Thursday, January 26, 2012

And the best movie is...

Well, the nominations are out and the LA Times carries it's usual Entertainment segment that's larger than all the other segments put together. Everybody will have their opinions, who should have gotten a nomination, who shouldn't have and who deserves it the most.

For the most part, it's a pretty average group of nominees, once again Meryl Streep is nominated for once again doing what she does better than any other actor in the world, and yet makes it look easy.

And she seems to live a real life as well, not the high maintenance actors who are either in re-hab or soon to be in re-hab.

But about the movies, they're still doing the 10 best for some odd reason, my favorites are two; Woody Allan's Midnight in Paris and Martin Scorceses Hugo. Both have that element that good feature movies should have; that being a genuine feeling of the story and an element that takes you into another world of fantasy where all things can happen.

On the other side is The Descendants, a favorite no doubt of George Clooney fans, of which I dare say are mostly women. I do like Clooney as well, Syriana was great, as was Good Night, Good Luck.

But The Descendants is a Hallmark TV movie, a nice movie, even admirable, but not a feature movie, more like a TV movie. Only difference is a few curse words.

So what's the difference between a TV movie and a feature. These days it's harder to tell because so many feature movies look more like episodes of Law and Order than The Verdict. But the main element is that thing that takes you into the story with powerful performances and a feeling you don't get by watching a TV movie.

And by the way, I like TV movies, in fact most of the movies I've written and re-written were TV movies, so I am not knocking them. The biggest problem for TV movies is that you are catering to specific audiences and thus, the writing tends to lower the bar for the lowest common denominator -- the least intelligent person watching.

Hallmark's credo is that anyone can enter a living room and watch a Hallmark movie without feeling awkward or uncomfortable. A few F-bombs would certainly not qualify there.

And then there's The Artist. A silent movie. A brand new silent movie. Made by a Frenchman too. I haven't seen it but my friends who did either liked it or didn't. It went from brilliant to boring. Hollywood has taken to it because it's about... us. Movie makers. Hollywood likes to slap itself on it's back, how wonderful "we" are.

I'll hold my opinion until I see it later this week.

How does one compare movies? My friend Marilyn, a film historian,  has a great bar:

How does it stand up to Bridge on The River Kwai?

Bridge on The River Kwai was movie entertainment and spectacle at the same time with some of the best performances you'll ever see. In 1958, it won 7 Oscars and a few dozen other awards.

Paris at Midnight and Hugo almost stand up to that standard, and they really are two different movies, although the element of a dreamlike fantasy runs through both. Hugo is more of a movie fan's movie while Paris is more of an intellectual movie (try watching it with an audience in a blue-collar town -- I did, my 2nd hometown).

Spielberg's War Horse is a good movie in an old fashioned way, even at his worst, Spielberg can still bring out emotion. You know, that element that doesn't include car crashes and CGI monsters.

I haven't mentioned The Help because I feel a little divided by it. Being Canadian, I have what most Canadians feel, a genuine dislike of the south. Blame it on all the movies we've seen set in the south. Remember, Canada did not have slavery, in fact England banned slavery 50 years before American wrote it's Declaration of Independence.

What would you think if your impression of the south was In The Heat Of The Night, ironically directed by Canadian Norman Jewison. And an Oscar winner with 5 wins. (Not for the director, but I have this theory that Canadian directors and actors never win Oscars).

On that note, George Lucas just released Red Tails, an action story about the legendary Tuskagee Airmen, which consisted of black fighter pilots in WW11. Lucas couldn't find any studio who would take it on, he eventually paid for it himself.

Even when he had screenings for studios, some never showed up.

This is George Lucas. How much has he made for the studios? Billions of dollars. And they wouldn't come to a screening of what is essentially an all-black cast. Lucas put in a total of $100 million dollars in both production and advertising, all of it his own money. It opened with $19 million, respectable, but not block buster.

Back to the awards. The lead actors aren't anything special, rarely are, but the supporting male actors this year are exceptional, all of them at their prime and all good. Naturally I'm hoping for Christopher Plummer, another Canadian boy in his early 80's.

And come Oscar, I will sit in front of the TV with potato chips and french-onion dip as I have for at least 40 years and watch the return of Billy Crystal.

Yeah, I know, get a life.