Oscar Reactions

“Cinema is far too rich and capable a medium to be merely left to the storytellers.”
―Peter Greenaway

So the Oscars came and went last night and for the most part I was really bummed out.  I did horribly on my picks so hopefully none of you went off my ballot…(I think I got 9 right). I know it is the Oscars and they usually screw it up.  It is just a stupid awards show but at the same time it feels good as a film lover when films you love get recognized.

Highs-

There were some highs of the extremely long telecast (honestly next time make it an hour and get this done more quickly!).

1. Lady Gaga singing Sound of Music and Julie Andrews coming in was the highlight of the night.  I didn’t realize it was the 50th anniversary of Sound and have now ordered the 50th anniversary bluray which comes out next month.  Sound of Music is my favorite musical and I was shocked to hear Gaga have such classical pipes.  Who knew?

2. All the musical numbers were ok and at least brought some energy to the show.  I particularly liked Everything is Awesome from Lego!

3. John Legend and Common were very good singing Glory from Selma but I thought it was strange they used their real names for the award.  They don’t do that for the Grammy’s or any other award or any other part of their music? Kind of odd.

4. I was happy with all the acting winners even though I haven’t seen Still Alice (I can only handle so many depressing movies at once guys!).  They all are deserving winners.  I was especially happy for Patricia Arquette as she will go down as my favorite Mother in the movies ever.

gal_oscar_winners-620x4145. I was also happy to see Grand Budapest Hotel win so much but it should have won best original screenplay.  Birdman’s script was nothing special.  I also didn’t think Imitation Game was the best adapted screenplay of the year but the winners speech was great. I think Wes Anderson deserved it for GBH’s script.

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6. We all knew Kaguya and Song of the Sea weren’t going to win and if Lego wasn’t going to be included than I am thrilled Big Hero 6 won.  I like How to Train Your Dragon 2.  I gave it an A. However, I think out of the 3 mainstream Big Hero 6 had more heart. I connected more with it emotionally and it is more creative with its cityscape and characters.  The fact is I’ve seen movies that look and feel like Dragon and Boxtrolls.  They are both great but I’m super happy Big Hero 6 won.

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Lows- oh boy there were a lot.

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1. Neal Patrick Harris can be so great.  I’m a huge fan of him on How I Met Your Mother and he’s great hosting the Tony Awards. But I think he may have gotten the HIMYM finale writers to write the jokes for the Oscars because they all fell just as flat.  Not one joke worked. In fact, most were really awkward like when he bothered seat fillers or appeared on stage in his underwear. Also the belabored unfunny bit with the predictions box was terrible.

Here’s what you do Oscars- have a 1 hour show where you give the awards for acting, best picture, animation, music, costumes, effects and screenplay.  Have a couple montages a combined number that showcases every song and your done. 3 and 1/2 hours was brutal.

sq_birdman2.  I sincerely don’t understand the Birdman love.  It is a well made movie and Keaton is good but for it to win director, script and picture is baffling to me.  I don’t get how nobody else seems to see how misogynistic and predictable it is?  Characters like the critic are so poorly written and completely unbelievable.  Honestly out of the 8 nominees it would have been my 7 out of 8.  People said Boyhood was overrated but I think Birdman is very overrated.

I guess it makes sense for Hollywood to love a movie about how hard it is to be in Hollywood, how tortured and difficult it is to be a star but why the rest of American moviegoers championed it is a mystery to me…Boo!

Caesar (played in a performance-capture suit by Andy Serkis) is the leader of the ape nation in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”  Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox3. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes got the shut out last night which was easy to do because it was only nominated once for visual effects.  I loved Interstellar.  It’s one of the best sci-fi movies I’ve ever seen.  But come on, as great as Interstellar looked we’ve seen visuals like that before.  Just last year we had even better space visuals in Gravity.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes created whole characters that were not there and made them come alive.  They were flawless visual effects. Andy Serkis should have been nominated and I thought Gary Oldman was terrific in that movie (I will never forget the scene where he finally loads the battery in the ipad and can see photos of his dead family. So powerful).  Sigh…

4. Citzenfour wins- It disgusts me anyone would award a film even mildly praising Edward Snowden (and then she did in her speech too).  He has hurt our national security and put people’s lives at risk. America is a weaker less secure place because he thinks he knows what is best and he twists his recklessness and ego into supposed honesty.

