Saturday, March 13, 2010

60 Frank Welker Characters

I did this on Tumblr yesterday because it was Frank Welker's birthday. These are a mere 60 characters he's played. His stamp is all over my childhood. Thanks, Frank!

Anyone want to name them?

Creative Blogger Award

Oh no! Drake seems to have taken a mule kick to the head and given me a blog award for being creative. I am undeserving of any award that's not for most time wasted on the internet, but I'm also a greedy mofo and will take any award that orbits within my range.

Thanks, Drake! You're a fun blogger and an awesome Tumblr neighbor!

So, I must therefore pass this award to 7 others who deserve it more than I do. I'll try to avoid picking the same people as Drake has.

1. Mob @ Dear Bastards
2. Distributorcap @ Distributorcap NY
3. Splotchy @ I, Splotchy
4. Lee @ Quit Your Day Job
5. When Is Evil Cool?
6. Dr. Monkey @ Monkey Muck
7. Jaquandor @ Byzantium's Shores

I see I also need to give you seven facts about myself... Seems like I've given you rather a lot already, this blog being so personal it sometimes goes into the "overshare" realm. So I think I'll skip it and, let's face it, you can read all about me on whatever meme I end up doing next.

Man, I need a life...

Thanks, Drake! And thank that mule for me!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Four Years

I miss you every day, Ellen.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I Inspire!

Hot on the heels of my sudden and, frankly, baffling success with Godzilla Haiku comes a new Tumblr Blog that started yesterday: MST3K Haiku.

Man, I'm flattered that someone thought Godzilla Haiku was worthy of imitation. MST3K Haiku is awesome!

(This is probably the only time I'll be truly influential--well, that and how many sites have been inspired by my LOL Disney, including Nick Jonas Thinks, Joe Jonas Nurrs, Kevin Jonas Thinks, LOL Demi, T. Sweezy Thinks, etc. Man, I'm suddenly some kind of trend-setter. Took me long enough, I guess. Seriously flattering.)

Cherry Bomb

I didn't know until recently that Alia Shawkat was also in The Runaways. She's playing a character that I guess is supposed to be Jackie Fox if Jackie Fox had given them permission. I am so excited for this movie. Here's a video with Dakota Fanning knocking "Cherry Bomb" out of the park, much to my surprise. I'm impressed.

Random Thoughts

15 states (including, sadly, my own) have pending resolutions to deny global climate change. It's weird and sad; when I hear that a state legislature has a resolution to outlaw a scientific theory or fact, I think that's got to be a story about something that happened in 1891. But no, it's happening right now. Shit, it might as well be 1607 for all that people have advanced. Our toys get better, but America is still sinking in its own idiocy.

:: Speaking of problems in Illinois, things are just getting worse for teachers. Here in DeKalb, there's been another round of teacher layoffs, which makes the competition for work that much harder for us subs. Besides that, this nearly-bankrupt state is now proposing borrowing $5 billion, raising income tax, and cutting even more education. It looks like about 13,000 school workers are going to lose their jobs in Illinois. Plus, a lot of sports programs are being cut. You know things are bad for schools when they're finally cutting the sports programs, too. (And--surprise, surprise--it's the cutting of sports that are really bringing parents out to protest.)

It's like I said the last time I did one of these: I'm worried we're getting to a point where actually finishing high school is considered something of a luxury. This country is decimating its education system while corporations go unregulated and unchecked, destroying this country's economy. And given President Obama's recent spoken approval of the mass teacher firings in Rhode Island, I don't think he or his Secretary of Education (who actually praised the firings) are interested in fixing the problem.

To paraphrase The American President, Obama is so busy trying to keep his job that he's too busy to do his job.

Speaking of Obama and financial problems in Illinois, insurance companies here plan on raising their rates by as much as 60% per person, I guess just because they can. After all, a new study by Health Care for America Now [pdf] just announced that the premium increases that are now epidemic in America have nothing to do with the cost of health care. The study shows that premium rates have nearly doubled in the last 8 years, while medical costs have only gone up 40% and wages have only gone up 29%. Blue Shield is raising its rates by as much as 75%.

Boy, aren't you glad we don't have a public option? Not extorting people for money in the event that they ever need a hospital is wrong.

President Obama actually weighed in on this one, sending a letter to health insurance CEOs and giving a speech where he asked “How much higher do premiums have to rise before we do something about it?”

Great question, Mr. President. Here's another great question: If the health insurance industry is fleecing Americans out of their money, why are you supporting a health care bill that would force every American to become their customers?

Dennis Kucinich sums up EXACTLY what the problem is in this country and why this health bill shouldn't be passed. I wish more people who say they feel like he does would actually vote the way he does.

:: Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall said at a rally against Planned Parenthood funding that handicapped children are God's punishment to women who have previously had abortions. I don't understand what the thinking of these people is. It's the same idiot thinking that gives us the sadly mainstream impression that Planned Parenthood is an abortion clinic, when abortion accounts for 3% of the services they provide. Are Republicans really just against low-cost health care for poor people? No, that's probably crazy... if that were true, we'd have some kind of pending federal health care bill that forced people to become insurance customers.

:: Rush Limbaugh said that if the health care bill passes, he'll leave the country. Quit trying to sweeten the deal, Rush.

I hate people who say shit like that. They never mean it. Besides, where the fuck is he going to go? To a country which does have single-payer health care?

