes and the Academy's just aren't similar.

And that is a good thing. I am exposed to a lot of movies for fun, flicks for entertainment, and films for the experience. I spend too much time at the theater, too much money on tickets, DVDs and concessions, and too much brain power on discussing the merits of everything my eyes have seen.

And I love it.

Films like Button, I agree, have Oscar written all over them. That was one of the reasons why Button wasn't even on my personal list of best pictures. Heck, I didn't even think it was the most deserving of the actual nominees. And most of the time, I will also agree, having "Oscar written all over" is a turn-off.

And that is something I will give Slumdog. It was not your typical Oscar-fare. It was different. In my opinion being different is not the same as deserving, but I really hope to fall for this film sooner than later.

I mean, I have to come to my senses at some point, right?!? (Tim Miller and his chariot may have something to say about that...)

Evan said...

Maybe next year we can get Alex to have an Oscar "Dream Team" list competition or something...not really sure how it'd be a competition, but I'd like to see what everyone else thinks were the best films...at least in the major categories.

ChrisBrad said...

Alexandyr and myself picked our "should-wins" in The Times this past Sunday for ten categories (acting, writing, directing, best picture, animated feature, and visual effects). The only category I would have chosen outside the actual nominees was for supporting actor. Ledger deserved the win over the others in his category, but I would have given the win to James Franco in a heartbeat if he had been nominated for Milk.

I went with The Reader for best picture, but my dark horse (my quirky indie flick I would have put in there instead of Slumdog) was In Bruges. Of course, Wall-E and, arguably, The Dark Knight also deserved some serious best pic consideration.

Here were my should-wins (of the ten we picked) that didn't win:

Best Picture of the Year
The Reader

Actress in a Supporting Role
Viola Davis, for Doubt

Directing
David Fincher, for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Original Screenplay
Martin McDonagh, for In Bruges

Adapted Screenplay
David Hare, for The Reader

Alexandyr Kent said...

Dream Team? Great idea. But given my track record, I should probably sit on the bench. :)

Timothy Miller said...

I think the only should-win I had among the actual nominees that didn't win was Anne Hathaway. But she certainly has an Oscar or two in her future.

I was completely unimpressed with The Reader, and would have preferred to see The Dark Knight or, even better, Son of Rambow as a nominee for Best Pic.

And, as I've said elsewhere, I thought Blindness should have won for cinematography, The Fallen for costumes and Art Direction, and The Boss for Best Song. None of them were nominated.