Sunday, January 31, 2010

This Weekend at the Movies

The weekend before the Super Bowl is a strange one for sports fans. After keeping tabs with a competitive NFL season, it's tough to switch to another sport. That's especially true if you've paid too much attention to football. If Stanford and Cal were battling for the Pac-10 title, that would be easier. Also, there are the Sharks. They're doing great. I should turn my attention to them, since it would help me forget how the Sacramento Kings always collapse at the end.
At least it's easy for fans of Indianapolis and New Orleans. They're busy stocking up for the Super Bowl party they'll have. Then again, I have a big frozen pizza and Red Stripe beer ready to go. At least it would be cheaper than going to a bar to watch the game with mainstream light beer.
I do have five hours of 24 to get to, and maybe the Grammys. If I time it right, I can see the 3-D section that honors Michael Jackson.

Still, let's get to the title of this blog. I spent the weekend checking out two movies that will make their mark at the Academy Awards in just five weeks. Yesterday, I saw Avatar for the second time, but it was in Imax, and it was for free. One thing you can say about Imax: it makes any movie, good or not, good enough to stick around. I saw Transformers in Imax, which made it more watchable. I forget if it made Megan Fox sexier, but it wouldn't have worked for the sequel.
With Avatar, Imax made Pandora much more incredible. You have to hand it to James Cameron for revolutionizing movie-making with incredible 3-D effects. The story's not 3-D, though, but maybe 1.723-D. Same with Titanic, but when it presents grand, epic moments, it delivers well.
Titanic had the love story and the big moment when the boat hits hits the iceberg. Avatar also has the cheesy love story, but a lot of viewers must have thought "whoa" in their minds when they see Pandora's center of civilization, Hometree, destroyed by a corporate army. I thought Pearl Harbor, 9-11, and Katrina all rolled into one. Balance that with the planet's deity unleashing the power of nature, or basically very angry animals, and you have a movie that shouldn't be Best Picture, but still something important in movie history.
At least it hasn't dominated pop culture, aside from a few new parents naming their kids Jake or Neytiri. Still, the success of Avatar will convince other studios to prove that 3-D movies can also have good stories. The first example may likely be the next Harry Potter movie.

The other movie was Crazy Heart, or why Jeff Bridges will be winning the Big Lebowski. His portrayal of hard-living country singer Bad Blake is just great. You see a man who can really entertain a crowd, an old-fashioned country singer who is starting to fall apart. Bridges does a lot with his role. A lot of things he does will make you wince, but he needs a reason to clean up his act. That reason is Maggie Gyllenhall, who plays a reporter who's attracted to Blake, mainly because she's dated guys like that before. What surprised me is Colin Farrell does a good job playing Tommy Sweet, a singer that got his first break thanks to Blake. The movie does a nice job showing the difference between old-school country and the little-bit-too-corporate version. It's no wonder why Bridges has dominated the Best Actor awards so far.
It also makes you wonder if Christoph Waltz could beat Bridges if both were up for Best Actor at the Oscars. Bad Blake vs. Badder Landa. I'd vote for Waltz because he can make being soulless so charming.

So, Tuesday morning, we'lll see who will be the front-runners at the Academy Awards. I hear some predict Inglorious Basterds may get as many as ten nominations. Not bad for a movie that premiered at Comic-Con. Avatar should get that many, mainly for technical awards.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Just a week away from Hollywood's Super Bowl

In the space of a week, we know a few things about what may be coming at the Academy Awards in March.
Two acting races are just about over, for starters, Christoph Waltz's dominance was a given ever since his portrayal of Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds was shown to everyone last May in Cannes, last July at Comic-Con and everywhere else the month after that. He's got Supporting Actor for sure. The other race is Supporting Actress, and it looks like Mo'Nique has that cold, too, thanks to her role in Precious. You should see her as the abusive mother. She is scarier than any Volturi, Freddy Krueger or bad werewolf can ever be.
Also, Avatar will get every technical award that isn't nailed down, or at least nearly all of them. As far as revolutionizing how movies are made and shown, James Cameron has shown the way. This is Titanic in space, except the iceberg (corporate interests and trigger-happy soldiers) attacks the ship (Pandora), and the ship strikes back. Add the fact it has love, incredible scenery, and a message some may consider a subtle comment about Iraq or a ripoff of Dances With Wolves, and you have the movie of the new decade.
So could it win Best Picture? Well, if the Oscar voters are easily amused by shiny objects, of course it can. There are still some people who think Crash won Best Picture because there were enough voters who were homophobes would couldn't accept Brokeback Mountain as Best Picture. In this year's race, the tech that Avatar has could be enough. They could overlook the all-too-familiar story.
However, if they think story is just as important, Up In The Air and Hurt Locker should be right up front in the race. I've seen both, and they are good character studies as they are snapshots of how we live today. Hurt Locker follows a bomb disposal technician played by Jeremy Renner. His character, Will James is a guy who likes the thrill of defusing a bomb. We learn he's taken care of nearly a thousand. However, he is not invulnerable to how war can hurt you in other ways. Looking back at it, you might say Will is a war junkie. If you're expecting a traditional war movie, forget it. Kathryn Bigelow does a great job showing us the Iraq War, and the soldiers who live and fight in it. All that without any CGI or 3-D.
I've already talked about Up In The Air, but it's also a slice of life in the current economy. Jason Reitman and a great cast led by George Clooney do a wonderful job. In fact, this movie has already been part of one of the major show biz stories of 2010. Just see how Clooney's character tells employees they are fired, and compare that to how Steve Carrell "fires" Conan O'Brien during last Friday's Tonight Show.
Some are still quite stunned Inglorious Basterds won Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards, while Up In The Air was not nominated. If it was, it would have won. IB is a great war movie that only Quentin Tarantino can play. However, it's also violent, and that's something a Best Picture can't be (although The Departed showed you could only if Scorsese made it).