:: Sarah Palin recently had to go to Canada to take advantage of their evil, inefficient national health care. She said it was "ironic." I like to think she just mispronounced "hypocritical."

Also, regarding the crib notes written on her hand: she says she was following God's example. I don't remember anything in the bible about God writing down his notes on his hand, but maybe I missed that part when I was actually reading it.

:: Good idea: they're finally upgrading the air traffic control system by putting a GPS in the planes and using satellites instead of ground-based radar. Wow, welcome to the late 20th century, airlines.

Predictable: the airlines are whining to the government for federal money to do it, because it's somehow unfair for them to have to pay for anything. I ask again: can we just nationalize the airline services in this country? The government is always funding them, anyway, so let's just take the final step, already. You can't claim to be a capitalist enterprise when you've constantly got your hand out to the government.

The Itawamba County school board in Mississippi decided to cancel the prom rather than let Constance McMillen attend in a tuxedo with her girlfriend. The ACLU got involved, so as retaliation the school board decided to make McMillen the bad guy and cancel the entire prom. So a whole senior class doesn't get their prom because Itawamba County would rather have no prom at all than not be allowed to discriminate against gay people. There's really no other way to look at that.

Great country we've got here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon: Final Trailer

I really, really want to see this.


I will be going to see Ramona and Beezus because I adore Selena Gomez and will follow her anywhere.

That said, I've got to keep calling her Go-Go and stop calling her Beezus Christ.

(Also, I had forgotten that there was a Dick Tracy character called Go Go Gomez. That's funny.)

Brief TV Report on Parenthood

Parenthood plays like someone took Modern Family and pumped it full of hot air.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

DISTRICT 9 (2009)
It's mostly a serious science fiction movie, which is pretty refreshing. The Apartheid symbolism is pretty obvious, but I don't think they took it to a ridiculous level. It's basically got the same premise as Alien Nation--a mysterious spaceship lands and has a lot of aliens who are left behind in it. But instead of integrating them, they've been put into a ghetto and are now being forcibly relocated further outside of Johannesburg. A social worker accidentally ingests some of their biotechnology, and it begins changing his DNA. As his transformation continues, he discovers some pretty terrible things about the way the visitors are actually being treated. I called it mostly serious, because it does venture into action movie territory in the third act, but the progression is organic enough that it doesn't feel like copping out. (It was nice that they established why humans can't use the alien weapons so that the climax feels less like an inevitable action sequence and more like a man desperately trying to defend himself.) ***1/2 stars.

I thought it was okay. Very predictable and like I said earlier, destined for a life of reruns on TNT. I actually liked Sandra Bullock in this quite a bit. She's not exactly a three-dimensional character, but I liked the no-nonsense approach to the character. Sometimes it feels like you can see her trying hard not to let the whole thing descend into pure corn and sentiment porn. **1/2 stars.

Carey Mulligan stars in a wildly overpraised performance as a high school girl who starts dating a man who's my age because he seems sophisticated and daring, and she feels boxed in to a life plan that she's not sure she wants. Peter Sarsgaard takes to the role of a charming Englishman surprisingly well. I enjoyed the first half, which was surprising, occasionally audacious, and seemed to know all of the things Mulligan's character didn't. The third act, however, is predictable and a downer ending. It seems like Nick Hornby's script abandons a character it had previously been worshiping. You know who's really, really good in this movie, but no one ever seems to mention it? Alfred Molina as Mulligan's father. His performance ends up being very nuanced, especially in the through-the-door confrontation where he stands, heart broken, unsure how to reach out to a daughter he loves so much that her lies have pierced him through. *** stars.

Excellent study in the dehumanizing effects of war. I was riveted to this movie about a man so removed from his life by war that finally nothing else makes sense except for putting his life in danger as an explosive ordinance disposal team member. A tense movie, but very rewarding. (But my wife hated it and thought it was boring, so it's all relative.) **** stars.

AVATAR (2009)
I covered this one yesterday and tried to do it without just dumping on it, so I won't harp on it anymore. Like I said, I hated it. I'm giving it * star based on some (but not all) of the visual effects.

Thankfully, my mother never threw flower pots and ashtrays at me, but I know what it's like to be a teenager and get screamed at and told how useless you are and even get smacked around by your mom. So I had a lot of sympathy for Precious, a pregnant (by her father) 16 year-old who gets kicked out of school and feels like the world is doing its absolute best to completely leave her behind. Like The Hurt Locker (and Up in the Air, and A Serious Man, all Best Picture nominees), this is a movie about being dehumanized. Precious finds her humanity again through education, motherhood, literacy, and confronting the demonic mother who blames her for her own problems. Mo'Nique is, as reported, excellent as the mother; much less fatuous than she's been at the award shows. It's a harrowing and unsympathetic performance that is, cringingly, rooted in sad reality. Someone who hasn't been mentioned much in connection with this movie is Mariah Carey, who is surprisingly good as Precious' counselor. Depressing and sad, but excellent and moving. **** stars.

Coen Brothers parable about a Jewish physics professor whose life begins to unravel. Is his line cursed by a dybbuk, is God putting him through real Job-like stuff, or is it just a run of bad luck? The movie never even attempts to answer this question, instead making a character study about how this ordinary, seemingly well-off guy deals with problems at work, his wife's decision to leave him, his brother's gambling, his selfish children, his brusque neighbor, etc. It's a hard movie to describe, but I never found it boring. A great deal of it depends on the performance of Michael Stuhlbarg in the lead. He doesn't play it too broadly or too intensely, instead playing the role as man who just can't believe what is happening to him but is trying very hard to get a handle on it. All he wants is some meaning as to why. Whether there's meaning to be had or no I'll leave to you to decide. But I found it in the end of the rabbi's parable about the dentist. **** stars.

