Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Oscars 2012: Nostaligia Keeps Some Movies Out

I was thinking of calling this comment "No Movies For Young Men", bt I'm not sure that would have worked.
The point is this: the big winners in the nominations announcement had one thing in common: they honored the past glories of the cinemas, and are also both comeback movies.

The Artist is about a silent screen star who is having problems dealing with the prospect of talkies, but is helped by a girl who he meets by chance, and returns his kindness to create a happier version of A Star Is Born. Hugo may be about a boy who lives in a train station that he has to maintain because his uncle died, but it winds up being about his efforts to revive the reputation of a long-forgotten movie pioneer. Entertainment Weekly commented on this, but the final paragraph got my attention, about whether choosing these movies is a way for the movie industry in general to look back at the days when it made movies for the heck of it, not because it had to maintain franchises or bring comic books to life (whether or it it's done badly).

In fact, there's a lot of nostalgia that will be surrounding the Oscars. They brought back Billy Crystal as if no one else in the whole wide world can host them unless you used holograms of Bob Hope or even Johnny Carson. Anne Hathaway can handle it, if she gets a better co-host....Hugh Jackman or Steve Martin. Maybe they can go back to a group of co-hosts like they did in the 1970s. No shame in that.

As for the other nominees, we have movies that look back to our past, like The Help or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or good family dramas like The Descendants. As usual, if you make Oscar laugh (Bridesmaids, Young Adult) or give it too much of a fright (Drive, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 2), it can't be best picture. Not only that, the idea of motion-capture anything is still considered an unforgivable sin. Thus, no Tintin or Andy Serkis.

This is due to the average age of the Oscar voter, mainly very old. If you cut the average age to maybe 45 to what it is now, maybe 128, maybe we'd have a more viewer-friendly event. We'd have someone from the Harry Potter movie in supporting actor categories. We'd have Ryan Gosling in the mix. We'd have Tintin in Best Animated Feature instead of two movies literally no one barely knew existed before the nominations were read. We'd have more than two Best Song nominees, since this rate-a-record judging process doesn't work. "Man or Muppet's" win next month will be more inevitable than Sunset Boulevard winning Best Musical in the 1995 Tonys. It's a good song, but why not add "The Seeker" from Machine Gun Preacher, or "Life's a Happy Song" from The Muppets..or even Elton John's song from Gnomeo and Juliet. That should get the kids watching the show, and when I say kids I mean anyone under the age of 45.

Someone from the Huffington Post also suggested that "R"-rated movies were also snubbed, including Bridesmaids, Shame and Drive. Again, that may be due to getting the teens and young people inside the theaters so they can cover the cost of the films for the "adults". That's what really counts these days.

For me, I am ticked off Young Adult was apparently too mean to get Oscar notice. It was great to see a Mean Girl who wound up not learning a thing, even though you sure learned a lot about her. I liked Drive, but it should have gotten a bit more respect, especially for Albert Brooks.

We should realize that while Glenn Close and Meryl Streep deserved their nominations, their chances would be better if their movies lived up to what they did. Streep is more likely to overcome this, and might get her third Oscar because Hollywood thinks it has to. She's done a lot..and we do mean a lot...between Sophie's Choice and The Iron Lady, and the Academy will think that 2012 will be her year.
Besides, it's best to do it now while she's got a lot of movies in her, rather than Christopher Plummer, who has made a nice comeback with Beginnings (which was a good story when it was between the father and son, but not so much with the son and his girlfriend). It looked like Supporting Actor may be certain except for Max Von Sydow also in the mix.
The real favorite for Best Actor and Actress may be clearer after the SAG Awards. If Streep gets that nod, it's over. If it's Viola Davis or Michelle Williams, it's game on. Ditto if George Clooney upsets Jean Dujardin.

So now, we visit our Netflix, video kiosks and iPads to catch up on all these performances, and a few more once those movies are released through DVD or streaming video. This means you, Rango and Midnight in Paris. We'll soon see how well nostalgia works at this year's Academy Awards. I still say The Artist will, in the end, leave us speechless, but Hugo will get a bunch of tech awards.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Some Other Cool Things I Saw in L-A

First off, I finally hopped aboard that Starline Tour Bus where you can hop on and off whenever you want. Next time, I will devote the whole day to this, not half. Still here's some of the best shots I got....
First, the typical view of L-A on Sunset Boulevard, complete with droopy palm tree:

Typical hazy Los Angeles morning

Then something new at the Burbank Airport: trailers to TV shows and movies:

New Billboard at Burbank Airport

The Pantages Theatre sign, in the cold light of day. It needs moisturizer...

Pantages sign at daytime

But looks better at night...

The Pantages, up close

The Cirque du Soliel camps out at Santa Monica beach while they do "Iris" at the Kodak Theater. That's why Santa Monica has its own big top...

