They Shoulda Been a Contender: Oscar Snubs 2010

It’s Oscar time again and you know that means. Yes, it’s my annual Oscar snubs piece for MSN, a tradition I originally stumbled into six years ago and have happily been upholding every year since.

Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, nominated for screenplay but not direction: the will of Hashem or Academy oversight?

I confess, it’s been a while since I’ve gotten myself worked up over anything the Academy has done, either at nomination time or during the awards itself, but I can still poke a stick at the egregious mistakes that the Academy makes every frickin’ year and have a little fun with it.

Is it just me, or is the awards season getting longer, busier and utterly exhausting? The flurry of critics groups and professional organizations and self-appointed awards groups beating a path to the Oscar door ends up wearing out the awards season before the Academy Award nominations are even announced. Every new press release proclaims a new prediction (“Avatar” is Best Picture? Really?) or a showdown (“The Hurt Locker,” baby!). The bets are made, the critical positions are staked out and the fans line up: Are you Team Cameron or Team Bigelow? Are there any surprises left for the early morning ceremony, especially when they expand the Best Picture category to 10 films? Is there enough energy left to whip ourselves up into a froth of indignation? Do we even care?

Well, yeah, we do. Somehow the Oscars still matter. We celebrate the worthy nominees and kibitz, complain and gripe about everyone the Academy missed. And, once again, even with the love spread out to 10 Best Picture nominees, there is no shortage of deserving artists who didn’t make Oscar’s cut, and we’re not shy about sharing our opinions on where they went wrong. So once again we offer our annual report card on Oscar’s slights and oversights. Call it: They shoulda been a contender.

Best Actor

Is there an actor who doesn’t belong here? Perhaps not, but for all the goodwill and gentle authority of Morgan Freeman‘s Nelson Mandela in “Invictus,” his inclusion feels more like a goodwill gesture when compared with the discomfortingly unkempt angles and inarticulate anguish that Joaquin Phoenix embodies in “Two Lovers,” which arrived early in 2009 and was all but forgotten by the end of the year. I suppose Phoenix has no one to blame but himself, after his promotional antics upstaged the film and Ben Stiller turned him into a punch line at last year’s Oscar ceremony, but that doesn’t change the power of his performance.

Read the entire feature at MSN here, and if you are so inclined, stick around and take the time to explore the rest of the MSN Guide to the 2010 Academy Awards.

Hurt so Good: The 2009 OFCS Awards

I confess that I’ve been both proud and chagrined at the winners of previous Online Film Critics  Society awards. This year, I couldn’t be more proud to put my name behind the list of winners. They’re not all MY top choice, but they do make a statement that I’m happy to stand behind.

The awards, announced on the evening of January 5, 2010, are as follows:

Best Picture: The Hurt Locker
Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Best Actor: Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker
Best Actress: Melanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
Best Supporting Actress: Mo’Nique, Precious
Best Original Screenplay: Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds
Best Adapted Screenplay: Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on a book by Roald Dahl
Best Documentary: Anvil!: The Story of Anvil
Best Picture Not in the English Language: The White Ribbon
Best Animated Feature: Up
Best Cinematography: Robert Richardson, Inglourious Basterds
Best Score: Michael Giacchino, Up
Best Editing: Chris Innis and Bob Murawski, The Hurt Locker

The complete press release can be found on the OFCS New Blog here.

Best of 2009 on DVD

I did the conventional “Best of 2009 on DVD and Blu-ray” for MSN here but I’ve been having some fun exploring the less heralded releases of 2009 for Parallax View. In fact, many of the reviews originally appeared on this blog but I’ve organized them into something resembling a series of features. If you feel like revisiting some of the releases that flew under the radar of the mainstream DVD coverage, check out these pieces:

Ten DVD Releases That Made 2009 Great

DVD Discoveries and Rediscoveries 2009

TV on DVD 2009 – The Great, the Rediscovered and the Timeless

Good Things in Big Packages: DVD Box Sets of 2009

The Best of 2009 – Take Two on the Village Voice/LA Weekly poll

The Village Voice / LA Weekly Year End Film Poll results are in and The Hurt Locker is the consensus pick for the year’s best film. I couldn’t agree more; it was my pick as well.

The compilation list (with point totals) is here and you can check out the individual lists on this page here. My list (which is only slightly different than the one I compiled for MSN) can be found here.

The Hurt Locker

Best of 2009 TV on MSN

And the lists continue…

I participated in the MSN “Best and Worst TV of 2009” list and wrote up a paragraph on a certain science fiction show that ended its run in 2009.

Nope, this isn’t a rerun, but our list of the best and worst shows of 2009 does look an awful lot like last year’s. Seven of our 10 selections on the best list are the same; and two of last year’s choices (“The Shield” and “The Wire“) went off the air and weren’t eligible. Also like last year, all of our choices for the year’s worst programs were new this season, even if their lead actors weren’t (sorry, Kelsey). Read on to see our choices for the best and worst TV series of 2009.

Read the complete list on MSN here.

The Best DVDs of 2009 – The MSN List

My annual “Best of DVD” (and Blu-ray) is currently running on MSN Entertainment: 10 movie discs/sets, 5 TV releases and 3 Blu-ray selections. And yes, I do bundle a few releases into a single pick, but hey, that’s the prerogative of the listmaker always trying to cram in that extra kudo.

10. ‘Pineapple Express: 2-Disc Unrated Special Edition’ (Sony)

The best outtakes come from Judd Apatow comedies, hands down, and this is the best DVD from the Apatow factory this year (released in the first week of 2009), a hilarious and unexpectedly visceral collision of road movie, action thriller, accidental buddy comedy and stoner goof. This edition is slightly longer than the theatrical cut, but it’s the hilarious collection of deleted and alternate scenes (including some apparently imported from an alternate universe) and generous helpings of behind-the-scenes footage that makes supplements so much more fun. “I Love You, Man” (Paramount) and “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” (Genius) are runners-up in the realm of great unused improvisations and cutting-room-floor scenes.

What’s number one? You’ll have to check it out to find out. And it’s right here.

The Best of 2009 – Take One on MSN

The “Ten Best” lists are a tradition that you can’t get past. I do my share of them, trying out different incarnation for various sites and occasions. The first of my lists has just gone live on the annual MSN round-up, which offers one of the most interesting compendiums. Ten critics are polled and an compilation list derived from the collection, and with a sampling of this size some interesting results are bound to arise.

The compilation list (and the collection of supporting essays, one from each contributor) can be found here. The individual lists are collected here (I lead the collection – sure, it’s alphabetical, but still…) and my essay is here (sorry, you have to click on it to find out what I was assigned. But I encourage you to explore the entire gallery; this is a terrific collection of critics (Richard T. Jameson, Kathleen Murphy, Dave McCoy, Kim Morgan, James Rocchi, Glenn Whipp, Mary Pols, Don Kaye, Jim Emerson and me) and a collection of essays that should prime you to explore each and every one of the picks. Even those that didn’t make my list.

The Hurt Locker
"The Hurt Locker"

For what it’s worth, my top pick is The Hurt Locker (which, to no one’s surprise, is the top film on the compilation list by a significant margin), but my essay is on a film a little farther down the list.

My list will shift as time goes on as I catch up on films I missed, rewatch films I’ve seen already and consider and reconsider the criteria I use from day to day, but I promise that at some point in early January that only seems arbitrary (and, despite my protestation, probably is),  I will come up with my final list and stop with the revisions. Until then, enjoy the permutations.