Monday, February 25, 2013

85th Annual Academy Awards: A Review

This year's Oscars was a throwback to the garish Academy Awards of yesteryear.  It was so crazy that, for my money it "worked." Seth McFarlane, in going the extra mile to just do whatever the hell he wanted proved to be a more capable host than anyone could have expected.  As much as I enjoyed the old Billy Crystal schtick of last year, this one-- overlong, overproduced, unnecessarily bloated-- turned out to be an entertaining bit of Hollywood hokum.

Things started off really crazy and off-kilter with a quite elderly looking William Shatner in a bit better suited for the Emmys in which Capt. Kirk shows McFarlane his future "bad" reviews as Oscar host.  This included a totally unfunny and uncomfortable song number about movies in which the actresses' showed their "boobs." One laugh amidst the melee: the number of times Kate Winslet has been nude in a movie.

To me, the best thing about this particular show was the fact that they got out the old-timers.  That's what I ALWAYS liked about the Oscars of old-- it was a meeting of movie elite old and new.  This years' show saw: Jane Fonda, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Barbra Streisand [replete with as one reviewer wrote, a "cheesy" ad-lib when she sang "The Way We Were"], etc. appearing onstage.  It was nice to see them all, and they all looked good.  Well, except for maybe Jack, who, in an extremely ill-fitting tux, resembled Groucho Marx.

My favorite of all of Seth's semi-disastrous bits was a parody of The Sound of Music's climax as an intro to Christopher Plummer.  I thought it was hilarious.  And it also helped that Plummer himself was the absolute perfect presenter. As last year's Best Supporting Actor he was on hand to give the award for Best Supporting Actress and he was as regal as Captain von Trapp himself.

Best-dressed and fountain-of-youth-gorgeous was (a slightly nervous) Halle Berry.  She introduced an unfortunately weak James Bond 50th tribute.  Sean Connery-- how lame are you! Maybe Brosnan was a holdout too, but Brosnan would have showed if Connery had.  We did have Shirley Bassey.  Unfortunately when she started it was really bad; however, she nailed it in the end and got herself a deserved standing ovation.  Adele's singing of "Skyfall" I thought went well, but afterward people were making excuses for her because she was a bit "off."

I was so pleased that Skyfall won 2 Oscars (one in a VERY rare tie in the technical categories when it shared Best Sound Editing with Zero Dark Thirty). [Presenter Mark Wahlberg was funny: "It's a tie, no BS!"] The most any Bond film has every won is a single Oscar (Goldfinger, Thunderball)-- so even without a Best Picture nomination, Skyfall brought the Bond films back into the Oscar arena in a big way: with 5 nominations the most of any Bond (The Spy Who Loved Me got 3 nominations), and with 2, the most wins.

The "theme" of the show was musicals-- for no other reason than just because.  It made the cruel playing off of accepters to the strands of the Jaws theme that much more abusive-- the old "why-can't-they-cut-one-musical-number-and-let-them-speak" argument.  It was particularly bad the first time it was used when Life of Pi won for visual effects and the winner was attempting to comment on the fact that the f/x house who did the work, Rhythm & Hues, is in Chapter 11.

Odds and ends section:

• It seemed to everyone that Meryl Streep announced Daniel Day-Lewis' win without even looking at the envelope!

• Seth had a few too many, on purpose, groan inducing inappropriate jokes: the Rihanna/Chris Brown [ancient] joke, the Booth "too soon" Lincoln gag, etc.

• The risky Flight sock-puppet bit should have been bumped up in Seth's grab bag of never-ending opening bits: funny.

• What was up with all the sound drop outs? Again sound problems at the Oscars! Embarrassing.

• Michelle Obama's co-presenting of the Best Picture award added nothing.

• Never has anyone turned around falling on the stairs with such aplomb as Jennifer Lawrence.  Receiving a standing ovation she immediately pointed out it more had to do with her stumble.  Kudos too to Jean Dujardin for coming to her rescue.

• Some of my favorite speeches included a funny Daniel Day-Lewis, a grateful Ben Affleck, and a short and sweet speech by the costume design winner that said to me: see "technical category" people it IS possible to WRITE a speech and MEMORIZE it, instead of mumbling incoherently because, after all, you're not a "performer."

• Although widely predicted, Argo's win for Best Picture was a rare moment of not a full fait accompli for a Best Picture win; and, more significantly, I don't recall ever a category as equally matched as Best Supporting Actor this year-- which literally could have gone to ANY of the five nominees.

• With three wins, Argo ties Crash (2005) with least number of wins by a Best Picture winner in recent history.

For all the bad reviews this year's Oscars got, lets face it, here's our choices: (a.) a pleasant, "safe" Billy Crystal evening (b.) a train wreck of lameness with Anne Hathaway & James Franco (c.) this crazy mess.  I pick (c.)

Friday, February 1, 2013

Box Office #1s: US Domestic

Marvel's The Avengers was a big hit among many huge box office hits this past year.  Here are the top grossing films of the last ten years, entirely dominated by "franchise" blockbusters:
2012: Marvel's The Avengers
2011: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
2010: Toy Story 3
2009: Avatar
2008: The Dark Knight
2007: Spider-Man 3
2006: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
2005: Star Wars: Episode III
2004: Shrek 2
2003: LOTR: Return of the King

What will be the biggest US domestic release this year? LOTS of franchise stuff... Star Trek Into DarknessIron Man 3Man of Steel? Catching FireThe Hobbit 2? I'd love to see a non fantasy/superhero movie come out of nowhere and catch the top slot.