At 12:30 pm I attended a serene and convivial back-yard reception for French Oscar nominees, particularly Amour star Emmanuelle Riva and her director Michael Haneke, at the Beverly Hills residence of Axel Cruau, the Consul General of France. Cannes Film Festival general delegate Thierry Fremaux, Village Voice/L.A. Weekly critic Scott Foundas, Variety‘s Steven Gaydos, Deadline‘s Pete Hammond and MCN’s David Poland were among the guests.
“I’ve just walked out of Park Chan-Wook‘s Stoker (Fox Searchlight, 3.1). Sorry, nope. If you’re Variety‘s Guy Lodge, it’s “a splendidly demented gumbo of Hitchcock thriller, American Gothic fairy tale and a contemporary kink all Park’s own.” For me it’s the biggest ‘look at how I can out-Brian DePalma and his most excessive and looney-tuney!’ show-off flick I’ve seen in a long, long time. Everything is visual candy to PCW. Half-sensible human motivation and story logic be damned…watch me have fun in my sandbox! Me! Me! Wheee!” — filed from Sundance Film Festival on 1.20.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences got the show it deserved last night. The members own it and one day, trust me, they won’t feel so good about that. As usual the show felt a little schmaltzy, a little out-of-time in a gay Las Vegas-y sense. The show’s producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, got to remind us what a great film Chicago was and how much we miss films of this type. And…I don’t know what else to say. I really don’t. Somebody help me out here.
The engagingly adult, nicely crafted Argo won Best Picture, and apart from the fact that Zero Dark Thirty and Silver Linings Playbook were, are and always will be far more vital and alive and crackling…why am I going through my routine again? It’s over. On to 2013.
I didn’t file a reaction piece right after the Oscar telecast because the only persistent thought I had during the show was “what is this? Why do I feel so removed?” I agreed with or accepted many of the calls, but I felt it wasn’t my type of Oscar telecast. At most my investment felt marginal. When the show ended I knew I needed to get out. I went down to Canter’s and ordered some vaguely unhealthy food. A grilled-cheese-and-tomato sandwich and potato chips and Diet Coke and a coffee. You’re not supposed to eat after 9:30 or 10 pm, and yet there I was. Not “bummed” but vaguely unhappy, for sure.
I’ve been through Oscar shows that made me feel amazed, elated (i.e., Roman Polanski‘s Best Director win for The Pianist) and sometimes outraged (the Brokeback Mountain Best Picture loss) but I can count the emotional current moments from last night’s show on one hand, and none were especially intense. The Les Miserables sing-out, Jennifer Lawrence falling on the stage, Adele‘s confident delivery of Skyfall (and Seth MacFarlane‘s quip about Rex Reed‘s forthcoming review)…what else?
I know that not long after Quentin Tarantino‘s mystifying win for Best Original Screenplay I started playing Jimi Hendrix‘s “I Don’t Live Today” in my head. I shrugged at the William Shatner future-forecast routine and “We Saw Your Boobs” number. Many seem to agree that MacFarlane, who has taken it in the neck from at least one female columnist so far, should have been less “ceremonial” and gone for broke.
I fully respect and in most cases sincerely admire the efforts of the winners, but are you going to tell me that Christoph Waltz didn’t deliver the same kind of curt, deflecting, dryly verbose performance (i.e., “I’m having an enormously good time saying these droll but florid lines while at the same time standing outside my character and in fact outside the film itself”) in Django Unchained that he gave in Inglourious Basterds? Two Oscars for essentially the same performance. Waltz played a good guy in Django and a monster in Basterds, but there isn’t a dime’s worth of difference between them. He knows it, Tarantino knows it, you know it, the Academy knows it.
Are you going to tell me that Brave was the cleverest, most original or most spiritually engaging animated feature of the year? From a 12.26 post: “I’ve experienced moments of satisfaction and even uplift from the best Pixar films, but nothing suffocates my spirit like a glossy, connect-the-dots mainstream animated feature (i.e., big-name actors doing the voicing) looking to sell an empowerment fable about a young person being tested and fulfilling his/her destiny. I half-liked the big cowardly bear but it went no further. Every exaggerated expression and every gut-slam visual or aural effect felt like a tiny cyanide capsule.”
