Thursday, January 27, 2005

DELIRIOUS NOTES ON THE 2004 OSCAR NOMINATIONS, or "Johnson Family Vacation" Was Robbed!

So, Michael Moore aces himself out of all Oscar consideration by not submitting his movie for Best Documentary (didn't want to distract from other worthy work, he says), but instead gambles on his movie's unprecedented popularity launching it to a Best Picture nomination. Well, Fahrenheit 9/11 failed to oust Bush from office, as was one of its stated goals, and Oscar voters, notorious and rabid liberals, one and all, must have thought it was better not to be reminded of the limits of film as a tool for social change and consequently left the movie completely off its honor roster for 2004. And Academy voters, each one surely a radical, left-wing, Christ-hating (or at least Gibson-hating) Jew, obviously conspired to make sure The Passion of the Christ, otherwise known as the People's Choice for Best Drama, got only perfunctory notice in technical categories, all the better to further punish its divinely inspired (and damnably wealthy) director. Those are the two angles you've probably already heard way too much about if you've followed any analysis of Tuesday's announcement of the 2004 Oscar Nominations.

But there were other questions not based in red state-blue state baiting that were equally compelling. I'll be damned if I can figure out how it happened, but when Paul Giamatti got out of bed Tuesday morning, listened to Adrian Brody read, in alphabetical order, this year's Best Actor nominees and realized they would never get further than the F's, I'll bet he suddenly had a much better idea of how Sandra Oh has probably felt all during this awards season, and more to the point, how Bill Murray felt in 1998 when all the talk about his performance in Rushmore failed to result in a nomination for the popular comedic actor. Much of the fretting and speculation about the logic, or lack thereof, behind figuring Oscar winners of any season is curiously predicated on decoding the mysterious groupthink of "they," as if the Academy, made up of voters from every field of expertise, gathered together in one room and cast the final ballots so as to better form some kind of a consensus statement. But even when one understands that the nominations are voted on only by those within the nominee's own peer group-- actors nominate actors, cinematographers nominate cinematographers-- the specter of "they" still raises its cloaked head. How could they find room for Johnny Depp and leave out Giamatti? How could they honor Thomas Haden Church and not Giamatti? How could they nominate I, Robot for anything? Well, just like it's silly to suppose that every member of the New York Film Critics Circle voted for Million Dollar Baby as Best Picture of the Year (reading David Edelstein's dismissive review in the online magazine Slate ought to put that myth to rest), artists and technicians who vote to nominate their peers are as prone to individual taste, splinter factions, politicking, and inconsistency, as any other group. It's the only way to explain how the Best Director nominees never quite match up with the Best Picture nominees. (Finding Neverland and Mike Leigh are this year's nominees without a corresponding director or film.) Explanations of groupthink are usually futile efforts anyway, except in years like the last one, in which one movie seems to totally overwhelm the sensibility of the voting body to such a degree that consensus almost seems plausible, if not probable.

Much better, and much more fun, then, to go at the categories one by one and point out the surprises and, more often, the deficiencies of the nominations in order to shore up the unassailable conclusion that the Oscars don't really mean a hell of a lot in the grand scheme of cinema. It's a very rare year that I can look back on in Oscar's 77-year history and say that the Academy really got much of anything right, as least as far as I can tell-- the list of Best Picture winners, despite the appearance of obvious classics like It Happened One Night, The Best Years of Our Lives, An American in Paris, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather (Parts 1 and 2) and Unforgiven, is as loaded with lard and empty calories as the drive-thru menu at Jackrabbit Slim's. (Would you like some fries with your Around the World in 80 Days? Or extra cheese on your Sound of Music?)

But the fact that the awards are largely insignificant to one's appreciation of film as an art form doesn't mean that following the vagaries and inconsistencies of the ceremony can't still be a lot of fun. And with the nominations announced Tuesday revealing that the 2004 Oscar race figures to be one of the tightest and, with one or two glaring exceptions, most unpredictable in quite some time, why not take a dip into Hollywood's foulest fondue pot and gulp down as much hot cheese and crusty bread as possible? (I haven't felt particularly well the past few days, so one would think I'd avoid rancid metaphors like that last one, but the weakness brought on by vacuum-packed sinuses, nausea and tumbleweed-ridden lungs may inadvertently lead me in directions I don't necessarily want you or I to go, so for that I apologize in advance.)

