Thursday, February 23, 2012

Belated Top Nine(s) of 2011 part one (#10 - #5)

Editor's Note: Welcome to I Liked The Trailer Better’s Best Films of 2011 round-up, brought to you just in time for the Oscars. In honor of the industry’s failure to produce ten movies worthy of Best Picture consideration, we present our own Top Nine list. By the way, how shitty do the movies not nominated for Best Picture feel? One can no longer be consoled by the thought that it was a highly competitive year and there just wasn’t enough room to fit in all the year’s masterpieces. Nope! Let’s stop at nine, says the Academy. Yeah, we’re good with nine. It’s like asking Suzy to prom and getting turned down. If it’s because she already said yes to a date, well, it happens. But if it turns out she’s going alone, LOVE HURTS I HATE YOU SUZY I WRITE A BLOG NOW SO WHATEVER.

First, we have some explaining to do. To all our loyal reader(s!!!), we know: we haven’t written in two years. So here’s what happened. In the spring of 2010, McFilmerstein was interviewing for a studio exec job. It went really well. He nailed his greatest weakness question and everything. Alas, when he got back in touch with the very powerful would-be boss, he was informed that several entries he’d written on this very blog were in poor taste (particularly when directed at the movies of that very powerful would-be boss), and that despite his many qualifications, the studio would hire someone else. Shit. So we stopped writing.

But now we’re back! McFilmerstein will be writing under his new pseudonym to protect his good name and standing in the industry. Brian will continue using his real name, as he does not have any standing within the industry (a quick inventory of his Top Nine will give you an idea as to why). In fact, while McFilmerstein was spiraling into a deep depression over lost opportunities due to the blog, Brian was secretly thrilled to know that people were actually reading his words.
That’s so cool, he thought. I’m fucking famous
, he further thought.

Without further ado, our Top Nine list:

GOLAN: Now that the intro and explanation is out of the way, I'll dive right in. Now that I'm anonymous, I can be totally honest and not worry about retribution. Unless anyone read this blog before. Then I'm screwed.


Cloon. I'll explain. I first saw this as a play onstage here in LA starring Chris Pine, and it blew me away. Clearly written by someone who knew what they were talking about (the playwright had worked for Howard Dean and Charles Schumer), it peeled back the onion on the gameplay of politics in a fun and inventive way.

Now, admittedly, nothing in the play, or the movie, was particularly groundbreaking (politicians are liars!, political advisors are Machiavellian!, Ryan Gosling has nice abs!), but somehow still felt fresh and new. The dialogue pops and sparkles. It's topical, smart and exciting. But more than any of that, it's cynical. And I love that. Cynicism is the new black, as far as I'm concerned.

Movies like this always end up being favorites of mine – they end up telling us something we already know, but doing it in such a way that you still feel exhilarated at the revelation and crushed by the inevitable conclusion. And in this case, it even works on a global scale. This movie is about politics, to be sure, but it also represents America as a whole. What we're willing to do to get ahead, who we're willing to screw, what we're willing to cover up. How we treat our friends, our employees, our allies, our constituents. It's all folded into this great drama and expertly helmed with nuanced direction by Cloon and brilliantly acted by all (even Gosling, who wasn't as good as Pine was onstage).


BRIAN: So, yeah. I haven’t seen IDES OF MARCH, so I’m just gonna do my best in reply to everything you just said. Here goes:
  • Politics! It really corrupts, you know? How ‘bout that Mitt Romney?
  • According to the Wikipedia page of FARRAGUT NORTH, the play is named after “a Washington Metro Station, on the Red Line,” which is pretty interesting stuff.
  • Clooney looks really serious in all the commercials I saw for IDES OF MARCH.
  • And when the commercial reveals Paul Giamatti to be an actor in the film, I have to admit: I did not see that one coming, for I had not realized who else was in the movie aside from poster boys Clooney and Gosling.
  • Politics!
  • Re: Gosling, seriously?! It’s like he’s Photoshopped!
  • Steve Carrell looks really funny in the movie, as well.

GOLAN: Glad we agree on IDES OF MARCH. That's what you were saying, wasn't it? Whatever. Who. Cares. What's your #9?


I’ve never seen a sports movie like this. Yes, it’s a story about underdog losers who still end up losing, but that’s not what makes it so unconventional. It flips the genre on its head, reimagining it for the digital age. Sports films are generally character pieces – we become involved in the athlete’s personal life, and what is happening off the field correlates with what’s happening during the games. This formula implies a causal relationship, as if the protagonist’s personal demons are solely responsible for the team’s struggles. MONEYBALL rejects this simplification. It’s the anti-character piece. It strips away all the fluff we use to weave a narrative together and reduces it all to math. In other words, the film is a closer representation of how we now consume sports, scanning the box score after games and trying to make sense of the win or the loss.

And while the film doesn’t arrive at a conventionally satisfying conclusion (the so-called revolutionary method doesn’t carry the team to a championship, ultimately), I find the lack of a convincing answer rather moving. For the film poses an unanswerable question: how do we measure our lives? Our happiness? Success? Our lives are messy. Indeed, the stat sheet is messy. So how are we supposed to find some sort of meaning in all that mess? The sabre metrics employed by the A’s staff zeroes in on one meaningful stat (on-base percentage) and willfully disposes of all the other data. In the final scene, when faced with the decision to take a new job and accept its lucrative salary, Billy Beane weighs all the factors until we see him zero in on the one thing that gives his life meaning: his daughter, her voice singing on a cassette tape. The camera zooms in (zeroes in) on his eyes, very tight, and holds. All the other data in the frame goes away – his expression, the scenery, the road. The answer is fleeting, just as fluid as the tears in his eyes. It’s a perfect lasting image. And one of the best closing shots in recent movie memory.

GOLAN: I'll discuss MONEYBALL more when I get there, but suffice it to say that I loved it. I will admit that the first time I saw it, I wasn't sure what to think. I remember enjoying it, but I saw it with someone who hated it, and it threw me off. I remember walking out of the theater wishing it had been more conventionally plotted, more riddled with sports movie cliches, more MIGHTY DUCKS-y, if you will. And then I saw it again, and realized I was dead wrong. It was beautiful in its complex execution, full of soul and wit, and also had two of my favorite performances of the year in it.

We're not really arguing yet, are we? I hope we start to disagree soon or this is going to get pretty boring.

BRIAN: I mean, I have no desire to watch IDES OF MARCH, if one couldn’t tell from my response to it. That probably counts as disagreement.

GOLAN: That's right. I forgot. If it's popular and doesn't star a tall blue horse monkey or a dead Oscar winner, you don't want to watch it. Yeah, that'll work as our first argument.

And so, without further ado, my #8:


Oh wait... no... no, that's not right. What I meant was:


This one is a cool one to discuss, because I love it and hate it equally. It's audacious, to be sure, when anyone tries to do a big “Life, the Universe and Everything” kind of movie, but in the hands of Malick, it almost works. Yes, I said almost. There are portions of this movie that are as metaphysical as anything I've ever seen caught on film, and there are portions that over-reach and fall flat on their faces. The difference between this movie, and most other movies that sometimes try super hard and fall short, is that when this one failed, I still applauded it's temerity at trying to begin with.

That's actually a good way to summarize my feelings for the movie: I admired Malick for simply going there. Sure, that means when he failed, he failed
, but it also means that when he succeeded, he was able to transcend cinema in new and exciting ways. I mean, who else working today could have made this film? No one. It's rare when pretentious, powerful, messy, stunning, incoherent and sophisticated can all be applied equally to the same film, and I love that.

Let me put it this way. I'm not a religious guy, but sitting through this movie for me was like a religious experience.

Whoa! McFilmerstein! I’m pleasantly surprised to hear you like this movie. Truth be told, I’m a little surprised you even went to see it. I would have pictured you nodding off during the cosmos montage, only to have your date elbow you whenever Brad Pitt comes on the screen, whispering, “Look, look! It’s Mr. Smith!”

But you loved it. Yeah, me too. I also found it imperfect. But I don’t think any of it failed for me, nor do I think Malick is overreaching at all. I just thought some of afterlife stuff looked a little trite (the walking on the beach, the deserted door frame). Curious to hear where you thought the film failed.
GOLAN: I think maybe you agree with my assessment, only your terminology is different. For instance, some of the imagery in the metaphysical sections you reference above was a bit on the nose. I don't mind literal imagery at times, but it seems to me that when someone is pushing the envelope as far as Malick is in this film, there's no reason to rely on old chestnuts to get you by. Especially when it didn't feel like he cared if anyone understood what he meant by any of it. I have my own interpretations, but I also have a hunch that if I told any of them to Malick, he would chuckle at me and not even give me the courtesy of an answer. I know you'll take me to task for this, but I would have liked more character development. I wanted more of Sean Penn, more of Brad Pitt – more of all of the actors, actually. I didn't mind the half an hour of non-actory stuff either, but I did feel like some of it could have been swapped out for more time developing the story of the core family without sacrificing the message that Malick was trying to get across.

As a side note, since I forgot to mention it earlier, the cinematography in this movie is sooooooooooooooo good. Emmanuel Lubezki is a freaking master. And if he loses the Oscar, it will only be because black and white is gorgeous, and because so many people hated this movie.

Oh god, less of Sean Penn. Much, much less. Like, THIN RED LINE cameo less.
GOLAN: I don't know if you would want less of Sean Penn if you actually got to know him a little better. As it stands now, it's all wistful looks. But let's move on. Enough about me. What's your #8?


It might be pointless to sing its praises considering it’s a lock to bring home Best Picture on Sunday, so instead, I’ll address the backlash bandwagon. The film’s detractors charge that its appeal is merely one of nostalgia, blindly paying tribute to a bygone era. Sure, but even as the movie romanticizes the past, it is also about the dangers of doing so – even suggesting that honoring the past is often indistinguishable from fetishizing it (the repurposing of the
score, another common complaint, is surely not accidental in the scene it plays over).

The theme of nostalgia has been noted in this year’s crop of awards movies, but I don’t think THE ARTIST is guilty of pandering to this in the same way that HUGO is. Scorsese is a known film preservationist, but his movie felt too precious about the early silent films, and as a result of embalming the subject matter with the love of a film historian, those films felt mummified rather than resurrected. THE ARTIST, somehow, feels alive and contemporary.
GOLAN: Love me some ARTIST. I'll discuss soon enough. But I will say this: I love it when you say “fetishizing.”

For the uninitiated, our loyal readers bet on the over/under for how many homoerotic exchanges we do in a given entry. Including McFilmerstein’s elongated spelling of “sooooooooooooooo good” in his description of MONEYBALL’s cinematography, the running count thus far is 5.
GOLAN: Our record so far is 35 in a single post. And I think Brian's capitalization of “BALL” in MONEYBALL counts as #6, and his use of the word “elongated” counts as #7. We're on track to bust this record wide open. Annnnnd that's #8.

Speaking of numbers, my #7 is a tie (and there's a reason):


BEGINNERS was a film I didn't think was perfect, but the three lead performances and the film's heart push it over the top for me. In THE WAY, the lead performance by Martin Sheen sold me, as did the film's heart. See? These two films are connected! And they're both about father/son relationships – in BEGINNERS, it's about how a father's radical decision affects the son's life, and in THE WAY, it's about how a son's radical decision affects the father's life. And *BOOM*, I just blew your mind.

