An Annual Dose of Oscar Smack
will admit it: I am hooked on the Oscars. Next to cigarettes,
booze, boys, and coffee the Academy Awards are my most gripping
For me the end of March does not herald a fresh new spring.
It is not concerned with a tantalizing round of mid-season
TV premiers. It is about back biting, smear campaigning,
brown nosing and looking fabulous in the latest Armani.
All this so that someone can get their rich, fame-grubbing
hands on a little, naked, golden man. I've been living with
this addiction for almost a decade. Ever since the Forrest
Gump fiasco I have calculated odds, named favorites
and tallied my pathetic Oscar pool winnings (negative 20
dollars so far), searching for some signs of Tinsel Town's
ultimate redemption. Will this be the year?
The 74th Academy Awards opened in the brand new, un-picturesque
Kodak theater with Whoppie descending from the rafters in
a gold sequined canary swimsuit. She was decked out in patented
curls and Harry Potter glasses and looked exactly like a
washed up Hollywood Square. From that moment forward she
methodically killed every funny, poignant or remotely cool
moment the ceremony had to offer. She called us 'child'
and 'girl' more times than I could count (and I was counting,
trust me). The show could have run hostless and been shorter,
at least, if not more entertaining.
The ceremony was a feast of montages. From visual effects
spanning the decades to Errol Morris asking us why we like
movies to a tribute to filmmaking in New York (and I thought
Woody Allen hated the Oscars, what gives?) it was Montage!
Montage! Montage! Every presentation was a torrent of idiotic
non-sequitur comments by all our favorite stars. Even Britney
Spears got a spot in one. After all what award show or super
bowl is complete without a cameo by the Crossroads
Ultimately the show was like any other drug. A captivating
roller coaster producing dizzying highs and burrowing lows
and finally dumping me out at one in the morning wondering
what exactly I've done with my life.
While Memento (winner of as many Independent
Spirit Awards as it could hold) was flatly ignored, along
with The Royal Tenenbaums and In The
Bedroom, at least Jim Broadbent took home a well
deserved statue for his amazing performance in Iris. Although
it would have been really cool to see it become the first
trilogy to nab three best picture Oscars, The Lord
Of The Rings scored only a handful of technical
awards, but there are still two more years to go, anything
can happen. Moulin Rouge was favored with
costume and art direction statues which it well deserved.
And It's really nice to see Animated Feature finally have
its own category. At least, if nothing else, Gosford
Park grabbed best original screenplay.
However none of these can alleviate the bile churning experience
of waking up on a gray and rainy Monday morning to the news
that indeed A Beautiful Mind is the Best Picture of The
Year. It's going to be a bleak and depressing struggle to
make it through to next March. Russell Crowe may have been,
thankfully, trumped by Denzel, but
Last year I was outraged that she hadn't been nominated
for Requiem of a Dream, and now I find myself
nauseous at the idea that she's got an Oscar. What a difference
a year makes.
The only thing less heartfelt than her performance, was
her acceptance speech. What you really look for in one of
these is some true excitement, like Roberto Benigni climbing
over the people seated in front of him to get to the Award
for Life Is Beautiful. But no, it was not
to be tonight. While Halle Berry couldn't talk for almost
a whole ten minutes, as soon as she found the breath and
wiped away the Visine tears, out came an utterly planned
rift. Sure, it was moving and heartfelt, but she was not
shocked or amazed, she was the golden girl who had just
been on the Barbara Walters special telling us how she almost
asphyxiated herself and her dogs in a fit of depression.
there was no awe striking this night. I miss the days when
I beamed, shocked over Frances McDormand winning best actress,
or bounced up and down when The Usual Suspects
stole away with best screen play. I miss the thrill of the
Oscars. These awards want to go to someone, anyone deserving
of them, but in the end they all go to the Ron Howards who,
as Frank DeCaro put it, has simply made far too much money
for Hollywood, there's no way he was going to lose that
Sean Penn didn't even show up for the awards. Even Will
Smith was curiously absent from the Best Actor presentation.
I guess they both realized they were doomed. Playing the
retarded or the famous just doesn't win you Oscars the way
it used to. These days you have to be evil and rebellious.
Another sign of the times, I suppose.
For yet another year the Academy has failed to give out
what I consider to be the best award of them all. I refer
to The Best Performance by an Ensemble Cast. Presented to
a movie in which there was no leading man or woman, but
rather just a well-rounded troupe, each player perfectly
assigned to his role. Looking back over the years I've given
my imaginary Oscar to Requiem For a Dream,
Magnolia, The Usual Suspects,
Pulp Fiction and Glen Gary Glen Ross
to name just a few.
