Monday, February 28, 2011

A Tyler Perry movie I might watch

via Ken Wheaton

March Movie Sanity

Why is everything madness all the time? What has happened to us as a people?

Let Me In [Blu-ray] (2010)
This is a creepy vampire movie. Creepy because it's about little kids. And it's supposed to be about first love, but one of the first love people is a hundred year old vampire who looks 12. And of course, a boy who gets bullied at school. You know what's awesome when you're a 12 year old boy who gets bullied at school? Vampire girlfriend.

Jack Goes Boating (2010)

Bleech. Seymour Hoffman changes himself to impress that weird woman who plays Michael Scott's girlfriend on The Office. She's weird too and thinks everyone is trying to rape her. Or she does get raped a lot, the movie leaves that ambiguous. I dunno. It's strange and too "indie."

Stone (2010)

Um... the guy who plays Worm in Rounders is in this...with Robert Dinero. It should have been better than it was. As it is, it was NOT good. Worm is in prison, applying for parole. Deniro is his parole officer who is like a super religious guy who doesn't believe in second chances, but he also beats his wife. Worm sends his own wife to plead his case with Deniro. They end up having an affair. So now of course, Deniro has to approve Worm's parole. Blah.

A Handful of Dust (1988)

Adaptation of an Evelyn Waugh novel. Can I just say the movie is all Victorian and la di da and Paddington Estates and then she leaves her husband for lover... but THEN it has the bestest ending ever! Not worth renting the movie and it's over 20 years old and based on a book, so I'll just tell you: the husband goes on safari "to clear his head," and ends up being kidnapped by a madman in the jungle who keeps him prisoner to read books! DUUUDE! If more movies ended with people who go "to find themselves" being kidnapped by illiterate madmen, more people would stay their damn asses home and take care of their responsibilities.

Life As We Know It [Blu-ray] (2010)

It's the blond girl from Grey's Anatomy and Fergie's husband. They hate each other, but their best friends are married. Then their best friends die and leave them joint custody of their one year old daughter. And they move in together to raise the child. Awww. It's just like Romeo and Juliet!

Abandoned [Blu-ray] (2010)

I rented this because it was Brittany Murphy's last film. She died so young. SO SO SO YOUNG! Oh, this movie is awful though. If she weren't dead, I would now be threatening to kill her. Alas. R.I.P.

For Colored Girls [Blu-ray] (2010)

I didn't hate this movie. It's dramatic. Real real bad things happen to the characters, but there's no preachy message and they sort of triumph in the end. You know, as much as you can triumph after your family has been murdered, you've been raped by your date and gotten HIV from your closeted husband.

Superheroes (2006)

It's a movie but it looks like a documentary. It's about a group for injured war veterans. We see it through the eyes of the weird 20-year-old volunteer who is videotaping the sessions. He befriends one of the vets. They go on a camping trip together. Raise your hands if you think this ends well.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles [Those Aren't Pillows Edition] (1987)

This is movie was okay. I'd heard so much about it through the years, I thought it would be awesome. Instead, it was a series of inane problems followed by even more inane solutions. You're snowed in at an airport? Sleep at the airport until the flights head out in the morning. There. I've made this movie 10 minutes long and more interesting. I did laugh at the wrong way down the highway part.

Welcome to the Rileys (2010)

Man goes on a business trip to New Orleans. Goes to a strip club. Meets a stripper about the age of his dead daughter. Decides to move in with her to take care of her. His wife in Chicago decides to come down to help. O_O. Um. How come it's always the white hooker girls who find salvation through the sex industry?

Never Let Me Go (2010)

You don't know what this movie is about at I'm not sure I should say. I liked it, think you should see it. It elicits interesting moral questions. But the characters aren't annoying.

Conviction (2010)

You know where all the characters are annoying? In this movie. It's based on the true story of a high school drop out who gets her GED, goes to college, graduates law school and passes the bar after her brother is convicted of murder.


This movie wasn't awful...though there's about forty minutes sorta right in the middle where you will sigh and say "this movie is awful." I really don't think it's for kids...unless you've got some twisted kids over which case I don't think they should watch this movie either...they might get ideas. Overlordy ideas. The premise is that there is a good superhero and a bad supervillain and one day the bad guy wins. What now?

You Again

Now THIS is an awful movie. I just don't get it. The cast: Kristen Bell, Betty White, Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Curtis should have been able to do better with this premise of two generations of high school rivalries facing the prospect of becoming family via marriage. But nope. It's terrible from the first "oh look Kristen Bell is the ugly girl" scene to the "look now everybody is dancing the Macarena together" final scene.

Dark Victory

I must have been in a Bette Davis mood one day, cause Netflix keeps sending me these old Davis movies. In this one she is a pants wearing, scotch drinking horse rider from a wealthy family. She gets diagnosed with an incurable glioma, but her family and friends decide to lie and say the surgery was successful. She finds out the truth. Dun dun dun. It's okay.


