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Of course I watched Spike’s 2010 Scream awards show.  Which, I suppose, is either the first or last awards show of the season, depending on how you look at it.  On the off chance you missed it,  here were the highs and lows:

Scary Good:

  • This is going to sound a little ridiculous, but probably the best thing of all was the set design.  The Inception background, DeLorean, egg for Sigourney Weaver, Green Lantern, well, lantern, Bill Murray’s entrance, the flames, the Lost plan, and whatever else I forgot.  It was just really cool.
  • Halle Berry to kick things off.  Maybe I can’t stand her as an actress, but she’s still got it.
  • Doing the Best Comic Book writer and Best Comic Book on screen.  They skipped plenty of awards, but it was well played to include these.
  • The audience.  Tons of costumes and screaming, they were clearly into it.  As remarked upon by nearly every presenter.  And as Rosario Dawson said, “There’s even a chicken here.”
  • The girls in the audience.  As Mickey Rourke so eloquently put it, “there’s a lot of tits and ass here tonight.”
  • Showing a clip from Super and then Rainn Wilson doing a joke about killing the projectionist at Life As We Know It
  • Anthony Hopkins once again showing it may not be entirely acting when he portrays a lunatic.
  • The clip from Scream 4.  Because that’s a mighty fetching cast Mr. Craven put together.
  • David Spade’s impression of Marty McFly.  Dead on.
  • Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd’s rather touching speeches.
  • The GEICO commercial doing a pretty bangup parody of itself.
  • And, of course, Zombieland winning best horror movie and Bill Murray coming out as Peter Venkman.  Plus his rather bizarre speech.

Scary Bad:

  • The writing.  Yeesh.
  • The lack of any semblance of order.  When I started it off the DVR, I had to check to make sure the recording didn’t miss any of it.
  • Honoring Ray Bradbury.  Great idea, poor execution.
  • Anna Paquin unintentionally going through like four different accents during her speech.
  • James Cameron not mentioning Galaxy Quest during his tribute to Sigourney Weaver, and only three very short clips showing up on the highlight reel.
  • The stars of The Walking Dead.  Man, you two managed to be super annoying in a matter of two sentences.  Well done.
  • Marilyn Manson.  I just don’t get the guy.  And maybe it is just me, but I think he’s increasingly looking like Carl Reiner circa the Dick van Dyke Show.
  • MIA’s…well…”song” would be a charitable way of putting it.
  • Ryan Reynolds.  I actually like the guy in every thing I’ve seen him in, and am looking forward to Green Lantern.  But the dude dated Rachael Leigh Cook, is married to Scarlett friggin’ Johansson, and gets to hook up with Blake Lively on-screen.  I think jealousy is allowed to rear its ugly head.

Brian, on The Social Network: “It won’t crack $50 million.” (via Twitter)

The Social Network‘s domestic box office take after three weeks: $62.5 million.

I’m probably going to catch the Scream awards show tomorrow on Spike (“The event honoring the best in sci-fi, fantasy, comics, and horror”).  Because (A) I have this weird weakness for awards shows and (B) if you nominate Zombieland for something, I’ll be there.  Recap Wednesday, maybe.  Here’s my Will Win/Should Win (nominees at the link above).

Ultimate Scream
Will Win: Avatar
Should Win: Zombieland

Best Science Fiction Movie
Will Win: Inception
Should Win: District 9

Best Fantasy Movie
Will Win: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Should Win: None of Them

Best Horror Movie
Will Win: Paranormal Activity
Should Win: Zombieland

Best TV Show
Will Win: Lost
Should Win: Doctor Who

Best Director
Will Win: James Cameron, Avatar
Should Win: Neill Blomkamp, District 9

Best Scream-play
Will Win: Toy Story 3, by Michael Arndt
Should Win: Zombieland, by Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese. Also, Spike, for the great pun

Best Fantasy Actress
Will Win: Kristen Stewart, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Should Win: Chloe Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass

Best Fantasy Actor
Will Win: Robert Pattinson, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Should Win: Aaron Johnson, Kick-Ass

Best Science Fiction Actress
Will Win: Zoe Saldana, Avatar
Should Win: Zoe Saldana, Avatar
Editorial: Good lord, there are some attractive women in this category. I mean, wow. Too bad almost all of them are nominated for middling roles.

