Thursday, March 4, 2010

my thoughts on the 2010 Oscar race

I have seen all of the Oscar nominated performances and movies in the major categories. Possibly more than several of the voting academy members.

Now, I have been accused of having a slightly “off beat” sense of… well, everything. So take this with a grain of salt. But I also did go to film school, and I DID see all the Oscar nominated performances in all the major categories. So while art is subjective, it’s also possible that I know what I’m talking about, or at the very least, what I like.

Let’s start at the top - Best Picture.

The Hurt Locker is the apparent fore runner in this category. Although very few people have actually seen it. I initially avoided it because of the subject matter (war, people blowing up) but ended up seeing it at a screening with a Q&A by the writer, who was very very cute. However, the movie didn’t really turn my crank. It was ok; yes, things blew up, and there were some very tense scenes. But I wouldn’t want to sit through it again and I wouldn’t buy the DVD when it comes out.

Avatar. Please see my previous rant in this very blog. Entertaining? Sure. Innovative? Certainly. Did it keep my attention? I’ll give you that, at least the first screening. Best picture? No way. Here’s a well guarded secret. It’s not a very good movie. It should have been nominated in Best Animated Movie, because there's nothing real in that movie. Nothing. (But it's not the best animated movie, see below).

Best Picture is a title that belongs to a movie like Gladiator. Or even Driving Miss Daisy, or Shakespeare in Love. Something memorable, epic and/or outstanding and something you can see over and over and in ten years still want to see it. In two years, Avatar will be very old news.

District 9. I could barely sit through the first half. I thought I was going to die. I almost left the theatre. The second half had more of a plot. And just as it was taking off, it ended. I vote no.

The Blind Side. I had very little interest in seeing this, but it got such good buzz I tossed the cinematic dice. I thought it was an ok movie, could have been on the Lifetime TV channel, and throughout I thought Sandra Bullock (who I love) was horribly miscast. And I couldn’t stop staring at Tim McGraw’s (who I really love) hairpiece. These ‘based on a true story movies’ never really set too well with me. No, sorry.

An Education. Did anyone actually see this movie? OK, then why is everyone raving about it. It was a mess! First of all, the HIGH SCHOOL GIRL who is barely 16 years old is dating Peter Saarsgaard who is easily in his mid-thirties. And an obvious slime ball. She threw her life away on this guy, it was achingly obvious how it would end up, there was no redemption at the end. A morality tale? Yes, if you’re 16 years old don’t date a 35 year old guy. Even if it is the swingin’ sixties.

Inglorious Basterds. It took me three separate screenings and the lure of a Q&A with Quentin Tarantino (who I love but wouldn’t want to be stuck in an elevator with under any circumstance) to get through this movie from start to finish. Lots of talking. Lots more talking. Quentin loves to write and it shows. If this were a novel, it would be longer than War and Peace. That said, sure, interesting, a few sporadic but really shocking acts of violence but all in all, an interesting story that doesn’t really come together until you’ve thought about it for a few days, it’s so dense.

Precious. I went to see this opening weekend when it was only on at the Arclight in Hollywood, and paid an obscene $15.50 to see it. It was so intense I had to go see it again a few days later. One of my friends, who is black, criticized the movie quite harshly, because things like that happen all the time and no one would believe it. Another of my friends, who is white, said he wasn’t interested in seeing it because that sort of thing happens all the time and he didn’t want to know about it. I think I enjoyed it the second time more, because it’s a fairly unconventional film, and I was able to absorb it better the second time. The kind of movie where you see it and your first thought is, this will win Oscars.

A Serious Man. Are you serious? This was one of the least interesting movies I have ever seen. You go into a Cohen Brothers movie expecting quirky. But not boring. I didn’t find anything about this movie interesting, particularly the main character.

Up in the Air. Even before this came out, they were already talking Oscar buzz. In the trailers it looked like a fairly standard, if slightly clever, romantic comedy. In the theatre it played out exactly like that. You could see the plot twists coming a mile away, although I did like the way it ended, slightly off beat. But best picture? Hardly.

