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Oscar Night

Oscars! Charlize! Tonight! Diamonds! Pearls! Jon! Red Carpet! Steven! Joaquin! Joan! Melissa! Jane! Tuxedos! Heath! Rachel! Aren’t you excited now?

At least one pro prognosticator speculates that Best Picture will go to Crash rather than Brokeback Mountain. Not having seen Munich, Capote, or Good Night and Good Luck, my pick is Brokeback. I thought Crash’s plot contrivances too incredulous, and too much at the expense of character; moreover, the thematic payoff is simplistic.

I regret that I can’t say much more than that. This year unemployment has decimated my moviegoing almost as much as would a) children, or b) living in the sticks. I saw Walk the Line, a pleasant enough movie to watch; I loved The Constant Gardener, although, I must admit, it too suffered from a few too many plot contrivances (although not at the expense of character); I enjoyed Corpse Bride as well. Beyond those, I also dropped money on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and War of the Worlds and Batman Begins, none of which I regretted (although initially, I was underwhelmed with Harry Potter—I’m glad I saw it again.) Perhaps most distressing, I saw Star Wars: Revenge of the Shit twice, and every night I weep for the lost time. But, from George Clooney’s double shot, to North Country, to Wallace and Gromit, to Hustle & Flow, to Match Point, to nearly all of the foreign language nominees—which often represent the best movies of the lot, I missed so much!

If New York critics are to be trusted, however, it’s just as well. Manohla Dargis, writing for the New York Times, today said that all the Best Picture nominees are small fry, a result of the strange, circuitous flirtatiousness between moviegoers and studios. On the one hand, “after being fed a steady diet of schlock and awe,” watchers know not to expect much when they go to the theater and therefore go see neither good movies nor bad ones; on the other hand, studios reserve their small sets and small marketing budgets for the good movies because watchers don’t go see good movies. In the system Dargis constructs, everybody, from viewers to studio execs, knows that most movies are Craptastically Awful™ and that this awfulness is what keeps watchers away from cineplexes. Studio reaction, by Dargis’s estimation, has been not to quit making crap; instead, it has been to pulverize the filmic audience into a fine powder, divide it with a razor, and inhale it one short line after another. What Dargis wants is the movie that transcends pulverization, invites all comers into the darkness where the projector is the great unifier of culture. ”[S]omething will be lost,” Dargis says,

if Hollywood continues to downsize its ambitions and fails to make movies that connect with the mass audience, to make movies that speak to us as a unified whole rather than as a mass of self-interested egos, that give us a sense of collective identity and social cohesion.

It would be a fine lament if Dargis’s was longer on memory and shorter on platitude. A year does not a trend make; two critics, however, saying the same thing within a week of each other is very much like a trend. David Denby, in a Q&A for the New Yorker, also bemoans the turn of American cinema:

I think that the artistic future of American movies lies with the specialty divisions and the independents. I don’t at all like the bifurcation into fantasy movies for the malls and sensitive little movies for small audiences, but that’s the way we are going…. I don’t see any way out, at the moment….

The great thing about the theatrical experience is its oddly ambivalent nature. On the one hand, strangers congregate in a darkened place and are awed by the light reflected from the screen—it’s communal, almost religious in nature. On the other, they are having an intensely private experience as they take in the movie. After all, there are two media—the two-dimensional one on the screen and the many-faceted consciousness of the moviegoer. When the experience is taken in and internalized, it becomes transformed into your inner life. You can see that little drama being enacted when people leave a good movie looking glazed. It may take ten minutes for their consciousness of ordinary life to return. They are still playing the movie inside their heads, processing it, making it their own.

The difference between Denby’s and Dargis’s final invocation of darkness and communal moviegoing is that Denby’s is offered in contrast to television; Dargis’s is offered to create a nostalgic longing for some memory of what movies used to be.

But Hollywood is a town that’s been croaking its death rattle for decades. Someone, for some insane reason that probably has to do with money, seems always to want to use the paddles to start its heart. William Booth and Sonya Geis note one trend to save it through social change. Denby’s juxtaposition of theater and television are made as part of a critique of Steven Soderberg’s weird simul-release, in theaters and on DVD, of Bubble—home theater is the new theater, in other words.

It’s enough to make me want a new TV, even if Isaac Mizrahi won’t get the chance to grope Scarlett Johansson again. What matters is that she’s big enough to forgive him for it and thus to remind us that Hollywood isn’t about Hollywood at all. Nor is it about building community in dark theaters. Instead, like Johansson herself, it’s about being from New York.



i am here to vouch for the effects of children and sticks: we have children and live in the sticks. we have been to zero movies this year.

