Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sex, Drugs, and Sorry I'm Bored

Grade: C

When it comes to movies about music, there are some that really nail it, like Almost Famous, and there's those that just don't. Put The Runaways in the latter category. If the sole purpose of the movie was to help Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning break away from their Twilight images while providing some nostalgia for people alive in the 1970s, then I suppose it accomplished that. But it doesn't do anything more.

The Runaways was a band of teenage girls in the 1970s that seems to mostly be remembered for launching Joan Jett, here played by Kristen Stewart. Yet The Runaways is based on a book by Runaways singer Cherie Currie, played here by Dakota Fanning, which means this is no duel biopic - it's the Dakota Fanning show from start to end. Which is a shame, since Stewart gives the far more dynamic performance. Fanning may not make you think of her childhood roles, but with her pale skin and soft voice, she comes off here like a bland version of Gossip Girl's Jenny Humphrey. She may be growing up, but she just doesn't have the star power to carry a movie yet.

Not all of that is Fanning's fault though. The movie in no way takes the character approach, only shallowly exploring any of the central figures. Two of the band members are basically extras. The drummer seems appealing in her early scenes, but all but disappears once the band takes off. Even Stewart is really only allowed to play guitar, wear leather jackets, and make out with girls every now and then. Stewart gives a believable impression, but the script doesn't give her the opportunity to go any deeper.

Ok, so the movie's not going to give us insights into the girls in the band or try to get us to know them. At least those of us who had never heard of the Runaways can get the cliff notes history, right? Well, the movie fails as a conventional biopic as well. It's never clear at any given point how successful the band is supposed to be. In one scene, they're playing a high school kegger. In the next, they're being swarmed by fans. When did the fans get the chance to hear of them? As for the "fall" section of the typical "rise and fall" arc, it occurs solely in one scene, and it doesn't make a strong impression.

So the movie isn't about character, and it isn't about telling the history of the Runaways. What does it want to do? Sex, drugs, and rock and roll. That's right, this is one of those movies that thinks showing teenage girls hooking up and snorting cocaine will so thoroughly shock and titillate us that those scenes alone will make the movie. No context or significance to the story needed, it's just there for shock value. Thing is, it doesn't. Compared to what we see on MTV any given hour today, these girls seem tame in comparison. And there's been so many other, better movies about the 1970s that it's hardly a revelation that this was going on. All the sex and drugs just becomes monotonous and adds to the overall boredom.

All that said, the music does, well, rock. All of the performances have an energy completely lacking in any of the non-musical scenes, and just try to get "Cherry Bomb" out of your head afterwards (kind of embarrassing to be sitting at your desk inadvertently going "ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-CHERRY bomb, but so be it). The movie ends on a high note by playing out the Freaks and Geeks theme song over the credits, further proof a Joan Jett movie would have been more worthwhile. And Michael Shannon gives a terrific performance as the band's sketchy manager/producer/writer. He hams it up and showboats to the max, but he's got so much charisma and energy that the movie comes to life whenever he's onscreen.

With musical biopics becoming so ubiquitous, there's no excuse for making a movie about Joan Jett that's this limp and dull. If you're in the mood for some rock, save yourself the money and go see Almost Famous again instead. In fact, I should probably go do that too so I remember what a great music movie looks like.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Trials of Ricardo Alpert

Tonight's crazy good Richard Alpert-centric Lost actually reminded me of something that first appealed to me about Lost. Back in the early days of season 1 flashbacks, I remember thinking how Lost was a completely different show depending on whose episode it was. On a Kate week, the flashbacks could feel like a Hitchcockian thriller. For Jack a family melodrama. And not to mention full stories in Korean, Arabic, etc.

So I thought about that when we were first sent back to 19th century Canary Islands, a location and story that seemed more like it was out of a 19th century novel than the Lost we know. As Ricardo begged for medicine for his wife and later sat in a prison cell awaiting his execution, it almost felt like something out of Les Miserables or The Count of Monte Cristo. There's not many shows that can get away with doing episodes this radically different.

