Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oscar Symposium Day 2: (500) Basterds In the Bright Starry Loop

Nathaniel R: I led with the Reality Television problem yesterday because I'm trying to work through some, um, "personal issues". I actually snapped at two friends this week for no reason other than that something they said reminded me tangentially of reality television and how much I hate it and inbetween these outbursts I sat through the entire new episodes of Amazing Race, Project Runway and RuPaul's Drag Race on my DVR. I'm part of the problem! So I needed to binge and purge the reality television issue before moving on. My chief problem with its dominance is the samey samey ness of everything. Art thrives on variety and so often the pop culture pie -- of which the Oscars are my favorite slice -- comes in only one flavor at a time.

And Peter landed on the category that, invariably, I find the most difficult to stomach year in and year out for the exact same reason: Supporting Actor. They seem to use this category as a dumping ground for "types" even more so than the other categories. This will be three years in a row they've gone with a psychotic/charismatic killer for the win... and meanwhile they fill out the category with aging man career tributes. I won't attempt to argue that that winning threesome (Javier/Heath/Christoph) aren't worthy choices but there's something more to it than just coincidence, yes?

Psycho Killers, Qu'est-Que C'est?

Maybe this psycho-killas and revered old men category is actually a metaphor for the glamorous brutality of Hollywood -- they're always trying to kill you but if you survive for any admirable length of time they're sure to kiss your ass...

I'm stretching but anything to take my mind away from this category!

And to take my mind away from Bringing Down The House's blinged up homie --uh, thanks Tim-- because that leads me right back into The Blind Side territory. Racial landmines ahead!



Speaking of... Precious. What Tim said. But the issue of who-gets-credit, which he briefly alluded to in regards to the performances, is so fascinating here (and elsewhere). But for my money, Tilda Swinton in Julia aside, Mo'Nique gave the one performance this year that I can't even wrap my head around fully it's so titanic.

Guy Lodge: Best Supporting Actor may be a dumping ground for "types," but that's no excuse to make it a dumping ground for bad performances too, which is precisely what they've done this year. If they really found Anthony Mackie and Alfred Molina that hard to accept (despite apparently liking everything around them), perhaps they should have applied their new Best Original Song rule to this category, and curtailed the number of nominees. Because, frankly, I'd rather see a two-strong field than have to scratch my head any longer over who was actually impressed enough by Stanley Tucci's sweaty psycho kvetching, or Matt Damon's (more justifiably sweaty, at least) approximation of Afrikaner hulkiness by way of Opie, to place them at the top of their ballot. Because someone did.

Read the rest of DAY TWO
Wherein we move on to individual nominations and snubs that delighted and confused us, what makes some movies click with Oscar or miss entirely, that weird relationship in Crazy Heart and the internal conflict of Inglourious Basterds.

Then return and comment. Continue the conversation.
*

46 comments:

RJ said...

I agree that Inglourious Basterds isn't a perfect film, and I'm still surprised that it ended up as my favorite film of the year. That being said, I think what I appreciate is Tarantino's absolute mastery of CINEMA (in capital letters). I still think about scenes from that movie. It sticks with me.

Anonymous said...

Aw man, that was like a massive hate on movies I like.

:(

vatz said...

I just watched "Julia." Tilda Swinton should have been nominated and won Oscar this year. That performance is what acting is all about.

Robert Hamer said...

To answer your first question, about Inglourious Basterds, my answer is absolutely not, though your explanation as to how people overlook the obvious problems and love it anyway is probably the best I've heard (See? People noticed it!).

But for every great scene that I really enjoyed, there's two more that fall flat on their faces that were painful to watch. To compare it to my personal pony in the Oscar race, The Hurt Locker also has a sort of episodic structure and every single scene is perfectly executed and riveting to watch. Whereas watching Basterds is like playing roulette. Sure, you get lucky with Hans Landa, but the ball could also land on "The Bear Jew" and you're screwed.

As for (500) Days of Summer, while I didn't hate the film like Guy and Karina did, I don't care about the screenplay snub either. To be honest (if we're not arguing whether A Serious Man and Inglourious Basterds aren't truly "original" screenplays, but adaptations of previous works), I'm perfectly happy with the Best Original Screenplay nominees. Perhaps if Summer has a more well-developed character, I'd be singing a different tune.

