And the Oscar goes to…

Posted in FILM, Television with tags , , , , , , , on February 27, 2017 by dcairns

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For a moment there I was feeling a good deal of sympathy for Warren Beatty. As he said, he was handed the wrong envelope. Finding a card saying “Emma Stone, LA LA LAND” he was understandably nonplussed. Had he looked at the ENVELOPE, it would have been clear what had happened, but in the heat of the moment, it’s understandable that he froze and didn’t think to do that.

Except that won’t quite do, because the card doesn’t just say “Emma Stone, LA LA LAND” it also says “Best Actress” or “Best Actress in a Leading Role” or something. Which means it might as well have said “This is the Wrong Card.” Which would be a surprising thing to read, but not actually a confusing one. You might be thrown by it, but you wouldn’t hand the card over to Faye Dunaway to read out.

I don’t blame Faye, who must have thought Warren had lost it, taking so long to read the damn card. So that when she got a look at it, she thought time was of the essence and blurted out the name of the film printed there.

The same thing ALMOST happened in 1985.

Larry Olivier was given the job of presenting. He omitted to read the nominees’ names. Which caused a couple of the organizers a moment of panic — did Olivier read the name of the winner or did he just read the first name, alphabetically, on the list of nominees.

The organizers rushed up to him afterwards and asked him this. “I have absolutely no idea,” Sir Larry blinked. There was then, as I recall, some kind of CAR CHASE to find the only person who actually knew what was supposed to be in the envelope. It turned out that, by luck or good judgement, the right film won. And I think, actually, the best film of those nominated, which God knows is unusual enough

And then some naked men with swords come in

Posted in FILM with tags , , on February 27, 2017 by dcairns

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I’m live-blogging the Oscars in the company of Fiona and our friends Nicola & Donald.

If one imagines the scene — a glittering Hollywood event attended by the top people in the film industry, and then imagines a bunch of naked men with swords entering the room — then a happy outcome — the naked men slaughtering the Hollywood honchos — seems perfectly possible. But because we live in a dystopia, I’m afraid what’s going to happen is that the golden men will be distributed as gifts to the movie movers and shakers.

This year I think I have seen two of the nominated films, plus a couple of little bits. My disengagement with contemporary cinema is almost complete! Although I have seen a few other new films that haven’t been nominated for anything. The Oscars are not so white this year, which is to say the nominated films and performers are even less typical of what is actually made in modern American cinema than usual. The two films I saw are HIDDEN FIGURES and ARRIVAL — black women fire white men into space, black aliens come from space, talk to white woman — which were good enough to make me feel I should’ve seen more. Bit I just didn’t. Too busy catching up with Esther Williams and Red Skelton.

There will be frocks. There will be speeches. I will follow the standard procedure of being rude about people’s clothing, despite being the world’s sloppiest dresser myself (and the world’s sloppiest eater — the two are very much connected). My rudeness level on speeches will depend on their content. The intros are always appalling, of course. Anti-Trump speeches have to be welcomed with the world being as it is (“with grim death gargling up at you from every sidewalk”) but this event is such a safe space, even with live TV coverage, that there doesn’t seem much courage involved. On the other hand, a pro-Trump speech wouldn’t take much courage either since anybody giving such a speech would have to be completely divorced from reality.

OK, as this evening lengthens, so will this post. Keep checking in.

Now read on…

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RED CARPET BOMBING

So, we’re watching the Sky Cinema coverage — they have a bunch of pundits on a couch to talk during the US commercial breaks. We’ll be talking over them. We have a TV comedy actor, two film critics and a woman who does the sums on a quiz show.

We might also switch to the repulsive E! just to see what that’s like — red carpet coverage might be superior, or inferior, or different.

Shot of Damien Chazelle. “He’s twelve!” complains Fiona.

A lot of mean remarks I won’t report about dresses and hair, but a chorus of approval for Kirsten Dunst’s black dress. And Taraji P. Henson’s black dress. “She’s magnificently booby,” says Fiona.

