Sunday, February 28, 2010

Closing ceremonies

And so another Olympics has come and gone. It was one for Canadians to remember: the most gold medals ever in a winter olympics. And I now personally know an Olympic medallist (Lyndon Rush, bronze, four-man bobsleigh). But I have a few thoughts about what I will and will not miss about the now-complete Vancouver 2010 Olympics: my own "closing ceremonies", if you will.

What I won't miss about the Olympics:
- (Canadian) Brian Williams' infuriatingly smarmy coolness and condescending tone. Seriously, they must thaw him out every two years just to ask awkward questions of athletes.
- Bad grammar. From believing in the "power of you and I" to McDonald's latest comma splice to John Furlong's atrocious mangling of both French and English at the closing ceremonies, there have been many poor linguistic choices over the past three weeks.
- Armchair experts who suddenly become authorities on esoteric sports, and how everyone seems to know what will help these athletes.
- Vexillogical vexation: the fact that Canada's flag is actually out of proper proportion because of Olympic standards. They mess with our flag - not cool.
- All the discussion of whether Canadian athletes would "Own the Podium". We did. And if the government continues funding (which I think it should), we will again.
- Mindless patriotism.
- Dorks like Gary Bettman and Jacques Rogge interfering with hockey at the worst possible times. Why does anyone still listen to Bettman, anyway?
- Usually funny Canadians trying to be funny with unfunny material, and awkward juxtaposition of Canadian stereotypes with an almost-too eager embracing of those images (see: closing ceremonies)
- That. Effing. Song.
- All of the talk about how the Olympics bring peace and goodness to humankind. Bull. All they do is distract us from our guilt every two years, and help us to focus on countries at the top of the United Nations standards of living rankings.

What I will miss about this Olympics:
- Cheryl Bernard. A cutie, and a great curler to boot.
- The refreshing enthusiasm of young athletes when they compete well and succeed.
- Tessa Virtue's smile. And how Scott Moir continually looks below her smile.
- Men's hockey: maybe the best sports tournament other than March Madness. Sochi could be epic, as long as Bettman is not a tool.
- Seeing Stephen Harper slummin' it with Wayne Gretzky.
- Canada gear everywhere. I think HBC made enough for everyone in the country, but at least it looks really sharp.
- Having unique sports in prime time.
- Random celebrity crowd shots, like Donald Sutherland the hobo.
- Chris Cuthbert's announcing. Man, I love the way he calls games.
- Owning the Podium.

Now for the Paralympics in a couple of weeks. Let's see if Canada put as much money into owning those podiums. Go Canada Go!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thank God I'm A Country Boy

I hate "new" country music; after all, as Brent Butt says, it's just "crappy rock". But there's something about old country music that I love. Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, even Kris Kristofferson and Kenny Rogers - I love the sound of the old twangy guitar and the lazy lyrical cadence they use. I even love more modern interpretations of the sound, like Thrice's Earth disc from The Alchemy Index or their lead singer Dustin Kensrue's solo material. I do not know exactly why I love this style of music: maybe it's because my dad and his mom love that style of music and I heard it a lot, or maybe there's something in the music that reaches through, or there's just some intangible explanation of the combination of charisma, vulnerability, bravado, authenticity, and Americana that draws me in. This explains why I thoroughly enjoyed Crazy Heart, and why I have not been able to stop listening to the soundtrack since. It's a mix of newly composed tunes from the film and standards from singers like Jennings and George Jones. The other disc that I have been listening to non-stop this week has been the final release from Johnny Cash's American Recordings sessions, American VI: Ain't No Grave. Much like the previously posthumously released American V, this album is more somber and reflective, with much of the material focussed on ideas of death and legacy. It's great to hear Cash's signature baritone warbling one last time through traditional favourites like "Ain't No Grave" and "Aloha Oe", and to hear his weakened voice come through when he needs it too. Both albums are great collections for fans of this style of music, though their appeal stretches beyond the bounds of the country charts. They certainly have renewed my interest in listening to some of these old country voices who have lived hard and sung sweet songs.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Actors and Actresses 2010

