The Addison Recorder’s 2014 Big-Deal Ultra-Insider Oscar Preview

The Addison Recorder has a lot of movie nerds on staff. Not all of us, of course, but enough to make the others bend to our will. So in anticipation of this week’s Oscar ceremony the staff is going to do their Will/Should/Dream winners picks for the category we care most about with some brief accompanying comments. The cinema nerds will have seen enough (or feel self-righteous enough) to really make it seem like their opinions and guess have weight and meaning. The others have said they are throwing darts. Either process is as valid as actual Oscar voters filling out a ballot proclaiming one work of art objectively better than another.

Also, sometimes an Alex can’t help himself and has to respond to the other writers. It’s just something an Alex does when shaken.

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Winning Time: Alex Rejoins the Oscar Discussion

So…this took a while. Andrew was kind enough to write an article to the Oscar nominations right after they were announced nearly a month ago and the expectation was that I would chime in with a reply quickly. Then, um, well. I’m writing now! So there’s that. The Oscars are about two weeks out, the voting period has begun, and all the major precursor awards have been handed out. So the time is right for me to jump back into the Oscar fray. I’ll take a look at the major categories, make my predictions, and then hear what Andrew has to say.

All the Technical Awards

The only question in the tech categories is exactly how many Oscars Gravity will win here. It will be quite a few. Cinematography, Editing, and Visual Effects seem assured. That first category should give Emmanuel Lubezki a long over-due Oscar, which I will find just thrilling. I think he and Roger Deakins are the best cinematographers working today and neither has an Oscar. Let’s see that fixed. An Editing win for Gravity will award an Oscar to Alfonso Cuarón, which is to be celebrated. He’s an incredible filmmaker, and the critical and popular success of Gravity is immensely gratifying as an endorsement of cinema as a visual medium. Beyond that I think Gravity will get two other tech Oscars for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, bringing its total haul to five before we get to the majors.

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The Vision of Martin Scorsese, in a Chorus of “F—s”

“Hookers and blow,” Travis said to me when I got home from the cinema Monday night “That’s all I kept repeating for half an hour after that movie ended. Hookers and blow.”

“Guilt,” I said. “So much Catholic guilt.”

Travis looked up from where he was grilling burgers, paused, and nodded in acknowledgment that we were both right.

Martin Scorsese, the greatest lapsed Catholic to ever direct movies, is always first to admit that his old faith’s morals, iconography, and attitudes form a major undertone—and are quite often vividly on display—in his oeuvre. And that faith’s lingering trappings have never risen to the forefront as they do in The Wolf of Wall Street, his magnificent black comedy which doubles as a purging litany, a three-hour documentation of the modern world’s sins crafted to highlight their obscene ridiculousness and cancerous effects on humanity, both individually and as a collective. It is by turns hilarious and humiliatingly repulsive. It is a film that people need to see. I’m not sure if it’s a great film; it’s not in the league of Scorsese’s masterpieces (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Departed) but it in some aspects it ranks with Dr. Strangelove in terms of dark satirical power.

The immediate point: the multitudes who are decrying that Scorsese glorified Jordan Belfort and made him into some sort of hero are drastically missing the point. Belfort’s introduction to us is immediately smarmy, a man you would have to refrain from punching in the stomach as he smiles at you, and his character only gets worse from there. His sparks of humanity flash only in bursts of seconds. Whenever confronted with a choice between the decent or sensible thing and self-indulgence, he opts for self-indulgence with no hesitation. He surrounds himself with enablers who only exaggerate his worst traits as mentors, friends, and business partners. He has no respect for anything but money and playing off people’s need for money. And when he does find two people who try to bring out his best, his self-control, who tell him what sort of man he’s becoming, he pushes both of them away for further hedonism. It’s almost—ALMOST—a caricature straight out of the Franks, Capra and Tashlin, but sadly, we now have lived long enough under a system which produces more and more accumulators of wealth at the expense of others. Jordan Belfort is no cartoon but a test case. This is, then, a film arriving at an opportune moment, but the pervasive nature of sin is so timeless a theme that, like Wilder and Sturges’s pictures, it is also a film that won’t date.

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Slaves, Hustlers, and Space: The 2013 Oscars Conversation Begins

You know it’s important when Thor takes charge.

The other day on Facebook, I got involved in a conversation about anticipating the Oscar nominations with an old friend, Clifford Galiher (2007 Jeopardy college champion, defeater of Andrew Rostan in that year’s Tournament of Champions), who compared Oscar Nominations day to Christmas Eve, all full of anticipation, but Oscar Night itself to New Year’s Eve—we all know what’s going to happen, but we still drink and have a great time.