I don't know how An Education or The Blind Side were nominated over this movie, which I loved. Jeff Bridges plays an aging, alcoholic country singer whose career seems over. He meets Maggie Gyllenhaal, falls in love, screws up big-time, and is sufficiently rattled enough to get his life together. There's not much too it, but it's all in the performances--Bridges, Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Colin Farrell--and in the way the film unfolds. I was glad that the movie was so straightforward and didn't take any of the predictable turns I thought it would. **** stars.

Excellent animated film about the Book of Kells and a boy who becomes instrumental in its development and safekeeping. It's also an exciting film; the boy befriends a forest spirit who helps him through dire and dark trials, and there is forever an impending Viking attack looming on the horizon which Kells is always preparing for. And when the Vikings do attack, it's really something. I loved the design of this film; it's purposely done in a flat style that recalls UPA and Genndy Tartakovsky, and the animation especially reminded me of Richard Williams. Not to be missed, especially if you have any interest in animation. It's just tremendous. **** stars.

Spoilery Lost Musing

On last night's excellent episode of Lost, "Dr. Linus," Ilana confirmed for the audience that the list of candidate names are potentials to replace Jacob on the island, and only six are still alive. What's interesting to me is which six she's referring to.

A couple of episodes ago, we saw that there are six names corresponding to the Valenzetti numbers: Locke (4), Reyes (8), Ford (15), Jarrah (16), Shephard (23), and Kwon (42). I assume that when Ilana says there are six candidates left, she's referring to the fact that Kwon seems to be a toss-up between Sun or Jin, since she knows that Locke is dead. I guess this also confirms that Kate Austen is not one of the candidates, which is interesting, since she'd be one of the few people still alive whose named was crossed off (also Ben Linus, and I'm curious whether the name Littleton was referring to Claire or to Aaron).

Anyway, when Ilana was telling Sun that she needed protection because she didn't know whether the name Kwon referred to her or her husband, I had a thought: what if the name Kwon refers to their child, Ji Yeon?

We saw in the lighthouse that Jacob has been watching Jack since he was a child. Jacob also popped in on Kate when she was a kid. If the implication is really that he's been tracking these people throughout their entire lives, then the name Kwon could potentially either refer to Jin or to Ji Yeon, because Sun's maiden name is Paik. I just wonder if this means anything when you take into consideration that the only successful pregnancies on the island were Sun's and Claire's. If Aaron really does have a destiny related to Jacob, does Ji Yeon also? (After all, isn't 42 the meaning of life, the universe and everything?)

I don't know, stuff to think about. That's one of the many reasons why Lost is on fire for me this season: it's brought back the fun of theorizing.

Hey, this just occurred to me, too: Richard said last night that Jacob's touch was considered a gift, and this is what's kept him so young for longer than Jack can apparently imagine. What does it mean for Kate that, when she was a kid, Jacob touched her on the nose?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Why I Didn't Like Avatar

Spoilers and opinions ahead.

I've spent the last couple of months being told that Avatar is the most groundbreaking and wondrous visual feast of 2009. It's been called the new Star Wars, or the new standard for special effects spectaculars.

That's some pretty wild praise. And that praise seems to always come with the caveat that the movie has an overly familiar story that, from a narrative standpoint, is nothing new.

So again, what I'm hearing basically boils down to: "Avatar is stunning cinema, the greatest film made in years, the most spectacular experience you could ever have, but the story sucks!"


How is that praise? Isn't the reverse side of that really just "Avatar has a shitty story, but it looks pretty." Like Jay says in Clerks, what's a pretty plate with nothing on it?

I wasn't exactly looking forward to Avatar, because I do tend to be suspicious of something that people have gotten so attached to. How attached? I've heard reports about how someone died of a heart attack during a screening because they were too excited by the wonder of it. I've read about how there are people religiously devoted to the movie. I've seen stories online about counselors dealing with people who are finding it hard to adjust to real life again.

But, ultimately, I figured I'd like the movie. I like James Cameron. I like all of his movies, including Titanic.

Instead, I experienced the most tedious three hours I've had with a blockbuster for a couple of years. Probably since the awful Transformers. I didn't just dislike Avatar. I hated it.

The people who say the story is "nothing new" are being extremely kind. It's not just "nothing new"--it's hackneyed. It's tin-eared and completely obvious. It's so obvious that one wonders exactly what the point of even making this movie was. Was it to tell a story, or to showcase special effects? I've never asked that question in a James Cameron movie before, and it's pretty disappointing to ask it now. But when the story is as besides the point as this one feels, it comes bubbling right to the surface.

Lots of things come bubbling to the surface with Avatar. It's not a matter of being nitpicky and finding things implausible, it's a matter of being so unentertained that I have time to notice things to be nitpicky about. If the movie had been working for me, I wouldn't have been annoyed noticing that the movie takes place in a 2149 that hasn't felt the need to improve wheelchair technology at all, or that people speak with the exact same idioms and stupid movie cliches that they do in 2009. James Cameron's imagination of the future apparently only extends to bigger guns and his borderline-homoerotic fetishizing of the same military he nearly always feels compelled to demonize.

Here are some other nitpicks with James Cameron's vision.

