Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscars Post-Mortem

I know everyone else has done this already and the Oscars are officially Over, but I was asleep most of the day so this is the first chance I've gotten to do the "morning after" thing.

I really enjoyed the show this year. It was much more enjoyable, and much more in-character for the Oscars, than last year. I don't know what the producers and Tom Sherak have taken away from the experience, but I was glad they stopped caring - for this year, at least - about courting the young demographic (and even poked fun at it). Seriously, aside from the Justin Bieber cameo in the opening, I think there was only one presenter under the age of 30 - Emma Stone, who I'll get to below.

[pic removed]

Best Dressed - Jessica Chastain. I also really loved Ellie Kemper (another redhead who made an awesome color choice) and Gwyneth Paltrow (that cape!). I was not completely sold on Viola Davis's dress, though I loved that she came in her natural hair.

Best Presenter - Emma Stone with Ben Stiller. After all of Stiller's outlandish appearances in year's past (going back to 2001's Best Costume Design gag when he was trussed up as Gimli while Owen Wilson was much more understated in Hogwarts robes), I loved that they poked fun at that and had him be the straight man to Emma's hilarious overexuberance.

- Also loved the Bridesmaids gals. I seriously think no one has told Martin Scorsese about the drinking game, which if I remember correctly came from the SAG awards, and I don't think he attended those. His "what's going on?" reaction was hilarious.

Best Acceptance Speech - Octavia Spencer, who seemed so genuinely overwhelmed at not only the award but the standing ovation.

Obligatory Cirque du Soleil Comment - This is something that I'll bet played really well to the room but just didn't quite translate on television. Nothing wrong with that, in my opinion. This night is for the people in that room; my entertainment is secondary.

Captain Von Trapp, For the Win - At 82, Christopher Plummer is now the oldest recipient of a competitive Oscar. Previous record-holder was Jessica Tandy, who won for Driving Miss Daisy when she was 80.

Oh, THAT's What That Was - I was boggling at the women in tiny outfits passing out popcorn, but it seems to have been part of the "old movie house" theme of the year. Very fitting, given the unofficial Best Picture theme of "nostlagia."

Minor Disappointment - I was not wild about the opening medley. There were parts of it that were great, like the "Amore" thing with Scorsese. But there were misses. For example, I thought it was weird to dedicate basically the entire Moneyball section to the fact that Jonah Hill lost weight.

Not-So-Minor Disappointment - Don't get me wrong. I loved seeing Meryl Streep win last night. But I felt so sad for Viola Davis. Having said that, I agree with a comment I saw on Twitter and would like it a lot more to see Davis win for playing someone who is not a maid. And it helps to know that she and Meryl are friends and would be horrified to think that people are getting upset and creating stories about some rivalry.

Other Stuff
People were amazed that Best Actor was presented before Best Actress, as if it was somehow a Big Moment for women, to have been deferred to the more dramatic next-to-last award. But in actual fact, they usually alternate the order of those awards.

People are also offended by Billy Crystal's Sammy Davis, Jr. impression, and while I get that a bit like that is no longer really acceptable, Crystal has been doing that gag for years.  And he's been doing it at the Oscars since at least 1996.  I think the outrage should be accompanied by acknowledgement that it wasn't that long ago when that was an acceptable impression.

Controversy aside, I thought Billy Crystal rocked, for the most part. Yeah, it was "safe" comedy and felt a bit like filler and going through the motions, but look - the Oscars (again, in my opinion) are not meant to be Great Television. They usually turn out to be something close to it, because they're live and they're all about seeing our favorite actors in their own skin, as it were. Lame jokes and poignant clip reels are meant to help nominees and presenters relax on what must be the most stressful night of many of their lives. The first priority of the show should be to play to the room, which is why it was never going to fly to have the Muppets host. Sorry, Kermit.

One final note...

[pics removed]

They gotta be related somehow.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

What to Expect When You're Expecting the Oscars

Spoiler alert! :P

After a disappointing experience with last year's Oscars, I'm actually rather excited about the show this time and the stuff I expect to win. I've also seen a lot of different websites doing predictions and making some surprising (in my opinion) mistakes in the major categories. So here's what I think you can expect to see in the big awards tonight. If you care, of course.

The Artist - I really love what this win means for what it possible at the Oscars. Despite being championed by Harvey Weinstein, this is such an atypical kind of film to win Best Picture. Black and white photography in the age of color (I really HATED the other day when someone posted a color set picture from the movie). French (or rather French-made, as it's clearly set in Hollywood and has English title cards). And mostly silent. I also love that Oscar's likeliest Best Picture is also the Independent Spirit Best Picture winner.

