Oscar Post (Mortem)

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Here’s the absolute truth:

I look forward to watching the Oscars every year. This started even before there was an international avenue on which to snark. And it was certainly waaaay before I ever even dreamt I’d see an openly gay actor serve as the host while accompanied down the red carpet prior to the ceremony by his HUSBAND. Those were the days of Bob Hope and Johnny Carson – a time when John Wayne won the Oscar for True Grit over Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight for Midnight Cowboy. Meaning: #OscarsSoWhite #OscarsSoStraight.

BRB going to the gym right now

BRB going to the gym right now

So thanks Neil Patrick Harris for providing a new reality to a fantasy I never even had the vision to have. Not to mention Sunday night’s nifty Sound of Music tribute by Lady Gaga that all culminated with the entrance of Julie Andrews in the ultimate torch-passing moment. That alone is the best of what the movies can do – create not only an unimaginable dream for me but have it all take place in gay heaven.

On the other hand —

Oy.

Despite the fact that I have now lived to hear Ms. Andrews utter the indelible phrase Dear Gaga while moving her into an embrace – well, we still all do have A LOT of work to do.

Brb head exploded

Savoring the moment

I’m not saying the three-hour and forty plus minute show was long but….is it still going on? And why pick on the brilliantly talented Octavia Spencer to hold a suitcase with NPH’s supposed Oscar predictions in inevitable and unfunny cutbacks all through the show? Don’t they remember Uma/Oprah? Isn’t it tough enough for non-white actresses in Hollywood? Why position her as the Oscar telecast version of her character from The Help? She is NOT a maid.

Not to mention: Why did Eddie Murphy present best screenplay? Does he immediately bring to mind great writing or was THAT the joke? No, that was, well…there weren’t too many. I guess saying you could eat up Reese With-Her-Spoon took care of that. Very punny. But not as much fun as Prom Pixie Jesus Jared Leto. I am NOT being sarcastic here. I live for those tuxedos!!

His assistant is holding my corsage.

His assistant is holding my corsage.

On the other hand, we have the great moment of supporting actress Oscar winner Patricia Arquette speaking out for equal pay for working women – an appropriate plea as someone who played what is now THE version of America’s working Mom in Boyhood.

Meryl approved.

Meryl approved.

There was also the great John Legend/Common performance of best song winner Glory from the film Selma and their all inclusive acceptance speech afterwards. And let’s not forget the spontaneous verve of Eddie Redmayne winning best actor for Theory of Everything or the similar exuberance of the very talented Polish director, Pawel Pawlikowski, of Ida. (Note: I loved the film but who knew it was pronounced Eeda? Did I block that out or, as one tweeter mentioned, do I simply choose to remember the name of the film as Rhoda’s mother?).

Red Carpet Ready!

Red Carpet Ready!

Still, despite those peaks something about the whole affair felt flat and odd. NPH is a great song and dance man. Anna Kendrick and Jack Black are funny and spunky and, most importantly, can really sing. So then why did their opening number feel like it was something out of a Disney tribute to the movies? Was this because we were watching on ABC/Disney or because the writers of the medley also penned Disney/Frozen’s Let It Go? Or both?

As NPH joked about Oprah being rich and then tried to explain it, or strode through the audience while the Big O attempted to suppress the look of sheer terror on her face that he’d come over (Note: Adjacent to the expression of don’t even think about it, Sonny on the face of fellow audience member Clint Eastwood), one longed for the Tony Awards, Tina and Amy at the Golden Globes or even a clip from #SNL40’s Celebrity Jeopardy. Hell, that would’ve been a lot more fun. Or get all the stars together to do The Californians sketch and then take the 2015 version of the #EllenSelfie.

At least there was this

At least there was this

Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps I’m being unfair. I’m a really big Sean Penn fan but he was so sinister delivering this year’s best picture winner I started to think we were all being lured back into Mystic River, where he would then make us all morph into Tim Robbins’ Oscar-winning character and everyone one of us would wind up…well, look it up if you don’t recall.

Did you find it odd that Michael Keaton, the star of Birdman – the big winner of the night with best picture, director and screenplay – was not mentioned by anyone other than his director most of the evening while jokes abounded about all kinds of well, strange things? Though I will admit it was particularly gratifying that when we finally did get to hear Mr. Keaton speak briefly during the best picture acceptance speech by what seemed like the entire above-the-line cast and crew he had the grace to step to the mic and simply say, it’s great to be here, who are we kiddin.

Well, perhaps this was not as odd as John Travolta , who tried to make up with Idina Menzel after calling her Adele Dazeem last year but instead wound up touching her face far too many times in the space of a minute. Once again – odd AND strange. But not as odd and strange as John’s…

The dog chain.. the hair.... ??

The dog chain.. the hair…. ??

You know what, I’m not going there.

See, the truth is — it’s easy to snark. But it’s not easy to get nominated for an Oscar  and Travolta has done it twice. So at the end of the day I suppose for many of us – especially those of us who work, have worked, ever aspired to work, or even ever fantasized about one day working in the entertainment industry – there is a kind of fantasy wish fulfillment to it all that never quite gets fulfilled.

We wonder what would it be like to be on that stage or, more to the point, we use the Oscars to pretend we ARE one of those people we see on that stage doing either as well or WAAAAY better than them. Even if we don’t understand in our heart of hearts what that really means or how the reality of being there would actually feel and/or be if we really did get there

Perhaps this IS the reason why the Oscars so often disappoint. How CAN you live up to all the fantasy and hype? It’s like going on a date with the hottest person in school and wondering why they don’t match the over-the-top scenario you created in your head for them.

Except him. He really is the coolest.

Except him. He really is the coolest. #marryme

Of course, that’s how I imagine it would have been like to date the hottest person in school. So I could be wrong. At the end of the day this is all about personal fantasy anyway and it’s up to you to decide.

