Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Oscars(R) Redux

The 13 people sitting in my living room enjoyed the Oscars(R) spectacle tremendously. There was plenty of uproarious laughter and clapping. John Stewart redeemed himself from his previous less than stellar turn. Red dresses. What could be more festive?

We had managed to watch "No Country for Old Men" on Saturday night. There are certain perks to being on screener lists. While I can appreciate a lot about the film, I doubt I will ever voluntarily watch it again. It was an unpleasant story and Javiar Bardem's character is relentlessly amoral. It's also strange in that I don't believe that Tommy Lee Jones and Bardem are ever in the same scene. I've also got a problem that the whole plot hangs on someone doing something incredibly stupid--going back to the site of a massacre to give water to someone who is most assuredly dead. "Fargo" had a strong streak of black humor and this film was humorless.

I really enjoyed "Juno" when we watched it a few weeks ago and I think that Diablo Cody deserved to win her Oscar. I'm not sure it should have been up for best picture or best director when films like "Charlie Wilson's War" and "Eastern Promises" were mostly overlooked, but Ellen Pages was wonderful as Juno. My niece Kristina, however, has been raving about "La Vie En Rose" since it came out last year. I'm sure she is jumping up and down with joy over the best actress award.

I am sorry that Viggo Mortensen lost best actor. His performance was very subtle as opposed to the over-the-top acting that I've seen Daniel Day-Lewis do (I have not yet seen "There Will Be Blood," but the ads make it look like over-acting), but I know Viggo wasn't on anyone's list to actually win even though everyone expected him to be nominated. His niece was absolutely beautiful and what a perfect date. "I covered my eyes" during the fight scene, she told one interviewer. So did I.

We called out our opinions about the 80 film montage of best picture winners. I've gone over the list and I have seen 59 of the 80 films. A few I have no interest in catching, but there are several which I think are ones I should see. No doubt, a bunch of them are actually on our shelves. I've seen most of the best pictures from the past 20 years, excepting "Rain Man" (Tom Cruise is no draw for me) and "Crash" (I love Paul Haggis, but that's a tough watch.) There are some films where I know I am not in the minority in asking "huh?" In some of those cases, I like the films that won, I just think that other films from the same year were timeless rather than of their time or were otherwise more important than those which won.

For example, "The Shawshank Redemption" was beaten in all categories by "Forest Gump." I really like Tom Hanks and I enjoyed the film (despite some problems and one or two notes that have me squirming to this day) but "The Shawshank Redemption" is a great film, one which I will stop and watch to the end if I am channel surfing and it is on. Beautifully written, directed, acted, and filmed. It got skunked and it should have swept. I am happy for Frank Darabont that the film had great success on video.

"The Greatest Show on Earth" is fun if you like the circus and it was a Cecil B. DeMille spectacular, but, really. On Sunday, someone asked me "but what else came out in 1951?" Idiot that I was, I forgot that was the year of one of my favorite (and timeless) science fiction films "The Day the Earth Stood Still." Directed by Robert Wise, starring Patricia Neal and Michael Rennie, and set in Washington, D.C., it is an anti-red-baiting, cold-war classic along the lines of "The Crucible." Again, it is a film I will watch every time I run across it. I had an interesting conversation with Patricia Neal's daughter over dinner one night where everyone at the table talked about the film with admiration. She had never seen it.

"You Can't Take It with You" won the year of Errol Flynn's classic "The Adventures of Robin Hood." I'm a big fan of "Capra-corn" (as is Frank Darabont), but, really, that "Robin Hood" is a classic of the genre and has Errol Flynn at the peak of his power. You'd be hard pressed to see "You Can't Take It with You" on TV other than during the "31 Days of Oscar" on Turner. I've stopped counting the times I have paid to see "Robin Hood" projected (the shows are always sold out) and every time there's some new detail I catch in the viewing. The latest restoration of this 3-strip Technicolor film is spectacular and I can't wait to see it in blu-ray.

"Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings" is actually a better film than "LOTR: The Return of the King" but at least the Academy recognized the amazing achievement of the work in total when the latter swept the awards for 2003. I think the total nominations and awards puts the project ahead of any other series of films or at least ties them with "The Godfather" cycle.

"Star Wars" lost to "Annie Hall." "ET" lost. "Citizen Kane" lost. In 1939, a whole lot of great films lost to "Gone with the Wind," but at least I understand why that won. "Titanic" still mystifies me ("A Night to Remember" has a much better story about the sinking and the stage musical tells touching stories about the real people on board.)

That, as they say, is what makes horse races.

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