Monday, March 8, 2010

2010 Oscars Live Blog

Welcome to the 2010 Oscars live blog. Keep hitting reload for all the latest updates. Techno, techno, techno, techno.

6:58AM – Istanbul/8:58PM – L.A.

"The Hurt Locker." Great stuff.

Laters, everyone. Thanks for reading.

6:55AM – Istanbul/8:55PM – L.A.

Kathryn Bigelow -- booya!

6:52AM – Istanbul/8:52PM – L.A.

La Streisand!

6:51AM – Istanbul/8:51PM – L.A.

Charlize Theron's dress. There. Bring on the hits!

6:49AM – Istanbul/8:49PM – L.A.

Did Sandra Bullock just acknowledge the juggernaut of an Oscar campaign her people ran for her? Awesome.

6:48AM – Istanbul/8:48PM – L.A.

What are you on about, Sean?

6:46AM – Istanbul/8:46PM – L.A.


6:43AM – Istanbul/8:43PM – L.A.

Short hair doesn't become Carey Mulligan. Neither does no hair Peter Sarsgaard.

6:37AM – Istanbul/8:37PM – L.A.

Three more to go. No real surprises, only a few mid-level ones. I really hope we get a streaker or something.

6:30AM – Istanbul/8:30PM – L.A.

Please say "The Dude Abides." Please say "The Dude Abides." Please say "The Dude Abides." Please say "The Dude Abides." Please say "The Dude Abides." Please say "The Dude Abides." Please say "The Dude Abides." Please say "The Dude Abides." Please say "The Dude Abides." Please say "The Dude Abides." Please say "The Dude Abides."

6:27AM – Istanbul/8:27PM – L.A.

The mini-tributes are better than last year's ones, though.

That close-up on Jeff Bridges' beautiful face. Possibly the best moment of the night so far. Go Jeff!

6:24AM – Istanbul/8:24PM – L.A.

Oh, great. They're doing the "mini-tributes" from last year.

6:22AM – Istanbul/8:22PM – L.A.

By the way, they just played the theme from "Amarcord" as tarantino and Almodovar came on stage to present the foreign film award. Unexpected, but welcome.

6:18AM – Istanbul/8:18PM – L.A.

Best foreign film is about to go to Die Children Von Den Corn aka "The White Ribbon."

It doesn't! It goes to "The Secret In Their Eyes!" And I had an awesome Haneke acceptance speech joke. Alas, it will never see the light of day. Like tears in the rain, etc...

6:14AM – Istanbul/8:14PM – L.A.

Get on with it. I have to go for a run before I go to work.

6:12AM – Istanbul/8:12PM – L.A.

Sitemeter Update: Lots of folks are googling "crazy woman oscar acceptance speech." For once, they don't mean Sally Field.

6:09AM – Istanbul/8:09PM – L.A.

Keanu Reeves? Oh, "Point Break." I see. You gonna jump or jerk off? Good times.

6:01AM – Istanbul/8:01PM – L.A.

Hey, wait! George Minkowski from Lost produced "The Cove?" Chaos reigns.

5:59AM – Istanbul/7:59PM – L.A.

Surprised Sam Elliott was not recognised for reprising his character The Stranger from "The Big Lebowski" in "Up In The Air."

5:55AM – Istanbul/7:55PM – L.A.

Farrah Fawcett was not featured during the "In Memoriam" segment. John Spencer was also not in the segment the year he died. The producers might have a bias against "TV actors."

5:52AM – Istanbul/7:52PM – L.A.

I am extremely happy for Michael Giacchino (even though I preferred Hans Zimmer's score for "Sherlock Holmes"). He is the next John Williams, and he is doing sterling work with his Lost score.

5:49AM – Istanbul/7:49PM – L.A.

OK, I'm sorry, I was wrong. Some dude is doing the robot to the score from "Up." If the rest of the show were like this, we'd have something.