I rarely agree with President Obama but even he said about Snowden:

“If any individual who objects to government policy can take it in their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy.”

Boyhood-poster-quad4. The Boyhood snubs really bummed me out.  And it’s not just because it took 12 years to make.  It is a movie about LIFE and all the small things that make up a person.  It’s about the journey of adolescence and how you  become who you are.  I honestly think we will look back and wonder what the heck were they thinking?  Kind of like when Saving Private Ryan lost or the way we see American Beauty as a bunch of pretentious nonsense now.  I think Birdman will not hold up like Boyhood will.

I can see film students for years studying Boyhood and the small moments of authentic conversation.  Scenes like when Mason is in the photography lab with his teacher.  That is so authentic to life. I think if we all could be a fly on the wall we would realize how many small voices are championing us along the way. Again I quote…

“Cinema is far too rich and capable a medium to be merely left to the storytellers.”
―Peter Greenaway

It makes me sad so many people missed what was special about Boyhood.  Why does every movie have to be the same? Not every book tells a story.  Some are random, some teach us, others are poetry and others are art. I think movies should be granted the same license to take on differing forms and purposes.

People look at every movie as having to entertain you when it doesn’t need too.  People make the same criticism of Fantasia.  That it is boring and has no story.  Ridiculous.  Fantasia is trying to inspire you with art and music.  It’s not trying to tell you a story but give you something beautiful to contemplate. Boyhood is trying to get you to think about your life and that has value.

I just think people need to go into different movies with different glasses.  I don’t watch Schindler’s List and Star Wars with the same mindset, looking for the same things.  I don’t watch Tree of Life and Monty Python with the same perspective.

If you only like movies for entertainment sake than you miss out on so much.  It makes me sad.

I found myself thinking yesterday of the amazing documentary Hoop Dreams.  This follows 2 inner city boys for 5 years as they dream of basketball stardom.  It is a movie about LIFE and how our dreams can both haunt and inspire us.  Movies like Hoop Dreams and Boyhood have high value but they require some effort on our part.

Most of the sublime movie going experiences of my life require effort.  Last night the academy had a chance to recognize a film that took on life but required some effort on the part of the moviegoer and went instead for the story of how hard it is to be a star…It makes no sense to me.

I guess it’s appropriate because in 1994 Hoop Dreams wasn’t even nominated for Best Documentary.  It’s so silly.

I think Roger Ebert’s thoughts on Hoop Dreams apply to Boyhood:

“A film like “Hoop Dreams” is what the movies are for. It takes us, shakes us, and make us think in new ways about the world around us. It gives us the impression of having touched life itself…

Many filmgoers are reluctant to see documentaries, for reasons I’ve never understood; the good ones are frequently more absorbing and entertaining than fiction. “Hoop Dreams,” however, is not only a documentary. It is also poetry and prose, muckraking and expose, journalism and polemic. It is one of the great moviegoing experiences of my lifetime

I’d say the same thing about Boyhood and just like Hoop Dreams holds up 31 years later because it is about life and human experience so will Boyhood because even if the trappings change, growing up is never really that different.

I wish I could talk to Richard Linklater and tell him how much his movies have ment to me. If you are out there Richard thank you!  My life is better from watching your movies. How many people can say that about watching Birdman?…

I guess at the very least the Oscars got me to see a lot of movies I probably would not have otherwise seen, so there’s that. Thanks for the great year of films 2014 (Btw I am going to post an updated best and worst list now that I have seen more of the 2014 movies) .

What did you guys think of the Oscars?

