Posts Tagged ‘oscar please’

by Alex Huntsberger (not to be confused by the one Andrew wrote)

Gravity (2013) – Alfonso Cuaron (Dir.), Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

It's like 2001: A Space Odyssey, but instead of an evil robot it's GOD.

It’s like 2001: A Space Odyssey, but instead of an evil robot it’s GOD.

God I fucking hated the first two Harry Potter movies. Like, seriously, you guys. Especially because I loved the first two Harry Potter books. (Well, okay, I basically shat my pants with rainbows when I read the first book and then read the second book and only really liked it.) I was in…lemme see (checks IMDB, realizes how long it’s been since these movies came out, weeps) my freshman year of high school and while most of my friends were definitely more excited for the Lord of the Rings movie coming out, I was 500% more into Harry Potter. JK Rowling didn’t waste 3 pages telling you the history whatever goddamn hillock her protagonists happened walking along at the time. Those books were lean, mean wish-fulfillment machines and their films were gonna wipe the floor with those stupid, prancing hobbits. It was gonna be great.

Until it wasn’t. Lord of the Rings got entrusted to some weirdo director of low-budget New Zealand gore-comedies, Kate-Winslet-starring teen lesbian psychodramas and Michael J. Fox ghost-buddy flicks whose strange, obsessive version of reality turned out to be just the thing that made Tolkein’s magical kingdom leap off the screen bestride a majestic steed and ram its motherfucking elvish blade right through your goddamn soul. Harry Potter got Chris Columbus, the guy who made Mrs. Doubtfire. He took a world teeming with originality and wit and flying motorcycles and moving stairwells and three-headed dogs and secret train stations and I MEAN QUIDDITCH FOR CHRISSAKES and he turned it into a fucking Thomas Kinkade painting with weirdly anti-semitic goblins.

Harry Potter and the Fucking Hell I Hate Thomas Kinkade

Harry Potter and the Fucking Hell I Hate Thomas Kinkade

So by the time Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was set to open, I was pretty much over it. By then I was reading Hunter S. Thompson and listening to Bright Eyes and, you know, the country was mired in Iraq so I had that to worry about and I just really didn’t give a shit. I was still gonna see it, cuz I was still a nerd who didn’t like the outdoors, but I wasn’t going to enjoy it.

And then I loved it. And the reason I loved it was because someone over at Warner Bros. had realized that Chris Columbus was as good at making movies as the explorer with the same name was at sailing to India. Chris Columbus had been fired and replaced by a little known Mexican guy by the name of Guillermo Del Toro I know it didn’t happen but how freaking cool would that have been Alfonso Cuaron. Whereas Chris Columbus was like a quarterback who wasn’t trying to score a touchdown so much as he was trying to not turn the ball over, Alfonso was like a quarterback who wasn’t a quarterback at all, but was actually a sexy, bearded poetry professor who seduced his students (both male and female) and read them Neruda while feeding them Turkish wines out of handmade clay cups and who just sped across the football field one day on his moped, grabbed the football out of the other quarterback’s hands and zipped into the end zone as pages of his never-to-be-finished-but-still-brilliant novel  fell out of his bag and scattered to the wind behind him and the entire stadium was filled with a spectacular sense of effervescent joie de vivre. It was an upgrade, to say the least.

2 years after Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Cuaron released Children of Men, a piece of dystopian sci-fi that remains to this day one of my favorite movies. But after Children of Men there was nothing. For years and years and years, absolutely nothing. One of the best director’s working in film had all but vanished. I personally just assumed that he moved to Italy to study the art of cobbling, because if everyone was crazy in the way that Daniel Day-Lewis was crazy then the world would be a better place. But no, Alfonso was not cobbling. Or rather, he was cobbling, but not with shoes. He was cobbling with the very nature of filmmaking itself. He was constructing and, for the most part, entirely inventing anew a rig that would allow him to shoot a live action film entirely in Zero G. And not just floaty-floaty Zero-G but floaty-spinny-out-of-controlly-zoomy-zoomy-law-of-Murphy Zero G. It took him 7 years to complete.

And it’s called Gravity.

That is exact same I look that I get when my browser tells me to "clear my cache."

That is exact same I look that I get when my browser tells me to “clear my cache.”

THE BASICS: During a routine mission by the crew of the Space Shuttle Explorer  to service the Hubble telescope, disaster strikes. The shrapnel from a recently detonated Russian satellite destroys both the Hubble as well as The Explorer itself, stranding long-time-scientist, first-time-astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) in the middle of freaking space. Kowalski, who Clooney pretty much plays as a cross between George Clooney in real life and every other character he was ever played, calmly explains that he and Stone are simply going to mosey on over to the abandoned International Space Station and take one of their escape pods back down to earth. (They have a different and actually official name but, fuck it, they’re escape pods.) But when they arrive at the ISS it turns out that neither escape pod is a go-go for re-entry. Kowalski, ever the cucumber, says that this isn’t a problem, as they can just use one of the escape pods to jet on over to the Chinese space station a little ways away and use on of their escape pods.  It is at this point in the film that things really start to go awry. And remember, this is a movie that began with its characters getting stranded in the the middle of freaking space.

For those of you who haven’t seen the film, (And don’t worry, I’ll be berating you in a second) I’m going to stop this summary here. Some things just have to be enjoyed in the moment. For instance, the act of wiping the poop of your pants after this movie makes you shit yourself with horror.

