Marc and Jenny at the Oscars

Okay we’re really at Carolina Cinemas up in the Cinema Lounge.

Today (2/24) Carolina Cinemas is putting on another wonderful Oscar party. This event is FREE. There will be an Oscar ballot contest to win FREE movie passes.

Carolina Cinemas has a hot menu (pizza, salad, paninis, snacks) as well as the normal movie snacks. Soda refills (any size) are FREE. Popcorn refills (any size) are FREE if you have an Asheville Film Society membership. They also have local beer on tap, bottled beer, and wine by the glass or bottle.

While the party upstairs doesn’t start until 3:15, we plan to be there early and maybe catch a non-Oscar movie before the festivities.

3:15 – Beasts of the Southern Wild (Nominated for Best Picture, Director, and Actress)

5:00 – Last year’s Best Picture winner, The Artist

7:00 – The Red Carpet followed by the 85th Annual Academy Awards. Oscar trivia during the commercials to win FREE movie posters.

Jenny and I will be here all day – especially since we missed Beasts of the Southern Wild while it was in theaters.

2013 Oscar Best Picture & Director

I know the Academy is constantly struggling to keep their awards relevant but there seems to be a bit of cognitive dissonance between their Best Picture and Best Director categories. There are nine nominees for Best Picture and five for Best Director. Did the other four movies make themselves? Were they assembled by committee?

I have always felt that they shouldn’t bother with a Best Director category – they should just give the Best Film Oscar to the director, not the production company that bankrolled him/her. If you bankroll a movie, your reward is that the movie is financially successful and/or connotes prestige. Anyway on to the nominees for Best Picture and Director (Best Director nominees are bolded):

Amour (Michael Haneke): It is always quite surprising when a foreign film gets nominated for Best Picture (and Best Director), especially when it only opened here on February 15th. That said it isn’t likely to win since it is foreign. Also also it is quite grueling. This is one of the most honest depictions of love that I have ever seen and yet I have to warn you that it is not enjoyable. I often felt like Michael Haneke was punishing me for coming to his movie.

Argo (Ben Affleck): Here’s where the cognitive dissonance really kicks in. Argo is nominated for Best Picture but Ben Affleck is not nominated for Best Director. Affleck has won Best Director for this film from BAFTA, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, Chicago Film Critics Association, Florida Film Critics, the Golden Globes and others and was nominated by the Directors Guild. Yet Affleck can’t even score an Oscar nom.

Argo is an excellent motion picture. Affleck does a wonderful job of raising tension and interweaving scenes for a historical event where we already know the outcome. Yes, the climax of the film goes on a bit too long and goes well past reality into creative license but on the whole, this is an excellent suspenseful movie.

Beasts of the Southern Wild (Benh Zeitlin): This is the film I can’t comment on since I won’t be seeing it until Oscar Sunday. I would still think this a longshot and our pre-eminent local critic, Ken Hanke did not think much of it at all.

Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino): I loved Django Unchained, my wife didn’t like it at all. We both felt it was very poorly edited and desperately needed about an hour trimmed off. Tarantino’s dialogue, sly humor and visual style are in abundance here but I think it is considered too controversial to win. Note I write ‘considered’ as neither my wife nor I considered it to be controversial in spite of the overwhelming use of the ‘N’ word.

Les Miserables (Tom Hooper): My wife and I agree that this was not only a terrible Oscar pick but neither of us liked the movie. Not once did we tear up in spite of the endlessly depressing subject matter. The added song was not any good and appeared to be added for the sake of being nominated. Russell Crowe’s performance was all over the map. I will admit that Anne Hathaway’s performance was excellent BUT her five-minute character arc where she goes from being unemployed to selling her body, literally and figuratively, was so rapid as to be laughable.

