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Oscars 2015 Livesnark

It's that time again for the collected tweets I fired off @DirkBelig during the Academy Awards.
  • Lupita N'yongo's dress makes her look like the Mr. T of pearls. No necklace? Missed opportunity. /s
  • Patricia Arquette sounds as stoned as Ethan Hawke did. She's gonna be great getting her Oscar. Get her a comb.
  • So-so opening on . Weak jokes. OK song. J.K. Simmons wins the first foregone conclusion award.
  • Boy, NPH is really foundering. The jokes and bits are really labored, requiring explanations and tap dancing.  
  • I liked this Maroon 5 song better when it was called "Puberty Love" in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. 22 mins in only 1 award.  
  • OK, the "armored ride when the revolution starts" joke was the first LOL of . More of this, please.
  •  is officially a boring trainwreck. Terrible pacing. Even "Everything Is Awesome" can't save this, that was this year's "Happy."
  • Can you imagine if they didn't waste so much time on painful schtick so the winners could finish their speeches?  
  • Did Goop steam-clean her vajoo before putting on her  throwback Nolan Miller dress? Couldn't they get a bigger mic for McGraw?
  • Jesus? #Oscars2015
  • And the 1% of the 1% attending go crazy for Patricia Arquette's braying for wage equality, something that's a liberal LIE!
  • Remember, the  LOSERS are getting $167K in swag, which is 4X the ave family income. H'wood underpays actresses, so heal thyself.
  • OK, just jumped the effing shark! Interstellar wins Best VFX over any of the competitors, esp. Dawn of Planet of Apes. BULLSH*T!
  • Seriously, Interstellar was a TERRIBLE movie, but the VFX were barely competent. Transfomers wasn't nommed for this crap?  
  • I liked Big Hero 6, but The Lego Movie should've been in the mix.  
  • The Prez of the Academy is telling the Hollyweird stars to stop being nasty to non-liberals, right? Free speech without fear, right?  
  • 2nd time using "Lift Us Up Where We Belong" as a walk-on cue. What's that about? Couldn't license more tunes?  
  • Cheevo shouldn't have won last year for Gravity because it was 90% VFX. They need to split Cinematography in two.  
  • Another year comes & goes w/o  using Jim Carroll's "People Who Died" for the In Memorium reel. Instead J.Hud reminds us we diet fail
  • Samsung ad reminds me I need to get back to watching Key & Peele. I'd totally watch Found!  
  • Naomi Watts wanted to wear a tube top or gray apron - decided to wear both. Bernadette Cumberbund is serving drinks at Guv Ball.
  • The two best things about Whiplash have won, so it can go away now.  
  • The way they're announcing  presenters as "Oscar nominee" because of PAST nominations is confusing. Terrance Howard WTF?
  • And now the "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" LIE of Ferguson is given the full production number treatment. This spits on King's dream.
  • Wouldn't it be great if after that tear-inducing performance that "Everything Is Awesome" won? There's be a riot in the  theater.
  • Tonight we learned that John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn have been working under fake names.  Now they tell racialist lies. Fun.
  • Hey, John Legend, ever think that the reason so many black men are in prisons is that they've committed crimes? How about you board them?
  • There's no way this show is going to wrap up at 11:30 with all the lame schtick and social justice BS punctuating the boredom of  
  • Wowsers! Lady Gaga just salvaged  with that KILLER Sound of Music medley. Julie Andrews is the cherry on the moment.  
  • I'd like to believe Birdman's Best Original Screenplay win bodes well for it's overall  chances. Boyhood MUST NOT win. Period.
  • Imitation Game writer shows how to make an   speech about something personal not self-indulgent rage-mongering. Good job, sir. 
  • WTF is up with the massive turquoise necklaces like that mess yoking Cate Blanchett's tasteful black  dress?
  • Eddie Redmayne wins for the imitation game; all he did was imitate a living person. Michael Keaton should've won  for creating a role.
  • As we pass the 3-1/2 hours mark for  we return to the locked case for a weak payoff of the gag.
  • Whew! Birdman wins Best Picture. Too bad Keaton got robbed, but so glad Boyhood (aka 12 Years A Movie) didn't win a damn thing.
  • Overall  a terrible show. NPH was a disappointment. Too much libtard BS. Gaga ruled. Time to watch Walking Dead. Buh-bye

"Sin City: A Dame To Kill For" Blu-ray Review

My original theatrical review is here and on second viewing, it still stands. It's just not as much fun and labors when it should flow.

As a Blu-ray, the transfer is good, considering the stylized look. On the audio front, the surround mix is hella booming and active; it will scare the pets if you turn it up to your usual volume setting.

