Regarding the Oscars

I look forward to the Oscars every year with unabashed vehemence. It’s a little sickening, actually. Every other day of the year, I abhor self-congratulatory, celebrity-celebrating events like this, but the Oscars (okay, and the Emmys) are the exception. I think it’s because it can be so much fun—if you watch enough of the nominated movies, you become invested in them as art and you want to see them recognized. Also, pretty dresses and pretty people.

I had optimistic hopes for this year’s ceremony. While I had always been a fan of the mostly old-ish white hosts of days past (Steve Martin and Billy Crystal are gods), I thought it was neat that the Academy was going for something different this year. It was a risk to have young, attractive, and trendy people host this year, but at least they went for it. You’ve gotta give them props for that.

It’s just too bad that the two of them had absolutely no chemistry whatsoever. Their promotional ads were really promising, what with the slapstick and the fun they seemed to be having in rehearsal. But once they got up there on that hallowed stage, everything went to shit. James Franco, as my father so accurately pointed out, didn’t even look Anne Hathaway in the face the entire time they were hosting. It’s like he was thinking about—wait for it—his next class at Yale. (In case you did not already know from the 500 or so times he’s mentioned it in every interview for the past year, James Franco is doing a graduate program at Yale, as well as every other job ever in the world right now.) He looked so distracted that he was actually uncomfortable to watch, and that’s saying a lot considering how downright gorgeous he is. Hathaway, therefore, overcompensated for his ambivalence by being essentially a nerdy fangirl, shouting “Woo!” every time a new presenter entered the stage. But at least she tried.

They weren’t the only aspect of the show that was fishing for a younger audience, either. A lot of the jokes had to do with auto-tuning and Banksy and Twitter and Charlie Sheen and things that older generations would be less likely (though still able!) to pick up on quickly. What was most ironic, however, was that when Billy Crystal came out to present an award, the ceremony gained new, hip life.

For the first time in my life, I decided to try the Twitter thing. I’m not really sure how it worked out; if you follow me, let me know what you thought. In any case, though, it’s an interesting way to watch a show like the Oscars, with real-time and sometimes-snarky commentary in your hands, at your disposal, under your control. This is new media, folks, and believe it or not, I think it enhanced the experience. I just wish Hathaway and Franco had done the same with their gleaming smiles.

Onto the awards: I had low expectations, and by that, I mean that I expected Inception to get royally shafted by The King’s Speech, pun intended. To my surprise, this didn’t completely happen—Inception got the four geek Oscars it rightfully deserved. THe King’s Speech, however, still managed to piss me off by receiving both Best Picture and Best Director. I was hoping that The Social Network might receive one of those nods, considering how much work had been put into it and how current the story is to our social fabric. But I do think that Colin Firth deserved Best Actor. Actually, all of the acting awards went to the right people, even if they were super predictable. I also decided that I might go back and watch Alice in Wonderland.

I think the highlight of the whole ceremony came in the first twenty minutes, though, and if you were watching, you know what I’m talking about. Kirk Douglas should have been on the stage the entire night.

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127 Hours

I have a lot of thoughts about this movie, and I’m not sure if they are cohesive. So hold on, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

I need to say first that I love James Franco. Dearly. I know he’s overexposed and insanely busy, especially right now, but I think he is incredible. And not just in the looks department. He’s a fearless person, actor, student, director, all of those things. And he really, truly doesn’t seem to give a shit about what people think. He’s amassed a diverse, full body of work at such a young age and I think he’s only tapped into a small part of what he’s capable of. So why am I “disclaiming” so much? Because I don’t quite want to endorse him for the Oscar on this one.

