Monday, February 28, 2011

February Movie Fricassee

Well, now that this Oscar business is over and the 2010 movie crop is officially in the books, we can get back to actually, y'know, reviewing & talking about new movies that are in theatres now or coming soon. Not quite sure how this happened, but after the first two months of 2011, I am actually AHEAD of last year's record-breaking movie-watching pace. That's just crazy... especially since there haven't been many films worth writing home about... or blogging about, as the case may be. That said, here's a recap of my past month's worth of big screen shenanigans....

SanctumSANCTUM -- Don't be fooled by the "James Cameron Presents" tagline. He didn't really have anything to do with this film other than providing his 3D technology. Indeed, that 3D is impressive, adding depth to visuals that are comprised of caverns, rock formations, nooks and crannies and underwater shots (field test for AVATAR 2, perhaps?). Unfortunately, the rest of the film is, well, pretty awful. It's not the simple story that bothers me -- explorers get stuck in world's deepest unexplored cavern and must escape or die; meanwhile, estranged father and son must reconcile -- but the acting and dialogue is just HORRENDOUS, cringe-inducing stuff. Not just the unknown Australian actors, either -- worst of all is Mr. Fantastic himself, Ioan Gruffudd, who is so bad that it wouldn't surprise me if he was never hired for anything besides crappy direct-to-DVD crap ever again.

the-roommateTHE ROOMMATE -- At first glance, a remake of SINGLE WHITE FEMALE starring Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester sounds like a gift from God... and then you realize that it's rated PG-13 and thus does not contain any of the visual stimuli that you'd hope to see in a remake of SINGLE WHITE FEMALE starring Minka Kelly and Leighton Meester. That being said, it still manages to be mildly enjoyable in spite of itself. Meester actually plays a pretty good creepy stalker, on top of being ridiculously hot. (On a related note, we can only hope that after Natalie Portman in BLACK SWAN and now Meester, we've entered a new age of cinematic female masturbation.) Amusing cameo by Billy Zane as a lecherous fashion professor, and there's even a crazy CB11 crossover when GOSSIP GIRL's Meester has sex with 90210's Matt Lanter... um, not that I know anything about either of those shows, I swear.

adjustment_bureauTHE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU --Can't go wrong with a movie based on a Philip K. Dick story, and this is a particularly good one: Classic Dickian (Dickish?) sci-fi with a great romantic twist that sort of plays upon the ever-popular (to me) subject of the "thunderbolt." Matt Damon plays a young senate hopeful who has a chance encounter with Emily Blunt and sparks fly. But seemingly-extenuating circumstances keep them apart until they bump into each other again years later, at which point he is convinced that it's meant to be. Or is it? So happens that an unseen secret agency has a pre-written plan for us all, and Damon's plan does NOT involve this woman -- so they attempts to keep the lovebirds apart at all costs. Confronted with a truth that no one is ever supposed to know exists, Damon must decide whether to let the thunderbolt go and accept his pre-written plan, or attempt to defy the powers-that-be and forge his own destiny. Great performances & chemistry from Damon & Blunt help drive this entertaining, poignant and thought-provoking film -- probably the best sci-fi action satire noir love story / religious allegory in recent memory.

just-go-with-itJUST GO WITH IT -- I've been an Adam Sandler fanboy since his SNL days, and I still worship at the altar of BILLY MADISON. HAPPY GILMORE, THE WEDDING SINGER and THE WATERBOY expanded upon his man-boy comic genius, and the P.T. Anderson's PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE proved that he actually had some legit acting talent. But since then, it's been a steady decline for Mr. Sandler, culminating with this gigantic steaming turd of a film. Sandler stars as a single guy who wears a wedding ring to score chicks, which backfires when he legit falls in love with bodacious Brooklyn Decker (often scantily-clad and/or glistening). He enlists Jennifer Aniston to pose as his fake soon-to-be-ex-wife, to "prove" that the ring was just a big misunderstanding. Naturally, hijinks ensue as kids and old college rivalries get involved and the lie spirals out of control. Unfortunately, the hijinks are wildly unfunny -- Sandler & Co. are clearly trying to ad-lib and have fun with this thing, OCEAN'S 11-style, but they fail miserably and it is just painful to watch. Interestingly, I saw groups of teenagers coming to see the movie, which reminded me of my friends & I coming out in huge groups to see Sandler’s films in the ‘90s -- but today’s kids will probably never know how much fun it is to see a truly hilarious Sandler film on the big screen, and that makes me sad.

Take-Me-Home-TonightTAKE ME HOME TONIGHT -- Whereas HOT TUB TIME MACHINE was a spoof/tribute to classic '80s films (and a brilliant one at that), this film actually tries to BE a classic '80s film. Indeed, the filmmakers and actors do a fine job of capturing the look, feel, spirit and actions of a typical '80s sex/party/coming-of-age comedy. Unfortunately, there isn't much there under the surface. It's not particularly funny and most of the acting and dialogue is mediocre at best. I've always liked Topher Grace, but I'm not sure what he needs to do to get out of the rut he's been stuck in for pretty much his entire post-Eric Foreman career. Weird to see Anna Farris playing a "straight" role, in direct contrast to her usual wackiness. Great '80s soundtrack, though, with a mix of pop, rock, new wave and old-school hip-hop. All in all, the film just doesn't work as well as I would've hoped.

win-winWIN WIN -- Throughout his illustrious career, Paul Giamatti has cornered the market on the "schlub who is likeable in spite of his flaws" role, and this crowd-pleasing indie gem is another notch in his belt. He plays a nice guy, family man & high school wrestling coach who makes the unethical decision to become the legal guardian for an elderly client solely so he can cash the paychecks and save his struggling law practice. But a monkeywrench is thrown into this plan when the client's runaway teenage grandson shows up and causes everyone involved to reevaluate their feelings about responsibility and family. Sort of typical indie fare, plot-wise, but driven by great writing, outstanding performances from Giamatti and Amy Ryan, scene-stealing work from Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor, and some of the best use of amateur wrestling outside of a John Irving novel. Worth seeking out.

