He’s Just Not That Into You

Over a year ago, I had lunch with a close female friend I’ve known for over 20 years.  She’s very easy to talk to, very smart, good humoured and, if my memory is good, tried out for Mensa once.  Anyway, after we ate, we walked past a movie theatre and after noticing that He’s Just Not That Into You was playing, she began to rave about the book of the same name, arguing that it spoke to her and changed her life, as well as that of some of her female pals.  I looked at her like she was completely out of her mind which didn’t in any way dissuade her from believing so fervently in what she was saying.  Needless to say, I had no interest in becoming a convert.  The whole idea of the book sounded more than a little condescending.
 
Having now screened He’s Just Not That Into You, a fictional ensemble piece loosely based on the philosophies of the how-to bestseller, I doubt I’m wrong.  From start to finish, this is an immensely unfunny, predictable, deeply insulting snorefest featuring some of the dumbest characters ever seen in a movie.
 
First, there’s Gigi (Ginnifer Goodwin).  Despite being a cutie pie, she can’t seem to find a decent man to have a relationship with.  It takes very little time to understand why.  After going on a first date with nice guy real estate agent, Conor (Entourage’s Kevin Connelly), she’s convinced there’ll be a second one.  (How quickly she forgets that she sounded like a desperate insecure dork over their drinks together.)  Over the next several days, she constantly checks her phone for a call that isn’t forthcoming.  At one point, she even leaves an embarrassing message on his voicemail that goes on and on and on leaving the wrong kind of impression.  (More on poor, desperate Gigi in a moment.)
 
What she doesn’t know is that Conor really wants Anna (Scarlett Johansson), a sexy, aspiring singer who constantly gives him mixed signals.  They had a one-night stand that meant more to him than to her and yet, she keeps calling him and hanging out with him, totally screwing with his head.  Part of the problem is that Anna has her eyes on someone else.  Early on, during a cell conversation with Conor, she meets Ben (Bradley Cooper) in line at a grocery store.  He just happens to have music business connections.  (They fall in lust at first sight.)  Unfortunately, he’s married to Janine (Jennifer Connelly) who works with the annoying Gigi.  The airheaded Anna pursues a totally inappropriate romance with him, nonetheless.  (Good thinking, kid!  No ill can come from that!)
 
Their colleague, Beth (Jennifer Aniston), has been happily unmarried, to use Gene Simmons’ term, to Neil (Ben Affleck) for seven years.  Then, after a dopey conversation at work with Gigi and Janine, she suddenly demands marriage of the poor guy who has told her repeatedly he has no desire to do that.  (He’s been completely monogamous with her the whole time they’ve been a couple.)  Unsurprisingly, they have a totally unnecessary split.
 
Back to Gigi.  Knowing that Conor frequents a local watering hole, she plans on hoping to "accidentally" bump into him there.  But the owner, Alex (Justin Long), who just happens to be pals with the gay-friendly real estate agent, tells the pathetic one that he’s not coming.  Alex basically represents Greg Behrendt, the co-author of the original book, patiently explaining to Gigi why these incompatible men she’s supposedly attracted to aren’t returning the favour.  Even if you’ve never seen a movie before, you know pretty much what will happen with these two.
 
Right from the start, it’s hard to accept the film’s basic premise.  Little girls are given bad advice by their mothers regarding the "signals" boys give them (you know, abusive behaviour is a sign of affection, to site one idiotic, not to mention dangerous bit of wisdom) which is continually reinforced by their close girlfriends throughout their lives.  (In the opening scene, we learn this is a global epidemic.)  And this explains why they can’t find long lasting love.  What a ridiculous, simplistic cop-out and what a sexist philosophy, too.  If you’re a teenage girl (or a grown woman, for that matter) and you follow this line of thinking once and it blows up in your face, wouldn’t you abandon it outright in order to avoid getting seriously hurt a second time?  Why torture yourself over and over again for nothing?  And honestly, how many mothers are feeding their impressionable daughters this bullshit?  (It has to be a minority, if that.)  And who are these supposed friends who are continually crushing their hopes for happiness?
 
The talented cast do what they can but they’re stuck with leaden material.  You have to feel for the lovely Ginnifer Goodwin.  She was so funny and charming in the uneven Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!, it’s hard to believe she’s saddled with such a pill of a character to play this time around.  I cringed during much of her screen time.  Justin Long is good as Alex, but he’s not exactly charming, thanks to some questionable dialogue he’s given to say.  (Comparing Goodwin to a basset hound is about as loathsome a comparison as you can get.  No woman wants to hear that.)
 
Scarlett Johansson did a nice job in A Love Song For Bobby Long but in this movie, she’s reduced to playing an evil, indecisive bimbo who in one unintentionally hilarious scene blows up at the charmless Bradley Cooper for, get this, having sex with his own wife!  Granted, she arrives at his office while Johansson and Cooper are just getting started with their own roll in the hay (Connelly doesn’t suspect anything even though she knows about the other woman) which leads her to hide in the closet but, oh, never mind.
 
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Aniston have a nice chemistry but because of their baffling break-up, Aniston has to put up with a lot of pitying remarks from her family during their separation.  You have to wait nearly the entire film before the inevitable happens.  All I will say about that is that the movie makes its most appealing character, the only one who has a sensible outlook on loving relationships, a total sell-out.
 
As appalling as He’s Just Not That Into You is, it does have a couple genuinely funny moments.  Drew Barrymore’s character, a cute, sweet gal who does the classifieds for a gay publication, gets serenaded by a rock singer on her voicemail.  Unfortunately, he leaves another message singing another woman’s name.  Oops.  And then there’s the guy who sits next to the depressed Aniston at her sister’s reception.  He might be the funniest Wiccan in cinematic history.
 
