Thursday, January 26, 2012

Academy Award Nomination Recap

By Alex "The Savant" Heisman

Well….in fact, I don’t want to say much more than just: …well. I have never been more disappointed with the overall annual list of Academy Award nominations as I was this year. I am fully aware, of course, that one must take the nominations with a grain of salt and that, more often than not, AMPAS is not a true bellwether of “best” and “greatness”, as they so readily purport to be.

This year’s nominations, however, finally made me acutely aware of the infamous “turnover moment” that all the Oscar prognosticators that came before me speak of. This moment, and this is not myth for they each detail the moment it happened to them, refers to the literal single second when Oscar bloggers learn to stop caring. These bloggers certainly still care about film, the state of cinema, and how their predictions reflect who eventually wins/loses, yet, perhaps due to a terrible roster of nominations, they just don’t personally give a damn as to who the nod goes to. (David Carr of "The Carpetbagger" even famously gave up covering the entire Oscar race forever, as he was so disillusioned with the 2008 roster). Through my nine years of Oscar watching and obsessing, I have invested myself deeply with the course of a few particular films or performances each year, becoming severely distraught when these selections don’t even come close to winning. How! Why! How Can This BE!?!, I ask myself rhetorically, never expecting nor receiving any answer. It is with an unfortunate voice, and a morbid tone, that I then compose this article. For you see, roughly around 8.42 am EST on Tuesday, January 24th, 2012, I stopped caring.

Shailene just doesn't understand it either.  © 2011 

I eagerly and anxiously awaited the start of the announcement ceremony at 8:38 am, yet when the four minutes were up that it took to recite who did and did not get nominated, I saw what a tremendously atrocious selection of final contenders we had. I then clearly and distinctly experienced my turnover moment. I now can only forever examine the Oscar race without emotion or personality. I even remained on board the ship when they gave Sandy Bollocks Best Actress two years ago. In the most unpredictable and fractured Academy Award race I’ve ever experienced, the most bland and tasteless selection of nominees has presented itself.

Instead of a traditional nomination recap where I look at a select group and analyze this or that, you can see I’m four paragraphs in and I haven’t even mentioned a single nominee. It’s not even worth it.

There were obviously a few nice shockers, however; I still can’t believe they went for Gary Oldman’s massively layered and complex performance in the brilliant Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Also, kudos to them for highlighting Max von Sydow’s heartbreaking acting in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

Otherwise, RIP Michael Fassbender’s massively brave and literally naked performance as a sex addict in the harrowing Shame. RIP Albert Brooks, in a perfect career resurgence, as the most menacing and crazy gangster to ever grace the silver screen. RIP Shailene Woodley, who showed that extreme beauty and talent for someone not yet even legally able to drink doesn’t have to get in the way of one of the most heart-rendering and poignant scenes of the year: the pool scene. Come on Academy, really….you obviously saw The Descendants. You nominated it a whole bunch of times elsewhere. Did you even FREAKING see the pool scene?? It’s one of the only scenes everyone’s talking about this year! Well… (and there’s that
“well…” again) apparently not. Looking at this embarrassing list of exclusions, who’s even left that I could root for this year? Oh, yea, hi Meryl! (:

Oh, but excuse me! I’m not letting passion get in the way anymore.

I, of course, will follow the race closely over the remaining four weeks, but I won’t care a lick. That’ll make it that much easier to put a brave face on whenever I am reminded that I must now and forever refer to these people as “Academy Award Nominee Jonah Hill”, and “Academy Award Nominees Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig”. 