But things got a bit more familiar once Richard landed on the island (somehow destroying the statue with the strongest boat known to man) and the familiar squeals of the Smoke Monster chimed in. After a rather lengthy time trapped in his chains, Richard escaped to find himself trapped again in that chess game between Jacob and the Man in Black that has become the show. Having previously only seen him in that one pivotal scene from last year's finale, we got a lot more actual Man in Black this week, feeding in to Richard's explanation for the island in order to get him to do his bidding. And interesting that he used the same words to Richard that Dogen used to Sayid when he sent him to kill Man in Locke.

Speaking of Richard's explanation for the island, I'm sure plenty of people worried the island really would turn out to be Hell. After all, the producers have publicly denied that the island is Purgatory, but they never said anything about Hell, and have been known to use such tricky wordplay in the past. But since we've seen people come back and forth and dead people already walk around the island as ghosts, it didn't seem too likely.

Instead, Jacob and MIB just kept calling each other the devil to get Richard on their side. And in doing so, we learned a WHOLE lot more about what their game entails. According to Jacob, he believes people are inherently good, and MIB believes they are corruptible. Jacob brings people to the island to prove his point, while MIB forcibly tries to make his. Since Jacob doesn't like interfering on free will, he hires Richard to do his bidding, giving him immortality cause it was Richard's third choice behind getting back Isabella and being forgiven for his earlier murder. If that seemed a slightly convenient and unlikely explanation for a three season long mystery, it was one of the rare rushed moments in an otherwise well-paced story.

Speaking of Isabella, this episode also has something in common with the second season finale, in which we first met Penny Widmore and learned of her troubled romance with Desmond, and by the end of a single episode declared them one of the best romances on the show. Similarly, a single episode here was enough to make Richard and Isabella such a compelling couple that the final scene with Hurley really made up the emotional center of the episode. Regardless of whether you felt the "big answers" promised in this episode delivered (which probably depends on how much you care about Jacob and MIB's feud), it thoroughly succeeded in telling an individual character story that you cared about, no matter how minor a character Richard may have seemed before this week. Makes you wish there was time for a whole Lapidus backstory too.

Tonight's episode at times felt more like a self-contained movie than an episode of a weekly TV show, but it certainly accomplished a lot. We learned pretty much everything we need to know about Richard, making him a far more layered and sympathetic character than we ever thought. We know even more what the stakes of this season are (namely, Locke escaping = hell on earth). And we got solid proof that Jacob absolutely could have beat the crap out of Ben had he desired. Not such a calm, peaceful island god after all.

We're now halfway through the final season. Things are only going to get crazier from here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

March Madness: Entertainment Style

Do you enjoy the bracket-style competition of March Madness but could care less about college basketball? Then you're like me, and it turns out plenty of other creative thinkers who have come up with other more interesting uses of the bracket formula. A couple years ago someone came up Lost Madness, a tournament to pick your favorite Lost character (spoiler alert: Desmond won). And of course we all remember the classic How I Met Your Mother episode in which they used March Madness to figure out which of Barney's exes had been messing with his pick-ups.

So what do we have this year? Well, I've scoured the web and found four different games all transposing the March Madness brackets into an entertainment context. They are:

In this game, Hulu users pick their favorite TV shows in one-on-one matches. It began by separating categories (comedy, workplace comedy, detective drama, medical drama, etc.), and it's already on to Round 3. What have I learned from this game? That Hulu users have TERRIBLE taste. I mean seriously, Community has somehow managed to beat both Modern Family AND Glee. How does this make any sense? Almost as bad: Parks and Recreation beat The Office and 30 Rock. The only show I watch that's still in the running is Lost, and if that somehow loses to Parenthood then I give up.