Last year, I wrote two posts in which I ranked my top ten actors and actresses according to how readily I would see a movie that included them in it. I've decided to make this an annual feature, based on movies that I've seen during the past year, but I've also decided to push it to 13, rather than 10. This includes more than movies released in the past year, so an actor's performance in a given year only skews the rankings so much. Here are my revised top ten lists for actors and actresses (last year's rankings are in parentheses). Let's start with the ladies:

Honourable mentions: Evan Rachel Wood, Anna Kendrick - good things should come in the future from these starlets; Tina Fey - I'm not sold on her as a movie star yet...but Date Night may prove otherwise.

13. Cate Blanchett (2)
12. Zooey Deschanel (NR)
11. Michelle Williams (8)
10. Catherine Keener (4)
9. Frances McDormand (NR)
8. Charlize Theron (6)
7. Laura Linney (3)
6. Maggie Gyllenhaal (10)
5. Julianne Moore (5)
4. Emily Watson (7)
3. Kate Winslet (1)
2. Anne Hathaway (9)
1. Amy Adams (NR)

Comments: It was quite a year for young leading ladies, and watching several movies featuring my new top two made a big difference. Zooey Deschanel is a very interesting actress, and it probably helps her cause that I recently watched (500) Days of Summer.

And now, for the men, which is a more difficult list to complete.

Honourable mentions: Matt Damon; Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Bill Murray
Off the list: Will Smith (9), Jack Black (7), Josh Brolin (10)

13. Johnny Depp (NR)
12. Brad Pitt (NR)
11. Clive Owen (NR)
10. Sam Rockwell (6)
9. Steve Carell (NR)
8. Adrien Brody (NR)
7. Jeff Bridges (NR)
6. George Clooney (8)
5. Viggo Mortensen (4)
4. Leonardo DiCaprio (5)
3. Christian Bale (2)
2. Daniel Day-Lewis (3)
1. Philip Seymour Hoffman (1)

Most of the major movement on this list came in the bottom half, although the top 5 are in a slightly different order. I had forgotten about Jeff Bridges for awhile; then I rewatched The Big Lebowski and saw Crazy Heart. I still find it interesting that there are far more actors I follow than actresses, and that most of my favourites are serious actors who occasionally do comedy, with Carell the only exception (a comedic actor who occasionally does drama). Anyway, those are the lists for now!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Decade of Drivin'

This February marks the 10th anniversary of an historic event in my life: getting my driver's license. On February 9, 2000, I earned my right to drive a vehicle on my own on my second try in my beige 1980 Plymouth Horizon (later to be named Pierre), and I have not looked back since. I remember the freedom I felt suddenly, as I could actually drive myself places without depending on rides from my parents or friends. Sure, I had to co-ordinate my driving schedule with my parents, who allowed me to use the car, but life was good. I have a lot of fond memories of those first six months of driving, including some that I now look back on as incredibly stupid, like driving two blocks while having a friend ride on the top of the car with his fingers gripping inside the sun roof. I had my discman with a tape adaptor plugged in, and I rocked some tunes but good - I remember a lot of the O.C. Supertones' Chase The Sun and Tooth and Nail's Cheapskates samplers, especially the Project 86 song "Play On". Those six or so months were probably the most carefree I have ever been - I had expendable income, no mandatory expenses, and a way to get to places where I could waste time with friends. I remember that period of my life really being the time in which I felt like I was able to really become an independent person, and driving a car had a lot to do with that. I also took a lot of pride in my boxy, slightly cheesy mode of transportation; the studs and jocks and preps could have their Mustangs and Sunfires and Tiburons, but I had a Horizon. And I could see far past it. I've had a lot of great experiences driving over the past decade, with only two collisions - one that I caused - and some very near-misses and adventures along the way (blue smoke from Pierre's tailpipe at 140 kph on the highway), but I do not think that anything matches up to the sheer joy of those first six months of cruising the mean streets of Saskatoon.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2009: The Year In....Music!