Best Science Fiction Actor
Will Win: Robert Downey, Jr., Iron Man 2
Should Win: Sharlto Copley, District 9

Best Horror Actress
Will Win: Anna Paquin, True Blood
Should Win: Emma Stone, Zombieland

Best Horror Actor
Will Win: Michael C. Hall, Dexter
Should Win: Woody Harrelson, Zombieland

Best Villain
Will Win: Mickey Rourke, Iron Man 2
Should win: Jackie Earle Haley, A Nightmare on Elm Street

Best Superhero
Will Win: Robert Downey, Jr., Iron Man 2
Should Win: Chloe Grace Moretz, Kick-Ass

Best Supporting Actor
Will Win: Christoper Mintz-Plasse, Kick-Ass
Should Win: Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island

Best Supporting Actress
Will Win: Sigourney Weaver, Avatar
Should Win: Abigail Breslin, Zombieland

Breakout Performance – Female
Will Win: Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland
Should Win: Lindsey Fonseca, Kick-Ass
Editorial: This category is like the Best New Artist at the Grammys, where in order to be nominated, you actually have to be around for awhile, right? Like, Morena Baccarin, really? If any group should know Firefly, it is this crew. And Gemma Arterton was in a friggin’ Bond movie.

Breakout Performance – Male
Will Win: Xavier Samuel, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Should Win: Sharlto Copley, District 9
Editorial: Tom Hardy? Watch Bronson and then get back to me.

Best Cameo
Will Win: Bill Murray, Zombieland
Should Win: Bill Murray, Zombieland

Best Ensemble
Will Win: Inception
Should Win: Zombieland

Most Memorable Mutilation
Will Win: Scalped by Hunting Knife
Should Win: Surgically Transformed Into Human Centipede

Fight Scene of the Year
Will Win: Final Battle, Na’vi vs. Military, Avatar
Should Win: Final Battle, Na’vi vs. Military, Avatar

Holy Sh*t! Scene of the Year
Will Win: Paris Street Folds Over Onto Itself, Inception
Should Win: Head Twisted 180 Degrees During Sex, True Blood

3-D Top Three
Will Win: Avatar
Should Win: None of them.

Best F/X
Will Win:Avatar
Should Win: Avatar

Best Television Performance
Will Win: Matthew Fox, Lost
Should Win: Don’t watch any of these, sorry.

Best Comic Book or Graphic Novel
Best Comic Book Writer
Best Comic Book Artist
Nowhere near qualified to tackle these.

Best Comic Book Movie
Will Win: Iron Man 2
Should Win: Iron Man 2

Any thoughts? Anyone planning to watch?

I missed out on the free screening of The Social Network that Brian and John saw, I instead caught the film last weekend with Adam and Gavin.  From the very second the film begins, there’s no denying this is an Aaron Sorkin joint.  Full disclosure: I’m passionately in love with Aaron Sorkin’s writing.  Well, except for Malice, we won’t talk about what happened there.  I’m one of the few who will proudly defend Studio 60.

Anyway, I’ll freely admit that generally speaking, Sorkin only writes one character.  He writes that character very very well, of course, and his characters have minor nuances.  But in his world, characters are basically good people who adhere very strongly to their moral code, strongly protective of their team/group/substitute family, and are often boxed into situations where they are forced to question their ethics.  And who are intelligent, talk really fast and walk down lots of hallways.

The brilliant part here is that Mark Zuckerberg is unlike any character Sorkin has written before.  The Facebook (co-?)founder is unabashedly self-centered and would be wholly out of place in any of Sorkin’s dramas.  He’s decidedly not part of any team, and there are very few hallways at all.  Which means Sorkin gets to soften a character who would probably be unlikeable in the hands of a different screenwriter, but also is forced to explore a new venue for his creativity.

The end result is pure magic.  Sorkin and Fincher combine to tell a really interesting and engaging story.  As much as I may hate to admit it, I find myself agreeing with John here.  I’m utterly fascinated by the attempt to ascribe larger questions to the film.  I’ve seen people question the movie’s take on race and gender, not to mention positioning the film as generation-defining.  Because to me, this movie is much smaller than all that.  If you want to say it starts some discussion on ideas and intellectual property in the digital era, fine.  But mostly, it is simply a well-told story and something of a character study of a (kinda) genius.  Never overly dramatic or broadly funny, the film adroitly exploits Sorkin’s gift for dialogue to have drama and be funny, but not distract from the underlying story.