Now, once again, for those of you who haven’t seen the film…What the hell is wrong with you?! Go see it IMAX 3-D right now! For those of you who have seen the film but haven’t seen it in 3-D, let alone in IMAX 3-D… What the hell is wrong with you?! Go see it IMAX 3-D right now! For those of you who have seen the film in regular 3-D but had the option of seeing it in IMAX 3-D…What the hell is wrong with you? Go see previous instructions.

Certain critics have derided this film as pure spectacle, and this is not entirely inaccurate. The script is pretty pro-forma, with moment’s like the revealing  of Sandra Bullock’s tragic backstory coming off as such an awkward info dump, it’s like living at the bottom of the info outhouse and then hearing that Newt Gingrich just ate a whole buffet full of info and is currently headed your way, Wall Street Journal in hand. But to write this movie off as just a spectacle is to write the Grand Canyon off as just a pretty sizeable divot. Gravity is a visceral experience. It doesn’t set out to make you think, it just wants to make you feel. And in that regard the thing, is a friggin’ masterpiece.

AND THE NOMINEES MIGHT BE…

Best Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects, Cinematography, Production Design and, fuck it, throw in Short Film (Animation) too cuz this bitch is gonna clean UP!

While a lot of people have been calling Gravity an Oscar front runner, it is in these categories that it can really be considered a juggernaut. There is barely a shot or moment in this movie that is special effect free. This because the nature of the story that is being told. These characters are trapped in outer space, orbiting above earth. As this is something that cannot be captured casually (for instance they couldn’t pull a Joss Whedon and just go film it at Cuaron’s house unless Cuaron was secretly Magneto and lived in a floating asteroid fortress), so the special effects are an integral part to the story. And even the few shots in the movie that essentially amount to “look how fucking beautiful Earth is from space, you dicks” are so well done that you really are just sitting there thinking “damn, that shit IS purdy.” Without the special effects, this movie would not work. It’s why it took Cuaron so long to make. He was obsessed with getting it right. Hell, they filmed the thing in 2011. All the rest of that time was spent in post.

When I remember the sound of this movie, the only thing I can recall is Sandra Bullock hyper-ventilating. Since the movie is set in space, where sound doesn’t travel, there are far fewer ambient elements to work with. The sound design here is very sparse, very elegant, and very terrifying because of that. And while some people might ask, “well shouldn’t we be rewarding the films that had the most complicated sound design?” these are probably the same people who listen solely to speed metal because those musicians can play the fastest. The soundtrack starts out very gentle, with the reassuring buzz of Mission Control bantering back and forth with George Clooney. Once the shrapnel hits and the astronauts are cut from their communications with home, that silence become deafening. It didn’t even hit me until a later scene where Bullock is able to pick a transmission coming through via HAM radio just how nice it was to hear the electric whirr of static. It’s become such a signifier of connectedness, of home.

I won’t get too much into the other visual effects, other than to say that this movie is beautiful. I think Gravity stands to wipe the floor in these technical categories, possibly setting it up for Titanic-esque Oscars takedown. It could definitely challenge Slumdog Millionaire’s eight statues and possibly go after Return of the King’s eleven. However, it most likely won’t win as many as Titanic, which I’m pretty sure won all of them. All. Even the shorts.

James Cameron at the 1998 Academy Awards

James Cameron at the 1998 Academy Awards

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock

Yes. This is going to happen. Maybe in a stronger year with a stronger crop of leading ladies she could be edged out…except that no, she would still be in it. Right now I would even call her an early favorite to win the whole damn thing. One could even say she’s…driving the bus?

Bus

Keanu’s helping

Okay, with my requisite Speed joke out of the way, I can actually talk about her performance. Cuz it’s kind of a doozy. Bullock here is that thing she does best: she’s our every woman. Dr. Ryan Stone ain’t no spacetronaut. She’s just a normal brilliant scientist that for vague and/or unintelligible reasons has been called to service the Hubble Telescope. You know, cuz sometimes that just happens. What’s amazing about her performance though is a) the relative dearth of quality dialogue she is given to deliver and b) that she spends almost the entire movie in various degrees of nervous breakdown without ever once losing our sympathy. Never once in this movie did I think “God, Sandy, why don’t you just pull it together already?!” Instead I just kept thinking “pull yourself together, Huntsberger, it’s just a movie, it’s just a—OH GOD SANDY WATCH OUT.”

Throughout her entire career, Bullock has possessed this inner steeliness that’s made her Hollywood’s go to Tough-Ass Cookie. She’s an Oreo made out of coal and C-4.  Oddly enough, it’s also the thing that’s made her a pretty damn good romantic comedy lead as well. When allowed to bring the sass, she’s actually got a very down-home-style Katharine Hepburn vibe. In Gravity, she uses that steeliness to mitigate Stone’s outright panic. Even when the character is literally hyperventilating her air supply away, Bullock maintains this undertone of control, of inner strength the mutes the panic and keeps you on her side.

That steeliness is also why her entire character arc works.  Once Stone is called upon to take charge of the situation and get her ass home, Bullock turns into a one-woman wrecking machine of pure will. If Bullock didn’t seem like she had it in her from the very beginning, then this moment would be laughable. But I wasn’t laughing. I was cheering. I was yelling “Go Sandy Go! Fuck Space! Kick it’s fucking Ass! U.S.A!!! U.S.A!!!”