As for me, I’m going to bask in the afterglow of Gaga and Julie once more and see if I can pretend I’m back in gay heaven. Or perhaps I’ll just put on Mary Poppins (Note: I do like The Sound of Music but Mary Poppins always was my fave) and call it a night as Julie/Mary sings me to sleep. Where I promise you I WILL dream. Splendidly.

… and in case you’re keeping score, the Chair correctly predicted 15 out of 24 winners, giving him score of 62.5% (This is even a lower grade than the Chair received in gym class). The Chair offers no excuses – only promises of doing better next year. #ItsnoteasybeinganOracle

Last Chance Oscar Cheat Sheet

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Let us start by invoking the much-too invoked yet always timely and pertinent William Goldman quote about Hollywood:

NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING

When it comes to predicting the Oscar winners this is the #1 rule.

However, this will not stop us or anyone else who cares even a little about show business and pop culture for indulging in one of our most beloved annual American pastimes. Even those who admit to not knowing anything about who might take home the Academy gold in a given year will likely wind up at a party or pass through a store where the prize for predicting the most Oscar winners or even the winner of a single close race is too good to pass up

So for all of you – and them – and because I’ve been doing this on my own and publicly for at least three decades and have never, not once, managed to sweep the entire board – here are:

I'd like to thank... myself

I’d like to thank… myself

THE CHAIR’S OSCAR PICKS

But wait –

Before we start, I’m going to suggest a few Oscar drinking games to pass the time in what I predict will be AT LEAST a three and a half hour show – more likely three hours and 43 minutes, if I were a predicting man. (Note: If?)

For those who love to drink: Take a belt every time The Interview, Seth Rogen, James Franco and Sony Pictures are mentioned. If you do, it is doubtful you will be awake or even alive by the end of the show. But neither will most of the rest of us so never fear.

For those who very much enjoy/like drinking socially: Throw one back each time anyone even alludes to hacking, hacking into emails, people in the movie business talking behind each other’s backs or Sony Pictures, Amy Pascal or Scott Rudin. (Note: Not knowing who Amy Pascal and Scott Rudin are should cause no embarrassment. Most of the world doesn’t either.  Not really)

Let's hope the jokes tonight are funnier than the movie #aimhigh

Let’s hope the jokes tonight are funnier than the movie #aimhigh

For moderate drinkers who still like a taste: Top off your glass each time Clint Eastwood’s age, Hollywood’s lack of patriotism or playing fast and loose with the facts of a movie subject like American Sniper’s Chris Kyle comes up for discussion. Do NOT drink if it’s a mere mention of American Sniper in passing because this will happen quite a bit during the show given its six nominations. Though it will win 0.0 in all of its major categories. #Predictionsspoiler

For only special event drinkers: Grab a glassful of something whenever a Rudy Giuliani/Pres. Obama joke is made. Actually, let’s throw in any mention of #OscarsSoWhite or how generally White the field of nominees are this year. Since this will clearly get more than a few passing references and you don’t get to drink very often – You’re welcome.

For us gays and others who support our gay agenda: Any LGBT innuendo at all in the course of the show counts as a reason to take a sip. This should guarantee EVERYONE will be pretty toasted by the time the Barbara Walters special does not air following the show this year. (Note: Yes, every appearance of Neil Patrick Harris counts. And you’re welcome – again).

Let's do this!

Let’s do this!

Okay – here goes:

THE CHAIR’S 2015 REAL OSCAR PICKS:

2015-oscars-best-picture-860x442

Best Picture

American Sniper

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Boyhood

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Imitation Game

Selma

The Theory of Everything

Whiplash

Let’s get this one out of the way first because it really is a toss-up this year between Birdman and Boyhood. Odds makers and conventional wisdom are giving Birdman a slight edge in light of its last-minute surge in other awards competitions. But my pick is Boyhood. Here’s why. At the end of the day, Birdman is a movie that does not paint Hollywood or the movie industry in a particularly flattering light. I can’t imagine voters, many of whom make their living off of superhero blockbusters, rewarding a film that ultimately thumbs its nose up at superhero blockbusters. Yes, this town is that small.   I suppose I could be wrong – but I don’t think so. And no, American Sniper will not sneak in at the last minute. Which confirms nothing the flyover states think about us.

Chair’s Pick: Boyhood

Director

The Bird and the Boy

The Bird and the Boy

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Alejandro G. Iñárritu

Boyhood Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher Bennett Miller

The Grand Budapest Hotel Wes Anderson

The Imitation Game Morten Tyldum

I’ve given this one a lot of thought. Here’s the thing – I don’t see how the Academy will give up the chance to honor an American director who spent 12 YEARS making a critically-acclaimed film that he shot every summer for over a decade. In the area of mainstream narrative fiction filmmaking, that’s never been done to such widespread acclaim and effect. Not to mention, this is a guy who has toiled amiably and well in the indie and major studio film trenches for decades. I know the DGA awarded Inarritu – who is a brilliant filmmaker. But not here. I don’t think…

Chair’s Pick: Richard Linklater, Boyhood

Actor

The man loves a good costume

The man loves a good costume

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Bradley Cooper in American Sniper

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Michael Keaton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything

This is another close race that seems to come down to a two-way battle between Eddie Redmayne and Michael Keaton.   It seems likely that ER will win for taking on the task of both physically and mentally evoking the struggles and triumphs of Stephen Hawking. I thought so too until this morning when I visualized everyone I know or know of in the Academy looking at their final choices and remembering Michael Keaton in not only Birdman but Mr. Mom – not to mention the first Batman movie – and Night Shift – and Beetlejuice! Yes, Beetlejuice!!!!

They just won’t be able to do it – vote for the other guy. Plus, Michael Keaton was brilliant in Birdman and if you believe Boyhood will take best picture here’s a chance for all those voters to even score.