This is an animated motion picture version of the autobiographical graphic novel of this Iranian ex patriot's life. It's excellent. You love her as a little girl, love her family and are sad about what happens to them and their country. Yep, I feel sorry for Iran. That's some good storytelling right there.


This is another movie from the Ku-Fu Hustle people. It's about a single dad struggling to send his kid to a fancy prep school even though they are so poor the kid wears hand me downs from the dump to school. He is teased mercilessly and one day throws a tantrum in the toy store cause he wants the hot new toy all the other kids have. His dad goes rummaging around the dump and finds something quite special. CJ7! It's cute.

Shaolin Soccer

Again, same people as Kung Fu hustle, but nowhere as good. It's weird and doesn't really make any sense.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

The new one. I've never seen the original (I have enough problems sleeping without Freddy nightmares.) But I had a hunch the remake would be lame enough for me to handle. I was right. Meh. One cool fight scene toward the end, but the lines were your hackneyed C list movie level.

Friday the 13th

Ditto. The new version is lame. (I did see the original of this one.) It stars Rory's doofus first love from Gilmore Girls. Everybody dies by variations of getting stabbed in the head... after a while it loses the gore factor. Ooh, there is a whole Lagavulin scene in it though, just for @astinto.

Case 39

Oh. My. God. I picked up this Renee Zwellwegger flick and expected the utter worst. She plays a social worker who has 38 cases of neglected kids on her plate when her boss comes over and hands her a new one. Yeah, lame right? Uh uh. Thirty minutes later, I'm screaming my head off, swearing off having further contact with any children anywhere and trying to hide. Good lord it scared the crap out of me!

Not Easily Broken

Er... I don't know why Blockbuster sent me this tale of a marriage on the rocks. There's a lot of baptist church scenes and crazy, neck snapping black women emasculating their poor black husbands until they run straight into the arms of a white woman, so naturally I blamed Tyler Perry. But no, tis reverend TJ Jakes what was to blame. Awful.

Ace Ventura: when nature calls

No clue why, of all the Jim Carrey comedies, Blockbuster would send the *sequel* to Ace Ventura. I mean, how am I to understand what's happening without the benefit of the original?! I half watched it while falling asleep. Wretched.

Middle Men

Owen Wilson's brother plays a straight man who gets mixed up with the inventors of online p*rn. He sees the dollar signs and spirals into a world of mobsters and kiddie p*rnographers. It's decent.

My Soul to Take

Is in the boogie man genre of horror. There are some gruesome deaths, you aren't quite sure who the killer is until the end, so it serves it's purpose. And it's got a black kid!

I am love

This movie is in Italian. It's set in Italy. The cinematography is simply breathtaking. Did I do that right? That's the classy way of saying an arty movie sucks, yes? It's about a redheaded Russian housewife who is a whore. O_o

You will meet a tall dark stranger

Ugh. Yet another in what I'm calling the "Viagra Genre," of films. Basically, Anthony Hopkins is 400 years old, leaves his 300 year old wife and marries a 20-year-old hooker. Then his daughter's husband leaves her for the across the hall neighbor who changes without drawing her window blinds and he steals a novel from a guy in a coma. Ugh. Retarded. The whole thing is retarded. #NoSarahPalin

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Time-Delayed Oscars: 1996

Cross-Posted at The_Goat Speaks.

You know the old saying: “An awesome, fun vacation with your family will wreak havoc with your schedule for a series of Time-Delayed Oscars blog posts”?

Well, that saying is true.

Anyway, this week brings us to 1996, which I think was a year that actually happened once, though Wikipedia is still asking for a citation to verify this.  Since it’s been a while, here’s a refresher for the groundlings:

Time Delayed Oscars is predicated on the idea that time itself picks the true quality in movies. Each year, we the mass of casual movie watchers, film aficionados, and habitual renters decide which movies will last in the public consciousness; we do this by deciding what we still want to watch, through pop culture references, through pastiche, through homage, and even through which posters we put on our dorm room walls.

Here we go.

"Listen honey, I know you're not a big Monty Python fan, but I've got
to ask: This would be the perfect time to do the whole 'I'm not dead yet'
routine from Grail. Chance of a lifetime. Would you mind?"
All The Movies of 1996

Sometimes These Come Back

Bottle Rocket – This one is special, guys. You know those bullets that make a tiny entrance wound but an exit wound the size of a pie plate?  That’s this movie.  Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson (and yes, OK, Luke Wilson, too) made a tiny little splash in the cinematic ocean with Bottle Rocket, but since then there’s been an explosion underwater somewhere. Without a doubt Anderson’s least polished work, it’s still one of his best. A little classic.

