Why The Oscars’®©™ Best Picture award is a farce

Toy Story 3 didn’t win Best Picture this year. I wouldn’t mind so much if I thought it ever had a real fighting chance. It didn’t win for one simple reason: It’s animation. No other reason.

While I haven’t seen all the other nominees this year, I have seen True Grit and Inception. TS3 was much better than Inception – Christopher Nolan’s characters always have about as much depth as they did in Dark Knight Returns. I won’t say TS3 was definitively better than True Grit. It’s a point on which I could have a long enjoyable debate and not feel bad if I didn’t change the other person’s mind.

But TS3 deserved to win because it’s a great movie and because the Academy owes Pixar for years of other snubs. Find me another company that has consistently produced so many great movies. Everything they’ve done except for the horrible (by Pixar standards) Cars and the not-bad-but-not-great Bugs Life, has been amazing. WALL*E is a movie that will be taught in film classes a hundred years from now. Ratatouille is one of the great movies of ideas of all time.

Now WALL*E  didn’t get a best picture nod in 2007 but it was up against a pretty amazing crop of moviesNo Country For Old Men, There Will Be Blood, Juno, Atonement and Michael Clayton. I love Juno but it sure as heck wasn’t in WALL*E ‘s league. The following year Ratatouille ran into a similar problem. So I am willing to cut the Academy a little slack for not nominating them. Last year the list of nominees expanded to 10 and Up got a nomination it deserved. Looking at the list of movies it should have gotten a nomination even if the list had been the usual 5 flicks. (Avatar? I’ve seen soap stains that made a better film. I really like District 9 and I don’t think it should have been on the list. Unless, of course, they set the bar so low that Avatar was included.)

So this year who wins the Best Picture but a movie seemingly designed to do nothing but. I am sure The King’s Speech is a fine movie – but it won mostly because it was a British royalty handicap story. Those accents! The Merchant-Ivory like class factor. A noble, physically attractive handicap!

As good as it undoubtedly is, it isn’t better than TS3 and the collected body of work Pixar has turned out. TS3 like Godfather II, and yes I believe they deserve to be discussed together, was able to be as good as – if not better – than the great original movie. (TS2 was 50% of a great movie and certainly not in a league with the other two. Drop me a line and I’ll explain why.) The depth of character, the incredibly mature story it told, the writing, the storytelling, the acting were all of a quality seldom matched. And it’s nomination was nothing more than tokenism. Feh. A pox on all The Academy’s houses. (And BTW, The Illusionist –  another of this year’s nominees for Best Animated — should also have been a best picture nominee. But that would have meant TWO animated movies on the list and that would never be allowed to happen.)

Toy Story 3 was robbed 

Thanks to The Whatchamacallit and BrokeHoedown for tipping me to the picture above!


Let’s not do this Time Warp again

They’re going to do a remake of Rocky Horror Picture Show. What a horrible idea — although it is in keeping with the Return to the 1970s thing that has seized the zeitgeist — inflation, gas you can’t afford to buy, ABBA, to name just a few of the current phenoms.

It is impossible to think that anyone will be able to fill Tim Curry’s garters, let alone have a voice nearly as fabulous. I mean how do you top having Susan Sarandon AND Meatloaf in your movie??? Please.

The original was THE initial coming-out event for many of my friends (“Oh, mom, I’m just dressing up like the guy in the movie … why are you reading so much into this?”). It is also beloved by three VIPs in my life: Mrs. CollateralDamage, Mother CollateralDamage, and my late great wrestling coach, Jack Peckett.

The man had seen Rocky Horror Picture Show more times than anyone I had ever met. Why? He just loved it. One time as we pulled up at a tri-meet (wrestling being what it is you can have several teams wrestle at once) vs. the US Merchant Marine Academy and some other school we had no chance against, he looked up at the school and back at his van full of wrestlers and asked without a trace of irony: “Whatever happened to Fay Wray?” He had a knack for always knowing the right thing to say.

Personally, I prefer the soundtrack to the actual movie but that’s just me.

How much will this movie suck? Oh, beyond all measure.

Mamma Mia! It’s the Dark Knight.

I’ve seen three movies in the last two weeks. One of them good, one of them wonderfully bad and one of them incoherently bad.

The good one was Hellboy II, which is indeed better than the original which I liked a lot.

But enough about that let’s talk about Mamma Mia! (wonderfully bad) and The Dark Knight (incoherently bad).

Mamma Mia! as Mrs. CollateralDamage put it, “is the Rocky Horror Picture Show of 2008.” I’m expecting sing-alongs, throwing toast and dancers, lots and lots of dancers — many of them in swim trunks and scuba fins. It is to be sure a bad movie. The characters struggle to get to two dimensions despite the valiant efforts of some fine actors. The plot is beyond hokey. The music … well, the music is ABBA. One reviewer said the group’s lyrics were “English-like” and that pretty much nails it. You either hate ABBA or you love them or, like me, both. I laughed throughout. Sometimes even at parts that were meant to be funny.

Pierce Brosnan gives the bravest performance you will see on a movie screen this year. It is also the worst. The man can’t sing, but that doesn’t stop him from trying and I have to admire him for it. He is at his best in Meryl Streep’s Especially Big Number where he is called on to look dashing. He does it superbly.

And now to The Dark Knight. If anyone actually cared about my opinion I would doubtless be pilloried for what I am about to say. It’s a mess. It is not one of the best movies ever made. The only movie I’ve seen this year that falls into that category is WALL*E. It is not even the best superhero movie of this year — I would place both Hellboy and Iron Man (which did a superb job of reminding me why I loved comic books as a kid) in front of it.

