Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It must be some kind of... HOT TUB TIME MACHINE!

If there is one movie in the history of movies that I never thought would need a remake, it is BACK TO THE FUTURE. God, I love that trilogy. It is legendary and sheer cinematic perfection, from the story to the performances to the characters and continuity and quotable dialogue. It just stands to reason that a remake would be blasphemy and a slap in the face, not only to Robert Zemeckis, Michael J. Fox and everyone involved, but to those of us who have put the the movies on a pedestal for the past 25 years.

At least, that's what I thought. And then I saw HOT TUB TIME MACHINE.

httm Now, let me state right off the bat that HTTM does not exceed BTTF in any way. The adventures of Marty McFly will never be topped. But the adventures of four friends who travel back in time to the era in which Marty McFly lived before HE traveled back in time (whew) is a brilliant, hilarious, impeccable homage. As a remake, it succeeds in ways that I never would have thought possible. As its own movie, it is absolutely hilarious... not exactly in unexpected ways, since I pretty much knew that this movie would be awesome ever since I first saw the trailer... but it FAR exceeds my already-high expectations and has left me a giddy, gushing, bouncing-off-the-walls mess.

The story is simple. Back in the day, John Cusack, Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson were best friends. But as the years rolled by, they remained friends but drifted apart on a fundamental level. After Cusack breaks up with his girlfriend, Robinson deals with his own messed up marriage and Corddry seemingly tries to kill himself, they reunite (along with Cusack's geeky nephew) at their favorite ski resort and try to relive their glory days. Unfortunately, the place has become a shithole and is more depressing than anything else. But hey, at least the hot tub, which had been broken when they arrived, appears to have been fixed... and is now emitting a strange unearthly glow... but fuck it, there's booze and drugs and a dancing bear and and and.....

Yeah, they go back in time. To 1986, when they were kids hanging out at that very ski resort. Naturally, hijinks ensue. My favorite part of the trailer is when they're trying to figure out hottub2what the hell happened and Craig Robinson says, "It must have been some kind of.... hot tub time machine," and then looks at the camera for a couple of beats. That pretty much sums up the tone and insanity of this movie. I knew it was going to be amazing and hilarious and utterly ridiculous... and I was right on levels that I didn't even fathom. On a purely surface level, it is a must-see.

But I was not aware of the whole BACK TO THE FUTURE aspect. I mean, obviously, there's the time travel thing (and really, is a time-traveling hot tub that much more insane than a time-traveling DeLorean?). But this is seriously a straight remake. I would love to create a side-by-side comparison chart and pick out all of the direct homages to Zemeckis' masterpiece -- seriously, at times, it is almost beat-for-beat, just updated for modern times -- but to do so would spoil the fun and that would be a crime. Suffice to say, it is brilliant and brilliantly done. It never once feels like a cheap rip-off -- if anything, when the BACK TO THE FUTURE connections occurred, no matter how blatant or subtle, I felt a surge of glee and reverence along with my gut laughter.

And it's not just BACK TO THE FUTURE. It's the best '80s tribute movie since THE WEDDING SINGER. The movie is loaded with nostalgia and tips of the cap to movies, TV and pop culture -- sometimes cheesy and over-the-top, but often subtle, in the background, or flat-out unexpected (great soundtrack, too). I particularly loved the ski patrol, the bad guys who bully Cusack & Co. and give them a run for their money. Not very subtle, granted... but it's a great tribute to '80s villainy, with a twist that keeps things fresh. (Keep your ears open, too, for one particular line of dialogue in the background of a pivotal scene involving these guys that literally had me roaring with '80s movie geekitude.)

hottub1 The performances are great across the board. I fucking love John Cusack and he is the anchor here. I mean, here's a guy who was an icon in the '80s, and remains an icon to this day, starring in a movie in which he gets to do his thing in BOTH eras. He is the man. Craig Robinson continues his heralded streak of stealing every fucking scene he is in, regardless of what he does. I should turn on my webcam and record a video of myself right now, because I am seriously laughing out loud while thinking about some of his lines in this movie. Meanwhile, I could see this being a breakout role for Rob Corddry, in the same way that, say, HIGH FIDELITY was a breakout for Jack Black -- it's one of those loud, raucous, crazy funny performances that makes people stand up and take notice. (Of course, anyone worth their salt should already know that Corddry rules... but the rest of the world ain't so hip.) Clark Duke is also great as the Cusack's young iPhone-obsessed nephew who gets caught up in this madness and just wants to make sure that the time-space continuum doesn't get TOO messed up so he can, y'know, be born.

glover And then there's Crispin Glover. If Cusack is the anchor, Glover is the goddamn lynchpin and the surest sign that the filmmakers had McFly on the mind. Needless to say, he is awesome. (A couple of other great '80s icons make appearances, too. One of them is Chevy Chase, which is common knowledge... but the other... well, let's see if you can pick him out. Unspeakable genius.)