Breaking the Waves – Emily Watson and the rather divisive auteur Lars von Trier first came to the attention of the general U.S. moviegoing public when Watson received a (well-deserved) Oscar nomination for her devastating portrayal of a devout, nearly suicidally-sacrificial young woman (a recurring theme of von Trier’s). The rather controversial ending is still a favorite of mine, as von Trier breaks the naturalistic, gritty formalism of his self-created “Dogma 95” rules in an audacious commentary on the divide between religion and divinity.

The Cable Guy – The first Jim Carrey box office disappointment is also the first Jim Carrey movie to hint at the strains of darkness and complexity that would mark some of Old Rubberface’s more interesting roles.

The English Patient – This is 1996’s Best Picture laureate, which should come as no surprise, since it’s essentially the How To Make A Best Picture template. It’s beautifully shot and gorgeous to look at. It’s well-acted by British people. It’s historical. It’s epic. It’s very tastefully done. It has basically no sharp edges or anything that might be the slightest bit challenging (it completely jettisons the moment in the book when the gentle-nature Sikh sapper Kip explodes in fury at the dropping of atomic bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which is only one of the two emotional climaxes).  I don’t know if anybody is interested in watching it again, ever, or why they might want to do so, short of curiosity after finishing Michael Ondaatje’s superb novel. It also has Colin Firth in a supporting role, and Colin Firth is the star of a very nicely-acted British historical movie called The King’s Speech.  I don’t know why I brought that up.

Everyone Says I Love You – Am I the only person who thinks this was Woody Allen’s most enjoyable movie –by a mile – of the nineties?  A return to a sort of silly whimsical Woody, and most of the cast doesn’t embarrass themselves with the singing. Also, any movie that has two dozen Groucho Marxes (Grouchoes Marx?) in pith helmets singing “Hooray for Captain Spaulding” in French is going to be Good People in my book.

Fargo – For some reason, Fargo represents the moment when the world at large started paying attention to the Coen Brothers; kind of analogous to the moment when your favorite indie band turns into a rock superpower. I think this is middle-drawer Coens, which is still a very good movie indeed. It’s top of the middle drawer. Maybe bottom of the top drawer. Anyway, people are still watching and quoting and thinking about Fargo, its pregnant no-nonsense sheriff, its wood chipper, its impeccably staged double-murders, and its deadpan aping of Northern Midwest patois, but I remain bemused that this was the breakout album and not (say) Miller’s Crossing or Raising Arizona.

Fear –  I don’t think this is remembered, but I do remember seeing the box in the video store. It was the moment I thought, “Huh. So I guess they’re going to keep letting Marky Mark make movies.”

Flirting With Disaster – David O. Russell’s studio debut (he made an uber indie called Spanking the Monkey) with Daniel Faraday a few years prior. I haven’t seen it. Anybody here still love it?

Hamlet – Man, Kenneth Branagh was on fire with this faithful Shakespeare adaptation. To my tastes, this is 95% the most gorgeously made movie of the year (the other 5%, in particular the ghost scene and some ill-advised stunt casting, went for the gusto and missed), and Branagh gives one of the performances of the decade as the Dane. Strangely, I’m in a minority here; the movie hasn’t had much attention in the last 15 years. I’m including it anyway, because this is THE definitive film Hamlet.

Happy Gilmore – King Adam Sandler ruled for 12 years. This is by consensus his best movie.  Let’s all say it together: “The Price is WRONG, bitch!”

Hard Eight – P.T. Anderson’s debut is a twisty little noir. It’s not much known, but I include it here as a sign of what was to come.

Independence Day – This big stupid summer blockbuster distinguishes itself from the mass of big dumb summer blockbusters that have been completely forgotten for two reasons: First, it’s so committed to its big and its dumb that it achieves a sort of lasting purity, and second, (Bad Boys aside) this was the moment when Will Smith broke loose from the sitcom set and established himself as a Big Damn Star. Welcome to earth, indeed.

The Island of Dr. Moreau – A massive stinkbomb that effectively killed both Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando. A camp classic today.

Jerry Maguire – SHOW ME THE MONEY!  A big hit when it came out, it then surprised everybody (by which I mean me) when it got nominated for a bunch of Oscars, including Picture and Actor. Cuba Gooding Jr.even won for Best Supporting Actor, and immediately parlayed his newfound credibility into forming a production company dedicated to creating genuine artistic expression.  Either that, or he started making movies that required him to bug out his eyes a lot and share the screen with talking dogs. Oy.  Anyway, Maguire remains one of the most-liked movies of this year. And it has a kid with like a 70 lb. head in it.

Kingpin – We all know now that this – and not There’s Something About Mary –  is the best of the Farrelly Brothers’ movies, right? Right?  Good. Let’s move on.

Lone Star – This slow paced, character driven story about a Texas sheriff solving a decades-old crime is the last time that I can remember John Sayles getting widespread critical praise. It was a little movie that few had heard of when it came out, and it remains just that, but when critics talk about the greats of the year (or sometimes even of the entire decade), this one will invariably be on the list.

