I have to admit I was expecting a more entertaining Oscars show with Seth McFarlane handling the hosting duties. He did fine despite what the haters on Twitter said, but it’s still The Oscars, and much of the show can still be very boring. I switched over to watch “The Walking Dead” and the Showtime Sunday shows instead.
But, with the popularity of Oscar pools and betting on the winners, plenty of people were still glued to the screen waiting for the announcements. That’s not surprising, as the huge popularity of football has a lot to do with our desire to bet on sports and the exploding popularity of fantasy football.
There were plenty of surprises on Oscar night to keep everyone excited. Things got started with Christoph Waltz winning for Best Supporting Actor for Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” He definitely was not the favorite, with Nate Silver and others having him as the third most likely winner in the category with Tommy Lee Jones as the favorite. So right off the bat, many had a miss in their Oscar pool, while a few had a huge early win to start the evening.
Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence were favorites, so that had to reassure those who were less adventurous in their picks, but the Best Director and Best Picture results definitely had to blow up most pools. Ang Lee was a big surprise. As for “Argo,” it did pick up steam with people like Silver picking it to win, and the snub of Ben Affleck by the Academy may have even helped its cause. “Lincoln” was an excellent film, but I didn’t leave the theater thinking it was a lock for Best Picture. Daniel Day-Lewis was probably the biggest lock of the night, as his portrayal of Lincoln was inspiring.
So next year I think I’m finally going to enter a pool so it’s a little easier to sit through some of the contrived dance numbers and lame jokes.
Starting with the Black Knight scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and the “let’s make sure we don’t accidentally get a G-rating” cantina sequence in “Star Wars,” not to mention largely offscreen bits that were nevertheless highly emotionally intense in movies like the Brian DePalma/Oliver Stone “Scarface” and Ang Lee’s underrated 1999 “Ride With the Devil,” it’s been kind of a long time since a single amputated limb has been considered extreme cinema. Director Danny Boyle and writer Simon Beaufoy may force us to reconsider that with “127 Hours.”
According to /Film, word has it that “127 hours” contains a solid hour of screentime without dialogue. If Danny Boyle doe his job right, I’m guessing even the most gleeful gorehound, might be taken aback by the crucial sequences in this film. In case you haven’t guessed already, it’s based on the real-life experiences of mountain climber Aron Ralston, played here by James Franco, who faced the ultimate survival challenge and won — but at the cost of having to remove his own arm.
Audiences who have no problem seeing people torn apart by bullets at the movies regularly squirm when we see an onscreen blood test or an actor playing a junkie pretending to shoot up. How will they react to a closer to real-time self-amputation? How will Boyle — not a particularly squeamish director by any means — deal with it? And what about my squeamish self? The MPAA R rating is for “language and some disturbing violent content/bloody images” which sounds relatively restrained and about par for the course, but who knows? Will anybody want to see this? Assuming it’s well received, what about the Oscar people? I have no idea how people will react to this one.
A highly accomplished stage actor, trained at Julliard under the tutelage of such exacting instructors as the legendary John Houseman, Kevin Kline pretty much started his film career as one of the best of the best, a genuine “actor’s actor” and also something of an old fashioned movie star with the presence to match. His first movie role was opposite Meryl Streep in Alan Pakula’s 1982 Oscar-winning film version of “Sophie’s Choice.” That was followed by Lawrence Kasdan’s Oscar-nominated ensemble dramedy, “The Big Chill,” and a leading role opposite Denzel Washington in Richard Attenborough’s portentous 1987 apartheid drama, “Cry Freedom.”
Though that was followed up by a part in Kasdan’s lighthearted homage to classic westerns, “Silverado,” Kevin Kline’s comic gifts remained under-recognized until his utterly ingenious, deservedly Oscar-winning turn as the murderous and hilariously insecure and pretentious Otto in the farce classic, “A Fish Called Wanda.” After that Kline became one of the screen’s most reliable comic leading men with parts in such high-quality mainstream comedies as “Dave” and “In and Out,” was well as the occasional part in such hard-edged tragicomic dramas as “Grand Canyon,” again with Lawrence Kasdan, and Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm.”
Kline, who recently completed a successful stage run in Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac opposite Jennifer Garner, has — like other outstanding actors of his generation — gracefully moved from the A-list to the art-house. Though once noted for turning down movie roles in favor of stage work — John Stewart reminded him of his “Kevin Decline” nickname on his recent “Daily Show” “Colbert Report” appearance — Kline has been a busy and hugely reliable film actor for decades. More recent roles include the screen’s first correctly gay Cole Porter in the 2004 musical biopic “De-Lovely,” Garrison Keillor’s radio detective Guy Noir in Robert Altman’s 2006 swan song, “A Prairie Home Companion,” Jacques in Kenneth Branagh’s version of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” and the 21st century’s version of Inspector Dreyfus opposite Steve Martin‘s Inspector Clouseau in the rebooted “Pink Panther” series.