So, in an effort to shed some ray of hope onto a bleak glacier
of Hollywood pack ice. I declare my own Nominees for Best
Performance By an Ensemble Cast:
Series 7- Hysterically funny and immaculately made.
This is a triumph of low budget filmmaking. That it didn't
win any Independent Spirit Awards, and probably wasn't even
nominated, is a shame. The cast of contestants is perfect,
they play themselves as completely true to life; and that
is probably the hardest of roles to master.
The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
- Face facts: this was, truly, a very good movie. And behind
all the amazing visuals, makeup and cinematographic feats
is a cast of characters that bears honoring.
Sexy Beast - Sexy beast asks the question 'What if
Snatch had depth?' And the cast delivers an answer deftly.
While Kingsley's performance was awesome, it was only notable
because he was so damned loud. The entire cast, including
the pool boy, who had maybe 4 lines total, was brilliant.
The Royal Tenenbaums - This was probably my favorite
film of the year. Everyone ranks Rushmore or Bottle
Rocket above this, but I think it is by far Wes Anderson's
best. And that is due, at least in part, to its cast. One
that truly acted as an ensemble where no one member tried
to out play the others, but all simply glided along on their
own unique talents.
Gosford Park - I was totally flabbergasted at the
size and depth of the cast assembled for this picture. Maggie
Smith and Helen Mirren don't really lead the cast despite
their nominations, it's one huge group effort that is absolutely
delightful. In a cast of so many there is a feeling that
Gosford Park is almost too shallow a movie, but that is
only a credit to the actors. And they were superb. Even
Ryan Phillipe was totally believable as a bad American actor
trying to pull off a Scottish accent.
I haven't picked the winner yet. If anyone's got a particular
urge to vote on these let me know, I'll start tallying votes.
I may gripe and whine, but the year wasn't really all that
bad for movies. Moulin Rouge made a good show of
reinventing the cinematic musical, The Lord of the Rings
showed us how epic a true epic was, and Harry Potter made
a lot of people rich. There were, also fabulous underground
and independent showings; Donnie Darko totally creeped
me out and In The Bedroom reminded me that true drama
is still a very good thing. So here, to close out another
season of Oscar fever, are my thoughts on a couple of the
movies that were snubbed, praised, or simply ignored by
In The Bedroom (snubbed)
The acting is superb. I am hard pressed to think of a movie
that had better performances that Wilkinson's and Spacek's.
Todd Field made some very daring choices with this movie.
For example there is virtually no score or music to any
of the movie. That's why everyone thinks it is slow and
plodding. There's no swell of violins to accompany Wilkinson
as he wanders around his son's room, tears streaming off
his nose-there didn't need to be any. And while the movie
is not exactly dull, it definitely remind us all that Maine
is without a doubt the most boring place on earth. - Rating:
Three and a half Stars (out of 4)
A simply amazing movie. It loses very little the second
or third time you see it, which lets you know it's not just
a clever gimmick. It is an excellent film wrapped around
a clever gimmick. Guy pierce and the cast-offs from the
Matrix perform well beyond their assumed ability, and deliver
a mystery that is completely unlike anything I've ever seen
Rating: Three Stars
Amores Perros (ignored)
I have been trying to figure out what they were thinking
not nominating this for best foreign language film. This
was one of the coolest movies I saw last year. Sure it wasn't
going to win, but it at least deserved some recognition.
This is another bought in innovative movie making the three
segments while obviously tied together display life in their
own style and format. Even from 14th street I felt like
I knew a little something about Mexico City. And you never
have to see dogs tearing each other part
suggest it graphically.
Rating: Three and a half Stars
A Beautiful Mind (praised)
I feel no shame in saying this was a ridiculous flick. It
wasn't interesting, it wasn't heart breaking, it wasn't
even very tension oriented. Any movie whose dramatic culmination
involves a bunch of gray-hairs passing out pens is, by definition,
absurd. And then there's the fact that John Nash's real
life was far more interesting than the fictional one portrayed
on screen. He may have been an absolute asshole, and even
an anti-Semite, but that's at least got some flavor to it.
Watching Russell Crowe Hallucinate is not my idea of a good
trip. Still, this movie isn't awful, I'll give it that.
But there is nothing special about it whatsoever.
Rating: Two Stars.