Sunday, March 7, 2010

Reel Thoughts: Oscar Love (and Hate)

When the curtain rises on the Oscars tonight, there won’t be much notice of Tom Ford’s gorgeous drama, A Single Man. The story of a gay man dealing with the death of his partner didn’t get much Oscar love. Except for Colin Firth’s Best Actor nomination, the movie was ignored.  Just as Brokeback Mountain lost Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Supporting Acting honors to lesser challengers in 2006, this year, the GLBT community is again reminded that being “too gay” is the kiss of death as far as Oscar is concerned.

Still, there is a lot to love about Oscars this year ... and a lot to hate:

Best Pictures:
Love It: Ten Best Pictures are nominated, including Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (directed by out director Lee Daniels), Inglourious Basterds, Up and District 9.
Hate It: Ten Best Pictures nominated include Avatar and The Blind Side, but not A Single Man or Julie & Julia.


Acting Nominations:
Love It: In a year that really wasn’t so great, great performances still happened, and Oscar noticed with nominations for Firth, Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia), Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds), Mo’Nique (Precious), Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart), Helen Mirren (The Last Station) and newcomer Carey Mulligan (An Education).
Hate It: No nominations for Julianne Moore (A Single Man), Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) or Irving Thalberg Memorial Award for Mariah Carey’s Precious mustache.

Oscar Music:
Love It: There’s a nice mix of Best Song nominees, thanks to Crazy Heart, The Princess and the Frog, Nine and some French movie no one has ever heard of.
Hate It: But we won't hear the songs. Producer Adam Shankman (Hairspray) has cut the live performances from the Oscars telecast. Come on! It’s not like Snow White was going to do a reprise with Rob Lowe.


Oscar Party Food:
Love It: There are great Oscar food inspirations this year! District 9 Prawns (or ... canned cat food?), Crazy (Artichoke) Hearts, a Coralime Jell-O Mold, Inglourious Strudel (don't forget the cream!), Hot Cocoa Before Chanel, Precious Pigs Feet (ew), etc. And if you're lazy, just get Taco Bell à la The Blind Side.
Hate It: Avatar’s inclusion means lots of blue food, except there are no really blue foods ... perhaps Blueberry Avatarts? Na'vi Blue Curacao Martinis will mean lots of hangovers the morning after.

First Nominations:
Love It: Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) and Christopher Plummer (The Last Station) got their first nominations ... finally!
Hate It: Director Tom Ford and his brilliant art director Dan Bishop did not get nominated for A Single Man. If that movie wasn’t a brilliant bit of art direction, what was it?


Now, on to the part I love ... Picking the Oscars!:

Best Actor:
Who Should Win: Colin Firth gave a heart-breaking performance as George Falconer, an outwardly closeted man whose life partner is killed, and who wishes to join him in A Single Man. George Clooney is great in Up in the Air, and so is the man who will win, but it’s really hard to pull off the quiet intensity that Firth masters.
Who Will Win: Jeff Bridges, as a washed up but still pretty talented country singer in Crazy Heart. Bridges lives and breathes his role, and he’s considered “owed” the award.

Best Actress:
Who Should Win: Meryl, Meryl, Meryl! Saying it enough won’t make it happen. Her Julia Child in Julie & Julia was as light as a perfect souffl√©, yet as earthy and grounded in real human emotions as a hearty stew. Streep makes it all look too easy, but she is never less than brilliant.
Who Will Win: Sandy, Sandy, Sandy! If any year belongs to Sandra Bullock, it’s this year. Hollywood loves a success story, and with her tart and funny performance in The Proposal and her immensely warm and lovable role in The Blind Side, she’s as unstoppable as Big Mike!


Best Supporting Actor:
Who Should and Will Win: This one’s easy. Remember a certain unknown actor who electrified people as a cold and murderous Nazi in Schindler’s List? Ralph Fiennes became a star and got his first Oscar nomination (and should have won over The Fugitive's Tommy Lee Jones). Christoph Waltz is a different man playing a different Nazi “Jew Hunter” in Inglourious Basterds, but he is no less thrilling to watch. He should win. He will win.

Best Supporting Actress:
Who Should and Will Win: If Waltz’s character was a hate-filled black woman living in the slums of New York, taking her wrath out on her obese daughter and grandchildren rather than helpless Jews, he still wouldn’t be all of the marvelous, horrifying, pitiful and raw things that Mo’Nique is in Precious. The actress is getting a lot of flack for not seeming grateful enough for Oscar’s love, but honey, that performance stands on its own (as Mo’Nique herself might say).

Best Picture:
What Should Win: Jason Reitman is an amazingly smart and talented director, able to create seemingly flippant films with surprising heart and soul. Up in the Air is his best work yet. In terms of achieving all that it attempted, it deserves the title of Best Picture.


What Will Win: The front-runners are The Hurt Locker and Avatar. I wouldn’t be hurt by a Locker upset, even though the film isn’t much more than one tense bomb-diffusing scene after another. But it does capture the hell of being in the Iraq War. Avatar however, is the big blue monster that can’t be stopped. It will win, and somewhere cinematic angels will weep.

The 82nd Annual Academy Awards will be presented live on ABC tonight.  Movie Dearest will chime in after the show with a quick round up of the winners, and we'll offer our full "Oscar Post Mortem" tomorrow.

By Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

Inglourious Basterds illustration by Morning Breath for Upper Playground. All other illustrations by Tavis Coburn for the BAFTA Awards.

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