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist - I look forward to the many mispronunciations of his name tonight. He's won pretty much every precursor, including the most important one, the Directors Guild.

Jean Dujardin, The Artist - It still *could* be Clooney, but Dujardin has charmed the pants off everyone and looks to have more momentum now.

Viola Davis, The Help - This is probably the closest Meryl has been in a while to a dark horse, but this has had Viola Davis's name on it since August. And I'm so happy about that, considering how worried I was when the film came out that the studio wouldn't push for her as the lead.

Christopher Plummer, Beginners - Max von Sydow has gained a bit of ground, and it's kind of wonderful that both the frontrunners are in their 80s, but it's going to Plummer. Almost definitely.

Octavia Spencer, The Help - Another one that's been decided for months and probably the biggest no-brainer of the night.

Now ... there are some upsets I'd like to see as well.

- It won't happen, but I would LOVE to see Gary Oldman sneak through for Best Actor.

- Again, won't happen, but I'd rather see Jessica Chastain win for Supporting Actress.

- The consensus for Art Direction seems to be in Hugo's favor, but if Stuart Craig somehow pulls off an upset for Deathly Hallows, I will cry so hard. I will be ecstatically happy for DH to win any of the three it's up for (the other two are Makeup and VFX), but Stuart Craig has been the star of this series since the very beginning. Oh my heart, I will die if this happens tonight. It won't, but ... *sigh*

- I'd love to see Drive win the ONE thing it's nominated for. Probably not going to happen, though. Probably between Hugo and War Horse. War Horse more likely, I think.


I'll be liveblogging on LiveJournal tonight, so tune in there for my frantic, crazed, probably champagne-fueled commentary.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Final Girl Film Club - Hell Night

It's been a while since there's been a Final Girl Film Club pick, and I *almost* let this one slip by, but thank goodness I didn't because I enjoyed the heck out of this slice of horror from the Golden Year of 1981.

You know it's going to be good when the very first thing you see and hear is a delicious blood-curdling SCREEEEEAAAAM! Okay, that's kind of a fake-out, because we're actually at a wild and crazy frat party. Wet t-shirt contest! Five-gallon hats! Feathered hair! For sure, like, it's the 80s, man!

Once we get inside the frat house, we meet some of our major players. I give you...

Peter Purple-Cape! I'm not going to bother with most people's names, because my nicknames for them are way more awesome and easier to remember. Peter Purple-Cape is the president of the fraternity and the smarmiest guy you've ever seen. Here we see him putting the moves on some sorority chick who is quite free with her displays of boobage. PPC invites her to come upstairs and ... exchange phone numbers. That is not a euphemism, I'm sad to report. Peter is going to drag Boob Flash Girl all the way upstairs just so he can get her digits for future foolings around. For the president of a fraternity, Peter seems awfully misinformed about how these things work!

Next we have...

Final Girl Marti, who you may recognize as being played by The Exorcist's Linda Blair. I'll use Marti's actual name because she's the final girl and, well, she's Linda Blair. Peter Purple-Cape spots Marti across a crowded room and seems smitten. Maybe he will take her to a secluded place and ... find out her last name! *SCANDAL* A random girl in leopard skin (who we'll later discover is actually named May West - *rimshot*) explains that Peter "lives all year for Hell Night. This is when he really puts it to the pledges." (*insert "boing" sound*)

We also meet our other major players, who I'll call Robin Hood (right), Rich Dude In A Western (left),

and Flapper Girl.

PPC is asked by his frat brother, Pirate Boy, if it isn't about time to start the real festivities, Peter replies that it's still early, noting that Sickowski (yes, that's his name) hasn't barfed on the trophy case yet and none of the windows are broken. Cue the immediate breaking of the front window and the subsequent run-and-barf of the aptly named Sickowski. "Well, I guess it's time to get the show on the road!" Peter says with a laugh. Beedle-dee-bink-dee-bink - *cymbal crash* Oh, you crazy college kids!

