Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

18 January 2017

Pregame: the Longshots

My November-February movie-watching is dictated by a couple of important parameters:
The Oscar nominations don't arrive until late January, but if I wait until the nominations come out, lots of things will no longer be in theatres, especially movies that don't do well. But, see, lots of bad movies get Oscar nominations in categories like Best Original Song, Best Costume Design, and Best Visual Effects. So I pick through what I think could be nominated and then basically gamble. What I don't want to happen is have a movie get nominated for something totally random like Best Sound Editing and then have it be in that period of time between theatrical release and Internet release when I can't catch it before the Oscars. This occasionally leads to some pretty egregious pregames... and to me seeing some terrible movies.

Here are some of my most egregious pregames of this awards season:

Trolls. Yes, I did see Trolls. Justin Timberlake's song "Can't Stop the Feeling!" was one of my not-so-guilty pleasures last Summer, and it was super popular. It was written specifically for Trolls, so a nomination seems sort of inevitable. This happened when Pharrel got nominated for "Happy" for that stupid Despicable Me 2 concoction a couple years ago. In truth every year some idiotic films get nominated in this country, and I am forced to figure out a way to see them (Fifty Shades of Grey, The Lego Movie, Ted, The Muppets, you get the idea). I figured I would take the bull by the horns this year and get myself to the theatre for Trolls.

The verdict? It was so totally asinine. But I honestly didn't mind. It was plenty of fun, and even though I think Anna Kendrick is annoying, the movie has Christine Baranski, as well as enough irony about its own stupidity to squeak by. Will it be nominated? I still think so, although there is a lot of competition.

Allied. I am an asshole for seeing this one. I don't know what I was thinking. I think I had in my mind that this was vaguely about World War II and that its 1940s dresses and suits and possibly even the art direction would hook a nomination even though the critics tore this one to pieces and audiences seemed soft on the thing. That costume category can be very strange. How is a person to predict a movie like Mr. Turner or The Grandmaster or The Invisible Woman? These things are difficult.

The verdict? This movie is terrible. I almost never like Marion Cotillard in movies where she speaks predominantly English, and this one is no exception. She looks awkward in almost every scene, as though she isn't quite positive that she understands what she's saying. Now, this could work for her character, who is supposed to be a foreign spy, but it doesn't. And Brad Pitt (who I have said before is a brilliant actor) is totally phoning this one in. He is dull and stilted. He's supposed to be playing a bit of a previously-unloved dork, too, which makes no sense because he is Brad fucking Pitt and is cooler than most people who have lived on this earth in all of human history. Also, the script is terrible, and it appears as though a few superfluous shootout sequences behind enemy lines were added at the last minute just to give this bland narrative some spice. But nothing could have saved it. A disaster. Will it be nominated? No way.

Doctor Strange. I went to see this because everyone was talking about its special effects and because people drunkenly recommended it to me. I know you aren't into Marvel movies, Aaron, but trust me on this one. That sort of thing. Special Effects movies can be dangerous to miss, too, because sometimes the lag between theatres and the blu-ray release can take a while. So off to Doctor Strange I went.

The verdict? Boring. Why are all of these Marvel movies exactly the same. And why is the world always about to end so that all of humanity is threatened with destruction? Can't we, in one of these Marvel movies, just be threatened with something a little less apocalyptic? Perhaps magical space-bending wizards could avert the destruction of, like, 500,000 people or simply figure out how to stop a military coup in a European (or South American, I'm not picky) dictatorship. Why not? Why do they always need to repair the fraying of the space-time continuum or some other silly thing. Like, ooooo, I wonder if the superheroes will manage to stave off the apocalypse until yet another sequel offers a new threat to human existence. Yep, turns out they did! Whew, that was a close one. Will it be nominated? Yeah, I think so. The effects really are cool.

I've already talked about Rules Don't Apply, which I thought might nab a nomination or two, and The Dressmaker, which I thought might get a costume nomination, so I won't go into those here, especially since I don't think either will get nominated for anything next Tuesday. But I do have one more:

Hacksaw Ridge. This is the new Mel Gibson movie, and I had planned to see it with a friend, but he and I had seen a couple of real stinkers in a row, and I got nervous. I couldn't bear watching another really bad one with him. I wanted to make sure the next one we saw together was really good. I also wasn't really sure what this could be nominated for – sound? sound editing? acting?

The verdict? The film's first and second acts are both rather uneven – and do not seem to match one another either – but Hacksaw Ridge is amazing. It's stunningly, shockingly good, and the presentation of the violence during the war sequences is so fast and head-spinning, so disgustingly grotesque, so absolutely horrific that I sat with my jaw dropped for most of act three. I have never seen anything like the violence in this movie. I mean that honestly. And this movie's distaste for the violence of war is not only a part of its plot – the central storyline is about a soldier who refuses to carry a weapon and do harm to anyone else – it is part of its filmmaking as well. The direction of these war sequences is so refreshingly opposed to the horrors of war. It's great.

And will it get nominated for anything? Hacksaw Ridge has emerged as one of the frontrunners in the race this year. It's one of the big surprises of the year. People are talking about Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay. It could rack up 6 or 7 nominations next Tuesday and I wouldn't be surprised. If it does, it will have deserved them.