(I know, I know, it's late this year. But I'm still in the first part of the year, so I'll count it.)

I wonder if I can add much new material to my musical repertoire these days. Although I listened to 50 albums that were released in 2009 over the course of the past year (about an album a week, which is my goal), only eight were by artists who were new to me. Furthermore, only three or four of those stuck with me, and most of them were artists who had been on my radar before the year began. I think it is increasingly more difficult for new music to edge its way into my listening, especially because I buy far fewer CDs now than I did even three years ago. (Is it a coincidence that three years is the same amount of time that I have been out of school and engaged/married? Probably not.) So this year's list is full mostly of familiar faces and names, rather than new cutting-edge material; it's kind of predictable, but I think it is justifiable. So on with the list!

F. The exceptions: there are a few albums that I have not had the chance to hear yet, and some of which would likely end up in my top 10. There are only a few, but there are some albums of note in this category. Chantal Kreviazuk – Plain Jane; Mae - (m)orning, (a)fternoon, (e)vening EPs; The Mountain Goats – Life of the World to Come; ; Animal Collective – Merriweather Post-Pavilion; Death Cab – The Open Door EP; The Dear Hunter – Act III: Life and Death; Iron & Wine – Around the Well.

E. "Ugh" to "Meh": At worst, these albums were unlistenable. At best, mediocre, perhaps with a couple of really good tracks. Some of them may be really good albums that didn't catch my attention. Alexisonfire – Old Crows/Young Cardinals; Bob Dylan – Together Through Life; Ben Harper + the Relentless7 – White Lies…; Brand New – Daisy; Chris Cornell – Scream; Creed – Full Circle; Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King; Franz Ferdinand – Tonight; Mars Volta – Octahedron; Our Lady Peace – Burn Burn; Skillet – Awake; Them Crooked Vultures; Thursday – Common Existence; Tragically Hip – We Are The Same.

D. There were a few albums that intrigued me, but didn't catch me enough to buy them. I'd pick them up for cheap sometime, just not right away. Chevelle – Sci-Fi Crimes; FOTC – I Told You I Was Freaky; Jars of Clay – The Long Fall Back To Earth; Matisyahu – Light; Moby – Wait For Me; Neon Horse – Haunted Horse…; Needtobreathe – The Outsiders; Seabird – Rocks Into Rivers

C. There are some albums I really enjoy, mostly by artists I have liked in the past. Collective Soul – Collective Soul; David Crowder Band – Church Music; Emery – …In Shallow Seas We Sail; John Reuben – Sex, Drugs & Self-Control; Killswitch Engage – Killswitch Engage; Lights - The Listening; Mat Kearney – City of Black & White; Mika – The Boy Who Knew Too Much; Owl City – Ocean Eyes; Project 86 – Picket Fence Cartel; Relient K – Forget & Not Slow Down; Switchfoot – Hello Hurricane; Tripmeter – End Of Everything We Are

B. Albums that are so close to my top 10 and might sneak in there someday.
As Cities Burn – Hell or High Water
Dark Was The Night
Patrick Watson – Wooden Arms
Swell Season – Strict Joy

My top albums of the year:
David Bazan – Curse Your Branches
Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
Derek Webb – Stockholm Syndrome
Fiction Family – Fiction Family
Mewithoutyou – It’s All Crazy!...
Muse – The Resistance
Mute Math – Armistice
Thrice – Beggars
U2 – No Line on the Horizon
Wilco – Wilco (the album)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Review: Crazy Heart