Mars Attacks! – This completely insane movie is the last Tim Burton film that I actually like without qualifications. You need to surrender to the madness and let go of expectations, though, or you’re in for a rough 90 or so minutes.

Mission: Impossible – Only memorable today for that “lowered by wires” sequence.

The Nutty Professor – The movie that taught Eddie Murphy that putting on multiple fat suits equals bags full of money. For this reason alone, it should be put into a space capsule and fired directly into the sun.

Primal Fear – Ho hum, dumb little Richard Gere thriller.  Oh, here comes Ed Norton, the most talented actor of his generation. Holy crap!

Sling Blade – mmm hmmm, sure do love them French fried per-tay-ters. This movie gave the world Billy Bob Thornton, as well as a bunch of people constantly saying that last sentence. You decide if that’s a good thing.

Swingers – The movie that taught douchebags how to behave! Actually, it’s aware of their character’s flaws, even if many of the film’s fans aren’t, so we won’t blame Jon Favreau and company. Notable for Vince Vaughan’s hilarious portrayal of fast-talking uber-dip Trent “Double Down” Walker, which made him an instant star and created the persona that he’ll never escape.

Tin Cup – The last gasp of Kevin Costner’s career was actually a lot of fun. This is one of the more under-rated sports movies in recent(ish) memory.

Trainspotting – This tale of the rapid disintegration of four junkies and their drunken homicidal cohort introduced us to Ewan MacGregor and director Danny Boyle (if you didn’t see their excellent tiny indie thriller Shallow Grave a year before, that is). It’s still a frenetic good time, until it morphs into a grim psycho-horror. Then a good time again. Then horror. Then . . .

Waiting for Guffman – Christopher Guest’s re-invigoration of the mockumentary is one of the funniest movies of the 90s. If Oscar were a little more friendly to comedies, I’d put it on the nomination list.

"No, he's not Bruce Willis. He's Peter Stomare. He's the IKEA Bruce
Willis, which means that he's Swedish and not 100% properly assembled."
And The Time-Delayed Oscars Go To:

Best Picture:

Real List: The English Patient, Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine

Today’s List: The English Patient, Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Lone Star, Trainspotting

My Pick: Hamlet

The Winner: I’ve already detailed the reasons that I think The English Patient would no longer win the big prize. I honestly was expecting to de-nominate it (and I sort of liked it), but in reviewing 1996 I am faced with the fact that it was a really bad year for film. So, Patient is still on the short list, but the race for the TDO is between Fargo and Jerry Maguire.  I’m fairly torn.  Both of them are still well-loved modern classics that have been uploaded into the collective consciousness, but neither of them stands out to me as an obvious choice for a win. Maguire definitely has the edge when it comes to how much of the script has entered our vocabulary (though I’m not sure if that helps or hinders a perception of quality), while the Coen Brothers, outsiders of sorts in 1996, have become Oscar darlings in the last few years. I want to call it a tie, but a man’s got to take a stand eventually.  I think that if the Academy gave out the 1996 do-over awards this year, you’d probably see Fargo take it – and immediately face popular opinion  that Maguire was robbed. 

Here’s an interesting thought that I haven’t encountered until now:  The assumption of Time Delayed Oscars is that it allows a more objective view of a film’s historical significance and staying power, shorn of the hype/money machine that now permeates the Yearly Awards Cycle (which is itself now longer than the NHL season), and might act as a tonic to Oscar’s habit of awarding somebody for a lesser work because of their prodigious body of previously unawarded work (see Scorsese, Martin).  However, it seems possible that a lesser movie may get a boost because of its film-maker’s prodigious collective body of work since then.

Turns out there is nothing that Tom Cruise could be yelling here
funnier than "I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE!!!"
Best Actor:  I don’t think Geoffrey Rush would get the prize for a hammy performance in a  dull movie (Shine) that is now generally recognized as such. Personally, I’d give this prize to Kenneth Branagh for Hamlet, but I know I’m the only person banging that gong. Tom Cruise has really damaged his career lately, but that’s really only taken him from “biggest star in the world who everybody loves” to “one of the ten biggest stars in the world who everybody thinks is weird”, which also describes Johnny Depp.  Jerry Maguire is still beloved, and the whole thing falls apart without the cocky desperation that he invests in his title character (watch that shark’s grin start to glisten with flop sweat as unctuous Jay Mohr fires him).  I don’t think there’s anybody else in 1996 that could have played that part, and Cruise does so to perfection.  If not Cruise, then maybe Woody Harrelson in The People vs. Larry Flynt, but that movie is pretty much dust by now. I say Cruise.

