Friday, February 20, 2015

Reid's 2015 Oscar Preview

For the last few years, I've been writing an article similar to one in the Boston Globe in which 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.   I used the same format to preview eight categories of the 2015 Academy Awards (movies from 2014).

Best Picture

The Nominees: "American Sniper," "Birdman," "Boyhood," "The Grand Budapest Hotel," "The Imitation Game," "Selma," "The Theory of Everything," "Whiplash" 
Will Win: “Boyhood”
Should Win: “The Imitation Game”
Shouldn’t Be Here: “The Theory of Everything”
Was Robbed:  “Interstellar” 

"Boyhood" is an excellent movie, but it will win for the wrong reason...because of the way it was made, over the course of 12 years.  Granted, the results are unlike what most traditional movies can achieve, but the script and story line are not so interesting and innovative as to award it all the acclaim it is receiving.  If there was an award for "Most Committed Moviemaking Project," "Boyhood" should win hands down, but it is not as good a film as "The Imitation Game."

Best Actor

The Nominees:
  • Steve Carell in "Foxcatcher"
  • Bradley Cooper in "American Sniper"
  • Benedict Cumberbatch in "The Imitation Game"
  • Michael Keaton in "Birdman"
  • Eddie Redmayne in "The Theory of Everything"
Will Win: Eddie Redmayne in "The Theory of Everything"
Should Win: Michael Keaton in "Birdman"
Shouldn’t Be Here: Steve Carell in "Foxcatcher"
Was Robbed:  Jake Gyllenhaal in "Nightcrawler"

It seems like almost every year, the Academy gives its best acting awards to actors who play characters who are either famous people or have some sort of affliction; these roles are designed for Oscar, and this year, two such performances will win--those of Eddie Redmayne (who plays a famous person with an affliction) and Julianne Moore.  Granted, they each did an outstanding job, but I wish the voters would be brave enough to give the awards to more nuanced performances, like the one given by Michael Keaton this year.  Otherwise, Steve Carell is nominated for his makeup, not for his painfully boring performance, especially when compared with Jake Gyllenhaal's amazing turn as a creepy newshound in "Nightcrawler."

Best Actress

The Nominees:
  • Marion Cotillard in "Two Days, One Night"
  • Felicity Jones in "The Theory of Everything"
  • Julianne Moore in "Still Alice"
  • Rosamund Pike in "Gone Girl"
  • Reese Witherspoon in "Wild"
Will Win: Julianne Moore in "Still Alice"
Should Win: Reese Witherspoon in "Wild"
Shouldn’t Be Here: Rosamund Pike in "Gone Girl"
Was Robbed:  Agata Trzebuchowska in "Ida"

Ditto to my complaint regarding the Best Actor category.  Here, Julianne Moore will win because of the part, not because her acting was any better than that of Reese Witherspoon, who already won this award for her less interesting performance in 2005's "Walk the Line."  And how Rosamund Pike was nominated for her wooden performance in "Gone Girl" is a complete mystery.

Best Director

The Nominees:
  • Alejandro Iñárritu for "Birdman"
  • Richard Linklater for "Boyhood"
  • Bennett Miller for "Foxcatcher"
  • Wes Anderson for "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
  • Morten Tyldum for "The Imitation Game"
Will Win: Richard Linklater for "Boyhood"
Should Win: Richard Linklater for "Boyhood"
Shouldn’t Be Here: Bennett Miller for "Foxcatcher"
Was Robbed:  Joon-ho Bong for "Snowpiercer"

This is where "Boyhood" should be most honored.  Richard Linklater's commitment to this excellent and difficult project deserves all the accolades it can get.  On the other hand, Bennett Miller's unfathomable lack of pacing should win for "Worst Director."  And Joon-ho Bong should be given some credit for making viewers suspend disbelief while creating multiple thrills in the absurd but highly watchable "Snowpiercer."