The nomination that makes me happiest, honestly, was the Best Original Score nod for The Hurt Locker. It's a very sparse and stark, yet effective piece that AMPAS doesn't usually warm up to. Speaking of stark, I'm also happy for the Christian Berger cinematography nomination. As for what broke my heart, I've complained loudly and often about the lack of recognition for Anthony Mackie. How anyone can nominate the very worthy Renner, but look at Sanborn's final scene and ignore it, just shocks me.

As for Crazy Heart, the only thing I bought in it was Jeff Bridges. Everything else was bullshit, ESPECIALLY the relationship between Bad and Jean.

Well, that's my two cents.

NATHANIEL R said...

anon -- me too actually. i can't believe they dn't like some of these movies. but at least i had a "consensus" year/ they're fun to have once in awhile. :)

Julian Stark said...

1. Tarantino - I loved all of Basterds. The only part where I found it to be indulgent was the chapter that introduced us to Diane Kruger's character. However, Kruger carried that portion of the film. Her SAG nomination was very well deserved, if I may so myself

2. (500) Days of Summer - Loved that movie. Granted, I'm in the "target age" for a film like that, I guess. I thought it would receive nominations for Picture and Original Screenplay. I "knew" it would get in for the latter (for that reason, I would like to forget that there was ever a film called The Messenger)

3. In the Loop - I haven't seen it yet, but I need to. Haven't heard anything bad about that film

4. The Young Victoria - Some voters are trapped in the days of period pieces winning everything I guess (a.k.a. stiff upper lip factor)

5a. Happiest nomination - Hmm... good question. Probably... Up for Best Picture. Even though I was "always 100%" that it would get in with the ten nominee system, I was still somewhat skeptical. Glad to see it make the cut. It deserves to win

5b. Snub that makes me scratch my head (and subsequently prevents me from sleeping at night) - (500) Days of Summer. As I've already stated, I "knew" that would get in for Original Screenplay. I would say Robert Downey, Jr., but I knew that he really didn't have a shot

6. Bridges/Gyllenhaal relationship - It was acted well, so there was chemistry. However, I didn't buy Gyllenhaal's "searching for stability" persona falling for a vagabond like Bad Blake

And for what it's worth, my personal favorite quote of Oscar Symposium Day 2 - Sasha Stone (in relation to Bridges/Gyllenhaal): It's not like he's Robert Plant where you'd want to deep throat the dude even if he was in a wheelchair.

NATHANIEL R said...

Julian -- that quote LOL. Sasha is crazy (in the good way) and I think Oscar makes her horny because she always talks about sex at these symposiums. ;)

Marsha Mason said...

I found Basterds much more enjoyable on a second viewing, and I think it was for the same reasons you gave, Nat. Sure, "Chapter Two" sucked (I suggest watching Chapter Two with Marsha Mason at that point instead) but Tarantino pulls off such cinematic dexterity at other points I'm given to forgive him his excesses. Sure, the Bear Jew seems kind of dumb as a character and the actor can't act, but if thinking about his time as shading or pacing for the story, I want to allow that a story with Landa needs a few filler characters, or that Tarantino has made enough of an auteur's claim on WWII to earn more of a say on who's there. As opposed to Invictus or something where the characters are boring because the whole thing's boring.

I also loved whoever's use of the word "farty" and now feel compelled to introduce it into conversation in the same way in the next few days.

Barry, Milwaukee said...

I'm glad to see disdain for Up in the Air. I rolled my eyes constantly, almost as much as during The Messenger. Neither movie needed any nominations.
Going out on a limb here, but maybe Duchess Sarah Ferguson had a little bit to do with the Young Victoria's nods? She was a producer and I saw her on the Today show and she was specifically talking about how the costumes and scenery were award-worthy. Or it could just be the whole "high-brow" thing. When will the academy's senior citizens finally become the hip actors we expect to nominate the movies we love? Are Dennis Hopper and Jane Fonda not thinking the same things we are? And as far as 500 Days of Summer? Favorite movie of the year. Sorry haters.

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NicksFlickPicks said...