Beyond some cool music on the soundtrack (R.E.M., Black Crowes, Keane) and a third act romance that should’ve happened sooner, there is little holding this monstrosity together.  It is too long (a little over two hours), too slow, rarely funny or moving and too tedious.  How anyone of reason can find comfort and insight through this obnoxious film with its dimwitted characters and general cluelessness is a mystery.
 
And to think, they’re making a sequel.  
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
1:04 p.m. 
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Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 1:04 pm  Comments (1)  

Availability Of Recently Oscar Nominated Films On DVD

Inglourious Basterds.  The Hurt Locker.  Up.  Up In The Air.  District 9.  Coraline.  Julie & Julia.  Star Trek.  Transformers:  Rise Of The Fallen.  Bright Star.  Il Divo.  Paris 36.  Coco Over Chanel.  Food, Inc.  The Cove.  Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince.  In The Loop.  A Serious Man.  Precious.
 
What two things do these 19 titles have in common?  They were all nominated for Oscars this year and you can see them now on DVD. 
 
The 82nd annual Academy Awards have come and gone.  All that remains are the memories of a very fine ceremony and a whole bunch of films most of us haven’t even seen yet.  While we scour the racks of our local video stores seeking out these features (or hunt for them online), more Oscar nominated titles are coming our way shortly.  Here’s a list of what you can expect to find in the next two months:
 
The Princess & The Frog (March 16)
 
The Blind Side (March 23)
 
Fantastic Mr. Fox (March 23)
 
Sherlock Holmes (March 30)
 
An Education (March 30)
 
The Lovely Bones (April 20)
 
The Young Victoria (April 20)
 
Avatar (April 22)
 
The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (April 27)
 
Nine (May 4)
 
The Messenger (May 18)
 
The White Ribbon (June 29)
 
 
No official release dates are available for Which Way Home, A Single Man, The Milk Of Sorrow, Burma VJ, The Secrets In Their Eyes, The Last Station, Invictus, The Most Dangerous Man In America:  Daniel Ellsberg And The Pentagon Papers, Ajami and Crazy Heart, although some of these titles can be pre-ordered on Amazon.  The Secret Of Kells and A Prophet just opened in theatres so their debuts on DVD will most likely happen in the summer.  However, a good number of these films, like Avatar, can still be seen in theatres for the time being.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, March 12, 2010
4:34 p.m.
 
UPDATE:  Crazy Heart has been pencilled in for April 20th.  Invictus is out May 18th.  Both films can be pre-ordered on Amazon.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
12:49 p.m.
 
CORRECTION:  This story originally reported that The White Ribbon would be available April 27th.  Unfortunately, that is no longer true.  The new release date is June 29th.  It can be pre-ordered on Amazon.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, April 26, 2010
11:50 p.m.
Published in: on March 12, 2010 at 4:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hilarious Hosts Oversee Mostly Predictable Oscars

“David” won.  The Hurt Locker was the big winner at the 82nd annual Academy Awards as it walked away with 6 golden trophies, the most of any movie this year.  The small-budgeted war film won Best Picture over “Goliath”, James Cameron’s enormously expensive and massively successful Avatar.  The conventional wisdom was right and I was wrong.  As expected, Kathryn Bigelow made history by becoming the first woman to snag Best Director.  It was a good sign when Barbra Streisand walked out to present the award.  A stunned, leggy Bigelow, looking hot as ever, acknowledged her nominees as a group (no one was singled out by name) and dedicated her gong to the military currently serving overseas.  Twice, she called her award “the moment of a lifetime”.  The Hurt Locker also won for its original script (writer Mark Boal dedicated his trophy to the troops, as well), Best Film Editing and both sound categories.
 
Avatar had to settle for Best Visual Effects, Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography, all technical achievements.
 
Three other films each won two trophies.  Unsurprisingly, Pixar’s Up won for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score.  Jeff Bridges received a standing ovation for winning Best Actor, another fait de complet.  He plays the lead in Crazy Heart which also won Best Original Song for the track The Weary Kind, sung by Colin Farrell in the movie.  Bridges paid tribute to his deceased parents who passed on their love of showbiz to him and thanked his beautiful wife and daughters for their support over the decades as well a number of his professional colleagues including his castmates.  He also singled out the film’s director and screenwriter, Scott Cooper, who rose delightedly from his seat in the audience when Bridges asked him to stand up.  The 60-year-old actor sounded like a hippie at times when he said “man”.  When Michelle Pfeiffer kissed his ass prior to the award presentation, you could see his eyes water.  I think I’d be moved, too, if a hot babe sang my praises over and over. 
 
Mo’Nique delivered a short, superb, intense speech when she accepted the Best Supporting Actress prize for her highly acclaimed work in Precious.  In one of only two geniune surprises, the film also won for Best Adapted Screenplay beating the heavy favourite Up In The Air.  The only other upset involved the Best Foreign Language Film category.  Presumptive favourite, The White Ribbon, was beat by the Argentinian film, The Secret In Their Eyes.
 
Sandra Bullock was remarkably gracious and mostly funny when she got up on stage to accept the Best Actress gong for her work in The Blind Side.  Acknowledging each of her nominees by name was classy, typical of the longtime star known for her kindness.  (The old National Enquirer TV show once noted that she was the queen of the thank-you note, if my memory is good.)  Austrian actor Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor playing the “Jew hunter” in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.  He described the win and the kiss he gave gorgeous presenter Penelope Cruz as an “uberBingo”.  (The complete list of winners is at the bottom of this entry.)
 