:: There's not enough oxygen to breathe, but there's enough oxygen for huge explosions?

:: Why does the constantly-mentioned low gravity never affect anyone?

:: How do the avatars, combined with human and Na'vi DNA, come out looking exactly like Na'vi?

:: When Jake Sully's avatar is separated from the others, Sigourney Weaver says they have no way to find him? What? They make watches and sneakers with a GPS now. In 2149 they're going to spend billions of dollars on a project and not stick a GPS in it. And really, if there's no way to locate the avatars, how do they actually work?

:: I could probably buy floating mountains, but where do the waterfalls come in on a floating piece of rock?

:: "Unobtainium?" Really? You couldn't have put in one throwaway line in there about some wag scientist naming it that because it's so difficult to get? No, instead it's said with bald-faced seriousness: unobtainium. Luckily, Sully can defeat the bad guys with his more powerful stock of makebelievium.

:: When Michelle Rodriguez flies the avatar link station into the jungle to hide it, how does it keep working without a power source?

:: Why is it that dazzling alien worlds always look like some place in the Amazon with a couple of giant yellow flowers stuck in the frame? The creatures look good, but they're so poorly imagined. They don't seem truly alien; they're just like weird redesigns of any other animals. Weird, Wayne Barlowe-esque versions of rhinos, monkeys, hyenas, panthers, and the requisite pterodactyl-dragons.

(Actually, I take part of that back. Wayne Barlowe would've designed something mind-blowing. Have you ever seen his creatures for Alien Planet? They're truly alien.)

But those are the scientific nitpicks. The larger problem is with the story itself and how badly it's told. The story is almost an afterthought to justify a lot of computer animation.

The fact is, I find the story kind of disgusting.

Besides my usual annoyance with a movie using millions of dollars in sophisticated technology to tell a story where the big message is that technology is bad, Cameron can't even be consistent with his message. Technology is bad, except of course for the technology that allows Sully to become an avatar.

Besides that, the Na'vi are portrayed as the stereotypical noble savages: bold, athletic, fearless, endlessly spiritual, but totally naive. The movie praises communion with nature, but the Na'vi's use of animals through their braids really seems to amount to mind control to me.

(By the way, I will say that the use of a braid as a sort of personal USB was the only thing in the movie that I thought really felt like a new and interesting idea. At the same time, though, using it to control animals just feels uncomfortably like some kind of rape to me.)

Like I said before, the people who call this movie "nothing new" are being kind. It's not that the story is nothing new, let's get that out of the way right now. Too often, I see people excusing--even praising--this movie for not being original. "What story's original?!" they use as an excuse, resting on the old saw that every story's already been told to justify someone's lack of creativity. To those of us who didn't like the movie, the issue is not that it's not original. We knew it wouldn't be; originality is not James Cameron's strong suit. The issue is that it's poorly executed, and that just makes the lifts, thefts, and retreads that much more obvious. A story retold can be one of the greatest stories ever told if executed well--I mean, Hamlet is based on an earlier work, but it's still one of the greatest things ever written. But for God's sake, if you're not going to be original, you need to be entertaining.

But my disgust with the story is that it's a parade of stereotypes in service to yet another white man's burden tale of the enlightened white man against the imperialist, close-minded whites in order to save the noble savage. And it's important that I use the word "save" and not "protect." Because never at any times in these stories is there thought of leaving the noble savage alone to his own world; no, they must be either destroyed or made better by white men. And, as always, this story is hidden behind a veneer of environmental sensitivity.

The shorthands here are ridiculously simplistic. The Marines must be evil to a man because they represent the military-industrial complex and corporate interests. The Na'vi must be tranquil and in perfect harmony with the world because they're not corrupted by the evils of civilization.

Now look at the racial shorthands. The villains are all white, led by Stephen Lang, a fine actor wasted here on spouting cliches and playing a role so utterly without character and culled from hundreds of repetitions that anyone could have been plugged in here. The only good characters among the whites are the savior-hero, a woman, a nerd (the infodump characters that Cameron always thinks is quirky fun), a Latina pilot, and an Indian scientist.

The Na'vi (the name obviously meant to invoke the Navajo, with an apostrophe thrown in to make them also seem African, or something) are all played by black, Latin, and Native American actors. Multicultural both in actors and in the simplistic amalgamation of various aboriginal people from across the globe. There's no distinct flavor to the Na'vi, other than being big blue catlike Manga characters. And yet they're lacking the one thing they need that will apparently make them a great people: the white savior-hero.

It also means something in shorthand that Jake Sully has crippled legs. It's that break from being like the other Marines that apparently raises his consciousness enough to make him a Na'vi-human hybrid, somehow better than the other whites and better than the other Na'vi as well. Because, of course, he doesn't just become one of the Na'vi; he becomes better than them. He has more guts, is more athletic, can tame that red pterodactyl like no one in generations. The chief's daughter falls in love with him. He's not just a Na'vi; he's the best Na'vi. But no one's offended by this because the Na'vi are thinly fictional instead of just being Africans or Native Americans or something.

But really, it's an offensive sort of fable. It's utterly condescending not just because of the stereotypes, but because of the affirmation of those stereotypes. It's the idea that those who aren't white or "cultured" or "civilized" need a white savior-hero to lead them into the light, lest they be tainted by other whites with literacy and clothing and iPods. But it doesn't once consider the possibility that these nonwhites might not actually need anything from white people, and that being left to shape their own destinies is even a possibility. Now that the white king has arrived, the future can begin.


