This year’s pre-Oscar post

tn_oscarclintI saw all the best picture nominees this year, an old family tradition. I actually completed the check list a while back. It was easier than usual because I only had two I hadn’t seen at the time of the nominations, and only one of those I hadn’t been planning to see already. There was also one nominee I watched a long time ago but didn’t review. So for the sake of completism I’ll write a few words about those last three before tomorrow/tonight’s Oscar rituals are performed.

mp_philomenaPHILOMENA is the only one I saw purely because of the Oscars. That makes it this year’s THE MISERABLES, but I was less reluctant to see it and less impressed afterwards.

This one is an odd choice for top nine movies of the year. Ironically it kinda fits into the pleasing middle-of-the-road category of entertainment that the main character turns his nose up at throughout the movie, but that’s okay. He doesn’t have to be right. I enjoyed his movie even if he wouldn’t.

It’s the true story of a disgraced British political reporter who decides to write about an old lady trying to find the son who was taken from her against her will and given up for adoption when she was a young nun. Steve Coogan (COFFEE & CIGARETTES) plays the arrogant, atheistic journalist and Elemental Judi Dench (CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK) is the naive, overly forgiving mother. Their mission takes them into the nunnery and to America, uncovers dirty secrets of the Catholic Church (not child molesting, a whole different scandal), and even deals a little bit with the plight of gay Republicans in the ’80s, believe it or not. It’s a crowdpleaser with a good balance of outrage, sweetness and easy-going humor. Coogan is the relatable one who gets to be a dick and tell everybody off and Philomena is the role model whose even temper we tell ourselves we’ll aspire to.

By the way, it’s pronounced fill-oh-mee-nuh. I mention that only because knowing the pronunciation saved me from imagining this  every time I read the title:

One funny part for Americans is seeing our country through the eyes of British tourists. The Lincoln Memorial seems different from their perspective. Philomena is more excited about BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE being on TV, kinda like our people who are obsessed with DOCTOR WHO and DOWNTON ABBEY and shit. She’s also fascinated by Mexicans, telling a hotel cook that “where I’m from we have Indians.” The ol’ “she doesn’t know any better” cuteness.

mp_nebraskaNEBRASKA is the one I saw a while back. It’s the black and white Alexander Payne movie about Will Forte (MACGRUBER) driving his senile, alcoholic father (Bruce Dern, THE DRIVER) to Nebraska because he incorrectly believes he won a million dollars in a sweepstakes. Nobody can convince him he’s taking his junkmail too literally, and there’s only one way to shut him up. Along the way they end up visiting relatives and digging up old drama about who thinks who owes them money. He sees people taking advantage of his dad, who now is telling them all he won a million dollars, and they believe him. Great.

Dern is as great in it as everybody says, off in his own world, ignoring things he doesn’t want to hear, focusing on what he wants to, occasionally growling stubborn replies. Recognizable and mysterious at the same time. Sometimes I worry I’m gonna turn into a guy like that.

It didn’t occur to me until a couple weeks after seeing the movie that Payne’s first movie, CITIZEN RUTH, was a great starring role for Bruce Dern’s daughter Laura. And Laura Dern was also in JURASSIC PARK part 1, and Payne and his writing partner Jim Taylor did a rewrite on JURASSIC PARK part 3. All three JURASSIC PARK movies were released in many states, and I will have to do some more research on this one but I have a strong hunch that one of the places where they were released was, yes, Nebraska. Holy shit man this might be some kind of Da Vinci Code type shit I am unraveling here.

NEBRASKA is not written by Payne and Taylor, instead it’s another Seattle writer, Bob Nelson. This is really weird to Seattleites because he never did another movie but he was on TV for years in a local sketch comedy show called Almost Live! that played after Saturday Night Live. It’s a show that everybody around here used to watch but it’s hard to defend because it was mostly just dumb stereotypes about the different cities and neighborhoods in Washington state (for example lots of jokes about the women of Lynnwood, home of Randy Couture, having tall bangs). But it was a significant show in that it was the origin of Bill Nye the Science Guy (he would come out and do science demonstrations, not even strictly comedy) and in later seasons it had a guy who ended up starring in SPY KIDS 4.


Oh shit, look, the Oscar host was on one time too:

But Bob Nelson is their first Oscar nominee. Even though Payne didn’t write it it has his usual sense of observation, the feeling that these are based on people he knows, not some movie archetype. You wonder if any of the locations were just as is, because they look like real houses and bars, not sets. For me the most relatable part was Forte sitting in the living room with his cousins, awkwardly striking up inane conversations and watching TV. I know that feeling.

(Did you guys know that one of the cousins is a mean brother or something in HOME ALONE? That’s what a buddy told me but I think I’m too old to know that movie very well. How would I know there was a brother, the kid is home alone, that’s the whole point, there are no other family members there.)

Stacy Keach is great playing an asshole who used to be Dern’s business partner, a big fat fish in a small pond who thinks he’s justified in pushing Dern around, and enough of a dick to know how to do it well through public humiliations in bars and private conversations in restrooms. I will say one positive thing about this individual though, there’s a karaoke scene and he does “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley, which in my opinion is a respectable karaoke go-to for a man to have.

mp_dallasbuyersclubDALLAS BUYER’S CLUB is the best of the three. Matthew McConaughey (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION) plays Ron Woodroof, a hard partying heterosexual rodeo star who got HIV in the early ’80s, the pre-Magic Johnson and Easy E days when people thought it was a gay only disease. Or at least that’s the character in the movie, it uses bull riding as a metaphor for his risky lifestyle. I was kinda confused when I read that the real guy was not in the rodeo. He just got alot of tail on his own accord, I guess.