5:48AM – Istanbul/7:48PM – L.A.

You remember the dancing Mother Theresa clip in the third "Naked Gun?" That was fun.

5:47AM – Istanbul/7:47PM – L.A.


5:46AM – Istanbul/7:46PM – L.A.

Is it me or has Jennifer Lopez's accent gone more Latina?

Oh, goodie - no song performances in a year full of great tunes - instead, dancing! More coffee, methinks.

5:39AM – Istanbul/7:39PM – L.A.

Demi Moore is presenting the "In Memoriam" segment. Included in the clipshow is her career.

Sandra Bullock over-enunciates Mauro Fiore's name, who thanks "the visionary James Cameron for his incredible vision." Urm, LOLZ?

5:24AM – Istanbul/7:24PM – L.A.

Wow! Tobin Bell's a sound editor, too! That guy's multi-talented.

5:24AM – Istanbul/7:24PM – L.A.

I am glad they got Morgan Freeman to explain to me what a sound editor does. I hope they'll do the same for the director.

5:20AM – Istanbul/7:20PM – L.A.

Retro! They used Busta Rhymes' "Gimme Some More" to score the horror montage.

5:20AM – Istanbul/7:20PM – L.A.

I'd have found "Paranormal Activity" more frightening if there were such a thing as a demon.

5:18AM – Istanbul/7:18PM – L.A.


5:14AM – Istanbul/7:14PM – L.A.

The clips from "Precious: Based on a novel by a man named Lear" just make me want to revisit the incredible "Precious Moments" viral from earlier this year.

5:06AM – Istanbul/7:06PM – L.A.

Art Direction goes to Roger Dean.

5:02AM – Istanbul/7:02PM – L.A.

"You touched it, the whole world saw it." Discarded tagline for "Precious?"

4:58AM – Istanbul/6:58PM – L.A.

Go Anna Kendrick! Obviously Mo'Nique has this in the bag, but still...

4:54AM – Istanbul/6:54PM – L.A.

Roger Corman and Lauren Bacall. Miley Cyrus is thinking? Roger Who and Lauren What?

4:51AM – Istanbul/6:51PM – L.A.

There goes "Up In The Air's" consolation prize.

4:48AM – Istanbul/6:48PM – L.A.

Please, please, please "In The Loop."

Hah! They probably could not get a Malcolm Tucker clip that didn't have any swears.

4:43AM – Istanbul/6:43PM – L.A.

Not one mention of Gene Roddenberry. After all, he only created Star Trek.

4:43AM – Istanbul/6:43PM – L.A.


4:38AM – Istanbul/6:38PM – L.A.

The Ben Stiller bit is awesome.

Did you see Stiller at the Indies? You must.

4:38AM – Istanbul/6:38PM – L.A.

Please spare poor Jim's feelings.

4:32AM – Istanbul/6:32PM – L.A.

The crazy lady during the best documentary short acceptance speech was pretty awesome, I must say.

The New Tenants -- yay! Go, Denmark!

4:31AM – Istanbul/6:31PM – L.A.

It's really rather dull so far, no?

4:28AM – Istanbul/6:28PM – L.A.

Fuck! Carey Mulligan's ripped!

4:26AM – Istanbul/6:26PM – L.A.

The shot of Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart at the end of the John Hughes segment? IRONICCUTTINGBOMB!

4:20AM – Istanbul/6:20PM – L.A.

The John Hughes tribute is gorgeous.

BTW, either Molly Ringwald's wearing giant heels or Carrie Bradshaw married a pixie-man.

4:16AM – Istanbul/6:16PM – L.A.

OK. "The Hurt Locker" wins best film.

4:14AM – Istanbul/6:14PM – L.A.

Best Original Screenplay, and I am pretty sure Tarantino has this in the bag. Nostradamus, c'est moi.

4:11AM – Istanbul/6:11PM – L.A.

