Life gets in the way of movies

Considering that on Jan. 24, the day the 2012 Oscar nominations were announced, I had seen only two of the 46 nominated movies and 15 shorts, I’m not in bad shape. As of today, I’ve seen 24 of the full-length features and four shorts, with plans by the weekend to reach a total of 31 features and 14 shorts. That’s an average of six movies and three shorts a week. To see them all would take about 125 hours.

I don’t HAVE 125 hours.

You don’t wanna be married to me this time of year unless you’re also a movie junkie. My husband loves movies but refuses to see the “junk” (although “The Tree of Life,” tops on his list, we later trashed; it helps to watch it while trashed, actually).

Colleague Jim Cheng shares my passion — his record is 209 movies during the 1996-97 Oscar season. Of this year’s nominees, his tally is 24 features, 0 shorts. I’d say “I win,” except he saw all of his at the actual theater. He considers my necessary “On Demand” viewing cheating, even if I am equipped at home with a 60-inch screen, which I am.

I try to see them in the theater, but fewer theaters are bringing nominees back in February, probably because they can’t compete with the on-demand services. So demanding. Typically I go it alone, a solo endurance test, but my equally insuppressible friend Ellen Stucker and her teenage son went a few paces with me this month, joining a smattering of buffs pumped with caffeine at early-bird shows. (I work nights. … I do manage to hold down a full-time job even during Oscar season.)

Still, 31 out of 46. It takes commitment. Another friend, who sees a movie religiously almost every Friday night with his spouse, managed to catch only 13 of this year’s nominees. Focus, people!

How many have YOU seen?

  1. The Artist
  2. The Descendants
  3. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
  4. The Help
  5. Hugo
  6. Midnight in Paris
  7. Moneyball
  8. The Tree of Life
  9. War Horse
  10. A Better Life
  11. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  12.  My Week With Marilyn
  13. Warrior
  14. Beginners
  15. Albert Nobbs
  16. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  17. The Iron Lady
  18. Bridesmaids
  19. A Cat in Paris
  20. Chico & Rita
  21. Kung Fu Panda 2
  22. Puss in Boots
  23. Rango
  24. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  25. Anonymous
  26. Jane Eyre
  27. W.E.
  28. Hell and Back Again
  29. If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
  30. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
  31. Pina
  32. Undefeated
  33. Bullhead
  34. Footnote
  35. In Darkness
  36. Monsieur Lazhar
  37. A Separation
  38. The Adventures of Tintin
  39. The Muppets
  40. Rio
  41. Drive
  42. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
  43. Real Steel
  44. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  45. The Ides of March
  46. Margin Call


  1. The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement
  2. God Is the Bigger Elvis
  3.  Incident in New Baghdad
  4. Saving Face
  5. The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom
  6. Dimanche/Sunday
  7. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
  8. La Luna
  9. A Morning Stroll
  10. Wild Life
  11. Pentecost
  12. Raju
  13. The Shore
  14. Time Freak
  15. Tuba Atlantic
More of my useless, against-the-stream picks tomorrow.

Moonlighting at the movies

Best Actress Academy Award

Best Actress Academy Award (Photo credit: cliff1066™)

My second job each February: cramming on all of the Oscar-nominated movies. And I mean ALL of the nominees, not just the Best Picture category.

Fios On Demand and the Hulus and Netflixes of the world make it easier to be an expert. I have never been as close to a total sweep as I am this second.

But I’m running out of time.

Some flicks shall remain beyond reach. Among the doc shorts, “God Is the Bigger Elvis” is tied up in some copyright loop. Nyah-nyah, I won’t root for it, then. GO, “Barber of Birmingham”!

And now that our girls are grown, I am gleefully skipping all of the animated features. (Unless someone wants to rent me a kid?)

I can’t, and have no desire to, see the third “Transformers” flick, because I don’t have 3-D capabilities at home and it won’t play any other way. A convenient excuse. And “Real Steel“? Please, no. It’s “The Champ” with robots. Let’s just say it won’t — can’t possibly — win.

Cannot find three of the five nominated full-length documentaries, nor four of the five foreign films, although “Bullhead” is coming soon to a theater near me, West End Cinema in D.C. Not soon enough. Pity — shame — I didn’t go out to the arthouse cinema more in 2011. The import I did see, “A Separation,” has to be the most important. It remains my favorite film experience of the year, with “The Descendants” a close second.

Of all the Oscar-touched films I can see … ye gads, I still have eight left, and we are four days (and four nights) away from the Oscar gala.

Still need to squeeze in:

  • Midnight in Paris” — a must, nominated for Best Picture and Original Screenplay;
  • “W.E.” — which was brought back by a very thoughtful and hip theater in Shirlington, nominated for costume design;
  • “Drive,” for sound editing — and my work pal Jon Briggs’ top pick for everything (I believe it’s the only one he saw);
  • Both sets of live-action shorts and animated shorts, playing at the local cinema arthouse. They collectively count as two movies, in my scheme;
  • The final “Harry Potter” installment  — I have missed the last three, but who cares, read all the books;
  • “The Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” I am tempted to skip this one, except I secretly hope it pays homage to the original, which I saw in theaters 44 years ago and whose final twist gave me my first lesson of how movies can power light bulbs in the dark (i.e. spark imaginations).
  • “Margin Call,” which actually looks good. Original screenplay and adapted screenplay have always been among my pet categories.

My picks so far? To be fair, I can review only those categories for which I have seen every nominee. Starting with perhaps the toughest call, and the earliest in the program:

Best Supporting Actress

MY PREDICTION: The smart money is on Octavia Spencer of “The Help.” For me, though, her character Disneyfied the movie. The anachronistic, undignifed prank sank it. Sure, I laughed and cried, but it was pure manipulation. Should we vote for someone simply because her character was written well — with sass and sell, ah, so memorable for American audiences? She did a fine job — all the nominees did. Janet McTeer‘s pathos, Melissa McCarthy’s mirth, B. Bejos’ mime. Yet …

MY PICK: Jessica Chastain. A win for her would still help “The Help,” but she was no caricature, having to invent a woman both comic and complicated. She also deserves the bump for enduring the hack job that was “The Tree of Life.”


MY PREDICTION & PICK: “Hugo” and “War Horse” are probably close contenders but, because they could win in other categories, this Oscar goes to the misunderstood (for good reason) “The Tree of Life.” Mind-blowing cinematography is all this psychotropic tripe has going for it, besides such winning performances as those of Jessica Chastain, Brad Pitt and the kid playing young Jack — oh, and sadistic dinosaurs, exploding frogs and lots and lots of foliage.

To be continued … gotta watch more movies.