Guns and girls.

This is going to be a very nerdy post: Three reviews of things, the first of…

The Miserable, and the wretched.

Saw Les Misérables yesterday.

Honestly, a musical is not my cup of tea, but the movie was just fine. I have familiarity and appreciation for the story, and the musical, from my youth, so I was curious to see how it would be adapted, and like everyone else, I had heard good things about the performances of Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. I suspect they’ll both get Oscar nominations, but Anne Hathway is the one with the real shot here. She does a lot of heavy lifting with the relatively limited role of Fantine and even in her short time here no one hits the strides and the heights and depths that she can plumbs so easily. Jackman is good, but not as good as her. Plus, he’s got the unfortunate timing of potentially being nominated for Best Actor in the same award season as Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln.

I dreamed a dream.

Tom Hooper, however, is as boring in his direction as he was in The King’s Speech, and possibly less so. Somehow that film was both nominated and managed to win the big awards, but I don’t think that will be the case here. Especially not in a year that produced a Lincoln, a Zero Dark Thirty, and a Life Of Pi.

Anyway, minor flaws of the film that aren’t so minor: Way too fucking long and not interesting enough to sustain that length. The stuff towards the end with the June Rebellion was dreadfully boring, and anytime Jackman, Hathaway, or even Russell Crowe as Javert weren’t on screen, you found yourself checking your watch. I did enjoy Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (she’s just doomed to always play the gothic clown now, isn’t she?) as the Thénardiers, and they did provide some much needed comic relief to the film, but their rendition of the film’s second most memorable song was pretty boring.

Anyway, my second review is of…

Mad hilarity, merciless action, dark cynicism, and incorruptible bravery.

Gun Machine, the new novel by Warren Ellis.

This is a fun, slightly nuts book, which is the usual from Ellis. His first novel, Crooked Little Vein, was a silly but interesting little pulp travelogue through America, and Gun Machine comes from a similar place, but it’s more of a harder crime novel. This is Warren Ellis sodomizing writers like James Patterson and Ed McBain with his ideas, sort of.

The premise is simple: A cop stumbles upon an apartment filled with guns, hundreds of them and nothing else, and each crime can be traced to a different unsolved crime. Somebody has been keeping these guns all this time as trophies.

I believe I read somewhere the book has already been optioned to be developed into a TV show, which is… exciting, I guess. Granted, they’ll take the premise, and they’ll tone it down. They’ll have to. This book is a little nuts, and filled with a lot of little minutiae that’s probably closer to the harsh reality of crime in a big insane urban cityscape, but not the kind of thing that the flyover states are ready to tune into from their local affiliate. The first scene of the book, for example, involves the main character’s partner getting half of his face blown off by a shotgun blast delivered by a ranting naked man.

Gun

That said, there are lots of little ideas and the basic premise that could easily translate into a very interesting serial procedural. That, and I would like to see the type of characters that Ellis writes on either the small screen or the big screen, as they’re usually broken, mouthy creatures who are incorruptibly brave (a nice way of putting it from the Wired review quoted as a blurb on the cover) and very good at what they do.

Half of this book is written in the parlance of the internet, almost as if Ellis got tired of scanning the internet landscape and fueled some of that excitement and anger into a writing frenzy. At the same time, as a fan of his comic books and ideas shared in various places online, I am excited to see him evolving in a new medium, but I can’t say that it feels like he’s challenging himself here. But I have to say that I would secretly like to see Ellis tackle one of his nonfiction books that have more than one foot inside music theory and hauntological futures (which he is working on, thankfully), or maybe some kind of insane sci fi novel – I would love to see Warren Ellis become the new Harlan Ellison – or really get into TV, writing for Doctor Who or resurrecting Quatermass, something like that.

The second review being of…

Victorian values.

“The Snowmen,” the recent Doctor Who Christmas special.

