Friday, February 25, 2011

It's Going Down Sunday

      And The Oscar Goes To

      Charlie Sheen. Before any readers permanently abandon my blog or boundlessly cut short any further reading, do realize that I am wholeheartedly kidding. On the contrary, the bulk of my post will breakdown the Big 4 Oscar categories—"And The Oscar Goes To" are five words that will never precede the announcement of Sheen's name. Rather, he's more likely to hear these five words: "You have been sentenced to." Nonetheless, I do want to provide a quick commentary on Mean Sheen's latest controversy. 

      Apparently, the CBS executives pay about as much attention to my blog as I pay to their network because Charlie Sheen's seemingly indomitable sitcom, Two and a Half Men, has been canceled indefinitely. Generally, I am not a fan of 'Shock and Awe' campaigns—hint, the Iraq War—but this fresh-out-of-left-field cancellation by CBS qualifies as an efficient example of this often injudicious tactic. Bravo Columbia Broadcast System. I am impressed.
      For once, entertainment hierarchies are operating from a common sense agenda, not a monetary one. Despite formidable ratings, the show must not go on (at least for the interim) because Charlie's antics were uncontrollably detrimental to the credibility of CBS.
      How can a respectful business maintain institutional sovereignty if one of it's most vociferous and 'bankable stars' leads a "William Tecumseh Sherman Style March" over it's proceedings. Quite simply, it cannot. An environment marked by such an unfettered calumniation could not persist—to maintain viability, swift and resolute action had to be taken. Thankfully, CBS did heed the imperative call.
      Most recently, Sheen unleashed a candid and venomous attack on CBS executives via a nationally syndicated radio show; to quote the boisterous Sheen, "Watch your ratings, dudes. Watch your stupid ratings...Do what you've gotta do -- I'll go make movies with superstars and not work with idiots." Well, for the sake of the movie going public, let's hope Charlie never makes movies with superstars, at least until he can find his sanity.

      I apologize for subjecting you all to another Charlie Sheen rant. There is only so much of the guy we can stomach; to a point where a fork though your eye would represent a more pleasant alternative. Nonetheless, it was a relevant news development. My digression is fait accompli. Let's dig into my real post and talk about real movie's almost Oscar time and I can't freakin' wait.
      For those not privy to the details, the Academy Award assemblage of voters consists of a 5,755 member group. Many spectators and fanatic film enthusiasts deride the motivations of the Academy with a slew of slanderous assaults such as: the voters are swayed by an antiquated system of beliefs, they prefer familiarity over innovation, and they appeal to emotionality rather than objectivity or sentiment over the cerebral. Here's the real sticking point—I sort of agree.
      However, I am not going to launch an extensive operation that undermines the authority or competency of the Academy. Instead, I will merely point out some of the glaring flaws of the system.

"You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline."

      Ah, we're all too acutely aware of the kinetic vivacity of an Aaron Sorkin quote. However, when it comes to the Oscars, this dialogue precisely typifies the thought-process of the movie going public—it also serves as a sound justification for a Marine's honor code. Inherent to the film going mindset is an empowering fear; do not question the veracity or authenticity of the winning class.
      We lend great credence to the selection of Oscar victors because, we ourselves are the product of long-held principles formed from an ethical and moral fiber. As a culture defined by systematic truths that embrace authority, we firmly believe that subjective renderings are the product of an objective, omniscient, and authoritative board. Intrinsic in our belief system is the notion that our highest powers of authority are driven by virtuous motivations; conscientious custodians of action. In our minds, the Academy of Oscar voters represent this solemn principle—they can't be wrong because they're in a position where they have to be right. 
      Well, of course, this is not always the case. For instance, our political system—while a fitting testament of this do-good model—is also continually beset by problems of corruption, incompetence, and degenerative progress. Despite honest pretensions of a philosophy bred from justice and goodness, subjectivity is often fraught with gaping stains of bias and uncertainty.
      I do not want to paint myself as a full-blown cynic. I like to believe that the Academy is capable of exacting shrewd and meaningful decisions; therefore, I will not dissect the competency of each of the Academy's choices. Quite frankly, I do not want to disparage the sanctity of the winners. Winning an Oscar is a tremendous accomplishment and carries historical weight. Consequently, anyone that walks away with a gold statuette deserves faithful placement in the annals of our glorious Oscar history. It would be a ghastly act to unscrupulously undermine the selection of winners. Although, a plausible case can be made, I will not undertake such demeaning measures. 

