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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Oscars 2013

My reviews of some of the Oscar-nominated movies:

And my Live Blog of the Oscar Telecast:

12:20 am -- the telecast

In recent years I've felt as if the Oscars were often a little bit perfunctory, checking boxes and doing what you do without any thought or passion.  There will never likely be the perfect Oscar telecast.  It can't redeem itself like the Grammys or the Tonys can with live performances.  I'm fairly certain the Academy will be respectful enough of the art of film that the awards nobody cares about will continue to be on the show.  There's only so much you can do and still do the show.  Within those limitations, I thought this year's broadcast was quite well done.  Like Argo, there were things the people making the show wanted to do, and for the most part they did them well.  They wanted to focus on music, they did that, they did it well. The transition to Barbra's number from the In Memoriam.  Doing the music with taste and respect.  Seth McFarlane wasn't fantastically great, but he was fairly solid all the way through, and for a first time doing a a gig like this I thought quite a respectable job of it.  There were weak moments with some of the presenter patter, aren't there always, but also nice touches like having the college kids helping out on stage and seeming really happy to be there when we got those little glimpses of them along the way.  Simply put, I felt something coming back from the show, I felt some love and appreciation and happiness for people to be doing what they were doing, and I haven't felt anything like that from the telecast itself in years.

12:10 am -- and so to close...

If you want to think on the art of acting, look at the people who won this year.  I did not warm up to Daniel Day-Lewis early in his career, My Left Foot wasn't that good in my opinion and was so much one of those "play disability, win award" movies.  But can you look at two performances in two movies like There Will Be Blood and Lincoln and think that you're seeing the same person?  Can you watch Lincoln and not feel like you're watching Abraham Lincoln? His acceptance speech was brilliant. And oh, he completely submerges himself in his roles, and leaves only the role behind.  Or Jennifer Lawrence, in The Hunger Games and in Silver Linings Playbook or in Winter's Bone ??  These people know what they are doing, they do it beautifully.

For Best Picture.  I don't know if Argo is exactly the best picture of the year, sometime over the next week maybe I'll blog on that subject.  But it was certainly the best for what it was of the films it was competing against.  A studio product as that used to be meant in the best sense of the word.  Suspenseful, not a movie to have you looking at your watch, filled with good actors (Victor Garber was also in the previous Best Picture winner Titanic, just to say), reflective of its vision.  Every other movie that was nominated, I can think of something not to like.  Amour, lost of things.  Beasts, lots of things.  Zero Dark Thirty was over-long, Silver Linings too dependent on its cast, Lincoln a bit long and sometimes dull, Pi had a bit of a weak spot in Rafe Spall and less to say than it thought, Les Miz was imperfect and Django as well.  But I can't think of anything about Argo that I'd wish to have been different than it was, not at the time I saw it and not in hindsight or retrospect  Best is such an objective thing, but I think Argo was certainly the best and fullest realization of what it was intended to be.  The acceptance speech was very well handled, with George Clooney content not to say anything and the omission of Ben Affleck from the Director nominations handled well

11:39 pm -- I like Bailey's, their ad makes me never want to drink it again, it so isn't anything about the drink that makes me interested in it.

11:37 pm -- Why is Seth McFarlane making so many jokes about how late it is or how ong the evening is going on?  This is no longer or shorter than pretty much any Oscar show, in fact shorter than many.  And for the most part, going down pretty smoothly.  This isn't the time for self-denigration.

11:35 pm -- Life of Pi and Argo were both director's movies, and Argo wasn't an option in this category, so it's nice to see Ang Lee winning.  This was a movie about finding the right writer and approach to the adaptation, about the craft of the movie in every way, about the integration of technology and old-fashioned story-telling, about the sense of wonder that great movies can provide.  I wouldn't have minded if Spielberg won, Lincoln wasn't as good as Pi but was a director's movie.  Silver Linings Playbook, you need a good director to put actors in all four of the acting categories.  But Life of Pi feels right for this.

11:34 pm -- Jane and Michael walk out to a few bars from Nobody Does it Better !!

11:30 pm -- OK, as a fantasy fan I should appreciate all the mentions of unicorns in this Samsung Galaxy ad, except that I'm not sure what the connection is between unicorns and cell phones.  Unless unicorns are regular creatures that used cell phones too much and got horn cancer as a result of having all that cell phone radiation too close to their horns?

