eric’s Oscar preview

Saturday 6 March 2010

Usually I’m totally on top of the Oscars, but this year (perhaps because I’ve found it hard to be in one place for more than a few weeks at a time the last 3 months) I’ve been lagging in my movie viewing.  I wasn’t able to make it to any showcases of the nominated short films like I did last year, and as you’ll see, have a surprisingly small percentage (in my mind) of nominated films that I’ve viewed.

That being said, I couldn’t let the Oscars go without a mention and some thoughts and predictions, so here you go.  Click here to see a complete list of nominees.  Check out the IMDB Road to the Oscars section for other insight and information on other awards shows.

Before I hit the Oscars, though, I want to tell you about another great awards show you shouldn’t be missing — though it has already taken place — the Independent Spirit Awards.  For the past 10 years or so, I’ve been more smitten with indie film than “Hollywood” film, to be sure, and while you won’t see movies like Avatar or Inglourious Basterds featured there, there are tons of amazing movies you might otherwise miss if you weren’t privy to independent film, so check it out.

Best Picture
This year they went with 10 nominees in the Best Picture category, so maybe it’s understandable that I couldn’t keep up!  I have seen 5 of them so far (and hope to see a few more sometime soon, I just wasn’t giving myself a Oscar awards deadline) — The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air, Precious, Avatar 3D, and Up (the only one I saw on DVD).  From what I’ve heard, it’s a two movie race between the big (Avatar) and the small (Hurt Locker).  While I won’t be upset if either of those takes the award, I think my vote would go to Avatar.  While the visual effects were truly amazing, the story was what drew me in and made it worthwhile.  I’ve heard it’s too similar to Dances With Wolves, and if I had seen that movie, maybe my vote would be different, but for now, I’m sticking with Avatar.  The Hurt Locker is a pretty amazing movie, too, and the scope of the two films is so different that it’s really hard to pick — thus, I’m excited to see who it is!

Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay
While a lot of people try to see the best picture nominees, I usually seek out the nominees in this category (and the next one on my list here), and I’ve been particularly disappointed I have only seen 4 of the 10 total nominated films in these two categories (2 in each category).  That being said, I don’t know how good my thoughts can be, but I’ll try anyway.  Original Screenplay will likely go to Hurt Locker (it would be my vote), if only to make sure it gets its due if Avatar is the big winner.  Adapted Screenplay is a bit more tricky.  Without having seen An Education, I would be fine if that won, and then the two I’ve seen were Up In The Air and Precious.  While both of these were great movies, too, I might have to go with Up In The Air because (from what I hear) there was a bit more adapting done to make it work, and it’s probably the only place it will be recognized.
–Perhaps my biggest beef is that (500) Days of Summer wasn’t even nominated! — though it did with Spirit Award, so that made me happy.

Best Documentary
This is the other category of films I try to get myself to, and perhaps 2 of 5 isn’t bad when many of the movies are very selective in where they’ve played.  I did see the two apparent front-runners, The Cove and Food, Inc., both great in their own way, revealing things people should know about the a wider audience.  While I’d love for Food, Inc. to get out to a wider audience, The Cove was such an excellent “caper” of a film, getting such amazing raw video in secret, that I have to pull for it.

Best Actor
Is there any doubt this is Jeff Bridges award to lose?  He’s won (nearly?) every pre-Oscars award he could, and I think his performance was great.

Best Actress
I’m usually horrible at seeing the movies with the nominees of this category, and this year is no different.  I’ve only seen Precious, and Gabourey Sidibe gave quite the amazing performance, and I’d probably vote for her.  However, the debate has been going over two veteran actresses, Sandra Bullock and Ms. Oscar herself Meryl Streep. I’m kind of rooting against Bullock simply because it seems the only reason she’s getting looked at is for playing “against type,” which really means simply you dug yourself into a type in the first place and now, look, you’re changing!  If Sidibe doesn’t win, how about another young actress, Carey Mulligan (An Education)?

Best Director
In another Avatar/Hurt Locker competition, it’s ex-spouses James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow.  I truly think Bigelow’s achievement in directing is the best, but watch out to see if Quentin Tarantino‘s fans could pull him through for Inglourious Basterds.

Best Animated Feature
So, I’ve only seen Up and Fantastic Mr. Fox.  Both were great in their own way, but Up was such a roller coaster of emotions and drama, it read like any live action film (perhaps that’s why it also finds itself in the Best Film category).  Either could win and I’d be happy, but it seems to be Up’s trophy to lose.

Best Supporting Actress and Supporting Actor
The final two categories I’m going to profile also seem to be locked up, with Mo’Nique getting the nod for Precious (another “against type” billing?) and Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds.  In a rare achievement for me, I’ve seen ALL the actresses in this category and NONE of the men.  Of the nominated women, Mo’Nique’s performance is definitely tops, and for the men — well, I just can’t say.