Oh, the writing awards. No chance, I know, but go "In The Loop."

4:07AM – Istanbul/6:07PM – L.A.


4:05AM – Istanbul/6:05PM – L.A.

"Part science fiction, part thriller." Don't tell me, "Aliens in the Attic," right.

By the way, I liked "District 9" a whole lot less than pretty much anyone on the planet. And not just because I'm a natural contrarian (which I'm not, actually).

4:00AM – Istanbul/6:00PM – L.A.

I'm happy that Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett won, but I thought it was "Fallin' & Flyin'" and "Somebody Else" that were truly outstanding.

3:59AM – Istanbul/5:59PM – L.A.

"Just imagine this whole stage filled with the best cast and crew." Fine. I'm thinking "Debbie Does Dallas."

3:58AM – Istanbul/5:58PM – L.A.

"Up!" Just as I'd predicted.

3:57AM – Istanbul/5:57PM – L.A.

I'm predicting a win for "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Why not?

I never, never, NEVER enjoy these cutesy nomination clips for the best animated feature.

3:53AM – Istanbul/5:53PM – L.A.


3:47AM – Istanbul/5:47PM – L.A.

Go, Christoph. Uber-bingo, indeed.

If my sarcasm did not come through, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin's opening skit would have worked better as a monologue (for Martin).

I did like Waltz's speech. Short, sweet, and it also had a maritime metaphor.

3:44AM – Istanbul/5:44PM – L.A.

Oh, did I see “Nine?” Nein. I thank you.

3:43AM – Istanbul/5:43PM – L.A.

“Invictus” combines two of my greatest passions: rugby and dodgy accents.

I love you Steve Martin, and your ludicrously inappropriate yet ludicrously awesome Hitler memorabilia joke. (My blog’s going to get some weird hits now)

Jim Cameron – the man embodies humility. I hope his fragile feelings don’t get hurt by the intergalactic dandelions gag.

Have a drink every time someone mentions Bigelow and Cameron used to be married.

“The motherload!” The opening monologue’s the best in years.

3:31AM – Istanbul/5:31PM – L.A.

Ooh, Neil Patrick Harris! Well played, Shankman!

Was that all the acting nominees or just the frontrunners? If it was the latter, than it’s a bit of a bummer for the others, no?

3:20AM – Istanbul/5:20PM – L.A.

Miley Cyrus AND Taylor Lautner are here? Tweedledum and Tweedledumber. Joy!

Earlier, I saw Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, who were wonderful together in “Guess Who’s Coming to Rugby.”

The neurons in my brain are committing ritual suicide as retribution for my watching these red carpet interviews.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

"Er war ein Mann der Frauen, Frauen liebten seinen Punk"

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Milos Forman's Amadeus. Head on over to Edward Copeland on Film to read my retrospective. "But I can't wait, at least give us a lede!" OK, then.

The tragedy of Antonio Salieri is the driving force behind Miloš Forman’s film version of Peter Shaffer’s seminal play. Here is a pious man, in complete devotion to what he believes to be a God of Grace and Mercy. Salieri has rejected almost all of life’s earthly pleasures, has offered God his undying love, “his industry, his deepest humility,” and, of course, his chastity. All he’s ever asked for in return is a soupçon of that divine Grace to manifest itself in the form of talent. God, however, has picked as a favourite not Salieri, but instead a vulgar ninny, who is not only anathema to all that Salieri believes in, but, through whom, his lack of talent is only made more explicit. God has given Salieri deranged ambition for, and an infinite love of, music, but withheld from him the elements required to realise it. This contumelious God has shared with the world a part of himself, all the while making a mockery of his faithful servant Salieri by rejecting his piety. Knowing his predilection for irony, there’s no wonder Peter Shaffer called his play not Mozart, not even Salieri, but Amadeus.

