Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscar thoughts? I Have Several...

So that is that, as they say, as a particularly interminable Oscar ceremony wheezed to a close, running all the way until midnight and including little in the way of serviceable filler between each award (here's a link to see all of the winners, in case you missed it). One thing that I've always loved about the Oscars is that they present each and every award during the ceremony, even if its the smaller, unsexy kind (like, for instance, all of the short film categories). In an awards race that had several races still up in the air, the award winners managed to produce several surprises (in the end, I ended up scoring a respectable but still mediocre 14/24 on my final predictions), while still giving off the feeling that everything went the way that it was supposed to. Here are a few thoughts that I had while watching last night:

Seth MacFarlane, Not Terrible
Not that that's saying much, but for the most part I enjoyed his schtick. I even loved the self-aware skit at the beginning of the show (after all, the host is always going to get blamed for the laborious efforts of the show's producers - too often, the host is the one catching heat for this every year). MacFarlane didn't reinvent the wheel, but his jokes were funny enough by middlebrow Oscar host standards, and the few zingers that he did bring hit home pretty well (his line before the Best Actress award was probably best in show). As much as I don't want to say this, if he were to come back to host a second time, I don't think I would mind.

Christoph Waltz, A Huge 'DUH!' in Retrospect 
I even wrote this in my predictions piece, but even I overlooked it. Waltz had won most of the awards going into last night's ceremony (including the Golden Globe and the BAFTA). But for some reason most people could not get past the raging hype that was supporting Tommy Lee Jones (who did win the SAG award, after all) and the somewhat charming, somewhat sentimental storyline that it would be nice to give Robert DeNiro a third Oscar for his first fully realized performance in what felt like forever. In the end, I think it was Waltz' very recent first win that turned most people away from him actually predicting him. Django Unchained actually had a better night than most expected, when Quentin Tarantino picked up his second Oscar for Original Screenplay (another thing most people weren't predicting), and went on to give a speech which I'm sure ingratiated and pissed people off in equal measure.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Final Oscar Predictions

Tonight is the night. At 8pm Eastern, the film industry has its annual, back-padding celebration known as the Oscars. I'm excited. I'm excited because this might be the first ceremony in many years where several of the major categories have legitimate suspense. Will Roger Deakins finally win his first Academy Award? Does Steven Spielberg pick up no. 3? Is there really a chance that a 9-year-old girl can win Best Actress? How about an 86-year-old woman (on her birthday, no less)? For the first time in a while, it's going to be an exciting show. And the truth is, in a lot of the categories, I really don't have a definitive feeling about who will win. But because I'm a sucker for tradition (as well as sticking my foot in the conversation), here are my official Oscar predictions.

Best Actor
Will Win: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
Should Win: Joaquin Phoenix, The Master

Daniel Day-Lewis has been driving a freight train toward this award for several months now. It's pretty much a done deal and the single least suspenseful award of the night. Day-Lewis is movie legend now, and a professional who does a great job at making acting look really hard while also creating fluid, fully-fleshed characters effortlessly. It's a tremendous piece of work from a great actor, and even a true, groundbreaking tour-de-force from Phoenix will prevent the inevitable.

Best Actress
Will Win: Emmanuelle Riva, Amour
Should Win: Riva

Jennifer Lawrence has probably stacked up more awards than Riva (including an Independent Spirit Award just last night), but she's had the benefit of not having to face Riva in several of the races. For reasons that mostly have to deal with Amour not being an English, Riva has seldom been nominated against Lawrence, and I feel like Riva is really the performance that has the edge here. For one, it's the best performance of the bunch, but also it's the best story. A legendary French actress who can win an Oscar on her birthday. I wouldn't mind seeing Quvenzhane Wallis sweep up and take the award, and I'm not saying Lawrence has no shot, I'm just saying Riva just has the edge.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

No (***1/2)

Directed by Pablo LarraĆ­n


In 1988, Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet caved into international political pressure and allowed the people to have a choice: elect him to lead for the next eight years or choose to take him out of office. More simply, they had to choose yes or no to more Pinochet. The 1988 Chilean National Plebiscite changed the course for the South American country, leading to the end of Pinochet's 16 years of punitive, military dictatorship. As is the case with most dictatorships, Pinochet's rule began with a coup d'etat and the hostile takeover of Socialist leader Salvador Allende, with most people hoping that Pinochet would bring peace. Pinochet and his people used the usual tactics to regain power, but 16 years later he would be faced with a whole new kind persuasion, led by a man who truly knew how to go about swaying the minds of the people.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Side Effects (***)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh


Steven Soderbergh's latest film already has the interesting asterisk of possibly being the final theatrical release of this celebrated filmmaker's career (to be sure, Soderbergh's final film is setting up to be the much-anticipated HBO TV movie Behind The Candelabra - a biopic about Liberace). That Side Effects may have to hold the mantle of being his last movie in the theaters probably puts a little more pressure on this small but compelling film then needs to be. But I don't think Soderbergh sees his career that way. He seems much happier to go out with very solid work than concluding it with a big bang. It's all circumstance, really, and I just feel that this is the story he felt he needed to tell right before the end - and to be honest, I find it fitting.