Monday, February 28, 2005

Oscar thoughts: Chris Rock, Adam Sandler and Prince ... Is this MTV?

Just a few post-Oscar thoughts now that Johnny Depp's tux jacket has made me color-blind:
  • Went 4-for-6 on the big picks, missing the close calls on Best Director and Best Actress. (But I nailed Sound Editing and Visual Effects, so there.) I'm sure Scorsese was miffed, but I bet Annette Bening was even more pissed. Hilary Swank should have played to that, starting her speech with "And I was on 'Beverly Hills, 90210,' beeyotch ... "
  • I thought Chris Rock was OK but uneven. Might have been nerves. Nice to see him call out some actors, but he's probably too raw to do this again. It would be cool to watch him doing commentary on the Oscars, a la "Mystery Science Theater 3000." No worries about Sean Penn beating your ass then. Unleash the fury, Chris!
  • We've officially entered Bizarro World when Adam Sandler, Prince and P. Diddy are presenters. Did think Sandler was funny, though, even if he didn't debate the merits of shampoo vs. conditioner or argue, "Chlorophyll? More like 'bore-ophyll!'"
  • While we're on that, let's really make this cutting edge and send out such pairs as P. Diddy and Barbra Streisand, or Prince and Charleston Heston. Who wouldn't TiVo this?
  • Speaking of curious pairs, good to see Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz together. I was pretty sure they were the same person, so this definitely was a Spider-Man/Peter Parker moment.
  • Speaking of that, anyone notice the irony of Jake Gyllenhaal presenting an award won by "Spider-Man 2?" And there's Kirsten Dunst sitting with her brother. (Kirsten, why didn't you call me?)
  • Maybe it's a double standard in a world that applauds Robert DeNiro in "Raging Bull" and Christian Bale in "The Machinist," but all that weight gain/loss is taking its toll on Renee Zellweger. I mean, when Lara Flynn Boyle is saying, "Girl, have a bagel ... "
  • Maybe this relates to Sandler/P. Diddy/et al, but the star power seemed a little dimmer this year. No Tom Hanks, no Tom Cruise, no Tom Green ... Seriously, does Spielberg just stay home if his stuff isn't up for anything? Hell, Halle Berry claimed her Razzie.
  • Lastly, I know Oprah was there, but what was this talking from the crowd crap? Rock's parking lot joke was dead-on, and how would you like it if your work was rewarded on Hollywood's biggest stage, and they didn't even let you go up to the damn stage?
  • Saturday, February 26, 2005

    Oscar odds: Best Picture

    For all the marbles ... will the epic bulldoze all other comers once again, a la "Gladiator" and "Braveheart?" Or can a smaller picture on Boxing Hilary or even wine freaks pull it out? One of the toughest calls this year, although thankfully made easier by the omission of "Spanglish."

    "The Aviatior": A lot of steam here between the big budget and Scorsese, but man ... this movie went on forever and didn't even get to the Las Vegas years. Did you know that Howard Hughes owned a Vegas TV station and would regularly order it to re-start movies if he fell asleep during them? Forget George W. Bush ... that's power. ODDS: 4-to-1
    "Finding Neverland": I'm sure it's a nice film, but this is the only one of these I didn't see. Dude, it's about "Peter Pan." ODDS: 15-to-1.
    "Million Dollar Baby": You know the story by now: Clint Eastwood doesn't want to train Hilary Swank to box because she's not a guy. There's some kind of dramatic twist, too. Turns out Hilary Swank's character actually is a guy. "I know all there is to know about the crying game ... " ODDS: 7-to-2.
    "Ray": Did I tell you about the time I saw Ray Charles at the Atlanta airport? True story. He didn't see me, though. (Thank you, folks. I'll be here all week. Try the veal.) ODDS: 15-to-1.
    "Sideways": My personal favorite, and a pretty funny movie overall. (Although the end of Million Dollar Baby was hee-larious, too.) I had hope before the Aviator-Baby tilt came into focus. Now I'm thinking the only winners in this camp are Pinot Noir makers. ODDS: 9-to-1.

