In anticipation of the Oscars this year, our own J.P. Mangalindan watched all five Best Picture nominees back-to-back as part of AMC Theaters’ third annual “Best Picture Showcase” event.Â This is his take on the experience.
Every year, I swear that I'll watch all the Best Picture nominees to prep for the Oscars. In my movie-obsessed mind, there's nothing worse than hunkering down in front of the tube with a bucket of nachos, taking bets with my buddies over who'll win what, only to wonder whether the newly christened "movie of the year,"Â and some of the performances in them, actually merits those golden statues. (This was a huge problem for me last year because I didn't see There Will Be Blood or No Country for Old Men.)
Well, that won't be happening this time around because this Saturday, yours truly is watching"”and blogging about"”all the Best Picture nominees. Yes, all five. Back-to-back. Over the span of 12 hours.
Freakin' crazy, right?
Well, believe it or not, when I initially got the assignment, I actually did a little jig. After all, who wouldn't want to watch 2008's best films for free"”and right before the Oscar ceremonies, to boot?? The next day, though, reality reared its ugly Golem-like head. I mean, I've crashed theaters in the past for double-features, but I've never seen five flicks consecutively. (Also peeps, let's not forget that The Curious Case of Benjamin is nearly three hours long.)
I realized that to enjoy this rare cinematic experience, I'd need a game plan, namely comfortable clothes, tons of food and snacks"”sadly, man cannot subsist on nachos and ICEEs alone"”and last, but never least, beer. (Self-medication is important, yo.) I'll be blogging my thoughts and experiences"”the highs, the lows, the uncensored, drunken, slightly off-topic riffs"”during the 15-minute breaks in-between each film. So stay tuned. It should be entertaining, to say the least.
Ever wonder how Harvey Milk met jheri-curled lover, Scott? According to Gus Van Sant, it was about as easy as getting off the subway. "It's my birthday,"Â Harvey says bashfully. "You don't want me to go home alone tonight on my birthday, do you?"Â Cue flirty looks, the crinkling of Sean Penn’s face into an adorable smile, and the next thing you know, they're schtupping, playing around with cake icing in bed.
For real? As much as I'd like to believe finding love"”especially finding love with a hottie like James Franco"”is as easy as cruising New York City public transportation, the jaded gay in me doubts this could have really happened. Granted, I'm not Sean Penn, and I don't own an awesome retro blue double-breasted suit, but regardless, I don't think this would have happened. My friend, who's continually force-feeding me chocolate croissants and espresso shots from a nearby café, chalks it up to the era they lived in. "Hey, it's the Castro in the 70s. Free love, yo!!"Â Right.
Also, give credit where it's due. Sean Penn gives an amazing performance as the effete Harvey, but Diego Luna shouldn't be overlooked either for playing the swishiest gay since Nathan Lane's Albert Goldman in The Birdcage. I'd dislocate something if I moved my hips that much, and I'm shocked Diego didn't.
Feeling good. Four more movies. I can do this. I've got one more croissant, and my friend has just whipped out the culinary WMDs: chocolate-covered espresso beans. There's a trivia game, which admittedly, I'm not paying much attention to. If the prizes are good, I can always just play along later.
I didn't read the novel and know next to nothing about the movie, except for the fact that Kate Winslet drops trou and does the nasty with a hairless, strange-looking 15-year-old. My horny companion can't wait to see Kate naked, so she starts a countdown until we see some onscreen action.
Well, that wasn't long. Dude gets covered in soot in Kate's apartment building. She suggests he take a shower ("You look absolutely ridiculous,"Â she chastises in a hot German accent.), then"”BAM!"”she's naked, toweling off his adolescent goodies.
At this point, my friend is getting slightly turned on by the full-frontal shots of the boy playing a younger Ralph Fiennes, which all feels a little creepy. Sort of like my tiny crush of Joe Jonas (yes, that Joe Jonas). I mean, is the dude even legal?
Also, I love me some Kate. She's a gorgeous creature, whether she's curvy circa Titanic or Hollywood thin, but god almighty, her nipples are effing huge. As in, coffee saucer huge. And I'm not the only person in the audience to notice this. An admiring dude seated nearby says it best: "Damn, those are some big areolas."Â
Three-fourths of the way through, the movie celluloid actually burns like some 70s grindhouse flick. This, just as we reach the climax, when a haunted Ralph Fiennes (hair plugs?) is about to see Kate Winslet after more than two decades. The last time this happened to me, I was probably 12 or 13, watching Sleepless in Seattle. The film reel burned out halfway through, and we had to wait nearly 45 minutes. This time around, the peeps at AMC get things up and running again within 15 minutes. Riot averted.