To read the rest of the article at Edward Copeland on Film, click here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Star Trash

Oh blessed be, nerds; oh happy day! Time to gambol. Star Trek is finally cool! HUZZAH! And here’s the bonus: J.J. Abrams, the director, and Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the writers, have found ingeniously oafish ways of crowbarring every single aspect of common Trek lore into the film. The single most moving line in the history of the entire Star Trek canon is destroyed to underline a scene that would have otherwise been quite powerful. It’s obvious the filmmakers studied Gene Roddenberry’s space saga closely, got to know it inside out, and it shows in their slavish and graceless dedication to the franchise. But, you know what they say: Knowledge is knowing tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in your fruit salad.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Arnie at CeBIT

Arnold Schwarzenegger was a guest of honour at the recent Cebit Conference in Germany, where he delivered, what I assume to be, the keynote address in front of a whole bunch of business people and dignitaries, including the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The remarks were in English at first, though he segued into German half way through, and the following clip is the last few minutes of his speech.

Schwarzenegger’s most important quality as an action star was his sense of humour. It’s great to see that he’s still got it. If you don’t speak German, that’s OK (though you really should learn how to because it’s a great language), but pay attention around the 1:40 mark. I will replace the clip with a better version should I find one.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscars Liveblog

6:57AM – Istanbul/8:57PM – L.A.

That was terrible. Off to work.

6:55AM – Istanbul/8:55PM – L.A.

Even the poop kid is there. And the Slumdog people don't want to leave the stage.

6:52AM – Istanbul/8:52PM – L.A.

A montage of best film nominees, interspersed with moments from best film winners of yesteryear.

Steven Spielberg presents the best film Oscar to Slumdog Millionaire. Again, I am not going to wait for him to actually say it before posting.

6:47AM – Istanbul/8:47PM – L.A.

Vito Corleone, Gandhi, Gordon Gecko, Hannibal Lecter and Jack Driscoll mirror the ladies from earlier, each saluting one of the nominees. How did they agree to this drivel?

"I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me," says Sean Penn, who wins best actor for Milk. Mickey Rourke sends him a kiss from his pudgy lips. That's a big kiss.

6:35AM – Istanbul/8:35PM – L.A.

Kate Winslet is still talking.

6:32AM – Istanbul/8:32PM – L.A.

Springtime for Winslet and Germany.

A montage of best actress acceptance speeches of yesteryear, which I am sure was the same as the one from the top of the show. Shirley Maclaine, Marion Cotillard, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry and Sophia Loren come on stage, and do the absolutely dreadful "singling out each nominee and singing their praises" bit. It was just the worst, worst idea, and I can't believe they thought it would work.

6:21AM – Istanbul/8:21PM – L.A.

Nope, there was a problem with the broadcast apparently.

Anyway, Reese Witherspoon gets on the stage, does her schtick (incredibly unfunny), and starts reading the best director pablum from the autocue. Danny Boyle wins best director, and there's really no point of watching this any longer. I will, though. I wear the chain I forged in life.

6:14AM – Istanbul/8:14PM – L.A.

Queen Latifah is miming during the death montage, or there’s no sound on the feed from L.A.

I think this one might be a local problem as it's gone to commercial now. I have to go to work in just over an hour. Pity me.

6:08AM – Istanbul/8:08PM – L.A.

Best Foreign Language Film is being presented by Liam “Yeah, I can’t believe how much Taken’s taken, either” Neeson and Freida “Homina, Homina” Pinto. The first genuine surprise of the night as Departures takes home the Oscar.

6:02AM – Istanbul/8:02PM – L.A.

Jai Ho wins. Call me Nostradamus.

Jai ho, Jai ho, it’s off to work we go. I’m terribly sorry.

5:59AM – Istanbul/7:59PM – L.A.

A movie without music is like an airplane without fuel, says Hugh Jackman, before a short medley of the Oscar nominated scores. The earlier glitches have given way to sheer dullness. Slumdog is about to win this. Yup.

