The Oscars Recap: A Night Full of Disappointment

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When my fiancee picked me up at the airport in Los Angeles on Sunday evening, she told me how she had never seen Trader Joe’s more packed than when she went there earlier in the day. The employees at the grocery store told her the three busiest days every year are the day before Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday, and Oscars Sunday.

I knew plenty of people liked to watch Hollywood’s biggest night (Robin Roberts’ words, not mine), but I never thought it was cause for madness at the local markets.

I guess that means there should be lots of people eager to read a recap of last night in running diary format. Let’s dive in:

  • 4:00pm (Pacific Time): The Oscars Red Carpet Ceremony kicks off with Robin Roberts telling us we’re going to see the red carpet tonight like we’ve never seen it before. Which I think just means it’s a slightly different color of red this year.
  • 4:02: The first celebrity shown during ABC’s opening is Anna Kendrick. Never have I been more optimistic about the next six hours of my life. Kendrick = happiness.
  • 4:04: The first live interview by Roberts is with Common, his mom, John Legend, and his wife Chrissy Teigen. And four minutes into the coverage, we have our first name screw-up as Roberts calls her “Christy”. We can also hand out the award for the most aggressive dress slit of the night, as Teigen’s goes well above her vagina.
  • 4:11: Sorry, Rosamund Pike, but your dress slit is laughable compared to Teigen’s. Better luck next time. Also, adding to my dislike of this woman is the fact that her two children are named “Solo” and “Atom.”
  • 4:15: I support ABC’s decision to replace last year’s red carpet style expert (Tyson Beckford, whose most notable style comment was “She’s wearing a nice pink dress tonight.”) with this guy from Yahoo who is considerably more knowledgeable about style and considerably more gay. I mean, I don’t personally care, but I’m sure the people who watch this show to hear about the dress makers and the stars’ accessories love it.
  • 4:32: Robin Roberts says “congratulations” to Julianne Moore and it seems like they both know Moore is the guaranteed winner for Best Actress in a Leading Role tonight. There’s a chance this is going to be a very, very boring Oscars. It feels like one of those years where the odds-on favorites are going to win in each major category. Let’s hope that’s not the case. There’s nothing more boring than predictability.
  • 4:41: Kerry Washington, wear an uglier dress, I dare you to. Here’s my simple advice to the Oscars women, as a man who likes looking at women: Don’t make your hips or hip area look larger than it is. Should be simple.
  • 4:42: Chris Pratt and Anna Faris should host awards shows. I’m assuming it would be the first ever husband-wife combo to do so, but they’d kill. I would actually watch a three-hour show where Pratt does nothing more than cut a loaf of bread. He’s that hilarious.
  • 4:52: Reese Witherspoon brought her A-game tonight. And it’s not a coincidence that her dress doesn’t enlarge her body by 36 sizes like half of the actresses here tonight.
  • 4:55: I’m nominating Jennifer Lopez as the person that sparks the most “she’s still so hot at her age” Tweets throughout the awards ceremony. I think she looks fine, but nothing special.
  • 5:19: The ABC correspondent interviewing Lady Gaga says, “You never let us down with your fashion.” Really? I would have said, “You always let us down with your fashion.” And I would have put the word fashion in air quotes.
  • 5:30: And finally, we’re live from the Dolby Theatre as the 87th Academy Awards officially gets underway. Neil Patrick Harris is the first-time host. It’s raining in LA. I think the last time it did that was during last year’s Oscars. I’m going out on a limb and saying NPH’s first joke will be about 50 Shades of Grey. (He can’t joke about the weather because Ellen led off last year’s telecast with rain jokes.)
  • 5:31: “Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest…I’m sorry, BRIGHTEST.” Dammit, he went with a race joke to lead it off? Who knew?
  • 5:33: Anna Kendrick joins NPH during his opening musical number. Between Anna being the first celeb shown on the red carpet and now putting her front & center during this opening, it’s like the Oscar producers are trying to make sure one specific person stays tuned in all night long: Me. And they’ve done their job. I’m hooked.
  • 5:36: NPH’s six-minute song & dance ends after Jack Black joins in as the comic relief. It was a solid performance, but I’m already thinking this should be the new normal for The Oscars: NPH and Ellen co-host, and NPH is in charge of all the theatrics, singing and dancing, while Ellen is the joke-teller. I feel like that’s a solid compromise.
  • 5:41: I do appreciate that the Academy gives us a taste of what we’re actually here for by announcing the Best Supporting Actor as the first award of the night (before boring us with hours of technical and irrelevant categories). And in what will likely be the least surprising winner of this night, J.K. Simmons takes The Oscar for his role as the abusive jazz conductor/teacher Terence Fletcher in Whiplash. If you don’t know how large my erection is for Whiplash and Simmons, you can read all about it HERE.
  • 5:42: Wait a sec. Was Simmons tearing up while watching the 15-second highlight of his performance that the show played when announcing the nominees? Does that immediately make his performance the most powerful in acting history? The actor who played the role is crying while watching himself in that role!
  • 5:47: Liam Neeson makes what must already be the 10th joke of the night about the movies being criticized for constantly basing its stories on comics, books, remakes of old movies, etc. The football equivalent would be if the NFL did a “year in review” montage during halftime of the Super Bowl and it highlighted Roger Goodell’s 176 missteps of 2014. It’s teetering on that line between self-deprecating and awkward.
  • 5:49: Wow. I was way off tonight. It took 19 minutes into the telecast for NPH to make a 50 Shades joke. Dakota Johnson’s on stage to intro Maroon 5, who is performing a song from some movie that Adam Levine apparently acted in? This seems like a great time for my annual “this is why I DVR The Oscars” comment. No one can force me to listen to this pompous, talentless jerk-off sing on live television.
  • 5:56: And here we go. The start of what I’m sure will be a long run on categories absolutely no one cares about. J-Lo and Chris Pine are announcing the “Achievement in Costume Design” category. The Grand Budapest Hotel wins the first boring award of the night! Congrats.
  • 6:00: Reese Witherspoon, who was intro’d by an awful NPH joke about “she’s so lovely you could eat her up…with her spoon,” announces Grand Budapest as the winner of “Achievement in Makeup & Hairstyling.” Since this movie has almost no chance to win for Directing or Best Picture, I’m glad to see it taking home some of the more technical categories.
  • 6:03: Channing Tatum is on stage talking about something even more boring than the technical categories: The “Team Oscar” winners. No one understands what this is and no one cares. Who are these people? What is their purpose? Why should we care? It’s like ABC forgets that the point of a TV show is to hold viewers’ attention and therefore make money from advertisers who want as many eyeballs on the screen as possible.
  • 6:12: Congrats to Poland (or more accurately, the director from the Foreign Film winner who happens to be from Poland) for being the first to get the “wrap up your speech” music of the night. Except even that couldn’t deter him. They had to stop the music and re-start it just to let him know they meant business.
  • 6:18: Lonely Island is performing “Everything is Awesome,” the theme song from The Lego Movie. I’m pretty sure I’m the only person left in America who hasn’t seen that movie. More importantly, I wonder how many people predicted Lonely Island would eventually be on stage at The Oscars when they were producing “Dick in a Box” and “Jizzed in My Pants” a decade ago?
  • 6:26: With Jason Bateman and Kerry Washington announcing the “Live Action Short Film” award, we get a rare moment where my fiancee and I are both satisfied with the eye candy on stage.  Meanwhile, we started down this boring categories path 30 minutes ago and we’re still going strong. If only they could do the pointless awards at some off-screen ceremony where people could still be honored but the TV audience wouldn’t be subjected to such lame entertainment….Oh, what’s that? They have that exact scenario in place already? They gave out a bunch of awards on February 7th this year? Then what the hell am I doing watching speeches from the winners of “hairstyling & makeup”?? C’mon, Academy!
  • 6;27: I hate to stereotype but it appears only the foreigners don’t understand what the “get off the stage” music means.
  • 6:32: iaasieeieeeieieeeieejnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn””””””””doookkkkkkkkkffffffffffff
  • 6:34: Sorry, I passed out on my keyboard from boredom.
  • 6:35: Gwyneth Paltrow comes out…See? Here you go, Oscars. If you’re going to bore us to death with content, please roll out the hot blondes to deliver that boring content.
  • 6:46: Sound Mixing category up next. And just like that, they put Sienna Miller on stage. One minute before, they had Margot Robbie presenting (the actress from The Wolf of Wall Street and some upcoming Will Smith movie). This is a calculated move by The Academy to keep our attention just a little during this downtime.
  • 6:51: They throw us a curveball by bringing out a hot brunette as the next presenter. It’s Jared Leto! (Sorry, that was a recycled joke from last year. Had to do it.) Mark it down. Fifty-five minutes of bullshit categories and announcements. And Patricia Arquette wins for Best Supporting Actress, another category that seemed decided before the ceremony even started. Let me take this moment to wonder out loud if Keira Knightley is simply Winona Ryder after the name change?