Jessica Biel’s come as an Oscar. Octavia Spencer announces that she’s wearing comfy shoes, which gets a cheer from the women in this room. Nobody knows what to think about David Oyelowo’s white tuxedo jacket. Well, we do — we don’t like it, but none of us can think of a specific reason. Probably he should get points for not doing the safe thing, though.

Adrien Brody just turned up in a car commercial.

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Janelle Monae is wearing schrapnel, but looks good, I think. Dakota Johnson is also dressed as an Oscar. Spectacularly awkward E! interview. The room denounces her hair and frock.

“What is it with the low-slung breasts?” demands Fiona, remarking on a tendency she’s spotted. “They’re wearing them that way this year,” I explain.

Dylan Matthew, film critic, just got here. Now we’ll see some action!

Halle Berry with afro. The dress is admired. “She’s rocking the crazy cat woman look,” says Nicola, re the hair.

Dylan just did an expressive mime illustrating what his face did at the end of LA LA LAND. I told you we’d see some action. Sky shows a clip and Fiona points out that Ryan Gosling is wearing c0-respondent shoes. The E! fashion pundits analyse his suit. “All that drama coming through his shirt.” I yell “Eat your cereal!” at him in tribute to my former student, the late Ryan McHenry.

“Does anyone else find that the trailer for FENCES makes them not want to see it?” asks Dylan. I take a look at it. I don’t mind it. I think what makes me not want to see it is it was made after 1977.

Viola Davis’ dress is much admired.

Okay, I think it’s starting… we have a bottle of Prosecco to open.

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A SILVER TONGUE IS MORE VALUABLE THAN A GOLDEN SWORD

Donald pops the cork. “Remember, it should come out like a nun’s fart,” says Nicola. Donald does it beautifully — very nun-farty indeed.

Timberlake! Actually, quite a pleasant start. Don’t recall this kind of an opening — singer passing through the audience. Then VERY good reaction from Justin to JImmy Kimmel’s first put-down. Though I hope that Kimmel isn’t going to do the whole Ricky Gervaise insult comedian thing.

First celebrity AAARGH of the evening goes to Mel Gibson, who is a very odd colour with very odd face-lines. He’s roughly the hue of Ben Grimm, the Thing. (“The very rich are no longer remotely human” wrote William Gibson, truly a profit of the future.)

I’m quite liking Kimmel. Because he’s deadpan, he doesn’t come across as gloating and he can say mean things without seeming remotely mean.

Alicia Ex Machina has a very shiny face. Didn’t see any of the Best Supporting Actor films. But I know the director of HELL OR HIGH WATER so I’ll root for Jeff Bridges. But they might give it to Michael Shannon, out of fear…

Mahershala Ali! Well, I’m happy about that — didn’t see the film, but he’s good in HIDDEN FIGURES. And he seems lovely.

“Have you got anything you desperately want to win?” asks Dylan, getting into the spirit. None of us do, failing to get into the spirit. HIDDEN FIGURES is suggested, which we all liked, but since we have seen almost nothing else we couldn’t swear that all the other films aren’t better.

Make-up. Only three nominees. SUICIDE SQUAD wins. Man with VERY yellow glasses talks very very fast in Italian accent, and another guy who looks like a silver-haired lion.

Costume — we like Colleen Atwood, so we’re happy. Despite the fact that she always wins, she apparently didn’t prepare anything. Rookie mistake, Colleen!

Rolex ad. Several of us get confused and think it’s the In Memoriam bit. “Charles Bronson? No!”

98-year old Katherine Johnson is wheeled on. “I’m going to look that good when I’m 68,” says Dylan. Segue to Best Documentary which goes to OJ: MADE IN AMERICA. Which is seven hours long. Is it actually a film?

The Rock. Affable. A song. The girl from Moana. “Only sixteen?” protests Nicola. “The grow up fast nowadays” says Fiona. Midway through, one of the big spinning petals hits the poor kid. But she keeps going. “She’s got that awful combination,” says Dylan, “of a beautiful voice and a beautiful face.”

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“She’s dead… wrapped in plastic…”

OSCARS NOT SO WHITE

Dylan pops out for a cigarette and Jimmy Kimmel starts parachuting confectionary onto the assembled guests. You missed the best bit, Dylan!