I-am-Number-FourI AM NUMBER FOUR -- For a franchise that was manufactured specifically to fill the TWILIGHT void for the teenybopper crowd, this isn't as terrible as you’d expect. John Smith is a strapping teenage alien from another world, on the run from creepy, black-cloaked enemies who want him dead. He hides out on Earth with his guardian (Timothy Olyphant, who is cool), constantly moving from small town to small town to elude capture -- but in one such town, unexpected things start to happen. First, he begins to develop crazy new super powers. Second, he falls in love with Quinn from GLEE. Third, he makes friends with the local science geek, who has an idea that strange things are afoot. Fourth, he makes enemies with the captain of the football team (and Quinn's ex-boyfriend). Naturally, the teen angst level is sky high throughout most of the movie; fortunately, the action kicks in just in time and the final act is an almost non-stop cacophony of alien shoot-outs, explosions, giant CGI monsters and more, with a hot alien chick protector (Teresa Palmer, who also plays the hottie in the aforementioned TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT) thrown in for good measure. Pretty standard, mindless teen fare with a sci-fi twist -- but it's a heck of a lot better than TWILIGHT.

unknownUNKNOWN -- Liam Neeson has been awesome for a very long time, but I am particularly enjoying this new stage of his career in which he seems to have officially become Hollywood's go-to "family man action hero," taking the reigns that Harrison Ford held throughout the '80s and '90s. TAKEN was pretty damn good, and UNKNOWN is even better: Neeson stars as a renowned scientist who awakens from a coma to find that his identity has been stolen and his existence has essentially been replaced with someone else. His colleagues and even his own wife don't seem to recognize him and all sorts of craziness is afoot. An exciting and surprisingly intense race against time to uncover the truth ensues -- it's pretty solid entertainment with a very FRANTIC/FUGITIVE-esque feel. It doesn't necessarily surpass those Harrison Ford classics (though it does aspire to be a bit more cerebral, which is an interesting twist on the typically-straightforward genre), but it's worthy of being associated with them.

hall-passHALL PASS -- Admittedly, I didn't expect much from this movie about two middle-aged schlubs who get a one-week break from their marriages (though honestly, why anyone married to Jenna Fischer or Christina Applegate would require such a reprieve is beyond me). But dear God, its utter craptitude went far beyond even my lowest expectations. I've actually seen it receive some praise as a clever glimpse into the mind of a married men, and the Farrelly Bros. themselves refer to it as a chick flick in disguise. But come on. This is a dismally unfunny film and an embarrassment to all involved and a waste of some good talent (WTF, Richard Jenkins?) and Nicky Whelan's boobs. It even brings dick and poop jokes to new lows, and seriously makes me wonder if the Farrellys have ever been good. Still, from a certain point of view, seeing this movie was a relief, because there's a good chance I will not see a worse movie for the rest of the year -- it's all uphill from here.

drive_angryDRIVE ANGRY 3D -- Just when I thought I was completely sick of the 3D trend, along comes Nic Cage to help breathe some life into the technology. This movie, which aspires to be nothing more than a fun grindhouse flick, stars Cage in "crazy mode" as a former criminal who escapes from Hell, joins forces with Amber Heard and goes on an ass-kicking rampage to avenge his daughter's death and rescue his baby granddaughter from the clutches of a satanic cult. I mean, come on -- that's good stuff. It's a veritable orgy of gratuitous violence, gore, boobs (Cage's mid-coitus shoot'em-up could go down as one of the more memorable action sequences of the year), more violence and lots of creative use of 3D (it was filmed in 3D -- no post-conversion crap -- so it actually looks good). Scene-stealing work from William Fichtner (one of those "Ohh, it's that guy!" guys) as the Agent Smith-esque "The Accountant," too. Simply put, DRIVE ANGRY is an f'ing blast.

Wooo, movies!

Sunday, February 27, 2011



Hello, everybody, and welcome to my 6th annual LIVE moment-by-moment Oscar commentary! The year 2010 was an excellent one for movies and the past few weeks have been filled with all sorts of discussion, speculation and prediction about the crème de la crème -- all of which will culminate with tonight’s festivities. I think it has potential to be a pretty good show, as long as it’s not TOO infuriating and/or by-the-book. Fairly certain that Best Picture remains a two-film street fight between THE SOCIAL NETWORK and THE KING’S SPEECH and while it could go either way, I think the Academy will do the right thing and Like the Facebook movie. But maybe, just maybe, those movies will cancel each other out, paving the way for, say, a TRUE GRIT upset. Best Actor and Supporting Actor seem like locks for Colin Firth and Christian Bale, respectively, whereas Supporting Actress could be a wild card (go Hailee Steinfeld!). Natalie Portman is still the overwhelming favorite for Best Actress and I think I’ve prepared myself for that inevitable travesty -- but I’m still hoping against hope for a surprise win for, well, any of the other nominees (particularly Jennifer Lawrence). Hoping to see INCEPTION get some love in the screenplay and technical categories to make up for Chris Nolan’s egregious Best Director snub. Should be a good night for Pixar, too, with near-certain Oscars for Animated Feature and Short -- maybe even more if we are blessed with a TOY STORY 3 miracle.

As you might imagine, I will have a lot more to say about these and other topics, and I intend to say it all right here. My LIVE running commentary will begin with Red Carpet Madness (starting with the telecast on E!, though I might switch over to ABC at some point) at 6 p.m. EST sharp, followed by the 83rd Academy Awards at 8:30. I’ll be updating this blog every few minutes with my play-by-play, thoughts, rants and musings -- really, whatever happens to spill out of my brain, through my fingers and onto my computer screen. Be sure to bookmark this page and check back often... or keep your browser right here and click “refresh” constantly. Oscar Madness is on deck!


6:00 – Okay folks, at last, I am tuned into E!’s red carpet special, wearing a movie t-shirt (SPLICE!) and about halfway through the first of what will surely be many beers. Before switching over to the red carpet special, E! had Joan Rivers on to give the Oscar speech she WOULD have given if she hadn’t gotten shafted out of a Best Documentary nomination. Go Joan! And let’s get this show on the road!

6:02 – Ryan Seacrest is the master of red carpet ceremonies, as always, and his first guest is my pick for Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence, who really cleans up nice! Looking mighty fine in red, she does. She’s going to look even better with naked blue skin in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS!

6:04 – After all these years, Giuliana Rancic still looks like a fish. IT’S A TRAP!

6:07 – Oh gawd, I forgot that Natalie Portman is preggers. This is going to be a running thing all night, I’m sure. Maybe she will name the baby “Oscar” after she wins tonight, quips Giuliana. As I mentioned, I’ve more or less mentally prepared myself for the inevitable travesty of her win, but I still might break something.

6:09 – Josh Hutcherson is a fan of Christian Bale, but shouldn’t he be rooting for his own co-star, Mark Ruffalo? It amuses me when that happens.

6:13 – Melissa Leo may be the “favorite” to win Best Supporting Actress, though that category is always a wild card. Gotta give her props, though, for actually campaigning for herself and not pretending that she doesn’t care whether or not she wins.

6:15 – James Franco and Anne Hathaway as Oscar hosts... I dunno. Seems like a pretty safe, vanilla choice – like the complete opposite of Ricky Gervais. That said, they’re so damn likeable, it might be okay. “No nude scenes,” says Anne about what they have planned... DAMMIT!