I miss talking about Doctor Who, here or anywhere else. I really need to develop a venue for that, but as far as this episode goes, in short: This was a merely so so episode with great characters in it. Matt Smith is always good and shining with the Doctor, and only improves as he continues to play the character, and Vastra, Jenny, and Strax are welcome ongoing returns to the series, and I can’t say enough nice things about Jenna-Louise Coleman’s Clara, who is mysterious and a serious breath of fresh air. If I’m being honest, I may be doing this post solely to post pictures of her.

That said, this episode was not great. The webisode prequels were more interesting than a good deal of the regular plot of the episode, and I thought it was brave that the threat that the characters were facing down was given an extreme back seat to the character moments.

More guns.

Steven Moffat’s writing is always great, but if I had one major criticism of his tenure on Doctor Who as the showrunner it would be that everything feels too rushed. I assume that the fickle nature of television and the constant need to up the ante is what causes that, but as much as I enjoyed season 5 as the shakedown cruise for a new Doctor, companion, and way of looking at the show, season 6 seemed very rushed, big on set up and small on payoff, possibly because the payoff had to be pushed forward, forward, forward. Part of me wonders if a lot of that was necessitated by the upcoming 50th anniversary special.

That special lead to a lot of new additions in the Christmas special, including the introduction of Smith’s face in the main credit sequence (which I’m positive they’ve been threatening since he took over the role) and a redesigned TARDIS console room that brought back a lot of the blandness of the poorly executed production design from the show’s earlier regenerations in video with rubber monsters back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Cosby sweaters and scripts

And I’m as curious as the next person about some of the big things to come, like the presumed payoff of the First Question, but eventually it could get tiring to constantly finding situations for characters to say, “Doctor… Who?”

Anyway. That said, I’m looking forward to the second half of the current season and the (re)introduction of Clara, Mark 3. I suspect that she’ll be everything that we had assumed and hoped that Amy Pond will be, and I’m really looking forward it. The show regenerates each time a new Doctor steps out of the ashes of the previous one, but as they keep rightfully so telling us, the show is about the companions and the view they provide, and it really feels like the show could come to life again with the addition of Clara. I’m excited.

Remember.

The Oscars are on tonight, right?

Blah blah blah I am not excited about the Oscars this year.

I am not excited about trying to celebrate the bleakness that was Film in 2011. There were a few solid, good movies out there and a lot of… Sigh. A lot of trying to grasp at relevancy. A lot of trying to fit in while dumb down. It’s in my DNA to care about the Oscars and to be curious about winners and bitch about nominees and what have you, but the urge is just not strong enough this year to watch. Normally, when this flaccid about the Oscars, I’d at least watch the opening, then turn away, and check back in during the last hour, but this year… This year I’m going to follow Benjamin Light’s lead, and perhaps just keep one eye out on twitter, tumblr, and, shit, I don’t know… Yahoo! news, maybe? Ugh.

But I know. “Another guy bitching about being unenthusiastic about the Oscars.” How boring, right? Believe me, I’ve tried. I’m just not there. But like A. O. Scott said, “Oscar cynicism has become its own special form of Oscar hype.” Too true, I guess.

So anyway, I’m going to put up a thing here of my predictions of winners this year – just cause. Just cause it’s in my DNA, as I said. Review, debate, ponder, ignore, do as you please. Let’s look at the Top 7 Categories of Oscar Interest:

Best Picture

And the nominees are: The Artist, The Descendants, Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, The Help, Hugo, Midnight In Paris, Moneyball, The Tree Of Lie, and War Horse.

Fuck me. I’m not feeling any of this. Y’know, last year they added an additional 5 nominees to the Best Picture potentials and somehow The King’s Speech still beat out The Social Network.

Let’s talk about movies that don’t have a chance here: Midnight In Paris, The Help, and Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close. And Moneyball. I’ve seen Midnight In Paris, and it was okay, a fun little film, Woody doing Woody nicely, but Oscar material? No. Sorry. And that right there, ladies and gents, is the Theme of this year’s Oscars. Moneyball is a solid, good film, but nothing about it is strong enough to win an Oscar. But let’s not shit ourselves, we all know where this is heading: The Artist vs. The Descendants.