Jack Nicholson, by the way?

Zac Efron, once again (for fuck’s sake), and Alicia Keys give A.R. Rahman his award, rolling their r’s ever so condescendingly.

And the best song medley, which was the cause of the only controversy in this year’s ceremony. Can’t say I disagree with the producers’ decision to keep this short.

Jai Ho wins this one. I am just going to go ahead and post before they even announce it.

5:46AM – Istanbul/7:46PM – L.A.

Eddie Murphy presents the Jean Hersholt Award to Jerry Lewis. I’ve got that one right. The great nation of France is thankful to the Academy.

A montage of Jerry Lewis films, and moments from his telethons, follow, initially set to Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, one of the truly hideous songs of last year.

Jerry Lewis’s speech is short and classy.

5:40AM – Istanbul/7:40PM – L.A.

Sitemeter Update: Enquiring minds want to know the name of the piece of music that played during the special effects montage. It was Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes. You’re welcome.

5:35AM – Istanbul/7:35PM – L.A.

A montage of money shots (not that kind, alas) from various summer blockbusters, and Rambo, as it finishes with the single worst shot in Iron Man.

Will Smith emerges from the floor to the Dark Knight theme (seriously, what world are these guys living in) to present the visual effects Oscar, which, understandably, goes to Benjamin Button. This was the one part of the film that kind of worked.

Smith stays on the stage, unable to pronounce the word astounding, and gives the sound editing award to The Dark Knight. A quick shot of Christopher Nolan smiling. Hell has indeed frozen over.

Fresh Prince just does not want to leave. Slumdog Millionaire wins the sound mixing Oscar.

"Yes, they still have me here," quips Hancock just before Slumdog wins best editing. Sweepety sweep.

5:19AM – Istanbul/7:19PM – L.A.

Smile Pinki wins best documentary short. Start getting ready for tomorrow's headlines with lots and lots of Indian puns.

5:15AM – Istanbul/7:15PM – L.A.

Heath Ledger does indeed win, and his mum, dad, and sister get on the stage to accept the award. Various shots of people looking solemn, with Adrian Brody especially teary-eyed. Sad moment.

A documentary montage follows, which reminds me how much I love Werner Herzog. And speaking of documentaries, I saw Man on Wire yesterday - pants.

Bill Maher is presenting best documentary - I think. There was a problem with the feed, but this was, for once, an issue at our end, I think. Anyway, Man on Wire is winning this, and look, it does.

5:06AM – Istanbul/7:06PM – L.A.

Christopher Walken, Kevin Kline, Cuba Gooding Jr, Alan Arkin, and Joel Grey are presenting the best supporting actor award, which is going to Heath Ledger. This bizarre way of saying how great each actor was is embarrassing. For all of us.

5:00AM – Istanbul/7:00PM – L.A.

It's snowing in Istanbul. Thought you might want to know.

4:58AM – Istanbul/6:58PM – L.A.

Hugh Jackman and Beyonce, both in top hats, are doing a musical medley. If you ever needed another reason to dislike Grease, then you should see this. Actually, better not.

Hah – they sing a few bars from One Night Only, too. Let’s not pretend to care, indeed.

Oh, god – Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Amanda Seyfried, and, you know, that guy, are also on the stage.

This terrible bit was called “The Musical Is Back.” And it was choreographed by Baz Luhrman. Both Luhrman and the musical have seen better days.

4:40AM – Istanbul/6:40PM – L.A.

The only seriously funny bit so far. Seth Rogen, James Franco and, this is just brilliant, Janusz Fricking Kaminski in a skit about all the comedies of the last year.

The three also present best live action short, and it goes to Spielzeugland, which Franco can’t pronounce, much to Rogen’s giggling delight. The film’s director says he is going to have fun with a boldhead. Grossartig, mann.

4:31AM – Istanbul/6:31PM – L.A.