Best Actress: The thing about Francis McDormand’s turn as Sheriff Marge Gunderson is that, while certainly iconic, it was a supporting role (strangely, William H. Macy, the closest thing that Fargo had to a lead role, was nominated in the supporting category). Meanwhile, Emily Watson’s performance in Breaking the Waves remains astonishing (do yourself a favor and check that movie out). I think she gets the golden boy in a fairly weak year. Even though the movie she appeared in is not broadly remembered from a popular standpoint, von Trier is still a relevant director today, and so one of his early and more universally well-regarded entries would still get consideration.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Time-Delayed Oscars: 1995

I predicted a three-way race in the poll for 1993, and I got a three-way race.  It just wasn’t the race I was expecting. Forrest Gump was left in the dust as Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption contended with . . . Four Weddings and a Funeral.  Given that The Real Dawn Summers is the first person in 15 years that I have ever heard expressing any sort of enthusiasm for that movie …well, let’s just say I’m skeptical.  Do I suspect her of ballot stuffing? I can't say. But yes.

In all seriousness, I’m having a blast with this, especially when I discover those movies I thought had thought sunk beneath the sand are still alive and well in the hearts of one of you, or maybe more than one.  Speaking of “more than one”, I had better give some love to Quiz Show, a 1994-nominee that was seen as a potential winner that year.  Robert Redford’s historical picture about the quiz show scandals of the 50s is still very much loved by many of you.  I haven’t seen it since it was first out, and though I remember it as being good, I’d heard very little love sent its way over the years and I left it off.  I may have been wrong on that count; certainly a number of you made sure I knew that.

Anyway, let’s not let all this finger-pointing keep us from 1995.

Mel Gibson, in the hot tub, finally getting what he demanded.

And The Keepers:

The American President – Otherwise known as the last Rob Reiner movie worth a damn, one of the few movies that lets Michael Douglas be charming rather than sleazy, the movie with that inspired hit TV shows for supporting actors Michael J. Fox (Spin City) and Martin Sheen (The West Wing), and a damn fine entertainment in the Frank Capra model.

Apollo 13 – Otherwise known as Ron Howard’s best movie to date. Tom Hanks continued his winning streak with the real tale of stranded astronauts, but the role I’ll always remember from this movie is Ed Harris’ mission controller. I think he probably deserved the supporting Oscar in an understated role (Kevin Spacey won this year for what was basically a lead in The Usual Suspects). I really appreciate this movie’s style; quiet and unassuming and straight-foward, much like its subjects.

Babe – Otherwise known as the “that’ll do, pig” movie.  I’m done with this “otherwise known as” theme now.

Bad Boys – The movie that put Michael Bay on the map and established Wil Smith as a credible action hero. Actually a pretty fun action movie, if typically bom-Bay-stic.  See what I did there?

The Basketball Diaries – Marky Mark began his transformation from underwear model/crappy rapper into an occasionally brilliant actor with a supporting role. This movie was also notable for a 3 hour scene [citation needed] in which a strung-out Leonardo DiCaprio howls “MOOOOOOONEEEEEEY” at his mother.

Braveheart – Mel Gibson hasn’t really done himself any favors recently. He was the big Oscar winner in 1995 with this big historical Scottish epic, winning both Best Director and Best Picture. There are still a lot of people – mainly guys – who still consider it one of the greatest movies ever. I saw it after having a) all my wisdom teeth out and b) four Vicodin, so I thought the raining Smurfs during the big climactic shuffleboard game were out of place.  Anyway, after blaming all wars on the Jews, howling death threats and racial slurs at his lady-friend, and starring in an inexplicable movie about a man who talks to a beaver puppet on his own hand . . . let me just say that I actually doubt that it would win.  In fact, I sort of expect it wouldn’t get nominated.  I mean come on.  A movie that spends literally half its running time on a subplot where Abe Vigoda struggles with his diabetic Labradoodle’s infertility?  The Vicodin was good.

Casino – Essentially this is Goodfellas 2. It was still pretty good for a pale substitute. “Charlie M?  You made me pop your eye out of your head for Charlie M??”

Clueless – Don’t know if this one is losing steam or not. It was so much better than I expected an Alicia Silverstone movie to be. I think we're all still surprised.

Dead Man Walking – Good acting, and a surprisingly even-handed look from generally one-sided Tim Robbins on a controversial subject. In most years, I think Sean Penn would have won for his turn here. Not this year, though.

Goldeneye – This is remembered more for the video game than the movie. It’s James Bond. The one where he beat the bad guy. Then he made a quip. It was that one.

Heat – This was recognized as a good movie at the time. Now it’s understood as one of the best crime movies of the nineties. Pacino. DeNiro. They only share one scene together. No matter; the centerpiece bank heist scene is a straight-up marvel. Al Pacino is a ham of the best kind. You know what? I need to watch this again.

Leaving Las Vegas –Nicholas Cage was The Amazing in this one. I’d watch it again to appreciate, but just thinking about this movie has depressed me again.

Othello – I’m cheating on this one. I don’t think many people remember it. But Fishburne as Othello and Branagh as Iago are just great; I can’t simply pass over these performances without mention. Also, how is it that it took us until 1995 to get a black Othello on the screen?