That leaves us with Pixar’s Up. I saw this movie six times in the theatre, and was exhilarated each and every time. Pixar is nothing short of downright amazing. I see a lot of animated movies (and I include Avatar in this category) and none of them have the charm, the sophistication, the depth of Pixar movies. Up is a glorious movie from start to finish and has some of the best characters ever brought to life on screen.

Those are the nominated movies. Now, some of my favorite movies from last year are not mentioned.

A Single Man is by far my favorite movie of the year, I have seen it six times, the first with a Q&A with writer/director Tom Ford (who is amazing, and beautiful), the last with a Colin Firth (who is also amazing, and beautiful). To me, this is hands down the best picture of the year. I understand that it has a relatively small audience due to the subject matters, but that is unfortunate, because it’s a stunning movie from start to finish, that will endure for decades.

My second favorite movie of the year is 500 Days of Summer. Also not nominated. Also I have seen 5 or 6 times. A stunning movie, on so many levels, and much more than it appears to be. Everyone who I have dragged kicking and screaming to this movie has loved it, and said, wow, that’s so not what I thought it was going to be. Zooey Deschanel is and always will be annoying. This movie is carried by Joseph Gordon Levitt, who I had the chance to talk with briefly after another screening, and I told him I was actively campaigning to have him nominated for best actor. Didn’t happen, and I’m not sure he believed me, but at least I had the chance to say.

Star Trek was a movie that had been bandied about for possible Oscar consideration, in the end it didn’t make the cut. I went into this movie with very low expectations, and was very pleasantly surprised. JJ Abrams did a wonderful reboot of the franchise. And a very enjoyable, entertaining and provocative movie in itself. I would have included it in the nominated pictures. Although it doesn’t deserve to win.

Also, Nine was stunning. Stunning.
I also loved The Proposal.
And I loved Fame, which got shot down in flames before anyone had the chance to see it.

Best Actress
Sandra Bullock in The Blind Side. I love Sandra, but see above. She seemed horribly miscast and I didn’t believe her for a second. She was awesome in one of my real favorites of the year, the Proposal alongside the wonderful (on many levels) Ryan Reynolds.

Helen Mirren in The Last Station. An engaging movie and Helen’s performance was completely flawless.

Carey Mulligan in An Education. Well I didn’t like this movie, and she was in every frame. Coincidence?

Gabourey Sidibe in Precious. Completely believable and real. I didn’t feel like she was acting at all. Heartbreaking.

Meryl Streep. I love Meryl, as do all gay boys. And I enjoyed the movie Julie and Julia, both times I saw it. I had some problems with the filming of the movie - the awkwardness of having Meryl stand on a box throughout the movie to appear as tall as the real life Julia Child was extremely distracting and unnecessary. And I did feel the performance was a touch self conscious.

My choice? One would think Helen Mirren, a great performance in a period piece would be the forerunner. Press has Sandra Bullock getting the award for being adored and successful, or Meryl based on her track record (I also loved Meryl in Fantastic Mr Fox).

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges was stunning in Crazy Heart. Just stunning. Completely inhabiting the character. It was so real you could smell the booze on his breath.

George Clooney. I’ve never liked him, since way back when he was annoying on ER, and then had the haircut in the 90s and makes everyone (but me) swoon. I’m sorry, not a fan, for many reasons. Not the least of which is that he chews the scenery through every movie I've ever seen him in.

Colin Firth. See above. A Single Man is an outstanding movie that connected with me on so many levels. Colin is in every scene and Colin is the movie. First rate all the way. Hell to the Yeah!

Morgan Freeman in Invictus. I thought this movie was boring and really hard to watch. I must admit I didn’t make it to the end, so it’s possible he pulled something out of his hat and left the room in shreds. What I saw of it didn’t affect me though.

Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker. Gorgeous guy. Well acted. Not a classic performance. He's got better things coming.

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz. Can’t stand her, ever, even in Nine, which I loved. I can’t believe she was even nominated last year for her screaming in that awful Woody Allen movie, let alone won. Ugh. Please go away.

Vera Framiga in Up In The Air.
A solid performance but nothing truly ground breaking.

Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart. An OK performance in an OK movie. I’ve never found her particularly appealing for some reason. Her brother, Jake, on the other hand…

Anna Kendrick in Up In The Air. Ok, she was cute and did a good job. She’s got the stunned fish out of water look down pat. Next.

Mo’Nique in Precious. I walked away both times from this movie saying she deserves an Oscar. I never thought she would be nominated, because the performance is extremely dark in a very dark movie. Good for her though, she deserves this. Will she get it? If she can get out of her own way, I think so.

Best Supporting Actor
Christopher Plummer in The Last Station. Supporting actor? Wasn’t he the main character, Leo Tolstoy in the epic finale of Tolstoy’s life? Supporting actor? Regardless, he was brilliant and completely engrossing.

Matt Damon in Invictus. Matt Damon is wonderful as Jason Bourse and in nothing else. Please make a note of it.

Woody Harrelson in The Messenger. A hard movie to watch. As much as I’m totally infatuated with Ben Foster, this movie was hard to take. Woody was so awful in 2012, whatever good he accomplished here gets cancelled out, sorry.

Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones
I loved this book and the movie was sort of interesting but nothing even approaching the novel. That said, Stanley’s performance is quite perfect. Such a marked contrast from his also great role in Julie and Julia, which makes it all the more obvious.

Christophe Waltz. Really, the only common thread in the disparate chapters of Inglorious Basterds. Again, Supporting actor? He deserves Best Actor. Completely creepy and also pathetic, and 100% believable.

Best Director

Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker
James Cameron for Avatar
Quentin Tarantino for Inglorious Basterds
Lee Daniels for Precious.
Jason Reitman for Up in the Air.

My personal feeling is Lee Daniels for Precious. He made some interesting choices. I don’t think he will win. I think it’s between Bigelow and her ex husband James Cameron. But it would be cool if Tarantino wins.

Best Song
Two tracks from The Princess and the Frog, a Disney animated movie, written by Randy Newman. A great movie, under appreciated. The music plays a huge part in the ambiance. But can you hum a note from either of these songs?

'The Weary Kind' from Crazy Heart. T Bone Burnett deserves the nomination, the music is integral to the film.

'Take It All' from Nine. A woefully under appreciated movie. This song is one of the three huge stand outs in the movie, and Marion Cotillard's performance is heartbreakingly fierce.

(the other song I don’t know as I never saw the movie 'Paris 36')

Best Animated movie
Coraline – stunning stop motion animation, clever, but kind of a thin story.

Fantastic Mr Fox. I ended up seeing this three times, though not entirely of my own volition. An uneven movie - the first 20 minutes are so good, the rest can never catch up, and there are some embarrassingly awkward moments towards the end, as well as some classic Wallace and grommet style animation farce.

The Princess and the Frog. A wonderful movie from Disney in conventional 2D animation, a lost art and simply gorgeous. Slightly unmemorable, though.

The Secret of Keli (I have not seen this)

Up – see above. I can’t tell you how much I love this movie. On so many levels simply Up Standing

©2010 Rod Reynolds

Monday, March 1, 2010

on judgement, and saying too much

Sunday morning. I’d slept in a bit, I had been up late Saturday night, a bit of an almost date maybe, a massage client/ fuck buddy took me out for dinner after the massage portion but, somewhat oddly, before the fuck portion (because usually they happen synchronously). I don’t like to eat late because it keeps me up past my usual sleep time, which is around midnight at the latest.

So I was in the shower this morning when he called, and I put a load of laundry in and was getting ready to spend a half hour on the treadmill at the gym, then breakfast at eat well, as usual, then meditation at the labyrinth to prepare for my day.

But there was a message, at 9:07 am, which is unusual, particularly for a Sunday. And it wasn’t from my credit card company, which was a nice change of pace. So I listened, “Hi, this is Brian, I’ve seen your ad a few times and was wondering if you are available this morning.”

Hmm. Well, I have several ads running, because I do several things. No indication in the message as to what he was looking for. So I called. “Hi, this is Brian.”

"Hi, this is Rod, you just called me a few minutes ago.”

"Oh yeah, Hi., I saw your ad on craigs list."

