Oscars 2010: The armed forces vs the alien insurgents.

Oscars 2010: The armed forces vs the alien insurgents. (photo)

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Despite the early buzz around “Precious” and the timely subject matter of “Up in the Air,” it’s looking more and more like this year’s Oscar race is going to come down to a battle of the exes, of the alien insurgents versus the armed forces, the most expensive film ever made against a particularly well-funded indie.

The Academy Awards are going to war, and it’s “Avatar” versus “The Hurt Locker” with nine nominations each — unless, of course, “The Blind Side” sneaks in and steals the win. It wouldn’t surprise me — with this year’s ten film Best Picture race, there’s a feeling that anything goes.

Best Picture
“The Blind Side”
“District 9″
“An Education”
“The Hurt Locker”
“Inglourious Basterds”
“A Serious Man”
“Up in the Air”

Best Director
Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”
James Cameron, “Avatar”
Lee Daniels, “Precious”
Jason Reitman, “Up in the Air”
Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”

Best Actor
Jeff Bridges, “Crazy Heart”
George Clooney, “Up in the Air”
Colin Firth, “A Single Man”
Morgan Freeman, “Invictus”
Jeremy Renner, “The Hurt Locker”

02022010_theblindside.jpgBest Actress
Sandra Bullock, “The Blind Side”
Helen Mirren, “The Last Station”
Carey Mulligan, “An Education”
Gabourey Sidibe, “Precious”
Meryl Streep, “Julie & Julia”

Best Supporting Actor
Matt Damon, “Invictus”
Woody Harrelson, “The Messenger”
Christopher Plummer, “The Last Station”
Stanley Tucci, “The Lovely Bones”
Christoph Waltz, “Inglourious Basterds”

Best Supporting Actress
Penelope Cruz, “Nine”
Vera Farmiga, “Up in the Air”
Maggie Gyllenhaal, “Crazy Heart”
Anna Kendrick, “Up in the Air”
Mo’Nique, “Precious”

Best Animated Feature Film
“Fantastic Mr. Fox”
“The Princess and the Frog”
“The Secret of Kells”

Best Foreign Film
Argentina, “El Secreto de Sus Ojos,” Juan Jose Campanella, director
Israel, “Ajami,” Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, directors
Peru, “The Milk of Sorrow,” Claudia Llosa, director
France, “Un Prophète,” Jacques Audiard, director
Germany, “The White Ribbon,” Michael Haneke, director

Best Original Screenplay
Mark Boal, “The Hurt Locker”
Quentin Tarantino, “Inglourious Basterds”
Alessandro Camon and Oren Moverman, “The Messenger”
Joel and Ethan Coen, “A Serious Man”
Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, “Up”

Best Adapted Screenplay
Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell, “District 9″
Nick Hornby, “An Education”
Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci and Tony Roche, “In the Loop”
Geoffrey Fletcher, “Precious”
Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, “Up in the Air”

Best Documentary Feature
“Burma VJ”
“The Cove”
“Food, Inc”
“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers”
“Which Way Home”

05202009_inglouriousbasterds.jpgBest Cinematography
Mauro Fiore, “Avatar”
Bruno Delbonnel, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”
Barry Ackroyd, “The Hurt Locker”
Robert Richardson, “Inglourious Basterds”
Christian Berger, “The White Ribbon”

Best Film Editing
Stephen Rivkin, John Refoua and James Cameron, “Avatar”
Julian Clarke, “District 9″
Bob Murawski and Chris Innis, “The Hurt Locker”
Sally Menke, “Inglourious Basterds”
Joe Klotz, “Precious”

Best Original Score
James Horner, “Avatar”
Alexandre Desplat, “Fantastic Mr. Fox”
Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders, “The Hurt Locker”
Hans Zimmer, “Sherlock Holmes”
Michael Giacchino, “Up”

Best Original Song
“Almost There,” music and lyrics by Randy Newman, from “The Princess and the Frog”
“Down in New Orleans,” music and lyrics by Randy Newman, from “The Princess and the Frog”
“Loin de Paname,” music by Reinhardt Wagner, lyrics by Frank Thomas, from “Paris 36″
“Take It All,” music and lyrics by Maury Yeston, from “Nine”
“The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart),” music and lyrics by Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett, from “Crazy Heart”

