I know what you're thinking. What can Intrepid Media teach you about this year's crop of Oscar nominated films? Certainly little in comparison to hard-hitting journalistic stand-bys like Entertainment Weekly and Rotten Tomatoes.
I'll tell you. We can give you something they can't, and even if they could, they wouldn't, because they don't have the stones. We can give you a handicapping of this year's best picture nominees from someone who hasn't bothered to see a single one of them.
That's right. For whatever reason, I saw absolutely zero of these movies from beginning to end and certainly not as they were meant to be seen, either in a theater, a theater-like home reproduction, or in the case of Avatar, with goggles that connect to my cortex.
Based on nothing more than commercials, previews, hearsay, and stuff I make up, I'll dive deep down into the gunk of Hollywood buzz and return with a cheat sheet for you to keep by your side for whatever it is people do in conjunction with the Oscars telecast.
And my last side note, when I took on this assignment, I had no idea they had nominated ten movies this year. Thanks for doubling my workload, jerks. Why not just go NHL and let everyone get nominated? That way you stand a chance of the Rock doing a musical number in a tutu.
What do you do with the biggest movie of all time? I'll tell you what you do -- you create a special Oscar called "Look. You win. Your movie broke all the records set by your last movie. We love you. We hate you. Now go away." You know that all Cameron is doing is setting up Lucas to do more prequels. Do you realize how much we don't know about Shmi Skywalker and Roomba Fett? The issue here is when you make that much money AND receive critical acclaim, your peers are going to hate you. If there's another unibrowed Selma Hayek in there they can toss this award to, well, from hell's heart they stab at thee.
And here she is. While this is the movie I know the least about, it is also the perfect antidote to Avatar-envy. First of all, it's penned by Nick Hornby, who has a knack for making excellent movies that are underappreciated both at the box office and with critics. This is exactly how EVERYONE in Hollywood feels about themselves, so a vote for An Education is a vote for the voter, if you get my drift. And as much as I love Hornby, the plot for this movie looks so bad, I mean hot-garbage awful, that it's got to be a hit with the same crowd that couldn't nominate Star Trek. Yeah, Star Trek. I'm no trekkie, but that movie was an awesome sandwich with awesome sauce and a side of your ass just got kicked.
The Blind Side
Even though An Education is the anti-Avatar, it's not heartstringy enough to win. That goes to The Blind Side, and I know this because a cursory read of the plot insults every fiber of my being and makes me sad for Kathy Bates, who I don't even like. However, you've got to think it's Sandra Bullock's time, right?
Is it me or did everyone hate this movie while it was being made and when it first came out? And if this is a sleeper, independent, unknown little surprise of a movie, why is Peter Jackson's name at the top of all the posters? I'm actually a little pleasantly surprised that this movie made the list and I'll bet you $10 it was number 10 out of 10. This is a low-budget, science-fiction space opera that only got made because the financing for Halo fell through. Now that movie would have sucked, but it might have kept the Rock out of a tutu.
Yeah, that's my second Rock in a tutu joke. Let me know if I'm being too hard on him.
Of all the movies nominated, this is the one I wish I had seen. And it is in my Netflix queue. And as soon as I get through the complete Family Ties series, it's next. But Inglorious won't even come close to winning, because it has Brad Pitt, it's fun, it's Quentin Tarrantino, it's fun, it's politically incorrect, and it's fun. The previews and commercials alone make me want to go see it, which is more than I can say for that blue freak-fest (and seriously, does Avatar look better in the theater? Because on TV it looks like a Hanna-Barbera cartoon gone anime and then expensively 3D).
A Serious Man
I love the Coens. Raise your hand if you saw this. Yeah, I thought so.
OK. Small confession. I have seen most of this movie. In fact, I've probably seen all of this movie, only different pieces at different times in different states of consciousness. Mostly, I've heard this movie a lot on several long trips from the DVD speakers in the backseat. My kids love this movie. Not enough to have an Up lunchbox, but they love it. However, they also love Webkinz and Lego Batman, and neither of those is winning an Oscar either.
