THE AUTHOR

Ian Casselberry is a freelance writer, currently based in Asheville, NC. He is an editor at The Comeback and Awful Announcing

Previously, he has been a contributing writer for Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew, MLive.com and SB Nation. In addition, he was a lead baseball writer for Bleacher Report. 

You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook, where he craves your attention.

He still plans to write that novel someday. 

("Pearls Before Swine" © 2005 Stephan Pastis)
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Entries in Oscars (5)

Monday
Mar032014

'Ordinary Love' isn't that bad a song... unplugged

Trying to get settled back in — and back on the horse with this blog — after spending a week in Florida to watch the Tigers in spring training. (There was also a road trip to Clearwater to watch the Phillies and Blue Jays. I was hoping to take at least one more, but scheduling didn't work out.) 

After unpacking, doing laundry, grocery shopping and other catching up after a week away, sitting down to watch three-and-a-half hours of the worst Academy Awards show I can remember was tough. (At The AP Party, I wrote something on Lupita Nyong'o and how she saved the evening.) I have no problem with Ellen DeGeneres as a host. She's a fantastic comedian and fun talk show host.

But she just couldn't make that thing go Sunday night. Not sure it was entirely her fault, though. The whole production was a mess, with long pauses, missed cues, cameras on the wrong people and abrupt cuts. 

Many people are ragging on U2's performance during the show. More specifically, I think people don't like their Oscar-nominated song, "Ordinary Love." But I liked the acoustic rendition. (I wonder if the band got the idea to play it that way after doing so on The Tonight Show a week or so ago. Or maybe they were working on it then and wanted to try it out.)

No, it's not U2's best song. Far from it. However, it's a catchier tune stripped down. I've been listening to it often today. 

Sunday
Feb242013

Ranking the 2013 Best Picture nominees

With the Oscars just hours away as I write this, I doubt many will read. Besides, you've likely already read plenty of picks and predictions.

One of the casualties of my baseball-writing gig taking up most of my writing time over the past year is that I haven't had an opportunity — or haven't taken the time — to write much about movies. That bums me out, since it's one of my favorite pastimes. 

Rather than write thoughts — quick or otherwise — on the 2013 Best Picture nominees, I'll rank them instead. Unlike last year, when I saw only six of the choices, I actually saw eight of nine this year. That surprised me, since I felt like I didn't get to the movies as often as I wanted to over the past 12 months. 

Anyway, here's how the Best Picture nominees rank to me. Life of Pi is last, fairly or unfairly, because that's the one I didn't see.

  1. Zero Dark Thirty
  2. Argo 
  3. Django Unchained
  4. Lincoln
  5. Silver Linings Playbook
  6. Amour
  7. Beasts of the Southern Wild
  8. Les Miserables
  9. Life of Pi

I think The Grey and Moonlight Kingdom should be on this list, replacing Life of Pi and Amour. But this is the list we have. 

I was going to rank Argo first, until I realized what I "didn't like" about Zero Dark Thirty was that it wasn't as good as Kathryn Bigelow's previous film (and 2010 Best Picture winner), The Hurt Locker. That's not really fair, as it's not judging the movie on its own merits.

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Argo is certainly more of a crowd-pleaser, getting people cheering at the end like a sporting event. But Zero Dark Thirty just reaches inside and grabs you. The infamous torture scenes aren't an endorsement; they're a mirror. Bigelow is forcing us to look at that part of our history. I feel like she's asking us if the ultimate result was worth compromising our conscience. 

While the story isn't told in a truly linear fashion, with the narrative broken up into segments or chapters instead, there was surely a lot of down time when nothing of note happened in the 10-year process of hunting down Osama Bin Laden. How much time had passed when nothing was accomplished is an important part of the story. 

If I picked based on which movie I enjoyed the most, Silver Linings Playbook would be my choice.

I realize it's a polarizing film among critics. The movie doesn't really delve into mental illness as much as it might think it does. But I don't really think that's what the film is about.