127 Hours was a challenging film to watch, and obviously a challenging one to make. The result was impressive and breathtaking and suspenseful and all of those things. It was not the best picture of the year, though. Here’s why: As beautiful as the film was, with its scenery of Monument Valley and artistic camera work (split screens, handheld shots, hallucinations, all of which translated really well in terms of representing Aron Ralston’s experience), and its beautiful star, I think the amount of beauty in the movie actually took away from how horrific the story actually was. Of course, it’s based on a true story, and Aron Ralston definitely was A BIG IDIOT to go hiking BY HIMSELF WITHOUT TELLING ANYONE. But it’s a story about desperate and human capability, and yet in all his moments of despair and pain, James Franco’s face never truly captured that pain. He yelled and screamed and contorted and prayed, but I never really believed him. Maybe it was the makeup (or lack thereof) — except for the end, when he was covered in blood, he never really seemed to be in that bad of shape. Maybe it was the lighting. Maybe it’s because it was a true story and it was too horrible to believe. Maybe it’s because the character was so independent, so incapable of relating to people—and we didn’t even see him relate to anyone in the whole movie. Who knows. But I just couldn’t feel Franco in the pain of this character.

While I wasn’t able to get inside the head of this guy as completely as I had hoped for, I did get caught up in the excitement of the whole thing, although it might have something to do with the fact that I knew he was going to cut his arm off before I saw it. At the start of the movie, there’s all this insane foreshadowing, what with Franco running his arms across the stunning orange rocks and getting stuck in small spaces, only to escape minutes later unharmed. Those scenes build up tension really fast, and you’re instantly rooting for Ralston, if not because you like him, than because the situations are so uncomfortable that you squirm at the thought of being stuck like him. By the end of the movie, when you know that the arm-cut-off is coming—and seriously, it’s NOT THAT BAD. NO TENDONS VISIBLE.—you want it to happen. Badly. You want him to gather the courage and power through. You also think to yourself, What would I do in this situation? It’s a scary thing to ponder.

Franco’s work in 127 Hours is not unlike Natalie Portman’s in Black Swan. Both characters are self-mutilating, self-motivated, desperate people, with few redeeming qualities but with a certain on-screen watchability. But whereas I’m rooting for Natalie for the Oscar, I just can’t give it to James. His body was all into the movie, but his eyes were elsewhere. He was probably thinking about one of his Yale classes.

One other thing: When I saw Lizzy Caplan’s name in the credits, I got really excited! Too bad she was BARELY IN THE MOVIE. One scene, and it was just an image of her. I see the resemblance between her and Franco, but that was a cheap shot.

Off the ol’ soap-box now. What say y’all?

Freaks and Geeks

This is another show that got a TON of buildup from the likes of co-workers, and other people I’m sure of but can’t remember. And I will say that it definitely grew on me. But it wasn’t as laugh-out-loud funny as I had hoped, and I did hope. I thought that I might like Judd Apatow’s work back when he was young, back when Seth Rogen was a child rather than a man-child, back when everything was innocent. And I suppose I did. But when it comes down to it, I just don’t think I find the same stuff funny as this guy does. It’s cool though, I guess.

I didn’t hate it though! Like I said, it grew on me. Each individual character was phenomenal; what a treat to see Jason Segel and James Franco and Busy Phillipps and Linda Cardellini kicking ass when they were too young to quite know how much ass they were really kicking. They were all so pure and real and honest on the screen, awkward moments captured, real lives revealed, all that. These characters are some of the most real teenagers ever portrayed on television, and perhaps that’s why this short-lived show resonated with so many people. I for one was a huge fan of the geeks — I found myself laughing more at them than at the freaks, and Apatow definitely took the freaks and ran with them into a huge moneymaking film franchise, so maybe that’s where I differ. Samm Levine is a brilliant comedic actor, as is Martin Starr. And how can you not love John Francis Daley? That face.

There were so many great guest spots, too, like Samaire Armstrong and Rashida Jones and David Krumholtz. How delightful to see them at that age, too. The whole experience looked so incredibly fun, and while I am a little sad that the show was cancelled, I think it ended well. Not everything was wrapped up, and yet it ended perfectly. Seeing Lindsay float on in that bus on the way to the Grateful Dead road trip was exactly what the show was about — being fickle. Teenagers are fickle. Daniel Desario is like the dictionary definition of fickle. Lindsay was taught her whole life not to be fickle, but she was also fortunate enough not to have horribly restrictive parents — and that’s realistic, too.

