Tag Archives: Film

The Greatest Oscar Trolls of All Time

We all love to hate the Oscars, and who can blame us? It’s an evening that combines the insider back-slapping of an awards ceremony with the suffocating cultural dominance of the Super Bowl, all glossed in a smarmy veneer of tradition and prestige. At least the Golden Globes offer the possibility of drunken celebrity antics as a distraction, but the Academy Awards are as self-serious as they are inescapable.

Despite all this hate, very few people receive that golden opportunity to share it with the world during the Academy’s special night. It’s not enough to simply be nominated or appear on stage; you have to actually win an award (or host the show) to have enough of a chance to tell everyone where they can stick their golden statuettes. Those who make it that far tend to have an affinity for the Oscars, either on merit (taste is a fickle mistress), or because they can’t ignore the career-bolstering prospects of winning one.

Unless your name is Marlon Brando, whose career needed absolutely no help when he won Best Actor for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Instead of accepting the award (or even attending the ceremony), Brando sent Sacheen Littlefeather to lecture the film industry and America in general about the mistreatment of indigenous cultures. While Leonardo DiCaprio attached a similar message to the end of his Golden Globes acceptance speech for The Revenant, Brando’s grand gesture remains the gold standard of Oscar trolling.

None of these other examples reach Brando’s level, but they are all admirable efforts, each of which I will rate on a scale of 1-10 Brandos.

The Refusal Club

Brando wasn’t the only person to refuse an Oscar. He wasn’t even the first. Screenwriter Dudley Nichols refused to accept an award for writing The Informer in the 1930s in solidarity with the writers strike at the time, and George C. Scott famously refused in 1970 when he won for Patton, stating he didn’t feel he was in competition with other actors and referring to the ceremony as a “meat parade.”

Both of these refusals are admirable, but aside from the Scott’s meat parade comment, they lack the misanthropy and schadenfreude of a good troll, so I’m going to give them 5/10 Brandos.

Redgrave And The Z-word

Vanessa Redgrave got creative with her trolling when she won Best Supporting Actress in 1978, going after an issue close the heart of the film industry – the Israel/Palestine conflict – rather than the film industry itself. Redgrave’s open support of Palestinian rights put her at odds with many of her peers, and her nomination for a film that had nothing to do with the Middle East drew loud protests from the Jewish Defense League.

Redgrave was the first Oscar winner of the night. Apparently, she thought putting all her opponents on blast would set the right tone for the rest of the ceremony.

The highlight of Redgrave’s rant is the incendiary “Zionist hoodlums” remark, which is the kind of easy-bake troll phrase that would inspire millions of angry tweets if someone said it this Sunday. Regardless of whether or not you agree with Redgrave’s politics, getting up and saying those words in front of that audience takes some serious lady-balls, which is why I give this 8/10 Brandos.

Franco Phones It In

The Oscars are about as cool as Hillary Clinton, but they’re always finding convenient ways to ignore how hopelessly out-of-touch they are with young people. The Academy ignored the issue again in 2011 by picking two youthful actors out of a hat, selecting James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts and setting the stage for what can only be described as a high-art performance of longform Oscar trolling by Franco.

There’s no point of comparison for Franco’s career trajectory, aside from maybe a drunken sparrow with a clipped wing. His acting resume his filled with indie detours and vanity projects, and the list of colleges he has attended rivals his blockbuster filmography. Every time Franco is on the cusp of superstardom, he sidesteps it in a way that seems incredibly ill-advised, but follows its own internal logic. He’s basically a film industry Kanye West, only he gets more leeway because he’s white.

Franco entered the 2011 the Oscars as host and a nominee for Best Actor, with his starring role in that summer’s Planet of the Apes reboot looming on the horizon. Everything was looking up, which made it the perfect time for Franco to tear it all down and deliver a dismissive middle finger to those in the industry who saw him as the next mindless rom-com heartthrob or superhero action figure stand-in.

Or maybe he was really stoned. We’ll never know.

It’s not that Franco didn’t want to be there so much as he just wasn’t there at all. His demeanour suggests someone whose focus was far away from the teleprompter, or Los Angeles county for that matter. Franco mumbles while looking at his shoes, steps on punchlines, and glances around with a facial expression that’s equal parts bemused, bored, and blissful, all while Hathaway flails around in a desperate attempt to counter his apathy.

Refusing the hosting gig would have simply left the spot open for a young celebrity likely eager to make a good impression, but ostensibly buying into the Academy’s cynical appeal to coolness allowed Franco to sabotage the awards from the inside by becoming the living embodiment of dead air and leaving a massive hole in the proceedings when they needed him most.

9.5/10 Brandos.