In summation, Sandra Bullock is a goddamn national treasure, so much so that the third National Treasure movie isn’t even going to have Nicolas Cage in it. It’s just going to be Sandy getting kidnapped and then saving her damn self. She’s getting nominated for an Oscar. Take that, terrorists.

Best Supporting Actor: George Clooney

SPOILER ALERT!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!! FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY!!!! SPOILER ALERT!!!

So yeah George Clooney dies in this movie. Now he goes out like a fucking badass, sacrificing himself so that Bullock can make it home and then floating out into space, just talking about life and bullshit. But he does die. This is why he is in the supporting category and not the lead. It’s because he dies. (He DOES come back in a later scene as, basically, “The Ghost of Christmas Clooney” but he’s only a ghost because HE DIES.)

It’s not that George Clooney is bad in this movie, far from it. I think he’s great. Matt Kowalski  a consummate good old boy, bantering back and forth with Mission Control about his various ex-wives and then later calmly prodding a panicked Stone into conversation in order to keep her calm. When he sacrifices himself, it feels like a huge loss because he was the one who knew (or at least pretended to know) how they were going to get out of this. The characters a security blanket, and nothing makes you feel more secure than the dulcet tones of El Clooney.

However, “security blanket” is different than “complex, human being.” Clooney serves his purpose in this film very well but he isn’t asked to do much. He is perfectly in his comfort zone. Hell, he is the movie’s comfort zone. His character exists long enough to get the audience situated and introduce some hope and then he floats away, taking the rug that the audience was standing on with him. Matt Kowalski is not a human, and the role is not a challenge. And while the Wrinkled Fuckers love them some Georgie Porgie Pudding & Pie, they don’t nominate him unless he’s stretching his comfort zone. He won the Oscar for Syriana, wherein he was schlubby and bearded and he was nominated again for Up in the Air where he had to cry and be a person and stuff. This role is not either one of those. It is “Danny Ocean in Space.” I’m not feeling it.

Best Screenplay: Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron

The script for this movie is essentially the script for a video game. It sets the rules of how things work, bridges the gap between set pieces A and B and throws in a little pathos for flavor. But the quality of the writing is about the same. The only way that this script is getting nominated is if it gets swept in on the coattails of a bunch of other nominations. That could definitely happen, but it’s not very likely.

Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Clooney in repose.

Clooney in repose.

Look back at Cuaron’s previous films and Gravity is actually a very natural endpoint. It’s a huge leap forward, yes, but it is the movie that Cuaron has been moving towards for over a decade. Cuaron has always had a roving eye, wanting his camera to take in everything a scene has to offer. A lot of directors who wander in this fashion opt for either the 1st-person shaky cam (think Steven Soderbergh) or the sweeping tracking shot (Paul Thomas Anderson). Cuaron seeks to have both. He wants the scope that a tracking shot brings with the intimacy of the hand-held shaky cam. But both of those methods draw attention to themselves, to their sheer immediacy and/or virtuosity. Cuaron does not seek that. While his ambitions for the camera are far greater than probably any other living director (Orson Welles is honestly the best comparison I can think of) he does not want innovation for innovation’s sake. (Okay, so scratch Orson Welles. Citizen Kane is pretty much the original dick pic.) He’s a storyteller, who wants his stories to resonate at a deeper level than they have before. With Children of Men he pushed traditional methods about as far as he could go. With Gravity he creates something entirely new.

The reason to see this movie in 3-D is because it is movie that takes place in 3-D. When you take gravity out of the equation you go from a horizontal plane to a cubic one. The action can be moving in any direction at any moment. And with the complex rigging system that Cuaron constructed for this movie, so can his camera. The opening shot of this movie is 13 minutes long, covering the initial mission through all hell breaking loose. By never cutting away and instead staying in the chaos of the Stone and Kowalski’s world exploding he does not give you an out. He does not give you that split second to remember that this is just a movie. It is that immediacy, the result of extreme precision, that makes what Cuaron has done so amazing. Gravity doesn’t feel like it’s a movie. It feels like it’s just happening. Like it’s a force of nature. A force of nature like, oh, I don’t know, gravity ???

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Huntsberger, I hate you. I hate you so much.)

Best Picture: Gravity

The Wrinkled Fuckers love it when a movie looks expensive. They’re tacky like that. They don’t just want insights into the human condition, the kind of thing that can be executed solely through good acting/writing/directing. Nah playa. They want a little bit of grandeur in there too. You’re gonna set your story in modern suburbia with everybody wearing polos and sundresses and driving Nissan Ultimas? Well screw you, cuz THIS guy’s movie (note: it’s almost always a guy, and it’s almost always Ridley Scott) has got characters wearing doublets and they’re sword fighting in ballrooms and…oh my god is that a blimp! Holy Shit that is a fucking blimp! Oh I am SOLD. (note: it really should be called a zeppelin, and I’m pretty sure the film I just described is Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers.) When a movie like Titanic comes around, which isn’t often, the Wrinkled Fuckers are in heaven. Most other times they have to make do with a movie that wasn’t made with such an Ahab-like obsession, but they do often find a way to ultimately honor movies that have a little bit of technical oomph. Let’s look at the Best Picture Nominees from the past 10 years, shall we?

