Oscar Thoughts

So, the Oscars are tonight. Yeah. I’m sorry, I find it difficult to work up much excitement about them these days. I just don’t put much stock in them anymore. I’m a firm believer in the idea that if you like a movie, then it’s good, and if you don’t like a movie, then it’s bad. Who cares what everyone else thinks?

I have issues with the Academy Awards because to me they just seem arbitrary. So a bunch of snooty film critics or experts or whatever get together and decide what the best movies of the year are. So, if I disagree with them, am I wrong? Am I stupid? No, of course I’m not. I’m an intelligent human being, or at least I like to think I am. But why should I care what a bunch of highfalutin’ film experts think?

My favorite movies last year were The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, Looper, Argo, and Skyfall. Guess how many of those movies were nominated for Oscars? Two. Argo got loads of nominations, which I have no problem with because it was a fantastic movie, and Skyfall got nominations in a bunch of the technical categories, and of course Adele’s theme song got nominated. This is all well and good, but again, who cares? In my Academy Awards, Tom Hardy would have been a shoo-in for a Best Supporting Actor nom for Dark Knight Rises, Rian Johnson would have been a shoo-in for Best Original Screenplay for Looper, and hell, maybe even nominate Skyfall for Best Picture (Javier Bardem for Best Supporting Actor also).

But it’s a given that none of these types of movies will ever get nominated for anything. Sci-fi thrillers and superhero movies never get nominated for anything. It’s kind of miraculous that a James Bond movie got nominated for anything other than Best Song. But then, it is the only Bond movie to be directed by a previous Best Director winner, so who knows? All the Academy Awards ever do is give awards to the most obvious winners.

Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that Daniel Day-Lewis is going to win Best Actor? Probably not, and there shouldn’t be. I’m not saying that he doesn’t deserve to win, by all accounts he gave a fantastic performance and I have no problem with that, but if it’s all so predictable than why even bother with the ceremony and all the hullaballoo in the first place? Sure, every once in a while there’s a surprise winner, like Crash winning Best Picture a few years ago, but every time that happens it just feels like the freaking Academy is trying to prove how cool they are by going against the grain.

It’s gotten to the point where I really don’t put much, if any, stock in the Oscars anymore. To me they just feel antiquated. It’s not that I don’t think that movies should be awarded. Film is an art form that has been around for a really long time, and I hope I have made it clear to anyone that has ever happened upon this blog that I have a deep and abiding love of cinema. I just find it really hard to care about the opinions of a bunch of film critics or whatever that just seem out of touch with how regular, everyday people view movies.

Maybe I’m blowing this all out of proportion, I don’t know. I’m sure you could poke plenty of holes in just about everything I’ve said here, I’m sure my reasoning isn’t what you would call flawless. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite since I haven’t even seen most of this year’s nominated films. The only Best Picture nom I’ve seen from this year is Argo, though I do plan on seeing Zero Dark Thirty, Lincoln, Django Unchained, Silver Linings Playbook, and Les Mis eventually. There are plenty of movies that I liked a lot that have won the big awards in previous years. I loved The Hurt Locker, Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech. But did they deserve the big awards more than any good movies that were released in the same year? Maybe. Maybe not.

I get that the Oscars are all big and prestigious and whatever, it just seems to me like they exist nowadays for the sole purpose of rich, beautiful, famous, glamorous people getting together and giving themselves golden freaking statues. Whoop-de-doo. Pardon me for not giving a crap. There are fun things about watching the Oscars, like seeing what kind of ridiculous things people are wearing this year, and what kind of half-assed jokes the host makes (who’s even hosting the damn thing this year? Seriously, I have no idea).

Anyway, I’m sorry this post was all ranty and bitter. If you enjoy watching the Academy Awards, I have no problem with that. If you don’t care about anything that I’ve written here, hell, I have no problem with that either. I don’t expect everyone to always agree with everything I post on this blog. If you want to disagree with me, go right ahead. I respect your opinion, and I respect your right to have one. I just wish the Oscars felt the same.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.

McClane Family Reunion

It has been well established that I love Die Hard. So of course I would go see the latest installment, the stupidly-named A Good Day to Die Hard, despite the toxic critical reception (the movie currently holds a dismal 15% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and my own misgivings about it.

