Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Boys on Film Oscar Special!

. . . So the Oscars are tonight, and I could not give less of a fig about them. The Oscars usually disappoint me, because no one I ever like is nominated and if by chance they are nominated, they never win. This has happened to Mickey Rourke, Danny Elfman and Sting more times than I can count.

That, and I don’t have a TV. Or internet. I live in a more-or-less blissfully Oscar-free universe. Sunday night my beloved Ian and I will probably be munching on popcorn drenched in butter and coconut oil (a trade secret I owe to my darling friend/sister-wife to Stephen Colbert, Jenny) and continuing our six-part Star Wars Rifftrax series with our friend Chris, who remains our friend despite the fact that we made him sit through The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones in one weekend. Thank Heaven for Mike Nelson and Plinkett Films:

But, of course, this has made me think about the movies I’ve seen this year, and although it was better than the abysmal showings of 2008, that’s still no excuse. I really liked Duplicity, because Clive Owen is a fox and he looks good in a suit. 9 would have been better as a silent film, but there’s no denying that the puppetry was beyond gorgeous, and bonus points for a Danny Elfman theme. Public Enemies might be the worst, most boring film ever starring a formerly good actor now hamming it up so he can be on action figures and keep pretending to be independent.  Ian is still tortured by memories of Transformers 2 but has fond recollections of The Men Who Stare at Goats. Sherlock Holmes was terrible on plot but excellent on use of the RDj. The only good thing about 2012 was that I got to loudly mock the lineup of Twilight fans waiting for the midnight showing of New Moon.

There were really only two films that stood out to me this year. Films that broke beyond the typical stock fare and acted as more than just a Raisenettes delivery service.

District 9:
For starters, District 9 had an awesome ad campaign. I am not a fan of propaganda, Shia LaPouf screaming in my face that I HAVE TO GO SEE THIS MOVIE AAAAAAA!!!!!!! But when movie posters make me feel like I am part of the experience, as District 9’s “Human’s Only” bus/bathroom/bench campaign did, I’m much more compelled to find out what else might be sitting on my bench beside me if not for the warning label.

I really can’t describe what I liked in District 9 except that it was compelling, I wasn’t on the lookout for actors I knew, and that little baby prawn was sort of cute. It was a great, albeit simple, allegory for racism and apartheid, sort of Cry Freedom meets The Fly, without being heavy handed. Just a good, solid film that left me satisfied at the end. That doesn’t happen very often.

The Princess and the Frog

I cannot say enough good things about this film. I liked it so much that I went back and saw it the next day. I grew up in the second golden age of Disney, that lush watercolor Ashman/Menkin era of Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Before Belle and Jasmine and Ariel were reduced to teaching about sharing, back when our Princesses could be pig-headed and well-read and, yes, beautiful. Then Disney upgraded to CGI, stripped out all the chorus numbers and began cranking out lukewarm, soulless turds (this excludes, of course, Lilo and Stitch, which was a work of art). They have finally come to their senses, went back to watercolor musicals, and created something lovely. A strong woman who works hard to meet her goals (a far cry from wishing a Fairy Godmother would do all the work for you) a daffy prince who finally mans up and some great, scary scenes of villainous voodoo.

Kids aren’t stupid. They’re not as scared as we try to make them be, eschewing all villains and upsetting images from our reboots of Strawberry Shortcake (gluten-free, of course) and making everything about learning to be friends. We’re creating a generation of apron-clinging wusses who can’t function in the real world out there, and The Princess and the Frog is going to toughen those little brats up. Trust me, they’ll thank you later.

My only beef was with the music. Randy Newman is no Howard Ashman. He’s just too Randy Newman like, he’s too cutsey. Ashman’s lyrics were little narratives in themselves, they progressed the scene rather than taking time out to sing a song and then going back to their business. They were filled with witty wordplay and words like “expectorate,” all set against these enormous dizzying Menkin scores. The only real memorable song in Princess is Keith David singing “Friends on the Other Side” but even that gets weak at the end.

Okay, so it’s no Beauty and the Beast, but it’s a good turn in that direction. And combined with District 9, there a chance that filmmaking might turn back to where the movies are about stories, not just retreads of warmed-over Oscar-bait, animated toys and painful “quirk” disguised as plot.

Oh hell, who the am I kidding? At least there’s always Netflix. And Rifftrax. Enjoy the Oscars!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Libby--
    Yes, I liked DUPLICITY too. My son loved the District Nine clips on last
    night's show (yep, we watched!) But that one looked too scary for me-- I have to say I love the Oscar's and wouldn't/can't miss them. It's worth wading through all the sludge for the few moments of human drama. There was even a Kanye West moment last night:

    Fun clips on your blog! E.