Still, no clue. Is he calling about my handyman ad? My massage ad? Body grooming? Does he want a photo shoot? de-cluttering? Or does he want to buy that dresser I have posted in the for sale section. Or that framed 1968 Beatles poster I have been trying to sell for more than a year.

Ah, the perils of being a jack of all trades (the second part of that phrase is master of none, but I prefer to leave that part off. )

‘Great. What are you looking for?” I said, casually, and, perhaps, somewhat tenuously.

He seemed confused, perhaps a bit annoyed, like am I that stupid that I don’t know what I am hawking on craigs list. “You do massage, right?

Yes. Are you looking for today?
Right now?
Do you want to come here or do you want me to come there?
Can you come here?
How soon can you be here?
I can leave right now.

He gave me his address. The deal was in the bag. Fortunately I had already showered for the gym and was ready to leave. Since it was Sunday, I had decided to wear my good sweat pants, the thinner ones that aren’t as warm as the thick ones, but they make me look thinner and/or more shapely, and they have pockets so they almost look like pants. If I wear underwear I can get away with wearing them out in public. This is America after all,. So I don’t have to take my pants and change in the truck in the parking lot at the gym, like I do pretty much every morning.

So I was all ready to go. I hopped in the truck and headed over to Melrose and La Brea, a neighborhood in which I had lived for several years, so knew it well. It’s about a 40 minute drive, with little to no traffic. But that’s ok, it’s Sunday morning, there won’t be much traffic.

Although invariably I get stuck on Franklin behind someone Sunday driving 20 MPH and no passing lanes all the way up to Western. Ugh.

So it took me a little longer than I would have liked, but I was only ten minutes late from my projected 10 am arrival time,

And I found a place to park, which is almost unheard of in that neighborhood.

I walked up to the sprawling, well maintained house, a Silver BMW in the driveway, immaculate front yard with a high wood fence. I couldn’t find the entrance. So I called, “Hi, I am out front, but I can’t find the entrance.”

He said, do you see the silver BMW?
Go right into the garden and I will come and get you.

A minute later, what I thought was just a fence actually opened up in one section and it was a gate. No latch, no handle on the outside. Clever!

Brian was tall, average body, short curly gray hair, attractive but unremarkable. His left hand ever so lightly grazed the tip of his crotch as he motioned me inside. He was wearing sleeper sweat pants and no socks. It was a bit chilly for no socks, I thought.

We stepped into his living room, and I said, How’s it going. He said, good.

I followed him in to the bedroom and took off my jacket. I was wearing a white tank top (wife beater) and have worked out every day for the last four days in a row. So everything was sticking out where it should and not sticking out where it shouldn’t.

Without slowing, without missing a beat, or pausing for reflection, he walked over to his dresser, and reached into his wallet.

He turned back to me, “Here’s $40, how about we call it a day.”

Wow, I wasn’t expecting that.

He put the money in my hand as I pulled my jacket back on. I left without saying another word, and neither did he. I imagine he was expecting me to say something, but at that point, what can you say.

Aside from being mortified, “God Bless You” was my thought.

But I didn’t say that. I thought of Marianne Willamson; she often says, when you have a problem, you go, I need to go talk to god about this, let me get back to you.

But not out loud.

I thought about last night, when having an uncomfortably late dinner, at 10pm, at a diner in Los Feliz, with my favorite fuck buddy and/or massage client whom I’ve have had a serious crush on for months. We’ve gotten together quite a few times, usually late at night. Usually when he’s been out drinking.

His name is Luis. He is a great guy, Latino, very black hair, attractive (I’d have absolutely no problem being seen in public with him, or taking him to an event where I would be meeting some friends), but not so much that I am intimidated. Just slightly bigger than me; enough to totally turn me on, but not enough to make me feel small. Perfect smooth light brown skin and a great attitude, even though he is an actor (ugh) he is also a writer (yay). Plus he’s buff as hell, and always smells great (which is more crucial than one might casually think).

Somebody told me once, any relationship can only move as fast as the slowest person in it, which is true, but frustrating. I’m a Gemini, I want things to move fast.

But, we’ve been slowly inching along, we even got to the point where he told me his real name, and I told him mine.

Wow, this is what intimacy means in 2010.

Real names? You must be kidding!