So everyone at the party piles into cars for the pilgrimage to Garth House and once everyone arrives Peter walks them up to the house, explaining that the pledges have to spend the night in the old house, and he proceeds to tell everyone the Most Offensive Story of All Time. This is actually quite a well done walk-and-talk scene, containing the only few minutes in the first act that are actually creepy, but I'm afraid I was too busy boggling that people actually used to say words like "mongoloid" and "gork" to feel that scared. Oh, and that a woman could be described as a "hopeless simpleton" who was "only good for ... child-bearing." GAH. I also got stuck on the pregnancy that lasted "ten and a half months." I know there are records of longer pregnancies, but this was said as if it was no big deal.

Here's the short, less offensive version. Raymond Garth was the last in a long line of Garths who lived in Garth House, and twelve years ago (from 1981, making it 1969) he murdered his wife and three of his four children and hung himself, leaving his youngest ... let's say challenged son to witness it all. Police arrived on the scene and found only three corpses - the fourth body and the surviving son, Andrew, were never found. Andrew supposedly still lives in the house to this day - ooooooooh!

Peter Purple-Cape and the rest of the fraternity/sorority party-ers walk back to the gate and lock the four pledges in. It seems bizarre to me that there are only four pledges and that two of them are girls. I suppose they are pledges to a sister sorority, but we never hear it mentioned or named, only the fraternity. So here's our Death List:

- Rich Dude In A Western, who it turns out is an actual rich dude (so I'll call him Rich Dude for short);

- Marti, who is good with cars (she worked at her dad's auto shop in high school) and is regretting this whole Greek thing;

- Flapper Girl, who for some reason is British (she says "Hey, let's pah-tee!") and has brought Quaaludes and Jack Daniels for the pah-tee-ing, plus a cleavage radio; and

- Robin Hood, who is a surfer (you can tell because he keeps saying the word "radical") and wears the most adorkable Cupid boxers. No, seriously.

There is the predictable pairing off, and Rich Dude and Marti banter about the class divide (classic college conversation), wherein Rich Dude takes a guess that Marti is majoring in Political Science "with an emphasis in terrorism." Huh. Some things never change, I guess. Cut to Robin Hood and Flapper Chick in another part of the house, and they have a rather cute scene where he tells her what it's like to surf. I mean, besides the fact that you get to say "radical" a lot.

Soon Peter Purple-Cape arrives back at the house with Pirate Boy and May West. As they separate to take their stations for whatever shenanigans they've got planned, Pirate Boy makes my favorite line delivery of the movie, laughing like a goofball as he says "Now the fun begins!" Suddenly, a SCREAM is heard in the house. Marti and Rich Dude think it's the other couple and vice versa. The scream is followed by other noises that could not be more obviously coming from a sound effects machine. Rich Dude finds the speaker and cuts the power. I must say, at this point, there's not a lot of scary here. Just pranks and a little Marx Brothers homage, courtesy of Peter Purple-Cape and Pirate Boy: "We should have kept her behind and left the rest of her." It's so corny, I have to love it.

And just when you're getting a little bored and May goes to the side of the house for her part of the scare - WHOA! THERE'S the scary! YES! Andrew (who HAS been living in the house this whole time) pulls May down a hole and chops her head off with a butcher knife. GOOD SHOW, MOVIE! NOW we're getting somewhere!

The gang inside, knowing nothing of May's untimely demise and thinking it's all still a bunch of pranks, hears more noises. Robin Hood and Rich Dude go to investigate, leaving Marti alone to be confronted by this guy.

Looks spooky enough, but due to later discoveries I'm thinking he's probably another trick. Everyone inside decides that the whole thing is just Purple-Cape and some other folks playing around and try to get some sleep. On the icky, dusty, musty beds in the house. I don't know about y'all, but I would not want to be sleeping on old, uncleaned beds that someone might have died in. If I were REALLY tired, I could maybe kip on top of the covers, but under the covers - no way. There are a couple more prank scares (including a snakes-in-a-can gag which TOTALLY got me!), but from here on out it's genuine horror show. (!!!)

Peter Purple-Cape finds Pirate Boy's dead body and bravely runs away. Screw those pledges in the house (and May, since he doesn't know she's dead) - IT'S ALL ABOUT ME, DAMMIT! He plays a little cat-and-mouse with Andrew until he meets the business end of a scythe. SEE YA! Now all the pranksters are dead. Joke's on them, hahahahaha!