Chair’s Pick: Michael Keaton, Birdman

Supporting Actor

After tonight, he may not have to sell you insurance anymore

After tonight, he may not have to sell you insurance anymore

Robert Duvall in The Judge

Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Edward Norton in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher

J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Four words – well, two words and two initials – J.K. Simmons, Whiplash. It’s the role of a lifetime that could have gone terribly wrong if it were not played just right. Whiplash was one of my fave films this year. And to the naysayers – yes, it was theatrical and stretched credulity just a bit but NEVER stretched the emotional truth of its characters. That’s why it’s a terrific film. One that would never work without the performance delivered by this year’s Oscar-winning supporting actor.

Chair’s Pick: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash

Actress

Slayin' it on the carpet

Slayin’ it on the carpet

Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night

Felicity Jones in The Theory of Everything

Julianne Moore in Still Alice

Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl

Reese Witherspoon in Wild

This one’s easy. It’s Julianne Moore’s year. It’s her fifth nomination and she’s never won. Plus, she was heartbreakingly perfect in Still Alice. Plus, she’s taken every other major award. Two plusses equal —

Chair’s Pick: Julianne Moore, Still Alice.

Supporting Actress

How many actresses would let us all watch them age like this? #killinit

How many actresses would let us all watch them age like this? #brave

Patricia Arquette in Boyhood

Laura Dern in Wild

Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game

Emma Stone in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Meryl Streep in Into the Woods

Once again, this is a gimme. It’s going to be Patricia Arquette. She’s won everything else and, well, she gave 12 years of her life to be contemporary America’s new onscreen Mom. That’s right, it’s still America and at the end of the day we all really do LOVE our Moms. Even in Hollywood. No matter what we might have once said in our therapy sessions.

Chair’s Pick: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood

Animated Feature

OK.. sure!

OK.. sure!

Big Hero 6 Don Hall, Chris Williams and Roy Conli

The Boxtrolls Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable and Travis Knight

How to Train Your Dragon 2 Dean DeBlois and Bonnie Arnold

Song of the Sea Tomm Moore and Paul Young

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya Isao Takahata and Yoshiaki Nishimura

I’m depending on friends and what I’ve read on this one. And the verdict has been unanimous for:

Chair’s Pick: How to Train Your Dragon 2

(Note: Though I will admit that most of those surveyed say they liked Big Hero 6 better. Which, once again, has nothing at all to do with what will win).

Adapted Screenplay

American Sniper Written by Jason Hall

The Imitation Game Written by Graham Moore

Inherent Vice Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson

The Theory of Everything Screenplay by Anthony McCarten

Whiplash Written by Damien Chazelle

I’d say Whiplash if this was the original screenplay category but due to a silly technicality that film has been thrown into a slot where it can’t compete. Too much controversy over the facts in American Sniper and in the case of The Theory of Everything its strength wasn’t its script. Most people I know couldn’t follow Inherent Vice but I thought that crazy screenplay was sort of crazy fabulous. Not that anyone asked.

In any event, here’s the Academy’s chance to honor one of the few now acknowledged gay heroes in contemporary history – Alan Turing.

Chair’s Pick: Graham Moore, The Imitation Game

Original Screenplay

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Boyhood Written by Richard Linklater

Foxcatcher Written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman

The Grand Budapest Hotel Screenplay by Wes Anderson; Story by Wes Anderson & Hugo Guinness

Nightcrawler Written by Dan Gilroy

For the love of everything I hold dear, I don’t at all get all the love for the Grand Budapest Hotel and, most especially, its script. Huh? What? Seriously, I’m in the dark – more like a haze where I can’t make out – well, anything. Still, after decades of being a writer the one thing I’ve learned is that there are just some things I will never understand, much less see. Wes Anderson seems like an extremely nice fellow with an undeniable talent for bringing his visions to the screen. I wish him well. Just not in this category. But he will win.

Chair’s Pick: Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Cinematography

Birdman-Steadicam02

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Emmanuel Lubezki

The Grand Budapest Hotel Robert Yeoman

Ida Lukasz Zal and Ryszard Lenczewski

Mr. Turner Dick Pope

Unbroken Roger Deakins

Any one of the nominees are deserving. But it seems inevitable that the sheer audaciousness of Birdman is going to win. The dazzling visual images in The Grand Budapest Hotel could be a spoiler. But probably not.

Chair’s Pick: Emmanuel Lubezki, Birdman

Costume Design

that's a lot of look

that’s a lot of look

The Grand Budapest Hotel Milena Canonero

Inherent Vice Mark Bridges

Into the Woods Colleen Atwood

Maleficent Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive

Mr. Turner Jacqueline Durran

Milena Canonero will win for TGBH. She’s won three Oscars previously and her work here was superlative – as always. Plus, I’ve met her and it’ll be fun to see her onstage at the Kodak theatre talking to a billion people worldwide – though this in no way influences my choice since she’s won most of the other awards in this category already.

Chair’s Pick: Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Documentary Feature

will he skype in?

will he skype in?

CitizenFour Laura Poitras, Mathilde Bonnefoy and Dirk Wilutzky

Finding Vivian Maier John Maloof and Charlie Siskel

Last Days in Vietnam Rory Kennedy and Keven McAlester

The Salt of the Earth Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado and David Rosier

Virunga Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

This one is going to CitizenFour despite the groundswell for the crowd-pleasing Virunga at the last minute. We here in Los Angeles are nothing if not government-doubting, paranoid, bleeding heart liberals. Yes, the rest of you are correct. But they’re our awards. #EdSnowden4Ever

Chair’s Pick: CitizenFour

Documentary Short Subject

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry

Joanna Aneta Kopacz

Our Curse Tomasz Sliwinski and Maciej Slesicki

The Reaper (La Parka) Gabriel Serra Arguello

White Earth J. Christian Jensen

A tough choice. I haven’t seen all of them but those I spoke with and read seemed quite affected by the artistic and heart-breaking Joanna, which traces the real story of a Polish woman dying of cancer who becomes a blogger and witness to her own final days, along with her husband and young children. This takes nothing away from what I believe will be the winner – Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1. See, just because Hollywood will not be voting American Sniper best picture it still supports the troops. Really and truly. This is a way to prove it – even though it will also change no one’s mind about us. It is already way, way waaaaay too late for that.

