Saturday, January 29, 2011

The stars, guns, and snakes, were finally enough: the Oscar snub wasn't needed!

Let’s just get this out of the way up front: Great job, Academy! That the AMPAS found room for everything from Winter’s Bone to Toy Story 3 to the ferocious performance given by Movieline favorite Jacki Weaver means they deserve a bit of kudos. (If you’re one of those, “Yawn, I’m too cool for the Oscars!” people, just go back to bed today.) Of course that doesn’t mean many, many deserving nominees were left out in the cold this morning. Ahead, the six biggest from the major categories. (Christopher Rosen, “Your Favorite was Robbed: The 6 Biggest Oscar Snubs,” Movieline, 21 January 2011)

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I disagree. I thought the noms were fair and on the mark. I predicted that True Grit (this year's Blind Side) would be the sleeper movie and the Coens would get best director. There's an upset coming. I also predict that Colin and Jeff will split the best acting....or Jeff walks away with the best acting award. (response to post, Chicago48)

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I agree. Comparing True Grit to Lifetime movie of the week The Blind Side is ridiculous. There is so much nuance and meaning in True Grit. Can you really say the same thing about The Blind Side? That movie was only Oscar nominated because it was a crappy year with very few stand out films. If it had come out in 2010, it wouldn't even have made a blip on the awards radar.

I think the biggest snub this year is nominating Hailee Steinfeld for a "Supporting" role. Did the Academy not realize that True Grit is Mattie's story? Mattie is in every scene, it's narrated by her character. It's told completely from Mattie's perspective. How is that a supporting role? If anything, Bridges and Damon were supporting her. (response to post, Karen)

I agree. Hailee should have been nominated for best actress, best movie, or not at all. The lesson in the film is that a smart, head-strong, civilized girl can make most of the wild have to be at “their” best to not already seem akin to a tamed wild-west show. Rooster has his (touching) wild ride, Laboeuf gets his miraculous shot, but there's a sense that her only equal was Ned, the compelling leader of the congress of louts. The gun recoil and the snake terror ease her into an easing, more capitulated form, and leaves Rooster alone to demonstrate his experience, endurance, and drivenness, but had she been a couple years older, we would have been left without all that, and it would have simply been: "THIS is all you can conjure ..." As is, the night-conjured wild stars reign supreme, and clear the deck.

I'd like to have seen Damon nominated for best supporting. He's like Wilbur proving he's really quite the pig after all, and it made me cheer!

Link: “Your Favorite was Robbed: The 6 Biggest Oscar Snubs” (Movieline)

Who'd want to be just a horse?

Kutcher and Portman play Adam and Emma, two young people making their way in Los Angeles with varying degrees of success: Emma — an overachiever who admits that she’s not particularly emotional or affectionate — is a doctor; Adam — irrepressibly warm and affable, if a bit goofy — works as an assistant on a weekly teen-musical show, though he really wants to be a writer. Adam and Emma met years earlier, as kids at summer camp — the movie opens with that flashback, in which young Adam (played by Dylan Hayes) fires the first of the movie’s sexually explicit salvos when he asks Emma bluntly, “Can I finger you?”

[. . .]

Adam agrees, though of course we know that since he’s just a big mushbug, he’ll be the one to cave in first. And sure enough, he shows up at Emma’s apartment while she — along with two of her roommates, played by Greta Gerwig and Mindy Kaling — are all having their periods. Not only has he brought them cupcakes, which they descend upon with hormonally charged voraciousness; he’s also made Emma a “period mix” CD, including obvious choices, like U2’s “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and less obvious ones, like Frank Sinatra’s “I’ve Got the World on a String.”

[. . .]

It’s possible that Kutcher loosens her up. That may be one of Kutcher’s great gifts: He can, apparently, loosen anyone up. Kutcher is one of those actors who may, for the whole of his career, be just bubbling under. Maybe someday he’ll give a big breakthrough performance, playing a death-row prisoner who’s proven innocent via DNA testing or a football player, loving dad and model citizen who’s dying of cancer. I sure hope he doesn’t: Though I wish him success and the chance to make many more movies, I like him the way he is, throwing away his total adorableness as if he were Ingrid Bergman in Saratoga Trunk, being told she’s beautiful and laughing, “Yes! Isn’t it lucky? (Stephanie Zacharek, “Actions speak louder than dirty words in “No Strings Attached,” Movieline, 20 January 2011)

I wonder where Ashton gets his instinct to please from? Maybe there's something in the roles he takes, or the kinds of women he tends to date, that could give a hint? Anyway, it's surely wholly commendable -- who'd want to just a horse when you can be the prancing pony the whole of your life? Unless of course you could be the embarrassing jackass, Gervais: you'd think seeming like you'd never crawled out of the crib would count against you, but I swear he tore down the world sensing that life-long babies are morphing into scarily-bequeathed enfants terribles, who won't much longer have to know what it is to have to back down to adults.

Speaking of adults: Stephanie, you're always commendably calling for more films for them; let's keep up some voice for more adults in film, too: I know this one's about childish adults, but I don't want to wait for Ashton to be in some cancer role for someone to tell him it's NOT this time his part to play the fool.

Link: Actions speak louder than dirty words in “No Strings Attached” (Movieline)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Loving Forrest Gump

Happy Oscar nominations, babies. You got what you wanted, though you have to throw those gold-plated, NSFW Andrew Garfield valentines in the trash. It could be worse. You could be living in 1994, when the Academy honored not Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, or my darling Quiz Show with a Best Picture victory, but a staggering sh*t fortress of offensive “whimsicality” called Forrest Gump. You saw it. It’s dumb. Loony. It’s got a lot of nerve. But here’s a secret you and I share: We’re both attracted to bastards, and Forrest Gump’s the slimiest john I know. Let’s love it.

Synopsis: Tom Hanks plays Forrest Gump, a man with an IQ of 75 who assures the world that in order to be an inspiring mentally challenged person, you need only to act like Winnie the Pooh. Point to your head and say, “Think, think, think.” Cock your head when others are speaking. Don’t understand when you’re playing a football game. These things.

[. . .]

Here’s the key to loving Forrest Gump: Our hero’s life includes run-ins with war, the Black Panther movement, several presidential assassinations, drug culture, and AIDS, yet the movie manages to have nothing to say about them — other than, “This cloying cipher doesn’t really get it. Cute as hell. Shhh, those angry black people can learn from him.” Every opportunity to reinspect history is a red herring. This movie is a red herring. This movie is like some direct-to-video sequel of Being There called Bein’ Everywharr!, and Chauncey the Gardener is replaced by one of the Rugrats in a Tom Wolfe suit. This movie honestly wants you to gawk at its glib, twee (your two favorite adjectives) instincts, forgo common sense, and melt into its outrageous story. Word: It’s not that hard. I just did it!

Let’s take a look at some of the zestier accomplishments in Forrest’s life.

When a bunch of bullies approach Forrest on the street, Forrest’s damaged friend Jenny (Robin Wright[-Penn]) encourages him to run as fast as he can. Now, Forrest starts the movie in rigid leg braces, but no matter: He turns into Forrest Griffith-Joyner (ya-pow!) in seconds, the leg braces tumble off his body, and he’s cured. In high school, when bullies follow him in a jeep, he outruns the jeep. If this Jenny can detect who among the physically disabled can heal their handicap and outpace a Cherokee, she deserves more than these Curious George books she’s reading.

He plays college football and nails 99-yard touchdowns with his nimble little gams. The crowd cheers, cries, and holds up signs telling him to stop running once he hits the end zone. This condescending malarkey precedes Susan Boyle by 15 years, so I can’t discredit Forrest Gump’s soothsaying powers. It’s like the new Network that way. Except Faye Dunaway is too subtle for this movie. For real.

He saves his lieutenant’s life in Vietnam. But war-proud Lt. Dan (Gary Sinise) didn’t want to be saved, and he resents Forrest afterward — until they start up a shrimping company together and fulfill the dream of their fallen comrade Bubba. Lieutenant Dan pulls off the Helter Skelter zeal well. Which makes sense because this is ThE SeVeNtIeS!!1!

He gets real good at ping pong and it… heals international disputes with China? I don’t even know what Rob Zemeckis was going for here. Whatever happened, it allowed Forrest to meet the president — an occurrence he enjoys a million times this movie.

Holler, LBJ! Bad news: Forrest Gump isn’t a real person, so to make his interactions with super-for-real presidents for-real, the movie uses special effects to manipulate stock footage of our great leaders and make their mouths look like they’re saying droll things to Forrest. It looks freaky. LBJ’s twitchy CGI mouth looks like lost footage from the “Sledgehammer” video. At this point, it’s clear Forrest can zap himself to any notable moment in history whenever he wants. You might know this movie by its original working title, Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego?. (Or Zelig Gump.)

Forrest gets on The Dick Cavett Show, mumbles something about religion and heaven, and fellow guest John Lennon is — Jesus, this movie — inspired to write a jingle called “Imagine.” John Lennon would love Forrest’s absently cutesy shtick. He so would. John Lennon was annoying sometimes, and at least this movie understands that.

After a tedious sideplot where Forrest runs back and forth across the country for no reason and ratchets up this movie’s run-time to 2.2 hours, he reunites with the tempestuous Jenny, who secretly had his child and contracted an unknown “virus.” Look, Jenny: Having a troubled past and an abusive father gives you no right to ruin Forrest’s good time. Or die of AIDS when you’ve given us two scenes notice. Not fair. You will not score an Oscar nomination with that gig. They’ll give it to Andie MacDowell or Joan Plowright or someone else who eats up screen time with major headtilt seriousness. Or worse, they’ll soon give Sean Penn two Oscars. Yeah, now you’re awake, Robin.

There you have it. That’s our movie. Forrest fathers his new-found son, and by the time the credits roll, I remember that Forrest has muttered his mother’s favorite phrase “Stupid is as stupid does” at least a dozen times. And why is that? Because it’s a message to home-viewers that they’re the ones sitting through this insipid sequence of daydreams. “Stupid is as stupid does” is easily decipherable code for “I’m not the one watching this movie. You are.” I hear you loud and clear, Forrest: The smart ones flee. But us? We’re placated in our leg braces, drifting like a whimsical albatross feather into your void. Run, dear reader. Run. Or stay. With the rest of us. (Louis Virtel, “Bad Movies we love—Forrest Gump,” Movieline, 26 January 2011)

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well i see the "Bad Movie" part, but where is the "We Love?" (response to post, Citizen Bitch)

It's there at the beginning, Citizen Bitch, but yes, I think "Forrest Gump" is one of those works of art that if you are too much concerned to explain why you like it, were/are affected/moved by it, you're stained for life. Just to mind as another example, is when some Salon writer a number of years ago "explained" why she had once fallen for Piers Anthony's Xanth series: you ended up more aware of the series' "ridiculousness" than its (what remain, thanks to "you") OSTENSIBLE virtues, and you had the sense the writer had braved as much as she was able, mostly in admitting to having liked the series before company she'd normally expect to pull away from her after that: her chore thereafter was to look to have pulled off the feat, but also to have made clear that NO ONE would more shun -- or maybe stomp and kill! -- the fiend who went a smidgen further than she was willing, in testifying to its qualities: "you" end up okay, because "you" didn't so much break the dam but remade it anew, in territory too riskily befouling for concerned others to consider undertaking the nagging job (and here, discussing "Forrest Gump" was a problem that was nagging -- IT was the one that won the oscar, as well has having as much broad-effect as the ongoing “hero,” "Back to the Future"), AND all the while making the snidish feel themselves open and fair. “You” may never be a great writer/reviewer, but we remember your sacrifice of yourself into besmirching territory.

If you mean to do the in-your-world brave and stand up for the likes of Xanth, "Titanic," "Forrest Gump," "Dangerous Mind," it requires an awesome feat of steadily-maintained, artful, protective dweamorcraft to get the job done -- and I don't think I've ever seen it managed, not even by A. O. Scott, who, for example, will often defend Tom Cruise, but NEVER without letting you know the actor doesn't have extensive range (very brave, A.O, very brave: how about just a compliment, and leaving it at? Such things are possible.); if that's too daunting, you just make the praise (as with here) amount to worse than some (in this case, most) critiques -- that's safe enough. The whole point is not to really get at why?, be fair to the film and its lasting influence on you, and air it out, but to see if you can manage something akin BUT WITHOUT being caught out by misstep -- we're all watching -- and it makes for something of an abominably unfair effort, and usually just a resort to curses.

Personally, I liked the brazenness of Forrest's life being tested but not really affected by "major events" that ARE SUPPOSED to stop you cold, if you care or are human at all: he was allowed to breathe, following his own rhythm. Gene Siskel WAS stopped cold by these events -- Vietnam, JFK'S death, etc -- but loved the movie for feeling it had helped quit shocks he personally had still been suffering from. There must be something considerable in a film to accomplish something as wonderful as that. (According to Movieline's twitter' feed, Gene Siskel's birthday is today. I think the episode is on YouTube.)

Link: Bad movies we love—Forrest Gump (Movieline)

Link: Siskel and Ebert review Forrest Gump (YouTube)

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