Tag Archives: Academy Awards

Oscar Lite

L’académie! I finally had a moment to write concerning Oscar picks this year- theirs and mine- and yet all I wanted to do was speak of films from years past. Still, I pushed through having to only compose a few more thoughts about Best Picture this ’n’ that, when I abruptly decided not to post at all. I just didn’t feel it to be the enjoyable endeavor it once was. Perhaps next year will hold more of that “Je ne sais quoi.” Till then, I’ve chosen a few fragments for the telling amongst some of the very visual details enjoyed at our Oscar night shindig. Cinematic celebration!

“The

THE BEST PICTURE
12 Years a Slave, in every way. Most notably, its unique editing featuring sound bleeding over from one scene to the next. Disturbing sounds of anguish overlaying images of peaceful serenity only serve to highlight the barbaric nature of slavery all the more. And Lupita, Lupita, Lupita. That’s really all to be said.

Gravity– to trust what I witnessed on screen, to find it felt so natural and believable was a total visual treat. Bullock managed to provide a great bolster that though life may pass by nothing like we’d dreamed or imagined, we’re here for the briefest blip of time, so HANG ON. Finish the ride. Hope, even when it hurts.

“Tiered

“Gravity

AND LEO
My heart cried Chiwetel while my eyes glanced to Leo. It’s as though he channeled in portions of Jack Dawson and Gilbert Grape, while wrangling in a bit of Howard Hughes to embody that Jordan Belfort fella in The Wolf of Wall Street. The fact that Leo slithered Grinch-like across a lobby floor and down a set of stairs under heavy medication in an attempt to reach his vehicle and beyond is what nearly sealed the deal for me.

ON MERYL
Never ceases to amaze me, darn woman. There’s a point in August: Osage County– a misery of a film- where her character relays a troubling memory from childhood. She’s sat upon a bench, enjoying a cigarette and with each sway of the wrist, drag of the cigarette, each thoughtful pause in reflection, she’s able to offer a glimpse into the hell she knew that’s made her the mean hard woman of today. She’s transformative, and once again, no longer Meryl, but fully the character.

“Truffula

Note to the far right who was in attendance.

“Truffula

IT’S DOCUMENTARY, MY DEAR
The Act of Killing, hoo, boy. And you can quote me on that. Its bizarre premise in allowing war criminals to tell their past atrocities by reenacting them through their choice of film genre left me ready to bellow exploitation. And then the film reaches the end, humanity hits with no holds barred, leaving it to seemingly justify the means. Unless of course, the audience has just become the latest victim through the crafty manipulation of a seasoned war criminal playing a scene in true Hollywood style. One hopes not.

The importance to smile and laugh even in the face of dire circumstances

A PAIR OF SHORTS
I’ve never managed to catch the documentary shorts in the theatre so it was a happy first. I wasn’t disappointed, having cried in four out of the five selections. I could’ve written of each film presented and easily doubled the size of the original post. Rather, I’ll state my admiration for The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life. At 110, Alice Herz-Sommer was the oldest Holocaust survivor until she passed away a week to the day before the Oscars this year. She knew of passion’s hold on one’s heart (!), of the importance to smile and laugh even in the face of dire circumstances, that to hate is to hurt oneself more so than the object of hate (I needed this reminder), and that optimism reigns supreme. Her music wafting through the walls and halls must be missed dearly.

Karama Has No Walls spoke to me tremendously. University students who began a peaceful demonstration in what is now known as “Change Square” were attacked by government forces in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a back in 2011. We’re privy to the event itself, as much of the footage is taken by two of the demonstrators. The film reminds us that for each life lost, injured or maimed, there’s a family that loves that person desperately. It hurts each of those members just as much as it would hurt any other were such a thing to occur to them. Placing a relatable face on those that may become objectified by the media and by their physical distance from us is a necessity.

“Dame

Bad Grandpa, you should’ve had Makeup and Hairstyling in the bag, 4 out of 5 vending machines agree. Sorry, Tonto. ♦

“Bingo

It’s Never As Bad As It Looks.

