Tag Archives: Michael Fassbender

Notes on the Oscars that I didn’t watch

Cate Blanchett holds her Oscar for Best Actress for the film "Blue Jasmine" at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California

Cate Blanchett is not just a pretty face, but a talented actress whose work should have been recognized with a Best Actress award more than a decade ago. Best Supporting Actor winner Jared Leto, on the other hand, unfortunately is just a pretty face…

Jared Leto, holds his Oscar for best supporting actor for his role in "Dallas Buyers Club" at the 86th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California

Reuters photos

I don’t have cable television and don’t desire ever to have cable TV, and so I didn’t watch the Oscars last night (this year, for the first time ever, ABC made live streaming available — but only to those in certain markets who already have cable!), but I still have plenty of opinions about this year’s.

First off, it was about time that Cate Blanchett won a Best-Actress Oscar. She was robbed in 1998, when she was nominated for the award for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth in “Elizabeth” but lost to Gwyneth Paltrow. I don’t hate Paltrow as so many others apparently do, but she didn’t turn in the best performance that year.

Blanchett was nominated for Best Actress again in 2007 for “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” but the academy passed on her again, so last night was the third time and the charm for Blanchett, and she deserved it, as she turned in the best performance of the year, hands down.*

Indeed, Blanchett’s performance is what saves “Blue Jasmine,” which is not one of Woody Allen’s best scripts, even though it earned him yet another nomination for Best Original Screenplay (he did not win, and deservedly so, since the screenplay is a fairly trite rehash).

I’m glad that the members of the academy didn’t snub Blanchett again, this time because they didn’t want to appear to be supporters of child molestation, because to the hysterical members of the pro-Mia-Farrow camp, you see, anyone remotely associated with Woody Allen is for child molestation. (Under this “logic,” not only does Blanchett support child molestation for having worked with Allen, but if you even cast your Oscar ballot for Blanchett, then you, too, support child molestation, by extension.)

“12 Years a Slave” is a worthy Best Picture winner, but I would have been OK with either “Philomena” or “Nebraska” having won (of those two, “Philomena” probably is my favorite).

I saw all of the nominees for Best Picture except for “Her,” “Captain Phillips” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” I would like to catch “Her,” and probably will, but the subject matter of neither “Captain Phillips” nor “The Wolf of Wall Street” appeals to me, and I’m a bit overdosed on Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio as it is (one word: overexposure). (Seriously, though, it wasn’t long ago enough that I saw DiCaprio as the Great Gatsby. I’m good for a while.)

“American Hustle” is an OK film — good, but not great — and “Gravity” and “Dallas Buyers Club” both have been over-hyped. None of those three nominees deserved to be named Best Picture.

“Gravity” is watchable (I saw it at IMAX), but, in my book, fatally flawed by its incredible — literally incredible, as in unbelievable — plot.

“Dallas Buyers Club” also is watchable enough, but come on, it’s like “Philadelphia” meets “Transamerica.” This gay man is as sick of movies about gay and/or transgender people being about AIDS as black folks are sick of movies being about slavery.

That said, yes, obviously the academy is filled with (mostly white) liberal guilt, and so if you make a movie about slavery, AIDS or the Holocaust, yes, your chances of winning an Oscar go up astronomically.

Again, “12 Years a Slave” is a worthy film, as I noted when it came out, but I do believe that (white) liberal guilt boosted it, just as it boosted “Dallas Buyers Club.”

Speaking further of which, I have enjoyed the return of Matthew McConaughey, whose performances in “Bernie,” “Killer Joe” and “Mud” all were good, but it seems to me that the main reason that he won Best Actor for “Dallas Buyers Club” is that he lost so much weight to play the role, which is not quite the same as great acting, but also because he played a man with AIDS, which also sure was good for Tom Hanks (who won Best Actor for the unworthy film “Philadelphia”).

I’d have given Best Actor to Chiwetel Ejiofor** for his performance in “12 Years a Slave” — not out of white liberal guilt, but because I think that he gave the best performance of the year.

At least the enthralling Lupita Nyong’o wasn’t robbed of the Best Supporting Actress award for her great performance in “12 Years a Slave.” Again, no white liberal guilt there — she earned that award, turning in a performance that probably is the heart and soul of the film. (I love Jennifer Lawrence, who did a good job in “American Hustle,” but this award wasn’t hers.)

And Jared Leto — don’t even get me started on him.

OK, so just as McConaughey won Best Actor for having lost a lot of weight and played a guy with AIDS, Leto won Best Supporting Actor for having lost a significant amount of weight and played a transgender individual with AIDS.