Furthermore, did I mention it's rated R? And a hard R, at that. So it's loaded with F-bombs and boobs and bodily fluids and raunchiness that knows no bounds. Good stuff.

Okay, okay, I will stop gushing now. Hell, the mere fact that I am blogging about this movie THE SAME NIGHT I saw it should be a sign of just how much I loved it. Can't remember the last time that happened. HOT TUB TIME MACHINE opens on March 26th. Get your advance tickets ASAP and prepare to have your minds blown. I can't wait to see it again!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oscar-Nominated Short Film Madness, Part 1: Live Action!

For the second year in a row, I hit up the IFC Center for a day filled with all sorts of Oscar-nominated short film shenanigans! This year's crop of live action and animated shorts were interesting indeed... and at times, downright awesome. I highly recommend checking these two programs out if you have the opportunity -- but for those of you who don’t (or for those who have and want to compare notes), here's my take on the nominees. First up... live action!

kaviKAVI (India) -- The first of several heavy-handed entries deals with the nasty subject of modern-day slavery in India. All young Kavi wants to do is play cricket with the other boys, but he is forced to work under strict rule and the blazing heat of the sun in order to help pay off his father's debts. An encounter with a kind-hearted journalist gives Kavi a glimmer of what his life could be like. Can Kavi escape his predicament? Perhaps he could become a contestant on "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" Yeah... sorry, but while the story is certainly no laughing matter, the film smacks of some leftover SLUMDOG fever. That said, it is the kind of story that makes Oscar cry, so I’m going to be uncharacteristically cynical and predict that it takes home gold.

the_new_tenants THE NEW TENANTS (Denmark) -- Deliciously dark comedy that gets off to a hilarious start and then gets funnier and more bat-shit insane as the minutes tick by. Great dialogue, acting and even a couple of amusing cameos by (relatively) famous actors. It will make you think twice about moving into a new place without doing a thorough background check... and you will definitely never again use flour without knowing exactly who bought it and where it came from. A too-weird-bordering-on-pretentious ending prevents this one from being perfect... but it's still damn good.

miracle_fish MIRACLE FISH (Australia) -- This year's best entry, in my humble opinion. It's about a lonely, bullied boy who sneaks into the school nurse's office to lie down and escape the harsh realities of the day... only to awaken and find that he is suddenly all alone. Did his classmates and teachers disappear? Get abducted by aliens? Whatever the case, he is free to roam the halls, eat junk food and enjoy what appears to be an awesome birthday present... at least until he discovers what is really going on. At first, the film feels like something out of THE NEVERENDING STORY... only to take a chilling turn of which I will speak no more. Jaw-dropping stuff.

the_door THE DOOR (Ireland) -- This entry starts off with a man breaking into a house to steal a door. Then in a flashback, we see how he and his family were forced to abandon their home and belongings after the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, and then suffer the agony of their young daughter's death. Back to the present, we learn the true, heartbreaking nature of the stolen door. Tough to watch, but also kind of frustrating -- it feels disjointed and rushed, as if it’s an extended trailer for a feature film instead of a standalone short. Good film, though -- flawed but affecting. Can't believe there hasn't been a big-budget, high-profile drama about Chernobyl yet....

abracadabra INSTEAD OF ABRACADABRA (Sweden) -- Clearly Sweden took the whole NAPOLEON DYNAMITE craze to heart, because this feels like a little slice of that universe. Tomas is a twenty-something slacker who still lives with his parents and dreams of becoming a famous magician, specializing in "gothic mystery and mayhem" (as illustrated by his bowtie and eyeliner, of course). Unfortunately, his tricks often go awry... and his father goes a little more insane with every puff of glitter that Tomas blows in his face. But when Tomas meets a pretty nurse, he suddenly finds his purpose and takes his magic to a whole new level... for better or worse. Hilarious, occasionally cringe-worthy stuff, and my second-favorite of the bunch.