But not many people seem to see the story in those bleedingly obvious terms. A lot of the people I run into love the story because it basically goes like this: Dude doesn't fit in anywhere; he logs onto the internet in order to play a military RPG; he instead ends up playing a Furry RPG, meets a female Furry, and has chatroom sex with her; he discovers he plays the RPG and unlocks achievements faster than anyone else online; he reaches the highest level no one's ever reached before and wins the game by riding the red pterodactyl; then he becomes champion of the Furries and leads a flamewar against the military RPG. And, of course, he attains the ultimate prize, which is to get to live inside the internet and his fake online life forever after. And this is why they love it.

And this is not to say that you're wrong to like it, or that if you liked it, it must be because you're some kind of weirdo who spends too much time on the internet. But I have met way too many nuts online who cannot get over this movie, take every criticism of the movie as an attack on their religion, and really give the impression of someone clicking their heels over and over hoping that one day they'll wake up on Pandora and escape the mundane of daily routine and responsibility. It offers people a powerful fantasy, and it uses 3D to immerse them in it. It's uncomfortably as though James Cameron is hugging you with his mind, letting you share in his self-admiration by making it your self-admiration, too.

But I am not there with those people. I'm not even there with people who thought the movie looked great but had an unoriginal story. I just flat out hated this movie. A lot.

Iron Man 2

I was going to post the new trailer, but it's so good you really need to go and watch it in a much better resolution than YouTube will give you.

I'm very, very excited.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Godzilla Haiku #11

Godzilla Haiku has received rather a lot of attention, much to my surprise. It's been mentioned on io9, Neatorama, Trendhunter, Buzzfeed, Daily Shite, WTF Daily News, and a host of other sites around the internet. And, apparently, Ezra Klein digs it.

I'm overwhelmed by this. I'm just some guy wasting time on the internet. Weird.

Thanks, everyone, for their interest and support on this.

From now on, I think Gojira is going to stick to the Godzilla Haiku site. Thanks for the feedback, everyone, and thanks for following Godzilla Haiku and helping to get the word out. I am amazed.

Oscars 2010

Just some observations I jotted down. And yes, many are long-winded.

:: Wow, Matthew Broderick's getting gray. He always looks so... beaten down.

:: Cameron Diaz looks beautiful since she gained some weight.

Poor Miley looks pretty, but she also looks like she can't breathe in that thing.

My God, Jeff Bridges looks good. I hope I look that good when I'm in my late fifties. Shit, I wish I looked that good now. He seems so gracious and so damn laid-back, like he's just here to have fun. I love that. He's just so cool, and not in that "I don't give a shit" way, but in that "I'm a regular fella taking life as it comes" way.

:: Kate Winslet and I are only a year apart in age. And yet she looks so sophisticated and mature, and I still feel like a teenager with no direction.

Meryl Streep's look in one word: "fuckable." Yes, I said it.

Boy, this circle jerk sure got into high gear right away. First a giant masturbation fest in which, I guess, we're just supposed to gaze into the glorious light of the 10 major acting nominees, and then a cheesy, awkward musical number in which Neil Patrick Harris (dude, you're better than this) sings a lame song that, I guess, is just supposed to justify having two hosts instead of one. I hate this bullshit already; Hollywood is so convinced that the acting awards are the most important things in the world. I don't know why they don't just go the whole nine yards and televise just the awards for actors, Best Director, and Best Picture. That's absolutely all they want to focus on. There's no respect for anyone who isn't in these categories beyond the bare minimum.

:: By the way, NPH's musical opener and the entrance of the hosts make this thing look like the 1989 Oscars. Tacky, tacky, tacky.

:: Wow, only 6 minutes in and we're already at jokes about how many nominations Meryl Streep has had? This is the lead-in material? What's next, clips of Bob Hope talking about how he never gets nominated?

:: Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin aren't exactly a great comedy team, are they? They're lobbing softballs, and they're taking forever to do it. Still, it's hard to get laughs from a room full of people who take themselves so seriously. At least they understand that. Safe, but boring to watch. (Although I do dig this repeated Baldwin/Clooney death glare. Cracks me up.)

:: James Cameron, please, just cut your fucking hair.

:: I could listen to Penelope Cruz talk all night long. Say something sexual in Spanish. For an hour. Por favor...

Christoph Waltz! Okay, no one's surprised, but I think his performance was the best given by anyone in any movie in 2009. And his speech is so gracious. It was a nice moment.

:: Ryan Reynolds is laying it on pretty damn thick. Seriously, you're introducing The Blind Side, not a Martin Luther King Jr memorial tribute. Dial it down.

:: This could all be called "The Stars of TV's Most Recognizable Shows Host the Oscars."

:: I always despise it when they do some "cute" bit with the Animated Feature Oscar. It's never funny. At all. Stop doing it.

:: I liked Up, but I did think The Princess and the Frog was better. But The Secret of Kells was the best animation of the year. Still, I'm always pleased when Pixar wins.

:: I thought Miley was cute, admitting she was nervous instead of just fucking up repeatedly. I'm sure a ton of people saw that as a sign of how awful and trailer trash-y she supposedly is, but I like the way she handles herself. I'm a fan. That said, why is she presenting an Oscar? Actually, no, she was nominated in this category last year, so I'm sorry to bring that up.

:: Chris Pine doesn't spread as much bullshit around as the guy from 2 Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place did. Thanks for small favors.

