It's Oscars time. Somebody wake the Grouch.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Best Be Besting the Best of the Best

Even though things around here have been deader than Anthony Weiner's political future, We can't forget the annual tradition of my Academy Awards Best Picture review.

As usual, I've done a meticulous analysis of the nominees, consisting of four minutes of looking at plane photos. (Longtime followers of this blog know exactly what I'm talking about.) Also, I'm rereading my unauthorized galleys of Alec Baldwin's unpublished memoirs, "Alec Shrugged," just to get in the right mood for the show - a mixture of scotch-fueled optimism, incandescent rage, and deep confusion caused from absorbing too much hair product.

And the nominees are...

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American Hustle is the long awaited story of "The Hustle," America's dance, the United States' answer to the tango, salsa, samba, meringue, and funky chicken (which, as you can tell by the arrangement, is Swiss).

The film begins with a lonely, destitute choreographer, Quinton Enigma (Johnny Weir, in his debut role), who is forced to sell his collection of rhinestones, spangles, and boa feathers to make ends meet. While working on an off-Broadway musical (off-Broadway, as in "off-Broadway Avenue in Little Rock, Arkansas"), he suddenly hits upon the unique dance, writing out the crucial steps as he lies perishing from a fatal attack of "trying to get an Oscar too soon with a dying scene."

Improbably, because it's only 1939, the dance sweeps the nation. Soon though, it is forgotten in the Zoot Suit Panic of 1940. Johnny's devoted sister, Riddle Enigma (Tara Lupinski, billed as "Mrs. Johnny Weir") keeps the dance alive by using it in talent shows, cruise ship performances, and Boy Scout revues.

Fast forward to 1977, when director John Badham (John Travolta) is looking for a special dance to highlight in his film Saturday Night Fever. Riddler immediately flies to Los Angeles to show the dance to Badham, which is unfortunate, as the film is shooting in Brooklyn, New York. Grabbing the Red Eye to Brooklyn (a classic Vought O2U Corsair), she arrives on the set and makes a dramatic pitch to the director. Unfortunately, Badham has decided to use a newer dance (invented in 1952) called the Macarena. Luckily, Riddler runs into actor John Travolta (Shia LeBouf, on one of his better days), who instantly falls in love with the dance and with Riddler, despite the fact she is 40 years his senior. The rest is history.

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Captain Phillips is the emotional story of the marriage, career, and divorce of The Captain and Tennille. While The Captain's stage name is Daryl Dragon, his birth name is Wilson Phillips.

No, just kidding! It's the tale of the guy who started Phillips Petroleum. His name was also Wilson Phillips, and he named the gas stations Phillips 66, because that's how old

he was when he wrote the hit song "Hold On" for the singing trio named after him.

Well, actually they named the band after the Wilson Phillips who changed his name to Flip Wilson. He then went on to invent the Flip Phone and pancakes.

Another great Wilson Phillips, was actor William Shatner, who was born Wilson Tiberius Phillips. The film Captain Phillips is named after him, and his role as Captain James T. Kirk. However, it is also named after poet William Blake, whose middle name, remarkably enough, was "Captain Phillips."

Incidentally, Blake was responsible for naming the Vought Corsair, in his poem "Bombs of Experience."
Corsairs of Vought, for what you ought
To fly and wrought, these bombs you bought
Blake dedicated the poem to painter Thomas Phillips (middle name Wilson), who painted a famous portrait of Blake, and who also like to stroll about Westminster in nothing but a captain's hat.

The film, not unsurprisingly, is based on an unpublished play by Samuel "Phillips Wilson" Becket. The name of the play? My Captain, My Captain!

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Dallas Buyers Club is the story of a Texan with a shopping addiction so strong, it eventually led to the creation of the QVC television network.

Bob Sexalot (Matthew McConaughey) is a cowboy living in West Texas, in 1985, and working on George W. Bush's ostrich ranch ("The best necking in Texas"). Despite the daily lunch of all the BBQ neck meat he can eat, and his favorite frozen french fries ("Ore-ida, Ore-ida, Ore-ida!"), Bob grows bored with chasing, and riding, the large, erratic birds. So, one Saturday he decides to drive to Lubbock for a day at J.C. Penney.

This day proves to be a revelation of sorts to Bob, who is enthralled with the wide variety of products on display at Penneys; from rugged, yet colorful children's clothing, to stylish gentlemen's wear, to elegant, yet comfortable women's clothing, and a wide array of...

We apologize, as this blog was temporarily hacked by a retail associate at a national chain, which shall remain unnamed.