Best Actor: Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda; Johnny Depp, Finding Neverland; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Aviator; Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby; Jamie Foxx, Ray

Well, I already covered the puzzling absence of Paul Giamatti in this category, but I can imagine that Javier Bardem and Liam Neeson might also be scratching their heads in the wake of this category's announcement. The Sea Inside ended up with a foreign film nomination, but nothing for the virile Spanish star of this true-life drama, whose subjugation of his sex appeal to portray a quadriplegic campaigning for the right to die probably accounts for the film's only other nomination, one for Best Makeup (Bald Wig Division). Kinsey did receive one nod, in the direction of Laura Linney, which in the end may only make Neeson wish that his on-screen imitation of John Lithgow was as good as hers. I haven't caught up with Don Cheadle or Jamie Foxx yet (I know, I know, but I'm trying), but even sight unseen it's not hard to project why these acclaimed performances are getting some respect. Less obvious is how Johnny Depp, in a performance much less universally heralded, found himself among the final five. In fact, the whole Miramax-backed Finding Neverland movement, another film I have yet to see (and little interest in, to be honest), would only make sense to me had the film been directed by Lasse Hallstrom, thus completing a mysterious Chocolat-Cider House Rules trifecta of which the director's own The Shipping News (2001) fell far short. Finally, there's Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio doing perhaps the best acting work of their careers (so far) in Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator, performances that in any other year would stand as strong a chance as any of taking the prize. But unless Foxx makes good on his Golden Globe acceptance speech joke and does something massively, publicly horrendous between now and the final ballot date, nothing short of a Roland Emmerich-sized global disaster could possibly detain the likable actor from his date with the little gold man.
Winner: Jamie Foxx My Pick: Clint Eastwood

Best Actress: Annette Bening, Being Julia; Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace; Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake; Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby; Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Okay, well, at least I've seen three of these nominated performances, and I fully intend to catch the outstanding two in this category before Oscar night, February 27. The rookies in this category are Moreno and Staunton, somewhat surprising nominees when you consider the under-the-radar status (at least by Hollywood standards) of the movies they were in. But given Oscar's fairly recent tendency in the acting categories to notice minimally hyped work from the industry margins that generates a lot of positive word of mouth, then suddenly these two actresses look less like dark horses for recognition and more like obvious choices. What, then, to make of Kate Winslet? (That's a rhetorical question.) I'm wondering-- only semi-seriously-- whether this talented British actress is going to start developing some sort of reputation for leaving her romantic costars in the Oscar dust. She was nominated in 1997 for Titanic while poor Leo was left holding James Cameron's bags (at the bottom of the Atlantic, no less). Sure, he's got his nod this year too, but now Kate's latest on-screen partner, Jim Carrey, whose got something of his own history of being ignored (rightfully or not) by Academy voters, finds himself hitched to Winslet's Love-'Em-And-Leave-'Em wagon as well. How long before Hollywood's he-men start shunning the stunning actress for fear of scuttling their own Oscar chances before a frame of film has been exposed?

And of course, the story in this category, surely to be rehashed into utter boredom and further inconsequentiality by, say, the end of the week, is the big "rematch" between likely front-runners Hilary Swank and Annette Bening. Swank snatched Bening's plump opportunity for a teary, pregnant appearance on Oscar's big stage right out from underneath her in 2000, winning for Boys Don't Cry, and most seem to believe, at this early stage of the game anyway, that the young whippersnapper might just be poised to do it again, despite both actresses taking home Golden Globes for their work a few weeks ago. I haven't yet seen Bening's film, and considering that I've only liked her on screen twice (in The Grifters and Mars Attacks!) I hadn't seriously considered doing so until my best friend Bruce saw Being Julia and recommended it to me, and now Oscar is kind of pressing the point. I can only hope her work in the new film is less stiff and obvious than her nominated turn in American Beauty, or, for that matter, her stilted Golden Globe speech accepting Best Actress honors this year. Bening is one of those major actresses whose persistent acclaim puzzles me, in large part because many of those praising her are people whose critical and observational instincts are usually fairly well attuned with my own. If they get it, why don't I? (Or, of course, the reverse.)
Winner: Hilary Swank My Pick: Hilary Swank