This was the result of full-blown liberal guilt. I don’t see that Leto’s performance was better than was Bradley Cooper’s in “American Hustle” or Michael Fassbender’s in “12 Years a Slave.” It was the transgender person with AIDS angle that did it.

I fully support equality for transgender individuals — I am a gay man myself — but isn’t coddling a historically oppressed minority group in a saccharin, maudlin manner just the flipside of oppressing that group?

Also, just as “Gravity’s” fatal flaw, in my book, is that its protagonist’s fantastic feats are just not believable, in my book “Dallas Buyers Club’s” fatal flaw is its portrayal of the protagonist, Ron Woodroof, as a homophobic heterosexual man with AIDS when, in fact, very apparently those who knew the real-life Woodroof — including his ex-wife — have said that he actually was at least bisexual, but possibly, if not even probably, gay. (Indeed, the photos of him that I’ve seen of him make my gaydar smoke.) Oh, and those who knew Woodroof dispute that he ever displayed homophobia (which, admittedly, a closeted gay man might do, especially in a homophobic state like Texas and in that day and time, to “prove” that he’s “heterosexual”).

Why the apparent change of such an important detail (the protagonist’s sexual orientation)?

Would Woodroof’s story have been less interesting if it had been that of just another faggot who had died of AIDS?

Can you pretend to be respectful of the gay “community” when you change a central character in a “real-life” story from non-heterosexual to heterosexual?

And in Jared Leto’s acceptance speech, he gave an unfortunate (but fortunately brief) shout-out to the “dreamers” of Venezuela and Ukraine. Wow.

On the surface, the “causes” of Venezuela and Ukraine appear to be great bandwagons for a good guilty white liberal to jump upon, but when you scratch beneath the surface, you’ll find that those so-called-by-Jared-Leto “dreamers” are, in Venezuela, plutocratic and pro-plutocratic wingnuts who are just bitter that the socialist president there won the last presidential election — not by much, but he still won. They’re bitter that they lost the election and so they’re trying to force a do-over election (this was done in my state of California in 2003, with the gubernatorial recall election, which was, for all intents and purposes, just a do-over of the previous close gubernatorial election).

I fully expect wingnuts to support the Venezuelan “cause” of toppling a democratically elected socialist president because he is not a right-wing, pro-plutocratic president, but Leto, who presumably fashions himself to be a good liberal, should know better.

And the “dreamers” in Ukraine are largely far-right-wing nationalists, some of them even actual neo-Nazis.

Sure, they have a “dream.” Hitler had a dream, too.

These dreams might be great for them, but others of us, these dreams are nightmares.

Jared Leto, if he wants to be remembered as having been more than just pretty, really, really, really should do his homework before he endorses a “cause” in front of a massive, worldwide audience.

*OK, to be fair and thorough, I  saw all of the performances that were nominated for Best Actress except for Meryl Streep’s in “August: Osage County,” since the film’s previews suggest that it’s a mediocre, sappy film, worthy of perhaps catching on DVD. Still, I can’t imagine that Streep’s performance in that surpassed Blanchett’s in “Blue Jasmine.” My second choice for best actress would have been Judi Dench for “Philomena.”

**To be fair and thorough, I saw all of the performances that were nominated for Best Actor except for Leonardo DiCaprio’s in “The Wolf of Wall Street.” (Hey, if I got paid to see [and write about] movies that I wouldn’t ordinarily see, that would be different!)

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

‘12 Years a Slave’ is a grueling antidote to the comparatively toothless ‘Lincoln’

Film review

Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is “counseled” at knife point by cotton-plantation owner Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) in director Steve McQueen’s grueling film “12 Years a Slave.”

I finally got around to watching “12 Years a Slave,” and while it perhaps has been a little over-hyped — I hate it when a good film is diminished because it can’t possibly be as great as so many claim that it is — it’s going to win a bunch of Oscars, and I consider it to be an antidote to Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” of which I noted at the time that it came out (a year ago) that “the evil of slavery itself is barely portrayed in ‘Lincoln’ … and blacks are only supporting (and mostly subservient) characters in ‘Lincoln,’ which gives the viewer … the unfortunate impression that perhaps the film is asserting that slavery was more of a burden for liberal whites than it was for the actual slaves.”

Indeed, in “12 Years a Slave” the “saviors” still are white men, but, given the fact that at the time white men held virtually all of the political power, what other “savior” could a black person have had at that time? The best that most black Americans, especially enslaved black Americans, could hope for at that time, it seems to me, was to have the fortune to have the mercy of white men who had power to make their lives less miserable.*

Indeed, in “12 Years a Slave” we see at least two grown black men run to their white-male protectors and embrace them as a child would embrace his parent. But, given the circumstances, one could hardly blame them.

