Post Oscar musings (March 4th 2019)

First off, congratulations go out to Alison once again as our Three-peat Officepool winner of the pool.   She consistently can out pick and guess the rest of us.   I thank everyone who took the time to join and have (hopefully) some fun with the choices.

On to the awards itself, I have to say that I liked that there wasn’t a host.   From the beginning we had a good start with no hosts and just presenters.  I honestly didn’t see a great deal of the presentations live as I was out with hockey.  So I saw Best Supporting Actress given out (Regina King) which I felt was very deserving, even though I had not see the film.   I picked it up with Best Actress and like the rest of the world, and winner Olivia Colman herself, was the most shocked and surprised with Glenn Close clapping along with everyone else for The Favourite performance.   Wow!

I really felt Richard E Grant should have won, but I am not upset with two-time winner, Mahershala Ali.   I was thrilled Roma didn’t win Best Picture.   I shrugged my shoulders at Best Director and was pleased with The Green Book.   The Green book was the TIFF People’s Choice Award this year, and it was a feel-good story.  It is a little campy.   But it had good performances and a good message.   So that’s fine.   There are other years that I cannot believe what was selected.   In the end, it doesn’t matter.  The public will decide which films endure and which they want to see year after year.   So while a Winner like Shakespeare in Love is a footnote to the Harvey Weinstein story, Saving Private Ryan lives on and is remembered as the true gem.   As an artist, isn’t that really what you want out of your art?

Generally the fashion was okay, with some notable surprises like Rachel Weisz wearing some ridiculous rubber piece around her shoulders.   Others were looking very frumpy, say Maya Rudolph.   The men tend to wear these suits that all look a size or two too small.  Whatever.   But we move along and hope that the 2019 films provide a greater pool from which to decide.   Happy movie viewing.   In short 2018 were no where as good as 2017.

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Oscar Week Begins

Things are getting ramped up in LA in preparation for the Oscars on Sunday night.   I can’t think of a year where I have struggled so mightily with the Best Picture as this year.  For certain I have had questions about the ultimate selection of which film was selected in years past, but in my own head I had a pretty good idea of the Best Film (last year I felt that Dunkirk was best and Three Billboards was a close second).    Incidentally having recently watched the Extras in the Blu-Ray for Dunkirk, and what they did to get this on film, I reaffirm my conviction on that.

RDM Oscar

Here is me at Warner Bros Studios Tour with an actual Oscar in my hand (it’s heavier than you think).

As for those those Best Picture nominees, the only film at this point I have not seen is Vice.   That needs to be done this week.   It also addresses Best Actor (Bale), Best Supporting Actor (Rockwell) and Supporting Actress nominations (Adams).   If I do that, I have seen all Best Actor nominees (save Willem Dafoe which I dearly want to see) and all Best Actress nominees, plus Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (save Regina King).    I will set up my OfficePools Oscar contest and send out to those who received last year.   If you didn’t receive and want to participate, send me a line.    It costs nothing, and you only get respect from those who you better (Alison is our reigning Queen of the Oscars for back to back years).   Can she three-peat??    We’ll find out on Sunday, or perhaps not if she doesn’t find a wifi spot on the beach!!   Stay tuned.   Enjoy the Oscars and happy picking!!

Or if you choose to be proactive and participate on your own, you can join here:

http://www.officepools.com/invite/pickem/m/HYRJLD9G

 

 

March 5th, 2018 – Post Oscars

First off, The Shape of Water was not the best film of 2017.  It just wasn’t.  But this is becoming a familiar pattern with the Academy it seems and political considerations likely are at work more than they should be for deciding on which was the best film of the year.