Monday, January 23, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Video Review)

By Alex "The Savant" Heisman and Paul "The Good-Looking One" Goldberg
The Savant's Rating: 3/5 Stars
The Good-Looking One's Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My apologies for that shrieking noise increasing in the background during my analysis of the film.  I guess God didn't think I had much worth saying.  And once again, my apologies for the poor video quality on my end.  That's what happens when you get a crappy Dell, people. (The Good-Looking One)

Enjoy, folks. (The 2 Half Jews)


Thursday, January 12, 2012

An Extensive Golden Globes Preview

By Alex "The Savant" Heisman
Meryl Streep seems as confident as we are for her win at the Globes this Sunday 
©, via
Thrilling! My very first awards prediction piece for our site. In having the nickname “The Savant”, I am often tested and challenged by my peers to not only recite this or that statistic about the Academy Awards, but to also prove that I am an adept selector of winners in that particular group and all other groups leading up to the holy night. Though the Golden Globes, which air this Sunday night, tend to nominate a few major stars that don’t really have a shot at winning just to boost ratings and viewership, they are still generally a fabulous indicator of how things may play out for the rest of the season. I’m confident enough in my skills in this department that I am cementing my final predictions right now with this post. Barring any major upset, I believe the Golden Globes will look something like this (nominees are in alphabetical order while the numbers refer to the order of likelihood in winning):

Drama- Picture
The Descendants 1
The Help 3
Hugo 2
The Ides of March 5
Moneyball 6
War Horse 4

Analysis: Look for the big player The Descendants to take this prize, thus setting itself up for a final duel in the long run with the probable winner on the Comedy/Musical side: The Artist. Hugo remains a looming threat due to the prominent inclusion of the movie in most guild awards leading up to this point. The Help, while a strong nominee, fares better in the acting categories than here. When in doubt, the members of this organization tend to vote for the biggest, flashiest pieces, so War Horse has no trouble cementing its’ place in the middle of the pack. Surprise nominee The Ides of March takes the lead over Moneyball as less and less people extol the virtues of the latter film, particularly the fact that it's a highly "American" film amongst a group of nominees being voted upon by the Hollywood FOREIGN Press Association.

Comedy/Musical- Picture
50/50 5
The Artist 1
Bridesmaids 3
Midnight in Paris 2
My Week with Marilyn 4

Analysis: Well-beloved juggernaut The Artist takes this prize in a walk. No real competition from any other competitor as Bridesmaids, which admittedly has been growing in strength recently, and Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s highest-grossing film, battle it out for runner-up honors. My Week with Marilyn (not even a comedy folks!) is in fourth place due to support from Michelle Williams’ probable Globe win in acting. One of the worst inclusions this year, 50/50, thankfully sits in a completely deserving last place.

Woody Allen- Midnight in Paris 4
George Clooney- The Ides of March 5
Michel Hazanavicius- The Artist 2
Alexander Payne- The Descendants 3
Martin Scorsese- Hugo 1

Analysis: Ah, alas! I can only truly speculate as to the winner in this category. It has come down to a heated race between two men, Hazanavicius and Scorsese, with either of the two being able to realistically take the prize. The case for Hazanavicius being that he directed the critic’s darling of the year, while, conversely, the HFPA (the organization behind the Globes) are absolutely gaga over Scorsese. Look for Scorsese to win simply due to the sheer artistry behind the last third of his movie…that’s as comfortable as I can be declaring a winner here. Payne rests a secure third with a strong movie and a cult following for his other projects. Woody Allen’s surprise inclusion in the Directors Guild nominations recently signal support for the beloved auteur, placing him above a huge star (Clooney) that they nominated for ratings and viewership.

Woody Allen- Midnight in Paris 4
George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon- The Ides of March 5
Michel Hazanavicius- The Artist 2
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash- The Descendants 1
Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, and Stan Chervin- Moneyball 3

Analysis: The Descendants owes all its strength to the screenplay. Most especially out of the nominated trio, Alexander Payne consistently delivers immensely fleshed out scenes and characters. I hate to think Hazanavicius will go home empty handed this year, but his chances are greater in directing than writing. There is an extremely unusual level of support across the board for Moneyball’s script (by far the weakest part in an already severely flawed film), Woody’s in fourth cause they love him, and Clooney and Co. will just have to settle for being shown on camera.

