Monday, February 9, 2009

At the Movies, 2/8/09

Ben Lyons starring in Taken: If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I make way more money than I have a right to. But what I don't have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have not acquired over a very short career. A lack of skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you don't let me host At the Movies, that'll be the end of it. But if you do, my reviews will find you, and they will kill you.

Lyons and Mankiewicz gave their picks for the Oscars on this week's episode of At the Movies. As usual, Lyons' picks are much better than his commentary. First, they gave their choices for Best Actor and Actress (including in a Supporting Role) and they all seem respectable. But then they get to their choice for Best Picture, for which Mank chooses Frost/Nixon, a pretty good movie but certainly not a better one than Milk or Slumdog Millionaire--which he continues to believe is overrated.

But all is forgiven for Mank when Lyons gives his choice--The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. This should be no surprise for regular viewers, he reminds us. Mank, once again, however else you may fault him, comes in as the voice of reason:

Mank: Regarding Benjamin Button, I'm finding myself liking it less and less the further I get away from it. I'm starting to see it more as technically astounding, no question, as you mention, but I see it as a gimmick. Well executed but not much more than a gimmick.

Lyons: You just brushed off technically astounding. I think that needs to be appreciated. And I think it was a premise, not a gimmick, and I kind of fell in love with the characters.

Well, what is a gimmick but a catchy premise without depth? A screenwriter comes up with a gimmick, but they describe it to the producer they are selling their screenplay to as a premise. Of course, what would really make Button more than just a gimmick movie is if Lyons could explain how the movie uses this "premise" to express something, which he has never done.

But I don't want to get too caught up on Button, especially since last week turned into anti-Button week (and I suspect there may be more of those to come through the Oscar pre-season). So here are a few other unfortunate Lyons-isms:

On Robert Downey Jr.'s nomination for Tropic Thunder, Lyons says: "I appreciate when the Academy honors comedic performances because it doesn't happen too often." This was right after they finished talking about the noms for Penelope Cruz in Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny.

On predicting the Oscars: "Lately, when actors win the SAG awards for playing real life people, they usually go on to win the Oscars". Take two obvious Oscar insights--early awards tend to predict the Oscars, and the Academy likes biopics--and turn into a "new" one. Brilliant!

Finally, there is Mank's poor attempt at pun, much less successful than his previous efforts. Referring to the way that all great baseball players are immediately compared against Babe Ruth, Manks says "There's a new Babe in town, and her name is Kate Winslet!" Thanks Mank, maybe you'll be a bit more successful next time.


Anonymous said...

He's right that comedies aren't as rewarded as drama even though comedy is actually much harder to do.

Not a new insight, either.

Scott said...

Yeah, that is generally true, especially for Best Picture and Actor/Actress, but the "Supporting" nominations (which is the category he was talking about) go to comedies all the time.

Anonymous said...

The last one I can remember are Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson and let's just say a lot of people were not into them winning not just because it was a comedy but they were more or less themselves or their persona.

Scott said...

The most recent comedic win in the Supporting category is Alan Arkin two years ago for Little Miss Sunshine. Abigail Breslin was nominated as well. Anyway, maybe it doesn't happen all the time, but it is not uncommon.