The only complaint I have was with the ending of the film.  Not entirely the fault of the filmmakers, I think, because I’m not really sure there is any good way to end the Facebook story, but it did feel abrupt.  I’m also not sure I would have framed the story with the two interview rooms.  I see why they did that, and it certainly allowed for some great lines, but I’m not entirely certain it was necessary.

I’m really curious to see how the film does come Oscar time.  A Best Picture nod is all but set, it seems like.  David Fincher is a good bet for a Director nomination at this point.  There’s been some hubbub over whether the script should be adapted or original (apparently Sorkin was writing the screenplay at the same time as and largely independently from Mezrich), but I’m fairly confident it will get an Adapted Screenplay.  I’m a big Jesse Eisenberg fan.  The Squid and the Whale was probably my favorite 2005 movie and Zombieland was obviously my favorite 2009 film.  So I’d love to see him get a nod, but I personally don’t see it.  His performance wasn’t flashy and I couldn’t point to any single Oscar scene.  His competition this year is shaping up to be a bunch of Hollywood vets and James Franco commanding a movie to himself, so Eisenberg may find himself just on the outside.  I’m between Brian and John on Andrew Garfield.  I thought he was fine, a good fit for the role, nothing spectacular.  He’s got a good shot for a Supporting Actor nomination, not sure he’d be my pick, but I won’t argue too much against it.  Especially if it will help the Spiderman reboot, which I increasingly think will be the greatest thing ever.

I actually saw Winter’s Bone in a theater in Kansas City, MO.  I was on a weeklong baseball road trip with Ian affectionately dubbed “Baseball in the Ozarks” so when we were deciding between seeing it or Inception, the former just seemed a little more appropriate.  Obviously we weren’t watching baseball in forests infested with meth dealers.  But we did see enough of the area to get a better appreciation of the movie’s locale.  Plus, there was this one drive at two in the morning to Steak n’ Shake that took us through a really scary stretch that could have been lifted straight from this movie.

I appreciate the film as the little indie that could.  It has taken in over $6 million at the box office and garnered significant Oscar buzz for star Jennifer Lawrence.  Also some ancillary hype for maybe a screenplay nomination for Debra Granik (who also directed) and Anne Rosellini .  Which I’d say seems overly hopeful, but the obvious Oscar comp here is Adam’s favorite movie of all time (Frozen River), which improbably received a screenplay nom.  The movies are comparable not only as out of nowhere indie successes, they both detail the struggle of a woman trying to take care of her family against heavy odds.  The two have wildly different locations, but both are effectively used to highlight the bleakness of the protagonist’s situation.

Of course, the big difference between the two is that Frozen River is nearly unwatchable, while Winter’s Bone is a decent enough movie.  I’ll be honest, I don’t entirely understand the buzz surrounding the film.  As with Melissa Leo, it seems the hype has started with the performance of the leading actress and cascaded down.  But I think Jennifer Lawrence is benefiting from the perception of her role, rather than the role itself.  She plays a young woman forced to raise her two younger siblings because her mom suffers from a mental disability, and her meth-making dad is missing.  Lawrence’s character wades her way through the murky happenings of her drug-dealing clan in an effort to find her father.  So yes, I appreciate the dearth of strong, young, female leads in dramas, and I certainly mean no disrespect to Ms Lawrence.  But originality does not equal greatness.  If the part was rewritten for a male and performed by a actor of similar accomplishment, I don’t think I’m writing this post.

And like I say, I’m not here to knock Jennifer Lawrence.  I think she does a fine job, and am looking forward to seeing her in the future.  But I don’t think she’s going to be anywhere near my supporting actress list, come year end.  I want to also note John Hawkes and Dale Dickey turning in solid work, which I hope leads to more jobs.  Anyway, Winter’s Bone is an average movie that you probably won’t regret catching on DVD at some point.  But if you want a taste of the Ozarks, I recommend actually going there.  Or, if that isn’t an option, watch Justified.

I guess it’s no surprise that the most economically unequal region in the world produces plenty of films about class. The Widows of Thursdays was sort of about that, but the two I’m discussing today are even more explicit.

