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Mike Reyes, aka Mr. Controversy, has considered himself a writer ever since he was a child. He wrote for various school publications from about 1995 until 2006, and currently runs both The Bookish Kind and Mr. Controversy, which is an offshoot of the regular column he wrote in High School. He's also a film journalist/critic for Cocktails & Movies and CinemaBlend, as well as the author of several short stories such as "The Devil v. George W. Bush". Any inquiries for reprinting, writing services, or general contact, should be forwarded to: mikereyeswrites@gmail.com

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

The First Annual Big C Awards, or “Mr. Controversy’s Overdue, Underrated, and Out-Hyped Oscar Blog”.

Yes, this is extremely late, but if you were wondering what my opinion on the year's crop of "prestige pictures" was, here it is. Enjoy!

I love movies. I really love movies. No, you don’t understand, I really really love movies. So naturally, with that in mind, I end up following the Oscars yearly. Even the years I say I’ll never watch the show (Two of them being because Beyonce had to show her skank ass up, one of those being this past ceremony where The Dark Knight was robbed) I somehow end up in front of a flickering screen cheering or shouting and somehow feeling like the evening wasn’t a total waste. Indeed, the first Oscar telecast I ever remember watching was the one where Titanic won everything and L.A. Confidential was left in the cold. (Though history would be kinder to L.A. in the long run.) I was there for the Big Ship’s big night, I was there for Kevin Spacey winning Best Actor, I was there for the Academy’s triumphs (I dare you to tell me American Beauty or Gladiator didn’t deserve best picture) and it’s bags of fail (Shakespeare In Love and Crash?! Seriously, what the fuck longhairs?).

The past two years I’ve seen all of the best picture candidates, thanks to AMC’s Best Picture Showcase (or “Sorry, we don’t know how to Fandango correctly. Why don’t you go buy yourself a soft drink on our dime?”) and I feel I’m more informed with my Oscar decisions thanks to it. With that in mind, I will now set off to give my own (albeit overdue) rundown of the Best Pictures as well as the awards show itself. There will be opinions, there will be mancrushes, and there will be spoilers. (Also, drainage.)

The Films (The films will be reviewed in order of screening at the Showcase.)


As a heterosexual male, I thought this movie was going to be uncomfortable. I seriously thought I was going to have problems being able to watch this for what it is. (This is the reason I haven’t seen Brokeback Mountain yet.) Sure enough when the film started I realized that I was not only comfortable with the film, but I understood the love Harvey had for both of his boyfriends in the picture. Also, Sean Penn earned that Oscar, merely because I didn’t see “Sean Penn the Arrogant, Self Important Prick” on screen, I saw Harvey Milk as painted in Dustin Lance Black’s award winning script. On top of Mr. Penn's performance, you have an amazing supporting cast that includes James Franco, Emile Hirsch, and Josh Brolin; all of whom will undoubtedly be welcome back to the Oscars in the future. A very emotional film with a powerful political message. 5/5

The Reader

This is the ugly duckling of the pack, in fact many derided this as being part of the Best Picture pack. (Particularly Dark Knight fans who agree with what the stuffed shirt critics’ say, so it gives them bitching rights to how Dark Knight was snubbed.) It wasn’t that bad of a film, in fact it was quite good actually. However, it was the weakest of the bunch in the Best Picture crowd; and I think it could have benefited from more non-linear storytelling. (Start with the trial, then intercut the love affair.) I don’t know if Kate Winslet deserved the award for this film, but I’m glad it was for this over Revolutionary Road. (I’m still confused as to how I feel about that film, but I remember a lot of shouting.) However, you do get Ralph Fiennes in this film, and any excuse for Ralph Fiennes can’t be a waste, can it? 3.5/5

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Before I start with this one, I’d like to say that I do indeed know the Forrest Gump criticism holds weight. Both were films about southern men with extraordinary limitations who somehow make it through major historical landmarks and have great love affairs that are somehow impossibly short due to said limitations. Yes, this film did seem a little too long. Yes, an old baby is creepy. But I couldn’t help but buy the whole package part and parcel. It’s a whimsical fairy tale for adults, it’s an effective love story, and it helps that the whole film is beautifully filmed in loving attention to detail of the eras depicted. Plus, I’m a sucker for not only whimsy, but also good special effects and very classic Hollywood sensibilities. Oh, and Tugboat vs. U-Boat = FTW! 4/5

Slumdog Millionaire

Oh Danny Boyle…Danny freakin Boyle. I love what I’ve seen of your work with a passion, and I’m sorry to say that this didn’t take me as much as the others have. Don’t get me wrong, this was a pretty good movie. The concept was interesting, it wasn’t a remake or a biopic, and I still found myself smiling at the end when Jamal wins the million dollars. However, the stylistic route the film took wasn’t exactly one I felt fit the story. The slow motion bits were weird, M.I.A. gets annoying on the soundtrack (which really wasn’t all that good, in my opinion), and I never expected to see someone get killed to the tune of “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire”. Also, Salim was a MASSIVE dickhole throughout the film, and Latika kinda came off as too much of a bitch to all of a sudden love Jamal. I get that it was the underdog of the year (almost getting dumped to DVD thanks to Warner Brothers and Alan Horn’s shortsightedness), but I don’t think it was the picture of the year. 3/5


