The Mallory Project

"Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it." – Julia Child

Oscar Winners and Losers: Part 1

Right off the bat, I will admit that I did not actually watch the Oscars this year. To be honest, I usually don’t. I like tuning in to see the opening monologue and then checking back in every so often to see the winners. But with the proliferation of social media and various entertainment news outlets live blogging the event, I didn’t have to watch. I was able to follow along by pressing refresh on my Browser.
So I won’t talk about the Boob Song – because I haven’t heard it. I won’t talk about Seth MacFarland’s sexist jokes – because I haven’t heard them.
Instead, I’m going to talk about the BIG winners. By which I mean the Acting, Writing, Director awards and Best Picture. I’ll tell you who I thought would win, and who I wanted to win, and why.
Note: this post was getting too long, so I’m going to split this into several posts.
The only category that I am disappointed in is Best Animated Picture.
Those of you who know me personally know how much I love Pixar. I wrote my Master’s thesis on Pixar films. I can quote every single line from Monster’s Inc and The Incredibles, and I make a mean ratatouille (hell, it’s thanks to Pixar that I can even spell ratatouille.)
But I’m upset they won for Brave.
I wanted Wreck-It Ralph to win. I expected Wreck-It Ralph to win. And it’s not because I also love Disney (I do love Disney just a slightly bit more than I love Pixar.) If Ralph had been produced by DreamWorks or 20th Century Fox, or any other studio, I would have expected it to win.
The writing on Brave was unoriginal. The story was a re-hashing of Brother Bear, and the dialogue wasn’t anything special. Voice acting was good, but again not special. The animation was gorgeous, like always. Merida’s curly and fiery red hair was unlike anything else I’ve seen in animated movies.
Brave was a solid B movie, in my opinion. I liked it, it was enjoyable, but I won’t hurry to add it to my DVD collection anytime soon. I actually think I would have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been made by Pixar. Pixar has a mysticism to them that brings certain expectations. And Brave unfortunately missed that mark.
On the other hand, Wreck-It Ralph exceeded expectations.
Disney has a much longer history of excellence, dating back to Steamboat Willie, the first Mickey Mouse cartoon in 1928. After Walt died in 1966, the quality of some of the movies went down (have you watched Black Cauldron recently?) Then Eisner came in and gave the world The Little Mermaid and Lion King and all those great movies.
The quality of movies was hit and miss after Eisner left. (Cough Valient cough.) Princess and the Frog from 2009 was a big success, but 2010’s Tangled didn’t do quite as well at the Box Office. So I was pleasantly surprised at just how good Wreck-It Ralph was. The story is original and entertaining. The characters are cute and endearing. The voice acting is phenomenal. I like how they used big names, but they were organic and not a stunt, which is all too common in animation today. But it was the animation that really blew me away. I watched in on a computer the other day and it was just as impressive as it was on the big screen. (Brave wasn’t as lucky.) The animators melded several types of animation, including 8-bit, with CG, seamlessly.
My personal opinions aside, Wreck-It Ralph is clearly the superior animated movie of the 2012. It’s disappointing to see it not get the recognition it deserves.

Tune in next time for the rest of my thoughts about last week’s Oscars!

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Oscar Race: Lincoln

I will readily admit that I have long held a biased opinion on Stephen Spielberg’s movies. I love them.

I don’t really know why. Maybe because of American Tale? I have two versions of “Somewhere Out There” on my iPod, and I once had a pet mouse I named Fiefl.

That being said, I went into Lincoln with high expectations.

And Spielberg shattered those expectations.

It is a testament to a great director when you’re sitting on the edge of your seat, biting your nails, about the outcome of an event you’ve been aware of your entire life.

(I won’t give any filmic spoilers here, but I believe that everyone in the English-speaking world is aware of how Lincoln’s legacy ended.) But one of the best scenes in the movie comes in the third act. It’s the depiction of the House of Representatives vote regarding the 13th Amendment. The Amendment had been approved in the Senate months before, it the debate in the House was contentious, at best. Spielberg weaves the actual vote in with shots of Mrs. Lincoln and General Grant keeping “score” from, respectively, the balcony of the House and the Union army headquarters, and with shots of Lincoln in the White House, reading stories to his youngest son.

And I knew how the vote would turn out, obviously. There aren’t slaves anymore (at least, no legal slaves); no spoilers there. But, like I said earlier, I was on the edge of my seat, biting my nails.

Though the story was far from new, Spielberg found the perfect angle for this biopic. He showed Lincoln’s vulnerable, human side. Lincoln is a mythical figure in our culture, seen as an (almost) infallible giant. And though he physically was a giant, this movie showed that he was far from infallible. (No assassination quips here. I’m talking about his political life.) Even within days of the vote, he wasn’t sure he’d win. His wife was overcome with grief from the long-ago loss of their son. His oldest son wanted to enlist in the army. His youngest son hadn’t even gone through puberty. And his country was in the midst of a bloody, horrible civil war. There is one line in the third act that sums up how all of these hardships affected Lincoln: “outwardly, you have aged ten years in the past year.”

The acting was phenomenal. I was pulled out of the film several times by seeing faces I didn’t know were in the film (Lee Pace, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the guy who played Lane on Mad Men). But when Day-Lewis was on screen, I wasn’t seeing an actor. I was seeing Lincoln. I didn’t see Forrest Gump’s mom, I saw Mary Todd Lincoln. And I couldn’t even hate James Spader (that’s another story for another time, but I do NOT like James Spader on a personal level.)

If Lincoln sweeps the Academy Awards, I wouldn’t be disappointed. (Though I’m still rooting for Argo to take home the Best Picture trophy.)

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A Good Day To Die Hard

A Good Day To Die Hard lacks the originality of the original, and it’s missing the “McClane charm” that the first three films are saturated in. (You know what I’m talking about, right? You can’t describe it, but you notice if it’s missing.) It has the same drawback as Live Free Or Die Hard, in that the action could happen to anyone. Sure, it can be argued that the action in Die Hard 2 could happen to anyone, since McClane was at the airport to pick up his wife. But the main thing with films 4 and 5…Live Free was not originally written to be a part of the Die Hard franchise, and it seems like A Good Day is the same. It seems like after it was written, someone said “hey, this would be good if we threw in John McClane.”

It’s assumed that the audience is already familiar with McClane (Bruce Willis) so not much time is spent on exposition. This hurts the movie in that we don’t really get to know Jack McClane (Jai Courtney), who plays a major role in the film. Much of the drama centers on Jack’s disdain for his father, but we don’t get much information on why. Just John saying “I worked too much.” That doesn’t explain why Jack won’t even call John “Dad”. I’d like to know a little more about Jack.

The movie did include the standard Die Hard Twist. I didn’t see it coming, though now I kind of think I should have.

On a letter grade scale, I’d give this movie a B-. It’s fun, and I’ll probably get it on DVD. But there are a few ways it could be improved. All in all, though…

YIPEE-KI-AY motherf****r.

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