“Sunlight

It’s never as bad as it looks.
Oh, I’m pretty sure that was worse. Call it a crummy way to start the new year. I almost lost my dad. A standard procedure he’d been putting off until after his ticker was fully mended, was nearly the end of him. It all went terribly wrong. Hope I’m not presumptive in proclaiming our having rounded third and nearing home, at long last. Shane’s observation of my dad’s doc being akin to Steve Zahn can only be a good thing, yes? Last year, I got to check out the portion of land surrounding the home where my dad grew up. The sun provided the best dappling by which to capture it all by.

“Slug”

Entering the tainment.
I was easily sidetracked with a simple glance downward where this big little guy was found munching away on lunch. You could even hear the crunch of the leaf which made for oddly novel entertainment. Just look at the number of texture types to be found on him! And to think, I’d previously dubbed slugs “the hidden enemy.”

“Apples”

You should seed this.
Ripe fruit for the picking. Count it the second year in a row now with less than desirable conditions coinciding and conflicting with my annual moviefest. The Oscar show itself, at least, seemed packed with references culled from a number of my own personal interests, the shiny cherry atop a soupy sundae.
 
Captain Kirk!
boobs & puppets (but not together)
Waltz- fellow astronomy aficionado- won
dancing
kilt-wearing
the HULK
Downey, Jr.
more dancing
the short film Curfew won
Did I mention Captain Kirk?
Zorro’s wife singing
Christopher Plummer ushered in by The Sound of Music

“Grass

Infrangible.
A single blade, both delicate and strong, enduring. A lone soldier in nature. And not a spit bug in sight.

“Barn

On my side.
My greatest gift and biggest enemy, simultaneously. Time. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it the domain of Murphy. I have dreams, does it not know? At times I seem running very fast just to stay in the same place. Yes, this is life- I always love it, but sometimes I don’t like it very much. It’s simply ravaged the side of this shed, though lovely it still is, with the addition of rusted nails, bits of moss and lichen, and flaked paint to boot. I’ve no lichen yet, but I am a bit rusty on a few things myself. ♦

Tilda Swinton Looks Like David Bowie and Other Obvious Observations

Nearly made the decision to forego my self-imposed Oscar ritual this year, when a first look at the nominations revealed I’d seen all but a handful. So, with that, here I am, another year, another Oscar, another two cents!

With no fraught and frenetic schedule to plan and produce in rushing about this town and that to view all the selected nominees as in years past, it was with unusual leisure that I arrived to see the last* film, Biutiful, in completion of the list. A sporadic bout of snow threatened to keep me away, but failed, nonetheless.

The Last One

Actors
I’d love to see Colin Firth, favored for the win, visit the stage to collect his Oscar for Best Actor. In the King’s Speech, as the future King George VI, known as “Bertie” to his loved ones, Firth does well to physically enact the struggles brought on by Bertie’s debilitating stutter. Two moments in particular, clinched it for me. One, Lionel Logue, portrayed by Geoffrey Rush, is an unorthodox therapist for his time, and therefore, in one particular instance, has Bertie sing instead of speak during conversation, only one of numerous exercises. Bertie sings out this horrific tale of past abuse by his nanny in childhood, and the absurdity of his carried tune paired with the words flowing from his mouth was a taste of cinematic perfection. Two, there are moments when Bertie is able to press passed the wall presented by his stutter to speak correctly. These moments are tied to times when his temper rises, when he’s pushed to declare aloud what he feels is the truth. In one such moment, he declares vehemently that he has a voice, and it makes you wanna laugh and cry all at the same time, because, of course, he does! In those words he hits the nail on the head. A voice in every sense, as a human to share his thoughts and impressions, and quite literally, a voice with which to do so, that he, at last, has found. A delicious triumph! Quite simply, as has been praised by others many times over since the film’s debut, Colin Firth helped in bringing humanity to an often removed and aloof section of the population, that of the Royal family, making the to-be king relatable to one and all.