Best Supporting Actor: Alan Alda, The Aviator; Thomas Haden Church, Sideways; Jamie Foxx, Collateral; Morgan Freeman, Million Dollar Baby; Clive Owen, Closer

The hole in this category for me is Closer and Clive Owen, so I obviously have nothing to say about him, other than I thought he was better as the assassin in The Bourne Identity than he was in his perhaps purposeful sleepwalk through Mike Hodges' dreary I'll Sleep When I'm Dead. But since neither film is germane to the discussion at hand, I will gingerly move along. Alan Alda achieved something in The Aviator I wouldn't have thought possible in this day and age-- at no point during his performance did I find myself wanting to recoil in horror or revulsion at his mere presence. Now, after enduring 415 seasons of M*A*S*H, each one further paving the way for the actor's sainthood, and a career as a director of films with little ambition beyond hammering home the actor's most piously annoying liberal-humanist tendencies, how nice to see him tearing up a nasty, juicy character role as a corrupt senator that doesn't insist you find him likable or politically sympathetic. For Alda, at 66, that practically constitutes a leap of faith, and it comes courtesy of what might be his best performance since Paper Lion. Thomas Haden Church's work in Sideways is raucously delightful, but I think it pales next to Alda's, and I don't think either of them really approaches how Jamie Foxx holds the screen in Michael Mann's nightmarishly terrific Collateral. That said, they're all rookies, both in terms of previous nominations and sheer effortless effectiveness, next to Morgan Freeman, who not only does brilliant work alongside Swank and Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby, but also almost single-handedly redeems the concept and execution of the narrator from its many past excesses and misuses. And he's never won an Oscar before.
Winner: Morgan Freeman My Pick: Morgan Freeman

Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett, The Aviator; Laura Linney, Kinsey; Virginia Madsen, Sideways; Sophie Okenedo, Hotel Rwanda; Natalie Portman, Closer

With apologies to Sophie Okenedo and Natalie Portman, neither of whose performances I have yet seen, this category looks to me to be as much of a slam-dunk as Jamie Foxx winning Best Actor, and, coincidentally, it's all about another uncanny embodiment of a beloved and distinctive real-life personality. From the minute Cate Blanchett strides on screen as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator it's clear we're in the presence of an inspired actor who deepens what could be a simple impersonation with every gesture and with each beautifully written scene she plays against DiCaprio's Hughes. With all due respect to Virginia Madsen's career revival courtesy of Sideways, and to Laura Linney, whose work in Kinsey is creditable but not particularly distinctive, Blanchett is the clear choice here.
Winner: Cate Blanchett My Pick: Cate Blanchett

Well, the hour is growing late, and I stayed up even later last night, ignoring household chores, cold symptoms and the strong desire to crawl into bed and disappear, in order to get as much writing done as possible, so tonight I'm going to finish up and give in to at least the bed part very soon. But not before touching on some of the various other oddities that I saw crop up amongst the list of nominees yesterday.

Why, for instance, does the Best Animated Feature category this year look less like a place to honor quality work wherever it might manifest itself (The Spongebob Squarepants Movie, Teacher's Pet, the critically acclaimed Ghost in the Shell 2) than a clearinghouse for cruddy, big box-office flotsam and jetsam (Shark's Tale, Shrek 2)? Either The Incredibles takes this contest in a walk, or they might as well shut down the whole operation.

Does anyone else find the inclusion of The Passion of the Christ in the Best Makeup category as somewhat tasteless? Maybe only if you found the experience of watching the film as distasteful and borderline pornographic as I did. I would think that if those involved in this aspect of the film's production had even a degree of Mel Gibson's zealousness they might also find it odd being lauded for, essentially, flaying the Lord so graphically and in such loving detail. But in a way it's appropriate that one of the movie's only nominations should highlight what for most, including its director, was probably its most powerful attraction-- the opportunity to indulge in unparalleled sadism with equally unparalleled sanctimony. Here's hoping the Academy just gives it to Lemony Snicket so we can just put this all behind us.