As for co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, they were brilliant.  From their hilarious opening monologue to their parody of Paranormal Activity to the shot of them watching TV in their orange Snuggies to their satirical introductions of presenters, they rarely stepped wrong.  I’ll take them over the hoofing Hugh Jackman any day.
 
Also hilarious was Ben Stiller who always manages to bring his A-game to the Oscars (remember his Joaquin Phoenix spoof in 2009?).  This year, he dressed up like one of the blue Na’vi characters from Avatar as he presented Best Make-Up.  Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. were also funny as they playfully demonstrated the comic tensions between writers and actors regarding scripts before presenting Best Original Screenplay.  George Clooney managed to get laughs for his engaging reaction shots, especially during an opening monologue joke.  Even Robin Williams got off a good testicle quip.
 
There was a lovely tribute to filmmaker John Hughes who died of a sudden heart attack last year.  With his family in attendance (his two sons look uncannily like him), actors like Anthony Michael Hall, Molly Ringwald (she looked great) and Matthew Broderick paid homage to the man who gave them some of their most memorable roles.  A clip montage of his film work, sprinkled with some of the former National Lampoon writer’s quick comments, underscored why his absence from movies is so dearly felt.  All in all, a wonderful presentation.  Also cool was the horror movie tribute which showcased almost 100 years worth of scary flicks.
 
One of the best things about this year’s telecast was seeing clips from the Best Documentary Feature and Best Foreign Language Film nominees.  Normally, we just hear the titles and not experience a single scene with audio.  Also great was the surprise return of the much missed phrase, “And the winner is…” before names were announced.  Only Kate Winslet offered the lame “And the Oscar goes to…” line that we’ve been subjected to for far too long. 
 
As always, though, there are aspects to the show we could do without.  Did we really need that forced, terribly unfunny opening production number with Neil Patrick Harris?  (Thankfully, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin immediately followed and the laughter began.)  What was with James Taylor doing The Beatles’ In My Life during the In Memoriam presentation (whose early moments were hard to see)?  If you’re gonna use that song, play the original instead.  Last year’s invention of having famous actors kiss the asses of the nominees was mercifully scaled down to just the lead acting categories (tough break, supporting nominees).  Although it dragged down the last half hour of the show, which otherwise moved quite briskly, there were funny moments courtesy of Michael Sheen (who sucked up to Helen Mirren), Colin Farrell (who paid tribute to his S.W.A.T. castmate Jeremy Renner) and Tim Robbins (who honoured Morgan Freeman).  Ultimately, though, the incessant brown nosing was just too much.
 
It was also disappointing and more than a little rude to see a couple of winners get played off during their moment in the sun, unlike last year where everybody got all their words out in time.  I know not every speech can be a homerun (many of them were actually quite good this year) but these people worked their entire lives to get a little recognition for one of the high points of their career.  It’s not too much to ask for a bit of patience while they graciously acknowledge those whose support led them to that microphone.
 
All in all, this was a much better ceremony than last year.  Martin and Baldwin should be asked back.  They were consistently terrific.
 
As for my family’s annual Oscar pool (our 19th annual event), I won yet again going 15 for 24, a better record than 2009’s 12 for 24 disappointment.  This is my 11th victory overall and my sixth in a row, a new record.  I won by one.
 
The complete list of winners:
 
BEST PICTURE – THE HURT LOCKER
 
BEST DIRECTOR – Kathryn Bigelow (THE HURT LOCKER)
 
BEST ACTRESS – Sandra Bullock (THE BLIND SIDE)
 
BEST ACTOR – Jeff Bridges (CRAZY HEART)
 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Mo’Nique (PRECIOUS)
 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Christoph Waltz (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS)
 
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – UP
 
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – THE COVE
 
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES
 
BEST ORIGINAL SONG – The Weary Kind (Theme From Crazy Heart) (CRAZY HEART)
 
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Mark Boal (THE HURT LOCKER)
 
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Geoffrey Fletcher (PRECIOUS)
 
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – Michael Giacchino (UP)
 
BEST FILM EDITING – THE HURT LOCKER
 
BEST SOUND EDITING – THE HURT LOCKER
 
BEST SOUND MIXING – THE HURT LOCKER
 
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – AVATAR
 
BEST ART DIRECTION – AVATAR
 
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – AVATAR
 
BEST MAKE-UP – STAR TREK
 
BEST COSTUME DESIGN – THE YOUNG VICTORIA
 
BEST ANIMATED SHORT – LOGORAMA
 
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – THE NEW TENANTS
 
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – MUSIC BY PRUDENCE
 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, March 8, 2010
2:21 a.m.
 
UPDATE:  Salon.com has a wild story about the winners of the Best Documentary Short Subject Oscar here.  I didn’t mention it because I wasn’t quite sure what was going on and couldn’t quite explain why that woman (Elinor Burkett) suddenly got up on stage and interrupted Roger Ross Williams.  I had no idea there was a lot of bad blood there.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, March 8, 2010
1:51 p.m.
Published in: on March 8, 2010 at 2:22 am  Comments (1)  

Predicting The 2010 Oscars (Part Two)

In Part One of this series, I offered my predictions for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress for this year’s Academy Awards.  For this concluding installment, I present my picks for the 20 remaining categories.
 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Mo’Nique (PRECIOUS)
 
The Spanish goddess Penelope Cruz was last year’s winner in this category, thanks to her performance in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona, so don’t expect a repeat for her work in the musical Nine.  Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jeff Bridges’ co-star in Crazy Heart, won’t need to prepare a speech.  Neither will the other first-time nominees, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick (both for Up In The Air) who will cancel each other out.
 