6:18 – Armie Hammer does not seem like a douchebag at all in real life! That was some damn good acting in THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Could’ve made arguments for him, Timberlake and Andrew Garfield for Supporting Actor nods, buuuut they got none.

6:24 – Awww, Hailee Steinfeld is adorable! And she has true grit. If she wins Best Supporting Actress, I will hoot and holler like she did when LaBoeuf scored that bully shot against Ned Pepper. Haha, aw, she is freaking out after Ryan showed her a Goodyear blimp with a good luck message for her. Go Team Hailee!

6:27 – Yowza, Mike Kunis looks ripe for a nip slip. That would be very “black swan!” She actually looks uncomfortable being on the red carpet, like she’s not quite sure what to do. Ben likes humility! Meanwhile, my girl Amy Adams is very sparkly and I would never have recognized Mandy Moore!

6:32 – More Mandy Moore, who, by the way, worked with Mike Viola a few years ago and completely changed her musical style. Now here comes Russell Brand... um, without Katy Perry? Well that’s pointless. Meanwhile, there’s a Michelle Williams sighting... wow, she looks amazing, even though I’m sort of on the fence about the pixie hairdo in general. And now Seacrest is macking on Russell Brand’s mom.

6:36 – Ooh, ooh, you know what Michelle Williams looks like in this dress?? Those Orbitz drinks from the mid ‘90s, that was like syrupy and filled with little floating globules. That crap was disgusting, but she looks good enough to drink.

6:40 – “It’s not that hard for me to find the feistiness,” says Amy Adams about her role in THE FIGHTER. I love her and that dark sparkly dress is smokin’. As much as I’m rooting for Hailee, I would have absolutely no problem with Amy taking home some gold.

6:49 – I’m liking the random celebrity tweets they’re showing at the ticker on the bottom of the screen. I just noticed Snooki and Donnie Wahlberg. Man. Meanwhile, Giuliana and Kelly Osborne are also taken aback by unrecognizable Mandy Moore. And now here’s my boy Mark Ruffalo! Awesome that he finally got some Oscar recognition for playing the Mark Ruffalo role that he does so well.

6:53 – The skycam is showing Jesse Eisenberg’s entrance. He still looks like a dork – and that is awesome! Can’t believe this is Jennifer Hudson, by the way – I am legitimately astonished. She looks incredible and so very orange! (Still shouldn’t have won that Oscar for DREAMGIRLS, though.)

6:55 – Whoa, Cate Blanchett’s dress is crazy with the circle and the yellow stripes and things. She is awesome, though, and can wear whatever the hell she wants.

6:57 – 81% of E! viewers pick Natalie Portman for Best Actress. The entire world has gone mad around me.

6:59 – Oh my God, Scarlett Johansson is going to put someone’s eye out! Sweet Christmas Christ, she looks hot as ever. I particularly like the messy hair that makes me wonder if she just had a quickie in the limo.

7:01 – Ooh, Marisa Tomei... George Costanza and me likey. Oh yeah, Kevin Spacey was one of the producers of THE SOCIAL NETWORK... that’s weird. Too bad he’ll probably never be back here as an Oscar-nominated actor ever again.

7:03 – If E! wanted to keep this in-depth critique of Scarlett’s dress going for the rest of the night, I’d be okay with that. Also, maybe an inset shot of her in the corner of the screen throughout the Oscar telecast?

7:07 – Fucking hell, what business does TWILIGHT have at the Oscars?! Ridiculous. Oh hey, it’s Sharon Stone. I’m not sure she looks as stunning as these E! chicks are saying. She looks kinda scary to tell the truth. BASIC INSTINCT was a very long time ago. And now here’s Justin Timberlake, who was a scene-stealer in THE SOCIAL NETWORK as the guy who invented Napster. Can’t wait till he reprises the role in BITTORRENT: THE MOVIE.

7:16 – Taking this commercial break to refuel with my third beer (switching back and forth between Labatt Blue and Blue Moon... see what I did there?). Also need to give a shout-out to my girlfriend Rachel who is stuck at work and relying on my texts to keep her posted on what’s happenin’. So I’m pulling double-duty here!

7:19 – Helena Bonham Carter earned an Oscar nod for finally making a movie that WASN’T by Tim Burton, and now she’s back looking like a Burton character on the red carpet. “I love the way you come on the carpet,” gushes Kelly Osborne to Helena. Ummm.

7:20 – Hilary Swank looks good and sparkly. I’m a fan of hers, but very glad she didn’t get nominated for that piece of crap CONVICTION. Her lack of a nomination must have been good news for Annette Bening – now if only she can overcome the Natalie Portman juggernaut.

7:24 – Steven Spielberg is here with his daughter. Seeing Spielberg talk to Seacrest is kind of surreal. Like, Spielberg is so far above him that Seacrest shouldn’t be able to look him in the eye without his head exploding. Or something. Yikes, a Celine Dion sighting. And there’s Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz – now that’s an attractive couple.

7:26 – Helen Mirren was there, and Sandra Bullock, and now Hugh Jackman, who I thought did a decent job as host a couple of years ago. Christian Bale has a fucking crazy beard! Man, I miss my beard. Oh, and Halle Berry is looking good as always.

7:31 – What in the name of God is Javier Bardem talking about? Just say, “Call it, friendo” and be done with it! Just kidding, he’s good. Oh shit, Bardem and Josh Brolin together again – flashbacks to NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN! Reese Witherspoon looks great – I’ve always liked her. Nicole Kidman was outstanding in RABBIT HOLE and looks more human than usual tonight – could it be that she has denounced the alien race that abducted her some years ago? And now Penelope Cruz again – goodness gracious, if she just had twins, that makes her the hottest MILF of all time. The red carpet activity is fast and furious right now!

7:32 – More Scarlett and Mila... nice. Anybody know who Matthew McConaghey’s girlfriend is? ‘Cause she’s hot. And speaking of A-list actors with hot nameless girlfriends, where the hell is Clooney??

7:34 – Gwyneth Paltrow is here. Her mere presence at the Oscars reminds me once again of her and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE’s bullshit wins in 1999. Also, COUNTRY STRONG sucked and the song she is going to sing sucked. (Try saying that 5 times fast.)

7:38 – Christian Bale is probably a shoo-in for Oscar gold tonight, and he’d also be the frontrunner if there was an award show for beards. Well done, sir! Now here’s Sandra Bullock wearing bright red – remember when she won Best Actress and it was utterly preposterous? That said, you can’t help but like her.