The selected nominees for Best Original Musical Score seem to be a pretty middle-of-the-road bunch this year. Even John Williams' fine, prickly score for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban skirts the familiar a little too closely. It's a damn shame that Clint Eastwood's sublime, haunting score for Million Dollar Baby was overlooked, but I didn't really expect recognition for the movie here. I had hoped, however, that Michael Giacchino, who composed the year's most rousing and delightful score, for The Incredibles, or Rolfe Kent, composer of Sideways' sassy jazz accompaniments, might find some respect. Howard Shore's terrific Aviator soundtrack was another obvious choice, but due to some odd Academy bylaw that I'm unfamiliar with, it was disqualified (if anyone can point me to a source describing the circumstances for this disqualification, I'd appreciate it.) Instead, room just had to be made, I guess, for more hackwork from the overly nominated James Newton Howard (The Village) and John Debney's derivative ambience for The Passion of the Christ. I'll be in the kitchen getting more bean dip when this winner is announced.

Perhaps the strongest technical category this year is that of Best Cinematography, with nominations going out to brilliant and evocative work from Robert Richardson (The Aviator), Zhao Xiaoding (House of Flying Daggers), Bruno Delbonnel (A Very Long Engagement) and Caleb Deschanel (The Passion of the Christ). But I would have gladly sacrificed John Mathieson's nomination for The Phantom of the Opera-- I'm sorry, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera-- to see Tom Stern's name on the roster instead, not only to honor his fine, underrated work in Million Dollar Baby, but to also take a step toward acknowledging that work by other cinematographers and validating it against incomprehensible accusations of incompetence. I also wish voters were willing to cast more votes to acknowledge the groundbreaking digital video cinematography of Collateral courtesy of Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron, if only to spotlight what can be done brilliantly with a format that has more typically been implimented as an aesthetically neutral, economically feasible option for do-it-yourself filmmakers. But there may still be substantial resistance to tacit endorsement of the format in an industry comprised mostly of directors of photography who don't yet know their way around digital video the way they do celluloid, and who may resist contributing to a revolution they see as threatening to the legacy of film as film, even with pictorially challenging films like Collateral and Robert Altman's The Company pointing the way.

Finally, I couldn't be more thrilled for Brad Bird and his movie's nomination not only for Best Animated Film, but perhaps even more so for The Incredibles' wise and hilarious script. This movie bested just about every other live-action feature of any genre this year, and its appearance in this prestigious category is tacit recognition of that fact. I'm also very excited that, if the movie itself couldn't find its way toward other significant nominations, at least the dense and intuitive work from Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke in their script for Before Sunset is being acknowledged. But in the Best Adapted Screenplay category? Adapted from what, exactly? From their extensive notes during improvisations? As I used to say to my high school English teacher, I just don't get it.

The march toward Oscar Night is a mercifully short one, thanks to the newly condensed period between announcement of the nominations, the balloting and the awards themselves, all designed to discourage grossly excessive and unseemly campaigning. Of course, those in Hollywood who naturally gravitate toward the grossly excessive (there are so few of those, aren't there?) will find a way. It is my job to ignore as much of that as possible and try to enjoy the spectacle of Oscar Night divorced completely from any lingering thought that it matters a damn. And I will do my job. If it's your job too, I wish you much success and enjoyment in the next month or so. I'm sure there'll be plenty more to write about between now and then. But right now my head, she swims pretty fluidly, that going-to-bed idea is getting to be nearly impossible to ignore, and I don't think I have a whole lot more to say anyway... It was just outside of Barstow that we first saw the bats... Did I type that out loud? Dreams of Oscar, take me away...


Anonymous said...