Anyway, he doesn’t believe the doctors at first, then when he does he goes about beating their 30-days-to-live diagnosis, somewhat by accident because he’s not exactly taking good care of himself. He can’t get into the experimental AZT program at the hospital, so he finds a way to get the pills illegally. And keeps doing coke. It’s not until his source dries up and he’s forced to go into Mexico looking for the pills that he learns how toxic they are and is convinced to live a cleaner lifestyle and use a cocktail of protein pills and vitamins that work better for him.

shrugtallOf course a guy taking pills isn’t much of a movie. The Buyers Club of the title is a way he finds to get around laws to be able to distribute these pills to other patients. This is interesting, because impending death somehow turns this completely selfish guy into a crusader for others. He sets up a ragtag clinic in a hotel room and fights the FDA, the courts and an AZT-slinging doctor to help people like him who are dying while the medicine that can help them is held back by the bureaucracy (or necessary safety precautions, depending on how you look at it). He’s brazen and funny and travels to other countries in disguise and does what he can to get the latest medicines.

To be frankly honest this movie nauseated me in the beginning. The idea of blood diseases freaks me out, and McConaughey is skeletally thin for the role, he’s sweaty, fucking some girl in a smelly bull pen, snorting coke, bleeding and getting it on other people… it pushed all my buttons. But once I got through that it’s not a depressing slog. As far as AIDS movies go it’s at least superficially upbeat and hopeful. It’s like the man himself, focusing on the fight at hand instead of dwelling on the inevitable outcome. I think it leans too heavy on the doctor being a bad guy instead of misguided, but mostly it finds humanity in flawed people, and speaks up for ignored people.

It seems like McConaughey will get the best actor Oscar for this, and he already got the Golden Globe and the SAG. In my opinion other than the MACHINIST style weight loss this is not the transformative performance for him that some have made it out to be. What it is is a role that really lets him tap into what he’s good at: the swagger, the defiance, the brazenness, the completely unapologetic good ol’ boyness. It’s thrilling to see such a great actor get a role that uses him fully and that he’s obviously passionate about. So even though I woulda voted for DiCaprio for WOLF OF WALL STREET (which I think taps into his strengths in a similar way but also has him doing all kinds of new tricks) good for McConaughey and his career renaissance. It’s about time.

The bigger surprise is Jared Leto as transgendered junkie composite character Rayon. I mean he was good getting his face punched in in FIGHT CLUB, but I didn’t know he had one of these in him. Obviously it’s gotta be a challenge to learn how to portray a man living life as a woman, but the real feat is the way he captures the kind of person who is supportive and caring to his friends but frustratingly self-destructive. And also funny. A friend that always makes you sigh and shake your head in disappointment but also you always want to look out for him.

I’d say this is a respectable year for best picture nominees. I liked all of them. It’s also exciting in that there are three legitimate frontrunners. The awards that traditionally predict the best picture winner have actually been split between GRAVITY, 12 YEARS A SLAVE and AMERICAN HUSTLE. I’m bad about this sort of thing but I’m leaning toward GRAVITY being the winner, which I’m okay with. It’s not my favorite movie of the year but it’s an astonishing technical exercise that expands the possibilities of what can be done with movies, while also being about characters and emotions and acting. Also it’s a great director finally getting the respect he deserves.

So that would be cool, but I think I’d rather see 12 YEARS A SLAVE win. If you think it doesn’t have a shot, please consider that when I was walking out of the theater I said “That should be best picture but old white people would never vote for it.” I have traditionally been wrong about this sort of thing, for example after ARGO I said “well, I guess that’s not gonna be the big Oscar contender then,” after
THE AVIATOR I said “that’s gotta be best picture and best actor” and after PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL I said “that’s the kind of performance that should be nominated for an Oscar but never would be.”

As for AMERICAN HUSTLE, it’s a movie that I really liked but I would feel uncomfortable with it being called the best picture in a year with so many better movies. It makes sense that it’s up for all the acting awards, but I think it’s more of a fun mess than a solid classic. Devin Faraci of Badass Digest wrote a piece I really liked called AMERICAN HUSTLE Will Be Destroyed By Winning The Oscar, that has to do with that thing I always suffer from where you like a movie and then start to resent it after it wins a bunch of awards. He makes a really good point about movies like DANCES WITH WOLVES that would probly be remembered in a more positive light if you could discuss them just as movies and not have to start out talking about whether they deserved to win best picture. He posted that way back in December and of course at the time I thought “oh come on, just ’cause they’re wearing funny wigs like in ARGO doesn’t mean it’s gonna win a bunch of Oscars.” But a few months later it seemed like the favorite to win everything.

Anyway, as you all know, it doesn’t really matter. If I had to guess, I’d say THE WOLF OF WALL STREET will be the one most people are still familiar with in ten years, and it doesn’t have a chance of winning. Or maybe 12 YEARS A SLAVE if they let them show it in high schools. But these are all pretty good, good job this year Hollywood.

My other best picture nominee reviews:

Also, I am not an Oscar voter but I did vote in The Muriels this year. They are slowly unveiling the winners on the Muriels blog (short for Muriels weblog).

Screen Shot 2014-03-01 at 11.16.55 PM

Anyway, have fun everybody, whether you’re watching the Oscars or making a huge point of not watching the Oscars or whether you aren’t able to watch them because you are at church although what church really runs that late, that’s kinda weird.

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77 Responses to “This year’s pre-Oscar post”

  1. Holy shit, I saw ALMOST LIVE. They used to show it on Comedy Central. Was Bob the main bald guy?

    I must be the only one who liked AMERICAN HUSTLE most of all the nominees, then DALLAS BUYERS CLUB and then maybe GRAVITY. Now I get to be the guy defending it when people say it doesn’t deserve to win, so it’s the underdog no matter what. GRAVITY would be cool to see a populist movie win.

    I’ve got to pour one out for the great films that didn’t get recognized either due to technicalities or just lack of marketing. BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR, SHORT TERM 12, THE SPECTACULAR NOW and FURIOUS 6.

  2. 2013 was a slow year for me attending the cinema. The ONLY nominee I got to see was GRAVITY. Some are still playing in Sydney, like WOLF and SLAVE, but I’ll have to wait for DVD to see HUSTLE, NEBRASKA and DALLAS.

    I’m kinda bummed out about that, but what can you do? A busy life got between me and the movies. I’m sorry, cinema, I’ll try harder this year. Please don’t punish me by increasing ticket prices(again).

