Live Blogging: Oscars 2009

7 03 2010

NOTE: All times are from the Central Time Zone.

6:42 P.M. Got the epiphany to live blog the Oscars a few moments ago.  Watching the red carpet arrivals on E! while I wait for the show to start.  Basically, I really want to hang out with Gabourey Sidibe because she is awesome.  Keep checking back for more updates!

7:01 P.M. Blahhh, I thought the actual show started now!  Too bad it’s just another 30 minutes of red carpet…

7:30 P.M. It’s 7:30, now start the show!  I don’t want to see a Sketchers ad!

7:31 P.M. Interesting display of the leading actor/actress nominees…also kind of awkward.  Love Carey Mulligan and Gabourey though.

7:33 P.M. What awards show hasn’t NPH been on?  This is kind of a random opening…I want Alec and Steve.

7:36 P.M. I’m already digging the duo.  No more solo hosts, please.

7:41 P.M. Why on earth is Kathryn Bigelow sitting right in front of James Cameron?

7:43 P.M. Alec and Steve = my new heroes for poking fun at Taylor Lautner and Zac Efron.

7:48 P.M. CHRISTOPH WALTZ! HECK YES!

7:49 P.M. I love Waltz’s “BINGO” reference.  What a humble speech.

7:52 P.M. They usually do the Best Picture nominees in alphabetical order, so if “District 9” is next, then “Avatar” won Best Picture.  I can’t stand how the producers don’t think we realize this.

7:57 P.M. This animated character thing is SO money.

8:00 P.M. Yayyyyyy “Up!”

8:04 P.M. Good win for “The Weary Kind” … Oscars proceeding without surprises.

8:06 P.M. Can I change my ballot now?  “District 9” just got presented, so “Avatar” has won.

8:15 P.M. Best Original Screenplay goes to … “The Hurt Locker.”  Beginning of a steamroller?

8:18 P.M. Likin’ the John Hughes tribute.  Some good laughs here.

8:24 P.M. Oh boy … scratch that “Avatar” theory.  They are showing “Up,” which I’m secretly hoping wins Best Picture.

8:32 P.M. And there goes my perfect ballot.  Thanks, “Logorama.”

8:38 P.M. How much better can Ben Stiller get?  After Joaquin Phoenix last year, I thought he was hilarious.  I’m literally dying at him in Na’vi makeup.  James Cameron looks so uncomfortable…

8:50 P.M. NO! “Up in the Air” just got robbed!  But happy for “Precious” too, I guess.

8:52 P.M. If “Up in the Air” doesn’t win an Oscar…

8:58 P.M. Why are they giving away the best parts of “Up in the Air” now?

9:01 P.M. Hey, Mo’Nique just proved that my “Importance of the Speech” article was right!  And what a deserved standing ovation for the best performance of the year.

9:02 P.M. Are they presenting the Best Picture nominees in the order in which they were voted?  Or am I just reading too much into this?

9:07 P.M. Wow, a win for “Avatar” for Best Production Design?  I guess they really do accept the digital filmmaking …

9:09 P.M. What is with the weird rotating set piece behind the presenters?

9:12 P.M. “Precious” has 6 nominations, Charlize.

9:21 P.M. They did NOT just show “New Moon” in the horror sequence…

9:22 P.M. Anna Kendrick, get off Zac Efron’s arm and marry me.

9:23 P.M. Thank you, Morgan Freeman, for explaining sound to me!  I love your voice.

9:25 P.M. And the first “Avatar”-“Hurt Locker” face off goes to … “The Hurt Locker.”

9:27 P.M. Make that the first two* faceoffs…

9:30 P.M. All of a sudden, I really want to watch “Inglourious Basterds.”  Kudos to the person who edited the clip for utilizing the amazing soundtrack.

9:36 P.M. And now “Avatar” takes one from “The Hurt Locker” with cinematography.

9:41 P.M. I miss Natasha Richardson.

9:47 P.M. These street dancers are interesting … I much prefer last year’s simple and classy Best Score presentation.

9:52 P.M. YESSSSSSSSS! “UP” WINS … very deserving Best Score win.

9:56 P.M. Wait … “Avatar” for Best Visual Effects?  That’s shocking … NOW we are tied at 3.

9:58 P.M. Remind me why “Up in the Air” isn’t going to win Best Picture…

10:01 P.M. Only 29 minutes left in the show … this is when my heart starts pumping like crazy.

