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The ‘Swag Bags,’ Are they Really Necessary?

Spending a small fortune on a gift basket for Oscar nominees really justified. According to online sources 21 gift bags will be given to the host and losing nominees in five categories including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Director at this year’s show on Sunday. Not only is the bag more than double in cost than last year’s, it is also the most expensive bag ever. However, these bags are not endorsed by the Academy itself.

With a range of things included, the most expensive product is said to be a little over $20,000. Personally, I think that the money invested in the bags could be better utilized if donated to charity. There are way too many expensive things for people who are already rich enough to afford it themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I am not thrashing celebrities here. But being nominated for an Oscar, the biggest movie award in the world should be enough as it is. Adding an expensive gift on top of that is not needed. I am sure the celebs themselves give a lot in charity but I can’t seem to get my head around the amount of money spend. Being nominated to awards that started in 1929, have enough power to not only give you credibility as an actor (let alone the fact whether you deserve it or not) it also gives you a name in the illustrated history of academy awards. Sure sponsors that add their products to the list to get some promotion in the press but is giving their products to Oscar nominees really the way to go? swag bags, as they are called, appear to be more of a marketing strategy than a way to congratulate the nominees. In 2006, The Academy itself voted to end the distribution of gift bags, but that obviously did not happen.

The swag bags are certainly nonessential. Possibly the worst thing there is in my opinion. It degrades the show by adding an over-expensive price tag on it. Everyone is a professional, everyone is nominated because of their work, because they have achieved that. There is a lot of poverty in the world, that could really use the amount of money spent on these bags. After all, millions of unknown people liking your work, praising it and wishing you the best, isn’t that the biggest reward there is?

Sources

http://www.redeyechicago.com/viral/redeye-2015-oscar-gift-basket-20150216-story.html

http://www.businessinsider.com.au/oscar-gift-bag-2015-2?op=1#a-549-bottle-of-dove-dry-spray-antiperspirant-and-another-bottle-of-dove-mencare-antiperspirant-1

 http://variety.com/2015/film/awards/oscar-nominees-gift-bag-25k-swag-bag-1201431221/

birdman-film-review

Shear Brilliance of Birdman’s Cinematography

Last night I had the pleasure to watch Birdman, and wow what a film!

Everything was superb from acting to writing to everything. But what was a clear standout for me was the cinematography. Rather the shear brilliance of Birdman’s cinematography. The one-long-take look of the film was indeed a pleasant surprise. I first noticed this long take when the film started, with Regan (Micheal Keaton) walking out of his room to the rehearsals of his play, then coming back to his room, followed by press interviews followed by everything else. I was patiently waiting for the long take to end, so that I could go back and watch it again. Little did I know that this long take would end with the film.

Flawless, ingenious and creative are some of the words that come to my mind when I think of this astounding feat. With camera following the characters from one room to the other than following another character out of the room to some place else. Going from indoors to out on the streets to the bar then back to indoors to the theater. Not only does it feel surreal, you feel what any character is feeling as the camera follows behind their feet. This made the characters more relate-able and eventually the impact of the movie is so powerful as you feel you are part of the film and the world created by it. One of the more memorable sequences is Keaton walking across Times Square in his underwear, you can feel the awkwardness as the camera follows him from the back alleys of the theater through the square and back into the theater from its main entrance. Whats even more impressive is that it was shot in 30 days.

After watching the film, I did some research on the cinematography of the film and wasn’t surprised when I came across articles like “Here’s How Ridiculously Difficult It Was To Film ‘Birdman’ In 30 Days” or “Oscar-winning cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki details the ‘dance’ of filming ‘Birdman’.”  Here the Oscar winner talks about how some of the scenes 7 to 10 mins long were shot more than 20 times to get them right. Let alone the obvious pressure that the cast and crew felt during these scenes. One hitch up would lead them to re shot the entire sequence again. Not to mention the lighting of every scene required different attention. Now that’s commitment.

Glimpses of his technique can be scene in last year’s ‘Gravity,’ more specifically in the opening scene. Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Lubezki have created here is an invisible character in the film and through that character’s eyes we see the film. That character is us, the audience. Needless to say Lubezki’s Oscar win won’t come as a surprise.

Wanna win an Oscar?

Oscars are almost here. People are making predictions on who’s going to win. To make well informed predictions, we need to look back at the trend. More specifically, trend for Best Actor Male. Colin Firth won for playing King George VI, Jean Dujardin for The Artist, Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln  and Matthew McConaughey for playing Ron Woodroof.

Notice the trend?