7:41 – One thing I’ve noticed by listening to Giuliana and Kelly critique these dresses, and following people’s comments on Twitter, is that I apparently know even less about fashion than I thought (and I already thought I knew nothing). I like what other people don’t like, and don’t like what other people like. Though I think we can all agree that Donald Trump is a bizarre-looking individual.

7:43 – Robert Downey Jr. in the house! Not the best year for him, with IRON MAN 2 and DUE DATE both kind of sucking. But he’s still the absolute man. And the more E! wants to show Penelope Cruz and her bodacious cleavage, the more I am okay with this. (By the way, in case anyone was wondering, I decided to stick with E!’s red carpet coverage – I heard the stuff on ABC isn’t so good.)

7:46 – I think that “Take Me Home Tonight” is a great song to use in a commercial about an ‘80s movie because it always kind of gets me jazzed... unfortunately, TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT is not very good (I’ll be reviewing it soon).

7:49 – Anne Hathaway is also wearing red. Lots of red on the red carpet tonight. I admit, I have a sort of unreasonable crush on Anne, similar to the one I have on Keira Knightley. Like, you wouldn’t necessarily guess that I have such big crushes on them, but I do. By the way, is Natalie Portman not there yet, or did I just miss her while I was typing or something?

7:51 – Even more Mila and Scarlett! Keep it coming!

7:56 – Oh, there’s Natalie, looking cute as hell in purple. And very prego. Listen, as I’ve explained many times, I love Natalie as a person and a crush – I just think she can’t act for shit.

8:00 – Well, I guess this is the end of the E! red carpet show. Nothing terribly exciting this year – not really any completely crazy dresses and certainly no crazy moments and confrontations and mishaps. Ah well. On that note, I’m gonna take a half-hour break. Be back at 8:30 for the big show!


8:30 – Aaaand we’re back! Cool montage of the Best Picture nominees kicks things off and counts down to the start of the show. Really strong films this year, BLACK SWAN notwithstanding. Still think 10 nominees is overkill, but man. INCEPTION, TOY STORY 3, TRUE GRIT, SOCIAL NETWORK are so strong. Let the Oscars begin!!!

8:31 – Franco and Hathaway pulling a trick out of Billy Crystal’s book by placing themselves into Oscar-nominated movie scenes. Heh, last year’s host Alec Baldwin shows up in INCEPTION to offer some advice. Love that Franco’s totem is a dreidel. SOCIAL NETWORK spoof now – “You just lost a Facebook friend!” Franco says to Zuckerberg. Hathaway sports a New England accent in THE FIGHTER. See now, I can already see that with 10 nominees, this is going to be way too long.

8:34 – “I love you in TRON,” Franco says to Jeff Bridges in TRUE GRIT. Me too! Hahaha, Morgan Freeman voiceover in the dream world! KING’S SPEECH spoof is up next. Microphones get smaller in the future, Anne tells the Brits... is that funny? Okay, Anne as the Brown Duck is pretty funny.

8:36 – More Alex Baldwin. If this was his dream, HE’D be hosting the Oscars again! Okay, so he inceptioned lots of Oscar skill into Anne and James. HAHAHA, yes, BACK TO THE FUTURE! James & Anne take the DeLorean to the big show! This intro has suddenly gone from okay to awesome. Great Scott!

8:38 – Okay, now they’re live. Let’s see what they can do. Anne looks so beautiful and so hip, and James looks appealing to a younger demographic as well, heh. “It used to be, you get naked, you get nominated!” Anne pouts. Helps if the movie doesn’t completely suck, though. All right, they’re getting kind of boring now.

8:40 – Oh right, everyone loves James Franco’s grandma. “I just saw Marky Mark!” Grandma Franco says, heh. “TOY STORY 3... where’s the dad>?” they wonder as they talk about how this has been a good year for lesbians. Um, he’s probably dead, you bastards. Ooooooh, GONE WITH THE WIND tribute, that’s cool. I just watched that last night on Blu-Ray and it was outstanding. Now here’s Tom Hanks talking about art direction and cinematography and how they help make a classic... and now a TITANIC tribute, wow. Good stuff.

8:43 – Hanks is presenting Best Art Direction! ALICE IN WONDERLAND should not be nominated for anything. Great to see HARRY POTTER 7 there – those movies look more and more amazing. INCEPTION is a visual masterpiece in every way. Forget THE KING’S SPEECH. TRUE GRIT is amazing. And the Oscar goes to ALICE IN WONDERLAND... fuck, really? Come on. That movie sucked so hard, it overshadowed any decent aesthetics it may have achieved.

8:46 – Hanks sticks around for Cinematography! Jeez, they are going to try to fly through these awards, aren’t they? I’m rooting for Roger Deakins and TRUE GRIT, which is just astonishingly shot. Wouldn’t mind seeing INCEPTION win, too, and whoa, that’s what wins! INCEPTION with the Oscar, probably the first of many technical awards it will rack up throughout the night. I, however, am already 0-for-2.

8:51 – Anne and James introduce a true Hollywood legend, Mr. Kirk Douglas! Nice! This guy eats pieces of shit like James Franco for breakfast (no offense, James). Hahaha, Douglas macks on Anne! “Where were you when I was making pictures?” Go for yours, Spartacus!

8:53 – Time for Best Supporting Actress. I love Amy Adams and she was great in THE FIGHTER; hell, she is always great. As I’ve mentioned, great to see Helena Bonham Carter escape from Tim Burton’s clutches for a change, but meh to THE KING’S SPEECH. Jacki Weaver is a major contender to the few who actually saw ANIMAL KINGDOM. Melissa Leo wants this award bad, though personally I would have nominated the scary-as-fuck sisters! And then there’s Hailee Steinfeld who has TRUE GRIT. Oh my God, I hope she wins... it would be so amazing. Come on, Hailee! Kirk Douglas is fucking awesome. “I don’t know why everyone in Australia thinks I’m funny,” Douglas quips. This is incredible. Kirk Douglas to host next year! Does anyone even care about the award anymore? Okay, okay, the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress goes to... MELISSA LEO. Aww, man... she’s worthy, I guess, but I wanted Hailee to win so bad. Fortunately, I’m sure we’ll see her again. Hahaha, okay, I’m liking this unscripted banter between Douglas and Leo. “What are you doing later on?” Melissa flirts. Aaaaand now she’s lost me. Wrap it up, Leo!

9:01 – “I thought F stood for THE FIGHTER,” Anne says about Melissa Leo’s bleeped-out F-bomb. “It’s the new and hipper Oscars!” Okay, guys, don’t ruin it. Hahaha, “I’m Banksy,” says Justin Timberlake as he takes the stage with super-hot Mila Kunis. They are going to have sexual intercourse later and it is going to be HOT. Wait, what are we talking about? Animated films, okay! A look back at past winners... SHREK can kiss my ass... MONSTERS INC. should have won that year. Best Animated Short is first: No doubt in my mind that Pixar’s DAY & NIGHT is going to win this. The other noms were surprisingly weak this year. And the Oscar goes to... THE LOST THING?! NO FUCKING WAY! This is some fucking bullshit! I am legit pissed right now. DAY & NIGHT was strong even by Pixar’s high standards and towers over the rest. Goddammit.