Under a new kind of big top

Looks even better at sunset...

Sunset at the Cirque du Soliel

Still really competes with this street of palm trees...

Street of Palm Trees

Also, the Universal Citywalk looks really cool at night, especially the Hard Rock Cafe...

Hard Rock Cafe at night

I'll have more later...

How I Was At Golden Globes...Sort of

As I said before, I had hoped to get close to the red carpet to the Golden Globes at the Beverly Hilton. Thing is, they did a good job keeping people away. It's easier to be across the street from the Kodak Theater the week before the Oscars, which I did a few years back. At least there, you have the chance to hold an Oscar.
So I had to settle for people starting the preparations two days before where once would see this:

Golden Globes under construction

and the famous E! shrine

Behold the E! Shrine

However, the Globes did give a few hundred people a chance to be in the same room as Angelina Jolie and Pedro Almodovar, for starters. It took place at the Egyptian, thanks to American Cinematique. They had a discussion of the nominees for Best Foreign Language Film. Here's Jolie with Asghar Fahardi, who made the movie that will probably win awards by the ton, A Separation.

Two filmmakers

and Jolie by herself....

She says she's not a filmmaker.

I was also there for Almodovar, who made The Skin I Live In, which I HAVE to see after I missed my chance before. I think his translation, who he didn't really need, looks like someone from one of his movies....

Almodovar and his translator

It was a pretty good discussion of the people behind the movies. Jolie admits she's not a filmmaker, but she certainly learned a lot about bringing Land of Blood and Honey, a very important story, to the screen. Some of the cast was in the audience, and she certainly praised them. The movie is about love in the time of the civil war in Yugoslavia back in the 80s. She points out the couple in the story was born in the same hospital back in Yugoslavia, but the war forced them to be on opposite sides. Jolie was also able to make basically two versions, English and native language. We're getting the latter version, and hopefully it will head to Sacramento soon.

Almodovar also talked about how he had to learn the filming process from using Super 8 films (hello, JJ Abrams) and even doing all the jobs himself. That's why he admitted he'd have a tough time trying to make a movie in the U-S in the usual way we make movies. He'd drown in the permits alone.

There was also the Dardennes brothers, who make The Kid With A Bike, about a young boy deserted by his father but taken care of by a hairdresser. They said it was based on the story of a Japanese orphan who wound up killing someone. In this movie, we have an orphan who finds another way to deal with his situation.

I was really happy that Fahardi was there. He's the guy behind A Separation, which will likely get Oscar gold next month (and then the next day some radio pundit will claim that Oscar will be the final piece Iran needs to build a bomb to kill us all). Well, he admits the movie doesn't represent all of Iran. It shows a middle class family dealing with the mom (Simin) and dad (Nader) separating because she wants to leave and he has to take care of his dad with Alzheimer's. Caught in the crossfire is their daughter Termeh (played by Farhadi's daughter). Nader hires a maid who has a young daughter, and she takes care of his dad. Things get difficult when Nader fires the maid after she ties his dad to his bed to keep him from wandering off, and is also accused of stealing. He pushes the maid out of the house, and suddenly he hears the maid's in the hospital due to a miscarriage. There's even more twists to the story about how one couple's decision can affect many more people. It's a situation that fits any nation and any faith. Fahardi calls this movie a detective story, in a way. He also talked about how we are all the same although politics, here and in Iran, tend to emphasize the differences.
Fahardi spoke mainly Farsi at the panel, although he spoke good English when he won the Golden Globes the next night. I am sure he felt more comfortable in his native language. By the way, here's where it played in L-A, the Royal. It may not look like much on the outside. Inside, though, it's one VERY nice place to see a film.

Don't be fooled. This is one of the best theaters in L-A

Sadly, the director of The Flowers of War with Christian Bale, couldn't make it. Otherwise, they would have talked about that movie. They should have tried.

Maybe I could have tried to get as close to the red carpet the next night, but this is more complicated than a movie premiere. Just as well. Besides, at least it convinced me to go to that flea market at Fairfax High School and find some very rare stuff for a song.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Among My Souvenirs and eBay Bait

Sure, most people would want to see the Hollywood sign, or ride a tour bus. I did all that and more when I spent four days in Los Angeles. I had hoped to be close to a movie star or two, and I did, sort of, thanks to the Golden Globes. I did enjoy an unexpected meeting with an actress well known in the Whedonverse, and found out how small Craig Ferguson's studio really is. It's less than half the size of Conan's talk show, and more foul-mouthed...but in a good way.

The unexpected surprise I had through the weekend, aside from an Apple store that eased my fears about my iPod Touch, was the Melrose Trading Post that raises cash for activities at Fairfax High School. It was also the first flea market I attended in a while. I managed to get some really good stuff like this....