ryder knightley

  • 7:06: Anna Kendrick is back out there to present “Best Animated Short.” Here are the people and order in which I’d organize the presenters for the entire night: Anna Kendrick, Jennifer Lawrence, Reese Witherspoon, Margot Robbie and Kata Mara (who I didn’t even know existed until I binged on House of Cards recently). Repeat that order over and over until there are no more categories left to present.
  • 7:09: I’d like to make an immediate amendment to that order above. Zoe Saldana absolutely should be included. And she will be. Once I’m the producer of this awards show.
  • 7:17: I would rate NPH’s hosting attempt as adequate so far. He’s not doing outstanding; he’s not doing horribly. He just doesn’t have the comedy chops of Ellen. I know some people will ridicule that, mostly the people who assume Ellen is only funny to middle-aged women. But she’s an experienced stand-up comedian who has been on TV, in movies, on talkshows and even host of awards shows. Bring her back in 2016!
  • 7:37: Over the past 20 minutes, they ran through a couple more technical categories and did the “In Memoriam” tribute. As we kill some time, I’ll go ahead and nominate Robert Duvall as this year’s “person in the audience who refuses to laugh or smile at any of the jokes, specifically any aimed at him.” Because this night is NOT about having fun and being self-deprecating if you’re a super serious actor, apparently.
  • 7:44: I’ve reached that point in the night where I’m fast forwarding almost every acceptance speech. I guess I’m truly in this for just the seven major categories, the hot blondes and the Ellen jokes.
  • 7:46: As Terrence Howard speaks, I have to ask, are any actors in Hollywood actually American? Or are they all from England and have simply perfected their American accents? Every year I’m confused by the number of actors with British accents.
  • 8:03: Idina Menzel is on stage. Hey, Idina, thanks for costing me $5 with your extra long rendition of the National Anthem before the Super Bowl! I hate you!
  • 8:04: Holy shit! I just heard thunder for the first time in the three years I’ve lived in LA! THUNDER! IN LA! THIS CAN’T BE! WHY DO I LIVE IN THE CITY THAT HAS THE WORST WINTER WEATHER IN AMERICA?!?!
  • 8:08: John Legend accepts the award for Best Original Song and says, “There are more black men in correction facilities today than there were slaves in 1850.” One person in the audience claps. Perfection.
  • 8:12: ScarJo! Say it ain’t so. Why are you purposely trying to look like Tilda Swinton? I know this is blasphemy, but 1) I dislike short hair on most women, and 2) That slicked back short blonde hair looks like, well:

[www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilda_Swinton linktext:Tilda Swinton]

  • 8:20: As Lady Gaga sings The Sound of Music medley and then Julie Andrews joins her on stage, my fiancee, who never wants to watch movies and seems generally disinterested in the film industry, is now schooling me on the deep history of all things Julie Andrews…vocal chord problems she used to have, reciting her IMDB page from memory. This is weird.
  • 8:21: OK, Grand Budapest just won its 4th award of the night. Granted, they are all in minor categories, but I’m starting to wonder if this groundswell of winning is going to lead to an upset in the Directing or Best Picture categories.
  • 8:23: “Wes Anderson, you are a genius” has replaced “I want to thank Harvey Weinstein” as the most uttered phrase at this year’s Oscars.
  • 8:29: Eddie Murphy is now presenting. He could say no words and just urinate on stage and it would still be more compelling than his appearance on the Saturday Night Live 40 show.
  • 8:30: I love how they stretched all those meaningless awards out over an hour in the middle of this broadcast and now they’re going to rip through the remaining five or six important categories in the final 30 minutes. This makes no sense. Anyway, Birdman wins for Best Original Screenplay.
  • 8:33: The Imitation Game wins the Best Adapted Screenplay award. I’m just going to say it and hope it doesn’t come off as offensive: These award winners make it very very difficult to make fun when every speech includes something about gay rights, racism or gender inequality.
  • 8:44: Ben Affleck announces the Directing winner, and it’s Birdman. It’s on its way to sweeping the major categories now.
  • 8:47: Cate Blanchett presents the Best Actor category, which is won by Dennis Reynolds of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia fame:

dennis

  • Whoops, sorry. Turns out Eddie Redmayne is actually the winner, for his role in The Theory of Everything:

eddie redmayne

  • 8:52: Julianne Moore wins Best Actress. So at this point, the favorite has won in the following categories: Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Actress, Directing and Best Original Screenplay. This is a tough year for underdogs.
  • 9:00: Only one more category left, the big one, the moment we all tune in for, the award we’ll be taking about for years…AND MY DVR STOPPED TAPING RIGHT AFTER JULIANNE MOORE’S SPEECH!! I EVEN EXTENDED THE BROADCAST FROM THREE HOURS TO 3.5 HOURS, AND IT STILL WENT OVER!
  • FUCK YOU, ACADEMY AWARDS! I’M BOYCOTTING NEXT YEAR (unless Ellen returns to host).
  • Oh, and Birdman won for Best Picture, which I had to google to find out.

I saw this headline on Monday morning: ABC Telecast of The Oscars down 10% in overnight ratings to four-year low.

See? It wasn’t just me. Everyone hated this year’s Oscars. So here are my quick fixes that The Academy should immediately adopt:

  1. Do away with most of the live music. It’s boring and there are almost never any songs we want to hear being performed.
  2. Do away with that full hour of bullshit categories.
  3. Fill time, if you must, with trailers for upcoming movies, highlighting specific performances that The Academy is excited about. This is a win-win because people love seeing movie previews, and it would almost definitely cause more people to go to the movies in the upcoming months.
  4. Stop celebrating arbitrary things that happened an arbitrary number of years ago (“Sound of Music turned 50 this year, let’s spend 10 minutes on that!”)
  5. Put Jon Lovitz as the last face of the “In Memoriam” tribute.

Can someone please start a petition for Ellen’s big return in 2016?

Also, where the F was Jennifer Lawrence this year?

What a disaster the 87th Academy Awards were.

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Movie Review: Birdman

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Normally I wouldn’t be first in line to see an under-the-radar black comedy about a washed-up Hollywood star who’s battling demons—real and imagined—while trying to write, direct and star in a Broadway play just to announce to the world that he’s still relevant.

Normally I wouldn’t be the second in line, the 12th, the 100th or even the 10 millionth for a movie like that. But over the past couple weeks, everywhere I turned, I kept hearing the whispers about this incredible little film starring Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomson, the main character trying to restart his career (or put on his final act…it’s definitely ambiguous as to what his ultimate goal is with opening a Broadway play).

We’re into November now, which means movies with Oscar aspirations are finally being released in theaters. The buzz over Keaton’s performance is what got me into a theater this past week, and that buzz is 100% deserved.

Birdman is the name of the movie because it’s the name of the fictitious Superhero that Keaton’s Thomson played in three hugely successful movies 20 years earlier. Then he walked away from that career-making & fortune-making role, and presumably he vanished from the A-list for the next two decades.

It isn’t too big of a leap for people to think about Michael Keaton’s career as a parallel to this storyline. He starred as Batman in the late 80s/early 90s, but walked away from the franchise after two films. We all know subsequent Batman films have gone on to make a ton of money over the last 20 years, and Keaton hasn’t really been relevant for a long time now.

Even though Keaton says in this interview that the main character’s backstory in Birdman couldn’t be any less similar to his real life, you can’t help but make the comparison while watching the onscreen Riggan Thomson in action.

