Yesterday I went to see Bridesmaids. Before reading reviews of the film I was convinced that given its all-female cast (including Kristen Wiig, who has managed to be in a record-setting 117% of all Saturday Night Live sketches) and Judd Apatow association, the movie would be unfunny and extremely long. Allow me to say I was wrong on the first part. It was solidly funny. Not great, or classic or even in the class of The Hangover or Old School (for my money the absolute best of the frat-ensemble style comedies of the last decade), but there were plenty of funny moments. Sadly, many of the funny moments seemed Apatow-ish in the inability to leave the audience wanting more. Several scenes, including one in which two friends compete in outdoing each other’s engagement party toasts, exhibit an inability to stop at three funny jokes and instead go for nine. Like microcosms of Apatow movies which always seem to go on about twenty-five minutes too long, the scenes demonstrate that there can be too much of a good thing. I won’t spoil the film, but I will say that it is a funnier movie than it is a quality movie which, for a summertime comedy, is probably more important.
But rest assured, just because I was not given enough from Bridesmaids to be angry about doesn’t mean that my movie going experience was a total wash. I saw two previews at Bridesmaids that represented a new low for Hollywood. The first was for a new film called Warrior. Here is the trailer:
Every sport was around for decades before inspirational movies came out about it. Rocky was 100 years in the making, Hoosiers was 40 years, but MMA gets its Rocky approximately 7 weeks later (rough estimate). But given its rich tradition of 3 pay-per-view events and some backyard brawls on YouTube they are ready for their close up. Granted, the movie is a genius marketing strategy (why wait for the sport to earn the movie, we’ll make the movie and bring movie people to the sport), but it is also obvious that the movie has to be a piece of sh*t. Here’s why:
1) It tells you the entire story. Any movie that tells you the entire plot in the preview is a bad movie. This is an ironclad rule that has been 100% accurate ever since the preview for Macaulay Culkin’s “Ritchie Rich.”
2) MMA is not inspiring. Sports that take about ten minutes time to end do not have the requisite time build up for inspiration, no matter how heavy-handed the soaring violin music is in the preview. Yo Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman doing the soundtrack for Bloodsport would not have made it The Natural.
3) Lights Out Syndrome – The movie looks exactly like someone copied the plot of the FX series Lights Out. Although I liked Lights Out, copying a series that got cancelled after one season does not seem like a blue print for success.
The other notable movie preview was just flat out insulting. It was for the new Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake tour de force – “Friends With Benefits.” Here is the preview:
You may recongize this as a remake of a movie that came out 4 months ago:
Which was inspired by part of a movie that came out two months before that one:
Most geeks thought it absurd when The Hulk was re-made/re-booted a mere five years after the Ang Lee disaster. Well, apparently the romantic comedy audience appears much more tolerant. These movies pretend to flip the romantic comedy on its head and make it more modern, but it is the same story over and over again with the same happy ending (the modern exception being 500 Days of Summer, the best romantic comedy I’ve ever seen and the only known antidote for the poison that is the three above films). I guess my weekly movie advice would be two things I did not expect to write: go see Bridesmaids, but skip the trailers.
If you read this blog regularly you should know that the first thing I hope (and certainly expect) from the 2010 Oscars is a prominent role for the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling ” in the pre-show hype fueled montage.
My biggest hope is that during the Oscars someone comes out and says, “By the way, The Blind Side is actually not nominated for Best Picture. That was a big joke. And also, An Education was extremely boring and we apologize for nominating that so congratulations 500 Days of Summer and The Messenger – you are actually nominated for Best Picture.” Not going to happen, but here are my predictions for the major awards and what should occur (within the realm of possibility):
I would be OK withany of the following winning in descending order of preference: District 9, Up In The Air, Inglourious Basterds, Up, Precious, Avatar, The Hurt Locker.
I think Inglorious Basterds is going to win in what I will call the “Norah Jones Strategy.” In 2002, the Best Album Grammy went to Norah Jones despite The Rising by Bruce Springsteen and The Eminem Show being nominated. I think voters split on Eminem and Sprinsgteen leaving a plurality to Norah Jones.
