Oscar Postpartum 2010

In the happiest moment of the evening, the Dude finally abided.

Well, my biggest prediction this year was that I was going to get more wrong than the last few years and I was right about that. I got 13 of 24 which is pretty poor although I did get all the major categories correct (BEST PICTURE, BEST DIRECTOR, BEST ACTOR, BEST ACTRESS, and both of the SUPPORTING ones). I was way off in all the tech awards but hey it was fun throwing those darts just the same. The ones I got wrong:


ART DIRECTION:
AVATAR. What I predicted: SHERLOCK HOLMES. I really thought they’d throw HOLMES a bone. Just one.

COSTUME DESIGN:THE YOUNG VICTORIA. I said COCO BEFORE CHANEL because it seemed like the most costumey. I haven’t seen either movie actually.


ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: THE HURT LOCKER


ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: PRECIOUS. I said UP IN THE AIR. Seems like a no brainer now.

DOCUMENTARY SHORT: MUSIC BY PRUDENCE. I had picked CHINA’S UNNATURAL DISASTER: THE TEARS OF SICHUAN PROVINCE. This resulted in one of the only surprising moments on the entire telecast: Elinor Burkett pulled what many are calling a “Kanye” Oscar moment mash-up.


MAKEUP: STAR TREK. I thought STAR TREK was going to win one of the 4 awards it was nominated for just not this one. Still it seems deserved.


SOUND MIXING and SOUND EDITING: THE HURT LOCKER won both of these which I really didn’t expect. Last year I also chose wrong but made the statement that I should’ve have known not to vote for the same movie in both sound editing and mixing. Since that’s what happened here I guess I really learned nothing.


ANIMATED SHORT: LOGORAMA. I liked LOGORAMA but really thought WALLACE AND GROMIT INA MATTER OF LOAF AND DEATH’ had the edge. Sigh.

BEST FOREIGN FILM: THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES (Argentina) Another I haven’t seen. I’m brobably going to see THE WHITE RIBBON, which I wrongly predicted, this week since it just came to my area.


As for the show itself, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin had their moments. I agree with Jon Stewart that Martin had the best line of the evening:


“Anyone who has ever worked with Meryl Streep always ends up saying the exact same thing: ‘Can that woman act? And, ‘What’s up with all the Hitler memorabilia?”


Some other highlights included a tribute to John Hughes by way of a snazzy montage and a bevy of the actors who came of age in his films: Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Macaulay Culkin, Anthony Michael Hall, Jon Cryer, Ally Sheedy, and Matthew Broderick.

Shouldn’t she be wearing pink?

Ben Stiller had a great deadpan presenter bit – he was made up like one of the Na’vis from AVATAR. Pretty funny stuff.

“This seemed like a better idea in rehearsal.”

Okay so I’m pretty Oscar-ed out. Stay tuned for more new movie reviews – a slew of DVD reviews and some major new releases (HOT TUB TIME MACHINE!) that are coming your way.

More later…

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John Hughes R.I.P. (1950-2009)

A day after I posted about his essential DVD commentary only available on the 1999 DVD edition of his comedy classic FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF, I was extremely saddened to hear that director/writer/producer John Hughes had died. As a teenager in the ’80s, Hughes’ films meant a lot to me – I even skipped school to see FERRIS BUELLER on opening day – obviously you can see how fitting that is. Hughes left behind a series of films that still resonate – from the National Lampoon VACATION movies to the Molly Ringwald trilogy (SIXTEEN CANDLES, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, and PRETTY IN PINK), to the attempt to grow up and make adult films (SHE’S HAVING A BABY, PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES). His last few films may have been toddler fodder (HOME ALONE, CURLY SUE) but his lasting influence on today’s film makers like Kevin Smith and Judd Apatow can not be easily dismissed.

Again, I implore you – seek out his wonderful commentary on FERRIS BUELLER. It as fitting tribute to the man as I can think of right now. Maybe, this will force them to re-establish it on future editions and re-issue the Blu ray which was just released without it. If you’re not familiar with the work of John Hughes – I’d suggest any of the titles listed above (well all of those before HOME ALONE anyway).

So, as Ferris Bueller said: “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Thank you so much, Mr. Hughes for helping me to stop and look around – without you I think there would’ve been a lot of stuffed I missed.