This movie is so much more than “struggling actor tries to save his career by performing on Broadway.” It has many layers. Thomson and his best friend/co-producer Jake are nearly out of money before the play’s opening night even arrives. (Finally! Zach Galifianakis plays a character that doesn’t just feel like a regurgitated version of his role in The Hangover films.)

When they need to find a last-minute actor to fill a major role in the play, they’re ecstatic to land Broadway veteran Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), but that ultimately comes with problems. First, in order to pay Shiner’s ridiculous salary, Thomson has to refinance his Malibu home that was supposed to be given to his daughter one day (she’s a recovering drug addict played by Emma Stone). Then Shiner starts to steal the spotlight and go rogue on the script.

The revolving love triangles among the cast and crew are minor conflicts compared to Thomson’s internal demon. He can’t get the voice of Birdman out of his head. It’s the voice that’s repeatedly telling him he doesn’t need this Broadway play or the hassle it brings. He’s a star. He grossed more than $1 Billion worldwide.

All the pressures and issues facing Thomson come to a head when the play is running its final preview, a showing attended by the New York Times theater critic Tabitha, who has the reputation of either making or breaking your success on Broadway.

What happens in the movie’s final 30 minutes will make you laugh, cry and walk away extremely satisfied.

You should see this movie if: You love artsy indie movies; you like black comedies; you want to see a movie that’s totally unique and original compared to a lot of the repetitive junk that the studios usually put out there; you’re OK with laughing and crying at the same time; you’re a big Michael Keaton and/or Edward Norton fan; you’re into Broadway and want to see a somewhat fictitious take of what goes on behind the curtain; you want to see what will most likely be an Oscar-nominated performance (Keaton’s for sure).

You should not see this movie if: You only like films that have lots of action and a ton of special effects; you couldn’t possibly picture liking an artsy movie; you only like comedies that are pure laughs and don’t have any drama; you hate Michael Keaton and/or Edward Norton; just thinking about plays and Broadway makes you start yawning.

On the Ross Watchability Scale, I’m giving Birdman a 7.5 out of 10. The acting is incredible throughout and the plot actually held my attention a lot better than I was initially expecting. I’m very glad to have heard that buzz that got me into the theater for this one.

One final note: If you’re considering a few different movie options for this weekend, you can compare my thoughts on Birdman with two other movies that should still be in the theaters: Gone Girl and Fury. Of course, there’s a very strong chance that you’re seeing Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar on its opening weekend, but if you want to avoid those crowds, check out one of the three movies above.

Enjoy.

Hollywood’s Super Bowl: Could It Possibly Be Better Than The Real Thing?

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My, how fast a monthlong writing hiatus goes by.

When I last left you, I was picking the Denver Broncos to win the Super Bowl. A fitting end to a season of football picks that hit rock bottom about five times and never hovered much above it.

Since my last post was about the real Super Bowl, I figure I’ll kick off my comeback tour with a running timeline of the Super Bowl of Entertainment…The Oscars of course.

And who wouldn’t want to read all about Hollywood’s favorite self-congratulatory night from someone who’s actually in the industry?

As with any Super Bowl viewing, the action doesn’t begin at kickoff. It starts with an unforgettable pregame show to get the juices flowing. Let’s see what went on during ABC’s 90-minute Red Carpet broadcast:

  • 4:02-4:06pm (PST): We begin with three interviews that all land on the bizarre scale: Sidney Poitier can’t hear a damn thing the interviewer is asking so he vaguely tells us how “things are different than they used to be;” then Viola Davis and her husband tell ABC that they don’t do date night at the movies…they do date night by getting freaky in the hot tub (paraphrasing); and finally, June Squibb, the 84-year-old Best Supporting Actress nominee, tells us about her days as a stripper…or her days playing the role of a stripper. I can’t remember which it was. All I know is this event is giving off a strong elderly sex vibe already.
  • 4:12-4:14pm: ABC apparently gets the ship back on course as they do back-to-back interviews with people we’d much rather associate with a hot tub, Amy Adams and Anna Kendrick. Adams made the crucial mistake of not continuing her side boob dominance over the rest of the female population, opting instead for a dress that shows off only the standard top boob.
  • 4:15pm: Sally Hawkins, a nominee I’ve never heard of, shows up in what I’m guessing is the same dress my grandmother wore at her wedding in the late 1940s. You couldn’t cover more skin with ugly lace if you were trying to win a bet.
  • 4:20pm: A very pregnant Kerry Washington reminds me that as luck would have it, roughly 27 of mine and my girlfriend’s friends are currently expecting a baby. This is particularly insane and if it’s this year’s version of “everyone’s getting married,” consider me not on board. It’s just difficult to keep up with. So I’m proposing that from now own, my friends whose last name begins with A-M are allowed to have a baby only on even years, and my friends whose last name begins with N-Z have dibs on the odd years.
  • 4:23pm: You know why DVR exists? So I can skip over a taped piece called “how a handbag became such an important character in the movie Blue Jasmine.” Seriously.
  • 4:30pm: ABC runs a slow motion replay/montage of all the people who have been interviewed over the first 30 minutes of the broadcast. Why? We already need to be reminded of those four atrocious Q&A’s?
  • 4:31pm: Ahh, and finally we’ve reached the portion of the show titled “People I’ve told my girlfriend I’d leave her for.” Enter Jennifer Lawrence.
  • 4:33pm: ABC shows a clip of actors talking about their first time getting nominated. Wait, thee only explanation for Christopher Walken’s appearance is that the producers literally just dug him out of a grave, slightly brushed him off and stuck him in front of a camera. Don’t believe me? See for yourself:

Christopher Walken

  • 4:51pm: Thank god, I thought the awkward interviews were over after the first half hour. But here’s Jamie Foxx telling the world that his daughter, who he’s here with, is 20 years old and showing a lot of leg. Thanks for pointing that out, Jamie.
  • 4:53pm: Jared Leto is maybe the most naturally beautiful woman to walk the red carpet so far tonight (I just want everyone to know I made this joke roughly 40 minutes before Ellen did).
  • 4:55pm: I’m pretty sure Tyson Beckford is doing a horrible job as ABC’s fashion correspondent, and it’s confirmed when my girlfriend finally starts paying attention to the broadcast and rips him to shreds. Can’t blame her considering Beckford’s most insightful statement so far is “We’ve got Matthew McConaughey’s wife in a nice pink dress, and we’ve got Sandra Bullock in nice blue dress.” Groundbreaking work.
  • 5:17pm: This is so boring. Why would anyone watch this? Now they’re showing a montage of how this area of Hollywood was made ready during the rainy LA weekend. Which reminds me, I’d be willing to bet my prize-winning dog on Ellen’s opening joke being a poke at how everyone in LA is reacting to this rare monsoon.
  • 5:19pm: Here’s a good idea, let’s interview the guy who’s singlehandedly responsible for tonight’s ceremony about five minutes before it starts. I’m sure he’ll be nice & relaxed, casual, natural…as a single stream of urine slowly drips down his leg.

So basically, this pregame show was just as compelling as every sports pregame show. What a waste.

Let’s blast through the timeline during the three-hour broadcast of the actual awards ceremony:

  • 5:32pm: Aaaand we’re off…and ChaChing! As expected, the very first thing Ellen jokes about is the rain. We celebrities are a predictable people.
  • 5:39pm: Ellen finishes her seven-minute opening monologue with this killer line: “Possibility #1 is that 12 Years A Slave Wins. Possibility #2 is that you’re all racists.” She might earn herself permanent Oscar hosting duties tonight.
  • 5:41pm: Jared Leto is our first winner (Supporting Actor), and makes every other winner not want to give a speech the rest of the night because he gives the greatest “thank you, Mom “speech ever.
  • 5:43pm: ….And he’s still going, moving over to politics (thanking people in Ukraine & Venezuela) and then to actual thank you’s for his colleagues.
  • 5:44pm: ….And he’s wrapping it up with a political stand on AIDS. He really covered everything he cares about in this world, apparently.
  • 5:48pm: Jim Carrey makes a good LSD joke, the camera catches Bono laughing, he realizes the camera’s on him, he abruptly stops laughing. How dare we think he has a sense of humor.
  • 5:50pm: Brief aside: During the animation montage, there’s a quick clip of Fantasia. Listen, how could you sleep at night if you made that movie? A children’s movie featuring the most famous cartoon character in history and not a single word is uttered the entire time??? I’m still stewing over the time my Mom let me rent this at Blockbuster and I cried for 75 straight minutes while waiting for Minnie Mouse, Goofy and others to show up and start interacting with Mickey. That movie will haunt me for life.
  • 5:58pm: Seeing these celebrities not be able to connect on the single cheek kiss or the double cheek kiss makes me so happy. I thought I was the only one who could never read that situation properly.
  • 6:50pm: That 60-minute gap in my timeline is due to the producers running through 11 categories that no one could possibly care about. Would it kill them to mix in one popular category every 30 minutes or so?
  • 6:52pm: This seems like a good time to clarify my “read about The Oscars from someone who’s in the industry” comment, especially to new readers. I should have written “from someone who lives in the city where the industry is headquartered.”
  • 6:57pm: U2  performs and it’s not very exciting. How could The Oscars get this wrong? You elevate any bad awards show musical performance by planting Taylor Swift in the audience and panning to her overdancing repeatedly.
  • 7:47pm: This installment of The Oscars is dedicated/themed around Heroes In Movies…and by definition, every single movie ever made has a hero. So The Oscars were dedicated to movies? Way to go out on a limb with the theme.
  • 8:30pm: Turns out a run on relevant categories isn’t that much more exciting than the irrelevant categories.
  • 8:58pm: The night ends with 12 Years A Slave winning the coveted Best Picture category.

I think we need to split up the Best Picture category. One award should be for “the movie we enjoyed so much that we’ll probably watch it over & over for the next few years” (That’s my definition of Best Picture, which is why American Hustle got my vote). The other award should be: “The best ‘well done yet difficult to watch’ film.” Pretty self-explanatory. I think most Best Pictures land in this latter category and I hate it.

It turns out Hollywood’s version of the Super Bowl is about as entertaining as watching Peyton Manning compete in the real Super Bowl. Not sure which Super Bowl over this past month was the bigger waste of time.

Fruitvale Station: A Fantastic Movie That You’ll Never Watch Twice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Editor’s Note: In my ongoing attempt at bringing my readers something other than sports blogs, here is my third movie review of the summer. It’s incredible how at-home you can feel on a Tuesday afternoon in an empty movie theater. Like I’m just watching a show in my living room, hand down my pants and all. If you didn’t read my other movie reviews from earlier in the summer, check them out HERE and HERE. Enjoy]

If you haven’t heard much buzz over Fruitvale Station, that’ll probably be changing soon. Though it came out on July 4th, it only got released nationwide about a week ago. And come award season, you’ll be hearing all about this film and its lead actor, Michael B. Jordan.

fruitvale-station 1

The film is based on a true story about the last day of Oscar Grant’s life leading up to his savage murder by a Bay Area Transit Police Officer on New Year’s Day 2009.

