Sunday, February 25, 2007

Flick the Button

Oscar Night, so I should catch up on the backlog. I saw 4 of the 5 Best Picture nominees.

1. Firewall. Massive waste of time. Twists were seen miles ahead. Big bright flashing strobe plot arrows. Mixed in were literally dozens of obnoxious product placements (including one for Equifax of all things). The movie probably made money before it showed in a single theatre. You're fired.

2. Rashomon. I wasn't as impressed as I think I would've been had I seen it 50 years ago, though it's hard to look at it in that manner. Maybe I was waiting for the movie to blow my mind and it never got there. The "big idea" is supremely creative, and has been copied dozens of times, but I think it probably needed to be, as it almost seems like the organization and themes could've been more fully developed. For the effect on things, it's probably deserving of all the acclaim given, but it wasn't really the thing for me. Maybe I should've given it another chance. As of now, an incomplete You're Fired.

3. Croupier. This was such an odd film. It seemed really dated for a 1998 film. The sets, costumes, and style seemed more early 1990s than late - and there's a real difference. Owen shows all the promise he's fulfilled since. The screenplay was a little indulgent and could've used a few edits, though the final payoff was quite good. Kept my interest, though I wasn't crazy about it either. Just barely below Steak Knives, but still, You're Fired.

4. Oklahoma! Doesn't really fit the parameters of what I do here. It was funny, campy and silly. The Lady's seen it a bunch and she loves it. Now I get her jokes about Tom Cruise's daughter having a fringe on top. Gayer and better than Brokeback Mountain. Steak Knives.

5. Stander. This was a great surprise. If you've never heard of it, it's about a cop in 1980s Johannesburg, South Africa who starts robbing banks. Fast paced, clever, and most of all fun. Tom Jane is likable as hell. I'm not sure I buy the "result of apartheid" bit, but that didn't make the film any less enjoyable. Far more entertaining than any American action film I've seen this year (save The Departed). Sharp Steak Knives.

6. Music and Lyrics. Hugh Grant looks old, even in the videos that are supposed to date from 20 years ago. He was a little funny though. Drew Barrymore is kind of annoying. Everyone else really just looks like they're cashing checks. And this is ironic, since a major theme in the movie is about "not selling out and doing something just because you think that's what the consumer wants" - and that's precisely what everything about this movie was. You're Fired.

7. Flightplan. Kept us awake and the first 45 minutes are pretty good. The second half feels too rushed. They could've let Foster's character marinate a little longer - let her begin to doubt things. It just ends, too. I almost thought the Tivo had jumped ahead 15 minutes. Better made than Firewall and some other similar type thrillers, but it could've been a lot better. Also, The Lady Vanishes is much better. You're Fired.

Now, the Oscar choices... I wrote about Little Miss Sunshine before, which I liked probably second best among the 4 I've seen.

8. The Queen. A great screenplay, and fantastic performances. If it's an accurate portrayal of the royalty or not, it's far more interesting than anything I've read about them in tabloids and such. The Oscars made a massive mistake by failing to nominate Michael Sheen, whose Blair captured all the nervous brilliance of the PM in his early days. Steak Knives.

9. Babel. OK. I liked Amores Perros a lot better. This and 21 Grams are about the same in that they both feel like then needed things a little tighter and they needed fewer Oscar-reel scenes. The Mexico scenes were the most enjoyable. I don't know. Putting the problems of the world on horny kids seems like a waste of time. Or something like that. I just saw this today, so maybe it'll get better in my mind as I think of it. Right now, probably You're Fired, but maybe Steak Knives.

10. The Departed. I'm a sucker for energetic films, big performances, and twisty screenplays. This film isn't perfect (I might have a full post up on what I think are plot problems), but it's easily my favorite of the Oscar-nominated films. I will end up watching this movie probably a few dozen times. Every performance was fantastic. The direction was spectacular. A great film that I hope wins the Oscar. Cadillac.