Now, I must state for the record:

I'M ROOTING FOR: Miracle Fish

Stay tuned for animation madness!

Monday, February 15, 2010

When It's Time to Change, You've Got to Rearrange

Check it out, I changed the image header of my blog! Whaddya think? On one hand, the old AMELIE pic was perfect because (a) I love that movie, (b) it was like a double entendre, with her sitting in a movie theatre and all. But at the same time... eh, I just felt like it was time for a change, perhaps in the hope that it would inspire me to actually write more often about things besides the Oscars and year-end lists. And who better to provide that inspiration than Daniel Day-Lewis? So with that in mind, let's take a look at some movies I've seen recently....

from_paris_with_loveFROM PARIS WITH LOVE -- Ten months from now, when we close the books on 2010, there’s a good chance that this mindless action film is going to be way down towards the bottom of my list. Terrible plot, terrible acting, terrible dialogue, terrible twists, terrible gun fights and car chases… it’s really a perfect storm of crap. Travolta is in standard “crazy mode” and completely unremarkable (though his little homage to PULP FICTION was funny and earned the biggest crowd reaction of the movie). Jonathan Rhys Meyers, meanwhile, puts on quite possibly the most laughably bad performance since Mark Wahlberg in THE HAPPENING -- it was almost as if he was concentrating so hard on speaking with an American accent that he couldn’t do anything else. So bad. I really liked Pierre Morel & Luc Besson’s previous collaboration, the surprisingly entertaining TAKEN, but this was a step in the wrong direction.

frozen FROZEN – Great little thriller about three kids who bribe a ski lift operator into letting them take one last run, only for him to accidentally forget about them, shut down the park and leave them stranded high above the ground in the freezing cold. While the movie requires some suspension of disbelief (these kids are pretty damn stupid, even by horror movie standards) and teeters on the brink of ridiculousness at times, it actually works quite well and is both psychologically and visually intense. The kids are likeable (I particularly enjoyed their conversation about the Sarlaac Pit) and their plight is pretty ominous: Either sit there and likely freeze to death, or try to escape and possibly fall to your death... or get eaten by wolves, as the case may be. Simple but effective. (Two interesting tidbits: I saw this movie on the day of Snowpocalypse 2010, which was kind of poetic. Also, I was all by myself in the theatre except for one couple sitting five rows in front of me, who totally ignored my presence and hooked up throughout the movie. Yeah baby!)

shes_out_of_my_league SHE'S OUT OF MY LEAGUE -- I saw an advance screening of this mildly amusing R-rated sex comedy about a dorky guy who gets together with a hot chick and the trials and tribulations that ensue. Seeing as how I am a dorky guy with a hot girlfriend, I appreciated the general concept, but there wasn't very much in this movie that we haven't seen before. The raunchiness was far more miss than hit and often felt like it was just trying too hard -- the pube-shaving scene, for example, was a bit much. I offer the tip of my cap to Jay Baruchel for snagging a starring role -- but to tell the truth, I think he's the kind of guy that is better suited to playing supporting characters. (Wouldn't mind seeing more of Alice Eve, though... yowza.)

the-wolfman THE WOLFMAN -- Good-but-not-great retelling of the classic monster tale. I like that it takes place in its original Victorian setting, as opposed to, say, updating it for modern times -- the gothic look definitely sets the right tone. I also like that it is pretty unflinching in terms of violence – it is really damn gory, with blood and guts and brains and body parts splattered all over the place. I also enjoyed seeing Anthony Hopkins chew the scenery like we haven't seen since his Hannibal Lecter days. On the downside, there is... well, pretty much everything else. The movie comes to a screeching halt whenever the wolf isn't wreaking havoc, and while Benicio del Toro is well-cast (since, y’know, he kind of looks like a werewolf already) and Emily Blunt is fine in her own right, there is zero chemistry between the two of them. Overall, it is just plain dull. (Side note: It's weird that Emily Blunt stars in this movie, which is set in 1890 when England was ruled by Queen Victoria... whom Blunt recently portrayed in THE YOUNG VICTORIA. Let’s hope they never bump into each other or else it could create a paradox, the results of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the universe!)