    So with that, my 2 cents worth for the Oscars, I’m throwing in for NEBRASKA and WOLF, based on my love of Alexander Payne and Scorsese’s great past films. C’mon, Academy, you guys KNOW you owe Scorsese for TAXI DRIVER, RAGING BULL and GOODFELLAS.

  3. Still no Oscar Hangout #2 this year. I really wanted to, but I suffer from a weird sleeping pattern and most of all have an important appointment tomorrow morning, which means waking up at 2am isn’t the best thing to do. Also outside of GRAVITY I haven’T seen any of the nominees anyway.

  4. Also didn’t Bill Nye start out in the BACK TO THE FUTURE cartoon show?

  5. I have only seen THE ACT OF KILLING, but then again I am not caught up in the Oscar hype. It doesn´t help that it airs late at night/early in the morning over here and last time I witnessed it, it had zero entertainment value whatsoever. It´s not even live anymore, so the possibilities for unexpectedness to happen are nil. I think I´ll sleep instead, it´s a much healthier time wasting activity.

  6. Faraci makes a lot of sense. Winning Best Picture is a mighty big burden on a film post-Oscars. I wonder what some of Costner’s later movies like THE POSTMAN and WYATT EARP would have been like if they weren’t bloated by the excess of ego.

  7. The Undefeated Gaul

    March 2nd, 2014 at 5:31 am

    McConaughey was pretty good in Dallas Buyers Club, but if they’re gonna give him an award for good acting, I feel like he deserves it more for True Detective. He’s fucking amazing in that, best work he’s ever done, but he’ll have to wait for an Emmy I guess. As for the Oscar, I hope Leo gets it.

    Best picture will be 12 Years A Slave I think. I don’t believe the “white people will never vote for it” argument, in fact I think it’s more likely the opposite (white guilt?). It seems like a film that would be considered IMPORTANT!!!, and thus most worthy of the award.

  8. The Original Paul

    March 2nd, 2014 at 7:04 am

    I’ve seen “American Hustle”, “Gravity”, “Her”, and “Wolf of Wall Street”. I didn’t see “Philomena” but I know a few people who did, and they said it was fantastic.

    I’m not naive enough to assume that Oscars have anything to do with actual filmatic quality (if they did, “In a World” and “Before Midnight” would be “Best Picture” nominees, and Michaela Watkins would be the knockout winner of Best Supporting Actress), but if they did, I would like to see “Gravity” get “Best Director”, and “Her” get “Best Picture” and “Best Cinematography”.

    I really enjoyed “The Wolf of Wall Street” as well. Wouldn’t be at all upset by Scorsese, DiCaprio or the film itself winning best Director, Actor or Picture respectively.

    I’m surprised Joaquim Phoenix isn’t up for his performance in “Her”. I thought that he gave a fantastic performance. But maybe a little too understated for the Academy.

    I liked “American Hustle” but it was basically the Jennifer Lawrence/Christian Bale show. It felt more like a chance for the four main actors to do their stuff (by which I mean Adams, Cooper, Lawrence and Bale – Renner did nothing for me in this movie, and I think the decision to have him underplay his character when everybody else was going in the opposite direction really hurt his performance.) I think that, Renner excepted, the cast and direction of “American Hustle” was top-notch, and I wish they’d had a stronger story to demonstrate their talents.

  9. The Original Paul

    March 2nd, 2014 at 7:18 am

    Also you guys must really HATE “Twelve years a Slave”. If it loses, it’s because it’s a “black movie”, and if it wins it’s because of “white guilt”. Nobody thinks the film will win on its own merits then? Good to know!

    (PS – I am, obviously, being facetious here. Think I need to point that out to head off the inevitable storm of people yelling at me about what a great film “Twelve years” was!)

  10. Almost Live! Yeah they showed it on afternoons on Comedy Central here in South Dakota. One of my earliest inspirations for sketch comedy. My favorite recurring bit/only bit I can remember is “The Lame List” which had a bunch of long-haired grunge dudes headbanging and calling things lame.

  11. I haven’t seen NEBRASKA, so I don’t know anything about Bruce Dern’s performance other than the TV ad clips, but early in his career Dern uttered one of my all time favorite movie lines. Remember WAR WAGON (1967)? Hired hands Hammond (Dern) and Shack (Don Collier) are standing around when crooked mining magnate Pierce (Bruce Cabot) says he’ll offer Lomax (Kirk Douglas) $10,000 to kill Taw Jackson (John Wayne).

    Dern shuffles his feet, smiles a nervous shifty little grin, and says, “Hell, Mr. Pierce, I’d kill him for a lot less than that.” Great line, great Bruce Dern delivery.

  12. No WADJDA, no SPRING BREAKERS, no evil Keanu…

    if there’s no singing Russell Crowe tonight then I’ll have no reason to watch.

    On the other hand, the LONE SURVIVOR crew member nominated for Sound Editing is named “Wylie Stateman,” so hopefully his acceptance speech doubles as a political campaign announcement. Vote Wylie Stateman 2014!

  13. I don’t watch the Oscars, but I try not to make a big deal about it. I’m not one of those guys who thinks they’re some kind of heroic whistleblower because they figured out that the Oscars are just a big conspiracy to ensure that truly great movies are never recognized in their time because GOODFELLAS didn’t win that time. I liked the Oscars as a kid, but I realized over the years that me and the Academy are simply not looking for the same things. If you made a Venn diagram of “movies that get nominated for Oscars” and “movies Majestyk will ever bother to see ever” there will be a tiny little sliver of overlap. The award is simply not applicable to my interests. I’ve let the Oscars go, and I’m happier for it.

    But mostly I’m not watching because I’m a Brooklyn hipster who doesn’t have cable.

  14. The miracle of dvr has made it possible to pick & choose the good stuff, rather than commit a whole 3-4 hours to the thing.

    I can see Ellen make “edgy” sub-references to funny gay material and skewer last year’s host, then I can go read a book, then I come back and fast forward to Tina Fey or Jamie Foxx saying something funny, then I watch some basketball, then I check back with ABC to see if a Three Six Mafia reunion is happening, then wait for twitter to tell me if there’s a wardrobe malfunction that compels me to click back to the ceremony.