• NO

• Somewhere in the middle, especially if we swap in "appealing" for "inventive"

• Both

• For the same reason that Marie Antoinette, Restoration, and Elizabeth: The Golden Age won awards in these categories: Royal Court Porn

• Bigelow as director, Bright Star for costumes, and Instead of Abracadabra for Live Action Short; i couldn't get too worked up about too many "snubs," but I suppose Anthony Mackie - and I wish the Duplicity script had gotten any traction whatsoever

• Not particularly, though I bought it more in the scenes where Jeff was by himself

Aaron said...

"(500) Days of Summer" was excellent, and it sure as hell deserved a best picture nomination over most of what made the top ten lineup. Screenplay too. Whatever then.

Jim T said...

Nathaniel, I love your take on Basterds. I don't agree nor disagree. I just found it very interesting and made me understand why you liked it as much as you did. Personally, I liked many things in this movie and although I hated the last scene, I gave the film an 8/10. But I love Coraline a lot more and I only gave it a 7/10. Some times grades show more respect than love, I guess. For me, anyway.

I think Tarantino sabotages himself sometimes. I don't know. I think I'd like him to work with someone who would write the climaxes for him. He is better at writing calm scenes.

NATHANIEL R said...

NICK LIVES! ;) thanks for piping in. I guess this means that Young Victoria will win costumes without even trying to win costumes?

Marsha -- watching your Chapter Two between Tarantino's 1 & 3 would be quite schizo / confusing but we could reedit it in our minds to make it work. And Tarantino does like weird diversions and fine performances likes yours ;)thanks for suggestion

Barry -- i'm a fan, too.

Guy said...

Anonymous 12.33: Don't just take our hate with a passive sad-face. Stand up and defend the movies you love! I'm happy to argue.

Meanwhile, I'm so glad that, if I've contributed nothing else of value to the discussion, I've at least given Peter and Marsha the gift of "farty."

Dimitra said...

"I won't attempt to argue that that winning threesome (Javier/Heath/Christoph) aren't worthy choices but there's something more to it than just coincidence, yes?"

Maybe they're making up for the fact that they avoided to nominate actors playing psychopaths in the past years? :P

But yes, these 3 were-are all worthy I believe.

Robert said...

I think "Best Supporting Actor" should be renamed "Best Almost Lead Actor". Waltz, Ledger, Bardem, Clooney, even Arkin was helped by the fact that there was no clear Lead Actor in his film. And it's a shame since the supporting categories were added to recognize genuine supporting performances, not ones that were just skirting the line.

Rob said...

Well, I agree with past posts that Basterds isn't a perfect film. Nevertheless, it was classic Tarantino, and in my opinion, one of his best (among Pulp Fiction).

As for snubs, the one movie that I was quite disappointed to see not being nominated at all was Where the Wild Things Are. Would it have been in the race to win best picture? Maybe not. Still, I thought it was one of the best movies in the year, and it at the very least deserved a few nominations.

Nick M. said...

If I was forced to hear Maggie Gyllenhaal say "Why do I always fall for the bad guys?" one more time in Crazy Heart, I was going to lose my shit.

Now that I think about it, I can hear Academy members perpetually saying the same thing when regarding the Supporting Actor race.

Michael C. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael C. said...

In the Loop = Best film of 2009.

I think I know what's holding you back on the film. The sense that while all the scenes are sharply written, they just kind of bounce around into each other until the film ends. But the film is only deceptively simple.

Others in the symposium pointed out Loop's beautiful structure, but I would also point out its talky, loose style is essential to the film's impact. When all the fun banter and profanity is over it all seems pretty inconsequential until you stop for a second and realize, hold on, those nitwits just started a damn WAR.

Then the next day you watch the news, shudder, and think ,"Dear God. It's really like that isn't it."

Rahm said...

I HATED (500) Days of Summer and will continue to be baffled by all the praise it received.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

1) I love the shit out of (500) Days of Summer. True, I'm 20, but I loved how, pardon me, realistic it was. They were adorable, but deeply flawed, and I feel like not enough people give the writers credit for purposely making Tom kind of an asshole. Ingenious screenplay, imo.

2) As for The Young Victoria, they love their Queens. Even The Queen managed a nod, remember?