:: Becca asks me why, in her words, there are "no real actors" presenting. I agree that it makes the Academy look desperate having only people from hit TV shows and big summer movies presenting. Is the obsession with youth really going to save their ratings? (Did they? I haven't looked because, let's face it, I don't care.)

:: Robert Downey Jr. and Tina Fey are funnier together than Steve and Alec.

:: I'm getting a little irritated with the speeches being so hurried. This isn't brisk pacing, it's just rushed and lacking in the grave import the Academy used to think these things are supposed to have. I don't know why they don't just tape this, honestly.

I still want to ball Molly Ringwald... Sorry, but that's all I'm thinking during the John Hughes tribute, which seems out of place. Seriously, I'm sorry he died, but this just seems like yet another excuse for the Oscars to trot out another large group of actors, something they seem bizarrely obsessed with every year. Why the tongue-bath for Hughes' memory? Why is he the most important person who died in the last year? Because teenagers may be watching the show?

Meanwhile, they don't televise Roger Corman's award...

:: Didn't they hammer into us the incredible importance of short films last year? Is this an annual thing now? Hollywood is overflowing with self-adulation for even existing and bothering to wake up in the morning to fulfill our sad little flyover state lives and give us all meaning. They're so brimming with love that they must need rubber pants so they don't walk around with uncleanable cumstains. No wonder wannabe starlets are always getting into car accidents; the streets of LA must be slick with it.

Of the shorts, I figured Logorama would win. I called Music by Prudence before it was announced just from seeing the clip. ("Black people? Poor black people? Poor, SINGING black people? Now that's just uplifting sight unseen, because I use stereotypes for shorthand!")

This crazy woman who leaps onstage makes the whole thing uncomfortable, and the acceptance speeches are already so uncomfortable because they're a race against time. The poor guy who made Music by Prudence doesn't even get to finish his speech because of this person and because of the timer. Yeah, I guess short films are incredibly important so long as their makers don't speak for over 30 seconds.

This is unfair, for people to be cut off. How many opportunities is this guy going to get to accept an Oscar? This may be his only moment, let him have it. Let them all have it. God knows we've all seen Ben Stiller flop sweating at the Oscars with an overlong, self-indulgent, awkwardly unfunny attempt at his weirdly hostile style of comedy enough years in a row. Quit cutting people off and cut out some of the shitty attempts at comedy.

And let's just look at this spectacle for a moment. This is why I tend to not like Ben Stiller. I hate it when comedians go for the "unfunny" joke, as in "Oh, this bit is so stupid, I'm so sorry, look how dumb it is, I'm with you on your hatred of this, but distancing myself from it still makes me funny, right?" Mike Myers is particularly bad about this kind of joke, and Stiller is no slouch, either. It's a way of getting to make a half-assed, unfunny joke without owning it, because you're too cool to just try harder to be funny. It's like people who leave those whiny or trollish comments on your blog and then, when called on their bullshit, claim they weren't serious or were just "being ironic," when really they're embarrassed over having a fit. Yeah, Stiller, it's unfunny, and no one thought of anything funnier. Deal with it or don't do it at all.

:: Rachel McAdams just has zero personality or charisma. It's always like someone spilled Wite-Out on the screen whenever I see her in anything.

:: Geoffrey Fletcher accepting his Oscar for writing Precious feels awkward, but only because he's overcome with emotion and the speeches are being so rushed that the tension is palpable. Is there a bomb in the theater, or something? I mean, a bomb besides Ben Stiller's "comedy."

:: Clips for the Governor's Awards make me wish I was watching that show. Seems so much more laid back. And trotting out the winners for a brief stand and a round of applause is trite and disrespectful.

:: Always with the gum-smacking, eh, Cameron Diaz? Why do they keep trotting her out?

Finally, Sigourney Weaver seriously ups the night's beauty quotient. What a lovely woman. She gives out the Art Direction Oscar to Avatar, which wins for, I guess, Best Replication of the Far-Too-Many-Hours of Anime James Cameron Has Watched. Or maybe it was for Best Elicitation of "Oh My God, I Can't Believe James Cameron Still Can't Get Over That Blue Lighting; What Is This, a Hong Kong Movie from 1986?"

The guy who says to Cameron "This Oscar sees you" makes me wish I could throw objects through my screen.

:: The horror movie tribute... Okay, first of all, the stars of Twilight? Not a horror movie. Edward Scissorhands? Beetlejuice? Not horror movies. And how odd to see a tribute to a genre the Academy almost seems to pride itself on never honoring.

:: What is with all of the kiddie table stuff tonight? Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron, half the cast of Twilight... I feel like I'm watching, what? Academy Awards Jr.? Oscar Babies? Did Lorne Michaels produce the show? Last year's Oscars were more fun, and most of the nominees then were shit.

(I will admit this is tempered by the fact that there are a number of things I want to do to Zac Efron which are racing through my head.)

Dude, Kathryn Bigelow is hot. As in hawt. Like, Teh Hawtness. I want to put her on a cracker and eat it. I want to bam-bam this Bigelow. I... will move on.

:: Elizabeth Banks is horrible introducing the fact that the science & tech awards happened. Ha ha, they're all nerds, blah blah. Meanwhile, Avatar is the biggest movie of the year, so... you know, maybe you should be nicer to the nerds. Banks blows through it too quickly and makes it seem oddly hostile. Jennifer Garner did it so much better; so did ScarJo and Jessica Biel. Next year, when it's time to decide who the hot chick is to send to the "Nerd Oscars," send Kristen Bell. She's cute and highly geek-friendly.

