Monday, February 29, 2016

Insanity incarnate, and other Oscar thoughts

I haven't done my usual amount as a lead-up to the Oscars this year on my blog. In fact, I've done almost nothing.

So I thought I'd get in a couple quick thoughts in case you came to The Audient to prime yourself for this year's awards.

First off, the image you see next to you.

This is an event my friend Ross from my Flickchart discussion group on Facebook is attending. It's at the AMC 14 Georgetown in the D.C. area. (He's currently about to start The Revenant as I type this, but I'm posting it much later than I'm typing it, so you can't read this and still go try and catch the 5:10 a.m. showing of The Martian. Sorry.) That's right, all eight best picture nominees during a 24-hour period, with only short breaks in between. They charge $65 per ticket.

While on the one hand I think he's totally crazy -- especially since he's already seen all the movies, some of them more than once -- on the other it's something I totally would love to do some year. I'm curious how seeing all the nominees in such close proximity would change my thoughts on their respective merits.

I'd also love to be the one programming it. Specifically, the one deciding which films belong in which time slots, and whether that would reveal your own personal biases. Whoever did it this year has done a pretty good job. Brooklyn (the only one I have yet to see) seems like a nice soft introduction to the experience, a film that is totally suitable for a morning time slot. This could also reveal the biases of the programmer, as the first one is obviously the one everyone will be freshest for. The Big Short seems to make a pretty logical follow-up, keeping things at least comedic if not light throughout, then Room hits you with a bunch of depressing shit mid-afternoon. The Revenant keeps you down at that level to such an extent that Spotlight, even though it's about child molestation by Catholic priests, seems like a comparative ray of light. Spotlight is also in what's considered the most traditional time slot for a centerpiece, though as the fifth film it's debatable whether that really matters at that point. Mad Max of course makes a terrific midnight movie (it's essentially the most critically acclaimed midnight movie of all time). Bridge of Spies gets kind of the short shrift I suppose, but one hopes that residual energy from Mad Max would give it something of a boost. Then The Martian, well, this is when you really sleep I guess, if you weren't already doing so during Spies. But being the last movie also gives it something of a position of program prominence. You'll feel like Matt Damon just trying to survive at that point.

I don't ever expect to live in the D.C. area, but maybe one of the theaters will do this in a city where I do live someday.

Michael Keaton vs. his former director

If conventional wisdom holds and this is a best picture race that boils down to The Revenant vs. Spotlight -- though I'm told not to count out The Big Short -- then one of two creative people will be a repeat winner from last year.

Actually, there are probably any number of creative people Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu used on both Birdman and The Revenant, most prominently cinematographer (and likely three-time winner) Emmanuel Lubezki. But for the purposes of simplicity, let's boil this down to Michael Keaton vs. Inarritu.

Keaton was of course the star and one-time frontrunner for best actor in Birdman, and when he lost to Eddie Redmayne, I at least hoped that appearing in the best picture winner would serve as a nice consolation prize. Now he's up for just the latter prize this year with Spotlight.

Inarritu, on the other hand, won best director for Birdman. If The Revenant wins best picture, it will be the first time in history that the same person has directed consecutive best picture winners. Another best director win would just be icing on the cake, and both of these things might happen, even though The Revenant has earned its share of backlash.

I guess I'm rooting for Keaton to come out on top in this battle.

Although I didn't see Spotlight in time to rank it with my 2015 rankings, it would have been a contender for my top ten for sure. What's more evident as time goes by is that I would not rank The Revenant in my top ten if compiling my rankings today, even as amazing as the movie looks. It got my #9 spot, already falling from the #4 spot where I had initially inserted it after seeing it. Given another week it might have been down around #15 or even #20. I still think it's a very good film, but I also think that at its core, it's pretty empty. As is, though, it's my highest ranked best picture nominee, so I can't say I'd be entirely disappointed if it won.

How we almost didn't see the Oscars

The Oscars will of course play live while we are at work on Monday, so we'll need to stop checking the internet as soon as Sunday at 5:30 PST/8:30 EST rolls around. (Which will be right when my lunch starts, so at least I'll get in some morning internetting).

It airs on Australian TV both live, and delayed to start at some weird time at night, like 9:45. We obviously want to record the live one so we can start watching it with our dinner, though even then my wife might not make it through the whole thing. (She didn't last year.)

But any and all plans came within about 24 hours of being scuttled.

Until around Sunday morning at 9:30, we didn't have any idea why we weren't getting any TV channels on our TV.

Since neither we nor our kids tend to watch much on live TV these days, we hadn't troubleshot it very aggressively. But as the Oscars snuck up on us this year, we realized only recently that we needed to get it sorted out prior to Monday, or else it wouldn't be possible to either record the show or watch its delayed broadcast.

We'd tried restarting our Fetch box, our intermediary device that offers us on-demand and queues of free programming, mostly television shows. The on-demand was working fine, but not the TV channels. I'd also felt to the back of the TV to see if the antenna was plugged in, and it surely was.

By Sunday morning I was really worrying. It was too late to get a vendor involved or to try to replace a malfunctioning Fetch box. I started wondering if the Oscars were the kind of thing you could catch on YouTube, or even buy somewhere on the internet.

Fortunately, my wife -- the real brains of our operation -- had the good sense to check the other side of the antenna, the wall side. It was here that it was unplugged, likely by one of our kids.

Now we have the Oscars set to record and can be fairly certain that they actually will do so.


Enjoy the ceremony, and check this space for my obligatory post-Oscars recap. Even though I was slack on pre-Oscars posts, I do (sort of) commit to providing you one of these.

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