It's pretty much what it sounds like - Esquire matches up women from music & fashion, television, sports, and movies, and you pick which one is hotter. They're taking a full 3 weeks for each round, and with good reason: there are some toughies. Rachel McAdams vs. Anne Hathaway? Freida Pinto vs. Zoe Saldana? Kristen Bell vs. Marion Cotillard? Megan Fox vs. Helen Mirren? Ok, maybe not that last one. Best one they came up with: Heidi Montag at 19 vs. Heidi Montag at 23. Too bad you can't put none of the above.

For the more literary among you, here's a site that every day gets someone to read two books from the past year and declare definitively which is better. So far the more well-known titles have generally won out (The Help, Wolf Hall, Let the Great World Spin), with a few surprises (poetry book The Anthologist beat well-loved short story collection Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned). Bottom line: nobody reading this blog has heard of any of these books, and I only know most of them from literary awards. No room on there for John Irving and Jonathan Tropper, really?

Finally, the New York Times linked me to this sci-fi website's tournament in which they put classic characters from fantasy and sci-fi into cage matches with each other and declare who would be the victor. The site must be pretty hardcore nerd though, since just about anyone you've ever heard of got beat by somebody out of a Dungeons and Dragons game in round 1. Though still in the running: Aragorn and Gandalf from LOTR, Aslan from Narnia, and Dumbledore from Harry Potter. Better luck next year, Ender Wiggin and Arthur Dent.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

If You Wish Modern Family Replaced Laughter with Tears...

....then you'll love NBC's new drama Parenthood! At least that's my impression after catching up on the pilot last weekend. It's aired two episodes since then, and I hear they're a definite improvement. But after such a downbeat and unpleasant pilot, I see no need to give it a second chance.

As you may remember if you watched any given 30 seconds of the Olympics, NBC has made quite a big deal promoting Parenthood as their next (ok, only) big thing. You may also remember the promos emphasizing the "comedy" part of the "comedy/drama" label they're trying to put on the show. But if there was any "comedy" in the pilot, it came only in the form of lame Grey's Anatomy-style banter that just came off as forced as unfunny. No, this one's a drama with a capital D and that rhymes with C and that stands for Crying.

Parenthood is a "family drama" in the tradition of shows like Six Feet Under and ABC's very similar-sounding Brothers and Sisters, but Parenthood ups the ante with a family so big I spent most of the pilot just trying to figure out who everyone is. I mean, there's FOUR central siblings, but one of them wasn't given any major plots so how was I supposed to know she wasn't just a guest star? When you add in spouses and kids, plus two parents, you can see why the list of regular cast members ran longer than on any HBO show. That's a lot to introduce in one hour.

So who do we have? Well, the show centers around four siblings. There's Adam (Peter Krause), an all-around good guy who's struggling with the realization that his son has Asperger's. His sister Sarah (Lauren Graham) is a single mom who's moved back in with their parents to get her life back in order. Dax Shepard plays the family black sheep, and continues to remind us why Kristen Bell is too good for him (in real life). Erika Christensen had a glorified cameo, so it's hard for me to say what her story is. And the parents didn't do too much either.

As you might guess, the Asperger's storyline gets a lot of the "very special" moments. I'm talking multiple scenes with "touching, heartfelt" music while people cry onscreen. Though Sarah's the angstier one, yelling and crying far more than any other character. At a certain point, I started to feel like the pilot just crammed five after school specials together into one hour.

Despite all of that, I might be tempted to tune in again if I connected more with the characters. The cast is certainly impressive, with Krause already having successfully fronted Six Feet Under and Sports Night, Graham had Gilmore Girls, and while I know he's done bigger things, I still give Craig T. Nelson highest credit for The Incredibles. But while Krause is likable and charismatic enough to get me to buy all the emotion in his story, I can't say I cared much for anyone else. Graham may have charmed as Lorelai, but as Sarah she's so far coming across as shrill and annoying. Mae Whitman plays the annoying teenager a bit too well. And Dax Shepard is still Dax Shepard.