I hope you enjoyed this rundown.  Check out the Oscars live Sunday night, 7 March on ABC, and of course, coverage to be found elsewhere, too:
Entertainment Weekly
Yahoo! Movies
ABC News

my favorite movies of the 2000s, #9 and #10, and top 11 documentaries!

Sunday 27 December 2009

We’ve finally made it to the top ten — that means 5 days left in 2009 and the decade!  Today you get two documentaries, and to liven things up, I’ve decided to add a bonus list, too: my top 11documentaries of the decade!  It means you’ll get a sneak peak at a few of the movies to come in my overall list, which is fine by me.  I have another bonus feature coming, too, but let’s do the #9 and #10 of the decade first, and then see the documentaries below that!

First, previous movies in the top 25 list (remember, these are my favorite of those I’ve seen this decade — see the link to movie #25 for a description of the list and the other movie links for previous descriptions):
#25: (500) Days of Summer (2009)
#24: FLOW: For Love Of Water (2008)
#23: In The Bedroom (2001)

#22: House of Sand and Fog (2003)
#21: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (2003)

#20: Wo Hu Cang Long (2000)
#19: Le Scaphandre et le Papillon (2007)

#18: Hable con Ella (2002)
#17: The Wrestler (2008)

#16: Revolutionary Road (2008)
#15: Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

#14: Hotel Rwanda (2004)
#13: Elephant (2003)

#12: Moulin Rouge! (2001)
#11: Juno (2007)

#10: Spellbound (2002)
Because I’m a big fan of documentaries (there are a total of 6 in my top 25, and 4 in my top 10!), I tend to see a good amount of breakouts in the theaters before they catch on with others, and I was lucky enough to see this one on the big screen as well.  It’s a basic premise: make a documentary covering the National Spelling Bee, doing individual features on a few of the participants along the way.  I think part of the genius is that spelling bee participants have to be pre-high school students, so the focus is on kids and their families.  You have first timers and those who have been there before.  Every one of them studies, but the amount varies drastically.  You have participants with rigorous study habits and private coaches, with parents pushing them all the way.  You have participants with language tutors (a lot of spelling is about etymology).  Some rely mostly on what they know already and are more laissez faire about it.  Personalities range from serious to bubbly to outright odd.  In the end, it’s a fun and suspenseful movie that leaves a smile on your face, something lacking from many scripted movies being put out these days.

#9: The Weather Underground (2002)
Without last year’s presidential campaign, most people would never have heard about the Weathermen.  But luckily for me, there was some kind of connection of Bill Ayers, one of the Weathermen, to now-President Obama, so it’s at least a recognizable group now.  (Bob Dylan mentioned them, too: “You don’t need a Weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”)  In any case, this documentary details the doings of the “radical” (debatable) group acting out west during the Vietnam War protests.  You get some historical footage along with present day interviews with former members (a trio died in the building of a bomb) to make a very engaging and thought provoking story.  No matter your opinion of such protest strategies, you get a good view of what was happening during that time in history and what the Weathermen were seeking to do.

And here are my top 11 favorite documentaries (I’ve seen) of the decade!  (Since 1-6 are in the general top #25 list and 7-9 in a soon to be released bonus list, I’ve only provided descriptions to #10 and #11 right now, but this page will change with other links as the year continues!):

1. The Corporation (2003)
2. Jonestown (2006)
3. The Weather Underground (2002)
4. Spellbound (2002)
5. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (2003)
6. FLOW: For Love Of Water (2008)
7. Wordplay (2006)
8.  Neverland: The Rise and Fall of the Symbionese Liberation Army (2004)
9.  Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
10. The Natural History of the Chicken (2000)
I’m not actually sure if I saw this entire movie, but what I did see is enough to get it on this list.  This movie is a precursor to other “investigative” movies like FLOW and Food, Inc., but with a twist.  It’s a combination of vignettes about chickens (as the title implies).  You see a bit about chickens in factory coops (and their overcrowding).  You get to see a woman with her pet chicken.  You get to hear about complaints of neighbors because of disruptive chickens nearby.  We don’t think about chickens very much, but this movie put a nice personal touch on them.  I saw this in a film class and then headed to lunch where they were serving my favorite dish, marinated chicken.  I site it as one of the instigating factors in my vegetarianism!
11.  Food, Inc. (2008)
I just saw this movie this past summer (in a theater, so that 2008 date may be a bit off) and really enjoyed it.  There was a lot of information that didn’t surprise me, but a lot of new info, too.  In all, it tells the story of the industrialization of food into lots of “food like substances,” make with lots and lots of high fructose corn syrup.    There’s too much other information to detail here, but with it now out on DVD, you really should check it out (you can borrow my copy).  It will hopefully make you think more about the “food” you’re eating and the choices you make when putting things into your body.