Great stuff--glad you went off to bed and saved the rest for later, since I was feeling guilty for spending so much time reading it at work. A few comments: I know "The Sound of Music" is cheesy, and if I had ever been allowed into the cool people's club, I'd be drummed out now, but I still am a sucker for it--and when I watched it sometime last year with my sister, her husband, their two little girls and my wife, we all had a great time, even if we did make a lot of fun of it. But I'm a sucker for a certain kind of corn. Maybe I'm sicker than you are, but your mention of hot cheese and crusty bread made me hungry. Laura Linney is an awesome actress, in my opinion, and hot--not that I've seen her in "Kinsey" yet, but I wonder how she could be doing an impersonation of John Lithgow! I also admire the work of Lasse Hallstrom, except the ones that get nominated for Oscars: I was bored and/or irritated by "Chocolat" and "Cider House Rules." However, "My Life as a Dog" holds up beautifully for me; I remember loving "Once Around," liking "Something to Talk About" more than I expected, and thinking "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" was almost as good as the book. Guess it depends on the material. I could be Pollyanna, but I will probably bet on Clint Eastwood as the best actor winner. I'm usually wrong, though, so there you go. I agree with you about Annette Bening: the two performances you mention are the only two I'd ever liked ("Mars Attacks" and "The Grifters"), until I saw "Being Julia." It's a wonderfully detailed, funny, and moving performance, in my opinion. That said, I'll be happy if either she or Hilary Swank wins the statue. Finally, I'm stunned to hear that Morgan Freeman has never won an Oscar! I mean, I believe you, but it's hard to believe. OH well, I'll have forgotten who won all the awards by next year at this time anyway, adding strength to your argument that these things don't have much lasting impact. --Bruce

Thom McGregor said...

Oh, my Lord, Dennis, I think the sicker you feel and the later the hour, the funnier you get. What you wrote about "The Passion"'s makeup nomination and your natural revulsion to Alan Alda just cracked me up and good. As Toddy used to say, "It's funny because it's true." I hate the Oscars. They publicly honor crap. It's like throwing roses on a writhing mound of mealy maggots. Wait-- mmm, maggots. But I love Clive Owen. I hope he wins even though I'll never see "Closer." I thought Giamatti was robbed by Depp (sorry, Andy). And I think Kate Winslet's performance in "Eternal Sunshine" was the best nomination this year. She's so weird and wonderful in that movie. I can't remember any other nomination, so I'll stop now. Thanks for making me laugh. But please go to sleep early tonight.

Anonymous said...

Dennis, I always look forward to your thoughts on the Oscar nominations and, once again this year you did not disappoint. I, too, have learned to not take the whole folderol seriously. As I heard Ben Affleck (Stop snickering, I say! He’s really more intelligent and thoughtful than his choice of films and girlfriends might indicate. But I digress) say on DINNER FOR FIVE, the winner of the little gold man only has to get a plurality) 20% plus one of the votes) in order to win. Not exactly the overwhelming vote of confidence that it’s purported to be.

As for the nominations, each year there’s at least one film that critics and Academy voters seem to salivate over that I just don’t get. And for the second time in a row, it’s a Clint Eastwood movie. Last year it was MYSTIC RIVER and this time around the lucky film is MILLION DOLLAR BABY. The similarities in my reaction to the two films is pretty much identical – excellent performances in the service of a story that never engaged me emotionally. And considering the storyline (no spoiler here, I promise!), that says a lot. Basically, it was only kind of meh.

Here are some of my other random thoughts about the nominations. I hope you’re right about Jamie Foxx being a shoe-in, but I’m hoping that Don Cheadle takes home the prize. Every time I think that it couldn’t happen, I remember Richard Dreyfuss winning when everyone in the English-speaking world just knew that Richard Burton was going to win. Strange things do happen on Oscar night.

While I know that Alan Alda is most closely associated with M.A.S.H. and Hawkeye Pierce, as he pointed out recently in an interview, almost all of the roles that he’s played in the movies have not been nice guys. However, I am also rooting for Morgan Freeman to finally get it done.

If Natalie Portman wins, it will go down as another Oscars miscue. I thought she was horrible in CLOSER. More than any other actor I can think of, I can never tell going in whether or not we’ll see the good Natalie (like the one in her film debut, THE PROFESSIONAL) or the truly awful Natalie (Star Wars: PHANTOM MENACE and ATTACK OF THE CLONES. Eek!). I thought that awful Natalie was on full display in CLOSER. How/why she got a nomination for her dreadful performance in that equally dreadful movie I’ll never understand.