A brief wonderment: Javier Bardem, who did a fine job in his nominated role for Biutiful, was reportedly touted and campaigned as Oscar worthy material by his friend Julia Roberts. She held a dinner to wine and dine those with clout and influence in hopes of earning him a nomination, as she’s done in the past with several others as well. Knowing the Academy’s ways over the years, how they tend to operate within a predictable set of criteria and employ their considerable influence when it comes to voting, I can see why one would take it upon themselves to make an attempt to change it, in turn, by employing their own considerable influence. However, in so doing, and with the passage of time and repetition, at some point does one realize they’re apt to become the very thing they were attempting to fight against?

Alex Eylar's Legos: The Fighter

In The Fighter, Christian Bale plays Dicky Ward, a former boxer hung up on a crack addiction, and older brother to that of Micky Ward, a would-be star boxer if he could only escape the entrenchment of his needy family. Bale lost weight for the role in order to exhibit the wiry frame of the real-life Dicky, and captures his characteristically frenetic and jittery physical qualities for the screen. Offering up a character-driven performance that juxtaposed Mark Wahlberg’s understated one as his brother Micky, his portrayal remains likable despite the bad-guy choices he makes repeatedly. He’ll be my choice for Best Supporting Actor come Oscar night. The film itself provided so much heart and hope and humor, it certainly deserves its Best Picture nomination.

Actresses
Though Natalie Portman’s a shoe-in to win Best Actress for her role in Black Swan, and I count several of her films among my favorites, I say, nay, nay, for reasons mentioned further on. So, with Portman out of the picture, I would have selected Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone in which she plays 17-year-old Ree Dolly, a girl caring for her two younger siblings and household due to her mother having mentally checked out while simultaneously attempting to locate her missing meth dealer-of-a-father in a matter of days before losing their home. Set in Southwestern Missouri, the desolate land seemed almost another character to contend with as Ree makes her way back and forth on foot from this place to that in an urgent and persistent search. I was anxious for her and revered her stubborn stance taken for justice in the face of overwhelming family loyalty and tradition. Unfortunately, in watching The Burning Plain in which she also starred recently, I found the performances comparable- both well done, but if one’s worthy of award, why not the other as well?

Alex Eylar's Legos: Winter's Bone

This leads me to a surprising Best Actress choice, as I generally dislike this woman: Michelle Williams for Blue Valentine. This stated dislike has not stopped me from still immensely liking several handfuls of her films over the years. Hooray for objectivity! Really, a desire for her to win is more a want for further recognition of this tragic and beautiful film. It’s poignant and hopeless and helpless in presenting a marriage plagued with the struggles of everyday existence when all inkling of any magic found has long since left and what remains seems nothing more than work, lacking reward enough to make it all seem worth it. What happens when one side of the relationship wants it to continue and the other’s throwing in the towel? It gets messy and no pat answers are contributed to soothe the audience, we get to sit and feel the struggle along with the couple and are left to wonder as they do.

*Rabbit Hole has fallen through that large crack between availability in theatres and release on DVD, and thus would and should be the true last film. C’est la.

Alex Eylar's Legos: Blue Valentine

Who I’d very much like to see win for Best Supporting Actress would be Hailee Steinfeld, she, along with the cast and crew helped take True Grit nearly straight off the book’s page and up onto the big screen. As Mattie Ross, a girl out to avenge her father’s murder, she employs the help of a U.S. Marshal. The way she punctuated certain words in dialogue, I believed her determination, and her practicality and narrative analysis of when she’d find herself in a particularly trying circumstance often resulted in humor. Am curious to see Steinfeld perform in another role, so as to have something to compare it to. In reading the novel, she’s much more of what I envisioned than the overblown optimism delivered by the young woman in the John Wayne version. True Grit got me back into a Western kick with a stack of great films now waiting out on the coffee table.