The Hurt Locker has a lot of momentum and Avatar is the most financially successful film of all time. But I think people who put The Hurt locker first would not have Avatar second and I do not think people that vote Avatar first would have The Hurt Locker second. But those voters who put either of those first could very well put Basterds as their second choice. And since Quentin Tarantino is a Hollywood favorite and an original I think he could pick up some small percentage that think it is time he won a big prize so I am putting my money on Inglorious Basterds to edge out Avatar and The Hurt Locker.
Jeff Bridges is going to win the Oscar that Mickey Rourke should have won last year. Jeff Bridges is a really good actor and it will be nice for him to win.
I would vote for Clooney for Up In The Air. It was his best acting job yet and finally fulfilled all the love that Hollywood had bestowed prematurely on his high brow films (which were generally sort of boring -Michael Clayton, Good Night and Good Luck and Syriana were all overrated, relatively boring movies, but Hollywood loves the high school quarterback who also hangs out with the geeks and that has been Clooney for the past decade). And the look that Clooney gives his lady friend when he meets her at her house was one of my favorite acting moments of the year.
This is a two horse race. Meryl Streep was great in Julie and Julia and this is her 134th nomination. She has won twice, but I think it is time she get another win. She is like the Michael Jordan of actresses – she should win the MVP every year, but doesn’t because some obscure actress did something obscure and artsy or some pretty actress got fat, or naked, or sassy. And with that let’s discuss the other best actress front runner – Sandra Bullock.
Sandra Bullock was a B+ in The Blind Side, which was good because the movie was a C/C-. But other than a benign racism that is sweeping the country (“Hey, we voted for a black guy, we like movies where white people save black people – damn we are awesome white folk!”) I do not understand why Meryl Streep is not guaranteed a third Oscar. If you need ant other reasons not to root for Sandra Bullock and/or The Blind Side please watch this:
So I am going to go with what is right and say Meryl Streep over Bullock.
Best Supporting Actor
Christopher Waltz from Inglourious Basterds might be an even bigger favorite than Heath Ledger last year. What a great performance – he is the front runner and deserves to be. He was so good that the Academy is considering granting him a Polanski (“a pass for a rape of a minor based on high quality work”). I enjoyed Woody Harrelson in The Messenger and must admit I did not see The Last Station yet, but am glad to see Christopher Plummer nominated (in my mind his lack of a nomination for The Insider is still the biggest snub I can remember).
Best Supporting Actress
Mo’Nique in Precious. Also a no-brainer. The most raw performance I think I have ever seen. Her motivation may have come from the fact that Mo’Nique’s husband has a hairy leg fetish, which probably means he is on the down low. That would make most women pretty angry, but Mo’Nique took it to another level. The only thing that may detract from this for Academy voters is that the film is very black in both mood and casting. It is sort of the Anti-Blind Side.
Without ten nominees to thin the voting, this will be between James Cameron (Avatar) and Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker). I enjoy the fact that they were married and that I think James Cameron bounced. That will make it even more painful if she has to lose to him, which I think she will. The breadth and technological advancements and sheer volume of time spent on Avatar should give it to Cameron.
I might go for Tarantino or Reitman (Up In The Air) with my vote. Which I don’t have. But Avatar is pretty hard to deny.
Best Animated Feature
The only thing that would make me madder than a Blind Side victory in any category would be Fantastic Mr. Fox winning here. I think Wes Anderson films are incredibly irritating, though Mr. Fox was relatively enjoyable. But Up’s first 15 minutes alone crush the competition.
A moment of silence for Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, which was ignored and not even nominated.
Best Adapted Screenplay
I think Precious should and will win here because form what I have heard the original text is written in the first person and might pose a challenge to make into a quality film, which they did. However, the hilarious and extremely clever In The Loop, as well as the most original film of the year, District 9 would make me happy as well. Fu-k An Education.
Best Original Screenplay
Inglourious Basters should win and almost definitely will win. Part of me is rooting for Up though. It is about time Pixar got recognized for being the most consistently original and great film studio.
