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Standing Ovations

Last night the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences acted like the U. S. Congress during a State of the Union address--they kept jumping to their feet.

Remember the days when you could only guarantee two standing ovations during an Oscar telecast?  One for the Lifetime Achievement Award winner and one for some other aged or recently ill star who showed up to present an award.  On the rare occassion that a winner received a standing ovation it really meant something.

Now they stand for almost every performance and almost every winner.

But in this way they are like the general culture.  I remember as a kid that when a play, concert, or recital ended, there was simply applause, not standing.  Occassionally there was a standing ovation, but usually only at the final show in a run or when something especially moving had happened.  Now people stand for every performance.  It may not be a bad development, but it has lost its special meaning.

Oh, and on those Lifetime Achievement Oscars.  I miss the segment of the show where that award and the Jean Hersholt and Irving Thalberg Awards were given.  They've been missing for a few years now, having been moved to another night with their own dinner.  This was the part of the show that real film fans really enjoyed and was the least like the contemporary awards show, which is probably why it got axed.  

On one hand, I don't mind them moving them to a special event on another night, but I have minded that they don't broadcast that ceremony.

On the other hand, I do mind them being eliminated from the Oscar telecast.  As a kid it was during these segments that I first encountered Akira Kurosawa and Satyajit Ray.  It was a time to introduce some in the audience to the film arts that they may have never seen in their small town.

2013 Films

I think 12 Years a Slave was the picture 2013 picture which I have seen, and it will hopefully win the Oscar.  Gravity, the other film which seems in contention, was great, and I'd be happy if it won, though I thought it was only the third best film of the year, following Her.  I do expect Alfonso Cuaron to win Best Director, though I am puzzled by the lack of nomination for Spike Jonze.

I haven't seen Dallas Buyer's Club, Blue Jasmine, Wolf of Wall Street, or Philomena so it is more difficult for me to comment on the acting categories.  I'd be happy with Chiwetel Ejiofor or Bruce Dern for actor and definitely think Lupita Nyong'o should win supporting actress.

American Hustle was enjoyable to watch, but is way overrated.

Captain Phillips I did not care for.  The writing was banal, the camera work was both annoying and enforcing of stereotypes, and I was not impressed by any of the performances.

Nebraska was so funny and so well crafted, that I'm sorry it doesn't seem to be in greater contention.

I have no interest in seeing Wolf of Wall Street.  It doesn't strike me as even remotely of interest.

August: Osage County had its moments, though I prefered the production of the play that I saw.  Meryl Streep was disappointing.  Julia Roberts was very good, maybe her second best film performance ever, after Closer.

I enjoyed and cried at The Butler, but it wasn't a great film, so I'm glad it isn't in the running for Oscars.

Inside Llewyn Davis had some of the most mesmerizing visuals of the year.

I liked Saving Mr. Banks, though it wasn't a great film.  Still surprised the Emma Thompson wasn't nominated.

I also wish that Julie Delpy had been nominated for Before Midnight.

Frozen was an enjoyable delight.

Still on my list to see: Blue is the Warmest Color, Fruitvale Station, All is Lost, Dallas Buyers Club, and Blue Jasmine.

American Hustle & the best films of 2013

An article in the Daily Beast talks about American Hustle not being as good as the buzz surrounding it and that it should not be a leading candidate for Best Picture.  I agree.

I enjoyed seeing the film, but was myself surprised when it won so many awards, got so many nominations, and then was talked about as a challenger to 12 Years a Slave for Best Picture.  I think that most of the comments and criticisms in the article are accurate.

I have a couple more films I want to see before I release my Best Of 2013 list.  I've missed most of the foreign films this year and may not get a chance to see them before I make my list.  That's not so unusual, though some years in the past, particularly when I was single and living in Dallas, I was better about that.

Good article on Inside Llewyn Davis

The Daily Beast has a good article on Inside Llewyn Davis, which I saw on Friday, and why it was generally snubbed by the Motion Picture Academy.  An excerpt:

Throughout, you feel the bone-chilling cold of the streets and Davis's loss. This isn't a film about conquering demons or surmounting impossible odds, it is a film about losing and losing more, the chipping away of character and of hope. It is about losing your dreams, not achieving them, life shrinking, hope diminishing, aspiration dissolving. 

The Spectacular Now


This well-reviewed film captures the angst and awkwardness of adolescence without some of cliches that these films often succumb to.  The leads, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, deliver strong, compelling performances.  Shailene's innocence and earnestness infect you, while also inciting your pity -- she is too vulnerable.