The murder and the subsequent trial of BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle became a national topic not unlike the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case.

I’m not one to traditionally seek out politically-charged movies where race is at the center of a tragedy, but this all happened in my backyard as I was living in San Francisco at the time. I’ve gotten off the BART train at the exact station where Grant was shot (Fruitvale) a handful of times. It also turns out that a friend of a friend edited this entire movie, and I heard some Oscar buzz rumblings before the movie was even released. All of that plus my appreciation for all things Michael B. Jordan made it a must-see.

Jordan has been on a nice career path over the past 12 years (I say if he wins an Oscar he gets to drop the “B” and just go by Michael Jordan): He played Wallace on The Wire, a small but impactful role; then came the hotshot high school quarterback role of Vince Howard onFriday Night Lights; he followed that up with his first major movie role as a teenager with superpowers in Chronicle (I hated it, but plenty of people enjoyed it); and finally the lead role in Fruitvale Station. There’s also a rumor out there that he’ll play the lead role of Apollo Creed’s grandson in a Sylvester Stallone-produced spin-off of Rocky.

Needless to say, the guy can act. I can’t see his career not taking off on an even grander trajectory after his turn as Oscar Grant.

It’s a tough movie to get excited for because you know the ending ahead of time, and it’s a terrible, gut-wrenching ending. This innocent man is going to die. And that’s why I said it’s a fantastic movie that you’ll never watch twice. It’s not a comedy where you can pick up more humor the more you watch it, or an action movie where you want to see a crazy chase scene a second time.

You’re literally watching the final 24 hours of a young man’s life, hoping that somehow the ending is different than what you saw on the news in January 2009.

When I say innocent, certainly I don’t mean that Oscar Grant was a saint. He had spent time in prison, he was trying to quit dealing drugs to make sure he’d be around for his daughter and girlfriend, but early on in the movie we see that he just got fired from his grocery store job for constantly being late. 

And that’s pretty much what we get to see Grant go through on the final day of 2008: he knows what’s important to him now, and he’s trying to get his life on track to provide for his family, but he keeps getting in his own way.

It’s a simple story all the way up until the fateful BART ride home to the East Bay after Grant and friends watch fireworks in San Francisco. That’s when things get complicated, inexplicable and tragic. 

If you saw the movie Argo, you remember that final 10 minutes when they were going to the airport to make their great escape. You were probably sweating from the suspense even though you knew the outcome ahead of time.

It’s the same way in this movie once the cops show up to Fruitvale station and all hell breaks loose. You want to jump through the movie screen and tell the cops they’re overreacting, and that the guys they’re holding aren’t the ones who started the fight.

But it’s a pointless struggle as we watch the inevitable happen.

You should see this movie if: You enjoy movies based on true stories, even if it’s a sad story. You enjoy thought-provoking, authentic-feeling movies. You know of the Oscar Grant shooting vaguely, and you want more details. You want to knock one of the Academy Awards contenders off your must-watch list before the January/February scramble where you try to cram all the nominees into your viewing schedule. You’re a fan of brevity…this movie clocked in at 85 minutes long (I waste more time nightly watching Kardashians, Houswives or one of the 35 wedding shows that my girlfriend watches on an endless loop).

You should not see this movie if: Either by being a blatant racist or just an old person, you assume young black men are up to no good and you were OK with seeing the BART Police Officer get off with only involuntary manslaughter. You support George Zimmerman. Hearing someone call San Francisco “Frisco” will make you want to strangle that person (Oscar’s girlfriend keeps referring to the city as “Frisco,” which no one really says, right?). You only enjoy movies that take place in fairy tale worlds where everyone eventually gets what they want. You don’t enjoy heavy content in your movies. You want to walk out of the theater smiling and feeling good. You’re a mother who won’t be able to hold it together as you watch another mother lose her son.

On the Ross Watchability Scale, I give it a 8.5 out of 10. 

Like I already said, I can’t imagine Fruitvale Station is a movie you’re going to want to watch over and over, but everyone should see it once…for the story itself and the brilliance of Michael B. Jordan.

Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Movies: Handicapping the Oscars & Your Guide to the Best Movies of 2012

It’s February 15th and that means The 2013 Oscars are looming. It’s that time of year when all you people who didn’t see a single movie in the last 12 months—because you were too busy holding down a job, raising your kids, spending your time and money on something more fulfilling than “sitting in a theater while consuming 4,700 calories of grease, butter and sugar”—start scrambling to watch as many Oscar-nominated films as possible.

If you’re someone who thinks “Life of Pi” is a movie about the mathematician who came up with that confusing 3.14 number, or you think “Amour” is a romantic comedy about a man and a woman falling in love at a yard sale where they both tried to buy an antique piece of furniture, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

With so many different films and actors nominated it’s impractical to try to see it all. So which movies do you prioritize? Lucky for you this article includes a worst-to-best ranking of the 19 movies I saw in 2012. I have great taste in movies so just follow my list blindly and you won’t be disappointed.

But Oscar season isn’t just about seeing as many good movies as possible. It’s about predicting who will win each major award even though none of us know the first thing about acting, directing, adapting or costume designing. That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun to argue with a friend that “Tommy Lee Jones should never win any award because he’s such an asshole in real life.”

For the readers who are gamblers at heart, you’ll be happy to know that many betting websites allow you to bet on who will win each of the major Oscar awards. So of course in this article I’ll provide you the odds of the favorite in each category as well as a long shot that I like.

