Movie Forum: The Good, The Bad and The Merry Edition
Posted December 6, 2012
Every Wednesday, the Movie Forum convenes to discuss the latest news from the film world and answer questions submitted by you, the reader.
This week, film critic Claudia Puig and movie reporter Brian Truitt discussed the best (and worst) holiday films, this year's crop of seasonal flicks and answered readers' questions about possible Oscar winners
Enjoy the chat and submit your questions for next week below.
John Elliot: Welcome to the USA TODAY Movie Forum! I'm John Elliot, online producer for USA TODAY Movies and I will serve as your moderator. Joining me today is USA TODAY film critic Claudia Puig and movie (and comics) reporter Brian Truitt.
How this works - Each week we solicit questions, online, from our readers on certain movie topics.
Ho Ho Ho! Merry Movie Forum!
Claudia and Brian will discuss the good, the bad and the ugly… of holiday films!
Claudia let's start with you…What is your favorite holiday film?
Claudia Puig: Hi everyone! Merry Early Christmas? It's hard to boil it down to one. How about a four-way tie? It's a Wonderful Life ( I know obvious), the original 1947 version of Miracle on 34th Street, Meet Me in St. Louis and Love Actually.
I also really love National Lampoon's A Christmas Vacation (Chevy Chase is hilarious) and A Charlie Brown Christmas too---though that one's not exactly a movie. But it has the best soundtrack ever.
Brian Truitt:Christmas Vacation is high on my list, too, Claudia. My favorite of all time is Scrooged, which to me is a perfect blend of humor and heart - and one of Bill Murray's best. A close second would be Love Actually, in that it shows the good and bad (but mostly good) that people experience during the season.
Claudia Puig: I'm totally with you on all of those, Brian!
Brian Truitt: You're on my nice list then!
Claudia Puig: Then I should say my favorite "naughty" film is Bad Santa!
John Elliot: Now for the more fun question...
What is, in your opinion, the worst holiday movie? OR…perhaps just your least favorite holiday movie?
Brian Truitt:Jingle All the Way is pretty dang terrible. I openly detest the emotionally manipulative Family Man as well, but I'd have to say the worst for me is probably Jack Frost. Glad it was the only time Michael Keaton decided to play a snowman.
Claudia Puig: I am SO with you on Jingle All the Way, Brian, starring my least favorite former governor. But the one I become a full-blown Ebenezer about is CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS….Putrid! So stupid! Followed by Surviving Christmas.
Brian Truitt:Surviving Christmas IS HORRIBLE. As is Four Christmases. Fred Claus saves Vince Vaughan from going for 0-2 on mistletoe fare.
Claudia Puig:Four Christmases was truly awful!
Brian Truitt: And then there's The Star Wars Holiday Special, which us nerds love to hate.
Claudia Puig: Where do you stand on Home Alone, Brian?
Brian Truitt: I saw it in my teenage years and I think I was mildly amused by it when I first saw it. Now? BLARGH.
Claudia Puig: Yeah, it had its moments...And for that matter where are you on the motion capture Zemeckis version of A Christmas Carol? I was not a fan. Give me the Muppets anyday!
Brian Truitt: I didn't watch it - the motion-capture Polar Express was creepy enough for me.
But we're missing one important genre of holiday movies, Claudia: the sort-of-holiday trifecta of Die Hard, Cobra and Lethal Weapon. Because nothing says Christmas spirit like Mel Gibson going crazy.
Claudia Puig: Yeah, that is a genre unto its own....And the Christmas horror flicks
John Elliot: What film would you say is the most underrated or unheralded holiday flick?
Claudia Puig: No one really mentions Joyeux Noel, a 2005 French film set in 1914 during WWI when French, Scottish and German soldiers in the trenches stopped fighting for Christmas. It won the best foreign language film that year. It's based on a true story of a truce on the Western front for Christmas and it's really moving.
Brian Truitt: I actually never saw that one. One film that I really liked that no one seems to care much for is Arthur Christmas, the animated film that came out last year. I dig on cartoons a lot anyway, I really enjoyed it.
Claudia Puig: There were moments of Elf that were quite funny, though it's hardly under-rated. I still like the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas, though, again, TV, not movie
Brian Truitt: OH! And I almost forgot Mixed Nuts. It's a classic Steven Martin performance.
I think Elf is one of the new Christmas classics, really. I think that will have legs for decades.
John Elliot: Any thoughts on this year's crop of holiday films? Any standouts?
Claudia Puig: I know you haven't seen it yet Brian, but Les Mis is a big stand-out for me. A beautifully done movie musical that is both classic, escapist and even a bit old-fashioned and contemporary in its cinematography. Sort of the best of all possible worlds. Hugh Jackman is fantastic, Anne Hathaway is wonderful.
And I'll just say now: Jack Reacher--not a holiday movie. Nothing says Christmas like...Tom Cruise?
Brian Truitt: For sure, that is on my must-see list ASAP. Silver Linings Playbook had a bit of a holiday bent, and that's one of the my favorite movies of the year.
However for sheer Santa-sized action, Rise of the Guardians is amazing. The story is great and it says a lot about belief in the world we live in. And I have to say I teared up a little in it, probably due to the fact I saw it two weeks before my baby daughter was delivered.
Claudia Puig: I teared up at Frankenweenie!
Brian Truitt: Everybody seems to have a problem with Cruise as Jack Reacher because he's not 6-2 and burly. Give me a pitchfork, too!
John Elliot: Now let's move on to some questions from our lovely readers!
I am surprised how frequently I see The Master on the best lists. I just don't get it. Half the audience walked out of that movie. Is it really possible Joaquin Phoenix could edge out Bradley Cooper for a Best Actor nod?