Last but not least, I must weigh in on the Original Musical Score category. Yes, I know that it’s mostly the usual suspects that have been nominated, but it will make my night if Thomas Newman wins for his LEMONY SNICKET score. I haven’t seen the movie, nor have I heard the score, but over the last ten years Thomas Newman has been my favorite film composer. He’s been nominated several times when the prize has gone to another undeserving composer. This is the man who wrote the scores for SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, AMERICAN BEAUTY, FINDING NEMO, as well as television themes like his brilliant music for SIX FEET UNDER. It’s about time that he not go home empty handed.

~ Sharon

Anonymous said...

This is fun, not taking the stupid Oscars seriously, not putting a little TM by the name Oscar every time we write it, but trading impressions of the nominations and nominees. Sharon, your mention of Good Natalie and Bad Natalie made me laugh; I can never forget seeing her robotic performance in "The Phantom Menace" and then reading how brilliant an actress she is in every other magazine out there. I did think she was terrific in "Garden State." Haven't seen "Closer", though I may do so as an act of rebellion against all those who tell me not to--and, of course, I'll live to regret it.--Bruce

Stoogeking said...

Best Picture: The Aviator
Best Director: Martin Scorcese
Best Actor: Clint Eastwood
Best Actress: Hilary Skank
Best Supporting Actor: Thomas Hayden Church
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett
Best Sound: Who Gives Two Shits.

Best Film Of All Time: Krippendorf's Tribe

Anonymous said...

Ah, I beg to differ, esteemed colleague Stoogeking. The best film of all time is "Saving Silverman." -Bruce

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Wow! So many great comments. Thanks to you all for hopefully having as much fun with this blog as I am, and for making it so much more fun for me.

Thom: Thanks for your kind words. I didn’t feel very funny at the computer Wednesday night, so it’s nice to know that you think things are coming out well. I value your opinions and thoughts more than you may even realize. And you may not have noticed, but I like to make you laugh.

Sharon: Interesting note on just how little of the voting body you have to persuade in order to get an Oscar. Since everybody knows it’s basically just a popularity contest anyway (or however else you’d like to term a one member-one vote system which has nothing as significant as lives hanging in the balance at stake), I’ve always wondered why the Academy is so reticent to publish the figures of the actual voing. Are they worried about exposing just how little a mandate some of the big winners actually get? Are they afraid that will dilute Oscar’s prestige? They can’t possibly be worried about bruising the egos of the actors who come out on the short end, can they? (Bruising egos is a time-honored Hollywood pastime, after all.) If they’re not gonna do it, I’d like some answers as to why!

As for Eastwood’s last two movies, obviously I don’t share your confusion, but I will say that I think "Million Dollar Baby" is easily the better film. "Mystic River," for all its terrific acting and oppressive working-class Boston milieu, and its eerie, lived-in pessimism, gave way to pushing some buttons too hard (the close-up of the ring on the hand of one of the kidnappers indicating he was, if not a Catholic priest, then at least someone closely associated with the church; the overreliance on the imagery of cars pulling away into the distance; the subplot involving Kevin Bacon’s mysteriously silent wife). "Million Dollar Baby" comes close to this a couple of times, particularly in its portrayal of Swank’s family. But I think it can be said that, as much as these people are portrayed somewhat grossly, Eastwood is not saying all people of this sort of background are equally gross. Conversely, it would be strange to insist that Eastwood has no right to see these characters in this way, or that such backward, greedy, selfish creeps such as this don’t exist (I know some folks personally who reminded me a lot of the people I saw on screen). And ultimately, "Million Dollar Baby" exudes a confidence, a breadth of feeling—all kinds of feeling—that "Mystic River," due as much to its subject as anything else, didn’t have.

Finally, you’re right about Thomas Newman. He’s a terrific talent. I love his scores for "The Player" and "Little Women."