Rob Roy – Gotta say, I preferred this, the other “stalwart Scotsman fights the Evil British for the love of his wo-man’ movie of 1995. There’s just something more believable and earthy about it, and Jessica Lange is dead sexy in it. Liam Neeson and Tim Roth’s swordfight has to be among the most memorable committed to celluloid. No quips, no swashes buckled. Just two guys putting each other in mortal danger with long knives.

Se7en – The greatness of David Fincher begins here. “What’s in the box what in the BOX?” If The Silence of the Lambs started the serial killer genre, Se7evn was the first of its followers to take it in its own direction. I sort of stumbled out of the theater after this one. It was also one of the first movies I went to with the woman who is now my wife.  Not a recommended date movie.

Species – This was 1995’s booby movie. I haven’t seen it, but it still gets referenced in popular culture, so them must have been some nice boobies.

To Die For – The first seriously acclaimed performance from Nicole Kidman, and a very young Joaquin Phoenix.

Tommy Boy – The most beloved comedy of this year, and of most other years. I think I speak for all of us when I say that Chris Farley is missed. Holy Schnikies.

Toy Story – Hold on . . .

Twelve Monkeys – Why isn’t Terry Gilliam more of a legend? Twelve Monkeys is one of my favorites of the year.  It gave Bruce Willis his best role to date (that “Blueberry Hill” scene kills me), Brad Pitt one of his most interesting ones, and 1995 some of its most striking images. Giraffes on the bridge, yo. Watching the time-travel inevitability click into place was perhaps my favorite movie moment of the year.

The Usual Suspects – This one has turned into an all-time mindscrew/modern noir classic. Notable for giving Benicio Del Toro his first major screen role, miraculously featuring Stephen Baldwin without sucking, and giving Kevin Spacey the lead role that made him a mega-star until his K-PAX moment.  It was a lead role, by the way; didn’t keep him from picking up an award for supporting.

Waterworld – Hey,what’s that sinking? Oh, it’s just Kevin Costner’s career. Move along . . . I actually saw this twice. In the theater. On purpose. I didn’t want to see it either time; it just sort of happened. (That’s what SHE said – HEY-O!)

Woody, being an antique toy, was the last to hear the "pull my
finger" joke. He wouldn't stop telling it for days.
And the Time-Delayed Oscars Go To:

Real List:  Apollo 13, Braveheart, Babe, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility

Today’s List:  Apollo 13, Heat, Se7en, Toy Story, The Usual Suspects

My Pick:  Toy Story

The Winner: I don’t think the Academy knew what to make of Pixar’s blockbuster in 1995, but at this point the studio itself has become a critical darling and a major “star” in its own right.  The annual Pixar film is pretty much the only sure bet each year for both box office success and critical acclaim. And it all started with a sheriff named Woody and a spaceman named Buzz. Not only did Pixar’s debut represent a quantum leap forward in computer animation, it irrevocably changed an entire genre of film. You could argue that it represented the same sort of seismic effect on event movies that Star Wars did a couple decades earlier.  More importantly, it accomplished all this without ever sacrificing spectacle to character and story, and heart.

That’s why, if the Academy were offered a decade of hindsight, they’d rightfully choose to award the Best Picture of 1995 to Toy Story, making it the first animated movie to take the top prize.

(And I really wish that I could say that 12 Monkeys would be even nominated.  It should be, but I don’t think it would be remembered well enough.  Too bad.)

And now, after un-nominating nearly the entire Best Picture slate, I'll keep the status quo.

Best Actor: Nicolas Cage.  Look, Cage used to be one of the most amazing and unpredictable actors of his generations. He deserved his award in a close one vs. Sean Penn. He’d keep it.

Best Actress: Susan Sarandon. Poor best actress. I’m always sick of writing by the time I get here.  Maybe I’ll lead off with it next time.  Anyway, Nicole Kidman would make a run at this (she’d certainly at least be nominated this time), as would the boobies from Species, but Sarandon was due and deserving, and the performance still holds up. She wins.

So what was the Best Picture of 1995? Vote! FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDOOOOOOOOMMM!!!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Time-Delayed Oscars: 1994

"Life is like a feather? But mama always said life was like a box of
choc-o-lates. My whole life has been a lie."

Cross-posted at The_Goat_Speaks.

And so it came to pass, that after three years of choosing Best Pictures (Silence of the Lambs, Unforgiven, Schindler’s List) that upon retrospect actually lived up to the name, the Academy finally started (arguably) screwing up again, making this blog series considerably more interesting. Thank you, Academy!