The extras continue Robert Rodriguez's really disappointing sparsity of recent releases. No 10-Minute Film School, no Cooking School, not even a commentary track. Compared to the jam-packed Blu-ray for the original Sin City, it's a massive letdown with only one nifty feature present again: The "All-Green Version" in which the movie is run at high speed with none of the virtual sets in place, revealing it was pretty much shot with actors in an empty green warehouse. Otherwise, it's just a handful of brief EPK interviews with a few of the actors and a trailer for the original film. Weak.

Score: 7/10. Rent it.

"Boyhood" Review

Let's get something out of the way immediately: Richard Linklater's Boyhood (or 12 Year A Movie as I'm gonna call it) is an amazing achievement in filmmaking. Shot in drips and drabs over 12 years from May 2002 through August 2013 with the core cast of Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Lorelei Linklater (his daughter) and Ellar Coltrane as Mason, the titular boy, returning every year or two to shoot for a few days, it's release prompted jaw-dropped astonishment over how it was made. Linklater made eight other films during this stretch including School of Rock, Before Sunset, Before Midnight and Bernie and Hawke and Arquette had kept busy with their careers, so the fact no one seemed to know this project was ongoing takes the concept of flying under the radar to new lows.

That said, though, Boyhood is simply not a very good movie and I find the universal acclaim and potential it could win a Best Picture Oscar in a couple of day baffling, but then I realize that everyone is grading on a curve that resembles a small sphere because of the way the movie was made. Simply put, it's the trick that's impressing everyone. However, if you take away the making-of story - imagining it was shot in 45 consecutive days with three separate actors playing the kids and hair and makeup aging the parents - and just look at the story told and it's clear that Boyhood has very little under its shallow surface and people are mistaking the trick for substance.

It reminds me of the drooling acclaim for The Kids Are All Right - the 2010 film involving an older lesbian couple - which was praised for it's "bold and progressive portrayal of a modern family" but if you stripped out the gimmick and imagined the leads as a straight man-woman couple, it became clear that they were boring people with a boring story to tell. If your movie's story can't stand without a gimmick, it's not a good movie. Period.

Problem number one with Boyhood is that the way it was made required an ad hoc approach to the script - it didn't really have one as Linklater would make up the next sequence based on where Coltrane was at - and the limitation of his lead. For most of the movie, it could've been called Mommy Has Terrible Man-Picking Skills because the "plot" frequently involves her meeting some guy who seems nice, but in the next sequence after they've married is revealed to be a drunk a-hole, physically and mentally abusing, leading to the family moving and being alone until she rinses and repeats the cycle. Hawke's absent father figure drops in sporadically to show what arrested development looks like until he's tamed and driving a minivan with a new wife and baby.

Throughout a long 2-3/4 hours (which goes down easier if you break it over two nights viewing and frequent pauses to do something constructive with one's time) Mason simply is a prop being dragged from one lousy situation to another with no agency until he's a teenager and able to hang with classmates, smoking weed, getting drunk, and generally being a blank slate of unmotivated slackerdom until he's magically an artistic photographer, he goes to college and takes drugs with the cute friend of his new roommate's girlfriend. Deep. Not.

Here's where I think the people suckered by Boyhood are fooling themselves about beyond what the production backstory provides: Because we see Coltrane age from 7 to 19-years-old, they've convinced themselves that they're watching a documentary as if the cheesy and trite Lifetime abused divorcee stories aren't happening. But it's not a documentary, it's a fictional movie where the actions of its characters are dictated by Linklater. It's not "a meditation on aging and childhood" as I've seen some contend because despite its length there's remarkably little story or character development other than Arquette's mother who actually evolves as a person despite making terrible choices for reasons we can't fathom.

There's a scene near the end where someone she encouraged to go to school encounters her and thanks her for the advice because his life improved, but there is no equivalent from her own children. There's a line from Hawke about she did a good job raising Mason, but we've never seen any evidence for anything she (or he) contributed to their development because we dip in on these people with years of assumed events happening off-screen. It's like we get to watch them do the most boring things because the cameras weren't around for the interesting stuff. One scene has Hawke giving Mason Jr. a mix CD set of solo Beatles tunes; a scripted movie would either have the son react with appreciation because he loves the Beatles or resentment that the old man is shoving his old people music on him. But Mason just sort of takes it with the same disconnected manner he has for almost all situations whether it's a stepfather smashing a glass next to him or a boss yelling at him slacking or a teacher yelling at him for slacking or his parents chiding him for slacking. (I'm sensing a theme here.)

