My Extremely Late Review of The 87th Oscars


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This did not happen at the Oscars last night.

I really don’t know what’s wrong with me.

As I’ve made it clear many times in the past, I basically build my year around the Oscars.   I always get together with my friends and family and I force them to watch the entire ceremony with me.  Wherever I’ve lived, the Oscars have always been a national holiday.

As with any holiday, there are traditions.  To cite just one example, every year there comes the moment when I suddenly realize that Meryl Streep looks exactly like this stuck-up rich woman from Highland Park who, back in 2oo1, was so rude to my mom that she made her cry and that’s why I’ve never liked Meryl as much as some of my fellow movie bloggers.  And, of course, once I realize that, I have to tell the story to everyone else in the room.  Part of the tradition is to continue telling the story even after everyone says, “We’ve heard this story a million times, Lisa.”

Another part of the tradition is to start out with hope that something unexpected will happen.  “Oh my God,” I’ll say at some point, “maybe such-and-such movie is going to pull an upset!”  Then, an hour later, comes the tradition of realizing that there aren’t going to be any upsets and everything’s going to play out the exact way that everyone said it would.

One of the newer traditions is that, after every Oscar ceremony, I write a review and I post it here on Through the Shattered Lens. But, somehow, this year, I nearly forgot about that tradition.  Perhaps it’s because we got hit by a lot of sleet and ice last night and, as a result, I could neither go to work nor go dancing tonight.  And, don’t get me wrong,  I’ve had a lot of fun hanging around the house and being lazy today.  But it was still a pretty big change from my usual routine.  It threw me off and perhaps that’s why I’m only now getting around to reviewing the Oscar ceremony.

Then again, it could just be that last night’s ceremony was not that interesting.  I thought that Neil Patrick Harris was a good host but, in retrospect, that has more to do with his own natural charisma of a performer than with anything he actually did.  I liked his little bit about getting Octavia Spencer to keep an eye on his predictions but that was mostly because Octavia herself is such a good performer.  (Octavia is also an Oscar winner who has the talent to do a lot more than just playing a supporting role on a TV show.)

I loved Margot Robbie’s dress.  But I have to say that it really bothered me that there weren’t any true fashion disasters to be seen last night.  That’s part of the fun of the Oscars, spotting the celebs that can’t dress themselves.  When everyone looks good, the show’s a lot less interesting.

As far as the acceptance speeches were concerned, some of them were good.  But I have to admit that I always cringe a little when I see a celeb at an awards show give a politically charged speech because, as committed as they may be, they never seem to be quite sincere.  Instead, they come across as if they’re just playing another role.  What I really wish is that, instead of Bustle and Jezebel posting a hundred articles about how much Meryl Streep loved Patricia Arquette’s speech on incoming inequality, those same media outlets would actually give as much attention to the women who actually have to deal with the issue on a daily basis.  My mom had to raise four headstrong daughters on her own.  She knew more about the sad reality of income inequality than Meryl Streep ever will.  But nobody’s ever going to illustrate a story on income inequality with an animated gif of a woman, like my mom, working hard at multiple jobs, getting paid less than her male coworkers, coming home exhausted, and still managing to be there for her daughters.  Instead, we’ll just get a hundred memes of Meryl shouting “Yes,” all used to illustrate stories that insist it was a “perfect” moment.

(Because what better symbol for the fight against wage inequality than a rich white woman at an awards show?)

My question to Hollywood political activists is this: Are you actually going to try to change things or are you just going to pat yourself on the back for giving a speech at an awards show?  Because you people have given a lot of speeches and made a lot of politically-themed movies but the problems are still here.

As far as the awards themselves — I have to admit that I was not as big a fan of Birdman as some people were.  For a few minutes, I was excited because I thought that Whiplash might pull an upset.  But no, in the end, Birdman won.  I liked Alejandro Inarritu’s previous Oscar-nominated film, Babel.  But, beyond respecting it as a technical achievement, Birdman just didn’t do much for me and neither did Inarritu’s acceptance speech.

But you know who really didn’t do anything for me?

Sean Penn.

First off, if you’re going to be presenting best picture, try to take a shower before you go out on stage.  Don’t show up looking like you’re covered in a week’s worth of grime.  Looking at Sean Penn last night, I could only imagine that he probably reeked of stale cigarettes and strong body odor.  Seriously, if the Academy needed someone unwashed to hand out the biggest award of the night, they could have followed the lead of the Golden Globes and called Johnny Depp.

And then, when Penn opened the envelope, he couldn’t just announce that Birdman had won.  Instead, he had to make a joke about Inarritu’s green card.  Inarritu is the first Mexican to direct a best picture winner and Sean Penn, a man who considers himself to be enough of an expert on South America that he actually think he has the right to tell the people of Venezuela how to vote, just had to make that green card joke.  My mom was half-Spanish and had to endure her share of green card jokes (despite being a native-born American citizen).  I know the pain that jokes like that caused her and, when Sean Penn made that joke, it was a slap in the face to Latinos everywhere.  Shame on you, Sean Penn.

As far as pendejos like Sean Penn are concerned — ¡Estoy hasta el coño!

As far as Lady Gaga’s Sound of Music tribute was concerned … well, let’s just be honest.  Lady Gaga was great but The Sound of Music is probably one of the most undeserving best picture winners ever.  The Oscar should have gone to either Darling or Doctor Zhivago.

But, on a happier note, these Oscars also allowed me to make my E! debut!  Check out this screen shot:

B-e7UMLIUAA9a7VSo, the 87th Academy Awards are over with.  Here’s hoping the 88th Academy Awards are a bit more fun!

Three Films From Jeremiah Kipp: Berenice, Minions, and Painkiller


I recently had the chance to view three short horror films that were directed by Jeremiah Kipp.  Before I get into the specifics of each film, let me just say that I recommend all three of them.  As a director, Kipp does a good job of building and maintaining the proper atmosphere of dread that’s necessary for good horror (especially good short horror) to work.  If you’ve read my previous reviews on this site or over at Horrorcritic.com, you know that I am an unapologetic fan of surreal and dream-like horror and, needless to say, that’s what all three of the films below deliver.

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“You and I have some unfinished business from back in the day.” — Berenice (2014)

The first film that I watched was Berenice, a 19-minute adaptation of a short story by Edgar Allan Poe.  Though the story has been updated so that it now takes place in present day New York, Berenice closely follows the original Poe short story.  Edward (Thomas Mendolia) is a mentally unstable man who seems to spend most of his time locked away in his room, where he obsessively tinkers with a light.

When his cousin, Berenice (Cheryl Koski), moves in with him and his parents, Edward is, at first, reluctant to get close to her.  However, he is slowly won over by the fact that Berenice is as much as an outsider as he is.  She is dying from an unknown illness and regularly suffers seizures.  While everyone else chooses to ignore Berenice, Edward grows closer and closer to her.  But, haunted by visions of her savagely biting off his lower lip, Edward cannot stop obsessing over her teeth…

Full of gloomy atmosphere, Berenice is an effectively morbid mood piece.  It can be appreciated as a literary adaptation but, even if you haven’t read Poe’s original short story, Berenice still works as a succession of increasingly surreal and disturbing images.  In many ways, Berenice can be positively compared to the work of the great French director, Jean Rollin.  A scene where Berenice and Edward visit a cemetery brings to mind a similar scene from Rollin’s Two Orphan Vampires.  And, in the role of Berenice, Cheryl Koski bares more than a passing resemblance to Francoise Blanchard, the star of Rollin’s The Living Dead Girl.  In the scenes were blood runs down her chin or she suddenly appears awkwardly walking naked down a dark hallway, Koski could be Blanchard’s twin.

Speaking of Cheryl Koski, she’s like a force of nature in this film.  Whether she’s somewhat desperately trying to get people to talk to her at a party or awkwardly flirting with Edward, or biting someone’s face off, Cheryl Koski gives an energetic, heartfelt, and even poignant performance.  Playing the far more repressed Edward, Thomas Mendolia deserves praise as well.  It’s not easy to make introversion compelling but he does it.

Berenice is part of a horror anthology called Creepers, which can be ordered from Creepersfilm.com

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“There’s a cruelty in your heart. Is it love or is it hate?” — The Minions

Speaking of dream-like, the next Kipp film that I watched was practically a filmed nightmare and I mean that in the best possible way.  The Minions opens with William (played by Lukas Hassel, who has a really handsome movie star look about him) standing in a dark room.  As he stares out a window, he has a conversation with an unseen woman.  Their dialogue is wonderfully cryptic.  We see flashbacks of William walking down the streets of Manhattan.  He meets two girls who appear to be drunk. He escorts them back to their apartment and he promises the drunker of the two a kiss when they reach her destination.  Needless to say, the girls are not quite what they seem and a kiss is more than just a kiss…

The Minions is only 11 minutes long but it’s an amazingly effective and atmospheric 11 minutes, full of creepy images and growing paranoia.  Looking over the notes that I took while watching the movie, I notice that I twice jotted down that The Minions has a “great soundtrack.”  That’s not just in reference to the music, though the film’s score is appropriate ominous.  Instead, I meant that The Minions is just a fascinating film to which to listen.  The music playing in the background, the footsteps of people walking through the city, the sound of constant (but never seen) traffic, and the melody of Lukas Hassel’s voice; they all combine to provide the perfect soundtrack for the film’s shadowy and haunting images.

It all adds up to a very haunting piece of moody atmosphere.

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“You’ll pay for this, won’t you?” “Someone will. Someone always does.” — Painkiller (2014)

The final Jeremiah Kipp short film that I watched was Painkiller, a wonderfully over-the-top look at pain and pleasure.

Two scientists (Kelly Rae LeGault and Berenice‘s Thomas Mendolia) are looking for a non-addictive way to treat the pain of being ill, a substitute for the drugs that — while they may relieve pain — are ultimately so addictive that they put the patient’s health at risk.  They engineer an organism (one that actually looks a bit like a miniature version of theTtingler from the classic Vincent Price film) that will attach itself to a patient’s nervous system.  The organism feeds on pain and releases endorphins while feeding.  LeGault volunteers to be the test subject and, in a scene that is full of Cronenberg-style sexual imagery, Mendolia inserts a gigantic hypodermic needle into her spine.

As they soon discover, the inserted organism works.  In fact, it works far too well.  LeGault soon becomes addicted to pain and when she doesn’t get it, she goes as far as to attack Mendolia with an iron.  (That scene made me go, “Agck!,” largely because it reminded me of when I was four and I accidentally grabbed an iron and burned my fingertips.)  Even a dominatrix, hired by Mendolia, fails to satiate LeGault’s need for pain.

However, a mysterious man in a suit (played by Jerry Janda) shows up and says that LeGault is exactly what he’s been looking for…

Now, I’m not going to tell you too much about the man in the suit because that would give away the film’s twist.  I’ll just say that Jerry Janda gives a really good and creepy performance here.  When, towards the end of film, he explains that somebody always pays, he does so with just the hint of a self-satisfied smirk, one that tells you everything that need to know about the character and how he views the world.

Along with playing that creepy man, Jerry Janda also wrote the script for Painkiller and what a script it is.  It neatly straddles the line between horror and parody, as does Kipp’s direction.  Ultimately, it’s a film that suggests that addiction is a part of human nature and that pleasure and pain need each other in order to survive.

Want to see Painkiller?  You can click here to buy or rent the film!

Here’s What Won At The Oscars Last Night!


Really?

Really?

Because of bad weather, I wasn’t able to post the winners last night.  But, now it’s morning and all of the rain has turned to ice and the internet is working again!

So, here’s what won at the Oscars last night.

Best Picture: Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

Best Director: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Best Actor: Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

Best Actress: Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Best Supporting Actor: J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette in Boyhood

Best Original Screenplay: Birdman or What We Talk About When Talk About Love

Best Adapted Screenplay: The Imitation Game

Best Animated Feature: Big Hero 6

Best Documentary Feature: CitizenFour

Best Foreign Language Film: Ida

Best Cinematography: Birdman based on the novel Push by Sapphire 

Best Costume Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Editing: Whiplash

Beat Makeup and Hairstyling: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Original Score: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Original Song: “Glory” from Selma

Best Production Design: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Sound Editing: American Sniper

Best Sound Mixing: Whiplash

Best Visual Effects: Interstellar

Best Animated Short: Feast

Best Live Action Short: The Phone Call

Best Documentary Short Film: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1