2013: Argo

2012: The Artist

2011: The King’s Speech

2010: The Hurt Locker

2009: Slumdog Millionaire

2008 No Country For Old Men

2007 The Departed

2006 Crash

2005 Million Dollar Baby

2004 The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

The most recent three were all period pieces which means that production values are naturally going to be on display throughout. Before that was a war movie and before the war epic was a high-budget fantasia set in a foreign country. The four before that were all actually pretty modern, but even then: No Country for Old Men was a western slash action-noir. The Departed was a cops and robbers epic and Crash won because lot’s of people thought two dudes kissing was gross. Even Million Dollar Baby was a sports movie. And then of course there was Return of the King: a restrained, low-budget chamber piece if ever there was one.

Remember, The Wrinkled Fuckers are not just actors and writers and such. Their ranks cover every inch of the industry. A lot of them are scenic artists and sound engineers and Mickey Rourke fluffers. They like to see the technical elements represented on screen too, not just the hoity toity “art” ones.

And holy shit are the technical elements well-represented in this movie. So what if the script’s not great when the movie’s also got an incredibly solid lead performance as well as an incredibly Clooney supporting one? The movie is riveting, in that it is like being attacked with a rivet gun and having your brain drilled into. This movie is getting a nomination for best picture. It’s getting a nomination for best director too. And best actress. And best all-the-technical-categories-that-no-one-gives-a-shit-about.

Internet, meet your 2014 Academy Awards juggernaut, courtesy of the guy who replaced the guy who eventually made Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. I look forward to its eventual close defeat at the hands of Machete Kills.

Prisoners (2013) – Denis Villineuve (Dir.), Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo

Two Men. One Cup. OF DOOM.

Two Men. One Cup. OF DOOM.

THE BASICS: I’m pretty sure this movie was created in a sterile, European laboratory purely to give my mother nightmares. One time, while my sister and I were home alone all day, my mom called us from the office to tell us to be careful: she had seen a guy walking down our street and looking at houses in a manner that my mom had deemed “suspicious.” (spoiler alert: nothing happened). Another time, we were visiting the area in Philly where my mom grew up with her and a friend of hers (we drove around in a minivan gawking out the windows in a neighborhood that is now predominantly black, it was problematic) and every single memory they had of the place involved someone dying, or being abducted, or being raped. This in the place where she spent her childhood. My mom always imagines that the worst possible outcome has and/or will occur: a trait that she has passed down to me. Any time a friend of mine is five minutes late meeting me, I start at the assumption that they’ve been abducted, quartered and left in someone’s basement.

“Prisoners” follows a pair of families in suburban Pennsylvania: one white, one black, and both solidly middle class. On what is sure to go down as the worst Thanksgiving in family history, the young daughters of both families mysteriously vanish. The paterfamilias of the white family, Wolverine (okay, okay, Hugh Jackman), decides very quickly that the sketchy-looking RV that their daughters were playing on earlier that day is the key to their disappearance. The other paterfamilias, played by Iron Man’s Original Black Friend (okay, okay, Terence Howard) goes along with it, because his character is very thinly conceived. An APB is put out, which is how we meet Detective…um…The-Joker’s-Gay-Cowboy-Lover-And/Or-Batman’s-Girlfriend’s-Brother (Jake Gyllenhal). He’s a loner, he has tattoos and he’s super intense. DCI Donnie Darko soon finds the RV and, more importantly, its driver, Paul Dano. At first everyone is like “Woohoo” because Dano  looks and acts like he just received his Doctorate in Advanced Pedophilia and Child Murder. Unfortunately, there is a surprising lack of the little thing called “evidence” and so the police let him go, because apparently this town is run by DAMNED DIRTY HIPPIES. Wolverine is not pleased by this. So he does what any self-respecting Walking Talking Embodiment of The Bush Torture Memos American would do: He abducts Paul Dano, takes him to an abandoned apartment building and tortures the shit out of him, bringing along his black friend (and, to be fair, fellow concerned parent) for help/moral support/humorous cultural misunderstandings. Meanwhile, Detective Guy-Who-Was-Once-Considered-as-a-Replacement-for-Tobey-Maguire-in-Spiderman-2 sets about actually, y’know, “solving the case” with “detective work.” Seriously, what a bunch of hippies.

By the way, everything I just described is maybe the first 45 minutes of the movie. The running time is 2 and half hours. I’m gonna go ahead and say this helps its Oscar chances, because long movies seem more important than short ones. Same goes for books, which is why Infinite Jest is THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK EVER WRITTEN.

Snikt!

Snikt!

Best Actor: Hugh Jackman/Jake Gyllenhaal.

Putting both actors in this category is kind of a cheat for me. I don’t think that, come Oscar time, they are both going to be entered in the lead actor category. Hugh Jackman will be entered for the lead and Gyllenhaal will be entered for supporting. I’m mostly putting them into the same category so as to contrast their performances, and there’s nothing you can do about it. (BTW, for the one of you who reads these kinds of reviews but doesn’t already know this, The Wrinkled Fuckers can vote for an actor/actress in either best lead or best supporting. If the role is one where it’s unclear as to which category it fits into, then this could possibly lead to vote splitting and the actor/actress could not get nominated at all. This is why studios will decide to mount a specific campaign for an actor to be nominated in either lead or supporting to guide The Wrinkled Fuckers in their nominating process. Fun Fact: in 1944, the actor Barry Fitzgerald got nominated in both lead and supporting for his role in the film Going My Way. I’m sure it would have been a big to-do if America wasn’t busy fighting a war with Hitler.)

