You mess with Harpo Marx, you get the horns.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Even More Academy Bestness!

It's that time of year again! Time to pull out that stash of Extra Stout Guinness and the plastic green hat with the words, "Kiss me, I'm pretending to be Irish!"

However, while you're waiting for St. Patrick's Day, why not enjoy our traditional annual review of the Best Picture nominees at this year's Oscars?  This year there are twice the nominees, as the motion picture industry attempts to fasten the moniker "Oscar nominated" to as many movie posters as possible. There are also twice the hosts, so it's twice the fun, right?

The best part is that if the Oscar show does the usual clip and presentation of each Best Picture nominee, the show could run until Tuesday. Oh, joy!

And the nominees are...

Avatar - James Cameron's 3D epic answers the burning question of what would happen if someone's Twitter and Facebook avatar icons got out of control and took over the world. Michael Bigdeal is a compulsive Web 2.0 addict with a fondness for changing his profile pictures daily.  On the 25th anniversary of The Smurfs final episode ("Papa Smurf and the Angry Lawnmower") Michael changes his photo to that of a Smurf he merged with pro wrestler Hulk Hogan in Photoshop.  Unfortunately, he uploads the picture precisely at the moment Facebook, My Space, and Twitter simultaneously fail from too many users, resulting in a "My Fail Space Whale Face." This event, coupled with a solar flare and excessive exhaust from a Vought Corsair making a mail run of congratulatory snail mail for the Smurf producers, results in the ginormous hulk of a Smurf transforming from a virtual visual nusiance to a turnbuckle-smashing, city-wrecking, muscle-bound blue Keebler elf with an anger management problem.

Fortunately, Michael is able to convince his "Avatar" that a week in the country climbing trees and fending off deer ticks would be preferable to remodeling urban areas with his forehead. The avatar becomes so entranced with the wilderness that he buys Harrison Ford's Montana ranch and turns it into a resort for other virtual beings who are fed up with the hustle and bustle of social media and also for those who suck at Mafia Wars. This enterprise looks promising until virtual hulk-elf Mikey gets sued by the Blue Man Group for unauthorized duplication of their likeness.  He loses the suit and in a fit of depression resigns himself to a life of appearing at Tron fan events as a virtual Jeff Bridges.

Meanwhile, the Blue Man Group take over the resort and strike it rich when millions of retired Smurfs start cashing in their residuals.

The Blind Side - This is the inspiring story of a young, talented football lineman named Slim with a gift for tackling players from angles where they can't see him. His gift quickly becomes legendary in his local community and his fame goes national when ESPN runs a SportsCenter clip in which he tackles an opposing quarterback, running back, wide receiver, punter, and head cheerleader while putting on his shoulder pads before the game.

Unfortunately, the fame goes to Slim's head and he becomes so obsessed with the art of blind-sided tackling that he takes it outside the lines and into all aspects of his life.  He tackles his adoptive mom while she's jazzercising. He tackles a postman while he's fleeing a Rottweiler. He tackles a local politician during a speech on the joys of taxation.  He tackles Donald Trump just as Trump is about to fire Randolph Mantooth from The Apprentice for being "too likeable." He tackles Mick Jagger in the middle of the chickenwalk during this year's Rolling Stones "Rock Until We're Dead" tour.

Finally, he goes too far.  He tackles Oprah during a show where she gives away a Vought Corsair to every member of her audience.  The enraged audience members, and an even angrier Steadman, set upon Slim with violence that would be considered over the top in a Saw movie.

After years of convalescence in a home for seriously confused athletes (in the room right next to Chad Ochocinco) he emerges a wiser, more cautious man, and limits his violent tackling to hobos and suspicious drifters down at the local railyard.

District 9 - This chiller is a dark, dystopian science fiction drama about the appearance of a strange alien race that is obsessed with the number nine.  The strange beings, all of whom resemble the banjo playing kid from Deliverance, arrive in South Africa, anticipating the 2010 World Cup.  They are shocked to find that Ireland is not in the Finals due to Thierry Henry's notorious handball.  The enraged aliens punish Henry by taking away all his Gillette razors and locking him in a rec room with Roger Federer, with only Pong to play.