Brian, you know that I am a pushover for sentimentality. I cry at the movies (and at TV, for that matter) more than any grown man should. But neither of these are cloyingly sweet or overly sentimental, despite their occasional dalliances with clichés and gimmicks. In BEGINNERS, Ewan McGregor does a great job as a man coming to terms with the hand life has dealt him, Melanie Laurent shines (as she has since I discovered her in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS) and Christopher Plummer gives an Oscar-winning performance (oops, did I spoil the surprise?) as an older man, diagnosed with cancer, who is finally living the life he always wanted. Plummer's role struck me in particular – so much so, that I wish more time had been dedicated to the father/son relationship in the film. Which isn't to say that I would want to trade in any of the time that McGregor and Laurent share, as their story is equally touching. In THE WAY, Sheen gives a performance that rivals any I've seen him give. If the film had been with Fox Searchlight instead of self-distributed, he would surely be looking down the barrel of – at the very least – a Best Actor Nomination.

Having really disliked both director's last films (THUMBSUCKER and BOBBY, respectively), I went in to both with relatively low expectations, and was really moved and impressed by both films. They both made me want to call my dad, who promptly told me I was wasting my time working in this stupid industry. *sigh*

BRIAN: What the fuck is THE WAY? Hang on, I have to give you shit about this. Is this one of your
projects? It is, isn’t it?! Or, no. Is it because you’re doing a movie with Martin Sheen and you’re trying to raise his stock to up your development fee? You’re incredible. I had never seen an ad for that film until now. Admittedly, that’s because I don’t watch Huell Howser on PBS.
GOLAN: A random sampling:

“Martin Sheen in THE WAY is the longest of shots in the Oscar field, and still one of the most deserving.” - Pete Hammond,

“It's a quiet, believable performance, the best of his storied career. Martin Sheen certainly deserves the Oscar for this role.” - John Dear, National Catholic Reporter

“Shoulda Been a Contender for the Oscar: Martin Sheen for THE WAY” - Scott Feingberg, Hollywood Reporter

“My father, Martin Sheen, is currently starring in THE WAY... and he has given the best performance of his career!” - Charlie Sheen

Suck it, Tran. What's your number 7?


Depression’s symptoms are not easily identifiable externally and thus can be a very private disease. Lars von Trier gives us a grandiose, operatic realization of this disease. The beautiful symmetry of the unforgettable overture – the blue planet is framed in the same location as the main character’s head in a following shot – suggests that the apocalyptic story of a planet colliding with the Earth can be interpreted as being all in her head, an outward manifestation of her mental state. The paralysis of this affliction is right there in the plot: there’s nowhere to run, and there’s no Michael Bay movie to destroy the oncoming planet either. No flight or fight. The melancholia is inevitable.

One of the observations Lars von Trier is sharing about depression here (it’s widely reported he suffers from it, as if you couldn’t tell from his films) is that depressives tend to act more calmly than others during a crisis. And Justine (a perfect Kirsten Dunst) seems more at ease in the second half of the film (the apocalypse) than the first half (a wedding), which perhaps suggests that depressives
a crisis. There’s a disconnect when one goes about their day and feels like absolute shit. Indeed, the concerns on Justine’s wedding day are trifling compared to what she’s feeling inside. So when the world is coming to an end, the external circumstances finally match and justify what she’s feeling. Justine seems to welcome the end of the world, as if the planet Melancholia were attracted by the gravitational pull of her mood. Given the coddling sense of comfort one feels in depression, it should come as no surprise that despite the apocalyptic setting, this is von Trier’s warmest, most hopeful film.
GOLAN: I loved Kirsten Dunst in MELANCHOLIA, but overall, I found the film kinda depressing. Yes, yes, I know that sounds like a joke, but it isn’t. I happen to be a fan of Lars Von Trier’s stuff more often than most people – BREAKING THE WAVES is devastatingly amazing, THE IDIOTS was sadly funny and beautiful, it took me a few times to appreciate DANCER IN THE DARK and now I love it, and I thought DOGVILLE was seriously effective and different. I enjoyed this one less, though.

As I said, Dunst’s performance was amazing (I honestly didn’t think she had it in her), and the visuals are haunting and genuinely beautiful (the images in it reminded me of a sadder TREE OF LIFE), but the writing, for me, suffered from on-the-nose syndrome at times, and never seemed to let up. I eventually felt less that I was observing someone succumbing to depression, and more that I was wallowing in it myself. I’m sure many would (and have) praised the film for forcing the viewer to relate so closely to what the main character is going through, but at a certain point, it stopped being interesting and started feeling oppressive.

Funny part is that I don’t disagree with anything you wrote above. I just got tired of the film after a while, despite it all.

BRIAN: But what in particular did you find on-the-nose? I think when a work has some surface symbolism, it gives the viewer the impression that everything else is to be found on the surface as well. Just because the planet is named after the film’s subject matter doesn’t mean we should stop digging deeper for more layered meaning. The work is rich in allusions – to Wagner, Marquis de Sade, and 16th
century paintings – in the overture alone, most of which I’m not familiar with. Even though I feel I was able to unravel the gist of what von Trier is saying, much of the film remains a mystery, inviting me for repeat viewings.

GOLAN: You will be repeat viewing this one on your own. Okay, maybe “on-the-nose” is too harsh. Mostly, some of the metaphors were heavy-handed (the planet being called Melancholia was as trite to me as unobtainium), some of the dialogue didn’t help the film’s cause (“The Earth is evil”) and some of the music choices were obvious (Wagner!), and seemed like devices to me. Look – some of my favorite movies are depressing – this one just left cold.

BRIAN: I loved it. But it might be because I’m miserable. :)


Aki Kaurismaki is a Finnish director making a French film. He doesn’t speak the language, nor did he use a translator on-set. He communicated with his actors by pointing and whistling, and further, never allowed more than two takes. This method sounds like a recipe for some atrocious acting, but in the same way that THE ARTIST reminded us of the pleasures of silent movie acting, LE HAVRE reminds us of how wonderful pre-Method acting is. It took a couple reels for me to get used to, but once I did, I was enchanted. The acting would be described by modern audiences as mannered or stiff. The performances are primarily external, the way a child plays make believe (a legendary French silent film actor plays the lead), and it is your own sense of make believe that leads you by the hand further into the story. You are aware that the story is artificial, and I think that’s Kaurismaki’s point. The plot is entirely contemporary despite its retro style, and its subject matter is potentially grave – a boy from Africa seeks refuge from immigration officials, and the main character’s wife is diagnosed with cancer. But he tells this in a lighthearted way, and the movie has an artificially happy ending. He acknowledges the film’s function as escapism, but only by showing you – and getting you to recognize – how shitty the real world is.

GOLAN: I saw this with you! Yay! That makes me feel all warm inside. Maybe you only liked the movie a little, but sitting next to me in the theater made you feel like you loved it? Awwwww… pookie.

I liked what I saw of LE HAVRE. I fell asleep for part of it (remember the snoring?), but what I saw was really good. I remember laughing, tearing up and gripping my armrest at different times during the film. I also remember the film making me want red wine. I have a hard time imagining this in my top ten, but I do want to point one thing out. You got on me for putting THE WAY into my top ten because it’s obscure, and you are putting LE HAVRE into yours. It’s no wonder that hypocrite and hipster sound so much alike.

BRIAN: Well, this is the first Kaurismaki film I’ve seen, so I’m not familiar with his early work – pretty sure that disqualifies me from being a hipster.Note to reader: LE HAVRE is best enjoyed being awake the entire time. Same with MELANCHOLIA. For TREE OF LIFE, it might be okay to fall sleep during some of the Sean Penn scenes.

Your # 5?

Much like my #10 in 2010, THE BLIND SIDE, this one is a trifle of a film, but a delightful one at that, and one that stays with you after you've left the theater. It's fun, it's whimsical and it's wish fulfillment at its best. The first time I saw the film, I thought it was merely "cute" - a bouncy diversion - but upon repeat viewings, it occurred to me that it's really a meditation on the dangers of nostalgia, and the fuzzy and selective nature of memory. The casting is pitch perfect, which has long been a staple of Woody Allen's films, and the players contribute to an already sumptuous and beautifully realized world.

I've been a superfan of Woody's work since I first saw CRIMES & MISDEMEANORS as a child, and this doesn't match up with his earlier work (nowhere near, in fact). CRIMES, ANNIE HALL, MANHATTAN, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (and many others), run far and fast past MIDNIGHT IN PARIS. But if this adorable gem had been made by anyone
than Allen, people (me included, and I suspect even you, Brian) would be hailing this as a creative new voice to watch in the world of cinema.

You can’t say I would’ve liked this had I not viewed it grading on a steep Woody Allen curve. Because that’s impossible, and also, entirely fair to do so. We bring our baggage and expectations into watching a filmmaker’s work – the disappointment if it fails to live up to those expectations, or surprise if it exceeds them, is part of the process. I’d argue that it plays a small hand in pushing the filmmakers to evolve by holding them accountable to their previous work. So if you’re saying the ideal audience member for this is someone who hasn’t seen ANNIE HALL, I’m saying that ideal audience member is a dumbass for not having seen it yet.

And did it really take you repeat viewings for it to dawn on you that it’s “a meditation on the dangers of nostalgia”? Because the theme is right there in the dialogue. This has always been one of my gripes about Allen films: his tendency to verbalize the film’s message. I more or less forgive him for doing this when that message is sophisticated enough to warrant an articulation (in MANHATTAN, Woody’s character spells it all out in his monologue speaking into the tape recorder in the penultimate scene, but what he spells out still manages to be enlightening as it ties disparate through-lines together rather beautifully). But with MIDNIGHT IN PARIS, I found the story to be a one joke series of fake cameos.
GOLAN: First of all, I not only can say that, I did say that. And I think at times, you have to look at a film on the merits, and not on the baggage that everyone involved brings to the table. Also, as a film teacher, I refuse to be the guy who gets down on someone for not having seen something great yet. If this film creates awareness for a whole new audience who had never seen a Woody Allen movie, and it makes them go back and watch all of his earlier greats, then wonderful! I don't call that dumbassery – I call it a new generation of fans. But I digress, because that wasn't really my point – it was just a momentary diversion. The point is that this film isn't as shallow as you believe it to be.

You ask me – incredulously – why it took me repeat viewings to pick up on the theme of the film. Simple. When I first saw it, I saw it alone. I walked away from it thinking that it paled in comparison to other Woody Allen films and that it was merely a “one joke series of fake cameos,” so I dismissed it and didn't even bother to look deeper, even missing (ignoring?) the obvious subtext (and text) of the piece. Then I saw it again, with someone who rather enjoyed it. And somehow watching it a second time allowed me to let go of the notion that this film had to be compared to his previous films. It allowed me to let go of the gimmick and get to the good stuff.

The film is charming as all hell, looks gorgeous and is just fucking fun. So yeah, it's my #5.

And yours?

BRIAN: This is why I tend to watch movies alone. Sometimes I tell myself it’s by choice.


It’s easy to hate Miranda July. She puts herself in her own movies, her work can be mystifying in its experimentation, and the stakes in her stories are incredibly flimsy, inviting the viewer to ask,
Why am I supposed to care?
Perhaps her voice is better suited for YouTube, a platform for people to put themselves on camera, record everyday things, or experiment with the format and create video clip art. Yet her work in movies is indispensable. I don’t think there’s a filmmaker working today that captures the way we live better than Ms. July.

YouTube figures somewhat prominently in the story. Along with other technological contemporaries that have turned personal pronouns (
YouTube, MySpace, iPhone) into prefixes, it has changed how we live by enabling our age of self-absorption and solipsism, turning anyone with Internet access into a writer, filmmaker, photographer, journalist, comedian, radio DJ, musician, critic, curator, or artist. Solipsism is present in the very title of her first film, ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW, with the word and
simultaneously separating and connecting. THE FUTURE is about how insignificant me and you feel in the multitude of everyone we know. If the film is dismissed as too slight and insignificant, it’s only in keeping with the ideas she’s exploring here.

