Thursday, February 19, 2009

Oscars on the brain, and Watchmen, Watchmen everywhere!

I guess the biggest non-Oscar news out there today is that Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro and Owen Wilson are set to star in "Little Fockers," which will of course revolve around the youngins. Hardly a high-brow movie, but I always at least give it a chance when De Niro goes for comedy.

But here today, it's all about the Oscars, a return to lists and - of course - "Watchmen"! Please feel free to stick around until the end for what I think are the first three clips of actual footage from the movie.

I'm set to record an Oscars video presentation (are those "vodcasts"? I have no idea) with my co-worker Phillip Ramati this afternoon, so they're definitely on my brain, and over my morning coffee I was perusing Wikipedia's list of all the Best Picture winners and nominees (and hoping it's accurate), which prompted these few brief thoughts:

Biggest snub

This is, of course, completely subjective, and for my purposes I restricted it to movies that actually were nominated rather than the almost infinitely broader category of worthy movies that didn't even get the nod.

In the former set, three jumped out at me, with the last one being the most amazing slight in my book. First up is "Dances With Wolves" over "Goodfellas" in 1990. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm not sure I've ever seen Kevin Costner's film in its entirety, but I did try at least once. I have, however, probably seen Scorsese's gangster epic at least 10 times on DVD, so I think I can say with authority that this was just the definition of a dis.

Next up is "Forrest Gump" over "Pulp Fiction" in 1994, probably the biggest gap in quality between a winner and a nominee I can think of. I've made my hatred for "Forrest Gump" crystal clear here before, and while I know in my heart that, say, "Norbit" or "The Hottie or the Nottie" are probably worse movies, I still think "Gump" stands the test of time as the worst "good" movie of all. Along with the love of Zemeckis' flick, this vote just showed that the Oscars really weren't ready for something as innovative as Quentin Tarantino's breakthrough flick.

But the biggest goof in my mind goes back much further, all the way to 1939. Now, I have seen "Gone With the Wind," albeit not until it was re-released in theaters sometime in the 1990s. I really liked the overall experience, complete with intermission, so I can't knock anyone who is a devoted fan of the adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's grand Southern saga, but I still have to ask how in the world could this have beaten out "The Wizard of Oz"? Like most American kids of my era, there were two movies that we all gathered around the TV for year after year as events: "The Wizard of Oz" and "The Sound of Music." The former is still the one movie that I think would cause me to resort to actual rather than just threatened violence if I ever heard of plans for a big-screen remake, and for flicks that combine wild storytelling with sheer artistry and innovation, they just don't get much better at all. Hence, the winner in this category for me, but please feel free to add any others that jump out at you.

Favorite Best Picture winners

Nothing terribly surprising here, especially in the confirmation that the mid-1970s were indeed the golden age of American cinema, but just thought I'd share my 10 favorites anyway, arranged only by order:

1949: "All the King's Men"
1954: "On the Waterfront"
1965: "The Sound of Music"
1972: "The Godfather"
1974: "The Godfather Part II"
1975: "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"
1976: "Rocky"
1977: "Annie Hall"
1987: "The Last Emperor"
And, finally, 2007: "No Country for Old Men"

Favorite Best Picture losers

This, of course, took a bit longer, but it's always better to complain about who got hosed rather than congratulate the winner, right? I was gonna try to keep this to 10 also, but it soon became clear that would be impossible. So, here goes, my favorite nominees who failed to take home the big prize:

1939: "The Wizard of Oz"
1956: "The King and I"
1961: "The Hustler"
1962: "To Kill a Mockingbird" (probably my favorite movie of all time, but I suppose you can't gripe too much, since it lost out to "Lawrence of Arabia")
1964: "Dr. Strangelove"
1967: "Bonnie and Clyde" and "The Graduate"
1970: "MASH"
1971: "The Last Picture Show"
1976: "All the President's Men" and "Taxi Driver"
1979 (truly a banner year): "Apocalypse Now," "Breaking Away" and "Norma Rae," with "Kramer Vs. Kramer" somehow beating all of those
1980: "Raging Bull"
1984: "A Soldier's Story"
1987: "Hope and Glory"
1990: "Goodfellas"
1991: "Beauty and the Beast"
1992: "The Crying Game"
1994: "Pulp Fiction"
1995: "Babe"
1996: "Fargo"
2000: "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"
2001: "Gosford Park"
And, finally, 2006: "Little Miss Sunshine"

Were the Oscars always so "snobby"?