Bruce: Sorry about "The Sound of Music." I just can’t get over the stiffness and the sugary content, and I find all the songs, with, perhaps, the exception of “Edelweiss,” teeth-gratingly unbearable. I remember when my mom took Carrie and I to see it (probably on a rerelease) at the Alger around 1969. They both loved it, and I’m pretty sure Carrie still does, but even then I just wanted to flee from the theater. (Perhaps their treatment of "Sleeper" was some sort of long-awaited revenge on me?) Never has three hours seemed so eternally long… until this week, that is, when I was forced to sit through it, in excruciating detail, twice! But I dare say it was worth it to experience/rediscover/whatever that inexplicably perverse moment at the conclusion of the devastatingly bad Charmian Carr’s big “16 Going On 17” number when, in a burst of romantic joy at having had such a lovely encounter with her soon-to-be-goosestepping boyfriend Rolfe, launches herself out of the gazebo, through the pouring rain toward the camera, and just before Robert Wise-ly cuts away, gives us a giddy, whooping “Wheeeeeeeeee!” as she gathers her arms around herself and swoons with delirious abandon. (Or maybe that’s just delirium brought on by creeping hypothermia at being out too long in the cold Austrian rain.) I’m glad for the pleasures you take from this movie, and you shouldn't be ashamed about them, any more than I’m ashamed to admit I love that old Disney movie "So Dear to My Heart" (another movie not exactly lacking in saccahrine qualities). I hope my annoyances don’t come off as condescending—toward you, that is—I just don’t understand why this movie means so much to so many people.

As for Lasse Hallstrom, I’m glad you reminded me of "My Life as a Dog," "Once Around" (Richard Dreyfuss and Holly Hunter's penance for "Always"?) and "Something To Talk About." Those are terrific movies, and he is quite talented indeed. Of his Miramax Oscar bait, I’ve only seen "The Shipping News" and thought it was about half a good movie. I didn’t mean my snarky coments to be a knock on the director in general, but more toward Miramax’s tendency to package him in these easy-to-digest morsels, smooth him out for Academy consumption and turn him into the inadvertent poster boy for their own campaigning excesses.

I too enjoyed the outing of Good Natalie and Bad Natalie, though I think both Natalies are on display in "The Phantom Menace"— Bad Natalie is on screen whenever the Queen tries to put on airs of political power or royal privilege in that stilted, flat, almost phonetic-sounding voice she adopts, and Good Natalie is the girl with the easy presence who takes over whenever Queen Amidala isn’t in one of those ridiculous, impossible-to-navigate-in costumes.

Stoogeking: The question should actually be, “Who gives two shits for Bela?” Wouldn’t you agree? And by the way, I think those of a certain age might think that the best movie of all time was a little gem starring a prodigiously talented young actor by the name of Stuart Getz. It’s title: "The Van."

Stoogeking said...

Now, wait a minute. The Van? When I was just a child, we had ON TV, which was a strange version of cable back in the '70s. I remember this movie coming on that I couldn't watch, due to parental discretion, where basically this guy would bring hot beach mamas into his super-'70s-sweatmobile and teach them the finer points of Communism. Could this be the same flick? Hmm.

I also forgot to defend a guy who gets snubbed every year at Oscar time. Now, whether or not you like Jim Carrey is not the question anymore. Everybody always says you either love him or hate him. Well, sometimes I love him-- Dumb and Dumber, The Cable Guy, The Man on the Moon, Me, Myself and Irene-- and sometimes I hate him-- Liar, Liar, Bruce Almighty, Batman Forever. Hell, he was even amusing as an Axl Rose puppet as the rock star in The Dead Pool. ( Forgot that role, didn't ya, Bruce?) Anyhow, I thought his performance in Eternal Sunshine was very strong and should've gotten a nod over Johnny Depp. Now, I haven't seen Finding Neverland, but it just seems like the kind of dreamy, sensitive role usually given to Depp every other film. I feel Carrey delivered a heartfelt, powerful performance, due in part largely to that of fellow costar Kate Winslet, who was nominated.

Now, everyone will probably jump on me for this and say, "Well, what about Paul Giamatti? He was excellent as well." Now, don't get me wrong here. I thought Sideways was a great film. Unfortunately, Giamatti always has that look on his face like he's about to snap whether he's ordering a sandwich or yelling at the wine guy for not filling his glass all the way. He just has that type of face that just cracks you up by looking at him. Alec Baldwin comes to mind here. He has finally found his true calling in life as a supporting actor lurking suspiciously in the background of decent films. But it's always the same Baldwin-- a brooding, authority-type who is intimidating, yet mysterious.