An early plot point in the film is when the characters decide to turn off their Internet access, seeking refuge from an all-consuming digital world. Most everything online is ephemeral (activity can be cleared, deleted, revised), and the characters desire to create or hang onto something that lasts. The houses and apartments in the film are filled with bric-a-brac presumably imbued with sentimental value, and the characters quit their jobs to attempt to make some sort of dent in the world. Time is the enemy. It produces change. And the characters who had once desired to change the world are resentful of the change around them in their failure to do so. The film is a moving portrait of artists (and keep in mind, everyone is an artist these days) struggling to be heard in today’s sea of voices. The scene when Ms. July yells out the window to see if someone she’s never met can hear her is what every unknown artist today feels whenever they create something. They have no idea who could be listening, or if any of it is being heard at all.

GOLAN: That sounds great and self-indulgent. What artist wouldn't love that? Haven't seen it though, so I can't comment. But BEGINNERS, my #7 film, was made by her husband, so I still feel closer to you right now.

BRIAN: Pretty sure that was an implied marriage proposal. I can’t wait to tell mother.

GOLAN: She'll totally plotz.

Editor’s note: And that wraps up Part 1. In Part 2, find out what happens when Fredo breaks Michael’s heart. Also find out what films make the Top 4.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

KICK-ASS review

BRIAN: Here’s the concept of the movie: a kid with no superpowers decides to become a superhero.  Just ‘cause it’s cool and no one in real life has ever done it before.  So it’s a mix of THE DARK KNIGHT and WATCHMEN elements in acknowledging that comics – and the characters that inhabit them – don’t exist in a vacuum (note that I’m pulling from comics that have been made into movies, not the comics themselves, so I could be accused of not knowing what I'm talking about.).  Here’s a fanboy who doesn’t just read comics, but aspires to act them out in the real world, promising real world consequences.

Problem is: this dude’s boring.  I thought it was the acting at first.  They were clearly trying to cast someone like Chuck, who could be believably geeky one moment, but charming and good-looking when the scene called for it.  Instead, they cast some kid who failed at both, and therefore made every scene a wash.  But it’s not just the acting – I feel the character was really underwritten.  I know the whole hook is to have a character with no superpowers, but they gave us a character with no identity.  I mean, right?  What were they going for?  You’re a nerd.  Tell me.

GOLAN: First of all, the revelation that I’m a nerd comes as a great shock.

As for me, I liked the concept of someone in a world grounded in reality saying, “Hey, I read comics and I can afford a skin tight suit and mask… why don’t I just go out and fight crime?” then realizing that stab wounds hurt worse than they do in comics, crime isn’t as easy to find as it is in comics (hence the cat search) and death isn’t as cute and fun as it is in comics.

But yeah, this guy was boring.  I didn’t know much about this Aaron Johnson guy before this flick came onto my radar.  I am aware he’s British and did a few TV shows back home – that’s about it.  I’d like to say that’s the issue, as sometimes when British actors do American accents (especially regional dialects like Brooklyn), they either come off as super awesome (like Hugh Laurie as Dr. House on “House, MD” - yes, the show actually has an "MD" in the title) or super boring (like Ioan Gruffudd as Mr. Fantastic (irony much?) in FANTASTIC FOUR.  I guess Aaron is one of the super boring ones.

I do disagree with you, though, that they gave him no identity.  I mean, didn’t you see all the clichés they put in place to ensure that we as an audience know who he is?  He can’t talk to girls, he hangs out with geeks, he’s horny, he’s into superheroes, he likes boobs… why, he’s me!  He’s all of us!  He’s everyman!

Oh wait… you were right.  He has no identity.  Throwing a bunch of old chestnuts together does not a fresh summer salad make.  Wow, that metaphor was horrible.  But you know what I mean, right?

BRIAN: You want me to make you a salad?  And you don’t like chestnuts.  We’re saying the same thing. 

And I’m fine with making Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass a pastiche of every geeky characteristic in the book.  In fact, I would have liked to have seen more of that with the superhero identity.  Since Dave is an avid comic book reader, it may have been fun to see Kick-Ass as a sloppy mash-up of all his favorite superheroes, e.g. he has the gadgets of Batman, the flight of Superman, the ability to climb walls, etc., and then find an identity all his own as those superpowers don’t pan out since they’re not organic to who he is in real life.  And that’s the key.  Superpowers are always an extension of who the non-superhero is.  And since Dave is such a boring character, I don’t see what that superpower could really be. 

As with any superhero, the question is why.  What drives the character?  What compels Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker to put on a silly outfit and risk their life fighting crime?  In the case of Kick-Ass, it’s the fantasy element.  That’s a cool concept because I’m sure many in the audience identify with that.  But they don’t do enough with that.  Dave Lizewski should be a mix of the fat Star Wars lightsaber video kid, the Columbine killers, and a hardcore Batman worshipper.  We don’t get the humor of the Star Wars kid (well, I guess they tried…we see Dave practicing his moves in front of a mirror, but the joke falls flat).  We don’t get the dark detachment/escape from reality that the Columbine killers had – again, there are hints of that, but nothing too removed from what most kids fantasize about.  I mean, if Dave is the first to put on a costume and actually try to be a superhero, he needs to be far more weird and crazy than just your average teenager.  And we don’t even get that he consumes comic books the way some do – he should know every fact and tidbit and obscure trivia informing who he is, but they barely even talk about comic books in the movie. 

GOLAN: You’re dead right.  The problem is that the clichés they did go with were not the ones that truly defined him as a fanboy with a rich fantasy life – simply as a geeky teenager.  For example, the Atomic Comics hangout seemed like a place where everyone went, not just comic book geekazoids.  Even his love interest admits that she doesn’t read comics, doesn’t like superheroes, but still goes there for their tasty beverages.

Honestly, I would have liked to have seen Dave really enjoying himself at the beginning of the Kick-Ass process, before he realizes that consequences are real.  And I mean enjoying himself.  As in, smiling crazy, hardly able to contain his sheer fanboy giggling in between blows as he swings his batons around wildly with utter abandon and zero training.

If this character is meant to be a kid who worships superheroes to the point where he feels like he has to become one himself, then you are right… Kick-Ass (the character) should have been a cobbled together pastiche of all the best (or coolest) elements from existing comic book characters that eventually boils down to the heart of who Dave really is.  I mean, at least have him doing a ridiculous Christian Bale/Batman growly voice when he’s in costume as an homage to how audiences see their superheroes.  Because Dave is, at his core, meant to be one of those audience members, absorbing not the world of crime-fighting, but the world of make-believe.

Maybe I should put on tights and fight crime.  I think that idea is gold.  I’d be almost as adorable as Hit Girl, who I genuinely liked, especially in the doses we got her.  Thoughts?

BRIAN: Hit Girl was awesome.  If the movie was about how comics interact with real life and don’t exist in a vacuum, I like the idea of a character who essentially grew up in a comic book vacuum, completely sheltered from real people and real situations.  When she goes to school for the first time at the end of the movie, her response to the school bullies was perfect.  I want a movie all about her now!  Instead of a high school kid adjusting to new found superpowers, we get a superhero having to adjust to high school.  Awesome.  Someone write that shit!

It kind of creeps me out though that the actress is #1 on the IMDb STARmeter.  Let’s hope the villain in the next movie is a pedophile so we can see Hit Girl castrate him to the tune of “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” or some other yelly girl song.

GOLAN: To clarify – and I think we’re on the same page here – you want a movie about Hit Girl now, right?  Now that she’s done crime fighting and is trying to be a regular kid?  Not before – like an origin story, or a movie version of that comic book that her dad drew?  Because I agree – I’d rather see a movie about a superhero trying to be normal than a movie about a normal kid trying to be a superhero.

Years ago, I was trying to set up this project based on a manga series (and later an animated series) titled FULL METAL PANIC!, which was about this teenaged anti-terrorist special forces soldier superspy that is assigned to protect a high school girl by posing as a student himself.  The interesting thing to me about the main character was that the kid had been raised 100% in a military environment.  From the time he was crawling, he was being trained how to be a killing machine – how to sense and stop threats, how to control a dangerous situation, etc.  You would think, since he was able to master those difficult tasks, going undercover as a high schooler would be easy… but since he doesn’t know how to act his age, nor deal with other normal teenagers, nor handle peacefully the bullshit politics of high school, he ends up screwing things up left and right.  He constantly looks like a nutjob or a social reject as he solves his everyday teen problems with violence or general over-reactions.  When someone launches a spitball at him, he counters by essentially putting the kid into the hospital.  When he misses his stop on the schoolbus, he kicks out a window and leaps from the moving vehicle.  Things like that.  Yeah, I’d watch that.  I think Mandalay just optioned the property so maybe we’ll get to see this one someday.

What the hell was I talking about again?

Oh yeah, KICK-ASS.

Hit Girl was fun.  Really glad she wasn’t in more of the movie, though – too much is as bad as too little.  Too little sugar means you’re missing out – too much will rot your teeth.

I’m re-reading our review here and it makes it seem like we hated this movie.  I don’t think either of us flat-out hated it.  I rather liked certain elements (especially the Hit Girl stuff), and even found myself gasping with sheer exhilaration at times.  That being said, there were a lot of things I didn’t love.

As a huge Matthew Vaughn fan who was excited when he was the director that was supposed to bring THOR to the screen, I was disappointed in the poor direction of Kick-Ass’ fight scenes, which played like outtakes from BATMAN BEGINS or QUANTUM OF SOLACE.  His first full fight in the parking lot had so many cuts in close-up that, instead of displaying Kick-Ass’ ineptitude as a fighter, the scene made it look like he was more than holding his own, and even dominating sometimes.  I would have rather seen these fight sequences in a wide shot to really illustrate just how blundering and ham-fisted Dave really is.  Having had some fight training, I can say with some authority that people are taught how to anticipate punches and kicks by watching body language, but when someone has no clue how to fight and simply flails about willy-nilly while holding something as lethal as billy clubs, even a trained fighter might think twice because there’s no rhyme or reason to it.  That’s the Kick-Ass we should have seen – just happy to be there and full of random idiotic energy.  That’s how someone that has no training and no skill and no coordination wins a fight.  And since they stressed time and again throughout the flick how this was the real world and not a comic book world, I would have appreciated a fight sequence shot and cut in a way that made it realistic in that regard.

Last thing I’ll say, and then I’ll pass the baton back to you to wrap it up: I liked Nicholas Cage in this movie.  I thought he was just the right touch of crazy, just the right touch of Adam West and just the right touch of badass.  This is significant because I hate Nicholas Cage.  I think he and Joel Schumacher and Akiva Goldsman should form a production company called Crappy Films and make movies that inexplicably open at number one until the apocalypse brings sweet death to us all.  And I liked him!

So there you go.  Run with that ball through the end zone.

BRIAN: FULL METAL PANIC! sounds awesome.  But maybe because I’m picturing Justin Bieber in the lead role.  Um…touchdown? 

But no, I liked the movie when the main character wasn’t being too annoying.  And overall, the movie was well-directed.  Some of the fight scenes, like the one you mentioned, needed better staging, but the Hit Girl sequences were fucking awesome.  I like that this was a big-budget, mainstream passion project though.  You generally only see ungreenlightable, self-financed fare coming from the art house.  While I wouldn’t go so far as to call Vaughn an auteur just yet, there is plenty of personal stamp on the movie and it certainly didn’t feel like a hack sellout job.  It’s nice to see something made in the independent mode that has completely mainstream aspirations.  Actually, I’m rooting for the movie to do well if only to make fools out of the dumb, chicken-shit studio execs who balked at the swear words.  So keep independent cinema alive, support your local arthouse movie theater, and go see KICK-ASS!  It has a lot of swearing in it!  And it’s actually showing at the multi-plex if you didn’t realize I was joking! 


