Monday, March 3, 2014

Post-Oscars 2014

As a movie lover, this is a day I look forward to all year.
The one unfortunate thing this year was that it's the first time since 2010 that I went into it without seeing a single Oscar-nominated film. Between the weather and just the fact it's an extra 20 minutes to the theater they're playing.

It's funny how I spent the past few months looking forward to this, only to have something come along and divert my attention.
Ever since Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko sustained that injury in Sochi, I've been cheerleading for him across social media. Namely, his Facebook page, Twitter and YouTube, where my well wishing connected with fans he has around the world. His surgery was scheduled March 2nd so I had him in my thoughts until the red carpet coverage began.

Feel free to stop by my other blog for another entry I wrote about him, which includes a video I recorded a week ago to wish him the best of luck. Not the greatest quality, obviously, and he might never get to see it personally, but it just felt like something I had to do.

Today, I'm also wearing this [bit of cheesy Oriental Trading merchandise] in his honor to keep the good vibes flowing.

The latest is that the surgery was successful and he may start walking again tomorrow, which is the best anyone who cares about him can ask for.

Now onto business.

We watched 90 minutes of Red Carpet coverage on ABC before the show started and it flew by so quickly.
Nearly everyone looked amazing.

My personal favorite, which so far has been overshadowed by red carpet veterans, was Anna Kendrick.

Also loved the "American Hustle" women, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, Lupita, Anne Hathaway's "disco ball" gown (SO  much better than last year's dress) and Sandra Bullock.
But Anna Kendrick's dress is the one I'd personally love to get away with.

As a frequent watcher of her show, I was stoked to see Ellen DeGeneres host this thing. But part of me feels as if there was a little too much hype and not enough substance. She did a great job, but it wasn't particularly memorable... except for 2-3 moments

  • the celeb-heavy selfie that crashed Twitter
  • the pizza party
  • the 3-4 costume changes
The jokes were hit or miss and none had me rolling on the floor laughing. Maybe it would have helped if she danced through the aisles :-P but then the show would have ran enough longer than it did with some of those extra long speeches.

Tonight's show was about honoring the heroes (super and otherwise) of film. They had an animation reel that had everything from "The Incredibles" to "Shrek." Ellen's one gripe: not enough "Finding Nemo"... this comes after a couple years of lobbying for a sequel and a year away from said sequel hitting theaters.
They had an ordinary people reel, which included Atticus Finch, remembered as one of the greatest movie and literary figures of all time.
And they capped it off with all our heroes of comic books and novels, the Avengers, Batman, Superman, Harry Potter and so on.

They also honored "The Wizard of Oz," which I believe was a year in the making. The red carpet coverage last year had "guess what's under the box" contest and it was the ruby slippers.  I included it among my favorite movies, so you know how I feel about it.
Probably the one thing that could cap it off was Pink singing "Over the Rainbow" in a gorgeous ruby red dress. Unlike people who've done it on "American Idol" (Katherine McPhee most famously), she stuck to the original arrangement and did amazingly.
Maybe it's just the nostalgia that song contains, but that was my one moment of the night where I let the tears get the best of me.
Ellen broke up the emotion by coming on stage afterwards dressed like Glinda the good witch :-P talk about awkward

The only person that could, legitimately, follow that was Bette Midler who did "Wing Beneath my Wings" after the "In Memorium" segment. 
Personally, though, I'm not a huge fan of that song because it's just cheesy and overdone. Not to mention it seemed a little odd that she started it after they showed Philip Seymour Hoffman's headshot. I'm just saying how I'm sure a lot of other cynics might have been thinking if not for the fact he was one of several people who lost this past year.

People has their complaints EVERY year about people that are left off the list. Something that I get kinda sick of, especially the year Corey Haim died. Heck, a year or two later, they kept saying he was snubbed as if his death would carry over to the next year because he was skipped.
I doubt anyone but us "Glee"ks have anything negative to say about. I rationalized that Cory Monteith wasn't mentioned at all because he's known as a TV star and really hasn't been in any movies (except for the Glee movie and an indie film that was supposedly his last role). But at the same time I feel a little bitter about it, thinking it could have also been pressure from people who didn't want him to get the same recognition as James Gandolfini did at the Emmy's...

