Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Oscars DOUBLING Number Of Best-Picture Nominees To 10

Oscars DOUBLING Number Of Best-Picture Nominees To 10

The image of the Academy Award Oscar presented...Image via Wikipedia

I swear, the left side of my body went numb when I saw this.

What is the rational behind this? The Oscars' televised award show wasn't long enough? Did somebody decide to make sure that no one on the East Coast would get to bed until three in the morning on Oscar night?

The big excuse behind this decision appears to be that by broadening the Nominee list to ten, the Acadamy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be able to ensure that more great works of cinematic artistry will get the exposure they deserve. This, of course, is a big steaming pile of crap.

The Academy has never had a problem with fitting in films for acknowledgment. Their problem has always been their inability to select really great films for what has become perceived as an honor, an Oscar Nomination. Too many good movies for just five Best Picture nominations? Some of the recent winners haven't even been Oscar worthy. Gladiator wins best picture? Titanic sweeps, SWEEPS the Oscars? You can like these films, but you really can't defend the praise that was senselessly heaped upon them as supposed works of genius.

Now for the real reason why this idea has been shot through: Studio Advertising. Five more Best

This is an image of an Academy Award (Image via Wikipedia

Picture nominations a year means five more big-budget Hollywood investments that the studios can slap a "Oscar Nominee" label on, guaranteeing them extended box office runs and higher DVD sales. Anybody who doesn't think that the Oscars are nothing more than an annual advertising drive for the film industry probably thought Gladiator truly was the Best Picture that year. And don't give me the Slumdog Millionaire argument, either. They do that once every for or five years so they have proof that they aren't in the pockets of the major production companies.

So, who is going to lose out to this Best Picture expansion? The little guys. Oh, they'll still get nominations, but whoever produces the Oscars this year is going to have to trim some award presentations down if the want to keep the whole dog and pony show under seventeen hours. They sure as hell aren't going to trim the extravagant dance numbers and musical presentations. Where else are these big name performers going to display their talents? Besides their own movies, Broadway shows and music videos, of course.

Nope, there will be cuts, and they will effect people who might never get a chance to experience this kind of limelight again. Best Short Foreign Film? Best Wardrobe Design? Maybe they'll just
combine Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay. Hell, they could probably do away with the Screenplay category altogether. Or just lose Editing. So many of those Oscar presentations just give appreciation and respect to the people behind the scenes, the professional craftsmen without whom the films would never get finished.

I think that's my real problem with this decision. The Academy isn't doubling the nominations for all of the categories, just Best Picture. Their excuse is that there are just too many good films out there. The implication is that they need more space to show their regard fro the films, but not for the people behind the scenes that lay the foundation and framework for the films. Of course, I shouldn't blame them for this myopic view; they're just looking at the Big Picture. Too bad the Big Picture seems to be less and less about the people who make it.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bad Movie Showcase: Troll 2

Troll 2 is a foul little gem that succeeds in the impossible task of making the first Troll film look like a great film. Apparently the need to confront all of those nagging questions left unanswered in the first Troll film was great enough that someone passed the hat around and raised enough money to cover craft service and a week's rental on the camera.

Troll (film)Image via Wikipedia

Shot with a film crew that only spoke Italian, and directed by a tyrannical screenwriter who forced his actors to perform all dialogue exactly as written, Troll 2 is probably worse than it would have been if it had not been subjected to such a chaotic yet rigid production. Then again, the script is pretty rancid on its own, so maybe that is just wishful thinking.

The tagline for the movie is "One Was Not Enough!" Sadly, it really was. It might not have been an exceptionally good movie, but it had Sonny Bono. So, you know, it had that going for it. Troll 2 doesn't have Sonny Bono going for it. Troll 2 is the type of film that wishes it has Sonny Bono, which is a sad state of affairs indeed.

Troll 2 isn't just a bad movie. It is a bad movie that must be experienced in order to be fully understood. Luckily, the fine people at Hulu have made it available for free public consumption. Because they truly know what the public wants.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Stoning Jack Black

NEW YORK - JUNE 15:  Actors Michael Cera and J...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

With the weekend estimates in, I think it should be noted that Year One, with a budget of $60 Million, only managed a $20 Million opening weekend, while The Hangover has already managed to rack up over four times its $35 Million budget in only three weeks.

Is this a testament to good comedies winning over bad comedies? Hardly. Just look at how much Paul Blart: Mall Cop raked in. Big money at the box office does not immediately equal quality of content. Just look at the overwhelming success of Titanic. I rest my case.