I knew the film would be dramatic, but I expected a little more humour.  I wonder if it will enter the pantheon of teen films for this current generation of teens, or if it is too heavy to do so?

3 1/2 film reels
3 1/2 popcorn kernels 

Before Midnight

Last weekend Michael and I finally saw Before Midnight.  First, some background.
Before Sunrise, the original film in this series, resonated with all the romance of our early twenties (I'm just a little younger than the characters).  We all wanted to have an experience like Jesse and Celine.  When I rewatch that film, at different points in my life, my experience of it is both nostalgic and new, as the older me reacts to it in different ways.
Before Sunset was beautiful and lyrical and filled with the cynicism we had developed by our thirties, skeptical of romance, but still longing for it.  It articulated realities.
I long for Linklater to make another every decade or so, as this really is the Gen X love story.
***Spoiler Alert***
Halfway through the film, I did not like it.  I was not connecting to it as I have the others.  Maybe the big difference is that I have yet started my family, so I am behind my age cohort and my experiences are different.  I enjoyed the nervousness of the airport departure scene of Henry at the beginning and the awkwardness and casual dialogue of the return drive in the car.  But the scenes at the home of the author Patrick did nothing for me.  Yes, they established how pretentious Jesse can be, but the dinner conversations about love and penises was vapid.
In truth, though, the film does not begin until Jesse and Celine begin walking and talking, again.  That's what we really want.  And it burns intensely once they arrive at a hotel for a romantic night and have an explosive fight.  It was so tightly wound, I was afraid there would be violence.
And, yes, the film was authentic.  It sounded, often, similar to the fights we have.  The accuracy of it was shocking and convicting.  It cut me to the bone, leaving me somewhat numb at the conclusion, but also longing for Michael.  We held hands through some of the worst of the fighting, both startled to see ourselves.  I, who had felt very connected with Celine in the past, found myself so very like Jesse and angry at Celine.
In ten years, or so, maybe we will be at Henry's wedding, somewhere in the States.  And we'll meet Jesse's ex.  If so, then she must be played by Winona Ryder.  
4 film reels
3 popcorn kernels

The Great Gatsby

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

On a short trip to Minneapolis this week, I took The Great Gatsby along and read it for the third time -- once in high school (when I did not like it) and again in 2000 (when some youth of mine were reading it in high school, and I liked it, but didn't love it). I was reading it again because I'd just seen the movie, and it seemed like a good thing to do -- to reacquaint myself with the details.

I liked it more this time, though still don't love it. This time I caught all the gay content which I wasn't paying attention for or taught to pay attention for the previous times I read it.

I enjoyed the recent film, though I had critical things to say about it. And now re-reading the novel, I realize how much more the film misunderstood or misrepresented. I was particularly struck by Nick Carraway's comment in the penultimate chapter "because I disapproved of him from beginning to end." The movie gave the complete contrary impression.

View all my reviews

More trashing of Star Trek Into Darkness

Richard Corliss' review in Time also trashed it.  Here are my favourite lines:

But with its emphasis on its hero’s adolescent anger, the movie turns this venerable science-fiction series — one that prided itself on addressing complex issues in a nuanced and mature fashion — into its own kids’ version: Star Trek Tiny Toons. At times, the viewer is almost prodded to mutter, “Grow up!”

Read more:

Gatsby film not gay enough

Last week it was The Great Gatsby which I was criticizing -- though I enjoyed watching it; I did not hate it, like Star Trek this week.  

Late in the week I read, but didn't get a previous chance to blog, an article at the Atlantic on the lack of the gay theme from the novel in the new film.  This author things missing this important element meant the Luhrmann completely misunderstood and misrepresented the story.  The take was different than that I'd read in other reviews, but I found it very interesting.

I clearly need to (and intend to) re-read the novel.

"As a homosexual man..." Froelich says, "Nick understands the necessity of deceit in a society that defines one's desire and agency as illicit."

This is also, I'd argue, why Nick is attracted to in Gatsby. It's not that Gatsby is, as the movie Carraway insists, the "single most hopeful person" he's ever known. Rather, it's that Gatsby is a momentous, glorious, incandescent sham. If Jordan is deceitful, Gatsby is even more so. And just as he falls for Jordan and her dishonesty, so is Nick riveted by the transformation of poor, nobody from nowhere Jimmy Gatz into the wealthy somebody Jay Gatsby. Nick and Gatsby are alike not in their innocence, but in their capacity for subterfuge.