As for other performances, we of course had our "Best Original Song" nominees on staging playing their nominated anthems.
  • Pharrell got the whole place hopping with "Happy," the only number that had a full-on stage production with back-up dancers and such. It's a good song, but I don't think it's nomination-worthy. It's not as if it brings the main theme of "Descipable Me 2" to life.
  • Karen O did "Moon Song" from "Her," a wonderfully subdued performance that says you don't have to be big and loud to be a musical artist ("American Idol" and "The Voice" should take notes. I'd say "The X-Factor" too, except that show's cancelled).
  • U2 had their performance of "Ordinary Love," during which I spent most of the time seething with the hope they don't win an Oscar just because Bono gets super treatment on site... just because he's a big humanitarian and all that. The performance itself just wasn't my cup of tea.
  • and they saved the best for last: Idina Menzel doing "Let it go." She commanded that stage and brought forth the same emotion as she did on screen, although her last big note was a little shrill.
Now for the winners.
I'll go through them by movie, rather than by category.... after some of the less conspicuous awards.

Best Live-action short- "Helium"
(honestly, I forgot which of the ones listed I picked, but it's like grasping at straws)

Best animated short- "Mr. Hublot"
(loved the French guys who gave the acceptance speech. Since 2011 when "The Artist" cleared house, I've always had a soft spot for winners who don't have English as their first language. The animation looks amazing, but it sucks that the Mickey Mouse short "Get a Horse", the only short I actually saw, didn't get that recognition.)

Best Documentary- short- "The Lady in Number 6 (Music Saved My life)"
(This teaches me to research before picking favorites because I picked this one just based on the "music saved my life" portion.I had no idea it was a Holocaust survivor whose talent for the piano kept her alive in that auspicious time. It's bittersweet that she died a week before she saw this moment come to pass)

Best Documentary- "20 Feet from Stardom"
(the only one out of the 5 I recognized, namely because it stars "The Voice" veteran and former Michael Jackson back-up singer, Judith Hill. So happy to see this one win. I could be wrong about this, but Darlene Love made history by being the first person to sing their acceptance speech :-P)

Best Foreign Film- "The Great Beauty"
(which I picked because I was going by the Golden Globes predicted it'd be a repeat win. another cool fact: Italy has the most wins of this category and is part of the reason it exists in the first place)


"Gravity"- 7
All of the technical awards including:
  • Best Sound Editing
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Visual Effects (for some stupid reason, I picked "Star Trek" for this)
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Cinematography
Surprised a few people with:
  • Best Original Score
And not so much with:
  • Best Director, Alfonso Cuaron
...considering all the hype and praise he's gotten from everyone connected to this movie.
I was about to say he's the first people to direct "Harry Potter" movie to win an Oscar until I remembered he won for his most famous film "Y tu mamá también"...
okay, I was right :-P I just double-checked and he was only nominated for that film's original screenplay

It's pretty much a given every year that the most technical film will sweep those particular awards. "Life of Pi" did it last year (even grabbing Best Director) and "Hugo" did it the year before, but aside from the really big awards, "Gravity" won everything it was nominated except for one thing...

"The Great Gatsby"- 2

It was a pleasant surprise that this movie got recognized for some of its achievements, considering how "Moulin Rouge" director Baz Luhrmann is known for his huge productions.
I especially loved that it won for "Best Costume Design" because to me, that was the biggest star of the film outside from the cast themselves.

It stole "Best Production Design" (which I assume is the new pretense of "Best Art Direction", a category I missed hearing) from "Gravity"

Both were accepted by Catherine Martin, who just happens to be married to the director :-P

"Her"- Best Original Screenplay

I honestly can't remember which film I picked for this. I marked down "American Hustle" on my ballot, but I can't remember for sure if I picked it or not.
But I was very happy for writer/director Spike Jonze. There aren't as many writer/director types around, so it's nice to see them get another notch on their belt.
Not that I (and The Academy) don't love Woody Allen, but it's nice to get some new blood in here. Plus, a person that's actually there to accept their award.