I am 100% biased towards pictures like these, so color my opinion however you may. This was an excellent movie with top notch performances and a hell of a final showdown. Had Sean Penn not locked it up in Milk (and Mickey Rourke hyped it up in The Wrestler) I would have said Frank Langella was going to walk away with the trophy. (I still kinda wish he did, because dude…it’s Frank Langella.) To see the character of David Frost evolve throughout the film was ingenious, because it does what you’re supposed to do with a history movie…focus on the unpredictable/unknown to the public element. Everyone knew Nixon, but hardly anyone knew Frost. After Michael Sheen’s performance, it’s hard not to know Frost. No actor wasted, no scene irrelevant, this is what political history filmmaking is all about. 5/5

The Awards Broadcast

After the year of milkshakes, strippers, and pneumatic air guns; you’d think the Oscars would become a little more practical. Turns out the Oscar given to Diablo Cody last year was just a small signal of the Academy trying to be “cool” and “different”. They got some of the awards right (Wall-E kicked the Panda’s ass, Heath Ledger finally got his due), and some of the awards wrong (Slumdog was not THAT good. It was an ok picture, but they couldn’t have shown more love for Wall-E on the best score front, and The Dark Knight on the Sound awards front.). Two big things they got right though were Hugh Jackman as the host, and Michael “Destined for Awesome” Giacchino as the evening’s conductor.

Unfortunately, the script for the show was as unbearable as the script to Juno. The Academy tried to be cool and hip with montages of the year’s “notable” films. (Read: The only time you’ll see Twilight, High School Musical, and Mamma Mia at the Oscars.) Speaking of those films, members from each of their respective casts showed up the ceremony to present mediocre clip reels, and the HSM/Mamma Mia kids got to skank it up with Beyonce in the “Musical is Back” number Baz Luhrman got to direct.

I feel incredibly sorry for Hugh Jackman, because this show was a freakin’ disaster. He has the prerequisite charm for hosting an awards show, it’s just that the writers need to improve their game. The Academy also has to realize it won’t be the hip media darling it wishes it was, and should stick to what they do best…overrating and underrating Hollywood’s notable works. The shit needs to stay home. (TWILIGHT?! FUCKING TWILIGHT got to be included in a clip reel! Yet there was NO love for In Bruges this year.) On a pleasant note, the opening number did made me laugh and I would agree that Anne Hathaway is the sexiest Nixon ever. (Nothing against Frank Langella, who’s a pretty handsome man for his age.)

In fact, here’s some notes to the Academy on exactly what should be done for the 82nd Academy Awards:

Notes to the Academy:

- Stop being “hip” and inviting today’s “hot talents” to be included in the ceremonies. They might think they have a shot at winning an Oscar themselves. (FREAKIN HANNAH MONTANA PROVED IT!)
- Seriously, lose Beyonce. The first time she was on was passable, the second annoying, now unacceptable. (Side note: She should NEVER be allowed to sing “At Last” EVER AGAIN! It is NOT her song, don’t let recent generations think otherwise. Etta James needs to put some hurt her badly.)
- No more “Yearbooks” of the past year’s “hit movies”. Stick to the movies that deserve awards, not what all those airheaded teeny boppers went to see when they couldn’t get into Watchmen.
- Keep Michael Giacchino. He’s amazing. Also, keep John Legend. He too is amazing, and he should record a cover of “Down To Earth” just to spite Peter Gabriel.
- No more multiple nominees for best song from one film. How many times have I told you, and yet you pull this shit?! (see also Dreamgirls and Enchanted) There are PLENTY of good songs out there, and you don’t have to limit it to two films. Also, perform the whole song. No shortcuts.
- The previous winner’s presenting format wasn’t too bad, but really do we need that much of an orgy of praise for the winner? Go back to having last year’s winners announce it, they deserve it.
- While you’re at it, go back to showing clips of the performances and the nominated films. How else are people going to know what you’re talking about without seeing the films themselves?
- Give Hugh Jackman another shot, only this time give him a show…not just drippings from Jimmy Fallon’s bedpan.
- Let something like “The Dark Knight” win for Best Picture. It’s okay to like comic book movies, especially really well done ones.

The “Big C” Awards

Best Picture - Milk was hands down the best picture of the year. It had heart, it told its story, and it didn’t stoop to maudlin tactics to do so. In a weaker director’s hands, this would have been shit, but Gus Van Sant manages to elevate this above a simple f-you for not passing Prop 8. This sense of gravity only rubs salt into the wound of anyone who dared to vote in favor of this horrible atrocity of unconstitutionality.

The “Juno” award - Slumdog Millionaire was the “cool kid” of the year. I’m glad Danny Boyle got an Oscar, and I can live with that quite well. However, this was NOT the best picture of the year, and I think it only won because of not only the hype and awards momentum, but also the “ethnic sensitivity” vote. (See also: the “diversity” vote that won Crash best picture in 2006.

The “Milkshake” Moment “When the President does it, it’s NOT illegal” from Frost/Nixon. Though, unlike “I drink your milkshake”, this had power and fury behind it…not farce.

The Michael Clayton (aka “I’m Incredibly Biased Towards This Film Due to My Poli Sci Degree/Taste in Movies”) award - Again with the Frost/Nixon love. This joins the ranks of previous winners L.A. Confidential, Saving Private Ryan, Good Night, and Good Luck; and Michael Clayton.

The Tearjerking Moment of the Year - This one is a tie between the march at the end of Milk and the epilogue at the end of Benjamin Button. At the end of Milk, when people are marching in memory of Harvey Milk’s brief, but important life; I couldn’t help but be moved. (Roger Ebert and I agree again.) But equally eye misting is the end of Benjamin Button, the moment when they show you all of the characters the way you’d want to remember them. Alive and well, at the height of their life’s achievements, doing what they love and being where they love. It only enhances the classic Hollywood feel.

The Epic Fail award -
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. They know what they did.

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