Category Archives: Uncategorized

2017 Oscars Recap: Pandemonium

oscars-2017

 

The End.  Let’s start there, as it was the most surprising and screwed-up conclusion in Oscar history.  (For those living in a cave, here is a brief recap.)  Prior to this point, the night contains no surprises.  Virtually all the favorites win.  We arrive at Best Picture. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway present, great to see Faye Dunaway.  They announce La La Land, as expected.  The La La Land people march up there, smiles all around.  And then… it is announced that a mistake was made and Moonlight had won. No one knows how to handle it.  A moment of Oscar pandemonium ensues.  And then the Moonlight people march up there, the La La people get out of the way, and an awkward, confused acceptance speech ensues.  The end.

The Verdict.  Well this certainly upstaged virtually every other moment of the Oscars, which were, in my view, ok.  And sometimes ok is good enough.  The ceremony lacked the traditional homage to movies opening number.  Instead we got Justin Timberlake singing “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”  And, come to think of it, don’t we all love Justin Timberlake?  And don’t we all want to feel good?   Given these troubled times, isn’t it ok to have a night of froth and frippery?

The Host.  For the most part, Jimmy Kimmel set an amiable tone.  Other than the Oscars, I am never up late enough to watch late-night talk show hosts.  So this was my first experience seeing him in action.  I thought he was good.  Not great, but not terrible.  He had a nice air of confidence and appreciation that he had the gig.  And he had the grace to apologize for the Best Picture debacle.

The Good.  My favorite was the visual of candy and cookies parachuting down to the stars.  Short clips in which actors talked about their favorite movies (Charlize Theron and The Apartment, Seth Rogan and Back to the Future) and then presented with the actor from the movie (Shirley MacLaine and Michael J. Fox) were good, if a little long.  This year’s versions of Stars – They’re Just Like Us (started when Ellen DeGeneres took a selfie with the stars and ordered pizza) brought in a tour bus of tourists to hobknob with Meryl, Denzel, etc.  It, too, dragged a bit but was kinda fun.

The Bad.  Tweeting the President – can’t we just forget about the elephant in the White House?  Stars reading mean tweets about themselves.  Picking on Matt Damon the whole night long (I, for one, loved his performance in We Bought a Zoo).  I get that it was a joke, I just didn’t like the joke.

The Speeches.  I honestly don’t remember any of them other than Viola Davis who, as Jimmy Kimmel joked, should win an Emmy for her Oscar speech.  We’ll forgive her sanctimonious nod to actors:  “we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”  Nobody’s perfect.

The Movies.  This year I saw every Best Picture nominee except Hacksaw Ridge (too violent for me).  And I honestly thought all of them were worth seeing.  Glad Moonlight won over La La Land, thought the camera work and story were exceptional, loved that a quiet low budget movie about a gay kid from the slums of Miami made it to the top of the heap. Loved the production design and imagination of La La Land, what a fun film.  Loved Hidden Figures, a well-executed, well acted feel good movie about an important and neglected topic.  Arrival is fantastic – great score, great concept, a thinking person’s Sci Fi movie. Manchester by the Sea is wonderful.  Lion has some pacing problems in the second half but the subject matter and treatment of memory stuck with me more than any of the other films.  Fences is well acted, if a little long and talky – this is usually the case when movies are made from plays.  I had never heard of Hell or High Water until I saw it last week.  It is amazing.  Great script, slow build, fantastic editing and scenery, and above all a great topic – the bank robbers vs. the robber banks.

The Upshot.  This was a tough year for the Oscars.  It was a tough year, period.  Our country is divided.  People are worried.  Last year’s #oscarsowhite controversy (which as I pointed out last year is more the fault of the studios than the Oscars themselves) seems almost quaint given today’s headlines.  And the good news about the trainwreck ending of this  year’s ceremony is that – for one night – we were distracted from more pressing concerns.  Can’t stop the feeling, indeed.

Advertisements

I’ll Take Diane

As my friends and family know, I am hard to beat in an Oscar poll.  The reason for this is after years and years of watching Oscar-nominated films, I’ve learned a thing or two.  Mostly that the films that get honored are big, splashy, historical dramas.  OK Lincoln didn’t win this year.  But it should have.  Mental illness is also popular.