After this impressive show of force, the aliens turn to their bittersweet obsession with the number that is just short of ten. They alter the Blake Edwards film 10, changing the title to 9 and recasting Bo Derek's part with veteran television actress Sandy Duncan. They force NASA to begin a Space Shuttle launch sequence by starting the countdown from nine. They even redub This Is Spinal Tap to change Christopher Guest's famous line to "These go to nine."

This last outrage gets the quick attention of the international community, who decide that their previous strategy of groveling and asking for rides in the cool shiny flying saucer was only destined to failure.  They ramp up the pressure by dropping a thermonuclear device on the flying saucer but are thwarted when the bombers, flying a Vought Cosair of course, mistake Madagascar for the enormous saucer.

Fortunately, the mystery of the aliens' strange obsession with the number nine is resolved when Christopher Guest discovers during a dubbing session that they only want to discover the true meaning of the Beatles song "Revolution Number 9." Guest feeds them some B.S. about the song being a secret love letter to Yoko Ono and the aliens wipe themselves out in a fit of despair. Unfortuately, they take much of the earth with them, being surprisingly imprecise with their death rays and whatnot.

An Education - Finally Oscar sees fit to pay tribute to the noble, if mindnumbingly boring, genre of educational films. This witty gem addresses the life cycle of crabgrass, but uses the slow, relentless growth of the weed as a deep and penetrating metaphor for hot, salacious sexual relationships between Oxford co-eds.

Jane is a young woman studying to enter Oxford.  She's 18, lean, leggy, and wears less clothing than a Ninja Warrior contestant. Stan is an Oxford graduate student.  He's ripped, into literature, and is nicknamed Mr. Knightly, not for his appreciation of the Jane Austen character but because of his ability to seduce anything female on two legs every day of the week. Soon, they are all over each other, like Wal-Mart shoppers on Black Friday.

Phil is an educational films producer, but he's always wanted to direct bodice-ripping, period pieces like Tom Jones, Royal Flash, and Vought's Corsair. Given that no one will finance his script about an 18th century nobleman's amorous escapades across western Lincolnshire, entitled Phil's Magical Romp, he turns to filming a lengthy educational film on crabgrass and related weeds.  However, he is really just using this as a premise to film the escapades of Jane and Stan, who meet on the green every day and really should get a room.

Phil compiles this footage into a feature length drama, interspersed with some of the most important turfgrass botany footage of the last half-century.  He personally dubs the voices himself, with the help of a portable mixer and a cannister of helium. The result is an instant sensation, playing in theaters and botanical conferences all over Britain.

The Hurt Locker - This is the gripping tale of a US Army munitions expert's reminiscences about the days when he and his friends were beaten up by a schoolyard bully named Meathook and her pals.

Phillip Glassjaw is a talented military bomb-disposal expert who gets out of going to Iraq by wearing a dress and smoking Virginia Slims. Instead of recognizing this as a transparent Jamie Farr/Corporal Klinger ruse, the Army decides to deal with Phillip where he'll fit in, by transporting him to the Pentagon, as a liason to the Senate. In a stirring sequence, he flies into Washington D.C., in a Vought Corsair, the train of his Oscar de la Renta gown billowing from the cockpit.

During the long interludes between committee meetings and fending off Senators' unwelcome advances, Phillip remembers his childhood and the girl who would beat him up just as soon look at him.  Janet "Meathook' Jones was a quiet, tall, elegant but vicious young sociopath who enjoyed kicking boys between the goalposts and then stuffing them in the smallest locker in school (the "Hurt Locker" of the title). Phillip was a frequent victim of these beatings, not in small part because he wore the occasional skirt in the third grade, but mostly because Meathook didn't care for boys with names that "begin and end with pee."

Strangely though, Meathook came of age and discovered that she loved Phillip. Phillip discovered that he loved Meathook too, and also that he was probably a masochist. Soon, the two of them were sneaking off to "The Hurt Locker" to tell each other secrets, steal innocent kisses, and see just how far Phillip's legs would bend behind his head.

The film ends when Phillip discovers that Meathook is in fact the junior senator from his home state and the two share the details of their lives, and several gowns, ultimately rekindling their romance in the Senate cloakroom, now known as "The Hurt Cloakroom."