  15. I could see myself going to an Oscar party and seeing it that way, but I’m a total buzzkill at those things. The last few times I went to one I picked a good 85% of the winners while having seen maybe 5% of the nominees (which were usually the ones I got wrong), and that’s no fun for anybody. It’s no fun for the people who, like Vern, made it a point to have an informed opinion about the nominees, and it’s no fun for me knowing how easy it is to figure out who’s likely to win based entirely on extra textual factors like who’s “owed” one for past slights, who’s got too much hype to deny, and who the Academy would just like to see up there giving an acceptance speech because it’s good business. I’m not saying people get Oscars for the wrong or right reasons (as I said, I don’t see these movies and have no opinion on who deserves an Oscar and who doesn’t) but it’s dispiriting that I’m so accurate just by passively absorbing Hollywood industry blather through osmosis without actually knowing anything about the nominated works. It’s best for everyone if I just stay out of it altogether.

    I like nipples, though, so maybe that wardrobe malfunction thing has some merit.

  16. The Original Paul

    March 2nd, 2014 at 11:08 am


    “I’m not one of those guys who thinks they’re some kind of heroic whistleblower because they figured out that the Oscars are just a big conspiracy to ensure that truly great movies are never recognized in their time because GOODFELLAS didn’t win that time.”

    Yeah… right.

    *Whistles innocently…*

  17. It’s true! I don’t even like GOODFELLAS that much!

    Sure, maybe when I was 17 I thought I was really onto something when PULP lost to GUMP, but I’m over it. For me, being mad at the Oscars because they don’t pick the right movies is like being mad at Hanukkah because I’m not Jewish. Both celebrations are for people of a different faith than myself, and I do not begrudge them their festivities.

  18. Earlier this year I got around to watching Bruce Dern in the weird but wonderful 70s sci-fi ecologically themed movie, Silent Running. He plays a slightly unhinged tree hugger in the future who disobeys an order to destroy the last remaining forest, which are encased in spaceships out near Jupiter. The majority of the film focuses on just his character. It reminded me a little of Tom Hanks’s performance in Castaway. Dern is tasked with carrying pretty much the entire film. I’m not that familiar with his filmography, but Silent Running made me want to dig up a lot of his older films. Even if he doesn’t win, it’s nice that Dern is getting a lot of recognition thanks to Nebraska (the movie, not necessarily the state).

  19. Dern is great in The Outer Limits episode “The Zanti Misfits” as con on the lam who runs into a bunch of goateed alien ants in the desert. That’s my favorite performance, though he is good in the slow and preachy Silent Running, too. I’d be happy if he got best Oscar as sort of a inside-Hollywood prize. I had no plans to see Nebraska, but Keach doing karaoke piques my interest. Looks a little cutesy and Fargo-esque. But since I haven’t seen any of the nominees aside from 12 Years A Slave, my opinion is entirely worthless.

    “A runaway wife and a three-time loser must always go forward.”

  20. My karaoke go-to is “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” It’s mostly talk-singing with some shouting in the choruses, so as long as you know the words and have a reasonably commanding speaking voice, it never fails.

    I also do “Bust A Move” but only if I have at least two female backup singers.

  21. My favorite karaoke selection is silence, due to self-respect,
    but sometimes I am able to drink that moral/artistic nuisance away and thus enable the possibility the world will be blessed with my rendition of “No Diggity” by Blackstreet (with co-vocalists, of course).

    I used to spit some Sir Mix-A-Lot rather frequently at parties/bars, and I can not lie, it was always a wondrous crowd-pleaser & panty-dropper, but I find that that song choice only gets me in trouble these days.

  22. As an untrained bass, I often find myself recruited to fill out the mix when dudes with less manly voices than my own find that their Pearl Jam interpretations are reedy and unsatisfying. Eventually they just sit out the rest of the song because, for better or worse, my Eddie Vedder can really not be fucked with.

    I’m not proud of this. It’s just the instrument I was born with.

    My Sinatra is passable, but my “Humpty Dance” is immortal.

  23. Dern was real good as the shell-shocked veteran in COMING HOME. He held in that quiet rage for most of the film, then exploded it all over the place. I know the movie was about Jane Fonda getting her gear off for Voight, but fuck man, I don’t care if he was in a wheel chair or not, I still felt bad for Dern. He was the most sympathetic character in that film.

  24. This was a great year for movies, in my opinion. Lots of good stuff will win, lots didn’t get nominated. we’re still all winners here

  25. also, excellent poster comparison above, funniest shit i will see all day, i’m sure

  26. The Original Paul

    March 2nd, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Did you ever mistake karaoke for a martial art? Well it is, when I do it. My rendition of Pulp’s “Common People” could send armies fleeing in sheer blind panic.

    And Majestyk – I meant that I’M one of those douchebags. I try not to be. Don’t always succeed. I’m a horrible cynic about these awards ceremonies, but then they don’t seem to serve any practical purpose. Except as a masturbation aid for narcissistic Hollywood personalities I guess.

  27. I’m not sure how to feel about Dallas Buyers’ Club. It’s not like I’m particularly well-read about AIDS and the struggles in the eighties and nineties, so I hate being Factual Bandit about it all. It was mildly diverting and enlightening and sort of humorous. But the movie presents Woodruff’s drugs as vastly superior to AZT, and that AZT was apparently borderline lethal to AIDS patients, which was not at all true. The fight for alternative drug use as far as medicine is a good one, and other options beyond AZT were necessary, and the forces that blocked them were insidious. But AZT was not a poison, as the movie showed it.

    Also, I hear a little bit about the real-life Woodruff actually being bisexual or gay? Turning him into a straight homophobe in order to make him the focal point of a major LGBT story is a little suspect. Having Leto play a transgendered person who wasn’t even REAL is also a little dubious. Both are acceptable on there own. Together? It’s a bit too much for me to be comfortable with the film.