I wrote of “Lincoln” that “The Southerners (and their sympathizers) in ‘Lincoln’ aren’t portrayed flatteringly, which probably will mean that the film won’t appeal to the ‘tea-party’ dipshits, since the slavery- and treason-loving Southerners depicted in ‘Lincoln’ are their true founding fathers.”

Ditto for “12 Years a Slave” (and Quentin Tarantino’s “Django,” too, of course).

Michael Fassbender and Paul Dano couldn’t have done a much better job of portraying what probably was the typical Southern white male of the era, and Brad Pitt, perhaps because he was one of the producers, got what to me is the plum role of the liberal, abolitionist Canadian whose action finally frees our hero.

Our hero, of course, is the real-life historical figure Solomon Northup, who in 1841 was a free man (well, “free” as in “not a slave,” “not someone’s property”) who was lured from his home in New York state to Washington, D.C., where he was promised well-paying work but instead was kidnapped and forced into slavery in Louisiana for a dozen years.

And the star of “12 Years a Slave” is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who no doubt will be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his harrowing portrayal of Solomon Northup.

The other star of “12 Years” is Lupita Nyong’o, who plays the slave Patsey, and who also very most likely will be nominated for an acting Oscar.

“12 Years a Slave,” based upon Northup’s autobiography of the same name and penned by American screenwriter John Ridley, is, first and foremost, the story of the slaves, and its portrayal of their trials and tribulations by comparison makes “Lincoln” look like it portrays slavery as a mere inconvenience to black Americans.

“12 Years,” among other things, portrays free blacks in the North being abducted and sold into slavery, slaves stripped nude and bathed for auction like livestock, a mother being separated permanently from her two children at auction, and the character of Patsey being serially raped by the cotton-plantation owner Edwin Epps (played by Fassbender) and, to add injury to injury, being hated by and thus violently attacked by the plantation owner’s wife (Sarah Paulson) because her husband is sexually predating upon her. We also witness one of our protagonists being quasi-lynched and the other one being brutally whipped.

“12 Years a Slave” does as probably a good job as a film could do to bring us into Solomon Northup’s world. You’re supposed to feel Northup’s struggle and large degree of helplessness, given how utterly disempowered he is. His spirit not only is violated repeatedly by the wrongs that are done to him, but also by the multitude of wrongs that he has to witness done to others, probably especially to Patsey.

“12 Years a Slave” is directed by Steve McQueen, a writer-director who, I surmise, because he is black and British, wasn’t overly worried about not offending white Americans in his portrayal of Southern slavery. (Of course, Quentin Tarantino wasn’t worried about that, either, with “Django,” but bad boy Tarantino can make just about any film that he wishes. Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” by contrast, suffers because the “upright” and apparently uptight Spielberg apparently didn’t want to offend white Americans too much.)

I wasn’t impressed with McQueen’s over-hyped 2011 “Shame,” which also starred Michael Fassbender, but after “12 Years,” which draws you into Solomon Northup’s grueling world so well that when he finally is reunited with his family you will, if you have any empathy at all, have tears in your eyes, I look forward to more projects by McQueen, and after having watched “12 Years” I’ll probably catch McQueen’s other project starring Fassbender, 2008’s “Hunger.”

My grade: A

*Indeed, we are told at the end of “12 Years a Slave,” as Wikipedia puts it:

Northup sued the slave traders in Washington, D.C., [who had kidnapped him and sold him into slavery], but [Northup] lost in the local court. District of Columbia law prohibited him, as a black man, from testifying against whites, and, without his testimony, he was unable to sue for civil damages. The two men were charged with the crime of kidnapping and remanded into custody on $5,000 bail, but without Northup’s testimony, a conviction could not be secured and [so] the men were released.

So, even in the North, which in Northup’s day was quite progressive compared to the South, Northup, as a “free” man, because he was a black man, did not have equal rights, and white men still could commit grievous crimes against black Americans with impunity.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

‘Alien’ meets ‘Tree of Life’ in Ridley Scott’s ‘Prometheus’

Film review

Earthlings from the ship Prometheus visit the ship of humanoid aliens in Ridley Scott’s epic “Prometheus,” in which Scott unfortunately bit off far more than he actually could chew. 

Warning: Contains spoilers (if you really could call them that…).

I’m pretty sure that my companion and I weren’t supposed to laugh at the final visual of Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus,” but we did, and that very apparently unintended laughter from the audience member, I think, underscores what’s wrong with the film.