9:03 – Best Animated Feature is next. I swear to all that which is good and sacred in this world, if TOY STORY 3 doesn’t win, I am going to break something. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and THE ILLUSIONIST were both very good, but TOY STORY 3 is on a whole other level of brilliance. And the Oscar goes to... TOY STORY 3! YES! Oh man, just thinking about this movie gets me all verklempt. Also, I’m very excited to have finally gotten one right. 1-for-4, baby!

9:11 – Now it’s time for a look back at the very first Academy Awards in 1929. Kind of cool how they’re doing these little tributes before each award. Now white-tuxedo-clad Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem are here to introduce Adapted Screenplay. My heart is rooting for TRUE GRIT because the novel seriously feels like it was written specifically for the Coens to someday adapt. But no way Aaron Sorkin doesn’t win and rightly so – and he does win! AARON SORKIN for Best Adapted Screenplay for THE SOCIAL NETWORK! Nice shout-out to NETWORK in Sorkin’s speech. Heh, I like how Sorkin is just flat-out ignoring the orchestra’s cut-off music. Totally keeping his cool, too. Fuck the orchestra! Sorkin is cool. Well-deserved win.

9:16 – Original Screenplay time! Don’t count out Mike Leigh’s ANOTHER YEAR – tremendous film. But for the love of God, how can INCEPTION not win this award? I mean, honestly? It is more original than any other film this year. If THE KING’S SPEECH wins, I am going to be pissed because (a) it doesn’t deserve it, and (b) it could signify a sweep. And the Oscar goes to… THE KING’S SPEECH. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! NO NO NO! I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

9:23 – Anne Hathaway kicks off a musical number to the tune of “On My Own” from Les Miz and I believe is calling out one Mr. Hugh Jackman! Hehe... is he gonna give in? Anne does have a pretty damn good voice, so that’s cool. Jackman does not give in, and now James Franco comes out dressed as Marilyn Monroe. “I just got a text message from Charlie Sheen.” Heh, there’s the first Sheen joke of the night! Surprised it took so long!

9:26 – Russell Brand and that damn Helen Mirren are here and she’s speaking in tongues and he is translating and it’s not very funny. Best Foreign Film time. I am rooting for DOGTOOTH which was an absolutely insane film, but I highly doubt it will win. BIUTIFUL probably wins because it’s the one most people probably saw... um, no, I stand corrected, the Oscar goes to IN A BETTER WORLD! Jesus, these awards are all crazy tonight!

9:29 – Reese Witherspoon is a cutie and she is presenting the award for Best Supporting Actor. Christian Bale most likely has this one in the bag, but then again, the way things are going, who knows? Maybe John Hawkes will pull off a crazy upset (though he was damn good so it wouldn’t be THAT crazy). No to Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo (though he is my boy) and Geoffrey Rush. And the Oscar goes to CHRISTIAN BALE! And the Oscar for Best Supporting Beard goes to CHRISTIAN BALE’S BEARD! If this speech is anywhere near as good as Bale’s angry rants, we should be in for a treat. He promises no F bombs like Melissa, damn, there goes that! Heh, I thought he forgot his wife’s name for a second, but I guess he just got choked up. BATMAN DOESN’T CRY, CHRISTIAN! Do kinda wish the orchestra had tried to cut him off so he could have freaked out on them...

9:36 – SUPER 8 commercial! So psyched for this. Looks like J.J. Abrams got the “Spielberg movie” feel down pat (of course, he had some help from Spielberg himself).

9:38 – Whoa, the Academy Awards will be on ABC till 2020? But isn’t the world supposed to end in 2012? They should have held off the negotiations for another year to see how that all plays out.

9:40 – Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi! Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman are here to talk about sound. Cool tributes to really old movies in the background. YES, the THX sound! And the STAR WARS theme with a live orchestra! Ooh, a medley of classic film scores is happening now. Pretty cool. I love me some movie scores. And now the nominees for Best Original Score, performed by the live orchestra as well. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON was pretty sweeping and epic. THE KING’S SPEECH sounds whimsical and stuff. THE SOCIAL NETWORK score is the best of these nominees (but only the second best of the year after TRON LEGACY which was not nominated for some insane reason). 126 HOURS, meh. INCEPTION is the third best of the year. And the winner is... TRENT REZNOR AND ATTICUS ROSS FOR THE SOCIAL NETWORK! Hehe, man, this is surreal. “Who knew when Pretty Hate Machine came out that we’d see Trent Reznor accept an Oscar someday?” Rachel ponders. (By the way, Rachel is home from work, yay!)

9:45 – Scarlett is back! And she still has that “just got fucked backstage” hair going. Hope the lucky guy wasn’t McConaghey. Time for Best Sound Mixing. INCEPTION pretty much HAS to win this one. I mean, for Christ’s sake. I’m not even going to give the other nominees the time of day here... and INCEPTION wins! Woohooo! Oh yeah, Sound Editing, too. INCEPTION has to win this, too, though I’d have no problem with TRON LEGACY, TOY STORY 3 or TRUE GRIT winning. And the Oscar goes to INCEPTION again! Woohooo again! I mean, if the award is about layering sound... and the movie is about layering dreams and using sound... kinda makes sense. I also like that these guys are all giving props to Chris Nolan, who should have been nominated for Best Director, dammit.

9:53 – Here comes Marisa Tomei (“MARISA TOMEI!?”) to talk about the technical and scientific awards. I like that she was the annual hottie to present those awards to the geek set! “Congratulations, nerds,” James Franco says, heh.

9:55 – LORD OF THE RINGS theme accompanies Cate Blanchett to the stage! Nice! I just finished the books and will be watching the complete extended trilogy at the next opportunity. But anyway, she’s presenting the award for Best Makeup. My theory about why there are only three nominees is that there just aren’t very many movies that use real makeup anymore. And the winner is THE WOLFMAN... jeez, between this and ALICE IN WONDERLAND, this has been a very good year for bad movies. (For the record, I was rooting for THE WAY BACK.)

9:57 – Man, Cate Blanchett started in with the Best Costume Design nominees before I was anywhere near ready. I was rooting for TRUE GRIT, but ALICE IN WONDERLAND won again. People, that’s TWO Oscars for one of my bottom 10 movies of the year. That’s just... wow.