Add to those the role of the suave but irascible platonic male escort Henry Harrison in Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s adaptation of the Jonathan Ames novel, “The Extra Man.” Taking in a confused and nervous younger protegee (Paul Dano of “There Will Be Blood”), Harrison is an utterly reactionary self-made throwback to another time and place, and an ideal role for an actor gifted with the finest of old fashioned acting virtues.
If you’re even a halfway serious film fan, you may have noticed that directors like Wes Anderson, Tim Burton, and Quentin Tarantino do not make movies set on Planet Earth, they make movies set on Planets Anderson, Burton, and Tarantino. I’m a bit less of an expert on France’s extremely popular Jean-Pierre Jeunet, but it’s obvious that, even when his films are set in Paris, they’re really set on Planet Jeunet. His films have their own look and exist in their own reality.
As with Tim Burton, Jeunet’s roots are in animation. Together with his early collaborator, cartoonist Marc Caro, he made two films that pretty much destroyed the idea of France as a land where all movies were gritty examinations of the lives of depressed intellectuals (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Dystopic but decidedly non-realistic, “Delicatessen” and, to a much greater extent, 1995’s “The City of Lost Children” broke through internationally, with the latter becoming a popular midnight selection and attracting a geek audience that might have ordinarily rejected subtitled films. That was followed by his first solo production and also his first and, so far, only American film. 1997’s “Alien: Resurrection” was a domestic commercial disappointment that generated mixed reviews and more than a little fan hate in the U.S. — even its screenwriter, fan-master Joss Whedon, has entirely disowned it — but it was nevertheless an international success which is still warmly embraced by its jovial director. After that, Jeunet broke through even bigger with the worldwide success of “Amelie” in 2001, easily one of the most widely seen French films in the United States of the last couple of decades — so much so that it was simply referenced as “the French movie” in last year’s “Up in the Air.”
Now, Jeunet is back with his first film since his worldwide box office and critical hit, 2005’s “A Very Long Engagement,” with his own take on Chaplinesque/Keatonesque comedy with just a dash of Rube Goldberg not-quite-sci-fi. “Micmacs” stars comic Dany Boon (“My Best Friend”) as the hapless Bazil, whose father was killed by a landmine and whose health and livelihood was ruined by a bullet — each produced by a ruthless arms manufacturer. Homeless, he is befriended by a ragtag assortment of seven eccentrics with various unique skills. Bazil enlists their aid in avenging himself against the two firms.
The film has done reasonably well in its initial New York opening, and will be expanding to more theaters this Friday. It’s generally also been a hit with critics, very definitely including PH’s own Jason Zingale.
A sprained ankle and other unexciting matters sidelined me yestereday, but now I can use my imposed semi-immobility for bloggy purposes.
* THR is claiming an exclusive that a date has finally been set for the two-part Peter Jackson/Guillermo del Toro collaboration, “The Hobbit.” (That’s with an assist from the late J.R.R. Tolkien, of course.) There was some apparent confusion earlier in the day, but it now looks like the two films will be released in Christmas of 2012 and 2013. That’s a year off from the original plan for the LOTR follow-up/prequel (though LOTR is technically the sequel here). Though this article doesn’t mention it, at least part of the problem was widely supposed to be the decline and fall of MGM.
* I’m not at all sure how the “poison pill” actually works but it appears that a decision by authorities up in British Columbia — which is, like, part of an entirely different country than ours and everything — will make it easier for Carl Icahn to attempt his hostile takeover of Lionsgate.
* Bill Murray is apparently bound and determined to be the proverbial turd in the “Ghostbusters 3” punchbowl. It wasn’t a punch I had my heart set on, in any case, much as I liked the first one.
* Just the day before yesterday I was part of a press round-table with the affable, stylish French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (“Amelie,” “City of Lost Children”). Someone brought up his adapatation of the acclaimed, fantastical Booker Prize-winning novel, The Life of Pi, a project which the vagaries of movie-making had apparently forced him to give up on. Today, Anne Thompson brings word that it appears that the project has been picked up by another strong directorial hand, Ang Lee. And, guess what, it’ll be 3-D. Lee’s one of the movies’ great humanists still working, so I’m sure the film won’t be overwhelmed by effects.