3) Happiest noms: In the Loop and The Messenger for screenplay, Bright Star for costume, Take It All for song, Maggie Gyllenhaal for supporting actress - before I saw the movie. Head-scratching snub: Julianne Moore and Samantha Morton for Supporting Actress.

4) God bless 'em, Maggie and Jeff are trying. It's not their fault the relationship doesn't work. It was the main problem with the novel, too. Good God, what a flawed story.

Michael C. said...

For every great scene 500 Days had (the fantasy parade, the split screen) it would throw in two awful scenes. (the precocious sister, that unforgivable quitting speech at the greeting card office, the drunken karaoke, ANYTHING at the greeting card company)

Marshall1 said...

agree with vatz, just saw Julia, and Swinton is absolutely amazing in that movie. The character is so messed up inside and unstable, but there are also tender moments with the kid. I also like the first half of the movie....too bad it was too long.

Hayden said...

I totally agree with Sasha's evaluation of Gyllenhaal's character in Crazy Heart. She almost seems drawn to roles that are devoid of either ethos, pathos, or logos--how about that Harvard law student whose baking got in the way of her studies (Stranger Than Fiction)? I can rarely buy into the rationale of her characters.

As much as I would love to identify with her onscreen, the awful parts she chooses always seems to get in the way.

Me said...

@MichaelC

That's exactly why I think In the Loop is super-brilliant and kind of wish marketing geniuses like Fox Searchlight put their money behind it. (I love IFC, but they're so marginal nationally in the US in some ways.)

And the script is beautifully structured, needed a "swear doctor," and has the most laughs per minute ever. CLIMB THE MOUNTAIN OF CONFLICT! I want it to win its Oscar quite badly - everything else is quite good, and certainly an accomplishment, but this is a classic.

txtcritic said...

Is it just me or is Sasha kinda of... um, er.. stupid? And has irrational reasons for hating movies...

"Up in the Air? I didn't buy it! Women with children just don't cheat! Having kids changes them biologically." Uh, what?

"Crazy Heart? Blech! I didn't get why Maggie Gyllenhaal was attracted to Jeff Bridges. Didn't buy it!" See, me, I can watch movies where I don't necessarily share the same feelings and characteristics of the characters, but that's just me.

And personally, I really didn't need the image of you sucking Robert Plant's cock in my head.


Also, way to be presumptious and know-it-all, definitively stating that Gyllenhaal only got a nomination because the old-skewing Academy wants to believe a young pretty girl will be into old men. I'm 24, am attracted to dudes, and totally swooned for Gyllenhaal's performance. I'll agree with Guy that it's not her best work, but I thought it was at least in the upper-tier of Supporting Actress work this year. It's kinda-sorta assholey to dismiss other people's opinions because of half-assed assumptions. Jus' sayin'.

Peter, I'm intrigued by you calling Kendrick's crying breakdown "laughable." I've had this debate a couple times with friends, but I would put money on the fact that that moment is SUPPOSED to be funny/laughable, and isn't actually a performance issue, but a directorial misstep (I guess I'll be alone in stating that besides that moment, I adore the film).

Cliff said...

"Also, way to be presumptious and know-it-all, definitively stating that Gyllenhaal only got a nomination because the old-skewing Academy wants to believe a young pretty girl will be into old men. I'm 24, am attracted to dudes, and totally swooned for Gyllenhaal's performance. I'll agree with Guy that it's not her best work, but I thought it was at least in the upper-tier of Supporting Actress work this year. It's kinda-sorta assholey to dismiss other people's opinions because of half-assed assumptions. Jus' sayin'."


And yet you do JUST THAT when you claim that male critics only think that Carrie Mulligan is good in "An Education" because they want to have sex with her. Jus' sayin.'

Jim T said...

txtcritic, I really like you but, are you on drugs?

NATHANIEL R said...

Point: Cliff.

sorry txtcritic ;)

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txtcritic said...

"And yet you do JUST THAT when you claim that male critics only think that Carrie Mulligan is good in "An Education" because they want to have sex with her. Jus' sayin.'"

Carey. And again, I'm sorry my opinions/comments actually have nuance to them, but try to be accurate. I NEVER said such a thing. I said I believe Carey Mulligan is good-to-very-good in "An Education," and lord knows I don't want to have sex with her.

