Thursday, February 23, 2012

Oscar Predictions 2012

I share a character trait with my brother; we both like writing things people don't read. So in that tradition we decided to team up and each write out our Oscar Predictions without the other one knowing what they would be. So here are our predictions, which are surprisingly close, meaning bet the complete opposite way.

Best Picture:

Matthew's Prediction: "The Artist"

Nobody seems to know why "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" was nominated. When we look back on the films with best picture nods this year and say "wait how was such and such not even nominated; I have a feeling that film will be "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" for many people.

"The Artist" is something Academy voters will eat up. It is about the early history of film itself, and it takes a risk (being mostly silent and all) that pays off. I think in this category and others they will reward the risk, as well as the pat on the back to themselves.

Who should win: "The Tree of Life"

"...the mind races backward; past becomes present, present becomes past. This is what it means to be conscious, to be alive. This is what it means to be aware of one's own mortality. These are the sensations that movies should provoke. This is the sort of reflection that movies should inspire. This is the achievement of "Tree of Life." It is an original, beautiful, unique movie by a defiantly individual director." Matt Zoller Seitz & Serena Bramble (1)

Jonathan's Prediction: "The Artist"

Unfortunately at this point in time, I have only seen two of the Best Picture noms, and that was "Moneyball" & "Midnight in Paris." MB was a good movie, but I don't see it as 'best picture' quality, so it is out in my mind. "Midnight in Paris" was decent, and a cool concept of a movie, but I had a few issues with it and thought it had some weak spots.

Based on what I know about it as a movie, and based on what I know about its competition, I am choosing "The Artist" as the winner of this award.

Actor in a Leading Role

Matthew's Prediction: Jean Dujardin in "The Artist"

This is actually a pretty wide open race. Pitt has won awards for the whole of his year which included "The Tree of Life." Clooney might still offically be the front runner, but I think there will be at least a minor upset if he is still considered the favorite by the show. I think people wanna hear Dujardin give a speech.

Who should win: Gary Oldman There is no actor better than Gary Oldman. His George Smiley says almost as little as Dujardin. I think some people look at Dujardin (who is great) as acting while maybe Oldman as not. Thats of course a mistake. The fact that this is Oldman's very first Oscar nomination also shows that these things at the end of the day, don't always accuretly reflect the best.

"Projecting a face so passive it could almost be labeled a mask, Oldman allows a glimpse into Smiley’s inner life through his aqueous eyes, which betray volatility more in line with the rest of the actor’s notable roles." Tony Dayoub

Jonathan's Prediction: George Clooney in "The Descendents"

Best Actor is a bit of a crap shoot. There is a lot of good talent in this category. I really like Jean Dujardin for this award. Plus, I love saying his name. Du-Jar-din! Brad Pitt was good in "Moneyball," but I'm not convinced he was "Best Actor" good. Anywho...I think the smart money is on Clooney. Clooney is a great actor, but let's be honest, he is probably going to get a plethora of votes just based on his name.

Actor in a Supporting Role

Matthew's Prediction: Christopher Plummer in "Beginners"
Surprised Albert Brooks did not get nominated for "Drive." Plummer will win for his career as well as a great performance. Maybe they will show Julie Andrews, his Sound Of Music co-star, in the crowd.

Jonathan's Prediction: Christopher Plummer in "Beginners"
While Best Supporting Actress was the most up in the air, Best Supporting Actor is pretty open and shut in my opinion. Christopher Plummer takes home the Oscar. If anyone were to pull out an upset it would be Max Von Sydow (also a great name) with his role in "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close." Regardless, I think Plummer will take home the win.

Actress in a Leading Role

Matthew's Prediction: Viola Davis in "The Help"

Meryl Streep seemed a shoe-in except for the fact nobody really liked the rest of the film outside of her performance. Will she win simply because she is due to again? If acting is only mimicry, then Rich Little is due his lifetime achievement award. 
Michelle Williams has a good chance but I think it will go to Viola Davis. I think there might be just enough of a backlash about Streep being overdue and deserving to win for that alone. She is nominated almost every year. She will get another soon enough.