Dark Night was too long and too confused. Its reach exceded its grasp. CollateralDamage Jr. said that it should have been batman 2 & batman 3. If they’d just told us what was essentially Harvey Dent’s back story and left it there I would have been happy and it would have made sense. but then came the rest of it which needed a whole additional movie to develop. Emotionally it basically built up to hitting a high C and then held it for an hour. While that is an admirable feat to be able to pull off it isn’t very interesting to watch.

The late Mr. Ledger was great as was the rest of the cast (especially Gary Oldham — you ever see Syd & Nancy?). Mr. Bale had my sympathies because his character really didn’t change in the course of the movie so he got stuck playing someone who starts out as a slightly conflicted superhero only to end up as … a slightly conflicted superhero.

I am glad to see Two-Face finally getting his due. Billie Dee Williams played Dent in the Tim Burton version but they never did anything with him.

Also it had a number of little things that irked me — who has paper money to steal these days?

I enjoyed it on a summer blockbuster level but on substance my superhero pick of the summer is Hellboy with its story of the risks and responsibilities of love and how two creatures from another dimension can make Barry Manilow so essential.

Sept. 10, five years ago.


I guess
we’ll remember this all of our lives
on the last good day of the year



This year there was much hullabaloo over the two 9/11 movies, United 93 and World Trade Center. I’ve no interest in WTC the movie. To quote the great comedian Tim McIntire, “You don’t need to study for a test you’ve already passed.” United 93 is of more interest, mostly because it explores something I don’t already know. The odd thing is all the conversation around about whether it’s too soon for a 9/11 movie when we already got one masterpiece on the topic three years ago: Finding Nemo, and no I’m not being sarcastic.

Nemo is a movie about the experience most of us had as a result of the event: learning how to live in a world filled with dangers that you can no longer deny by pretending they are irrational. It opens with a huge loss that happens in a single horrible moment — Marlin loses his wife and 499 of his children. Understandably Marlin loses all his trust in the rest of the world but still manages to raise a relatively well-adjusted son who then gets snapped up by a yet another unstoppable force. In his quest to fulfill the movie’s title he meets up with Dory who is so odd that I would argue she, too, is a trauma survivor. (And yes, I do think Ellen DeGeneres deserved the best supporting Oscar for that performance.) In the end, of course, Marlin does learn to not be so afraid of the world and to enjoy his life and he and Dory and Nemo create an odd family of survivors that wouldn’t have existed before the tragedy. Now that’s 9/11. (My other nominee for great 9/11 movie came out the following year: Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, which is about people realizing how much they lose when they lose the memory of the event that causes them so much pain.)


I wrote the following on 9/11/02 — it’s what I remembered a year after the fact.

1. First hearing the news — a bulletin on the radio. Just, “a plane has crashed into” and figured it was something stupid, some idiot in a Cessna or something going into the Tower like bug vs. windshield. I remember thinking — before — there was a lot to do that day but it all seemed very light and easy. I thought I’d take a quick look at the pictures on TV before getting on with crossing items off my “To Do” list. Then it all changed, the world went from laughable to horrifying. An accident? It was my first question, not understanding what I was looking at, the images not really making it past my retinas. And then and then and then that second plane and I and you and all of us knew it was deliberate but that made no sense. A separation between what I saw and what I believed could possibly be true.

2. They can’t disappear, they can’t collapse, they can’t be gone. Can’t can’t can’t. The dust eating up the city and, worse yet, blocking my view. All I had to hold on to then was what I could see, as if information was helping me somehow.

3. Later that morning, when it seemed that planes just would not stop falling from the sky, I walked outside to get away from the TV to not, for one moment, look. I saw a woman driving slowly down the street and on her face was that phrase I’d always read but never actually seen — utter despair.

4. I called my son’s school. His second week at kindergarten. I know this is stupid, I asked, but is everyone OK?

5. My wife was just outside of Chicago, which was all of a sudden too far away. The planes were now all grounded and it felt like the world had suddenly expanded, what once was a distance of hours was now farther than I could imagine. What did I think was the best way to get home — train or car? I was afraid of that responsibility. I didn’t want to say one or the other because what if I chose wrong and there was another attack and she died? Car or train? It felt like she was asking me the best way to get across a field watched over by a sniper.

6. My mother-in-law had a psychic fool visiting from the UK. London’s being evacuated, he would say whenever he got off the phone. Even on that day when nearly all rumors were to be believed, this one pushed too hard at credibility. No, I said with the sullen certainty of someone who has spent the past six hours watching the news. No, it is not.

7. What to tell my son was the only other topic of conversation. Regina, who I was on and off the phone with all day, had no suggestions. No more idea what to say to my son than to her daughters. Stupid with fear, I didn’t say anything that day. The teachers at school the next day were very clear they weren’t going to talk about it either. By the time he got home, he knew something. After playing with a friend, he knew a lot. I talked to him about it then. Weeks later I would be very aware of what I should have said and didn’t: It’s all going to be OK. Normally I’m not so recalcitrant about lying.

8. I’d never noticed how much noise came from the sky until it was silent. The grounding of all air traffic had an odd benefit of silence and beauty. The quiet marked those days and fit my mood. I loved the view of all that empty blue now and then bisected by a single fighter heading north to its base or south to cruise over New York. My little flying security blanket. Three days of quiet ending abruptly as the skies filled again. Even now I cringe when I hear a jet coming down low to land. I wait after it passes, expecting an explosion.

9. The flags came out for a variety of reasons: Pride, solidarity, protection. Down the street is a little donut shop where, at lunch time, you could also get curry. The owners were from India or Pakistan. That first night their windows were broken. Not even the right end of the continent, I thought to myself, cursing. The day after that an American flag was in the window. Within the month they had sold the shop. The new owners are Asian and still serve curry, but no one will ever confuse them with Arabs.