Sunday, February 27, 2011

AHG – Special Issue – Oscar Alert

Usually, I haven’t seen any of the movies nominated. That never stops me from giving my opinion on what should win – based on the trailers and my Magic 8 Ball. This year, though, thanks to Al’s new habit of getting movies from places other than the video store, I have seen all of them. I convey my favourites to you, in order, so you can do some last-minute legitimate purchasing or renting of movies and have something to root for at your annual TV-watching party.

The Fighter – Okay, exactly how many of these David and Goliath boxing stories are there out there waiting to be mythologized? To be totally honest, I hope more, if they’re done this well. I absolutely loved this movie. And here’s hoping Melissa Leo and Christian Bale scoop awards for this one. I could even live with Amy Adams winning over Leo – she was astounding.

The King’s Speech – Lovely film – nice writing and acting except for, as Siobhan points out, that guy who played Churchill. And don’t get Hitchens started on the other problems with Churchill and the whitewashing of history. I could be pretty happy if this took best picture and best actor, despite historians’ protests that the cult of Churchill is taking over historical integrity.

Winter’s Bone – Nice little story – maybe a little underwhelming. Profound acting though, and I sincerely root for the lead actress on this one.

True Grit – Nothing wrong with this. I fell asleep for the second act but could still pick up and follow the plot in the third. Always nice to see The Dude on screen – this was a real solid movie, I thought.

Black Swan – Love Aronofsky and had high hopes that this would be as perfect as Requiem for a Dream. It isn’t. Not even close. Pretty to look at, so I could support it for Best Art Direction. And as Jim said, sure is some pretty soundtrack – that Tchaikovsky fellow ought to score more movies.

The Kids Are Alright. In my view, the kids are just meh. Please don’t let them win anything for this.

Inception – This movie was a lot better when it was called The Matrix. What was all that hype about? And just who were these people who had to go back and watch it a second time to understand it? The city folding up was kind of neat to watch, I admit.

127 Hours – Okay, I said I watched them all but I lied. I couldn’t. We were eating dinner and somebody told me he cuts off his own arm. I like the cover, though.

The Social Network – Still, watching a guy cut off his own arm might be better than watching this. I’m being a little harsh, sure, but I wound up really annoyed with whoever decided to soften it at the end. Why build up a movie arguing that this guy is a ruthless, self-centered, petty, misogynist, sad little ego-maniac with a personality like a burnt piece of toast and then, at the last minute, pull all the punches and soften this character assassination? Losing your courage doesn’t make it ambiguous and thoughtful, it just makes it a gutless piece of crap.

Toy Story 3 – Yeah, no. I didn’t watch this either. But it seems really reasonable to have it on a list for best film of the year.

Here are a few that are up for some nominations but not Best Picture:
I haven’t got to Biutiful yet, but I was really thankful that the Toronto Star clarified that the movie title was misspelled on purpose. Until then I was thinking: “Sheesh, somebody’s gonna lose their job over that one!”

The Town. You know, I get that that guy was a pretty good actor. It would still be nice to have a decent plot. Ditto Blue Valentine. Crapulous story – gut-wrenchingly good acting though.

Couple of snubs I thought were worth mentioning: Machete – pretty brilliant all around. And if you’re into smart teen movies (which I am), Easy A. And then there’s Barney’s Version, which, apparently did relentless lobbying just to get a nomination for best make-up.

The big story is, of course, Banksy. I haven’t seen this yet but I’m all for it. I don’t care if it’s a hoax, a prankumentary or all a part of Leonardo deCaprio’s dream. Sounds great and I hope it wins whatever it’s supposed to win.

This time of year, people always ask me about Oscar cocktails. They usually want something with Goldschlager in it. As they say on the bowdlerized Sopranos: “Forget that.” Try Wild Turkey instead. Right out of the bottle. It’ll make it so much easier to stomach it when The Social Network wins something it shouldn’t have. I’d rather watch Grown Ups sweep the Oscars.

And where will I be watching it, you ask? I won’t. I never do. And this year, I especially won’t, since my page proofs are due the following day. Not that I’ll be doing the proofreading – I leave that to Al, who has now read America Walks into a Bar so many times that he can recite it by heart. So he’ll be especially busy that night.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Jolly Corks

Today in 1868, the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks was born. They were initially known as the Jolly Corks, a loose fraternity of men - mainly in performing arts, who drank together and, incidentally, were always looking for ways to evade Sunday drinking laws. Their original name came from a bar trick. Newcomers to the club would be told that the last one to pick up corks thrown on the bar would have to stand a round. The neophyte would scoop up his cork quickly while everyone else would leave theirs on the bar, making him both first and last and owing everyone a drink. Charles Vivian, a singer on Broadway, was the Imperial Cork.

This group would become the Elks, one of the largest charitable organizations in America. See, everything really was born in a bar. Incidentally, while the book doesn't come out 'til late June or so, you can pre-order the book here.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

And here is the second segment of Bar Stars. More to follow on February 24 but I should have something new up here before then.