Life of Pi (Ang Lee): I was unfortunate and missed Life of Pi. My loving wife and daughter went to see it and here is my wife’s take:

“Life of Pi is one of the most beautiful films I saw last year.  The colors are rich, sumptuous.  The story follows a boy who is stranded at sea in a life boat with a tiger after the ship his family is on sinks during a voyage from India to America.  The film feels longer than it is, but is so pretty to look at that I didn’t mind.  Great acting (in particular the actor who plays the older version of Pi is awesome), awesome editing, it’s a strong film – but it’s not the best film of the year (we already established that the best film fo the year is Cloud Atlas).  Things to remember:  there mostly isn’t a real tiger, or other real animals, in this film – mostly they’re all created from thin air (or massively powerful computers).  To me that’s the most awesome thing about Life of Pi –  realizing how far movie special effects have come since The Incredible Mr. Limpett (or Them!).”

Lincoln (Steven Spielberg): An excellent examination of politics that really only suffers from being an examination of politics (i.e. lots of speeches and backroom deals but very little action). Acting is wonderful and yes, I think Daniel Day Lewis is a lock for Best Actor.

Silver Linings Playbook (David O. Russell) :This was a delightful view of life with psychological dysfunction covered in a romantic comedy wrapper. Jennifer Lawrence is not one of those zany girls with a lust for life, she is a young woman with real mental issues. Bradley Cooper is not the misunderstood hero, he too has real mental issues that clearly stem from his family. They even (marginally) address the age difference between the two of them.

Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow): I thoroughly enjoyed this balanced portrayal of our hunt for Bin Laden. The movie operates as a procedural – only two of the characters are developed in any significant way. I was very impressed with the opening 911 audio reports over a dark screen. Zero Dark Thirty of course suffers both from trying to tell an authentic story and from compressing a decade of events into a few hours.

2013 Oscar Best Actress and Supporting Actress

Okay, as with the Best Actor category, the Best Supporting Actress appears to be chosen already. The Best Actress category also set records this year for oldest nominee (Emmanuelle Riva) and youngest nominee (Quvenzhane Wallis).
Best Actress:

Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook

I really like Jennifer Lawrence. She came out of nowhere with Winter’s Bone, did a nice job as Mystique in X-Men First Class (helping to offset January Jones), and saved The Hunger Games from mediocrity. I also like that, for Hollywood, she is a plus-sized lady. Her performance in Silver Linings Playbook is delightful and I would normally hope she gets the Oscar.

Jessica Chastain, Zero Dark Thirty

I like Jessica Chastain and she is quite good in Zero Dark Thirty but all she has to sell is tough. She is tough in the movie but we don’t usually give out Oscars for that. There was not a lot of emotional depth written into the role but she handled it well.

Emmanuelle Riva, Amour

No contest – Emmanuelle Riva’s performance blew me away. Amour is a two-hour slog and it often feels like Michael Haneke is trying to punish you for watching his film but it is a very honest and resonant look at what real love looks like. Emmanuelle Riva is absolutely uncanny as a wife who suffers a stroke – every nuance of her performance was amazing.

Quvenzhane Wallis, Beasts of the Southern Wild

Well I won’t see this until Oscar Sunday but nominating a pre-teen for acting usually just means that you like them in that role – not that they can necessarily act. Still it isn’t fair for me to pass judgement until I see it.

Naomi Watts, The Impossible

Naomi Watts is quite good in The Impossible but the real stars of that film are the tsunami (unbelievable that it wasn’t nominated for special effects – the tsunami is terrifying) and the first two-thirds of the script.

Best Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams, The Master

Curse you Master! I miss one darn film and it gets nominated for everything.

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables

Anne Hathaway’s fifteen minute performance (aka the only reason to sit through a three hour Les Miserables) is truly excellent. She can belt out a tune and turn on the waterworks – all while getting a haircut.

Sally Field, Lincoln

I really enjoyed Sally Field’s performance as the First Lady though I have to admit that some scenes were much better than others.

Helen Hunt, The Sessions

Poor Helen Hunt! Normally, as an older actor, baring your body is considered daring and a gateway to an Oscar. Unfortunately the only thing that trumps that is drastically changing your body. Nudity < Haircut.

