Monthly Archives: February 2013

I am the Oscar Master!!!

Greetings faithful minions. Tis I, the Oscar Master. I had a 75% accuracy rating this go-round. Also, I am soooo tired. The Oscar telecast didn’t end until midnight. I wasn’t able to get to sleep until 1am, and then I had to get up at 6. But you don’t care about my lack of sleep or the amount of concealer I had to use this morning, do you? No, because I know you are still in awe of my bright and shiny “Oscar Master” status. Needless to say, I won this year’s wager with my friend, Crint. There were seven categories where we differed, and I swept the lot of them.

Sometime late in the evening, after I had sealed the deal on my win, Crint sent me a text asking if I was going to refer to him as Crint the Loser in my blog post. Of course not! He is a very worthy opponent. First of all, he had seen all the movies; I had not. Second, he’s up on his awards show know-how. Okay, fine. I’ll use it just the one time a little later in the post.

Enough happy dancing and gloating. Okay, fine. I’ll do a last one of these and then I’m done.

As for the ceremony, I thought Seth MacFarlane did a fine job. It’s a tough gig. I thought the stint at the beginning where he and William Shatner (as Captain Kirk) tried to alter time to avoid a bad review was pretty funny albeit a little long. The  Flying Nun bit was a hoot.

It seemed that the theme of the evening might have been a salute to the movie musical. There were song and dance numbers all through the telecast. If we had chopped them down, we might have saved 45 minutes or so. If MacFarlane wasn’t singing about boobs (and it was funny!), then it was a long section starting with a performance of the entire “All that Jazz” from Chicago (meh) followed by Jennifer Hudson singing all of “And I am Telling You…” from Dreamgirls. Then the cast of Les Miserables came onstage to sing One Day More. It was all good, but again, long. Then later in the show, after the memorial section, Barbara Streisand crooned “The Way We Were.” Good grief!

There was one musical performance, however, that was totally worth it. As a salute to 50 years of James Bond, Shirley Bassey belted out “Goldfinger” and just wowed everyone.

I had one award grievance. I felt the Best Song nominees who weren’t named Adele were given the crap end of the stick last night.  During the Les Mis portion of a musical number, Hugh Jackman started in on the opening bars of “Suddenly.”  A little while later in the show Adele had an entire showcase for “Skyfall” complete with on-stage orchestra and backup chorus. Then later on, Norah Jones stood solo on the stage, and was able to sing a little bit of “Everybody Needs a Best Friend” from Ted. What about the songs from Life of Pi and Chasing Ice? They played snippets of those via film clips right before the award was handed out. I don’t know. Maybe it’s cause I’m not an Adele fan, but it didn’t feel like equal screen time.  Whatever, I’m the Oscar Master! I got 18 of 24 right! If only my fortune-telling skills worked for useful things like the lottery or investment options. Oh well.

My favorite things from last night:

  • Jennifer Lawrence’s classy recovery from falling over as she made her way to the stage to receive her Oscar.
  • Daniel Day-Lewis’ funny speech about swapping roles with Meryl Streep (he to play Margaret Thatcher and she to play Lincoln).
  • The Von Trapp Family Singers bit (probably tasteless, but I laughed)
  • Beards. Almost every man in the Dolby Theatre was sporting a beard. Not everyone rocked the facial fuzz. George Clooney, while a very dashing man 99% of the time, looked to me like he was about 20 lbs away from playing the role of George Lucas in some biopic. Hugh Jackman and Chris Pine, on the other hand…Hello Nurse!
  • Ben Affleck’s heartfelt speech when Argo won for Best Picture. Way to go, Ben!

Questions from Last Night

  • Why were there so many beards?
  • What happened to Kristen Stewart? At one point in the ceremony, she and Daniel Radcliffe were onstage together. Not only did she limp her way out to the mic, but then she seemed to impatiently (or maybe nervously) tap her foot the whole time. Also, she looked as if she had been rolling around on the floor prior to heading onstage. Maybe there was a celebrity wrestling ring back there or something.
  • Did George Clooney actually (a) open and if so (b) drink the mini-bottle of Jack Daniels that MacFarlane tossed his way?
  • Why was the awards show orchestra playing in a studio down the street instead of at the Dolby?
  • Bonus: Did everyone notice Hugh Jackman start towards the stage to assist Jennifer Lawrence when she fell? He’s just so wonderful.

So that’s that, kids. Oscar Master for now, and then I get to defend my title in 2014. As winner of this year’s wager, I not only get the groovy title, but I also get treated to the movie of my choice by Crint the Loser (It is a catchy nickname, isn’t it?). I’m debating between Jack the Giant Slayer and Oz the Great and Powerful. Thoughts?

