Out of the blue…
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It’s Oscar night – the one night of the year when we can all look forward to four-plus hours of Hollywood celebrating itself with one overblown musical number, self-congratulatory speech, and poignant cutaway to Mickey Rooney in his nosebleed seats after another. This year, the field of Best Picture nominees was expanded to ten, signalling two things: 1) the Academy needs an excuse to include popular fare like District 9 in its marquee category, for ratings and marketing purposes; and 2) the Academy’s going to have its teleprompter writers working overtime thinking up pithy ways to (over)praise these ten nominees. In other words, expect flattering adjectives to abound in tonight’s telecast.
Recognizing this, we at Wipe have decided to offer our own version of “Oscar predictions”: instead of predicting the winners, we predict the adjectives mostly likely to be used on teleprompter screens in praise of the nominees (limiting ourselves to the Picture category, in the interest of brevity). And as an added bonus, we offer our own adjectives in response to the Academy. (I know what you’re thinking, but no, we’re not only out to piss on the Oscar parade.)
Call it our Oscar round-up – or “Wipe-up,” if you will.
The Ten Best Picture Nominees are:
Oscar says: “Heartwarming”
Wipe says: “Republican”
Oscar says: “No Holds Barred”
Wipe says: “Overdone”
Oscar says: “British”
Wipe says: “Pedo”
Oscar says: “Tender”
Wipe says: “Mushy”
Oscar says: “Soaring”
Wipe says: “Clooney”
Oscar says: “Groundbreaking”
Wipe says: “Techno-horny”
Oscar says: “Unflinching”
Wipe says: “Unsubtle”
Oscar says: “Innovative”
Wipe says: “Techno-racist”
Oscar says: “Jewish”
Wipe says: “Philosophi-coen”
Oscar says: “Heartstopping”
Wipe says: “Heartpounding”
Check back after the ceremony to see how well we scored in our Oscar predictions!
*UPDATE: Stymied by the teleprompter! By our count, we only correctly predicted one adjective: presenter Charlize Theron used the word “unflinching” to describe Precious. Other than that, zilch. They didn’t even use “Jewish” to describe A Serious Man, which is baffling. Oh well, at least we all had fun, right folks? (But seriously, talk about a snoozer.)
Director: Thomas Bangalter, Guy Manuel De Homem-Christo
Screenplay: Thomas Bangalter, Guy Manuel De Homem-Christo, Cédric Hervet, Paul Hahn
French techno duo Daft Punk have long since maintained that they are not in fact human beings making deep groove house music and performing elaborate live shows, but robots. Silly and a bit gimmicky perhaps, but whether robot or human, when Daft Punk’s music begins, no one really cares either way because everyone’s far too busy shaking their asses.
The truth is, Daft Punk are not robots (sorry to piss on your strawberries, kids), but two exceptionally talented and creative musicians by the names of Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. Together they decided to take the whole We-are-robots thing yet another step further by writing and directing a 74-minute, dialogue-free film about two automatons on a quest to become human.
For the most part, reviews and opinions of Electroma often seem to reiterate the words “pretentious” and “bullshit” – which are also very often put together for a more comprehensive analysis of “pretentious bullshit”. That’s not to say however, that such an analysis is in fact fair or for that matter, accurate. Yes, Electroma is exceptionally long for what is essentially (and barely) a single concept film and yes, Electroma could have achieved everything it achieves in 20 minutes or less instead of 74; and yes it is more than a little surprising that it took four writers to write a film that has no real story to speak of. BUT! De Homem-Christo and Bangalter should be commended for a few things:
First of all, kudos for not using any Daft Punk music in the film’s soundtrack. This is a potentially contentious point as I’m sure many of the Daft Punk fans who watched this film and subsequently complained about it were expecting a concert video of sorts. As much as I love Daft Punk’s music, it wouldn’t have fit in with the feel or context of the film. In fact, it would have taken away from what little substance there is to Electroma, transforming the entire production instead into little more than a 74-minute music video.