    Friday, February 25, 2005

    Oscar odds: Best Director

    Just once, it would be great to see one of these guys climb the steps, step to the mike, look at his Oscar and say, "I don't know how I won this with all the goddamn prima donnas on my set ... "

    Martin Scorsese, "The Aviator": As good as directing Larry David in that one "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episode? Of course not. But any man who gave us "After Hours" can't be dismissed, especially with the "lifetime achievement" campaign in full swing. ODDS: 3-to-1.
    Clint Eastwood, "Million Dollar Baby": Anyone who expected Dirty Harry to get nominated for directing not once, not twice, but three times ... well, let's have those Powerball numbers, please. ODDS: 4-to-1.
    Taylor Hackford, "Ray": Admit it ... you thought Jamie Foxx would get nominated for this, too. ODDS: 20-to-1.
    Alexander Payne, "Sideways": Who didn't love "Election," even if it unleashed Chris Klein on the world? ODDS: 8-to-1.
    Mike Leigh, "Vera Drake": It's a topsy-turvy world we live in, but not that topsy-turvy. ODDS: 25-to-1.

    Oscar odds: Best Actor

    The spawn of "21 Jump Street," "Growing Pains" and "In Living Color" face off against an icon and a guy some people recognize only from those NFL commercials. And most people thought the icon wouldn't be on this list ...

    Don Cheadle, "Hotel Rwanda": He's great and all, but I kind of want him to lose so he'll revert to Buck from "Boogie Nights" and yell, "You're not being fair! I'm an ACTOR!" ODDS: 10-to-1.
    Johnny Depp, "Finding Neverland": Take it back to France, pretty boy, and don't come back until you're channeling Keith Richards again. ODDS: 12-to-1.
    Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Aviator": Just in case you thought he couldn't play a stranger person than Gilbert Grape. (Yeah, I know he actually played Gilbert's brother. Thanks for ruining the joke.) ODDS: 8-to-1.
    Clint Eastwood, "Million Dollar Baby": You'd think Paul Giamatti would be pissed at losing this spot, but he secretly loved "Every Which Way But Loose." ODDS: 15-to-1.
    Jamie Foxx, "Ray": Finally, retribution for being passed over for "Booty Call." ODDS: EVEN.

    Thursday, February 24, 2005

    Oscar odds: Best Actress

    You know, everyone is making a big deal about Bening vs. Swank II, but don't you think Kate Winslet has a beef, too? Oh, not about whether she can win, but how many Oscar nominations she has to get before people stop asking, "What was Leo really like?"

    Annette Bening, "Being Julia": Did you know she's from Topeka, Kansas? And we know how that's the cradle of award-winning actors ... ODDS: 4-1.
    Catalina Sandino Moreno, "Maria Full of Grace": Will win as many awards as Maria Conchita Alonso. ODDS: 25-to-1.
    Imelda Staunton, "Vera Drake": I'm starting to realize just how uninformed I am in this category. Wasn't Vera Drake one of the waitresses at Mel's Diner? ODDS: 7-to-1.
    Hilary Swank, "Million Dollar Baby": Rumor is she really just wanted to prove her ass-kicking skills from "The Next Karate Kid" were for real. ODDS: 9-to-2.
    Kate Winslet, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind": Not a bad performance, but anyone who takes screen time away from Kirsten Dunst dancing on a bed in her underwear has an uphill battle. ODDS: 20-to-1.

    Wednesday, February 23, 2005

    Oscar odds: Best Supporting Actor

    My, my ... what an interesting crew we have here. Did you ever think you'd see a majority of nominees who made their bones in sitcoms?