Before I saw “Prometheus” yesterday — in 3-D at an IMAX, the biggest and loudest way to see it, at least here in Sacramento — I had read another reviewer compare “Prometheus” to Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” and while at that time I couldn’t see how that comparison could be apt, I see it now.

I wrote of “The Tree of Life” at the time of its release:

I get the impression with “The Tree of Life” that the 67-year-old Malick [he now is 68] had two films inside of him trying to claw their way out of his chest cavity like identical twin aliens a la “Alien,” but that he was concerned that if he didn’t put them into one film, he might not live long enough to get both films made, so he put both of the films into a blender.

Again, either of these two films probably would have been or at least could have been great, Malick’s ode to Stanley Kubrick’s “2001” (and to “Jurassic Park”) or Malick’s very personal (perhaps too personal) recap of his own childhood as an American baby boomer having grown up in Texas.

I also noted of “The Tree of Life” that “the story of the humans in ‘The Tree of Life’ probably would have made a much better stand-alone film, stripped of the ‘2001’-like surrealism of cosmic vomiting and universal diarrhea, in which creation often rather violently explodes all over the place.”

It’s kind of weird, in retrospect, that I mentioned “Alien” in my review of “The Tree of Life,” because now we have Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus,” which is like “‘Alien’ Meets ‘The Tree of Life,'” and the same criticism that I leveled of “The Tree of Life” is true of “Prometheus”: that “the story of the humans in [‘Prometheus’] probably would have made a much better stand-alone film, stripped of the ‘2001’-like surrealism of cosmic vomiting and universal diarrhea, in which creation often rather violently explodes all over the place.”

In the opening scene of Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” — and it’s a grand, origin-of-man opening scene that makes us think way too much of the grand, origin-of-man opening scenes of Kubrick’s “2001” and Malick’s “Tree of Life” – we have what appears to be literal cosmic vomiting, as a proto-human, humanoid alien apparently vomits his (its?) DNA onto planet Earth as its body disintegrates into a waterfall, further seeding planet Earth with its DNA, eventually leading to us human beings, which doesn’t make much more sense, scientifically, than the myth that Eve sprang fully formed from Adam’s rib. But if I understand “Prometheus” correctly (and can anyone?), Scott presents this as more or less scientifically plausible.

It’s fine to create your own cosmology, but your cosmology needs to make sense, needs to follow logic and reason, if you are presenting it as logical and reasonable. “Prometheus” is chock full of logical and chronological inconsistencies and contradictions. Were I to watch “Prometheus” on DVD and be able to stop and start it again, I probably could fill pages of notes of all of the shit that just doesn’t make sense.*

And that doesn’t make “Prometheus” deep and unfathomable. That makes “Prometheus” not very well planned out.

The acting in “Prometheus” is good, even though our heroine more or less is an Ellen Ripley reboot, and expect Ridley Scott and his army of technicians to sweep the Oscars with technical awards, and indeed “Prometheus'” ultra-special effects and BIGNESS do indeed draw you in, at least at times throughout the film’s two hours, and so as summer-movie entertainment, “Prometheus” more or less succeeds, but by trying to do way too much, and by not making much sense in the process, “Prometheus” lets you down.

The main problem with “Prometheus” indeed seems to be Ridley Scott’s outsized ego. “Prometheus” isn’t just the dude in Greek mythology who first brought the use of fire to mankind, and “Prometheus” isn’t just the name of the ship in Ridley Scott’s first sci-fi film since 1982’s “Blade Runner,” and “Prometheus” isn’t just the humanoid alien at the beginning of Scott’s latest sci-fi film who apparently is the father (father/mother?) of all mankind on Earth, and “Prometheus” isn’t just the title of Ridley Scott’s latest film. “Prometheus” also very apparently is Ridley Scott — who wishes to remind you that he first brought the “Alien” franchise to mankind!

At age 74, perhaps Scott thought that “Prometheus” might be his last film, and so he had to make a splash. Ironically, it seems to me that had he tried to make much less of a big splash, “Prometheus” would have been a much better film, because it isn’t a big splash — it’s a big mess. A very pretty mess, but a mess nonetheless. With “Prometheus” Ridley Scott bit off way more than he could chew.

There are elements of “Prometheus” that I like. I like the proto-human, humanoid aliens, and I would have liked to have known an awful lot more about them, but I suppose that that would have been too much like “Star Trek” for Scott, and again, I have the feeling that we aren’t told more about these aliens not because Scott was trying to be coy (although I don’t rule out that he decided to save some details for sequels, of course), but because he actually never bothered to flesh out his cosmology for “Prometheus.”