Ben Stiller is ripping on Joaquin Phoenix, and his recent breakdown on Letterman. Stiller is out of shot for most of the bit, so we the reactions, but never actually see the bit. A lot of glitches this year.

It is going to be a Slumdog sweep, as it wins cintog (Anthony Dod Mantle does, but you know what I mean). I thought Benjamin Button might win this one, because everyone seems to have loved its look. Whatever. You can’t polish a turd.

4:24AM – Istanbul/6:24PM – L.A.

Amanda Seyfried and the Twilight guy have just presented a montage of the Oscars’ salute to the most emasculating moments of 2008.

It’s not a good show. Not quite a train wreck, but there’s still tim. And time.

4:24AM – Istanbul/6:24PM – L.A.

For fuck’s sake, they’re not done yet. Carrie Bradshaw and Sarah Jessica Parker are still on the stage, this time presenting best makeup. It goes to Greg Cannom for Benjamin Button.

4:20AM – Istanbul/6:20PM – L.A.

Oh, I get it – the theme for the night is the filmmaking process itself. Nothing gets past me.

Sarah Jessica Parker and one of the aforementioned Space Chimps (who messed up reading the autocue) present the art direction award – it goes to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

They're also presenting best costume design. Just before the camera cuts to them, there is, once again, a technical glitch and you can hear Craig checking with Parker if everything isn't alright, and her, rather abruptly, saying yes.

The Duchess wins, by the way. Michael O'Connor's acceptance speech is very good.

4:14AM – Istanbul/6:14PM – L.A.

I've just checked Sitemeter, and a lot of people, and I mean A LOT of people, are googling "Open it, Steve."

4:10AM – Istanbul/6:10PM – L.A.

They’ll be doing a 2008 movie yearbook thingy this year apparently. A montage of a whole bunch of animated films including, inexplicably, Space Chimps.

Jennifer Aniston (ooh, she is the same room as Brangelina, the controversy) and Jack Black present the best animated film award, and it goes to Space Chimps.

And they're not done yet apparently - they still have to give out best animated short. Fuck - it doesn't go to Presto! La maison en petits cubes wins.


4:03AM – Istanbul/6:03PM – L.A.

Simon Beaufoy wins the best adapted screenplay Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire. It’s going to be a Slumdog sweep tonight.

3:58AM – Istanbul/5:58PM – L.A.

Tina Fey and Steve Martin are about to present the writing awards. And then they make a Scientology joke!

Dustin Lance Black wins for Milk.

3:50AM – Istanbul/5:50PM – L.A.

Penelope Cruz wins for Vicky Cristina Barthelona. It's not a good film, and Viola Davis should have won here, but I am happy for Cruz. She mirrors Javier Bardem from last year, and says something in Spanish. I think she just swore at Portugal.

Just before, Eva Marie Saint, Whoopi Goldberg, Angelica Huston, Goldie Hawn, and Tilda Swinton each did a bit on the five actresses nominated for their supporting work. And I threw up a little bit inside my mouth.

By the way, Philip Seymour Hoffman is looking like Norma Desmond tonight.

3:42AM – Istanbul/5:42PM – L.A.

This is glorious – they’re messing up left, right and centre.

Just before the supporting actress montage, there was a feed from the control room: “Steve, open it.” Referring to the stage curtains. Or Steve’s legs.

3:39AM – Istanbul/5:39PM – L.A.

Standing ovation for the opening number. Seriously, you're all on crack.

Funny joke about how nobody’s seen The Reader. Me included. I was supposed to see it today, but I went to bed at seven instead.

3:36AM – Istanbul/5:36PM – L.A.

Cringe-worthy opening number.

This is on a level with the infamous Rob Lowe/Follow The Hollywood Starts bit.

There is something heart warming about Hugh Jackman’s singing it’s alright to be gay. If you believe the rumours, that is.

3:32AM – Istanbul/5:32PM – L.A.

