Sunday, March 07, 2010

You thought Superbowl Sunday was in February? Really?

I'm BACK. After sleeping through the Oscars last year in a hotel bed in London, I am so glad to be back on American soil gearing up for the big night.

That said, I am an somewhat unhappy Yank. After last year's totally predictable set of winners, I'm sad to say that this year isn't shaping up to be much better. No less than 3 out of the 4 Acting categories are sure things, and I wouldn't be surprised to find myself 6 for 6 in the major categories. I realize that, if a film/nominee deserves the award, then it doesn't matter if it makes the show predictable. That said, I like it a little better when there's more variety.

Best Picture
  • Avatar
  • The Blind Side
  • District 9
  • An Education
  • The Hurt Locker
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
  • A Serious Man
  • Up
  • Up in the Air
Predicted winner: The Hurt Locker
If I was voting: Avatar
Possible upsets: Avatar

Analysis: 10 nominees means that the field is spread for a greater chance of an upset, right? Not even close. This race is between 2 films, folks. From a personal standpoint, while I admired The Hurt Locker, in the end, it seemed to me to be a really well-made war film, but nothing that terribly revolutionary or groundbreaking. On the other hand, Avatar was an accomplishment the likes of which I've never seen before. After its victory at the Golden Globes, I think Avatar seemed like a much stronger contender than it does now. The Hurt Locker has picked up a lot of momentum with major victories at the Producer's Guild Awards and BAFTA's. All of the signs right now point to a victory for The Hurt Locker, but Avatar is definitely lurking on the horizon.

Best Director
  • James Cameron - Avatar
  • Kathryn Bigelow - The Hurt Locker
  • Quentin Tarantino - Inglourious Basterds
  • Lee Daniels - Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
  • Jason Reitman - Up in the Air
Predicted winner: Kathryn Bigelow
If I was voting: James Cameron
Possible upsets: James Cameron

Analysis: Imagine this. The only two nominees with a chance in this category used to be married. Who would have thought we'd see that? Kathryn Bigelow has all the momentum right now, and, most importantly, the Director's Guild Award. Sadly, gender is playing a big role in this race, when it shouldn't even be an issue. The Academy has only nominated 4 women for this award in its history, with none of them walking off with Oscar. The pressure is on the Academy right now to change that. That said, I still believe that James Cameron's achievement is much more significant than Bigelow's, despite the fact that she definitely deserves her nomination.

Best Actor

  • Jeff Bridges - Crazy Heart
  • George Clooney - Up in the Air
  • Colin Firth - A Single Man
  • Morgan Freeman - Invictus
  • Jeremy Renner - The Hurt Locker
Predicted winner: Jeff Bridges
If I was voting: Jeff Bridges
Possible upsets: None.

Analysis: Jeff Bridges has won almost every major award leading up to Oscar night, and I think that tonight will be no different. There are some strong performances in this category, but I don't see anyone beating The Dude.

Best Actress

  • Sandra Bullock - The Blind Side
  • Helen Mirren - The Last Station
  • Carey Mulligan - An Education
  • Gabourey Sidibe - Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
  • Meryl Streep - Julie & Julia

Predicted winner: Sandra Bullock
If I was voting: Carey Mulligan
Possible upsets: Meryl Streep

Analyis: If you would have told me last year that Sandra Bullock would be the favorite to win any major Best Actress award, I would have thought you were nuts. I don't think she's really got a ton of range to work with. That said, I think she's clearly the front-runner here. Ordinarily, I'm a big Streep fan, but don't think her performance as Julia Child is nearly as good as it's getting credit for. There were a number of times that I felt that it drifted into caricature, which is certainly not what she was going for. One question: what happend to Abbie Cornish? How did her work in Bright Star manage to fall off the Oscar map?

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Matt Damon - Invictus
  • Woody Harrelson - The Messenger
  • Christopher Plummer - The Last Station
  • Stanley Tucci - The Lovely Bones
  • Christoph Waltz - Inglourious Basterds
Predicted winner: Christoph Waltz
If I was voting: Christoph Waltz
Possible upsets: None.

Analysis: This category is closed. No one else stands a chance. In a year defined by sure things, this is the surest of them all.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Penélope Cruz - Nine
  • Vera Farmiga - Up in the Air
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal - Crazy Heart
  • Anna Kendrick - Up in the Air
  • Mo’Nique - Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire
Predicted winner: Mo'Nique
If I was voting: Vera Farmiga
Possible upsets: None

Analysis: Mo'Nique is the heavy favorite here, and has won nearly every major award of the season. Personally, I absolutely loved Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air. Her presence in the film was effortless nuanced and confident in its maturity. That said, she has no chance here, as any opportunity that she might have had is undercut by the nomination of co-star Anna Kendrick, who is the winner of my own award for Least Deserving Nominee. I have no idea what people saw in this performance. Oh well. Congrats, Mo'Nique.

In closing, here are a few more picks for you. Quentin Tarantino/Inglourious Basterds for Best Original Screenplay. Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner/Up in the Air for Best Adapted Screenplay. The White Ribbon for Best Foreign Language Film, with a possible upset coming from A Prophet. Up for Best Animated Film. "The Weary Kind" for Best Original Song

Here's hoping that Steve Martin (one of my favorite Oscar hosts) and Alec Baldwin ROCK the HOUSE.