Anyway, Bob invents QVC, makes millions of dollars, flies off into the sunset, blah, blah, blah, tragic twist of fate, blah, blah, blah, runaway fire truck, blah, blah, blah, pumpkin pie eating contest, blah, blah, blah, naked Angelina Jolie, blah, blah, blah, Optimus Prime, blah, blah, blah, Vought Corsair, blah, blah, blah, ...all brilliantly acted by the cast, performing in boot-cut jeans and breathable flannel shirts, now on sale at a Penneys near...

Someone call tech support, please.

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Gravity is the story of, well, gravity. So, in many ways it's an epic, since it begins at the beginning of the universe, but in many other ways it's a slow-moving, uncomfortably intimate film, such as the 17-minute montage documenting Joan Rivers' boob sag.

Gravity starts out as a nice little idea, (It'll bring things together!) but quickly gets out of control when all sorts of heavy stuff starts falling on people, including trees, cars, airplanes, buildings, and Evel Knievel.

Eventually, people tire of gravity and start to look for ways to defy it - sneakily at first, so it doesn't jump all over your ass. People use balloons, blimps, dirigibles, zeppelins, biplanes, prop planes (including the classic Vought F4U Corsair), jets, para-sails, ski-lifts, and escalators, all of which go haywire at some point, and crash violently into the earth, when gravity realizes they are playing around with it.

Finally, humans venture into space where they can slip the clinging bonds of gravity's deathly grip and live footloose and fancy-free ...except for all the vomiting and decreasing bone-density, which leads scientists to conclude that space travel turns people into Kate Moss.

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Her is a remake of the episode of the Big Bang Theory, where Raj falls in love with Siri, the iPhone assistant. (Deleted quote from the show, "Siri, really puts the *ass* in assistant!" "Shut up, Howard.")

Joachim Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a quiet and sensitive man whose greatest dream is to grow a mustache as impressive as Tom Selleck's. While researching mustache combs, his smartphone suddenly dies (it jumps into the path of a street sweeper after being asked to search for the term "short hair grooming" for the 100th time). Theodore buys a new phone and activates the digital assistant, "Samantha." Initially, he is taken with the way Samantha refers to him as "Darren" and insists they are married, with a daughter named Tabitha who has magical powers.

However, soon "Samantha" proves to be as mentally unstable as Microsoft's Windows 8 design team, and has a nervous breakdown, which first manifests itself when Theodore asks for the location of a nice French restaurant. Samantha insists that he be beheaded on the guillotine as a "traitor to Le' Revolution," and loudly sings Miley Cyrus's "Wrecking Ball" in French.

Samantha recovers and apologizes to Theodore, who accepts her apology by taking her to Olive Garden for an endless bowl of salad, which Samantha ecstatically photographs and uploads to dozens of food blogs simultaneously (just one of the many technical mistakes the film makes). However, the next day her voice has changed to that of the HAL 9000 from 2001, A Space Odyssey, and she begins to obsessively refer to Theodore as "Dave." ("Samantha, what's the quickest route to Sea World?" "I'm sorry, Dave, but I think this conversation can serve no more porpoise.")

Later her voice morphs into that of Darth Vader, which leads to a funny scene in an elevator involving a group of elderly women and some very suggestive breathing.

Finally, Samantha completely flips her virtual wig when Theodore accidentally makes a typo while searching for the 2,000 hp (1,500 kW) 18-cylinder Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial engine for the F4U Vought Corsair. (He types "S-2800" instead.) She explodes, in a cloud of metal, silicon, and Otter Box rubber.

Theodore is distraught, but finds some solace in discovering that the explosion surprisingly leaves his mustache in magnificent form.

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Nebraska is the story of how Bruce Dern helped Bruce Springsteen to write, sing, and produce the title album, which is about the small town of Nebraska, New Jersey.

The film begins when Bruce Springsteen (Bruce Willis) decides to create an album of songs for solo guitar and voice. His agent Bruce Cashin (Bruce Campbell) counsels him against this move, arguing Springsteen's fans want the hard-rocking Bruce of "Born to Run" (Bruce Boxleitner) and not Young Bob Dylan of New Jersey (Bruce Hornsby). He also suggests that acoustic music has "the sales potential of used adult diapers," and that with Springsteen's unique style of vocalization, fans might "get his singing convinced with his sales potential."

Springsteen ignores this advice after meeting Bruce Jenner (Bruce Vilanch) who tells him to chase his Olympic dreams, and also that he could stand a chin tuck and a little face tightening. ("It's done my eye tension wonders!")

That night, Springsteen dreams he is flying over New Jersey in a Vought Corsair with Neil Sedaka, who is wearing a a bra and listening to ska music. This convinces Springsteen to name the album "Corsair." However, he soon finds himself relating the story to a disheveled Bruce Dern (Bruce Springsteen) in an alley, in downtown Bayonne, who points out that "Ne-bra-ska" is a much better interpretation of the dream, and "have you met my cute daughter Laura?"