10:01 – Random movie lovers talk about their favorite movie songs! I also love “Falling Slowly,” random guy! “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” and “My Heart Will Go On” in there. And whoa, they got Obama to participate (he likes CASABALANCA). And now Kevin Spacey comes out and runs it into the ground by singing. And now the nominees! Randy Newman with his TWENTIETH nomination for “We Belong Together” from TOY STORY 3, which should and hopefully win (though I wish they could have nominated the Spanish version of “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” instead). Next up: Mandy Moore singing the song from TANGLED (though not the one I would have chosen). Other two nominees later, I guess!

10:11 – Rachel and I both agree that Amy Adams is the best-looking actress of the night. And holy shit, I think she just geeked out for George Lucas?! Is Amy Adams a geek?! Um, I think I need to fly to Hollywood right now and woo her once and for all. Oh, it’s time for Documentary Short, none of which I have seen. I literally just made my pick this second with absolutely no knowledge of content -- come onnn, KILLING IN THE NAME! And the winner is STRANGERS NO MORE! Dammit! Ooh, Live Action Short is next – these were all outstanding. I’m rooting for THE CRUSH, but this award is very much up for grabs. If I was a betting man, I’d put my money on the one about the kid with cancer... and the winner is THE GOD OF LOVE! Excellent choice, even though it continues to fuck up my ballot! (It was my second favorite, though!) “I should have gotten a haircut,” this guy says. He kind of rules. Rachel is crying at this guy’s very awesome and heartfelt speech. NYU, what’s up!

10:17 – HAHAHAHA, HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS – PART 1: THE MUSICAL rules! TOY STORY 3, hehe. I would see THE SOCIAL NETWORK musical in two seconds. HAHAHA, TWILIGHT, “He doesn’t own a shirt!” This is the best bit the show so far, by far.

10:19 – I like Anne Hathaway doing that swishy dress thing. She should keep doing that. And now Oprah makes an appearance to introduce Best Documentary. It really was a good year for Docs, and I know that because I actually saw two of them, which is at least one more than I usually see! I kind of hope RESTREPO wins because it was intense and important... but let’s face it, we all want EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP to win to see what happens with Banksy. And the winner is... INSIDE JOB?! Well goddamn! This whole night is just freaking bizarre. Wait a minute… is this guy Banksy??

10:26 – Billy Crystal in the house! This ought to be good. He’s still the best Oscar host of my time – watch some clips from 1992 when he was riffing on Jack Palance’s one-armed pushups all night. Some crazy botox action happening on his face, but that’s okay. Funny stand-up here. Also funny that Hugh Jackman is apparently taking Clooney’s place tonight as the guy that all the presenters talk to from the stage. Tribute to Bob Hope’s long tenure as Oscar host now. This is pretty cool and kinda creepy. BOB HOPE HAS RETURNED AND HE’S GOING TO KILL US ALL! Oh, it’s just to segue into the award for Visual Effects, and now Sherlock Holmes and Watson are here to do the honors. Pretty good stuff here. And the nominees. I swear to God, it had better not be ALICE IN WONDERLAND. HARRY POTTER would be a good choice. HEREAFTER would be a horrendous choice. INCEPTION should absolutely win. IRON MAN 2, meh. And the Oscar goes to... INCEPTION! Thank you! I don’t think I could have handled another ALICE win. Very glad to see INCEPTION clean up these technical awards!

10:34 – Moving on to Best Editing! Some interesting nominees here. I actually may not be too angry if BLACK SWAN wins this one, but I hope it doesn’t. THE SOCIAL NETWORK is my pick. This is also the one award where I think 127 HOURS actually deserves its nod. And the Oscar goes to THE SOCIAL NETWORK! It’s kind of pulling away here in its duel with THE KING’S SPEECH, isn’t it? Let’s hope that continues!

10:41 – Okay, it’s official: James Franco is not very funny. Anne has been slightly better when she’s been on her own up there, but he is adding nothing to the festivities. Yeah, I said it. Now Jennifer Hudson is here to sing one of the Best Song nominees. It’s the one from 127 HOURS that I do not remember at all. The Florence and the Machine chick is here, too. Meh. And now it goes from suck to blow as Gwyneth Paltrow performs the COUNTRY STRONG song. Ugghhh. Honestly, none of these nominees, including the Randy Newman one, are particularly GOOD... but Newman’s is the best by default and RANDY NEWMAN / “We Belong Together” wins Oscar gold! Wow, only his second win out of 20 nominations? That’s wild. Wonder what it was? ... Just looked it up. I assumed it was “You”ve Got a Friend in Me,'” but no, it was the song from "MONSTERS INC. Go figure! Anyway, fun speech from Mr. Newman. He’s good. Haters can suck it!

10:51 – Oh shit... sad music... Celine Dion... this can only mean one thing... it’s In Memoriam time, isn’t it? Yes, yes it is. Composer John Barry. Ohh yeah, Tony Curtis, damn. Gloria Stuart, aw man. Insert last scene of TITANIC joke here (if you’re an ass). Sally Menke, the editor. LESLIE NIELSEN, goddammit. Huh, had hoped for more for him. Pete Postlethwaite... sad. Lots of people I don’t know here. And more, and more. Lynn Redgrave I know. Really needed to throw a shot of Celine Dion singing in there? Um, more people I don’t know. Susannah York. Jill Clayburgh. IRVIN KERSHNER, director of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, fucking hell, I might take a shot in his honor. OH SHIT, totally forgot about Dennis Hopper! And now Halle Berry comes out pay tribute to Lena Horne. Did they miss anyone? Probably, they always do, and I’m gonna be pissed tomorrow. But emotional stuff nonetheless.

10:59 – UPDATE: Twitter reminds me that Corey Haim was overlooked in the In Memoriam segment! Burn! Also, I wonder if they had a Charlie Sheen photo ready, just in case…?

11:01 – Goddamn, Hilary Swank always strikes me as tall and broad and intimidating, but Kathryn Bigelow towers over her like a giant! Nice. Here are the Best Director nominees. Bullshit that Chris Nolan isn’t nominated here, but I’m going to try to get over that. David Fincher absolutely should win, and I really hope Tom Hooper doesn’t win, and the Oscsr goes to… TOM HOOPER for THE KING’S SPEECH! SHIT! Well, there goes that... KING’S SPEECH is going to own the rest of the night and that sucks. Um, weird, why does this guy look like a clone of James Cameron, which makes it even weirder that Bigelow gave him the award? Ah, I don’t even care. This is bullshit. Fincher wuz robbed.

11:05 – Annette Bening is here to talk about the Governor’s Awards. Eh, legends are on the stage and I don’t even care. The rest of the night is meaningless for me, since it’s gonna be all about KING’S SPEECH and Natalie Portman. Dammit to hell!