G’day mate.

I’ll give them this – the stage looks great.

3:27AM – Istanbul/5:27PM – L.A.

Go Richard Jenkins!

I hate to be noticing these things but Marisa Tomei and Anne Hathaway are both wearing white.

By the way, the trailer for Funny People is out, and it looks great. I especially love the jokes at the doctor’s office.

Anyway, get ready to hit snooze, cause it’s all about to kick off.

3:15AM – Istanbul/5:15PM – L.A.
There seems to be a problem with the stream from the red carpet. The sound is acting up (fitting, if you think about it).

Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens are doing their best to remind me why I dislike them so. The Achy Breaky Heart guy's daughter is here, too, so tonight is probably going to be a lot tweenier than usual. Spare me.

Robert Downey Jr and Mickey Rourke always look very, very uncomfortable doing these interviews. Today is no different.

3:10AM – Istanbul/5:10PM – L.A.

Oh, goody. Here we are again. Three o’clock my time. Every year I get excited for the Oscars, and every year I say to myself (I talk to myself fairly frequently) I should reconsider the wisdom of getting up at three in the morning on a Monday. Thing is, I am usually quite stoked, but this year the allure of my warm bed is particularly strong. It’s safe to say that bitching this year’s pack of movies is going to be a running theme tonight.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

ANNOUNCEMENT: Oscarcast Live Blog + Final Oscar Predictions

Now this is a hard one.

As has been my custom for the past two years, I will be live blogging the Oscars this Sunday. This is a big thing for me – the time difference between Istanbul and LA means I have to get up at half two in the morning (I might even get up at one this year, but don’t count on it), compose myself (not like that, you perverts), get into the right frame of my mind, and start blogging away. No mean feat, since I discard most of the posts or reviews I begin writing half-way through.

This year’s ceremony is going to be an interesting one, in that it’s the first time in my life where I couldn’t care less about any of the flicks up for best picture. It’s not been a terrible movie year for me, but it’s most certainly not been a stand-out one, like last year so obviously was. The one word that immediately pops to mind is lacklustre. I am reminded of the immortal line from This Is Spinal Tap. Describing the band, and the roles played by Nigel Tufnel and David St. Hubbins within it, Derek Smalls expounds, “They're two distinct types of visionaries, it's like fire and ice, basically. I feel my role in the band is to be somewhere in the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water.” That’s exactly what this year’s Oscar season feels like: tepid, pedestrian, and frustratingly uncontroversial.

Anyway, here are my final Oscar predictions. See you on Sunday.

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Director: Gus Van Sant

Best Actor: Mickey Rourke

Best Actress: Kate Winslet

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger

Best Supporting Actress: Viola Davis

Best Original Screenplay: WALL-E

Best Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Animated Film: WALL-E

Best Foreign Language Film: Waltz With Bashir

Best Animated Short: Presto

Best Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Cinematography: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Costume Design: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Documentary: Man on Wire

Best Documentary Short: The Final Inch

Best Film Editing: The Dark Knight

Best Live Action Short: Toyland

Best Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Best Score: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Song: Down to Earth (WALL-E)

Best Sound Editing: WALL-E

Best Sound Mixing: WALL-E

Best Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

And I predict Jerry Lewis will win the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Call it a hunch.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Pinchbeck Parable

Six more weeks of winter, I see...

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button tells the story of a man who is born in his eighties and ages backward. Or that’s what everyone says it does, because it’s not quite true. Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt, as well as a whole bunch of zeroes and ones) is born, like most, if not – and I’m going out on a limb here – all men, a baby. He is ailed with the infirmities of old age, but he is not born an old man. He is an old fricking baby.

I realise that this is far too literalistic a take on what’s supposed to be a parable, but, Miss, David Fincher and Eric Roth made me do it. The respective director and writer of the film have fashioned from a satirical and sui generis Fitzgerald short story such trite Oscar bait of a picture that it’s hard not to let yourself wander the depths of reality. It’s always a bad sign when your film starts with the bizarre story of a blind watchmaker, and your audience’s mind turns immediately to Richard Dawkins.