10:04 P.M. A deserved win for “The Cove.”  Bravo, Academy.  Bravo.

10:06 P.M. Where are Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin?  And why is Tyler Perry presenting editing (actually, this isn’t such a big deal)?

10:07 P.M. And the Oscar goes to “The Hurt Locker” … that makes 4.

10:09 P.M. “The Hurt Locker” coming on now means that “Avatar” will be presented last … am I reading too much into it?

10:15 P.M. What’s with these lamps behind Quentin?

10:20 P.M. Four awards to go, ten minutes scheduled … we are definitely running over.

10:25 P.M. I thought they had gotten rid of this awkward presentation for the acting categories … guess not.

10:32 P.M. Oh, and now we get Kate Winslet.

10:33 P.M. I’m happy for Jeff Bridges.  Almost 40 years from nomination to win. Wow.

10:48 P.M. What the heck did Sean Penn just say?

10:49 P.M. Not my personal choice, but I like Sandra Bullock’s attitude.

10:52 P.M. It’s going to be really awkward for Barbra Streisand if Kathryn Bigelow doesn’t win … melted butter, if you will.

10:55 P.M. We have just seen history.  CONGRATULATIONS KATHRYN BIGELOW!

10:58 P.M. BEST PICTURE AHHHHH!!!!!

10:58 P.M. Oh, wow, that was quick.  Go “The Hurt Locker!”

11:04 P.M. Why do I hear “E.T.,” “Chariots of Fire,” and the musical “Oklahoma” in the end credits for the Oscars?

11:07 P.M. Why are the rules being presented at the very end of the broadcast.

11:08 P.M. Well, that’s it, folks.  “The Hurt Locker” is the big winner with six, but “Avatar” took home three, and “Precious,” “Crazy Heart,” and “Up” each won two.  Nothing for “Up in the Air.”  It’s my movie now!





The 2009 Oscars: Redefining

7 03 2010

Well, we are here.  It is Oscar night.  The final hurrah for the best films of 2009.  A life-changing night for many people who will have a new title to affix in front of their names forever.

But the change isn’t just limited to the winners; tonight, the very way that we look at the Oscars could change.  If Best Picture goes to “Avatar,” the Academy will have shown its support for 3D, motion capture, and box office receipts.  If “The Hurt Locker” wins, it reaffirms the Academy’s value of powerful, classic filmmaking.  “Avatar” would be the highest grossing Best Picture winner ever; “The Hurt Locker” would be the lowest.

The media has enjoyed calling the race “David vs. Goliath,” but I’m not sure that’s what I would call it.  It is Goliath vs. Goliath, two very big movies in their own right and their own distinctive way.  The Oscars have always been about the movies, not the money (as much as we think – or know – that it plays a part), and both of these movies are fantastic pieces of filmmaking.

In most of my conversations involving “Avatar” this year, people have said, “I loved the movie, but I don’t think it should win Best Picture.”  To all of those people, I give you this message: we have been worked into this notion of what Best Picture should be due in large part to the similarities of the recent winners.  This year could be about redefining how we see Best Picture forever, and I’ve now prepared myself for it.  There are much worse movies than “Avatar” that could have led the charge.  And eventually, there will be a 3-D winner; there will be a motion-capture winner; there will be a sci-fi winner.  Giving Best Picture to “Avatar” could inspire some great filmmakers to try their hand at the medium, and cinema would truly be raised to new levels.

I’ve talked to some people who haven’t even heard of “The Hurt Locker.”  It’s not the kind of mainstream, popcorn movie that attracts a lot of people without hearing that it has been nominated for nine Oscars.  But it’s the kind of movie that people are happy to discover, and the awards have led many people to watch it who probably wouldn’t have before.  If those people didn’t care to rent the movie, they’ll see it’s win as typical Academy pretentiousness.  To them, I say that sometimes, you have to look past the multiplex to find the best movies.  A win for “The Hurt Locker” would probably leave Best Picture at the status quo, and plenty of people are fine with keeping their preconceived notions of the prize.

So, I hope everyone can enjoy the show whether or not your movie wins.  But remember this: an Oscar win makes it their movie.  Sometimes, if the Oscars don’t reward the movie you like, it becomes your movie.

I’m still sticking by my conviction that “Up in the Air” was the best movie of 2009, but I doubt that it will take home Best Picture.  I’m getting a feeling in my gut that “Avatar” will win, but my prediction is still “The Hurt Locker.”