Something that bugs me throughout the second hour or so is why the hell Kate's character doesn't just ‘fess up and admit she's illiterate during the trial. Instead of serving a life sentence, she'd have gotten away with four years. Is it really an issue of pride? Because, hell, if made to choose between my pride or life behind bars in an ugly periwinkle jumpsuit, I'd give up my pride in a heartbeat. No question.
My friend leaves, I'm fresh out of croissants, and the chocolate-covered espresso beans have left me jittery. Is that Julia Allison sitting nearby in a plum-colored jumpsuit and Uggs? I've become mildly interested in the trivia game because the questions are becoming a tad more challenging.
Crap. Are they giving away Burberry umbrellas??
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Confession: This will be my third time watching Button, which means by the end of this crazy experience, I'll have dedicated nine hours of my life to watching creepy geriatric babies.
Julia Ormond plays a small roll as Cate Blanchett’s daughter in this movie, which really doesn't make much sense to me for two reasons: there's no substance to her character and she looks nothing like Cate or Brad. So there's the question of her casting"”is she that hard up for roles now? — but more pressing question on my mind is: what happened to her? In the early 90s, circa Legends of the Fall, Julia was "the next big thing"Âand then, nada. I guess that's what happens when you remake a classic Audrey Hepburn film (ie. Sabrina) with an over-the-hill Harrison Ford. Karma's a bitch.
Later in the film, Benjamin's biological father finds re-enters his son's life after he runs into him at a brothel, of all places. He offers Benjamin a ride home, and even takes him out for a drink. Now, wouldn't this situation strike you as slightly fishy? Some pallid-looking dude in the dead of night offering you a ride home? And even if we were to blame this scenario on Benjamin's naivete, didn't his mom teach him never to drink shots with strangers? Whatevs.
Two truisms I've learned having seen this movie thrice: the younger Brad Pitt gets, the hotter he is"”collective audience gasps affirm this whenever he enters the frame looking younger"”and the amazing Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swilton must have been separated at birth, sort of like Amy Adams and Isla Fisher.
Anyway, I've nothing really new to offer here, except for the fact that Button shouldn't be three hours long.
Finally, a feel-good movie. It's my second time watching Slumdog, but I really don't mind, given the crushing drama I've been subjected to for the past seven hours.
I'm constantly astounded by the level of poverty. Kids sleeping in landfills and posing as Taj Mahal tour guides, and here I am disgruntled about the quality of the sushi in the company cafeteria. As for grown-up Latika (Freida Pinto)? Absolutely gorge! If my childhood crush grew up to look like that, I'd have spent years hunting him down too. Luckily, he didn't"”spies at the last high school reunion verify this"”so I can rest easy.
One. More. To. Go. I'm plum out of chocolate-covered espresso beans and my feet are asleep. Mentally, I've reached a level of lightheadedness even a huge stash of pot couldn't achieve. And to make matters worse, it looks like the trivia questions have stopped, so my dream of getting a Burberry umbrella is dead. Sadness.
As I stare out into the black abyss"”one hand on a Pizzeria Uno personal pan pizza, the other on a White Cherry ICEE"”I'm quietly wondering why the marathon ends with Frost/Nixon. Wouldn't it have been better to cap off the evening on a more positive note?
Having loved the play"”I had no clue who David Frost was"”I was pretty skeptical regarding Ron Howard's big screen version. I liked A Beautiful Mind and Cocoon, but overall, I'm pretty unimpressed with Ron's stuff. They usually have this impossibly perfect sheen to them that a grittier work like Frost/Nixon doesn't need and shouldn't have. Luckily, however, it looks like Howard reined things in. The result is a flick that's every bit as good as the play, but also plays up the strengths of the film medium. So, we have these awesome, lingering close-ups on the actors, like Frank Langella's Nixon as he crumbles under David's rapid-fire questions about Watergate, and scenic shots of the Nixon's estate along the water. Two hours in, a thought occurs to me. Maybe it's the delirium or caffeine vapors speaking, but Frost/Nixon might actually be my choice for Best Picture.
Five movies, fourteen hours later, I'm numb, tired and lightheaded, but still kicking. I walk out with a strange sense of accomplishment, like a climber who's just scaled Everest and lived to tell the tale. Would I do it again? I'm not sure either way. What can I say is, thank freakin'god the Oscars only happen once a year.
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