Inglourious Basterds - Quentin Tarantino's new film is a fascinating chamber play how just how quickly spelling bees could turn violent in Nazi Germany.

Hans Von Gimlet is a literature teacher in Nazi era Dusseldorf who decides to sponsor a spelling bee at his local school. The idea is initially met with skepticism from people who argue that most German words are nearly unpronouncable, must less spellable.  However, Hans trumps their arguments by announcing that his spelling bee will be an *English* spelling bee. Cue looks of horror on the faces of matronly German women, and gleeful expressions on the faces of students who've never gotten to see a teacher tortured by the Gestapo in person.

Ironically though, Hitler finds out about the idea and, instead of finding the idea unpatriotic, decides it would be a great idea to find a German student who could outspell the English in their own language. He reaches this conclusion partially out of an arrogant need to embarrass the resilient British people, but primarily because he was nuttier than a black hole filled with macadamias.

Of course it all goes badly in the end when every contestant is eliminated on the word "wackjob," because of the whole "V/W" confusion between the two languages.  Much machine gun play follows along with a serious reconsideration of educational policy in a nation run by sadistic jackasses.

Fortunately for Hans, he is spared the traditional Tarantino disembowlement when he is rescued by a Vought Corsair from one of the films listed above.

Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire - This prequel to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is a rollicking comedy about one young woman's attempt to come to grips with her romantic attraction to the bling-obsessed, snazzy-dressing Gollum.  The story begins when teenaged Bobby Smeagol discovers a magnificent gold band in the Vought Corsair in his uncle's basement.  The ring calls to him with a mysterious power and also fits his pinky the way Converse high tops fit an NBA player's tootsies. Smeagol loves the ring so much he forgets to bathe, brush his teeth, tailor his loincloth, and clean, much less grill the catch he reeled in with his Mithrandir Bassmaster 3000.

This doesn't prevent dozens of young women from becoming enthralled with his magnetic personality and the intricate hickeys he is able to leave with his increasingly sharp canines. One such young woman is Clareece "Precious" Jones, a member of the girls longsword team and star pupil in chainmail shop class. Everytime Smeagol sees "Precious" he gets a funny warm feeling all over his body, even his gee-whilickers. In fact, his body heats up so much that weird writing appears on his fabulous ring.  Smeagol thinks that the writing is Arabic, but it turns out to be Klingon instead.

Inspired by his passion for "Precious" and the way it makes his ring look even cooler than before, Smeagol changes his name to "Gollum," which is his interpretation of the writing on the ring. Unfortunately, "Gollum" is Klingon for "nutjob" and sooner than you can say "Jack Nicholson in The Shining" he is running around in the wilderness and screaming like a Robert Bly encounter counselor on crack.

Clareece suffers a broken heart, leading her to move to New Jersey. Gollum spends the rest of his life confused as to whether he is in love with her or the increasingly belligerent ring, which itself has moved from whispering enticements to shrill demands for a gaudy personal trailer and double-wide parking space next to the studio commissary.

A Serious Man - This is the feel good comedy of the year from those wacky cut-ups the Coen Brothers. Based on the novel of a different name by some fiction author I've never heard of, this film opens with Roger Bannister (Sean Connery), fresh from his epic sub-four minute mile, arriving at Hogwarts to take magic lessons from Obi Wan Kenobi (Steve Martin). Obi Wan is thrilled at the arrival of a student who can actually run without a broom and hasn't heard all of his "wand" jokes. Unfortunately, Roger is quickly dispatched by an irritable dragon (Joan Rivers) who promises Obi Wan that she will no longer eat his promising students if he will move to another school and get off the Harry Potter kick.

Obi Wan moves to Cambridge, Massachusetts and becomes a professor of law at Harvard where he meets up with misunderstood student Elle Nobodishome (Paris Hilton, in an unfortunate bit of typecasting).  He explains to her that the law is much more than just legal language, courtroom manuevers, and mystery of what really is under judges' robes.  She responds by getting herself eaten by the dragon (Kim Catrall, this time) who says she was just kidding about that previous promise and would he mind hooking her up with that donkey from Shrek.