Chair’s Pick: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Film Editing

American Sniper  Joel Cox and Gary D. Roach

Boyhood  Sandra Adair

The Grand Budapest Hotel  Barney Pilling

The Imitation Game  William Goldenberg

Whiplash  Tom Cross

I don’t know how this award doesn’t go to Boyhood. Twelve summers of footage in twelve years for one film?? Seriously. Though if I were a voter it would be Whiplash. Still, I’m not who counts here. But only here.

Chair’s Pick: Sandra Adair, Boyhood

Foreign Language Film

Black and White. Check. Nuns. Check. Holocaust. Check. Oscar... check!

Black and White. Check. Nuns. Check. Holocaust. Check. Oscar… check!

Ida Poland

Leviathan Russia

Tangerines Estonia

Timbuktu Mauritania

Wild Tales Argentina

I know many of the Johnny Come Lately prognosticators are going with the hipper than hip Wild Tales. But Ida was about the Holocaust. And it was genius. Yeah, I said it. And under 90 minutes. And about the Holocaust. #CaseClosed.

Chair’s Pick: Ida

Makeup and Hairstyling

winning by a nose ... #couldnthelpmyself

winning by a nose … #couldnthelpmyself

Foxcatcher Bill Corso and Dennis Liddiard

The Grand Budapest Hotel Frances Hannon and Mark Coulier

Guardians of the Galaxy Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou and David White

Something tells me it’s Foxcatcher. Not since Nicole Kidman’s nose in The Hours has talk about a film ever centered so much on…. Well, you know what I mean. Some folks are saying it’s a tech/design category and as such it’s got to be TGBH. I beg to differ.

Chair’s Pick: Bill Corso and Dennis Liddlard, Foxcatcher

Original Score

The Grand Budapest Hotel Alexandre Desplat

The Imitation Game Alexandre Desplat

Interstellar Hans Zimmer

Mr. Turner Gary Yershon

The Theory of Everything Jóhann Jóhannsson

This one feels unpredictable to me and if you’re betting, don’t gamble away the house. But there was something about the score of Theory that seemed to buoy the film beyond what it read like on paper and many others seem to agree. So –

Chair’s Pick: Johann Johannsson, The Theory of Everything

Original Song

“Everything Is Awesome” from The Lego Movie, Music and Lyric by Shawn Patterson

“Glory” from Selma, Music and Lyric by John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn

“Grateful” from Beyond the Lights, Music and Lyric by Diane Warren

“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me, Music and Lyric by Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond

“Lost Stars” from Begin Again, Music and Lyric by Gregg Alexander and Danielle Brisebois

There is NO way the Academy will not take its chance here to give something to Selma. Besides, it’s a terrific song. Awesome, actually. #NoLegos.

Chair’s Pick: John Stephens and Lonnie Lynn, “Glory” from Selma

Production Design

mr oscar... checking in...

mr oscar… checking in…

The Grand Budapest Hotel Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

The Imitation Game Production Design: Maria Djurkovic; Set Decoration: Tatiana Macdonald

Interstellar Production Design: Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Gary Fettis

Into the Woods Production Design: Dennis Gassner; Set Decoration: Anna Pinnock

Mr. Turner Production Design: Suzie Davies; Set Decoration: Charlotte Watts

The Grand Budapest Hotel wins best original screenplay and not production design??? Well, the Oscars are just perverse enough to do that – except they won’t. Whenever you hope they’ll be perverse they inevitably disappoint.

Chair’s Pick: Adam Stockhausen, Anna Pinnock, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Animated Short Film

The Bigger Picture Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees

The Dam Keeper Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

Feast Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed

Me and My Moulton Torill Kove

A Single Life Joris Oprins

There are several worthy entries here and this category is often a surprise – not to mention an Oscar pool spoiler. So NO ONE ever REALLY knows for sure. However, I did see Feast. There are a lot of dog lovers in the movie industry who credit the support of their furry friends for their best work. To not honor a film that does so would be just plain rude. #WeHeartOurAnimals. #AndOurVetsAnimals.

Chair’s Pick: Feast, Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed

Live Action Short Film

Aya Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis

Boogaloo and Graham Michael Lennox and Ronan Blaney

Butter Lamp (La Lampe Au Beurre De Yak)” Hu Wei and Julien Féret

Parvaneh Talkhon Hamzavi and Stefan Eichenberger

The Phone Call Mat Kirkby and James Lucas

Any time you get a basically two character short film about suicide played by actor/movie stars at the caliber of Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent – well –

Chair’s Pick: The Phone Call, Mat Kirby and James Lucas

Sound Editing

either a drum or a gun

either a drum or a gun

American Sniper Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Martín Hernández and Aaron Glascock

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Brent Burge and Jason Canovas

Interstellar Richard King

Unbroken Becky Sullivan and Andrew DeCristofaro

No one I spoke to or read really understands the true difference between these two sound categories or how they will shake down. But there is a consensus and it falls to firearms and the exploding of bombs – in real life and time.

Chair’s Pick: Alan Robert Murray and Bob Asman, American Sniper

Sound Mixing

American Sniper John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and Thomas Varga

Interstellar Gary A. Rizzo, Gregg Landaker and Mark Weingarten

Unbroken Jon Taylor, Frank A. Montaño and David Lee

Whiplash Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley

I’d give it to Whiplash because of the intricate mix of music that significantly impacts the effectiveness of that multi-nominated film. But at the end of the day voters will also know it was equally important to always believe we were in the terrorizing middle of Iraq for us to feel the full impact of American Sniper. The gravity of the latter will outweigh the skill of the former.