Best Costume Design
Janet Patterson, “Bright Star”
Catherine Leterrier, “Coco Before Chanel”
Monique Prudhomme, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”
Colleen Atwood, “Nine”
Sandy Powell, “The Young Victoria”

Best Art Direction
Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg for art direction, Kim Sinclair for set decoration, “Avatar”
Dave Warren and Anastasia Masaro for art direction, Caroline Smith for set decoration, “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”
John Myhre for art direction, Gordon Sim for set direction, “Nine”
Sarah Greenwood for art direction, Katie Spencer for set direction, “Sherlock Holmes”
Patrice Vermette for art direction, Maggie Gray for set direction, “The Young Victoria”

Best Visual Effects
Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones, “Avatar”
Dan Kaufman, Peter Muyzers, Robert Habros and Matt Aitken, “District 9″
Roger Guyett, Russell Earl, Paul Kavanagh and Burt Dalton, “Star Trek”

Best Makeup
Aldo Signoretti and Vittorio Sodano, “Il Divo”
Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow, “Star Trek”
Jon Henry Gordon and Jenny Shircore, “The Young Victoria”

05132009_up.jpgBest Sound Editing
Christopher Boyes and Gwendolyn Yates Whittle, “Avatar”
Paul N.J. Ottosson, “The Hurt Locker”
Wylie Stateman, “Inglourious Basterds”
Mark Stoeckinger and Alan Rankin, “Star Trek”
Michael Silvers and Tom Myers, “Up”

Best Sound Mixing
Christopher Boyes, Gary Summers, Andy Nelson and Tony Johnson, “Avatar”
Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett, “The Hurt Locker”
Michael Minkler, Tony Lamberti and Mark Ulano, “Inglourious Basterds”
Anna Behlmer, Andy Nelson and Peter J. Devlin, “Star Trek”
Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers and Geoffrey Patterson, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”

Best Documentary Short
“China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province”
“The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner”
“The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant”
“Music By Prudence”
“Rabbit à la Berlin”

Best Animated Short
“French Roast”
“Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty”
“The Lady and the Reaper (La Dama y la Muerte”)
“A Matter of Loaf and Death”

02022010_thedoor1.jpgBest Live-Action Short
“The Door”
“Instead of Abracadabra”
“Miracle Fish”
“The New Tenants”

[Photos: Cameron on the set of “Avatar,” Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 2009/Bigelow on the set of “The Hurt Locker,” Summit, 2009; “The Blind Side,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 2009; “The White Ribbon,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2009; “Inglourious Basterds,” Weinstein Company, 2009; “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” Sony Pictures Classics, 2009; “Up,” Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2009; “The Door,” Octagon Films, 2008]

Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman


Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.

2. IKEA Heights

ikea heights

IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.

3. Fresno


When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.

4. Soap


Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.

5. Too Many Cooks


Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.

6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace


Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.

7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV


Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.

8. Twin Peaks


Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…

9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks


Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.

10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show


The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.

11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)


Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”

12. Acorn Antiques


First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.

13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show


In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)

14. The Spoils of Babylon


Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.


15. All My Children Finale, SNL


SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

Seven hit foreign films that aren’t getting nominated for an Oscar.

Seven hit foreign films that aren’t getting nominated for an Oscar. (photo)

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In a few hours, the final five nominations for Best Foreign Film are going to be announced. But none of those five — or the nine shortlisted — were submitted on the basis of great success in their home country.

That’s no secret: if box office determined distribution of foreign films in America, we’d all be watching, say, “Vicky the Viking,” a German family comedy about the adorable lil’est Viking and his pals instead of “The White Ribbon.” (Don’t tempt me, really.)

Nonethless, it bears examining seven movies that conquered their domestic box-offices without making a dent here, with the Academy or otherwise.

02022010_fossevoce.jpg“Se Eu Fosse Você 2,” Brazil

This translates as “If I Were You 2,” a sequel to a hit comedy about a squabbling husband and wife who switch bodies. It was subsequently outgrossed by “Avatar” and the inevitable “Ice Age 3,” which meant Fox — also a distributor on this — had a very good year. In this movie, the husband and wife switch bodies again, which apparently leads to hilarious jokes about the guy having to sit down when he goes to the bathroom. Say what you want about mainstream American film comedy: at least our big hits no longer milk the old straight-man-acting-flamboyantly-gay gag.