  28. On their own. not “on there own.” y am i not gud at tyeping?

  29. I think the Oscars are worthy as a time capsule of which films are currently considered “respectable” as opposed to “good” or “fun to watch” or “will be remembered in five years time”, but I wouldn’t sit through the fucking thing. Of the nominees I’ve seen I’d vote for HER, as that film knocked me on my ass with it’s fearlessness and originality.

    RBatty: Yay, SILENT RUNNING! I don’t have much to add, I just love that movie.

    Gabe: Yeah, I tend not to take the phrase “based on a true story” all that seriously, but the changes made to DALLAS BUYERS’ CLUB feel pretty condescending and rob LGBT folks of agency in their own struggle. But I haven’t seen the film so I don’t want to judge it too much. It’s probably way more interesting to see the main character go through an arc of acceptance anyway.

  30. I’m from Nebraska and yes, they released Jurassic Park there so your Da Vinci code thingy is sound.

  31. grimgrinningchris

    March 2nd, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Weird the karaoke turn. Weirder still that we seem to have common threads even there. My go-to’s are Baby Got Back and Bust A Move. Though I get free drinks if I do The Thong Song (and pride myself in getting through it without the TelePrompTer every time, regardless of my state of inebristion). As for actually SINGING, it’s a total 180 with Alabama’s “Roll On 18 Wheeler”- the only SUNG song in existence that is entirely in the one key I can actually sort of carry a tune in.

    As for the Oscars… Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Watson. Hubba. Sandra Bullock looks like Skeletor, Jonah Hill is gaining weight back, Idina Menzel needs to sing me to sleep, Spacey needs to come out already and I still think Ellen is hot. Weird.

  32. grimgrinningchris

    March 2nd, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    Oh…and Harrison Ford really needs to lose the fucking earring already. It’s embarrassing.

  33. “and I still think Ellen is hot. Weird.”

    you’re not alone, I find her kinda hot too

  34. man, the Oscars were far better this year than last year’s, my only complaint is I wish THE WIND RISES won

  35. Pretty much an “as expected” Academy Awards. Wish WOLF had won screenplay, and Ejiofor had won best actor. But that sort of thing is to be expected, there was some stiff competition this year. And Griff is right, WIND RISES is phenomenal and should have won, but it’s barely even released yet and I guess it didn’t have much of a chance. And I was pleasantly surprised that HER won for best screenplay, nice that something a little more understated could get honored.


    The fact that ACT OF KILLING did not win best documentary is a fucking travesty. I love Merry Clayton and I’m glad 20 FEET FROM STARDOM got some love, but KILLING is on an absolutely different level. THE SQUARE is fantastic too, and should obviously have won before 20 FEET, but passing over something a work as staggering as ACT OF KILLING is simply unforgivable. That’s not an opinion, it’s a scientific fact. I know the Oscars are bullshit, they’re all politics, etc, but I thought for sure that one would be a no-brainer.

  36. The “in memoriam” piece was as brutal & bummerrific as we expected, yet it was generous in acknowledging names we’d consider important contributors to the Outlaw sensibility:

    Hal Needham
    Jim Kelly
    Paul Walker
    Ray Harryhausen
    Elmore Leonard
    Run Run Shaw
    Roger Ebert

    I had forgotten about Karen Black’s passing til Oscar reminded me. I’ve seen or remember only a few of her performances, all in movies from the ’60s & ’70s, but she was superb in all of them. A great actress b/c she could fit in, blend in, take some abuse from other characters, and even commit to playing an airheaded ditz, which is much more difficult & admirable than being an ostentatious, scene-stealing, Oscar-baiting camera hog type of actress.

    Somehow they failed to honor the late great Lau Kar Leung (Chia-Liang Liu), probably because any clips from his work would have overshadowed the paltry filmatistical montage moments of other cinema artists & technicians; a choice snippet of HEROES OF THE EAST or DIRTY HO would have overwhelmed with its awesomeness the whole rest of the Oscar ceremony.

  37. by the way, do they always have a song performance after the in memoriam? I can’t remember, but it seems like because this year’s was especially sad they had to do something special

  38. grimgrinningchris

    March 3rd, 2014 at 6:14 am

    And they really held on the images off Hoffman at the end…

  39. Man, Harrison Ford looked like he had two beers and a Xanax before he got onstage last night. Still, I wouldn’t expect anything less from the movie star who hates more than anything actually being a movie star.

  40. insert name here

    March 3rd, 2014 at 9:06 am

    I caught a few minutes of this, but seeing all of the cutaways to Chiwetel Ejiofor made me realize how much I associate him in my mind with Redbelt. If he had disappeared at one point only to later emerge fighting his way to the stage to reveal that the Oscars are fixed for gambling reasons but be handed an Oscar by Robert Deniro or someone first, I wouldn’t be as surprised as I probably should be.

  41. Griff, no, they don’t usually have a song after the in memoriam. Sometimes they’ll have someone singing during it or just play music. I imagined Bette Midler saying she would sing if the cameras were on her because she’s no second fiddle to a slide show. No idea if Ms. Midler would say this kind of thing or not, but that’s what I imagined.

  42. I’m glad I was wrong on best picture because otherwise it would’ve been pretty anticlimactic viewing for me. The only surprise was THE ACT OF KILLING not winning. Like Subtlety I naively assumed that that just had to happen. Not that I feel outraged or anything. I’m happy it at least got nominated. Alot of people were angry about it like it was an insult to dead Indonesians, but that’s ridiculous. It’s not worthy because it’s about the worst atrocity, it’s worthy because it’s a great movie. But don’t set a precedent where it’s morally wrong to award a movie that’s about something happy or that’s about only the second worst crime.

    Anyway that was one of the only ones that wasn’t what I expected. Come to think of it I also thought the Mickey Mouse cartoon would win but you know what he’s like DiCaprio, he does pretty well for himself and everybody knows about him even if he doesn’t ever win.

    One of my favorite things was how relaxed Christian Bale looked. I think he knew he wasn’t in the race and was able to just sit in the front row and watch and not worry about having to do anything. He was kicked back like he was watching a favorite movie or something. No sign of “it’s not fucking professional” Christian Bale.