"Frozen"- 2

It was kinda lame how Bradley Cooper and Kim Novak dragged out the giving of "Best Animated Feature"... I don't like having doubts in my head about something I strongly believe in happening... luckily, they did call the right film.
The only thing I'd have been happier to win in its place as Miyazaki's latest masterpiece, something I'd like to see at some point and was recently intrigued by the debate over whether or not dubbing it in English will help or hurt it.

After Idina Menzel gave that stunning performance, I didn't see any other way "Best Original Song" could have gone. I was just happy that it wasn't Bono. My first reaction was telling him to "suck it." Then I was captivated by the acceptance speech of the husband-wife Lopez team.
They had their speech worked out to rhyme! Which was pretty awesome. The only thing more awesome was that this earned Robert Lopez something of an awards trifecta: an Emmy (the kids' series "Wonder Pets"), Grammy ("The Book of Mormon"), Oscar and Tony ("The Book of Mormon" and "Avenue Q"), otherwise known as EGOT, one of 12 people to do so.

"Blue Jasmine"- Cate Blanchett for Best Actress

This really shouldn't have been a surprise, considering she's won every other conceivable award for this role, but I picked Sandra Bullock since everyone was raving about "Gravity" and I was also hoping for "Amy Adams" who's been nominated for five Oscars and never won. What does this girl have to do to win?! (The biggest victory in this is that Meryl Streep didn't win :-P)

I'm on the fence about Cate Blanchett's dress. The first time I watched the Oscars, I picked her as best dressed (she won that year for "The Aviator"). The diamond studded dress was nice, but at the same time, the jewels looked pasted on. She and her "Blue Jasmine" co-star had the same look and I wasn't feeling it.

Then she gave, likely, the longest speech of the night. The first few minutes were fine, but it just dragged on... and on... where it's like "enough already!"
You'd think after winning all those awards, you'd run out of things to say... not true, apparently.

Partially to see what all the hype is about, I would like to see "Blue Jasmine" as well as "To Rome with Love" because it stars Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg.

"Dallas Buyers Club"- 3
  • Best Make-up (a nice add-on to everything else they got that night, but also cuz "Bad Grandpa" had no business being on that list... Johnny Knoxville is grossly overrated, in that his humor is gross and he's overrated)
but it also won two of the best awards of the night, something that a lot of us predicted ages ago. Including Ellen DeGeneres who promoted Jared Leto's performance like crazy on her show. Based on that, the premise and of course, McConaughey, that's another movie I'd love to see at some point.

Jared Leto got the first award of the night for "Best Supporting Actor" and he also gave the first overlong speech of the night. But it was absolutely worth each second. He gave us a little background on his mom and what she went through to help him and his brother achieve their dreams... gotta love a good mom story. He spoke on behalf of people from Ukraine and Venezuela, who'd been going through rough times lately and he wanted to be a beacon of hope to them. And given the subject matter of the film, he made sure to include victims of AIDS and people currently living with the disease.

I would have been happy for McConaughey or Leo, no matter who won, but other than "Let it go," Matthew McConaughey was the winner I cheered for the loudest. He's one of those guys I never thought I'd win anything just because of the kinds of roles he's done in the past.

And his speech was amazing because he gave the kind of speech only McConaughey could give, which is a nice break from the more traditional speeches Oscars are typically known for.
Other than the thanks to the right parties, the big part of his speech was discussing three big things:
Having something to look up, something to look forward to, and something to chase.

The first one, obviously, was looking up to God, without whom none of this would be possible.
The second one was his family.
And the third one, oddly enough, the hero he's chasing is himself, 10 years from now. He went on about how he'd make that goal and when he reached it, he changes his mind and says he's aspiring to be the person he is the next 10 years down the line. He'll never reach what he's chasing and that's why that's an important thing to have.