This is a mock-up of an Oscar ad for Martin Scorsese's ill-fated musical New York, New York from 1978. I will have three for sale. I even have a poster that promotes an exhibition of paintings by Robert DeNiro's dad. It's a bit worn, but OK. Also for sale. These were literally at the bottom of a box filled with DeNiro staff some guy collected. There were even mock-ups for small newspaper ads for a double feature of the first two Godfather movies. I decided not to get those.

Here's what else I got:

Looks impressive, doesn't it? A small box of note paper from The Burbank Studios, a facility that Warner Brothers and Columbia shared in the 1970's. It was made for Lewis T. Rosso, who was known for....well...being a production manager in B movies from the '40s and '50s. Still, getting something like this made for you ain't bad. This is the definition of Hollywood fame: being forgotten but still being part of the entertainment machine somehow.
I also got an Alaska Airlines pilot pin, and this piece of Disneyana...

From 1957, a brochure describing Disneyland's Tom Sawyer Island way before Pirates of the Caribbean took it over.

So if you're at a loss of who to spend a Sunday, try going to Melrose and Fairfax. You'd be surprised what pieces of Hollywood you can find. No doubt, it's not something you could find at the Warner Brothers Gift Shop

Thursday, January 5, 2012

I'm Published, and Other 2012 Surprises

The thing with social media is that people, if they want to, can see your latest vacation photos, which you brag about to no end. Some may even claim the photos would be great for a magazine.

Well, dig this...

I'm a published photographer

I took a photo of a guy from the Pizza Rock restaurant in downtown Sacramento on the day regular car traffic was re-opened to K Street. Someone e-mailed me, asking if his magazine can use it. I said yes, and now this photo is seen by tens of people looking for a good pizza place, and relying of a magazine available at airports and train stations. I still have the issue, so I can at least prove it to someone. The photo itself is found here.

The other big surprise was at my neighborhood Goodwill store. I looked through the CDs and found this...

You'll never guess where I got this

an autographed Garbage CD. Yep, that's Shirley Manson's signature. It takes me back to when she was at Wondercon a few years back when she was a Terminatress during season 2 of the Sarah Connor Chronicles. Latest word is that she's heading back to the studio, but I wouldn't mind seeing her in sci-fi again. It's not every day you find an autographed CD at Goodwill, but it's a nice bargain.

Now that everyone has had their Christmas breaks, it's now my turn. I'm still hoping to be a seat filler at the Critic's Choice Awards, which is what I was hoping for. I'm on the waiting list. If that doesn't work, I'll be happy to sit on some bleachers, if there are any. In any case, at least I'll have a chance to see a movie that's not playing in Sacramento yet. Just haven't decided which one, but I also hope to throw in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy too. I'm also hoping to get in a taping of Real Time. The new season starts next week, just in time for the primary season. The Golden Globe,s of course, are out unless there's a secret way to get on the bleachers that doesn't require staying at the hotel. We'll see.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012, Day 2--and a look back at 2011

Yes, this is my first project for the New Year. I challenge people to find meaning in this "revised" Mayan calendar to mainly honor what Joss Whedon has planned for us: three movies (including one made at his house) and four anniversaries of note.
It was one way to help me forget how the Oakland Raiders collapsed in front of our eyes as the NFL season wound down. Pundits are applauding how the 49ers did, but they think they'll probably lose to whoever they'll play in two weeks. I'll hope for Harbaugh Bowl II.

My first really big thing is going to L-A in a few days. I am really hoping to see the Critics Choice Movie Awards, mainly because you can get at the Red Carpet bleachers, at least, for free. If I wanted to get on the Red Carpet bleachers at the Golden Globes, I'd have to stay the weekend at the Beverly Hilton. If I had that much dough on hand, I'd get my car repaired first. If nothing else, I'm hoping to see a Real Time taping for the first time in a long while, plus head back to Universal Studios. Also, I might try taking a tour bus.

So what kind of a year did I have in 2011. Well, I did accomplish something new: I came up with lyrics to a Katy Perry spoof, met Nick Brendon in Sacramento, wrote a movie review of Hanna that seems to be popular after nearly nine months, actually got a close look at the Giants World Series trophy, saw Dr. Horrible live, and got a burrito that was (sort of) given out my a Time Lord at Comic-Con. As far as tangible contributions that I can mention, I got my name as a "contributor" in the credits of two DVDs of Incognito Cinema Warriors XP, and I invested in a romcom called Lust For Love thanks to Kickstarter. I also have been getting my Twitter comments retweeted by famous people like Felicia Day, Charisma Carpenter, Kristy Swanson, Marcos Breton and Jane Espenson. I also got a tweet reply from a Nog Hog, that pig that Conan didn't put on is show...yet. It hasn't translated to more followers, but I can always hope.

Could I make a real mark on the world, in a good way, in 2012? I sure hope so. If a movie review I wrote nine months ago still gets views, there's hope.