To me, it's more about finding people — friends, family or otherwise — that accept you for who you are, despite your issues and foibles. It's about confronting your mistakes and trying to become a better person despite them. Maybe that's a conventional story. The argument could be made that most romances are about that very thing. But it works. 

I think the awards will shake down like this, hardly going out on a limb with these predictions.

  • Best Picture: Argo
  • Best Director: Steven Spielberg, Lincoln
  • Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
  • Best Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
  • Best Supporting Actor: Tommy Lee Jones, Lincoln
  • Best Supporting Actress: Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
  • Best Adapted Screenplay: Tony Kushner, Lincoln
  • Best Original Screenplay: Mark Boal, Zero Dark Thirty

I wish Matthew McConaughey was a Best Supporting Actor nominee for Magic Mike. In my view, he was better than the five actual nominees. 

Saturday
Feb252012

'Your dragon tattoo cannot save you now'

All predictions seem to have The Artist's Jean Dujardin winning Best Actor at the Oscars Sunday night. And that wouldn't bother me too much, since I enjoyed that movie. Even though George Clooney should win for The Descendants.

It'll be interesting to see how Dujardin cashes in. Hopefully, it goes something like this.

 

I would go see "Larry Crowne 2" if Dujardin drowned Tom Hanks at the end. Especially if the sequel kept the Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty music, which is the one thing I enjoyed about Larry Crowne

Normally, I would do an Oscars predictions post, but there doesn't seem to be much suspense for this year's awards. Almost all of the categories seem to have heavy favorites. That could make for a really lame show, too. 

OK, I'll make one prediction: The show won't end until midnight. Billy Crystal won't be able to help himself, and from what I've read, he intends this to be kind of a celebration of all the previous Oscars he's hosted. I suppose the show is always self-indulgent, but this sounds even worse. 

Tuesday
Jan312012

Movie review: The Artist

I doubt I'm going to see all nine Best Picture nominees before the Oscars broadcast on Feb. 26. But of the six I hadn't seen previously, The Artist was the one I wanted to see the most. 

Maybe it's buying into the hype, but there's been so much talk about this movie from film festivals (including Asheville's) and year-end best-of lists that I figured I'd see it at some point. Of course, the idea of a modern black-and-white silent film getting so much acclaim was also intriguing. But was this a gimmick meant to stoke feelings of nostalgia among moviemakers? Or is The Artist actually a really good film?

At the risk of a cop-out answer, I think it's both. 

It's impossible not to be charmed by this movie. Everyone on screen seems to be having a great time. No one more than John Goodman, who really seems to relish overacting with his facial expressions and pantomimes. You don't even need the title card to know what he's saying.

Jean Dujardin captures the smiling, preening, swashbuckling, high-wattage style of the old-style movie actors. It's not at all hard to buy that his George Valentin is the kind of matinee idol that women want to be with and men want to be. With a thin mustache and hair slicked back by pomade, he's dashing in romances and rugged in adventures. 

Berenice Bejo plays exactly the sort of spunky gal that typified stars of the era, beautiful enough to make anyone turn and look at her, but ready to shake off that coat so she can dance. She's no China doll, Mister! Even her name, Peppy Miller, has moxie. ("The name's Miller! Peppy Miller!") 

And then there's the dog, Uggie. You will love that dog. 

Perhaps you could say the movie is about the constantly changing nature of art. What was popular and successful in one era becomes obsolete as technology and cultural tastes move on. Adapt or die. I think The Artist wants to believe this is what it's really about. 

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Dujardin is a star in silent movies, but with the advent of sound, "talkies" are the new rage and he's quickly seen as a dinosaur. Yet he still has major film ambitions — Get it? He's an artist! — and funds a tragic war epic with his own money. There's really no reason why he couldn't still be a star in movies with sound, though perhaps we learn why eventually. 

What he seemingly needs to do, above all else, is get over himself and realize that the movie industry is bigger than him, that the newest star is a flashy audition and discovery away from taking over the marquee. Or maybe he just needs the nurturing love of a good woman.

By the time the credits roll, you just feel good having watched The Artist. And I think that's what people are responding to, more than anything else. Do you have the feeling that you saw something "great"? No, but you have a smile on your face and maybe you want to do a tap dance in the lobby afterwards. That's what the movies used to make us feel before they got so damn serious. Or stupid. 