But just remember – change isn’t always a bad thing.  It’s their decision, not ours, and it’s best not to fight it.  Accept it.  Enjoy it.





2009: Best Actor

5 03 2010

I’m wrapping up the in-depth analysis of this year’s Academy Awards with the Best Actor category. In a perfect world, I would have done the screenplays, director, and picture categories as well. But life happens, and things don’t always work out as planned.

Nevertheless, please enjoy this deeper look at the performances that got these actors here.

Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “The little things that help to turn Bridges into this character aren’t very obvious, yet I never felt like I was watching Jeff Bridges.”

He’s here because … he is an industry veteran with a lot of respect, and his four winless trips to the Oscars simply aren’t enough to honor such a great actor.

George Clooney in “Up in the Air”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “George Clooney remains the best in the business at playing visibly collected while emotionally perturbed beneath the surface.”

He’s here because … he’s an Academy favorite who is as good as he’s ever been in a beautifully nuanced performance.

Colin Firth in “A Single Man”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Firth keeps the grief bubbling under the surface for most of the movie, and he makes George’s journey even more heart-rending with his subdued misery.”

He’s here because … he is immensely likable, and he finally gives a performance that can turn good feelings into awards attention.

Morgan Freeman in “Invictus”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Morgan Freeman is remarkable as Mandela, and it is a performance that reminds us why he has such a revered status among actors.”

He’s here because … it’s Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela – a legend playing a legend.

Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Renner gives an absolute tour de force performance as James; he strips James down until he is emotionally raw.”

He’s here because … he’s finally found his breakout role at 39 in the little movie that could; who can resist that?

Marshall’s “Oscars”

I’ve seen all five of the nominees in this category, and I think they did a great job selecting here.  The only change I would make is replacing Morgan Freeman for Peter Sarsgaard in “An Education.”  Freeman did a great job in “Invictus,” but I felt like it was just him going through the motions.  He didn’t wow me.

Sarsgaard, on the other hand, dazzled me.  He was campaigned for Best Supporting Actor, but category fraud doesn’t happen at my awards.  He brings such grace and debonair to his character, the wooer of teenage Jenny, that I didn’t doubt why she fell for his charms.

So, the lineup at my awards would be …

Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”
Peter Sarsgaard, “An Education”

Predictions

Should win: George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
Could win: Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”
Will win: Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”

Bridges has it in the bag, no question about it.  If his wide array of trophies for this performance wasn’t enough, the massive standing ovations he has received collecting them leave no doubt in my mind.





2009: Best Actress

4 03 2010

Best Actress – it’s considered by many to be the most unpredictable of the major races at the 82nd Academy Awards.  Five very deserving and adored candidates are vying for the industries top prize.

But before they were candidates, they were performances.  And even before that, they were characters that existed on a page.  Each of these are just stages, and to move from one to the other, a fantastic actor is crucial.

Here, I intend to celebrate the actresses for their work in turning that character into a performance, work that was so excellent that it turned them into candidates.

Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Sandra Bullock’s spirited and spunky performance (which was good enough to overcome her dreadful accent) atones for some of the errors the film makes with her story.”

She’s here because … she is a popular actress playing a likable character in the box office surprise of the year.

Helen Mirren in “The Last Station”

She’s here because … she’s Helen Mirren and the Academy loves her; who cares if no one in America had seen her movie when the ballots were due?

Carey Mulligan in “An Education”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “The understated grace and poise that Mulligan gives to Jenny is what evoked Hepburn’s resemblance, but the real marvel of Mulligan’s acting is that the old-fashioned spirit does not make her character some kind of antique.”

She’s here because … she is a brilliant rising star who dazzles in one of the year’s most agreeable movies.

Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “[Streep] completely masters the persona of the larger-than-life personality and woman – but to anyone that has seen Streep’s work, this is hardly a surprise.”

She’s here because … this is yet another fantastic Meryl Streep performance, and the Academy can’t not nominate one of those.

Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “[Sidibe] makes us feel great concern about her character from the instant we see her trudging through her school.  As Precious gains confidence, our concern develops into genuine care and affection.”

She’s here because … in her first role, she commands the screen with the presence of a veteran.

Marshall’s Oscars

I haven’t seen “The Last Station,” but three of the four nominated performances that I have seen made my Best Actress list.  The exception is Sandra Bullock, who I think has a great story this year, but not one of the best performances.