This wasn’t as strong a year for movies as ’92 or ’93, but the strong movies were very strong. Let’s get this out of the way: 1994 in retrospect is a pretty much a discussion about three movies, and those movies are Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, and The Shawshank Redemption. The first two got a little early retrospective ink when the AFI put them on their sorta-famous Top 100 List. Best Picture winner Gump hit #71, and Oscar runner-up Pulp came in at #95. Meanwhile, Shawshank, which was nominated but won no Oscars, is a fan favorite that spent a goodly amount of time at #1 on the fan rating of Best Movies of All Time.

That’s pretty canonical.

But let’s not break with tradition.

John Travolta, answering the question "How many more
good movies are you going to be in?"

And Those Not Forgotten:

Ace Ventura, Pet Detective – Yes, it’s a really dumb movie. Nevertheless, it deposited Jim Carrey, a genuine talent, onto the national consciousness, and uploaded a half-dozen or so phrases into the cultural lexicon. It earned its spot.

The Chase – I’m cheating; nobody remembers this ridiculous Charlie Sheen/Kristi Swanson romance/comedy/chase film. But rent it and see if it isn’t a big fun pile of dumb with notable appearances by Red Hot Chili Peppers and Henry Rollins. Also fun, notice that Sheen realizes he is in a terrible and ridiculous movie and has fun with it, while Swanson apparently seems to think she is in an Important Movie. This is, of course, the funniest thing about the film.

Clerks – The film that launched Kevin Smith, a million Jay and Silent Bob movies, crashed through at least two or three barriers for ribald language, and looked like it was filmed using the location’s security cameras. Still arguably Smith’s best effort, though that’s been a case of diminishing returns for a while now.

Dumb and Dumber – Wow, Jim Carrey made a lot of movies all at once. He also made The Mask in 1994, which I didn’t list here. I remember Dumb and Dumber best for the moment when Jeff Daniels just BLASTS that lady in the face with a huge iceball. That snow way to treat a lady, Jeff. (See what I just did there?)

Ed Wood – Will probably be remembered as Tim Burton’s best film. I actually didn’t like it all that much when I saw it back in the day. It probably deserves a revisit, but Burton’s career since at least Sleepy Hollow doesn’t really encourage a retrospective. I remember thinking that Johnny Depp was pretty good and Martin Landau was over-rated. I am pretty sure that this was because I wanted Samuel L. Jackson to win for Pulp Fiction, and Landau eventually scooped the Best Supporting trophy. Anyway, Ed Wood still has many admirers. Maybe someday I will be one.

Forrest Gump – This movie was huge in 1994, Jin-Naaay. HUUUUGE! In retrospect it’s still a pretty solid movie, though tonally its all over the place, and at times it feels like a soundtrack first and a movie second. I think Gump has lost the most ground of 1994’s Big Three. It’s so much a paean to the Boomer generation that I wonder if it might not turn into an oddity after a few more decades. Then again, you’ve gotta love that ice-cream linen suit. Did you know Haley Joel Osment plays Forrest’s love child?

Heavenly Creatures – Critics are somewhat divided on Peter Jackson’s enduring mega-hit trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: What Do You Mean, There Are Eagles That Can Just Fly Us Anywhere? However, they are pretty much in accord on this, the movie that gave New Line the confidence to hand a cubic crap-ton of money over to the unproven director of (up until now) schlock gross-out horror comedies. It’s very likely that if you handed the Oscars over solely to critics groups, Heavenly Creatures would win Best Picture and be in the running for best of the decade. This movies is also notable for giving Kate Winslett her first major role.

Hoop Dreams – This is largely considered to be one of the greatest documentaries of all time, one of the great sports movies, an invaluable social document, and a great story. This movie will run you through the ringer.

Legends of the Fall – And the Reign of King Pitt will last a million years. Lock up your women. Was this movie any good? I never saw it. I understand that Brad is fairly dreamy here.

The Lion King – It’s the ciiiiiiiiiiircle of liiiiiiife! This was actually a fairly artfully made Disney movie, and I think it remains the pinnacle for them in terms of overall success in hand-drawn animation. Hakuna matada, fool. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Natural Born Killers – Don’t actually remember how well-remember this movie is. It was a pretty big deal at the time. Might have been Oliver Stone’s last gasp.

Nell – I don't think it is actually still watched, but I keep hearing this movie get referenced, mainly to say that somebody who makes no sense is “like Jodie Foster in Nell.” Did anybody see it?

Nobody’s Fool – Paul Newman is perfection, in general and in this movie. This was his last great role, and this movie is one of the most under-rated of the decade.

PCU – A movie that was trying to be Animal House for the 90s, and you know what? I think it succeeded. I know I’m not the only person to remember it fondly. Early exposure here for Jeremy “Ari” Piven and Jon Favreau.

Pulp Fiction – Hold on . . .

The Shawshank Redemption – Hold on . . .

Speed – The first big role for Sandra Bullock. The birth of Keanu as a credible action hero (we now understand Point Break to be a comedy). Also, a city bus jumps about 7 city blocks. Big fun.