So let’s rip through the important Oscar categories real quick so you know what films to see in the next nine days, either by going to the movie theater or re-organizing your Netflix queue. I’ll make some very subjective comments next to the movies I’ve seen, and perhaps next to some of the movies I haven’t seen. (Disclaimer: I haven’t seen all the movies that are relevant to the Oscars. I’ve only seen the ones I thought I might actually enjoy.)

BEST PICTURE

  • Amour: I haven’t seen it. When “elderly” and “love story” are used in a movie’s synopsis, you can just about guarantee that I’ll never watch it.
  • Argo: A great movie where the story is a lot more memorable than the acting. Awesome job mixing in some light, humorous moments in an otherwise very serious plot. If there was a “fan favorite” Oscar award, this would probably win (or be a close runner-up to “Silver Linings Playbook”).
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild: This movie arrived via Netflix over a week ago and it’s been sitting on my coffee table gathering dust ever since. I just don’t think I’m going to like it very much. I hear the little girl who’s nominated for Best Actress is incredible, but I don’t typically watch movies for just one individual acting performance.
  • Django Unchained: During the first 30 minutes of this movie, I was worried it was going to be one of Quentin Tarantino’s worst films. It turned out to be one of his best. There’s no other way to describe it other than to say “it was just a fun movie to watch.” Such an enjoyable movie with some awesome acting performances (which we’ll talk about it in a minute). I’m rooting for this one to win even though I know it won’t.
  • Les Miserables: I can’t even correctly pronounce this movie’s name, and I heard a crazy rumor that it’s a musical. I doubt I’ll ever see it.
  • Life of Pi: Another movie I haven’t seen, mostly because in the previews the tiger on the raft didn’t look real enough to me.
  • Lincoln: I heard that the Academy would only allow one Lincoln film into the Best Picture category this year, and Spielberg’s “Lincoln” only narrowly beat out “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” All jokes aside, this movie was surprisingly great. I say surprisingly because it’s essentially 150 minutes of 19th century politicians blathering on about amendments and slavery. The fact that this film held my attention should automatically put it in the lead for Best Picture.
  • Silver Linings Playbook: Loved it. It might be the movie I re-watch the most out of all the Best Picture nominations. But it’s pretty much a romantic comedy (even if it is a well-disguised romantic comedy). I don’t want “Silver Linings” to win and set the precedent that if all of Jennifer Aniston and Kate Hudson’s future movies just include a few more plot twists, they’ll suddenly be Oscar worthy.
  • Zero Dark Thirty: Better than “The Hurt Locker,” which was Kathryn Bigelow’s previous movie that won Best Picture. But up against much tougher competition than “Locker” faced in 2010. Best edge-of-your-seat, hold-your-breath story of all the nominees. And c’mon, it ends with the killing of bin Laden.

Odds-on favorite to win according to gambling sites: Argo (1/5 odds)

Long shot that I might put a bet on: Amour (100/1 odds)…Because the Oscars love picking the boring, stuffy, old people-bait movies. Just like “The Artist” did last year, an “Amour” win will set movies back 100 years.

(A quick side note: How interesting that this year featured three movies where the audience knew the ending of the story with 100% certainty before walking into the theater (Lincoln, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty). And yet, they were three of the best movies, and one of them is probably winning Best Picture. Somehow these movies were able to keep me in suspense the entire time even though there was zero chance for a surprise ending. Incredible work by everyone who made these three films.)

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Michael Haneke (Amour): I don’t have a goddamn clue if he did a good job directing.
  • Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild): I’m going to assume he did a good job because he coaxed a Best Actress performance out of a nine-year-old.
  • Ang Lee (Life of Pi): Apparently there’s an unspoken rule in Hollywood that says you should stay away from using children, animals and large bodies of water in your movie. Something about any of those three variables making things much more difficult. And yet all three were major players in “Life of Pi.” I haven’t seen it yet, but if people voted in this category based on “biggest headaches overcome,” I bet Lee has a great chance to win.
  • Steven Spielberg (Lincoln): Spielberg isn’t quite the lock for directing as his lead actor is for that category, but he’s probably going to win his 3rd Best Director Award on February 24th. Regardless of “Argo” being the frontrunner for Best Picture, Spielberg has the inside track here because Ben Affleck somehow didn’t get nominated for the directing category.
  • David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook): Adding to my “this movie is just a dressed-up rom com” comments from before…anybody who can mask a romantic comedy as well as Russell did with “Silver Linings” deserves a ton of credit. Trickery or not, the movie was still an A+.

Odds-on favorite to win according to gambling sites: Steven Spielberg (1/4 odds)

Long shot that I might put a bet on: David O. Russell (14/1 odds)…If this really is a “fan favorite” year and “Argo” wins the Best Picture, then it makes sense for David O. to win for directing. I promise you it’ll be the movie you stop the channel surfing on most often when you see it pop up on HBO or Cinemax over the next few years.