Now, I haven’t taken a stopwatch to their screen times (because I am not chronically depressed) but I’d bet dollars to cronuts that Jake Gylenhaal has more screen time than ol’ Hugh. Nonetheless, I think that Jackman is going to get campaigned for in the lead category because his performance is the one with ALL THE EMOTIONS.

“Hugh Jackman” is actually Australian for “A Whale’s Vagina.”

“Hugh Jackman” is actually Australian for “A Whale’s Vagina.”

For realsies, I think that this performance was sold to Hugh Jackman solely on the basis of: You’ll get nominated for an Oscar. They reminded him of how, back in 2003, every freaking awards show clip from Mystic River for eventual winner Sean Penn was just him screaming “IS THAT MY DAUGHTER IN THERE?!!! IIIIIIIIS THAAAAAAAAAT MY DAUGHTER IN THEEEEEEEERRRRRRREEEE?!!!!!!!!!!” Jackman is in full, “I’m wearing a beard and so I’m super serious right now” mode and he plays the role’s all-consuming rage to the hilt. It is not a subtle performance, but it’s not necessarily a bad one either. I’m sure if I was in that position (daughter abducted, obvious perpetrator set free) I wouldn’t be Mr. Subtlety either. Plus Jackman even gets to go down the fun “relapsing alcoholic spiral” trail as well. (Although, and I know this isn’t his fault, but the movie has him literally swigging from a bottle of whiskey, which isn’t something people really do outside of frat parties and comes off as annoying Hollywood shorthand.) But what it ultimately comes down to is this: Prisoners is actually two films. (I’ll get to this more when I talk about the script.) One of those films is an indictment of the American notion of justice and the means to which we’ll go to get it. The other film is a really fun serial killer noir flick. Jackman is the star of the “blah blah blah indictment” one, and that’s the movie that would get nominated for an Oscar.

They found a book report on "The Grapes of Wrath" in her room. Her analysis was facile. FACILE!!!

They found a book report on “The Grapes of Wrath” in her room. Her analysis was facile. FACILE!!!

Funny thing is though: Gyllenhaal gives the better performance. His character is a career detective working for some reason in the middle of suburbia instead of, oh I don’t know, in the mean streets of Philly which, as my earlier anecdote about my mother clearly outlined, is a dank pit of mayhem and despair. This guy is quiet, contained and methodical, but is just as driven as Jackman’s freaked out father is. When he asks his boss for permission to keep Paul Dano in hold-up one more night, out of fear/respect for Jackman’s wishes only to have Dano go free and then get assaulted by Jackman in the parking lot, his next scene where he rips said boss for going against him is a tiny peek into the whirring centrifuge that keeps him on the case. Gylenhaal’s scenes with Jackman too are like a game of acting Ju Jitsu on Gylenhaal’s part. Jackman comes in all fire and whiskey, only for Gylenhaal to quietly turn that bluster against him and come out on top. He’s a better, subtler actor stuck holding up the half of the movie that involves discovering dead bodies in a priest’s basement and boxes filled with snakes and bloody children’s clothes. Really, the only mark against him is his blinking. He’s given Detective Loki this nervous blink that, once you notice it, all you can think is “if this was a drinking game I’d be wasted by now.”

Best Original Screenplay: Aaron Guzikowski

Now when you read that last sentence, I bet you thought “Detective Loki? What kind of joke on one of Gyllenhaal’s past roles was he making this time? I don’t remember him being in Thor, and I’m sure he wasn’t the guy who played Loki. Wait, did they change actors between Thor and The Avengers? Did Jake Gylenhaal play Loki in The Avengers and I just didn’t notice? What the fuck is going on?!!!” Nope. That is actually the character’s name, swear to God. Here:

Gyllenhaal

Yup. At first I thought it was maybe meant to be ironic, as Gylenhaal’s detective represents the forces of law and order methodically working to keep anarchy at bay, whereas Jackman’s character is the embodiment of raging, chaotic id taking the law into its own hands. Then I laughed and thought “No, they’re just idiots.” I really have nothing more to say on this particular subject. I just couldn’t hear anybody say “Detective Loki” without giggling and waiting for Gyllenhaal to call someone a “mewling quim.”

As I mentioned previously, Prisoners really does feel like two movies: one a serious melodrama that examines torture through the lens of American notions of masculinity and self-reliance, and the other a grand guignol serial killer thriller where people scrawl mazes on the walls and, once again, there are boxes full of snakes. (Fuck snakes BTW. Just fuck ‘em.) It’s not a problem that this movie tries to incorporate all these elements. It’s a problem that you feel the shift every time it switches. The two halves never cohere into a whole.

Father: What are you kids watching? Son: X-Men Origins" Wolverine. Father: Oh. So. What do you think? Son: Man, Will.I.Am can NOT ACT.

Father: What are you kids watching?
Son: X-Men Origins” Wolverine.
Father: Oh. So. What do you think?
Son: Man, Will.I.Am can NOT ACT.