I loved the simile, but I don’t think it entirely holds for 2013. This year, I don’t think there’s a single race you could call certain. Not even Best Animated Feature, because when you put Frozen up against what may be Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, you get a fight I don’t want to call.

Nowhere is this more pronounced than among the three largest nominees, which present me with an interesting dilemma. Since I first became obsessed with cinema, there are two kinds of movies I have loved and always wanted to see get more Academy recognition, and you can probably blame Annie Hall and 2001: A Space Odyssey and David Lean’s movies for this. First, films that aren’t serious and weighty with importance but are lots of fun, with great acting, clever writing, plenty of laughs, and still able to leave you with some insight into humanity.


Second, intelligent spectacle, films with imagery and production which take your breath away while still having more on their minds than pure adventure or robots and monsters punching each other (NOT to put down Guillermo…and on the other hand, Raiders of the Lost Ark is the rare exception that proves the rule).

Two movies exactly like these ended up leading the pack with ten nominations each, but they had the bad luck, in my opinion, to come out the same year as a movie that got nine and happens to be, further in my opinion, one of the greatest American movies ever made.

All of them were nominated for Best Picture and Best Director and wracked up a huge presence in the other major categories.

There are plenty of other films to consider besides American Hustle, Gravity, and Twelve Years a Slave, but I’m going to kick off what I think will be an annual conversation with Alex by focusing on these three to ask, and answer, a series of questions which will make me wish Damien Bona was still around to offer smart and sarcastic home truths.

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An Amateur Made a Bunch of Oscar Nomination Predictions; You’ll Never Believe How Wrong He Was…Or How Right.

Okay, so the Golden Globes ceremony is in the books and the Oscar nominations being announced on Thursday. Guess it’s time for my 2nd Annual “Alex Makes a Lot of Predictions About Oscar Nominations, Many of Which are Wrong!” column. Good title, that. Or, no, I want more hits. “An Amateur Made a Bunch of Oscar Nomination Predictions; You’ll Never Believe How Wrong He Was…Or How Right.” Perfect.

In the name of saving you a lot of wasted time when I am wildly wrong on a lot of things in a few days I will but down greatly on my bloviating in this year’s column. That way there’s less egg on my face and you have more time to drink coffee and watch videos on UpWorthy. So I’ll paste in my predictions and then write a few sentences on each of the big races. For reference to a lot of the acronym-loving awards bodies please see this.
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One Bad Thing and Three Great Things About “American Hustle”

Before I tell you why you need to see American Hustle, I need on my end to explain why it is not a great movie. A movie with great things in it, yes, but not a great movie all around.

After my own viewing of American Hustle, my brain began to ponder my love for David O. Russell’s body of work and came to this conclusion: there’s a theme that runs through his movies about how something, be it war (Three Kings), the search for the meaning of life (I Heart Huckabee’s), or life itself (The Silver Linings Playbook) is fundamentally absurd, does not deserve to be on a pedestal, and may ultimately be meaningless due to its random ability to completely shift your world on a dime with one act, one new piece of information, one ridiculous coincidence.  But, and here I borrow two definitive phrases from one of my new Twitter friends, David Roth of SB Nation (@david_j_roth…follow him), if one Lives Life Passionately and displays a Radical Compassionate Sentimentalism, appreciating the absurdity but never neglecting to care for others, one finds their own meaning and ultimately fulfillment, purpose…their silver lining as Pat Saliterno would call it, or their happy ending, their deserved happy ending, as I would call it.

The problem with American Hustle, a film that now allows Russell to revel in the absurdity of institutions, from government to law to organized crime, while filling it with passion, compassion, and a positive ending, is…

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Holy pants.


Dear Earth,

Please go see Gravity, the new film by Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men), starring Sandra Bullock (never ever even close to as good as she is here) and George Clooney (who is perfect in this role). It is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year and a cinematic experience unlike any other I have ever watched. It will win many (all of the?) Oscars.

An addendum: Please go see Gravity in IMAX 3D. I literally cannot imagine experiencing this unbelievable spectacle in any other way.

More to follow.

Thank you and good night.


A Plethora of Choices: A (Semi) Knee-Jerk Reaction to the 2012 Academy Awards


“Argo fuck yourselves” indeed.