Up in the Air
While this movie and Up were both movies worthy of a best picture win in a parallel universe where animation and George Clooney actually stood a chance, even in that universe there would be too much confusion between the two titles that no responsible Academy voter could hand the statue to a movie about a guy who fires little fat kids while earning frequent flier miles in his balloon-powered floating house.
The Hurt Locker
Do you want to know why this movie won't win? It already won. Here comes a movie that deals with a recent war in a way that's honest and doesn't seem to take sides -- I don't remember either the hawks or the hippies getting all het up, and doesn't star Tom Cruise. It already took every award that counts. It even won a lottery in Arkansas.
Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire
This movie has too many words in the title to be taken seriously. The only words missing from the title are "Two Enthusiastic Thumbs Up!" Based on how the Academy actually votes, this is a lock to win.
Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
3.1.10 @ 8:50a
I've only seen two of them: Avatar and Inglorious Basterds, and I agree with you about Basterds. Avatar was a load of fun. I really enjoyed it and it's anti-colonialism "message." When they give Brad Pitt an Oscar the Red Sox will win the world series. Oh, wait....... it might take hell freezing over. I'll stick to my belief that beauty does not preclude genius. Or maybe, like nearly every other female on the planet and all my gay guy friends, I'm just in love with the guy......
3.1.10 @ 9:23a
Like Sandra I too have only seen two movies on this list. Up was horrible. I couldn't even sit through it to the end. District 9 was great. Still want to see Inglourious Basterds.
3.1.10 @ 11:51a
"Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" This movie has too many words in the title to be taken seriously.
I'm so grateful that every adaptation doesn't get this title treatment. Can you imagine fitting The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Based on the Novel 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' by J.R.R. Tolkien onto a marquee?
Everyone who knows the book is going to know what the movie was adapted from. Everyone who doesn't know the book isn't going to give a rat's ass.
And yeah, Star Trek was robbed. It was the closest thing to The Perfect Movie (aka Raiders of the Lost Ark) to hit the big screen in years.
3.1.10 @ 11:57a
*raises hand* Me. I've seen A Serious Man. And I thought it was good, although I'm not sure the mostly-retiree audience in the theater agreed. It doesn't exactly lift the spirit, which is sort of the point.
Following up on Russ's point, I've seen it pointed out that the title Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones would never have been allowed by a studio if it had been any other movie, which would have been a less certain money maker.
3.1.10 @ 3:13p
Of the ones I've seen:
Avatar: Unbeatable special effects. Completely lacking in any of the elements one usually goes to see a film for: characters, dialogue and story. Great artifice. But not anywhere near being genuine art.
Inglorious Basterds: Not a film. But a movie. In fact, it is (from my perspective anyway) the movie of the year. Memorable dialogue, memorable characters. Is it art? No. But Tarantino has never set out to make art.
Up In The Air: A film that immediately attempts to combine social commentary on the state of the union circa 2009 with a classic piece of storytelling. Does it work well? Yes. Is it
3.1.10 @ 3:23p
quite film of the year. No. While it is more worthy than Avatar it isn't quite up to the standards of IB or two we shall get to momentarily.
District 9: Name me the last time a sci-fi movie won best pciture? SHow of hands of anyone who can recall that. I thought so. D9 itself is good. Or more accurately it's good for most of its running time as the intellectual alternative to big budget hunks of junk like the Transformers. Problem is, it settles for an action movie climax.
The Hurt Locker: Platoon for the Iraq War. And Platoon did win the Oscar for best picture (as well as best director). But Platoon also did better at the box office than THL. Then again, stranger things have happened.
Precious: From my perspective, the one that should win. But will it? I see the Raging Bull effect at work here. Scorsese's 1980 pic lost to Redford's Ordinary People. Bull was too bitter a pill for many moviegoers to swallow. So based on this it would not shock me one iota if Precious loses the oscar to The Blind Side. And it would shock me even less if 20 years from now, Precious is critically acclaimed all over while the Sandra Bullock schmaltz fest is remembered mainly as the movie that stole the Oscar from Precious.