Southern District (Zona sur), Bolivia, dir: Juan Carlos Valdivia

A portrait of a white upper-class family that lives in a villa in a rich part of La Paz. The matriarch is divorced and her children are a lesbian college student, a teenage son that spends his time partying and having sex, and a five-year-old son. Two Indian servants round out the household.

Vadivia puts the camera in the middle of a room and gives it at least one full rotation as the scene unfolds. The technique is immersive and interesting. It’s also quite effective since the film concentrates on the characters’ interactions and allows the viewer to pick up subtle cues rather than developing much of a plot. There are some visual flourishes that I thought went over the top, but otherwise it’s a fascinating film.

Southern District was Bolivia’s submission for last year’s Foreign Language Oscar race but was not nominated.

Chance, Panama, dir: Abner Benaim

Another movie dealing with a rich white family’s interactions with its native servants, but it’s about as different as possible. When the family is about to head out on a pricey weekend vacation even though they haven’t paid their staff for weeks, the maids decide to fight back. They take the family hostage and demand a ransom. But it turns out the father has blown through the family’s wealth, so the maids have to get creative.

I think the film has designs on being a commentary on class, but I’m not sure it works terribly well in that regard. I guess it has some lessons to impart, but they’re hardly novel. Instead, it works very well as a broad comedy. I think if it was remade for American audiences it would star Tim Allen and there would be at least one flatulence joke. It’s quite funny, though the jokes are pretty obvious. It’s very much an enjoyable crowd-pleaser and it had me happy leaving the theater.

The AFI theater here in the DC area is running its 21st annual Latin American Film Festival this month and I’m el Gruñon de Oro en la escena.

Why? Partly because all of the news out of Venice, Toronto, and Telluride has me film fest-happy and a Toronto trip aborted at the last minute left a hole in my heart. Partly because some of these films will have Oscar aspirations in the Foreign Language category. But also because these little film festivals pull some obscure titles. When I sit down with a film festival catalogue I find guidance on what films are worthwhile from some far-flung internet sites. Hopefully I can turn some random Googlers onto a hidden gem, or steer them away from an elusive stinker.

Optical Illusions (Ilusiones ópticas), Chile, dir: Cristián Jiménez

In a southern Chilean city, six people look for meaning in their lives through science, consumerism, and capitalism. One struggles when he loses his job. Another wants to save up for breast enhancement surgery. A third chases a married woman he catches shoplifting at his job as a mall security job. Another formerly-blind man has his sight restored with a new surgical procedure only to discover he might have preferred staying blind.

It’s meant to be a humorous, wry look at modern life. I didn’t really think it went anywhere. Everyone’s lives intersect, but not in interesting ways. Each character’s story is superficially interesting. A man navigating the ridiculousness of his company’s outplacement phase where he sits in a room all day until he can find a new job is an interesting situation. It just doesn’t really develop. There’s not much in the way of conflict or characters that learn or change. By the time several of the characters end up in the hospital I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to come away with.

It also feels very, very long for its 105 minute run time. Unfortunately, this is one to skip.

The Widows of Thursdays (Las viudas de los jueves), Argentina, dir: Marcelo Piñeiro

I’ll often call something “melodramatic” and mean it pejoratively. But here is a film that’s melodramatic and delightfully so. It’s not overly dramatic, but it revels in its domestic drama without turning over-the-top.

The setting is an upscale gated community near Buenos Aires in the lead up to Argentina’s 2001 economic collapse. The four main families have the full-range of suburban problems: job insecurity, marital strife, unruly children, not to mention some darker troubles. But they also exhibit a lot of love and self-confidence (and self-awareness) so they are not caricatures or soap opera characters.

Three of the men are found dead in a swimming pool and the film uses flashbacks to tell of the time leading up to their demise. I found it very effective as the film is not about how they die but why. It’s an engrossing look at a certain type of community at a certain point in time. The ending didn’t do much for me, but the journey is terribly entertaining and enjoyably – yes – melodramatic that I didn’t mind.

Note: the AFI has it translated as The Widows of Thursdays but the film itself translates the title as The Thursday Widows, which makes more sense and just plain sounds better. Maybe the latter title will be used in the future. Or, Thursday Night Widows, as per some sources. Or Thursday’s Widows.

October 2010