We’re living in aesthetically degraded times. There are an awful lot of unsophisticated, not especially sharp or knowledgable people out there today. That is incontestable. And, it appears, the sensibilities of this group are being expressed by a certain portion of Academy voters. I’m trying to think of another explanation.
Did you see that expression on Joaquin Phoenix’s face when the camera cut to him during the Best Actor sequence? Did you feel what he was feeling a bit? I went there from time to time.
Here’s a pretty decent account of the Vanity Fair after-party, written by Chris Rovzar.
I just can’t think of anything to say beyond this. I mostly feel relieved that the season is over and we can now push our way into 2013, free and clear.
But beyond this I think I missed the absence of any fire-in-the-belly stuff by way of strong political current. There was no sense of cultural conflict, no Michael Moore-ish rants. Everyone in the audience seemed to be on the same go-along page. And on some level I regretted the absence of…if not rancor then at least something a tiny bit uncomfortable.
Consider this recollection, posted this morning, from The Nation‘s Rick Perlstein:
“And then there was 1975, the most bizarrely political Oscar night of all.
“Late in 1974 a director named Peter Davis showed a documentary called Hearts and Minds briefly in a Los Angeles theater to qualify it for Academy Award consideration (watch the whole stunning thing here). It opened with images of a 1973 homecoming parade for POW George Thomas Coker, who told a crowd on the steps of the Linden, New Jersey, city hall about Vietnam, ‘If it wasn’t for the people, it was very pretty. The people there are very backwards and primitive, and they make a mess out of everything.’ General William Westmoreland, former commander of U.S. forces, in a comment the director explained had not been spontaneous but had come on a third take, was shown explaining, ‘The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient.’ (Thereupon, the film cut to a sobbing Vietnamese mother being restrained from climbing into the grave atop the coffin of her son.) Daniel Ellsberg was quoted: ‘We aren’t on the wrong side. We are the wrong side.’ The movie concluded with an interview with an activist from Vietnam Veterans Against the War. ‘We’ve all tried very hard to escape what we have learned in Vietnam,’ he said. ‘I think Americans have worked extremely hard not to see the criminalities that their officials and their policy-makers exhibited.”
“A massive thunderstorm raged outside at the Oscar ceremony at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion on Oscar Night, April 8, twenty days before the final fall of Saigon to North Vietnam’s Communist forces — where after Sammy Davis, Jr.’s musical tribute to Fred Astaire, and Ingrid Bergman‘s acceptance of the best supporting actress award for Murder on the Orient Express, and Francis Ford Coppola‘s award for best director (one of six Oscars for The Godfather Part II: ‘I’m wearing a tuxedo with a bulletproof cumberbund,’ cohost Bob Hope cracked. “Who knows what will happen if Al Pacino doesn’t win’), Lauren Hutton and Danny Thomas opened the envelop and announced Hearts and Minds had won as the year’s best documentary.
“Producer Bert Schneider took the microphone and said, ‘It’s ironic that we’re here at a time just before Vietnam is about to be liberated. Then he read a telegram from the head of the North Vietnamese delegation to the Paris peace talks. It thanked the antiwar movement ‘for all they have done on behalf of peace… Greetings of friendship to all American people.’
“Backstage, Bob Hope was so livid he tried to push his way past the broadcast’s producer to issue a rebuttal onstage. Shirley MacLaine, who had already mocked Sammy Davis from the stage for having endorsed Richard Nixon, shouted, ‘Don’t you dare!’ Anguished telegrams from viewers began piling up backstage. One, from a retired Army colonel, read, ‘WITH 55,000 DEAD YOUNG AMERICANS IN DEFENSE OF FREEDOM AND MILLIONS OF VIETNAMESE FIGHTING FOR FREEDOM…DEMAND WITHDRAWAL OF AWARD.’ On its back, Hope madly scribbled a disclaimer for his cohost Frank Sinatra to read onstage. Sinatra read it to a mix of boos and applause: ‘The Academy is saying we are not responsible for any political utterances on this program and we are sorry that had to take place.’ Upon which, backstage, the broadcast’s third cohost, Shirley MacLaine, berated Sinatra: ‘You said you were speaking for the Academy. Well, I’m a member of the academy and you didn’t ask me!’ Her brother, Warren Beatty, snarled at Sinatra on camera: ‘Thank you, Frank, you old Republican.'”