3.2.10 @ 1:47p
Precious has that name because it was originally called "Push" but then some middling Chris Evans/Dakota Fanning superpower movie came out so they had to switch it up. Not sure why we need the author's name in there tho.
I haven't seen Precious but I will eat my shorts if the comparison to Raging Bull is in any way apt. Raging Bull succeeds not just as a story but as superior filmmaking. Everything I've read about Precious leads me to believe that it's about the story and the acting, not the filmmaking. Trenchant and moving and powerful, sure, but "art" the way that Raging Bull is? Doubtful.
Haven't seen The Blind Side either, but come on. The Blind Side is crap. Excises the best part of the book and then warps the story to fit a template. Boo.
District 9 was very good but about halfway through it leaves anything interesting behind and becomes totally generic, even before the climax.
Up In The Air is enjoyable froth that tries to get "deep" but doesn't even come close. Anything it has to "say" has been said 1000x before by better films.
The Hurt Locker is awesome. I disagree about the Platoon comparison as well. The Hurt Locker is not a message movie, at least not one confined to the Iraq War. It's about "war" and man's addiction to it, not about a particular war. Obviously it's about Iraq, but not the way that Platoon is about Vietnam.
If Avatar were on TV I don't think there's a single scene that would get me to stop and watch. Even with the 3D, the action was mediocre.
Inglourious Basterds rules. Incredibly entertaining, not too much Brad Pitt, a little too much Mike Myers, and I'm in love with Melanie Laurent.
I liked Up a lot as well, the first ten minutes are very affecting, and the talking dogs are awesome. Love Pixar!
At any rate, only 3 movies have a shot here: Avatar, Hurt Locker and IB. I think Hurt Locker takes it but the more I think about it, it will probably end up going to Avatar, which is a shame.
3.3.10 @ 7:14a
Shenanigans! Hurt Locker producer banned from Oscars.
These are all great comments. I feel that this year, with all the preparation I put into writing about the Oscars without seeing any of the movies, I can really get something out of the telecast.
I finally saw IB last night and confirmed what I wrote. Why don't more movies like that get made these days?
3.7.10 @ 9:25a
It's been quite a year for Sandy Bullock. Not only did I not see All About Steve, I didn't even know it existed. However, there's a story in this same outlet about how she actually showed up at the Razzies and cracked a few self-deprecating jokes, so that's pretty cool. Razzies were handed out last night.
3.7.10 @ 10:41a
Out of all of these movies, I've only seen The Blind Side and Precious..............I'll use an elongated elipsis here to take the place of the letters for the rest of the ridiculously long title. The Blind Side is like many other great sports movies that never won Oscars (The Natural, We are Marshall come to mind), and, I resent people who dis a feel good movie in a world of too much violence, selfishness, and an economy in shambles. Let's face it, directors like the Coen brothers and Quinton Tarantino will never win no matter how brilliant their work. Not enough people "get" their movies, much less their talent.
How about giving some kudos to Sandra Bullock for her ability to get out of her comfort zone (comedies) and actually do something serious? It's too bad more actors/actresses don't follow this pattern. Oh wait, Denzell Washington did this once in 2001 with Training Day (a horrible movie, even worse was Denze's forced portrayal of that LAPD Detective) when Tom Wilkinson should have won for In the Bedroom.
As for Precious, a GREAT story. Phenomenal acting by Mo'Nique. Oscar worthy, but doubt it will win. Not when a bunch of white people will be voting--it's too raw, too much like real life, too uncensored. And, as we know, not very many "real" movies win...
I think I'll skip the Oscars this year.
3.8.10 @ 10:07a
Actually Carrie one quick correction if I may. The Coens did win for No Country For Old Men.
3.8.10 @ 5:19p
How could I have overlooked that? Great film! Thanks, Jeff.