11:26 pm -- Django and Argo each take 2nd Oscars in the Screenplay categories.  It is so nice to see the happiness and excitement on the face of a Chris Terrio as he accepts for Argo.  Django was nothing if not original, so that's a deserved win, and I'm glad to see Tarantino recognize the importance of the actors who bring his roles to life.  Looking over the nominees in both categories, I'd say best man wins, certainly in the Original Screenplay category where I don't think any of the scripts other than Django were that powerful.

11:19 pm -- As we head into the final categories, the love is being very well sporead.  3 each for Life of Pi and Les Miz, 2 for Skyfall, Argo and Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty and Django all have one award.

11:18 pm -- Samsung has spent so much money on such awful ads during the Oscars.

11:12 pm -- I can't complain to have Michael Danna win for Score.  He's done a lot of nice music with not a lot of recognition, especially for director Atom Egoyan and more and more in recent years for other directors.  I still wish Wreck-It Ralph were in the mix, but I am genuinely pleased that this composer is going to have a little gold guy on his shelf.

11:10 pm -- Original Score is one category where I feel a strong snub, that the score for Wreck-It Ralph wasn't nominated.

11:06 pm --  My last screen memory of Ernest Borgnine is watching him sit bemusedly on the couch of "What's Up With That" on Saturday Night Live.  Three people who helped bring SFX along to a new era in the 1970s and early 1980s, Ralph McQuarrie from the Lucasfilm empire, Carlos Rambaldi who made ET live, Matthew Yuririch of Close Encounters.  Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head is one of the first film songs and film montages to imprint itself in my mind, the bicycle ride on the screen while the words came from the speakers, that was just one of many Hal David songs.  Tony Scott who directed Top Gun.  Herbert Lom, who did many other things than just the Pink Panther movies.  Charles Durning, from Tootsie and so many other movies.  And Marvin Hamlisch.  My song with Marvin isn't The Way We Were and Barbra, for me it's Carly Simon singing "Nobody Does it Better" from the Spy Who Loved Me, one of the great James Bond songs.  And for all those in memoriam, indeed, Nobody Does it Better.

10:53 pm -- While we watch a broadcast from the Dolby Theatre, I want to give a nod to the new Dolby Atmos sound system.  The movies I've seen using this new iteration at Auditorium #6, the ETX screen at the AMC Empire 25 in Manhattan, sound fantastic.  This is the best I can ever recall movies sounding.  If you live near any of the theatres in this list of Atmos-equipped, check it out, call and see if the movie you wamt to see is on an Atmos-equipped screen.  I remember how impressed I was the first time I saw movies in 70-mm 6-track sound, and then after that the first time watching the Dolby Digital train rumble thru theatres in the early days, or when the sound at the Loews Astor Plaza got upgraded.  We've grown to expect very good sound now with Dolby Digital or DataSat/DTS sound now standard just about everywhere.  Dolby Atmos is the next major advance in making the theatre experience better than your living room.

10:48 pm -- Production Design? Either Pi or Anna Karenina in my playbook, but it goes to Lincoln.

10:45 pm -- I know three groups of people, the ones who haven't seen Silver Linings Playbook, the ones who love it, and the ones who hate it.  I don't know anyone who's seen it who has a neutral or "enh" or "meh" relationship with it.  Very polarizing.

10:44 pm -- But we just saw the musicians in the Capitol Records building.  Where did the Skyfall string section come from?  Did they walk or take a shuttle bus over from the Capitol Records building?  Were they not good enough?  Or are the ones in the Capitol Records not good enough?  How many more musicians are hiding in the Dolby Theatre?

10:43 pm -- The Skyfall number was very good.  In general, I think the production team this year has been doing a very good job with the musical numbers, doing them with class and elegance when the tendency is too often toward the bombastic and overblown and overproduced.

10:41 pm -- I liked this Joe Fresh/Penney ad more, it is probably the same ad I didn't like an hour ago.

10:33 pm -- And it does go to William Goldenberg for the very well-cut Argo.  The same William Goldenberg whom I was not rooting for in Zero Dark Thirty.  Michael Kahn, who was nominated for Lincoln, has been working with Spielberg since Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

10:32 pm -- In the editing category, first and foremost not Zero Dark Thirty, which is long and feels it in spite of the good final sequence.  Argo was very well edited.  This is also a good category to think Life of Pi.

10:30 pm -- the new Academy museum will be going into a beautiful old department store building on Wilshire Blvd.