That leaves the hairy-legged Mo’Nique.  Playing the damaged, abusive mother in Precious, she has won award after award after award for this breakthrough performance.  It would be an utter shock if her name isn’t called.  Mo’Nique for Best Supporting Actress.
 
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Christoph Waltz (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS)
 
Like many of the major categories this year, this one looks like another sure thing.  That’s bad news for Stanley Tucci, who plays the suspected murderer of a young girl in the adaptation of the blockbuster novel, The Lovely Bones, as well as two-time nominee Woody Harrelson (The Messenger is his first nod since The People Vs. Larry Flynt), Toronto-born Christopher Plummer who snagged his first nomination ever at age 80 and previous Best Original Screenplay winner Matt Damon (who shared that award with old pal Ben Affleck for Good Will Hunting).
 
Since winning the Best Actor prize at The Cannes Film Festival this past May for playing a Nazi in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, this Viennese actor, who had never appeared in an English-language production before, has been saving a lot of shelf space for all his awards.  He’ll need to make just a little more room for his Oscar on March 7th.  Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor.
 
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – UP
 
Since this category was introduced in 2002, Pixar has won four times (Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Wall-E).  That’s a 80% success rate.  (Monsters, Inc. lost to Shrek.)  Up is its sixth nominated animated feature, yet another critically acclaimed blockbuster. 
 
For only the second time in its history, there are five nominees this year (normally there’s just three).  The Princess And The Frog is Disney’s first foray into old-school, handdrawn animation (with a technological assist) in nearly a decade.  It was a big hit over the Christmas holiday but not a real strong bet to win.  Neither is The Secret Of Kells which hasn’t really had much of a theatrical release in North America.  (It opens five days after the Oscar telecast in “limited” release.)  The stop-motion Coraline (directed by The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Henry Selick) and Wes Anderson’s new school Fantastic Mr. Fox (based on a Roald Dahl novel) have both received strong reviews and if either of their names were called, the result would be jolting.
 
However, Pixar can rest easy.  It’s Up all the way for Best Animated Feature.
 
BEST ORIGINAL SONG – The Weary Kind (Theme From Crazy Heart) (CRAZY HEART)
 
The Susan Lucci of The Academy Awards, Randy Newman has two movie-related tracks competing for Oscar gold this year.  Out of nine previous Best Original Song nominations (dating back to 1983 when he was first recognized for Ragtime’s One More Hour), he’s only won once (Monsters, Inc.’s If I Didn’t Have You).  His two entries from The Princess And The Frog mark his tenth and eleventh academy citations (and that doesn’t even include his eight Original Score nominations).  I suspect some vote splitting, as a result.  Nine’s Take It All and Loin de Paname (from Paris 36) are likely too unknown and too obscure to generate much enthusiasm. 
 
That leaves The Weary Kind from Crazy Heart.  We have a winner.
 
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – Michael Giacchino (UP)
 
A Frenchman, a German and four Americans are all competing for Best Original Score this year.  8-time nominee Hans Zimmer, who nabbed a gong for his contributions to The Lion King, isn’t likely to win for scoring the latest Sherlock Holmes.  Neither is fellow 8-time nominee, 1-time winner James Horner.  The Avatar composer will have to be content with his win for Titanic.  The third nod won’t be the charm for Alexandre Desplat and his music for the animated critics’ fave, Fantastic Mr. Fox, nor do I foresee Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders sharing the award for scoring The Hurt Locker. 
 
That leaves Michael Giacchino.  He didn’t win for his work on Ratatouille, his only previous nomination.  He’ll win for Up.
 
Here are my predictions for the remaining categories:
 
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – THE WHITE RIBBON
 
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – AVATAR
 
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Mark Boal (THE HURT LOCKER)
 
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Jason Reitman & Sheldon Turner (UP IN THE AIR)
 
BEST SOUND EDITING – AVATAR
 
BEST SOUND MIXING – AVATAR
 
BEST FILM EDITING – AVATAR
 
BEST ART DIRECTION – AVATAR
 
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – AVATAR
 
BEST COSTUME DESIGN – THE YOUNG VICTORIA
 
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – FOOD, INC.
 
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – MUSIC BY PRUDENCE
 
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – KAVI
 
BEST ANIMATED SHORT – A MATTER OF LOAF AND DEATH
 
BEST MAKE-UP – STAR TREK
 
The 82nd Academy Awards, hosted by Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, will air Sunday, March 7 at 8:30 p.m. on ABC and CTV.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, March 5, 2010 
11:48 p.m. 
Published in: on March 5, 2010 at 11:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Predicting The 2010 Oscars (Part One)

10 Best Picture nominees.  No Best Original Song performances.  Two hosts.  And a banning.
 
Controversy has always enveloped the annual Academy Awards and this year is no exception.  For the first time since 1944, there are twice as many titles up for Best Picture.  (During each of the past 65 years, it’s always been five.)  The ABC telecast has dropped the nominated music performances to save time.  (Great idea.)  Even though he’s hosted the show brilliantly on his own during two previous ceremonies, the great Steve Martin returns to the job with actor Alec Baldwin by his side.  And one of the nominated producers of The Hurt Locker won’t be in attendance after the academy barred him.  His crime?  Urging members via email to vote for his movie instead of Avatar, or as he put it, that “$500M film”.  (Can you say “overreaction”?  I knew you could.)
 