ARRIVAL wins something! Sound editing, or mixing or something. French guy pronounces “Amy Adams” in a charming way. It was very good sound. HACKSAW RIDGE gets mixing, which is the guy who’s been nominated 21 times and never won. He seems happy! The other two winners don’t get to say anything, but they must have suspected that would be the case.

Mel seems even crazier than before.

Now we’re promised that Sting is going to perform. “There’s no need for Sting,” protests Donald.

We protest that the lifetime achievement awards are dealt with at a separate event. They would have been a highlight.

But I’m quite digging the clips of Oscars past — lots of unexpected people turning up. Lee Grant! You never hear about Lee Grant.

Amused by the fact that two of the Best Supporting Actress clips feature swearing that has to be muted out, with the women’s lips going out of focus. Very intense acceptance speech from Viola Davis. Very, um, dramatic. Very FAKE, in other words. She’s much better in the movies.

God, this is going on for ages. Not the ceremony, this speech. I think the trouble is, if you start at that fervid emotional pitch, you have nowhere to go but complete meltdown.

Charlize Theron namechecks THE APARTMENT which, along with Billy Wilder, must be the most mentioned-at-Oscars bit of film history. I approve!

Asghar Farhadi wins Best Foreign Film. And a proper bit of politics in the speech he sent. And the group is played off with “Hooked on a Feeling.”

Sting! And the air rushes out of the room. I ask Dylan why he hasn’t gone for a smoke. I may START smoking. But Sting is commendably short. And then the orchestra strikes up “Take My Breath Away,” and a Rolex commercial begins. Bill Paxton is in it, which must be why we got so confused before and people thought it was the In Memoriam. It has to be just an unfortunate, tragic coincidence. Poor Bill Paxton.

Dylan proposes that Oscars should be divided into films you see at the cinema and films you catch up with later. “And the Oscar for Best Film You’ll Catch Up With Later goes to HACKSAW RIDGE!”

Short Animated Oscar from short, animated Gael Garcia Bernal. PIPER wins — a film I have actually seen. Then ZOOTOPIA, but in between GGB gets in a good swipe at Trump’s wall. Look forward to POTUS tweeting about the overrated, failing Oscars.

Production Design goes to LA LA LAND and is presented by the stars of FIFTY SHADES OF SHIT who STILL have no chemistry together.

Then they bus in a tour bus of tourists. Denzel Washington performs a marriage. “It’s Denzel so it’s legal.” It’s getting quite Bunuelesque.

Dylan has become confused, thinking maybe the tourists are refugees and it’s a political statement. The discussion becomes quite heated as we repeat the words “tour bust” and “tourists” at him a lot.

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NOM NOM NOM

Some of the cast of ROGUE ONE present Visual Effects. We rather approve of THE JUNGLE BOOK winning on the basis of the quality of the work (from the bits we’ve seen) even though I’m kind of horrified the remade it.

A tribute to BACK TO THE FUTURE. I think it’s a really good film but I’m always a bit embarrassed when people rave about it. Seth Rogen and Michael J. Fox present Best Editing. They show some clips in which edits happen. HACKSAW RIDGE wins. Mel Gibson continues to be terrifying.

LION KING moment with cute kid.

Sky host says we’re slightly past the halfway mark. Losing the will to live. And blog. The pundits are slightly struggling to find things to say.

Hayek and Oyelowo on Doc Short and Live Action Short. Sci-Tech Awards. I kind of like the way the presenters are kind of parodying the awful material presenters usually have to spout. But it’s nearly four a.m. and I am, as a very great man once said, too old for this shit.

“Everyone be upstanding for Meryl Streep,” says Fiona. Meryl and Javier Bardem are doing Cinematography. LA LA LAND wins again.

Mean Tweets! OK, that was pretty funny.

Gosling & Stone introduce a couple of songs from their film. It’s kind of boring. Fiona manages to go the loo and miss it. I’m trying to work out when I should go to the loo. This would have been a good moment.