Sometimes, a performance is so utterly compelling, so completely encapsulating, so pitch perfect (pun intended) that it transcends even a moderately flawed film and elevates it far beyond its natural trajectory. Crazy Heart is a great independent film that does not really say or do anything new; even the idea is a little stale: a washed-up singer making a tour and trying to make it through a humdrum life day by day, until he meets someone who changes his life around. It's not an original concept at all, and the filmmakers have openly identified the source of their inspiration (other than the 1987 book) as singers such as Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, and Waylon Jennings. But as soon as the film opens, there is no doubt that the character far outstrips the story.
Under rookie director Scott Cooper's guidance, Jeff Bridges' performance as Bad Blake is far and away the best of the year, and he deserves every bit of critical accolade and Oscar love he gets. From his opening lines, Bridges eats, sleeps, breathes, and even urinates as Bad; there is not a doubt for a moment that this is Bad Blake, and that he has been writing, singing, drinking, and touring for 35 years. Bridges' performance is sheer mastery; to use an overused cliché, "this is the role he was born to play" - other than The Dude. Bridges' singing performance is similarly impressive: he drawls and gasps like a country singer does, and his swagger and bravado echo the cowboy mentality of "pure" country music. I would not be surprised if some viewers think, as a result of Bridges' performance, that Bad Blake was a real person. It often happens that one great performance begets another, and that is true of Maggie Gyllenhaal's role of Jean Craddock. Gyllenhaal continues to grow into one of the most fascinating young actresses today, and plays opposite Bridges very well. Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell (whodathunkit?) contribute servicable, though forgettable turns as Blake's best friend and protegé, respectively. Duvall's involvement seems mostly to be twofold: he produced the film, and it serves as a self-referential wink to Duvall's turn as a beleaguered country singer in 1983's acclaimed Tender Mercies. Although I wish he would have brought more to his role, his part is small, and his current shortcomings do not damage the film.
As to the film itself, it is impressive for a first feature. It makes a couple of mistakes along the way - the film's conclusion feels more like an unnecessary coda than a needed resolution, and some of the filming could have been improved - but the film also holds its own against Bridges' intensity.
Of course, one of the primary appeals of a film like this is the music, which delivers. It helps that I love old-time country music, and Bridges and his writers (Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett) help bring this music to life. The songs feel like the kind of songs that I have heard many times over the years, and there is an immediate connection between the viewer and Blake as a musician. It is the kind of soundtrack that elevates a movie, much like Once or In The Wild, and the music will likely become the primary way I relive the film.
It is an interesting note that this film was initially intended for straight-to-video release. It was purchased by Fox Searchlight, who chose to put it into theatres. I find it interesting that a movie like this - with a performance like this - almost ended up on the refuse heap but was reclaimed and now will be lionized in Academy lore when Bridges (and likely Bingham for "The Weary Kind", the theme song) wins his long-overdue Academy Award in March. I also find it interesting that Bridges may have been helped in some ways by backlash from last year's Oscars, when the Academy just could not find it in themselves to give an award to Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler, despite a compelling performance with similar thematic material (a washed-up ______ trying to find redemption and renewal in the late years of his career).
Crazy Heart is a very entertaining, endearing, and at times poignant look into the life of a man who has lived hard and fast. It is a must-see for fans of country music, great acting, and tales where washed up ___________s try to make something of themselves. Jeff Bridges' performance is worth the admission alone, and he again makes sure that he is mentioned in the list of most consistently impressive actors working for the fifth decade in a row. Now I think all I have to do is view Walk the Line again and find a copy of Tender Mercies to watch.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Freakonomic approach