:: Me: "Boy, the older broads are really pulling out the hotness tonight." Becca: "Uh... that's a... compliment?"

:: Sandra Bullock, too, messes up her bit presenting Best Cinematography. I blame bad writing here; wrong approach, makes her look arrogant. Should've gone the route of being grateful.

And Avatar for the win? Since when does shooting a green screen with composite shots of a rain forest constitute cinematography?

:: The death roll, once again, badly timed. Don't do the big pull-in shot, just go right to the tape roll. Once again, we miss people because of bad direction. James Taylor's performance is nice, though.

:: I'm torn on the Best Score ballet. I don't like the dancing, but on the other hand, it's nice to hear some of the music performed. Particularly Michael Giacchino's beautiful score for Up, which wins, so that's nice. Giacchino has proven himself very quickly to be a major composer in the world of film music.

:: I don't get the whole Bradley Cooper thing. What's the appeal?

:: Ha ha ha, writers are geeky virgins, I get it, shut the fuck up.

I'm glad The Cove won for Best Documentary. I think it's something more people need to see. I think Food, Inc. is, too. When Ric O'Barry held up his sign, you could almost hear the technical director scream "Oh, God, cut away! Someone's taking a principled stand!"

:: Tyler Perry starring in Tyler Perry's Awkwardly Rushed and Unfunny Presentation of the Oscar for Best Film Editing.

:: Hey, shout out to Sam Raimi!

:: Rushing the show to stampede towards the outcome has just sucked any personality out of this show. It makes it bland and easier than ever to ignore. Why am I supposed to care, guys? You've watered it down so much there's no flavor. Just keep terrorizing those speeches, and soon the awards will be as meaningless on TV as they are in real life.

:: Kathy Bates forgot to mention that Avatar is also three hours of aggressive mediocrity and intense boredom.

:: Oh, Christ, are they doing this shit again where other actors have to come up and suck off the nominees? Jesus, I thought they wanted to speed this shit up. They will marginalize everyone who isn't an actor, claiming they want the show to have a brisker pace, but when it comes to the actors, everything comes to a halt in order to overpraise these people. The nomination's not enough anymore? Fuck, this is an uncomfortable, overlong, and disgusting display. It's like walking in on someone masturbating and not being able to just walk out of the room.

In Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock, I don't feel like anyone undeserving won. And their speeches are nice and personal without being embarrassing, unlike a number of other winners this decade. Bridges is warm and thankful, and Bullock is funny and gracious. I'm impressed and pleased.

Bullock, in particular, says something memorable: "There’s no race, no religion, no class system, no color--nothing--no sexual orientation, that makes us better than anyone else. We’re all deserving of love." I like that. I'm glad she said it without doing the "I'm St. Julia Roberts and I'm Going to Tell You How to Feel" act.

Oh, and notice how these two don't get cut off. Just saying. Not that I want them to be. I don't want anyone to get cut off.

Okay, in Kathryn Bigelow as Best Director, Oscar has made the right choice. I really think she deserved it. But holy crap, Tumblr exploded with rage last night when this was announced. No shit, I saw comments like "They picked THE WOMAN?! Over James Fucking Cameron! How dare they?" That was really creepy.

Also, playing her off to "I Am Woman" was utterly belittling. It was like the Academy was saying "Look, a woman director, how cute." Puke.

I think The Hurt Locker was also the right choice for Best Picture. It was refreshing to see something smart, thoughtful, and with something to say win this award for once, especially after being told repeatedly that the simplistic Avatar was a foregone conclusion. And bless you, Tom Hanks, for simply announcing it. We're all tired by this point, right?

Some other Oscar commentaries for ya:
The LAMB Live-Blog
MightyGodKing on Twitter
Mark Evanier
Tallulah Morehead
Alan Sepinwall
Ken Levine
Roger Ebert

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Godzilla Haiku #10

Song of the Week: "Fallin' & Flyin'"

My favorite song from the Crazy Heart soundtrack.

Some Pre-Oscar Thoughts

Just my own thoughts on some of the categories before we get into it. The ceremony's Wikipedia page has the list of nominations.

Having finally seen all 10 of the films nominated, I don't think the Academy has really made their case that we now need 10 nominees. The nominees aren't as bad as last year, but having 10 of them just seems silly.

Of the 10 nominated, I'm torn between Inglourious Basterds, which I found the most purely cinematic and the most enjoyable, and The Hurt Locker, which was a riveting study in dehumanization. I haven't made up my mind yet.

Unfortunately, Avatar will probably win. And Avatar stinks. It's just a bad, bad movie. I'll have more to say about it Wednesday in Film Week, but for now I'll just say that somewhat pretty imagery does not make up for that awful story. At all.

Otherwise, I thought Up in the Air and Precious were excellent films. District 9 was a very good serious science fiction movie, even with the rather heavy-handed and obvious symbolism. I don't know if I'd have nominated it, personally. The Blind Side is a nice movie that is destined for endless repeats on Lifetime or TNT; it's not bad, but it's more solid than great. And you all know I love Up.

I thought A Serious Man was great, not least of which because so many people seem so bewildered by it. I have no idea how An Education got the nomination, frankly. Cute movie, but why pick this one over Crazy Heart, which was excellent?