More later…

Another Round Of Great DVD Commentaries

Several years back I posted about great DVD commentaries with a top ten list of my favorites (“Let Them All Talk” Sept. 29th, 2005). Since then I’ve been collecting notes every time a new (or new to me) commentary was particularly interesting. I’d thought I’d share them in yet another patented Film Babble Blog list. Now, I know a lot of folks don’t listen to commentaries but I thought talking about some really notable ones would encourage folks to give them a try and turn that track on – if only just to sample. So, here goes:


10 More Great DVD Commentaries

1. THE PASSENGER (Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975) A rare feature-length solo commentary track by Jack Nicholson puts this at the top of the list especially as he declares: “This picture, ‘The Passenger’, was probably the biggest adventure in filming I ever had in my life.” His involving comments are helpful because without them the film can be a long haul. Most compellingly is Nicholson’s breakdown of how the final sequence was filmed (contains Spoilers!):

Nicholson: “Now, that shot was the reason they built the hotel. The hotel, in order that the camera be able to dolly out through those bars and out the window…why I hope Michelangelo doesn’t mind my revealing of the magic of his work…was that the entire hotel could be mounted on a crane and broken in half so that they could go out into the courtyard, shoot film back towards the hotel, after they exited, with the hotel having been pushed back together again and reconstructed for the remainder of the shot.”

Whew! Hope Jack sees fit to do other commentaries ’cause that one’s a keeper.

2. FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF (Dir. John Hughes, 1986)

This customer review on Amazon says it best:

“Film buffs, DVD collectors, and John Hughes fans beware! The “Bueller…Bueller…” edition DVD does not include the commentary track by writer/producer/director John Hughes which was included on the original 1999/2000 DVD release. It is a great commentary and is sorely missed from this edition.”

That’s right, even the new Blu ray of this 80’s teen classic is sans Hughes commentary and the DVD I was recently sent from Netflix was the “Bueller…Bueller…” edition. The Hughes track on the 1999 edition is well worth seeking out because it truly is one of the most insightful listens all the way through. Some sample quotes:

Hughes: “After the film wrapped, Mr. and Mr. Bueller (Lyman Ward and Cindy Pickett), in real life, got married. At the time we were shooting this, Jennifer Grey and Matthew (Broderick) were dating. It was kind of a strange situation because everybody in
this scene is in love.”

And my favorite bit is the art gallery scene:

Hughes: “And then this picture, which I always thought this painting was sort of like making a movie. A pointillist style, which at very very close to it, you don’t have any idea what you’ve made until you step back from it.

I used it in this context to see that he’s (Alan Ruck) looking at that little girl. Again, it’s a mother and child. The closer he looks at the child, the less he sees. Of course, with this style of painting. Or any style of painting really.

But the more he looks at, there’s nothing there. I think he fears that the more you look at him the less you see. There isn’t anything there. That’s him.” Watch the scene sans commentary here.

Used copies can be found fairly easily of the 1999 version with the commentary as its only special feature (what more do you need?). Just look for the one with the cover pictured to the left.

3. TOUCH OF EVIL: THE 50 ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Dir. Orson Welles, 1958) The packaging is mistaken when it lists the “Preview Version feature commentary” to be Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh and Restoration Producer Rick Schmidlin. It’s the 1998 “Restored Version” that contains their commentaries. The other versions – the theatrical and preview cuts have fine bonus audio tracks with writer/filmmaker F.X. Feenet and historians Jonathan Rosenbaum and James Naremore, but it’s the Heston/Leigh/Schmidlin track on the first disc of the wonderful 50th Anniversary Edition that I strongly recommend.

Wonderful moments abound: Schmidlin pointing out: “When you see Joseph Cotton listen to the voice but it’s not Cotton…” Heston: “It’s not Cotton?” Schmidlin: “It’s, uh, Orson’s voice.” Heston: “For Heaven’s sake.” Leigh: “Orson did Joe’s voice?” Also its amusing to hear Schmidlin call out which shots are Welles’s from which are Harry Keller’s later inserts to the repeated rekindling of Heston’s and Leigh’s memories. “You’ve really done your homework” Heston remarks with a slight chuckle in this charming and essential commentary.

4. BLOOD SIMPLE (Dir. Joe Coen, 1984) This beyond odd track features audio commentary by “Kenneth Loring”, the “artistic director” of “Forever Young Films” (a fictional gig – but whatever). Maybe the most surreal listen on this list.

5. TROPIC THUNDER (Dir. Ben Stiller, 2008)

As 5 time Oscar winner Kirk Lazarus in a tense moment making a Vietnam War movie, in black-face mind you, Robert Downey Jr. declares: “I don’t drop character till I done the DVD commentary!” You know what? Like a real method actor, he keeps his word.