Marti and Rich Dude share weird stories about seeing magical creatures - she's seen a witch, he's seen an elf (lol, whut) - before they have schmoopy almost-sex. Speaking of sex, Flapper Girl and Robin Hood are having some (more) upstairs, which weirdly plays out for us mostly in shadowplay. Well, I think we all know what this means - all four of these kids are DEAD MEAT, amirite? Sex = Death. It's Rule #1 of horror movies. Sure enough, while Robin Hood goes to the "john" - and has the MOST HILARIOUS EXCHANGE EVER with his reflection in the mirror ("Score another one for the good guys."), Flapper Girl is greeted by ... I think it's supposed to be Raymond Garth, because it's not the same guy who killed the pranksters. When Robin Hood finishes shooting finger-guns at himself and gets back, he finds May's head in the bed, Flapper Girl nowhere to be seen, and screams like a girly-man and runs for it.

At this point, I've got to give it to the endangered kids in this movie. Where other movies have all these ridiculously noble characters who stick around and look for their missing friends, making it easier for the killers to get to them, too, these guys (or a few of them, at least) are all about the self-preservation. Which is perhaps not that admirable, but is pretty darn believable. Robin Hood climbs the sharp, spiky front gate (in a moment of genuine tension, in my opinion) while Rich Dude and Marti do the stupid, noble thing and go back to the house to look for Flapper Girl.

I'm going to take a moment here and love on the synth score in this movie. There, that was great. Moving on.

Rich Dude finds Peter Purple-Cape's body and makes what may be the WORST decision in the history of horror movies. He grabs Peter's flashlight off the ground and LEAVES the keys to the gate, which are still in Peter's cold dead fingers. I mean, DID HE THINK HE HAD TO CHOOSE????? I guess maybe in his horror at seeing a corpse, he just didn't notice them, but JEEZ!

Robin Hood goes to the police, who have heard QUITE enough stories about "murders" up at Garth House tonight, thankyouverymuch, and rudely tell him to leave. But on his way out he spots some ammo just lying around where anyone can get to it and snags himself a rifle before escaping out the window. LOL those Garths don't stand a chance!

While Rich Dude and Marti wait for Robin Hood to return, this happens.


Luckily Marti heard me yelling and turns around in time, shrieking like a Mikita drill and prompting Rich Dude to pitchfork the be-rugged figure. He orders Marti to pull the rug back off the whatever-it-is, but it's gone, having escaped down a trap door. Oh, it is ON. Rich Dude has HAD IT with these muthaf***in' killers in this muthf***in' mansion. He goes down the trap door, closely followed by Marti, and they come upon a series of tunnels. They follow one that seems to lead to a lighted area and find THIS.

I couldn't get a good cap of it that also was a good shot of Flapper Girl, but that's a dinner table, with a bunch of dead bodies around it, including Flapper Girl, with rats crawling all over them. GRODY!

Meanwhile Robin Hood, who has gone rogue liek woah, commandeers a car and drives back to the house, throwing all that lovely self-preservation instinct to the wind. He manages to take out one of the killers (Andrew, I presume) before being killed himself by Raymond (who I'm guessing is a zombie, because I thought it was established he killed himself - ah, well).

And since only one can survive in these kinds of stories, Marti is soon the lone pledge left at the party when Raymond throws Rich Dude out a window. Marti finds Peter's body, and - WHAT A CONCEPT - takes the keys, though she has way more trouble with this than there should be in wresting something from a dead person. She hotwires the car (remember, she's a gearhead - hello, characterization!) and gets away, but SURPRISE, Raymond is on top of the car and reaches through the windshield for her. She turns around to give him a good old impaling on the knocked-down fence and provide the Greatest Shot in the Entire Movie.

(Sorry it's a bit blurred, but I tried it about a dozen times and that's the clearest version I could get.)

I really, really dug this movie. The fact that everyone is in a cheesy costume is a fun touch, and I enjoyed the twist of "LOL it's all a joke - WHOA, NO IT'S NOT." If there was anything that disappointed me a little it was Linda Blair - until the last few minutes, at least. She just seemed so helpless and passive until she absolutely had no choice and no one to make decisions for her. I understand she was nominated for a Razzie for this movie in 1981 (losing out, or perhaps it should be "winning out," to Bo Derek in Tarzan, the Ape Man AND Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest - NO! WIRE! HANGERS!). As I said, she wins me over in the end, but for most of the movie I was not a fan.

Fun Factoid: This movie was directed by Tom DeSimone, the filmmaker who also gave us Chatterbox, which is maybe (hopefully?) the only movie to feature a talking and singing vagina. I ... have no more thoughts on that.

THIS movie, however, was pretty great. Thanks for another winner, Final Girl!