Tuesday, 28 February 2012

It's 2012, Where is Death Racing?

I recently revealed in this blog that the interest I have towards any sport is equal to the violence the sport in question includes. Sadly, there are precious few sports in this here world where people get decapitated or otherwise brutally executed. But luckily, we have movies for that. After all, it's also better for human rights and such that people aren't actually executed for our thirst of carnage.

The sport that would most benefit some additional bloodshed would be the various race driving sports. I haven't the faintest idea why anyone would find cars driving around in a circle interesting if there isn't even a crash or two involved. Luckily, the visionary director Paul W.S. Anderson has prophecised that this year, the US economy will totally collapse. As unemployment will rise, cheap thrills become increasingly popular among the bloodthirsty 99%. Thrills such as... DEATH RACING!

Death Race (2008)
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson

In the near future, the live broadcasting of Death Race is the most popular TV event in the world. The racers are all notorious convicts, fighting for three victories in a three partial race competition, which will grant their freedom. And their cars are modified with plates and spikes and such, with additional weapons added by video game-like powerups. The TV event is supervised by the hard-nosed Hennessy (Joan Allen) who will have no holds barred to keep the masses entertained.

The latest convict she attempts to exploit is Jensen Ames (Jason Statham), a former racecar driver, now factory worker framed for the murder of his wife. Hennessy wants to masquerade Ames as the popular racer Frankenstein, beloved by the crowds. The original Frankenstein has recently died on the track, but this fact has been hidden from the public. Ames agrees to play along because he needs his freedom for any chance to meet his daughter ever again. But he also begins to suspect the real murderer of his wife is lurking inside the prison's car pool. Helping him is the spunky Case (Natalie Martinez), former driving partner of Frankenstein, and Frank's old pit stop crew, led by Coach (Ian McShane). But Ames doesn't just inherit Frank's old friends, but also his old enemies and racing rivals such as Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson), Pachenko (Max Ryan) and 14K (Robin Shou, Mortal Kombat's Liu Kang).

So what's surprising is that this is quite a good film for a Paul W.S. Anderson joint. It's certainly by far the most fun of his films I've seen, altough one can't claim that it is by any means smart or even that original. It takes good use of it's R rating, and allows the racers to become sliced, diced, shot full of holes and blown to bits. There's some good swearing in it, too. It's one of those hilarious modern action movies which are completely ridiculous, but play out as the most serious affair ever. There's no tongue-in-cheek winking here and there. And who better to play the lead as the man's man Jason Statham. Also the rest of the cast is filled with suitably hard-assed tough guy actors. Still, we could've done without Fred Koehler's racing and car tuning nerd Lists.

As the film is based on a Roger Corman classic, and the grand old man of trashy entertainment has still stayed on as an Executive Producer, one can be guaranteed that the film has a healthy exploitative nature. For instance, the rules of Death Race order that each car's co-driver must be a woman from the female penitentiary. That's why we are treated to a scene where impossibly fit female convicts emerge in slow motion from their bus, dressed in micro shorts and tight tops as the male convicts cheer and jeer. And so you should too, because this is fun and dumb testosterone-filled trash for a Friday night.

★★★ 1/2

Death Race 2 (2010)
Director: Roel Reiné

Altough this film could easily be mistaken for a sequel, it is in fact a prequel to the first Death Race. Which, according to Paul W.S. Anderson, is itself a prequel to Roger Corman's original Death Race 2000. Seems confusing, but since essentially they are all the same film, one shouldn't give too much thought to this fact. It's against the franchise's principles. So the film concerns the origin of the original Frankenstein (now played by Luke Goss) and how Death Racing was first concieved.