BTW, I have recapped the winners below in case you are interested.

Best Picture:  Argo 

Best Director: Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Best Actor in Leading Role: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

Supporting Actor:  Christoph Waltz for Django Unchained

Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables

Cinematography: Life of Pi

Animated Feature Film:  Brave

Foreign Language Film: Amour

Film Editing: Argo

Adapted Screenplay: Argo

Original Screenplay: Django Unchained

Original Score: Life of Pi

Documentary (Feature): Searching for Sugar Man

Documentary (Short):  Inocente

Visual Effects: Life of Pi

Short Film (Animated): Paperman

Short Film (Live Action): Curfew

Production Design:  Lincoln

Costume Design: Anna Karenina

Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty

Sound Mixing: Les Miserables

Make-up:  Les Miserables

Original Song: “Skyfall” (Skyfall)

And the Winner Could Be…

Here we go. Oscar time! As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a wager going with a buddy of mine as to who can best predict the winners. Once again, here are the rules:

We each pick a potential winner for each of the categories. We compare our ballots. Any categories of which we pick the same movie get highlighted in yellow. Otherwise, all his picks are in blue and mine in pink. Each predicted win awards 1 point. At the end of the program, the person with the most points gets bragging rights for a year and also gets treated to the movie of his/her choice as paid for by the loser

We used to do a tie-breaker question. Last year it was how long to the minute the ceremony would last. The closest answer won. This year, we decided that since we’ve both one once already, that we would ignore a tiebreaker and just admit that we are both experts in our fields and see a movie together to celebrate. It’s a warm fuzzy all around.

So that said, we take this thing semi-seriously. My opponent, Crint, makes every effort to see each of the nominated films. While I usually see most of them, I don’t go out of my way to see them all. However, I do my research. I watch trailers and read reviews. I pay attention to buzz and the political climate of awards season. I compare and contrast the nominees. I check them against whether they’ve ever been nominated or won before. In a lot of cases, I can rule out a nominee by realizing that the nomination was the award all along.  I also pay attention to which categories some films are in. Sometimes you can zero in on a potential winner or rule out a nominee that way.

I try to stay away from other Oscar predictions, but it’s really difficult to do. When I do run across them, I do the honest cheater’s thing and check to see if my picks are in agreement. However, I usually stick to my gut. This has worked both for and against me. Really, it’s just a guessing game. It’s like being skilled at playing “which hand.” It’s silly really, but I enjoy the competition.

Picking this year’s potential winners has been really difficult. Unlike last year with The Artist and The King’s Speech the year before, this year has no front-runner. If you asked me back in December, I would have told you it was Lincoln but things have since changed. I think this year we get a mixed bag of winners.  In some ways, that’s a good thing. While there’s no projected sweep of the categories, it’s nice that many different films have a good chance to be in the limelight on Sunday. I kind of like it.

Okay, enough stalling. Here are my picks:

Best Picture:  Argo  I think this is the movie to beat. It’s crazy suspenseful, it had drama, it has comedy, it’s based on true events, and Hollywood plays a major part.  I think Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook are potential winners, but in my opinion, they are in a distant second and third.

Best Director: Stephen Spielberg for Lincoln

Best Actor in Leading Role: Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook

Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones for Lincoln

Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway for Les Miserables

Cinematography: Life of Pi

Animated Feature Film: Wreck-It Ralph

Foreign Language Film: Amour

Film Editing: Argo

Adapted Screenplay: Argo

Original Screenplay: Django Unchained

Original Score: Life of Pi

Documentary (Feature): Searching for Sugar Man

Documentary (Short): Open Heart

Visual Effects: Life of Pi

Short Film (Animated): Paperman

Short Film (Live Action): Curfew

Production Design: Anna Karenina

Costume Design: Anna Karenina

Sound Editing: Zero Dark Thirty

Sound Mixing: Les Miserables

Make-up: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Original Song: “Skyfall” (Skyfall)

Crint and I only differ on seven categories which is nice. Last year, I think we agreed on all categories but two. So this year should definitely be fun. He’s clearly wrong on some of his choices, but what can you do? Ha ha.

So those are my predictions for Sunday night. I’ll report back Monday to see how well or horrible I did at playing Miss Cleo. I’ll also let you know who won the wager. I can tell you are on the edge of your seat about that one.

Everyone have a good weekend!

 

 

 

 

Here Be Dragons

Kids, back in the day I watched a movie so strange and dumb and interesting and stupid that it inspired this very blog. It arrived one warmish day in May, and I put it in the dvd player. With a title like Dragon Wars I knew there would at least be a) dragons and b) possibly dragons at war with themselves, others, everyone, etc. It couldn’t be all bad, could it?