While Hawke and Arquette have snagged Supporting Oscar nods (she's favored to win; he doesn't have a prayer against J.K. Simmons and really doesn't belong here) there's been little acclaim for Coltrane's performance because he's inconsistent at times and frankly adrift without anything to play. There are so many scenes which could've given him something to do - push back at Mom's latest abuser; express some actual angst about his life; anything - but Linklater just has him stand there. I have no idea if the kid can act because most of the movie is him standing there while the grownups emote their drama around him.

A fundamental rule of screenwriting is that no scene should be retained that doesn't advance the story or characters, but Linklater spends so much time on scenes that do neither. If you trimmed the inconsequential material down I suspect the movie would've run 80-90 minutes and that's much too short for a Really Important Cinematic Statement. Bullsh*t! He was hamstrung by the production gimmick in that he was always stuck with whatever he did in prior years. Movies frequently go back and reshoot bits for clarity and amplification of details, but you can't do it when your lead doesn't look anything like he did five years ago. (The change in voice and physique is so dramatic in a couple of spots that it's as if the role had been recast.)

So we get multiple musical performances by Hawke. We get repeated digressions to rub Hawke and Linklater's unbridled hatred for George W. Bush as Hawke's first scenes include telling the kids (who are a decade away from voting) to vote for "anyone but Bush," a later scene having the kids putting out Obama signs (and stealing a McCain sign), and a veteran talking about serving in Iraq, summing up that the locals thought we were there for the oil. What does any of this have to do with the story of Mason? A: Nothing, but that's what Linklater felt was the Most Important Thing to shoot that year and now it plays like a diary of a Democrats political obsession jammed into a supposed tale of a boy's maturation. (It's like how Judd Apatow has made a habit of larding on unneeded reels of movie showcasing his wife and kids. Leslie Mann is wonderful, but it's not relevant to the plot, Judd.)

While it's appropriate to admire the tenacity needed to make Boyhood - kudos to IFC for basically handed Linklater $200K per year in the hopes of getting something a decade later (the cast couldn't even been signed to contracts because it would've been illegal) - the inconvenient truth is that the sum is barely the sum of a few of its parts. It's too long and too meaningless and ultimately unworthy of the praise it's garnered. People need to get a grip.

Score: 4/10. Skip it.

ICYMI, my girlfriend Hermione's review is here.

"The Theory of Everything" Review

I hated The Theory of Everything. Period. It perfectly encapsulates the raging mediocrity which garners awards love because of everything it is other than actually being good. Ooooh, it's historical, it has a crippled lead character, and it's English, oh gawd, it's English and we all know British movies are inherently superior to the crap redneck Muricans like. That's why we tell everyone we watch Downton Abbey when we're really watching The Walking Dead.

There is so little of substance to The Theory of Everything that I really fear for the mental well-being of those who say they enjoyed it. How little? Here is the entire plot: Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is a Ph.D. candidate at Cambridge who meets Judy (Felicity Jones), who falls so deeply in love for some reason that even his diagnosis with ALS with a two-year life expectancy (Hawking is still alive, 52 years later) doesn't scare her off. They marry and have children even has he degenerates into a gnarled mess. She meets a nice church choir director (Charlie Cox, the new Daredevil in the upcoming Netflix series) who volunteers to be an aide to the family. Hawking pretty much gives Judy permission to shag this bloke, but she doesn't until later when Hawking dumps her to roll off with his nurse. What a guy.

There's a little talk of science and whether his theories eliminate the possibility of a Creator, but rather than discuss the lack of science in a movie about a scientist, they should've discussed the lack of substance on the script's pages. We never know what Jane sees in Hawking and when you're dealing with such a seriously crippled person - a megawatt mind trapped in a dead bulb body - this lack of initial connection makes all that follows it unengaging. When she turns up pregnant with her 3rd child, it briefly hints that the choir guy is the baby daddy, but that's slapped down; apparently she was true to her husband until he dumped her, which makes her sticking around even more sad.

Redmayne is heavily favored to win Best Actor and frankly I'm not cool with that. I've long been annoyed by Oscar's habit lately of awarding portrayals of real people because it frequently comes down to hair, makeup and mimicry more than creating a character from the ether. All but one of this year's nominees are for real people and that's just pathetic. While Redmayne does a fine job contorting himself into a twisted slurring knot with the aid of makeup, doing most of the acting with his eyes, his pre-illness character was little more than a goofy grin and lopsided eyeglasses. Sorry, Eddie, but Daniel Day-Lewis did it better in My Left Foot. Jones is up for Best Actress and I have no idea why because all she does is be stoic.