valentines_dayVALENTINE'S DAY -- No real surprise that this movie was awful. It’s an unfunny celebrity clusterfuck that isn't the slightest bit endearing, let alone romantic. Normally when you see a movie like this, with lots of intertwining storylines and characters, there are at least one or two situations that are somewhat compelling... but not this time. It is completely worthless in every conceivable way. The least-negative thing I can say is that it actually ended up fooling me with a couple of character twists towards the end... but that was more a result of the movie lulling me into a mindless stupor than anything else. Maybe it would have been better if it had been rated R for aberrant behavior involving nudity (more specifically, Jessica Biel and Anne Hathaway nudity). Or if it had been the exact same movie, but with the occasional zombie attack. Come on, Hollywood, work with me here!

Ahh, that felt good. Now let’s see if I can keep it going on at least a semi-regular basis. I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Single Man vs. A Serious Man

So, I saw A SINGLE MAN last night because it was the only major Oscar nominee that I hadn't yet seen. While Colin Firth was very good and the story was potent (a gay may in the '60s struggles to maintain his public persona while secretly mourning the death of his longtime partner), the movie itself was infuriatingly pretentious from act 1, scene 1. Pretty much exactly the kind of artsy crap you'd expect from a fashion photographer-turned-filmmaker's directorial debut -- half of the movie was filmed like a Tom Ford Vanity Fair cover... which, I suppose, could have been interesting... but wasn't.

Anyway, I sort of had some suspicions when the Oscar nominees were announced, but now I am certain: With all due respect to Colin Firth, the Academy clearly got confused and accidentally nominated him for Best Actor instead of a far superior and more deserving performance: Michael Stuhlbarg in the Coen Brothers' latest masterpiece (and my #1 movie of the year), A SERIOUS MAN. I submit for your consideration:

1. Most obviously, the titles. A SINGLE MAN. A SERIOUS MAN. We should probably be thankful that Sam Raimi's A SIMPLE PLAN didn't come out this year, or the whole system would have fallen apart!

2. Both main characters are middle-aged, average-looking men with short curly hair and big black glasses. Also, both are teachers.

3. While the specific subject matter is very different, both movies deal with underlying themes of identity, mortality and persecution.

4. Both movies are set in the '60s, primarily in suburban neighborhoods.

5. George from SINGLE and Larry from SERIOUS both have odd relationships with a lonely, abandoned housewife neighbor.

6. Even the posters both kind of invoke similar feelings of isolation....

Honest mistake, right? Sure, except for the fact that Michael Stuhlbarg gets screwed despite giving one of the year's best performances! Ah well... I guess the Academy had already expended all its energy to avoid confusing UP and UP IN THE AIR....

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Oscar Picks & Predictions!

Yay, the Oscar nominations have been announced, and all in all, they look pretty solid. Most of the nominees that should have gotten nominated are there, and there are very few glaring errors or omissions. Of course, there were a few surprises, both pleasant and befuddling, but that's all part of the fun. This year, the big news is that they expanded the Best Picture category to TEN nominees... which seems like overkill and a desperate attempt to boost ratings (which it is)... but it's not unprecedented, as they used to have anywhere from 8 to 12 nominees back in the '30s and '40s. Also, 2009 was such a strong year for movies that you could make a case for almost all of the nominees... so that helps.

So, now, let's take a look at the major categories and run through the nominees, followed by my predictions based on what I'm rooting for AND what I think will actually win. Ready? GO!


Okay, let's get this clusterfuck out of the way right off the bat. I honestly think that because there are so many nominees, the ones that probably SHOULD win will cancel each other out and the big gun, AVATAR, will walk away with the gold in the end. Personally, I think AVATAR would be better suited for a Special Achievement Award rather than the big prize... but it is such a monumental achievement and a landmark in the history of film that I would not be upset if it wins. Meanwhile, I am utterly thrilled that my #1 movie of the year, the Coen Bros.' A SERIOUS MAN, got recognized... there is no way in hell it will win, but man, that would be awesome. Also nice to see Pixar earn its very first Best Picture nod -- and it's the first animated film to get nominated since BEAUTY AND THE BEAST in 1991! Ironic, though, since I didn't love UP as much as other Pixar films and it wouldn't have been my choice for their first nod. Still, if it wins, I will smile. THE BLIND SIDE is the only real joke here... fine movie, but gimme a goddamn break. DISTRICT 9 is the most pleasant surprise of all the nominees -- I would love to see it pull off an upset. AN EDUCATION was also a fantastic little film but probably gets overshadowed here. THE HURT LOCKER has a ton of momentum and has won slews of other awards, so it is probably the Na'vi's biggest competition. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, PRECIOUS and UP IN THE AIR are all incredible films but, as I said, will likely get in each other's way, leaving the field open for James Cameron's juggernaut.