For me, this year was Dunkirk’s year with Three Bllboards in a close second.  Three Billboards is a very American-centric fim, but the writing and performances across the board were excellent.  It likely loses votes from non-US Academy members.   Dunkirk isn’t a US film at all – it is about a British and French event before the US was involved.  It is the turning point in the Second World War.   The companion piece, just as exhilarating is Darkest Hour with Gary Oldman playing Winston.  They are both set in May 1940.  Together they portray the days brilliantly.  I will say more about the Oscars later.   I tip my cap to Alison who wins the pool for the second straight year.   Well done, and picking Shape of Water as Best Picture.   That and Get Out for screenplay quite simply just shocked me.
On Friday I went out and saw my second last remaining Best Picture nomination with Phantom Thread.  It stays with me still.  It is a period piece around 1950ish, but no specific period.   It revolves the story of three main protagonists.  He (Daniel Day Lewis) an older, persnickety clothing maker perfectionist and then his colleague sister and then his latest muse, who he found while eating breakfast by the sea as she served him his substantial meal.   Together they buzz around in initially common ways and then more unique and strange ways.  The acting by each (two of the three – sister and man) got Oscar nods.   The third likely deserved one for supporting rather than Mary J Blige (but I digress).   This is a dysfunctional lot, with those surrounding the male lead as enablers and also challengers at times.  I was shaken and confused by the ending and the whole scenario as it played out, but it is a film that can’t win a Best Picture.   It is just too “British”, I think.   American audiences just don’t have the patience for it.   In the end it can be seen on Netflix and be just as satisfying.  We saw in 70mm, and even received the companion catalog of pictures as a bonus.   Honestly, I need to see Dunkirk in 70mm (and I did) but not this.
For Documentaries I saw Icarus on Saturday night.  It swayed my vote away from Abacus: Small Enough to Jail.   In it, there is the tale of an athlete trying to showing the prevalence of doping in cycling, but going so far as doping himself and trying to defeat the tests.   But it makes a turn as the Russian Director who ended up assisting him gets into political hot water as they Sochi Olympic scandal meltdown occurred.   The Director was the main facilitator keeping the State-sponsored program of doping secret.   He left in exile for the US.  He is a wanted man in Russia.   This real life spy caper is very interesting and shows just how far the Russian government was prepared to go to succeed in Sochi.   It makes you wonder what they are doing for the World Cup in June!!   According to this documentary, the Russians have never ceased using steroids.  Period.

February 29, 2016 – Oscar musings, Post Script

I had mixed feelings while watching the Oscars last night.  I only saw the beginning and end due to a hockey conflict.   I saw up to Alicia Vikander winning (much to my delight) and then re-joined when Best Actress was being handed out, and beyond.    I missed Best Supporting Actor but actually quite liked the choice with Bridge of Spies actor here, Mark Rylance.

I was elated with Brie Larson and Alicia.   I was despondent about the Best Picture choice of Spotlight.  It is a rare occasion indeed where Best Director and Best Picture are split.  More rare when Best Actor and Best Director and Picture are split.  Giving the main prize to Spotlight, which was a simple story with a great cast, where no one was particularly put through their acting paces, smacked of attacks against the Catholic church.  It has been done before, but it is sad when politics and religion can from one perspective cloud one’s mind over a great films.  Spotlight was NOT the best film of the year.   Not even close.   It may not have been a banner year, but it was not it.  For me, The Martian and The Revenant were more impactful.  I am distressed that The Martian didn’t get any Oscar love.
While I am happy (relatively) that Leo won his award, it was for a body of work.   This performance had not enough dialogue and too much crawling around on the snow covered ground.   It was an endurance test.   RogerEbert.com had a good piece on why giving him an Oscar for that performance was bad for acting.   I agree with the perspective.   Basically he argues that losing weight, or punishing ones body for your craft shouldn’t be enough.   So for this I am smiling for Leo, but sorry for the message that it sends out.
I liked Chris Rock.   He identified the elephant in the room early about the White Oscars, but rightfully used humour and parody to diffuse the issue and bring it back into perspective (not many non-white nominees in the 60s either, but they were too busy worrying about grandma swinging from a tree, or being lynched or raped).   And I liked the laugh about quitting the gig – “only those without jobs tell you to quit a job”.   Funny.   Tattooed Whoopi was front and centre because she worked on the parody clips.   Okay.
Overall some cheers and smiles.   I still think that Ridley Scott gets snubbed far too often.  I am glad that Alicia won a well-deserved award.   The more I see Rooney Mara, the more she creeps me out.
As far as the dresses are concerned, Sairose Ronan was amazing, along with Olivia Wilde, and Alicia Vikander herself.   Plenty of plunging necklines and side boobage action!   I was thankful for a hockey break in between.
On to next year!

February 11th, 2013

This past snowy Friday when I couldn’t get out to a movie, I ended up
hunkered down and doing a movie on demand.  I know, I paid for it, as
opposed to pirating it over the internet, but I like movies.   Anyway
I rented Premium Rush and I was glad that I did!  I had heard many
positive things about this movie but had not a chance to go see it
yet.   Arbitrage will be next on the On Demand hit parade.