02022010_rooperi.jpg“Rööperi,” Finland

Coming in behind “Avatar,” “Ice Age 3″ and “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” “Rööperi” is described by one IMDB user as the Finnish equivalent of “Goodfellas” (back of the line, behind all the other contenders), which kind of makes me want to see it. You have to wonder what nearly two-and-half-hours of garish evocations of the ’60s Finnish hard liquor market is like, domestic soundtrack and all. As IMDB user “aku_rouhiainen” notes, “the Movie started to feel boring after 30-60 minutes, but it was still ‘watchable’ and the actors didn’t grown up while the movie ANY!!! They looked just same all the time.” Sold.

02022010_madeinhungary.jpg“Made in Hungária,” Hungary

Here, we know Hungary best as the home of Béla Tarr and similarly severe auteurs. This, of course, is not what the Hungarian audience watches. The highest-grossing Hungarian film of 2009 was this peppy musical about a Hungarian youth returning from abroad with his Jerry Lee Lewis records, who promptly introduces the kids to duck’s-ass haircuts vaguely anti-Communist sentiments. I have no idea why this hasn’t been released here: the older component Landmark Theatres crowd would probably love to see early ’60s rock, youth and innocence in a foreign tongue.

02022010_youchanged.jpg“You Changed My Life,” Philippines

“You Changed My Life” is the sequel to “A Very Special Love” by the prolific Cathy Garcia-Molina, who’s apparently conquered the Filipino rom-com market with a slew of indelibly titled movies: “Bcuz of U,” “Close To You,” “You Are The One,” “You Got Me!,” “One More Chance,” “My Only U.” The trailer before is for “A Very Special Love,” which looks incredibly generic but is kind of funny. I’m mostly including this because in reading up on the film, I discovered the useful Filipino term “kilig,” a neat, two-syllable encapsulation of all that giddy, butterflies-in-stomach mythology romcoms sweat so much to produce naturally. I’m glad I learned it and would like to invite you to introduce it into our vernacular.

02022010_inhabited.jpg“The Inhabited Island,” Russia

The Strugatsky brothers are arguably Russia’s best-known science-fiction writers: Tarkosvky filmed one of their novels as “Stalker,” Alexander Sokurov made a typically impenetrable movie “inspired” by them, and James Cameron was accused of plagiarizing them for Avatar. An adaptation of their “The Inhabited Island” was the most expensive Russian production yet at $36.6 but failed to make back the budget; still, it made more money than any Russian film last year (though Part II only grossed less than a third of the first installment, so audiences apparently caught on). The plot is some kind of gibberish about a heroic 20something on an alien planet leading a revolt against tyrants; summary is here.

02022010_bangkoktraffic.jpg“Bangkok Traffic Love Story,” Thailand

According to its valiant struggle of a Wikipedia summary, “Bangkok Traffic Love Story” is apparently less schizoid than the trailer below, which veers from frantic farce about a woman drinking too much to recapping pretty much all the film save the final reconciliation. Thailand’s film industry is in good shape at the domestic box office; “Bangkok” came in 4th for the year and decimated “This Is It” during an opening-weekend stand-off. I’m intrigued by Wikipedia’s suggestion it’s the first Thai movie to really cater to the young single female urbanite crowd so frequently targeted here; apparently it struck quite a nerve.

02022010_recep.jpg“Recep Ivedik 2,” Turkey

According to IMDB user “skipper65,” the character Recep Ivedik “represents a typical opportunist, selfish, arrogant, insensitive, annoying urban character. In an ordinary day in Istanbul you see such characters in the form of a lady driving a jeep while using her cell phone and violating traffic rules and putting others in danger.” The movie made a great deal of money, but 2/3 of the IMDb comments are virulently negative: “sinekritik” says “early all jokes are based on swearing and the movie has no storyline.” Based on the trailer, this really is some “Borat” type territory, only a lot, lot ruder: in the first 30 seconds, Recep pants a guy on the street, beats a grocery store manager with leeks and throws a pizza in someone’s face. It looks at least as good as “Step Brothers.”