Goss's character is actually named Carl "Luke" Lucas, and he's a mob getaway driver for crime boss Marcus Kane (Sean Bean). A major heist goes wrong and everyone but Lucas get killed. The furious Kane wants to get rid of the final witness liking him to the crime and sets a reward for Lucas's head. The driver himself is sent to a maximum security prison. The prison is corporation-funded, and keeps it's costs down by having caged matchs where the prisioners fight to the death in front of millions of pay-per-view customers at their homes. Lucas becomes an unwilling galdiator to protect his prison-friend Lists (played again by Fred Kohler). But even a flamethrower match to the death prompting a major prison riot can't keep the ratings high enough. The executive producer of Death Match, September Jones (Lauren Cohan), soon figures another kind of deadly sport to keep the viewers interested. DEATH RACING.

Supposedly set in a post-apocalyptic world, Death Race 2 features a lot more footage of life outside prison walls. And it looks about the same as the world today does, which makes it odd that regular citizens are so extremely bloodthirsty to pay to see people beat each other to death in brutal dystopian gladiator matches (or is it?). Also oddly, much of the actors look the same as the actors in the first film, and play more or less the same roles, yet the characters are named differently. I suppose the film was written for the same actors, all of which, except for Kohler and Robin Shou, refused to do the film. That's probably also why the movie went straight to DVD. It still has a considerable budget, as the film features such famous actors as Danny Trejo (as Coach Goldberg), Ving Rhames (as the corporate magnate Weyland) and Sean Bean. The racing scenes in particular could just have been copied and pasted from the first film and no one would've noticed the difference.

All the characters are still introduced inside the scene with thse informational screens.

The film's pacing is also very odd. The climax doesn't happen in a race but when a single character is murdered by backing a car over her. Much of stuff between the two films still remains unexplained. Yet the result is as violent and sexy content is even more explicit than in the first film. Director Reiné also has some sort of fixation of people getting burned alive. An interesting fact is that since the film features the Weyland Corporation, it is set in the same universe as the Alien quadrilogy and the upcoming Prometheus.


Death Race 2000 (1975)
Director: Paul Bartel

Okay, so the idea of Death Races stems from this Roger Corman-produced cult film. Death Race 2000 is quite a different game when compared to the modern death races. In this original one, the drivers head their way from American coast to coast, not around a single track. The players score points by running over people, and the racers are just celebrities, not convicts. Instead of freedom, they compete for a chance to meet the President of the United States. Death Race is not being run by money-making corporations but the dystopian United States fascist police state that seeks to keep the masses happy. And nothing else matters to them as long as they get to watch the hit television programme Death Race.

Frankenstein (David Carradine) is a beloved champion of this brutal sport. He's thus named because multiple of his body parts have been rebuild as a result of a string of chrashes through the years. Frankenstein seems unbeatable, which annoys his chief rival Machine Gun Joe (Sylvester Stallone) . There's also a conspiracy of freedom fighters and a lingering war against France, which will be obstacles on Frankenstein's road to meet the president. And he has some very personal reasons to meet the man, too.

This 70's exploitation flick represents Corman's regular way of producing films. Take a popular genre (in this, car chase pictures), put in a few B-grade celebrities (in this, David Carradine and a pre-Rocky Sylvester Stallone), and lastly, put in some boobs every 15 script pages and as-cheap-as-possible special effects. The film's wicked and goofy sense of humour and cheery cheesiness reminds Troma films of the late 80's, early 90's. It's clear that Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz took a page from Corman's style of filmmaking. Death Race 2000 looks quite cheap and silly. For instance, the cars the drivers are driving look like amusement park bumper cars or ghost train wagons with all their plastic spikes and airbrushed colors.
See what I mean?

The film has some very slight satirical points, which stem from the period's sci-fi movies in general. For instance, the connection between a fascist state and keeping the audiences happy is more deeply observed in the same year's Rollerball. What interests director Paul Barter and Corman more is having some humour scenes where people are ran over with cars. Or women take their tops off. The film's general mood is well summed by the fact that several of the drivers are Nazis, with swastikas in their helmets, giving seig heils to each other, and generally eresorting to assholism. Many characters are quite annoying, cheif among them the cheerful TV host Junior Bruce ("The Real" Don Steele). The budget stops many of the more outrageous ideas right in their tracks. The film really misses its chance for an exploding ending. Death Race 2 may have been anticlimatic, but at least it delivered laughs with its brutality. But nevertheless, it is still somewhat fun entertainment by its stupidity values alone.


