Actually, I finally got tired of reading one article after another about who SHOULD win an Oscar, versus who WILL win, so I just decided to offer Mrs. L's "How Come They Never Ask Me" selections for BEST ACTOR/SUPPORTING ACTOR, BEST DIRECTOR, and BEST MOVIE based on my years of experience with Raisinets and buttered popcorn. I think you will find my criteria rather novel for picking the Oscars:
1. Best ACTUAL Performance by a lead or supporting actor in a movie this year -- not best body of work over time or consolation prize for losing last time, not best costume, prosthetic nose, accent, funny walk or unusual mannerisms
2. Best Directorial SKILLS -- getting the actors to act is job one, not green screens, weird effects, or bizarro scripts
3. Best MOVIE goes to the film that offers the most compelling combination of casting, acting, story, music, shot selection, script, sound, editing, credits, you know, everything.
Before we start, I'd like to thank the folks at MoviesMSN for letting me steal borrow their graphics. You can watch trailers, get a synopsis, a review, a ticket, a date, pretty much anything over there. And the nominees are:
Might as well start with tonight's finale first -- Best Movie. I'm going out on a limb here -- it will not be A Serious Man, I mean seriously, a Coen Brothers comedy, are you insane? Why should I pay a dime to see a movie with Richard Kind in it? Even if he is a friend of George Clooney's. Kind is primarily a comic TV actor and doesn't belong on my Big Screen. In the interest of full disclosure I hated the Coen boys' No Country for Old Men. It didn't end, it simply stopped. And Javier Bardem was just a guy with a bad hairdo and a 100 yard stare. What about Fargo, you say? I've seen better stuff on Carol Burnett re-runs.
Well, we're off to a good start, aren't we?
An Education? How about statutory rape disguised as a coming of age story wrapped up as a 60's period piece? The EWWWW factor is off the charts for me. Especially since the director is a woman who said she experienced a similar coming of age deflowering. What is it about this inappropriate seduction that you are so determined to romanticize? This movie is saved only by its ironically witty script, which has been nominated for best adapted screenplay, not one of Mrs. L's categories.
Avatar, blech. I'm the only person in the entire world who is not on the bandwagon for this one. Have you seen the videos that spoof the film as the same story as Pocahontas, only in Blue-face? This flick has more bells and whistles than an Edsel, all the better to capture the hearts and minds of 18-24 year old boys. But, sorry, I want better acting, a better story, and less gismos.
The Blind Side -- how did this Hallmark Hall of Fame movie get into theaters? Oh, Sandra Bullock. Love her, hated the nomination. Frankly, I usually want to have my heartwarming, feel-good sobs while I'm at home, curled up on the sofa with a pint of ice cream. No way this one wins. It's a paint by numbers portrait.
The Hurt Locker. This one would have made a better documentary. It starts out with the intensity of DefCon 1 and has no where to go, so it stays on the edge with its lights and sirens going for the entire movie. I was emotionally exhausted from the tension, but not much more when this one was over.
Inglourious Basterds. Spelling right out of Tarantino's arse, and a story from the same location. Quentin Tarrantino re-writes one of the most terrible times in world history. To what end? Because he can? What's next? How we won the Vietnam war? Or Woulda•Coulda•Shoulda - the Al Gore presidency? After the refreshing, irreverent, okay, brilliant Pulp Fiction was nominated for several Oscars and won for best screenplay, it's been downhill for Q in my book.
Up and Up In the Air. The first one's an animated kids' movie. There should be a separate category for those. After I saw Up in the Air, my reaction to all the hype for it was, "You're kidding, right?" Too many false notes in this Clooney paycheck movie, from the contrived dueling computers scene, to the one dimensional acting. Vanilla yogurt.
Which brings me to District 9 and Precious. Take your pick. They both get my Oscar for best movie of the year. District 9 has more layers than an architectural dig. Peel one off and there's another underneath. There are subtle undercurrents of class distinctions between the South Africans. Nevermind how badly they both treat the aliens. Even the name of Sharlto Copley's character, Wikus van der Merwe, is intentionally rude. It's like naming a working class stiff Al Grabowski. Or a wealthy snob Fauntleroy Chadbourne III. All you have to do is see an interview with Sharlto Copley to appreciate, by comparison, how well he captured the accent and angst of the hapless van der Merwe.
Precious has the benefit of casting against type, with performances imaginatively fine-tuned by Lee Daniels' superb directorial skills. The natural light of the film contributes to the desolation of the movie's main character. The story is relentlessly discomfitting, never letting you escape, which is part of its power. I could go on, but you'll never see Precious no matter what I say.
Time for best actor.
George Clooney is good, but he could have phoned this one in. Colin Firth was my second pick for Best Actor. His gay character was restrained and graceful. Morgan Freeman is doing a really good impersonation of Mandela. Is that acting? Jeremy Renner is a very good actor whose talents weren't needed for his movie. Jeff Bridges gets my Oscar. He left it all on the field. He WAS that broke-down singer. Even in the trailer he says more with one look than Clooney spoke during his entire movie.
Sandra Bullock dyed her hair and spoke Southern. Not good enough. Helen Mirren looked like she was playing dress up with her grandmother's clothes. Carey Mulligan played herself, no stretch there. Meryl Streep created a Julia Child worthy of Saturday Night Live. The absolute best female performance of the year was by Gabourey Sidibe. She had to go on tour just to convince people she WASN'T that character.
Best Body goes to Matt Damon, but not the Oscar. He did good with his South African accent however. Christopher Plummer played the same ol' same ol' with a beard this time. Stanley Tucci, who is never bad, gets credit for disappearing into his character with hair, mustache, dweeb glasses and some devilish looks this time. But this is best supporting actor, not lifetime achievement. Christopher Waltz and Woody Harrelson make it hard to decide. I'll go with Woody.
Penelope Cruz shouldn't have been nominated for Nine. Vera Farmiga didn't have a very demanding part. She felt slightly miscast to me. Not enough edge. Maggie Gyllenhaal was flat. Anna Kendrick was interesting until she had her implausible crying scene, which came straight out of the "Acting for Dummies" book. Mo'nique left me shaking my head in astonishment. She brang it.
The best director favorite is Kathryn Bigelow, because the idea of a woman doing a war flick is such a novelty. The movie is good, but not that good. James Cameron is the master of big budget pix, but he's trying to dazzle us with lots of style and too little substance. Tarrantino missed the boat on this one. Jason Reitman made a nice movie. Not nice enough for an Oscar. Lee Daniels gets my best director Oscar. He told a difficult story, using a disparate group of actors, singers, and comedians, all led by a rank novice, and molded their performances into something nearly perfect. After Monster's Ball, Daniels has been working under the radar for years. Maybe not so much anymore.
Okay, I can't wait to find out how wrong I am.