So, again, could Avatar win Best Picture at the Oscars? It can, but I prefer that Up In The Air get that nod.

So, what's next on my movie "to do" list?
I should see Julie and Julia, but I already got a hefty taste of what Meryl Streep does as Julia Child. Her performance and reputation should be enough to get her a third Oscar. I mean, if the Academy denied Eddie Murphy an Oscar for Dreamgirls a few years ago because he made Norbit, Sandra Bullock would not get one vote because of her string of silly romcoms. All About Steve is her Norbit.
Yet Bullock snagged a SAG award and Golden Globe so far. That's enough to get me to see The Blind Side. I also saw clips of the real Leigh Ann Tuohy. That's also reason enough.
Still, what will decide Best Actress, performance or reputation? Being Meryl Streep or living down Miss Congeniality II?
It would be obvious, expect Drew Barrymore won two awards for Grey Gardens, and she still can't believe it. Just ask her.

Best Actor seems to be Jeff Bridges' fate, but Crazy Heart has barely been released. It just came to town, and it sounds like the 21st century version of Tender Mercies. I will check it out, though.

We'll know more in a little more than a week

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Say what?

It was just six months ago I was wrapping up what was a less-than-perfect Comic-Con. My laptop died, a ticket to an autograph session with the cast of Dollhouse was declared void before it even started (but again, this must have happened to similar sessions of Glee and Fringe, and will likely happen again), and half the panels I wanted to attend were too crowded to even get in. No wonder Los Angeles is so certain it will get this event three years from now.

However, there were some good moments, like getting to see Inglorious Basterds before everybody, and finally seeing a Time Lord for the first time since the '80s.
During the Doctor Who panel, I wore a long scarf Doctor #4 would have worn. A BBC cameraman came up to me, and asked me to say something. I flippantly welcomed the current Doctor, David Tennant, to San Diego, and hoped the Doctor will be viisting 2010 or 2011 hopefully, once again. I suspected this was part of a DVD release, but I thought my flippant comment would wind up on the cutting room floor.
Well, look at this...

Yes, I look stupid, and I didn't think I looked "Time Lord-ish" enough. Still, I guess my invite for Doctor #11 to come down may be enough. There are rumblings about making a U-S version of Torchwood, and that would work if it's a mini-series and the current cast is used. Try the same for the Doctor, guys. There will be a need for this.

Anyway, I will be part of the "Doctor Who at Comic-Con" featurette that will be in the "End of Time" DVD in a couple of weeks. I was going to get it anyway because it's a cool finale. I think maybe two or three people will recognize me when this DVD is made available. It's not as if the BBC will come looking for me, you know, if they do decuide to make a Dr. Who episode set in America, in 2011.
And they won't either...or at least not anywhere near me.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Finally, a post for the New Year

I know I have been paying attention to the other blog because of the Dollhouse thing. So, I think I'll start 2010 here with a few remarks.
First, NBC and its late-night screwups: there must be a few old-time executives who think this would be a much different world if NBC gave The Tonight Show to David Letterman the second Johnny Carson retired in 1992. The other two major networks would not have jumped into the late-night talk scene so quickly. I mean, could anyone think of an ideal late-night talk show host aside from Johnny and Dave back then. Sure, Merv Griffin was tried until he decided to stick to game show producing, and Joey Bishop's viability was long gone. We only accept people like Arsenio Hall, Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson as our late night thing because people had to look for them, and given them their shot.
Maybe Leno would have been on late night anyway, but either syndicated or after Letterman. What a different world it would have been, if NBC treated Letterman right.
So how about the world we have now?
After Jimmy Kimmel's killer smackdown the other night with his classic impression of Leno on his show, I wonder if ABC should watch its back as the other networks start coveting him, like Fox? Well, ABC has Kimmel for keeps, now more than ever. It's also a cinch bigger stars will be coming in more often after this. He's the top guy in Los Angeles if only for a day or two, but that will last as more people see what he does.
My guess: NBC has to pay $50 million to Conan and his staff because of the big move they had to do. Let him start on Fox in June, and but I am sure he won't keep his current spot at Universal. NBC give Leno Conan's current theater and complete the humiliation. However, if the Peacock paid attention to the public's response, Leno would go. However, NBC would have to pay $80 mil to do that. As Letterman said on his show, it's all about money. It's why NBC thought it had to keep Leno, and still thinks that way because dumping Conan would be a less expensive least for now. The real price tag comes a year from now, if you add the additional money the network would lose, and I don't mean from the Olympics.
I just wonder....if NBC decides after two years Leno's time really is over, and they want Conan back, how much MORE will they have to pay to get him? Yeesh!
Well, we'll all see the slow death of the peacock starting next Friday if Conan really does leave on the same night Fox forecloses on Dollhouse. Man, will it be a depressing night.

I'm just thankful I can recover from this with good news: after maybe nine months of trying to get on GSN Live, I succeeded. I won 225 bucks by answering two incredibly easy music questions. The cash will go towards my four-day trip to Anaheim to see Eliza Dushku, and this time hopefully getting an autograph from her, at Wizard World. The extra day will be used to say goodbye to Bonnie Hunt, who also is taking risks as she's reading towards her show's final days. With so many people quitting, from Tyra Banks to Simon Cowell (or being tossed out like Conan), maybe Warner brothers may think twice about keeping Bonnie around.