When it was announced that the fifth Die Hard would take place in Russia and would feature John McClane’s estranged son, my first reaction was “meh.” We had his estranged daughter in the fourth movie, so now let’s have his estranged son! And we’ll set it in Moscow to mix things up a little! And we’ll hire a C-grade director, who is best known for the critically-derided movie adaptation of the video game Max Payne, and whose other films include the Owen Wilson action flick (now there’s a phrase that makes no sense) Behind Enemy Lines and the remake of The Omen, which we only decided to make so we could release it on June 6, 2006! (6/6/06, get it? Since it’s a movie about the devil? Aren’t we movie producers just so darn clever?)

Whew. Sorry for the run-on there. I get the impression sometimes that movie people think in run-on sentences, just adding more and more nonsense to an idea that didn’t make much sense to begin with.

Anyway, I allowed myself to get a little excited when the first trailers were for the movie were released, since it looked like it could be fun, and I was encouraged by the news that it would be rated R, instead of the more family and commercial-friendly PG-13 rating, so maybe it would hearken back to the good old days of hard-R, bloody, sweary action flicks of the 80’s.

So does it deliver on the promise of old-school action and thrills? Largely, yes, it does. Does it offer much more than that? No, it really doesn’t. The character nuances from the first film are largely gone, replaced with increasingly over-the-top action, in which the once very human John McClane (and now his son too) survive a barrage of explosions and gunfire that would kill any normal human beings many times over.

There isn’t much plot to speak of, though I have to admit that I kind of liked the setup. John McClane somehow finds out that his son is in Moscow, so he heads over there to try to reconnect with his son, whom he hasn’t spoken to in a couple of years.

And wouldn’t you know it, he just so happens to run into John Jr. (called Jack, presumably so the audience wouldn’t get confused) in the middle of a dramatic escape from some bad guys. John Sr.’s yelling at his son somewhat hilariously draws the attention of the bad guys, and a frenetic and extremely destructive car chase begins.

Turns out that Jack is actually an undercover CIA agent, and Dear Old Dad has inadvertently blown an undercover op that took years of preparation. This is actually pretty damn funny, and it’s easily the cleverest plot beat in the film. It also kind of makes sense that Jack would resent his father for this, in addition to the whole “never-being-there-for-me-while-I-was-a-kid” thing, which does admittedly start to wear a bit thin after a while.

The rest of the plot was mostly pretty boring, to be honest. Live Free or Die Hard may have been preposterous, but at least it had some interesting ideas, and a villain who had some motivation. The villains’ motivations here seem mostly arbitrary, and again are pretty boring. There is a distinct lack of memorable villainy in this film, which is really a shame when you think about some of the previous villains in the series, especially Alan Rickman. Jeremy Irons was a fun villain in the 3rd movie too.

I did like the actor who played Jack though. His name is Jai Courtney, and he’s best known for “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” the first season of the bloody, sex-filled, awesome Starz TV show. He was one of the most likable characters in that first season, and (SPOILER ALERT) his heartbreaking death scene makes me a little misty every time I watch it. He plays Jack as a gruff but likable fellow, and he has good chemistry with Bruce Willis. It’s also undeniably fun to hear John Sr. tell bad guys that “Me and my boy here, we’re gonna put a whuppin’ on ya.”

There’s some nonsense about weapons-grade uranium, which I’m honestly really getting tired of as a plot device. “Don’t let the bad guys get the uranium or plutonium or whatever” was pretty much the entire plot of Expendables 2. As far as I could tell, the villains didn’t even have much of an evil scheme, aside from getting their hands on the damn uranium.

It’s mostly predictable and ends more or less how you’d expect it to, with bad guys dead, good guys alive, and the McClane family experiencing a resurgence in family togetherness. There are some fun action scenes along the way, like when John and Jack jump out a window of a tall building and crash through a scaffold conveniently located outside while a helicopter shreds the building, and that car chase was pretty awesome too. None of it is particularly original or memorable but it’s fun enough while it lasts. I don’t think it’s the death of the Die Hard franchise as the critics would lead you to believe, but it certainly isn’t up to the high standards of its earliest predecessor.

As for the R rating, it’s pretty tame. The movie earns the rating overall, with enough mayhem and scattered F-bombs to make it get the R rating, but it’s really nowhere near as violent or sweary as the first three films in the franchise, or, heck, even the unrated version of the fourth movie. At least old John McClane does get to say his famous catchphrase uncensored, so that’s something.