Tuesday, April 20, 2010


We know it's been a while, but we've got a good excuse!  The Oscars were so boring, we gave up hope on the industry... and life itself.  We vowed to never write another word or see another movie again.  We contemplated removing our hands at the wrist and poking out our eyes... until we were saved.  Saved by Amanda Sloane Murray and her awesome blog.  This talented screenwriter and former New Line executive mentioned us as a blog that was "chock full of useful information and good dirt that you often won't find in other sources," "upfront and honest," and that we have "great senses of humor."  She went on to say that our "written dialogues about movies and the process of making them is entertaining in and of itself."

Well, thank you, Amanda!  Since then, we've been on a film watching spree - some old and some new.  Our review of KICK-ASS will be coming soon, as will a review of a classic now out on DVD.

But first, we explore the world of GREENBERG.  This review will be chock full of useful information, upfront, honest, and entertaining in and of itself.  Join us, won't you?

[editor's note: man, these guys' shameless self-promotion might be douchier than Nikki Finke's]

BRIAN: Initial reactions to GREENBERG: not as funny as I expected, slight departure in directorial style, my least favorite Baumbach film but still quite good.

But... as with any film in this mold, initial reactions are borderline dismissible.  Insight never comes in the middle of a real-life experience, and here, a viewer needs distance to be able to process this real-life story.  Baumbach’s movies stick with you and reveal themselves the more thought is applied to them. 

Some have mentioned that this is the closest Baumbach has come to doing a genre film, interpreting it as a twisted attempt at a romantic comedy.  I can certainly see those elements – there were moments of surprising tenderness between the two romantic leads (surprising for a filmmaker known for caustic exchanges and thinly veiled insults as greetings), and the climactic rush to the airport is straight out of FOUR WEDDINGS, LOVE ACTUALLY, and every other rom com of the past 20 years.  But the genre it most resembles to me is the Coming of Age tale.  This isn’t immediately apparent because the main character is 40 years old – he should be nearing midlife crisis, not growing up.  But the fact that this is so belated for Greenberg, and those who can identify with him, is one of its key observations.  GREENBERG is not just a coming of age movie, it’s a generational statement.  It should rightfully become a companion piece to Linklater’s SLACKER or Nirvana’s Nevermind as a defining Generation X work of art.

GOLAN: So this is where I review the movie with that guy who did the bad AVATAR parody at the Oscars?  Sweet.

Let me start out by saying that I actually liked this flick more than I thought I would.  I agree with you that it wasn’t as funny as I expected, and was also my least favorite Baumbach film.  You thought I was going to say MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, right?  Nope.  This one takes it.

I rarely like movies where misery is meant as a doorway into what life is all about.  I think it’s an easy in – like trying to make me cry by showing me movies about cancer or the Holocaust.  Sure, I will, but as Woody Allen once brilliantly said, “Well, it ruins it for me if you have grass (clearing his throat) because, you know, I'm, like, a comedian – so if I get a laugh from a person who's high, it doesn't count.  You know?  'Cause they're always laughin'.”  And likewise, I’ll always cry when you give me subjects that are uber-sad.  But with misery, filmmakers think that they can make someone a misanthrope and that’s enough for me to lean closer to the screen and give a shit.

It’s like certain filmmakers are telling us that if we’re miserable, we’re deeper.  That we have some ethereal connection with the world, or that we understand concepts that happy (read: stupid and content) people could never grasp.  I find that to be a bunch of bullshit.  Miserable people aren’t deep.  They aren’t likable for their “quirks” or their observations.  They don’t make me want to delve into their psyche to get a sense as to why they are the way they are.  Often, they are – in contrast to the above – assholes that are unlikable that I don’t want to see triumph over their fucked up worldview.

That being said, Baumbach manages, when he is at his best (the script for FANTASTIC MR. FOX, THE SQUID AND THE WHALE), to present not merely misery or caustic barbs, but some authentic glimpses into real human behavior.  I’m not sure that this one qualifies to be in the same class as the two films mentioned in parentheses above.

While I didn’t hate this film, I did feel that it lacked a character arc that got me excited (despite your protestations that he “comes of age”), lacked a character that I gave a shit about (despite your pronouncements that he represents a “generation”), and lacked character motivations that I believed.  Maybe you’re right that this one will hit me months from now in the middle of the night, but don’t hold your breath.

Before I keep rambling… your thoughts?

BRIAN: Rambling is right – what are you talking about, Grandpa?  It sounds like you’re ranting and raving about the emo movement.  Not only is that so 2000-and-late, it’s neither here nor there.  You’re accusing Noah Baumbach – one of the most unsentimental American filmmakers working today – of being a trendy wrist-cutter?  You saw GREENBERG, right?  When the Arclight guy took your ticket and directed you to Theatre 7 on your right, you didn’t accidently go into Theatre 8 on your left where they were showing THE LAST SONG?  Because what you’re describing is a Nicholas Sparks novel, where indeed, a terminal illness subplot will twist your arm until you say uncle.  As in, “Uncle… don’t die, Uncle Bert... why must you die when I’m trying to fall in love?!”

Watch from 3:10 to 4:45.  It’ll change your life:

Let me reprint the lyrics to the song on the soundtrack after poor Mandy Moore runs:

“Welcome to the planet…welcome to existence…”

It’s so deep.  So deep, put her ass to sleep.

Please don’t mistake Mr. Baumbach for Mr. Sparks.  You’re embarrassing yourself.  The misanthropy seemed honest, not manufactured.  Stiller’s Greenberg is in a long line of Baumbach characters who think themselves morally and intellectually superior: Jeff Daniels in SQUID and Nicole Kidman in MARGOT are two of the most precisely written – and memorable – characters of the past 10 years.  And because Greenberg is just an extension of this, I don’t think it’s fair or accurate to say that Baumbach is going for easy sympathy. 

Moreover, I disagree with your charge that the film isn’t in the same class as his other films in providing glimpses into real human behavior.  Perhaps you’re misreading the film’s imposed distance to its characters.  GREENBERG, like his other films, is a comedy of manners.  Thus, it needs to keep the viewer at a distance, the better view to observe not just Greenberg, but the entire generation he represents.  In other words, the film shouldn’t be viewed with a microscope, zooming in on a character’s hidden life.  Take a clue from the very first shot – a panoramic view of the smog hanging over Los Angeles – it should be viewed with a telescope. 

I wrote above that I see GREENBERG as a belated Generation-X coming of age film.  Let me get into it.  Greenberg is miserable, yes.  But he is part of a generation whose identity is attached to the prefix “anti.”  Anti-establishment, anti-consumerism, anti-etc.  It would be hard not to be miserable.  Greenberg is a former musician.  The pivotal mistake in his life is his rejection of a label offer when he was 25.  He’s 40 now, which would likely place his music in the post-grunge alt-rock scene (the label rejection fits right into the ethos of that scene).  If it seems odd that this is a coming of age movie with a protagonist that’s 40, Greenberg has a bad case of arrested development.  He’s still 25, still grunge rock at heart.  He spends his free time writing angry letters to mega-corporations – a sad, impotent outlet for the angry songs he no longer writes.  And it’s not just Greenberg, it’s Los Angeles plagued by the industry’s youth culture: at a party, the adults dress like kids and the kids dress like superheroes.  “Youth is wasted on the young,” his friend absent-mindedly quotes, and that cliché has never seemed more bitterly jealous than it does here.  You write that the film lacked an arc that excited you.  I find Greenberg’s coming of age moving and compelling, especially because it was 15 years in the making.  Growing up – letting go of all the anger and all the anti-blank – would be admitting that the past 15 years have been a waste.  By the end of the movie, he finally takes baby steps towards embracing a life he never planned on.  One might imagine his entire generation having to similarly reconcile their hard-headed ideals with the practicalities of life when faced with adulthood.  Many argue that Kurt Cobain’s greatest demon was his success. 

Greenberg grows up with the help of a girl who’s his emotional match.  He seems to be stuck at 25, which is Greta Gerwig’s age in the film.  It’s notable that Baumbach cast Gerwig, a mumblecore icon if there is one, in this role (Mark Duplass, another mumblecore alum, is also in it).  The movement is the most recent wave to define a generation, and Baumbach uses Gerwig’s generation – overeducated, coddled, aimless, cripplingly self-aware – as a way to complement and contrast Stiller’s.  In the film’s set piece, Greenberg directs a drug-induced rant to a party of millenials.  It includes the best acting I’ve seen from Mr. Stiller. 

There’s a NY Times article about Greta Gerwig representing a new generation of actors that I’d love to eventually discuss in a future post (and acting trends of the past 10 years), but I should probably hand this off to you for a rebuttal on the movie at hand. 

But hang on, one more thing…your comment about miserable people not being deep?  Fuck YOU! 

Welcome to the planet, buddy.  Welcome to existence.

GOLAN: Huh?  What?  Sorry, I dozed off there for a second.  My favorite part of your response was that you completely missed the point of what I was saying.  I wasn’t saying that GREENBERG was trying to be emo, nor trendy, nor sentimental.  I’m saying that much like a movie such as THE LAST SONG, THE NOTEBOOK or A WALK TO REMEMBER tries to make me feel sad by throwing around concepts like “Cancer” or “Alzheimer’s” or “I do not need a reason to be angry with God,” or movies such as THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS or RADIO or SEVEN POUNDS tries to make me feel moved by throwing around concepts like “Holocaust” or “Mentally Challenged” or “Jellyfish,” movies like GREENBERG try to make me give a shit by throwing around concepts like “misanthrope,” “morally intellectual” and “emotionally stunted.”  I don’t think they’re going for easy sympathy, but they sure are going for easy Gen-X cred (which you, apparently, bought into… so good for them).

And I totally get why Baumbach and Stiller made it!  I think the reasons are similar to why Stephen Daldry and Kate Winslet decided to make THE READER.

I quote Ms. Winslet herself, explaining why she took on the role (for which she won an Oscar): “I don't think we really need another film about the Holocaust, do we?  It's like, how many have there been, you know?  We get it.  It was grim.  Move on.  No, I'm doing it because I've noticed that if you do a film about the Holocaust you're guaranteed an Oscar… That's why I'm doing it.  SCHINDLER’S bloody LIST.  THE PIANIST.  Oscars coming out of their arse.”

In other words, sure, we don’t need another flick like this, but it’s such an easy character to craft and such an easy cred to snag, why not?  Certainly easier than trying to write or direct or bring to life a character that goes deeper than the ones we’ve seen a thousand times before.  Let’s just make another movie about an asshole that doesn’t care about others, and slowly, through the love of a good and patient (and flawed herself, in her own way) woman, learns to care and accept that he’s made mistakes in his past and mend fences and “come of age” and realize his emotional maturity and… fuck, man, I’ve seen it before.  And better.

I will admit this: your diatribe about Generation X’ers and why they were the way they were was more interesting overall than the movie itself.  So kudos.

As for that drug-induced rant at the party, it was – no question – some of the better acting that Stiller has done (compared to what?  NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM?), but it was also too easy… to have drugs be the conduit seems like such a cop-out.  It seems like every time a film needs a character to show their true colors or admit a deep-dark secret or do something they wouldn’t normally do or let down their armor (even their self-imposed douchey Gen-X figurative armor), the lazy path is to get them high or drunk.  Baumbach is better than that.

He’s also better than not doing his research – his portrayal of the “Millenials” is as out of touch as Greenberg’s is.  They are arbitrarily violent and listen to Korn and do coke?  Really?  That’s the best you got?  You, Noah, the master of behavior and manners and observation (even when viewed through a telescope)?  For shame.

That being said, I did like Gerwig quite a bit.  I’d like to read that NY Times article, and I would love to write a post about acting trends of the past 10 years with you.  Hell, despite your predilection towards random Nicholas Sparks references, I’d write anything with you.