Out these 4 wins, 3 were playing a real life person. Each movie based on a certain predicament in the person’s life. If we look at this year’s and last year’s best actor nominees alone, seven out of ten nominations are for characters based on real life person. That’s 70% of the nominees. This year, Michael Keaton is the odd one out for being nominated for a fictional character. Last seen in 2010, when Javier Bardem was the only one nominated for a fictional character. So I guess it’s safe to say that actors playing a real person have an upper hand at best actor nods. One of the reason could also well be that Hollywood is producing far more ‘based on true events’ stories, featuring real life persons. Maybe as audience it is interesting to see on screen what we heard about in the news perhaps, as if  to see history come to live on the big screen.

Actors winning for playing a real person isn’t a new thing, first Oscar given for the same was in 1929/ 30. Be it Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle or Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, it’s a trend far more common these days. This in a way immortalizes the crisis that the character went though, how else would we have known about Ron Woodroof’s story or King George’s vocal training. Also, what are the chances that people knew much about the legal troubles that Facebook once faced.  What’s more, Daniel Day-Lewis who holds the record for winning 3 best actor Oscars won 2 for biopics. Coming to this year’s show, people who have seen Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of Steven Hawkins are raving about his fantastic performance. So his Oscar win won’t come as a surprise. Making a hat trick of Oscar-winning performances based on real person, following Day-Lewis and McConaughey, which will be a first. Also his chances of winning are increasing as he picks up best actor at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs.

So therefore to win an Oscar all you’ve got to do is star in a biopic, simple right?!

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Image derived from: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2170593/

Aren’t we all saints? St. Vincent Movie Review

Spoilers Ahead. 

St. Vincent, stars not one but 3 Oscar nominees, needlessly to say that expectations are quite high. Written and directed by Theodore Melfi, it deals with an unlikely bond between a young boy, Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) and his anti-social, unfriendly neighbor Vincent (Bill Murray) after he moves to a new home with his mother Maggie (Melissa McCarthy). Series of events leads to Vincent having to baby-sit Oliver after school, simultaneously and coincidentally Oliver has to prepare a saints among us presentation. While all this is happening, Maggie is going through a divorce and a custody battle with her ex-husband, during which Vincent’s pregnant, stripper girlfriend, Daka (Naomi Watts) enters. While the premise is interesting, the film isn’t.

Going by the logic shown in the film, it would appear that almost all of us are saints in one way or the other. Don’t we all do what’s right, look after our partners or occasionally do someone random a favor? Well that’s exactly what Vincent does, yet is proclaimed a ‘Saint.’ Oliver chose Vincent as his saint for his school presentation, even though he takes him to horse racing where gets the 13-year-old to bet money, after which he makes him lie about winning to avoid paying money to his debtors and takes him to bar quite a few times. Oliver then be-friends Daka, who Vincent refers to as his ‘Lady of the night.’ Only good thing that comes out of that is the Oliver starts to see the saintly qualities hidden in Vincent, like him taking care of his sick wife for 8 years or teaching him to fight and break noses. These ‘saintly’ qualities pale in comparison to not so saintly things Vincent does.

We can argue against all the qualities that Oliver uses to describe Vincent as a saint in his presentation. At one point, Oliver says that Vincent took him in when he didn’t have too. Well, Vincent gets money in return for ‘taking him in,’ so why wouldn’t he. Sure, he’s been to the war that would make him, a war veteran, not a saint. In the end I was left wondering what Melfi thinks a saint actually is, does a saint bash on religion? Does he talk to a 13 year of about strippers, sex, profanity and ‘lady of the light’? Does a saint gets his pregnant girlfriend to sell prescription medicines that he stole from the hospital? At point in the film he lashes out at Oliver, telling him to stop living his life through him, that comes after Oliver and his mother took care of him while he was in the hospital. If you ask me, his hard working mother Maggie is a bigger saint that Vincent ever could hope to be.

Brilliant performances by all the actors are let down by not so good script. Melissa McCarthy is a standout for me, especially in the scene with the Oliver’s principal and teacher.  Her changes of expressions from awkward laughter to crying are seamless and leave a long-lasting impact on you. Naomi Watts is unrecognizable in the prostitute attire and a thick accent, which she pulls off with a lot of charisma. Finally Bill Murray is great as not-so-likable neighbor, for me though he is not likable at all, which says a lot about his natural performance as Vincent, he becomes and lives his on-screen persona. His Golden Globe nomination is well deserved. Debutante Jaeden Lieberher is likable as Oliver, watch out for this kid.

What bugs me even more is that this film had a lot of potential. Seeing saint-hood qualities in worst of people is an intriguing theme, yet for me it did not come across. Wish Vincent came across as more of an enriched man than he did. I wanted to see what Oliver sees in him, but I couldn’t. I’ll think twice before watching this saint on-screen. After all he does gets his stripper girlfriend pregnant while still being married to his sick wife. If that’s not enough film stars off with Vincent having sex with Daka. I’ll leave it at that.

My rating, Two Stars.

Image derived from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2170593/

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