Tuesday, March 1. 2011
Had thought about skipping the Oscars this year, figuring it would all be all too predictable, as indeed had a couple other awards shows I wound up watching. Still, was feeling pretty lethargic Sunday night, so that's where I wound up. The show itself was pretty dreadful, even with a couple of innovations to minimize the damage, like moving the director's award away from best picture -- look at how often the two are redundant -- and grouping the usual awful songs into two short segments. Other bright ideas didn't pan out so well. James Franco and Anne Hathaway showed why they'd always used comedian-emcees in the past. (Roger Ebert: "Incredibly, when former host Billy Crystal came onstage about two hours into the show, he got the first laughs all evening.") Not even the stunt with Franco in a red dress came with a punchline. (I would have settled for styling it as a Tony Curtis tribute.) Having last year's director winner give out this year's prize reminds you why they always used actors for that job. Even more egregious were the wedding vows between the Academy and ABC. Setting the best picture nominees to the climactic speech from The King's Speech either proved that they had peeked into the envelope or that they didn't care. Having Celine Dion sing over the deathwatch prevented anyone from getting a word in edgewise. The best actor and actress toasts weren't as bad as last year, but mostly because Jeff Bridges was talented and sane enough to read them straight and dispose of them quickly.
As for the movies what won or even placed, they're a pretty sad set. I thought The King's Speech was very smartly done, but it is a pretty trivial travail, much like the constitutional monarchy itself. If you believe that bloviating in front of a radio microphone was the key to winning WWII, you're certainly aware that Britain didn't need much of an effort from King George -- Timothy Spall's small role as Churchill easily covered that base. I've seen people complain about Oscar's predeliction for "Merchant-Ivory costume dramas" but The King's Speech was silly compared to films like Howard's End or The Remains of the Day. Same thing if you tried standing True Grit up to Unforgiven. About the only contending movie that doesn't have an obviously superior referent in the near past is The Social Network. I particularly liked the detail of when what's-his-name had some serious hacking to do and invoked emacs. Still, in the end the movie's about people with money running roughshod over people with less money, with no interest in wishing otherwise.
It's been getting difficult to get out to movies here in Wichita, partly due to the local monopoly and partly due to our own habits. Among the winners, didn't see The Fighter, Inception, Alice in Wonderland, or Toy Story 3 -- all of which were here for ample runs, although lots else came and went fast, or didn't come at all. I've mostly stopped trying to write up notes on movies seen, but will try to at least list them here. (I think I did the same thing last year.) Scrounged through my notes, looked at Wikipedia's 2010 in film page, racked my brain, and came up with this, pretty much in rank order as best I can recall:
Some more we wanted to see but didn't manage (*like because they never came here): Alice in Wonderland; Barney's Version*; Biutiful*; Blue Valentine; The Fighter; Inside Job; The Kids Are All Right; Mao's Last Dancer; Rabbit Hole; Somewhere*; The Tempest*; Toy Story 3; You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.
Some other reputable films we never seriously considered: 127 Hours; Casino Jack; Despicable Me; The Illusionist; Inception; Jack Goes Boating; Love and Other Drugs; Morning Glory; Restrepo; Robin Hood; The Runaways; Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
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