2/4: Oscars and Authors

I was thinking of doing the customary Oscar 2013 prediction post, but—silly me—indiewire’s doing it just fine. No big surprises here, but a couple quibbles:

1. I find it very hard to believe that Academy members give a rat’s ass about film legends like Emanuelle Riva, much less all the rat’s asses necessary to resist the Weinstein’s massive pimpery of Silver Linings Playbook. I liked SLP much more than I thought I would, but it’s hardly the second coming. And if people can withstand getting hit over the head with Jennifer Lawrence’s former-sullen-teen-current-sullen-adult expression, they’ll surely go for Jessica Chastain over Riva, as much to vindicate Kathryn Bigelow’s lack of nomination as to vote for someone young and pretty over someone beautiful and old. I also think people are probably annoyed with the Weinsteins and their perpetual award-grubbing, which in this case resulted in David O. Russell getting a Best Director nom and icing out either Affleck or Bigelow, both of whom deserve it more. So they’ll protest by not voting for Lawrence. My money’s on Chastain.

2. Editing is typically the pity prize, but this is a weird year, where two directors who should be nominated aren’t. The fact that William Goldenberg is up against himself is not good, particularly since he’s up for the two movies that people are most (rightly) pissed got theoretically kicked to the Best Picture curb. Despite their nominations in that category, Argo and Zero Dark Thirty are considered less than dead certs since neither of their directors was nominated. But Ben Affleck just won the DGA award, and Argo‘s going to take top prize, because, well, it’s fun to show those bastards even when you are those bastards. Michael Kahn, I think, will sneak in here and take the Best Editing prize for Lincoln.

3. Deakins for the win for cinematography on Skyfall. Everybody loved that freaking thing, everyone reveres him, he’s never won, and he’s not running against himself, which is always the kiss of death b/c who knows which one to vote for?

Life of Pi is going to get pretty universally skunked, I think. Despite it being gorgeous, it’s gotten lost in the shuffle, and it hasn’t been that long since Ang Lee won Best Director (for BB Mtn), at least by academy terms.

I’m a little bummed to miss all the shorts (docs, live action, and animated), which run on separate programs in theaters now but look to have packed up and left by the time I’m back stateside. However, you can watch at least two of the animated nominees online.

Fresh Guacamole by the very talented director who goes by PES shows a great deal of imagination and killer technique, but there ain’t much to it. But as two minutes of wow, it’s cool.

I would not typically cheer for Disney to win in the short category as there is so much great stuff out there that could use the love. But Paperman is such a lovely thing in every way, debuting a new technique, Meander, (explained nicely over at Gizmodo) employing a lovely score and riffing off of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil at one point. (Well, it was online at time of writing, but quickly removed. While it will doubtless be back up, here’s a link to info for the time being.)

The animated protag even looks a little like Jonathan Pryce. Here’s a link to the Brazil clip, and a crappy screen grab that may jog your memory if you’ve seen the movie (but may otherwise be sorta meaningless).

Screen Shot 2013-02-22 at 9.46.06 AM

I also think it’s extremely bright of Disney to have made this available to everyone online (see above), and wish that the shorts would do this across the boards. These are filmmakers who really deserve a look from the general public. While I love the ability to see them in theaters (which is, I guess, why I can’t see them all online), I’m betting a bunch of us would gladly pay a buck or two each for the shorts, which would net more money for them in the long run. Heck, make everything available online just as the academy members get screeners and I bet you’d reanimate the Oscars, which are looking a heckuva lot less lively than that guy in Warm Bodies.

I’ve recently discovered some spectacular authors, because what’s a tropical vacation without a stack of good books? (And yes, I lug along actual books because I like them and still don’t like the idea of sacrificing lovely tactile paper that picks up the coconut scent from your tanning oil for a clunky sterile kindle.)

Alif the Unseen has a “fantasy” label stuck to its spine (I get everything from the library), and I normally would have ditched it on that basis alone. Additionally, a jacket blurb calls it “a Golden Compass for the Arab Spring,” which, sorry, does not offer a nano-fraction of how terrific this thing is. The first non-graphic novel by G. Willow Wilson (she’s done 3 graphic ones so far), it concerns a hacker caught in yet another Brazil-like universe (is there really this synchronicity in life, or is it more like when you start driving a Volvo and suddenly you see Volvos everywhere?). Wilson has such a sure handle on the reins of this story, but it is one wild ride, so hang on to your bonnet. I can’t tell what I admire more: her mastery of how to craft a plot, or her ability to make computer code tell a sinuous and sexy story of its own that is somehow accessible. Brilliant stuff from an intriguing thinker, as you’ll see if you pop over to her website.

I found Steve Almond via the Best Short Stories of 2010, which most likely means that the story therein, “Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched” appeared in Tin House in ’08 or 9. It is a GREAT story, like a collision between the richness and weirdness of Damon Runyon with the macabre-ness and fatal logic of Roald Dahl, brought up to date effortlessly. I liked it so much I picked up Almond’s earlier collection My Life in Heavy Metal, and the stories there are just as good. Over on his site, he talks about his latest collection (he’s a short form guy), God Bless America, and how Fox News has embraced it. Just watch. Any guy who describes himself as “a communist to the left of…Christ” gets big love from me. Especially when he can write like this. And he offers these cool valentines as well. Big old gooey romantic.

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