At any event, despite all these unusual developments, one tradition remains intact:  my annual predictions of who will take home “the lord of all knick-knacks”, to borrow Jim Carrey’s memorably funny quip from the 1996 ceremony.  Let’s get started:
 
BEST PICTURE – AVATAR
 
The last time there were ten nominees in this category, Casablanca was the winner.  After criticism arose following the surprise snubbing of The Dark Knight (not to mention Wall-E) in 2009, the academy’s response was to revert back to a nominating policy that hadn’t been used in more than six decades.  As a result, this is the most eclectic list of titles recognized in years.  You’ve got comedy, science fiction, action and animation on top of the usual dramatic fare. 
 
Unfortunately, eight of these nominated features will have to settle for simply making the cut.  Like Beauty And The Beast, the first ever animated Best Picture nominee, Up won’t have the votes.  The Coen Brothers won for No Country For Old Men two years ago so they can forget about another triumph with A Serious Man.  District 9 doesn’t have a prayer.  Neither does An Education nor The Blind Side.  Up In The Air and Precious were early favourites but neither of them are likely to pull an upset.  Although some have made a case for Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, I just don’t see it winning despite its Holocaust theme.
 
That leaves James Cameron’s Avatar and Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker.  The former is one of the biggest grossing movies ever (over 700 million on this continent alone).  The latter has made about 13 million domestically.  The former has an 82% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  The latter has a 97% rating.  Locker has pretty much cleaned up on the awards circuit so far with Best Film wins from BAFTA (the British Academy Awards), The Producers Guild Of America, and critics groups (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, among many others).  Avatar has only taken a bowling trophy (the meaningless Best Motion Picture (Drama) Golden Globe).  Bigelow has never seen one of her projects recognized by the academy.  Cameron’s Titanic was the big winner in this category 12 years ago.
 
Based on all of that, The Hurt Locker stands a very good chance of winning.  Dave Karger of Entertainment Weekly and Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times are among many who say so.  Before I suffered from a 17-day condition known as Olympic Fever, it was my pick to win, too.  But recently, I’m starting to have second thoughts.  Despite its tremendous critical acclaim, the film was far from a commercial juggernaut when it debuted this past summer.  Although past winners like The Last Emperor and Crash made less than 100 million each during their theatrical runs, they made money for their respective studios.  (Locker, which was made for about 11 million, according to the Internet Movie Database, basically broke even.)  As far as I know, no nominated film has won with such meagre earnings.  Generally, most Best Picture winners are blockbusters.  Consider this past decade alone:  Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, Million Dollar Baby, The Departed, Slumdog Millionaire.  Each one a big commercial success.
 
It shouldn’t matter, ultimately, but let’s not forget that the movie business is a business and a billion dollar boy’s club at that.  And while the academy hasn’t always recognized the biggest moneymakers in this category (think E.T. and the first Star Wars trilogy), it did prefer Forrest Gump over Pulp Fiction, to name one such example.  Furthermore, considering the dire economic climate and the fact that ratings for the ceremony have dropped remarkably over the last decade or so (think tens of millions of viewers), giving its top prize to a movie that many, many people have seen and thoroughly enjoyed makes a lot of sense, as far that point of view is concerned.  (55 million or so saw Titanic clean up in 1998.  The ratings have steadily dropped ever since.)  While I wouldn’t be surprised if the conventional wisdom is correct about The Hurt Locker’s prospects for glory, Avatar has been far too successful to be ignored.  I pick it to win Best Picture.
 
BEST DIRECTOR – Kathryn Bigelow (THE HURT LOCKER)
 
When someone wins The Directors Guild Of America prize, they become a heavy favourite to win the Best Director Oscar because of its historically high conversion rate (about 90%).  This year, the ageless Kathryn Bigelow won for putting together The Hurt Locker.  That means that James Cameron, who won for Titanic, will have to pretend to smile as his supremely hot ex-wife goes up on stage to make history as she becomes the first woman to win in that category.  Lee Daniels, the second black man to be recognized (John Singleton was the first back in 1992 for his superb Boyz N The Hood), first-time nominee Jason Reitman (Ivan’s kid) and previous nominee Quentin Tarantino (he was previously singled out 15 years ago for the terrific Pulp Fiction) will need to be content with just being named to this short list.
 
Nearly 60 years old (but looking about 20 years younger), Bigelow has paid her dues long enough.  She’ll win Best Director and make history.
 
BEST ACTOR – Jeff Bridges (CRAZY HEART)
 
He is a wonderful actor who has consistently delivered fine performances for four decades.  On four previous tries, the last one in 2001, he has failed to snag a golden statuette.  No longer.  Now 60 years old, Jeff Bridges is finally going to become an Oscar winner, thanks to his critically acclaimed portrayal of a grizzled country singer in Crazy Heart.  This is his second Best Actor nomination (Starman was his first back in 1985; the other three nods were for supporting roles) and considering how talented he is and how long he’s waited, he’s this year’s Martin Scorsese, a long deserving candidate for a once elusive prize.  As for his competition, Morgan Freeman and George Clooney are previous Best Supporting Actor winners so count them out.  Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker) and A Serious Man’s Colin Firth are not foreseen as spoilers here.
 
Jeff Bridges will win Best Actor.  Expect a standing ovation.
 
