And the Oscar Goes To…zzzzzzzzzzzz

Alison:

Here are the bullet points re: the Oscars that have dominated our newsfeeds in the last couple days.

  • It was very white.
  • It was sort of boring and endless.
  • Joan Rivers and Elaine Stritch weren’t in the In Memoriam.
  • John Travolta and his wig continued their transformation into your skeevy uncle on Quaaludes

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Seriously, dude, STOP touching my chin.

Neil Patrick Harris’ lackluster hosting disappointed me most. The man is the closest there is to a Sure Thing in the award show world. But after the passable opening musical number, the rest of the evening stretched on interminably, punctured by intermittent dad puns and poorly timed, mostly harmless pot shots. His running gag with the locked box and Octavia Spencer made me cringe. I kept shouting “No one gives shit about your predictions!” Thankfully, they were not literal award predictions, but a Hollywood Magic Castle-style trick, where he pulled a list of awkward happenings from the night out of the briefcase.  I must admit, that did surprise me and also one dude in the audience. But I don’t blame NPH for the evening falling flat. He’s got charisma for dayzzzz, boi. The Oscars are a big, bloated mess, and it will take real dedication to cut the fat down to a manageable size.

Elise:

I’ll say something controversial here.

NHP was just really bad, yes, and the evening literally never stopped. Somewhere, the Oscars is still happening—though Meryl Streep walked out days ago, and Steve Carrell has taken to hosting a mini-show in a corner for all the sad souls desperate for a laugh.

Everyone is talking about the speeches. Many made impassioned pleas for a cause or three. Though all issues raised are important, and desperately in need of dialogue and discussion—I. Didn’t really. Like it. The outcry-as-acceptance speech phenomenon, I mean.

I can’t say why, exactly—maybe the breadth of issues raised seemed to diminish each individual one? Maybe it’s not awesome to be lectured to by someone who is quite privileged and sheltered by virtue of his or her profession? Maybe I didn’t actually like some of the folks who won—not as people, of course—but as artists. The Imitation Game script was kind of a bummer piece of writing, guys. Be better at the thing you are paid millions and millions of dollars to do. Be better at crafting words that Benedict Cumberbatch will say with his beautiful mouth.

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Again: this is absolutely not me taking a stand against wage equality for women, or LGBTQ youth empowerment. It is me saying: know your audience, and know your platform. What do you want us, watching the Oscars on a Sunday night—exhausted and completely uninspired by all the sparkly, empty nonsense—to do? What’s our call to action? What’s the next step, for all of us?

JK Simmons was my favorite. He got personal, got specific, and was truly genuine without being preachy. Not like I’m being right now. Okay, I’m done.

Alison:

Enough about the garbage we didn’t like. Let’s be Positive Pollys, and get on board with some of this ish.

Benedict Cumberbatch

Yes, just generally, but see above for his cute bit with a flask in the opening. There weren’t enough “celebrities in cahoots” moments.

JK Simmons’ speech (just like Elise! Soulmates!)

The man has been making awards speeches for months now. He’s thanked errbody already. So I loved how much time he spent really thanking his wife and kids and making everyone call their parents. And I had already called my mom earlier that day, thank you very much. (She didn’t answer.)

Elise:

 I was watching the show with my mom. So I win against you all. Even JK.

Alison:

Chris Pine crying at the performance of Glory

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Word, bro. I have crazy white guilt, and I think I would have spontaneously combusted had I been in that theatre.

Lady Gaga

She sounded great! Wish this tribute hadn’t come in hour 14, but it perked me up and lead to Julie Andrews in the flesh!

This Meryl Streep Moment 4Evr

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 I plan to use this infinity times. To punctuate things like, “I don’t need a man” and “I washed my sheets today.” She’s my Lil Affirmation Meryl.

Elise:

I approve and agree with all of these choices. I must add one of the best things ever: Chelsea Peretti’s Twitter feed.

I’ve never totally and fully engaged in a large-scale live-Tweeting event—too intimidated, and freaked out by the lightning-speed of it all. Trolling on Sunday, I realized that Chelsea is my everything. By hour two, I was basically just waiting to see what she would say next.

A random sampling:

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All the amazing Lego Oscar award statues go to her.

—Alison & Elise

Leave It All On The Drums

What was the tensest, best-acted, most electrifying movie you saw in 2014? Birdman?

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 Guardians of the Galaxy?

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The Imitation Game?

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If any of these was your answer, you didn’t experience the twisted pleasure of the indie gem, Whiplash, and that is a sincere shame.

When I walked into the theater, I had almost no idea what I was getting myself into. It was my first Saturday morning free in four months, and despite a pretty serious hangover, seizing the day felt necessary. “The world is your oyster! Go treat yo’self!” my culturally-appropriating hangover told me when it woke me up at 8:30 am. So, obviously, I went to the movies alone at 10 am.

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I know, I’m really hitting this hangover thing hard.

I went on the recommendation of a friend, who said Whiplash was the best movie he’d seen all year. I hadn’t seen the trailer, and all I knew was that the film was about drumming and that JK Simmons was really good in it.

Whiplash was, in short, incredible—tightly paced, superbly acted, and surprisingly visceral. It was by no means Black Swan, but it had its hard-to-watch moments. A half-second shot of a spit valve being released is particularly burned into my mind.