Benjamin Button is born on the last day of the First World War in New Orleans. His father is disgusted by his outwardly appearance and abandons him in front of an old people’s home run by Queenie (Taraji P. Henson, in the only performance worth a damn), who summarily decides to raise him as her own. Considering his condition, a convalescent home is a good place for Benjamin to grow up, and it is there that he meets Daisy (Cate Blanchett), the love of his life, whose grandmother lives in the nursing home. The two have an on-again/off-again relationship as the audience has an on-again/off-again relationship with sweet, sweet slumber.

Imagine how the film could have been developed in a slightly more screen-palatable way, i.e. also doing away with Fitzgerald’s original conceit of Benjamin’s being a 6 foot geezer, while keeping the unique nature of the story. Benjamin is born an old baby, but with the intelligence and knowledge of an old man, something which becomes clearer to the rest of the world as he, for examples, says his first word: instead of “daa-daa” or “goo-goo,” the tyke recites William Blake. Then the villagers burn him at the stake.

But, no, Fincher and Roth don’t just want to have their cake and eat it, they also want us to pay for it, and then go out and get them some bloody lemonade – like, pronto! The film is supposed to be a dereistic allegory on mortality, star-crossed lovers, miscommunication, well, any Issue you can think of, but it is played so straight and so literally that it’s impossible to suspend disbelief. But allegories are supposed to have a moral – they are supposed to teach us a lesson. Good luck finding one here. You do get a lump in your throat quite often, only it's not a surge of emotions, it's lunch.

The film lacks the courage of its own convictions. It is also completely bereft of whimsy. We are never treated to how the young Benjamin felt being trapped in an old man’s body – a brief shot of his looking wistfully at a couple of kids skipping rope feels like an afterthought thrown in for no good reason. In a film nearing three hours, you’d think it might be an important part of the main character’s story, but not in this film. His first sexual encounter is with a prostitute, and he hammers away into the wee hours of the night: but hang on, isn’t he supposed to be a 70-year-old man at this point? Fincher squanders another opportunity here – rather than going for a cheap laugh, it would have been much wiser, and truer to the film itself, to have Benjamin unable to perform on that first night. His mind is ready – his body is not. Think of the trauma.

Similarly, the most interesting parts of Benjamin’s tale are skipped over. We never see how a sixty-year old Benjamin, with the body of a twenty year old Brad Pitt, fares in the world. Nor do we witness the decline of his mind as his body keeps getting younger. How did he deal with this most horrid irony? We never find out. Obviously, before he writes his next movie, Roth needs to re-read Flowers for Algernon.

And, boy, everyone has wacky stories - one guy tells of the seven times he was struck by lightning, one woman eulogises about her failed attempt at crossing the English channel, old Blanchett drones on and on about a clock maker – all of which is just drivel. This sort of "wacky side stories in the middle of the narrative that serve no fucking purpose except to show off the writer's sense of self-importance" might have played ten years ago (think Magnolia - an infinitely better movie) - but we are not that cynical anymore. And we’ve also realised how shit American Beauty really was.

Benjamin also gets a piece of the extraneous story action during an interminable ten minute ramble where he relates the story of the seemingly unconnected events that led to Daisy’s being run over by a Parisian taxi driver, leading her to quit her calling, modern dance. Apart from the fact that it is completely unfathomable to even imagine Benjamin could know about all the minutiae that apparently caused the car accident, it is one of the silliest, most meaningless, sequences in the history of cinema. It’s supposed to showcase how destiny has a funny way of sneaking up on you; but instead it just comes across as pleading. If she had not forgot her coat, if he had not stopped for coffee, if I had been there… Whatever, pal. If my aunt had bollocks, beggars would ride.