Reviewers have been raving about Michael Fassbender’s performance as David, the android. I like Fassbender — he’s good in pretty much every role that he plays — but David is only a mish-mash of androids that we’ve seen before in the previous “Alien” movies and in many other sci-fi films. The protagonist juvenile android of Steven Spielberg’s “A.I.” also is named David, whose “daddy” is the CEO of a corporation, just like “Prometheus'” David is the ’droid “son” of a CEO. (The symbolism, I suppose, is that sculptor Michelangelo created his own David. Deep!)

Yawn.

And the theme of the robot who knows that he doesn’t have a human soul has been visited many times before, not only in “A.I.” but with “Star Trek’s” Data, of course. (To “Prometheus'” credit, I suppose, the android David apparently does not, in Pinocchio-cum-Data style, long to be a real boy, as does “A.I.’s” android David. “Prometheus'” David seems to prefer his status as an android.)

But why do almost all of the androids in the “Alien” movies have to be decapitated or cut in two? As I watched the talking head of David in “Prometheus,” I really could think only of the android characters of Ash and Bishop in “Alien” and “Aliens,” respectively, who were decapitated and cut in two, respectively, but who kept talking. Why couldn’t Ridley Scott have kept David in one piece?

And why did Scott have David deliver lines that are so similar in their content and even in their cadence to the lines that HAL delivered in “2001,” such as something along the lines of: “I know that we have had our differences,  [insert hero or heroine’s name here], but I can assure you that I am fully functional now”?

David’s being the only one “awake” for more than two years while the human crew were in cryosleep as their ship traveled to its destination (the Earth-like moon of a planet far, far away) on a mission that most of the crew members were not briefed upon until after their arrival at their destination also makes David too much like HAL and “Prometheus” too much like “2001” (as well as their grand opening scenes that retell how humankind came into being).

And for fuck’s sake, I love Guy Pearce, but if you have a character who is supposed to be an old, old man, why not just have an old, old actor play that role? (AARP, are you listening?) It’s taboo these days to put makeup on a white person and have him or her play, say, an Asian or a black person, so why is it OK to just put makeup on a younger man to have him play a Yoda-old man? (Age progression is different. Pearce’s character, the CEO of “Weyland Corp.” and the “father” of android David, is ancient throughout the entire film.)

Many reviewers have noted that “Prometheus” appears to be Ridley Scott’s attempt to take back the franchise that his 1979 “Alien” started, and indeed, the final, very apparently unintentionally risible scene of “Prometheus” — in a which a proto-“Alien” alien bursts from the torso of one of the proto-human, humanoid aliens — seems to be Ridley Scott fairly screaming: “See? I gave birth to the alien!”

Admittedly, the “Alien” franchise went off the tracks with its third installment, but “Prometheus” hasn’t put it back on track.

Gee. Maybe James Cameron can rescue the “Alien” reboot…**

My grade: B-

*You are demanding at least one thing about “Prometheus” that doesn’t make sense, so fine: Why does the humanoid alien at the end of the film, who, we are told, has been in cryosleep for at least 2,000 years, decide, upon finally wakening, that he still must fulfill his destructive mission on Earth? How does he know that the mission is still a good idea? Is it not possible that things have changed in two millennia? And even with the humanoid aliens’ advanced technology, how was he (it?) kept alive in cryosleep for two millennia?

Here’s another logical problem: The automated surgery pod that operates on our heroine — if it was programmed for male patients only, as we are informed, how did it cut open and then close her uterus? (Was the alien being in her uterus? She was told that she was pregnant, so I assume so.)

Here’s another problem: How can you actually reanimate the head of a humanoid being that has been dead for centuries? (And isn’t it repetitive? Ash the android’s head was reanimated in “Alien,” for fuck’s sake. WTF is Scott’s obsession with reanimated heads?)

And yet another problem: If the humanoid aliens’ DNA were exactly like Earthlings’ DNA, then why are the humanoid aliens hairless, pale (translucent, really) and huge? If the DNA were an exact match, wouldn’t Earthlings be giants, too?

There are many more inconsistencies and contradictions, but those are good for starters.

**Lest you laugh, Wikipedia notes that “Prometheus”

…began development in the early 2000s as a fifth entry in the “Alien” franchise, with both [Ridley] Scott and director James Cameron developing ideas for a film that would serve as a prequel to Scott’s 1979 science-fiction horror film “Alien.” By 2003, the project was sidelined by the development of “Alien vs. Predator,” and remained dormant until 2009 when Scott again showed interest.