In this free form three way between Downey Jr., Stiller, and Jack Black, the snark level is high which is way apt considering the over the top tangents of said film. One such sample bit during the opening mock trailers – specifically “Satan’s Alley” with Downey Jr. and Tobey Macquire as tortured homosexual monks:

Stiller: “Sort of an alternate universe for Spiderman and Iron Man.”
Downey Jr.: “I was trying to ride Tobey when we was shooting this thing but he wouldn’t have none of it. Talkin’ ’bout happily married.”

6. I’M NOT THERE (Dir. Todd Haynes, 2007) Haynes’ odd yet transfixing meditation on “the many lives of Bob Dylan” (one of my top 5 films of 2007) confused a lot of people, particularly those unfamiliar with the troubled troubadour’s background. Haynes delivers a commentary that should clear up that huge cloud of confusion as he sites references and breaks down various inspirations for every detail in every scene. Some sample quotage:

Haynes: “This is the entrance of Cate Blanchett in the film. The role of Jude was something that I’d always planned, from the very first concept of the film that I gave to Dylan in 2000, that it would be portrayed by an actress. And the reason for this was really for me to try to get to the core of what this next change really looked like and felt like to audiences at the time. How he became this sort of feline character offstage and this sort of bouncing marionette onstage. Full of all these extravagant androgynous gestures that we’d never seen before and we’d never see again after.

The commentary is filled with so many more elaborate descriptions, or justifications, for every aspect of Haynes’ challenging anti-biopic.


7. SUPERBAD: UNRATED EXTENDED EDITION (Dir. Greg Mottola, 2007)

Every Judd Apatow production’s DVD commentary is entertaining, from Freaks ‘N Geeks to PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, but this group cast track with director Mottola, screenwriter Evan Goldberg, actors Seth Rogen, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jonah Hill, and producer Apatow is IMHO the best of the bunch. Largely because Apatow brought along his nine-year-old daughter Maude. Apatow tries to get the guys to keep it clean but it doesn’t last long. A sample exchange:

Hill: “This scene is fuckin’ hilarious, man.”
Apatow: “Jonah, Jonah…”
Hill: “Yeah?

Apatow: “Maude’s over there.”
Rogen: “You keep swearing, stop swearing Jonah!”

Hill: “Dude, what is this, bring your daughter to work day? I mean…”
Apatow: “Just be cool man, be cool! This is the only way I could do it…I don’t have a
babysitter, I’m in New York City here to do Conan and Colbert by the way…I don’t have a babysitter so what am I gonna do? Leave her like, uh, with the concierge?”
Hill: “I dunno, dude I’m not…”

Cera: “Like “Home Alone 2!”
Hill: “It’s “Superbad”! I curse the whole movie…the commentary, I mean, it’s like…whatever.”
Apatow: “You know, I’m not trying to ruin it…I’m not trying to ruin it…”
Hill: “Let’s just go back to the movie; let’s just go back to talking about the movie…”
Rogen: “It’s kinda ruining the commentary Judd, if Jonah can’t say
what the fuck he wants to say.
Hill: “Yeah! I can’t curse, why don’t you just…”
Apatow: “You know what? I’m not 15 years old and don’t have a kid – I’m an adult like Greg, I have a child. This is my reality.”
Hill: “If I had a kid I wouldn’t bring it to work with me.”

Whoa – some actual drama there mixed with the laughs. Let’s minus the laughs for this next one:

8. TAXI DRIVER (Dir. Martin Scorsese, 1976)

Writer Paul Schrader sounds a bit hesitant upon first opening up (“whatever comments I have…are really not from inside the director’s vision”) about the film and his screenplay’s seminal 70’s statement about urban alienation but once he gets going it’s quite a cutting companion piece. Sample quotage:

Schrader: “What happens at the end happens at the beginning.”

“When Marty first told me that he cast Albert (Brooks) I was sort of surprised because, you know, it was a nothing character. Well, that’s the secret: cast the comic in a nothing character and you get somebody interesting.”

“I don’t believe the script should have any references to camera angles whatsoever. There’s only one camera angle in the script, and that’s the tracking shot at the very end, and I put that one in there because I thought that it was important we see this crime scene from the eye of God. And the only way we could make that point is if we put the camera on the ceiling and track.”

9. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FABULOUS STAINS (Dir. Lou Adler, 1982) In the interest of space I’ll refer you back to this post (“Talking ‘Bout A Generation Gap” Oct. 3rd, 2008) in which I first babbled ’bout Diane Lane and Laura Dern’s very funny commentary.