There are very few plot points in this film and the build up to these relatively feeble points are long, drawn out affairs. Still these build ups do manage to create the intended tension, despite the payoffs being rather slim pickings. That tension slowly translates into a sort of creepy sympathy for these two robots in their leather sequined Daft Punk jackets, who want so badly to be human. I have to honestly say that I felt sorry for them, even though I was repeatedly hit over the head with the notion that I should feel precisely that. Note to aspiring filmmakers: just because you omit dialogue from your film doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily going to avoid being obvious with the themes and emotions you’re intending to get across.
And that is exactly what hurt Electroma: had the length been cut in half, it all wouldn’t have seemed so obvious. After 30 minutes of sulky robots, we get it. Loud and clear. Je comprend tout. I can’t deny that I did like some of the particularly lengthy scenes like the opening, where the two robots drive their car through the desert to a droning soundtrack. Unfortunately, that kind of imagery isn’t for everyone and will often elicit cries of “pretentious bullshit”. For me, Electroma wasn’t so much about being pretentious as it was about not knowing how much is too much. De Homem-Christo and Bangalter certainly know where that line lies with regards to their music; maybe if there are to be any further attempts at cinema they’ll better utilize that knowledge.
Director: Uli Edel
Screenplay: Bernd Eichinger, Uli Edel, Stefan Aust (Book)
Early last year, a German friend of mine was going through a list of German films that I needed to see. As he finished up his list, I couldn’t help but noticing that one film in particular – one film that had found its way into both the Oscar and BAFTA nominations for best foreign film that year – was missing. “What about The Baader Meinhof Complex?” I asked. His brow instantly furrowed and his mouth twisted up as though I had just forced him to eat something particularly foul. “It’s shit,” he hissed, “Stay away from it. Don’t even watch it.” So adamant about me not seeing the film was he, that I actually did stay away from it. Until now. After deciding that it finally was time to make my own mind up about it all, I sought out Der Baader Meinhof Komplex and gave it a chance.
In the early 1970’s, a group of radical, left wing, militant German activists known as the RAF (Red Army Faction) or more commonly, The Baader-Meinhof Group, was formed. Espousing Marxist-Leninist beliefs and a desire to overthrow what they believed to be a fascist German state, the group was responsible for numerous bombings, 34 murders and various bank robberies. With that little taste of background, I’ve officially provided just as much, if not slightly more information about the group than the entire film does in its 150 minute running time.
Due to director Uli Edel’s desire to place the group’s actions over any actual insight into even one of its members, the film plays out as little more than a repetitive series of violent episodes. Edel seems to feel that the film somehow moves at a better momentum with an entire host of zero/one dimensional characters. Yes it’s clear that these people will sacrifice everything in order to pursue their revolutionary goals, but why? Who are these people? What leads a horde of middle class German twenty-somethings to wage war on the state in 1970? (I’m assuming that it’s 1970 because one of the film’s most persistently annoying aspects is the lack of any sort of titles, leaving the viewer clueless as to specific dates, times and locations.)
As the film progresses, the characters become increasingly indistinguishable from one another – an intentional attempt at illustrating the suffocating homogeny of the group, perhaps, but monotonous all the same. Bombs go off, guns are fired and group members are either arrested or killed without so much as a modicum of effort rendered toward showcasing more than just Rebellion. To be completely honest, none of these characters really even seemed to like one another much, which is odd considering that their goals appeared to be one and the same.
The film does have its share of interesting and dare I say intriguing moments, but what tension or excitement these build up is quickly diluted by repeating the same processes again and again without any further insight into what’s actually taking place. The great German actress Martina Gedeck’s portrayal of Ulrike Meinhof comes the closest to a protagonist as the film has to offer, but Meinhof as an upper class, socially conscious journalist who leaves her adulterous husband is hardly enough to justify her joining the ranks of the RAF. In the end we’re left with zero understanding of the issues that surrounded the RAF and because of this, a trip to Wikipedia would be a more productive means of trying to come to terms with these people than 150 minutes of ‘splosions ever could be.
Why aren’t entire movies made this way? It’s a new form of musical.
Incidentally, favourite message board comment: “Sinise, FTW!” (at 1:13)
And what are you doing this weekend?