UPDATE: Perhaps this is worth putting on record at the last minute: while The Descendants is best served by its' script, there have been mumblings of a last minute surge in this category on behalf of  Allen for Midnight in Paris. I don't personally necessary buy it, but if it were to happen, it would truly be a shocker. Either way, I sometimes wish such things would happen and for none of my predictions to come true as major upsets surely shake up predictable award seasons!

Drama- Actor
George Clooney- The Descendants 1
Leonardo DiCaprio- J. Edgar 3
Michael Fassbender- Shame 4
Ryan Gosling- The Ides of March 5
Brad Pitt- Moneyball 2

Analysis: The most charming guy knows how to work the room. Clooney picks up another Globe for acting the anchor between all the unstable characters in his film. Brad Pitt does pose a serious threat, however, for Moneyball. (Diatribe- not that Pitt is a tremendous actor anyway, but if he even comes close to winning this or the Oscar for the putrid job he does in Moneyball, I’m gonna be pissed. No one deserves an award for playing a bland, talentless version of themselves). In a poorly reviewed film, Leo, arguably the best part, secures third place standing because of his star appeal, while the brave, open portrayal of Michael Fassbender as a sex addict in Shame will go unnoticed because he is not a big enough star. Hollywood politics, folks…nothing we can do about them. Gosling, a dual nominee this year, rides the nonexistent The Ides of March train to lastplaceville.

Drama- Actress
Glenn Close- Albert Nobbs 3
Viola Davis- The Help 2
Rooney Mara- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 4
Meryl Streep- The Iron Lady 1
Tilda Swinton- We Need to Talk About Kevin 5

Analysis: I haven’t written about this for our site yet as I was waiting until I saw The Iron Lady (TOMORROW!), but I have a severe addiction to Meryl Streep. The next piece I’m doing is a complete overview of some of her most crucial performances, and I fully warn you in advance, I’m obsessed. I know every detail, every film, every quote, be afraid. No typed words can prepare you for my level of Meryl worship unless we were to talk in person. When she wins the Globe this year on her way to her blessed third Oscar, I will literally cry and scream and praise the heavens. If her neck and neck, and equally deserving (mumble mumble), competitor Viola Davis wins, however, I will cry and scream…although for other reasons. In a return to the screen after a four year absence, Close does an apt job of playing a man in a passion project she has been trying to get to the screen for 29 years. I only wish she was more lauded for her efforts. Due to the somewhat surprising all-around love for Dragon Tattoo, Mara theoretically could upset if enough voters saw her film. Also equally deserving, but ultimately not in a film seen by too many, Tilda Swinton must unfortunately settle for last place.

UPDATE: I frankly may have to eat my words. I wrote this post before the Critics Choice announced their winners. Meryl was predicted to win there as well, but when Viola Davis's named was announced and she delivered one HELL of an acceptance speech, well, let's just say she'll probably take the Globe on Sunday and the Oscar a month and a half from now. To quote Bette Davis: "Hang on to your seats, it's going to be a bumpy night!"

Comedy/Musical- Actor
Jean Dujardin- The Artist 1
Brendan Gleeson- The Guard 5
Joseph Gordon-Levitt- 50/50 4
Ryan Gosling- Crazy, Stupid, Love. 2
Owen Wilson- Midnight in Paris 3

Analysis: Jean Dujardin, the expressive faced actor at the core of The Artist, deservedly takes this easy peasy lemon squeezie. The rest of the situation is merely a crapshoot as the most deserving, yet least known nominee, Brendan Gleeson, must settle for last place (damn those Hollywood politics!) Beloved Ryan Gosling has a better chance of cashing in his two nominations over here, while Owen Wilson also turns in a respectable performance. Without turning this post into a biased piece, why anyone would nominate Joseph Gordon-Levitt or his film for ANYTHING is beyond me. Oh well.

