Friday, February 13, 2009

Mike Tabor vs. The Oscars "Best Picture" Edition

Well another February is here and that means 2 things for this guy. Sadly, football season is over. (But I’m proud of my Ravens taking 3rd place in the NFL this year) Yet I’m always happy about Oscar season!! I know most people don’t usually get into the Oscars. Most of the movies don’t do great money wise because they aren’t usually films dedicated to a wide demographic. Most of the time the films are slow on action, heavy on dialogue.
Comedies, Horror films, and Comic book movies usually bring in the cash for Hollywood. The Oscars spit on those movies. (Because they usually suck, and they are geared towards retards with IQ’s less than 50). This year is no different. “The Dark Night” and “Ironman” both grossed more individually at the box office than the 5 nominees for best picture combined.
However, this year is different for me than other years at the Oscars. I usually agree with at least 3-4 of the Oscar nominated movies every year but I have to say this year I don’t agree with any of them, nor do I agree with much in regards to the Best actor/actress, and supporting actor/actress nominations. Last year I agreed with 4 out of the 5 (No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Juno, and Atonement) I feel the Academy got it wrong this year and in the next few paragraphs I’m going to first start with What the Academy picked, why they chose it, why I didn’t like it and what will win. After that I will rank my top 5 in that particular category and why. Hopefully some of you will enjoy. I’m basically just writing this because it’s really slow at work right now and I need something to keep my mind occupied so I don’t go nutty.

#1 (and likely the winner) “SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE”- Out of the five pictures nominated for best picture I would have to say this is by far the best. After watching it 3 times I can appreciate its brilliance more than I could upon my first viewing. It’s just such a unique idea for a film. An uneducated teenager from the slums of India goes on “Who wants to be a Millionaire” in attempts to be seen by the girl he has loved since childhood. After answering all the questions correctly except for one because they run out of time on the show, he is kidnapped and interrogated by police to find out how he cheated. To prove his innocence he begins telling the tale of his life in the ghetto and the life experiences that gave him the answers to the questions he was asked. This film is both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. It’s directed perfectly by Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see him take home Best Picture and a long overdue best director trophy.

#2 “THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON”- This film was ok. I think its main drawback is that it’s a bit gimmicky for an Oscar winner. It also tries too hard to be emotionally heavy where as the characters don’t convey enough feeling for the audience to really care about them. Nothing happens in this film, it’s a story of love lost in a very untraditional way, but other than that, it’s really just pointless. Brad Pitt does a decent job with a script that was lacking substance. I hope director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en) can get back to doing what he does best, and astound audiences rather than boring them to tears.

#3 “MILK”- Another year for the Oscars and another year to honor anything rainbow colored. It seems the Oscars have an affirmative action rule that must include at least one gay themed film every year, and at least one holocaust film. Well this one is going to be the token Gay Film. It’s the true story of Harvey Milk the first ever openly gay elected official in the history of the United States. I don’t mean to sound bitter because I’m not a homophobe, and this movie actually was pretty good. In fact I usually say that director Gus Van Zant is the most overrated director in Hollywood and this is the only time one of his movies lived up to my expectations. However, I have to give most of that credit to his cast rather than him. Emile Hersch, James Franco, and Josh Brolin provide some of the best supporting work of the year. Top all that off with the enigmatic Sean Penn playing the lead role and you have a recipe for success. It’s about time a movie was made about this guy. He was the Martin Luther King of the gay movement and when he is assassinated because of hatred you really feel for this man who just wanted to love.

#4 “THE READER”- As I said in the previous paragraph, affirmative action for a gay film and a holocaust film. This one is the Holocaust film. Even actress Kate Winslet joked when being interviewed for this film saying “Do a holocaust film, get nominated. It’s as simple as that” Not that she needs any help getting nominated. This fantastic actress is nominated every single year. In this film she is naked for I’d say a good 1/3 of the movie. She is having an affair with a high school boy that has no idea of her former work with the Nazi party. Unlike Ben Button, that felt too gimmicky for an Oscar. This film seems to have been deliberately created to win an Oscar. For that reason it comes off as desperate and pandering. The acting is marginal at best from everyone other than Winslet. Even when it comes to Winslet, she’s good but I’ve seen her much better in films like “Little Children” or “Revolutionary Road”. In my opinion this was the least enjoyable of the 5 nominated films. It’s worth a watch, but I recommend not watching it with parents. I’ve seen softcore porn on “Skinemax” with less full frontal nudity.

