What Lisa Watched Last Night #72: The 85th Annual Academy Awards


Last night, I had a little party.  Me, my boyfriend, my sister, my best friend, and my 7,000 followers on twitter got together to watch the 85th Annual Academy Awards.

Seth

Why Were We Watching It?

If you love movies then the Oscars are like the Super Bowl.  Seriously, how could I not watch it?

What Was It About?

It was about the best of times and the worst of times.  It was about self-promotion, self-congratulation, and Michelle Obama.  It was about whether or not Seth McFarlane would self-destruct.  It was about rooting for the underdog and checking out who was wearing what.  It was the Oscars and, for 210 minutes, the nation sat entranced.

What Worked?

Brave won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film!  Seriously, that one award pretty much made the entire night for me.  Actually, there were a lot of good winners last night: Ang Lee for Best Director, Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor, Paperman for Best Animated Short Film, and Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress.  I was especially happy to see both Lawrence and Anne Hathaway win because, for whatever reason, these two actresses have recently had to deal with some of the most petty criticism that I’ve ever seen.

I also appreciated the fact that Quentin Tarantino, upon winning Best Original Screenplay, managed to spend his entire speech basically patting himself on the back while pretending to thank his cast.  It may not be remembered as the most classy speech in the history of the Oscars but it definitely served to remind us of why we love Quentin.

As host, Seth McFarlane was such a mixed bag that I’ve included him under both things that worked and things that didn’t work.  McFarlane started out surprisingly strong.  Unlike a lot of female critics, I wasn’t offended by The Boob Song and I thought it was actually a pretty clever parody of McFarlane’s public image.  (The joke was clearly meant to be on McFarlane and not the actresses mentioned in the song.)  Unfortunately, as the show went on, McFarlane occasionally seemed to be determined to live up to that parody.

Oddly enough, I really enjoyed Lincoln when I saw it but yet I still found myself happy to see it lose in so many categories.  I think it’s probably because Lincoln was so aggressively hyped and so many self-important Oscar pundits (like Sasha Stone) declared that Lincoln was the best film of the year before they had even seen it.  It was hard not to resent the condescending tone that was taken by many of Lincoln‘s online supporters.  Plus, it’s always fun to root for the underdog.  It’s hard not to suspect that if Ben Affleck had actually been nominated for Best Director then Steven Spielberg and his film might have actually won big last night.  But by snubbing Affleck, the Academy cast Steven Spielberg and Lincoln in the role of Goliath.

On one final petty note, I was happy to see Jennifer Lawrence win because I know her victory probably annoyed the editors of Awards Daily.

What Did Not Work?

I could have done without Michelle Obama showing up to present Best Picture. Yes, I know that Hollywood loves the Obamas but seriously, it felt rather Orwellian to have the First Lady suddenly pop up on TV and tell us why movies are so important.  The fact that she appeared with a few random soldiers behind her just added to the creepy vibe.

The much hyped Bond tribute turned out to be a bit of a bust, didn’t it?

The audience, which never seemed to be that excited about the prospect of Seth McFarlane in the first place, seemed to turn more and more against him as the show progressed.  As a result, once the Oscars hit the 120 minute mark, Seth started to come across as being a bit desperate to get a reaction — any reaction — from the audience.

Daniel Day-Lewis gave a good acceptance speech and all but surely I’m not the only viewer who was curious to hear what Joaquin Phoenix would have said if he had won.

In the end, the show just felt a little bit too bland for my tastes.  Unlike last year, there was nothing truly unexpected.  There were no hints of eccentricity.  No one showed up wearing anything awful.  Nobody made a fool of themselves while accepting their Oscar.  In short, the show was just forgettable.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

When Jennifer Lawrence fell on the way to accept her award, that was definitely an “Oh my God!  Just like me!” moment.  Seriously, I loved her dress but, from the minute I saw it, I knew she was going to have a hard time getting up to the podium.

Lessons Learned

Award shows are a lot more fun when things go wrong.

No Guts, No Glory: Lisa Marie’s Oscar Predictions


argo-still08

Today is the last day for the members of the Academy to vote for the 86th Annual Academy Awards.  With that in mind, here are my predictions as to what’s going to win next Sunday.  Please note: this is not necessarily who I think should win.

Best Picture — Argo

Best Director — Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Best Actor — Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln

Best Actress — Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook

Best Supporting Actor — Alan Arkin in Argo

Best Supporting Actress — Anne Hathaway in Les Miserables

Best Adapted Screenplay — Argo

Best Original Screenplay — Amour

Best Foreign Language Film — Amour

Best Animated Feature — Frankenweenie

Best Documentary Feature — Searching For Sugar Man

Best Production Design — Anna Karenina

Best Cinematography — Life of Pi

Best Costume Design — Anna Karenina

Best Editing — Argo

Best Makeup — The Hobbit

Best Score — Life of Pi

Best Original Song — “Skyfall” from Skyfall

Best Sound Editing — Zero Dark Thirty

Best Sound Mixing — Les Miserables

Best Visual Effects — Life of Pi

Best Animated Short — Paperman

Best Documentary Short — Open Heart

Best Live Action Short — Curfew

Lisa Marie Reviews The Oscar Winners: Mutiny on the Bounty (dir by Frank Lloyd)


Charles Laughton

It’s been a strange Oscar season and it could get even stranger.  Several critics and industry insiders are speculating that, on February 24th, Argo might win the Oscar for best picture without winning in any other category.  As strange as that may sound, Argo would not be alone in achieving this distinction.  In the past, 3 films have won best picture without winning anything else.

Mutiny on the Bounty, the best picture of 1935, is one of those films.

Based (rather loosely, according to many historians) on a true story, Mutiny on the Bounty tells the story of one of the most controversial events in maritime history.  The HMS Bounty leaves England in 1787 on a two-year voyage to Tahiti.  The Bounty is manned by a disgruntled crew (many of whom have been forced into Naval service) and is captained by a tyrant named William Bligh (Charles Laughton).  Bligh has little use for the majority of his crew and thinks nothing of having a man whipped until he is dead for even the pettiest of infractions.

Blight’s lieutenant is Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable), a compassionate man who disapproves of Bligh’s methods.  As the voyage continues, Christian grows more and more vocal with his disgust towards Bligh.  When the ship finally reaches Tahiti, Christian falls in love with a local Tahitian girl and defies Bligh’s direct orders so that he can spend time with her.

It’s only after the ship leaves Tahiti and Bligh’s tyranny leads to the death of an alcoholic crew member that Christian finally leads the mutiny of the film’s title. The rest of the film is divided between Bligh’s surprisingly heroic efforts to survive after being set adrift in a lifeboat and Christian’s attempts to avoid being captured by British authorities.  Caught up in the middle of all of this is Christian’s friend (and audience surrogate), Roger Byam (Franchot Tone).

Mutiny on the Bounty was one of the biggest box office hits of 1935 and it received 8 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and a record-setting 3 nods for Best Actor with Clark Gable, Charles Laughton, and Franchot Tone all receiving nominations.  However, out of those 8 nominations, Mutiny only won the award for Best Picture while John Ford’s The Informer took home the Oscars for Best Director and Actor.  Mutiny on the Bounty was the third (and, as of this writing, the last) best picture winner to fail to win any other categories.

For a film that lost dramatically more awards than it won, Mutiny on the Bounty still holds up pretty well.  Director Frank Lloyd keeps the film moving at a quick pace and perfectly captures not only the misery of the Bounty but the joyful paradise of Tahiti as well.  Lloyd is at his best during the short sequence of scenes that depict Bligh’s efforts to reach safety after being forced off of the Bounty.  During this sequence, the audience is forced to reconsider both Captain Bligh and everything that we’ve seen before.  It introduces an intriguing hint of ambiguity that is not often associated with films released in either the 1930s or today.

Of the three nominated actors, Clark Gable and Charles Laughton both give  performances that remain impressive today.  In the role of Fletcher Christian, Gable is the literal personification of masculinity and virility.  Meanwhile, in the role of Bligh, Laughton is hardly subtle but he is perfectly cast.  If Gable’s performance is epitomized by his charming smile than Laughton’s is epitomized by his constant glower.  Wisely, neither the film nor Laughton ever make Bligh out to be an incompetent captain.  As is shown after the mutiny, the film’s Bligh truly is as capable a navigator and leader as everyone initially believes him to be.  Unlike many cinematic tyrants, Blight’s tyranny is not the result of insecurity.  Instead, Bligh is simply a tyrant because he can be.  Laughton and Gable are both so charismatic and memorable that Franchot Tone suffers by comparison.  However, even Tone’s bland performance works to the film’s advantage.  By being so normal and boring, Roger Byam is established as truly being the sensible middle between Gable’s revolutionary and Laughton’s tyrant.

Mutiny on the Bounty remains an exciting adventure film and it certainly holds up better than some of the other films that were named best picture during the Academy’s early years.  If Argo only wins one Academy Award next Sunday, it’ll be in good company.

The 19th Annual SAG Awards


I’m sick so I ended up sleeping through most of the SAG awards and I missed Argo beating Lincoln for best ensemble. Does this victory mean that Argo is the new front-runner for Best Picture or did the SAG just want to reward a film directed by one of their own? I’m not sure but what I do know for sure is that the Actors’ Branch (made up, of course, by members of the same SAG that embraced Argo) is the biggest voting bloc in the Academy.

Lincoln, by the way, is a pretty good film but it’s also a rather conventional and stately film.  For a lot of people, Argo, which I think is good but not great, connects emotionally in a way that Lincoln doesn’t.

That said, I still think Life of Pi is the best of the all the nominated films and my two favorite films of the year — Anna Karenina and The Cabin In The Woods — weren’t even nominated.

Here are the winners of the 19th Annual SAG Awards.

Winners in Bold

Actor in a Leading Role: Film

  • Bradley Cooper, “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”
  • John Hawkes, “The Sessions”
  • Hugh Jackman, “Les Miserables”
  • Denzel Washington, “Flight”

Actress in a Leading Role: Film

  • Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty”
  • Marion Cotillard, “Rust and Bone”
  • Jennifer Lawrence, “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Helen Mirren, “Hitchcock”
  • Naomi Watts, “Maria”

Actor in a Supporting Role: Film

  • Alan Arkin, “Argo”
  • Javier Bardem, “Skyfall”
  • Robert De Niro, “Silver Linings Playbook”
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman, “The Master”
  • Tommy Lee Jones, “Lincoln”

Actress in a Supporting Role: Film

  • Sally Field, “Lincoln”
  • Anne Hathaway, “Les Miserables”
  • Helen Hunt, “The Sessions”
  • Nicole Kidman, “The Paperboy”
  • Maggie Smith, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

Cast in a Motion Picture

  • “Argo”
  • “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
  • “Les Miserables”
  • “Lincoln”
  • “Silver Linings Playbook”

Actor in a Television Movie

  • Kevin Costner, “Hatfields & McCoys”
  • Woody Harrelson, “Game Change”
  • Ed Harris, “Game Change”
  • Clive Owen, “Hemingway & Gellhorn”
  • Bill Paxton, “Hatfields & McCoys”

Actress in a Television Movie

  • Nicole Kidman, “Hemingway & Gelhorn”
  • Julianne Moore, “Game Change”
  • Charlotte Rampling, “Restless”
  • Sigourney Weaver, “Political Animals”
  • Alfre Woodard, “Steel Magnolias”

Actor in a Drama Series

  • Steve Buscemi, “Boardwalk Empire”
  • Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”
  • Jeff Daniels, “The Newsroom”
  • Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”
  • Damian Lewis, “Homeland”

Actress in a Drama Series

  • Claire Danes, “Homeland”
  • Michelle Dockery, “Downton Abbey”
  • Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Asylum”
  • Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
  • Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey”

Actor in a Comedy Series

    • Alec Baldwin, “30 Rock”
    • Ty Burrell, “Modern Family”
    • Louis C.K., “Louie”
    • Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”
    • Eric Stonestreet, “Modern Family”

Actress in a Comedy Series

    • Edie Falco, “Nurse Jackie”
    • Tina Fey, “30 Rock”
    • Amy Poehler, “Parks and Recreation”
    • Sofia Vergara, “Modern Family”
    • Betty White, “Hot in Cleveland”

Cast in a Drama Series

    • “Boardwalk Empire”
    • “Breaking Bad”
    • “Downton Abbey”
    • “Homeland”
    • “Mad Men”

Cast in a Comedy Series

    • “30 Rock”
    • “The Big Bang Theory”
    • “Glee”
    • “Modern Family”
    • “Nurse Jackie”
    • “The Office”

Stunt Ensemble: Film

    • “The Amazing Spider-Man”
    • “The Bourne Legacy”
    • “The Dark Knight Rises”
    • “Les Miserables”
    • “Skyfall”

Stunt Ensemble: Television

  • “Boardwalk Empire”
  • “Breaking Bad”
  • “Game of Thrones”
  • “Sons of Anarchy”
  • “The Walking Dead”

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night #64: The 70th Annual Golden Globes


Last night, I watched the 70th Annual Golden Globe awards.  Judging from twitter, so did a lot of other people.  All I can say is that I hope my golden globes are as popular as this show when they’re 70 years old.

Why Was I Watching It?

I have to admit that I nearly didn’t watch it because I was in kind of a crappy mood on Sunday night.  Seriously,that night,  my twitter timeline was a testament to just how annoyed this little redheaded Irish girl can get.  But, in the end, I decided that I had to watch the Golden Globes because, even though I don’t care much for rich celebrities, I do love movies, I love TV, and I love award shows.  Add to that, I knew that if I didn’t watch the Golden Globes that would mean missing out on a chance to make countless references to my boobs and I just couldn’t do that to my followers on twitter.

What Was It About?

It was about celebrities getting drunk and winning awards and getting bleeped while delivering their acceptance speeches.  It was about the fact that the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association will do anything to get George Clooney to come hang out with them.  It was about Tommy Lee Jones glaring, Jodie Foster rambling, and Quentin Tarantino using the n-word backstage.  It was about Ben Affleck winning Best Director and Argo beating Lincoln for best film.  It was about star fucking and star mocking.  It was the best of award shows and it was the worst of award shows.  In short, it was the Golden Globes.

What Worked?

To be honest, the 70th annual Golden Globes were a lot of fun.  The show moved quickly and most of the jokes were actually funny.  The assembled stars started drinking early and I think that helped out a lot.

Among those who won Golden Globes, the best acceptance speeches were given by Lena Dunham, Christoph Waltz, Ben Affleck, and Daniel Day-Lewis.  A lot of people were critical of Anne Hathaway’s acceptance speech but I thought it was sweet and genuine.

My favorite winner was Jennifer Lawrence, mostly because she specifically started her speech by mentioning that she had beaten “Meryl.”  Some people on twitter felt that was a bit rude but, quite frankly, I’ve grown tired of Meryl Streep showing up at every awards ceremony looking like grandma in a prom dress.

(Meryl, incidentally, was not at the Golden Globes last night because she had the flu.)

I thought Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig were funny when they did their little introduction for the Best Actress (Comedy/Musical) award but I thought Tommy Lee Jones’ annoyed glare was even funnier.

Tina Fey (who looked great) and Amy Poehler (who did not) were both great hosts and I loved Poelher’s joke about how torturous it must have been for Kathryn Bigelow to be married to James Cameron.  That’s one of the great things about the Golden Globes.  Unlike at the Oscars, people are willing to make jokes about James Cameron.

Unlike a lot of people, I found Jodie Foster’s “coming out” speech to be funny and wonderfully human.  That said, I wasn’t aware that Jodie Foster was ever in the closet.  Seriously, worst kept secret ever.

It was a genuinely exciting and nice moment when Argo was announced as the winner for Best Motion Picture (Drama), defeating the heavily favored Lincoln. While I liked both of those films, there is a definite backlash brewing against the seeming inevitability of Lincoln’s victory.

Finally, Sacha Baron Cohen was pretty annoying but, on the plus side, he did take the time to insult Russell Crowe’s singing.  As anyone who has ever watched South Park knows, this means that Crowe is going to jump in his tug boat and head off on a quest for vengeance.

And that’s the way things should be.

What Did Not Work?

A lot of people on twitter were really excited when Bill Clinton came out on stage to introduce the clip for Lincoln.  Myself, I hit mute as soon as I saw him.  I don’t watch awards shows to see redneck politicians.  Add to that, having Bill Clinton introduce Lincoln was yet another example of the nonstop hype that has led to people resenting both Steven Spielberg and his latest film.

The Golden Globes used to be a fun precursor to the actual Oscar nominations so it was hard not to be disappointed that, under this new schedule, the Golden Globes were awarded after the Oscar nominations had been announced.

“OMG!  Just like me!” Moment

"I'll show you some Golden Globes!"

“I’ll show you some Golden Globes!”

Lessons Learned

None.  I was too stubborn last night to learn any lessons.

Film Review: Argo (dir. by Ben Affleck)


When I made out my list of my 26 favorite films of 2012, Argo came in at number 19,  I think that Argo is a likable, funny, and frequently exciting film.  Not only does it feature some of Ben Affleck’s best work as a director (though I still think Affleck has yet to top Gone, Baby, Gone) but also some of his best work as an actor.  If The Town left my skeptical about Affleck’s film-making talents, Argo made me a believer again.  That said, while I think that Argo is a good film, I don’t think it’s a great film but that opinion definitely places me in both the minority of filmgoers and, since my sister Erin considers Argo to be the best film of 2012, Bowmans as well.

Based on a true story, Argo takes place in 1979.  The Shah of Iran has been overthrown and the American embassy in Tehran is overrun by Islamic militants.  Over 50 Americans are taken hostage but six embassy workers manage to escape and end up hiding in the home of the Canadian ambassador (Victor Garber).  The U.S. State Department has to find a way to get the six of them out of Iran before the militants discover their existence.

It’s up to CIA agent Tony Mendez (played, of course, by Ben Affleck) to come up with a better plan than attempting to smuggle bicycles into Iran.  Mendez’s scheme is to team up with a Hollywood makeup artist (John Goodman) and a B-movie producer (Alan Arkin) and to convince the Iranian government that he and the 6 embassy workers are actually a film crew and that they’re in Iran not on a rescue-and-escape mission but instead to scout locations for a science fiction film called Argo.

Argo, for the most part, works.  As a director, Affleck manages to deftly juggle both comedy and suspense.  The scenes where Arkin and Goodman teach Affleck how to be a Hollywood phony are frequently hilarious, while the scenes in Iran are effectively tense and claustrophobic.  The film is full of little period details that ring true and I’m still shocked that Argo didn’t receive an Oscar nomination for either Best Costume Design or Best Production Design.  The wide lapels on Ben Affleck’s suits may not have been as flamboyant as the costumes in Les Miserables but, like the costumes in Les Mis, the very sight of them not only transported us to a different time but made that time plausible as well.

As you might expect from an actor-turned-director, Affleck gets good performances from his entire cast.  Goodman and Arkin are both sympathetic as recognizable Hollywood types and Bryan Cranston has a few good scenes as a fellow CIA agent.  While the 6 hostages are all pretty much interchangeable, they are still all well-cast and sympathetic.

That said, when I saw the film, it was hard to escape the feeling that the first half of the film (in which the embassy workers hid out at the Ambassador’s house while Affleck, Arkin, and Goodman worked on promoting their fake film) was dramatically more interesting and compelling than the far more conventional second half.  Once Affleck actually reaches Tehran, Argo becomes a rather predictable, if still well-made and exciting, movie.  Perhaps that’s why, as much as I enjoyed Argo, the film didn’t make as much of an impression of me as a film with a more challenging narrative would have.  Ultimately, Argo tells the true story of people in tremendous danger but the film itself feels very safe.

Argo is one of the most acclaimed films of 2012 and it’s been nominated for 7 Oscars, including Best Picture.  To just about everyone’s surprise, Ben Affleck was not nominated for best director.  While I personally would not have nominated either Argo or Affleck, the fact of the matter is that the reason Argo has received so much acclaim is because of Affleck’s work behind the camera.  Argo is such a director’s film that it’s next to impossible to argue that Argo‘s one of the best films of the year without also arguing that Affleck is one of the best directors of the year.  Hence, Affleck’s lack of a nomination does feel like a definite snub.  Even speaking as someone who was not as enthralled with Argo as much as everyone else, I would still have nominated Affleck long before I wasted a nomination on Benh Zeitlin for relying too much on a hand-held camera while filming Beasts of the Southern Wild.

While the Academy may have snubbed Affleck, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association did not.  Earlier this night, Affleck won the Golden Globe for best director and Argo won best picture.  (Though, I have to say, I find myself wondering if my friend Jason Tarwater was right when he suggested that the notorious starfuckers of the HFPA honored Argo mostly because they wanted to hang out with the film’s co-producer, George Clooney.)  Given the fact that it’s been over 20 years since a film won Best Picture without receiving a nomination for Best Director, Affleck and Clooney might just have to be happy with the universal acclaim.

Song of the Day: When the Levee Breaks (by Led Zeppelin)


c16f548f4fbcd77437f8aaa3fb70dfc2Who would’ve thought that Ben Affleck, the same guy who was in one of the most ridiculous romantic scenes ever put on film (hint: animal crackers), would be turning out to be one of the brightest directors these last few years. He hasn’t missed yet with two directing gigs with Gone, Baby Gone and The Town. With Argo he makes it three solid hits in a row.

One thing that really struck me about the film Argo was Affleck’s use of licensed music to cue up particularly important scenes throughout the film. One such musical cue used one of my favorite rock and blues song ever. It’s Led Zeppelin’s cover of the Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy song of the same name. Most young people seem to know this song from it’s constant use to score scenes and sequences about the Katrina disaster, especially scenes of a flooded New Orleans when the levees broke during the hurricane. It was nice to hear the song used in a scene not dealing with the aftermath of Katrina but to highlight the mental situation of the characters in Argo. I won’t say which scene exactly, but for those who have seen the film will know what I mean and the lyrics to the song should become even more weighty once they put two and two together.

I really love this song. From the use of harmonicas by John Paul Jones (and probably another sessions player) to Robert Plant’s emotional wailing right up to one of the best drum work by the great John Bonham. You can almost literally feel those drum sticks drop heavy on those drums. One would almost think Bonham was using tree trunks to play this song.

When the Levee Breaks

If it keeps on rainin’ levee’s goin’ to break
If it keeps on rainin’ levee’s goin’ to break
When The Levee Breaks I’ll have no place to stay.

Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan
Lord, mean old levee taught me to weep and moan
Got what it takes to make a mountain man leave his home
Oh well oh well oh well.

Don’t it make you feel bad
When you’re tryin’ to find your way home
You don’t know which way to go?
If you’re goin’ down South
They go no work to do
If you don’t know about Chicago.

Cryin’ won’t help you prayin’ won’t do you no good
Now cryin’ won’t help you prayin won’t do you no good
When the levee breaks mama you got to move.

All last night sat on the levee and moaned
All last night sat on the levee and moaned
Thinkin bout me baby and my happy home.
Going go n to Chicago
Go n to Chicago
Sorry but I can’t take you.
Going down going down now going down.