10. NASHVILLE (Dir. Robert Altman, 1975)

Luckily before beloved “New Hollywood” auteur Altman died he recorded a number of worthwhile commentaries but this one is absolutely essential for his magnum opus. As rambunctious as Altman was infamous for being, his gruff ingratiating commentary makes you feel like you’re sitting on the couch with him as he rambles. Some random rambles:

“When this film first came out, they hated the music. They said this wasn’t real country music. But I wasn’t looking for good music, not that they make a lot of it there…”

“We cast these cars as carefully as we did the people who drove them.”

“Since we knew that I had no way I could control the palette of this film, the color of this film, because I knew I was going to be dealing in real situation for we were just invading an event. Even though if we created it, we had to deal with…we weren’t paying these people as extras we just had to go where they were.”

Special TV Series DVD Set Honorable Mention: Spaced (Dir. Edgar Wright, 1999-2001) This short lived but brilliant BBC series is outfitted in a nice 3 DVD set with multiple commentary tracks featuring guests like Kevin Smith, Diablo Cody, Patton Oswalt, Bill Hader, Matt Stone, and Quentin Tarantino sparring with Wright and various cast members including, of course, Simon Pegg and Jessica Haynes. Great stuff.

Okay! I hope that’ll point out some good commentaries out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts on essential bonus audio tracks so please send ’em on. You know where to find me.

More later…

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO – The Film Babble Blog Review

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO
(Dir. Kevin Smith, 2008)

Seems like the world of movie comedy has passed Kevin Smith by these days.

From the many Judd Apatow approved projects to the likes of Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, and Adam Sandler dominating the raunchy guy genre is there really any place or need any more for Jay and Silent Bob?

Well, thankfully they’ve been left behind (though Jason Mewes does show up) for Smith’s new chance to play catch-up and show he can still make with the crude and rude gross-out gags. Highjacking major Apatow-player Seth Rogen and basking in the low budget roughness in which he created his best work, Smith gives us Rogen and Elizabeth Banks (also a Apatow veteran) as broke best friend room mates who…oh, you know the title.


The use of the word “porno” has caused mild controversy with some markets refusing its title and original promotional images were changed to feature stick figures to both appease the MPAA and make cheap fun of it.


The film was heavily edited to avoid a NC-17 but I doubt any of that material was any dicier or outrageous as the film wants itself to be. The lowdown is that it’s filled with scads of scatological humor, which is mostly tossed of in casual banter, and a lot of nudity (filmed in probably the most unsexy way I’ve ever seen) but nothing that would shock anybody who hasnt seen the trailer and got already the gist.


That’s not to say it isn’t fairly funny and very watchable – Rogen and Banks are good together with amusing turns from the obligatory real porn star cameo by Traci Lords, Smith stock company member Jeff Anderson (Randal from CLERKS), and the bemused Craig Robinson (The Office, PINEAPPLE EXPRESS).


It appears from the duo’s ideas for a adult movie effort to help pay their bills that Smith’s pop culture reference lingo has really dated – enough with the STAR WARS whatnot! “Star Whores”? Really witty, Kevin. The Star Bucks stand-in “Bean ‘N Gone” that Rogen and Banks work and are forced to film their porno project at (further echoes of CLERKS) reeks of left-over retail complaints you’d think that Smith would be over at this point.


Smith delights in characters and premises that refuse to mature and that’s fine, I just wish his film-making would grow up. Crude, badly cut, and just barely holding the narrative together, this movie is not the work of a polished confident director though I bet he would take that as a compliment.


Rogen carries a lot of the film on his affable back, rolling with a laid back nature while Banks’ spirit and go-with-it timing are a welcome contrast to her current portrayal of Laura Bush in W. They’re both big reasons to see this movie whatever your views on the View Askewniverse. ZACK AND MIRI… has the soul of an 80’s teen movie, most definitively the oeuvre of John Hughes.


Its heart and motives are a pastiche of well worn tried and true predictability – the funny audition sequence, the on-the-fly dance number, the aim to make a distinction between sex and “making love”. The fact that it has a heart probably won’t concern those who want old school Kevin Smith shenanigans so the best I can say there is that this is much better than CLERKS II. ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO has too much worthy competition (PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, TROPIC THUNDER, FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL) to be considered one of the best comedies of the year yet it is still likable enough even though it’s not as laughable as I would’ve liked.


More later…