LA LA LAND wins for score. Samuel L. Jackson’s intro speech is a but too much like the bad old days of sincere intros. The composer does a decent short speech — a lot of these guys are really not very good at public speaking, and why should they be? LA LA LAND wins for Best Song, so Justin Hurwitz has to bound out of his seat AGAIN. VERY good speeches this time. “I am actually freaking out right now!”

In Memoriam. Well, I’ll probably think of somebody they missed later, but it seemed quite tasteful.

Original Screenplay. Affleck & Damon. Very good joke as Kimmel tries to play Matt Damon off during his reading of the nominees. Playing with the form!

Oscar goes to Lonergan. I think that’s probably a good thing. Not that I saw any of the films.

Amy Adams — “Tit tape!” declares Fiona. “Well, wouldn’t you want tit tape if you were wearing that?” says Nicola. But this is an award for adapted screenplay, not tits, and it goes to MOONLIGHT. GREAT, FAST speeches from these guys.

Cookies and donuts are parachuted in.

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Best Director is coming up! Halle Berry presenting. An earnest and entirely inaccurate checklist of traits a director should have is recited. Damien Chazelle wins. Widespread outrage that he’s 22. We’re a bunch of fogeys.

Bree Larsen. “That is a dress,” acknowledges Nicola. Casey Affleck wins for MANCHESTER BY THE SEA and mumbles. “That is an unremittingly bleak film, isn’t it?” asks Donald, who hasn’t seen it. “Every clip they’ve shown…” Dylan has seen it and says it does have some very funny bits.

Leo! Leo by the sea-o! So it’s best actress. Nice to see Ruth Negga up there, just a couple of years after she starred in the worst closing film I have ever seen at Edinburgh Film Fest. We’re all still laughing at the FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS clip when Emma Stone wins. We like her.

“Who won Best Actor again?” asks Fiona. That testifies to the impact of Affleck’s performance, I think.

Warren Beatty’s eyes are terrifying. Like the mouse in DUMBO. Little black dots. Faye Dunaway, it goes without saying, is a bit scary. Whoever wins best film ought to arm themselves with the shield of Perseus.

MOONLIGHT looks, dare I say it, cinematic.

Beatty milks the suspense horribly.

LA LA LAND. Chazelle is doomed.

And then MOONLIGHT! Well, that was exciting. Warren had the wrong envelope! This is the highlight of the night. Wow. Dylan had gone for a smoke and missed it.

Thank God LA LA LAND already won lots. Still must be a bit crushing, but they got to make speeches, which they wouldn’t have otherwise…

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The Sunday Intertitle: Die, Pest!

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , on February 26, 2017 by dcairns

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DIE PESTE IN FLORENZ — the plague in Florence — is a 1919 German epic scripted by Fritz Lang in his usual cheery style — the Florentine’s throw off the shackles of religious repression, and life becomes one non-stop orgy, at which point a plague descends and kills everyone. Lang’s grim sensibility is remarkable in the sense that it was commercially successful despite being so unremittingly bleak — look at DIE NIBELUNGEN, in which everybody is morally compromised and everybody dies. Can this really have been the Nazis’ favourite film? If they saw themselves in it, it’s prophetic, and also suggests a self-destructive drive at the root of their movement. I have my doubts. I’m not sure they had that level of insight.

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A slightly wishy-washy reconstructed intertitle, but we can make up for that with an ecstatic gallery — The Triumph of Death!

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Heavily inspired by Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, I assume, this movie ends with the Plague Personified (Juliette Brandt, the best actor in it) fiddling among the splayed corpses of the city, descending stairs towards us like Norma Desmond, though alas director Otto Rippert doesn’t have her fill the lens with a grotesque soft-focus close-up. But I like that she’s so chirpy, skipping and grinning away, reminiscent a little of the bandaged apparition of Simone Choule in Polanski’s THE TENANT. It’s a happy ending, for Death.

In other news — am contemplating staying up all night with friends, watching the Oscars, in which case I shall probably live-blog it. Since the event doesn’t really have much to do with movies, I guess I’ll just be ranking the frocks and political speeches and noting how few, if any, of these films I’ve seen… If I go for it, watch out for an ever-expanding blog post here. If I feel too sleepy, watch out for nothing.