Alex Eylar's Legos: True Grit

Some Other Stuff
In the Animated Feature category, I found The Illusionist to be absolutely delightful- the animation style, the muted color palette, the scenery and wistful storyline. A magician meets a young lady amidst his travels and their relationship then unfolds in a father-and-daughter manner. Like many magicians, this fellow had a white wabbit, an especially ornery one at that. The attention to detail- a miniscule light bulb flickers among many others on the ceiling of a theatre’s outdoor entrance- and the play and use of light and shadow were easy to appreciate throughout. The slow pace could put some off, and at moments the passage of time was unclear, yet all the same, a pleasant surprise were it to take the little golden guy!

In other animation, adored the vintage style of Let’s Pollute in the Animated Short category, and found the thoughtful contemplation required of The Lost Thing to be endearing. Madagascar had such a carefree style about it, it made me believe I could create such an animation, too, and offered inspiration to do so. Shane is slightly ape over The Gruffalo from fond memories of the children’s book in childhood.

Gladly, it also shows how easily people can come back together when the right things are focused upon.

Film festivals of every kind have always been on the one day, someday list, having only gone to Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation several times many years ago now. Spent a night seeing the animation and live action shorts a few weeks back up in Seattle, and happy to have seen a line wrapped around the building filled with others wishing to do the same. So, in Live Action Shorts, The Crush was touching and sweet, featuring a little boy whose crush on his teacher may or may not play out to an ominous end. The boy’s affection possessed precisely the type of passion, intent, and follow through many a woman would like to find herself the object of, having me wonder the writer’s gender. God of Love‘s quirky plot filmed beautifully in black and white tells of a man in love who prays to God for help only to receive a box of darts. Looove darts! A modern day take on Cupid. It’s the first of my two favorites for the win. Second, Na Wewe follows a van full of folks traveling in Burundi during the mid 90’s when it must stop at a militia checkpoint. The militia wants to know who’s Hutu and who’s Tutsi, so as to kill the Tutsi, those “not like them.” The film makes a worthy point about the interrelation of humanity, and shows the foolhardiness of choosing to accentuate our differences as a people in order to cause division. Gladly, it also shows how easily people can come back together when the right things are focused upon.

In Costume Design, the number one thing I took away was from I Am Love, an Italian film, in which Tilda Swinton stars reminding just how very much she looks like David Bowie. Once I get past that, I may have something more thoughtful to yield in the way of this particular category. Possibly even costume related. Enquire within.

Alex Eylar's Legos: The Social Network

I’m nearly always disappointed in the selections for Original Song, though, Original Scores are quite another story. The Social Network. It’s due to my general beef with Facebook, because it often reflects parts of what I despise about humanity in gross terms- their tendency to go the way of sheep, to be filled with apathy and be perfectly all right with that- that I only relented and dragged myself to The Social Network at long last because of its Oscar nominations. In the opening credits, Trent Reznor’s name rolled by for film score and I leaned to Bean proclaiming “sellout” under my breath. Never happier to eat that word! A hefty portion in, I noted that the intensity that had built was largely from the way the score punctuated various moments, segued one scene to the next, and the music being distinctively Reznor is what gave the film its driving edge. Enjoyed the movie thoroughly and could see it taking Best Picture for mostly right reasons.

I’d say with age comes evolution, and therefore, allow an artist to develop new ways of growing

Lastly, for Documentary Feature, Exit through the Gift Shop, please! A documentary, a satire, a self-reflective bit of work about street art, and artists, Banksy, Mr. Brainwash- just go watch it- it all touches on points close to home concerning being true to one’s art versus selling out, and which is what, and by whose definition. Applying what’s at topic in this bit of filmage to that of Reznor-as-sellout above, I’d say with age comes evolution, and therefore, allow an artist to develop new ways of growing and producing their work, realizing that where there’s notoriety, there’s the public, and where there’s the public, the one of note can’t please all of the public all of the time.