And now at long last, I have revisited this movie. So here we are again, and I feel the time is right to review this one for you.  Enjoy.

You know a movie is gonna be one of “those” when the opening scene involves police hauling a man away while he shouts “the beast has risen!” You just know. While that happens, our hero emerges into the shot. Ethan Kendrick is a popular local news guy newly arrived on the scene of some horrible disaster. The problem is that it’s hard to tell what happened exactly. All I see is sand and some tarp. It looks more like a construction scene on a beach or something.

Anyways, now seems as good a time as any for Ethan to go into flashback mode. It all has something to do with the strange amulet he wears around his neck. Travel back in time with me, won’t you?

When Ethan was a little boy, he went with his dad to Jack’s Antiques. Young Ethan stumbles across a trunk that suddenly opens and starts to glow. Ah ha! Jack fakes a heart condition and convinces Ethan’s dad to go to the nearest pharmacy to pick up some meds for him. So…..that would leave the kid alone with the strange man. Whatever.

It was all a ruse. Once the dad is out the door, Jack turns to Ethan and says “finally, I’ve found you.” Now, any kid nowadays would high-tail it out of there. But this kid just says “the light from the box, sir?” Jack explains that Ethan saw was the scale of the Imoogi and the light was from Heaven.

Right, let’s nutshell. Imoogi are from Koran legend. They are sort of like dragons. Every 500 years an Imoogi was rewarded for good deed doing and gained the chance to level up and become a Celestial dragon. It would need, however, the gift of the Yuh Yi Joo.

The YYJ allows the Imoogi to turn into a dragon. But again, the YYJ only shows up every 500 years. Enter Buraki the evil serpent who wanted the YYJ. In 1507 Korea, Heaven sent a young boy named Haram and his master Bochun to protect the YYJ at all costs.  Ethan asks Jack what on earth he’s talking about, and I’m thinking the same thing too. This is already a convoluted tale to tell a kid and an audience and expect us to still follow. Too many names. And this is a giant nutshell.

Basically, a baby girl is born bearing the mark of a red dragon on her shoulder. Congrats!. She’s the YYJ. When she’s 20, she’ll be sacrificed so the Imoogi level up. Sounds like a bum deal for the YYJ, but what can you do? Bochun takes the baby girl from her parents so he can raise her and protect her for that one big event in life. Her name is Narin.  Haram and Narin grow up together and fall in love. Of course they do.

Are you confused yet? It’s annoying, but I have to tell you all this info because 1) it’s important, and 2) why should I be the only one to deal with it?

Anyhoo, all is wonderful in the land of young love and Good Imoogis. However, Narin turns 20 and the evil Buraki starts terrorizing villages looking for Narin so his Evil Imoogi can use the YYJ power for unlimited evilness.

Bochun gives Haram an amulet that will protect him from danger. He also instructs Haram to deliver Narin to the Good Imoogi. That’s all he has to do. Does he do it? No. He and his woman attempt to flee and end up falling to their deaths from a cliff whilst being pursued by the Evil Imoogi.

The Jack says, “I know it’s hard to believe all that, but you know what’s harder to believe?” And I’m thinking it doesn’t matter cause this kid obviously believes everything you tell him.

Jack tells Ethan that he is Bochun and that Ethan was in his first life, Haram. This is his second chance to protect the YYJ. It’s his destiny. He must find a girl named Sarah. She’ll have a mark on her shoulder and she must be taken to the Grand Cave by the day she’s 20. And that’s all the clues Ethan is given. Good thing he grows up to be an intrepid reporter.

Thus endeth the twenty-minute (!!!) flashback. That’s a lot to throw onto your audience, methinks.  So now that we are all caught up on Ethan’s memories, he starts his search for the mysterious Sarah so they can save the world.

Ethan all but abandon’s his job and with his loyal cameraman Bruce (played by Craig Robinson of Hot Tub Time Machine fame), he searches for Sarah. Meanwhile, Sarah (a pretty blonde played by Amanda Brooks) is kicking in as the YYJ. She has crazy dragon dreams. She goes into trance like states and writes in Korean calligraphy. She also has what I think might be a panic attack only it just looks like she’s got bad cramps. She calls 911. For cramps? Maybe it was a panic attack after all.

And somewhere while Sarah is in the hospital and Ethan is looking for her in the hospital, the movie comes back online for me. It got kind of dull with the “what’s wrong with me?” and “how do we find her” stuff. You know she’ll figure it out and he’ll find her. So let’s get this thing moving along!