Saturday, 25 February 2012

Academy Award Nominated Films 2012

The point of award seasons should be to raise awareness to some truly unique film experiences of the past. Of course, when Hollywood is concerned, the quality varies from here to there. Last year, miraculously all Oscar nominees were at least decent. This year, however...

The only way I'll ever watch The Help. Also, a message to anyone thinking I'll watch the ceremony tomorrow.

Okay, now that I've opened yet another blog post with a Legolambs musical, let's take a look at six Best Picture Nominees. I've arranged them according how much you need to see them from unmissable to time-filler. And I haven't still seen War Horse, The Help nor Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close. Looks as if I won't either. Can't imagine they would offer anything for me.

Best Picture Nominees:

The Tree of Life
Director: Terrence Malick

I've written about the film so many times for various mediums (and at least twice in this blog alone) that I'm finding it hard to have new things to say about it. Suffice to say that this is by far the most arty of the nominees because it has no clear plot running through it, just imagery circling around the film's main themes. It's an unique piece of work, unlike any other film nominated this year. While it's overall message might be a little on the naïve side, I'd urge anyone to see this and with an open mind. That's why it's hard to see the film win, no matter how much Hollywood respects Terrence Malick and his life work. And even for a movie about memories and coming to terms with the past, I figure most of the Academy's elder members will fall alsleep to. But at least Emmanuel Lubezki's wonderfully beautiful cinematography should bring in the bust. I'll get back to it after the next rewatch.

The Artist
Director: Michel Hazanavicius

As the film has grown more and more probable as this year's Best Picture Oscar winner, it has prompted a lot of people to wonder how was this ever possible for a silent, black-and-white French movie. Yet one look at the film itself and it becomes quite clear why. The Artist is as Hollywood as they come, a feel-good melodrama with plenty of comedy and romance in the mix, lovingly made in the shape of classic movies of yesteryear. And it's about Hollywood itself!

The romantic silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a darling of the crowds. Also in love with the star is up-and-coming actress Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), who gets a job as a dancer in Valentin's new film. Valentin is endeared by the young woman and offers her a secret to success. But Valentin himself is facing rough times as the producer Al Zimmer (John Goodman) introduces Sound Film. Valentin refuses to do talking pictures, and soon finds himself out of work. As Valentin circles toward total poverty, it is left for Miller, who has found her fame in movies since, to rescue her old idol and mentor.

The movie is like a puppy, cute as a bug's ear and impossible to hate. Even though it is very calculated. The symbolic imagery in the scenes is easy to spot and underlines the emotions the characters go through. The story is about how we must innovate and develop ourselves according to what we love, in order to progress. There's also a good reason for Valentin to refuse to work in sound, but that's a mystery left to the very last scene. Hazanavicius teases the audience by casting a number of famous actors known for their distinctive voices, such as Goodman, Missi Pyle, James Cromwell and Malcolm McDowell, and not allow them to speak. But they do prove that there's more to their acting than just their voices, and deliver great performances. The film still revolves around Dujardin and his problem-struck movie star. Luckily, he is charismatic enough to pull it off. Like the film, it is hard not to symphatize with Valentin even if he is bull-headed, self-absorbed and later, wallowing in self-pity. Of course it helps that he owns such a cute dog.

The Descendants
Director: Alexander Payne

It has been rightfully argued that this year's nominees are mostly about rich white people and their problems. Furthermore, The Descendants is about a flawed family, featuring a troubled teenager and a spunky little-un, coming together against all odds. For an American independent movie game, that's a full Bingo right there. Luckily, this is being handled by Alexander Payne, who is the sharpest dramedy-maker in Hollywood right now.