Enjoy the show.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Things I learned in 2009

  • People really don’t know how to spell.
  • Seeing “En film av Ingmar Bergman” against a black screen means that something special is about to happen.
  • Being single rocks.
  • Bono has a LOT of energy for a short guy.
  • Whenever 96,000 people get together for anything, it will be inadequately organized, poorly executed, and result in unhappy people who feel like their devotion and hours spent waiting are being spit upon.
  • If you go to a U2 concert, you just might find yourself in the inner circle about 25 feet from the stage against all odds.
  • Woody Allen films make me happy.
  • Fergie is much finer in person than she is in photos of her in the press. I don’t know exactly why.
  • Jet lag has solid ground beneath its exalted reputation. When you and the two people you’re rooming with are all awake at 3 in the morning, there is a reason.
  • When going to a foreign country, make it a priority to learn the word for “toilet.”
  • There are more cars in Rome than I have ever seen in my life. If parking was allowed in St. Peter’s Basilica, people would park there.
  • Paris has fewer cars than Rome does, but the drivers are significantly worse.
  • Eggs are never the same from one hotel to the next. Sometimes, one is even led to question their validity as eggs.
  • Members of a large group of people exploring a foreign city together will probably have conflicting ideas as to how best do it.
  • If you don’t try to help figure out how to get where the group is going, you can’t be blamed when everyone gets lost.
  • When you’re at the top, the Eiffel Tower is really high off the ground, and I do mean really high off the ground. It’s the highest you get without being in a plane, unless you’re an avid skydiver, but you probably aren’t one of those, because you would have told me that by now. C’mon, fess up. When did you start?
  • Venice during Carnivale is CRAZY. Did you know that even Batman heads over there?
  • St. Mark’s Square gets incredibly cold at night in February. Things you thought were unreachable (like your memories of second grade) even feel the chill.
  • If you’re going to travel on one of the bigger water taxis in Venice and it’s not completely freezing outside, sit on the top on the little bench. It’s the only way to go.
  • If you want to find a date in a European city, I have one word of advice for you. Lucerne. Case closed.
  • Browse the postcards at the rest stops in Switzerland. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Quentin Tarantino is one crazy, crazy virtuoso.
  • Being single sucks.
  • Even though he’d been reduced to an easy punchline for years, Michael Jackson meant far more to me than I ever realized.
  • On sparring in a tournament: if the judges holdup their hand with the red ribbon on it and you have the red armbands on, that means you won.
  • When your friend says something to you, followed by the phrase “no pressure,” chances are they probably don’t mean it.
  • Netflix is a beautiful thing. Imagine this: it’s actually possible to find the movies you want to watch and, what’s more, you actually get to. Something like this would be unheard of in the realm of Blockbusterdom.
  • Pixar still hasn’t rebounded. Bah.
  • Sometimes, your worst fears get realized. Almost every single concern I had about J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek ended up coming true.
  • Something called Star Trek can suck. I hated it more than I’ve hated just about any film I can think of in the entire time I’ve lived on this planet, in this body, and eating this cheese. I wanted to boo at the screen. I’ve never wanted to do that before. It was THAT bad.
  • New Year’s parties are fun.
  • Bruce Springsteen has more energy than I do. Bruce Springsteen has more energy than you do. Bruce Springsteen abides.
  • The E Street Band is probably the best backing band these ears have ever heard.
  • You never know where your journey will take you. This year, I found myself in a theater drinking a glass of cabernet sauvignon watching a movie with Seth Rogen as a mall security guy. You never know.
  • A classic is a classic for a very good reason. Sometimes not so much, but usually yes.
  • For some reason, some people actually still think that George W. Bush was good at his last job. Please don’t explain.
  • Not everything Radiohead does is all gilded beauty and summershine smiles. I still don’t know why they said they were so proud of These Are My Twisted Words.
  • There are at least a couple people you think are close friends that aren’t.
  • There are few things that are worse in this world than having someone that you love look at you and tell you that, when all is said and done, you are expendable.
  • In Europe, they call a quarter-pounder with cheese a Royale with cheese, on account of the metric system and all.
  • I miss little things sometimes in ways I didn’t comprehend. I went back to CSUF with Di for Jeff’s graduation, and realized how much I’d missed walking with my friend.
  • Krzysztof Kieślowski’s films are special. That is the kind of thing that I want to do in my own career. He understood a lot more about people than most. I wish that I could have met him.
  • Alcohol is good.
  • Pulling off a surprise birthday party for my mother is actually doable. It helps significantly to be a “yes man” who does what your sister asks you to. A lot of responsibility comes off your shoulders that way, and you feel better.
  • When you’re being driven home after flying halfway across the world and are more tired than you care to blink at, the driver will, by necessity, be a man who’s just passed the exam for U.S. citizenship and feels the need to quiz you on the material.

Here's to 2010. Let's hope it's an improvement on the last one.

Peace, Love, & Understanding,