February is a shitty month for movies.
Apparently spent from months of pimping dozens of Oscar-season hopefuls — several of which were among the Academy’s typically questionable nominees for Best Picture — the big studios try to hide their creatively challenged, largely retread releases in the annual cinematic dumpster known as February.
While I recognize and appreciate the undeniable creative juice expended in their creation, I admit to a blind spot when it comes to comic books (aka graphic novels to the genre’s serious devotees). I outgrew the form shortly after the death of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew, which went out of print after a 20-issue run in the early 1980s. (Don’t ask how much I spent on a recent, eBay-procured mint copy of the first issue.)
Which brings me to Watchmen, probably the most anticipated movie our young, quality-deprived year to date.
Now that Sunday night’s Oscars are over, the Internet is full of catty stories and tweets parsing every last second of televised coverage, from Angelina Jolie’s exposed leg to Adam Sandler’s participation in a taped segment in which actors discussed why they love movies. (If he really loved movies, he’d stop making them, some have said.)
It’s both understandable and sad that the Oscars — and movie-award season in general — ends like this, with far more interest in the telecast’s trivia than in the movies that win awards. Arguably, the news value of this year’s show peaked before it even officially started, when Sacha Baron Cohen, in costume as “The Dictator” for an upcoming movie, spilled an urn of faux human ashes (ostensibly Kim Jong-il’s) on interviewer Ryan Seacrest.
It’s getting worse, too, now that the Internet and 200+-channel cable television have educated us ad nauseam to the nature and inner workings of the Oscar campaign season. We carefully learn how a film builds momentum by moving through all the secondary award ceremonies from critics groups and the Hollywood professional guilds and associations.
As a result, the Academy Awards themselves have become anticlimactic, which partially explains the media devotion to dissecting the telecast. And the attempts by the Motion Picture Academy to build false enthusiasm by allowing up to ten Best Picture nominees have been a disaster, since we all now know how to “read” the nominations to distinguish the real ones (they also have Best Director nods) from the padding. Not all that long ago, few outside Hollywood insiders even knew there was a well-orchestrated “campaign season,” much less how to follow and handicap it.
Convention wisdom, and you hear a lot of it these days, would be to revive the Oscar telecast by de-emphasizing the importance of the awards, themselves. Reduce the number given out on TV, especially the more esoteric or niche ones, in favor of increasing the glitz, spectacle, star power and big production numbers. Do like the Grammys have done, where classical, jazz, folk, blues, opera, international and more are rarely ever presented on the show.
But I think the Academy should go the other way and try to increase public awareness of the importance of Oscar nominations. But maybe not for the Big Four categories – Best Picture, Director, Actor and Actress, which probably do suffer from overexposure by the time the telecast comes around (although The Artist, this year’s big winner, could use the help since many people have been scared off by the fact it’s a black-and-white silent film).
Click the jump for more on ways the Academy could draw more attention to deserving films such as A Separation, In Darkness, Footnote and Bullhead.
Knight and Day, the action-comedy extravaganza starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz, supposedly tanked at the box office last weekend, pulling in “only” about $20.5 million despite opening on a Wednesday (that's two extra days with which to build up its box-office tally, for those not keeping track of such things).
The James Mangold-directed movie was made for $107 million, we've continually been reminded, it has to do better than that in its opening weekend! Right?
It's already November? It seems like it just yesterday that The Hurt Locker took home a surprising (and much deserved) Best Picture win. We're now entering the stretch drive of the fall movie season, a period laden with the big studios' “prestige” films — those they believe have the best chance to grab awards love (thus bigger box-office numbers and the media attention that follows), none more important than that shown by the Academy.
The local cinematic universe gets a much-needed shot of adrenaline this week. Even the Hollywood studio efforts look palatable.
Oliver Stone has been out of sorts ever since he gave people an aneurysm with the over-the-top, frenetic football extravaganza Any Given Sunday (1999).
Now that I think about it, U-Turn (1997) blew, too. In fact, it’s been since the underrated (and under-seen) Nixon (1995) that Stone had me fully engaged.
Recent years have been especially tough on the onetime provocateur: World Trade Center (2006) seemed a naked attempt to prove he could make a standard studio picture after the unqualified disaster that was the bloated, thoroughly disjointed Alexander (2004). How far had Stone fallen? I didn’t even bother to catch World Trade Center or Alexander during their theatrical run — an unthinkable occurrence back when even his less successful films were at least intriguing in their mix of testosterone-laden spectacle, pungent dialogue and formal dexterity.
All that said, I can’t wait to see what Stone does with W., his take on the presidency of George W. Bush (as played by what looks to be an inspired Josh Brolin).
The movie opens Oct. 17
Here are a few trailers to tide you over.
After a quick post-production turnaround, George Clooney’s The Ides of March debuted at the Venice Film Festival last week (to a mixed critical response) before being unveiled Thursday at a packed press and industry screening (a few people were even sitting in the aisles) here on Thursday. (It opens nationwide Oct. 7.)
Many people have complained in recent years (including Scott Renshaw in his review of Everybody’s Fine below) that Robert DeNiro is not the actor he used to be. Maybe, maybe not.
The Room —a low-budget indie melodrama about a love triangle between a “successful banker,” his “beautiful blonde fiance” and his “independent best friend” written, directed and starring aspiring filmmaker Tommy Wiseau — has been called everything from the worst film ever made to the Citizen Kaneof bad movies. I've yet to experience it, but the film’s trailer brings to mind an overripe episode of Guiding Lightwith the production values and acting prowess of a late-night Cinemax C movie. (Curious side note: On the film's poster, Wiseau looks strikingly similar to Gene Simmons. Coincidence, or kismet?)