I posted the followng on 9.26.12: A standard Zen 101 question is “why does the bird fly?” If your answer is “because that is the way for him…it’s his gift, his burden, his calling, his joy…the bird flies because he must,” you’ll probably have a place in your heart for Ang Lee‘s Life Of Pi. But if your reply is “what’s he gonna do, ride a Harley Davidson?,” then you might have issues with this 11.21 20th Century Fox release, which will have its world premiere tonight at the New York Film Festival.
Just as Anthony Minghella‘s Cold Mountain was described by the smart-asses as “a movie about a man walking through the woods” and Martin Scorsese‘s The Age of Innocence was called “a movie about cufflinks,” Life of Pi — a constantly eye-filling adaptation of Yann Martel’s 2001 novel — is going to be called “a film about floating in a lifeboat for months with a Bengal tiger.” By the primitives, I mean. It’s a spiritual journey flick, of course, but some people have no patience for that stuff.
Thing is, I have plenty of patience for meditative musings and I still thought Life of Pi was kind of a languid, inconclusive, space-casey thing…although quite gorgeous on a compositional, frame-by-frame level.
I think that Life of Pi is going to be regarded as a major visual feast by the visual-delight-for-the-sake-of-visual-delight crowd — the pure cinema geeks — and as a visually enthralling curiosity by the vast majority of the viewing public, as a non-starter by a significant portion of the family audience (i.e., as a bore by kids and their legendary short-attention spans) and as a respectable also-ran in the Best Picture contest. 2.24 Update: I turned out to be technically right.
No one will dismiss or disrespect it. It is a reasonably sturdy work of art. It is worth seeing. It is food for thought. It might even kick in with religious types of all shapes and colors. But there’s no way it gets into the Best Picture game. Sorry. 2.24 Update: I was obviously dead wrong with this statement.
That’s because it doesn’t tell much of a campfire story and it doesn’t really tie together, not for me anyway, and I’m saying this as one who experienced satori as a lad in my early 20s after taking LSD and reading the Bhagavad Gita, and therefore one who will always welcome notions of the mystical and the concept of clear light. But as God and Vishnu and Sri Krishna are my witness, I found it to be a mild little parable about the brutal, bestial nature of life and the relentless rough and tumble, and how we have to a choice to live in this world and be governed by these brutal terms or to see beyond these terms and achieve some level of transcendence — and that’s fine.
I also took to heart the lesson about how it sure sharpens your survival game if you have a hungry Bengal tiger to feed while you’re floating across the Pacific ocean. That’s true. I myself have been sharpened by this and that tiger on my own path.
But I found little or nothing mystical (or even mystically allusive or intriguing) in Life of Pi. What I found was heaps and mounds and waves of delirious CG eye candy in service of a very slow-moving tale children’s tale — honestly, this is a Sunday morning Clutch Cargo cartoon writ large and flamboyant and visually state-of-the-art — with a sluggish middle section on the high seas.
I’m not going to recount the story beat for beat (look it up) but 17 year-old Suraj Sharma plays young “Pi” Patel, and Irrfan Khan plays the adult Pi who tells his story to an author, played by Rafe Spall (and previously played by Tobey Maguire before Lee decided his performance wasn’t working).
The opening in the zoo (even the animals in this section look CG-ish) to Khan’s chat with Spall to Sharma sampling various faiths and religions as a kid to the sinking of the cargo ship takes…what, about 35 or 40 minutes? Then we have what seems like a full hour of struggling to survive on the boat and raft. And then a final 20 minutes of so talking to Spall again (who says the story is “a lot to take in”) and to the Japanese investigators and their surprising decision to choose a metaphorical story over a literal-sounding one.