BEST ACTRESS – Sandra Bullock (THE BLIND SIDE)
 
Two past winners and three first-time nominees are in the running for Best Actress this year.  Let’s eliminate the timeless sexpot Helen Mirren who won three years ago for playing Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen.  It’s not likely she’ll win again.  Carey Mulligan, nominated for her work in An Education, is pretty much a long shot, as well.  Perennial nominee Meryl Streep, who plays Julia Child in Julie & Julia, already has two Oscars and it’s not likely she’ll win a third this time around.   I initially believed that adorable Gabourey Sidibe, who has received tremendous raves playing the tortured, overweight, emotional mess that is Precious, was the actress to beat here.  She may still pull off an upset but it’s looking more and more like Sandra Bullock’s time to shine.  (She won the Screen Actors Guild award not too long ago.)  Considering how well-liked she is and how commercially successful The Blind Side was, not to mention the fact that she was criminally overlooked for her great supporting performance in Crash, like Best Actor and Best Director, she’s as sure a pick as you can imagine.  Bullock for Best Actress.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, March 4, 2010
9:59 p.m.
Published in: on March 4, 2010 at 9:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Unofficial 2010 Winter Olympic Awards

Since 1979, Pro Wrestling Illustrated has given its readers the opportunity to acknowledge the best and worst moments of the year in the form of unofficial awards.  In that spirit, I’d like to present my own unofficial awards for the recently concluded 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
 
Best Simulation Of An Erection
 
Those phallic looking totem poles slowly and hilariously stiffening into place at the opening ceremonies.
 
Best Extreme Representation Of “Blue Balls”
 
Those cool looking “zorbs” during the Sochi, Russia portion of the closing ceremonies.
 
Best Tribute To A John Carpenter Film
 
That mysterious, eerie fog that drifted in and out of numerous skiing, aerial and snowboarding events.
 
Best Reason To Watch Any Skiing Event
 
The breathtaking scenery, when you could see it.
 
Second Best Reason To Watch Any Skiing Event
 
The wipeouts.  And there were many, some more brutal than others.
 
Best Reaction Shot During The Opening Ceremonies
 
A wide-eyed Patrick Chan, the 19-year-old Canadian figure skater, captured in a close-up by CTV.
 
Best Reaction Shot During The Closing Ceremonies
 
That cute, smiling baby with the “L’il Canuck” T-shirt, also caught by CTV.
 
Most Deserving Of A Warm Embrace (tie)
 
Lovely Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette who tragically lost her mom to a sudden, unexpected heart attack just days before her triumphant short program in the ladies’ competition which ended in unbridled emotion.  And The Goddess Of Skeleton, the heartbreakingly teary-eyed 2006 Bronze Medallist Mellisa Hollingsworth, who openly felt she let not only herself down but her entire country as well after her disappointing fourth run at the Whistler sliding centre.  She didn’t, thanks to her respectable fifth place finish and remarkable passion for her sport.  Here’s hoping she doesn’t take any future failures quite so personally even though her honesty is much appreciated.  Life is short.  You don’t always win.  Thankfully, there’s always another race.
 
Best Collective Cheerleader Award
 
Practically every single audience that attended every single event despite some awful weather conditions.  With a mixture of Canadians, Americans and fans from around the world, every athlete who had the courage to show up and compete, regardless of their talent and degree of success, were warmly embraced as if they all hailed from Vancouver.  True, the Canadians were cheered loudest of all but no one was booed, especially during crashes and wipeouts.  Not only that, cowbells were banged and horns were blown into in honour of anyone willing to put themselves in harm’s way for permanent glory.  Cool.
 
Best Individual Cheerleader Award (3-way tie)
 
“Baby Huey”, A.K.A. Pete Lavin, was that loud, intense voice you heard encouraging American skiers like Bode Miller and Michael Sullivan just before their various runs on the slopes.  Sample pump-up dialogue:  “Come on, Michael Sullivan!  Let’s go!  Right now!  Come on!”  Frederic Bilodeau, the older brother of moguls Gold medallist Alexandre Bilodeau, whose unmistakable presence at Cypress Hill (despite a lifetime of suffering from Cerebral Palsy he stood for the entire competition with a beaming smile on his face and his arm often in the air) proved to be a endless source of inspiration for Canada’s first Olympic champion on home soil.  And blonde short track speed skater Marianne St.-Gelais, the cutie pie double Silver medallist who cried when boyfriend (and teammate) Charles Hamelin lost a chance at a medal in the 1000 metre final and jumped up and down screaming in joy during his Gold-medal victories in the 5000 metre relay and the 500 metre sprint, as well as during at least one semi-final.  Next to The Bilodeaus, their embrace at the end of the latter (nice butt pat, dude) was one of the most moving moments of the entire Olympics.  Does she have a twin?
 
Worst Individual Cheerleader Award
 
Curling broadcaster Vic Rauter who appeared to be openly rooting at times for Canada’s curling teams during key shots. 
 
Best Peter Griffin Impersonation
 
Cross country skiing commentator RJ Broadhead.
 
Least Welcome Homage To Abbey Road
 
Jamie Campbell’s mercifully brief impromptu rendition of The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun in reference to the improved weather conditions at Cypress Hill.
 
Most Annoying Commentator Habit
 
The corny usage of “darn” and “heck” in place of “damn” and “hell”. 
 
Best “How Tough Is This Sport?” Segment
 
The hilariously inept Calgary Flames who earnestly attempted to play curling for the first time with Cheryl Bernard and the rest of the good natured women’s team (who won Silver).  Jim Peplinski’s decision to wear his original hockey helmet for the bit was genius.  Runner-up:  figure skating Gold medallists Jamie Sale and David Pelletier humourously giving long track speed skating a go.
 