Comedy/Musical- Actress
Jodie Foster- Carnage 5
Charlize Theron- Young Adult 2
Kristen Wiig- Bridesmaids 3
Michelle Williams- My Week with Marilyn 1
Kate Winslet- Carnage 4

Analysis: Even though the quartet of actors in Roman Polanski’s Carnage are campaigning as Supporting at the Oscars, the female half has been nominated for lead here at the Globes. In a paltry film that does a massive disservice to the original stage play, God of Carnage, both Foster and Winslet bring up the rear. Look for Williams to take this award as her showy portrayal of Marilyn Monroe has earned respect and adulation from her peers and the critics. Charlize Theron also poses a threat as the best part of her particular film, while Wiig’s chances have been increasing as of late due to her film’s presence in unexpected guild areas.

Supporting Actor
Kenneth Branagh- My Week with Marilyn 3
Albert Brooks- Drive 2
Jonah Hill- Moneyball 4
Viggo Mortensen- A Dangerous Method 5
Christopher Plummer- Beginners 1

Analysis: Even though Brooks has become the critic’s darling of the season in reaping the lion’s share of awards, expect Canadian octogenarian Plummer to take this one. If Brooks actually does win, however, the ripples will be so prominent that he would also end up eventually taking the Oscar too. Kenneth Branagh, the only other nominee who can be said actually “acts” in this category, remains a deserved third. How Viggo Mortensen randomly slipped in here is a mystery and don’t even expect him to follow it up with an Oscar nomination. There’s no need to mention the other guy as I’ll close my eyes and pretend someone else more deserving is listed instead.

Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo- The Artist
Jessica Chastain- The Help
Janet McTeer- Albert Nobbs
Octavia Spencer- The Help
Shailene Woodley- The Descendants

Analysis: No numbers for this last one, guys, as it truly is a wide-open category. Reminiscent of last year’s open Supporting Actress field, the case could be argued for any one of these five deserving ladies to take the prize. Consensus appears to favor Octavia Spencer, although I have never bought this particular buzz. While doing a very great job as the comic relief in The Help, she never takes her character to heights unforeseen by many other comparable roles of this nature. I feel valid in saying one can’t even argue with this assessment as Spencer has won, I believe, only two small critics prizes so far, while the other nominees have stacked up many more wins. I’m a much bigger fan of her costar, Chastain, as a more fully fleshed out character in the film. Underrated thespian McTeer, also playing a man opposite costar Glenn Close, steals her film with a great performance. Berenice Bejo, the other half of The Artist duo, could also very well ride the coattails of her film to a sneaky win for her charming performance. My personal favorite, and the performance I am championing this season along with Streep, Brooks, and Fassbender, is the tremendously talented and young Shailene Woodley. Woodley completely steals thunder in The Descendants from Clooney and has one of the most heartbreakingly poignant scenes involving a bit of bad news and a swimming pool. To reveal anymore would be to erase the tears that are sure to flow during this scene from the audience members. Akin to Jennifer Lawrence’s moving performance in last year’s Winter’s Bone, Woodley has a depth and maturity well beyond her years that only serves to further emphasize the rough and awkward transition into adulthood her character faces as her mother lays comatose in a hospital bed. Of course, the award will probably just go to Spencer anyway.

Sorry for such a long post! Ten categories is a lot to cover, yet, in writing this piece I gained further clarity in a few undecided races and I hope you can find my predictions useful in any fashion. Feel free to enter your own predictions in the comments section and then we can all compare results later. Watch the sure to be edgy Ricky Gervais host the 69th Annual Golden Globe awards at 8.00 pm EST on this Sunday, January 15th on NBC. After a while, I’ll do another post recapping the present state of the season and where it might be headed. Tune in!