One spot goes to Zooey Deschanel for her fantastic work on “(500) Days of Summer.”  Her performance has stuck with me all year, and its beautiful subtleties are astounding.  In one of my first reviews on this blog, I raved of Deschanel:

Summer [Deschanel’s character] also has a deep need to be love, but she makes this yearning ever so subtle. Deschanel is able to play this crucial undertone quite skillfully … Deschanel, who most audiences will remember as Will Ferrell’s love interest in “Elf,” plays Summer with the right balance of warmth and bitterness. She plays hard-to-get but also projects Summer’s need to be loved at the same time.

I’ve always been hesitant about giving acting awards to foreign language performances (not that it really matters), but the more I have thought about Melanie Laurent’s performance in “Inglourious Basterds,” the more remarkable it has become for me.  I didn’t say anything other than her being “poignant” in my review, yet her virtuoso work is actually quite astounding.  Obviously Waltz reigns supreme in the film, but she’s crucial to the movie’s success in her own right.

At my prestigious ceremony, the nominees read as followed:

Zooey Deschanel, “(500) Days of Summer”
Melanie Laurent, “Inglourious Basterds”
Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious”

Predictions

Should win: Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
Could win: Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”
Will win: Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”

The race is between Streep and Bullock, with Mulligan and Sidibe as the major dark horses.  Ultimately, I think the fact that Meryl already has two statues on her mantle coupled with the popularity of “The Blind Side” is enough to propel Bullock to the win.





2009: Best Supporting Actor

3 03 2010

My celebration of this year’s Academy Award-nominated performances continues with a look at the Best Supporting Actor category.

It’s an interesting mix, but I’ll try not to treat them as numbers or as candidates.  They are actors, and they give performances.  The Oscars become a political race, but I think it’s time to relax and remember 2009 simply as it was: a great year at the theater.

Matt Damon in “Invictus”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “The urgency with which [Damon] sets out to transform rugby into something more than just a game for his team is played with an ardent and admirable intensity.”

He’s here because … he had a great year, playing two completely different characters, and he is a well-liked and popular actor.

Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger”

He’s here because … he is a character actor who has gone too long unnoticed and under appreciated, and it is time for his moment in the sun.

Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station”

He’s here because … he is a fantastic aging actor who had never been nominated before this year, and it was time to correct the crime.

Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones”

He’s here because … he’s a well-liked actor who showed his versatility this year, and he has sympathy after the sad loss of his wife to cancer earlier this year.

Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “[Waltz] makes Landa very eerie, nearing the level of Javier Bardem in ‘No Country for Old Men,’ but he is also quite likeable and somewhat charming despite the atrocious deeds he commits.”

He’s here because … he is absolutely spellbinding and commanded the screen every time he graced it.

Marshall’s “Oscars”

It’s a little tough for me to gauge how well the Academy did with this category because at this moment, I have only seen two of the five nominated performances.  However, the two that I did see (Waltz and Damon) both made my list.

As for the other three, it’s a bit of an eccentric collection.  First, I would like to honor the snubbed Alfred Molina for his role as Jenny’s father in “An Education.”  Last year, I spoke on my strong support for his performance:

“Among the ensemble, the real standout is Alfred Molina as Jenny’s father.  Despite being a stern authoritarian when it comes to educational matters, Molina brings an all-encompassing charm that lets us know that he cares for her greatly (but with the values of a fading generation).  His presence lends a warm feel to the movie that blends well with all the other pleasant sentiments the movie radiates.”

Another actor who made my list is not a conventional Academy pick (and thus he finds a home here): Alec Baldwin for “It’s Complicated.”  Other than perhaps “The Hangover” guys, I can’t think of any one actor who made me bust a gut so hard in 2009.  In my review, I raved of Baldwin:

“The real comedic spirit of the film comes from Alec Baldwin, who plays the overbearing fun-lover with such energy that he steals the screen every time he appears on it.  Motivated by little other than carnal desires, [his character’s] every move is fairly anticipated, but Baldwin’s zeal and verve prevent them ensure that they are always hysterical.”

For my final nominee, I debated including Paul Schneider for his role as poet John Keats’ friend in “Bright Star” as well as Stephen Lang for his muscling role as tough-as-nails marine in “Avatar.”  But after some thought, I decided that the spot deservingly goes to Nicholas Hoult for playing an overly interested student in “A Single Man.”  At first, I found myself quite annoyed by the character.  But as soon as I got over that, I discovered that a great performance lay underneath:

“The real acting standout is the young Nicholas Hoult as George’s overly inquisitive pupil, Kenny.  The script only feeds him obsequiously sexually inviting lines, and it’s hard to overcome that.  But Hoult understands the nature of his character and allows him to progress from somewhat creepy to somewhat of a guardian angel for George (look no further than his giant white sweater).”