10:27 pm -- The Coke ad is interesting.  Should I be watching Nashville?

10:24 pm -- Happy as I am to see Anne Hathaway get her first and most likely not last Oscar, her acceptance speech is kind of blah, I wish some of her time over 30 seconds had gone to the winners for the Documentary Short.

10:21 pm -- My own favorite in this category is Jacki Weaver.  There's just something about her performance in Silver Linings Playbook that I can't take my eyes off of her even when someone else is speaking.  But Anne Hathaway is expected to win.  And does.  And I can't complain.  She's a great actress, and has done a lot of great work in the early years of what should almost certainly be a much longer career.  Rachel Getting Married, have you seen that, you really really should if you haven't.

10:20 pm -- Christopher Plummer presents the Supporting Actress award with class and dignity.

10:19 pm -- The nod toward Sound of Music is a wonderful non sequitur.

10:18 pm -- And even though I liked Skyfall less than some other people, the movie holds up in my mind better than a lot of other movies, and I'm very happy to see it taking an Oscar in a deserved cateogry.

10:17 pm -- I like the speech from Paul N. J. Ottosson for Zero Dark Thirty.

10:15 pm -- A tie!  How exciting!!!

10:12 pm -- Not a surprise to see the Sound Mixing award go to Les Miz, which is a musical with music and voices and stuff.  I might have inclined to Skyfall or to Life of Pi if I were voting in the category myself.

10:08 pm -- Not a car ad fan, but the Hyundai battery ad was pretty good.  Did Chris Pine spend some time in a tanning salon, or on the beach in Santa Monica this afternoon?  Or is it my TV?

10:06 pm -- The American Express ad for Small Business Saturday is very good.  I will not rush to see the Oz movie.  Just read an article which suggests that on-line learning isn't as effective as the in-person variety, which if true wouldn't be a shock, so I'm not beguiled by the University of Phoenix ad.

10:04 pm -- Rather to my surprise, the Les Miz number is fantastic and totally deserves the standing "O" from the audience.  Danged good.

9:57 pm -- Using this musical medley to start in on a blondie with chocolate chunks from the Magnolia Bakery branch at Grand Central Terminal.

9:53 pm -- I like the sheen of John Travolta's tie, but the outfit is way too monochromatic.  Even his hair is the same color as the jacket and shirt and tie.

9:51 pm -- Two straight winners thinking Tom and Michael, the masterminds at Sony Pictures Classics, who've been at the specialty film business for decades and know their stuff.

9:50 pm -- Another good iPad ad.  Foreign film goes to Amour as expected, I walked out of the movie.  Just cracked open the orange flavor of Zevia, and am not liking it.

9:44 pm -- The Documentary Oscar goes to a film I mostly slept thru, and don't think I missed all that much in doing so.

9:41 pm -- So it was aruond 50 seconds for each of the Best Picture montages in this trio of Argo, Lincoln and Zero Dark Thirty.

9:36 pm -- I know I'd like to hear more than 30 seconds from the people up there to accept the award for Inocente for Documentary Short.

9:35 pm -- Very nice acceptance speech from the Live Action Short winner.

9:32 pm -- If I ever have to wear a tux, I so want to wear the one Jamie Foxx is wearing.

9:31 pm -- I hated the Penney ad, but I liked the ones that nobody else seemed to that introduced their new pricing plans a year or two ago, so what do I know.

9:24 pm -- The Bond montage was awful.  My eyes are full of circules.  No context.  No flow.  Just an awful mess.  But it is awfully nice to have Shirley Bassey reprising one of the most classic of classic Bond songs.  It's a paid distraction for an hour or two.

9:21 pm -- One of the winners in the hair design category had very interesting hair.  What was it holding up, exactly, in the back ??

9:20 pm -- I only saw Les Miz of the nominees in the Hair/Makeup category.

9:18 pm -- I didn't like Anna Karenina very much, other than as a nap vehicle, but looking over the full list of nominees in the category I'd say this is the right movie for this Oscar Award.  Weren't there other better designed movies to have been nominated in this category?

9:16 pm -- I think Jennifer Aniston would look better with a wrinkle or to.  Preternaturally smooth isn't a great look to me.

9:14 pm -- The Diet Coke ad was not new but is a very god ad, especially in this setting.  The iPad ad was fantastic, Apple's always done some excellent advertising during the Oscars.  Brad Pitt won't make me try a perfume!  Maybe a cologne.  I watch some ads when I'm watching things on DVR because people pay good money for my eyeballs, but I generally fast forward past car ads and cell phone ads because I just don't give a hoot about either product line.