As for being welcomed to existence, I’d like to thank you.  But I’m too disconnected and intellectually superior and holier than thou and misanthropic and emotionally stunted and morally untouchable to care.  Sigh.  You see, I myself am a Gen-Xer, and existence is just so millennial.

BRIAN: Well, reading your explanation leads me to believe that I still don’t get what you’re saying.  So you’re not saying that GREENBERG is a Nicholas Sparks movie, you’re saying it’s “much like” a Nicholas Sparks movie?  I still got that wrong?  My bad.  Sometimes when you talk out of both sides of your mouth like that, I mistake it for you just talking out of your ass.  Which one is it? 

You write that the film tried to get you to give a shit by making Greenberg a morally intellectual misanthrope.  Quite the opposite.  Movies get someone to care by making them likable (or by giving them a terminal illness, either one), not by making them an asshole.  If anything, Baumbach is making Greenberg hard to care about, and he and Stiller are forced to earn our emotional investment.  And they do this, I might add, without a cliché redemption formula and without a hint of sentimentality.  Greenberg’s sole expression of sentiment – when he tells Gerwig, “You have value” – is so awkwardly fumbled in its delivery that she takes it as an insult.  I would have noticed my heart strings being pulled if I weren’t laughing at the exchange.

You claim you’ve seen this movie before.  Well, sure, especially when you gut the movie the way you did in your description, leaving only its skeletal outline.  Did you also reject STAR WARS because you read the same story in LORD OF THE RINGS?  Did you yawn at THE MATRIX because you had already read the New Testament?  Yeah, the story may have been done.  Here’s what’s original about it: it’s a late coming of age movie for adults who are only grown-ups in age, and in so doing, it’s a comment on a generation whose identity is based on not selling out to grown-up ideals.  That’s something new.  We’ve seen seminal Generation-X works from artists in their 20’s (Stiller was in his 20’s in REALITY BITES).  GREENBERG observes what happens to this particular bunch of 20-year-olds when they become 40-year-olds.  It is akin to THE GRADUATE, which defined not only the wayward hippie generation, but also Mrs. Robinson’s, whose bored housewife barely missed out on the sexual revolution.  GREENBERG similarly mixes two generations together in order to show the generational divide. 

So I don’t know.  I’m just not suspect of any buried machinations in making Greenberg a misanthrope.  It seemed natural to me, but it might be due to identifying with him.  Maybe it’s that.  Or maybe it’s that you’re wrong and just don’t get it.  Whatever.  I hate you.  But only because you’re a person.

GOLAN: We could go on like this all day – we often do when we disagree on a movie.  I think the best thing would be for us to encourage our readers to decide for themselves.

I should point out though that you still missed my point, which isn’t that GREENBERG is like a Nicholas Sparks movie, but that when a movie (any movie) tries to elicit an easy reaction instead of developing things properly (ie. “she has Cancer – fucking cry!” or “his family was killed in the Holocaust – fucking be moved!” or “he’s an asshole – fucking care about his journey into non-assholiness!”), I hate that movie.

Beyond that, I have to point out that the line, “Sometimes when you talk out of both sides of your mouth like that, I mistake it for you just talking out of your ass” is freaking gold.  It may be your best zinger since the Werther’s Original.

So I don’t know.  It seemed forced to me, but it might be due to having a sunny outlook on life.  Maybe it’s that.  Or maybe it’s that you’re wrong and just don’t get it.  Whatever.  I love you.  But only because you’re you.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Word Vomit About The Oscars (our scattershot version of live blogging)

GOLAN: So far, we're one out of one!  Suck it, America!

BRIAN: ....Because America was expecting Woody Harrelson?  We're keeping track of our predictions point total here.  But also, I'm keeping count of how many times someone at this viewing party comments on the length of the telecast.  Hilarity.  So far I've heard 4.

GOLANWow, Christoph Waltz just told the longest metaphor ever.  Yawn.  And that's two for two.  Sadly, it's the two that everyone else got, too.  On the bright side, we also hit #3.  So far, perfect score.

Also on the bright side, when Ryan Bingham said to his wife, "I love you more than rainbows," the next comment from one of our houseguests was, "Oh, that guy cheats on her.  No faithful man says shit like that."  Awesome.  Best line of the Oscars so far.  Certainly better than anything uttered by Steve Martin or Alec Baldwin.

Commercial time.

While we're waiting, what do you think of the format and the hosts so far?

BRIAN: Meh.  Nothing new.  Great party.  I love your friends.

GOLAN: But you're being quiet.  Oh, you meant... Oh, that's funny!  I don't know those people.

Wow.  Molly Ringwald can't blink.  That's a shame.  Is that botox?  So we're batting 1000%.

I'm confused.  Is this John Hughes thing part of the In Memoriam thingy?  Or is the Academy saying that he is more important than the other dead people?  Whoa, Farrah Fawcett died?

BRIAN: I love the John Hughes montage.  Real good and moving.  And kind of an Academy mea culpa for never recognizing him, right?

GOLAN: So you agree with this?  Wouldn't that be similar to picking and choosing our favorite dead people and doing montages and speeches just for them?  That could take forever.  The John Hughes thing, as much as I love him, belongs in a TV special, not part of the Oscars that we are trying to make shorter.

Now for the bad news: we're three down.  We lost three awards.  Best short animated thing and best short documentary thing and best short live action thing.  This is where you people can pull ahead of us.  The awards that we literally did no research on, nor give much of a shit about.

Why do we still love Ben Stiller again?  Did he whiten his teeth for this?  Man, I hate that guy.

BRIAN: The Oscars is a TV special, silly.  They should start burying movie stars during the Oscars.  It would help society cope with death, I feel like.

GOLAN: Wow!  PRECIOUS just won the Adapted Screenplay Oscar.  That is ridiculous.  The professor's speech was better than his script.  Ugh to say the least.  And we missed another one.

Sadder still, the phrase, "Academy Award winner Robin Williams."  I just got really depressed.

Sadder still, that means that the powers that be selected Robin Williams to stand in for Heath Ledger.

Fuck me, this ceremony sucks.

BRIAN: I like how they're doing the clips for acting categories a lot.  Nice to give the performances more context.  Judi Dench would have had her entire performance from SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE screened before she won.

GOLAN: So, to recap, what's the tally?

BRIAN: I don't know.  So, hey, they're explaining what the sound categories are all about.  Do you think as the Academy is watching this, they're...

GOLAN: Did you just fall asleep?  So did everyone else.  And now they're introducing their musical people.  Is this supposed to prove that gay guys made this ceremony?  We get it!  Musical numbers, Neil Patrick Harris, a little too much costume love...

Then there's this weird PARANORMAL ACTIVITY parody, that's been done to death.  Why not do a BLAIR WITCH parody now?  It would be just as topical.

And then a tribute to horror movies.  You know that genre, right?  It's the one that has never been nominated for an Oscar.  So appropriate.

Morgan Freeman is now explaining something about sound and THE DARK KNIGHT.  I'll admit that Freeman's voice makes things sound more interesting, but this is still boooooooring.  The best sound trick in DARK KNIGHT was making Christian Bale sound like Dizzy Gillespie.

BRIAN: Kristen Stewart's hot even when she turns her head to cough in front of a billion viewers.  Man, I wish I was backstage with a cough drop right now.  But maybe I don't deserve her...

GOLAN: Best cinematography goes to a blue screen!  Well done, Academy.

BRIAN: OMG, they didn't show Farrah Fawcett in the In Memoriam!  And now they're doing a tribute to STEP UP.  Weird.

GOLAN: A bunch of awards have gone by.  We ate pizza.  The pizza was more interesting than the ceremony, so we lost focus.

Here's my catch-up... Keanu Reeves is presenting something about THE HURT LOCKER!  I can't believe I called that.  Jesus.  I was kidding, and the Academy thought they were being clever.  Yikes.

Now Quentin is making weird voices.  Oooooookay.

And now THE WHITE RIBBON is losing Best Foreign Film!  What?  I haven't seen the Argentinian flick, but how did Haneke not take it?  Weird.  Well, I guess if they couldn't give it to Germany, they compromised and gave it to the German hiding place.

BRIAN: History jokes.  Giving our readers what they want.  Jeff Bridges, wrap it up.  Prepare something if you're a fucking lock, loser.

GOLAN: Wow, man.  You're angry tonight.  I mean, I understand.  This Oscar ceremony may be the most boring on record.  I couldn't give less of a shit anymore.  It's running way long, and we still have Best Actress, Best Director and Best Picture to go.  And Oprah is talking and talking and talking.  How come she prepared a long speech and Colin Farrell ad-libbed a joke about getting gonorrhea in Mexico?

BRIAN: Sandra Bullock calls her mom by her first name?  I like the Best Director introduction: Will the first woman director win?  Will the first black person ever win Best Director?  Or will the White Man prevail yet again?

GOLAN: It's like the election all over again!  Yes, that's right.  An election joke!  Topical!  Beyond that, my favorite moment of the Oscars so far was when Barbra Streisand said, "The time has come!" but didn't specify if it was the "time" for a black man or a woman, and Lee Daniels started to lean forward.

Finally, THE HURT LOCKER wins Best Picture.  At least AVATAR didn't win Best Picture.  I'm happy.  So?  Were you as bored as I was?

BRIAN: It's reflected in how uninspired this blog post is.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Welcome to OUTGUESS THE I LIKED THE TRAILER BETTER’S OSCAR PREDICTIONS COMPETITION™!  Instead of "Brian" and "McFilmerstein" each offering up their own predictions, they will settle on one (that’s right, one) choice through furious debate and compromise. Or, more likely, name-calling and threats of bodily harm.

They will stand by this single prediction as a unit, sharing in a victory and taking credit equally.  It’ll be like Jason Reitman sharing the award with Sheldon Turner as if they both deserved it.

Readers are invited to post their predictions in the comments section, and those of you who can beat their choice (and who we can get in touch with afterwards) will win a free FROM PARIS WITH LOVE t-shirt!

This award is functional (it can cover your torso!), and also holds a special place in our hearts.

First of all, it’s an homage to one of our earliest blog posts, and therefore commemorates how far we’ve come since we started (9 posts and 21 followers later… it’s been quite the ride, my friends).

Second of all, they won matching t-shirts one night as a result of a couple of earth-shattering karaoke performances.  They first brought down the house with ALADDIN’s “A Whole New World,” then sang the shit out of AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long.”  Who wouldn’t want to proudly wear a shirt that memorializes such an occasion?  They know you, the I Liked The Trailer Better readers, would.

Additionally, they will each sign John Travolta’s name on the unworn t-shirt before giving it to the winner.  The t-shirts remain unworn for fear that they might be caught dead in them.  I repeat: after singing the song from ALADDIN in front of an adult crowd, they still refuse to wear the shirt in keeping with what remains of their dignity.  That’s how unworn it is.

And on that note, good luck!  Post your predictions before Sunday!

GOLAN: Well, boy-o, the Oscars are right around the corner, so we better get with the predictions.  How do you want to start this off?  Right at the top, with Best Picture, or just kind of willy nilly, jumping from random category to random category?

Uh, let’s jump from category to category, similar to how the telecast runs, sandwiching the celebrity categories inside the technical ones.  In fact, let’s start off with the supporting acting categories as the show usually does.  But before we get to that, where the fuck is the opening song-and-dance number?

Enter Jennifer Hudson, singing to the tune of “Since U Been Gone”:

Here’s the thing, we started with ten
We cast our vote and we wait for when
Yeah yeah
There can only be one….

She gets booed off stage while pulling her Oscar out of her dress and defiantly pumping it in the air.  

Okay.  Best Supporting Actor.  I go with Christoph Waltz for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.  No argument here, right?

