Monday, February 25, 2013

2013 Oscar Awards

Seth MacFarlane adding much needed something into the Academy Awards

He Said: Alright, not bad, not great

How sad it is that we have only watched 3 best picture movies over the past year. But we are hopeful to watch a ton more now that we have moved and don't have as busy of lives, and I am not trying to fix and paint the house at the same time as having a very busy and awful job and then busy and sleep-deprived with a newborn baby and then busy with finding a new job and moving. Now with that out of the way, on with the big shoe.
If you read my last year's post it will likely be just as disjointed since I just write down an interesting thought or thing on the show while it happens. Seth MacFarlane is hosting, here's hoping he brings some good writers and youthfulness and actual comedy to the scene, scathing comedy is the hope and hopefullyhe and his comedy are not dumbed down and censored for the non-family guy audience. I think this was a rather bold choice for host sincce he is well known for making fun of anything and everything, but really the Oscar's and all the famous people take themselves way too seriously. This reminds me of how I felt about Ryan Seacrest last year, way too serious and pompous and it took a little fun from Sacha Baron Cohen to liven things up. Now what would it take for him to host, or perhaps one of his characters? Now that would be something to see!
Argo appears to be the lead runner for best picture, but no particular movie looks to dominate the majority of the categories like in most previous years where one film stands out in best picture, actors, directing, writing, etc. The only real nominee that I have seen was Django Unchained, and yes it was a good fun movie although it was about 1 hour too long and it was draggy here and there. I have no idea how it got nominated for best picture. I love Tarantino movies, but this is certainly not his best work and his acting in his bit role was worse than he has ever done (which really is quite an achievement unto itself) and the accent he puts on, its so bad he shouldn't even have tried. That all being said, I think Christoph Walz did a great acting job in this one (as well as his previous Tarantino film, Inglorious Basterds) so here's hoping for him this year, but all the men in the supporting actor category are solid great actors so I don't think there would be any complaints no matter who wins this one.
On the red carpet, George Clooney was looking like a younger Sean Connery and he was being either sarcastic or pissy when approached and just told the interviewer to “go talk to her” indicating his
female companion and how they only ever want to talk about is dresses and jewels, etc.
What is with the awful hair that Anne Hathaway had? She looked like something from the late 70s or a wee boy. Then she had a dress that had similar breast and nipple emphasis like that Madonna pointed bra from way back when.
Finally starting with the actual show:
MacFarlane started off pretty good, some nice laughs and pick on people jokes but then comes the whole Captain Kirk thing and I did not see that coming. This was odd and added some humour but in retrospect definitely in the realm and wheelhouse of Seth MacFarlane's work.
We discovered that Seth MacFarlane can sing (most of us knew that already), that lady singing the Goldfinger song cannot, she should just quite. She got a standing ovation. Why? Must be a historical thing to honour the old and weary, but sometimes they are old and weary for a reason.
Boring movie musicals, blah blah blah. And Anne Hathaway still looks like a boy.
Jennifer Garner is so unattractive, deep sunken eyes, and a thin skeletor face then she added in that weird purple dress with the huge thing on the back that as my wife pointed out looks like her ass is pregnant.
Was Kristen Stewart high? At the very least she was awkward as a presenter.
Another year, and another round of dead people, although this year no one really big and famous died, but there were some surprises for me as usual with Michael Clarke Duncan having died as well as Ray Bradbury. Then the weird Barbara Streisand song at the end there. Way too much singing for my likes in this year's Oscars.
Overall no real surprises on winners, although it was interesting that no single film dominated the Oscars this year, it was all really spread out. Perhaps this is a sign of a really good movie year with many strong films. Seems like Life of Pi got the most wins, but nothing in any real category except for director, although we all know Ben Affleck got shunned for that one, maybe next time for him. Then the odd part with Michelle Obama leading in the best picture winner with her somewhat political statements there, that didn't seem to fit at all, although it was better than looking at and listening to the suddenly very old Jack Nicholson. His oldness combined with Dustin Hoffman's oldness and Robert de Niro's oldness just really hit me this year with how old these guys are getting which is really sad that a whole generation of great actors are pretty much done.
Overall, Seth MacFarlane was adequate, he censored himself quite a bit I think but what can you do. I think he was the first host to not only be the host but also a presenter (Ted) and a nominee (a song in Ted) and it would have been great if he won just to see what his speech would have been like. In retrospect with it being a celebration of musicals in the movies it does make sense to have him as a host as he is very musical with all the shows and movies that he does, but perhaps we could have had a more seasoned, albeit less funny, host in Neil Patrick Harris.
This year was slightly better than last year, but still a stinker and nothing as good as the great run in the early 90s with Whoopie and Billy Crystal. Although as we saw last year, Billy Crystal's time in comedy has come and unfortunately gone. Here's hoping for some good stuff for next year and now it is time for me to start watching more movies and add Argo to the every growing list.