What I said was that, it is my belief that certain red-blooded film critics' insatiable lust for her has led to her (in my opinion) ridiculous, undeserved and wildly overblown momentum, and ejaculatory praise declaring this a Hepburn-like debut, and something truly remarkable. I don't profess to know that this is definitively true, but it's a theory.

And Jim T., I know you're not literally asking if I'm on drugs, but what is so insane about my comments? I frankly couldn't believe what I was reading when Sasha said that she didn't buy "Up in the Air" because Vera's character was a mother. I'm sorry, do only childless women have affairs? "It changes them biologically?" What a ridiculous thing to say.

Clearly Sasha isn't STUPID -- she manages to run an extremely entertaining site, and puts cogent words and semi-cogent thoughts together to create sentences -- but she certainly says a lot of dumb, ill-advised things.

Jim T said...

Although I think Sasha meant that Farmiga seemed to be too comfortable with being away from her children for long periods with her "kind of" lover, I also think you have every right to disagree. I just think you were inexplicably over the top with your comment. If you were trying to overshadow Kendrick at that particular scene, you have succeded. :p

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Burning Reels said...

I'm with Michael C regarding (500) Days of Summer - enjoyable? Yes - original here and there...worthy of an original screenplay nod? No...

Saying that, I actually had one issue with The Hurt Locker original screeplay - the tangent with the boy...very unbelievable - you could argue it was caused by the 'madness of war' or it was somehow symbolic, but Renner breaking into the 'boys' house slightly undermined the film as a whole...

I agree that the Anna Kendrick breakdown scene is supposed to be laughable, as she is quite a laughable and naive character so as txtcritic stated, if anyone is to blame, it's probably J Reitman...

Interesting point by Sasha regarding Farmiga's character arc...I agree the film did begin to lose it's way after then - not sure I completely concur with her view but it definitely brings a new angle as to why the film subsequently went awry

(Shamefully) Tilda was never going to happen but the Abbie Cornish and Bright Star campaign just faded far far too quickly

Also a little annoyed Fantastic Mr Fox didn't make the Adapted Screenplay cut but at least the love for In the Loop calmed me down somewhat

Finally, I agree with Nathaniel regarding Inglourious - there were issues, oh there were issues!...however, the good overpowered the bad and the joy of watching the joy of creating cinema will confirm it as one of my top ten of 2009

Cliff said...

"What I said was that, it is my belief that certain red-blooded film critics' insatiable lust for her has led to her (in my opinion) ridiculous, undeserved and wildly overblown momentum, and ejaculatory praise declaring this a Hepburn-like debut, and something truly remarkable. I don't profess to know that this is definitively true, but it's a theory."

Oh I see, so the nuance in your argument is that for you it's just a theory, but since Sasha is stating her theory definitively, she is being outrageously bold and "assholey". Yes, I concede that your rhetoric is different than hers, so you are correct, I haven't drawn a perfect parallel. But you're simply in denial if you don't see that like Sasha, you are going out of your way to "dismiss other people's opinions because of half-assed assumptions." Maybe the lesson to be learned is that, since we can't account for other people's taste, maybe we should ALL stop theorizing about why people like the things that we don't like (or rave over things that we think are good-very good). In the end, all of these explanations are based on "half-assed assumption," yours included.

txtcritic said...

Again, you miss the point, but whatever. I said the want-to-fuck factor is what allowed the snowball talks of AMAZING PERFORMANCE to happen. That's all.I never outright dismissed anyone's opinion, and I straight-up said that I personally like the performance well enough.

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I'm really not a fan of txtcritic and his holier than thou attitude.

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Anonymous said...

pfft, picky biatches. Kendrick's crying scene was funny and well done. After reading so much about it before I saw the movie I was expecting something terrible and on par with that kid from Gran Torino when Walt locks him in the basement.

NATHANIEL R said...

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LED Signs said...

It could just be the whole "high-brow" thing. When will the academy's senior citizens finally become the hip actors we expect to nominate the movies we love? Are Dennis Hopper and Jane Fonda not thinking the same things we are? And as far as 500 Days of Summer?

led signs said...

Hmm... good question. Perhaps... Up for Best Picture. Even if I was "at all times 100%" that it would enter with the ten applicant system, I was still to some extent skeptical. Pleased to see it make the cut.

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