To borrow Roger Ebert’s assessment of Speed when he reviewed that for
At the Movies; “…this was fun!”.  And it was.  Not only is there the
rush (no pun intended) of seeing this guy, and people like him, ride
bikes like maniacs around the city of New York, there is a compelling
story here.   I like the time travel done to put things in context and
fill in the holes.   The real treat for me here was the role of the
gambling addicted cop.  He is funny, and he can’t seem to buy a break
and has one bad thing after another happen.  Still like the Energizer
bunny, he keeps coming back and finding new and ingenious ways to
bring the slip of paper back to himself.  I also like the little duel
between the policeman on bike along with our hero.    He certainly
goes through a LOT for a $30 payment!!   There are some great chase
scenes and some good thinking that had some funny moments (I laughed a
few times with the cop) and the predicaments of the hero that he is
put in.

A fun ride.  I recommend if you haven’t seen already.  The acting
talents of JGL are not really challenged here, but the physical
aspects of the role are.  Yes, there are stunt riders I am certain,
but it was believable and a good use of my time on a snowy Friday
evening.

Well here are the Ebert picks for the Oscars.

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2013/02/outguess_ebert_in_an_easy_year.html

We can have our own little side bet if you so choose.  Despite his
protests, I do not believe that he got them “all right”.  Quite the
contrary, I think that he missed out in the Best Supporting Category
entirely.  I also believe that Best Director may fall elsewhere as
well.   Just how many Non-Americans are part of the Academy?   Because
to me, Lincoln speaks to Americans and Americans only.   No one else
cares.    Despite all that Daniel Day Lewis wins, just simply because
he IS the Best Actor these days (where the heck did Edward Norton fall
into)??!!

[Alison disagreed entirely on Premium Rush and found it silly and sophomoric]

I laughed at the over-the-top cop with an addiction and laughed out
loud a couple of times.  It was a mood I was in perhaps.  I wasn’t
looking for great acting, and what I got was a fun story.  It moved
along well.  Discarded the crap, and put a simple bike rider in a life
changing situation all for the fee of $30.   He is a much better
actor, and deserves better scripts, and he will get them from Looper
and Dark Knight Rises and other films he makes with Christopher Nolan.

Argo did a fabulous job at creating tension for sure.  A great job all
around and shocking on the snub for Affleck here on the Directing.
He isn’t a great actor.  He is becoming a very good director with The
Town and Argo under his belt.

I did rent On Demand Arbitrage last night and enjoyed that.  It was an
interesting view of how one can manipulate and use people and then in
end smell like a rose with all smiles and bliss.   Good performances
and Gere was in good form.

February 27th, 2012 – Oscar musings

This past week I managed to get to see a couple of films.  One not-so-well known the Canadian Best Foreign Film nominee Monsieur Lazhar.  The other J Edgar.  No luck seeing the Best Picture of the year.  Seems that the Director is rather chummy with his leading lady from the telecast last night.