Life of Pi is constantly inventive and diverting and obviously eye-filling, but there is next to nothing revelatory in the tale except that we all are given a choice to choose between a tale of the tiger and the hyena and the zebra and the open seas, or a tale about hunger and thirst and desperation and murder on the high seas, and that most of us tend to prefer a more literal and less metaphorical version of things.
I’m a tiger guy myself, but I appreciate the point of view of the meat-and-potatoes crowd who will snort and say, “Aww, horseshit…tell us what really happened!” I could write a review of Life of Pi by Joe Pesci‘s character in Goodfellas and/or one of Denis Leary‘s pals in the Rescue Me firehouse, and I could make it funny. But I don’t want to be snide or disrespectful. But you know what one of those guys would say.
In a letter directly to Martel, Barack Obama described his book as “an elegant proof of God, and of the power of storytelling.” I’m going to vote for Barack Obama, but if he says the same thing about the film I would challenge him to explain in detail precisely where the proof of God is.
What this movie delivers without question is proof of devotion to and obsession with CG visuals. If there is “proof of God” in Life of Pi, there is also proof of God in Happy Feet, Jurassic Park, Come Back Little Sheba, Who’ll Stop The Rain, T2, Hatari!, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Elmer Gantry, The Rains of Ranchipur, Titanic, The Silver Linings Playbook, Siddhartha, Dude, Where’s My Car?, From Here to Eternity, Stanley Kramer‘s Judgment at Nuremberg and Cecil B. Demille‘s The Greatest Show on Earth.
In its most primitive and basic form, Life of Pi is magical realism by way of what can almost be described as a CG cartoon — none of it feels “real” except for the interview portions and the portions showing Sharma/Khan as a young kid. I understand that the “unreality” of most of the film is deliberate, of course — a visual correlative to an imagination and a mindset of a man who is enthralled by and determined to find the mystical and exceptional in his processing of life. But we’re still left with the fact that the majority of the movie doesn’t look “real”, and by that I mean less real than Avatar.
Life of Pi is “painted” up the wazoo, and I don’t care if there was an actual Bengal tiger who acted in certain scenes — I don’t believe it anyway. It’s all about the hard drive. It’s all about the paint and the brushstrokes and the hanging of the canvas on the art gallery wall.
To try again, Life is Pi is a parable about the savagery of life but not, by my sights, a movie that points to or articulates anything meaningful in a mystical sense. It basically says that it’s a dog-eat-dog, hyena-eats-zebra, tiger-eats-hyena and carnivorous-plant-island world out there….survival-of-the-fittest, tooth-and-claw, watch your back and be resourceful. But (I’m repeating myself) it sure sharpens your game if you have a hungry Bengal tiger to feed, etc. Life is hard (which is entirely God’s doing) but you don’t have to think or be “hard.” If you wish to rise above instinct and raw survivalism, you can. The choice is yours. The journey is there for the taking if you want it.
I respect enormously the commitment to a precise and particular vision on Lee’s part (and that of producers Gil Netter and David Womark, and before that producer-shepherd Elizabeth Gabler and directors M. Night Shyamalan and Alfonso Cuaron), and Fox 2000 in financing it and 20th Century Fox in distributing it. This is not a movie that dives right into commercial conventionality, and into what most people (certainly what most younger people) want. These things in themselves are to be respected, particularly given the production costs and whatnot.
After Wednesday afternoon’s screening I heard a colleague talking about how she’s an atheist but she was shattered by it. Another person in her realm was very impressed by it. So I may be in the minority and that’s fine. Life of Pi deserves respect and whatever hossannahs it can get. I don’t want to stand in the way of that.
Brian Bethune of Maclean‘s once described Martel’s book as “a head-scratching combination of dense religious allegory, zoological lore and enthralling adventure tale, written with warmth and grace.” That’s pretty much what Ang Lee’s film is if you substitute “written” with “composed.” It’s fine for those who will get off on it. It’s quite the visual feast but it’s really a doodle. It’s a movie that lights or doesn’t light a match in the head of the viewer, and if you’re one of those who gets that special “something” out of it, great.