Recap for the night:

Jon Stewart: kinda blah. I had hopes, but worried he was too understated for the Oscars. He was too understated for the Oscars.

Clooney, Best support. I said, “It’s consolation for not winning Best Director.” Then he said the same thing, like, ten seconds later—which, since the show was on an 8 second delay, means I beat him by 2. Seriously. I am thy master.

Rachel Weisz, yay! Anything good for The Constant Gardener is good in my book.

Three ways to make Charlize Theron ugly: 1) give her prosthetic teeth. 2) give her a bad haircut. 3) give her a weird dress with puffy froufrou on the shoulder.

Geez. Everybody’s a DVD hater. “We love to sit in the dark and watch movies on the screen!” So we’ll watch a montage that argues in favor of big screens, ostensibly with movies that are better seen on big screens. “Epics,” is how they’re introduced. Oh! Look, the last shot in the montage is from E.T. Wait, were those guys holding radios in their hands? Weren’t those radios redacted into the film for the 25th anniversary DVD, in place of guns? Sigh…

“It’s hard out here for a pimp.” Aww yeah. Everybody remember your Pimp Handle?

Reese = super cute. When she thanked Joiquin, somebody sitting behind him was hopping up and down. I want to say it was Frodo, but it probably wasn’t.

Larry McMurtry still should’ve kept DIana Ossana from talking, like he did at the GGs. She was hella boring. What’s up with begging for the continuation of the culture of the book?

Ang Lee = super cute.

Crash. Really? I guess I’ll have to watch it again, but, man, it just didn’t stick with me that long.

it is paul haggis, after all.

and, i found his much beloved million dollar baby to be even more manipulative and contrived than crash.

i could handle the contrivances because it screamed “I’M AN ALLEGORY” (of course, not in the strict sense of virtues and vices duking it out… and i think it may have screamed this a little too loudly and got a little too preachy at points). still, this is why the “good” white guy and the “good” black guy ended up the way they did. somebody had to die for everybody else’s sins and somebody had to kill him. might as well been the guy who saw the hypocrisy of ethnic-narcisism.

one reason why i really liked it was because there were hispanics, blacks, whites, persians, chinese… despite mostly focusing on black white relations, it really opened the discussion to other ethnicities and shades of brown.

plus…this is a great line!

You want a lesson? I’ll give you a lesson. How ‘bout a geography lesson? My father’s from Puerto Rico. My mother’s from El Salvador. Neither one of those is Mexico.

my apology for the movie registered.

the unfortunate thing is that nothing was all that original in the movie… neither the camera angles, nor the editing techniques, nor anything.

did the academy realize the irony of giving altman an honorary oscar (who in short-cuts anticipates the mosaic technique of both this oscar winner and the more popular and better movie magnolia by paul thomas anderson) on the same night that crash was improbably given an oscar by the academy?

even the academy needs it’s sins purged and a good allegory about race relations is just the kind of film that lets clooney believe that he and hollywood matter. and i say that only half snarkyly :)

What the heck is an “Honorary Oscar”? Isn’t that supposed to be the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Ac Never mind. that’s a Golden Globe thing.

I’ve never seen much Altman. We rented Gosford Park and fell asleep in the middle of it. K swears she never saw it.

About Crash, I read somewhere, probably on a blog, “Only in L.A. can a guy be made to seem moral by choosing not selling a van full of people into slavery.” I admit the movie has its moments: it’s funny, and it’s moving in parts (Don Cheadle’s character, for example). It’s a different L.A. than was portrayed in the noir world of L.A. Confidential, or in the late 1980s of Beverly Hills Cop or in the early 1990s of Boyz N Tha Hood. I’ll give it a second watch upon which my evaluation of it may change, but for now, I just don’t see it as better than BbM.

oh but ludacris isn’t the moral center of the movie… it’s don cheadle’s kid brother.

also, despite my apology, i don’t know that it merits more than viewing.

then again, you did go see revenge twice…

plus, couldn’t their decision to not give it to BbM, really be a way of making peace with the masses that would revolt had the gay cowboys gotten the golden boy?

see, we’re not about gratuitous, hot male sex, enduring love, cheney country neighbors to big sky country… we’re about morals, moralizing, and the moral majority

Yeah, I definitely think the Crash win qualifies as a case of “we can identify this movie as tackling a serious social issue,” even though some of the other movies (at least what we saw) deal with “issues” in a more artistic, and therefore more entertaining, way. As I remember our experience of seeing Crash, we both liked it a lot on some level (e.g. the more nuanced ethnic and racial representations, as J mentioned) but also found it really uneven and lacking in character development (I mean, what the hell was up with Sandra Bullock’s character, anyway?). While I had some doubts about the fluidity, or maybe it was the pace, of Brokeback Mountain, that one remained with me for a while after I saw it; Crash didn’t. (And, as G mentioned, we didn’t get to see all of the other nominees….)