Elizabeth King, the wife of a Hawaiian land owner and real estate magnate, has a boating accident and goes into a coma. The doctor's prognosis is negative. Thus Matt (George Clooney), her husband, brings their two daugthers together and begins to pick up the pieces of their lives. At the same time Matt has a major deal going down, as old native Hawaiian's lands are about to get sold, making him a millionaire. But Matt's mind is elsewhere as he hears from her daughter Alex (Shailene Woodley) that Elizabeth was having an affair behind his back. He attempts to seek out her lover to tell him the bad news as well.

Payne hasn't filmed a movie since 2004's modern classic Sideways, so a new film was eagerly awaited in film circles. But it turned out to be more akin to 2002's About Schmidt, a film about coming to terms with loss andfinding a new way forward. The Descendants is more melancholy-filled than funny. Altough it does offer a few hilarious scenes as well. By first glance the film's characters are clichéd, but Payne has written the film intelligently enough to give each of them some surprising depth, and making them integral to the story he's unfolding. It also allows him to have various different viewpoints into one tragedy, and ways of coping with it. Clooney truly is career-best here, his vunerable, confused character having none of his trademarked suave charm. Here is another rich guy, whose fate is told so well, one can't help but to become engulfed in it. It's not Payne's finest, but still better than most similar directors could even dream of.

Director: Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese isn't afraid to step outside his comfort zone. I had bad premonitions of his kid's film, partly because the film's trailer made it seem like a quite horrible film where Sacha Baron Cohen chases kids around and runs into a large cake. Well, in actuality Scorsese brought a film for children that refuses to look down on its audience. There's actually precious few or virtually none action scenes, loud noises and moronic humour. That's why the resulting film is also good entertainment for adults.

In Paris in the 1930's, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is a resourceful orphan living in the Grand Station. As a son of a clocksmith, he makes sure that the station's clocks are up and running, but still has to steal to live. He also has to avoid the Station Manager (Baron Cohen), who is bent on capturing any orphans loitering in his station and delivering them to the nearest Dickensian orphanage. Hugo also has a secret project left by his project, which requires various parts from toys and such. He pilfers them from the elder toymaker Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley), who eventually catches Hugo in the act, and then confiscates the blueprints Hugo needs to complete his father's work. To get them back, he makes friends with Georges' foster daughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz). Together, they set out to solve the mystery of Papa Georges' past, which takes them through a journey through the history of cinema itself.

As Scorsese has done plenty of culturally significant work in preservation and refurbishing classic films, the film is a sort of letter to the world on why this work is so important. Scorsese also manages to use a fantastic movie to teach children a thing or two about the history of cinema and the work of its pioneers. In fact, he uses so many montages consisting of footage of old films that these scenes resemble some of his documentary work. The central story is heartfelt enough, altough initially the mystery unfolds a little slow, and doesn't quite captivate as much as it should in the beginning of the film. But when the mystery starts to unfold and we start to get answers, the viewer starts to move towards the edge of the seat. The fact that this sort of film, that isn't noisy, based on a pre-existing films, and is frankly difficult to market (as evidenced by that bad trailer) can be successful, reinstores some of my faith in humanity. Another thing restored is the fact that 3D can be used as a good storytelling device. The sense of milieu, and the blueprints of the entire train station are laid out exceptionally well.

Midnight in Paris
Director: Woody Allen

Woody Allen keeps churning a movie a year. I myself have never been very interested in his work (even though I've watched the films which are generally recognized as his most essential). I also allowed this to fall through the cracks when it was first released. But when it began creating buzz and making money, I started to become intrigued. But in the end, all of it is a whole lot of hot air. While Midnight in Paris is by no means a bad film, it is quite flimsy and slight, so much so that there's little that lingers on in the film. This one is not for the ages, then.