Pictures
So, my dad calls up asking if I’d like to see a movie, a relatively rare thing as he’s quite straight-laced in what he chooses to view. A voracity for portions of history- Hitler, Mexico, and the Royals among them- had him eager to see the King’s Speech. With a full house, the trailers began, one being for Blue Valentine. As the trailer wraps up, Ryan Gosling croons You Always Hurt the One You Love and in the silence after his utterance of the final lyric “It’s because I love you most of all”, my dad loudly exclaims, “Gee, I hope not”. Never know just when he’ll strike, though, galleries and museums that verge on the edge of taking themselves a bit too seriously often fall prey. Enjoyed the first portion of the film tremendously as the trust and rapport was built between Bertie and Lionel. The angles chosen to frame the characters added visual interest as did the use of blues and greens. A history lesson with humanity, albeit an altered lesson, I’m rooting for its win!

Alex Eylar's Legos: The King's Speech

Give Original Screenplay to Inception, and as for Best Picture, let’s swap out Black Swan or The Kids Are Alright for The Town. Black Swan, I tell you, had I not known this particular film was from the likes of Darren Aronofsky, I wouldn’t have guessed it. Rather, thought it was in keeping with the likes of this year’s The Roommate, and not much more. Concerning Portman’s time dedicated to intensive ballet training in preparation of the part, bravo! Props to any and all actors and actresses who take the time to immerse themselves in their character’s world. Present them with an Oscar for it? No. If coupled with a phenomenal acting job, sure. She gave a relatively fine performance, though, I’ve seen her better- a scene comes to mind from Closer more award worthy than Black Swan, in fact. Though there was meant to be a transformation from the innocence of the white swan to the sensuality of the black, Portman gave no gradual hint of any such transformation, instead playing the part as a near quivering, fearful mouse-of-a-girl straight on through. Any transformation to have taken place is seen only in external devices- the red swan eyes and bits of a sprouting feather that tell us there’s something changing, but nothing much internally from Portman herself. Oddly enough, for all that training, she’s most often shot from the torso on up. Some have raved on that the film’s not about a young dancer at all, but instead the struggle of art within, the want and need to express it perfectly, and have deemed the piece a visual feast. I know well the desire and outright need of artistic expression and appreciate work that attempts to relay that to a public that may not always understand, putting them in an artist’s shoes, pointe shoes, in this case. Just didn’t find it as gratifying as others may have, and a visual feast, not in the least.

Alex Eylar's Legos: Black Swan

Tomorrow holds tickets to a downtown Oscar party in ritzy duds. Till then, I’ll soon be checking in on the Spirit Awards hosted by Joel McHale! Seattle pride bursting here. As a teenager, saw McHale perform many times at Pike Place Market’s Theatresports and loved the way he had with timing. Ah, timing, posting my thoughts the early morning of, now that’s some timing. ♦

Further work by Alex Eylar can be found on Flickr and at mocpages.

Waitin’ For the Crème

Last year, I stood outside a movie theatre in the still of the parking lot. Up in the dark night sky, sat the eclipsed moon emitting the deepest of warm reds and I was thoroughly transfixed. Lost track of time, wrapped up in thought staring above, until I heard someone ask, “Hey, what’s she starin’ at?” Looked down to find near twenty others standing around then as well all gazing up at the moon giving it its due. It was the start to an adventurous night filled with a handful of strange and wonderful happenings. It was just one in a line of similarly joyous outings to here, there and everywhere to view and then check yet another Oscar nomination from the list. It was with these memories that I looked forward to this year’s outings as well. Am sad to say, very few met my expectations this time around. As for the films viewed? The same could be said.

My number one take-away from the night is in the form of a negative- so glad that Avatar didn’t win Best Picture! Great movie, thoroughly enjoyed it. Oscar worthy? Technically speaking, give ’em a whole slew of awards for breaking new ground, and what not. The plot was more than decent, but even so, that extra Oscar “something” was missing. It’s the Academy Awards, not the People’s Choice.