Two words: Capote. Ok, maybe that’s one word, but it should be said twice. It was a better movie than Brokeback and, though I didn’t see Crash, I’d wager that any movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman in it should, per se, beat out any film featuring Sandra Bullock.

But that’s just me.

i didn’t see capote either…but PSH rocks the house! ALWAYS

it is on my netflix, as is hustle and flow... largely because it’s hard out there for an assistant prof, gettin’ underpaid by a state school, in an overpriced big city

DVD’s rock the casbah… even if you don’t get a sense of the epicality of the big screen

I’ve been ambivalent about seeing Capote, but frankly, it’s only because movies about New York effetes annoy me. In the clips from it, I kept wondering, haven’t I seen this character before? Then, I realized it was Andy Warhol.

But, we’ll prolly see it sometime, anyway. :)

Having just written the above, I realized a question: Did Warhol steal Capote’s mojo, add a little Velvet Underground, and declare, “It’s the 1970s!”?

PSH obviously deserved the oscar for Capote, from what little I’ve seen, but I have to confess my weakness for Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash…

But who wouldn’t crush on Joaquin, regardless of whether or not he played JC? I know I couldn’t hold back after watching him. Then, as if to prove he’s every bit worth my adoration, he flips his car á la James Dean—and lives.

To top it off he then allowed himself to be rescued by Werner ‘The World is chaos, violence, and murder’ Herzog. Trés chic. That makes me say, “it’s hard out here for a PIMP!”

i can’t see joaquin and not think of the children of god, which makes me think of river., which makes me think of christopher robbin and one of the absolute worst chapel sermons i ever heard in my life

I can’t believe you remember chapel sermons. They were all so ubiquitous…

Well, I take that back. I remember a few, too….

oh, wow, i don’t think i ever realized that those phoenix kids were raised in a cult. i do remember how weird it seemed to people that they were vegetarians (or maybe vegans?)...and going back to what greg said, i defy anyone to watch JP in The Village and not crush.

and so how did christopher robbin figure in to this terrible sermon? was pooh there?

being a parent and sticks-dweller, i have never heard of this Joaquin person. how is that even pronounced?
chris pointed out yesterday that we actually got crash from netflix and never watched it.

Wah-keen is indeed a hottie. So smoldering. The combination of him and Reese on the screen was almost too much to bear at times.

I think the combo of Heath and Jake would have been too much to bear as well, if Brokeback hadn’t been one of the most depressing movies ever. EVER.

Greg, you don’t like movies about effete New Yorkers? I suppose you prefer to see movies about the ‘real’ America.

Joaquin Phoenix is River’s brother. He’s picked up steam through a couple of M. Night Shyamalan flicks, most dazzlingly in The Village. C & M, you watched Hotel Rwanda, right? Joaquin was the bearded, guilt-ridden American cameraman.

GR, I was being a little facetious. I’m too much of a fan of Woody Allen really admit to not liking effete New Yorker movies. Manhattan? Aw yeah.

Ah yes. And I’m too much of a fan of New York for it to register that you were being facetious. I get a little defensive and the claws come out.

Still haven’t seen Hotel Rwanda. Didn’t know that Joaquin was in it.

And, for the record, I’m still a little bitter that the Dukes of Hazzard wasn’t nominated for any awards at this year’s Oscars. Lame.

Oh yeah, Joaquin was also in Gladiator, but I haven’t seen it. His part in Hotel Rwanda was small, but really affecting. “Smoldering” is a good adjective in general for him. If somebody would cast him in a movie with Ralph Fiennes, I’d be in crush heaven.

Dukes didn’t get nominated because its actors wouldn’t allow that to have ungodly white teeth is as anti-Hazzard county, TN as you can get. Plus, it cast Jessica Simpson: you can’t get much desperate than that!

i am feeling so hip now: not only did i learn a new actor, but six minutes ago was the first time i’d ever heard of jessica simpson, and now i see greg’s reference to her and actually sort of vaguely know something about her (she shops at my friend’s wild oats store in santa fe).

the chapel sermon was tactless.

it was soon after river pheonix turned up dead outside another hottie’s club… possibly a thinking person’s hottie… none other than johnny depp.

the sermon talked about the boy who was christopher robbin and how the chapel speaker actually met this boy, who had grown up into the octogenarian he met. this was contrasted to river phoenix dead on an L.A. curb of an overdose.

i forget the spiritual point… but the speaker ended with the admonition that we be christopher robbin and not river phoenix.

joaquin was about the only good thing in gladiator. i really hated that movie. but punch your lights out russel crow has never been a favorite actor of mine. with the exception of the really good job in LA Confidential (and maybe that cigg movie and beautiful mind, neither of which i’ve seen) crow has two modes angry white man and angrier

Wow. You guys really are in the sticks. Be glad you don’t know who Nick is (whose turn on Charmed makes me have bad intestinal troubles every afternoon that TNT shows that season made me have bad intestinal trouble every afternoon, when we had TNT). Be very glad.