Basically, Allen's stand-in is a neurotic writer, working on his first novel after a career writing screenplays. he is visiting Paris with his fiancée, and finds the city's heart to be helpful for his creativity. She, however, along with her parents, despise the city and can't wait to get back to America. That's why after an evening at a wine-tasting, wanders off on his own. This enables him to time-travel to meet a lot of his favorite cultural heroes who have shared time in the city in the past. From F. Scott Fitzgerald to Ernest Hemingway, and from Pablo Picasso to Salvador Dalí and Luis Bunuel, he finds fellowship in his kin, and necessary instructions on how to improve his work, and in the end, life.

I like the whimsiness of the film and that it has the crucial fantasy element of never explaining its core mystery to the audience. nevertheless, it is pretty clear how this will play out once the set up has been layed out. Allen starts the film with a montage of Paris so long, that the film resembbles more a travel advertisement than a narrative. I'm glad I already had booked a trip to the city before viewing this film. This one is most on the money for Original Screenplay, which is a wonder since Allen goes through is normal tropes, but never really delivers anything genius, super memorable, or even laugh-out-loud funny. It's smart, but never as clever as it thinks it is, or how much the Academy seems to think it is, for that matter.

Director: Bennett Miller

A lot of critics I admire have praised this Sports drama. Personally, I'm not very interested in sports (at least in any that don't frequently feature brutal violence), particularly baseball, but I had heard that the core of the film is set on the backstages and manager's offices of baseball stadiums. That is true, but I still couldn't work out much interest in those goings-on. You see, it doesn't make a difference to me who wins or who loses some stupid match, or even a whole season. So when the stakes are that low, personally I had a pretty boring experience with the film. But that doesn't mean it's totally without merit or wouldn't be a good film for someone else.

The Oakland Athletics baseball team's manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt) is struggling with low salaries. His team losing an important match doesn't really help things for him. Star players are threatening of leaving the team, and there is little hope of turning his string of losses into vitories when he can't recruit any new talents either. But then he discovers the young analyst Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), who has deviced an economic theory in assessing the player's value. This schematic turns out to work well in recruiting new players and Beane is soon in the centre of a rags-to-riches story.

Aaron Sorkin is a great screenwriter, and his cooperation with Steve Zaillan here provides some good dialogue and moves the plot forward. The problem is that it's all played so low-key. The conversations have few high-points. The precious few times when Pitt expresses total anger at his team and the entire system he's playing in are high points, but don't pace the film well enough for it to capture the viewer's interest. Likewise, the film is overlong, as anyone who has ever seen a sports movie probably knows the basics of the plot from the get-go. Also the clichéd scenes with his estranged family and young daughter are way too familiar, even if they are based on a true story. But at least that gives an excuse to have a catchy acoustic song in the film.

Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay

Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy
Director: Thomas Alfredson

The Swedish director Thomas Alfredson's film is smarter and better than any of the Best Picture  Nominees, yet it has had to suffice on being nominated for smaller awards, which is a shame. This cold war spy thriller strips away all the glamour from the espionage business. It is a twist-filled whodunnit mystery and a slide into paranoia at the same time. It's a demanding film, which requires the viewer to stay awake for every single minute of its running time. I will see this film again in the theatre, which I haven't done once since The Human Centipede. I simply feel that Tinker, Taylor rewards repeat viewings handsomely.

A British MI6 agent is mudered on a business in Budapest. This causes the Minister of Defence to fire the Head of the British Intelligence, Control (John Hurt), and his right-hand man George Smiley (Gary Oldman). Off the record, Control gives the retired Smiley the task of finding out who among their inner circle has betrayed their trust and is in actuality a mole for the Soviet Union. Smiley won't have it easy as he himself is among the five main suspects and thus isn't trusted among his peers. The only one helping him in his investigations at first is the eager young agent Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch). Smiley will have to see rogue agents, men on the run, shady figures and many other shady figures to find out the betrayer. If he himself is not killed before that.