I just finished reading Superfreakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's follow-up to their hugely successful book Freakonomics. As in the first book, which looked at subjects such as crack dealing, abortion, cheating schoolteachers, and the role of parenting in society, the new book examines some touchy subjects: prostitution, climate change, terrorist acts, and human apathy triumphing over altruism. And, in their established style, Levitt and Dubner use many different resources to make their points in an almost non-sequitur manner: all of these little examples, when evaluated together, point to a larger truth. They use economic theory to describe social behaviour, and they do, indeed, look at the "hidden side of everything". What I find really interesting is that Freakonomics seems to be the manifestation of a change in worldview, not just a book. The authors, as well as the other contributors on the Freakonomics blog, indicate that this way of viewing the world is necessary for our world's socio-economic well-being. This model is duplicated by writers such as Malcolm Gladwell and Mark Penn (Microtrends), and more and more new media is fixated upon uncovering the truth behind a facade of statistics. I find myself increasingly drawn toward the worldview embodied in the Freakonomic approach, and I thoroughly enjoy looking at the world around me with a quizzical and sometimes skeptical point of view. I still have a lot to learn - after all, I'm not a trained sociologist or economist - but I am learning how to see the world Freakonomically. And I like it.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Paradigm shift

There are a few times in life in which you are forced by circumstances to undergo an adjustment to a new reality of the world around you. Some are welcome, and take a lot of preparation - marriage, going to college, having kids; some are sudden and violently disturb the relative tranquility of your life in an unmistakeable and painful manner - death, heartbreak, tragedy. These are the moments divide life into a "before" and "after" the event; they are catastrophic, exhausting, and thankfully relatively rare. I have had a few moments in my life that fit into this category, unfortunately: being unengaged; a phone call about a friend who committed suicide; having my pastor sit on my couch and tell me that he was going to die within two months; and likely when my dad injured his back (I was 6, so it's hard to remember). I had another moment like that on the weekend, out of the blue. My cousin, who has a history of mental illness, seems to have murdered his father. I do not know many of the details, but perhaps it is better this way for now. I do know that life will not be the same now. Whatever the verdict may be, he is likely to spend most of his adult life in an institution, and our family will have to adjust to the new reality of his present absence. There's no way to fit this kind of event into any existing paradigms I have, other than what I have seen in TV and movies. That is what is almost unbelievable: it's not reality, it's hyper-reality. It's so real it's unreal, and it cannot make sense in any way, shape, or form. Part of the process of working through this is changing my paradigm: it can happen close to home, and it shakes the foundations of your being just to have it happen in your family. It might mean that I watch TV differently from now on, too. But this is part of the shift - I don't know how it will shift, but I know that things are not the same anymore. All I can do is wait for what happens, and depend on the Lord to guide me. If you're a praying person, please pray for my family, especially Jason.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Review?: A Serious Man

It has been almost a month since I watched A Serious Man, and I'm still figuring it out. It's the kind of movie I am not even sure I can review, since the film is so non-conventional, disconcerting, and hilarious. It's the kind of movie that stays with you and comes up at odd times in random quotations. It is the Coens' funniest film other than The Big Lebowski, and possibly their most poignant and perplexing picture, period.
As usual, the Coens have given great detail to the look and feel of the film, and the immediate sense is that it actually is midwestern 1967 America. Most of the Coens' usual technical collaborators are here again - including Roderick Jaynes (wink, wink) - and the film looks and feels like it is exactly how they envisioned it. That's how the Coens work - meticulous attention to detail and nuance - and it works in a film like this that is so dependent upon small details to succeed. That's where their script, along with a dynamite lead performance from Michael Stuhlbarg as Larry Gopnik, brings the film to fruition.
What is interesting to me is that this film has both intensely personal and wide appeal. It exists in a Jewish world that is full of Goys, a religious world that is increasingly invaded by the secular, a controlled world that becomes increasingly chaotic - without ultimate resolution. It covers life, love, death, meaning, purpose, adultery, gambling, mental illness, integrity, and mail-in record clubs. It is full of trivialities that have much more meaning than one might guess, and generalities that are more meaningless than one might hope. It is existential and immediate. It makes allusions to David, Job, and Jefferson Airplane with aplomb and agility; it both empowers and empathizes with Jews and Gentiles alike. It is serious and silly, and this is where the film has its power: in the juxtaposition of oxymorons and the presence of unknowable answers to unfathomable questions. ("Dybbuk?")
I have read a lot of reviews on this film, many of which try to summarize and categorize and formalize and rhapsodize, but I think the true genius of the film is that it defies all of those attempts. It is comfortable with being uncomfortable and ultimately unresolved, leaving questions unanswered (or even unasked). It is perhaps the second best of the Coens' tragicomedies (Fargo is first), and a film that must be viewed repeatedly to be enjoyed and perhaps understood along the way. I am truly glad to see that it has been nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards (even if the nomination is the result of an expanded field of nominees), because it shows that there are people who love good cinema. And A Serious Man is seriously one of the best and most quotable of them all. "I've tried to be a serious man!"

