But Crash cheated its way to the best picture Oscar. Heres why: homophobia, plain and simple. Lets face it, when you have Academy members like Ernest Porky Borgnine proudly proclaiming that he would never see, let alone vote, for Brokeback Mountain (them damn queers), well, how does any movie have a chance to win? By the way, isnt Borgnines wife, the overly made-up Tova, a hoot selling her turtle wax on TV? When people like Ernie and any number of his tsk-tsking Academy old-timers sneer at two guys kissing and dont even bother to see the picture thats hardly a level playing field. Of course they probably hated Capote, too another damn queer. And Im sure they thought the transgender comedy Transamerica was a lightning bolt from Satan. In fact, in addition to its racial themes, Crash dabbled in homosexuality as well. Ryan Phillippes young cop character is definitely a closet case. Which left the Old Guard of Hollywood Good Luck, And Good Night on which to plant an Oscar kiss. Hey Judy, its in black and white, just like the good old days. Of course, it was also a very good movie. Frankly, I think the best picture choices were some of the finest in years. To his credit, Jack Nicholson, who announced the surprising Crash victory over Brokeback Mountain, did reveal he voted for the gay guys.
Im glad George Clooney won for best supporting actor for Syriana. Hometown boy Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) had them dancing in Rochesters streets with his best actor win. As for host Jon Stewart, he was pleasant, but hardly edgy. Maybe thats what the Academy wanted, what with all them damn queer movies up there. Stewart didnt hit many out of the park, but he held the show together. I suppose he can be invited back next year. Oh, one more thing. They decided to play light and airy music during the winners speeches, and the person who made that decision should be shot. I gather it was Oscar producer Gilbert Cates. It was annoying. And, interestingly, the people at the Kodak Theater didnt hear the music. Only the folks watching on television did. Punishment? It sure seemed like punishment, but for what? Tuning in?
Now on to the new movies.
Why We Fight is a top-notch documentary in which we see President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the former Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II, warning the American people about the military-industrial complex. I guess nobody paid much attention to him. Every state in the union has a piece of the military pork pie, even if its just a little mom and pop operation in Way Out, Kansas sewing squadron ID patches onto knee pads. The movie is a savvy, smart, and skillful collection of factoids and talking heads (Gore Vidal, Richard Perle, Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski, et. al.) about the dollar machine (thank you Congress) that keeps the military machine running. Theres a lot of wasted cash, but it does put Americans to work.
What to do, what to do? Why We Fight has lots of archival footage (the war machine at war) and breezy anecdotes about conflicts of interest. Vice-president Dick Deadeye Cheney ran a company that supplied the military and now, as if in the perfect dream, hes making decisions about companies that supply the military. Youve got to love the hubris. This is why President George Malaprop Bush loves that Tex-Mex word sympatico. The documentary is directed by Eugene Jarecki. He lets the facts fall where they may and keeps the ball rolling. Movies like this are probably preaching to the choir, so I guess its up to members of the choir to bring non-members to see the film. Much of Why We Fight entertains as well as enlightens. Its no Fahrenheit 9/11 (or even March Of The Penguins), but it does offer up interesting information and is certainly recommended seeing.
As for Failure To Launch, what can I say? Look, when a romantic comedys main characters name is Tripp, you already know the beginning, middle, and end. It goes something like this. Guys in their mid-thirties, suffering from some kind of Peter Pan Syndrome, enjoy living at home with their parents. Its the perfect world. They even get to have sex and have dad walk in and say something sit-comy funny like: do you want bacon with your eggs? Of course, you need a little conflict. Therefore, mom really would like sonny boys room for her sewing or oil painting or anything other than dirty laundry, beer bottles, and strange smells.
It turns out that a neighbor lady hired an interventionist to get her son out of the house. So mom hires the same wonder worker. End of act one. Act Two involves the interventionist getting to know the son and trying to make him understand the issues. Son is smitten with the intervention lady, who is also smitten with the son. End of act two. Act Three involves self-searching, arguments, coy games, and a denouement. Will the interventionist and the lazy, albeit loving son get it on? Go see the movie to find out.