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ze Arteest! Fantastique! (The Artist, Video Review)

By Alex "The Savant" Heisman and Paul "The Good-Looking One" Goldberg
The Savant's Rating: 5/5 Stars
The Good-Looking One's Rating: 5/5 Stars

Five imaginary bucks if you comment with the correct time stamp in which Alex "Butterfingers" Savant-Heisman drops his pen. (-The Good-Looking One)

Also, pay close attention near the beginning as to how Paul "Incapacity for Memorization" Goldberg must rely on his off-camera notes for the names and facts of important ideas. (-The Savant)

Enjoy (-The 2 Half Jews)


How Juvenile

By Alex "The Savant" Heisman
The Savant's Rating: 1.5/5 Stars

Copyright 2011
The title of Jason Reitman’s new film, Young Adult, serves two obvious functions. Firstly, the phrase refers to the type of books the main character Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) churns out rather unenthusiastically. Secondly, it also brings to the forefront the fact that Mavis is stuck in her past high school years (hence the trashy books she writes), is incredibly narcissistic, and refuses to grow up and accept adulthood. Upon deeper inspection, however, the phrase also begins to highlight a more problematic issue; namely that the movie is actually quite poorly constructed. I certainly saw a few areas and scenes that could have been developed further into an overall much more fluid and resonant piece, yet, as it stands, the film becomes Jason Reitman’s least inspired effort. The picture is the “young adult” version of a better, richer piece of cinema that never truly found its way.

Young Adult centers on the author Mavis Gary and her self-centered lifestyle. Mavis truly has nothing going for her as her publisher (J.K. Simmons in a cameo voice role) has recently cancelled her poorly selling book series and she feels too important to sustain any long-term relationship. Mavis develops, and can’t let go, of the idea that she and her old high school boyfriend Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson) are destined to be together, so she travels back to her hometown of Mercury, Minnesota to see him. Mavis is completely aware, however, that Buddy is very happily married with a new child at home. Nothing in her mind can deter her in her quest except for another old high school acquaintance, Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt), who certainly tries to after he sees the obvious lunacy of her plan. Mavis, Buddy, and Matt, must all revaluate their lives as they reconnect and figure out what is most important.

Young Adult never lives up to any sort of promise established from the previous career success of director Reitman or writer Diablo Cody. After delivering a personal and refined portrayal of the recent United States recession with his last film, 2009’s Up in the Air, Jason Reitman presents what amounts to actually quite a boring film this time around. There is no impetus for change on a scene-to-scene basis aside from Mavis’s narcissism, and because Charlize is in literally every scene, the gimmick begins to wear thin quickly and never recovers. Diablo Cody created an interesting character in Mavis Gary but, through her script, placed her in the most utterly droll and asinine world that does not serve the character’s function well.

Special dispensation must be paid, and this will sound contradictory as I have been arguing that there is no case to be made for the movie, towards the acting of Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt. Charlize, already an Academy Award winner for her brave performance in Monster, delivers the best performance by an actress this year so far (that will surely change, however, when I finally see Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady). She capitalizes on the venomous streak in Mavis rather effectively as she repels the rest of the characters and the audience with her unforgivable actions. Delivering saner emotions on the opposite end of the spectrum, common supporting player Oswalt injects a human suffering into his conception of the tortured Matt. While Patton Oswalt can always be counted on to provide some comic relief to any of the hundreds (!) of parts he has been featured in, he is finally allowed to spread his wings with the part he was born to play. Although suffering in a very different way than Mavis (to reveal why would be to lessen the impact of when the moment is revealed on screen), the character of Matt Freehauf does add some layers overall to the lacking film.

Aside from the acting of the two standouts, however, the movie completely and utterly falls apart. For being such a short movie, clocking in at an hour and thirty-four minutes, I was still filled with a sense of lethargy from the movie not developing into anything important. When the film FINALLY begins to hit its stride with the two or three scenes that end the picture, it slowly dawned on me that the credits were about to roll and there would be no time for more scenes of this caliber to redeem the rest of the flick. What a pity, too, as Diablo Cody did write one powerful and notable scene at the end as a duet between Mavis and Matt’s sister Sandra (Collette Wolfe). All the usually reliable supporting players, Patrick Wilson, Elizabeth Reaser, Mary Beth Hurt, are literally left with not a single thing to do except stare mouth agape at Mavis’s incendiary actions.

Young Adult has just expanded wide to theaters all across America, although, judging by my review, I would not recommend going out of your way to see it. Movie: D Plus/C Minus, Redeemable Performances by Charlize Theron and Patton Oswalt: B Plus.