Thursday, February 14, 2008

Oscar Pix

remember when the nominations came out on Valentine's Day?

[:02 FANFARE] presenting Caroline Bender's Oscar Picks for 2008, just in time for you to play along.

You'll recall that I had very little time to get my viewing in after the nominees were announced, but I am now prepared to give my commentary.

No Country for Old Men
didn't see it. There. The spell is broken.

It isn't playing anywhere anymore, it has no buzz, and the whole thing looked completely annoying. So the egg is on my face if it actually wins, but I don't think it will.

This is in the Babel, Munich, Traffic category. Movies like this are always in the Final Five and they don't win. This one made the additional mistake of having too many words in its title.

There will be Blood.
Will there? I said to the guy at the box office, "Is this any kind of guarantee? Because I am coming right back here if there is no blood."

There is. But you have to wait until the final scene to see it, and by then you have put out your own eyes out of sheer boredom so you may miss it.

This is by men, for men, menmenmen. Oddly, the night I went, there was not one man in the audience, which proves that women really will sign up to hear Daniel Day-Lewis read the phonebook, even if he does so, inexplicably, in John Houston's voice. For two and three-quarter hours.

This is the cast of Lonesome Dove on the set of Giant reading the script from Chinatown.So it is not without merit. The cinematic language is poetic --Bring your friends who don't speak English. Bring your deaf friends. For about an hour it won't matter at all. And... they will not have to suffer the over-orchestrated score that imposes itself on you like an uninvited guest.

This will win many awards -- it may even win Best Picture -- but when you finally see it you will wonder why.

Now for something completely different.

Juno breaks the first of my cinematic rules, which is opening with voiceover. Voiceover says, "well I had no idea how to convey this visually, so... here ya go." OR it says, "the audience didn't get it. so we added this in post." Let me also acknowledge that To Kill a Mockingbird also breaks this rule and it is otherwise flawless. This is the downside of filming a novel whose best feature is its narrative voice.

Juno is not the kind of film that wins Best Picture. It is the kind of film the WGA gets into the Final Five, and they have had a lot of time on their hands. I found the script over-written in most parts, but saved by its acting and richer-than-chocolate Art Direction. This is probably Best Screenplay for 2008, and some other production awards, but comedies rarely win, movies about teens rarely win, contemporary settings only sporadically win, and when any of that happens, they are Annie Hall, Ordinary People, and American Beauty. Juno is very good; it is not that good.

Michael Clayton
Back when I had only seen one of the nominees, it was this one, and I said then that it was good enough to take it. That is still true, but it has other obstacles.

It came out too early in the year is the main one, and people forget. Now be clear about this: Acamdemy members don't need to schlep to the mall to see these pictures; they are delivered to them. So the danger is not that voters can't get to see it. The danger is there is no buzz. Hence the "for your consideration" campaigns and the existence of publicists.

Pulling for it: Hollywood loves George Clooney. You may think he is a pretty boy TV star who lives with a pot-bellied pig, but to his co-workers he is a prince among men.
Pulling against it: Corporate liability movie? never happen. hasn't yet. They win acting awards, not Best Picture.

In a year where the little guy wants to stick it to the man, some might lean their votes this way, but I expect instead they will show their solidarity with Diablo Cody and Juno and this vote gets split. (Unless No Country for Old Men is actually good, which I would not know.)

Michael Clayton is Jonathan Edwards -- people like him, just not enough.

I was wrong about Atonement. It is not Legends of the Fall for girls. In fact, it is The Children's Hour, or you think it is, until it goes Sixth Sense crazy at the end.

Film should be many things, but the thing it should be most -- and the thing that all of its individual elements should combine to be -- is transporting. The story should compel, the characters should capture, the sound should draw you in and the visuals should keep you there. The reality of the world you have been taken to should be believeable to the last detail; you should never look up, as if from the page, and say with wrinkled nose "really?" You should never look up at all. You should not move.

If Atonement had not been nominated for Best Picture I might have thrown it at the bottom of my Netflix queue and let it float up as it would. Or I might never have looked at all. London...war...english people... Keira Knightly (who is beginning to out-Winona Winona. Take a note: Winona Ryder, Keira Knightly and Natalie Portman in King Lear. Get back to me). And I would have missed the most transporting film I have seen all year.

Just see it. Just see it -- big screen, stadium seating, THX and the whole bit. This is what you go to the movies for.

Rent the DVD later and hope that there is enough director's commentary to break down the Dunkirk beach tracking shot, which I know in my brain has to be digitized but it spellbound my heart felt like watching a magic trick.

I'll be on the mezzanine Sunday night. I am wearing Donna Karan. My date refuses to wear his uniform.


  1. I have to add this comment: No Country for Old Men opens at The Strand tomorrow. and I probably still won't see it.

  2. I thought NCFOM and TWBB were the same movie.

  3. I'm just still excited that the Oscars are happening this year. Maybe it is because I am such a big dork, but it is the one awards show that I really enjoy each year.

    Unfortunately, this past year has been pretty crazy and I haven't seen a single one of the best picture noms. I'll watch the Oscars anyway.

  4. I really am getting OLD. I don't know the actors/actresses anymore and quite frankly when I do watch movies (which is not often anymore) they're from netflex. I wouldn't put '...blood' on my list and likely not any of the others. Having said all that -- I hope everyone enjoys the Oscars -- I only watch to see what everyone is wearing!! :o) Marn


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