Chair’s Pick: John Reitz, Gregg Rudloff and Walt Martin, American Sniper

Visual Effects

Throwing it a bone #2001reference

Throwing it a bone #2001reference

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Bryan Grill and Dan Sudick

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett and Erik Winquist

Guardians of the Galaxy Stephane Ceretti, Nicolas Aithadi, Jonathan Fawkner and Paul Corbould

Interstellar Paul Franklin, Andrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher

X-Men: Days of Future Past Richard Stammers, Lou Pecora, Tim Crosbie and Cameron Waldbauer

It’s not good politics for voting Academy members to fully ignore a Christopher Nolan film right now. I’m not entirely sure why and neither are they. But all things being equal, it takes some kind of visual effects to make you feel like you were floating in space for almost a full century rather than the actual two hour and 45 minute running length of the entire film. No, I will not go for the obvious joke.

Chair’s Pick: Paul Franklin, Adrew Lockley, Ian Hunter and Scott Fisher, Interstellar

If you’ve made it this far, you have our full permission to appropriate – or ignore – any or all of our picks. Check back on Monday to see how well or poorly I’ve done. And remember, when a test is especially difficult I, for one, always grade on a curve.

Don’t miss a beat with the Chair tonight as he tweets his way through the Oscars (Keep your cheat sheet closeby!)

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Ya smell that?

Who is this imposter and what have you done with NPH?

Who is this imposter and what have you done with NPH?

Sunday night was smell-a-vision night here at the House of Chair.  Except that it felt like a combination of baby diapers, horse manure and the unwashed gym socks and muddy jock strap from a gym locker in 1982.  What other way was there to describe the highly anticipated Emmy Awards telecast hosted by the perennially charming Neil Patrick Harris?  Well, charm only gets you so far.  Remember – even Clooney once played an awful version of Batman, latex nipples and all.

As if this wasn’t enough we were treated to the HORRIBLE (no other word for it) series finale of Dexter – a program that was formerly one of the best television shows in recent memory and one which helped define the Showtime brand of over-the-top but compelling anti-heroes.  Michael C. Hall was still great but even he couldn’t save….well, you get the drill (but more on that below…)

Perhaps it was the mood in the House of Chair.  For the last three days I have been in full binge of the entire Breaking Bad  series– Season 3, Episode 8, bitches!!!!  – and probably didn’t want to be interrupted.  (Note:  For those who don’t watch – and you should – please know the aside in the middle of the last sentence is a relevant, rather than sexist, comment).

Look for the full Binging Bad experience next week with as few spoilers as possible.  In the meantime, what’s that I still smell —–

1. Network Stench

toot

  •  But when the best looking guy or gal in school who doesn’t use deodorant raises their arms in the air, it still stinks to high heaven.  Sunday night’s Emmy broadcast was an embarrassing hypefest for the CBS brand and all of its programming rather than a salute to the small tube in general.  Did you notice that a large group of the presenters were from current or upcoming CBS shows (I’m looking at you Mark Harmon & LL Cool J of NCIS, Anna Farris & Allison Janney of Mom)?  Not to mention the deadly backstage cut-ins hosted by Shemar Moore (Criminal Minds, much?)  Not to mention every other commercial interruption – and there were many – was for a newly premiering CBS show.  (Can’t wait for Hostages!!!)
  • I knew we were in a trouble when the program started and Emmy host NPH was being escorted into the theatre by a security guard being played by CBS president Les Moonves, a former actor.  Followed by a badly-conceived bit where NPH was stuck in a chair watching numerous five second TV series clips that turned out to be the only examples from current television series that we got to see all night.

It’s supposed to be a program honoring the best of television.  Not a kickoff to the new television season starring CBS actors and its top executives.

Rating:  Five Smelly Diapers.

2.  Music

What... is... this?

What… is… this?

  • I don’t know about you, but when I think of the 50-year anniversary of the Beatles appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1963 I immediately think of country singer Carrie Underwood. And why not have her sing Yesterday, a Beatles song released in 1965?  Because we can.  And because Okie Carrie will be starring as Maria Von Trapp in a live television production of The Sound of Music in November.  Again, who better?
  • Elton John is a gay pianist and Liberace, the subject of the Emmy-winning (but early Sunday night just nominated) biopic Behind the Candelabra, was also a gay pianist – get it????  Elton John has a new CD/album/record out this week, so why not cross-promote?  And why not get BTC stars Michael Douglas and Matt Damon to introduce him???  Well, because try as he might to make the connection, EJ’s new song Home Again didn’t feel like it had anything to do with Liberace – certainly it had nothing to do with television.  Which is the point of the entire show.  Or – is it????

Rating:  Twelve gym socks.  Though if we were on the telecast we’d certainly choose jock straps because we’d be making a dumb gay joke like Emmy winner Michael Douglas did when he picked up a statue for playing Liberace (Paraphrase Note: …I should be splitting the award with co-star Matt Damon  – do you want the top or the bottom??  Or – this is really a two-hander!).  Yuk….yuk…yuk.

Bonus eyeroll!

Bonus eyeroll!

3.  Specialty Items

  • In the middle of the program there was finally a Neil Patrick Harris song and dance number.  It was called The Number in the Middle of the Show.  For some reason it was thought by someone that it would be a funny idea to do an elongated song and dance number parodying a seventies dance number from the 1970s program Solid Gold.  NPH was helped along by Nathan Filion (Castle) and Sarah Silverman, followed by a gaggle of Solid Gold type dancers.  It was not a good idea.  It was quite painful.  Perhaps mostly for Nathan Filion, who is said to have a bad back that has caused him to miss several days of filming Castle in the last few weeks.  Was it worth the risk? Uh – no.
D. Hough in a suit.. silver lining?

D. Hough in a suit.. silver lining?

  • This is the first year the Emmys gave a choreography award on-air.  Consequently, it was thought necessary to do an elongated interpretive dance to the tune of Luck Be A Lady from the classic Broadway musical Guys and Dolls.  Then, we were treated to interpretive dances meant to evoke such TV series as Mad Men, American Horror Story, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad… and Big Bang Theory?    This really happened.  Really.  It did.