After listening to and reading various comments and stories from the media on the Oscars, I cannot understand why they feel the show was a “train wreck,” “the worst Oscar's ever,” “worst host ever.” I mean come on and look at the history of this show, there have been way way worse hosts and much more weird and boring shows than this one, especially more recently. Look at last year's show with Billy Crystal, the one with Anne Hathaway and James Franco (the absolute worst ever), the Hugh Jackman show, the David Letterman show, and even the Ellen Degeneres show. Admittedly I enjoyed the Ellen show, but it seemed like the audience and the media just didn't get it and I think that happened again this year.
I also forgot to mention the oddity of the tie for best sound editing. Okay, not a major category but interesting that it is only the sixth tie ever in the history of the Oscars, I figured there would be some sort of tie breaking procedure but apparently not.
Some pundits and media types thought it was filled with unpredictable winners, whereas I thought they weren't too many surprises. Some people were shocked that Spielberg didn't win, that Argo won best picture over Lincoln, Walz was a long shot, Life of Pi winning as many awards as it did as a surprise. Well this is how I see it, and keep in mind I am just a guy who is no hollywood movie type, I haven't seen most of the movies I just base it upon the buzz leading up to the oscars, other awards, reviews, friends. So Argo was a bit of a surprise but it won in the Golden Globes so it was headed in that direction. Walz like I said already did a great job in this and his previous Tarantino film and all the men in the supporting actor category are great actors so no big surprise there either. Ang Lee did a great job as usual making a gorgeous looking movie and based on a book that we all thought would be so hard to translate to the screen. The best actress award seemed up for grabs as well with no particular person way out in front for that one. So overall no great huge shocks in my opinion.
Lastly, again MacFarlane did a fine job, it wasn't as awful as the stuck up pundits are saying (heck even my wife thought some of his stuff was really funny and she HATES his stuff with a captial HATE). So not great, but certainly not awful or worst ever.

She Said: Nothing

Verdict: The Academy was right for the most part except leaving Affleck off the nominee list, the show was okay, much better than last year but nothing great, and looking forward to seeing Argo when it hits our list.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Dances with Wolves (1990)

"My hair will strike fear into my enemies!"

Nominees: "Awakenings" "Ghost" "The Godfather Part III" "Goodfellas"

He Said: Dances with Mullets

This is an unusual year of films for me in that I have actually seen all of the nominees, although most of them I haven't seen in a long time. So for starters I will analyze the list of nominees a bit. Looking over the list I don't know how on earth Ghost was nominated? That was an awful film that was just a showpiece for Patrick Swayze and nothing else, boring boring romantic boring movie. Awakenings was a fantastic film, and though probably not best picture quality it was great, and Robert DeNiro certainly deserved the win for best actor for that (as opposed to Costner) especially contrasting his usual mob role a la Goodfellas. Speaking of Goodfellas, how did Scorsese get pushed aside for best director? Well at least this was rectified when he finally won for The Departed although that is another story and another movie that will make it on the blog in due time as it won for Best Picture, although I am not sure why, it wasn't that good. Goodfellas was an excellent movie portraying the mob life in what seemed like a very real way. The violence can be a bit hard to take at times, but the story, acting, and directing were top notch. Frankly I think it was the violence that held it from winning, it seems the Academy tends to frown upon ultra-violent movies as winners, although this has started to change in the past few years. Then there is Godfather Part III, a terrible awful sequel that makes no sense at all even after watching it several times. I am a huge mob movie fan and thus a huge Godfather fan, parts I and II are excellent, well filmed, written, acted, etc and it shows in how they won a lot of awards, but part III? It was the complete opposite and just overall bad. Frankly I don't even know how Ghost, Godfather III and Dances with Wolves were even nominated. So in my mind and personal opinion I would rank that year's nominees as Goodfellas, Awakenings, Dances with Wolves, Godfather Part III, and last and least Ghost. I don't see how Dances with Wolves was nominated nevermind winning? But this is where we are at. It won, so we watched it.