I'M ROOTING FOR: A Serious Man

Jeff Bridges, CRAZY HEART
George Clooney, UP IN THE AIR
Colin Firth, A SINGLE MAN
Morgan Freeman, INVICTUS
Jeremy Renner, THE HURT LOCKER

No real surprises here, though I am disappointed that Michael Stuhlbarg from A SERIOUS MAN has been snubbed once again -- he would have been my pick if he was here. A SINGLE MAN, meanwhile, is one of the few major nominees that I haven't seen, so I'll to check that out over the next month. Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela was a stroke of obvious genius, but other than that, INVICTUS sucked, so forget it. Clooney was in ace movie star form in UP IN THE AIR and would not be a bad choice at all. Jeremy Renner was tremendous in THE HURT LOCKER, and could strike gold if the movie dominates. But I think this is the year that Academy will abide, and give the award to the Dude -- not only was Jeff Bridges great in CRAZY HEART, but few actors are more deserving of some major accolades.

I'M ROOTING FOR: Jeff Bridges
WILL PROBABLY WIN: Bridges or Clooney

Sandra Bullock, THE BLIND SIDE
Carey Mulligan, AN EDUCATION
Gabourey Sidibe, PRECIOUS
Meryl Streep, JULIE & JULIA

Pretty much expected to see these ladies here, too. Sandra Bullock was better than usual in THE BLIND SIDE, but again, ain't no way that movie is worthy to be on any of these lists. Helen Mirren was her usual excellent self in THE LAST STATION, and you can never count her out. Likewise for the great Streep, whose performance as Julia Child is one of the year's most enjoyable. Gabby Sidibe was perfect as the tragic, gut-wrenching PRECIOUS, and she may be the most deserving winner. But I'll be rooting for my new lady love, Carey Mulligan -- AN EDUCATION was a great film and she was breathtaking!

I'M ROOTING FOR: Carey Mulligan
WILL PROBABLY WIN: Sidibe or Streep

James Cameron, AVATAR
Kathryn Bigelow, THE HURT LOCKER
Lee Daniels, PRECIOUS
Jason Reitman, UP IN THE AIR

No surprises once again. I think Lee Daniels is the odd man out in the group... sorry man. Jason Reitman now has two Best Director noms in his young career -- I don't think he'll win here, but it's only a matter of time. BASTERDS is my favorite Tarantino film ever, and I could see him pulling out a win. But I think this award is going to be a battle of the exes. Kathryn Bigelow has already won some major awards and THE HURT LOCKER deserves some recognition, so she may have the edge. (Plus, a woman has never won Best Director... and this is the same Academy that awarded Halle Berry AND Denzel Washington Oscars a few years ago when history was on the line... you see what I'm sayin'.) But if there's one thing I've learned, it's that you should never, ever bet against James Cameron. And besides, AVATAR was something that no other filmmaker could have fathomed in their wildest dreams... Cameron literally invented new technology and single-handedly changed the way movies can be made... so it would not be undeserved.

I'M ROOTING FOR: James Cameron
WILL PROBABLY WIN: Kathryn Bigelow


Pixar always seems to find their way into the Screenplay category, and rightly so -- but I doubt UP will be the first to win, unless by some stroke of craziness, it pulls off a sweep. THE MESSENGER is a puzzling choice -- fine movie, interesting subject matter, but mostly unmemorable. I am THRILED THRILLED THRILLED that the Coens' devastatingly hilarious (or hilariously devastating?) story is being recognized, and it should absolutely win -- buuuut it won't. No, it'll come down to whether or not the Academy wants to award a gritty, realistic story about the current war... or an over-the-top, fictionalized story about a past one. Could go either way, but I'd put my money on the Nazi hunters over the bomb squad.