Comedies get short shrift.  If you look at Oscar winners for Best Picture (here is the list:  http://www.oscars.org/awards/academyawards/legacy/best-pictures.html) you have to go back to 1977 to find a comedy that won.  There were films that had elements of comedy (Shakespeare in Love, Chicago, and The Artist) but straight comedy?  The last Best Picture Winner was Annie Hall.  Which, in a somewhat circuitous fashion, brings me to the topic of this post, Diane Keaton.

Comedy Don’t Get No Respect.  What gets respect is drama.  Meryl Streep is amazing, for sure, but which performance was better – Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give, or Meryl in “It’s Complicated?”  I’ll take Diane.  Herewith, I’d like to pat Diane Keaton on the back for 30+ years of great comedic performances.

Diane Keaton is a gifted comic.  She is an adorable, vulnerable, loveable klutz.  She is beautiful, relateable, and (along with Meryl) one of the few older actresses that have eschewed plastic surgery and facial fillers.  I should note here that unlike Meryl who is deft in both comedy and drama, Diane’s dramatic performances are, to be kind, a mixed bag.  Here is an example of Diane’s terrible acting from Godfather 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_g9RI0GgRIQ

Diane Keaton started working in 1970 and has amassed 62 acting credits and counting.  She’s hilarious.  She’s prolific.  She’s a gem.  Below, my five favorite Diane Keaton movies:

Image

  1. Something’s Gotta Give:  Diane has had a long and fruitful relationship with Nancy Myers.  Something’s Gotta Give is a completely enjoyable, satisfying romantic comedy.  We have Diane, plus Jack Nicholson, plus a surprisingly hot Keanu Reeves.  There’s also house porn.  What’s not to love?                                                   Image
  2. The First Wives Club.  Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler are delightful in this comedy about spurned wives seeking revenge on their ex-husbands.  A movie that proved that an audience will pay to see Actresses of a Certain Age.  Although this has been demonstrated again and again, Hollywood studio executives always seem to forget this and greenlight big budget action movies instead.  Wait, that’s another blog post.  Image
  3. Baby Boom.  In Diane Keaton’s first pairing with Nancy Myers, she plays “Tiger Lady” JC Wiatt, a workaholic who, after inheriting a baby after a distant relative dies, buys an old farmhouse in Vermont and starts an organic babyfood company.  Sam Shepherd is adorable as her love interest, a vet.Image
  4. Annie Hall.  I saw this movie with my friend Donna several months ago in the magnificent Michigan Theater.  Little known fact – the movie was initially supposed to be about Alvy (the Woody Allen comic character) but the film editor encouraged Woody Allen to recut it and make the movie about Annie.  He did, and a classic was born.                                                                          Image
  5. Sleeper. Early Woody Allen.  Diane is a ditzy self-absorbed poet from the future who finds herself on the run with Woody Allen.  Slapstick, silly, ridiculous, laugh-out-loud funny.

So thank you Diane, for your contribution to film.  You are loved.

The Nance

Image

Nathan Lane Show

I wanted to love The Nance.  In this period drama, Nathan Lane plays Chauncey, a gay man who is part of a burlesque company during the late 1930s.  Chauncey is a “Nance,” a prancing, preening, fawning, walking gay stereotype.  Apparently Nance-like characters performed in burlesque shows during this time, while at the same time gay activity was prohibited and punished.  Sounds like an interesting and thought-provoking topic, right?

Nathan Lane is consistently amazing.  Even a poor vehicle (Hello, The Addams family!)  shines due to his tremendous talent and luster.  He had several noteworthy TV performances this year, including Cam and Mitch’s voluble friend Pepper on Modern Family and a staid bankruptcy administrator on The Good Wife.  And indeed, Nathan Lane’s performance is tremendous.  Both when “on stage” as the over-the-top Nance and when off-stage struggling with his homosexuality, Chauncey is magnetic.

However, The Nance doesn’t quite work.  It is interesting, well staged, and mostly well acted.  Jonny Orsini plays a young man who becomes Chauncey’s lover, and his performance is ho-hum, although we are treated to a full frontal nude scene!  There is a nice sense of ensemble both on and off-stage among the actors in the burlesque company.  But the second act is weak.  When conclusions falter it can be hard to figure out why, but I blame the script, which doesn’t successfully transition to the conclusion.  The Nance is good, not great, but I’ll take a good play with Nathan Lane over a great play without him.

Rating:  *** (out of ****)