Monthly Archives: January 2006

Oscar Nomination Reactions

The noms came out this morning and… well, I have less to complain about than any year in recent memory. A few thoughts:
– I can’t remember the last time there was a Best Picture race where I didn’t despise a single movie. I really liked “Munich,” “Brokeback Mountain,” and “Good Night, and Good Luck,” and didn’t see “Capote.” And while I don’t think “Crash” was even one of the 50 best movies of 2005, I didn’t hate it either.
Still, the films undoubtedly have a liberal tilt. As Warren Bell said on the Corner today, “What does it say about Hollywood when the least left-wing movie nominated for Best Picture is about Truman Capote?”
– Newsweek this week ran a panel discussion of five “brave” directors (Clooney, Haggis, Lee, Miller, and Spielberg), discussing the political daring of their films. Then, whaddya know- all five of their films are up for the Best Picture, and the five of them are nominated for Best Director- the first time in memory that the two categories matched completely.
– Best Actor is pretty much between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heath Ledger. I kind of feel sorry for Ledger, his last ten movies all got bad reviews, and his next ten probably will too- only the reviews will all mention that he was “so much better in the gay movie.” Hoffman, who is a considerably better actor and has played gay and/or drag characters numerous times, will have no such problem.
– Best Actress is Reese Witherspoon’s, no question. Probably because neither myself nor anyone I know has seen any of the other four films.
– I had no idea William Hurt was even still a working actor, so I’m happy he got his first Oscar nomination in about two decades. It’ll be amusing if George Clooney wins for the generally awful “Syriana,” where he looked just like Christopher Hitchens.
– “Syriana” and the “Constant Gardener” both had horribly nonsensical screenplays, so I have no idea why either was nominated. And how hard could “Crash” have been to write, when you’re imagining a Los Angeles with only two dozen people? And wasn’t about half the dialogue in “Good Night, and Good Luck” lifted directly from transcripts of actual broadcasts?
– The nomination of the pro-terrorism “Paradise Now” in the foreign film category is apropos, the week Hamas took power. But I thought Palestinian films weren’t eligible for the category, since Palestine isn’t a country?
– The song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” from “Hustle & Flow,” is up for Best Original Song. And you thought it was weird when Eminem won an Oscar, when Martin Scorsese still hasn’t.
– In a great year for documentaries, I was glad to see “Murderball” in there, along with the amazing Newark-set political doc “Street Fight.” The crazily overrated “March of the Penguins” will win, of course, and strange to see no Holocaust-related films nominated at all.
– Sorry to see “Chronicles of Narnia” all but shut out, except for in technical categories. It was better than “King Kong” in every way- including at the box office- so hopefully it’ll collect some trophies.

Six-Movie Weekend

Like most NFL fans I found myself with nothing to do for the football bye-week weekend, so Becca and I filled the time by seeing six movies, between Thursday and Sunday. Brief reviews of all:
“Something New” was a very cute buppie romance, not quite as good as “The Best Man,” but still quite charming nonetheless. Really, “Jungle Fever,” minus the controversy, and with the races reversed. A highlight? Who shows up in the final five minutes but Cliff Clavin himself, John Ratzenberger!
– With “The Constant Gardener,” I renew my objection to “Syriana”- it’s a “political” movie made for no reason but to flatter liberal, anti-corporate prejudices, with its “conspiracy” exaggerated to make the corporate villains considerably more cartoonishly evil than they ever could be in real life. And not only that, but the plot is pretty much solved in the first 45 minutes and the film just treads water the rest of the way. Ross Douthat had the best take:

Unfortunately, the conspiracy at the heart of the story makes absolutely no sense at all… we’re supposed to believe (spoiler alert!) that a major drug company wants to win approval for a drug that kills one in ten people who take it – without doing anything to actually, you know, fix the drug so it doesn’t kill quite so many people. Perhaps I’m missing something, but even if the evil company managed to use their bogus Kenyan tests to get FDA approval, it wouldn’t take long for someone in the U.S. or Europe to notice that the drug was, well, killing one in ten people who took it. At which point there would be a massive, massive lawsuit, which would destroy the company forever, and probably land a large number of people in jail.