The film's plot is a complicated web of conspiracies and lies. This would be challenging enough, but the narrative isn't straight-forward, and jumps back and forth in time. Also, there are plenty of characters to keep track of. In the end, the main plot isn't that hard, but to find out all the nuances and the whereabouts and goings-on of various characters, one must concentrate considerably. The film's aesthetic is such that it's easy to find oneself lost on its world. Even the smallest details are made important, and the film's rainy cinematography and 70's design aesthetics are well-realized enough to get the viewer easily lost among them. The real treat here are the performances. As good as Gary Oldman is (and he's really, really good.), the whole film is an ensemble piece, starring a cast of the best British talent to die for. With Oldman and Hurt, there's also great performances Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Kathy Burke, Toby Jones and Ciarán Hinds. One feels that these actors actually inhabit the jobs of their characters and have actually been spying on us with their other film roles. One does get a paranoid feeling from out of all this, but I would've still wanted to see the film again as soon as I walked out of the theatre.

History will prove that these sort of films will last, while no matter how many Oscars a certain film wins, it may still fall into obscurity. Hell, it happened to the last silent movie that won, Wings.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Oscars 2012

The height of the Awards season is almost upon us, but I'm not really excited about the Oscars this year. While 2011 was a lot better as a movie year than 2010 was, the nominees this year hardly represent the finest cinema had to offer. In fact, I've only seen 5 of the 9 Best Picture nominees, because no matter how hard I try, I can't work up any interest to go see The Help, nor can I be bothered to get up at the crack of noon to go see War Horse at a press screening. And the gala doesn't do much favors by getting old reliable Billy Crystal to host. He used to be great, but I'd want to see something completely different by now. It's not the 90's any more (I'll say!). One should remember that Crystal's 2004 hosting gig wasn't among his finest, either. And the less said about the ceremonies in the last two years, the better (They were boring and awful!). So I'm probably thinking of missing out on the festivities this year. There doesn't seem to be anything on offer now that would be worth it for this European liberal to lose his precious beauty sleep.

But, y'know, talking about Oscars brings page hits (and maybe, just maybe, precious comments), so I guess I can do a small rundown on some of Oscar favorites I have seen, and take a guess on which films will win. I'm not going to put the nominees down, as I am sure that most movie-loving people have already checked them out. As a reminder, they can be seen here. My system is based on smileys.

Signals a film or a person that I think is going to win.
 Signals something I'd thing would be cool to see win, even if unrealistic.

Signals something good the Academy voters promptly ignored when making their ridiculous Oscar picks.

Best Non-English Language Film:
A Separation: Nader & Simin is a shoe-in to win. And would definately be one of the best films to win an award on sunday as well.
Bullhead is criminally underseen, but tough as nails. This would give it a boost and probably make a lot of countries to have a premiere for it.
The Kid With A Bike, Tropa de Elite 2, She Monkeys, Play, Le Havre, The Skin I Live In and a billion others...

Animated Feature Film:
Rango; For the first time in the history of this award, I haven't seen a single one of the films nominated for this award. The smart money seems to be on Gore Verbinski's Rango, which has some of the most unappealing character models I've ever seen. But still should watch it.
A Cat in Paris; It would be cool if some of these European animations would win, though. I'm waiting eagerly to see A Cat in Paris. One of the several Paris-loving films this year.
Adventures of Tintin: the Secret of the Unicorn; It's weird that the Golden Globe-winning Tintin isn't even nominated. The Academy seems to hate motion capture work by principle. Nice going, Andy Serkis-fans. The campaign to get him a supporting actor nom only worked counterwise. But even stranger omission is the wonderful, leisurely and detail-rich Studio Ghibli's Arrietty. Is it even out in the US yet?