[Photos: “Wickie und die starken Männer,” Constantin Film Verleih, 2009; “Se Eu Fosse Você 2,” Fox Filmes do Brasil, 2009; “Rööperi,” Nordisk Film Theatrical Distribution, 2009; “Made in Hungária,” Budapest Film, 2009; “You Changed My Life,” Star Cinema Productions, 2009; “The Inhabited Island,” Art Pictures Studio/Non-Stop Productions/STS, 2009; “Bangkok Traffic Love Story,” GTH, 2009; “Recep Ivedik 2,” Özen Film, 2009.]

The problem with the Razzies.

The problem with the Razzies. (photo)

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As per tradition, tomorrow’s Oscar nomination announcements were preceded by today’s nominations for the Golden Raspberry Awards, this year celebrating 30 years of recognizing the worst of the worst. At least in theory.

There’s long been something unsatisfying about the Razzies. On one hand, they obviously act as a deflation of the pompous and self-congratulatory qualities of the Oscars. They’re there to forcefully mock bad films, with “bad” carefully undefined. The small, really dreadful films no one’s ever heard of or seen except the people professionally obligated to watch them — say, “How to Seduce Difficult Women,” one of the most laughable things I’ve seen in recent memory — get a pass. Their targets are the movies that’ve been punchlines all year long. No real surprises amongst this year’s nods — you’ll find “Old Dogs” here, and “All About Steve,” and “Land of the Lost” too. With the exception of “Transformers 2,” these are all movies more people hate than have actually seen.

That’s true of a lot of Razzies nominees, which tend to break down into a few categories: lowbrow comedies (“Norbit,” “White Chicks,” “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo”), high-profile debacles with a heavy component of financial failure (“Lady In The Water,” “The Adventures of Pluto Nash,” “Catwoman”), and those rare fiascos almost no one sees before mocking (“Swept Away” with Madonna, Uwe Boll’s “In The Name of the King”).

This doesn’t strike me as an especially courageous way of going about things. The jokes are easy and have been pre-written for months, staple fare for late-night opening monologues. The further back you go in time in Razzie history, the more nominees you find that are pretty beloved: the campy “Road House,” nominated for five Razzies in 1990; or the critically re-appraised likes of “Cruising,” “Heaven’s Gate” and “Ishtar.” (I hope to see “Freddy Got Fingered” get its well-deserve rehabilitation soon.) The others have mostly faded from memory: who can recall, say, 1989’s “Lock Up,” with Sylvester Stallone taking on warden Donald Sutherland? (The Wikipedia summary is a must-read.)

02012010_hottie.jpgIn my ideal world, the Razzies would be run not by smarter-than-average industry people, but by cranks like me convinced the entire awards hierarchy is beyond repair. Ideally, the Razzies would duplicate the more “respectable” nominations of the legitimate awards ceremony. Instead of wasting a 2008 nomination on, say, the instantly forgotten Paris Hilton vehicle “The Hottie and the Nottie,” why not nominate “The Reader” — nominated for Best Picture, infamously mocked within the ceremony itself by host Hugh Jackman? There’s always one undeserving frontrunner every year: why not nominate “Precious” or, I dunno, “Avatar,” if you’re feeling punchy? Why waste that bile on “Land of the Lost”?

Another problem is that a lot of viewers approach bad old movies with a special affection they can’t muster up for actual quality fair. It’s true that movies’ self-evident cheese can wear better than their ostensibly more respectable counterparts. For 1989 I’d certainly rather watch “Lock Up” than real-life Oscar winner “Driving Miss Daisy” (or fellow nominee “Dead Poets Society,” for that matter). And which is the more lasting national punch-line 20 years later? The Razzies’ affection for, uh, razzing of bad films almost misses the point — in the ’80s, it canonized a kind of alternate viewing list for cultural masochists. These days, it just singles out stuff just as excruciating to watch now as 20 years from now. “The Cat In The Hat,” anyone?

[Photos: Razzies trophy, courtesy of John Wilson and The Golden Raspberry Award Foundation; “The Hottie and the Nottie,” Regent Releasing/Summit Entertainment, 2008]

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