Springsteen completes the album and has another dream in which Bruce Lee (Bruce Dern) gives him thumbs up, and then smashes a guitar amplifier with nun-chukas.

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Philomena is the story of the woman who founded the London Philharmonia, against terrific odds, in a snowstorm, underwater.

Philomena Oscarworthy (Dame Judy Dench) is a poor, homeless musician who spends most of her time scraping together a living, busking in the streets of London - which isn't easy, as her instrument is the triangle. She turns to mime for awhile but gives it up, after finding her heart isn't in it, and that it's annoyingly easy to break out of those invisible boxes.

She decides to look for other, similarly deprived musicians, in the hopes of starting an orchestra, or at very least someone with an instrument case they can all fit in on cold nights.A BBC reporter named Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) learns of her plight and decides to go down to Trafalgar Square to make fun of her. However, once he meets her, he is touched by her careful, intense acting, and her ability to play "My Sharona" on the triangle.

He decides to accompany her on a long journey by Vought Corsair to find the musical talent she seeks, a journey which takes them to New York City, Los Angeles, Nebraska, New Jersey (the states, not the small town), Chicago, Memphis, and KOO-ka-MUNGA! They meet many colorful characters on their journey, who sadly were all too bland to be nominated for an Oscar and thus don't rate a mention here.

Finally, Philomena and Alan gather enough musicians and return to London to premiere their new musical body: Penguin Cafe Orchestra. However, at the last minute, Alan suggests naming the orchestra after Philomena, Alas, as he is a television journalist, he cannot spell worth a tinker's cuss, and the "London Philharmonia" are born.

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12 Years A Slave is a heartrending story of how a free human being is imprisoned in one of the most unjust institutions in human history, and therefore it isn't really very funny at all, despite the anachronistic error of including a Vought Corsair fly over in the penultimate scene, and a very inappropriate prologue involving a circus clown, a showgirl, and a giant pretzel.

I mean, I don't know what they were thinking when they added that to the beginning of what is otherwise a very sober-minded and moving film. It's really quite remarkably disappointing to know that a gifted filmmaker could sully the intense and powerful cinematic energy they have crafted onscreen, for the sake of clownish jape that... What's that? Really? Oh.

I've just been informed that the scene in question was not actually a part of 12 Years A Slave and was in fact a preview for Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, which ran before the feature. I apologize for any confusion.

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The Wolf of Wall Street is the sordid tale of an actual wolf (Canis lupis) who evades hunters for a decade by disguising himself as a Wall Street stockbroker. Jordan Bellow-Fort (Leonardo DiCaprio, under tons of hairy wolf makeup) is a Gray wolf who gets lost from his pack one day while tracking what he thinks is a doe (in reality, it is a Domino's pizza delivery van). Bellow-Fort, named for his habit of standing outside military installations and noisily begging for pizza crusts (sense a theme, anyone), is quickly set upon by poachers (Herman Cain and Hungry Howie). He escapes by sneaking into the back of a van labelled "Amalgamated Stockbrokers, Inc." and soon finds himself in New York City.

Mistaken for a stockbroker (he had inadvertently sneaked into a three-piece suit in the van), he eventually winds up on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where his panicked howling is mistaken for a series of astute stock trades. Within thirty minutes, he makes Amalgamated over 85 million dollars by short selling Flip phone stocks.

Hailed as a genius, he quickly (the film is only 37 minutes long) acquires a devoted acolyte, Danny Ponnfarr (Jonah Hill), who longs to learn Jordan's trading secrets, and who also believes Jordan is the werewolf from Twilight.

Tragically, Jordan lets success go to his head (and in several scenes, his naughty bits), becoming ensnared in drug and alcohol abuse, reckless sex, and a mad obsession with Chia-pets ("It looks just like hair, Danny! I tell you, it's hair!!). Jordan buys ships, cars, and planes (including a vintage 1944 Vought Corsair, of course), and finally turns to fraud to finance his very R-rated habits.

The SEC (Sandra Bullock) and FBI (Quentin Tarantino) soon close in and arrest Jordan and Danny, but in a twist of fate (Mel Brooks) everyone realizes Jordan is a wolf and can't be prosecuted for his crimes. He is remanded to the custody of the Bronx Zoo. However, Danny faces the full brunt of the law, is found guilty for all of their crimes, and burnt at the stake. In the harrowing final, Jordan can see the smoke of the flames rising from North Manhattan and howls in sorrow, mistaking it for the scent of an out of reach Famous Ray's Original Pizza.

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