Wednesday, January 26, 2005

"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."

I was thinking about my overuse of the word "lugubrious," which pops up in about half of the reviews I linked to in my top ten post. I wrote those reviews at different times over the course of about two years, sometimes under tremendous um, deadline pressure, and I guess I never realized how much I dig the slow pacing until I saw them all gathered together in that post. At least please admit that it's a fucking great word. For now, it's going into the "do not use" pile. But you will not take "verisimilitude" or "at its core, the movie is..." until you pry my cold dead fingers from the keyboard.

Speaking of lameass film criticism, one of the better online film critics is Vern. And if you are not familiar with his work, you should click on that link immediately. He is just the funniest guy writing about movies, and definitely has his head on straight in terms of a worldview, as well. His review of Collateral not only acknowledges Michael Mann's extreme overratedness, but it contains a hilarious parody of a certain type of film reviewing that is thankfully one I do not indulge in often, though lord knows I have my own indulgences, like a sickening penchant for alliteration. (I swear, it happens by accident every time, and I only leave it in because it occurs naturally, like homosexuality in nature, so it would be almost homophobic, in a way, to edit it out.)

Anyway, I just wanted to comment briefly on the Oscars. I'd rather write about the other big film thingy that's going on out in Ohio or wherever right now with all the celebrities and gift bags, but no one sent me to cover that.

So Paul Giamatti got robbed bad, didn't he? Does anyone not recognize that Sideways is no big deal with any other actor in that role? So when was the last time someone who had never been nominated before was nominated for Best Actor for playing a schlub. Maybe, you could make a case for Steven Rea in The Crying Game (1992), but I think Fergus was too charming, good-looking and manly to qualify. Robin Williams was schlubby enough in The Fisher King (1991), but he had already been nominated for non-schlubby roles in Good Morning, Vietnam and Dead Poets Society. So I'm going to have to go with Bob Hoskins in Mona Lisa (1986!), but he had the added advantage of being British (there have to be at least three or four British acting nominees every year). So I'm discounting him. Seeking a North American actor who had not established himself as an awards contender, Richard Dreyfuss in The Goodbye Girl is the next possibility, same year (1977) that Woody Allen was nominated for Annie Hall, so obviously it was a banner year for schlubs and an anomaly.

I forgot what the point is, but obviously Giamatti is out in the cold because he is not one of "the beautiful people." I don't understand why Leo gets a nod when there are at least a dozen young successful actors who would have been more interesting in that role. I know it's the Oscars, and we don't expect the nominations to reflect any real measure of quality, but here the Academy fails even by its own lax standards.

Ray, meanwhile, was nominated for Best Picture over Eternal Sunshine, which of course is wrong. Ray isn't a bad film, and Jamie Foxx certainly did a superb job, as did most of the cast, but at its core, the movie is a very routine biopic. I have a unique theory about why the Academy's response to the film is so out of proportion to its merits. Kevin Spacey and Lions Gate promoted the hell out of Beyond the Sea, going all out to earn it nominations, and after seeing and hearing THAT, Academy members were probably putty in Ray's and Foxx's perfectly capable hands.

Here's a little P.S. after reading Vern's reflections on the Oscar nominations. I, too, was incensed that Story of the Weeping Camel, a film I really enjoyed, was nominated for Best Documentary, despite the fact that it is mostly staged and fictitious. But I was thinking I was the only one who felt that way, and was ready to concede that I did not understand what a documentary is, until I read Vern and my sanity was fleetingly restored. So thanks again, Vern.


Josh said...

To those people who think my toadying up to the great Vern is unseemly, I can only say in my defense, buy Vern's book, 5 on the Outside, a collection of his excellent film writings in convenient book form. And Stephanie, if you're reading this, be sure and check out Vern's review of Finding Neverland. I think you will appreciate it. There, finally someone left a goddamn comment. I hate you all.

Anonymous said...

Hey Josh, this is Stephanie. I didn't sign in with a password because it is too complicated and I've got my period and in my condition I would just forget it anyway.

So I don't get why people think your praise of Vern is unseemly. I mean, he seems like a smart, funny guy with good things to say about movies. Oh, wait. Critics are supposed to be petty and mean, especially toward each other. I get it.

By the way, Woody Alen wasn't a schlub in Annie Hall. He was a nebbish, but a pretty sexy one. I mean, he was a pretty successful comic in Annie Hall and didn't have the sad-sackishness that I think defines a schlub.
But I do think you're right about Giamatti not getting a nomination 'cause he's not beautiful. It's just not glamorous to accept an Oscar when your gut is hanging over the pants of your tuxedo. I mean, compared to Giamatti, Dreyfuss had abs of steel. And I don't think Dreyfuss qualifies as a schlub, either. Back when he won the Oscar, he was considered quite the hot young actor, a la Adrien Brody. Wait, does Brody count as a schlub? After all, he was kind of dirty and bedraggled in "The Pianist." What the hell was the wardrobe department thinking on THAT picture?!