#5 “FROST/NIXON”- The Academy loves (director) Ron Howard for some reason. They glorify everything he does no matter how trite and tedious. I enjoyed “Beautiful Mind” but even that was so lacking on the true events that made up John Nash’s life I found it unbearable to watch a second time. I think in Frost/Nixon he was forced to be more factual than other films he has based on true stories because Nixon was such a huge public figure and more than half of the world’s population was alive during these interviews between the two men. This film was somewhat like “Milk” in that the movie itself isn’t astounding, but there are great performances from it’s actors, namely Frank Langella as Nixon, and supporting roles from Kevin Bacon and the always under-appreciated Sam Rockwell. Political junkies will sing the praises of this film, but if you’re not someone that turns on the news as soon as you get home, then you might want to forgo this movie.


#1 “GRAN TORINO”- I cannot believe how badly this movie got snubbed. As far as I know, it didn’t get a single nomination. Not only was it the best picture of the year, Clint Eastwood easily deserved at least a nomination, especially since this might be the last time we see this American Icon on the screen ever again. He plays a Korean War Veteran living in an Asian ghetto in Detroit. He’s as racist as they come and he seems to hate everything from his neighbors to his church, and even his own children. However, upon a chance encounter with the neighborhood whipping boy he becomes a kind of surrogate father and mentor to him and they develop one of the best on-screen friendships I’ve ever seen without having to reach too far into reality to find. Just about everyone I’ve talked to agreed that this film is far superior to anything they had seen from the Academy nominated films above. The Oscars just don’t have much of a sense of dark humor that Eastwood displays so effortlessly on screen.

#2 “IN BRUGES”- This is the one I will call easily the most under-seen, and under appreciated film of the year. Two Hit men played by Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell flee to Bruges (pronounced “Brooje”) after a particularly messy assassination by Farrell. The older of the two played by Gleeson (Mad-Eye Moody, for all you Pott-heads) Plays a gentle fatherly type to the hotheaded and pessimistic Farrell. This was easily the best acting I’ve ever seen by Colin Farrell. Maybe because this role he was finally able to play himself. A womanizing, drunken asshole that pokes fun of midgets right to their faces, he even berates some fat American tourists that are trying to climb the stairs to a tower for no reason other than to be a dick. Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort, for the Pott-Heads again) Is spectacular as the head mob boss. He swears like a sailor and threatens just about everyone he makes eye contact with, with a bullet to the head or a boot up the ass. A plot summary doesn’t do justice to a film such as this. When it’s funny, it’s better than any comedy of the year. When there is gunplay, it’s better than any action film of the year. It’s emotionally deep enough to keep on par with films such as “Gran Torino, Milk, and Revolutionary Road” In fact the more I write about this film, the more I’m realizing it’s the most well-rounded of any film this year.

#3 “REVOLUTIONARY ROAD” – This film had me drooling when I first heard about it. Leonardo Dicaprio (my 2nd favorite actor), Kate Winslet, and Michael Shannon (The most underrated actor in Hollywood) starring in the next Sam Mendes film (American Beauty). Are you serious??!! This was a dream come true. Imagine my shock when critics didn’t quite rave about it. In fact, they all seemed rather lukewarm about the whole package. Some critics that I respect downright hated it. It deterred me somewhat from watching it for a few days but then I just hunkered down and said “I have a job to do and that’s to watch every single movie on this list of the top 150 movies of 2008 so I did.” Not only did I enjoy this film after watching it, I absolutely loved it!! A 20 something couple living as drones during the 1950’s just watching as their lives pass by before their eyes begin getting restless. They grow to hate each other passionately but because of the era, things such as divorce and abortion, simply aren’t feasible. Maybe this film had such a profound affect on me because I know a couple exactly like this. The things they say and do to each other are nearly identical. I also am part of the reason for some of their marital issues so between my own personal guilt and my feelings for them there were at least 4 scenes that had me in tears. A very heavy drama.