Obi Wan (Joe Biden) responds by calling in a favor from an old military buddy, Pete (Heidi Klum), and shooting down the dragon from Pete's vintage Vought Corsair (Pat Robertson). This results in a very short movie, which is padded by outtakes from Raising Arizona (Carol Burnett).

Up - A film for the whole family, this is the story of the legendary Vought Corsair (at last, something that makes sense) and the magnificent record this reliable fighter had in the Pacific theater of World War II. Unfortunately, along the way, the movie is marred by a leaden subplot about a bitter, old geezer who ties a crapload of balloons to his house and floats away to Brazil to avoid New York and federal estate tax.

Along the way he meets a talking dog named John Mayer who sings a few vapid ditties until the old man pushes him off the house with his Sedgeway. This leads to a serious of encounters between the old man and a variety of people, animals, and garden gnomes, who all seem to mysteriously fall off of the house, now cruising at 15,000 feet.

The whole mess is brought to a very satisfying conclusing when a Cecil B. DeMille sized fleet of Vought Corsairs brings down the balloon house, relying on tight, accurate fire from the six M2 Browning machine guns mounted on each of the 50,000 planes. The old man, after being mopped up with a sponge, is given a respectful burial during the local Carnival.

Up In the Air - This flick is an instant remake of Up, with George Clooney in the role of the old man, and the O2U Vought Corsair used instead of the F4U.  The ending is changed also.  Instead of being shot down by an endless phalanx of Corsairs, Clooney rides off into the sunset in a convertable with Julia Roberts. So much for fidelity to the classics!

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Shatner Gold... Olympic Gold

Quite frankly, I wasn't surprised to see William Shatner in the Olympic closing ceremonies in Vancouver on Sunday.  Shatner is Canadian, born in Montreal, and pretty much every living celebrity in or from Canada had appeared in the Olympic ceremonies up until that point (with the exception of the two to follow, Catherine O'Hara and Michael J. Fox, and also Bullwinkle. To be fair though, Mr. Winkle is only half-Canadian).

Still, it didn't completely feel like a Shatner appearance.  The dialogue was remeniscent of an awards show, somewhere between stilted advertisement and Stepford Wife banter. Sure, there were a few irreverent, even slightly off color jokes (Juan de Fuca?) but where was the outspoken, celebrity rebel attitude we've all known and come to love (and to avoid asking for autographs, because he'd kill us with a stare)? Where was the syncopated vocal cadence, the one that reminds one of a bi-polar drummer, perididdling while dodging frisbees? Where was the sneer of a smile, the one that says, "I despise and love you at the same time and by the way, where's my check?" Where was the chutzpah, raw and direct enough to shock a roomful of hard-core rappers into embarrassed silence? It was lost in the dry, semi-frozen, pallid officiousness that is Olympics' style entertainment.

Here are a few things I think Shatner, in his most recognizeable rougishness, should have said instead:
  • (As the preceding entertainers leave) And they're gone... gone... gone!
  • Can anybody get me a scotch? A Molsons? a cigarette? C'mon people, I'm working here.  The air is cold, I'm getting drymouth, I need some comfort. If the Canadian women's hockey team can have cigars and beer ready after their win, surely I could get a pitcher of Lebatt's, a stocked humidor, and an ashtray up here.
  • If Leonard Nimoy were here, I think he'd find all this Olympics crap pretty %$#& illogical.
  • This whole ceremony is gaudier and tackier than George Takei's wedding.
  • I can't believe the Canadian Women's curling team was beaten by a woman named Norberg. Wasn't that O.J. Simpson's character in Police Squad?
  • This Olympics has always been about ...truth ...and!
  • Don't try to tell me that you can do the Olympics better in Sochi.  It sickens me.
  • I wanted to be in the opening ceremony, but IOC President Jacque Rogge vetoed that idea. He vetoed me! Rogge! Roooogggggeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • I'll stack my two Emmys against your gold medals any day of the week, you punks!
  • (To audience) You drove all the way here to watch biathlon? Get a life!
  • If the IOC had been better negotiators, they could have gotten the Olympics in Winnepeg for half the price

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