What this hopefully signals, however, is the eventual decline of Jack Black's career. Ever since his lukewarm appearance in High Fidelity somehow garnered him endless praise from moviegoers and critics alike (all of whom were probably just reacting to watching John Cusack play such an unlikeable character), Black has been spreading across the big screen like a bad case of flesh eating virus. Not only scoring leading rolls in countless mediocre comedies, but even earning big paychecks in overly hyped near misses like Peter Jackson's King Kong remake (may they both burn for that one) and Tropic Thunder (which owes nearly every laugh to Robert Downey). To make matters worse, he has used this unreasonable fame to push his half-assed and still fairly obscure parody band Tenacious D, which is sort of a rock and roll version of Spinal Tap, minus the humor.

Could this be the beginning of the end? The public does seem to be making a shift away from these overpaid comedians coasting their way through one feature film after another. Just

Jack Black in Image via Wikipedia

recently, the much more talented yet increasingly annoying Will Ferrell just saw a dismal opening weekend for the highly anticipated Land of the Lost film, after a dozen or so hits featuring his patented "obnoxious dumb guy" routine. Maybe audiences are finally getting fed up of seeing the same four or five goofy faces telling the same jokes over and over again.

Of course, it could simply be the subject matter. After all, Ben Stiller still managed to make back the $150 Million budget of the Night at the Museum sequel with his tiring sad sack routine. But I shall still cross my fingers and hope that this signals the eventual decline and ruination of the Jack Black gravy train. Although, to be perfectly honest, I fear that the upcoming Kung Fu Panda sequel shall crush my dreams beneath its untalented furry paw.

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Weekend Box Office Estimates 6/19 - 6/21

1 The Proposal BV $34,114,000
2 The Hangover WB $26,855,000
3 Up BV $21,336,000
4 Year One Sony $20,200,000
5 The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Sony $11,300,000
6 Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian Fox $7,300,000
7 Star Trek Par. $4,700,000
8 Land of the Lost Uni. $3,976,000
9 Imagine That Par. $3,100,000
10 Terminator Salvation WB $3,070,000

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Deep Throat: The FBI and the Porn Crusade

Deep Throat (film)Image via Wikipedia

That's right, people. There's nothing to worry about when your country's powerful investigative branch is devoting all of its resources and manpower to keeping American citizens from seeing blowjobs.

Deep Throat: FBI Tried To Stop Film

Just recently, the Associated Press was given nearly five hundred pages of redacted FBI files documenting the bureau's frantic attempt to put a stop to the moral decay threatening to rot the foundation right out from underneath this great nation. Of course, that argument seems a little paranoid when it is a reference to Communism, or the "Red Scare." It sounds even sillier when its about skin flicks.

No stone was left unturned by this mighty organization. Interviews (Linda Lovelace's interview appears to be redacted in its entirety), background checks, and even several synopses of the film as reported by agents who were apparently sent to watch the film and report on its contents. I'm guessing that several viewings were necessary in order to get all of the facts straight. One document even suggests that director Gerard Damiano might have been eligible for immunity from prosecution, which begs the question of what exactly he was willing to offer them in exchange. You would think mob intel would be the obvious choice, but there seems to be no mentions among any of the documents of the Mafia, or even investigations into possible links between the Mafia and the film. Which is odd, if you consider that Mafia ties were always near the top of the list with Deep Throat opponents.

Maybe somewhere in these reams of documents there is an explanation as to exactly why the FBI was so afraid of New York City grindhouses showing such felonious features of fictional fellatio fiends to friendly film fans. Maybe it was the final attempt of a government still predominantly run by aging white men who were considered ultra-conservative even back in the 1950's, before the freak flags started battling it out with Old Glory.

:en:Harry Reems, Pornoactor from the movie Dee...Image via Wikipedia

Of course, why the FBI got so interested in Deep Throat isn't really the issue. The issue is that the government, throughout the history of cinema, has always recognized the power of the flickering image, and has always sought to control it or suppress it in one form or another. Whether it is open and flagrant like the Hayes Code and Red Scare Blacklistings, or more covert and manipulative like this present example, the government has always wanted in on the action, one way or another.

A lot of the reports on these documents find amusement in remarking on how odd and obsolete an investigation such as this looks from the distance of decades. What almost none of them are going to ask is, if this was the kind of thing that secretive branches of the United States government were willing to persue, can you imagine what they must be up to now?

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