Rating:  Six rancid dancer’s belts.  One for each of the TV show tributes.

4.  Comedy?

  • Neil Patrick Harris’ co-stars from the CBS show How I Met Your Mother came together to do a sort of filmed PSA comedy bit for something called Excessive Hosting Disorder.  Well, it was sickly and obsessive, as far as comedy goes.  HIMYM never would have survived nine seasons if they were only this funny.  So we can’t blame them.
OK forget Carrie.. what is THIS?

OK forget Carrie.. what is THIS?

  • Will Ferrell brought out his three kids – or someone’s three kids – to deliver the final awards for best TV series.  They wore pajamas and had a tablet they were playing with.  People laughed.  I’m not sure why.  There was some mention he was just pulled in to give the awards because Maggie Smith and Helen Mirren, who had been scheduled to do it, couldn’t make it.  Well….okay.  But the mere mention of Dame Maggie made one long for one of her Downton Abbey bon mots to save the show.  To wit:  What’s a Will Ferrell and why has he dragged those vagabond roustabouts onto my stage?  Yes, she would have said it better.  But she didn’t get the chance to.  But then again, neither did any other of the characters on TV that we really care about these days.

Note to the Emmy’s:  A few clips from the current golden age of television might be nice.

And now – back to Breaking Bad.

HOLLY’S CORNER: A EULOGY FOR DEXTER

Wrap it up.. it's over.

Wrap it up.. it’s over.

Crazy to think that a serial killer deserves better, but that, and more, can certainly be said about the uber-lame Dexter finale that aired opposite the Emmys last night. After eight seasons, a few football fields worth of plastic wrap, and countless bad Michael C Hall wigs, the show that came in with a ear piercing screech of freshness, went out like a sad shriek and a whiff of old garbage.

I started watching the series just as it aired, having piggybacked it with catching up on Hall’s fantastic turn as David Fisher in Six Feet Under. Dexter was superhero meets supervillian – and the writing was superb. I shared my love for this devilish leading man with The Chair and he too agreed that this show was breaking new ground, and slicing up some excellent week-to-week water cooler moments. I would promise to follow that Dark Passenger until the very end…

Yes, this meant getting through Miguel Prado, Lumen, Doomsday, and the Russian mafia … but for every misstep there was Doakes shouting “Surprise, Motherfucker!”, Jordan’s hypnotizing “Take It!”, Lila’s Parisian demise, and of course, fan-favorite (and rightfully so) Trinity. With so many bad things made right, I was sure the finale would supersede an otherwise lackluster season….

Instead, I, like our beloved “Slice of Life,” was set out to sea, destroyed by the wrath of the illogical, ridiculous Hurricane Dexter – and the most devoted fan was forced to admit with heavy regret: Goddamn, that sucked.

And so we go on, with Season 4 DVDs clutched tightly to our chest, cherishing the good times we had, forgetting that in the end we were left with a bearded, damp, Twin Peaks Dexter, and instead remembering Deb the badass, Masuka the freak, Quinn the over tanned, LaGuerta the over accessorized, Battista the loyal, Jamie the clueless, Rita the saint, Harry the guardian and of course Dexter, the darkly dreaming disaster we’d all come to love.

Farewell Miami Metro… at least we’ll always have breakfast.

Rubbernecking

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Target Practice

We Americans love to gawk.  Okay, maybe it’s not a totally American thing since the term paparazzi became popular as a result of Fellini’s legendary La Dolce Vita (the perpetually annoying photographer in the film was named Paparazzo).  Still, in my limited travels around the world it feels as if me and my fellow countrymen (and women) are always among the first to arrive – either by ourselves or with some sort of filming device – to either a celebrity sighting or crime scene, especially when those two events happen simultaneously.

Granted, it is not necessarily a bad thing to be observant.  But – what exactly are we observing?

That all came to the forefront this week when Valerie Harper, the 74-year-old actress who was recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and is best known to us baby boomers as Rhoda from the Mary Tyler Moore Show, was announced as one of the contestants on this season’s edition of Dancing With The Stars.

Let’s be clear.  Anyone who has terminal brain cancer gets to do anything they want, including spending their final year(s?) of life rehearsing ballroom dancing four and a half hours a day in order to perform a 3 minute weekly dance routine before a live television audience of 17 million people.

Plus – full disclosure.  I LOVED Rhoda!  She was sassy, spoke with an accent from the NYC boroughs, endured an overbearing mother who made her life crazy AND had trouble keeping a guy.  With the exception of the head scarves and a few lady bits, I found watching her in my twenties was often the equivalent of looking into a one-way mirror.

I could have rocked that look

I could have rocked that look

So I’m not quite sure why her appearance on DWTS strikes me as a bit exploitive and over-the-line. Could it be my own fear of death?  Perhaps.  I mean, I know it is there and have witnessed it more times than I care to remember.  Still, I don’t like the idea of it staring me in the face weekly.  Though I did love Laura Linney on The Big C, a Showtime series about cancer where anyone, anytime could die each week because, well, it’s cable.

No – I don’t think it’s that.

Maybe it’s my general concern for Ms. Harper as a fan who has enjoyed her work for decades.  Aside from her time as Rhoda, she ‘s done lots of other interesting things over the years, including a recent brilliant onstage performance as the iconic actress Tallulah Bankhead in the stage play Looped.

Yes, she started as a dancer on Broadway, her cancer is near remission, and she announced that she wanted to attempt this enormous feat of athleticism to be a role model so others won’t fear life in their final days. Hmm, maybe I’m turning into Rhoda’s overprotective mother?  Or even worse, my OWN MOTHER???

Sorry – I REFUSE to admit that’s it.  Or to even think about it one second longer.

Here’s what I do think it’s about.  It’s the idea of being compelled to watch DWTS at all, which I now most definitely will do, at least on DVR – and probably a lot more than sometimes.  This makes me nothing less than a typical member of the flash mob out there that we call society.  All too human, all too base, all too bloodthirsty.  But to see what exactly?  Valerie Harper die live on television?  Or at least pass out from exhaustion, only to get up again and barely make it through the number amid gasps and awe?  Or to see her emerge victorious as many weeks as possible, proving you can cheat death when you have a terminal disease?