I genuinely can’t remember any of the scores, so here is my list of my favorite scores of all time (shut up Star Wars fans):
1) The Last of The Mohicans
2) Brokeback Mountain (the score literally could have been called “sad and lonely cowboy”)
3) Chariots of Fire
Alright – there it is a comprehensive list of the categories you care about. If you want incessant humorous commentary by me during the Oscars – check out www.twitter.com/JLCauvin
I thought this year was a really good year for movies, despite the garbage that was listed on this site yesterday. Before getting to the top 10 movies of 2009 (and the decade) here are some special (mostly positive) awards for movies in 2009.
Most Surprisingly Good Movies (in no particular order)
1)This Is it– Thoroughly enjoyed the concert (rehearsal) documentary about Michael Jackson. Great music and a worthy tribute to the fallen icon and aficionado of play dates with tweens.
2) Taken– The Liam Neeson film is a perfect example of how a movie that has no ambition, only one star and a simple plot can still deliver if it just tries to do the simple things well. And the scene where he shoots his friend’s wife to show that he means business was one of the best this year.
3) Crank 2– Either the most ingenious quasi-spoof of action movies ever or just a ridiculously entertaining goof. Either way I had no idea that I would enjoy this movie as much as I did. It now validates Jason Statham’s work visa to me, though his films have only grossed slightly more than my YouTube videos.
4) Drag Me To Hell – This Movie almost made the top 10. Funny, creepy, gross, and all on purpose. A good, but not great movie. However, there were very few movies I enjoyed more than this one.
The Any Given Sunday Award For Most Disappointing Movie Based On Awesome Trailer
Watchmen. Blue genitals and a waste of time is all I remember from this movie. The trailer, however, was perfection.
The Two Towers Award For Great Trailer That Delivered Great Movie
Nothing. But The Men Who Stare At Goats was my favorite trailer of the year and the movie was solid, but still did not meet expectations.
2009 Honorable Mention (A/K/A The Unpaid Guestspot of Movie Awards)
Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Two Lovers, Food Inc., State of Play
2009 Top Ten Movies
10) (tie) Sugar, The Messenger
Sugar is the story of a Dominican immigrant seeking to become a baseball star. Came out early this year to rave reviews, but has long been forgotten. Anyone who is a baseball fan or interested in the immigrant experience should see this. Or just hang out by Yankee Stadium.
The Messenger is the best war movie this year. It is about two soldiers who report to next of kin of the loss of loved ones. The things people do for work in this economy. Really strong and simple movie.
9)Capitalism: A Love Story.
This movie is a reminder that America used to be a place where a middle class person could thrive (middle class meaning one blue collar job with could salary and benefits, not $5 million dollars or less like John McCain seemed to think). Now thanks to a selfish, never too rich mindset the wealth is more concentrated at the top than ever before. Sadly for working Americans and Michael Moore, America is one big casino and the house always wins.
8) 500 Days of Summer
The fact that Music and Lyrics was my favorite romantic comedy before this movie came out (yes I have seen Love Actually, but have not seen When Harry Met Sally yet – gasp!) may diminish my credibility in this genre, but I am probably not the only person telling you how great this movie is. Funny, heartfelt and thoroughly enjoyable. And the lesson of the film couldn’t be more optimistic: if you find yourself in a relationship with a cu-t, don’t worry because eventually you may go out with Derek Jeter’s girlfriend.
The selection most likely to anger people. First, yes I thought it was funnier than Borat. Second, the best opening of any film since The Dark Knight. As the techno music began blaring and the words “black guys” and “taint” flashed on screen I could not stop laughing. For many the film was too crude. Other complaints I heard was that Borat had a point in showing some ignorance in funny ways, whereas this just went for cheap laughs. Probably true. Perhaps it was easier to embrace a character who was exposing racism and sexism and, most flagrantly, anti-Semitism in Borat and feel good about laughing than in Bruno, where you are just laughing at the absurdity of a gay character’s libido on steroids. My advice to the self-righteous – take the champagne bottle out of your ass and watch Bruno pour some champagne out of his boyfriend’s.
6) Precious Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire
Fat, pregnant by her father (again – fool me once shame on him, fool you twice… shame on him again in this rare exception to that saying), illiterate and Mariah Carey as your social worker. And I thought being a comedian was tough. This movie is a powerhouse and Mo’nique’s performance is one of my three favorite this year (Christopher Waltz in Inglorious Basterds and Paul Rudd in I Love You Man being the other two). And I would like this movie to win Best Adapted Screenplay so that Sapphire, who probably negotiated the self-indulgent title has to hear the dumbest phrase ever uttered at an awards show: The winner is Precious Based on The Novel Push By Sapphire Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire.