This has been on our list for the past five months or so, but we didn't get to it due to moving, life, babies, and mainly the fact that neither of us wanted to watch it again, remembering how boring and awful it was. I will say that I was much more interested in it this time around it still falls far short of being a good movie let alone an Oscar winner. While I can certainly appreciate this movie a lot more now than when I saw it so many times as a 10, 11, and 12 year old (since my mother loved it and watched it at every chance and having one tv back then meant we all watched whatever happened to be on) I don't see why it would be a Best Picture movie. It is long, boring, and not much happens throughout. The best it does is portray Native Americans in a more realistic light than had been done previously, albeit with some stereotypes still present, and for that it is commended for its effort. However, it really lacks a story, and without that it falls flat.

So for those who were hiding under rocks for the past twenty years, Dances with Wolves is basically about a US Army soldier fighting in the civil war who is transferred by his own request to a remote post in the mid-west. He finds the post to be abandoned and then we enter into Dances with Wolves meets Castaway for a fair portion of the movie. He befriends a wolf and then finds the natives. Over the course of the movie he meets the natives and becomes one of their own and eventually leaves his post entirely to join them. He discovers how different the natives are compared to what he was always told, they aren't brutish savages, but friendly giving wonderful people. He falls in love, encounters the US Army again after basically becoming a member of the native group. A couple somewhat violent fights ensure between different native groups as well as when the natives try to rescue Costner from the US Army when he is listed as a traitor. If that all sounds entertaining, then good on you, but I found it immensely boring. As my partner in crime mentioned, yes the movie is filmed and shot well with really nice cinematography, and it does have decent to good acting, but that is not enough to save it.

Mary Mcdonnell should be called cavewoman and not Stands with a Fist with that huge 80s hair. And speaking of hair, since when do civil war soldiers sport mullets? I guess since Kevin was in charge of everything, he wasn't willing to change his star appearance. What's up with that? It is these small things that make one question other things in the film, if they can't do something as simple as have proper hair then am I to believe everything else in the film?

This is one of the first movies to really portray Native Americans as they are and were and not as they are stereotyped to be, and I really do think that is one of the primary reasons for it winning best picture. It's not that it is a bad movie, it just isn't anything special if you take that out of it. If this movie was made now then there wouldn't be as much hoopla surrounding it. I might be wrong, but that's how I see it.

On a final note as I was watching the movie I got to thinking about Graham Greene and how he seems to have transcended his native heritage as an actor and has really just become a good actor. What I mean is that we often see native actors that get stuck playing only native characters. Graham Greene, on the other hand started out that way, but at some point he started playing male characters, and his race and ethnicity didn't seem matter at all. This is a really good story and it would be great if actors of all races could do the same and fill roles that aren't a specific race. At this point in the 21 century it is rather sad how far behind we still are in race relations, hopefully things will change quicker for the better.
With that I would say the Academy was very very wrong this year.

Next up: A Man for All Seasons...whaaat? Never heard of that one, looking at the short synopsis it is about King Henry VIII wanting to be able to divorce and remarry, wow this one sounds awful, hopefully it is a nice surprise.

She Said: Dances with Greatness (emphasis on the dances).

This could've been a great movie. It has lots of things going for it: beautiful shots of the great plains, sympathetic characters, a potential interesting idea...

The problem is nothing happens. There's no conflict. The characters don't change. John Dunbar starts curious and sympathetic about the "Indians", and he ends less curious and even more sympathetic. He doesn't move from hatred to acceptance... or really anywhere. In turn, the Indians seem to share the same feelings for him. Nice to see more positive portrayals of Native people, but still very stereotypical, even for a period piece. The bad guys remain bad guys throughout, and then Dunbar and his white/Native wife ride off into the very beautifully shot sunset.

Which brings me to another point: we know from the existence of the Metis people that White men took Native brides all the time. So why does his love interest have to be a white woman? But not a "real" white woman, of course, because that wouldn't serve the plot, but one who has been raised by the Native tribe, and is thus culturally "Indian"? Wouldn't it have made a stronger statement to have him  fall in love with an actual Native woman? Or maybe they didn't want to be that political. Having never read the book, I can't say if they "whitened" the plot for the movie, but it sure seems like it.

The Verdict: The Academy was wrong.