I just want to point out how much more in love with Jason Segel I am now, though. What a talented person. He wrote Forgetting Sarah Marshall, he did the vampire puppet thing, he’s on HIMYM, he’s acted in so much stuff and he plays everything so consistently. I want to be like him.

Hot Men, Part 2

The hotties are on the loose. I swear. They’ve even caused me to actually use the word “hottie.” Betcha can’t guess what taste I have.

10. Michael Imperioli.
Michael Imperioli

9. Joshua Jackson.
Joshua Jackson

8. Jon Hamm.
Jon Hamm

7. Matthew Fox.
Matthew Fox

6. James Franco.
James Franco

5. David Schwimmer.
David Schwimmer

4. Idris Elba.
Idris Elba

3. Scott Cohen.
Scott Cohen

2. Emile Hirsch.
Emile Hirsch

1. Joseph Gordon Levitt.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Pineapple Express

I didn’t even stay to see the end of this one, that’s how stupid I thought it was. Seriously. I’ve never found fascination with pothead movies (Harold and Kumar, you owe me those two hours of my life I spent watching you cope with bad special effects), and this one is no exception. While James Franco was a tiny beacon of hope, Seth Rogen has created yet another startingly unfunny, unending and anti-climactic two-hour snoozefest.

I really don’t understand why the country has become utterly fascinated with this man. I found “Knocked Up” equally unfunny, mostly because I don’t think Rogen is doing any work. He’s playing himself, and he as a person seems lazy, unapologetic and rude. Why should anyone deserve any credit for being an oaf? Jonah Hill isn’t much better, but at least he peppers his laziness with the occasional biting quip. Other than the people he works with, I have no respect for Rogen (and Apatow’s) body of work. No one’s acting. They’re dicking around and there just happens to be a camera filming them while they’re doing it.

Milk

This one was kind of a big deal. Not in the leather-bound books, rich mahogany sort of way. Although I appreciate those types of Bog Deals. No, this movie holds particularly significant significance to me and the greater community in which I live—the Bay Area. Though my knowledge of Harvey Milk was limited to a libel case I studied in a journalism class last year, his importance has grown over the years and has now reached (enter cliche term here) staggering proportions. Seriously. Sean Penn, bless his heart, has taken a hometown hero and placed him on a national and extremely timely stage, and I know that a vast majority of San Franciscans and outsiders alike are thankful for this holiday release.

Just to clarify, I liked this movie. I am not obsessed with it, which is weird because I got the impression that the filmmakers wanted people to be obsessed with it. (I used the phrase “glamour-soaked” before and I’ll use it again to describe some of the rosy, glistening face shots that peppered this film.) But I thought this story, much like the story in Brokeback Mountain, needed to be told, especially in light of the passing of Proposition 8 in California. I think Penn et al banked on Prop 8 not passing, which would have made this film’s release more triumphant and victorious, rather than ironic and bittersweet, but regardless of today’s politics it relays a message of hope and bravery that transcends time.

Penn was radiant. My mother told me that, when she saw the film, she couldn’t take her eyes off of him. Many critics have pointed out that dear old Sean is actually showing his pearly whites in this film, something he’s sort of known for avoiding in most other movies, so maybe this evident happiness gave him a new, more magnetic appearance. Whatever works, I say. He captured raw emotion, both in anger and in elation, while also capturing the essence of a man that most of the audience will meet for the first time in this movie. His supporting cast was pretty brilliant, too. James Franco may have been the most surprising, especially considering his most recent roles (cross-shaped toke, anyone?). It’s not often that a Seth Rogen-camp actor will cross over into this risky a role this early in his career, and it more than proves Franco’s versatility and sensitivity to cinematic storytelling. And I have a long-time crush on Emile Hirsch, so clearly I loved him in this role, too, though I wish his part would have been more deeply developed.

Harvey Milk knew he’d be a martyr, but he never hesitated to risk his life. His cause was one that had to be catapulted into the public eye in order to be saved, and when it comes down to it, this film is about civil rights. Plain and simple. And everyone wants their civil rights.