#4 “DEFIANCE”- Yeah, I was surprised that it made this list too. Like Winslet says, “Make a holocaust movie, get a nomination”. Unfortunately, “The Reader” had already been given the slot for holocaust film so Defiance ends up being the child left behind. An extremely gritty, film starring Daniel Craig and Liev Scheiber as Jews livng in Poland during WWII. They have been forced from their homes by the Nazis and seen their family members killed by the barrel load. The story centers on 4 surviving brothers fending for themselves. However, day by day more and more survivors flee to the woods were they are hiding out until they form a woodland society of their own. Much internal conflict takes place as the 2 eldest brothers have different views as to their course of action. Daniel Craig wants to stay low key and keep people alive until the war ends, whereas Live Scheiber wants the group to join a Russian battalion fighting the nazi’s in the same forrest they are hiding in. Bonds of family are tested remarkably effectively. The suffrage faced by the survivors in extreme cold and hunger with no medicine and no reinforcements makes this true tale even more remarkable in retrospect.

#5 “SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE- What can I say, that I didn’t say in the top paragraph. This movie is a great achievement in directing, storytelling, acting, and it’s emotionally charged by one of the best movie romances of the past decade. Jamal and Latika are the new Kate and Leo, especially after seeing what happened to Kate and Leo’s post “Titanic” lives in “Revolutionary Road” Haha.

So that would be my list for best picture if I were on the academy board. Rounding out my top 10 would be.

#6 “Doubt”- Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep? Awesome!! And an unlikely Amy Adams stealing the show? The actors make this story work about a Priest suspected of molestation by a domineering head nun.

#7 Body of Lies- What can I say about this Ridley Scott epic? Leonardo Dicaprio once again dominates the screen, this time as an agent working undercover in Saudi Arabia. Russell Crowe is the mastermind calling the shots from the safety of his own home back in America and playing his own agents against enemies, allies and sometimes each other. The action isn’t over-the-top. It feels real not forced. The dialogue is amazing which isn’t surprising considering who the two lead actors are. Filmmakers will continue to take shots at the American government for unjust wars, manipulation of the public, and inside scandals. Usually those films come off as whiny overly liberal BS, but this one actually gets the message across without trying too hard.

#8 “The Wrestler”- Finally Director Darren Aronofsky has given audiences something watch able again. This is easily his best film since the 2000 masterpiece “Requiem for a Dream” that was robbed at the Oscars by the godawful and predictable Russell Crowe cockfest “Gladiator”. Mickey Rourke deserves to win the Oscar for his portrayal of fictional over the hill pro wrestler Randy “The Ram” Robinson. It’s heartbreaking, redeeming, and feels so real it could pass as a documentary.

#9 Forgetting Sarah Marshall- Yeah I’m not usually huge into comedies but this one was hilarious. I could watch it everyday.

#10 “Ironman”- My stigma that I attach to superhero movies all being terrible was shattered this year. Between this film and Dark Knight I was forced to eat my words. I think the reason I enjoyed this film so such was Robert Downey Jr. as a loveable Tony Stark. Spiderman is lame as Peter Parker, Superman is lame as Clark Kent, Batman is an absolute tool as Bruce Wayne. All of the X-Men and Fantastic Four crew can rot in hell as far as I’m concerned. The thing about Ironman, he’s the only character more entertaining in his day-to-day life than he is saving the world. His sarcasm and playboy demeanor is something that all superheroes could learn from. Kudos to John Favraeu for finally giving me a superhero movie that wasn’t going straight into my trash can after watching it.

Honorable mentions to “Changeling”, “Wall-E”, and “The Dark Knight”


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