At the end of the day, there are already better shows doing what Parenthood is trying for. If I want to watch interconnected families, you better believe I'm picking the hilarious Modern Family over this piece of depression. And if I want something heartwarming and cheesy, at least Life Unexpected is fun and filled with much more likable characters. So nice try NBC, maybe next time it will work out. And if Parenthood ends up proving me wrong somewhere down the line, let me know and I might give it another shot.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Final Cut

I may have given up on Nip/Tuck last fall (which was still at least 2 seasons too late), but I still wanted to see how it would end (even if it took me a week to get to it). It's only every so often a show gets a chance to air an actual series finale, and I'm always fascinated to see how it will play. Will it satisfy, like Battlestar Galactica and Scrubs did last year? Or will it be totally lame like Alias?

Turns out the answer was the least thing I'd suspect from a show that began by feeding a dead gangster's body to crocodiles: boring. Nip/Tuck has always prided itself on being absolutely outrageous, trying so hard to shock that it couldn't really do anything else. Yet for its finale, the big episode to end everything, there was probably less going on than any given episode from its entire run. Nip/Tuck would have never ended a season like this, but somehow did for the series.

So what happened? Well, if you're like me, you probably need the "previously on." Had to watch a couple times, but the highlights seem to be Julia's moving to England, Liz is having a baby using Sean's sperm (and is somehow friends with Christian again even though they were going through a bitter divorce last time I watched), and Matt tricked someone into marrying him only to leave her at the altar for Ava, the tranny from season 2. Got it? Didn't think so.

Aside from a traditional patient-of-the-week story about an old Japanese porn star that didn't in any way scream series finale, the main plot here is, of course, the bromance between Sean and Christian. With Julia leaving and taking the kids, Sean's free to do whatever he wants. But dead Kimber says Christian is a negative force on him and needs to let him free. So the episode mostly consists of a series of downbeat goodbyes. Liz leaves Sean so the baby won't know him. Julia leaves for England. Matt lies about reconciling with his ex so he can leave with Ava. And Christian convinces Sean to leave plastic surgery and the country with some baby Ava left behind because...well, I missed that part.

And throughout the cheese factor was cranked to the max. From a very serious talk about the morality of plastic surgeons (to remind us we were indeed watching the end) to the final line, Christian telling a woman at an airport bar, "I'm a plastic surgeon," everything was super dramatic and hyper emotional. In a show where the characters hadn't gone off the rails years ago, sad goodbyes could have been emotional and heartwarming. But emotional and heartwarming aren't what Nip/Tuck does well. Nip/Tuck was, at its best, a crazy soap that was outrageous but fun. Its end was just blah. At least it's over.

On a completely different note, I also just caught up on last night's Lost, which was something I wouldn't have expected to see a few seasons ago: a heart-warming Ben episode. I've heard complaints about this season that it's too much leading up to answers or just not enough answers, but as long as they keep delivering episodes like this one I have no complaints. I don't know what the sideways stories mean, but the past few weeks they've been every bit as resonant as the original season 1 flashbacks.

Off-island, Ben's a European history teacher who eats lunch with Dr. Arzt and tutors his prize pupil Alex. When Locke takes a move from the being inhabiting his body on-island and convinces Ben to claim power, he makes a grab for the principality (yes, I'm calling it that). But power comes with a cost: the principal will torch Alex's chances at Yale if Ben goes through with his plan. So what does he pick, power or Alex?

On-island, Miles exposed that Ben killed Jacob, and now bodyguard and maybe adoptive daughter Ilana wants vengeance. Locke Monster still wants Ben on his team, so he offers him an escape. But Ben just wants to explain himself, in a speech so moving you completely forget he's the guy who pretended to kill a bunny in front of Sawyer. Aww. And off-island he picked Alex, giving up his plans for power for a glowing recommendation and the return of his history club. Double aww. On any other show the villain going cuddly would be a cop-out. Maybe it still is, but at least it's a very satisfying cop-out.