 The Big Four

      The Oscar's represents a celebration of the best of filmmaking. Given the endless stream of, at times, contentious debate concerning the Academy Award's Best Picture race, I feel compelled to enlist my two cents. At the center of the debate are two polarizing loyalties from two front-running contenders, The Social Network and The King's Speech. Based on identifiably agreed upon factors, the other eight contenders for Best Picture don't possess much hope of winning.

      On one side sits the vast collection of Hollywood prognosticators—they'd give NCAA bracketologists a run for their money—who adamantly claim that The King's Speech will win the coveted prize. On the other side of the fence are the feverish calls of the esteemed critics-groups that suggest The Social Network will emphatically win. Something has got to give.
      This debate represents a classic example of the old guard vs. new guard argument. The King's Speech's victory will stand out as a ubiquitous shunning of the new guard while The Social Network's triumph will represent a resolute and jovial appraisal of the current generation. Much of this fiery contention has to do with subject matter and storytelling styles.  
      The King's Speech is an old-fashioned period piece—some claim "Oscar bait"—with a taut eye towards simplistic prose and visual austerity. The Social Network features a more robust and jazzier storytelling approach, and more importantly, the narrative uniquely reflects contemporary times.
      Thus, the ultimate winner of Best Picture will be remarkably telling; sort of a temperature reading of the tides of the extraordinarily diverse Academy members. Will they be rank and file cogs of a tried-and-true system of voting and reward a more cautiously impactful film (The King's Speech)? Do they still embrace sentiments of comfort and contentment? Or, more compellingly, are they going to champion the new generation's period piece (The Social Network)?
      In other words, will Oscar voters, primed in a position to disseminate meaningful praise, award the most deserving or the most deserving given a prior track record of narrow proclivities? 
      As you can properly diagnose, the unforgettable stain of both Raging Bull and Goodfellas Best Picture defeats still looms large. How much of the Academy is still comprised of these types of voters; the kind of voters that refuse to reward an objective visionary who addresses bold ideas? Perhaps, only marginally—though the glaring omission of Inception is a criminal acknowledgment of this sort of short-sighted, anachronistic thinking. Either way, I can't wait to gleam an answer on Sunday night.
     Just for the record; my pick for Best Picture is...Inception (Christopher Nolan's film is a masterful execution of both style and substance; a coalescence of smart narrative and inventive visual stewardship).

      Another interesting scenario concerns the coronation of Best Director. The contenders represent a fairly diverse array of skilled auteurs: Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan, Joel & Ethan Coen for True Grit, David Fincher for The Social Network, Tom Hooper for The King's Speech, and David O. Russell for The Fighter.
      It goes without saying that directors are the most pivotal forgers in the filmmaking world, charged with a creative license that both shapes and molds a film. A talented director can turn a sub-par script and disorganized acting ensemble into a uniquely provocative film. Consequently, the decision of the Academy will be very insightful in terms of what they value most in a director. 
      Does the Academy favor calculable, perfectionist-style practitioners like Fincher or the proverbial actor-director style of Tom Hooper who coaxes grand performances from his cast? Do they prefer the imaginative and sophisticated style of Darren Aronofsky or the combative hands-on approach of David O. Russell. Perhaps, they might dig the colorful, oddball, and inventive style of the Coen Brothers? The answer to these questions is tantalizing. Sunday night will provide an answer for us film fanatics.
      Just for the record, my pick for Best Director is...Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan (A gifted visual raconteur, Aronofsky paints a brilliant and intense portrait of a psychologically-beaten, ballerina's quest for unrivaled professional acclaim; an immense visual study of both unrestrained ambition and delirious obsession).

      Acting is a beautiful art form. It represents both the outward and inward pretensions of a character's motivations, as well as, an overall lens into the message of a film. The contenders for Best Actor include James Franco for 127 Hours, Colin Firth for The King's Speech, Jesse Eisenberg for The Social Network, Jeff Bridges for True Grit, and Javier Bardem for Biutiful.  
      Without a doubt, the slam dunk smart money is on Colin Firth. But there has been a groundswell of support for Javier Bardem and particularly, James Franco. Can this emergent upsurge result in a surprise win? We'll have to wait and see.
      Just for the record, my pick for Best Actor is...James Franco for 127 Hours (given the magnitude of his enrapturing one-man performance, he is the most deserving).