The 10 Best Blockbusters of 2015

2015 was a banner year for blockbusters. Hollywood set new records at the box office by topping $11 billion domestically, and although that hasn’t stopped some executives from crying about piracy, it’s safe to say the film industry is alive and well thanks to a glut of engaging, enjoyable big-budget entertainment to go along with all the other crap that gets churned out every year.

Here are 10 of the year’s best films that grossed at least $100 million domestically:

10 – Furious 7

The Fast and/or Furious franchise may be guilty of cynically hopping on the superhero franchise money train by turning its motley crew of underground street racers into globetrotting secret agents who save the world from behind their steering wheels, but it was ahead of the curve on the globetrotting part. The latest – and most ridiculous – installment owns one of the highest worldwide box office returns of all time because of that foresight, with an assist from Paul Walker’s CGI ghost.

9 – Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

In the latest installment of Ethan Hunt’s Crazy Stunts, Tom Cruise: a) rides the side of a plane as it takes off; b) dives inside a water-cooled supercomputer, drowns, is shocked back to life and immediately engages in a high-speed motorcycle chase; c) impersonates the British prime minister; and… d) memorizes a bunch of banking information? Has he finally run out of cool things to do? That’s like disarming a nuclear bomb by smothering it in paperwork.

8 – Jurassic World

I could go on about Chris Pratt’s expertise in the field of Velociraptor whispering or Bryce Dallas Howard’s high-heel marathon training, but I’d rather brainstorm new names for super-dinosaur Indominus Rex:
-Ultra Roidraptor
-Modified Death Lizard 4.0
-Not Quite Godzilla
-Ol’ Sniffer
-Mecha Streisand

7 – Straight Outta Compton

It is a testament to how far western society has come that the remaining members of N.W.A. – a group of gangster rappers from Compton who were once on an FBI watchlist because of their music – are able to become movie stars and media moguls and return to their story two decades later to Hollywood-ize it into a hit film where women are mistreated and marginalized in service of noble male protagonists. And goddamn did they have a good time doing it!

6 – Ant-Man

Turns out a cutesy high-tech caper flick about a guy who shrinks and controls ants was just what Marvel needed to wash the antiseptic taste of Age of Ultron out of their cinematic universe ahead of the next tier or phase or whatever they’re calling it. There are hints of Edgar Wright’s visual style all over this origin story, making it difficult not to wonder how great things could have been, but settling for Michael Pena’s non-sequitur flashbacks and Paul Rudd’s “aw shucks I’m a superhero” routine is enough of a refresher in Marvel’s never-ending narrative clusterfuck.

5 – Inside Out

Pixar didn’t release a film in 2014, ending an eight-year streak, and three of its last four releases before Inside Out were sequels. Under these circumstances, basing your next tentpole kid’s film around the idea of accepting sadness as part of who we are seems like committing box office seppuku. Except it wasn’t. Family audiences were ready to feel all the feels in 2015, and now a generation will grow up believing there’s a tiny, raging Lewis Black inside all of us.

4 – Creed

The 21st century wasn’t asking for a Rocky reboot – or boxing films in general, for that matter – but nothing about Creed feels dated. Michael B Jordan’s titular son-of-Creed dates Philadelphia’s answer to FKA Twigs and Sylvester Stallone’s meal-mouthed pugilist seems charmingly confused by things like smartphones and “the cloud,” letting us know that yes, it is 2015 and hey, there are dirt bikes for some reason.

3 – The Martian

Calling The Martian “The Revenant in space” isn’t accurate, but I’m going to do it anyway because Matt Damon kind of resembles Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass after he’s been stranded on Mars for a couple years and ketchup is but a distant memory. The mood is surprisingly upbeat for a film about someone left for dead millions of miles from Earth, with plenty of jokes both intentional (Damon’s snarky commentary about the red planet and disco music) and unintentional (the depiction of NASA as a functional bureaucracy that has the public’s attention, trust, and money).

2 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Look, Episode VII is basically “A New New Hope” overflowing with nostalgic nods to the magic of the original trilogy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Despite all the narrative shortcuts, J.J. Abrams’ fanservice realigned the franchise with the traits that made it great, which was necessary following decades of missteps by George Lucas. Some people criticize the film for not exploring the galaxy’s post-Empire political situation in more detail, I suppose because all the trade-embargo-based drama had them on the edge of their seats during the prequels.

1 – Mad Max: Fury Road

The most amazing part about Fury Road isn’t that a 70-year-old director crafted 2 hours of post-apocalyptic vehicular insanity fresher than most action films made by people half his age. It isn’t the car stunt choreography that makes Furious 7 look like security footage from a parking lot. It isn’t even the dude playing a double-neck fire-spewing guitar while bungee-strapped to a massive speaker array. It’s how all of this insanity is part of a film about smashing the patriarchy, which is about as subversive as a blockbuster filled with explosions and testosterone can be.