Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Late wrap-up

Next year I promise myself I will not be surprised by the "best picture" category at the Oscars. I will not throw up my hands and say "WHY?" when the picture I believe in my heart to have been the better film takes away best Art Direction or screenplay as a nod.

I have to remember this is the U.S. The Academy doesn't care if a film was deep, haunting, emotionally intimate and powerfully transformative (Babel) when there's a Scorcese-Dicaprio-Nicholson-and lots of guns-picture on the table. What was I thinking?

Yet I admit that I was surprised when Crash--which rubs its message in your face like easy-cheese sprayed out of a can(and which Annie Proulx herself referred to as "Trash" ha!)--won when Brokeback Mountain handled the subject of discrimination based on something a person can't change with far more finesse and beauty.

I think that's just one of the differences between me and the Academy members (that, and I don't have a penis to call my own)...they tend to go for big, bold and melodramatic over slow, well-developed and cinematographically masterful. Look at the last 7 years.

A Beautiful Mind
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
Million Dollar Baby

The only truly quiet film in there is Million Dollar Baby and I did think it was a good film, though I can't remember what it was up against. I thought they were being quite cheeky when they gave it to the musical Chicago--which was a rip-roaring good time of a film, but best picture? C'mon! The only one I unequivocally agree with is Lord of the Rings. Forget the genre, the films were brilliant on all levels (yes, I said films. They should have given the award for the whole trilogy). I think even Tolkein, if you got him high, might have agreed.

So I guess this year I have finally come out of my denial. I rarely agree with the choices. I would have given best supporting actress to Adriana Barazza from Babel, whose acting was so convincing that I actually worried about the time she'd have to spend in jail. Or the amazing performance of Rinko Kikuchi, who plays Chieko--the deaf Japanese girl acting out the pain of her mother's suicide. She was AMAZING. Truly. I think Leo did a better job than Alan Arkin--though I loved Little Miss Sunshine.

Honestly, the best thing about the show for me was Ellen Degeneres--who I don't normally even like. Despite all the stupid criticism floating out there, she was natural, she was funny and she didn't try to steal the show a la Billy Crystal.


At 9:27 AM, Blogger Amishlaw said...

I agree with you about Departed, Jordan. I think they decided it's time Scorsese got the award for something, never mind that his best work has already been done. I also agree with you on Best Supporting Actress. Yes, Jennifer Hudson is a good singer, but how much of a stretch was it for her to play a black gospel singer? But, I have to argue with you about Arkin. I thought he deserved his award, and I have to really argue with you about last year. Crash was "easy-cheese sprayed out of a can?" Come on! Annie Proulx is hardly the most objective person to give an opinion on the subject. I really liked her story when it was in The New Yorker and she is one of my favorite authors, but I didn't see what all the hoopla about "Brokeback" was about, other than it happened to be about a couple of gay men. If it had been a heterosexual couple, wouldn't you agree that it would have been just another treacly movie? Also, what is your objection to "A Beautiful Mind?" You thought it was big, bold and melodramtic?

But enough arguing. I love your writing. Now will you please do a review of Patry's book so that I will know what I think of it?

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Hi Amishlaw. Thanks for saying all the things I expected to hear so I could say the rest (and I'm enjoying our "arguing" for the record...this is all in good humor).

I know that I am one of like 5 people who didn't like Crash. I'm in the minority (no pun intended). But I'm sticking to my guns. It was badly over-acted (Thandie Newton's role comes to mind as does Sandra Bullock's)--which speaks to bad directing and bad writing. And your point about Brokeback is like saying that if Crash had been peopled by all whites or all of any race, for example, would I have felt differently? No. It was also highly implausible (the scene with Ryan Phillipe shooting the guy, for instance; the coincidence of the Matt Dillon cop being the one to pull the woman he fingered out of the car. Puh-leeze).

And of course Proulx is biased...I just thought it was funny that she felt THAT powerfully about it that she'd publicly call the movie Trash.

You want to see racism handled in an authentic way, watch Babel (I know, I'm started to sound like a nag). Just watch the scene where Amelia, the Mexican nanny of the two white children, is handcuffed and questioned though she's obviously in desperate need of water and hysterical about the safety of the kids--the cop is himself of Mexican origin but he's all business and shows no pity. It's a beautiful, painful scene that is so well-acted it's heartbreaking.

And I'll concede to you on Arkin. He did a great job, but I don't know if he did "the best" job. He himself is quoted as saying he doesn't believe in awards shows and doesn't believe you can decide someone is "best."

No argument with A Beautiful Mind. It was okay. Not bad. Not mind-blowing. Too hollywood for me, I think.

Anyway, as for Patry's wonderful book--I interviewed her in the current issue of Writer's Digest magazine on stands now :)

Thanks for stopping by!

At 12:37 PM, Blogger Amishlaw said...

Definitely, this is all in good humor, we don't even disagree that much. For example, I agree with you that "Babel" should have won for Best Picture this year. And, while you're right that "Crash" has some implausible coincidences, won't you concede that "Babel" does as well? I guess I'm a sucker for message movies, at least well done ones. Both "Crash" and "Babel" show the world as it appears from a non-majority point of view, and as a former Amish boy, those kinds of movies appeal to me. "Letters from Iwo Jima," was another in that genre, which was very well done. I don't know why it wasn't nominated. Maybe "Babel" didn't win and "Letters" wasn't nominated because Hollywood had its fill of message movies.

I read your interview of Patry. She's a wonderful writer and a wonderful person.

At 12:47 PM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Yes, I'll give you the coincidences in Babel on one hand. I realize that I can only handle so many coincidences in a given piece of art...it's some kind of post-Dickens rebellion, I guess. Though the more I think about it, I'm not sure I agree that there were actual "coincidences" in Babel. It was more like the "six degrees of separation" concept...

And I don't hold it against anyone that they liked Crash. It was designed to tweak (manipulate) feelings...and usually I'm the first sucker. I think if it had been made with completely unknown actors across the board, I might have liked it more...but I don't know.

At 11:03 PM, Blogger Jesse said...

I think that 'Crash' dealt with the issue of racism with all the same delicacy, depth, and respect for its audience that 'Blood on the Highway' did with the issue of traffic safety.

At 9:24 AM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Jesse: YES! The best analogy yet :)

At 2:59 AM, Blogger gerry rosser said...

Even when I went to movies, and actually had seen one or more of the nominated films, I didn't watch the long, lame, boring Academy Awards show. I don't care who or what wins this orgy of self-congratulation. In fairness, I will admit that two summers ago I did go to a theatre to see "March of the Penguins" which was not nearly as good as some TV documentaries I'd seen on the same subject. The techincal aspects of the movie (like, say, focus) were not even as good as TV.
The funny thing is, I like movies. The theatre experience just no longer holds any charms for me.


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