Avatar

Inglourious Basterds

District 9

Were I forced to choose a Best Picture this time around, it’d be a hard go. Was on board with Inglorious Basterds for some time, but then that may merely be based on a penchant for Nazi history and all things theatre. Shortly entertained District 9 and Shane even got a temporary nickname out of it- the Sweetie Man (“hi, little guy!”). Enjoyed the satirical comparisons to society for one, and the action-adventure buddy schtick along with the deeper theme of a true love woven in, for another. Up was flippin’ wonderful, but I don’t envision ever rooting for a purely animated film as Best Picture. Though, who’s to say. Ultimately, may’ve chosen A Serious Man for Best, with its quirky dark humor and well set scenes. The Hurt Locker, winner of the bunch, I found to have some serious plot issues overall, though, I held high expectations throughout the first half of viewing. Couldn’t place Renner the entire time even after having seen him in 28 Weeks Later and S.W.A.T., until at last, discovered he’d portrayed Jeffrey in Dahmer, and the face was then placed.

A Serious Man

The Hurt Locker

Precious

In the acting department, Mo’Nique gave it good as an abusive mother in Precious. Her final scene in the film is what clinched her win for Best Supporting Actress for me. So difficult to sit and take in the venom she doled out time and again, most especially a scene including a newborn. I’ve cried at many a movie, but always well within containment. In viewing that scene, actual audible sound escaped my mouth. The only other film to elicit such a reaction was Saving Private Ryan in which I outright sobbed at the opening scene. So very glad that Precious was made as it gives a voice to more kids than can be named and the toxic environment that harbors their daily to-doings.

Just one of the many reasons I partake in this little Oscar ritual of mine

And to think I thought Penelope Cruz was a shoe-in as my pick for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Nine. Until I actually viewed Nine, that is. Nine‘s the big screen adaptation of the musical based on Fellini’s film , and follows a film director struggling with a creative block of sorts as he juggles a variety of women in his life. A musical taking place during the 60’s in Italy about the film industry and creativity, and starring Daniel Day-Lewis, talk about a near made-to-order film pour moi! Alas, no. Fair at best with few highlights. Just one of the many reasons I partake in this little Oscar ritual of mine, finding it eye opening to enter into something with certain ideas only to then come away with an entirely different view. Important practice for life.

Meryl, Meryl, Meryl. Streep! That woman, she continues to grow on me. She was excellent in her portrayal of Julia Child in Julie & Julia, she gave heart and wit to the woman, more than just an impersonation by far. Deserved the win for Best Actress. That said, am eternally torn between the thought that the best should win, as that’s the whole point, and the thought that it’s certainly nice to spread the wealth and allow others their shining moment as well. Enter, Sandra Bullock. A complete delight to behold- warm, funny, relatable, and darn pretty, yet not afraid to make an utter arse of herself in the name of comedy (yay!). But, always Sandra. Just as Julia Roberts is always Julia. Many actors are, which is totally fine (are themselves, not Julia). So it was with ambivalence that I viewed her nomination. In winning for her role in The Blind Side, her acceptance speech proved her to be eloquent, intelligent, generous, self aware, and script-free funny! Provided the speech wasn’t scripted …

Nine

Julie & Julia

The Blind Side

Must say that Stanley Tucci was excellent in The Lovely Bones and was second only to Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor in my book. Christoph portrayed his Basterds Natzi role with such relish! I was riveted to the screen whenever he appeared and he did well in making me despise the tines of that fork, in particular. For Best Actor, I’d like to have seen Colin Firth win for his role in A Single Man, he was subtle and nuanced, and the film itself was exquisitely filmed! The score along with many tightly cropped, classically captured close-ups, absolutely made it.

The Lovely Bones

A Single Man

Found that the foreign language, documentary, and short film categories held more interest this year than the full length features did perhaps leaving me with a new focus in the year ahead. We shall see. ♦

And Now, For a No Brainer …

Good God, let the man WIN! I’m talking Oscar gold, this coming Sunday evening, Best Supporting Actor, Heath Ledger, the Joker. C’est parfait!

My Lord, he’s glorious, the mannerisms, the movement of mouth and tongue, that wicked laugh, devious grin, maniacal makeup, dapper vest and nifty socks, looney nurse’s uniform. Ledger’s joker is chaos embodied. He took my expectations and surpassed them like very little has ever done before.

And love that pencil trick, mm-hhmmm. ♦

Heath Ledger