I am not certain whether Scott and Cameron were working together or were working independently on an “Alien” prequel, but I rather would have had Cameron make the prequel than Scott…

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Golden Globes gets it mostly wrong

Director Martin Scorsese poses backstage with the award for Best Director of a Motion Picture for the film "Hugo" during the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards Sunday, Jan. 15, 2012, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

George Clooney poses with his award for best actor in a motion picture - drama for "The Descendants," backstage in Beverly Hills

Associated Press and Reuters photos

Martin Scorsese poses with his undeserved Golden Globe for best director for his overhyped “Hugo” in Los Angeles last night, and George Clooney poses with his undeserved Golden Globe for best actor in a drama for his role in the overrated “The Descendants,” which also unfortunately undeservedly took the Golden Globe’s award for best dramatic film. The Golden Globes snubbed Steven Spielberg, but at least gave the film “The Artist” the props that it deserves, naming it the best musical or comedic film and naming Jean Dujardin as the best actor in a musical or comedy for his leading performance in the film. (Below are pictured Dujardin, left; the director of “The Artist,” Michel Hazanavicius, middle; actress Berenice Bejo, far right; and Uggie the dog, far left.)

Dujardin, Hazanavicius and Bejo of "The Artist" pose backstage at the 69th annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills

Reuters photo

I haven’t written a movie review for a while, although I see a lot of movies, perhaps especially at the end of the year, when the Oscar bait is trotted out to the theaters.

Since I haven’t reviewed most of this year’s contenders for the big awards — but have seen most of them — I’ll comment on last night’s Golden Globe winners for film.

First up is the movie that got the Globes’ award for best drama, Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants.”

Yikes.

Payne has done so much better than “The Descendants,” such as “Sideways,” “Election,” and even “About Schmidt” and “Citizen Ruth.” That “The Descendants” stars Hollywood golden boy George Clooney and that its director has made better films doesn’t mean that “The Descendants” is worthy of being on anyone’s best-picture list, because it isn’t.

“The Descendants” has some nice visuals — it takes place in Hawaii — and I found the character of Sid to be adorable, but otherwise, “The Descendants” is overlong as it meanders and dawdles, with a plot that is mediocre at best and that never arrives anywhere, leaving its audience waiting for a point that never arrives. I give the film a “B-” at best. (Probably it deserves a “C” or “C+”, since I have little to no interest in viewing it ever again.)

“The Descendants'” competitors for the Golden Globes’ best drama were “The Help,” “Hugo,” “The Ides of March,” “Moneyball” and “War Horse.”

I didn’t see “The Help” because of its shitty reviews, and I have no interest in catching it on DVD.

“The Ides of March,” another George Clooney vehicle, while watchable, also doesn’t belong on anyone’s best-picture list. Clooney, Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman give decent performances in “Ides,” but the script is mediocre and nothing novel, just a rehash of political movies that we’ve seen before. I give “The Ides of March” a “B-” or “C+” also. This wasn’t actually George Clooney’s year.

“Hugo” I found to be fairly entertaining but overrated. Even the wildly talented Sacha Baron Cohen as a quasi-villain couldn’t really save Martin Scorsese’s self-indulgent flick that turns out to be more about the French director Georges Melies (played by Ben Kingsley) than about our young protagonist Hugo. I found the whole automaton thing rather senseless and strange and uncaptivating, and films about filmmaking often are about as good as are novels about writing novels, it seems to me. (“The Artist” is an exception; more on that shortly.)

“Hugo’s” 3-D effects were decent, and the film overall is entertaining, although a bit too long, and overall “Hugo” was just overhyped. Martin Scorsese, contrary to apparent popular opinion, does not shit gold. I give “Hugo” a “B.”

I wanted to see “Moneyball” but never did, so I’ll have to catch it on DVD, but I did catch Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse,” which is far superior to “The Descendants.” My guess is that even if I’d seen “The Help” and “Moneyball,” “War Horse” still would be my pick for best drama from the list of the Golden Globes’ six nominees.

“War Horse,” which garners a solid “A”, is reminiscent of the films of yore (we’ve had plenty of films about World War I and films starring horses or dogs as our protagonists), perhaps especially with its ending scene, which (fairly) has been compared to “Gone with the Wind,” but “War Horse” works quite well nonetheless. I found myself teary-eyed at the end of the film, and that’s fairly rare. And despite the film’s length, my interest in it never waned, which I cannot say for “Hugo” or “The Descendants.” Steven Spielberg still has it.

The Globes unusually has a second category for best picture, best musical or comedy. I have seen three out of four of the nominees in that category. (Not bad, right?)

The nominees were “50/50,” “The Artist,” “Bridesmaids,” “Midnight in Paris” and “My Week with Marilyn.” “Bridesmaids” is the only one that I didn’t see, due to its lackluster reviews.