Jacki Weaver, Silver Linings Playbook

Jacki certainly deserves an ‘A’ for effort. Any actress that can hold her own while performing with three lunatics (Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro, and Jennifer Lawrence) is doing great.

Oscar Nominated Animated Films – 2013

My wife and I’s quest to catch all the Oscar-nominated films this year is going well. We will have watched all but a handful come Oscar day. I have now caught all of the movies in the Animated Film category.

Wreck-It Ralph: Wreck-It Ralph is an animated film about being inside a videogame with lots of inside jokes. This would seem tailor-made for me. I very much enjoyed it, even though I felt there weren’t enough videogame jokes in there. I don’t think it was Oscar-worthy though.

P.S. You can tell you are a videogame fanatic if, instead of seeing Donkey Kong in the Wreck-It Ralph game, you see Crazy Climber.

Frankenweenie: Frankenweenie was obviously a labor of love for Tim Burton and, being a tribute to old horror movies, is another movie tailor-made for me. Again I enjoyed it but it isn’t Oscar-worthy. There are nice jokes here but it didn’t gel very well. It probably should have stayed a short.

Wife’s take: I think it says it all that I completely forgot to include this movie in the Oscar watch for the weekend when we saw it.  It was cute but forgettable – definitely not Tim Burton at his best.  I liked the color palette but didn’t generally find any of the characters to be memorable.  The parents were, perhaps, less clueless than in the usual kiddie fare.  Otherwise unremarkable.

Brave: Obviously the 800-lb gorilla in the room is any film from Pixar. I really enjoyed Brave but, perhaps more importantly, I admire Brave for its message. Finally, we have a Disney princess who is in no way defined by her prince. I know Mulan carried a similar message but, if you’ll forgive the archery analogy, this one drives the point home.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits: I saw this one last and honestly wasn’t expecting much from it. It turned out to be very entertaining with each frame crowded with jokes – some for children but plenty for adults.

Wife’s take: Charming!  Why does this one have to be up against Brave (the clear winner, in my opinion, in this category).  Any other year, I’d pull for The Pirates!  It stars simply everyone with a British accent, and is filled with touches that amuse (and keep you looking for more – how many ham references can one film hold?).  Loved it!

ParaNorman: This supernatural themed film had less homages than Frankenweenie but was far better constructed. It was very enjoyable but I didn’t really find it Oscar-worthy.

Wife’s take: This is a cute stop-motion animated film.  I don’t need to see it again, but it was fluffy fun, and a good one to watch with Dorothy in the room.

Oscar Nominated Shorts 2013 – Live Action

Shorts HD has released a program comprised of all the Oscar nominated shorts. Locally, only Carolina Cinemas is carrying it. At our theater, the animated and live action shorts have been combined into one epic program (three and a half hours long). Unfortunately the only time they showed the documentary shorts was Wednesday at 11 a.m. My wife had to work and I devoted my day to the Die Hard marathon at The Biltmore Grande.

The Live Action Shorts program runs about two hours and contains all five of the Oscar-nominated films. For once I thought all five films were Oscar-worthy.

Asad: Asad is a startling offbeat tale of a young boy in Somalia, torn between fishing and piracy.

Buzkashi Boys: This is a great slice of life tale of two young boys set in Kabul. Buzkashi Boys actually has a fair amount in common with Asad.

Curfew:  This was an inventive story with backgrounds that begged to be expanded on. We are dumped right in the middle of an ongoing, rather depressing, story. The ideas are good as are the questions raised.

Death of a Shadow: I loved Death of a Shadow. The setting, backstory, and steampunk style were all marvelous. Unfortunately they saddled it to a main storyline that was rather trite. I would love to see the same people handle a similar topic as a feature film.

Henry: I have to pick Henry over the other stories. While the plotline becomes clear fairly quickly (second only to Death of a Shadow in obviousness), the way it is told is very heartfelt. I’m not ashamed to say that Henry had me crying by the end – Les Miserables did not give me even the slightest sniffle.