GOLAN: Since I already said so in our Oscar nomination extravaganza, correct.  Waltz all the way.  That being said, where is the typical backlash that comes with this kind of landslide obvious victory?  Shouldn’t people be clamoring for this guy to lose (for no other reason than pure ugly jealousy)?  I am seriously waiting for Sissy Spacek’s Oscar for IN THE BEDROOM to be handed to Halle “make me feel goooooooooood” Berry for MONSTER’S BALL again.  But, for now, no backlash.  So yeah, Waltz 100%.



GOLAN: Well, that was relatively painless.  I have a feeling we’ll agree on a lot of these winners, since it’s not about taste – it’s about predicting the tastes of the Academy.  In short, if we can’t argue with each other, we better start getting catty as hell about the Academy’s taste.  Shouldn’t be hard.

On to the next.  Best Supporting Actress.  Another lock.  Mo'Nique for PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL ‘PUSH’ BY SAPPHIRE BASED ON THE MOVIE ‘PRECIOUS’ BY PUSH BASED ON THE PUSH BY ‘NOVEL’ FOR SAPPHIRE, or whatever.  I mean, even if it wasn’t a lock, without Samantha Morton in the running, what are the other options?  The actress playing an actress in NINE?  That’s a stretch.  The girl supporting Jeff Bridges in the movie about Jeff Bridges?  It was really sweet of her to be there so he had time to do his costume changes.  The chick from TWILIGHT whining at George Clooney?  I mean, that was some quality whining, but come on!  Yes, I’ll admit that I would be fine with Vera Farmiga, but it’s not even a close race and she’ll win one later anyway.  Mo'Nique by a mile.  Thoughts?

Dim the lights.  Cue theme from FORREST GUMP.  Begin IN MEMORIAM 2009 montage – I know it’s a bit early, but go along with me for a sec.  We golf clap to the many who have entertained us – and entertain us still – for they will forever live on the silver screen.  Brittany Murphy… gone too soon.  I think these jokes are too soon.  David Carradine, cut to Tarantino doing the rock n’ roll sign with his hand.  Some writer who wrote some movie.  Farrah Fawcett… Farrah Fawcett died?  Thunderous applause for Michael Jackson (seriously, when did Farrah Fawcett die?).  Michael Jackson’s kids walk sadly across the stage.  Billy Mays the Shamwow guy? Man, they weren’t kidding about wanting to attract a broader viewing audience.  OMG, Jeff Goldblum fell off a cliff while filming a movie!  Wait, someone edited this montage on Twitter Cut Pro – I don’t think that’s right.  And finally, Heath Ledger.

Technically, he died in 2008, but it’s traditional to have the winner of the previous year hand out the award to the opposite sex of the same category, so let’s please welcome to the stage, winner for his performance in THE DARK KNIGHT, Heath Ledger!  Using the same technology that gave a dead Fred Astaire the ability to dance with a vacuum cleaner, Heath Ledger appears on the screen to give the award to….

Mo’Nique.  Yeah, that’s pretty much a lock.  


BRIAN: Moving on to Best Sound Mixing, also known as your cue to take a leak.  The thing about the technical awards is that it’s voted on by members of the Academy that have no understanding of the category itself.  Consequently, voters will essentially vote for their Best Picture, so this category will come down to AVATAR or THE HURT LOCKER.  Since AVATAR was more about the visuals than the sound (or acting or writing), I say it will go to HURT LOCKER.

GOLAN: Ah, that was a good leak.  Full body shiver inducing, in fact.  Good call.

So, yeah – most people have no clue what sound mixing is, but they understand the word ‘sound’ and assume that means loudest movie.  In this category, the loudest movie is easily TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN, but I think enough people hated this log of donkey shit enough that it won’t win.

BASTERDS was about dialogue, so it’s out (especially because film people forget that dialogue has to be recorded and mixed).

Then there’s STAR TREK.  This one actually has a shot, because it’s loud and cool and respected and made money and didn’t get the Best Picture nomination a lot of people thought it deserved.

And finally AVATAR.  I hate to say it, but despite the fact that – yes – this movie was all about the visuals, people having one of their senses bombarded tend to forget which one it is.  So as much as I’d like to say that this one is between STAR TREK and HURT LOCKER with HURT LOCKER pulling out a much-deserved win, I actually think this one will be going to AVATAR.

Plus, the Vegas odds are all about this one going to AVATAR.

Our first disagreement!  The tension is so thick, you can cut it with a straight razor.  What now?

BRIAN: I dunno.  I guess I’m giving too much credit to the Academy in thinking they’d put more than two seconds of thought into their vote.  It’s probably easier to just vote for AVATAR in all technical categories.  If I were campaigning for Team Avatar, I’d somehow remind voters that it’s not just Sound Mixing, it’s Sound Mixing in 3D.  I feel like that would make it a lock.  



BRIAN: Let’s play it safe and choose the same for Sound Editing, yeah?  That FROM PARIS WITH LOVE t-shirt is mine!  Suck it, readers!  I hate you all!  Seriously, why do all our readers think I’m a pretentious asshole according to your Twitter feed?  Don’t get it.  

GOLAN: Short and sweet: cool.  AVATAR for Sound Editing works for me, too.  As for you being a pretentious asshole, I have a simple retort.  Here it is: and?



BRIAN: Handing out the award for Best Costume Design, please welcome Taylor Lautner!  To illustrate why NEW MOON wasn’t nominated in this category, he takes off his shirt.  Bowtie remains on his neck.  

Wow, it’s between five movies nobody’s seen.  This is exciting.  So Catherine Leterrier was nominated for her costume design for COCO BEFORE CHANEL.  I mean, is Catherine Leterrier the pseudonym for Coco Chanel?  What kind of research were they expecting the designer to do other than comb through Chanel’s own collection?  

Let’s go with THE YOUNG VICTORIA since those clothes looked the most uncomfortable.  I’m telling you, this is exactly how the Academy thinks.  

GOLAN: The sad part is that you are 100% right.  That is exactly how the Academy thinks.  And since most of the voters are actors, they will pick the costume that will most readily win them an Oscar if they were wearing it themselves.  BRIGHT STAR has a lot of top hats and waist coats, but is pretty drab overall.  COCO BEFORE CHANEL is lovely, but – as you already pointed out – shouldn’t really count because they just kind of pilfered Chanel’s early designs to make it happen.  It’s like when SHINE got nominated for Best Score, when really the only piece of music in it that is moving belongs to Rachmaninoff.  NINE made slut chic look… um… slutty?  PARNASSUS got nominated because it was weird, I guess.  So yeah, THE YOUNG VICTORIA is, I think, a lock.  Way to go, Sandy Powell.



GOLAN: While we’re in the awards that we pretend to respect while we’re waiting for more stars to come out, let’s move right along to Best Art Direction.  Instead of having a human come out to present this award, the Academy does that thing they do sometimes when they have animated characters present awards.  The people at home delight!  The people in the audience take the opportunity to get sauced.

This time, the two main characters from AVATAR, Neytiri and Jake Sully, speaking entirely in Na’avi (with subtitles, of course) present the nominees.  This is the Academy’s way of saying “Let’s not waste any time – the winner is so obvious we may as well have fun by having characters from the winner talk to you right now!”

They sure as hell are not going to give it to NINE.  SHERLOCK HOLMES was all dark and moody and bland (and yes, I know all of you will tell me that they used London to better effect than anyone ever in the history of the world, but it was still fucking bland).  VICTORIA was really more about costumes than anything.  And PARNASSUS is – again – weird.

Hell, the Vegas odds for this category now read like this (and no, I am not kidding):

Any Other Movie: 14/5

Hard to dispute the odds when they don’t even bother typing out the other films’ names.

Any arguments with that?

BRIAN: Arguments?  I mean, the art direction of all of the other nominees is in 2-D.  2-D is for losers.



BRIAN: To perform the first of our nominated songs, please welcome to the stage Lady Gaga with her rendition of “Loin de Paname” from PARIS 36!

Lady Gaga performs “Poker Face.”  Multiple cuts to Goldie Hawn dancing in her seat.  

Best Documentary and Documentary Short.  I haven’t seen any of the nominees and I’m too lazy to look up the Vegas odds, so I’ll base my decision on the political climate.  Let’s go with THE COVE because harm to whales make killers of them all, and THE LAST TRUCK: CLOSING OF A GM PLANT because GM makes cars and Toyota does too.  Most voters uttered the word “topical” as they cast their ballot.  I feel like I missed the opportunity to win an Oscar this year and should have made LUGE: THE HUMAN DEATH SPORT or MY BIG FAT GREEK DEBT CRISIS.


GOLAN: Before I begin, I’d like to just distance myself from that luge joke.  Unlike NBC!  *SLAM!*

Wow, you have really burrowed into the mind of the voter (who also, incidentally, have not seen any of the documentary nominees)!  There are a few reasons why I agree with you that THE COVE is taking it – one, dolphins are delicious (that’s what it’s about, right?) and two, Fisher Stevens produced it and he used to hump Julia Roberts.  So he’s one of us, guys!



GOLAN: But I will have to disagree on the Short Subject.  While it is totally topical that GM closed plants (and that Toyota makes cars that don’t stop), UP IN THE AIR is about layoffs, so we addressed it already!  Plus, there’s something else that is nominated that is suddenly topical, too.  And, I think more topical… Anyone?  Anyone?

That’s right!  Earthquakes for 500, Alex!  CHINA’S UNNATURAL DISASTER is about an earthquake that killed a bunch of people and generally made stuff bad and sad.  Sound like any country we know?  The tears of the Sichuan Province are flowing right into the Kodak Theater, my friends! Now that, my friend… is topical.

Huh.  I didn’t realize what that film was about.  Excellent point, sir.  Text 90889 to donate your vote to CHINA’S UNNATURAL DISASTER.  



Oh, shit.  We’re losing viewers.  Quick!  Please welcome to the stage the president of the Motion Picture Academy, Tom Sherak!  

Tom Sherak: Ladies and Gentlemen, the movies are what we watch…

*changes channel*

Oh, look.  The Puppy Oscars are on Animal Planet.  How cute.

*changes back*

Tom Sherak: …so please everybody, stop downloading music!

Alright, Best Foreign Film.  The only film to be released domestically before the nominations was THE WHITE RIBBON.  Plus, it was nominated in one of the major technical categories, which means enough people saw it.  Lastly, it has a well-regarded director in Michael Haneke.  That’s my choice.  It’s quite the upset otherwise.  

GOLAN: Le sigh.  That’s French for ‘sigh’.  Remember the French?  They were the people that Germany enslaved and pillaged during World War II!  Interesting that you want to vote for the Germans.  Interesting indeed.  That being said, as a Jew, I know better than to bet against the Germans when they’re going up against France, Israel, Peru and their chosen vacation spot, Argentina (another Mojito, Mr. Hitler?), so I agree – WHITE RIBBON it is.



GOLAN: Speaking of pillaging, there is one company that basically is guaranteed an Oscar every time they make a movie (yes, I know SHREK beat out MONSTERS, INC., and HAPPY FEET beat out CARS, but you know what I mean).

Obviously, I’m talking about Pixar.  And this year, they have UP.  It’s the only film in this category to also have a nomination in the Best Picture category.  That’s Best regular Picture.  So it must be a lock, right?


Time Magazine named THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG the best movie of the year.  AO Scott of the New York Times selected it as his pick to win this category.  Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly gave it an ‘A’.  Allison Samuels of Newsweek said, “For what seems like forever, I have waited for THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG.”  And, most telling, a guy with the username ‘jbboy’ posted in the LA Times public forum that he, “thinks it has a chance in the Best Animated Film category.”

So, what does all that point to?  Will this be the year that Disney bests it’s Pixar underlings?  Will this be the year that traditional hand-painted animation prevails?  Will this be the year of the massive upset?

No.  Of course not.  Don’t be retarded.

UP for the win.

Of course PRINCESS AND THE FROG doesn’t stand a chance.  2-D is for losers, remember?  Losers like you, jbboy.