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I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and not just the icky parts.

Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now, some other garbage movies) plays the lead—a drumming student at a prestigious music conservatory, quietly arrogant and hungry for greatness. JK Simmons (Spiderman, Farmers Insurance man) is a formidable conductor, who has plucked Teller out of relative freshman-obscurity, only to berate and abuse him as he does his other band members.

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Simmons is, rightfully, getting a lot of press and awards for his turn here. It’s a role he was born to play (although he seems super nice IRL). The character is an asshole, but like an ogre, he’s got layers. He loves music so deeply that he lusts for perfection, and he needs his students to strive, nay bleed, for transcendence. His performance is crisp and mercurial. I hope this leads to a lot more Simmons in our future.

This film could easily go the clichéd route of, say, Mr. Holland’s Opus—tough, unconventional teacher eventually softens as scrappy, hard-headed student(s) make him incredibly proud in final number at Regionals (Or whatever. I’ve actually never seen Mr. Holland’s Opus, but I assume I’ve fucking nailed it). But Whiplash never strays down that path. Teller and Simmons have a predictably turbulent teacher-student relationship, but every time I thought, “Oh, here’s where he’ll win the old man’s approval” or, “Here’s where they’ll really pull it together, against all odds,” the movie yanked the rug out from underneath me. I basically had an ulcer when I walked out of the theater because I was so stressed the whole time. Again, this is a movie about jazz drumming.

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PSA: You don’t need to be into jazz to be into this movie. My music taste is one part folksy sadness, one part electronic dancey, two parts Beyonce, and like ten parts terrible pop. I halfway considered getting into jazz after seeing Whiplash, but then I realized I was talking crazy, and turned on Nick Jonas. (Was “Jealous” out at that time? Probably not. But damn, that song is good.)

Simmons is favored to win Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars, as he’s been cleaning up all around town this awards season. The movie probably won’t win anything else, but the fact that it garnered at least 5% of votes to get the Best Picture nomination is win enough for me. In a season of snubs, this was one nod that felt both surprising and deserved.

Some internet nutter left a Youtube comment on the trailer saying that he had walked out after half an hour because the movie was predictable garbage. I was devastated for that man. In the last fifteen minutes, I literally gasped out loud. The end was the BEST PART, GUY!!! Don’t be that like that dude. Sit through this entire movie. Please. For me. And if you hate it…never tell me. We won’t survive it.

—Alison

The Real Thing

I’m tired of the Oscars. My fascination with the movies I loved, and interest in the movies I appreciated (if not adored) is waning. Snubbery happens every year, and everybody talks about it forever. The Academy is never really all that plugged in with the best of the best, and women, minority and offbeat artists are almost always overlooked. There are so many other awards shows leading up to the Oscars—every actor in Los Angeles appears bored, bedraggled and hungover for three months solid. Worst of all: nobody gets any work done, and we forget the reason we’re all here in the first place.

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This year, the movies that I saw fit neatly into two categories: made for the Oscars, and not made for the Oscars. I enjoyed The Imitation Game (Benedict Cumberbatch, obviously), but the sum of its parts was too obviously calibrated to hit the Academy’s sweet spots. The Imitation Game took complicated source material and bullied it into a linear, often sentimental story. I stepped back into the terrible fluorescent Cineplex lobby lighting, and most of the movie dropped right out of my head. Ditto Wild, Into the Woods—even Foxcatcher, which was more affecting, but bizarrely paced. I walked away from Foxcatcher distracted, unsettled—and a little bit hungry, for some reason.

But then, there’s Whiplash, Boyhood, Ida and Birdman—movies that are essentially love letters written by the film’s creators to their own characters. As the credits rolled, I was tempted stay put and scream rewind over and over again until I was asked to leave. I’m all about honoring movies for examining art, friendship, love and childhood in a meaningful way. But, more than anything else, I want to see more.

Frances McDormand took home this year’s Screen Actor’s Guild award for Best Actress in a TV Movie or Miniseries. In her acceptance speech, she expressed her thanks for the invite, and a sincere desire to “get some really cozy slippers, a box of See’s Nuts & Chews, hang out and watch more of our work.”

Go watch Olive Kitteridge, she said. I’m in a show at a theater up the street, also—come see that! This has been nice—now let’s get back to doing the real thing.

Frances McDormand loves what she does. She loves what other great actors, writers, directors and producers do. So do I. So do we all. That’s why we go to the movies and buy absurdly priced cable packages. And put our dumb opinions on the Internet.

The Oscars paint a shiny veneer over a the year in film, when most of the artists invited to the party have toiled and bled and cried and lost sleep and had panic attacks and gone without cake or booze for months to create a ninety-minute phenomenon that will knock our socks off. To make something that reminds us of our humanity, and celebrates it.

The audience is wider than Los Angeles’s own Illuminati. The work is the reward. This is true of almost any well-loved undertaking. The best things are those you work your butt off to achieve—so much so that you don’t really need or want or care about the accolades that come after it. I don’t want more acceptance speeches. I want more of everything else.

Also, have you seen Olive Kitteridge yet? Because seriously, you should.

–Elise