As for the bigger stuff, once again we've moved a little bit further to that war that's brewing. All of Team Jacob has rallied together, and Widmore's back to make some mischief. I was minorly worried he might sit this season out, making his significance the past few seasons kind of irrelevant, but of course the writers are ahead of me. We know he helped Locke in his efforts to bring everyone back to the island, but does that make him Team Jacob or Team Man in Black? Can't really see him siding with Ben. And where's Desmond?

We also got further confirmation that Richard Alpert did indeed come over on the Black Rock, as well as an interesting continuation of a previous plot point. Richard can't kill himself, the same way that Michael couldn't kill himself when off the island. Should we assume Michael was touched by Jacob as well, even if he didn't appear in the flashbacks from last year's finale? His name must have been somewhere on that wheel, right? And if Jack's "Man of Faith" stuff got a little annoying last year, it was a lot cooler when he was making his bet with a stick of dynamite.

So to me, this season of Lost just keeps getting better and better. From the Locke ep to the Jack ep to Sayid to Ben, we've had a steady string of great episodes, all of which moved the pieces a few steps forward to their endgame. Clearly most of the action is coming later this season, but I'm not worried about guessing how it will go down. I'm just along for the ride, and Lost is still the best one in town.

Monday, March 8, 2010

No Alarms and No Surrpises

The biggest mystery for me coming out of this year's Oscar ceremony was this: how did it still go past midnight? After all, it seemed like they cut every extraneous element to the show. No best original song performances. Only three montages. And far less awkward presenter banter (although the Cameron Diaz/Steve Carell bit had enough unfortunateness to make up for the next 3 hours combined). So seriously, with such a focus on just getting the awards done, how did the show still end the same time?

Yes, despite all the promises from the new producers that they would spice things up and deliver an Oscar show unlike anything we'd ever seen, this year mostly felt like an effort to get us in and out as quickly as possible. The awards went by fast and furious, and little was done to add any extra oomph. Sure, the Neil Patrick Harris opener went a long way, but this was his fourth awards show in the past year. His presence is kind of expected now. So while he was of course great, I assumed there would be more innovation to follow.

As far as Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as duel hosts go, I'd give them a B. They, like Neil Patrick Harris, have the uncanny ability to spout out somewhat lame material and still make it funny based solely on their delivery. There was an almost effortless quality to their hosting, knowing they could coast on their personalities alone to still make things enjoyable. So while that was the case, they didn't do much more. With Neil Patrick Harris essentially doing the "monologue" section for them, they just had to step in and say a few words every now and then. Seemed like a pretty hands-off hosting affair. So while they certainly did their job, this was no Hugh Jackman situation where anyone would accuse them of revolutionizing the show.

As for the awards themselves, well, I predicted 16/24. I know that doesn't sound all that great, but I'm REALLY bad at predicting. And of the 8 I missed, most of them were my 2nd choices. If you poll the broader Oscar watching community, I doubt anyone would say there were any real surprises. Probably my biggest surprise came when Precious stole Up in the Air's best adapted screenplay award, but that "surprise" was more about the fact that Up in the Air really deserved it more. I also went against the consensus in predicting Inglourious Basterds for original screenplay over the expected Hurt Locker, proving consensus generally ruled out.

So what are the takeaways here? The Hurt Locker gets to go down in history as the best picture winner of 2009, and I'm totally fine with that. A lot of deserving frontrunners won their expected awards, like Kathryn Bigelow making history as the first woman to win best director, Jeff Bridges taking a lifetime achievement-ish award for his great performance in Crazy Heart, and Christoph Waltz and Mo'nique winning awards only unexpected because they stand so far above their competitors.

I'm disappointed they still had five people introduce the best actor awards, as it seemed to add that entire last hour to the show. Fun to try to figure out the connections, but otherwise just extra time wasted. However, I'm glad they introduced all the best picture nominees, even if there were ten of them. It helped me remember how much I loved Up in the Air, and even more so Up, to the point that I kind of wished Up had somehow managed to win best picture. And I certainly don't begrudge anyone the John Hughes tribute, which was easily one of the highlights of the night.