The Theory of Everything also continues the maddening practice of not telling the audience what effing year it is as if we're supposed to know how time has progressed by how large the children are or something. (American Sniper did this as well, telling what tour it was, but not what year.) It starts in 1963 and that's the last we're told. A Brief History of Time came out in 1988 and he dumped Jane in 1995 after 30 years of putting up with his illness, but you'll never know from the movie or the happyish ending they give his life story.

At the end of two pointless hours, The Theory of Everything is really The Movie About Nothing.

Score: 3/10. Skip it.

"Selma" Review

Race relations are a mess in America these days because despite totally ignoring Martin Luther King's dream, the nation foolishly elected - TWICE - someone solely due to the color of their thin skin and not the content of his character or any accomplishments who then hid his myriad failures behind a shield of accusing his critics of racism. He installed an Attorney General with a shady past who immediately snarled that Americans were "cowards on the subject of race" while applying a racialist and hyper-political regime at the DOJ, openly refusing to investigate black-on-white civil rights cases.

Add on the disgraceful exploitation by race hustlers and Leftist politicians of the events in Ferguson, MO and NYC which led to riots in the streets and chants for the deaths of cops which ultimately led to two NYPD officers assassinated while sitting in their car and it wouldn't be hard to wonder what happened to Dr. King's dream.

Into this poisoned atmosphere comes Selma, the dramatization of King's protest which led to the 1965 Civil Rights Act, which received only two Oscar nominations (Best Picture and Best Song, which perpetuates the damnable lie about Ferguson which is "Hands up, don't shoot.") prompting yet another round of race-warrior exploitation as Al Sharpton demanded an audience with the Academy under threat of his leading a riot at the ceremony. In this environment where everyone seems to have an axe to grind what's been sadly overlooked is that Selma is actually a quite good movie that most people won't see because they resent being bullied by the Leftist race-warriors who will never in a million years get within sight of King's ideals. (I'm sure Dr. King is looking down at this nation and thinking, "I died for this? That President? That wicked preacher? All that violence and division?")

Rather than do the full-life biopic thing, Selma just concentrates on the few months in 1965 leading to the march on Selma, Alabama which led to the Voting Rights Act. King (a should've-been-nominated David Oyelowo) and his sidekicks are looking for specific town where the conditions would be right for the local racist idiots to take the bait and Selma's sheriff is just the guy for the job. Beatings and deaths ensue, but justice is attained.

What I found most interesting about Selma's portrayal of the events is something I haven't seen mentioned in all the hoohaw over the Oscars: That King was using the media to provoke outrage to the conditions blacks were enduring in the South. In one scene he asks the local organizers if the sheriff was like one in Albany (Georgia, I presume) who gently carried away protesters on stretchers for months or like Bull Connor, the Birmingham lawman who turned dogs and fire hoses on the protesters and made the media, the point being that King sought to get his followers abused on camera. When they make their first march on the courthouse, he and the leaders stand behind those getting their heads cracked, flinching, but never interceding.

It's also refreshing to see the others involved in the movement and their opinions about strategy given time. Rather than make King out to be Infallible Black Jesus to whom all looked for guidance, there are frequent doubts as to whether his strategy and tactics are appropriate, even from King himself as people start dying. His philandering is addressed in a scene where it's made to look as if LBJ ordered J. Edgar Hoover to send Coretta wiretaps of King's antics, which has been challenged for authenticity in the specifics, while the general fact of King's womanizing has been downplayed to protect the myth.

While there have been the usual criticisms of historical accuracy - most critically the idea that LBJ was dragging his feet when transcripts of phone calls showed he was very supportive of King's goals - the overall tone of Selma rings fairly true. (UPDATE: Here's a good breakdown separating fact from fiction.) The uproar over the "snubs" is more a matter of racial entitlement (X amount of nominees MUST be of color) and grievance-mongering than acceptance that not everyone gets nominated (HALF of the Best Pictures didn't have their directors nommed starting with Clint Eastwood) and the director, Ava DuVernay, simply didn't finish the film in time for screenings. No one is outraged over Angelina Jolie's genetically-engineered-for-Oscars Unbroken being passed over for all but a few technical categories.

Finally, what's with all the English actors? The top roles - Oyelowo, Carmen Ojogo (Coretta), Tim Roth (Gov. George Wallace), and Tom Wilkinson (LBJ) - are all Brits making this the most non-Southerners-playing-Southerners thing since True Blood.

If you've been avoiding Selma because you're tired of the race warrior agitation that we've been pounded with for over a year, you're denying yourself an above-average biopic which manages to avoid the cheap shots and leftist tilt (other than the terrible song) that has encrusted its awards prospects. Check it out.

Score: 8/10. Rent it.

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