11:12 – Okay, I guess I will try to trudge through the rest of this debacle. THE DUDE is here to present Best Actress. Oy vey, here we go. Clearly I am rooting for anyone that isn’t named Natalie Portman, but there’s no way. Annette Bening is going to fall short again. Nicole Kidman picked the wrong year to get back into top form. Jennifer Lawrence was so, so good in WINTER’S BONE. Natalie... bah. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, they picked a clip in which she’s crying! Guess it’d be tough to find one where she isn’t. Michelle Williams, also outstanding in a brutal film –wish Gosling had gotten nom’ed too. Okay, Flynn, give it to us. The Oscar goes to NATALIE PORTMAN. Fuck it all. Aaaaand she’s already crying. Because that’s what Natalie Portman does. Come on, Nat, at least give us the goofy laugh! Ooh props to Luc Besson and THE PROFESSIONAL... glad she hasn’t forgotten that film since it is still her best work. By the way, now that we know what Natalie Portman looks like pregnant, George Lucas should go back and add some new special effects to STAR WARS: EPISODE III because that shit was bad.

11:20 – Sandra Bullock... still can’t believe she won that Oscar last year. Two years in a row with bullshit Best Actress wins. (No, I will not shut up.) Best Actor time! Javier Bardem was amazing in BIUTIFUL but damn, that film was harsh. “Dude... dude,” Sandra says to Jeff Bridges. So awesome in TRUE GRIT. He wrested the role away from a legend and made it his own for all time and should absolutely win this award if there was any justice in the world. But this night has already proven that there is no justice. “Jesse, I am still waiting for you to accept my friend request,” Sandra says. Eisenberg’s nomination has vindicated my long-time fandom – if he won, it’d be wild (but he won’t). Of course Colin Firth is going to win and I guess that’s okay – he was fantastic in THE KING’S SPEECH, and I cannot deny that even though I am pissed at that movie right now. Heh, oh yeah, James Franco, too... but no chance there. And the Oscar goes to... COLIN FIRTH. Well, all right.

11:31 – Steven Spielberg comes out to the theme from JURASSIC PARK, which may be my favorite part of the show. OH SHIT! Spielberg pretty much just said that winning Best Picture doesn’t mean shit! Which of course is true, but wow, surprised he went there. Perhaps he’s still pissed about the SAVING PRIVATE RYAN / SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE debacle? Go Stevie! Best Picture nominees coming at us in a big montage and it is epic indeed. Actually makes some of these movies seem like they maybe deserve to be nominated. Of course THE KING’S SPEECH has this in the bag now and that sucks. I am still holding one last glimmer of hope that TRUE GRIT pulls off an upset or at least THE SPCIAL NETWORK comes through... and the Oscar goes to... THE KING’S SPEECH. Sigh. Now here’s my impression of everyone in five years: “Hey, what movie won Best Picture in 2011?” “I don’t remember.” “Me neither.” “Let’s watch INCEPTION again.”

11:39 – Holy see-through dress, Anne! Now little kids from Staten Island come out to close the show with a rousing rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow!” Okay, this is starting to warm my angry, bitter heart. All of this year’s winners come out with trophies in hand to say goodnight and that’s the end of the 83rd Annual Academy Awards!

Well, suffice to say that this year’s show was a mixed bag. Not particularly exciting, especially once the boring, to-be-expected winners started coming true. Weird stuff in the beginning, but James Franco and Anne Hathaway lost steam as the show wore on – more him than her, actually. The Kirk Douglas thing was cool. Some weirdness with the early awards, such as ALICE IN WONDERLAND winning not one but TWO Oscars and Pixar’s DAY & NIGHT losing Animated Short. SOCIAL NETWORK got off to a good start with wins for Adapted Screenplay, Editing and Score and I thought maybe, just maybe, the Academy really did do the right thing – but alas, it was not to be, as THE KING’S SPEECH pulled out the big guns down the stretch, sweeping Original Screenplay, Director, Actor and Picture. Goddamn. Funny thing is, I actually liked THE KING’S SPEECH quite a bit – this is certainly not a debacle along the lines of, say, CRASH or SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE. But it’s a shame because THE SOCIAL NETWORK is just so far superior (and don’t get me started on TRUE GRIT -- ZERO WINS?! -- and TOY STORY 3). No surprise that Natalie Portman won. Just a disappointing show overall. My final tally was 11-for-24 when voting for what I thought WOULD win, and 9-for-24 when voting for what I WANTED to win. Not good either way. Hottest actresses of the night: Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis. Maybe others but they’re the ones who stand out. (Oh, Mandy Moore looked good on the red carpet, too!) And that, I think, is that. If you’ve made it through this epic blog, I salute you! Goodnight everybody!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Episode II – Live Action

While the Animated shorts left a little to be desired this year (with one or two notable exceptions), the Live Action nominees were outstanding across the board, to the point where I’m finding it very difficult to pick a favorite. They’re pretty much all Oscar-worthy, feature some great writing & acting, run the gamut of emotions and are even a little on the twisted side. Let’s take a look at the nominees and try to figure out which one will take home the gold....

the_confessionTHE CONFESSION -- This one is crazy. It’s the story of a boy who is scheduled to make his first confession, but he's concerned because he doesn't really have anything on his conscience worth confessing. His best friend comes up with a seemingly-harmless prank to help him out -- but things go horribly, tragically, shockingly awry. I can't really say any more... other than that this film was like a kick in the gut... and then another one, and another one. A tremendous film that I like to think of as the origin story of a future religious sociopath. Yikes.

wish143WISH 143 -- A teenage cancer patient with a short time left to live is granted a dying wish by the British equivalent of the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Unfortunately, they cannot provide what he really wants: Quite simply, to get laid. Poor David doesn't want to die without having known how it feels to roll around with a naked woman and he goes to great lengths to make this happen, from placing a misguided newspaper ad to staging an elaborate hospital escape. Will an understanding priest, an ex-girlfriend and/or a friendly prostitute help him in his quest? This film is as poignant as it is hilarious -- considering the subject matter, those of you in Oscar pools might consider putting your money on this one.

na-weweNA WEWE -- In Central Africa, a tour bus carrying a group of ordinary citizens is stopped by a band of Hutu rebels. The passengers are lined up and the rebels attempt to figure out whether each person is a member (by blood, if not ideology) of the opposing Tutsis. What ensues is sort of an Abbott & Costello / "Who's on First?" take on the horror, confusion and madness of the Rwandan genocide. Wouldn't be surprised to see this unique, frightening, darkly comic look at a crazy situation strike a chord with the Academy voters.

the-crushTHE CRUSH -- A boy named Ardal is madly in love with his grade school teacher, the luminous Miss Purdy. He gives her a toy ring, which she accepts, and marks their wedding date in his ten-year forward planner. But when Miss Purdy later reveals that she has gotten engaged to her real-life boyfriend, who happens to be a douchebag, Ardal decides he's not going down without a fight. He challenges the amused boyfriend to a duel in the handball court after school -- and that's when things get crazy. I can say no more other than that I watched this movie with a combined look of slack-jawed astonishment and heart-soaring glee on my face. I'd be surprised if this wins, but I'm kinda leaning towards it as my personal favorite....