I’ve not seen The Artist because I think that I might rather watch paint dry on a mirror. I am enamored by old, classic Hollywood as much as the next amateur film geek sounding off from their internetastic soap box, but I’m not that hard up. The Descendants was a solid film, and it was about cancer and infidelity and bringing a family back together and a girl cries underwater. This is all Oscar material. I want The Descendants to win. I want that (I guess), but I suspect that The Artist will take it. Why? Because I think that the Weinsteins are going to prove to us yet again that money trumps talent every time.

Best Director

And the nominees are: Woody Allen, for Midnight In Paris. Michel Hazanavicius, for The Artist. Terrence Malick, for The Tree Of Life. Alexander Payne, for The Descendants. Martin Scorsese, for Hugo.

The winner will be: Alexander Payne.

I’ve seen some people predict a split and predict that The Descendants will win Best Picture and The Artist will be the Best Director choice, but… Nahh. I can understand an argument in which you judge the Act of Directing to be different from the Completed Product/Finished Film, and yet… those two should be so intrinsically connected that I would think that the Best Director winner would automatically cue you in to the Best Picture winner, but… What do I know? Everything. Nothing. Everything. Nothing! I don’t know.

Best Actor

And the nominees are: Demián Bichir, for A Better Life. George Clooney, for The Descendants. Jean Dujardin, for The Artist. Gary Oldman, for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Brad Pitt, for Moneyball.

Again, I’ll admit that I have not seen The Artist, but I’m not enthused to (and I’ve long nursed a suspicion that you could judge all Oscar movies and their corresponding performances by the trailers, as weak of a suspicion though that may be), and I have my doubts about that being a Best Actor-worthy performance. I haven’t seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, only because it wasn’t playing anywhere in a theater remotely around me (thank God it comes out on DVD in March), but I like the idea of Gary Oldman winning, you know, just to fuck with people. IYFF, Hollywood. And Brad Pitt is a solid actor, always, and will someday have a performance that will be more than worthy a Best Actor statue, but to me, that performance wasn’t happening in Moneyball. So… George Clooney.Yeah.

Yeah. Sure. Yeah. That’s my pick for the winner.

I mean, c’mon, he’s the closest we have to real, functioning Hollywood royalty these days.

Best Actress

Glenn Close, for Albert Nobbs. Viola Davis, for The Help. Rooney Mara, for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Meryl Streep, for The Iron Lady (as Maggie Thatcher). Michelle Williams, for My Week With Marilyn.

Sadly I’ve only seen one of the movies that had one of these performances, and because I am a huge dork and Fincher fanboy, it was The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Rooney Mara’s performance was very strong in that film, and equal parts very alien and very, very humanistic, at least compared to the terrible Swedish adaptations of those novels, but I don’t know if I think there’s a Best Actress performance there. And I doubt the Academy thinks so either.

I suspect you’ll see this award go to Meryl Streep, because she does a physical change and she plays the British Godzilla we call Maggie Thatcher, but I’d be okay with either Glenn Close or Michelle Williams winning, especially Michelle Williams, to further propel her along on an interesting career.

Or Viola Davis, just to make people spit out their drink when this award doesn’t go to an old white lady with blonde hair.

But, even still, my prediction: Meryl Streep.

Also, did I read this all right and Shailene Woodley is not nominated for anything? Seriously?

That makes me want to cry underwater, yo.

Best Supporting Actor

Kenneth Branagh, for My Week With Marilyn. Jonah Hill, for Moneyball. Nick Nolte, for Warrior. Christopher Plummer, for Beginners. Max von Sydow, for Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close.

My suspicion/hope: Christopher Plummer. Beginners was, like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, one of those movies that I really wanted to see last year but just never got around to seeing for whatever reason. I have a good feeling about the movie, I guess.

Runner up suspicion/hope: Kenneth Branagh.

Third choice: I don’t know… Max von Sydow? Though, that said, I would strongly like to see Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close win nothing.