I'M ROOTING FOR: A Serious Man
WILL PROBABLY WIN: Inglourious Basterds


Totally awesome that DISTRICT 9 got nominated, and that is ABSOLUTELY my choice! Most likely won't win, but it would be amazing if it did. IN THE LOOP is another great choice -- just watched that movie on DVD a few days ago and loved it. PRECIOUS was an excellent adaptation, but probably too much of a downer. I think it'll come down to AN EDUCATION and UP IN THE AIR... with the gold going to the latter, mainly because it is so damn timely.

I'M ROOTING FOR: District 9

Matt Damon, INVICTUS
Woody Harrelson, THE MESSENGER
Christopher Plummer, THE LAST STATION

First of all, Matt Damon's nomination is bullshit, as he was grossly miscast as a South African rugby player and more distracting than anything else. THE MESSENGER was an actor's film, and Woody was very good, but nah. Christopher Plummer was tremendous as Tolstoy in THE LAST STATION, and as with Mirren, you can't count out the golden oldies. I love that Stanley Tucci got recognized -- he was so creepy in the grossly underrated THE LOVELY BONES and would easily be my pick... if Christoph Waltz hadn't given the single greatest performance of the year as the diabolical Jew hunter in BASTERDS. This should be the biggest no-brainer of the night.

I'M ROOTING FOR: Christoph Waltz
WILL PROBABLY WIN: Christoph Waltz

Penélope Cruz, NINE
Vera Farmiga, UP IN THE AIR
Maggie Gyllenhaal, CRAZY HEART
Anna Kendrick, UP IN THE AIR

Pretty underwhelming list here. Penelope Cruz was the best (and hottest) part of NINE, but the movie was shite. Anna Kendrick was solid in UP IN THE AIR, and Vera Farmiga was even better -- not to mention arguably the single hottest on-screen presence of the year. I have never been a big fan of Maggie G. and her jowels. In the end, Mo'Nique is going to win this easily, and if they ever showed us the vote count, I bet it wouldn't even be close.


James Horner, AVATAR
Alexandra Desplat, FANTASTIC MR. FOX
Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders, THE HURT LOCKER
Michael Giacchino, UP

I do not remember the scores for THE HURT LOCKER and SHERLOCK HOLMES, which obviously means that they were not very good. On the other hand, Desplat perfectly captured the offbeat Wes Anderson-ness of FANTASTIC MR. FOX, and James Horner's AVATAR score was appropriately epic. But the only one of these scores to actually get stuck in my head (not once, but twice) was UP... and I'm willing to bet that the Academy will agree.


"Down in New Orleans," THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG
"Loin de Paname," PARIS 36
"Take It All," NINE
"The Weary Kind," CRAZY HEART

This is by far the most boring Best Song list in recent memory. Uhhh... well, I loved THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG and it had some very good songs, but damned if I can remember how they go right now. Forget about anything having to do with NINE (except for "Be Italian," which isn't eligible since it's not original). I've never seen PARIS 36... but it doesn't matter, because the song from CRAZY HEART is winning this. Incidentally, as much as I loved AVATAR, I am very glad that the crappy closing credits song didn't get nominated. Way to show some restraint, Academy!

I'M ROOTING FOR: "The Weary Kind"


First of all, can I just say that it is awesome that HARRY POTTER 6 got nominated here! Has an HP film ever gotten a major Oscar nomination? It was definitely the darkest and most interesting-looking installment, so I can't argue with it. I haven't seen THE WHITE RIBBON, so I cannot comment on that -- though I hope to rectify that soon. THE HURT LOCKER and INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS were both intricately shot.... but let's face it, no movie this year looked better than AVATAR, and I don't want to hear any crap about how it shouldn't count because of all the CGI.



Man, wouldn't it be something if a movie with the relatively tiny budget pulled off an upset over two super-expensive behemoths? It'd be quite a story, and DISTRICT 9 definitely had some Oscar-worthy effects... but sorry, David... Goliath is going to win this round. There's no way AVATAR doesn't win this... and rightly so, seeing as how it was a milestone in the history of visual effects, following in the footsteps of such landmarks as STAR WARS, TERMINATOR 2 and JURASSIC PARK.