So UP just won, beating out Wes Anderson and his film FANTASTIC MR. FOX.  He’ll definitely be the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award in about 40 years after never winning an Oscar during the prime of his career.  

The nominees for Future Lifetime Achievement Award as a Better Late Than Never Consolation Prize are: Wes Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, Alfonso Cuaron, Spike Jonze, and PT Anderson.

And the winner is actor-turned-director Zach Braff.  

Let’s get a couple more meaningless categories out of the way.  

For Best Live Action Short, eenie meenie miney moe, catch a tiger by the toe, if he hollers, let him go, eenie meenie miney moe – it’s going to INSTEAD OF ABRACADABRA.  

Best Animated Short.  I say it goes to A MATTER OF LOAF AND DEATH, a return to short form in the beloved Wallace and Gromit series.  It already won Best Picture at the Puppy Oscars.  I say that’s a harbinger.  

GOLAN: Live Action Short.  God, who cares?  Let’s put it this way – THE DOOR is getting all the play, but I think your system is far too scientific to be wrong.  Hell with it.  ABRACADABRA it is.



GOLAN: Animated Short.  From everything I’ve read, THE LADY AND THE REAPER sounds awesome.  Since no one is ever going to see these things, I’ll just tell you that it’s about death trying to kill a lady.  When a doctor revives her, she realizes that all the chasing death has done has caused her to fall in love with him.  So she jumps into a bathtub with a toaster so they can be together.  Awesome, right?  Oh, sorry – spoiler alert.  Meant to say that earlier.  Likewise LOGORAMA sounds neat-o.  Any short in which Ronald McDonald blows the head off of Mr. Peanut with a machine gun sounds tight.  That’s what the kids call it now, right?  Tight?

But who are we kidding?  If the Puppy Bowl says so, it may as well be Moses bringing the tablets down the mountain… because it’s gospel.



GOLAN: Let’s move on to what may be the toughest race of the night.  Are you sitting down?  Fasten your seat belts.  Prepare for a water landing.  Because we’re delving into a category where there are no certainties.  Where truth is just an illusion.  Where you think you know what’s coming around the corner, but all that comes is more mystery, wrapped in riddles, wrapped in enigmas.

Oh wait, my bad – this one’s a gimme.

AVATAR wins Best Visual Effects.

Hang on, let me check the Vegas odds…  



Here to perform “The Weary Kind” from CRAZY HEART is singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham.

“Anybody who ever built an empire/Or changed the world/Sat where you are now…”

HAHAHA.  Get it?  It’s ‘cause George Clooney’s character is named Ryan Bingham and so is the name of the guy who wrote that song!  It’s hilarious when I explain it!  LOL.  Fuck you.

Best Original Screenplay.  It’s between BASTERDS and HURT LOCKER.  Even though I think a script like BASTERDS is what the Academy tends to favor (it’s very, very written and clever), a couple things make me think it’ll go to HURT LOCKER.  One, I think Tarantino’s previous work will work against him.  He’s recycling a whole lot here, and he did it better in his earlier films.  And two, I think of MILK winning last year, whose script was smart, well-researched, and more respectable than dazzling.  I think HURT LOCKER will get a similar conscience vote, even if the writing is nothing without the directing.

GOLAN: I am so torn.  On one hand, I feel like you’re right – THE HURT LOCKER is a no-brainer.  That being said, this is usually the consolation prize award.  GOSFORD PARK, USUAL SUSPECTS, PULP FICTION, MILK, JUNO, LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND… and on and on.

In other words, this is the slot where films that are cool, hip, subversive, different, quirky, violent, profane or up against a Ron Howard flick go to die.

All that being said, I don’t think that THE HURT LOCKER is going to get shut out this year.  And so it doesn’t need to go here to die.  Plus, without the directing, the script doesn’t stand on its own.  And that’s why I’m leaning towards INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS.  Like you said, it’s just so damn written!  And, as we pointed out actors make up the majority of the voting population, and they all want to speak Tarantino-ese.  And INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS totally won the top award at the SAG awards for exactly that reason.  For all of the reasons I laid out here, I’m saying BASTERDS takes it.

Weird, because I don’t disagree with you.  I just have no faith in the voting population.


That’s right. I forgot that it won the top SAG award and the acceptance speech was given by not only the worst actor in the movie, but a non-actor: Eli Roth. I’m not so sure BASTERDS really has the goodwill of the acting community after that.  

That was a pretty weak argument, but I still feel like HURT LOCKER is gonna win here because the film is not a lock for Best Picture, nor Best Director. A favorite, but not a lock. I still lean towards HURT.

GOLAN: Like I said, I don’t disagree with you.  And since I don’t, and since Eli Roth was so so so bad in it that it almost ruined the movie for me in parts, I’ll go with you on this one.  I’m not even checking the Vegas odds.  That’s the faith I have in my little man.  Yes… you… are my little man.



GOLAN: Let’s move on to that other screenplay category.  The one where a great novelist is up against a film professor, a special effects guy, some TV writers and the son of a  famous director (along with his barnacle).

That’s right!  It’s time for Best Adapted Screenplay!

Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart walk out on stage and ad lib the funniest lines of the night in order to prove that scripts are utterly dispensable.  They completely ignore the teleprompter and forget to read the list of nominees.  So, in confused silence, clips of the nominated films play in the background.

And the winner is… Jason Reitman for UP IN THE AIR!  He comes out on stage.  Hanging onto his back, using no energy to make it to the stage… is Sheldon Turner.

A little back story.  Years ago, Turner adapted UP IN THE AIR.  Nobody liked it.  It went on a shelf.  Years later, Reitman wanted to make UP IN THE AIR.  But now there was this other screenplay already written.  Reitman read it and was like “eh,” and wrote his own.  Arbitration occurred, and – as usual in situations where screenplays are adapted from other work – the WGA was like, “The characters are similar, the situations are similar, the set-pieces are similar, the sequence of events is similar…”  Well, no shit, WGA, it’s adapted from a book!  How different did you expect it to be?  I mean, the writing is nowhere near the same, the depth of the characters is nowhere near the same, the message and emotion and everything is nowhere near the same… but the fact remains that the WGA awarded co-writing credit to both guys.

Many years ago, there was a similar story on the movie MIRACLE.  Eric Guggenheim wrote a draft.  The producers hated it.  They fired him and brought in Mike Rich, he of THE ROOKIE fame.  He wrote the draft that you see on-screen.  Literally, all of it.  Every line of dialogue, every situation, every character arc.  But the WGA said that they couldn’t award Rich any credit because the exact same events occurred in the exact same order they did in Guggenheim’s draft.  The characters were the same people.  The outcome of the movie the same.  It even shared similar lines, like, “Do you believe in miracles?!”  Rich and the producers argued that of course all those things were the same – it was based on a true story.  No dice.  If you watch that movie now, the script is credited to Eric Guggenheim.  Mike Rich’s name is nowhere in sight.

In short, this means that even though Reitman wrote it on his own not using Turner’s draft at all, tough shit.  This is a shared award.

It also means that the million dollar writer of exactly one movie (not counting ‘story by’ credits or projects that haven’t been released yet) is about to win an Oscar for a movie he didn’t write.

And this in the same ceremony where if THE HURT LOCKER wins, Nicolas Chartier won’t be able to accept his award.  God bless America.

Wow!  That was a long story, Grandpa!  Your hands feel like leather!  

Jesus, whenever anyone begins a story with “Many years ago,” I start salivating for a Werther’s Original.  

Those are kind of amazing WGA arbitration stories though.  It’s almost as if the committee is a bunch of barren would-be mothers teaching their children how to share.  It’s okay if you can’t have children, WGA arbitration committee… You can just tie balloons to your house and adopt a chubby Asian boy scout and his talking dog.  

Definitely agree with you about the winner.  Here’s where the consolation prize logic works since UP IN THE AIR is mostly out of the running for Best Picture.  

Wow.  I’m stunned we went through that last category without making a single “Based on the novel Push by Sapphire” joke.  



Best Makeup.

Makeup will go to STAR TREK, I guess.  The other two are biopics and nobody remembers what the real life people looked like to give a shit.  

GOLAN: How can I argue with that kind of logic?  STAR TREK it is!  Especially because they made William Shatner look so young.  Amazing.



GOLAN: On to a serious category, cinematography.  Apparently this is another category where AVATAR and THE HURT LOCKER are neck-and-neck.  And, of course, the serious upset at the Cinematography Awards (voted on by actual cinematographers!), where THE WHITE RIBBON upset the apple cart and took home the prize.

Once again, we have to take into consideration the idiocy of the actors in Hollywood, and how little they actually understand about the process.  I am taking this out on the actors because they are such a big part of the voting population that if they all vote one way, it can change the sands of time.

In this case, we have a group of people who think that what they see on-screen counts as cinematography, which would make them lean towards AVATAR, even though most of the movie took place on worlds and in environments that were totally manufactured in post-production.  In other words, if AVATAR wins, it is winning for being the best cinematography of a green screen.  Again, knowing that the collective IQ of most of the actors in Hollywood equals the number of calories in a Tic Tac (“less than 2 calories per mint!”), this may still prevail.

So let’s discuss THE WHITE RIBBON.  This is in black and white.  And in German.  And not directed by Steven Spielberg.  Fail.

Then there’s HURT LOCKER, which had some of the best cinematography of the year – gritty, realistic, in-your-face.  It’s obvious that this guy works with Paul Greengrass a lot.  His intimate camerawork blends Super 16mm and digital video together seamlessly, and uses some of the best high speed work I’ve seen in a long time.  While I often ignore my gut when it comes to matters of the Academy, I have to ignore the Vegas odds (which have AVATAR a smidge ahead of THE HURT LOCKER) and stay true to myself – I’m saying THE HURT LOCKER takes it by a nose.

I definitely see your point, but THE HURT LOCKER isn’t pretty.  When was the last time the award went to something purely gritty – or for its blending of different formats for Christ’s sake?  The only winner I can think of is SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, but that was novel in its technique and had plenty of stretches of beautiful landscape.  HURT’s look by design is unglamorized and unpretty.  By contrast, WHITE RIBBON is gorgeous to look at.  I can see clueless voters using the ASC Awards as a cheat-sheet and just going with the winner.

GOLAN: This is our longest argument yet!  The readers must be ecstatic!  Either that, or they’re sad that mommy and daddy are fighting.  I’m mommy.

I love the purity of your logic, duder, but the fact remains that best does not always win.  Remember the cinematography in MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA beating out BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN or ROAD TO PERDITION beating out THE PIANIST?  All solidly shot films, but the best cinematography did not win out either time.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of what people feel more comfy with or what more people saw.  And the bottom line is that of the 6,000 voting actors in the Academy, I would venture a guess that 500 saw THE WHITE RIBBON.

In my personal opinion, there’s no way I can ever see a scenario in which THE WHITE RIBBON wins it.  Saying it that boldly, I may end up with egg on my face Sunday night, but I am quite sure that I’m right.

So without that one in the running, I’m holding out hope that they realize that AVATAR is manufactured.

I still say THE HURT LOCKER.

So I think WHITE RIBBON wins it, but can certainly see HURT LOCKER taking the prize.  You think HURT LOCKER wins it with WHITE RIBBON not having a chance in hell.  Okay, then: HURT LOCKER it is, as a compromise.  Goddamnit, all daddy gets tonight is a handjob.  Marriage sucks!



The announcer calls my name and announces that I will now sing the the last nominated song of the night!

And then I perform “A Whole New World.”

Bruce Vilanch, Neil Patrick Harris, Rupert Everett, the cast of Wicked, and my mom appear stage right and call me a homo.  I slink offstage.  I find an empty room of the Kodak Theatre and look out the window.  “Riff raff…street rat…”

Best Original Song is easy.  The CRAZY HEART song wins it.