The AV Club's Nathan Rabin also astutely points out that The Artist doesn't have anything that would automatically raise a red flag as to why it would never win Best Picture. There's no unlikable lead character. It doesn't play loose with the facts. Nor is it a genre film. There's nothing at all challenging about this movie. So that's probably exactly why it will win the big prize. 

And in a way, that will probably be unfair. The Artist is the kind of movie that will probably win Best Picture, yet we'll look back in five to 10 years and wonder why the more "important" film didn't win. The Oscars do this all the time.

Yet I don't think the filmmakers ever had Oscar ambitions with this. (That could be incredibly naive of me, given Harvey Weinstein's involvement.) It's not Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or War Horse. It's just a film that was fun and utterly charming — while harkening back to a simpler, more innocent era — at the right time. 

In my opinion, The Descendants is a better movie and should win the Best Picture Oscar. But I wouldn't have a big problem with The Artist winning, either. There's nothing not to like about it. 

Friday
Jan272012

Thoughts on the 2012 Oscar nominations

As Crash Davis once said, a player on a streak has to respect the streak. Well, this isn't that kind of streak and I'm not a player. But as long as I've had a blog, I've written about the Academy Award nominations.

Usually, I try to get a post up as soon as the nominations are announced, but I was busy Tuesday morning. And it's not like I would've accomplished anything but trying to get the nominations up as fast as I could. 

But we're going on seven years with these Oscar posts, so I didn't want to let this year go by. Even if I was a bit underwhelmed by the nominations. And maybe about the movies in general. I enjoyed plenty of them, but there's only one that I could truly say I loved: The Descendants. (I should really write something about that.)

I usually list the nominations, but since we're four days after the fact, you can read them here. But here are some thoughts that jump to mind.

▪▪ The one glaring snub? Shailene Woodley absolutely, positively deserved a Best Supporting Actress nod for The Descendants. Yes, George Clooney does a great job, but in many ways, Woodley's character — as Clooney's daughter — drives the story. Without her, it's not as good of a movie — period. 

So which nominee should go in favor of Woodley? Well, I'd probably knock off Jessica Chastain in The Help. She's a great actress, but I don't think this was even her best movie this year. And as fun as Melissa McCarthy was in Bridesmaids, and as cool as it was that she was nominated, come on. 

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▪▪ A lock? Clooney looks like a strong bet for Best Actor. I'll say Aaron Sorkin and Steven Zaillian are a lock for Best Adapted Screenplay on Moneyball. Woody Allen for Best Original Screenplay on Midnight in Paris, too. And Viola Davis for Best Actress in The Help. Is that too many locks? 

▪▪ My favorite nomination? Christopher Plummer in Beginners. I wasn't embracing that movie as I watched it, but it's stayed with me and my appreciation has grown. (Another one I need to write about.) Plummer could've made bad choice and made his out-of-the-closet-at-75 character too flamboyant. But he doesn't.

You know, he's probably another lock. Should we even bother tuning in this year?

▪▪ I would've added Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to the Best Picture nominees. Or trimmed the list down to five films.

▪▪ However, I've only seen three of the nine nominated films, so I probably shouldn't say that. That is probably the fewest number of Best Picture candidates I've seen in years. I had a bad year at the movies. (Or should I say, not at the movies.) 

▪▪ Movies I still need to see: Hugo tops that list for me, while The Artist is a close second. I didn't see Midnight in Paris despite it playing in theaters all summer. And Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close looked compelling from its trailer, but it's been getting killed by critics. Maybe Albert Nobbs, but there has to be a promise of drinks or dinner to follow.

▪▪ I know it was never going to happen, but it would've been so cool if Andy Serkis was nominated for his motion-capture performance in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Yes, the computers did a lot of the work, but Serkis gave them a base to work from. Best Supporting Actor, maybe? Knock Kenneth Branagh off for him. (Though to be fair, I didn't see My Week With Marilyn. Maybe he's really good.)