Jeff Bridges really deserves it; he's a great actor and this was a great performance. It wasn't flashy, and Crazy Heart refreshingly doesn't dive into the cliche twists I expected, so that was nice.

I have not seen A Single Man, though I'm dying to. Jeremy Renner was very good; I've liked him in movies before, and I'm glad he's nominated. Morgan Freeman was better than I've seen him in years in Invictus, partially because he wasn't being asked to repeat his Shawshank Redemption performance yet again. And I liked George Clooney a lot in Up in the Air. Clooney really seems to be a polarizing actor for a lot of people I come across. I think he deserved the nomination, but I don't expect him to win. Bridges deserves it more.

I've not seen Julie and Julia or The Last Station. Of the three nominations remaining, Carey Mulligan's baffles me. Not that she's bad in An Education, but she didn't particularly stand out, either. I think it could have been a number of actresses in the role and it wouldn't have mattered. Nick Hornby has an ear for dialogue (if not one for third act resolution, as evidenced by nearly every novel he's written), and I think the dialogue carries Mulligan rather than the other way around.

Gabourey Sidibe was very sympathetic in Precious in a low-key performance. And Sandra Bullock was actually very good in The Blind Side. I've only ever liked her in movies very occasionally, and for 2009, I liked her in two. Her character and performance were the center of The Blind Side, and I think (and I almost can't believe I'm saying this about her) with a lesser actress, we wouldn't be seeing a Best Picture nomination for that movie. She certainly commands the screen. If she wins, and many are saying she will, I won't be surprised or disappointed, honestly.

I really want Kathryn Bigelow to win this one. Partially because The Hurt Locker was just so enveloping, and partially because I don't want to hear any more of James Cameron's "King of the World" jackassery. Plus, what a great fuck you to Cameron, to give it to his ex-wife. And hey, she'd be the first woman to win this award. But in all seriousness, more than anything else, I think she was the best of the year.

I've only seen three of the performances. Matt Damon was good in Invictus, but not the best. Stanley Tucci I found mannered and overly-measured nearly to the point of cartoonishness in the terrible The Lovely Bones. If anyone other than Christoph Waltz wins, it will be a crime.

It almost seems like Penelope Cruz, talented though she is, is really just nominated for the one (and the best) musical number in Nine. Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick both were very good in Up in the Air. Maggie Gyllenhaal was very good in Crazy Heart; with each year, I admire her more and more as an actress. But Mo'Nique's performance in Precious was just towering.

I've not managed to see any of them.

I liked Bill Plympton's description of Fantastic Mr. Fox as "anti-visual." That pretty much sums it up. Though there were some things I liked about it, it really seemed concerned with being too ugly to look at. I wouldn't have nominated this at all, especially over Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Coraline is better, I think, than people give it credit for. Up and The Princess and the Frog are both excellent.

But the best animated feature this year, by far, is The Secret of Kells. I'm amazed and overjoyed that it even got a nomination, but brother, does it deserve it. It won't win, but it's an astounding piece of work, very Richard Williams-influenced, and animated so very well and very much in glorious 2-D.

I wonder if they can resist giving the award to Nick Hornby, scribe of shallow populism. I've not seen In the Loop. I have no opinion on this one. Up in the Air was well-written, I thought.

Honestly, my choice here would be A Serious Man. But the best original screenplay this year was the unnominated, unheralded World's Greatest Dad.

I've only seen two of the films nominated, and I thought Nine was straight-up ugly and needlessly dour, and I don't think Avatar deserves any awards with the words "art" and "direction" in the name since the film has neither art nor direction.

I've seen all of the nominees except for The White Ribbon. Nice to see Harry Potter nominated; I think it deserves the recognition. The best nominee, I think, is Inglourious Basterds, but I'll always pull for Robert Richardson.

I've only seen the over-nominated Nine, and... no.

Anvil! should be on this list. I've only seen Food, Inc. and The Cove, both of which are excellent. If either one wins, that would make me happy. But I've yet to see the other three nominees, which could also be great. Need to get cracking here.

As always, haven't seen a single one, so no opinion.

Again, I'll go for Inglourious Basterds.

I only saw Star Trek, and I wouldn't give it the award, to be honest.

How many times is James Horner going to keep selling the same score over and over again? His score for Avatar was, if this makes sense, surprisingly unsurprising. Just bland, with a lot of the same motifs he's been repeating since Star Trek II. I was much more impressed by Michael Giacchino's work for Up, but from the nominees, I think Alexandre Desplat's whimsical music for Fantastic Mr. Fox is the best. I've got pieces from it on my iPod; it's very good.

They nominated two songs from The Princess and the Frog; both were good, but neither were my favorites from that movie. (Those were the rollicking "When We're Human," the delicate "Ma Belle Evangeline," and the dark "Friends on the Other Side.") The new song from Nine was bland, and I still hate that they cut out nearly all of my favorite songs from the musical (and didn't seem to get the point, either). I don't know the song from Paris 36, but let's face it, the song from Crazy Heart is the best one they could go with. It's actually not my favorite from the film, either, but it's pretty fantastic.

French Roast is well-animated, if a little heavy-handed. The Lady and the Reaper is very funny. Logorama is pretty amazing. And I adore Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty. But the clear winner is A Matter of Loaf and Death, because it's Wallace & Gromit.

Haven't seen any.

I don't much care, except for my usual eye rolling at only three nominees for Visual Effects being chosen. Give me a break.

Happy 40th Birthday, Rachel Weisz!