If you look at the movie from a certain angle, Dragon Wars is a lot like Terminator. Sarah is Sarah Connor. Ethan would be a hipster Kyle Reese. The Evil Imoogi would totally be Arnold. Where does the Imoogi go to first looking for Sarah? Her house. Who gets killed? The roommate and her boyfriend. Just like in The Terminator.

Ethan finds Sarah and does a whole “come with me if you want to live” spiel, and off they go. What we have next is a rather lengthy sequence of Evil Imoogi destroying everything in its path to find Sarah. And I mean everything. They try to outrun it. They try to outdrive it. Not happening. And if they manage to get away from the Imoogi, there’s the Imoogi’s henchman come back from the afterlife.

While they run for their lives in whatever transportation is available, Ethan and Sarah manager to fall in love. Just like in The Terminator.

Meanwhile, the Feds are also searching for Sarah. They found the Korean legend and for some reason know she’s the key to the whole thing. So let’s see now. Giant dragon serpent thing is chasing them. Evil henchman is chasing them. Feds are chasing them. Not good.

I have got to tell you. Most of the rest of the movie is one action sequence after another with armies clashing, Imoogi destroying, Hulk smashing… (just checking to see you are paying attention). Also, to make things more fun, evil henchman’s evil army of Middle Earth creatures suddenly invade the city. So if you are having a hard time picturing this, use Power Rangers, Middle Earth battle creatures, a huge dragony serpent, and then visualize the usual Michael Bay / Roland Emerich movie magic destructiveness. You get the picture. Crazy, but it looks really good and kept me interested in the movie.

There is one image in particular that’s stayed with me. At one point in the melee, Ethan, Sarah and Bruce are all trying to make it to the helicopter at the top of the news building. The Imoogi has slithered up the building like a snake. Its long body is wrapped all around the tall building, and it’s quietly making its way up. It was a really groovy visual.

And just when you think they’ll find a way to fully escape or maybe defeat the Imoogi…..the film switches gears and we find ourselves at the Grand Cave for the grand finale.

I’ll stop there. I’ve skipped over a lot, but the cool points and crazy have all been brought to light.  Dragon Wars, I think, would work really well as a video game. I’m being serious. Some of the music and dialog felt very Final Fantasy to me, and I could so see this as either an RPG or better yet maybe an action/adventure 3rd-person shooter type game. Think about it. You could play as both Ethan and Haram in two parallel adventures. You could do all your initial tutorial levels in the “500 years ago” section. Then, once the game goes into present day, it’s dragon’s ahoy! But that’s the game.

As a movie Dragon Wars is silly, but with enough action to keep me paying attention. The dragons/Imoogis look really good and I was kind of creeped out by them. I’ll probably revisit it waaay down the road. After all, it’s crazy “quick! Learn these volumes of back story in the next 10 minutes” plot made me sit up and take notice. No one else I knew had seen or even heard of this movie. But now you have.

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Next week, I’ll return with my Oscar picks. This year it has been really difficult making predictions. I’ve changed my ballot around countless times. My deadline for final picks is Friday, so I’ll try to have my picks up by that night or early Saturday. 

Fractured Fairy Tales (Part Deux)

I found another! This morning a delightful 1987 Cannon Group adaptation of The Emperor’s New Clothes was on my local television channel. And like all the other movies in this grouping, this was sing-songy too. One number of note was the jaunty “The Clothes Make the Man.”

Yet again, we get another strange yet impressive cast. Robert Morse (How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) is the tailor who is really more of a con man. Sid Caesar is the Emperor. Clive Revill is his bumbling Prime Minister (he was also the king in The Frog Prince).

The set up for the story is that the Emperor has invited tailors from all over to design his clothes for the princess’s forthcoming wedding.  Sensing an opportunity, the tailor comes up with a scheme. His nephew, Nicolas is a reluctant partner in all this. He admits he loves a good con, but he has reservations about the illegal part. Ha! Meanwhile, the princess doesn’t want to get married.

Yeah, yeah. Not the same story we all know, but in its basic outline, yes.  So anyways, of the fairy tale adaptations I’ve seen so far from the Cannon folks, this one isn’t that great. Morse kind of overdoes it. He practically winks at the audience whenever he’s up to no good. Caesar, however, is fun but he’s pretty much playing himself.

Maybe I’m biased because I’ve never really been a fan of The Emperor’s New Clothes. It always seemed like a silly story to me. I don’t suggest this one, but it’s nice to know I can cross another off my list. Onwards to the next fairy tale!!!

PS: One can always enjoy The Emperor’s New Groove.