If Davis wins, look for Hollywood to pat themselves on the back for being so color blind.  The same Hollywood that rejected Eddie Murphy's original concept of an all black cast for "Tower Heist" and refused to finance the George Lucas produced "Red Tails" because it did have a nearly all black cast.
Jonathan's Prediction: Viola Davis in "The Help"

If I were betting money, I would probably put it on Streep to take Best Actress. The woman is an award winning machine and the Susan Lucci of the Oscars, having been nominated more than anyone else, but only winning a couple of times. The thing is, I don't like Meryl Streep. That's right, I said it. Also, I want Viola Davis to win one over her, therefore, I am going with the next best choice, Viola Davis, in "The Help." This should be a mild upset, but not an overly shocking one.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Matthew's Prediction: Octavia Soencer in "The Help"

These are the categories where there is usually an upset. I can see almost any of them winning, but I will stick with Spencer.

Jonathan's Prediction: Octavia Spencer in "The Help"

I could see this award going a number of different ways. It is the most up in the air award category in my opinion.  I would love to see Melissa McCarthy win it, but I doubt she will, nor am I sure she should.  I am going to go out on a limb and say that Octavia Spencer is going to get the win on this one.  If my picks for Actress & Supporting Actress do come true, it will be Oscar history.  Never have two black women won both awards in the same year.  In fact, only one black woman has ever won Best Actress (Halle Berry in Monster's Ball) and only four have ever won Supporting Actress,  but thankfully, times, they are a changing, and I think these two ladies will indeed make history by taking home the trophies.


Matthew's Prediction: Guillaume Schiffman for "The Artist"

Part of me thinks "Hugo" will win because its better 3D than most films in a format that is already faltering a bit (once again).  "The Tree of Life" has its best chance in this category but I think people will be blinded by the black and white, "The Artist."

Jonathan's Prediction: Robert Richardson for "HUGO"

From what I have seen of all these movies, I would have to say that "Hugo" is most likely to win this award. As long as it goes to a film that actually practices good Cinematography and not special effects, I am happy. I have not seen Hugo yet, but I have seen multiple trailers and it looks spectacular.


Matthew's Prediction: Michel Hazanavicius for "The Artist"

I think "The Artist" will win Best Picture, and usually, but not always Best Picture gets Best Director.

Jonathan's Prediction: Michel Hazanavicius for "The Artist"

I think Best Picture and Best Director almost go hand-in-hand. Again, my smart money is on Hazanavicius for The Artist, although I would be happy if Scorsese won. I could see it, but if I had to choose a winner, I would go with Haz.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

Matthew's Prediction: Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash for "The Descendants"

Jonathan's Prediction: Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash for "The Descendants"

I think "The Descendants" will win. I think "Moneyball" would also be a good choice, and TTSS should possibly take the award over Clooney's movie, but I am putting my money on "The Descendants."

Writing (Original Screenplay)

Matthew's Prediction: Woody Allen for "Midnight in Paris"

This seems to be Woody Allen's most well received film in some time. I think they want to gove him the award even though he won't likely show up. One way to keep ratings high though: Have him win and let Mia Farrow except for him. Then watch the ever soft spoken Mia smash the Oscar to pieces.

Jonathan's Prediction: Woody Allen for "Midnight in Paris"

"Midnight in Paris" is my pick based on its uniqueness. This movie was not what I was expecting, but that is not to say that is a bad thing. Woody Allen's unusual Romantic Sci-Fi Comedy is the very definition of "original", thus they win the award.

Best Animated Feature
Matthew's Prediction: "Rango"

The only real reason I think this will win is because it was kind of the anti-children's animated film. It was in many ways not for children, but of course parents dragged their kids to see it simply because it was animated. I think The Academy might enjoy that.

Jonathan's Prediction: "Rango"

I have not seen these animated pictures.I dunno. For whatever reason, when I look into my crystal ball on this one, I see Rango winning. People love Johnny Depp, so yeah...Rango.


(1) Pressplay Should Win Best Picture, The Tree of Life

(2) February 16, 2012 the many faces of george smiley

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Not The Last Out

If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.   John 15:19

Gary Carter was determined not to be the last out.  But according to the people controlling the videoboard, he already was.

With two outs in the bottom of the 10th in game 6 of the 1986 World Series, Carter was all that stood between the Red Sox defeating the Mets and being World Champions for the first time since 1918.

As Carter walked to the plate, this message could be seen on the videoboard: 
"Congratulations, 1986 World Champions, Boston Red Sox."