Documentary Feature Film:
Pina; I'm guessing that because this is a work by a recognized maestro and about a recognized maestro in a recognized high-brow art, that it will take the gong. Plus, the Academy do like 3D movies now and then.
The Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Also Senna seems to be quite a popular one, too, but I've still to see it.

Best Supporting Actress:
Bérénice BejoThe Artist; Cute enough to melt the Academy's hearts and to throw in the top of the pile of The Artist's massive sweep.
Melissa McCarthyBridesmaids; Would take a big dump on both the sinks of the Conservative portrayal of women in Hollywood movies, and the Oscars as an institution too.
Leila Hatami, A Separation. Let's face it, Simin has quite a little screen time in the film. But that doesn't mean that she doesn't leave an unforgettable impression.

Best Supporting Actor:
Christopher PlummerBeginners; Haven't seen the film, but it seems a legendary actor is on top of all the voters' picks.
Albert BrooksDrive

Writing (Adapted):
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, The Descendants; The Descendants will be one of the bigger losers of the race, so I think it would be fine to see it have at least a writing award for its trouble. It's the second-best written film nominated.
Bridget O'Connor, Peter Straughan, Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy. It is stunning work, even though it's hard to keep up. Every single scene and even the most insignificant-seeming things turn out to be hugely important. I'm reading the book the film is based on now.
Hossein Amini, Drive; Yasmine Reza, Michael Katims, Roman Polanski, Carnage

Writing (Original): 
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

Asghar Farhadi, A Separation

John Michael McDonagh, The Guard

Best Actress:
Glenn Close, Albert Nobbs; Everyone will be putting their money on Meryl Streep for her portrayal of The Great Satan (in a film which I absolutely refuse to watch). That probably should go down well with a Conservative Academy. However, since Streep already has plenty of awards, and Oscars are a place of redeeming past missteps, I think I'll run against the stream. The awards should have a moment of true surprise, and it could be when it's given to the six-time nominee, five-time loser Glenn Close. It's hard to say whether she actually plays her role better, but at least her character actually has a penis and doesn't just act as if she has one. Which is something the Academy voters like.
Rooney Mara, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. No chance in hell, but still would be nice to see.

Kirsten Dunst, Melancholia. She is really robbed. Just because her film's director used the wrong word. Also Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet from Carnage, altough it's impossible to tell which one is the lead.

Best Actor:
Gary Oldman, Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy; One of the only awards I have even the faintest shred of care. It's because I have a huge man-crush for Gary Oldman, one of the very greatest actors living today. Like all real artists, Oldman himself doesn't care that much whether he wins or not. But it still should be the time to honor the great man, and with his knockout underkey performance in Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy, it's as good a time as any. Though George Clooney is pretty damn good in The Descendants as well.
Brendan Gleeson, The Guard; Brad Pitt, The Tree of Life; Ryan Gosling, Drive; Christoph Waltz, Carnage

Best Director:
Michael Hazanavicius, The Artist; I've ran out of things to say. trust me on this.

Alexander Payne, The Descendants 

Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive; Thomas Alfredson, Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy; Lars von Trier, Melancholia; Paddy Considine, Tyrannosaur, Asghar Fargadi, A Separation, Roman Polanski, Carnage

Best Film:
The Artist; If Brett Easton Ellis says so, it must be true. It's heartfelt, old-school and manipulative enough that the Academy will lap it up. But it's no matter. A lot worse films have won in the past.

It would be about equally cool to see Hugo, The Descendants or The Tree of Life win, too. But it's really no matter as it's far from a fair competeition. A lot of the year's very best were omitted from the final list. Just as long as films that are probably sheer calculated award-dreck such as The Help or War Horse doesn't win, I'll be somewhat indifferent.
Drive, Tyrannosaur, Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy, Melancholia, Carnage

So I'd love to hear what you think will win and what was outrageously left out. Just put those angry comments in this comment section or send me feedback. But what do I actually think about those nominated films, actually, you ask? Well, no fear! I'll do another post, less bitter and cynical, I hope, tomorrow.


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