I feel like every year it's expected that everyone criticizes the Oscars for any number of reasons: for making picks either predictable or wrong, for the hosts being too conciliatory or too inflammatory, for being too long or insanely too long. So I don't want it to seem like I'm just going through a yearly ritual and kvetching. Because at the end of the day, the deserving movies and performances and craftsmen generally won, and the producers got us through the night in a perfectly reasonable way. Did I feel like this was a particularly innovative year outside of the ten best picture nominees? Not in the slightest. But there was nothing particularly offensive about it either. Mostly, I just hope this time next year there will be movies I loved even more, so that I'll feel even stronger about the outcome.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Now that it's March, I've waited an absurd amount of time to give my top 10 list, as this really should have been done 2 months ago. So while it's kind of irrelevant at this point, I figure as long as I slip them in before the Oscars it still counts, right? Plus, as some of these won't be rewarded tonight, I can still give them something.

1. Up in the Air
At one point this was poised to be the one to beat for best picture, and I'm not really sure why that changed. Up in the Air is a movie that feels simultaneously timeless and timely. It's the kind of impeccably written and acted adult comedy/drama that they just don't make like they used to, and the movie to best use our current economic troubles in a meaningful way. It was a very tough choice between this and my #2 pick, but ultimately this is the one I'll keep re-watching in years to come.

2. The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker's had so much acclaim elsewhere it can settle for #2 on my list. Still, in so many ways this is the movie people have been waiting for. For those craving a classic war like the Vietnam films of the 1970s, here you go. For those wondering if anyone could find a way to turn the Iraq War into art instead of a sermon, here's your answer. And if you want to see the most suspenseful movie of the year with the kind of knockout breakthrough performance that comes along very rarely, well, this is the one.

3. Avatar
There's a reason this is now the highest grossing movie of all time: it offers a cinematic experience unlike anything I've had before. It's easy to laugh off 3-D as a gimmick meant only for kids at an amusement park until you see how James Cameron used it to such stunning effect in creating an entirely original and believable world. Avatar certainly doesn't feature the most original story of the year, but it is the kind of big, epic narrative that demands to be taken seriously. In a year where so many big blockbusters failed to deliver, Cameron proved that the popcorn flick can dazzle instead of just amuse.

4. Up
Pixar has had such an insanely consistent record of excellence that Up isn't even my favorite of theirs and it still makes my top 5. It earned its spot with that early five-minute sequence alone, which created such a strong foundation for the rest of the movie you felt you knew everything about the character. Easily the best sequence of any movie this year. But they went the extra step in making sure the quality lasted for the rest of the film, giving a fun update on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World along with one of animation's best characters ever in Dug the dog. I may be too old for the Happy Meal toy, but I still love shouting "Squirrel!"

5. A Serious Man
The Coen Brothers love to spice things up, playing with different genres and styles in every one of their movies. Yet despite returning to the world of their youth, every frame still feels like a Coen Brothers movie, with the same wry and absurd sense of humor and same attention to visuals. There's a lot of ways this movie divides people, but its intelligent and hilarious script combined with the extraordinary way the Coens captured this time period proves they should keep trying new things, as I'll certainly be watching.

6. Inglourious Basterds
When I first heard this movie announced, I thought "Quentin Tarantino, Brad Pitt, and World War II. None of these things go together." I was wrong. Tarantino took the set-up of all those old classics and gave it his own unmistakable spin. He created so many amazing characters they could probably front their own movies, and his signature dialogue is far better served than in the unfortunate lark that was Death Proof. Here he definitively silenced anyone calling him a director of the '90s, as he once again created a defining movie for this past decade.