So, at Marshall’s Oscars, the nominees would have been…

Alec Baldwin, “It’s Complicated”
Matt Damon, “Invictus”
Nicholas Hoult, “A Single Man”
Alfred Molina, “An Education”
Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”

Predictions:

Should win: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”
Could win: Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
Will win: Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”

The only way Waltz loses here is if the voters feel like they need to give Plummer a “career achievement” Oscar. But even that doesn’t seem likely after Waltz’s steamrolling through this season.





2009: Best Supporting Actress

2 03 2010

It’s here.

By this point, the ballots are in, and all the campaigning is over. The politics of the Oscars are over, and now we are just left with the scripts, the performances, and the movies.  Rather than do one big post discussing and analyzing all of the categories, I want to use this week to honor the films and performances themselves.

Penelope Cruz in “Nine”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Cruz is absolutely mesmerizing from the first instant we see her traipsing around on some pink fabric.”

She’s here because … she was the highlight of a pretty disastrous movie, pulling off one of the year’s sexiest performances.

Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Vera Farmiga walks a very thin line between “feminine and agressive,” according to Reitman, and she never gives us any hint that she will lose her balance.”

She’s here because … she is a delightful female counterpart to George Clooney, and her performance illuminates Clooney’s character as a whole.

Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “It’s a performance very much in Gyllehaal’s comfort zone, and she’s pleasant to watch.”

She’s here because … she holds her own against the renowned Jeff Bridges, and she has a lot of respect amongst actors (not unlike her co-star).

Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air”

IN MY OWN WORDS: [Kendrick] doesn’t show promise as a star; Natalie Keener has made her one.

She’s here because … she is a brilliant discovery, making uptight lovable and reminding us of the happiness and pain that comes with having real human relationships.

Mo’Nique in “Precious”

IN MY OWN WORDS: “Mo’Nique delivers a performance that is absolutely harrowing.”

She’s here because … this is the most emotionally gripping performance of 2009, and it’s equally shocking to think that it comes from the actress who headlined “Phat Girlz” three years ago.

Marshall’s “Oscars”

The Academy did a pretty good job this year. My top five match 4/5 with their list.

I would replace Maggie Gyllenhaal with Rosamund Pike for “An Education.”  Both played relatively simple characters: Gyllenhaal the devoted single mother and Pike the dumb blonde.  But the distinction arises from what they do with it.  Gyllenhaal seems complacent with sticking to the stock character; on the other hand, Pike does fascinating things with Helen.  I didn’t feel like I was watching the ten millionth air-headed rich blonde because Pike made it feel refreshing and new.

In my review, I said about Pike:

“The performance that will probably go criminally unheralded is Rosamund Pike as one of David’s companions.  She is the typical ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype, but she brings her own flair to it in a way that makes the tired stock character seem brand new.  When she is on screen, you can’t help but grin.”

So, at Marshall’s Oscars, the nominees are…

Penelope Cruz, “Nine”
Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique, “Precious”
Rosamund Pike, “An Education”

In case you don’t realize this, my favorite is revealed in the “should win” listed below.

Predictions

Should win: Mo’Nique, “Precious”
Could win: Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Will win: Mo’Nique, “Precious”

No way in hell anyone other than Mo’Nique wins. She’s just too good.





FEATURE: The Importance of the Speech

1 03 2010

At the Screen Actors Guild Awards, they call it “Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role.”  At the Golden Globe Awards, they call it “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture.”  But at the Academy Awards, the most celebrated show of them all, they call it simply “Best Actor.”

This distinction is important because at the Oscars, it is not just the performance that is rewarded.  It is the actor themselves.  The Academy elects four actors each year to become the face of quality of their industry to the world.  These actors can forever affix the title “Academy Award Winner” to their name on any poster or trailer they so desire.  Thus, they vote not only for a great body of work but also for a face and a personality that represents them well.

The performance gets a select group of actors some attention.  Their name and reputation gets them to the next step: consideration.  Then, a few big groups take a leap and select one of them.  At this point, the part of the voter is done.  It is up to the actors to let us know where they stand.  With their acceptance speech, it is their job to convince us why they deserve the highest honor that their craft has to give.  It is their job to show voters what a vote for them really means.

Let’s take a look at the five actors who have won top prizes from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild.

Read the rest of this entry »