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook): In 12 years this guy has gone from playing the gay dude in “Wet Hot American Summer” and the asshole villain boyfriend in “Wedding Crashers” to a bona fide A-list actor who can carry a movie. He’s legit and deserves to be recognized for that. Unfortunately this year he’s up against a guy who seriously made me question whether Abraham Lincoln had actually risen from the dead to play himself in a movie. Thinking Cooper will get his Oscar due eventually. I don’t think this will be his last nomination.
  • Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln): Just the man I was talking about. The Lead Actor category is not a competition this year. If ever there was a situation where someone shouldn’t bother preparing an acceptance speech, it’s the other four men in this category. I’m pretty sure Day-Lewis could murder the head of the Academy tomorrow and they’d still feel obligated to give him this award. I wasn’t alive when Abraham Lincoln was doing his thing. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a recording of the big man Presidenting it up, but I honestly believe he looked and sounded exactly like what Day-Lewis brought to this movie. This is one of those movies that’s worth watching purely for one man’s performance.
  • Hugh Jackman (Les Miserables): Didn’t see it so I have no idea about his performance.
  • Joaquin Phoenix (The Master): Ditto.
  • Denzel Washington (Flight): I actually watched this today. It was my first ever rental from a Red Box machine because I really wanted to see if there was any chance Denzel could unseat Mr. Lincoln. It was a solid, dramatic performance, but I thought the movie was a little boring. Washington had some very memorable scenes, but I knew I’d never take this movie seriously when I saw the trailer for it months ago and a plane was flying upside down.

Odds-on favorite to win according to gambling sites: Daniel Day-Lewis (1/50 odds)…That means you have to bet $50 just to make $1 of profit. Normally I wouldn’t recommend this, but if you’ve got $50,000 to spare, I guarantee you’ll make the $1,000 profit off of it.

Long shot that I might put a bet on: Bradley Cooper (40/1 odds)…It’s a waste of money, but maybe the Academy has a lot more white supremacists who are still irked by Lincoln’s freeing the slaves than we imagined.

 ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

  • Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty): Not to take anything away from her performance, but I think the intense storyline and the emotional appeal of hunting Osama bin Laden carried this movie much more than any single actor did. She was damn good, don’t get me wrong. But if you threw Heather Graham into Chastain’s role as the CIA Agent in this movie, I don’t know if the film would take that big of a hit…and Heather Graham is an awful, awful actress.
  • Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook): She would certainly win if we were voting for which actress we most want to see up on stage on Oscar night. But I don’t know how she wins Best Actress without Bradley Cooper winning Best Actor. He was a bigger piece of the movie and probably carried a lot more scenes than her.
  • Emmanuelle Riva (Amour): Didn’t see it.
  • Quvenzhane Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild): Didn’t see it, but hopefully I will by Oscar night.
  • Naomi Watts (The Impossible): Didn’t see it.

Odds-on favorite to win according to gambling sites: Jennifer Lawrence (4/7 odds)

Long shot that I might put a bet on: Quvenzhane Wallis (50/1 odds)…Because I’m lukewarm about the two performances I saw, and it would be awesome for someone this young to win while watching whoever presents the award try to pronounce her name.

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Alan Arkin (Argo): Basically him and John Goodman should have been co-nominated for “Argo” because they were in the movie almost equally and both were hysterical. Good performances from both guys, but not Oscar worthy in my opinion.
  • Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook): The problem here is that De Niro’s character is supposed to be a bookie in the movie, and I know far too much about sports to buy into his performance as that bookie.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master): Didn’t see it so let’s just assume he won’t win.
  • Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln): I came out of the theater after seeing “Lincoln” and all I could remember was Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance. Everything else in this movie seemed like background noise. TLJ was actually really good in his role as Thaddeus Stevens (especially with the twist at the end of him wearing a wig!), but I’d only be rooting for him if he’d never won an Oscar before. Oh, and I hear he’s a real asshole.
  • Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained): Just like Waltz steals the show in Quentin Tarantino’s last film, “Inglourious Basterds,” so too does he steal the show in “Django.” In “Basterds” he was opposite Brad Pitt. This time he shared the screen with Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio. Quite a feat to overshadow all of those guys. He might have given my favorite performance of the year in the non-Daniel Day-Lewis category.

Odds-on favorite to win according to gambling sites: Tommy Lee Jones (+110)

Long shot that I might put a bet on: Christoph Waltz (+140)…OK so it’s not really a “long shot” in the traditional sense, but I don’t care. He’s not the favorite and he should be.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

  • Amy Adams (The Master): Didn’t see it, but I like her moxie.
  • Sally Field (Lincoln): If you can win an award like this based on one scene, then Sally Field should win for the scene in “Lincoln” when she talks circles around Tommy Lee Jones’ Thaddeus Stevens as she’s welcoming him to a dinner party. Great scene, but that’s all I really remember from her performance.
  • Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables): You already know I didn’t see it. I assume she’s going to win, but I hate her new short haircut.
  • Helen Hunt (The Sessions): Is this a real movie? Haven’t heard of it.
  • Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook): I saw this movie so long ago now that I barely remember her role as the Mom. I know she tried to break up the fights between Bradley Cooper’s character and Robert De Niro’s character, but I’m struggling to recall any other pertinent details.

Odds-on favorite to win according to gambling sites: Anne Hathaway (1/50 odds)…Apparently she’s as much of a shoo-in as Daniel Day-Lewis is.

Long shot that I might put a bet on: Jacki Weaver (50/1 odds)…Because it’s one of only two supporting actress performances I’ve seen and I’m a sucker for the big long shot.

And now, here’s my arbitrary, subjective and illogical ranking of the 19 movies I saw that came out in 2012:

19). Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

18). Snow White & The Huntsman

17). Wanderlust

16). The Campaign

15). Men In Black III

14). Prometheus

13). The Amazing Spiderman

12). The Hunger Games

11). Flight

10). This is 40

9). Ted

8). The Avengers

7). Dark Knight Rises

6). Lincoln

5). Moonrise Kingdom

4). Zero Dark Thirty

3). Argo

2). Silver Linings Playbook

1). Django Unchained