“The Artist” won the Golden Globe for best musical or comedy, and I can’t complain about that. I saw the film this past weekend and it’s best-picture material, a solid “A” (maybe a rare “A+”). A film that mostly is silent and in black and white but can keep the audience’s attention nonetheless is an accomplishment. The protagonist’s heroic dog is a bit too reminiscent of the heroic dog Snowy of Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin,” which I saw before “The Artist,” but “The Artist” is a solid film with good performances and a captivating, clever script.

“The Artist’s” protagonist George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin), a silent-movie star, at first is an annoying, spotlight-hogging ham but becomes more and more likeable as the film progresses, and protagonist Peppy Miller (played by Berenice Bejo), also a movie star, is mesmerizing, although I don’t know that most starlets of the 1920s and 1930s looked like Bejo does; I’m not an expert on the films of the 1920s and 1930s, but she does look a little out of place. However, Bejo’s charisma more than makes up for that.

“50/50,” which stars Joseph Gordon Levitt, one of my favorite actors, also earns a solid “A,” but its material — a young man diagnosed with cancer — apparently wasn’t novel enough for it to win in its category. Still, “50/50” has some great lines and Seth Rogen does a great job as protagonist Gordon Levitt’s supportive-as-he-can-be best friend. (Unfortunately, in “50/50” Bryce Dallas Howard pretty much plays the same role that she played in the lacking Clint Eastwood vehicle “Hereafter.”)

“My Week with Marilyn,” which I can give only a “B” at best, isn’t a comedy or a musical, so why it landed in this category escapes me. Michelle Williams does as good a job as Marilyn Monroe as she can, but the film isn’t as compelling as it should be, and it’s not very believable that Marilyn Monroe essentially was a drugged-out bimbo who had enough occasional flashes of acting brilliance that an entire film could be cobbled together from these apparently brief and accidental episodes of talent.

“Marilyn” also suffers, I think, from being too self-referential. Again, the number of films about filmmaking that we’re seeing as of late seems to indicate that the filmmakers have run out of ideas, and so they’re now turning the camera on themselves.

“Midnight in Paris” would have won, I suspect, were it not for “The Artist.” Unfortunately, we’re used to good work from Woody Allen (although he’s made some lackluster films, too), and so he often unfairly is overlooked. “Midnight in Paris,” while not a complete departure from Allen’s past films, is a solid film that earns an “A.”

The Globes’ nominees for best director were Woody Allen (for “Midnight in Paris”), George Clooney (for “The Ides of March”), Michel Hazanavicius for “The Artist,” Alexander Payne for “The Descendants” and Martin Scorsese for “Hugo.”

As I did see all of these films, I can say that I find Scorsese’s win for best director to be disappointing. He apparently was awarded for his past work, because “Hugo” doesn’t deserve best director.

We can cross Clooney, Payne and Scorsese off of the best-director list right off, which would leave us with Allen and Hazanavicius. I probably would have given the best-director award to Hazanavicius, as much as I love most of Allen’s work. “The Artist” is quite an accomplishment and doesn’t deserve less only because Hazanavicius is new to us Americans.

The Globes gave best actor in a drama to George Clooney for his work in “The Descendants,” another mistake. Clooney is popular — I get that — and he is a solid actor, but there is nothing very remarkable about “The Descendants,” which, next to “Hugo,” might be the most overrated film of the year.

Unfortunately, I have yet to see Michael Fassbender in “Shame” (it comes to my city later this month, and I like Fassbender, so I’m there), and, as I noted, I have yet to see “Moneyball,” so I am not sure if I would have picked Brad Pitt or Fassbender, who, along with Pitt, also was nominated for the Globes’ best-actor award. Leonardo DiCaprio was nominated for his performance in “J. Edgar,” but that film (which I rather generously gave a “B”) is so flawed that it probably sank his chances, and I don’t feel that DiCaprio was screwed, not really. Ryan Gosling was nominated for his role in “The Ides of March,” but again, there is nothing special about that film, either.

I’m really fucked where it comes to the Globes’ nominees for best actress in a drama, as I haven’t seen any of the nominated perfomances, Glenn Close’s for “Albert Nobbs” (also arrives at my city later this month, and I’ll probably go see it, even though it seems “Yentl”-ish to me), Viola Davis’ for “The Help,” Rooney Mara’s for “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” Meryl Streep’s for “The Iron Lady” (which is getting lackluster reviews and which I’ll probably wait for on DVD), and Tilda Swinton’s for “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (which seems to be an awful lot like her role in “The Deep End,” but I love Tilda).