Failure To Launch never quite snares the brass ring. Supporting players Kathy Bates (as mom) and ex-footballer Terry Bradshaw (as dad) are the highlights. The son is played by Matthew McConaughey who spends the movie mostly shirtless. This is to appeal to the ladies in the audience, but McConaugheys buff body gives a better performance than McConaughey the lazy so-so actor. Frankly, McConaugheys body should probably be doing gay porn. Sarah Jessica Parker is the interventionist and as an actress, she seems puzzled by movie theater acting. She never realizes how wide the big screen really is. As for Parkers patented quizzical look, well, lets just be polite and say squinty is boring and just leave it at that. She suffers from the same syndrome thats going to keep Jennifer Aniston from becoming a major movie star. Both actresses tuck in their bodies rather than act expressively with their bodies. Director Tom Dey and television writing professionals Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember have obviously seen almost every sit-com ever made and remembered all the bad parts. I could make a number of jokes or puns using the films title, but why bother. Its not a very funny movie, but it is a very obvious one.
Right from the beginning, The Libertine lets you in on a secret. Johnny Depp, playing the 17th-century Earl Of Rochester, delivers this line to the audience in the theater: You will not like me. Thanks for the alert. In fact, that sentence should be hung on a signboard outside the lobby to be read before you buy your ticket. Fair warning? You better believe its fair warning. First-time director Laurence Dunmore has delivered a dreary two-hour pastiche of sex, booze, fisticuffs, petulance, giggling, sex, and more sex. Its takes a real no-talent to make those things uninteresting, but Dunmore manages to do it.
The Libertine was shown way back in 2004 at the Toronto Film Festival and after years of re-editing, they still havent gotten it right. Work-in-progress, indeed! The camerawork is virtually non-existent, unless you consider murky brown to be high art. Depp plays the second Earl Of Rochester (a.k.a. John Wilmot), a real-life rake, as if he were prepping for his future role as the pirate in that silly pirate movie in which he eventually starred. Wilmot died in 1680 at age 33 of alcohol poisoning and syphilis, not a pleasant death, but one assumes the alcohol helped ease the pain. At least a little bit. The movie never really captures the guys fun about loving debauchery. Yes, there is a lot of prancing and posing and play-acting, but its all for naught. The actual Wilmot had sex with both women and men, but the movie avoids the man thing. John Malkovich shows up as the witty and courtly and likeable King Charles II. While watching this turgid mess, I kept think that Id seen Malkovich do this part, oh what, A MILLION TIMES? Seems Charlie wants Wilmot to pen some bawdy ballads or some such mawkish writings to delight the court, thus heralding the Restoration. Only after leaving the theater after watching this flop can you restore your sanity.
Speaking of losing ones mind, try sitting through Night Watch. This is a Russian vampire movie that flits back and forth through time with some of the cheesiest sets that Ive ever experienced, and with even cheesier dialogue. Good battles evil. Time stands still, then progresses. Monsters lurk and demons spawn. I honestly think they should give potential audience members peyote buttons to help them get through the night they are watching. The actors are interchangeable in fact, I think they really were interchangeable. I swear one guy played twenty bit parts. If you can figure out whats going on when the jetliner loses power and starts skimming rooftops and then moments later the folks on the plane are acting as if the flight has been smoother than silk, well. God love ya! Or maybe that was The High And The Mighty? Anyway, if bad Mexican horror movies are your cup of tea, this really bad Russian horror will probably delight you. By Michael Calleri ALT Movie Editor
Lets discuss, briefly, the Academy Awards. The main thing I want to know is this: what was Mickey Rooney thinking during the Oscar-winning Its Hard Out Here For A Pimp song and dance number? Was he thinking about Judy? Was he thinking, gee if we only had black kids with us in the 1940s? Was he in shock, and not really thinking at all? As the venerable Mr. Rooney, one of the last remaining living legends of Hollywoods Golden Age, sat in the audience at the Kodak Theater, was he wishing he were on stage? Or somewhere else?