And all for this hideous, tacky thing?

And all for this hideous, tacky thing?

If we’re all hooked up to a lie detector, which would we all MOST want to watch?  Which would be the most…ENTERTAINING?  (Note:  You cannot choose none of the above.  And…you must tell the truth).

It did not escape me that a survey by Fandango this week of the most anticipated of all the fall movies – a time that is (or used to be) considered THE time to launch the classy or at least more serious Oscar contenders – the #1 choice was The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.  This is important to note because it is the sequel to a film that is literally about watching people die in a live (or in this case dead) televised competition.   Well, one supposes that could really be next.  Or perhaps it has already begun to arrive but we have not yet realized it.

En fuego

En fuego

I might be stretching the metaphor.  But barely. Humanity has a history of such things, from Gladiators fighting to the death in the Coliseum to boxing matches where every so often someone gets knocked out cold.   The difference is that hundreds of years ago the very function of gladiators was to do battle until someone literally collapses and dies.  These days we sort of just like putting people into impossible situations to see if or how long they can survive and how well they do it.  Yes, they can die or be irrevocably injured for our own enjoyment.  But it’s their choice.  Certainly, that’s a lot more civilized.  Isn’t it?

Civilized? Well, all except Wipeout.

Civilized? Well, all except Wipeout.

It’s interesting to read or watch the news each day and see what passes for current events.  Sure there are real wars but we usually black out the actual killings on television in favor of showing our politicians deciding whether or not to fund either more bloodbaths or more social programs.  Still, we get to see George Zimmerman, the man acquitted in the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, being arrested for the second time in several months for a speeding ticket or photos of Zimmerman’s wife filing for divorce because he spends so little time at home and has become too selfish.   You can’t blame him.  I suppose I’d be a little full of myself also if I got that much attention.  Speaking of attention, did you just hear that his defense attorney Mark O’Mara has been signed by CNN to be a legal analyst? That’s something else we can look forward to when we inevitably tire of this season’s DWTS.  God Bless America.

It’s not as if the US media and entertainment industries (yes, technically they are different) always know what we want, or are even thinking.  If this were so Neil Patrick Harris wouldn’t have happily announced several days ago that he would not be doing a musical opening number when he hosts the Emmys later this month.  Sure, the Oscars get Seth MacFarlane singing and dancing but television DOESN’T get Neil Patrick Harris singing and dancing.  Just what are they thinking there?  Obviously, not much.

You're breaking my heart, Doogie!

You’re breaking my heart, Doogie!

Then there is the massive advertising campaign for Ron Howard’s new film, Rush.  It’s gotten glowing advance reviews and very nice film festival reaction.  And Mr. Howard’s teaming on a somewhat commercially risky subject matter written by acclaimed British writer Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) also deserves kudos.  But Rush is based on the 1970s true life story of two competing race drivers – a sport where fatal and near fatal fiery crashes and the charred beyond recognition human remains they left behind were a way of life.  You’d think they could give us a little more of the actual blood sport in the trailer, knowing as they do our taste for carnage.   Right now there are mostly the supremely enviable blonde tresses (not to mention other things) of the supremely enviable Chris Hemsworth as he charms the machinery off of every human and non-human being in his sight lines.  Well, I suppose audiences can forgive a little lack of carnage for that.   I know that I can.

Oh.. is this movie about car racing?

Oh.. is this movie about car racing?

What is difficult to accept is that one easy way to get attention these days is to always do morea lot more – and preferably in as dangerous or titillating a way as possible.  Perhaps this was always the case.  In fact, when you chart the rise from Playboy, to Penthouse, to Deep Throat, to Hustler, to online porn, to Showtime’s annual and highly-rated multiple broadcasts of the AVN Awards (the Oscars of the Adult Entertainment Industry, which I stumbled across one day and reacted to like a bad car accident on the highway – I couldn’t look away) we can prove it not only was but that today it is even more so.

Of course, none of this means I will cancel my subscription to The New Yorker.  Or that any museums will be closed down.  But one can’t help but wonder if, as the years go on, those touchstones of culture won’t be viewed much like we now look at the language of Latin or the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare – intellectually impressive, perhaps even brilliant artifacts of another time and generation but nowhere near as exciting to us as the potential slaughters or killings occurring right before our eyes in any one of the Coliseum-like arenas of  entertainment that we’re choosing to put right in front of us.

Hmm, on second thought, maybe the times haven’t changed all that much at all.

Something for Everyone?

William Goldman, the Oscar winning and once highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood (though he lived in New York) once famously said of the entertainment industry:  “Nobody knows anything.”  I never truly believed this, though I said I did.  After all, it’s easy to be the most successful and highest paid anything and say that because a) you’ve already made it, b) you are one of the few of us who are so clever and talented that you don’t have to figure out the regular rules, or c) you are probably also the kind of person who is ALWAYS in the right place at the right time, something that never seems to happen to me.

Now that I’m mid-career (if I live to be, like, 110), I know that’s bullshit.  You might not believe me because, well, why should you?  Especially if you’re the age I was when I first heard William Goldman make his remarks in the 1970s.  But trust me, it’s true.

Conventional wisdom tells us a lot of things but what it doesn’t tell us about are the EXCEPTIONS – and CHANCE – both of which have a lot more power than we think and shifts conventional wisdom on a dime.  It also probably produces the best films, television, music and theatre, anyway.  Yes, it’s a bit of a cliché but bares repeating – no one thought “Star Wars” would be the hit that it was; Francis Coppola wasn’t the first choice to direct “The Godfather; horror films were dead until “Halloween,” musicals were dead until “Chicago” and “Glee;” and John Travolta’s career was dead until a fan of his named Quentin Tarantino decided it would be a hoot and cast him in a little film called “Pulp Fiction.”