First comments about the show last night Oscar night.   I enjoyed it.  I had a few laugh out loud moments and I thought that Billy Crystal is a fine host.  He’s funny, he does really good bits with the existing films and he pokes fun without being nasty about it.  The presentation reminded me that I need to see again Bridesmaids.  The clips made me laugh out loud every time.  It was good to see Christopher Plummer win in what was really a Lifetime Achievement Award.   I liked Jonah Hill in Moneyball but had no issue with Plummer (the Canadian) winning!    Early technical awards given to Hugo but the big prizes went to The Artist.  Guess I need to see it.  Meryl won and gave a memorable speech I thought.  17 nominations and yet only 3 wins now from the greatest living actor.  Good to see her acknowledge her husband as she says “you have brought everything WE value into our lives and made them happen” with tears.  Well done.  I also liked the acknowledgement by Plummer to his Wife about the Nobel Peace Prize.  Excellent.  In years when some spouses get forgotten, these are made to shine and Meryl said hers first!   A nice classy touch.
Back to the movies.  Friday was Lazhar at the Bell Lightbox Theatre that I have never been to.  Very nice digs, more adult.  A bar and some restaurants at street level and then theatres more like a viewing than cement bunker.  The movie, unknown to me before my law school friend suggested seeing it was set in a Montreal classroom.  During recess one Winter’s day a female teacher hangs herself and a student finds her.  There is scrambling to hide this from the rest of the class (Grade 6).  The rest of the movie introduces us to the substitute teacher who is from Algeria and seeking asylum in Canada.  There are really good performances from the students here, and couple notably.  Plenty of emotion and some parents getting upset, and then the kids’ perspective and take on the whole thing.   This is a good story, well told.  Sorry that it did not win last night, but I had heard good things about The Separation as well.
Yesterday I watched J Edgar on DVD with my brother and his girlfriend.  This of course is the tale of the head of the FBI.  Funny that my mind always jumps back to Agent Starling in Silence of the Lambs and her desire to work work for the Bureau, and her ambition.  Here is the guy who started it all.   This movie jumps around a lot from end of life, to middle to early days.  Watch Leo’s hair and make up to keep track.  There are flashbacks and forward shots sometimes in the same sequence (like going up and down and elevator or sitting at the race track).  There is background into his relationship with his Mother, the heavy handed and opinionated Mother that shaped his life.  Another strong female influence again much like Howard Hughes played earlier by Leo in The Aviator.  I think that the movie makes some excellent points about the life of this man, with both his personal life and his professional life.  Without a doubt, he is a well accomplished man creating a bureau from nothing.  But some of the foundations and how he wishes to be remembered are shaky.  There is much that lies beneath the surface and that is not shown here but hinted.  The relationship with Tolson was not a focal point.  In truth I would think that the real book about Hoover that could be written would be by his assistant, played by Naomi Watts.   She was with him for virtually his entire career.  A good movie.  I enjoyed it and even had a couple chuckles with my brother.  If you think about the FBI and investigating crimes and subversive behaviour and anti-American activities, you wonder how the assassinations of both Kennedys and MLK take place under his watch.  Violent times I suppose.   No hint here about whether the FBI knew or was involved.  Knowledge of the FBI of the extra marital affairs for sure, including wire taps in Kennedy’s suite for a tryst.
Two good films that I am glad that I saw.

Wednesday February 8th, 2012

I am beginning the annual catch up on the Oscar nominated films.  Ideally I get to watch ALL of the Best Picture nominees but with now up to 10 films it’s not always that easy.  This year I am done with three and now four.  I have seen The Descendants (mostly), War Horse, Hugo and now The Tree of Life.

Tree of Life:  This was a film that I had relatively no expectations.  I had read the glowing Ebert review as he reminisced about how closely this movie pulled him in with the images of the time (50s middle America).  He has written a couple interesting articles on this and it intrigued me.  The movie is not about plot and a straight lined arc in the lives of its characters.  It makes both macro and micro observations about life and life on earth in general.  Many of the connections you have to make yourself (or not).  Two heavy hitters with Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are acting here, but they are really not the focal point.   On the micro level you deal with life on a planet in the universe after the big bang.  There are stunning visuals and images that are totally new to me.   You have life coming out of the seas and then other forms of life.  What I came away with the macro story is just how BIG it all is, and just how little (in comparison) that we all are.  There is also a theological discussion that takes place and questions for God.   Much of this stems from the micro level life of an ordinary family in middle America (in this case Texas) but it really could be anywhere.
Here the family starts at the more recent time and then deals with images backwards.  There has been a death in the family and there is questioning as to why.  Then the flashbacks to the times with this family.  I take away from this that life, as we experience it, is really a sum of little images and moments.  The unexpected hug from a child, the kiss goodnight, the images as perceived of a child with his parents, and how their relationship impacts them.  The family has three boys.  Pitt plays the father.  Penn plays the eldest boy Jack all grown up.   You care about these people.  You see the journey that they take but it isn’t along a straight path.  Life is a bunch of moments strung together.  And so it is.  Struggles, challenges, understanding where one fits and the place that they have.  All a part of this, as macro meets micro along the way.
This cannot win Best Picture.  Why?  Because it is just too high minded I think.  The average movie goer (the film was virtually ignored in the theaters) simply won’t “get it”.  It can be slow.  It raises as many questions as it answers, simply because it doesn’t answer that many.  It observes.  And let’s the viewer figure out the meaning.  I also think that this is a film for older and more mature viewers.  This is not a 17yo date movie.  That older crowd that watched Iron Lady would enjoy this and connect with this.  I did.  Having children, thinking about the structure that we as parents provides, makes you think about where this fits in the grand scheme.  It shows too how attitudes and actions in front of children have an impact.  What the child remembers.
I would see it again.  I would catch more and pay more attention to the beginning.  In the end, time well spent last night, where after the movie I decided to watch the Extras as well on the DVD.   The director here is painting with a broad brush and giving some real insight into human beings.  I am really glad that I saw this.