    Also I liked when DiCaprio turned around and high-fived Jonah Hill like they’re college roommates or something.

    I like that they were able to give a ton of awards to GRAVITY and then best picture to 12 YEARS A SLAVE. They got big and slick and technologically innovative, and they got Important and Serious and Historical. One is the big mainstream hit, the other is the limited release darling, but both are really good movies made with passion and skill by singular artists. And of course HER is great and unique and inventive, alot of times they give the original screenplay to the kinda hipper movie that is not gonna win best picture (see also ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, LOST IN TRANSLATION, FARGO, THE USUAL SUSPECTS, PULP FICTION… shit, going back as far CITIZEN KANE even). So that has a history to it where it’s kind of cooler than if it won best picture.

    Also, I don’t think it occurred to me until last night that there was a low budget black and white movie and a slick CGI 3D movie in the mix. That’s pretty cool.

    So maybe The Oscars Are Bullshit, but there is a grain of truth in there too about what I love about the movies.

  43. grimgrinningchris: Thanks for bringing “Roll On (Eighteen Wheeler)” to my attention. It’s both a catchy little ditty and an emotional roller coaster ride. That’s exactly the kind of corny epic with a big ol’ singalong chorus that I would love to do at karaoke, but I just can’t get up that high.

  44. I hadn’t heard anyone complaining that the oscar snub for ACT OF KILLING was a slight to Indonesians, that’s stupid. They were gonna get a better government if some guy who made a movie got honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in a category most mainstream people don’t really even care about? That’s a ridiculous way to think about the whole thing.

    I think ACT OF KILLING is a masterwork, just something so clearly on a different artistic level than the competition that I assumed it was a foregone conclusion. This seems like if they’d given “best actor” to Bradley Cooper instead of Daniel Day-Lewis last year, something that would be so utterly outrageous you could hardly even be mad about it. I can only assume ACT just didn’t get famous enough to ever be a real consideration, but boy, that’s an oversight people are gonna be embarrassed by down the years.

    I’m glad it got honored, but I sort of think they gave the wrong award to 12 YEARS A SLAVE, which has some amazing things about it but in my view doesn’t quite pull together as a total work. I’d have preferred Chiwetel get the best actor and McQueen get best director. Cuaron’s work in GRAVITY is excellent, but it’s in no way a career best for him, and he’ll go on to do better things; meanwhile McQueen directed some of the absolute most riveting sequences of the year in SLAVE, made them cinematic and aching real, yet also universal and artistic. But the movie never quite overcomes its narrative listlessness, and I think that’s in a large part the result of Ridley’s screenplay (which DID win) never choosing a clear angle to pursue. Give the adapted screenplay to WOLF OF WALL STREET, director to McQueen, actor to Ejiofor, and justice would more or less be served (except that poor LLEWYN DAVIS didn’t even get nominated).

    Best moment: Ellen brings a real pizza delivery guy (who I choose to believe wasn’t in on it) out on the Oscar stage to hand out pizza. Bet when he got to his next delivery and they complained he was late, he had a better excuse than most (and more proof).

    Worst moment: Pink warbling every last drop of melody out of “Over the Rainbow,” and especially the incredibly ill-advised performance of “Wind Beneath My Wings,” which frankly played like a parody.

  45. It really was a generic show, like it was pieced together by a bunch of church group 12 year olds. Chris Evans’s spoken intro and the “heroes” montage played like Bart Simpson giving a Wikipedia-sourced book report on mainstream action movies.

    Just totally perfunctory & uninspired, all boring filler, the kind of thing you expect to see playing on a small monitor near the entrance to a movie studio’s little museum for tourists.

    Pink’s performance was tight, though; in fact, that was the only time I’ve ever enjoyed her vocals.
    And I continue to have doubts about the veracity of THE ACT OF KILLING’s cast, claims, & presentation.

  46. Yeah, it was like they were trying to take back “Wind Beneath My Wings,” since I’m sure 99% of the times it’s been thought of in the last 20 years it was ironic and not sincere. Speaking of karaoke, though, that one might work. Also because I respect you guys I will let you in on the secret weapon “Colors of the Wind” from the movie Pocahontas. Available in some karaoke catalogs and full of powerful statements. You could throw in quotes from the ON DEADLY GROUND monologue during musical breaks. Look into it.

    All I can figure on ACT OF KILLING is that too many voters knew the subject matter and were too afraid to watch it. Or is that a category where they had to see all of them to vote? Also I thought that could hurt 12 YEARS A SLAVE, but it didn’t.

  47. If you’re going to do a Bette Midler song for karaoke, it’s The Rose, all the way.

  48. The Original Paul

    March 3rd, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    All the main awards were won by films I haven’t seen, so I have no opinion to contribute there.

    I do, however, agree with the many “Gravity” technical awards, as well as “Best Director”. Would’ve rather “Her” won “cinematography” – I think the many, many “Lost in Translation”-style subtleties that it used might’ve been less overtly impressive than what “Gravity” accomplished, but for me “Her” was the stronger, albeit more subtle, film in that respect. But hey, “Gravity” was great too.

    I went to see the “Best Documentary” winner a couple of years ago – a Matt Damon-narrated film about the Wall Street crash – and got the impression that it was chosen purely because of its subject matter. As a documentary it was neither particularly informative nor particularly well-delivered, for me, and honestly I don’t see too many people disagreeing with that opinion. I have no clue how many of these movies the Oscar “committee” even see before they judge them, but I suspect the various documentaries, shorts, etc, are probably not among them.

  49. I just listened to that song, Vern. I…am at a loss for words. And here I thought FELICITY was your only badass juxtaposition.

  50. Dude, Vern never watched FELICITY, as he assured us many, many times over the years.

  51. I’m fine with the wins, except I was pulling for Leo.

    Man Leo might be this generation’s Paul Newman. A respected leading man that everybody likes, but just can’t win the big one.