I put that in quotes because I'm not thoroughly convinced they are now, but the backers of "The Dark Knight" (and you can count me firmly among them) could certainly make that case.

So, were the Oscars always so averse to rewarding movies that combine artistry with extreme box-office appeal? The biggest example that proves they weren't would have to be "Titanic," which took home the big prize and 9 other statues, among 13 nominations.

There are other instances, however, that better show that the Oscars once (and fairly recently) took the wishes of fans and real geeks to heart. Here goes, with some Best Picture nominees:

1975: "Jaws"
1977: "Star Wars"
1981: "Raiders of the Lost Ark"
1982: "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial"
and 2001-2003: "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy

And, finally, "Watchmen"!

Anyone who actually made it through all that certainly deserves a reward, so here it is: As far as I can tell, the first three clips of actual footage from the movie "Watchmen," for which you can count me just thoroughly geeked up.

First up is a clip of Dan Dreiberg (Patrick Wilson) talking with Adrian Veidt (Matthew Goode) about the Comedian's murder:

Next up is a snippet of that great scene in which Nite Owl (Wilson) and Laurie Jupiter (Malin Ackerman) take the Owl ship out for a spin and rescue some folks trapped in a burning building.

And finally, my favorite of the three, which features an unmasked Nite Owl and Rohrschach (Jackie Earle Haley). I think this is the first time I've heard Rohrschach speak, and it's just nothing but cool.

So, there you have it. Our Oscars video should be up some time tonight, so please feel free to check back, and have a perfectly pleasant Thursday. Peace out.


jeremy said...

Bought my Imax Watchmen tickets last night. 2 hours 43 minutes long. . . oh man, it better not make my butt sore!
I think all of this year's best picture nominees are gifts . . . they should do like the Pulitzer does--if there's nothing worthy, don't award the prize.

Reel Fanatic said...

Well, I don't think I'd go quite that far, Jeremy, because I think both "Milk" and "Slumdog Millionaire" are worthy nominees

As for Imax, the nearest theater to me is two hours away, but if I were to make the trip for anything it would be "Watchmen" ... I'm leaning toward doing it

Chalupa said...

Thanks for the Watchmen clips. I can't get enough of them. I'm really excited for it.

Also, if you're vodcast episode about Oscars is anything like last years, then bring it on! I can't wait!

Reel Fanatic said...

I"m not sure it will be as good this year, Chalupa, if only because I couldn't get as excited about the crop of flicks this year .. but here's hoping!

Mercurie said...

When I was younger I might've argued that Gone with the Wind might've deserved to beat out The Wizard of Oz. Since then I have come to around to thinking The Wizard of Oz should have been Best Picture. While I love Gone with the Wind, I can't watch it repeatedly like The Wizard of Oz. And is its just me, or during the Sixties did the Academy just consistently get it wrong? As much as I love My Fair Lady, it didn't deserve to win over Dr. Strangelove. And in what world can A Sound of Music be considered a better film than Ship of Fools?

I'd hear Rorschach's voice quite a while back it is pretty cool!

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm certainly with you on Dr. Strangelove, Mercurie ... As far as political satire goes, I'd put it above just about anything except Duck Soup ... I have to stand by "The Sound of Music," though ... Not a great movie, perhaps, but it will always be a sentimental favorite for me

Ashok said...

Hey by the way, off the topic, did you see the trailer of "Inglourious Basterds"? Eagerly expecting that coming August.

Reel Fanatic said...

I saw one in which the soldiers were all lined up and Brad Pitt was shouting orders .. didn't show much, but I do agree with you that it would be fascinating (whether good or bad) to see what QT will come up with this time