Side note: I originally mistyped that was “Extremely Cloud And Incredibly Loose.” Ha ha! Anyway. Here is another picture of Michelle Williams in pseudo-Marilyn mode (because we want those hits to be through the roof on this post):

I doubt Nick Nolte will take it, just because… well, who saw that movie? That’s the one with Bane vs. Uncle Owen, right? Whatever. And JONAH HILL, ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME!?!? I suspect his inclusion here is just the work of some jokester in the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences wanting to see if anyone actually even reads this shit.

Best Supporting Actress

Bérénice Bejo, for The Artist. Jessica Chastain, for The Help. Melissa McCarthy, for Bridesmaids. Janet McTeer, for Albert Nobbs. Octavia Spencer, for The Help.

My suspicion: Man, I don’t have a clue.

Octavia Spencer?

This is a picture of Bérénice Bejo:

And this is another:

Anyway, I have not seen a single one of these movies, so this is a real guess. The Weinsteins want to buy Best Picture awards, so I don’t think they care about Best Supporting Actress awards. And Jessica Chastain… I don’t know. I feel like she’s someone, like Jeremy Renner and Sam Worthington, that somebody in Hollywood really, really, really wants to make happen, so you’re going to see them crammed into a lot of shit. Kind of like how Spielberg adopted Shia LeBeowulf for a while and shepherded him for a while until that plane crashed into the mountain. And Melissa McCarthy? Is her performance worthy of an Oscar or is this someone trying to say that these awards are “relevant” and capable of being “edgy”? You tell me.

I was going to cover both Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay, because I am a writer nerd. I collect all the Screenwriter Trading Cards! But the nominees for Best Original Screenplay are boring as shit this year, so instead…

Best Adapted Screenplay

And the nominees are: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash, for The Descendants. John Logan, for Hugo. George Clooney, Grant Heslov, and Beau Willimon, for The Ides Of March. Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, story by Stan Chervin, for Moneyball. Bridget O’Connor and Peter Straughan, for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

My suspicion: Sorkin and Zaillian.

No, I take that back. My suspicion: The crew from The Descendants. Partly because a Google image search for “Sorkin COCAINE” came up with a lot of boring hits, but also because…

The Dean from Community with an Oscar? That’s total LOL worthy. That’s EPIC LOLZ FOR DAZE worthy. There’s an amazing meta-in-joke on a future episode of Community (whatever that looks, tastes, feels like) there. Shit, you might as well just had Jim Rash host the ceremonies this year in character as the Dean from Community. I mean, cause why the fuck not?

I read something somewhere the other day that said that they suspect that Alexander Payne develops his projects based on where he could film them, and that made me LOL hard.

Runner up guess: The duo who adapted John Le Carre.

Closing thoughts: The Ides Of March, based on the play, Farragut North, was an okay film, but just okay. Clooney and Gosling and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and even Evan Rachel Wood were all just okay in it. There wasn’t a whole lot to chew there. Sadly, I feel like The Ides Of March are more out of place here than even Moneyball is. Also, I don’t think the guy that wrote Star Trek: Nemesis (which, you’ll remember, or not, starred Tom Hardy as Captain Picard’s clone) should be allowed to be nominated for an Oscar. Sorry, bro.

Final category: The Host.

Billy Crystal? Ugh.

This seems like a direct continuation of The King’s Speech winning last year. A return to the tired and the slightly boring. Granted, the Oscars is always a conundrum, and a study in contradictions. The old classic Hollywood vs. the new, the exciting, the experimental. And I think the celebration of those sides is always lost, or the mix is always wrong. The artists who are always pushing this medium forward aren’t being celebrated and encouraged and appreciated like they should. Last year’s debate of The Social Network vs. The King’s Speech was really about the New vs. the Old, and guess what? Boring won. (I’m going to guess that perhaps Weinstein $$$ didn’t hurt that debate tipping to one side over the other.)

Okay, and I don’t hate Billy Crystal, with all the changes they made and their attempts to “revolutionize” and update the Oscars, they’ve basically already said they’re in trouble. An infusion of new blood wouldn’t be such a bad thing. I’m sure there’s equally vanilla hosting options out there, ones that are still something new to this operation. Maybe. Maybe not.