       For Best Actress, the nominees include Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right, Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole, Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine, and Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone.  
      The suspense of this race is non-existent as a meteoric rise of praise has already been levied upon Natalie Portman—and rightfully so. Her nuanced portrayal of a tormented ballerina is as riveting as it is terrifying. However, if the Academy bases their decision on an actress' body of work, then the Oscar will go to Annette Bening.
      Just for the record, my pick for Best Actress is...Natalie Portman (her enthralling and intensely dark portrayal of a fractured and obsessed dancer is mesmerizing).
      Hopefully, my rundown of the "Big 4" of Oscar Sunday will help enhance your enthusiasm for the mega Awards show; perhaps, even tickle the palate. By no means does my analysis portend any guarantees of what to expect come Sunday. These musings are simply meant to engage the film community. Please feel free to offer your thoughts/expectations/gripes for the upcoming Award's Gala. And, as always, thanks for reading :)

Recap of My Thoughts

BEST PICTURE: My Pick - Inception. The Presumptive Academy Pick - The King's Speech.
BEST DIRECTOR: My Pick - Darren Aronofsky. The Presumptive Academy Pick - David Fincher.
BEST ACTOR: My Pick - James Franco. The Presumptive Academy Pick - Colin Firth.
BEST ACTRESS: My Pick - Natalie Portman. The Presumptive Academy Pick - Natalie Portman.

*The above video is a cute little promo meant to tease your anticipation for Sunday Night.


  1. Can't wait to see what Franco and Hathaway have in store for us! Should be really interesting.
    They should also get Ellen to host again...she was funny in 07'!

  2. I don't think I would hear about Sheen at all if it weren't for your blog, Matty :))))

    I'm not watching Oscars this year. Most of the nominated are bad films following bad trends in moviemaking and they are also promoting some really weak and mediocre actors.
    I will cheer only for THE KINGS SPEECH and for Michelle Williams.
    And I'm sticking to my role on not covering Oscars at my place, except that I will do the best and worst dressed post on Monday since the whole galaxy is expecting that from me :)))))

  3. @ Jaccstev

    Yeah they're both charmers and Franco has an underrated comedic side. They should be fun!

    @ Dezmond

    Haha, I know right? My nomination of him as "Person of the Week" was pretty timely given he has cost WB potentially hundreds of millions of dollars and untold millions for CBS.

    Really? I thought you'd be a passionate observer. Although, your contention of "bad films following bad trends" is quite resonant. I agree with you.

    Still, I am hoping that some of my favorites can win—Franco, Inception, Aronofosky! So I have a strong rooting interest.

    And I'll be sure to stop by Hollywood Spy on Monday!

  4. Can't wait for the oscars :)

    Sheen kinda ruined everything for himself. I'm sure he had a lot of fun, but in the end I doubt he can get back on track :S

  5. @ Doo

    Me too. And today it goes down!

    Sheen's behavior is so self-destructive. He is going to squander all of his TV success, and be another sad example of a rich & famous celebrity who lost it all.

  6. Hahaha, Charlie Sheen-I didnt find him evil or crazy in his movie with Clint Eastwood:)
    Maybe cargoshorts are badluck for him..Funny this guy pulling now.Y dnt he try the same stunt of Slater-grab a beer and swear at the fans and boss and jump from a plane[I shall conspire to switch parachute with schoolbag packed with weed:)]

  7. There are so many things I just do not understand about the workings of the Academy that I can't even begin to enumerate them all. I never agree with all of the Academy's nominees nor their winners. There is a definite disparity between their way of thinking and that of basically the rest of us.

    Something that has always puzzled me is how a film can be nominated for Best Picture and yet the director fails to get a nomination. Or how ten pictures can be nominated, but there are only five directorial slots. I have also never understood why Best Picture and Best Director do not always line up. It makes sense that the Best Director would direct the Best Picture, otherwise, they would not be the Best Director.

  8. @ thinkingcap

    I've never seen that movie. Perhaps, that's a good thing because as far as I'm concerned, the only light I see Sheen in is defined by his wild & crazy personal outbursts.

    Lol! Maybe you're on to something about the "cargoshorts" theory. Maybe you can run a hypothesis test.

    @ Melissa

    So glad you're in agreement with me here. Despite the fact that the Academy is full of diverse people across film (directors, actors, writers, etc), there always seems to be a certain muddy bias with some of their decisions.

    The Academy definitely does not reflect the vast, overwhelming sentiments of the "outside" film community nor do they care. That's the shame of it—apathy. Nolan's omission from Best Director is appalling. It still unnerves me.

    And you're dead on about the lack of cohesion between Best Picture and Best Director nominations. If a film is truly the best, then in theory, should it not also reflect the work of the Best Director? After all, directors are the single most important, influential, and relevant parts of the filmmaking process.