    Also didn’t Brad Pitt win his first Oscar last night? 2013 was a good year for him. An Oscar and a blockbuster hit in WWZ. Good for him.

    Vern – I never bought the “12YAS was too gruesome” bullshit. Why? Twenty years ago, what won the Oscar? SCHINDLER’S LIST, which didn’t exactly shy away from the Holocaust.

    Besides GRAVITY was hurt by one thing if you ask me: Does it play as well at home as it does on the big screen? Not knocking GRAVITY at all, but all of us who saw it in theaters well you can understand why we went apeshit for it. I’m not sure seeing it on your TV for the first time has the same effect as a bigass IMAX screen or any theater screen.

    As for Documentary, I think all those docs about foreign wars/tragedies from AOK to DRUG WARS to THE SQUARE all bled each other votes…allowing a singing doc to win. That’s my theory.

  52. Come on, of course it deserved it, but did anyone actually expect ACT OF KILLING to win? Too controversial, too difficult and way too much of a bummer. Yeah 12YAS was also a bummer, but that film allowed Oscar voters to do their very favourite thing: pat themselves on the back by rewarding a film that recognises a great injustice. ACT OF KILLING doesn’t really let you off the hook that easily. 20 FEET is a feel good film that rewards the unfairly overlooked and it’s about the entertainment industry’s favourite subject: themselves. It was a sure thing.

    Apart from that, deserving if unsurprising choices. Well done, voters.

  53. I liked the Oscars this year because they were more fun and lighthearted and less snarky and mean spirited than they have been the past few years (especially last years)

  54. Majestyk – I gotta clarify, I do not think that is a good song exactly. But it is so righteous and melodramatic and as a bonus it’s one of the less popular Disney movies so not everybody knows it. So I personally think it is the funniest song for karaoke that I know of. I very rarely do karaoke but between you and me I have actually tried to do that song two times. The first time nobody laughed but I believed it was good. The second time it was a hit.

    If it’s too advanced though the theme for Thunderball is a good one (but with some parts that are too high for me).

    RRA – Yeah but I don’t think the SCHINDLERS comparison holds water because #1 people are willing to give more of a chance to a wide release Spielberg movie and #2 it’s a kickass thriller that happens to be about a huge bummer subject. 12 YEARS is more of a torturous slog with less hope or justice at the end, so it wouldn’t have been surprising if it got the shaft. But luckily it made out like Shaft instead so it’s a moot point.

  55. So no one else noticed the snippet from Brian Trenchard-Smith’s MAN FROM HONG KONG in the heroes montage?

  56. Wait, really Gabe? What was the clip?

  57. Knox Harrington

    March 4th, 2014 at 2:24 am

    I haven’t read the article or the comments yet, but I just watched the Oscars last night and was shocked that Dennis Farina wasn’t on the “In Memoriam” list. Seriously, what the fucking fuck? Did I blink and miss it?

    Also, I’m glad that 12 Years A Slave got Best Picture (I would have given it Best Director as well). Of all the films nominated this year, it’s the only one that I would call an undisputed masterpiece (and Her, maybe). No idea why it wasn’t nominated for Best Cinematography.

    Still, I’m happy that my favourite cinematographer working today finally won an Oscar, although it’s strange that he would win for a film where half of what’s on the screen is computer generated. I’d rather he won for The New World or Children of Men.

    Also, I’m very happy that Spike Jonze is now an Oscar winning writer.

    Also also, I still have no idea why Before Midnight was nominated for Best ADAPTED Screenplay. Doesn’t make any fucking sense. Being a sequel doesn’t mean it’s not an original screenplay. Fucking stupid.

  58. Farina was indeed an oversight, but his best stuff is tv stuff, so maybe yell at the Emmys?

    I look forward to Vern’s walkback of all the shit he talked about MACHETE KILLS now that Lubezki has an Oscar for cinematographizing a 99% cartoon video game posing as a live action movie.
    (And anyone else who’s blanketly disparaged bluescreen/greenscreen should have 2nd thoughts now. Thanks, shitty Academy voters.)

    It’s absurd — and a confirmation that the nominating/voting process is a publicity & backscratching campaign more than a merits-based election — that TO THE WONDER blanked on awards. That’s where Lubezki earned his bling in my opinion.

  59. Remember when they did a montage of “real heroes” with movies based on true stories, but they also included SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, which are fictional?

    RRA, I thinkGRAVITY still plays at home. I have the Blu ray and those long takes in space still make me antsy, and the sound just in my tv speakers.

  60. RRA: Brad won for producing THE DEPARTED previously. As I said elsewhere, I’d be just as happy if Alfonso won for directing than as if GRAVITY got Best Picture and it came true. I’m even a bit happy 12 YEARS won despite not seeing it yet, mostly because it’s long overdue Arnon Milchan and Regency.

  61. I’m surprised you guys like Dallas Buyers as much as you do. When I said it I copped a Vernism and complained to the people I saw it with that it had a little bit of “look at all the great things straight people do to help gays” syndrome. A LITTLE bit. We’re supposed to be awful impressed that Matt McC finds it in his gigantic heart to overcome his “understandable” homophobia, is how it felt.

    But beyond that I just thought the movie was kind of a mess. The first half gets by on the grittiness and ickyness combined with a little bit of Scarface drug-lord-rising-to-power momentum, and then…? They’re caught between combing the true story for something to substitute as a climax (the trial), inventing stuff (the death), and it just sort of wanders until it ends while really, any moment in the last 45 minutes would be as appropriate place to end it as any other.

    Also it was weird to close on a freeze frame of a stunt double. Don’t get me wrong it’s an okay movie and Leto deserved every inch of that statue, but ranking it up against a best-of-the-millennium-so-far candidate like Gravity seems insane to me. (but liking Gravity that much might seem insane to YOU so we’ll call it even).