Best Original Score also easy.  Did the Academy just get lazy with their nominations here?  I remember the scores to AVATAR and SHERLOCK HOLMES being loud and obnoxious – I just think they got recognized because James Horner and Hans Zimmer are perennials.  HURT LOCKER had music?  Really?  When the film wins all those awards, I’m expecting the orchestra to play either “Love Hurts” or NIN’s “The Perfect Drug.”  I always love the music in Wes Anderson’s stuff, but UP is the people’s choice, and the people are right on this one.  

GOLAN: I come up behind you in that empty room at the Kodak Theater and smile coyly, singing, “…I don’t… buy that…”  What ensues is the best Oscar number since Rob Lowe molested Snow White.

The CRAZY HEART song?  You’re not even going to give it the recognition of calling it “The Weary Kind”?  Rude.  On the other hand, who knows the name of this song as anything but the CRAZY HEART song?  Touché, sir.  Well played.

Well, of course the CRAZY HEART song wins!  What are the other options?  Something in some weird language, something from a bomb of a movie based on a bomb of a musical?  Or (speaking of perennials) perennial loser Randy Newman?



GOLAN: Thank you thank you thank you for pointing out that the scores of SHERLOCK HOLMES and AVATAR were nothing short of annoying.  And, if I’m being kind, at the very least unnecessary.  The funny thing is that the one movie you didn’t mention was the one that came closest to overtaking UP in this category.  FANTASTIC MR. FOX (which, yes, I finally saw, and loved) had a – wait for it – fantastic score.

But yeah, UP not only had the sequence at the beginning of the movie that was all music that made everyone cry, but it also has the guy from “Lost” doing its music.  How do you go wrong?



GOLAN: We’re getting down to the final stretch here, kids.  It’s all serious from here.  One of my favorite categories is editing.  I love this category because a bad movie can be made good in the post process, and a good movie can be made very very bad.  This is where movies are made, ladies and gentlemen.  If anyone tells you different, they are directors and have some kind of God complex.  Without editors, directors would just be egomaniacs that like to tell actors what to do.  Want proof?  Look no further than Mr. Michael Bay, the #1 grossing person in the industry last year.  He is known for shooting miles and miles of footage from way too many cameras from way too many angles and then handing it all to his editor and saying, “Make this into something coherent.  Oh, and no cut longer than an eighth of a second.”  All that fancy footwork that is now known as the ‘Michael Bay Filmmaking Technique’?  All done in the editing room.  And since he is not his own editor, he can suck it.

Anyway, this category has some great work in it this year.

I feel like we have to eliminate PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE HIT MUSICAL WRITTEN BY STEPHEN SONDHEIM because it simply drags some stuff on too long.  When it works, it’s great.  When it doesn’t, it gets kinda boring.

Likewise INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, which is far too long a film to warrant any kind of editing kudos.  I want to eliminate AVATAR for the same reason, but somehow more of that visual feast seemed okay.

DISTRICT 9 was really clever in its editing techniques, cutting around mediocre and cheaply made effects.  But that’s what it was.  Parlor tricks to avoid revealing their low budget.  Not the best editing of the year.

So where does that leave us?  Oh yes, right back where we have been about a dozen times already.  AVATAR vs. THE HURT LOCKER.

I think the only option here is to give it to THE HURT LOCKER.  Sure, it was over two hours long, but not by much and none of the film felt draggy.  I’d even go so far as to call it tightly edited.  Bottom line, though, as to why HURT LOCKER is my choice is that this movie was all about tension.  It was all about making my palms sweat.  And that, my friends, is part directing… but mostly editing.  This movie may have been the tensest I’ve ever been in a theater.  I gripped that armrest time and again, watching as the cuts on the screen were so fine, they nearly drew blood.

Also, the editor’s union (ACE) has only missed this winner one time in ten years, and their award went to HURT LOCKER.  So there you go.

If you opened a movie theatre, the concession stand would run out of Werther’s Originals.  

HURT LOCKER all the way.  Deservedly so, even if they forgot to edit Kate from “LOST” out of the movie.  



Ah, the Best Actor and Actress categories.  Your favorite people.  

We should really change the way they show 8 second clips of the performances out of context. Half the time the actor looks ridiculous.  Let’s be more inventive here:

For the Jeff Bridges clip, they should do a Lifetime Achievement Award montage in 8 seconds.  

For Clooney, show him working the phone banks at an earthquake relief center.  At the last second, he looks up at the camera and flashes that smile.  

For Meryl Streep, we’ll do a split-screen with Julia Child on one side and Streep’s impersonation of her on the other.  

For Sandra Bullock, we do a split-screen of THE BLIND SIDE mom on the left side and Erin Brockovich on the right.

You get the idea…

Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock will win their long-awaited Oscars.  

GOLAN: My favorite part about this category is how we’re totally glossing over it.  Lumping Actor and Actress together is just about the best thing you’ve ever done.

Hitchock once said, “Actors are cattle.”  He then apologized and said he misspoke.  This is what he corrected himself with: “I didn’t mean that actors are cattle.  That’s ridiculous.  What I meant is that actors should be treated like cattle.”  Hell yeah, Hitch!

So, with that being said, let’s move on to honoring the most overpaid cattle in the world.

Bridges takes this one to the bank.  I love how he somehow manages to make it sound like he is still under-rated after all these years.  And I never doubt it for a moment.  After being in huge blockbusters.  After being in iconic roles that will be remembered forever.  And I bet even after he wins this Oscar.  I kind of want to put money down that his speech will, at some point, include the phrase, “By giving me this award, you guys are making it hard to be under-rated!”



GOLAN: And then there’s Julia Roberts.  Not necessarily the best performance of the year, but a fine southern accent and a solid movie that made tons of money.  This is our way of telling Julia that we know she’s not our best actress, but she is one of our most enduring ones, and we respect the fact that she keeps making us money and somehow manages to avoid the sands of time.

Oh shit, did I say Julia?  I meant Sandra.  Whatever.  Same thing.



GOLAN: Cameron. Tarantino.  Daniels.  Bigelow.  Reitman.  A formidable group.  Well, Cameron, Tarantino, Bigelow and Reitman are, anyway.

Yes, I did just dismiss Daniels from the running.  It was a nice run, though, and I’m sure your next film will also be equally over-praised.

Okay, so where were we?  Ah yes.  Cameron, Tarantino and Bigelow.  Wait wait wait… isn’t someone missing?  Ah yes, Reitman.  Enjoy your writing Oscar, because in this category, it was a pleasure to be nominated.  Love your movie, but when it comes to this year’s directing, you are just not in the same league.  I know I praise you often as a director, and I still stand by it.  But in terms of skill and years of experience, you’re just not there yet.  I honestly believe you’ll surpass most of the other names in this category someday (well, maybe not Tarantino and Cameron), but not today.

So we’re down to the final three.  Quentin, let’s you and I have a little chat.  Remember how you got that amazing performance out of Christoph that won him the Oscar?  Revel in that, because it’s all your film is getting tonight.

Which brings us back home to Cameron and Bigelow.  So let’s review their careers for a moment to see what makes this an interesting fight.

Let’s put aside for the moment that they were married.  Likewise, let’s leave at the door that Cameron really helped Bigelow start her career as a director, and mentored her when she first called ‘action’.  Let’s focus instead on other things.

1) Cameron already has one of these statues
2) Bigelow would be the first woman to ever win an Oscar for directing
3) Bigelow won the DGA award – also a first
4) Bigelow’s film is directed better (you’d think this would be enough)
5) Bigelow’s film actually has something to say without being preachy
6) Bigelow got better performances out of her actors
7) Actors are afraid that if Cameron keeps getting better at making movies like AVATAR, they may someday find themselves out of a job as characters will someday be computer generated

1) Cameron has made the two highest grossing movies of all time
2) Cameron is nominated for directing the biggest movie in history
3) Cameron made special effects and 3-D come alive in ways no one has before
4) Cameron’s film is “neat”
5) Cameron got a great performance out of an animated character
6) It made me happy that Cameron and Sigourney Weaver were working together again
7) Actors want to work with Cameron because a starring role in a film of his means they can buy that island they’ve always wanted

So, there you have it.  Those are the factors.  And yes, these are the official factors.  If you don’t believe me, look on the Oscar website.  If you can’t find it, it’s because you’re bad at the internet.

After all that deliberation, the result is the same as it was right after I walked out of the theater after seeing THE HURT LOCKER.

Cameron gave an interview a few weeks ago in which he was asked if he thought Bigelow should win Best Director.  Here’s what he said, and I quote, “That would be a fantasy. That would be my fantasy outcome, absolutely.”  When even your toughest competition is voting for you, that says something.

Team Bigelow all the way.

Wow, sounds like Cameron really respects women!  (Seriously?  You’re sparing our readers what you told me about him and his policy about... uh… you know… uttbay exsay?  Good call, actually.  Good call.)

Cameron’s achievements are monumental, but I get the feeling like he couldn’t be any more successful than he already is, why give him another Oscar…

I think Academy members like to pat themselves on the back when they vote for something as historic as the first female director winning this award, so that’s a big factor here.  

Team History.



Okay, Best Picture.  If it isn’t already clear, it’s another two-man race between AVATAR and HURT LOCKER.  

As you mentioned above, actors make up the majority of the voting members, and they value films more for their story and character than any achievements in technical wizardry.  Also, I agree – actors can be vain, and they’re probably not all that thrilled about the future of motion-capture swallowing up their beautiful faces, no matter how “hot” Zoe Saldana was as that blue horse monkey (I don’t get the “hot” thing at all.  I mean, if Jake Sully mounted Neytiri from behind, it would’ve looked like the nature channel.  Not that I wasn’t wanting it to happen...).  

Best Picture usually goes to the important film over the better film.  And while both of these films address Iraq, only one of them really registers as a war movie.  THE HURT LOCKER will win over AVATAR, just like GHANDI over E.T.  

GOLAN: And here to present the award for Best Picture, Johnny Utah!

Keanu Reeves ambles out on stage.  Despite being in THE MATRIX movies and having 90% of the backend profit participation, he looks like he is Matt Dillon’s stand-in from the movie SINGLES.

“Uh, hey!” he says, sounding more confused than anything.  “A couple of years ago, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola presented the Best Director award.  The suspense was thick, because who would have thunk that the Academy would do something as obvious as getting Scorsese’s three best friends to present him with his Oscar?”

He pauses for a long time.  Remembers where he is.

“Did the chick from SPEED just take home an Academy Award?”  He shakes it off.  “Anyway, in the spirit of that not-at-all obvious handoff, the Academy asked me to be here tonight to present Best Picture.”

He points up to the ceiling, a tear trying like hell to form in the corner of his eye.

“This one’s for you, Bodhi!  Ladies and gentlemen, the Oscar for Best Picture goes to…”

He opens the envelope.


James Cameron, despite his earlier interview, grabs the chair he’s sitting in, rips it from its bolts, and throws it across the room, hitting Linda Hamilton.  “Son of a bitch!  I said give her Director and give me Picture!  Fuck this town.”

Credits roll.  Fade to black.  Another night of bliss in the hills of Hollywood.

Let’s go get shitfaced at the Vanity Fair party.




Reminder to all readers: This was not just us rambling.  This is a competition.  Remember – t-shirts are at stake.  And we just threw in a keychain.  A t-shirt and a keychain.

And hurry – since the awards are Sunday.  We need to receive your submissions by noon on Sunday at the latest.

If you have any problems posting your predictions in our comments section, send us an email to

The first two winners to beat our score will each get a t-shirt and a keychain from the movie FROM PARIS WITH LOVE.  You know you don’t want to pass that up.

Have fun everyone, and happy hunting!