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Henry And Me Review

henry and meDo you like baseball?  More to the point- do you like the Yankees?  If the answer is no than Henry and Me may not be the film for you.  I wouldn’t say I’m a baseball fan but I don’t mind it on occasion and I appreciate baseball’s place in movie history.  I’d say of all the supports baseball has produced the best movies although Hoosiers and Hoop Dreams are tough to beat.

Baseball has such a nostalgia and history attached to it that it produces a wide spectrum of movies- everything from comedies like A League of Their Own and Major League to tender sentimental gems like Field of Dreams and Pride of the Yankees. Recently baseball has taken a big hit and lost some of its luster with steroid scandals and star players getting suspended but the history and connection to great American cities is perfect for storytelling.

The animated film Henry and Me taps into that nostalgia big time and produces a pretty sweet, sappy but pleasant movie.  Red Sox fans will hate it but I found it very appealing.  It is about a boy named Jack who is fighting cancer (another pretty sad animated movie for 2014).   He has started to get discouraged as he is sent to another surgery with IVs and surgeons all around him.

henry and me4Jack is a die hard Yankees fan and we see brief glimpses of his room covered in Yankee memorabilia   A nurse played by Cyndi Lauper gives Jack some medicine to knock him out and tells him he will have ‘great dreams’.

Next we see a man named Henry voiced by Richard Gere who has a magic Yankees pin that takes Jack on a train where at first he refuses to engage fearing he is not well enough.

henry and me 6Henry finally convinces Jack to believe in himself and the train stops in old Yankee stadium surrounded by corn.  Here Jack meets a young Babe Ruth who gives him some advice for facing trials.

henry and me7Then we get to a different version of Yankee park and Jack is put as pitcher for Mickey Mantle.  He must strike him out but he doesn’t believe he can do it.

henry and me5Then the story continues as Jack battles with the cancer and meets George Steinbrenner (voiced by his son Hank), Lefty Gomez (Luis Guzman) and Thurman Munson (Paul Simon).

henry and me 3Then there are a slew of former and currently living Yankees that do their own voice work including Reggie Jackson, Nick Swisher, Yogi Bearra, Hideki Matsui, Michael Kay and Joe Girardi to name a few (evidently they are now selling the film at Yankee’s concessions and I totally see why).  It was neat to see all these great ballplayers in animation and doing their own vocals!   And of course there is more to Henry than Jack first realizes.

It’s a short movie at only 68 minutes and it is pretty simple.  Just a kid who gets a chance to meet the Yankees and be inspired by those interactions. It’s corny and sentimental but I liked it.  The main point is to give hope to a kid with cancer and I teared up on a number of ocasions.

The hand drawn animation looks great.  I wasn’t as thrilled with the CG backgrounds which looked odd with the hand drawn pasted over it but I’ve definitely seen worse in 2014. I liked the Cyndi Lauper music as it seemed to fit the overall tone quite well.  Here’s one segment that is pretty emotional.

It is a bit of a downer for long sections with one segment actually sending Jack to Heaven to look around and see what it is like. He also gets frustrated and angry at his treatment which is understandable but tough to watch at the same time.

What can I say?  I enjoyed it. It’s kind of like Fox and the Hound but with baseball instead of pets.  Not a masterpiece but sweet and simple and easy to enjoy. henry and me 2If you like baseball and especially if you like the Yankees than it is the film for you.

Henry and Me would make a nice Sunday movie when you are looking for a very clean film with a nice inspirational message.  Like I said they even go to Heaven in it (but it is not a Christian film- more of a baseball heaven (phrase I never thought I would write)).

If any of you get a chance to see it let me know what you think.

Overall Grade- C+

Now I have seen all but 2 of the animation films submitted to the Academy for consideration.  The other 2, Cheatin and Giovanni’s Island are proving a challenge to find but doing my best.  Cheatin doesn’t get into American theaters until April so I may go-ahead and do my overview of the year in animation before seeing it. If there is anything I am missing let me know and if there is an animated television show you would like me to review put it in the comments.  I’ve heard great things about Gravity Falls and Over the Garden Wall but not sure where and how to watch them.  Let me know!