9:11 pm -- And Pi does win, deservedly here for all the same reasons as in the Cinematography Award.  Beating what are likely more over-CGI'd effects from Peter Jackson in The Hobbit, which I didn't see, and don't want to see.  I wasn't such a big fan of The Avengers, and didn't see the other noineees, and I wish they gave more time for the multitude of winners in this category to speak instead of enforcing the 30-second rule to tightly.  Humbug on that.

9:10 pm -- After more painful presenter dialogue we get to the Visual Effects category.  I'll pull for Life of Pi here, as well.

9:06 pm -- Lots of good nominees in the Cinematography category.  When I think of Skyfall I think of the wonderfully filmed scenes at Skyfall, Lincoln looked fabulous, Django Unchained was a cinematic feast. And Life of Pi?  This was a triumph of filmmaking that required a lot of effort to film on the water and make it look beautiful, to film in a way that blended the humans and the CGI. to film in a way that made some of the best use of 3D you're going to find.  So it wins, and it deserves to.

9:04 pm -- Just in general having these little puff pieces in groups of three doesn't exactly give lots and lots of prominence to the nominees.  But really, they're just Best Picture nominees, it's not like theyshuld have their little individual moments in the sun.

9:02 pm -- In this batch of Best Picture nominees, Life of Pi was a pleasant surprise, I didn't like Beasts of the Southern Wild at all, you will know why as you hear the blaring music playing in this little snippet.  Les Miz was Les Miz.

9:00 pm -- Wreck-It Ralph was the only nominee I saw, so I don't know if  Brave should or shouldn't have won.  I do somewhat regret not seeing Brave, which puts it above the other nominees that I didn't see, don't regret not seeing, will die happy never to have seen them.  I am no longer the target audience for most animated movies.

8:58 pm -- Paperman was shown before Wreck-It Ralph, is very good, and was touted to win in part because of its melding of computer and hand animation techniques.

8:57 pm -- this thing with Paul Rudd is truly painful to watch.

8:50 pm -- I'm not going to complain about Waltz winning.  He gave a great (lead) performance.  He was also very good in last week's Saturday Night Live, which was the first episode of 2013 that was any variety of good.  A salute to Quentin Tarantino is not out of place, because this is an actor that really became someone because Tarantino has that knack for finding actors kind of like I find fantasy authors.

8:47 pm -- Supporting Actor has three deserving nominees, Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained, Robert DeNiro in Silver Linings Playbook, and Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln.  The consensus is that it will go to Tommy Lee Jones.  Which would be hard to complain about.  I disliked The Master intensely.  I'm not sure how Phillip Seymour Hoffman or Christoph Waltz have been nominated in this category instead of in the Best Actor category. And the consensus is wrong.

8:46 pm -- the orchestra this year is off premises.

8:40 pm --  Channing Tarum can do anything.  He can even dance with his clothes on!

8:38 pm -- OK I love the production number that CaptainKirk has provided us with.

8:34 pm --  Seth McFarlane isn't laying an egg, but he isn't scaling the heights.

8:26 pm -- I will attempt to live blog the Oscars.  This is my first time trying to do it since Google updated its Blogger web interface, and it sucks.  I tried to post some of my reviews, but because I was pasting in from the Notes program on the iPad, the fomating was off.  And there is no way to get it to fix itself.  Not even walking into the other room.  Select all, change the font, change the style, change it back, try whatever you want to do the format won't come out correct.  The act of coming back here to update the blog as I go along is near impossible, because it's very difficult to click in the box where you are supposed to update text.  It's no fun doing a live blog if it takes 30 seconds of intense effort just to try and get the cursor to where it needs to be.  I downloaded Google's Chrome App to see if maybe the blogger interface will work better in a Google browser than in the iPad-native Safari.  But no, it's as sucky there as it is in Safari.  I looked at the Blogger app, by the reviews for that look pretty bad, so I'm not in the mood for experimenting there.  So we'll try, we'll see how it goes.  But it's typical, and when Google does things that don't work there's nobody who's ever there to complain to, they hide, they don't care, Google is as evil as everyone else on the internet.

7:55 pm -- Settling in for the annual live blog, a half hour to showtime.  Going to post some reviews of recently soon movies between now and then.

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