Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Alternate Oscars: 2014

A combination of personal favorites and consensus picks ...

Note: while I have set up the polls so that you can only vote once for picture, director and the four acting categories, you may click on multiple answers in the Special Award poll.


My choices are noted with a ★. A tie is indicated with a ✪. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ. Best animated feature winners are noted with an @. A historical winner who won in a different category is noted with a ✱.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Alternate Oscars: 2013

I started writing a rant the other day responding (eight years late) to Neil deGrasse Tyson's rant about the scientific inaccuracies in the 2013 movie Gravity and then decided before I was done that I didn't care anymore. That pretty much sums me up these days, fighting to finish a thought before my brain throws in the towel.

If you're not a regular viewer of the Science Channel, Tyson is the degrassehole who kicked Pluto out of the solar system. When Gravity first came out, he was as full of helpful nitpicks — e.g., "Nearly all satellites orbit Earth west to east yet all satellite debris portrayed orbited east to west" — as he is evidently full of himself.



I have no doubt everything he said was true (he is after all an acclaimed astrophysicist) but his criticisms were also beside the point. Going to the movies for scientific accuracy is like going to McDonald's for salad. I mean, sure, there might be one in the back of the fridge, but do you really want to eat it?

What's important is that a movie establishes its rules up front and then lives by them, come hell or high water. Warp drive in Star Trek? Vampires in Nosferatu? Letters of transit in Casablanca? Not even remotely realistic. But we accept them because the characters in the movie accept them and make their plans accordingly.

Gravity establishes the rules early on and lives with the consequences to the very end.
I think Tyson made the same mistake a lot of people make when watching a movie, confusing the plot's mechanics with the story's meaning.

If you haven't seen it, Gravity is the story of an astronaut (Sandra Bullock) who is marooned in space after a catastrophe destroys her ship and kills her crewmates. Armed with nothing but her wits, a spacesuit and the oxygen on her back, she makes one harrowing leap after another into the unknown, searching for a way home before she runs out of air or burns up in the atmosphere.
That's the plot.

What it's about, though, is a woman who's been marking time since the death of her daughter, drowning in a pool of grief she can't escape. Sure, she's still active — she's an astronaut, fer Chrissake! — but she's going through the motions. Now, however, thanks to circumstances beyond her control, she has to make a choice whether she's going to get on with her life or join her daughter in the great beyond.

If you did this same story starring a woman sitting in a silent room with a ticking clock, the critics would lap it up with a spoon, but nobody would watch it. Put her in a spacesuit and play out her therapy while she's gasping for oxygen? Now you've got something.
It's like that show from a couple of decades back about a middle-aged man with mother issues who pours out his soul to his psychiatrist every week. Pretty dull stuff, right? But make him a gangster, call him Tony Soprano? The rest is television history.

Love Gravity or hate it, to base your opinion on its fidelity to astrophysics is to confess you don't know what movies are for.

Oh, and for the record, Neil deGrasse Tyson loved Gravity. Me, too.


My choices are noted with a ★. A tie is indicated with a ✪. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ. Best animated feature winners are noted with an @. A historical winner who won in a different category is noted with a ✱.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Alternate Oscars: 2012

I picked The Avengers as the best movie of 2012, not because I'm a fanboy — I only got around to watching the entire Marvel series this year — but because of its cultural impact. The Marvel Universe is more lucrative than Star Wars, and more entertaining to boot. And without this first of the super hero mashups, that doesn't happen.

That it's also smart and witty is the cherry on top of the sundae.

Which is not by way of trying to sway your vote. Just explaining mine.

By the way, whatever else you may think of Silver Linings Playbook, it does feature the funniest-ever review of one of my favorite Ernest Hemingway novels:



Okay, have at it:


My choices are noted with a ★. A tie is indicated with a ✪. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ. Best animated feature winners are noted with an @. A historical winner who won in a different category is noted with a ✱.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Alternate Oscars: 2011

If you're looking for Shame, Melancholia or The Tree of Life, you've definitely come to the wrong place ...

No Meryl Streep either. She won an Oscar for playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady but seriously, come on! Talk about your "dingoes ate mah baby" performances! The Academy can't find somebody else to honor?


My choices are noted with a ★. A tie is indicated with a ✪. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ. Best animated feature winners are noted with an @. A historical winner who won in a different category is noted with a ✱.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Alternate Oscars: 2010

Ah, now we're getting to something new. Well, I say new — these movies are eleven years old — but it's the first all-new set of alternate Oscars I've done since I quit after the 2009 polls. I had no juice left after a year of fighting cancer, and besides, the Washington Nationals were busy winning the World Series. Who had time for Oscars?

Time to get on with the rest of my life.

2010 was a solid year for movies without any one outstanding film that truly set the world on fire, at least not that I remember. Inception seems to have shown up on cable more than any of the others, so I voted for that. But you wouldn't be wrong to choose something else. Unless I didn't nominate it, in which case, you're out of luck.
In fact, that's kind of how I feel about everything from here on out — who knows what overlooked treasure will eventually rise to the level of a classic and what Oscar winner will sink under the surface never to be seen again? Certainly not me.

Note: Even though child actress Hailee Steinfeld was in virtually every scene of True Grit and is the driving force behind the action, the Academy nominated her in the category of best supporting actress — it's a family tradition. I've promoted her to the lead where she belongs.


My choices are noted with a ★. A tie is indicated with a ✪. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ. Best animated feature winners are noted with an @. A historical winner who won in a different category is noted with a ✱.

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Alternate Oscars Two-fer Tuesday: Best Actor of 2008 and 2009

A two-fer Tuesday: the best actor of 2008 and 2009. (And yes, I'm listening to Two-fer Tuesday on Breakfast with the Beatles ...)

For those keeping score at home, The Dark Knight did well in my 2008 polls, winning best picture, director (Christopher Nolan) and best supporting actor (Heath Ledger as the Joker in the last performance of his career). Sally Hawkins won best actress (Happy-Go-Lucky) and Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) was the best supporting actress.

As for 2009, Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds won best picture, director and supporting actor (Christoph Waltz). Carey Mulligan won best actress for her terrific work in An Education, and Mo'Nique won best supporting actress for the most oddly named film of that or any other year, Precious: Based On The Novel 'Push' by Sapphire.

Have at it.


My choices are noted with a ★. A tie is indicated with a ✪. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ. Best animated feature winners are noted with an @. A historical winner who won in a different category is noted with a ✱.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Alternate Oscars: 2007 (Re-Do)

I actively avoided There Will Be Blood for a decade — perhaps because the famous line "I drink your milkshake!" led me to believe it was a comedy about dairy products. Glad I finally saw it. It's a terrific tale about an oilman (Daniel Day-Lewis, winning the second of his three Oscars) who gains the world and loses his soul. Look it up, you might like it. (You can read my review here).


My choices are noted with a ★. A tie is indicated with a ✪. Historical Oscar winners are noted with a ✔. Best foreign-language picture winners are noted with an ƒ. Best animated feature winners are noted with an @. A historical winner who won in a different category is noted with a ✱.