Archive for February 2010

Reasons I Hate Movies #4: January-April

February 18, 2010

I like going to the movie theater.  As this blog proves, I don’t always like the actual movies I see there, but the experience of going to a movie theater is pleasant in its own right.  It’s not enough, though, to warrant going if I don’t think there’s at least some chance that the movie I’ll see is at least decent.

Which is why the first four months of every year are so miserable.  There is nothing worth seeing this time of year.  The movie studios save all of their big blockbusters for the summer so that they can cash in on all of the teenagers who are out of school and searching for something to do with themselves.  They save all of their “quality” dramas for the fall so that these films will still be on people’s minds come Oscar season.  So, since making films that don’t fit the blockbuster or Oscar formula is absolutely out of the question, come January there’s nothing left.

Of course, theaters can’t afford to shut down for four months, so they have to show something.  So what do movie studios do?  They run all of the movies that they’ve held onto because they either wouldn’t be a big box office draw or weren’t good enough to get Oscar buzz.  In other words, they release all of their stored up crap.

Take, for instance, last year’s He’s Just Not That Into You.

This was a movie based on a book that Oprah made famous back in 2005.  Trying to capitalize on the popularity of that book, the studios rushed to make a romantic comedy based on its premise.  So they lined up an all-star cast of B-level celebrities, made some references to trendy new pieces of pop culture like Myspace and text messages, and prepared to rake in the cash as masses of people lined up to see the “feel good movie of the year.”  The only problem is that by the time the movie came out, the book that it was based on was yesterday’s news and Facebook had made Myspace obsolete.

So what happened?  Apparently, even the studios seemed to realize that this movie was crap – and that’s saying something.  But, they’d already made the thing so they were stuck with a multi-million dollar dud that wouldn’t make a penny in theaters if it went up against special effects blockbusters or films that were getting Oscar buzz.  So they held onto it and waited for a time when it wouldn’t have to compete against any films that anyone even remotely cared about.  That time was last February.

Sadly, the strategy worked.  He’s Just Not That Into You hit #1 at the box office and went on to make almost $94 million domestically.  Never mind that it wasn’t even a remotely decent film.  Never mind that its references and even its title were completely dated before the film even came out.  Like a college student getting excited to eat a microwaved pizza that’s been in the freezer for several months because it breaks up a steady diet of Ramen noodles, desperate audiences flocked to the theater to see Jennifer Aniston and Drew Berrymore go through the motions and pick up giant pay checks.

And this has become a yearly ritual.  I haven’t been to the theaters in a couple months.  I’d really like to go.  But I just can’t bring myself to see Wolfman or Valentine’s Day no matter how desperate I am.

In fact, the trend of dumping bad movies on audiences this time of year is so pervasive that even movies that I might normally be interested in, like Scorcese’s Shutter Island, make me nervous.  Sure, it’s a Scorcese (I don’t care what anybody says, his name should be pronounced “score-cease”) film, but why is coming out now?  Why would a director whose films usually generate Oscar buzz come out in February?  There can only be one reason – it isn’t good.

So, I’ll do my best to resist.  As much as I miss the theater, going now will only reinforce the movie studio’s bad behavior.  Instead, for the next few months, I’m putting them in time out.  Yes, I’m treating them like I would a naughty child.  And, yes, that is what they deserve.  And yes, that is another reason that I hate movies.

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Academy Award Predictions

February 5, 2010

So this year’s Academy Award nominations are upon us.  Having seen the list I have come to the conclusion that the sole goal of the Academy is to piss me off.

The first thing to stoke my ire was the the decision to include ten nominees for best picture.  At first I thought maybe some of the excellent small budget films that can’t afford to campaign against the big-studio blockbusters will actually get some recognition for a change.  Unfortunately, that isn’t how it worked out.  Rather than rewarding unconventional or non-mainstream films, the Academy used their bloated nomination format to give still more hype to mediocre big studio drivel.  

The Blind Side, for instance – a movie whose sole purpose is to exchange expensive movie tickets for some cheap sentimental tears – clearly benefited from the overblown nomination list while an excellent and original film like Moon still can’t get any Oscar attention.  There is no way that The Blind Side is better than Moon.

Then, of course, there are the two atrocities that continue to make cinema in 2009 a colossal joke.  Somehow, the tripe that is Avatar tied for the most nominations , including best picture, while the year’s best film, Where the Wild Things Are got none.  I’ve ranted on both of these topics enough in the last few months, so I won’t go into it again.  I don’t want to bore my readers, and, frankly, I’m emotionally spent.

As much as this year’s nominations have let me down, though, I still feel that, as a movie blogger, I have to offer my predictions.  So, since I’m convinced that the Oscars are nothing more than a giant, star-studded hoax whose aim is to fill me with rage (no, I don’t think I’m exaggerating and yes, I really am that narcissistic), I’m going to assume that the winner of each category will be the winner that will most piss me off.  Here, then, are my choices:

Best Original Screenplay – From what I’ve heard about Inglorious Basterds the writing was simply fantastic, so there’s no way it’s going to win.  Up was great, too, so it doesn’t stand a chance.  A Serious Man was not only a terrible movie, but the Cohen Brothers are my filmic nemeses, so they should be a lock for this one.