Further – you don’t make movies on issues such as anti-Semitism in the 1940s until a film like “Gentlemen’s Agreement” wins some Oscars and makes money; nor films about black and whites intermingling or marrying until “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”; nor hire blacklisted writers until Kirk Douglas decides “that’s crap” and employs accused Commie Dalton Trumbo to write “Spartacus” because he knows he’s the best man for the job.

Or take a chance on anything particularly new and different in the post millennium world because the world economy is in collapse, everyone is risk adverse, the public IQ has been dumbed-down and we now live in a four quadrant world where any artistic property that has a hope of being made has to appeal to the broadest audience possible and have the potential to be an action figure, an app or a happy meal.

Oh please.

All it takes is guts, talent, perseverance and, yeah, a little bit of luck.  But we all have luck at one time or another in our lives – both good and bad.  If you believe you never had any good luck – well the fact that you’re still breathing does count.  And if you still want to believe that isn’t true then you can take some solace in the fact that if there is only bad luck, someone’s lack of luck could certainly cause you to inadvertently prosper.  Would that be considered your good luck?  Well, I certainly think so.

I was amused at Lady Gaga’s recent HBO concert for many reasons, but none more so than when she imitated one of her doomsaying, know-it-all NYU professors regarding Gaga’s chance of making it – Teacher (in heavy New York accent):  Well….you know….(gum chomping)…yaw’ll never be the STAHHHH (star).  Ya maybe can play the ballsy best friend… But ya’ll NEVER…… etc, etc.

Now granted, I may not be the greatest college professor in the world, or even in the top 1000, but I can’t imagine ever telling that to a student, or anyone, because – how the hell do I know?  Or anyone know? Hint:  If they tell you they do, remember what William Goldman says – they don’t.  And you can take his word for it because he’s made far more money and films than I have AND has also written numerous plays, books and musicals, too.  Google or IMDB him.  You’ll see.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001279/bio

If you still don’t want to believe either of us – consider this year’s Tony Awards and what I couldn’t help but feel was the emergence of everyone’s inner GAY.  As in homosexual, same sex marriage, or the love that dare not speak its name as they used to say in the fifties (yeah, times are changing.  The Tonys might help gay marriage pass in NY…but still…)

Having been born at a time when they still used to say the latter and now living in a time when I write about the former, I confess to a still continuing surprise when I watch the opening number of a primetime, family-oriented network (CBS) offering hosted by an openly gay host (Neil Patrick Harris) and star of a very high-rated (at least it was) and traditional sitcom (“How I Met Your Mother”), singing to, oh, 50 million people – that theatre “Is Not Just For Gays Anymore” without so much as a ripple of public disapproval or threatened network boycott.  This was UNHEARD OF even just 20 years ago.  (see this or this).

But that’s not the only thing.  Yeah, we know the theatre’s always been more gay friendly than other entertainment mediums (is it something inherent about New York or because drama originated with the Greeks?), but the show then continues to become a tribute to an irreverent musical called “Book of Mormon” by the at one time controversial “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone.  Remember when there was public outcry about their work and very existence?  What changed?  Was it CHANCE?  Or were they the EXCEPTION?  Or —

Did they just continue to do their work, good work, and the world somehow caught up with them?  Maybe that’s why they’re the toast of Broadway.  And not even gay.  (As far as I know).  Nah, I guess it’s just luck and chance.

Someone who is also the toast of Broadway and gay who I do know (of)  is a man named Larry Kramer.  For those of you who know him, you know how strange this sounds.  Mr. Kramer was one of the first (if not the first) activists to speak out about AIDS in 1981 – offending much of the gay community by handing out leaflets in the gay Mecca Fire Island and begging people (fellow gays) to curb their sexual activities until more was found out about the disease and demand government action.  He also offended much of the straight community, as he’d done his entire life, by simply being his unabashedly gay, mouthy, take no prisoners, self.  Mr. Kramer continued to do so and wrote a play about his travails 30 years ago called “The Normal Heart” starring a mouthy hero patterned after himself which played off-Broadway and got mixed reviews for being TOO SPEECHY, TOO PREACHY and generally (I can say this now) ahead of its time.  As those of us who were around then and have (somehow) lived to tell this tale now understand, Mr. Kramer was right and his artistic work on Sunday was lauded as if it were truly the Rapture (not the fake one predicted). And now, in one fell swoop, he got Tony Awards, a public platform for him to speak to a worldwide audience without leaflets, and tributes by just about every film, television and theatre star in attendance.    (Mr. Kramer, by the way, has never been a stranger to controversy – his first novel – a roman a clef called “Faggots” – which took the gay community to task for its penchant for loveless sex – was a huge success in some circles in the 70s, yet also cost him dearly in the eyes of his own community).

The admittedly very long-winded point I’m making is – WHAT WILL YOU FIGHT FOR?  WHAT IS YOUR ORIGINAL VOICE TELLING YOU IS IMPORTANT?  Because if you’re interested in “making it” in the entertainment business – really making it – meaning having an impact – this seems as sure a way as any to do it.  It’s a slow, unsteady climb, not a straight one (oops, didn’t mean to make that pun).  Chances are events won’t EVER fall into place for your work of art the way it did for Larry Kramer, or even Trey Parker and Matt Stone.   But chance is so-named because it’s unpredictable.  Just when you feel sure it’s trending one way, it can easily turn around, sneak up behind you and say “boo.”  Or much more than that.  Ask Larry or Trey or Matt.  Chance is strange that way.

Ellen Barkin, who won this year’s Tony Award for best supporting actress for “The Normal Heart” summed it up best in her thank you speech when she said her experience with the play taught her one very important lesson:

“One person can make a difference – one person can change the world.”

Kramer did it for gay liberation and the issue of AIDS.  Trey Parker and Matt Stone did it for comedy, political correctness and, now – Broadway.

But isn’t it all the same thing?  Take a chance.