Tough call in this category, as pretty much every nominee has as good a shot as any other -- they are all superbly, and in some cases intricately, crafted. AVATAR may have been long as hell, but Cameron knows exactly what needs to be done to a movie to push people's buttons, and he succeeded once again, to the tune of $2 billion worldwide and counting. DISTRICT 9 is a fast-paced wonder, seamlessly shifting from documentary to narrative style. THE HURT LOCKER is wound tight and the tension can literally explode at any moment. BASTERDS manipulates not only visuals, but language to tell its story. And PRECIOUS's fantasies vs. her harsh realities are jarring indeed. In the end... I dunno... I'll be pulling for DISTRICT 9 just because, and I think BASTERDS will walk away with it. Or THE HURT LOCKER. Or AVATAR. (Probably not PRECIOUS, but then again, who knows?)

I'M ROOTING FOR: District 9
WILL PROBABLY WIN: Inglourious Basterds

AJAMI (Israel)

*sigh*... my uncultured ass hasn't seen any of these nominees. I hope to see THE WHITE RIBBON as soon as possible, and if any others are released between now and March 7th, I'll do what I can. But, um, RIBBON won the Golden Globe, so I'll go along with that for now.

I'M ROOTING FOR: The White Ribbon


Ooh, ooh, I actually saw two of these! FOOD, INC. was another disturbing doc about how we're all gonna die from E. coli poisoning... but frankly, it was kind of "meh." I have not seen BURMA, MOST DANGEROUS and WHICH WAY, but I am willing to bet that none of them are as good and riveting as THE COVE, an incredible story of a heroic group that attempts to stop Japanese poachers from killing poor, innocent dolphins. Seriously, it's awesome, and should win!



Ummmmmmm... excuse me, but what in the holy hell is THE SECRET OF KELLS?!?!? Not only have I not seen this movie, but I've never even HEARD of it!!! Some research reveals that it's a hand-drawn Irish film set in the 9th century, from the makers of THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE. That was a great film... so who knows? Supposedly this movie will be released in March, but not sure if it'll be before or after the Oscars. This is by far the biggest shocker nominee of the whole shebang, so I can't wait to see it. As for the others... they all deserve to be there. THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG marked Disney's triumphant return to traditional animation, which makes me unspeakably happy. FANTASTIC MR. FOX revealed that stop-motion animation may actually be the ideal format for Wes Anderson -- it was a perfect marriage of filmmaking styles. CORALINE was very good and surprisingly dark. But I think this award belongs to UP, for two reasons: (1) It's really, really good and Pixar is a godlike entity, and (2) How can it NOT be the best animated movie if it IS one of the ten finalists for best movie of ANY kind? If it doesn't win this award, it would create some kind of crazy paradox that would tear a hole in the space-time continuum and destroy the universe... or, at least, make the Academy look like a bunch of doofuses.

I'M ROOTING FOR: Up (or Mr. Fox)


Man, only three nominees, including one that I never heard of? Is this a sign of CGI being used more than traditional makeup these days? Perhaps. I'd never heard of IL DIVO before yesterday, but it's about Italy's prime minister between 1972 and 1992... so, um, I'm guessing they used aging technology? Boooo-ring! I remember the costume design THE YOUNG VICTORIA more than makeup, quite frankly. I think STAR TREK is the clear winner here... goddamn Spock's ears looked real!



Another category with a nominee that I've never heard of... dammit, Academy, you're making me look bad! No matter, though... whatever BRIGHT STAR is, it probably doesn't stand a chance. DR. PARNASSUS was a flawed movie, but the costumes were as wild and crazy as the plot. THE YOUNG VICTORIA proves that if you make a British period piece, you are pretty much guaranteed a Best Costume nod. COCO BEFORE CHANEL looked good, which is to be expected, since that's pretty much what the movie is about. And while NINE was a bad movie, it DID feature Penelope Cruz, Marion Cotillard, Kate Hudson and Nicole Kidman in ridiculously hot outfits... and while it may not win, if that's not worth rooting for, I don't know what is.

WILL PROBABLY WIN: Parnassus, Coco or Victoria... flip a three-sided coin

I also look forward to seeing the Oscar-nominated Animated and Live Action Short Films as soon as they start showing them at the IFC Center in NYC, so I'll have some educated opinions about those, as well. Oscar Night is Sunday, March 7th, and you'd better believe that I will be right here providing my 5th ANNUAL MOMENT-BY-MOMENT OSCAR COMMENTARY! I assure you that it will be epic and informative and wildly entertaining... so be sure to follow along as you watch the big show. And feel free to share your thoughts. opinions & predictions on the nominees starting right.............................. NOW!