Canadians like Games, Too, Eh?

I had a dream become reality last week. Since I have been ten years old, I have loved GAMES magazine. I have bought or subscribed to the magazine fairly consistently, and since I was young, I have wanted to have a letter published in an issue. Letters can be published if someone sends in a mistake they have found, or a creative alternate solution to a puzzle, or an entertaining diatribe. And the letter that I wrote that was published in the current issue is a little bit of the last two! That's right! I got a letter published in GAMES magazine! One of my life goals is now done. I know it's really dorky that being published in GAMES was one of my dreams, but it's done, and I'm super-pumped about it! Here's the text of the letter, or you can check out the April 2010 issue on newsstands now!

As a longtime devoted fan of your magazine living north of the 49th parallel (although I suppose that I am currently slightly south of that line) and a Canadian Social Studies teacher, I was overjoyed to see that the March 2010 issue featured a cover puzzle on Canada as well as a feature quiz (Canada, Eh?). Although I was dismayed to see that there were no Canadians on the front beyond common American pop cultural awareness (where were Frederick Banting, Terry Fox, Don Cherry, or Tommy Douglas?), I was even further dismayed at some of the errors in the Canada, Eh? quiz and answers. According to Question 9, The Great White North was a movie about Canada, which is wrong on two counts: the film's name was Strange Brew, and it was not about Canada, per se. It was about two luckless losers who happened to embody almost every stereotype about us Canucks. Granted, Bob and Doug are cultural heroes here, but to say that the movie is about Canada is like saying that Dumb and Dumber is about the USA. Those errors are slightly more forgiveable than the egregious mistake found in the answer to the extra credit part of question 10: the athlete pictured is not Bobby Orr, as stated; he is Sidney Crosby, captain of the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, the youngest player to captain an NHL team to the title. Don Cherry would surely give you a piece of his mind on Coach's Corner if he read your magazine; for now, my letter will have to suffice. And thanks for making me smile.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Oscars 2010: the nominees

Another year, another awards season, and another Oscars. It's hard to believe that this is my sixth year blogging the Oscars. I took a quick look back at my five years of predicting, and here's what I found.
2005: 7/9, missed Picture and Original Screenplay
2006: 7/9, missed Picture and Supporting Actress
2007: 5/9, missed Picture, Actor, Supporting Actor, Animated Feature
2008: 6/9, missed Adapted Screenplay, Actress, Supporting Actress
2009: 8/9, missed Actor
On several of those misses, I picked the wrong one out of the two I was debating about, and I have picked the right Director every year. I'm proud of my record, but this year might be a challenge. I'll begin with my early comments on the big nine nominations.

Best Picture: Well, the experiment has begun - 10 Best Picture nominees. From the looks of the other nominations, the five that would have been nominated are Avatar, Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, Precious, and Up in the Air. A Serious Man is nice to see there, as is An Education and Up! - these are the kind of movies that would often have to settle for nominations for less prestigious awards. District 9 and The Blind Side seem to be there only for shameless pandering to audiences, which is unfortunate. The early leader is Avatar, and it seems like the only way it would not win is in a strange split vote. Look for the main competition to come from Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker.