Most Gracious Tribute To A Fellow Broadcaster (tie)
 
Brian Williams remembering Jamie Campbell telling him years ago during his Sportsweekend days that he wanted to be a broadcaster after praising Campbell’s call of the historic Alexandre Bilodeau race.  And TSN’s Darren Dutchyshen who rightly singled out SportsCentre colleague Rod Smith (“Smitty”) for his great work covering long track speed skating.
 
Maybe They Have A Future In Porn
 
German ski jumper Andreas Wank, Australian skeleton racer Melissa Hoar, Russian cross country skier Anna Bogaliy-Titovets and Belarussian freestyle skier Assoli Slivets.
 
Most Charming Tribute To A Family Member
 
Right there on the top of one of Russian ski jumper Ilya Rosliakov’s skies is a picture of his baby son which he proudly showed to the camera after every jump.
 
Best Spontaneous Canadian Gesture
 
Whoever handed that pitcher of beer to Skeleton Gold medallist Jon Montgomery who was more than willing to guzzle some of it while en route to do some interviews. 
 
Classiest American
 
Long Track speed skating legend Dan Jansen who expressed his support for Canadian Jeremy Witherspoon in an interview with CTV and later sent a private email to figure skater Joannie Rochette to encourage her to keep going after the sudden death of her mother. 
 
Best James Brown Impression
 
Sexy skeleton slider Michelle Kelly pumping herself up by throwing her jacket to the ground before every run.  Awesome and very funny.
 
Biggest Screw-Up (tie)
 
The Netherlands long track speed skating coach who mistakenly directed Sven Kramer to the wrong lane during the 17th lap of the 25-lap 10000 metre race which would’ve been a record-breaking Gold Medal performance for the Dutch legend.  Instead, because of the miscue, Kramer was disqualified.  The coach didn’t get canned and Kramer, remarkably, forgave him very quickly.  (I’m not sure I would.)  And that moment during the opening ceremonies when one of the hydralic beams wouldn’t budge during the first torch lighting, leaving Catriona Le May Doan with nothing to do.
 
Best Way To Fix One Of Those Big Screw-Ups
 
During the start of the closing ceremonies, with an assist from an anxious mime, that stubborn hydralic beam finally moved into position and Le May Doan got to light it with her torch.
 
Best Impression Of A Coldplay Song
 
That awesome piano melody that was played relentlessly in and out of commercial breaks.  Impossible to get out of your head.
 
He’ll Never Have To Pay For A Beer Again
 
Sidney Crosby after his dramatic overtime goal in the Gold medal game against America.
 
If Captain Stubing Were A Canadian And About 40 Years Younger…
 
He’d be Gold Medallist Kevin Martin, the skip of the men’s curling team.
 
Best Nick Lachey Look-a-like
 
Gold Medallist John Morris, also a member of Canada’s curling squad.
 
Best Fan Club Name
 
Mo’s Bros, in honour of Morris.
 
Most Memorable Fan
 
That mysterious guy in the hockey helmet (you know, the one with the red light on top) with the sign who always managed to get on camera after many Canadian hockey goals. 
 
Most Unintentionally Cheeky Uniform
 
Japan’s golden long track speed skating outfits with those crotch triangles that at first looked like see-through underwear.
 
Most Unintentionally Entertaining Olympic Officials
 
The speed track guys at the long track and short track events.  You know, the dudes who say “Go to the start” and “Ready”?  The short track official, in particular, amused commentator Rod Black so much he couldn’t resist offering an impression of him from time to time.  (He would’ve enjoyed the long track guys, too.)
 
Least Likely Moment To Hear A Metallica Song
 
How about during an ice dancing routine featuring two skaters from Estonia?  They skated to Nothing Else Matters. 
 
Biggest Disappointment For Canada
 
The lack of medals from our downhill, alpine, slalom and cross country skiers (despite the tremendous male breakthroughs in that last discipline).  So much for home country advantage. 
 
Most Heartbreaking Canadian Loss
 
Without a doubt, the womens’ curling final.  Canada’s lovely and supremely talented skip Cheryl Bernard had two glorious opportunities to wrap up the Gold medal late in the match and missed them both.  One of her teammates had tears in her eyes after the medal ceremony as they all walked across the ice.  The whole country felt her pain.  Still, for a team not expected to hit the podium at all, Silver was a great accomplishment for this great team.  I would love to see them return in 2014.
 
Don’t Feel Bad For His Misfortune
 
Canadian Christopher Delbosco had an unfortunate fall that cost him the Bronze medal in the mens’ ski cross final.  However, his girlfriend is the womens’ ski cross Gold medalist, fellow Canadian Ashleigh McIvor, one of the hottest women at this year’s Olympics.  I’m guessing his disappointment didn’t last very long.
 
Most Inspirational Performance
 
Hands down, Joannie Rochette’s two skates in the womens’ figure skating competition.  Despite the sudden death of her mother, she managed to snag the Bronze medal.  How incredibly sad that her mom never got to experience her daughter’s greatest Olympic achievement.  She would’ve been very proud.
 
Didn’t He Sing This On Conan O’Brien’s Final Tonight Show?
 
Neil Young doing yet another live rendition of Long May You Run.  I didn’t mind hearing it again.
 
Most Surprising Use Of A Teleprompter
 
The incredibly sultry Alanis Morissette who, for some inexplicable reason, needed electronic assistance during her lip-synced performance of Wunderkind, one of her own songs.
 
The Hockey Equivalent Of An Old-School Pro Wrestling Squash Match
 
The 18-0 thrashing the Canadian women gave Japan in their opening game which set a new record for most goals scored by a single team in a single game in the Olympics.
 