"I was our last hope," he said, "and as I took my place and looked out at Schiraldi, all sounds shrank back, and I felt a presence in me, or perhaps besides me, a calming certainty that I wasn't alone. I was not alone, and I was not, so help me, going to make the last out of the World Series. I felt certain of that."

Carter is not the lasting imagine of that game; but without him that image would have never happened.  He did not make that last out.  He started an incredible rally (he had started one in the 8th inning as well) that culminated in the Mets winning the World Series in Game 7.

Carter was a Mets as well as Expos hero.  Beloved by two teams.  He was also disliked my teammates on both teams, for reasons that might not seem fair.  He had the courage to be completely different.  Keith Hernandez, Dwight Gooden, Daryl Strawberry, Lenny Dykstra and other former teammates are all now infamous for their bad behavior during that time.  Carter was ridiculed and chastised for being decent and moral.     

Strawberry and others would ostracize him for not sleeping with groupies and for not taking drugs.  He once even stated he would enjoy having his wife come along on some away games.  This was not the wrong thing to say because teammates needed this time to bond.  It was wrong in their eyes because this was the time for the team to engage in behavior their wives would not want to see.

"He rubbed a lot of people the wrong way," Warren Cromartie, an Expos outfielder, once told me. "Gary was just ... different.

"There was a lack of respect for Gary Carter. He was clearly an overwhelming minority -- or I should say an underwhelming minority."  (1)

"He was too religious, too good, too square -- Tim Tebow with more talent and without social media." said writer Tom Verducci.

"His whole life is baseball and the Lord, and of course his family," said Reardon, Carter's Montreal Expos teammate. (2)

That enthusiasm for one's faith and family just never sat well with much of his team.  They never understood his love for life, especially when not taking part in these extra curricular activities.

"My enthusiasm for my family -- and for baseball, and other things, too -- strikes some people as a bit too much. My happiness crowds people a little." (3)

How could a man enjoy his job AND his family?  This behavior made people suspicious.  Writer Jim Murray said of him, "Gary Carter is the type of guy who, if he saved a child from drowning, the mother would look at him and say, 'Where's his hat?'" (4)

I respect as I wrote before, someone like Tom Brady for caring so much about something that as children we feel is everything to us.  Then we grow up and find out it doesn't mean near the same to the actual players as it does us fans. 

Carter had that same drive and appreciation for what he was a part of.  Mike Schmidt said seeing Gary Carter get elected into the Hall of Fame and what it meant to him, made Schmidt appreciate his own Hall of Fame election all the more. 

But Carter also seemed to have a peace and joy about him as well.

That child like enthusiasm earned him the nickname "Kid" even though the older players didn't usually mean it as a compliment.  As in "kid calm down, stop running so hard its just a practice."

So what was it that made Carter so joyful and so different?  I think a key to that can be found in his opening statement when named Manager of Palm Beach Atlantic University.  Carter's stated mission on the day he was hired:  "My primary goal is to help these young athletes become better Christians and prepare them for life, not just baseball."

Carter was different.  And often unappreciated for it by immature teammates trying to hide their own insecurities. 

Biographer of the 1986 Mets, Jeff Pearlman, wrote, "They saw an uncompromised figure and didn't much care for the vision of it."   (5)

Gary Carter died just a few days ago of Brain Cancer.  People that get caught up in whats "fair" would say this was not the fair ending.  That it is not right he should go ahead of former teammates that abused their bodies and squandered their gifts.

But Carter, unlike many of those former teammates, was ready for this.  As much as we can be.  Maybe looking back now his actions serve as a call to prepare themselves.  Ourselves.

Being different is exactly what we are called to do. 

If you watch one clip of Carter playing, I would make it the one below.  The very last at bat of his career.  At the plate trying to help his team gain the lead in a meaningless game.  But the "Kid" didn't have that switch.  Nothing is meaningless if it gives joy to those watching.  And Gary Carter had the joy of a Little Leaguer.  His whole career and beyond.  Quite a nice way to be different.   

(1)  Jeff Pearlman:  "News of Gary Carter's Inoperable Brain Cancer Hits Especially Hard" January 23, 2012

(2)  Tom Verducci   "Gary Carter: The Light of The Mets"  February 16, 2012

(3)  A Dream Season, by John Hough Jr.,

(4)  Tom Verducci "Gary Carter: The Light of The Mets" February 16, 2012

(5)  The Bad Guys Won  by Jeff Pearlman

Friday, February 10, 2012

Feelings...Nothing More Than Feelings

George Costanza:  (after finally seeing Titanic)
"So that old woman...she was just a liar!?"