But truly great movies deliver the goods to the perceptive and the not-so-perceptive simultaneously, and that is why Life of Pi is not Best Picture material. For the not-so-perceptive, it’s an CG-driven eye-candy adventure with a slow and even draggy middle section, and a story that’s kind of interesting but also kind of “meh.” That is what 80% to 85% of viewers will think or say.
Update: In response to HE reader Mark G., the 3D is very nicely rendered. The tiger leaps out, the chunks of meat pop through, etc. I just don’t feel that much enthusiasm for 3D these days…sorry. I could have easily gone with Life of Pi being screened in 2D. That’s not a comment about the quality of the 3D work — that’s a comment about me.
Further update: Variety‘s Justin Chang, The Hollywood Reporter‘s Todd McCarthy and Indiewire‘s Anne Thompson have all posted friendlier reviews than my own. MCN’s David Poland is more on my side of the fence.
8:56 pm: Jack Nicholson introduces Michelle Obama from the White House to pass along general congrats to the nominees — an Oscar first. And then Nicholson takes it back to read the nominees, and back to Michelle and the announcement that Argo has won the Best Picture Oscar. An emotional Grant Heslov goes on a bit. Ben Affleck: “[Here’s to] eight great films that have as much of a right to be up here as we do.” Affleck is speaking right from the heart, openly, from his life. “Everyone gets knocked down,” or words to that effect. “All that matters is that you’ve gotta get up.”
8:48 pm: Daniel Day Lewis, a total lock for Best Actor for many, many weeks, is genuinely moved by his win. The Margaret Thatcher-Abraham Lincoln role swap between DDL and Meryl Streep is fairly funny. A touching speech. He’s an elegant man. “For my mother….thank you very much.”
8:43 pm: Silver Linings Playbook‘s Jennifer Lawrence wins Best Actress Oscar, and vulnerably, touchingly falls on the steps going up to the stage. Good moment, sweet, satisfying.
8:39 pm: Life of Pi‘s Ang Lee wins for Best Director. Nice effort, very pretty, drowned in CG-looking CG, maddeningly obtuse. I don’t emotionally agree with any of what’s happened tonight. It’s a kind of nightmare for me. Lee is a sweet, intelligent, obviously gifted man. But Life of Pi is not and never will be a knockout film, and…I don’t want to talk about this any more. Waltz! Tarantino! Lee! Fuck me.
8:24 pm: I’m taking this opportunity to remind everyone reading this column that Quentin Tarantino‘s original screenplay of Django Unchained (a riff on Italian spaghetti westerns by way of rehashing his revenge scenario from Inglourious Basterds in a slavery context…not too original!) doesn’t hold a candle to Mark Boal‘s brilliant screenplay for Zero Dark Thirty or Michael Haneke‘s for Amour. There’s just no comparison, and there’s something really, really wrong with this year’s Oscar awards. Something diseased, I mean. The Academy has really “shit the bed” this year, in the words of Sasha Stone.
8:24 pm: Dustin Hoffman and Charlize Theron presenting the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar to Chris Terrio for Argo. I guess most of us saw this one coming. I’m nto feeling it. I’m not feeling this whole show, if you want to know. It had a surprise at least — Waltz!
8:21 pm: The three-hour mark is approaching. There might be…what, 20 or 25 minutes remaining?
8:17 pm: Has Chicago been promoted fully enough? Chicago — one of the greatest and most beloved movie musicals of all time! Congrats to Adele and whatsisname, the co-creators of the “Skyfall” song, for their Best Original Song Oscar.
8:14 pm: Nora Jones isn’t belting it. Her voice is too quiet. She’s almost murmuring.
8:10 pm: Life of Pi wins for Best Original Score. This again reiterates the likelihood of Ang Lee winning fthe Best Director Pscar.