“Do you want to be happy? I suspect that you do. Well, here’s the first step to happiness: Don’t get pissed off that people who aren’t you happen to think Paris Hilton is interesting and deserves to be on TV every other day; the fame surrounding Paris Hilton is not a reflection on your life (unless you want it to be). Don’t get pissed off because the Yeah Yeah Yeahs aren’t on the radio enough; you can buy the goddamn record and play “Maps” all goddamn day (if that’s what you want). Don’t get pissed off because people didn’t vote the way you voted; you knew this was a democracy when you agreed to participate, so you knew this was how things might work out. Basically, don’t get pissed off over the fact that the way you feel about culture isn’t some kind of universal consensus. Because if you do, you will end up feeling betrayed. And it will be your own fault. You will feel bad, and you will deserve it.” – “Cultural Betrayal”, Esquire 2005, Chuck Klosterman

Well, the Academy Awards happened on Sunday night (the 24th of February in the Year of Something or Other 2013), ostensibly celebrating the year in movies that was 2012. It was not a clean sweep, something that has become a little rarer in recent years, much like Bengal tigers and Bengals playoff visits. The last time I can think of where one movie solidly dominated the goings-on in Los Angeles was Return of the King in 2003. (Well, 2004, but it was a group of movies that were mostly released widespread in 2003. At least, in theaters in NY and LA near you.) Returning to last Sunday’s evening, we were treated to Daniel Day-Lewis turning into a stand-up comedian, tasteful musical numbers, tasteless musical numbers, show-stopping numbers and numbers that almost literally dragged the bloated carcass that is any awards behemoth into the ground. (Thank you, Les Mis, but it’s impossible for a bunch of mostly talented white people who seem otherwise charming to truly follow the awesomeness that erupted from Jennifer Hudson’s mouth. It’s almost institutionally unfair.)

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Alex’s Thought on the Cinema of 2012 Part One: Or, Argo is a Mediocre Thriller in the Guise of an “Important” Film and its Oscar Victory was Vapid Bullshit


I’ve been putting off summing up my experience of the year 2012 in cinema for a while now.  It just seems that I never see enough to really pass judgment on a year until 1/6th of the next one has passed. Part of that is just the general lethargy of me not seeing half of what I want to on time. But there’s also a big part of me that doesn’t want to write an article like this until I can bitch about the opinions of others, namely the voters of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. So I will get to my overall thoughts on the cinema of 2012 in a second article, first I have to get rid of my venom in this one.

In specific I want to tell you, dear readers, that the Academy gave its highest honor, the Oscar for Best Picture of the year to a film that is wholly undeserving of such praise. Now this is not an unusual occurrence. In the past ten years I have agreed with the Academy’s choice all of once, when the Coen Brothers won top honors for their 2007 Western/Noir/Existential Philosophy Think-piece No Country for Old Men. That’s not to say that I hate every Best Picture winner. I have absolutely no complaint with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Departed, The Hurt Locker, or even The Artist winning it all. There were movies I preferred to all those films, but they are all good to great films that deserve to be seen and stood out against the films they competed against at the Oscars. That’s not something that I can say for Argo, the film that was named Best Picture of 2012. I know my esteemed editors here on The Addison Recorder have sung the praises of Ben Affleck’s Iran Hostage thriller in their own 2012 pieces, but my opinion runs rather dramatically counter to theirs.
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Alex and Andrew Talk Oscar Nominations: Part 1

I am guessing that we will all be missing Emma Stone when he hosts solo.


As I sit down to start our conversation about this year’s Oscar nominations nearly 48 hours have elapsed since Seth MacFarlane and Emma Stone announced them. This break between the announcement and our analysis wasn’t necessarily by design, I just got quite sleepy last night. But it has allowed the nominations to sink in a little more, which can only be a good thing, right?

Anyway, even with the break I don’t quite know where to start in our assessments. The biggest news from the nominations, and certainly the biggest shock, is what the Best Director category looks like. Best Director nominations are a necessity for any film to win Best Picture (only Driving Miss Daisy has won it all without a Directing nomination in the past 80 years or so), which means that yesterday morning saw a dramatic shake-up of the race. The Academy snubbed Kathryn Bigelow’s masterful work on Zero Dark Thirty and did the same to the extremely popular Ben Affleck for his direction of Argo. I don’t even know how to convey the seismic upheaval that those misses represent. Both Zero Dark Thirty and Argo were tipped by myself and most others as major dark horses. Either could have snuck past Lincoln and win Best Picture. Without Directing nominations though, both suddenly appear to be dead in the water. I’ve seen a lot of chatter in the wake of the snubs that suggests some other films are stronger than we suspected and could win (most prominently Silver Linings Playbook, which improbably became the first film in 31 years to get nominated in all seven major categories). I don’t really buy that line of thinking right now, though. Until the industry awards start getting really wild, I think that these nominating snubs have essentially cleared the path for Lincoln to win without much of a contest.
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