Anyway, Brett Ratner producing was just too bizarre, as was the idea of Eddie Murphy hosting, which would’ve been interesting, but ultimately a pipe dream. An insane, fascinating pipe dream, but Eddie’s gotten too weird with his ego lately. Maybe he could have co-hosted with Scary Spice? Or maybe not. Speaking of Eddie and Scary Spice…

Benjie Light and I discussed this before, but I don’t think that James Franco and Anne Hathaway being chosen as hosts was necessarily a bad choice, but the bad choice was to make them work (with an unfair division of labor because Franco was obviously stoned the whole ceremony and Hathaway was trying to compensate) with the same tired staple of Bruce Villanch jokes. There’s got to be better, edgier, and quite frankly, smarter and safer host choices out there. At least a host that can pick their own joke writers. A Jon Stewart, perhaps? Or Tina Fey? Donald Glover. I’m just spitballing here, but I’m liking it.

Anyway. Tonight’s the night. Let’s see where we end up…

Motion pictures arts & sciences.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about the glitz and the glamor of the Oscars or Hollywood royalty or whatever, but let’s get down to brass tacks, people: Predictions. I want to hear yours. I only have a few I want to talk about here, so let’s get down to what I feel is the strongest lock of the night…

Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network‘s screenplay. What is that, Best Adapted Screenplay? Yeah.

Next: Best score.

Probably Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Social Network? I guess? Though I do like Hans Zimmer’s score for Inception, but I just don’t see it or any of the other nominees taking it. Reznor and Ross’ score is just so different and stands out head and shoulders above the rest in so many ways.

Next: Best Acress.

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t think that Natalie Portman will get this?

I’m surprised they didn’t mail this to her like a week ago. Actually, that’s not true. I’m saying there’s a 94% chance it’ll go to Portman, and a %6 chance it’ll go to Annette Bening for Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right.

I want to make the point that, sadly, I haven’t seen as nearly as many of the nominated movies as I’d like this year, but that’s true of just about any year, unfortunately. Even sadder still is that I don’t think you need to see the movies to make fairly informed guesses on who’ll win. So much of the Oscar wins can be predicted on either buzz or what the Academy has done before or both.

Next: Best Supporting.

I feel like Christian Bale and Melissa Leo are both going to get it for David O. Russell’s The Fighter.

Much, much smaller chances: Geoffrey Rush or John Hawkes, but I just don’t see it.

Next: Best Actor.

I don’t have a clue. Colin Firth, most likely. If you’d put a gun to my head, that’s what I would’ve said. But maybe Javier Bardem too, but I’m saying that just because he seems like such a dark horse candidate.

Next: The main event. Best Picture.

Forget all the other movies, it all comes down to The Social Network and The King’s Speech. Right?

from here.

But not Black Swan. Sorry, Black Swan, you’re not perfect enough.

If I had to guess, I’d say that The King’s Speech will get it, unfortunately. I’d love for Inception to get it. You know why? JUST CAUSE. Fall asleep on an airplane and I’ll put that idea in your brain. But I think Time magazine pegged it most accurately: This all comes down to the new vs. old. The Social Network is a movie completely unlike anything else that’s been nominated for Best Picture before and The King’s Speech is just another helping of the same old shit. As Time also put it: This comes down to head vs. heart. The Social Network is a highly intellectual film and The King’s Speech is pappy crap, that same shit that tugs on your heartstrings again and again each award season. Vanilla bullshit.

Voting for The King’s Speech is a bullet in the head of a newborn kitten! You might as well go vote for Life Is Beautiful again! Ugh. And yet, I feel like it’ll win, as do a lot of people, of course. I feel like the writing is on the wall…

That said, I feel like this might be one of those weird years where whoever gets Best Director might not get Best Film as well. Or maybe not. I just can’t see Aronofsky or David O. Russell taking home a little gold man tonight.

This should be exciting though. Are you ready? Can you feel the heat?

And what’s your predictions?

The year in film.

This is a fun little montage:

from here and here.