7. (500) Days of Summer
Following Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, some felt Summer was just another overly precious indie that wasn't as good as its fans made it out to be. Obviously I'm not of that camp. Summer took the most traditional of movie plots and made it feel fresh. Sure, gimmicks like the time jumping and split screen scene helped, but what really caused all the love was its sincerity. In a time when so many similar movies are filled with quirkiness and snark, real characters and feelings make this one stand out.

8. District 9
The other big alien movie of 2009 was pretty much unlike Avatar in every other way, with its relatively tiny budget, no name cast, and grittier style. It was also the far more successful allegory, teaching me more about apartheid in South Africa than Invictus ever did. Everything about District 9 was untraditional, from its unlikable protagonist to its documentary style opening. Which is why District 9 kept me guessing more than anything else from the year.

9. An Education
Like (500) Days of Summer, An Education is a movie that seems simple at first but actually has more going on. The traditional coming-of-age movie has been done to death, but rarely with all the elements in such fine form. Between Nick Hornby's humorous and touching first screenplay and Carey Mulligan's breakthrough role, there was plenty to freshen up this tale. And by really going into the time period, it played almost like a British, female Mad Men. With such a strong supporting cast, this gem still feels overlooked despite the Oscar nods.

10. Star Trek
To this day I've still never seen a single episode of any Star Trek TV show nor any of the other movies. So the fact that I was able to enjoy this just as well as hardcore Trekkies (or, sorry, Trekkers) shows J.J. Abrams can do a reboot like no other. With its very appealing cast and great action, it was both a perfect summer movie and the kind of strong franchise-starter that leaves me eager to see what comes next.

Honorable Mentions: The Hangover, Food Inc, The Princess and the Frog, The Informant, Fantastic Mr. Fox

Best Picture: Up in the Air
Runner-Up: The Hurt Locker

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Runner-Up: James Cameron, Avatar

Best Actor: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Runner-Up: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, An Education
Runner-Up: Maya Rudolph, Away We Go

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Runner-Up: Peter Sarsgaard, An Education

Best Supporting Actress: Mo'nique, Precious
Runners-Up: Anna Kendrick & Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air

Best Original Screenplay: Inglourious Basterds
Runner-Up: Up

Best Adapted Screenplay: Up in the Air
Runner-Up: An Education

Best Animated Film: Up
Runner-Up: The Princess and the Frog

Best Documentary: Food, Inc.

Best Song: "The Weary Kind," Crazy Heart
Runner-Up: "All Is Love," Where the Wild Things Are

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Oscar Predictions

As you may have heard, the Academy Awards are this Sunday night. So with a few days to go, I'm going on the record with my predictions. Feel free to follow me on your Oscar pools, but remember that I'm usually very wrong.

Best Picture
Will Win: The Hurt Locker
Top Competitor: Avatar
Should Win: Up in the Air
This one's boiled down to The Hurt Locker vs. Avatar, if perhaps just for the David vs. Goliath ring to it. I'm rooting for Up in the Air mostly to be a contrarian, but Inglourious Basterds is the dark horse most likely to slip in. Still, while it could go in any direction, I'm feeling the Hurt Locker love right now.

Best Director
Will Win: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Top Competitor: James Cameron, Avatar
Should Win: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
There's a strong argument that picture and director will split between Hurt Locker and Avatar, and that the Academy may want to reward Cameron for his decade of work and serious innovations. I still expect Bigelow to be the first female director to win.

Best Actor
Will Win: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Top Competitor: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Should Win: Jeff Bridges or Jeremy Renner
Jeff Bridges is a very safe bet here, but if they REALLY love Hurt Locker Renner could surprise for his breakout role.

Best Actress
Will Win: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Top Competitor: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Should Win: Carey Mulligan, An Education
If those of us who refuse to see The Blind Side can't understand how Bullock was even nominated, remember this: Actors vote for actors, and actors LOVE her. Gabby Sidibe might actually be more likely to surprise than Streep.

Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Top Competitor: Um.....
Should Win: Christoph Waltz
This contest ended months ago.

Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Mo'nique, Precious
Top Competitor: Someone from Up in the Air?
Should Win: Mo'nique
Again, not really much of a contest here.

Best Original Screenplay
Will Win: Inglourious Basterds
Top Competitor: The Hurt Locker
Should Win: Inglourious Basterds
The Hurt Locker may very well win here, but I'm still betting on Tarantino for the win.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Will Win: Up in the Air
Top Competitor: An Education
Should Win: Up in the Air
I think Up in the Air's super polished script is a safe bet, but I guess Precious or An Education could surprise.

Best Animated Film
Will Win: Up
Top Competitor: Um...
Should Win: Up
Another no-brainer.

Best Foreign Language Film
Will Win: A Prophet
Top Competitor: El Secreto de los Ojos
Should Win: Haven't seen any of them
The White Ribbon's the most well-known of the lot, but the foreign language branch of the Academy doesn't care about that. I hear Secreto is the most conventional and will hence probably win, but let's compromise on A Prophet.

Best Score
Will Win: Up
Top Competitor: Avatar
Should Win: Up
Up's music was great, therefore it will win.

Best Song
Will Win: "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart
Top Competitor: "Down in New Orleans" from Princess and the Frog
Should Win: "The Weary Kind"
It's the only song nominated that really deserves to be there, so it should be a clear victory.

Best Documentary
Will Win: The Cove
Top Competitor: Food, Inc.
Should Win: Food, Inc.
The Cove has won every single doc award for the year, so that will probably continue. But Fooc, Inc. was really really good.

Best Art Direction
Will Win: Avatar
Top Competitor: The Young Victoria
Should Win: Avatar
I don't really know what I'm talking about here, but I refuse to predict Nine for any victories. Seems like a good place for Avatar to take an award, but they do love period pieces in these categories...

Best Cinematography
Will Win: The Hurt Locker
Top Competitor: Avatar
Should Win: The Hurt Locker
Again, Inglourious Basterds has a real shot, but I see it being between the two top-nominated movies. And here I think conventional filmmaking will win out.

Best Costumes
Will Win: The Young Victoria
Top Competitor: Bright Star
Should Win: I haven't even seen most of these movies, and for good reason.
I clearly have no idea what I'm talking about here, but period pieces always win here.

Best Makeup
Will Win: Star Trek
Top Competitor: The Young Victoria
Should Win: Star Trek
Did you recognize Eric Bana? Yeah, I didn't think so.

Best Film Editing
Will Win: The Hurt Locker
Top Competitor: Avatar
Should Win: The Hurt Locker
Tends to go to the movie with the most noticeable editing, so again, that's Hurt Locker.

Best Visual Effects
Will Win: Avatar
Top Competitor: District 9
Should Win: Avatar
Which of these movies reinvented cinema? Oh, right, that one.

Best Sound Editing
Will Win: Avatar
Top Competitor: The Hurt Locker
Should Win: Avatar
Avatar should be sweeping these tech categories.

Best Sound Mixing
Will Win: Avatar
Top Competitor: The Hurt Locker
Should Win: Avatar
May be a "different" category, but same deal.

Best Documentary Short
Will Win: The Last Truck: Closing of a GE Plant
Top Competitor: China's Natural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
I haven't seen nor read anything about these, so I'm basing my judgement on title alone. But the GE Plant one sounds timely, and the China one sounds depressing, so there you go.

Best Live Action Short
Will Win: The New Tenants
Top Competitor: Kavi
I don't really know much about this category, but I heard "Tenants" is really funny, and that "Kavi" is the serious one.

Best Animated Short
Will Win: A Matter of Loaf or Death
Top Competitor: Logorama
Wallace and Gromit won feature animated film in its year (I think), so I bet it takes short as well. Though Logorama is also a cool name.

I reserve the right to change my mind multiple times in the next few days, especially in those last three categories. Good luck with your Oscar pools, and we'll discuss more on Sunday!