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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Bonus Holiday Review: It’s a Wonderful Life

wonderful life title cardWell, I didn’t want to leave off Christmas with a grumpy post and AMC really ticked me off this morning with their colorized Miracle on 34th Street.   Thankfully I was able to have a positive experience at the movies today (and it was definitely NOT COLORIZED!!!).  Cinemark has what they call Cinemark Classics and 3-4 times a month they air a classic movie usually for just a day or two on one of their screens.

This year I was able to see Ghostbusters in September which was a delight and today I saw the classic It’s a Wonderful Life.

Check out the website for all their listings and participating theaters.

http://www.cinemark.com/cinemark-classic-series

It was such a neat experience to see one of my favorite movies on the big screen and I found it more emotional in the theater.  I’m not sure why.  Perhaps because I was completely focused on the movie with no electronic or otherwise distractions.

I think most people know the story of It’s a Wonderful Life so I won’t go deep into it. Basically it’s a about a man played brilliantly by Jimmy Stewart who has never gotten to choose his life (or so he feels).  Life presented him with the right and wrong thing to do and no third choice, so he is left to dream about adventures and freedom.

wonderful lifeThis picture was actually taken at the theater (don’t worry I was very sneaky and had the light on my phone completely off).  George has seemingly always make sacrifices others did not have to make and we get to see his entire life story as told to his guardian angel Clarence played wonderfully by Clarence Odbody.

In his life he is constantly saving people.  He saves his brother from drowning as a boy and he sacrifices hearing in one ear.  In an especially touching moment he saves his employer Mr Gower from accidentally poisoning a patient when he is grieving over news.  Mr Gower slaps him hard and the child actor is very good in the scene, really showing the pain in his ear and the love he feels for this man.

mr gowerGeorge gives up his trip to Europe when his Dad dies.  He gives up college to keep the villain and town Scrooge Mr Potter from taking over the Savings and Loan operated by his benevolent father.  He gives up leaving again to get married and then he gives up his honeymoon to save the Savings and Loan from the run on the bank.

potterLionel Barrymore is excellent as Mr Potter who actually gives reasons for his unfeeling ways.  Reasons you might hear in politics and business today but on a small town level George knows people need a home and a chance and he sacrifices again to give that to others.

But once we get caught up to the date middle aged George’s stupid uncle has lost the deposit all $8000 of it.  This means bankruptcy and possible warrants for embezzlement. It’s all too much for George and he has a breakdown and wonders if he is ‘more valuable dead than alive’.

video-undefined-1A466D7F00000578-219_636x358Stewart is completely convincing as he unravels and reaches that point of no return.  As someone who has had a nervous breakdown (but not suicidal) it feels totally authentic.  The sense of panic and fear in his voice I totally buy.

Just then Clarence comes and decides to teach George what life would be like if he had never been born.

clarenceIt is true that the alternate reality of life without George is pretty stark but it is a fable and I can grant it some dramatic license. (I have pretty healthy self esteem but I don’t think if I hadn’t been born that my hometown would be a den of sin and debauchery…ha).

pottersville2pottersville_470The filming of director Frank Capra and cinematographer Joseph Walker does not get enough credit. The starkness and grittiness of Pottersville verses the light and warmth of Bedford Falls is gorgeous.

Stewart is so good in the many roles he is required to play. In one movie he is young, a dreamer, tough, panicky, frustrated, angry, desperate, drunk, joyous, an engaging father, annoyed, in love and everything else.  And he is equally convincing in every scene.

Its-A-Wonderful-LifeHim and Donna Reed have wonderful chemistry and the dialogue between them is as good as any romantic comedy at first and then confrontational while deeply caring later.  It feels like a real couple.

bedford fallsIt’s just such a joyous picture.  It reminds all of us that we are not alone and that more people love us than we realize.  It can be easy to feel alone in this world but I think if we all got a picture we’d be surprised how many people are praying and worried about us.  And if we are alone we may be Ebeneezer Scrooge’s and not letting them in (It’s a Wonderful Life is kind of the flip side of Christmas Carol when you think about it).

It’s easy to feel cynical about movies like It’s a Wonderful Life.  Modern life can seem so much more complicated with texting, facebook  e-dating and all kinds of impersonal relationships. But this year I saw Boyhood and found myself thinking about It’s a Wonderful Life while watching that movie.

patricia arquette What moved me most in Boyhood is kind of the same thing that moved me in It’s a Wonderful Life.  Like George Bailey, the mother character Olivia played by Patricia Arquette, never really has a moment to commit to her life.  The Ethan Hawke character gets a chance to go to Alaska and decide to be a father and to live a particular kind of life.  Olivia has 2 kids and just has to live and like George she isn’t given a lot of choices, and sometimes the ‘lesser evil’ proves to be a nightmare.  At the end her son is moving away to college and she starts to cry and says ‘my life is over’.  It feels like a similar moment to George Bailey realizing all the sacrificing has been for what to be left alone.

But there is redemption, maybe not as dramatic as in Wonderful Life but she has lived a good life.  She has raised two great kids and done the best she could and realizes she has friends, if only in her children.    I was really moved today when I saw the note from Clarence to George.

failureI think that is the message from Boyhood and It’s a Wonderful Life- no man is a failure who has friends and has loved people as best as he or she can. I know that sounds cheesy but it’s true.

At Christmas those who believe in Christ’s sacrifice and life recite the scripture ‘greater love hath no man than this that he lay down His life for His friends’.  That is the message of It’s a Wonderful Life, of Boyhood and of Christmas.  Life is precious because of who we can love.

I know it is just a blog and I know it is just movies but I hope you have sensed my love for stories and life.  Roger Ebert said it best:

“We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are: where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.”

So in that spirit Merry Christmas friends and fellow-journeymen in life and a Happy New Year.   It is a wonderful life.