God-of-LoveGOD OF LOVE -- This black-and-white, noir-satire romantic comedy tells the story of Raymond Goodfellow, a lounge singer / master dart thrower who is in love with Kelly, his band’s cute drummer, and prays for her to return his affections. One day, he receives a mysterious package filled with darts that have the power to make a person fall in love with the next person they see for six hours... after which time, all bets are off. After testing one with great effect on a band mate, naturally he decides to use one on Kelly (who is actually in love with his other band mate and best friend Fozzie). For those magical six hours, Raymond & Kelly have the time of their lives... but it just doesn't stick. Will Raymond continue to stick her with a magic dart every six hours for the rest of their lives to ensure her requited love -- or will he learn a lesson about the nature of "the thunderbolt" and, perhaps, discover a new purpose for his own life? This installment from Brooklyn, USA, may be a little too quirky/hipster-ish for its own good, but it is nevertheless some funny, enjoyable stuff.

So, in conclusion:

WILL PROBABLY WIN: Wish 143 or Na Wewe

Here’s hoping that I get to see the Documentary Shorts sometime between now and next Sunday. Oscar Night is almost upon us!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Episode I - Animation

On Friday night, for the third straight year, I nestled into a comfy seat the IFC Center and embarked on a four-hour journey through this year’s Oscar-nominated animated & live action short films! This has quickly become one of my favorite movie-watching traditions of the year and I can’t recommend it enough to movie geeks and casual fans alike. (This year, they’re also showing the Documentary Shorts for the first time ever, but I haven’t gotten around to seeing them yet.)

Let’s start off with the Animated Shorts, which, I have to say, weren’t quite as strong as they’ve been the past couple of years. Still some good & worthwhile stuff in there, though. Here are nominees:

madagascarMADAGASCAR, CARNET DE VOYAGE -- This French offering is essentially a scrapbook come to life, detailing a person’s trip to Madagascar and the sights, sounds, people and customs that he experienced there. Visually, it is quite impressive, as it seems to utilize every imaginable animation style, ranging from water colors to pencil etchings to claymation to CGI. There was also some amazing use of multi-plane animation that looks as close to 3D as you can get without wearing glasses. But in the end, it is little more than a Madagascar tourism brochure and didn’t particularly interest me.

lets-polluteLET’S POLLUTE – A satire in the style of those ridiculous ‘50s educational films, this hand-drawn American entry teaches that pollution is a part of life, has been the driving force of civilization, keeps the economy strong and is just plain cool. It goes on to instruct us how to be better polluters to ensure a more prosperous future, most notably by incorporating the Twice Rule, wherein we are instructed to “Always buy twice what you need, never use the same thing twice, waste twice as much as yesterday and never think twice about it.” It gets a little too preachy and over the top with the metaphors, but overall it’s funny stuff.

gruffaloTHE GRUFFALO -- Here we have a children’s story-turned-film that seems to suffer from some of the same problems as the failed WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE adaptation. I’d never heard of “The Gruffalo” before (should I have?), but it seems like it is also a very short tale that absolutely did not need to be stretched out so far (in this case, 28 minutes). Maybe five minutes would have worked -- as it stands, it’s just too damn long. Animation is glossy and cutesy and fine, but nowhere near Pixar-level CGI. It does probably contain some of the most impressive voice talent I’ve ever heard in an animated short (including Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, and Hagrid himself, Robbie Coltrane), but in the end, I was underwhelmed.

the-lost-thingTHE LOST THING -- Definitely the most bizarre, stylistically, of this year’s nominees. It’s the story of a boy who comes across a strange contraption/creature on the beach that nobody but him seems to notice. Turns out the thing is lost, and after bonding with it, the boy takes it upon himself to return it to its home. Bizarre visuals abound, as well as a clear commentary about living in a world where people are so caught up in their own routines that they don’t notice (or care to notice) anything out of the ordinary. An enjoyable film, albeit a bit slow -- I’m sure it will have its fans, especially among those who instinctively go for the odd stuff, but it didn’t really do it for me.

day_and_nightDAY & NIGHT -- Another year, another Pixar nomination -- and this time, they’ve outdone themselves with a little slice of brilliance that introduces a happy little fellow named Day to a surly stranger named Night. At first, Day and Night are appalled by and suspicious of each other’s differences -- but eventually they come to appreciate the qualities that they each have to offer -- and ultimately discover that they aren’t so different after all. The social commentary is not subtle, but it’s a hell of a lot more effective than, say, CRASH. It features the perfect mix of originality, outstanding animation, humor and poignancy -- very worthy of having preceded the great TOY STORY 3. I know I am a Pixar fanboy, but this is my favorite of their shorts in some time -- by far the best animated short of the year and most deserving of Oscar gold. Honestly, if the Academy has any sense at all, the voting shouldn’t even be close.

So, for the record, and to maintain my usual format for Oscar predictions:

I'M ROOTING FOR: Day & Night

But wait, there’s more! As usual, to pad the program’s running time and make it worth the price of admission, we were also treated to two “highly recommended” shorts:

ursURS -- This was a bizarre and sad one -- maybe a little TOO bizarre and sad, which is why it wasn’t nominated despite featuring some pretty cool-looking animation. It’s about a German man who looks after his aging mother and decides to find a new home for them. Despite her protests, he straps her rocking chair to his back with her sitting in it, and embarks on a treacherous journey up a mountain. By the time they reach the top of the mountain, he finds that she has died. Something about the futility of life in there? Perhaps. Crazy Germans.

cow_who_wanted_to_be_a_hamburgerTHE COW WHO WANTED TO BE A HAMBURGER -- I liked this one more than some of the nominees, too. A fun little ditty about a calf who sees an advertisement for a hamburger franchise and decides that he can’t wait to grow up to become a hamburger himself! He then goes to great lengths to achieve that goal, much to his mother’s horror. The animation is simple and the story is breezy and funny -- obviously loaded with commentary against the power of advertising, and, perhaps, eating meat. Personally, I didn’t want to see the cute little calf turned into a hamburger... but a nice veal parmigana? Yum.

Next up: Live Action Madness!