Best Adapted Screenplay – The fact that Where the Wild Things Are didn’t get a nomination here is enough to get me riled up, but I’m sure the Academy will top off this indignity by giving the award to the inexplicably over-hyped Up in the Air.

Visual Effects – This should be the one and only award that Avatar wins, and it probably does deserve it.  That, and the fact that every time I hear the word Avatar now I cringe, makes this one a no-brainer.

Sound Mixing – In making the Transformers movies, Michael Bay has taken a Megatron sized dump on my childhood.  I’m sure the Academy will follow suit by giving Revenge of the Fallen a gold statue.

Sound Editing – Since I have no real investment in this category it seems like a great chance for the Academy to slip in yet another punch to the gut by rewarding Avatar for completely wasting three hours of my life.

Short Film (Both Live Action & Animated) – I don’t know anything about the nominees, nor do I care to.  My guess is that, knowing this, the Academy will waste my time by giving the awards to whoever will make the longest and most incomprehensible speeches, as seems to be the case every year.  I mean, come on, we’ve never even heard of you or your film, why on earth would we want to hear you thank the film crew and your parents?   Just grab your phallic statue and get off the stage.

Music (Original Song) – I don’t know about the winner, but I’m guessing that we’ll get an uninspired performance of each song during the ceremony so that the Academy can fill more time and sell more commercials.  In fact, this is probably the safest bet of the night.

Music (Original Score)Fantastic Mr. Fox‘s music was interesting and memorable and actually contributed to the tone of the story, but Karen O didn’t get a nomination for her work on Wild Things, so I can only assume that the Academy doesn’t reward that kind of thing.  I’m guessing throw away orchestral music is more the Academy’s speed, so Avatar should get this one.

Makeup – Like the short film categories, this one is best when the award goes to someone giving a short acceptance speech.  Therefore, I’m assuming that this year it’ll be a three way tie and we’ll get to hear three people we’ve never heard of talk about how much they appreciate what their third grade teacher taught them about eyeliner.

Foreign Language Film – I haven’t seen any of these, so I’m going to guess that it’ll go to A Prophet since it’s French.  I have a complicated relationship to all things French.

Film Editing – Given the inordinate and unnecessary length of Avatar I refuse to believe that they did any editing at all.  This three hour monstrosity should have been 90 minutes max, and yet they’ll get the award even though all four of the other films are clearly superior in this category.

Documentary (Short Subject) – See other short film categories.

Documentary (Feature) – It would take someone pretty naive not to know how screwed up the U.S. food industry is.  I’m all for doing what we can to make a difference, but Food, Inc. was poorly made and didn’t really tell me all that much that I didn’t already know.  This is an extremely important issue, but I just didn’t think that this was an extremely important documentary.  In other words, it’s just what the Academy is looking for.

Costume Design – This award is the whole reason that we have to endure at least one melodramatic period movie every year.  The Young Victoria should keep that trend going.

Cinematography Avatar‘s cinematography happened in three dimensions, which has never been done before!  James Cameron invented 3-D film technology, so he deserves this one for sure.  Oh wait, 3-D movies have been around since 1922?  Eh, he can have the award anyway.

Art Direction – Jungles with giant trees in them apparently pass for imagination in today’s Hollywood.  Chalk another one up for Avatar.

Animated Feature Film – Wow, the Academy actually can’t go wrong here.  This was a great year for animated film and, for the first time in years, Pixar isn’t a lock to win it (even though Up is one of their very best movies). I predict that the Academy will lose the envelope and there will be no winner.

Actress in a Supporting Role – Anna Kendrick’s performance was awful, and having to share the screen with George Clooney and Vera Farmiga, both of whom were excellent, just highlighted that she wasn’t up to the task, so I would say that Kendrick’s going to get it.  However, watching Farmiga try to act happy for her inferior co-star would be pretty amusing, and the Academy doesn’t want me to enjoy anything about these awards.  So, I’m going to say this one will go to Penelope Cruz, whose existence perpetually annoys me.

Actor in a Supporting Role – This is another one that the Academy inexplicably got right.  Every time Woody Harrelson has success, though, it makes it harder for me to picture him as Woody Boyd from Cheers, thus slightly diminishing my enjoyment of the greatest sit-com of all time.  For that reason, I think Harrelson will take it.

Actor in a Leading Role – Much like Harrelson’s success tarnishes my enjoyment of Cheers, Clooney’s makes it hard to think of him as George Burnett, and thus The Facts of Life falls a bit in my esteem.  He’ll win the award to spite both me and Tootie.

Actress in a Leading Role – Meryl Streep gave a wonderful performance in Julia & Julia (has she ever not given a wonderful performance?), but the film was just so bad.  As long as “yeah, the movie was terrible, but [insert great actress/actor here]’s peformance made it worth watching” is a common phrase in movie culture I just can’t support giving Streep the award.  Which means she’ll get it.

Director – As James Cameron walks towards the stage to accept his award, I’ll be posing the knife above my heart…

Best Picture – …and when Avatar wins Best Picture I’ll plunge it in.