This is because the movie starts in a very grounded realistic setting, and then tries to slowly reveal the crazy underneath. This is the wrong order to do things in, like that person from OKCupid who waits until the twelfth date to tell you about their elaborate foot fetish. If you knew about the foot fetish going into date number one, then you know exactly what you’re getting into and then, when the person also turns out to have written their dissertation on “Ulysses”, you can be pleasantly surprised by their depth and erudition. Take for instance, the movie that that Prisoner’s Oscar hopes clearly have in mind: The Silence of the Lambs. If this movie had an OKCupid account, its profile pic would be of a goddamn foot. Within five minutes of the movie starting, Clarice is sitting across from Hannibal Lecter, and systems are go.  It doesn’t take the time to let its audience go “Hey, Wait, This isn’t Reality.” It just kicks you into a pit, lowers down a basket of lotion and says “It is NOW, Bitch!”

Ahem. So yeah, I don’t see this movie scoring any nominations for writing.

Best Director: Denis Villeneuve

You know what? For all this movie’s faults, I think Villeneuve did a pretty good job here. If he was a French director, I would say he might stand an outside chance.

But he’s not French. He’s French Canadian.

He doesn’t have a chance in hell.

Cinematography: Roger Deakins

Lemme ask, does that name sound familiar to you? Because it should. Let’s read off his resume, shall we? Better yet, let’s just read off his previous Oscar nominations.

  • Skyfall
  • True Grit
  • The Reader
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
  • No Country For Old Men
  • The Man Who Wasn’t There
  • O Brother Where Art Thou
  • Kundun
  • Fargo
  • The Shawshank Redemption

Two things. First, this guy is the cinematographer for the Coen Brothers. So he must be a Prince-Making-Charlie-Murphy-Pancakes-level baller. Second, all of these movies were fucking gorgeous. And Prisoners is no exception. Deakins takes the color gray and turns it into a rainbow. He uses shadows not like he adopted them, but like he was born in them.

Cinematographer Roger Deakins

Cinematographer Roger Deakins

And during a climactic drive through the pounding snow, he cooks up a blurred vision effect that takes your standard “faster, faster, must go faster” moment into a nerve-splintering hell ride.

I don’t honestly think anyone else from this movie will get nominated. But Deakins? I think this will be lucky number eleven.

Best Picture: Prisoners

This category got a lot more ridiculous when they changed it to ten nominees, and then less ridiculous but still very interesting when they changed it to up to ten. Forcing ten nominees really felt like giving trophies to everyone on the team. It was mostly seen as a reaction to The Dark Knight not getting nominated the year before which led everyone to be like, “Do wanna hear how I got these scars, Oscar voters?” Now of course the actual solution to that problem, that the current make-up of the Wrinkled Fuckers (mostly the fact that they are overly wrinkled and a majority of them are fuckers)  precludes such genre fare from being considered is not one that is easily remedied, short of handing out Oscar voter cards at Comic Con and then watching in horror as Jonah Hex walks away with the field. (Jay Kay, nerds. We know you hated that movie too.) So the Wrinkled Fuckers decided to do the next best thing, which was include enough spots that films like The Dark Knight or District 9 or Machete Kills could get nominated but not win because one is about a man who dresses up in rubber suit and fights an evil clown, one of them is about space bugs but really it’s about racism but really it’s about super cool guns and one of them is—actually, scratch that—Machete Kills is gonna win the whole damn thing.

What was I talking about? Where was this going? Oh yeah. Even with an expanded field of up to ten nominees, which would seem to favor genre fare like Prisoners getting a nomination, I still don’t think it’s gonna happen. Prisoners is your classic “The whole is less than the sum of its parts.” It’s an okay torture melodrama (like Zero Dark Thirty’s dumb hick cousin) and it’s a fun little serial killer film and it ’s got some good performances and it’s got gorgeous cinematography but none of it really adds up to a great movie. It has all the right parts to assemble to the Princess Play Castle that is an Oscar-Nominee for best picture but it doesn’t know how to put them altogether, probably because some of the parts aren’t even from a Princess Play Castle. They’re from an erector set, or Lego Death Star, or a meth lab. And while you might end up making some kinda alright meth in your Princess Play Castle Slash Meth Lab…is this really the kind of meth you’re gonna smoke and think, “This meth deserves an Oscar?”

I don’t fucking think so.

Fin!

Wait! Un-Fin!

Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo

I forgot to mention that Melissa Leo is in this movie. She plays Paul Dano’s creepy aunt.

Let’s be clear here: Melissa Leo is not getting nominated for an Oscar. I just brought her up so I could show you these:

LeoThose are photos from Leo’s self-financed Oscar campaign for her performance in The Fighter. Which she won.

Mr Gylenhaal, the ball is in your court. Your blindingly white, marble-columned, icy blue swimming pool containing court. Godspeed. And maybe take this floor length white fur robe for luck.

by Alex Huntsberger

Blue Jasmine (2013) – Woody Allen (Dir.), Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K., Andrew Dice Clay, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard

Marketing Exec: Is it Blue? Check. Does it have Jssmine? Check. Well, my work here is done.

Marketing Exec: Is it Blue? Check. Does it have Jasmine? Check. Well, my work here is done.

THE BASICS: This is a movie about the financial crisis. I mean it’s not a movie that’s about the financial crisis. The financial chicanery that sets the plot in motion is more Bernie Madoff than Bear Stearns. But it’s about the financial crisis in a more holistic, spiritual sense.

