Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ted's Oscar Rant

I've been something of a fan of Seth MacFarlane's show, "Family Guy" for years, so I was hopeful when he was picked to host the Oscars.  However, that hope turned to grim shock the other night when I heard MacFarlane's movie character, "Ted," use what should have been a light, comic moment to rale against the perceived power of Jews in Hollywood.

Perhaps MacFarlane has been slighted by Jewish producers over the years, but this was neither the time nor the place to vent those feelings.  Aside from the fact that the bit wasn't funny (no one in the audience laughed), it was potentially damaging to Jews worldwide.  The Oscars telecast is watched in every part of the world, and that five-minute bit only helped to reinforce negative stereotypes of Jews while providing fodder for anti-Semitic thought.

I have always watched the Academy Awards, but if MacFarlane hosts again, I will likely pass.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Reid's Oscar Preview

Every year, the Boston Globe critics preview the Academy Awards, using 4 categories:  “Will Win,” “Should Win,” “Shouldn’t Be Here,” and “Was Robbed.”  They follow each with a paragraph about the races.

While I often disagree with their selections, I like the format, so I will use it this year to preview eight categories of the 2013 Academy Awards (movies from 2012).

Best Picture

Will Win: “Lincoln”
Should Win: “Lincoln”
Shouldn’t Be Here: “Django Unchained”
Was Robbed:  “Moonrise Kingdom”

Everyone keeps saying that “Argo” will win, but that was a predictable, Hollywood movie.  It was a good movie, but it didn’t move me the way “Lincoln” did, so I’m hoping that enough Academy voters were also moved to vote for “Lincoln.”  As far as “Django Unchained” is concerned, the first hour was brilliant, but then it dissolved into stupid, needless violence without any redeeming value, so I’m surprised the Academy has loved it so much.  Moonrise Kingdom is a gem that was hurt by being released so early in the year.

Best Actor

Will Win: Daniel Day Lewis
Should Win: Daniel Day Lewis
Shouldn’t Be Here: none
Was Robbed:  Joseph Gordon-Levitt in “Looper” and John Hawkes in “The Sessions”

Daniel Day Lewis is one of the best living screen actors.  The craft he brings to each role is flawless and inspirational, and “Lincoln” was no exception.  One example is that all historical reports of Abraham Lincoln say that he had a higher voice, despite most movie portrayals of him.  As we all know from “There Will Be Blood,” Lewis’s voice tends to be lower, but for “Lincoln,” he actually raised it an octave just to be genuine.  That level of commitment is rare in modern acting, and it’s just one example of what makes this performance so compelling.  While all five actors deserve to be in the category, I wish there was room for more nominees, so the Academy could recognize Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s outstanding performance in “Looper” and John Hawkes’s excellent work in “The Sessions.”

Best Actress

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence
Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence
Shouldn’t Be Here: none
Was Robbed:  none

The five actresses selected were the right five, and Jennifer Lawrence, at 22 years of age, delivered a tour de force as a young woman battling a myriad of psychological issues in what was the year’s most surprising movie—“Silver Linings Playbook.”

Best Director

Will Win: Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln”
Should Win: Steven Spielberg for “Lincoln”
Shouldn’t Be Here: Ang Lee for “Life of Pi”
Was Robbed:  Andy and Lana Wachowski for “Cloud Atlas”

Movies don’t direct themselves, so I find it very surprising when the Best Picture winner does not also win Best Director, but it happens often.  I believe that the Academy will do the right thing and award Spielberg his third Oscar in this category.  Ang Lee’s film, “Life of Pi,” should win a number of technical awards, but he should not be in this category.   Finally, the Wachowskis deserve credit for financing, producing, writing, and directing the year’s most ambitious movie, “Cloud Atlas.”


Best Supporting Actor

Will Win: Christoph Waltz
Should Win: Tommy Lee Jones
Shouldn’t Be Here: none
Was Robbed:  William H. Macy for "The Sessions"

Once again, the Academy nominated five very good performances, and this is the toughest category to pick, because all of the performances were, in some way, Oscar-worthy.  Most people are predicting that DeNiro will win for his outstanding performance in “Silver Linings Playbook,”  but I believe that Christoph Waltz will win for being the best thing about “Django Unchained.”  And while Tommy Lee Jones’s performance in “Lincoln” was flawless, his well-documented snarling at the Golden Globes probably cost him any chance at the Oscar.  However, I would not be upset if any of those men took home this award.  This is another category in which I wish there were six nominees, because I loved the performance of William H. Macy as the priest in "The Sessions."


Best Supporting Actress

Will Win: Anne Hathaway
Should Win: Anne Hathaway
Shouldn’t Be Here: Jacki Weaver
Was Robbed:  Xun Zhou

If you saw “Les Miserables” and you were not moved by Anne Hathaway’s performance, you should stop going to the movies.  Hathaway has been on the cusp of greatness for the past few years, and achieved it with this role.  And while Jacki Weaver is an outstanding actress (I loved her in “Animal Kingdom”), she did not do enough in Silver Linings Playbook to warrant this nomination.  A better choice would have been China’s best young actress, Xun Zhou, who was outstanding as Yoona-939 in a futuristic sequence in “Cloud Atlas.”


Best Adapted Screenplay

Will Win: Tony Kushner for “Lincoln”
Should Win: Tony Kushner for “Lincoln”
Shouldn’t Be Here: David Magee for “Life of Pi”
Was Robbed:  Ben Lewin for "The Sessions" and Simon Beaufoy for “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”

One of the great, modern American playwrights, Tony Kushner developed an amazingly inspirational script for “Lincoln,” and he deserves to be recognized for it.  Not so for David Magee and “Life of Pi.” However, Simon Beaufoy deserves a nod for his delightful adaptation of “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” based on the book by Paul Torday, as does Ben Lewin for his brilliant screenplay for "The Sessions," based on an article by Mark O'Brien.


Best Original Screenplay

Will Win: Quentin Tarantino for “Django Unchained”
Should Win: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for “Moonrise Kingdom”
Shouldn’t Be Here: John Gaines for “Flight”
Was Robbed:  Joss Weedon and Drew Goddard for “Cabin in the Woods”

If the award were for Most Words or Most Use of the “N” Word, then Tarantino would be the clear-cut winner, but although his screenplay was at times delightful, it did not match the quirky brilliance of “Moonrise Kingdom.”  Overall, I believe that Gaines (“Flight”) doesn’t belong in this category, but Weedon and Goddard do for creating one of the most inventive and original horror films of all time—“Cabin in the Woods.”