The opening to this movie may be the most touching sequence in movies this year. It is just another great movie from Pixar. Normally stories of old men hanging out with young fat kids is awkward (think Herbert the Pervert and Chris Griffin from Family Guy as one such pairing), but this movie is nothing of the sort. Plus it has a talking golden retriever, which will always get support from me.
4) Inglorious Basterds
Christopher Waltz was amazing, but surprising to me was how good Brad Pitt was. A funny, intense, enjoyable movie about Nazis and the Jews that hunted them. It was also a welcome relief from the usual parade of mediocre, maudlin films about the Holocaust that are raised to critical praise because of the subject matter. After Schindler’s List I think Hollywood could have just waited for this one . After all slavery has had what, Roots and Amistad? I think 6 Holocaust movies come out last year alone. But I digress. Basterds is awesome (and my favorite Tarantino film – that is what I think, but I am also writing it because I want to anger those who worship at the altar of Pulp Fiction).
3) Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs
Even more than Bruno, this choice is likely to bring on some WTFs. I did not even want to see this movie, but then reviews kept talking about how much fun it was. The biggest shock of the year for me was this movie. It was hysterical from start to finish. It was like the humor of Family Guy, but not as crude or easy. I flirted with putting this #1, but the last two choices, upon reflection, were the two best movies of the year.
2) Up In The Air
I am tired of the “this is the movie that defines our times” type quotes, but besides that this is a great movie. George Clooney’s best (unlike his win for Syriana, no complaints if he gets Best Actor) and a movie that is so good that I cannot exactly explain why it is so good. Perhaps it is because it is a movie that defines our times… oops.
1) District 9
The most original movie I have seen in a long time. The biggest crime of the Oscars could be if Avatar gets a best picture nomination and this does not (if they only feel like honoring once sci-fi-ish film). Since it is #1 I don’t think it needs any explaining, other than the fact that it comes out on DVD today so you should rent it if you have not seen it.
TOP TEN MOVIES OF THE DECADE
10) School Of Rock – Along with The Wrestler, no movie has matched an actor better this decade than Jack Black and SOR.
9) The Departed – I hate the Boston accent, but that was the only thing I hated about this movie.
8) Eastern Promises– Russian mob in London and the best fight scene in any movie ever. Sorry Bourne Ultimatum. You were second.
7) Million Dollar Baby – The only movie that made me cry this decade (joining E.T., Glory and Dead Poets’ Society on the career list). Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank all at their best.
6) Traffic – A decade later the violence in Mexico is worse and the liberal pot smokers who abhor the violence of war or the treatment of chickens that are not free-range, but still help fund the cartels that propagate massive bloodshed in and around the border. This movie would go under the category of wake up calls unheeded. Great movie.
5) Finding Nemo– My favorite movie from the most consistently great movie studio.
4)4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days – I am not a big foreign film guy, but this was so intense and so good I regretted not speaking (Romanian if my recollection is correct) the language because even checking the subtitles was too much attention away from the acting.
3) The Dark Knight – I have never seen a movie in the theaters more than this one. And it’s not even close. Die Hard, The Matrix and The Dark Knight are the three films that changed and elevated action movies higher than any others in the last 20 years. To me, it was even more impressive to take action, the way Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger did, and turn it into art.
2) The Lord Of The Rings – Because of The Godfather III’s mediocrity this is the greatest trilogy of all time. Shut up Star Wars people. (and if I had to pick just one – The Two Towers).
1) United 93 – I have only seen two perfect movies in my lifetime. One was Amadeus, my favorite movie of all time. The other was United 93. I am not saying it is my favorite movie of all time; it would be hard to make that claim about a film focused on 9/11. But the realism, the intensity, the respectful rendering of an incredibly sensitive subject and the overall product was second to none this decade for me. In a sad way I guess it is fitting that the decade’s defining event yielded the decade’s best movie. Besides, a movie about our collective self-indulgence and self absorption called Twitter v. 3.05 would not be nearly as riveting.