FIRST SOME PLOT

Cate Blanchett plays Jasmine (originally Jeanette), a Wife of Wall Street who is forced to move in with her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) when her financier husband Hal (Alec “I WILL PLAY WORDS WITH FRIENDS WHEN AND WHERE I FUCKING WANT TO” Baldwin) is convicted of fraud and hangs himself in prison. Jasmine, a nervous wreck, attempts to put her life back together, getting a job as a receptionist and taking a computer course with an eye towards an interior designer’s license. Oh, and she also sets about trying to ruin her sister’s life, mostly by throwing a Rip-Torn-in-Dodgeball number of wrenches into Ginger’s relationship with her boorish but good-hearted boyfriend Chili (Bobby Carnavale). Oh, and also in the mix is Ginger’s ex-husband, Augie (the surprisingly not-dead Andrew Dice Clay) whose marriage to Ginger Jasmine previously ruined with some bad financial advice. Louis C.K. and Peter Sarsgaard are also on hand, the former as…well…basically himself and the other as way older than I remember him and that makes me feel weird.

If that plot wrings a bit familiar, it’s probably because you were really cool in high school and read/saw/were involved in a production of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, Tennessee Williams’ lyrical ode to the Dirty South.

Tennessee Williams (artist's rendering)

Tennessee Williams (artist’s rendering)

Much like Blanche lived in a world entirely of her own choosing, so does Jasmine try to block all the ugly truths that she has been privy too. Her refrain throughout the film is, “Let’s leave the past in the past.” Which is totally fine, except that one can only leave the past in the past when one has, oh, I don’t know, learned something from it. The film, in fact, frequently jumps back to the past, showing Jasmine’s glory years in the lap of East Coast luxury, and what it shows is that Jasmine remained as willfully ignorant back then as she does now. Whether it was Hal’s frequent philandering or his even more frequent financial shenanigans, Jasmine basically stuck her fingers in her ears and went, “lalalalalalalala,” if by “fingers in ears,” you mean, “cash money in her bank account,” and by, “lalalalalalalala,” you mean, “brunching on the weekend? Ugh, how gauche.” From beginning to end, Jasmine exists in a state of denial, much like a great deal of this country did so after a decade where investing in Wall Street was pretty much equivalent to buying stock in a textiles factory that manufactured The Emperor’s New Clothes. We have seen the enemy and it is…umm…us, Except that “us” is played by Cate Blanchett. (Looks in the mirror). Yeah, that’s about right.

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett

Jasmine does NOT appreciate your Vampire Diaries Fan Fiction.

Jasmine does NOT appreciate your Vampire Diaries Fan Fiction.

So, a lot of “Oscar” performances have that air of holding out one’s hand and yelling, “Oscar, please!” And it’s not that Cate Blanchett’s performance doesn’t seem like it’s gunning for an Oscar. It’s more like she’s an 80’s action hero who takes out an entire cartel’s worth of vaguely ethnic bad guys with nothing more than a Glock, a hunting knife and a pack of chewing gum. She doesn’t so much as ask for an Oscar as she does walk into your office with a bag full of bad guy scalps over one shoulder, the President’s daughter (who she just rescued from said bad guys) over the other one, dumps both of them on your desk, lights up a cigar and then just casually glances at the Oscar clutched nervously in your hand and mutters, “you gonna hand that thing to me, or what?” The lady’s been nominated for 5 Oscars so far and won best Supporting Actress for playing Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator. She won an Oscar for playing a multi-Oscar winner; so, she’s basically not fucking around in the slightest. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her give a ‘bad’ performance.

Shhhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. We don’t talk about this one.

Shhhhh. Shhhh. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. We don’t talk about this one.

Like, do you remember that one scene in Lord of the Rings where Frodo shows Cate Blanchett the ring (and, yes, I’m mixing actor and character names: welcome to the Octagon) and Cate Blanchett gets all goggly-eyed and glowing and CGI? Okay, that’s basically Cate Blanchett in this movie. That level of intensity, that level of bone-deep wackadoo, for two hours straight. If it were almost any other actress, it would probably be terrible. But it’s Cate Blanchett, so it’s not.

Jasmine spends the entire length of the movie in a delusion: that she is doing fine and everything is going to be fine and that she doesn’t need to deal with all the fucked up stuff in her past because tomorrow is a brighter day. However, it is very clear that everything is not fine. She’s a middle-aged woman, newly poor, who has no discernible skills and whose refusal to reckon with her role in causing a great many people a great deal of pain is going to catch up to her sooner rather than later. And it is this tension, between Jasmine’s fantasy and the world’s reality that makes up the fulcrum of Blanchett’s performance. It’s like watching someone at a fancy party who really, really needs to pee but keeps pretending like they don’t, that they can hold it in, until eventually their bladder gives way and they just piss all over themselves. Except, instead of urine it’s, like, emotions and stuff.

And it’s fucking awesome. She’s getting nominated for an Oscar.

Nailed

Good job, Cate.

Best Supporting Actress: Sally Hawkins

Maybe five of you might remember Hawkins from the film Happy Go Lucky wherein she played a woman named Poppy whose outlook on life was, wouldn’t cha know it, happy go lucky. That she managed to make this woman complex, sympathetic and actually quite admirable is a testament to her skill. As the uber-sane ying to Blanchett’s bats hit-crazy yang, she’s wonderful.