8:06 pm: McFarlane: “In a few minutes Rex Reed will be out here to review Adele’s performance of Skyfall!” — funny! Plus that line about “this show being gay enough.”
8:01 pm: And the late Marvin Hamlisch gets the biggest tribute — a segue out of the “In Memoriam” reel with Barbra Streisand singing “The Way We Were.” Sorry but her voice isn’t as strong as it used to be. Not soaring or flying.
7:48 pm: Co-presenter Kristen Stewart appears to have put on a little bit of weight, and she seemed to be hobbling on her way to the mike. Right? The Best Production Design Oscar goes to Lincoln? Okay.
7:40 pm: Robert DeNiro lost to Christoph Waltz? Tommy Lee Jones lost to Christoph Waltz? Philip Seymour Hoffman lost to Christoph Waltz? I can understand people preferring Waltz to Alan Arkin — I can sympathize with that. But otherwise…
7:36 pm: Adele is a big girl in a nice sparkly dress, but her great voice and general aura of confidence and command are what matter. The chorus and the string section are a nice touch.
7:32 pm: Sandra Bullock announcing the Best Editing Oscar. Argo is expected to win this. And it happens. William Goldenberg (who also edited Zero Dark Thirty) accepting.
7:27 pm: Les Miserables has gotten a huge bump out of this show so far. You know that producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are big fans, and they’ve showed it.
7:20 pm: Christopher Plummer deftly strolls out to announce that Anne Hathaway has won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. “It came true!” Graciously acknowledges how good her four competitors are. A generally gracious and humble speech. Good for A.H. And now that that’s done…
7:18 pm: A Nazi joke! We knew it was coming!
7:12 pm: The Oscar for Best Sound Mixing goes to Les Miserables. There’s no live orchestra playing inside the Dolby theatre? Jewish joke from Mark Wahlberg and Ted (meh)….Best Sound Editing Oscar decision is a tie — one for Zero Dark Thirty, another for Skyfall. The Oscar telecast has been going for just over 105 minutes and the pace feels fine.
6:58 pm: You can have this big, passionate, showstopping Bob Fosse/”All That Jazz”/Dreamgirls/Jennifer Hudson/Les Miserables/Hugh Jackman extravaganza. Wait, I take part of that back — the Les Miserables portion is pretty good, actually. Russell Crowe walks out and sings on stage! This is actually terrific. What a promotion for the film…what a score! I liked the last 40 minutes or so of Tom Hooper‘s film, but this number was better. Okay, as good.
6:51 pm: Amour, totally predicted and universally agreed upon, wins Best Foreign Language Feature Oscar. I take it back slightly about director Michael Haneke slightly resembling George Clooney, or vice versa. He does, they do. But Haneke has a bald spot, looks a bit older. And he says “sank you” when saying “thank you.” Amour is a rough but very powerful film. Hats off.
6:44 pm: Best Documentary Feature Oscar goes to Searching for Sugar Man — totally predicted. Fine. No complaints. Director (whom I met in Santa Barbara) is a cool guy.
6:41 pm: “The guy who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth. Still too soon, huh?” — Seth McFarlane.
6:37 pm: Liam “Paycheck” Neeson takes the stage to present the next array of Best Picture nominee promos.
6:35 pm: Curfew has won the Live Action Short Oscar. And the Documentary Short Subject Oscar voes to Inocente.
6:23 pm: James Bond tribute…meh…reminds us all that the early Connery’s were the coolest. I was going to say that Shirley Bassey‘s voice isn’t quite what it used to be. But she’s all right, I guess. It just seemed that the punch and the snap and the ferocity weren’t there at first. But she’s okay. Big applause. I guess I’m still recovering from Waltz.
6:18 pm: Jacqueline Durran has won the Best Costume Design Oscar for Anna Karenina — deserved. And the Makeup and Hair Style Oscar goes to the Les Miserables‘ Lisa Westcott and Julie Darnell. Both of whom take forever to get to the stage.