My Wife’s Take: We saw all five shorts at the theater this weekend.  My pick for best? Henry, a story told from the point of view of a man whose losing his memory.  I cried like a baby (as did Marc, and many others in the theater).  Also worth catching:  all the rest of them.  Most were flawed (Death of a Shadow was most disappointing in that it might have been great, instead of being merely good), but all were worth a look.

Oscar Nominated Shorts 2013 – Animated

Shorts HD has released a program comprised of all the Oscar nominated shorts. Locally, only Carolina Cinemas is carrying it. At our theater, the animated and live action shorts have been combined into one epic program (three and a half hours long). Unfortunately the only time they showed the documentary shorts was Wednesday at 11 a.m. My wife had to work and I devoted my day to the Die Hard marathon at The Biltmore Grande.

The animated shorts program ran an hour and a half and showed the five nominated animated shorts as well as several worthy entries to pad out the running time.

Adam and Dog: This is a decently told story with a decent watercolor feel but not much more than that. I do not understand why this was nominated over Pixar’s La Luna or at all really.

Fresh Guacamole:  Guacamole is a visual delight that might be worthy of an Oscar but it is only two minutes long and is just about making Guacamole.

Head Over Heels: This was charming but not as charming as Paper Man. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more had I not already seen Sesame Street’s Upside Downton Abbey.

Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare: This was an excellent short that was full of wonderful Simpsons humor. I loved it BUT I did not find it inventive.

Paperman: This is my pick for the Oscar. I loved this short when it played in front of Wreck-It Ralph and I found it just as charming the second time.

My Wife’s Take: My pick(s) for best: Fresh Guacamole and Paperman.  My guess is that Paperman will take the prize, if only because Fresh Guacamole is 2 minutes of watching someone making guac.  One of the entries baffled me because it didn’t seem to be anything overly special: Adam and Dog.  The illustration was interesting (a different style than typically seen in the US) but the story wasn’t compelling.  Another case of “what if they’d done something more with this”.

Catch the Oscar Films Locally – Regal and AMC

Fresh off their Die Hard marathon, Regal Cinemas is offering a number of Oscar marathons

On Friday 2/15, Sunday (2/17), Tuesday (2/19), and Thursday (2/21), Regal is offering

12 noon Beasts of the Southern Wild

1:50 Life of Pi

4:20 Les Miserables

7:20 Amour

9:50 Lincoln

On the intermediate days Saturday (2/16), Monday (2/18), and Wednesday (2/20), Regal is offering

12:15 Django Unchained

3:20 Silver Linings Playbook

5:45 Zero Dark Thirty

8:45 Argo

A two-day pass is $50, a one-day pass is $30. With either pass you get a coupon to get a medium soda and popcorn for $5

We don’t have an AMC theater locally but they are doing a similar marathon.

On Saturday 2/16, AMC is offering Amour, Les Miserables, Argo, and Django Unchained for $30

On Saturday 2/23, AMC is offering Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty for $40

Select AMC theaters will also have a stamina marathon, showing all nine films beginning at 10 a.m. on 2/23 and running until about 10 a.m. Sunday morning. Even I am not that hardcore. Besides which, even if you made it through that one-day marathon, how would you be in any shape to watch the Oscars that evening?

As usual AMC is offering various buck promotions through its Stubs program. Not having an AMC theater, I can’t really comment on their Stubs program.

 

The Golden Raspberry Awards – Worst Films

The Golden Raspberry Awards – Four of the ‘winners’ of Worst Film are currently available on Netflix streaming.

Worst Film 2003Gigli

“Small-time thug Larry Gigli (Ben Affleck) kidnaps the brother of a district attorney in order to save a mob kingpin (Al Pacino) from prosecution. But when Gigli’s superior doesn’t trust him to finish the job, he sends in gorgeous lesbian Ricki (Jennifer Lopez) to assist. Gigli is at once offended by his boss’s lack of faith and infatuated with Ricki’s beauty. Despite its big-name cast, the film was considered one of the worst movies of 2003.”

