Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Oscar Picks Part I

I've never really liked watching the Oscars. They just piss me off. Even when Jon Stewart hosted, I could hardly stand to watch those who won win. Weirdly, though, this year I've been closer to the Oscars than ever. I go to the Academy theaters on a regular basis, and have watched a huge number of the nominated films. More than any year previous.

So, in honor of Emma's forthcoming Oscar's viewing party, I thought I'd do a couple of posts on my picks for winners. Then I realized that my fantasy world, in which everyone I like wins, probably will never materialize. So, ahead are two categories: Joe's Pick and Oscar's Pick. Oscar, of course, the collective personification of the Academy, and his / its picks, of course, purely a prediction. Who knows what will really happen! But, it'll be fun to see how my predictions stack up.

Bring it on!

Writing (Original Screenplay)

  • The Hurt Locker” Written by Mark Boal
  • Inglourious Basterds” Written by Quentin Tarantino
  • The Messenger” Written by Alessandro Camon & Oren Moverman
  • A Serious Man” Written by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
  • Up” Screenplay by Bob Peterson, Pete Docter, Story by Pete Docter, Bob Peterson, Tom McCarthy
Joe's Pick: Inglourious Basterds!

I've had a contentious relationship with Quentin Tarantino's new film that I haven't quite parsed out yet. I have yet to see it twice (I know, I know -- required), and when I left the film the first time I think I said something like, "Well, I'll never watch that again." The movie has since pried around in my brain for months afterward, and my initial claim was admittedly short-sighted. It is my pick because it has the confident, exciting mark of its writer more than any of the other films, and none of them have stuck around like this one has.

"Up" does not get better than its first 15 minutes, "Serious Man" is wry and has great moments but is not The Brothers' best work, I haven't seen "The Messenger," and while I loved "Hurt Locker" for its various strengths, I still think that Basterds deserves the prize. I really can't put it any better than David Bordwell already has: "I call Inglourious Basterds mature because it exploits [Tarantino's] strengths in fresh but recognizable ways. ... So I’m not convinced that Inglourious Basterds lacks emotion. The emotions Tarantino aims for will arise not from character “identification” but from the overall structure and texture of the work. We are to be stirred, enraptured, astonished by a procession of splendors big and small. "

Oscar's Pick: Hurt Locker!

Tough, tough call, but I think Oscar will go for Mark Boal's script. And this isn't a bad thing: it is definitely my second pick for the prize. Actually, I loved the script. Save for a couple of throwaway scenes and a silly epigraph, the movie never sank into a preachy emotional explication in any way. There was no real "plot," it just kind of followed this New Guy around in various episodes of bomb dismantling. Even when you think the film is falling into a plotty kind of action movie, Boal manages to pull the rug out from under you and still bring it back to his characters. And it has a hilariously awesome / semi-poignant ending reminiscent of Kathryn Bigelow's other stand out flick, "Point Break." I'll pleased with either pick.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

  • District 9” Written by Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell
  • An Education” Screenplay by Nick Hornby
  • In the Loop” Screenplay by Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche
  • Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher
  • Up in the Air” Screenplay by Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner
Joe's Pick: In the Loop!

What a seriously awesome satire this movie turned out to be. It was less funny than I thought it would be, but better than I thought it could be. It ended up like the best Daily Shows: funny stuffed with serious and weirdly emotional. I loved it. Can't wait to watch it again.

Oscar's Pick: Up in the Air!

I didn't like Reitman and Turner's script, but I think Oscar will. They won't win best picture or best director, but they have to give them something, so here it is. I thought that Reitman got some lovely performances out of his actors, but the script didn't have any kind of lasting goodness to it. All it did was the opposite of what you were dreading it would do, and then played that off as some kind of emotional truth: Clooney doesn't give a big emotional speech about how his outlook on life was bullshit, he just walks off stage. He runs back to his girl for the emotional reunion, but it doesn't work out. The emotional strings are hugely visible to the perceptive audience member, and I don't like that feeling. It feels false.

Visual Effects

  • Avatar” Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones
  • District 9” Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken
  • Star Trek” Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton
Joe's Pick: Avatar!

Duh. They revolutionized the way green screen movies should be made. Rather than pasting the actors onto the 3d environment, they can see the environment in camera. The work flow is now correct. No contest.

Oscar's Pick: Avatar!

Duh. Why no nomination for "Transformers," though? They had a world record for number of individual moving layers to create their machines. Seems like a weird stiff to me.

Documentary (Short Subject)

  • China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province” Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill
  • The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner” Daniel Junge and Henry Ansbacher
  • The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant” Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert
  • Music by Prudence” Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett
  • Rabbit à la Berlin” Bartek Konopka and Anna Wydra
Joe's Pick: The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner!

Seeing the Doc shorts was an interesting experience. They all feel very weighty and about 'important subjects,' save for "Rabbit a la Berlin": I loved it, but it was hilarious to watch it with bored Academy members. It is a documentary / educational film on the rise and fall of the Berlin wall from the perspective of Berlin's rabbit population. "Prudence" lost me from moment 1 with its annoyingly staged opening scene, which set the tone for the rest of a cheesy, self-important doc. I fell asleep through the aimless "Last Truck." The China documentary was very good and coherent and a good use of the format, but "Booth" was the most cohesive and engaging of the bunch. It was emotional, balanced, informative and felt like a full-length documentary with no strings, no falseness, just the observation of a single political race.

Oscar's Pick: The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner!

I just think its the most solid of any of the documentaries. Its only competition as far as accomplishment in the form is "China's Unnatural Disaster," and put side by side, "Booth" is just the better film.

More to come!

1 comment:

Shawn said...

Fucking Joe, you couldn't stay awake during a 40 min documentary about Kenny and I's hometown?