6:07 pm: The Avengers guys aren’t funny. Mark Ruffalo looks a little bit heavy. Give ’em all the hook. The Best Cinematography Oscar goes to Claudo Miranda for Life of Pi. The winner should have been Anna Karenina. All right, fine…fine! Ang Lee is going to win for Best Director. Best Visual Effects Oscar goes to Life of Pi….well, what other contender were they going to honor in this category? I’m just not feeling this Pi stuff. None of it. John Williams‘ Jaws music used as warning?
6:05pm: Bearded George Clooney looks like Amour director Michael Haneke. He just needs a pair of wire-rim glasses. They should pose together.
6:04 pm: Why are they running short tributes to the Best Picture nominees this early in the show? The first three, I mean. Curious.
5:58 pm: I never saw Paperman, winner of the best Animated Short. Very few have. If you were to send me a screener I’m not sure that I’d watch it all that quickly. But good for the guy who made it. Good God! Brave, which I saw and didn’t like all that much and which isn’t all that novel or clever, has won the Best Animated Feature Oscar. This and Waltz — two bad calls so far. Is this is going to be as rough of a night as I’m afraid it might turn out to be?
5:41 pm: Oh, my God! They gave the Best Supporting Actor Oscar to Christoph Waltz for giving the exact same kind of performance in Django Unchained that he gave in Inglourious Basterds? No!!! Jack Nicholson is stunned. I’m on the floor. They did this! They gave it to Waltz! What…the….fuck? This doesn’t bode well for David O. Russell winning Best Director. I’m detecting the faint whiff of an Ang Lee win.
5:41 pm: “We Saw Your Boobs!” sung by Gay Men’s Chorus — perfect. Okay, mildly funny. Flight re-enacted by sock puppets…decent. Flying Nun Sally Field bit. This is McFarlane’s persponality but it’s also kind of Vegas-y and ….gay? “You know they’re going to give it to Anne Hathaway.” McFarlane can sing. “Story of Argo is so top secret that the director is unknown to the Academy.” Jean Dujardin insult joke. This is 90. Roman Coppola anguish. Django Unchained: Chris Brown and Rhiannon date movie. Screenplay is loosely based on Mel Gibson‘s voicemail. Cpt,. Kirk to the rescue. “Your jokes are tasteless and inappropriate and everyone hates you. Why couldn’t they just get Tina and Amy? Channing Tatum‘s spats don’t look as good as George Raft‘s. JGL and Daniel Radcliffe…if you say so. What’s with Robert De Niro‘s hair?
I’m refusing as a matter of bedrock principle to watch any of the red-carpet Oscar bullshit. But I’ll be doing the usual live-blogging starting….uhm, 56 minutes from now. A little more than 70 or 75 minutes from now we’ll know if Seth McFarlane is the new Johnny Carson…or not. The show is expected to last three hours and 40 minutes, and perhaps a bit longer.
All I ask for is a surprise or two. Please. I don’t believe for a second that Amour‘s Emmanuelle Riva has any kind of shot at winning Best Actress but it’ll be sorta kinda cool if it happens. (But it won’t.) David O. Russell winning Best Director and/or Best Adapted Screenplay would work just fine. (Ang Lee winning for Life of Pi won’t work.) Robert DeNiro winning for Best Supporting Actor will be welcome…check.
I tweeted this morning that if Best Picture Oscar could have been re-balloted this morning through some sort of instant quickie technology, Argo might not win. There’s a real sense out there that the Academy mainstream has blown it once again by “going for the softie” in the tradition of The Artist, Chicago,The King’s Speech, Driving Miss Daisy, Around The World in Eighty Days, etc.
I’ve been belly-aching since early November 2009 about Sony Home Video’s refusal to release a Bluray of From Here to Eternity, despite Grover Crisp‘s digital restoration having been completed three and a half years ago. Over and over I’ve written about Sony spokesperson Fritz Friedman, an extremely kind and considerate guy, giving me the old friendly run-around whenever I ask. “Maybe next year…before too long…down the road,” etc.
Sony management obviously doesn’t see much revenue potential for a Bluray of this, one of Columbia’s crown jewels, but why can’t they make it available through some kind of Warner Archives-type arrangement or at least offer a digital download through iTunes or Amazon Prime?