Man, if we still had Blockbuster, they'd be out of copies of "Dazed & Confused" because like in his Golden Globe speech, he included the first thing he ever said on film:
"All right, all right, all right"

I don't know why, but it's been one of those movies I'd wanted to see. Maybe it's because RDJ was wearing a 10th anniversary T-shirt at an interview he did for "Charlie Bartlett". I had better reason to check into "The Big Lebowski," the only movie he'd suggested that I didn't get into it.
Now that I know the history behind this quote and it's his first film, at least I have a legit reason to want to see it :-P even if it turns out to just be another underground classic I don't quite get.

Unlike all the previous Oscars, RDJ was conspicuously absent. Either because he's "no longer relevant" since his latest nomination was 5 years ago, he has no big movies coming out this year, he's busy filming something or they wanted to make room with new people like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emma Watson. Now they were a good looking couple of presenters.

But if my ears didn't deceive me, his voice showed up in a 1-minute commercial for "Google Play," which would be nice since he's no longer doing Nissan ("Innovation... that excites")

Before getting to the final picture, the list of movies that got completely snubbed:
  • Captain Phillips (6)
    [on a side-note, Tom Hanks for this AND "Saving Mr. Banks"... why he was completely left out of the mix?]

  • Philomena (4)
    [not that I wanted Judi Dench win when she wasn't even there for a speech, but in her defense, she was busy filming the "Marigold Hotel" sequel, which should be fun cuz we loved the original]
  • It would have been nice for them to win something when their inspirational sources were sitting in the audience ;)
  • Nebraska (6)
    [I didn't see it winning anything anyway, but after that hilarious cut scene, I was half rooting for June Squibb]
  • The Wolf of Wall Street (5)
    [if this doesn't show how much Hollywood hated this movie, nothing will. Scoreses is a big name not always honored. It holds the record for the most f-bombs in an Oscar-nominated film... or any film in general except for the documentary named for the word itself]
  • The Hobbit (3) 
    [c'mon, nobody was going to beat "Gravity" in the technical categories]
  • Inside Llewyn Davis (2)
    [I have that thing about Oscar Isaac, yet I find myself oddly drawn to him in this film, so I wouldn't mind seeing it at some point]
and the winner for the greatest snubbing job of all the nominated films:
  • American Hustle (10)
Can anyone explain to me how the hell this got nominated 10 times and didn't win ONCE? The critics all loved this one, unlike "Wolf on Wall Street." As long as he's been in the business, David O. Russell has been Oscars gold, especially when it comes to securing nominations for all the acting categories.
I figured Jennifer Lawrence was due for another win, given the momentum her career still has. I also figured it was Amy Adams' time.

This was my pick for "Best Picture" because of all the nominated films, it was the one I wanted to see the most and it had the added props to back up that claim.
So my score for picking the Best Picture the last four years is now 2-2. If not for George Clooney's association with "Argo," I believe "Les Miserables" would have taken home the big win.

Outside of this most recent time frame, I was also wrong about "The Hurt Locker" (It should have been "Avatar"!) and "Crash" (WTF, how did "Brokeback Mountain" NOT win?! I still don't understand that). And I was wrong about "Slumdog Millionaire" (I picked "Benjamin Button" cuz of Brad Pitt and I loved the movie, but I really enjoyed Slumdog when I got around to it).

I guess the lesson learned here is that going with the Weinsteins are my best bet because they were behind "The King's Speech" and "The Artist" and I picked both of them just by going to see them in theaters.

Now for the "big" winner:

"12 Years a Slave"- 3
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (I believe I picked "Wolf of Wall Street")
  • Best Supporting Actress
  • Best Picture
I thought for sure that J-Law would be a lock for Best Supporting Actress, considering all the accolades and she won the Golden Globe for it. And for the first few seconds, I pissed that my prediction wasn't met.

