The Academy Awards didn’t suck. Yes, the 81st annual industry wank-fest had its share of indelible moments, none more affecting than the graceful speeches by the two Milk-related winners: screenwriter Dustin Lance Black and actor Sean Penn.
First-time host Hugh Jackman handled his duties like an old pro, and the condensed format of the production numbers and nominated songs was a welcome relief. Best of all was the decision to have five previous Oscar winners (Christopher Walken! Eva Marie Saint!) deliver in-person tributes to the nominees in each category, lending a sense of class and unexpected drama to an often banal process. Even the spotlight-shy Robert DeNiro took part, delivering a humorous tribute to Penn not only for his performance in Milk but for also being a great human being and friend. (On a side-note, what was up with Goldie Hawn’s chest? And she once won an Oscar?)
As expected, Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire fared well, taking home eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. The biggest surprise of the night was Penn beating out old buddy Mickey Rourke, who had won every other major acting award, for Best Actor.
Speaking of Oscars, Ari Folman’s powerful, creatively adventurous animated documentary Waltz with Bashir — which was nominated but lost to an obscure Japanese offering for Best Foreign Language Film — finally opens at the Esquire this week. (Read tt stern-enzi’s review here.) Also opening this week is a curious (in that, as far as I can tell, it’s only playing at AMC) comedy about Star Wars geeks; the third 3-D movie of the young year (read Scott Renshaw’s look at the trend here); and yet another video-game-inspired action film.
On the local movie event front, the Contemporary Arts Center’s Historical/Horror Film Series continues with “The World Below” tonight (Feb. 27), an all-night movie marathon that begins at dusk (6:27 p.m.) and ends at dawn (7:12 a.m.). Conceived to complement Carlos Amorales’ current CAC exhibition Discarded Spider, the 12-hour extravaganza will feature a variety of “classic and obscure” horror films. Via a combination of stealth and guile, CityBeat was able to confirm two of the titles: Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds and David Lynch’s Lost Highway. Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets and plenty of courage. $20; $10 for members.
FANBOYS — Kyle Newman makes his feature directorial debut with this comedy about a gang of Star Wars geeks (played by Kristen Bell and Tropic Thunder’s Jay Baruchel, among other lesser-knowns) who travel to George Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch in an effort to steal an early copy of Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Includes cameos from Carrie Fisher, Will Forte, Jason Mewes, Lou Taylor Pucci, Seth Rogen, William Shatner, Kevin Smith and Billy Dee Williams. (Opens today at AMC.) — Jason Gargano (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.
JONAS BROTHERS: THE 3-D CONCERT EXPERIENCE — The latest of several 3-D movies that will hit theaters in 2009, this glossy concert documentary promises to “take you where no fan has gone before.” I presume that means illuminating, behind-the-scenes access with Disney-bred Pop rockers Nick, Joe and Kevin Jonas. While Don’t Look Back is obviously out of the question, this thing looks more intriguing than much of what passes for teeny-bop, Behind the Music docs these days. Why? These guys seem genuine. And they write their own songs and play their own instruments, right? (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.
STREET FIGHTER: THE LEGEND OF CHUN-LI — Polish cinematographer-turned-director Andrzei Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, Doom) continues his action-movie fetish with yet another video-game-inspired, stunts-and-effects extravaganza, this one starring Michael Clarke Duncan, Chris Klein and Kristin Kreuk. Interesting bit of trivia: During Bartkowiak’s cinematography days he shot everything from Terms of Endearment and Prizzi’s Honor to Speed and Species. (Opens wide today.) — JG (PG-13.) Review coming soon.
WALTZ WITH BASHIR — Ari Folman’s animated war documentary dares to explore the sickeningly surreal, nightmarish dreamscape in a medium that transcends our intrinsic connection to the unconscious world of the mind. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) (Rated R.) Grade: A