Worst Film 1993 – indecent Proposal

“For one million dollars, a handsome billionaire proposes to Diana that they spend a single night together. Her husband is a cash-strapped architect who could use the cash. Will she do it?”

Worst Film 1992 – Shining Through

“New York secretary Linda Voss (Melanie Griffith) suspects that her boss, Ed Leland (Michael Douglas), is an American spy. When the United States enters World War II and Ed’s key operative in Berlin is killed, Linda convinces her boss to let her go undercover. Linda is dropped behind enemy lines to penetrate the household of a high-ranking enemy official. Will she make it out alive? Also stars Liam Neeson, John Gielgud and Joely Richardson.”

Worst Film 1990 – The Adventures of Ford Fairlane

“Comic Andrew Dice Clay stars as a private investigator trying to make sense of a rash of murders that has left a string of music-industry victims in its wake. The most recent casualty: a disc jockey with a penchant for verbal attacks.”

 

Welcome February – Oscar Month

I LOVE movies, therefore I love the Oscars (in spite of their misguided calls year after year). My wife enjoys movies but LOVES the Oscars. We used to have a mini-Oscar party every year but last year we went to The Carolina.

Last year, Carolina Cinemas put on a wonderful party in their cinema lounge. They had FREE showings all day leading up to the Academy Awards. A good time was had by all. I even won an Asheville Film Society membership for being the Best Dressed Male (something I have never previously been accused of). My wife was better dressed – thankfully for me, the category was gender split.

This year Carolina Cinemas is putting on another wonderful Oscar party on Sunday, February 24th. This event is FREE. There will be an Oscar ballot contest to win FREE movie passes.

Carolina Cinemas has a hot menu (pizza, salad, paninis, snacks) as well as the normal movie snacks. Soda refills (any size) are FREE. Popcorn refills (any size) are FREE if you have an Asheville Film Society membership. They also have local beer on tap, bottled beer, and wine by the glass or bottle.

3:15 – Beasts of the Southern Wild (Nominated for Best Picture, Director, and Actress)

5:00 – Last year’s Best Picture winner, The Artist

7:00 – The Red Carpet followed by the 85th Annual Academy Awards. Oscar trivia during the commercials to win FREE movie posters.

Jenny and I will be there all day – especially since we missed Beasts of the Southern Wild while it was in theaters.

The 84th Academy Awards & I aka Oscar and the Grouch

My wife and I love the Academy Awards. Unfortunately last year’s ceremonies were just awful. How could you watch and not wonder what James Franco was on? Anne Hathaway is a cute young lady but not really a good host. I’m also having trouble picturing her as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises but I would not have believed that Heath Ledger would have made a better Joker than Jack Nicholson. Still we mostly watch the Oscars for the red carpet and this year is no exception – especially as we’ve seen only a handful of the nominees.

Billy Crystal is a nice safe host and I’m sure this Sunday’s proceedings will go fine. My favorite recent host was Hugh Jackman and I’d really like to see him reprise his role. Barring that I would love to see Neil Patrick Harris suit up as host.

This year Carolina Cinemas is having a wonderful Academy Awards marathon in their cinema lounge – all FREE FREE FREE! My wife has graciously agreed to join me for this butt-numb-a-thon. There is also no need to leave during the day as Carolina Cinemas has a full lineup of sandwiches, pizza, and other munchies as well as beer and wine for those so inclined.

12:30 – Midnight in Paris (nominated for Best Picture, Best Director – Woody Allen, Best Writing – Woody Allen and Best Achievement in Art Direction)

2 – Moneyball (nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor – Brad Pitt, Best Supporting Actor – Jonah Hill, Best Writing, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound Mixing

4 – The King’s Speech (last year’s Best Picture winner)

630 – Red Carpet Interviews

7 – The Oscars

I have to confess that it is a good thing that we’ll be seeing Moneyball and Midnight in Paris as I’ve seen almost none of the nominees this year. For that matter I have to confess to not having seen The King’s Speech yet. I did get to see Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and my wife saw The Help aka Rich White People Solve Racism.