Anyhow, it's just an opinion. I think Carrey dived deep into his sack of emotional baggage and gave us a strong performance, as he did in Man on the Moon. End of commentary.

P.S.: I heard The Van 2 is going into preproduction,
starring Jan-Michael Vincent and Richard Kline.
Anyone else hear this?

Anonymous said...

Hey, who are you, Stoogeking? You are right: I didn't remember Jim Carrey in "The Dead Pool"! Were you with me when I saw it? HOW DO YOU KNOW SO MUCH ABOUT ME? Er, anyway, I'm with you: I like him in some movies, and hate him in others, and your list of Good Jim and Bad Jim movies sounds about right, too...I liked him in "The Truman Show," but I didn't think it was a brilliant performance. Somehow, I haven't seen him be as good as I suspect he's capable of being; something about him either being too obviously mushy and vulnerable or being too "on." I've heard he's wonderful in "Lemony Snicket," from two sisters of mine who are generally reliable. Anyway, I anxiously await the sequel to "The Van," but nothing will ever equal the unforgettable recurrent scenes of Stuart Getz sitting happily at the wheel, practically bouncing up and down with joy and grinning like a fool at the very idea that he owns such a vehicle, and is a participant in such wonderful and riotous adventures.

Dennis, I shall offer my detailed deconstruction of "The Sound of Music" at a not-too-distant date, which will surely prove its merits as an unappreciated masterpiece, with rich subtexts...but until then I can only say I don't understand why I enjoy it, but I wasn't offended by your comments. Rather, I thought they were hilarious. Glad you like Hallstrom's stuff, too. Remember when you and I took my little Renault LeCar (the car no one would steal!) on a rainy weeknight, with its heater blasting, to Beverly Hills to see "My Life as a Dog"? One of the rare times when the Foreign Film Everyone is Raving About of the Moment actually turned out to be worth the praise. --Bruce

Anonymous said...

I'm still reeling from seeing the word "heartfelt" in a post from Stoogeking.

This comes from years of reading his postings in the fantasy baseball league, you know, the ones that usually feature Derek Jeter in a hot tub with our good friend Sean Marlon. You're getting soft, Stoogeking. Well, as the great Robert Conrad muttered through his Grizzly Adams beard as the fur trapper in JAMES MICHENER'S CENTENNIAL-- and he was supposed to be Cajun or French Canadian or a Montreal Canadien or channeling J-C van Damme before any of us knew who J-C was, so it was a bit of a stretch for Agent West-- anyway, his wise words were: "Only the rocks live forever." Er, make that rocks and a bad performance in a bad miniseries.

And, Sharon, Thomas Newman's music is wonderful in LEMONY SNICKET. It might be that others deserve to be nominated, but Newman deserves the recognition, and I hope he wins.

"Heartfelt"? Hot tub. Heartfelt. Let me guess. The dog ate the rest of the dictionary.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Bruce: All this talk to Julie Andrews and company has spuured me on to a new post. I hope you don't mind, but I've opened up the forum for you and anyone else on the blog to wax enthusiastic about "The Sound of Music" with no smart-asses like me braying in your ear. I hope you can take the time to post something. If not... I'LL NEVER SPEAK TO YOU AGAIN!!!!!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

All this talk OF Julie Andrews, of course. I haven't been able to find "spuur" in my dictionary yet, but I used it, so it must be there somewhere! And I do remember that screening of "My Life as a Dog" fondly, as well as the "My Life as a Dog" T-shirt I picked up there at the Music Hall in Beverly Hills and wore so proudly for years after, until it rotted right there on my torso...

Anonymous said...

Hahaha! It's Tuesday morning, I just posted my rambling message about "The Sound of Music" and its evil opposite, and I just got around to seeing these two messages. Nah, of course I don't mind being put in the position of having to defend all the soft-hearted movies I like, like "The Sound of Music" and "The Shawshank Redemption," and having all the people in black turtlenecks and berets laugh at me, and sneer at how I don't "get" "Pulp Fiction." Nah, seriously, this is fun! Bruce