Jerry Seinfeld:  "And a  bit of a tramp if you ask me."

Great films need staying power.  A film that can have an affect on you in the theater, might have you feeling totally different later.  Is this a fair judment of the picture, since you had an emotional response to a moment or scene,  previously?

I give you Titanic.  And this will be a bit of a confession.  Like revealing a skelton in my closet but here goes.  

I liked it.  Kind of.

Right up until I didn't.

Is this fair?

You dont get much more emotional ammunition in making a film as you do than when the subject is the most famous shipwreck in history, with many lives lost.

I remember my experience as follows:

Titanic was all set up to be a bomb.  It was the most expensive film ever made and it had to be great (well a huge hit) to even break even.

I was half expecting it to be bad.  And as it got going I thought, "man the critics are gonna crucify this picture."  The dialogue was often hokey and sappy.  The Billy Zane character was ridiculous.

But as I was thinking "this is no great film" I actually remember hoping critics would be semi kind.  Because I didnt find it boring.

Then there was the ending.  When you imagine people freezing to death after surviving the initial sinking and someone in a lifeboat keeps asking if anyone is alive only to hear nothing in return, well thats kind of a big emotional moment.  You would be an unfeeling jerk to not feel anything, right?  And I did feel what James Cameron wanted me to feel.  I felt sad. 

And when the film was over I thought, "hey that wasnt so bad, maybe it can break even."

Well of course enough people saw this film and thought the same way that it became the biggest box office champ of all time.  (Until Avatar)

So then you are left with, "wait, it wasnt THAT good!"  Not by a long shot.  But hey its a popcorn film really at its soul.  You can like popcorn movies and realize they arent great art.  But then it won Oscar after Oscar, including best picture.  Critics I respect gave it 4 stars and with all those awards I guess you'd have to admit people considered it a masterpiece.  It tied Ben Hur for the most ever Oscar wins.  Really.

Then became the backlash where you can't find many people (at least male) that admit to ever liking the film at all.  My answer to the question is usually "I liked it while sitting in the theater."

Do I like it now?  Well, as a better than expected popcorn film, yeah, kind of. As a masterpiece of cinema, heck no.

But wait, you had an emotional response!?

And this is where things get interesting.  

How much does that matter? Least in the long term.

A job of a film is to manipulate your emotions.  Cameron did well at least in that scene previously mentioned.  But I often get a song stuck in my head and thats also a score for the musicians.  That doesn't put "Mickey" in the same category as "Eleanor Rigby."

Oh Mickey you're so fine/ you're so fine you blow my mind/ Hey Mickey!

But the thing is, I'd be more than happy to never hear that song again.  I don't want it in my head!

Critic Jim Emerson gave Dead Poet's Society a scathing review.  He refers to it as one of his least favorite films ever. 

He also admits to crying during the last scene.

"Even as my eyeball oozed, I was thinking about what a hollow, dishonest picture this was before me. The movie did not give me the option, the freedom, of actually feeling anything. It squeezed that liquid out of me as if it were a juicer and I were some form of citrus.

If I'd been one of Pavlov's dogs, I would have just salivated at the sound of the bell. But when a movie reduces perfectly decent emotions to stupid pet tricks like this, I also find myself feeling something deeper. Something like anger, resentment."  (1)

But the films that keep you wanting to see them again, those are the true epic films.

And yes even a so called "popcorn movie" can be a masterpiece of sorts.  Because what is it the film was trying to do?  And do you keep going back to it even years later with similar joy?

I give you the 1986 "masterpiece,"  Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

Before the recent ad was unvieled for this year's Super Bowl, we got this teaser.

Now just this slight bit of nostalgia made me cheer. It is a film of its time that still holds up years later.

Does Titanic hold up as well? In my opinion, not nearly.

Its almost as if awards for one year should be awarded 5 years later. When people have gone over the films again and truly studied them. Of course this would never happen and is a bit flawed as well, but how often would awards change if we had a do over?

The point is, just how did a film manipulate you?  In an honest, original way that you want to see again, or an obvious, trite way that is like shooting emotional fish in a barrel?  Do you look back and quickly realize you have seen that scene before.

There is a reason so many documentaries about The Holocaust win Best Documentary.  It is one of the saddest parts of our world's history.