Three Colors: White – Actually, even among fans of the Three Colors trilogy, White is usually considered the least of the three. But if I left it out, you’d be all like, “Hey Goat! What is the third color? Huh, Goat? WHAT IS THE THIRD COLOR???” So, here it is.

Three Colors: Red – And then we have the movie in the trilogy that is best-remembered. It even got Kieślowski a nomination for Best Director. I know that of the listed movies, the Three Colors films are the ones your average movie fan is least likely to have heard of (though it’s not super-obscure). But you should do yourself a favor and check them out. They are most worthy.

True Lies – If there can be a James Cameron film that is considered “little known” it would probably be this one. A big hit 16 years ago, sort of a footnote today. I have a theory that action movies, while obviously the huge money makers of their times, are tied so closely to the rapidly rising bar of expected spectacle that they start to seem quaint more quickly. Check out The Towering Inferno today, and you may see what I mean. Anyway, I don’t know if anybody will be thinking about True Lies in another ten years.

"Oh man, this feels great. I've been avoiding the shower for 32 years.
You know, because of all the rape."

And the Time-Delayed Oscars Go To . . .

Best Picture

Real List: Forrest Gump, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption

Today’s List: Heavenly Creatures, Hoop Dreams, Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption

My Pick: Pulp Fiction

The Winner: Of the 1994 big three, I love Pulp best, and always will. I think it’s the most audacious, the most iconic, the most creative and clever, the best characters, ultimately the most influential. It’s great. It’s pretty obviously surpassed Forrest Gump in terms of film history. But it wouldn’t win Best Picture in a redo. Another film has leapfrogged it in overall Oscar-winning juice.

That film is The Shawshank Redemption. Remember that 1997 AFI list? The one that placed Gump as the 71st best movie of all time? The one that put Pulp at 95th? Well, the AFI re-did that list in 2007 (basically the same sort of thing that I’m doing here, except a whole lot more people read it than read this). They cut out around 20 movies. They moved Pulp up a notch, to #94. They moved Gump down five pegs to #76. And they installed Shawshank above both of them at #72.

Some movies are the big movie of the moment. Others are iconic, and creative, and audacious. Some are just classics, and classics are a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

I have a feeling that by 2017, AFI will have realized that Gump isn’t one of the 100 best movies of all time. I expect that Pulp will have moved up the chain a bit, as well. And I have a feeling that Shawshank will have notched just a little bit higher, just a little bit. Slowly working its way up, as patient as a convict chipping away his wall with a tiny rock hammer.

Time to read in my Morgan Freeman voice: Shawshank Redemption was a box-office flop when it first came out, but I could see something in it. A shine, a sort of an easy way of being. Yes, I suppose you could say I liked Shawshank from the first. I hope it will be waiting for me on AFIs 2017 list. I hope that its still as uplifting as I remember in my dreams. I hope . . .

Best Actor

I’m going to go ahead and say that Forrest Gump wouldn’t have a prayer at respectability if not for Tom Hanks. Without the choices he makes in a fairly limiting role, Gump could have been a total mess. It’s quite possible he’d still win the do-over. Frankly, I still think Newman is more deserving, and he might edge Hanks, but I don’t notice a whole lot of attention paid to his Donald “Sully” Sullivan these days. Johnny Depp would be in the hunt. Travolta was really good in Pulp but he’s hurt himself badly since with a raft of truly horrid movies.

Truly, Morgan Freeman is the only credible threat in this year. I think it would be very close, but it’s probably still Hanks in what remains his most recognizable role. Who do you think would beat him?

Best Actress

Jessica Lange won for Blue Sky. If you’re saying to yourself, ‘What on earth is Blue Sky?’, then congratulations! You’re just like everybody in 1994! This was one of the most obscure movies in a long time to pick up a major Oscar, and it hasn’t gained much heat since. Little-known then, not at all known now. There are often very sparse years when it comes to juicy roles for actresses, and I think Lange’s win here probably indicates that 1994 was a particular famine in this way. Lange is a fine actress, and she may well be deserving, but I have a feeling that in a re-do, she’d just be overlooked. Here’s my guess: I think that given how highly regarded Kate Winslett now is, and how critically beloved Heavenly Creatures is, Winslett might just take it for her murderous schoolgirl. I also think that Uma Thurman's Pulp role, though considered "supporting" in 1994, might warrant some consideration; certainly there have been roles with less screen time to win one of the majors. Other left-field options include Jamie Lee Curtis (whose True Lies striptease scene is far and away the most remembered part of that movie), Irène Jacob in Three Colors: Red, and Juliet Lewis in Natural Born Killers, but the first actress is probably not taken all that seriously (even though the movie utterly fails without her), the second one is probably still a bit too arthouse obscure, and the third went batshit crazy about 12 years ago. I think Winslett is my pick.

What was the Best Picture of 1994? You'd better vote, because I reckon this is going to be a three-way race.