Best Actor: It seems to be a contest between Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Jeff Bridges as country singer Bad Blake. Bridges has had a nice run lately, and he has never won an Oscar; Freeman has only won a Supporting Actor, and the Academy loves themselves some biopics. My sense is that Bridges gets the award, but that could shift at anytime. But the real story is who is not nominated: Michael Stuhlbarg, who carried A Serious Man, and Viggo Mortensen for The Road (which was completely shut out).

Best Actress: This category tends to be a "let's make ourselves feel good and give this to a happy actress" award. Sandra Bullock (gah!) seems to keep up the tradition this year, though Meryl Streep could challenge her. I'm hoping that Bullock either embarasses the Academy by completing the Razzie-Oscar double-win, or that she gets Norbited.

Best Supporting Actor: Memorable villains have a way of being memorialized in this category recently - Heath Ledger as The Joker, Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh. Christoph Waltz was the chilling backbone of Tarantino's film as Hans Landa, the Jew Hunter, and he should win despite competition from Matt Damon.

Best Supporting Actress: This is perhaps the most unpredictable category. They might go with the favourite, Mo'Nique, as a nod for Precious, or they might throw it open and go for Maggie Gyllenhaal. I think this is probably a predictable year.

Best Directing: I love that Jason Reitman is nominated again, but it's not his time...yet. I think it's very possible that Bigelow will become the first woman to win the award, and that she will vindicate ex-wives everywhere as she humbles her ex, James Cameron. Then again, he might win. It's a crapshoot.

Best Animated Feature: Up! will fly away with this one. But it is encouraging to see Wes Anderson get a nomination, and a truly quality slate of nominees.

Best Adapted Screenplay: It's between Precious and Up in the Air, and I'm not sure which one to pick. I'm leaning toward Precious.

Best Original Screenplay: Though I think The Hurt Locker will give it a challenge, I think the Basterds will take this one. The Oscars loves a reclamation story, and QT has been waiting since Pulp Fiction to get back to this place. Maybe my opinion will change once I watch The Hurt Locker, though.

Other observations: I think there's a good chance that Avatar will come close to a sweep of its nine nominations, taking any technical awards for which it is nominated. And it seems, with a couple of public pandering exceptions, that the Oscars got it right on the whole. As much as I complain about the politicization of the films (and they are), and the occasional misfire about every five years or so, the Academy generally gives credit to well-made films, and they are usually more right than wrong in their nominations.

Films I need to watch: I have seen five of the ten Best Picture nominees, and three of the five biggies, so I don't have many left to go. Also, the nominees only added one new film to my list to see (The Messenger), so I'm pretty happy with how aware of good movies I actually am. The movies I really want to see in the next five weeks are, in order: District 9, The Hurt Locker, Crazy Heart, An Education, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Precious. I don't know if I'll get through all of them, but I'll do what I can. It promises to be a fun month!

Monday, February 01, 2010

Razzed out

The nominations are out for the Razzie Awards, which "celebrate" the worst in film - just before the best get recognized at the Oscars. And, as usual, the list is putrid and schlocky. (An interesting side note to this year's Razzies is that there is a decent chance that Sandra Bullock could win the Worst Actress and Best Actress trophies on successive nights for different films, something that has never been done before.) And, as usual, I have not watched any of the nominees. I take it as a point of pride that it is exceedingly rare that I watch bad movies - at least not classically bad ones. I think it has been over a year since I have watched a movie I hated (Tropic Thunder, I think), and 2007 was the last year in which I had movies in my "un-rewatchable" category. Well, maybe I should include X-Men: Origins - Wolverine in that category...but I digress. Sure, I have watched a number of films that are forgettable, or even slightly regrettable, but I have gotten much better at not watching crappy movies. I take it as a point of pride that I mostly watch films that are worth watching. I suppose it helps that I have much less time in which to watch movies now than I did years ago when I watched more bad movies, but I think a lot of it is that I can recognize when a movie sucks. And I hope I can continue to help others realize that, too.

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