Best Supporting Actor

The Nominees:
  • Robert Duvall in "The Judge"
  • Ethan Hawke in "Boyhood"
  • Edward Norton in "Birdman"
  • Mark Ruffalo in "Foxcatcher"
  • J.K. Simmons in "Whiplash"
Will Win: J.K. Simmons in "Whiplash"
Should Win: J.K. Simmons in "Whiplash"
Shouldn’t Be Here: none
Was Robbed:  Bill Nighy in "Pride"

This category got it right.  These were five very good performances, and I only wish there had been space for Nighy's excellently understated role in "Pride."  On any other year, Norton would likely win for his manically brilliant comedic performance in "Birdman," but this year's best performance in any role in any movie belonged to Simmons, as the manipulative bandleader in "Whiplash."  It will go down as one of the all-time great roles.

Best Supporting Actress

The Nominees:
  • Patricia Arquette in "Boyhood"
  • Laura Dern in "Wild"
  • Keira Knightly in “The Imitation Game”
  • Emma Stone in "Birdman"
  • Meryl Streep in "Into the Woods"
Will Win: Patricia Arquette in "Boyhood"
Should Win: Patricia Arquette in "Boyhood"
Shouldn’t Be Here: Meryl Streep in "Into the Woods"
Was Robbed:  Minnie Driver in "Beyond the Lights"

I've always liked the acting of Patricia Arquette, but even I was surprised by the depth and breadth of this performance as the mom in "Boyhood."  And just because Meryl Streep is the best living movie actress should not guarantee her an annual Oscar nomination, certainly not over Minnie Driver's excellent role as a misguided stage mother in "Beyond the Lights."

Best Adapted Screenplay

The Nominees:
  • Jason Hall for "American Sniper"
  • Graham Moore for "The Imitation Game"
  • Paul Thomas Anderson for "Inherent Vice"
  • Anthony McCarten for "The Theory of Everything"
  • Damien Chazelle for "Whiplash"
Will Win: Graham Moore for "The Imitation Game"
Should Win: Graham Moore for "The Imitation Game"
Shouldn’t Be Here: Jason Hall for "American Sniper"
Was Robbed:  Nick Hornby for "Wild"

"The Imitation Game" was the year's best film, but this is likely to be its only major award, which is unfortunate.  Otherwise, "American Sniper" is vastly overrated, while Nick Hornby's script for "Wild" really brought Cheryl Strayed's journey to life.

Best Original Screenplay

The Nominees:
  • Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. and Armando Bo for "Birdman"
  • Richard Linklater for "Boyhood"
  • E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman for "Foxcatcher"
  • Wes Anderson for "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
  • Dan Gilroy for "Nightcrawler"
Will Win: Wes Anderson for "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Should Win: Wes Anderson for "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Shouldn’t Be Here: E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman for "Foxcatcher"
Was Robbed: Jonathan and Christopher Nolan for "Interstellar"

This one is close between "Birdman" and "Budapest," with the nod going to Wes Anderson for the inventive weirdness for which he is known.  I'm not sure how they ignored the screenplay for "Interstellar," which successfully explored themes first described by Einstein and Hawking while making them accessible to the common moviegoer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Rubbers, Cruise Control, and Dinosaurs

I was driving Joni to work this morning, and I turned to her and asked, "Do kids still wear rubbers?"  I thought it was an innocent question, but it garnered a look of disbelief.

Realizing she was envisioning something completely different, I refreshed her memory to when we were both young and most shoes were made from leather.  In order to protect them on snowy, slushy days like today, our parents would make us cover them with rubber sheathes in the shape of shoes...they were called "rubbers."  Fortunately, she remembered and told me they are now referred to as "galoshes," which I remembered as tall, uncomfortable, rubber boots with peculiar but effective metal clamps used to close them.  Joni said that they also still exist, but now all the footwear in that category is referred to as galoshes.  I looked online to learn that she is right.  Of course, I grew up long before Gore-Tex® or fashionable winter boots, which made me realize that at 61, I'm getting old.

After all, I remember a time when Boston had only two TV stations (ABC had yet to expand here), before the AFL (now the AFC of the NFL) was founded,  before color TV, before plastic bags, and when gasoline was 30 cents a gallon and attendants would wash both windshields, check your oil, and give you Green Stamps (or sometimes actual gifts like dishes or glasses).

Of course, there were no computers, and electric typewriters were very expensive, so must of us used manual typewriters (the lower case "L" took the place of the number 1, which did not exist on the limited keyboard).  The closest most of us came to "technology" was drinking Tang, which, as everyone knew, was invented for the space program.