But honestly, the most important thing she has going for her is this: she’s playing a supporting female character in a prestige Woody Allen film. Because when it comes to getting Oscar noms (and wins) for the best actress in a supporting role category, Woody Allen is basically Orson Welles. Dianne Wiest won twice, for Hannah and Her Sisters and Bullets Over Broadway; Mira sorvino won for Mighty Aphrodite; and Penelope Cruz won for Vicky, Christina Barcelona. For a male writer/director, especially one who is pretty much confirmed as kind of a crepp (as will happen if you marry your own stepdaughter and are NOT a character from a soap opera) the guy has a knack and, more importantly, a rep for writing good female roles that win Oscars.

I would say that Hawkins stands a very good chance at being nominated, if not outright winning.

Best Supporting Actor: Andrew Dice Clay

Oh man, do the Oscar voters ever love a comeback story. See: Jackie Earle Haley for Little Children, Eddie Murphy for Dreamgirls, Thomas Hayden Church for Sideways and, of course, Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder. (That last one is also attributed to The Wrinkled Fuckers’ love of blackface.) For those of you who have never watched VH1 (which should really change its name to The History Channel: Pop Culture and then eventually start doing shows about whether or not aliens were responsible for Robert Smith) Andrew Dice Clay was one of the biggest stand ups in the world back in the 80s. Motherfucker sold out Madison Square Garden. And he did it with material such as the following.

(Please image this as read by Morgan Freeman)

Hickory Dickory Dock
This bitch was sucking my kawk
The clock struck two,
I dropped my Goo
And dumped the bitch down the block.

Yeah, Jerry Seinfeld he weren’t. Thankfully, the gods of fate saw fit to serve Mr. Dice Clay and his “He Man Woman Haters Club” brand of misogyny his cosmic comeuppance. The guy hasn’t been in the public eye really for the past 20 years. The world moved on, Murphy Brown and Ally McBeal and Liz Lemon all happened, and the world was better for it.

Alec Baldwin remembers him...he's just not sure from where.

Alec Baldwin remembers him…he’s just not sure from where.

It’s hard not to bring all of this to bear when watching Dice Clay’s performance as Augie, Ginger’s ex-husband and all-around big lug. Dice Clay comes off as a man’s man who has been chastened by the world. Augie and Ginger’s marriage was wrecked by their investing a lottery-winnings windfall in one of Hal’s illusory funds. He’s your classic coulda-been-a-contender who’s given up dreaming big and now just tries to get by. And you know what? Andrew Dice Clay is good. Augie’s exaggerated guido mannerisms all recall Dice Clay at his most horrifically ascendant, but here they are softened. He comes off not as a monster, but a relic. He’s the hardworking blue collar American guy who’s one big mistake was getting involved with those vampire squids of Wall Street. After disappearing during the film’s second half, Augie reappears for a single, critical scene, a puffy pompadoured Deus Ex Machina who appears out of nowhere to (unknowingly) rip up Jasmine’s happy little future like a pig rooting through the dirt for truffles. Honestly, it’s a moment of class warfare on the part of Allen, and executed perfectly by Dice Clay that is incredibly, viscerally satisfying.

Right now I think he’s…not a longshot, but not a lock either. Dice Clay doesn’t have the talent to pull off a comeback quite the same way that mickey Rourke did after The Wrestler, that’s apparent in the movie. But in these early Oscar days, his hat is firmly in the ring.

Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen

This is category that favors dialogue over plot structure. For instance, Gravity, which I will spill countless words over into the endless vacuum that is space the Internet has very (very) so-so dialogue but is actually very well structured. It probably won’t get nominated. Blue Jasmine on the other hand is not a tightly-plotted script but on a line to line level is, well, it’s Woody Allen movie. The man knows his way around words, and more specifically, the way that highly-neurotic people wrap words around themselves like a dolphin drowning in tuna nets. Whether or not you prize plot over dialogue, the Academy…hold up, I’m not going to refer to them as “The Academy” cuz that makes them seem like, oh, I don’t know, worthy of our respect, which is not so. They’re voting on “Best Movie” not “Best Cure For Cancer”. (Oddly enough, the winner in that category is actually “prayer,” but only if you’re a practicing Satanist.) I’m not going to call these people “The Academy.” I am instead going to refer to them solely as what they really are. I’m going to call them “The Wrinkled Fuckers.” Let’s start this sentence again…whether or not you prize dialogue over plotting. The Wrinkled Fuckers prefer a screenplay with lots of shiny words. Deal with it. And boy do they love Woody Allen, who polishes his words like a 12-year-old boy polishes his…bald statuette. Allen has already won Best Original Screenplay 3 previous times, for Midnight in ParisHannah and Her Sisters and Annie Hall. Dude’s got cred. He’s getting the nom (nom nom).

Best Director: Woody Allen

Allen’s strengths as a screenwriter (he makes movies where people talk at each other and that’s usually about it) are his weaknesses as a director, at least Oscar-wide. In this category, I don’t think that the Wrinkled Fuckers are smoking what Mr. Allen is growing.

Nah, son.

Best Picture: Blue Jasmine

It’s written and directed by Woody Allen and starring Cate Blanchett AND there can be up to 10 nominees? If the answer to this question were a 70’s prog rock band it would definitely be…

YES