Do They Know He Believes They’re Part Of A “Left Wing Fringe Group”?
 
The Canadian female curlers and Silver moguls medallist Jennifer Heil who all sat next to Prime Minister Steven Harper at two different events.
 
Most Overexposed Celebrity Audience Member
 
The ubiquitous Harper who was seen watching curling, long track speed skating (did we really need to see him lamely high five people after Canada won the mens’ Team Sprint Gold medal?), short track speed skating and hockey.  Is this why he prorogued Parliament?
 
Does He Really Need The Free Air Time?
 
NDP Leader Jack Layton was front and centre whenever CTV switched to Wayne Gretzky’s Restaurant in Toronto.
 
Broadcaster Who Definitely Needs To Switch To Decaf
 
The overexcited Michael Landsberg.
 
Most Touching Gesture
 
Naming Bronze medallist Joannie Rochette the flag bearer for Canada at the closing ceremonies. 
 
Most Moving Canadian Athlete Backstory (tie)
 
The aforementioned Bilodeau brothers, and the ice dancing Gold Medallists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir whose revealing skating and personal history goes back more than a decade. 
 
Country With The Sexiest Female Athletes
 
Canada.  Mellisa Hollingsworth, Michelle Kelly, Amy Gough, Cheryl Bernard, Maelle Ricker, Ashleigh McIvor, Jennifer Heil, Christina Groves, Christine Nesbitt, Joannie Rochette, Tessa Virtue, Meghan Agosta, Gillian Apps, Veronika Bauer, Tessa Bonhomme, Jennifer Botterill, Chandra Crawford, Rosanna Crawford, Caroline Calve, Anastasia Bucsis, Vanessa Crone, Jessica Dube, Shelley-Ann Brown, Haley Irwin, Jessica Gregg, Jayna Hefford, Anna Goodman, Alex Gough, Marie-Michele Gagnon, Kaillie Humphries, Megan Imrie, Becky Kellar, Rebecca Johnston, Gina Kingsbury, Zina Kocher, Charline Labonte, Annabelle Langlois, Regan Lauscher, Alexa Loo, Valerie Maltais, Dominique Maltais, Meaghan Mikkelson, Kristie Moore, Heather Moyse, Julia Murray, Mercedes Nicoll, Susan O’Connor, Caroline Ouellette, Tamara Oudenaarden, Cherie Piper, Cynthia Phaneuf, Shannon Rempel, Marie-Philip Poulin, Sara Renner, Kristi Richards, Kalyna Roberge, Brittany Schussler, Kelsey Serwa, Meaghan Simister, Marianne St.-Gelais, Helen Upperton, Shannon Szabados, Megan Tandy, Catherine Ward, Tania Vicent and Kimiko Zakreski, just to name a few.  Case closed.
 
Best Non-Athletic Reason To Watch Curling
 
All those beautiful female participants from America, Great Britain, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.
 
Maybe They Play Golf In Their Spare Time
 
Norway’s male curling team and their now infamous checkered pants. 
 
Their Olympic Legend Grows
 
Clara Hughes won a Bronze medal in the womens’ 5000 metre long track speed skating event, her sixth overall trip to the podium.  And Apolo Anton Ohno who became the most decorated American short track speed skater with eight overall medals.
 
Redemption Is Sweet
 
Eight years after losing the Gold medal match in mens’ curling, Kevin Martin and the national Canadian team had a very different result in their match with Norway.  After losing all his individual races, Canadian long track speed skater Denny Morrison was part of the trio that won the Gold medal in the Team Pursuit event.  After early disappointments in his individual short track speed skating events, Canadian Charles Hamelin finished his Olympics with two Gold medal triumphs.  After a disappointing 2006, American skier Bode Miller won Gold, Silver and Bronze in Vancouver.  Four years after barely missing the podium, Canadian bobsledders Helen Upperton and Shelley-Ann Brown steadily worked their way to a Silver medal after four solid runs at the Whistler sliding centre.
 
Heads:  She Wins A Medal, Tails:  Call The Doctor
 
The wildly uneven American skier Lindsey Vonn won a medal every time she stayed on course (two in total) and wiped out during all her other events.  One such crash during a slalom event led to an injured pinkie.
 
So Close Yet Oh So Far
 
Devon Kershaw was less than two seconds from a Gold Medal and less than one for Bronze in the mens’ 50 Kilometre cross country Mass Start.  (He finished 5th, Canada’s best ever result in the event.)  Two-time 2010 medallist Kristina Groves was 8 tenths of a second away from a third medal in one of her long track speed skating events.  Canada 1, the four-man bobsledding team, were one hundredth of a second away from winning a Silver medal.  They won the Bronze instead.
 
Funniest Moment During John Furlong’s Speech At The Closing Ceremonies
 
The head of VANOC’s casually confident quip to the world’s Olympians about Canada’s achievements:  “Now you know us, eh?”
 
Best Performance By A Canadian Funnyman During The Closing Ceremonies
 
William Shatner’s side-splitting presentation.
 
Their Chemistry Is So Good, You’re Surprised They’re Just Friends
 
Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
 
Nikolai Volkoff Would Be Proud
 
The brilliant rendition of the Russian national anthem, the one the former wrestler sang before many of his matches, during the closing ceremonies.
 
Most Disturbing Footage
 
The practice run that ended the life of 21-year-old Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili which aired on CTV News right after the opening ceremonies.
 
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, March 1, 2010
2:56 a.m.
Published in: on March 1, 2010 at 2:56 am  Comments (1)