But I can't think of any of those titles off hand.  Now think of the documentary, Crumb.  If you have ever seen it, you probably will never get it out of your mind.

So I leave you with two examples. One is the ending of Patch Adams. The other is the opening of The Apostle. Which scene works best? The most emotionally  honest.  Which scene would you want to view again, years later?

1:  Emerson was the inspiration for this entry.  "When Bad Movies Happen To Good People."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Worth a Thousand Words

I have never understood the hatred for Tom Brady.  I hear the arguments. 

None of which hold much weight or water when at all looked at objectively, to me.

In one of my favorite responses of all time, when asked by a reporter why people hated him, he said (with a sarcastic smile) "Because I'm good looking, I'm successful and I have a hot wife."

Hilarious and also much of the reason.

To me Tom Brady is THE interesting figure in football.  And the one I root for more than any other, save maybe Tim Tebow.

Tebow is famous for his "pose" of praying during a game.  Something some people never seemed to get and made into a sort of joke.

This picture from the last Super Bowl is also getting attention.  It is Brady just after a heart breaking moment.  And again, people don't get it.  They seem to revel in it.  They even are now calling this pose Bradying as opposed to Tebowing to have some more fun with their most hated QB in defeat.

It is a picture that makes me like the guy even more.

The man cares.  A LOT.  How would you not want that in an athlete?  Think about it.  Brady has multiple MVP awards, multiple Super Bowl MVPS, records, (he set one even this last game)

Only 4 quarterbacks have 3 super bowl titles or more.  He is one.  He has made it to 5 Super Bowls, tied for the most ever.  But its a case of what have you done for me lately.  Well lately he just took a not very strong team all the way to the Super bowl and came within a whisker of beating a superior team. 

Not a bad year really.

I don't care their regular season records. I have eyes. They won games with mirrors all year long.  And that biggest magician was their quarterback.

If he had never gotten to the game, his reputation would be more intact in many peoples eyes.  This is media stupidity at its highest level.

Brady makes a lot of money.  He has accomplished about all there is to accomplish in his profession.  And he still wants more.  His drive and desire to win is more than most people can understand.  And that's why this picture of a man defeated to me shows strong character.  Character I would want on my team.

The thing is, there are only a few like him now.  Used to be, many athletes seemed this driven.  Not true and definitely not anymore.  How did many of the losing Patriots react after losing?  Some went out and partied after.  I'm not saying that's a wrong reaction, but often after a huge game look closely to the players.  They are smiling and laughing and  cutting up with the players that just defeated them.  Right on the field.  Fact is, they make a ton of money playing a game, and so what if they lost a huge game.  No big deal.

But Brady doesn't have that switch.  His new teammate, Chad Ochocincho said he was "worried" about Brady when the playoffs started because he takes it all so seriously.  Taking ones job seriously?  Hmm.

The true greats that possess this drive are almost OCD with their goals.  Maybe they are exactly OCD.

I will never forget Larry Bird, as a head coach, being interviewed in the hallway immediately after his Pacers lost the Championship to the Bulls.  They got so close.  Closer to winning than anyone thought possible.  Bird was Coach of the Year that year.  He only increased his legend.  A man that had accomplished almost everything in his sport.  And the interviewer said "how long will it take to get over this loss?"  Bird's answer; "Never.  I will never be over this."  You could tell he meant it.

How do we not respect the people that give us so much joy, that we wish we could do their job, and yet they leave nothing on the field.  They can't be criticized for not giving it their all.  They give you as a fan everything they have.  Brady does that time and again, to the point it seems like you want him to stop.

Some athletes like Brady will tell you they remember the defeats more so than the victories.  The footage of Brady in disbelief at what he had just accomplished after his first Super Bowl win, is incredibly touching to see.  It can only be a very powerful drug to desire that feeling again.  To put your body through surgery and rehab just for the chance.   

I will never forget another interview I saw once.  A few years back, Tom Brady had just won his 3rd Super Bowl and was on top of the world.  And he told the interviewer there was something missing in his life, he just wasn't sure what it was. 

My mouth probably hit the floor.

This is some kind of Greek Warrior character worthy of great literature.  He fascinates me.  I hope he finds or has now found what was missing.  There is only one player I'd want to build my team around in the NFL.  And he just lost the Super Bowl.  And to me his legend grew larger.