But watching Lupita Nyong'o brought me back to the previous time a newcomer won and gave an emotional speech. Octavia Spencer became America's sweetheart a couple award seasons ago with her amazing work in "The Help," something everyone rightly predicted she'd be awarded for and she gave one of the most memorable speeches of the night. Lupita accepted her award as this season's fashionista darling. Everything she has worn on the red carpet has gotten notice and her newest number, complete with the tiara, made her look like a princess.

Then of course, there was the fact this movie won Best Picture.
Something I didn't want to see coming, but I kinda did anyway.

Of all the nominations, it was probably the most legitimate one it could go to. A story with a lot of gravity secured by the caliber of the actors involved.

Aside from being completely wrong about "American Hustle," I guess my biggest issue with the movie is this is an Oscar-winner I don't have a lot of interest in seeing. Great as the acting may be and how important a story it tells, it looks like it'd be very hard to watch. [Reading up on the trivia, it sounds like the subject matter was so heavy that some of the actors either passed out or took a long time to recover from what was portrayed]

Then there's the politics behind it.
Up front, I was reminded of a quote from "Tropic Thunder" where Ben Stiller's character talks about how he wasn't nominated for "Simple Jack".

"To have been nominated would have... nice, but it's very political. You have to take out ads..."

George Clooney and Brad Pitt being involved with a movie doesn't always gurantee that it'll win all the awards. "Good night, and Good Luck" and "The Descendants" didn't win many awards and neither did "Inglorious Basterds" or "Benjamin Button".
But it seems like more than coincidence that movies they've personally backed, financially and in many other ways, have won Oscars back to back.

To his credit, if not for Brad Pitt, "12 Years a Slave" wouldn't have been made at all. Supposedly, the source material was overshadowed by "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and they needed money to put production in motion.

Whether this movie won or not, there was going to be some kind of debate about it.

If it didn't win, people would say Hollywood is racist.
If it won, people will say it only won because Hollywood didn't want to come off as racist.

I've heard it said that the movie that wins Best Picture at the Oscar is the one that best defines the year when it came out.

Having said that, the case could be made that if "Brokeback Mountain" came out in the last 3 years, it could have won because Hollywood is more pro-gay than it was back then.

I figured "The Social Network" could have been that movie for 2010, but it lost out of "The King's Speech" because Hollywood wanted to go more traditional.
The same could be said for "The Artist."

"Argo" likely won because our big conflict with Iran has been a big issue on a lot of our minds and it tells the story from that arc in our nation's history with them.

and "The Hurt Locker" likely beat out "Avatar," despite the fact it was a movie very people even SAW before it came away with the win... because the War in the Middle East was a hot button issue.
That also happened to be at the tale end of W's presidential career when the number of people supporting the war was on a rapid decline and this win was a way of showing the troops how we appreciate their service.

I just still find it a little odd that Hollywood, which is known for being a very liberal place, went out of their way to avoid the controversy of "Brokeback Mountain" and supported the right-winged "Hurt Locker" over "Avatar," which is seen as an abstract explanation of why we shouldn't have gone to Iraq to find nuclear wars.

As for "12 years a slave," it's coming off the heels of a year where racism was a hot topic.
  • You had the Travyon Martin case where the blacks believed racism motivated his murder.
  • You had the based-on-a-true-story film "Fruitvale Station" that came out around the same time, adding fuel to the film.
  • You had Paula Deen who was ousted by Food Network and everywhere else because she said she had used racial slurs in the past.
  • You had the stories of racial discrimination at stores like Macy's and Barney's
  • Complaints that SNL only has two black cast mates so they decided to add a black girl (the first since Maya Rudolph, who I didn't even know was black in the first place) mid-season
It's a hard subject to broach without some words coming out wrong.
So really, I'm better off without saying anything. I'll let my words speak for themselves when the subject matter of my future entries allows for it. I'd rather let every other blog add fuel to this fire.

So statistically speaking, I did pretty well this year. I guessed 14 out of 24 categories correctly, better than last year when I only guessed 10 right.

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