The incredibly gorgeous Rachel Weisz has been the saving grace of numerous mediocre movies, but not this time.
– For a more realistic look at corporate evil, check out the now Oscar-nominated documentary “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.” For those of us who had trouble understanding the extremely complex Enron scandal, the film stands as a definitive, easy-to-understand account of the events- without descending into political agitprop, as every other doc seems to do these days. Now I just want to see similar treatments for the Valerie Plame case and the Jack Abramoff scandal.
“Junebug” was decent enough, buoyed by a great, Oscar-nominated performance from Amy Adams. Just don’t watch it with a big group on a Saturday night, like I did. They’ll all lose interest very, very quickly.
– About two years too late, we caught “Super Size Me” on TV on Sunday. A funny premise, sure, but kind of undercut by the fact that, yea, it’s kind of obvious that eating three meals a day at McDonalds isn’t exactly good for you. Morgan Spurlock is likable enough, but the taint of Michael Moore’s influence was so vile- especially in its ever-present ha-ha-look-at-the-fat-hicks sneer- that it all but overwhelmed the film.
– And finally, a rainy Sunday led us to the theater for a matinee of “Match Point.” A damn good thriller, and a hell of a lot better than the crap Woody Allen’s been turning out for the past decade or so. Not even any subtle Brandeis references, nor any other New York or Jewish stuff whatsoever. The only complaint- Allen already made the same film, when it was called “Crimes and Misdemeanors,” and did it much better the first time.
More coming next week, when their Netflix replacements arrive.

Someone Bites on the Fart Blogger

For the past few weeks the communal e-mail account at the newspaper where I work has been getting frequent e-mails from a gentleman, Bill Downs, who refers himself as a “fart expert.” Whenever any event is going on- whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, or the Super Bowl- Fartman comes forward to offer himself as an expert on gas and its prevention, free to be quoted in news stories. He even started a blog, called Trafon (“No Fart” spelled backwards).
I’ve never called him and no one else at my paper has either, but today the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Blinq blog gave him a plug. At least Daniel Rubin gave the post a funny headline (“Roughing the Passer.”)

Who Cares What Celebs Say?

Jeffrey McCall of the Indianapolis Star has written a column that I’m very glad somebody wrote. In it, he asked why the press even bothers to pay attention when entertainers say stupid things about politics. Why is it news? Why even put it out there, when all such coverage does is feed into the Fox News outrage machine? I’m still waiting for a convincing explanation of why I’m supposed to care what Harry Belafonte thinks about Bush.

Thoughts on “24”

Another great episode. Jack wailing away on the Joe Scarborough-like presidential aide was a highlight, for sure. But a couple of holes: First of all, wasn’t the whole reason Jack faked his own death because the Chinese government was after him? Shouldn’t that come up again at some point, since the Chinese presumably still want him?
And secondly, we knew Logan was a wuss, but when he went along with Walt’s plot (if even for only a few minutes), didn’t that constitute treason, or at the very least an impeachable offense? I mean, the White House chief of staff knowingly aided a terrorist plot- and the biggest real-life political scandal in recent years was the Valerie Plame leak?

Down With Art House Snobs

Bryan Curtis in Slate has a wonderful smackdown of the crowds at art-house movies, and agrees that such people are even more annoying and bothersome than multiplex audiences. The best part:

Lately, the New York art houses have been beset by stealth diners. Strange, because many art houses now have gourmet cafes that offer vanilla bean cake and, in the case of New York’s IFC Center, organic popcorn topped with truffle butter. But art-house patrons, more so than multiplexers, prefer bringing their own. As soon as the lights dim, a loud collective unwrapping begins, signaling a furtive meal that will last through the opening reels of the movie and end, somewhat dramatically, with a loud crunching of paper. Instead of the smell of buttery popcorn, the art-house aroma is one of contraband sashimi and Whole Foods takeout. Harris Dew, a programmer at the IFC Center, reports encountering high levels of raw carrots and celery: “It’s not an odor you expect in a movie theater, and it’s kind of disconcerting.” The munching seems to reflect a sense of entitlement, a snobbery that says if you’re smart enough to select the right kind of movie, then you should be able to act however you want when you get there.

Yes, it’s a stereotype. But sometimes stereotypes are true.