I’m writing this because I had never seen Crisp’s high-def version of Fred Zinneman‘s 1953 Best Picture winner until it played on Turner Classic Movies a couple of nights ago. It’s clearly a significant enhancement over the DVD version that everyone has been looking at for the last 11 years or so. “Prettier”, less contrasty, smoother skin tones, greater specificity (especially in terms of the fabrics, hair follicles and the glistening look of rain-soaked streets) and so on. I like my Blurays to “pop” above and beyond what i’m used to from DVD versions, and Crisp’s Eternity definitely does that.
Why doesn’t Sony just sell the Bluray rights to Criterion?
It’s just a shame that a better-looking version of a venerated classic is being kept out of collector hands ad infinitum. Here it is Oscar night, and 59 years ago at the 1954 Oscars ceremony this puppy won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay (Daniel Tarsdash), Best Supporting Actor (Frank Sinatra) and Best Supporting Actress (Donna Reed), and the home video division of the remnant of Harry Cohn‘s once-great Columbia Pictures refuses to honor it with a Bluray version that offers an unmistakable visual upgrade? Later this year Paramount will issue a 60th anniversary Bluray of George Stevens‘ Shane, another 1953 standout. Why doesn’t Sony get the lead out?
(l. to r.) Frank Sinatra, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, Burt Lancaster, James Jones and Fred Zinneman on way to Honolulu for filming.
Deadline‘s Michael Fleming is reporting that the Weinstein Co. will soon acquire domestic rights to Grace Of Monaco, in which Nicole Kidman will play actress-turned-princess Grace Kelly under director Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose).
Tim Roth, of all people, will play Monaco’s Prince Rainier III.
TWC will pay $4 million up-front and commit to an 800-screen opening next December with a $10 million p & a fund, Fleming reports. Dahan is a serious and exacting director, of course, and the December debut suggests that Harvey is betting on Grace being an awards-season player.
I’m sorry but I see a roadblock right away in the casting of Kidman and Roth. Fleming writes that the film will focus on a period in the early ’60s (specifically ’62 to ’64) when Princess Grace helped her husband settle a dispute between Monaco and Franch president Charles De Gaulle over tax laws. Kelly, born on 11.12.29, was between 32 and 34 when the story occurs, and Kidman, who will turn 46 in June, is, all due respect, too old to play someone in her early 30s. She can pretend to be that age and we can pretend along with her, of course, but it won’t feel right. The beautiful and well-tended Kidman has delivered fine performances under the right directors, but you can’t fake youth. She would have been a perfect choice to play Princess Grace about ten years ago. She’s a lot closer right now to the 52 year-old Grace who died in a car crash in September 1982.
And the idea of the 51 year-old Roth playing Rainer (who was around 40 at the time of the story) is looney-tunes. The physical resemblance is non-existent. Roth-as-Rainer is the same realm as casting Seth Rogen to play President Warren G. Harding. You know who looks like Prince Rainer now and could have almost pulled it off despite his being too old? Tom Hanks.
Pledging to spend $10 million on an 800-screen opening is actually a fairly modest thing. It may well be that Grace of Monaco will turn out to be as good as La Vie en Rose, but it seems to me like more of a box-office bet than an award-season contender.
You look back at last year’s Best Actress race and you can’t quite believe that anyone really thought that Meryl Streep might not take it for The Iron Lady. Viola Davis, good as she always is, did not play anyone’s idea of a lead role in The Help, and that’s why she didn’t get there. Glenn Close‘s nomination for her work in Albert Nobbs was strictly a career-retrospective gesture and only a little bit about her performance, which was overly poised and in fact rigid. Michelle Williams was certainly good enough in My Week With Marilyn, but she never came close to being a knockout — no one thought otherwise. And Rooney Mara‘s nomination for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was strictly about rounding out the field. But there’s was so much speculative hot-air bullshit thrown around last year (as it is every year) that people were actually saying, “Hmmm, who might win?”
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