I've seen every Super Bowl (on TV of course), and I still use cruise control on the highway.  This last revelation might seem a bit odd, but I've noticed that with all the hybrids, most highway drivers these days try to save fuel by keeping their foot on the gas pedal at about the same level of depression, no matter what the incline.  This leads them to slow down as they drive uphill and speed up on the way downhill, which is very frustrating when you are trying to stick to a consistent speed (as when using cruise control).

If you're in my generation, you've likely seen the emails pointing out things that we remember that those young'uns don't.  You can reminisce about a time when plastic was rare, vinyl was used for records, and most things were made from metal, glass, or wood.  It saddens us that only two cast members from "Gilligan's Island" are still alive, and that if you were a boy back then, you likely had the hots for one of them--Tina Louise (Ginger) or Dawn Wells (Mary Ann).  It's further dismaying to know that Louise is now 79 and Wells is 75.  Fortunately, Betty and Veronica never aged.

But we are beginning to become dinosaurs, and the ice age approaches (if you look outside my window today, you might think it's already here).  We have moved into an era when our lives are digitized and online for all to see, and our identities are under a constant barrage of theft and hacking.  We can choose which aspects of modern culture we embrace...I'm writing a blog and posting on Facebook, but I refuse to "tweet" or engage in cyberspeak, and I don't trust the cloud.

You may be incensed at being referred to in this way, thinking that you are in your prime, but that's like saying that Nixon didn't know about Watergate.  If you're old enough to remember that reference, you're likely past your physical prime.  Personally, I take pride in knowing that I'm still standing and getting enjoyment from modern music, movies, and technology.  I wear my dinosaur badge proudly (sometimes keeping it in my wallet next to my AARP card).

In 30 years, Gavin may recall an era of VCRs, cars that ran on gasoline, and airports that didn't look like a scene from "Total Recall," where passengers were treated like people, rather than potential terrorists.  But for now, he has to yield the dinosaur throne, which I sit in proudly as I lean back and set the cruise control.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Patriots and Seahawks

Super Bowl 49 (Roman numerals aside) is in the books, and I am, of course, happy that the Patriots won.  I have watched every Super Bowl, and this was one of the best, with two, excellent teams slugging it out from the opening kickoff through the final seconds (and I'm not referring to the unfortunate fight that broke out near the end).  It's interesting that each of the Patriots' six Super Bowls in the Belichick/Brady era was decided by four points or fewer, but in this case, it speaks to the quality of play and each team's relentless determination.

The first half ended in a tie, and the second half was a seesaw, with the Seahawks seizing the initial momentum in the third quarter before yielding it to the Patriots in the fourth.  Seattle fans are surely upset this morning at the one-yard interception by Malcolm Butler that ended the game.  Had it ended differently, Patriots fans would have lamented the ball literally falling into Jerome Kearse's lap at the 5 yard line, just as we have forever lamented the David Tyree, helmet catch in the loss to the Giants after the perfect season.

All I can say to those in Seattle is that the Patriots rebounded from that loss, and there is little doubt that the Seahawks will rebound, likely into another Super Bowl in the next year or two...they are that good a team.  Tom Brady is 37 years old and nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career, whereas Russell Wilson is only 26 and just beginning his.  Wilson already has led his team to as many Super Bowl wins as Peyton Manning and Bret Favre, and he will doubtless learn from yesterday.

On the other side of that game-sealing, 1-yard interception is Malcolm Butler, a rookie whom the Patriots have raved about all year.  He did as he was taught and watched the formation and the eyes of the opposing quarterback, and came up with the improbable grab.

But what some are overlooking is the fact that Tom Brady took over the game in the fourth quarter, leading the team to two touchdowns.  Those two drives included only one running play for 3 yards.  People are saying the interception at the end was "lucky," but was it any more lucky than the 33-yard circus catch by Kearse after Butler had seemingly disrupted that pass?

In the end, great teams make their own luck, and they don't blame their misfortune on bad luck, just as three different members of the Seahawks organization (Wilson, Head Coach Pete Carroll, and Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell) took responsibility for the fateful interception.  It's that level of class and commitment, combined with extraordinary intelligence, talent, and determination, that will make the Seahawks winners for years to come, in much the same way the Patriots have had so much success over the last 15 years.

I'm already looking forward to next season.