What should I be doing instead of this?
March 5th, 2010 By Jason Gargano | Movies |

Friday Movie Roundup: Oscar Baiting


The 82nd Academy Awards telecast is Sunday night. Will you be watching?

Yes, I will again succumb to its guilty pleasures, no doubt groaning every 10 minutes or so at the lavish, self-important nature of it all (please don’t let James Cameron win — the only thing worse than his creepy, flowing gray hair is the inevitably pompous speech that will spill from his lips if Avatar wins him a Best Director or Best Picture Oscar, which it likely will).

It’s one thing for a lowly alternative weekly writer to bash the easy-target Oscars, but it’s entirely another for the lead critic of The New York Times — probably the most important perch in the movie-reviewing universe — to do so. The ever-acerbic Manohla Dargis, in an apparent interview with Jezebel.com, a Web site that covers “celebrity, sex and fashion for women,” had this to say about the movie industry’s biggest awards shindig: “Let’s acknowledge that the Oscars are bullshit and we hate them. But they are important commercially... I've learned to never underestimate the Academy’s bad taste. Crash as best picture? What the fuck?”

Nice, Manohla. Actually, I disagree with her in one respect: I don’t hate the Oscars. One just has to put them in proper perspective: as an often entertaining, sometimes lame industry wank-fest occasionally interrupted by moving moments (the obituary montage gets me every time) and off-script surprises (George Clooney’s ribald acceptance speech in 2006; Mickey Rourke’s outfit last year).

Besides the installation of co-hosts (Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin), the biggest change-up this year is that the Academy, for the first time since 1943, decided to nominate 10 movies in the Best Picture category. The move was allegedly aimed to include a more diverse range of films — from mainstream box-office smashes like the deeply unworthy The Blind Side to smaller critics’ darlings like An Education to genre curveballs like District 9 — in a effort to draw more interest and, ultimately, more viewers to an Oscar telecast that has grown irrelevant to general audiences in recent years.

Will it work? We’ll find out Sunday night. (Scroll to the bottom of this page for my Oscar predictions).

For those who are still looking for Oscar party options, check these three: People Working Cooperatively’s annual party at the Hilton Netherland Plaza downtown; The Esquire Theatre’s broadcast of the awards; and FB’s — the new downtown club on Sixth Street — is throwing an Oscar party, complete with red-carpet entrance for those who want to show off their sartorial skills.

Now on to this week’s opening films, which range from yet another Tim Burton dud to the latest from Roman Polanski to a sharp crime drama.

Opening films:

ALICE IN WONDERLAND — Tim Burton teams up yet again with Johnny Depp for an effects-heavy production, this one a disappointing take on Lewis Carroll’s beloved children’s novel. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — Steven Rosen (Rated PG.) Grade:C

BROOKYLN’S FINEST — The star-studded ensemble cast (Don Cheadle, Richard Gere, Ethan Hawke and Wesley Snipes) could detract from the simple, propulsive narrative drive of a film like Brooklyn’s Finest, but director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) boldly dares audiences to play the game anyway. And, for the most part, his gambit pays off. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens wide today.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated R.) Grade: B-plus

THE GHOST WRITER — Co-written by Roman Polanski with political journalist Robert Harris, upon whose novel the film is based, The Ghost Writer is full of plot holes yet still entices. Ewan McGregor plays an unnamed English writer who takes up a surprisingly dangerous job as a ghostwriter/autobiographer for Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan), a former British prime minister accused of war crimes. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Rated PG-13.) Grade: B-

Call your bookie and impress your friends — here are my 100 percent fool-proof Oscar predictions:

Best Picture
Will win: Avatar
Should win: The Hurt Locker

Best Director
Will win: James Cameron, Avatar
Should win: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

Best Actor
Will win: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
Should win: Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

Best Actress
Will win: Meryl Streep, Julie & Julia
Should win: Carey Mulligan, An Education

Best Supporting Actor
Will win: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Should win: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds

Best Supporting Actress
Will win: Mo’Nique, Precious
Should win: Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air

Best Original Screenplay
Will win: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Should win: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds

Best Adapted Screenplay
Will win: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air
Should win: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, Up in the Air

Best Animated Feature
Will win: Up
Should win: Fantastic Mr. Fox

Best Documentary Feature
Will win: The Cove
Should win: The Cove

Best Foreign Language Film
Will win: The White Ribbon
Should win: A Prophet

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