My guess is that Streep, who won the Golden Globe, will end up getting the best-actress Oscar again — only because she more or less looks like Margaret Thatcher. “Saturday Night Live” achieves lookalikes all the time, so really, so what? Word is that “The Iron Lady” fairly sucks, with Roger Ebert giving it only two of four stars.

The Globes’ best actor in a comedy or musical went to Jean Dujardin of “The Artist,” which I confidently assert was a deserved win, even though I didn’t see Brendan Gleeson in “The Guard” or the good-enough-but-overrated Ryan Gosling in “Crazy Stupid Love.” (Really, are Ryan Gosling and George Clooney the only two actors that we have left?) Joseph Gordon Levitt was quite good in “50/50,” and Owen Wilson also was quite good in “Midnight in Paris,” but neither of them, nor the two other nominees, had a snowball’s chance against Dujardin’s performance.

The Globes’ award for best actress in a comedy or musical went to Michelle Williams for “My Week with Marilyn,” although, again, “My Week with Marilyn” is neither a fucking comedy nor a fucking musical, and it was no super-human feat to doll up Michelle Williams to resemble Marilyn Monroe any more than it was to make Meryl Streep look like Margaret Thatcher, for fuck’s sake. It’s too bad that Williams wasn’t given a better script to work with.

I’ve yet to see “Carnage,” which garnered both Jodie Foster and Kate Winslet nominations for best actress in a comedy or musical. I am there when “Carnage” comes to my city, however; the previews look compelling. (I love movies that give us insight into dysfunctional relationships, which is perhaps why I like Woody Allen’s work so much, and I liked Winslet in “Revolutionary Road.”)

I also have yet to see Kristen Wiig’s performance in “Bridesmaids,” but I like Wiig, so I might catch her peformance, which also was nominated for the Globes’ best actress in a comedy or musical, on DVD. Ditto for “Young Adult,” which garnered Charlize Theron a nomination in the category.

The Globes’ best supporting actor went to Christopher Plummer for his role as a gay man who comes out of the closet late in life in “Beginners.” I give “Beginners” a “B+”, but I have to wonder if Plummer was given the award more for his past work than for his role in “Beginners.” I could argue that Kenneth Branagh, who also was nominated for best supporting actor for his role in “My Week with Marilyn,” was more deserving of the award.

The Globes’ best supporting actress award went to Octavia Spencer, whoever that is, for her role in “The Help.” I can’t imagine that Spencer was better than Berenice Bejo, who also nominated for best supporting actress, was in “The Artist,” however, and it escapes me as to why Bejo wasn’t nominated for best actress, since her role in “The Artist” is equal to the male protagonist’s. (I remember when Heath Ledger was nominated for an Oscar for best actor for “Brokeback Mountain” but Jake Gyllenhaal inexplicably was nominated only for best supporting actor, even though his role was equal to Ledger’s.)

The Golden Globes’ winner for best screenplay went to Woody Allen for “Midnight in Paris.” It seems that the Globes wanted to recognized Allen’s film in some way and so gave it best screenplay, but arguably “The Artist,” which also was nominated for best screenplay, should have won. Why “The Ides of March” and “The Descendants” were nominated at all for best screenplay eludes me, as neither is a remarkable film in any way, and George Clooney doesn’t shit gold, either. Again, I’ve yet to see the also-nominated-for-best-screenplay “Moneyball,” but I can live with Allen’s win in the category.

The Globes’ best animated feature went to Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin,” the only film in the category that I’ve seen (the others were “Arthur Christmas,” “Cars 2,” “Puss in Boots” and “Rango.”) “Tintin” is a solid, entertaining film (I give it an “A” or “A-“), perhaps a little overlong but quite watchable, although, in my book, not as good as Spielberg’s “War Horse” (“A” or “A+”). Still, with “Tintin” it’s apparent that Spielberg hasn’t lost his talents, and I have to wonder if the dearth of nominations for Spielberg in the Golden Globes means that he’s going to be given short shrift with the Oscars, too.

Spielberg should have been nominated for, and perhaps won, the Globes’ best director, in my book.

I have plenty of films to catch up on between now and the Oscars, but thus far my picks are “War Horse” or “The Artist” for best picture and Steven Spielberg (for “War Horse,” not for “Tintin”) or Michel Hazanavicius for best director.

At least the Golden Globes ignored the sanctimonious-as-Scorsese Terrence Malick’s God-awful “Tree of Life” (which I gave a rare “F”), and hopefully the Oscars will, too, but the Globes overlooked Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia” (which I give an “A” or “A-“, and which unfairly has been compared to “Tree of Life”) — a mistake that, hopefully, the Oscars won’t make.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized