The Junk Food of Writing

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A break from monotony.

Since this blog is so evidently cinema-centric, I have decided to focus on two other arts which are vital in my lifestyle and preoccupy most of my time: music and literature. Yes, they fulfill my "Holy Trinity" (move over Jesus, God and Holy Spirit). Even the blog profile structure recognizes that film, music and literature are essential -- it is quite fascinating how much you can discover about a person based upon their tastes and what works they identify themselves through. That, of course, is a strong theme in one of 2005's best: The Squid and the Whale. Oops, I'll shut up about film now (hopefully I can restrain myself).

I read a couple relatively short novels over my week-long spring break.

Post Office is the usual Bukowski -- and that's a compliment; I wouldn't want my Henry Chinaski any other way. Bukowski chronicles his days as a boozer (duh), a lover of multiple vulnerable women, a horse-gambler and an employee of the US Postal Service (where he is far from a poster-boy, of course). His flowing prose, which could mistakenly be labeled as perfunctory (when it is anything but), perfectly mirrors his attitudes and sharply distingues the small moments which reflect a larger picture. Despite the title, I enjoyed the scenes outside of his job (as I'm sure Bukowski did) and the literature really tales off in these moments. Perhaps not as good as the more insightful and "full" Ham on Rye, Post Office is, nonetheless, a quick, unique, depressingly comical and nonchalantly introspective novel.

Also, Henry James' Daisy Miller is a fantastic study on American and European relations (as in identity, conflicts and relationships). An effective American piece masquerading as a British story, this was my second work by James -- and I can most definitely see myself favorably exploring him more in the future.

I've been to a couple shows over the past month.

Animal Collective show: Slightly hit-or-miss and not one of the better shows I have attended this year, but it had a brilliant coda. Plus, I had to deal with an audience that was filled with dirty douchebags in scarves. They tried to start a moshpit at my show. A MOSHPIT at an Animal Collective show? People are silly. Needless to say, the obnoxious adolescents (who smelled like a bar of hotel soap -- grass edition) were terribly irritating. Not a bad time (it was quite fantastic in parts, actually), but I would not be in deep regret for missing it. Also, the fact that I was focusing more on the audience than the stage could be an indicator of how monotonous their act occasionally became. Nonetheless, their exploitation of abstractness in pop music should be appreciated.

Belle and Sebastian/The New Pornographers show: The New Pornographers were, once again, rather mediocre and sloppy (in a non-beneficial way). Despite the absence of Neko Case, however, they actually improved since I last saw them in October (the acoustics are better in this venue than the other one). Carl Newman either needs to put his mouth to the microphone or learn how to sing live. After faltering through the first couple songs, he fortunately improved for the second half of his set. Still, they live up to their name -- similar to pornography, they should be not be seen live because it will expose their falseness. In the studio, however, they're a hit.

Belle and Sebastian, on the other hand, were absolutely fantastic. They have wonderful audience interaction (Murdoch fell off the stage into the audience right in front of me) and put a classy concert-ish spin on all of their songs. They also handed out their complimentary fruit bowl. I got a strawberry. Oh, and they are quite the dancers; Stuart Murdoch dances similar to Molly Ringwald ala "The Breakfast Club" -- not to be confused with her dissimilar dancing moves in "Sixteen Candles" (fuck, I cannot believe this was my first cinema-slip in this entry) -- and Stevie dances like...well, I'm not exactly sure how to classify it. Awesomely odd? Yeah, that will do.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Tsotsi (Hood, 2006)

Star Presley Chweneyagae steps out of the shadows to expose one of his two facial expressions.

Do not be fooled by its foreign title, nearly unpronounceable to the American tongue, Tsotsi (dubious pronunciation key: sot’see) is an accessible film, and will likely find mainstream audiences. Due to its recent Academy Award win for Best Foreign Language Film, and its shocking victory at Toronto (where it picked up the questionably illustrious People’s Choice Award), Tsotsi should entice viewers with a middlebrow sensibility. It is not difficult to discover why it has been universally embraced; it is crowd pleasing due to its sympathetic (if not simplistic) performances, sentimentality, and utter familiarity despite the distant locale. With its conventional narrative paradigm and overly humanized characters, Tsotsi may perhaps be the most affable gangster film in recent memory. No, that’s not a compliment. The film is too preoccupied with being a feel-good film about ruffian-redemption, class conflict, and poverty that it overshadows the brutal, gritty bleakness that remains in the peripheral of the wide-screen camera lens.

Tsotsi focuses directly on one of the hooligans plucked from the urban setting of Johannesburg, South Africa. After a game of dice, where the titular thug incorrectly states that 4 + 5 = 11, and a scene of unmitigated inhumanity, where he knifes a subway passenger for a few dollars with his gang-buddies, the gangsters congregate over a table of drinks at a bar. The music is thumping, the alcohol is trickling down their throats, and one of the gang members states his disgust in Tsotsi’s unapologetic aloofness to murder. Tsotsi, in his red Chuck Taylors (a sure symbol of poverty and edginess), responds to this by violently kicking him to a bloody pulp. The eponymous gangster runs from the bar and reaches an upper-middle class neighborhood. As a BMW, a sign of privilege, pulls into a driveway – Tsotsi carjacks the vehicle and shoots the middle-aged owner upon her resistance. Soon afterwards, the gurgled cooing of a toddler forces Tsotsi to turn around and discover an infant in the backseat.

‘Tsotsi,’ the Zulu word for ‘thug’ is the appellation that the protagonist has adopted. He claims to have no name from birth, immediately setting off bells indicating a boy with an oppressive past and identity problems. Oh, and the flashback within the first 15 minutes should clear up any questions about this character’s past (the flashbacks come fast and heavy-handed). Unsurprisingly, the stranded baby mirrors some of his childhood afflictions and the newborn also triggers a few repressed memories which forces Tsotsi to tear off his mask of anger and reconsider his lifestyle. Fortunately, despite the presence of a baby, the film avoids maudlin antics and cuteness exploitation.

In a recent interview with me, the gregarious Gavin Hood (director and screenwriter of Tsotsi) was comfortably sprawled out on his hotel couch – ready to talk about his film which he refers to as “a mythic, universal tale.” During the discussion he exclaimed: “You never want to bore your audience. I am a storyteller and I like to believe I have a respect for the viewer.” It is evident, however, that he does not trust that the viewer has seen many films before, or that they can form connections within the film without the film explicitly stating how everything adds up. Nevertheless, much to Mr. Hood’s credit – Tsotsi is never tedious or unentertaining, it is simply unsurprising.

Many films recently have overused a single word to make the implicit meaning within the film more obvious; I refer to this as the ‘subtextual key.’ Instead of leaving the audience to comprehend the message without any unnecessary help, the ‘subextual key’ is given to the audience multiple times to open a door which is not even locked. Just as Batman Begins did with “fear” and Munich did with “soul,” Tsotsi has found its ‘subtextual key’ in the adjective “decent.”

Even though the films attempt to accomplish different goals, the comparisons to City of God are inevitable. Essentially, Tsotsi is the humanizing of Lil Ze, the threatening and temperamental villain of Fernando Mierelles’ City of God – yet Tsotsi's main character is fundamentally absent of this daunting menace. Presley Chweneyagae, the baby-faced actor who plays Tsotsi, gives a performance which is affective – yet only contains two faces. In his “menacing” moments, he dons an eye-brow tilting glare, and in the soft scenes, he replaces his mean façade with a puppy-dog simper. In filmmaking respects, Gavin Hood is hardly a Mierelles doppelganger. Instead of capturing the milieu through a hyperkinetic documentary style similar to City of God, Hood tries to achieve a more intimate connection with the characters. His images are pristine, with the grittiness appearing in the frame – not on it. The film is indubitably well-shot, which is unsurprising since Gavin Hood has a background in stills-photography.

Despite fantastic cinematography and a few powerful moments, Tsotsi ultimately fails due to its predictable character arc. Everything is so transparently calculated; nothing is left to the viewer’s imagination and too much is revealed too early. In the closing shot of the film, the protagonist gracefully raises his arms; he is not only surrendering to the cops, but making a symbolic gesture to the purging of his previous violent life. What Tsotsi, the character and the film itself, are unaware of is that they surrendered to the audience long before this final moment.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I dislike the new year.

2006? Psssh -- I prefer writing 5's to 6's.

As for these capsules which date back to the last week in 2005 -- I'm not lazy, I just take my time. Ok, that sentence is a bold-faced lie. Now that I am on Spring Break (yes, it is still winter in case you are wondering), I have a bit of time to scribble some chicken-scratch and hope it is coherent (which I'm sure most of it is not).


The Best of Youth (Giordana, 2005): B+, 7.6/10: [While looking at the six-hour running time in the theater pamphlet, I feared for the health of my ass. Fortunately, I am here to report that my posterior survived with nary a bruise. As a soapy-drama with a grand scope, it justifies its massive running time by being a rather monumental work. The film chronicles the life of two brothers, and sprawls out in the way their lives do. Along the way, it exposes the viewer to progressive, and yet stilted, history. Best of Youth is better at handling a moving plot than complex human emotions. (Oh, and positive points for clever use of art; particularly the moments where Picasso’s Guernica, Andy Warhol’s Mao-Tse Tung, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg slip into the frame/sound.)]

Scenes from a Mall (Mazursky, 1991): D-, 1.4/10: [Yikes, this is quite embarrassing. As if I needed another reason to hate the mall – I have to spend my time there listening to these vacuous characters bray at each other. Shame on you, Woody Allen (and what was with the rat-tailish faux-ponytail hairstyle – oh my!). This is abysmal filmmaking – filled with bi-polar screenwriting and the most obvious contrast and symbols I have seen in a film recently. A shattered family frame, a film about poverty in Bombay and the backdrop of the “joyous” holiday season. This is the type of film which should have had the big word “GOOD” on the DVD cover, as if to make on obvious contrast as to the quality of the filmmaking. There are also annoyingly unfunny and running gags – one in particular involving a mime. It is so refreshing to see Woody look him in the eye and say “Oh, fuck off.” I agree. If this self-righteous film thinks it has an iota of insight into marriage and divorce as “Scenes from a Marriage” (as the title evidently plays off of), then I am flabbergasted.]

Badlands (Malick, 1972): B, 7.1/10 [In most of Badlands’ marvelously framed wide shots, the vast sky occupies most of the space – and that is precisely where the heads of the characters remain throughout the film. The material, however, never justifies the strong themes within the production. The vapid voiceover was an interesting choice to expose the mundane characters, but the filmmaking never transcends the situation which it has set up for itself. Definitely one to rewatch sometime in the future – not because it is strange, but because it is so ordinary.]

Chuck and Buck (Arteta, 2000): B-, 6.1, 10: [This scenario had such potential, and the film occasionally succeeds most in being a creepy character piece about a terminally juvenile introvert. This film is a startling example of how acting can either make (Mike White’s scenes) or break (any second with Chris Weisz) a film’s dramatic momentum. It’s astonishing how much poor acting can destroy a film. Despite her comedic presence (and most of the film’s sardonic humor works), Lupe Ontiveras is kind (and unwelcome) enough to enter the picture and beat the subtext through in a highly inappropriate scene which exposes the director’s mistrust in the audience. My response is the definition of “mixed.”]

Radio Days (Allen, 1987): B, 7.3/10 [A nice bit of tasty nostalgia. Most of the characters, however, don't flourish outside of their introductions, and ultimately remain one or two-dimensional. Nonetheless, Woody nails the thematic last line, once again, Annie Hall-fashion.]

This is Spinal Tap (Reiner, 1984): B+, 8.3/10 [A satirical portrait of a gloriously mediocre momentarily-hair-metal band. Giddily enjoyable and sardonic – it both praises and judges the titular band through their kitschy fads (social commentary on trends poseurs, too!), indulgence, and obliviousness.]

Film Before Film (Nekes, 1986): C-, 3.3/10 [An utterly drab presentation of a potentially interesting topic. Instead of discovering inventive ways to introduce the audience to the pre-cinematic gadgets which contributed to the creation of modern cinema, the film tends to drift aimlessly, without an organized structure (it does not even follow the devices’ chronology). It ostensibly wants to defy the audience’s attention, yet occasionally tries to hook them with cheap flash games. This is an instructional video that dares you to learn anything.]

The New World (Malick, 2005): B+, 7.8/10 [I will not lie; I was excited for this. So excited, in fact, that I tripped up the escalator in the theatre lobby. Then, after I entered the theater itself, I stumbled on the stadium seating steps. Fortunately, Malick did not falter similarly. This is reflective and graceful filmmaking with several dichotomies at work here (most communicated through the – primitive vs. civilized, man vs. nature. At times it is both frustratingly opaque and fascinatingly so. Basically, you catch onto its wavelength, or become drowned in spacey views of landscape. What I found most enthralling was the character arc of Kilcher’s character. Oh, and the last 15 minutes of this film, with its blaring score adding to its hypnotic affect (hello, Wagner!), is paralyzing in its power.]

Metropolis (Lang, 1927): B+, 7.7/10: [Thought-provoking, yet ideologically problematic (it’s misogynous, and the first half advocates the need of benefits for oppressed workers, and second half nearly condones fascism – it goes from socialism to national socialism). Oh, and who is the ‘mediator’? Some upper-class kid who has never had a hard day in his life. The mediator business is also rather heavy-handed. Despite this, however, it is undoubtedly one of the most visually accomplished and appealing films of all time.]

R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet: Transcends ratings: [Transcends thoughts.]

Now I am going to further ignore the Oscars. Goodbye.

Monday, March 06, 2006


My TV now has a lamp in it.

Oh, and
Brokeback Mountain did not lose to Crash because the Academy is homophobic -- it lost because the Academy has poor taste.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

I am not ready for that feeling of dissatisfaction that comes immediately afterwards.

[Caveat: This is strictly an Academy Awards predictions/favorites (if I even HAVE any) article -- my true Oscar rant is two entries below this.]

Before I disclose my 2006 Academy Award predictions and favorites, I must preface with a divulging confession: I unabashedly love the Oscars. If there is one aspect of the Oscars I can always count on, it is the ceremony’s consistency. I, personally, am consistently disappointed with the presentation, the vacuity, and the films they nominate and subsequently award (many of my “favorites” were chosen by default). Sure, I may win a few dollars in a gambling pool, but the sheer predictability and lack of satisfaction with the winners often makes me feel foolish as the closing credits stream across the screen. Yet, oddly, I obsessively watch every year and handicap the nominees up until that moment when each enveloped is exposed. Prior to the telecast, I check the odds on various Oscar sites and see every film nominated (it’s a personal obligation that I have which I cannot elucidate upon now because I don’t even understand it myself).

In regards to the rapidly approaching telecast, I do take comfort in one category over the rest: Best Song. It is not that the songs are particularly strong (in fact, I don’t much like any of them), but there are three music nominees instead of five; therefore, this guarantees that there will be two less musical numbers, which are notoriously tedious, at this year’s ceremony. This is a gift from the Hollywood gods. Oh, and did I mention that “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp,” an anthemic hip-hop ballad with a variety of expletives from Hustle and Flow, is nominated? Yes, this is an amusing category, indeed – it’s unfortunate that Crash may add an Oscar to its tally with this derivative New Age drivel. Without further ado (or digression, hopefully), I will present my favorites and predictions in the 2006 Oscar race. I do so with a bit of trepidation, because I may be having a meal of my words on March 6th.

Predicted winners will be fat with bold print here before their heads become so. If I have a passionate favorite (one I would be most content with taking the prize) I will indicate it with italics (the "favorites" I mention in the blurbs were often by default). If I do not care much about any of the nominees, I will mark the most embarrassing nomination with the dreaded read print. Oh, what the hell, sometimes I will do all three.

Best Picture
"Brokeback Mountain"
"Good Night, and Good Luck."

Brokeback Mountain has it in the saddlebag. Over the past few months, it has trotted off with Best Picture awards from the various guilds and critic’s groups. Some may attempt to persuade otherwise by citing Crash’s victory at the Screen Actor’s Guild, but that was for “Best Ensemble,” in which Crash had twice the amount of cast members. Many delusional journalists are wasting ink by proclaiming a potential Crash upset, but I believe most are stirring this controversy solely to overshadow the inevitability of Brokeback’s win. If every award were this apparent, the gala would be completely devoid of shock (which, unfortunately, will probably be the case). Capote and Good Night, and Good Luck, two probing films which revolve around journalistic ethics, are too clinical and cold for the Academy and Munich is too politically ambivalent. I was not extremely impressed with any nominee, yet Brokeback’s resonating affect haunted my mind longer than any other film in this category.

Best Director
Ang Lee, “Brokeback Mountain”
Bennett Miller, “Capote”
Paul Haggis, “Crash”
George Clooney, “Good Night, and Good Luck."
Steven Spielberg, “Munich”

Despite frontrunner status in 2001 for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Ang Lee lost in an upset to Steven Soderberg (for the terrific Traffic). This year, however, Lee is riding the Brokeback buzz and, with nearly every director’s prize under his cowboy hat, his position is very unlikely to be usurped. Actors-turned-directors are infamous for, in a shocking twist, grabbing this prize from deserving auteurs, but Mr. Clooney has a better chance in his other categories. Spielberg’s showy Munich and Haggis’ manipulative and contrived Crash fortunately have no chance (Haggis might, I suppose, but I am still not willing to accept his nomination as a reality). Personally speaking, the most auspicious presence here is Bennett Miller, directing his first feature film, who meticulously crafted Capote.

Philip Seymour Hoffman - CAPOTE
Terrence Howard - HUSTLE & FLOW
Joaquin Phoenix - WALK THE LINE
David Strathairn - GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK.

I cannot imagine anyone but Philip Seymour Hoffman, who accurately portrays the narcissistic, manipulative and soft-spoken Truman Capote, standing at the podium. After he escalates the stairs and approaches the microphone with his shiny new Oscar, he should simply say “Duh.” It may not be the most classy acceptance speech, but it would be the most honest. David Strathairn’s determined Murrow, Terrence Howard’s pimp-turned-rapper, and Joaquin Phoenix’s Cash-turned-drugged-up-crybaby are all admirable choices but they should start to practice their graceful-loser face now. Heath Ledger’s taciturn cowboy mumbled up quite a bit of buzz earlier in the award season, and he remains the dark horse (and my favorite -- even though this is a fantastic category), but Hoffman has collected nearly every precursor award – therefore, a win for the nuanced Mr. Ledger, or any other nominee in this category, seems quite infeasible.

Felicity Huffman - TRANSAMERICA
Keira Knightley - PRIDE & PREJUDICE
Charlize Theron - NORTH COUNTRY
Reese Witherspoon - WALK THE LINE

Due to the apparent deficiency in strong female performances (which is the consequence of a dearth of strong female characters), this category is anything but solid. Felicity Huffman’s unflattering and overpraised performance in Transamerica is slightly gimmicky, yet not as unworthy as two past Oscar-winners in this category: Judi Dench and Charlize Theron. Judi Dench’s performance is just as tiresome and unsurprising as the film she is trapped within. Charlize Theron’s nomination for the self-righteous North Country must have been received by default – and at previous award shows this year she has looked just as bored as she ought to. The young, charming women are the highlights of this race. Keira Knightly is impressively luminous as the sharp-tongued Elizabeth Bennet in the classic, yet modern and youthful, adaptation of Pride and Prejudice; for sheer surprise at her previously unseen acting abilities, I must admit that I am silently rooting for her respectable performance. Enjoy the gift-bags ladies, because none of this matters -- Reese Witherspoon is a shoo-in. Oh, and I’m sure she’ll accept the award in an expensive gown and million dollar earrings and proclaim how she feels like a “little girl from Tennessee.”

George Clooney - SYRIANA
Matt Dillon - CRASH
Paul Giamatti - CINDERELLA MAN

This should further be referred to as the “pity prize.” Similar to Best Actress, this category is rather pathetic – if possible, it is even more embarrassing. Despite containing the weakest nominees, it is the only award which cannot easily be determined. With the exception of William Hurt, who is a hoot in his scant 10-minute appearance in A History of Violence, the award could be handed to anyone. Matt Dillon and Jake Gyllenhaal benefit from being in the Best Picture contenders, and although many have joked that Jake’s nomination in the supporting category stemmed from his “on-the-bottom” status of the center relationship in Brokeback Mountain, I would still throw my vote in his direction for such a devastatingly poignant performance. Judging by previous awards, it is between Paul Giamatti and George Clooney -- two fine actors being rewarded for mediocre performances in problematic productions. At the moment, the pity prized seems destined to be clutched by the thrice-nominated George Clooney (director, actor, screenwriting); it will give him something else to stroke, giving his ego the break it highly needs.

Amy Adams - JUNEBUG
Catherine Keener - CAPOTE
Frances McDormand - NORTH COUNTRY
Michelle Williams - BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN

Three strong performances, three oppressed wives -- two are neglected, one is suffocated. As much as I respect Frances McDormand and Catherine Keener as thespians (especially the latter, who is one of my favorite contemporary actresses), their screenplays abandon them; McDormand is stuck in clichéd best-friend territory while Keener is a fantastic comic foil, she is ultimately used as a pawn to beat Capote’s subtext through. As for the aforementioned wives of the category, Rachel Weisz as the uber-liberal activist Tessa Quayle is likely to place an Oscar on her mantle next to her new Golden Globe and SAG award. The two young wild cards, Michelle Williams and Amy Adams, respectively graduate from teenybopper trash-TV (Dawson’s Creek) and second-rate cinema (close your eyes and point to a random film in her oeuvre). They are both heartbreaking in their roles, but Adams’ garrulous and pregnant chatterbox is my personal favorite.

Best Original Screenplay
“Crash” Screenplay by Paul Haggis & Bobby Moresco
“Good Night, and Good Luck.” Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov
“Match Point” Written by Woody Allen
“The Squid and the Whale” Written by Noah Baumbach
“Syriana” Written by Stephen Gaghan

This will indubitably win my annual “spit-on-the-television-screen” award. One of my favorite screenplays of the year, the painfully-honest Squid and the Whale, will lose to one of my least favorites, the transparent Crash. As a fanatical Woodyphile, I regret admit my slight disappointment towards the stagy Match Point, but it is basically out of the race anyway. Syriana – no thanks, I prefer my political films to be less discouraging and derivative. If the Academy wants to award Good Night, and Good Luck, this would be an acceptable consolation prize. Crash’s scribble, however, which cannot decide if it wants to be grounded in realism or a fantasyland, seems too far ahead. Only a year after justly rewarding the innovative and brilliantly thematic screenplay of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this once-promising category seems to have become regressive.

The other ones:

Best Adapted Screenplay:
Will: Brokeback Mountain
Should: I abstain

Will: Brokeback Mountain
Should: The New World (besides The Squid and the Whale's screenplay, it is the only nominee that is TRULY the best of the year -- and, guess what, it has absolutely no shot)

Will: The Constant Gardener
Should: The Constant Gardener

Art Direction:
Will: Memoirs of a Geisha
Should: Pride and Prejudice

Costume Design:
Will: Memoirs of a Geisha
Should: Pride and Prejudice

Original Score:
Will: Brokeback Mountain
Should: Pride and Prejudice (although I would be fine with Brokeback Mountain)

Original Song (if you have not read the second paragraph of the introduction, go do that now)

Will: Narnia
Should: Star Wars?

Will: Walk the Line
Should: War of the Worlds

Sound Editing:
Will: War of the Worlds (I think this one is the loudest)
Should: War of the Worlds

Animated Feature:
Will: Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Should: Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (note: I have not seen Howl's Moving Castle)

Foreign Language:
Will: Paradise Now
Should: I have only seen Tsotsi, and it's not very good. Personally, I don't care to see any others (
all of which look bait-y and heavy-handed -- right up the foreign committee's alley, of course).

Will: March of the Penguins
Should: Muderball (note: I really wish I had seen Darwin's Nightmare...and had not seen March of the anthropomorphised Penguins)

Short Documentary:
Will: God Sleeps in Rwanda (shouldn't that be: "God Slept Through the Terrible Horrors in Rwanda)
Should: ::shrug::

Animated Short:
Will: The Moon and the Son
Should: ::same shrug::

Fictional Short:
Will: Cashback
Should: Ouch, my shoulds hurt from shrugging

What bothers me most about this year is that I do not have any "hopeful" favorites -- it's damn near apathy all the way through (oh, and that Brokeback's strongest point is its heartbreaking performances -- yet they seem to be the only aspect of the film to be consistently overlook for almost every award). Off the top of my head, I cannot name more than one or two nominees I would actually be elated to see at the podium. How fucking depressing/boring is that. Even hope has ceased. Life has no meaning.

As you may have noticed, I went with nearly every favorite. I truly, madly, deeply dream that I am wrong on most. Remember -- pessimists are never disappointed. Oscar fanatics, however, often are.

"Independent" -- with quotes.

That was pathetic (the awards, not the show -- I love me some dirty indie kings and queens). So much for independent spirit.

Transamerica winning Best First Screenplay over Me and You and Everyone We Know is downright REPREHENSIBLE. The voters must have misunderstood the category -- it is not supposed to be awarded to the faux-indie-screenplay which flaunts itself as being INDEPENDENT (as I noted in the former entry concerning Transamerica) and following every INDENDENT CONVENTION (and Hollywood screenwriting device) to a fuckin' homosexual T, but a unique screenplay with true personality and indepedent spirit.

The Squid and the Whale and Me and You and Everyone We Know, two of my top five of 2005 (what can I say? I like unwieldy titles), were both showered with deserved nominations and completely shut out of every award they should have won. That's simply disgusting (and, to make matters worse, Hackgis and Duncan Tucker won instead).

Oscar bitching to be posted in a moment. I simply needed to vent my frustration with these awards. I wish they would choose the winner on nomination night -- because then the various members would not be persuaded by EVERY OTHER AWARD SHOW. They always just pick whatever has the best chance at the Oscars (the only time they vote with their ostesibly "independent" minds is when none of the nominees are up for an Oscar. Oh wait, I forgot -- Transamerica won that award. Eww).

That's how the awards are at the ISAs, though -- I don't know why I try to convince myself otherwise. This hurt -- really badly. I know the Oscars won't make me feel this pain because I have a general indifference to the majority of nominees (and the only ones I am passionate about have no chance -- unless Adams pulls an upset).

Believe it or not, I started to feel physically ill after the show -- and I still have a headache three hours later. So awards shows ARE literally bad for my health.

Friday, March 03, 2006

An Inevitable Oscar Rant.

This year the Oscars are political. That is the lead you will read in nearly every Oscar article this season. To every journalist who typed that short sentence, I have one thing to say: “No fucking shit, Sherlock.” The Oscars have always been political -- it is just on the surface this year. As you probably have heard, there is apparently a gay agenda (or, as I once heard it referred to as: a "conspiracy"). Yes, two of the most acclaimed films of the year were headlined by gay characters, Brokeback Mountain and Capote – and a Best Actress nominee for Transamerica played a transgender individual. Capote, however, is a moot point, because the film does its best to avoid homosexuality. In fact, the filmmakers of Capote must have broken their nails, because there is constant surface-scratching without any breakthrough (every homosexual reference is a “wait…is he, you know?” innuendo).

Transamerica wastes two hours of the audience’s time to force the hackneyed presentation of simple themes (such as tolerance and parenting) down their throats. The self-righteous production screams, in capital letters, “I am an INDEPENDENT movie, pay attention to me and give me more credit than I deserve”; this, of course, is ironic due to the overall conventionality and lazy Hollywood-inspired screenwriting devices it utilizes. Oh, it is also awkwardly comical and the last thirty minutes are Meet-the-Parents-kitschy. As Ali astutely observed, Felicity Huffman portrayed her character as if she was from another planet. I found this remark both humorous and absolutely correct because throughout the film (particularly when the audience first meets the character) she seemed to be channeling Vincent D’onofrio’s uncomfortable-alien-in-human’s-epidermis Edgar. The similarities are downright eerie and I must abruptly stop before I begin to become creeped out. Brokeback Mountain, however, is undoubtedly about homosexuality or, more aptly, forbidden love and repression.

The most egregious error of the Academy this year is not the extreme focus on homosexuality (the “look how accepting we are” shtick is so overblown), but the fact that the obvious, ham-fisted shenanigans of Crash slipped in as the ostensible runner-up. While I am glad that the film has sparked debate among the mainstream public, I cannot condone such preachy and manipulative filmmaking. The Oscar agenda isn’t particularly gay – it’s more about white man’s guilt than anything. I wonder if they could have gotten away with such a blatant “white man’s guilt” nomination if it wasn’t completely overshadowed by the homophobic cries of a small, but loud, margin of America.

Just a sidenote: My Microsoft Word spell check doesn’t even recognize the word “Brokeback” – but this film, whether you like it or not, is huge. I’m sure the next edition of Microsoft Word will not have that annoying red squiggle under it. It also did not recognize Paul Hackgis -- but I am sure people will be aware of this punny name when they come to their senses.

Stay tuned -- I'll post my large Oscar article tomorrow (and catch up on film reviews, since I will be on spring break...even though it is still very much the winter).