    Shoutout to the underappreciated 2013 masterpieces: Magic Magic, Stoker, Spring Breakers, Byzantium, The fucking Lords of Salem. (imdb is telling me 2012 on the Zombie but i saw it crop up on a few 2013 lists, i dunno)

  62. When I saw it*, not “when I said it”. Whatevs.

  63. RRA, I thought 12 YEARS might get shafted, where as SCHINDLER’S did not, because SCHINDLER’S was about something horrible another country did, whereas 12 YEARS was about something horrible that happened here. I could see American voters being more uncomfortable with it because it’s our ancestors who were the monsters. Plus, all that stuff Vern said about it being Spielberg.

    As far as doing a Bond theme for karaoke, I’ve never seen it done, or done it myself, but GOLDFINGER would be an awesome one to try and pull off.

  64. Knox Harrington

    March 4th, 2014 at 10:02 am

    Lords of Salem? Really?

    I’ll agree with you on Spring Breakers.

    Hey, I can’t remember, but did any of Inside Llewyn Davis’ songs get nominated, and if not, why the hell not?

    Also, I really like Christian Bale and thought he did a good job in American Hustle, but why the hell did Tom Hanks and Robert Redford not get nominated?

    This is why I should stop watching these damn awards shows, but every year they pull me back in.

  65. Knox Harrington

    March 4th, 2014 at 10:13 am

    Here’s another question: Why is it that so many of these internet movie sites worship the Oscars, but absolutely despise the Golden Globes? I don’t get it.

    All I know is that last year the Globes acknowledged Affleck, Bigelow and Tarantino as Best Director nominees, and the Oscars didn’t. Same with Hanks this year.

    The Oscars have a way of just clutching onto their favourites and not letting go, no matter what, until finally they get tired of them. Which would explain why David O. Russell gets nominated every damn year.

  66. grimgrinningchris

    March 4th, 2014 at 8:14 pm


    The karaoke night that I used to frequent has recently taken a turn for the Disney for some reason (and Colors Of The Wind is definitely being done). Normally I would find great joy and kinship in this. But most of these nitwits are doing their songs with supposed irony which I hate. I also don’t like those songs being butchered. I’ve heard “I Will Survive”, “Careless Whisper” and “Summer Nights” enough times by enough drunken yahoos (which sometimes includes myself) but to me, bleating out “Part Of Your World” with all the tune-age of an alley cat is just sinful.

  67. Knox – the people behind the Globes are some shady motherfuckers.

    I’m hesitant to debate Lord of Salem because I don’t know if I have the heart to listen to somebody rag on it. But I thought it was a really lovely movie. It has that Ti Westian “I don’t have any tricks up my sleeve, I just love this genre” attitude. It doesn’t precisely crystallize in terms of allegory/metaphor for drug addiction or feminism so much as glance off of those themes in this aching, yearning way. The scene where her pseudo-boyfriend calls her to reach out and help and she refuses his help broke my heart. And “All Tomorrow’s Parties” at the end was one of the best uses of a pop song in film I’ve seen since, well, since “Free Bird” in The Devil’s Rejects. I love how unconcerned it is with the why’s and whatfor’s (compare with Upstream Color which, while an improvement on Primer, I found smugly opaque).

    Anyway its as if Zombie assembled a movie specially for me and knew exactly what he could include and leave out; it makes a certain sense to me that I can’t really articulate and makes me want to resort to “you either get it or you don’t”isms; which is to say that I acknowledge that the film might not objectively make sense to a lot of people, but its nonsensical elements made a lot of sense to me.

  68. Not to deviate off topic, but I finally caught Wolf of Wall Street, and I was wondering, Vern, if when you do that thing where you list a less-than-popular movie as a reference when you write an actor’s name -for example, in the WOWS review where you said “Leonardo Dicaprio (Poison Ivy)”- are you culling those from memory or are you looking them up online? I always figured you were looking them up, but just last night I had the thought that “wait, Vern knows his stuff, maybe he’s not looking them up at all?” Anyway, just curious.

  69. I think Vern loves and promotes the DTV underdog. Plus, never forget where you came from, Leo.

  70. Oh, please believe I’m well aware of Vern’s tireless championing of the DTV world. It’s one of the reasons I love him. That’s also why the thought occurred to me that these are all just movies he knows and remembers actors from. Vern IS IMDb.

    Also, a quick thing I found particularly hilarious about Wolf of Wall Street…..Jordan and Donnie are just incorrigible scumbags, the absolute worst the human race has to offer, and completely unrepentant about it all, but then when they are on the plane to Switzerland and Jordan is strapped down, Donnie tells him, in a shocked and hushed tone, that he called the pilot “the N-word.” And Jordan is incredulous. The N-WORD? I love that they are both appalled, and that neither of them will outright say the word. They’re not MONSTERS!

  71. Justin – that one I had to research, but sometimes they’re from my brain. If it was from my brain it would’ve been CRITTERS 3.

  72. Leo also had a minor recurring role as a homeless kid on some lame 80’s sitcom. Can’t quite recall the title.

    He’ll wind up being the Al Pacino of his generation, being passed over for an Oscar 5-6 times before finally winning when he’s in his early 50s. Silly and arguably unfair, but what can you do?

  73. GROWING PAINS, and it was no minor recurring role. He was a full fledged cast member for the last two seasons. He was in the opening credits sequence and everything. But yes, it was lame.

  74. He’s kind of charmed for not having won yet (though he will sometime soon I’m sure), partly because there’s the real chance he could wind up having the illness that affected Robin Williams and Kevin Spacey of doing the most blatant Oscar-baiting crap he can.

  75. All of a sudden the blocked memoryof Leo being Ben Seaver’s orphaned buddy have popped back up into my mindframe. Damn.

  76. I’ve been wondering lately, and maybe you guys have some insight into this, but what exactly is the criteria for judging “Best Director” with these things? I don’t see how it can be through any observable technical aspect of the finished film, as there are separate awards for those things, and I don’t see how it can for how well all the film’s different elements are all brought together, because…that’d just be “Best Film”, right? Is it even done from just watching the movie, or is there some sort of research into how the Director handled things throughout the production, or what?

  77. Dikembe Mutombo

    March 16th, 2014 at 9:12 am

    Almost none of the voters do anything rigorous when it comes to weighing the nominees. They just pick who was nice to them during campaigning.

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