A Beautiful Mind was made infinitely better because of Jennifer Connelly. It was marginally better because of Opie.

RC was good in A Beautiful Mind. methinks he is talented and indeed angry. though you have to admit that smacking some guy upside the head with a telephone is at least a more origninal take on the whoopass.

wow, that sermon using RP’s pathetic death on the curb sounds pretty mean.

started to watch Gladiator once, and perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, came down with a migraine and had to go to bed.

i read in Time magazine that Johnny Cash liked JP in Gladiator, and was then inspired to appoint him as his cinematic self.

it’s not really b/c we’re in the sticks that i didn’t know who those people were…apparently everyone else around me, including my spouse, already did.


Sounds like you may need a subscription to US Weekly. Either that, or you should be praised for having your priorities in order.

I, for one, can’t live without my celebrity gossip.

I’m curious how M gets away from the checkout line without at least reading the cover of People. One gets a lot of good dirt just from that. Branjelina sightings, baby bumps, silly froufrou on Charlize’s left shoulder….

What the?!? Emma Watson’s downing a Corona? She better be doing that after long days of acting lessons!


I don’t think ‘froufrou’ adequately describes the horror of the bow perched on Charlize’s shoulder.

I’m pretty much convinced that the bow on the shoulder was penance for Charlize’s participation in AeonFlux.

You’d think the academy might have penalized her enough for that movie and prevented her from any nomination whatsoever this year, but no…

that dress really was a disgrace.

as for little hermione, are we sure that’s emma in the photo w/ the beer? i clicked to that site, but didn’t see if there was an actual story to go with it.

okay, and did sharon stone’s husband really have his foot eaten off by a “dragon” at the zoo? geesh, who’s out of touch now? i’ve got to get more serious about my celebrity gossip, obviously.

Sharon Stone’s husband what?!? I didn’t see that...

click on GR’s link to “celebrity gossip” above and scroll down about three quarters of the page until you get to the picture of sharon stone and lindsay lohan.

Yep yep. Sharon Stone’s husband had his foot eaten by a komodo dragon at a zoo a few years back. Stone and hubby didn’t blame the zoo or the zoo keepers, which I think was very gracious of them.

I once thought a dragon was going to eat my hair. It didn’t (well, it was going to, but the shrooms wore off).

really, though?! really, really, really?? i think that guy who had some body parts ripped off by a chimp a year or two ago is the only person i’ve heard of who’s had something like that happen in a public space (unlike those people who keep tigers in their back yards and let them eat their kids and such), though i think that was at some chimp sanctuary rather than a zoo…

wasn’t that a komodo dragon in that movie with matthew broderick and marlon brando some years ago? that dragon seemed so laid back…not at all like a foot eater.

Oh yeah. It really happened.

Those komodo dragons can be quite feisty when agitated.

Frankly, I think the zookeeper is most at fault in the whole thing. I mean, shouldn’t he of all people have known that dragons can tell the difference between naked feet and white tennis shoes? I mean, the dragon waited for Mr. Sharon Stone to takes his shoes off! If that’s not smart eating, what is?

GR’s right. Capote, which we saw tonight, is really good. It’s way better than Crash. I dunno whether better than Brokeback: I’m comfortable putting them on par with each other and leaving them at that. PSH is great; Catherine Keener, too; and, unsung for his role though unsung he should never be, the great Chris Cooper loans the movie intensity.

Well, I hate to say ‘I told you so,’ but…

well, of course they are on a par with each other… it’s liberal hollywood media trying to force gayness on america.

don’t you think that with all the demonic talent that they have when they put their minds to shoving something down american throats they’re gonna do it with panache and a little bit of chocolate ganache, as well?

pshaw! and a pox on both your hice!

did you see it the way that God intended movies to be seen or on a pirated dvd of the kind that jerry did on that hilarious seinfeld episode?

The only market we have for pirated movies is via the internets, and i’d have had to goto the coffeeshop (where I am now) to do that kind of downloading. Not that I would… because we saw it in the darkened sanctuary, where Coca-Cola and local dentistry is advertised with impunity.