Overall, I enjoyed A Good Day to Die Hard. At a lean 98 minutes, the new movie is a good half-hour shorter than previous entries in the series, which is a good indicator that there’s not much plot to go on, but in my opinion it was 98 minutes entertainingly spent, and that was good enough for me on a Thursday afternoon.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.

My Top 5 Favorite Movies

My Top 5 Favorite Movies

  1. Die Hard- This one will be obvious to anyone who read my post about Die Hard last Christmas. I still consider Die Hard to be the best movie I have ever seen. It is smart, funny, exciting, and packs a surprising emotional wallop. There’s not much more to say here that I didn’t put in my earlier post, so in an utterly shameless act of blatant self-promotion I am going to advise you to read my post about the Greatest Movie Ever Made to get all the juicy details. Coincidentally, the fifth Die Hard movie, the stupidly-titled A Good Day to Die Hard, is out on Valentine’s Day and I am very much looking forward to it, stupid title and all.
  2. The Dark Knight- As much as I loved The Dark Knight Rises and Batman Begins, my favorite Christopher Nolan batflick has to be the second installment, which I personally consider to be the Greatest Superhero Movie of All Time. It’s beautifully acted, technically flawless, tremendously exciting and engaging, and makes you feel the weight that Bruce Wayne carries on his shoulders. Far from being perfect, Wayne is a very flawed and human protagonist, and he has to deal with pain and loss just like everyone else. The late, great Heath Ledger’s performance is instantly iconic and remains utterly chilling and captivating. He is a textbook example of a villain who is terrifying yet magnetic- you don’t want to look at him but it’s impossible to look away.
  3. Hot Fuzz- I love this movie so much. A brilliant and hilarious British sendup of the buddy-cop genre (think Lethal Weapon, Point Break, Bad Boys, etc.) that just never gets old. My dad and I quote this movie to each other constantly and get a good chuckle or two every time. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are perfect comedic foils, and Edgar Wright’s zippy direction gives the film heart and style to spare. An endless supply of memorable lines and some hilariously over-the-top gore effects are icing on the delicious, delicious cake. I also love Pegg, Frost, and Wright’s zombie sendup Shaun of the Dead, which is my favorite zombie movie, and I eagerly await their next collaboration, The World’s End, due out later this year.
  4. Casino Royale- There was a lot of hullaballoo when Daniel Craig was announced as the new James Bond circa 2005. I too had my doubts, but Craig had completely won me over before the opening credits had even started. Last year’s Skyfall was similarly excellent, but for me it is a very close second. Casino Royale reinvigorated Bond and made the often-outlandish character grounded and relatable, making him a human being with a soul instead of an unstoppable superman. He gets hurt and he actually bleeds! Did Roger Moore or Sean Connery ever emerge from a gunfight or climactic showdown with even a hair out of place? I don’t think they did. Casino Royale is a remarkable movie, and Craig’s Bond is closer to the Bond of Ian Fleming’s books than any previous incarnation. I think that if Fleming were around today he would be very pleased with where the character is now. I know I am.
  5. Gladiator- I’m a big fan of swords-and-sandals epics, and Gladiator is my favorite of the bunch. I liked Braveheart and LOTR and Kingdom of Heaven, and I even fully own up to liking 2004’s much-maligned Troy movie. Yes, the one with Brad Pitt and Orlando Bloom. Don’t judge me. Anyway, Gladiator. It was a landmark movie for me, since it was the first R-rated film I ever saw, and it made a big impression on me. Russell Crowe has never been better, and Joaquin Phoenix has never been slimier. I’m a big Ridley Scott fan and while I agree that his most recent films Robin Hood and Prometheus had plenty of flaws, I still enjoyed the actual experience of sitting in a theater and watching them. He’s got a hell of an eye for spectacle, and Gladiator has plenty of that with sympathetic characters, great acting, despicable villains, and epic action in abundance. What more could you ask for?

So there you have it- my top 5 favorite movies of all time. I have plenty of other favorites, and I’m thinking about maybe making this an ongoing series and adding another five periodically. Matter of fact, I already have the next five in mind.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to (or five) to watch.