So we had progressed to having a casual (meaning he was in sweat pants, and the event was spontaneous, we just both happened to be hungry, late dinner in a trendy (lots of asymmetrical haircuts and black clothes) los feliz cafĂ© on a Saturday night. This was almost a true “shave above the knee” event.

While I am not really open to people about writing my series/book, for proprietary reasons, I do sometimes talk about it, and Luis and I had spoken quite a bit about my writing project, without going into too much specifics.

So at the same time, while we were eating, we were talking about it in more detail and he seemed fairly taken aback about what I do.

“You actually clean people’s houses in a jock strap? Or naked? I just can’t imagine doing that! “

He seemed kind of bemused, maybe a little turned on, maybe a whole lot horrified at the same time.

I was telling him what I have learned, through course in miracles and science of mind, to not judge people, to live in the moment, to surrender, to forgive everyone all the time for everything.

He said, you must get some real mean people. You must get some very strange people calling you.

Of course, I said but by now I can usually tell by their emails or phone calls and some people I don’t follow up with, or I say I’m too busy (which, truthfully, I am),

I have also learned a new perspective from Marianne Williamson – what would Jesus say? “I like him.” And to go with that.. which is to say, without judgment.

You know, it actually works.

Also I meditate and pray before I go into anyone’s house, I ask to be safe, to know what they really want, to allow me to help them. And for lots of money,

He laughed at the last part, which I had quickly added, while true, but also because I could see his eyes start to glaze over when I started talking about taking god with me to my jobs, about seeing the innocent child of god in everyone, and about praying before (also during and after) each and every client.

I thought about Marianne, saying, you say all this, but “to your self”

I thought about this last night as I was going to bed alone, because when we got back to my place, Luis gave me a hug instead of coming up for “the usual”, and said, “we should get together this week.”

A mixed message.

I wondered if I’d over stepped the comfort zone with the god and prayer issues.

It also might have been the naked jock strap cleaning house thing
Or the body shaving and grooming of total strangers.

He said he could never do that. Whereas I see this ability (willingness, and lack of judgment) as an asset.

Or maybe he was just tired, as he had claimed.

But I felt like maybe I had laid out just a little too much of myself for him.

So back to not saying “God Bless You” to Brian.
I didn’t say it, but I thought it. As I was walking back down his sidewalk to my truck. Way too early on a Sunday morning.

And I thought, he must do this a lot, because he didn’t seem at all awkward about telling me to leave. And he was also thoughtful to give me $40 for my time. It all seemed fairly , while not exactly smooth, or rehearsed, but comfortable for him to turn someone down who is standing on front of him and tell him, you’re just not good enough, please go away.

He judged me big time.

And I really felt judged. In the truck on my way to breakfast I thought, it’s so funny because just yesterday I had a client who was rapturously excited with me, telling me how amazing I am, how much he loved my hair, and my body, and my touch. (and my dick, duh).

And here mere hours later, I am pushed away.

I went home, and looked at myself in the mirror. Am I that hideous? It reminded me of back in college, I would spend hours getting dressed and made up and looked like I just stepped out of Duran Duran, to go out to clubs, and I’d go there and stand there alone (or dance alone), and I’d go home and I’d cry and I’d want to die (apologies to Morrissey for that line, but it sums it up perfectly.)

So what do I learn here? I just show up. I am the same person for both guys. All three guys. All guys. All people.

Yeah some days I have more time to work out than others, but essentially I was the same person standing naked (physically and/or emotionally) in front of both guys, and getting completely opposite reactions. Therefore it can’t be that I’m doing something wrong. I can accept that, and I don’t need to judge either of them.

I did feel like he lost out in this situation, because a) I’m very good at what I do and b) he clearly needs to relax. I am curious as to his thought process when he opened that gate and I was standing there, and in that brief fraction of a second, barely having said three words to each other, he decided it wasn’t going to work out. That brutal snap of instantaneous judgment. It can’t have felt good,.

What a shame.

I feel like we both lost out.

And I do feel judged..

And I think I need to keep my thoughts about god to myself.

I am off to the labyrinth to meditate on this.

©2010 Rod Reynolds