    Alan Alda, "The Aviator": Hey, look at Hawkeye! He actually was a lot of fun in this, but c'mon ... ODDS: 20-to-1.
    Thomas Haden Church, "Sideways": Lowell hits the bigtime. Who wants an Icehouse? ODDS: 12-to-1.
    Jamie Foxx, "Collateral": He was pretty good playing off Mr. Cruise, but let's not get greedy. ODDS: 15-to-1.
    Morgan Freeman, "Million Dollar Baby:" He doesn't have to play a second banana with his pedigree, but he does it quite well. ODDS: 3-to-1.
    Clive Owen, "Closer": I'm sure our favorite croupier was great, but can anything top those BMW short films? ODDS: 10-to-1.

    Tuesday, February 22, 2005

    Oscar odds: Best Supporting Actress

    In New York on business for a couple of days, and let me just say it's great to be back. Last night in the bar next to my hotel, this rather festive woman did the following:
    1. Exposed her breasts to a friend taking a picture.
    2. Let her husband/boyfriend/random grunt stick his hand down the back of her pants, then hold his fingers under her nose.
    3. Exposed her breasts again while draping an arm around the bartender's shoulders for another photo.
    4. Straddled her fella on the barstool, then bounced up and down yelling, "Go, Seabiscuit!"

    All this before "Werewolves of London" started playing on the jukebox. Awroooo!

    With the Oscars less than a week away, let's get rolling on some relatively uninformed picks, based on the below odds:

    Cate Blanchett, "The Aviator": I gotta say, she was really annoying in this movie. Then again, everyone felt that way about the real Katherine Hepburn. ODDS: 3-to-1.
    Laura Linney, "Kinsey": The hair changes color, but the performance stays the same. And what the neighbors must have said about Mrs. Kinsey ... ODDS: 8-to-1.
    Virginia Madsen, "Sideways": What a cutie ... loved her since "Fire with Fire," and REALLY loved her in "The Hot Spot." My heart says she's a lock, but let's be realistic. ODDS: 15-to-1.
    Sophie Okonedo, "Hotel Rwanda:" The Keisha Castle-Hughes Honorary Nomination. You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave ... ODDS: 15-to-1.
    Natalie Portman, "Closer": Our little Queen Amidala is all growns up. The Golden Globes win removed her longshot status, and folks may remember "Beautiful Girls" as well. ODDS: 6-to-1.

    Sunday, February 20, 2005

    And I get winded climbing the stairs: "Touching the Void"

    Taken from my personal Procrastination Files, this movie on a less-than-perfect climbing expedition in the Andes had been collecting dust in its Netflix envelope before we sucked it up last night, deciding it was the perfect way to wind down after a night of live music. (That Michael Bolton still kicks ass.) No real reason why we waited so long, other than watching a documentary always feels like homework.

    Once you get used to the format -- dramatically re-created scenes of the climb interspersed with narration by the two British guys (and some schmoe who watched base camp) -- this is a gripping tale, and one that moves along pretty briskly. I'm not ruining anything by revealing that both men survived, since they both narrate the story. We're probably five years away from casting people beyond the grave.

    Just how these guys survived, though, is something to see, and it'll make you think twice before you bitch about an ankle sprain. Bonus: Hearing one of the British guys say, "I kept wetting myself." On the plus side, he won't have to buy the other guy a beer ever again. Trust me on this.

    Saturday, February 19, 2005

    Slumming between Oscar noms: "Secret Window"

    First, I just saw a pop-up ad that asked "Are you suffering from adult ADD? Take time to find out." OK, let's think about that for a second.

    With the missus under the weather, we stayed in last night and settled for this peach of a picture, in which an unkempt Johnny Depp -- where have you gone, Tom Hanson? -- stumbles around a remote cabin while being stalked by John Turturro, who pretty much replicates his "O Brother Where Art Thou?" bit in playing a cracker who says Depp ripped off his story. Johnny doesn't like this, or maybe he just hates his blond tresses, round eyeglasses and ratty robe. But as we know, clean-cut Depp rarely does as well as weirdo Depp, or maybe you liked "The Astronaut's Wife."

    Nevertheless, Depp does all right, proving he's fully graduated to the "never boring" level of actordom. Unfortunately, everyone else is, and even B-level fave Charles Dutton ("Alien 3," "Mimic") mails it in. Throw in a plot "twist" that Stevie Wonder could see coming, and this was 90 minutes that would have been better spent on another Depp dip, even "Once Upon a Time in Mexico."

    Friday, February 18, 2005

    No, it's not about cute kids asking for word origins: "Spellbound"

    How can you not love the Turner Classic Movies channel? They run all these movies I know I should have seen but never bit the bullet and rented at the video store. Exhibit A: "Spellbound."

    Not to be confused with the recent documentary on the National Spelling Bee -- a movie I was much more quick to see as a former spelling geek (from the Latin "geekus") -- this always seemed to be one of those Alfred Hitchcock movies that wasn't that famous. "Psycho?" "Look out for that knife!" "North by Northwest?" "Look out for that plane!" "The Birds?" "Look out for those ... um, birds!" Perhaps accordingly, "Spellbound" didn't dazzle me that much.

    Not that it was bad. Hey, I could watch Ingrid Bergman cut her toenails for two hours (although that can't be good for her nails). And it was interesting to see Gregory Peck, more famous for his later role in "To Kill a Mockingbird" -- Atticus! Atticus! Atticus! -- play a befuddled amnesiac prone to dark looks at random moments.

    And then there's Hitchcock, whose look at psychoanalysis in 1945 (wow, 60 years ago) must have been ahead of its time. Some of the weird visuals, such as a Salvador Dali dream sequence, worked. Others -- namely Peck and Bergman skiing cheek-to-cheek -- didn't. But hey, this isn't a James Bond movie. (Still, naming Bergman's character "Constance R. Gassem" instead of "Constance Peterson" would have been something.)

    Thursday, February 17, 2005

    All we're missing now is Tom Sizemore: "Assault on Precinct 13"

    It's Oscar season, so that means it's time to ... review meaningless action fare. I caught this gem one Sunday afternoon, bypassing a few Oscar contenders (had a slight hangover and didn't want to "appreciate" a "film") and "House of Flying Daggers" (didn't feel like reading my movie). C'mon ... you know those fancy New York Times boys feel the same way sometimes.

    I'm happy to report "Assault on Precinct 13" fit the bill in full, delivering rather comical dialogue and a cutthroat battle between B-movie actors over who could ham it up the most. Was it Ethan Hawke doing a poor man's Tom Cruise? Larry "Laurence" Fishburne re-using his "Matrix" wardrobe? Drea de Matteo exercising her mandatory push-up bra clause? Brian Dennehy just doing his Brian Dennehy thing? Talk about your close calls. (And I didn't even mention Smolderin' Gabriel Byrne, telling the world, "You thought I kicked ass in 'Ghost Ship?' Think again.")

    That said, it was kind of fun and definitely not boring to watch Hawke and Co. defend an old police precinct from armed invaders. There were the John Woo Filmmaking 101 scenes -- "Why just shoot when I can fly through the air and shoot?" and "Hey, let's all point guns at each other!" -- to a startling number of bullet holes in foreheads. (They should put that stuff on the poster.) After all, who says suspending reality -- sure, there's a forest right by downtown Detroit -- is all bad? Is "House of Flying Daggers" based on a true story?

    Wednesday, February 16, 2005

    The adventure begins ...

    True fans of the cinema will recognize that as the tagline to "Remo Williams," the '80s film that failed to launch a franchise -- I guess the adventure ended, too -- but delivered plenty of laughs with that little Korean dude teaching Fred Ward some kung fu fighting. That Fred ... he drives like a monkey in heat.

    As the above reference may suggest, this could be an odd movie blog. Bottom line: I see a fair number of movies between cable, TiVo, Netflix and my neighborhood cineplex(es), and it's usually an odd mix. So this merely is an outlet for comments on whatever I've seen lately, be it a current Oscar contender or "Roadhouse" for the 37th time. What, you know a better bouncer-philosopher movie in which Sam Elliott gets stabbed and laid out on a bar? (Oops, spoiler alert.)

    So there you have it. Not sure how often I'll get stuff out there, but it should be a fun trip.