Claudia Puig: I'm with Julie on this one. Though no one walked out of my audience--since it was critics and press and we couldn't!
I'm a big fan of The Master director P.T, Anderson, but I didn't get why people loved it either. I thought Philip Seymour Hoffman was more kudos-worthy than Joaquin. It just left me cold. There was so much more I wanted to know about their stories that the movie didn't cover.
And I hope Bradley Cooper gets a best actor nod for Silver Linings. His best role ever, hands down. But I think the man to beat is Daniel Day Lewis for Lincoln.
I also want to go out on a limb and say Hugh Jackman should be nominated for Les Mis...
Brian Truitt: I would be shocked if Cooper isn't in the running to win the thing, honestly. He's so good in it. True, Day-Lewis is the man to beat, but I wouldn't be too irked to see Cooper edge him out. Maybe there's a few Philadelphia Eagles fans among the voters.
So, Jackman for lead and Russell Crowe supporting? Or do you see Crowe in the lead race, too, Claudia?
Claudia Puig: Well, DDL has already won and it would be nice to see Cooper get some love. But I think that Abe transformation has Oscar written all over it.
And as for Crowe, he'd be in for supporting I think--not lead. But frankly, his singing could keep him out of the race.
What about Ben Affleck for acting in Argo? Do you think that will get a nod, or just for directing?
Brian Truitt: That supporting actor race is going to be the most interesting of all of them, I think, with the Lincoln folks like Tommy Lee Jones, Crowe (maybe), possibly Robert De Niro of Silver Linings and Leo DiCaprio in Django Unchained. And that's just four movies!
Claudia Puig: You're right: You could throw a few more Lincoln folks in there too...
Brian Truitt: I think Ben has a director nod sewn up, with an actor nom maybe a long shot. Again, John Goodman could be in the supporting hunt from that, or Alan Arkin.
Syd Shenk from Los Angeles asks:
It's been a big year for blockbuster hits and indie gems alike. Which blockbusters can we expect to get nominated, and which indie gems do you think will get snubbed?
Brian Truitt: I'd count Lincoln as a blockbuster and that's a shoo-in, in my opinion. The Hobbit could get in, too. As much as I'd love to see Avengers sneak in as a best pic nom, I doubt it will happen.
As far as indie gems, if the little girl from Beasts of the Southern Wild doesn't get a nomination, that would be a huge snub.
Claudia Puig: I think the blockbuster nominees are harder to predict this year. Lincoln definitely. Dark Knight or Avengers -- worthy, but a longer shot. Skyfall, also worthy, but an even long shot. Brave was the 7th highest grossing movie and it will definitely get an animation nod. I don't think The Hobbit will make it in, Brian. The Academy might wait, as they did for LOTR.
As for indie gems, Beasts of the Southern Wild is very likely I think and so is Moonrise Kingdom, depending on the number of nominees. But th indies that will likely get snubbed that I thought were great are Safety Not Guaranteed, Your Sister's Sister and Hello I Must Be Going.
Those indies tend to show up in the writing categories.
Brian Truitt: Claudia, what else do you see getting animation nods? I feel like Wreck-It Ralph, Frankenweenie and ParaNorman are the no-brainers.
Claudia Puig: It's been a really good year for animated movies I think. Brave, Wreck-It Ralph, Frankenweenie are the no-brainers, with Paranorman and Rise of the Guardians as possibles
Saul Vesecky from Monterey, CA asks:
So…Who do you believe will win the Oscar for Best Picture of 2012?
Claudia Puig: It might be too early to call--and I'm seeing Django Unchained tonight-- but my money is on Argo at this point.
Though I think Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Life of Pi, Lincoln and Les Mis have a very good chance.
Brian Truitt: I hear good things about Les Mis, but of what I've seen I'd pick Silver Linings Playbook. I really liked Life of Pi and it's probably one of the best-looking films this year but Silver Linings Playbook kinda does everything really well.
Claudia Puig: Agreed on Silver Linings. I wonder if the Academy will go big epic this year or honor the smaller gems.
There are almost equally worthy contenders on both fronts, which is kind of unusual.
Brian Truitt: They went a little small last year, so something like Argo or ZDT could stand a good shot because they're a smidge more real world and gritty.
LJD from Houston asks:
What Oscars do you think The Amazing Spider-Man and The Hunger games will get nominated for?
Brian Truitt: I think most of their accolades, if any - and that's kind of a big if with Avengers and Dark Knight Rises running around - will come in the technical categories: sound, makeup, effects, etc.
Jennifer Lawrence will get the acting love for Silver Linings probably instead of Hunger Games.
And as much as it'd be cool to see Andrew Garfield nominated as Spidey, I think we have a better chance of seeing the Hulk show up to the ceremony.
Claudia Puig: I agree those will pop up in the technical categories- sound, effect, production design, even editing, maybe costumes for Hunger Games.
And Brian I'd rather see Andrew Garfield in a tux than the big green guy, but I think you're right!
Ram from Auburn, WA asks:
Why doesn't the Academy create a separate category for comedy like they did with animation a few years ago? That way they could nominate worthy comedic pictures that often get shunted aside by dramas, biopics and epics. I wonder if because the Golden Globes have already done that with their nominations that it would appear that the academy would be copying them and therefore it would be beneath them since they didn't think to do it initially.
Claudia Puig: Ram, I'm so with you on this. I so wish they did have a separate category for comedy. It's a travesty the way worthy comedies so often get overlooked in favor of sometimes mediocre serious fare and bland bio-pics.
That's one thing the Golden Globes gets right (possibly the only thing) is separating out best drama from best comedy or musical. Though I don't think comedies and musicals should necessarily be lumped together, but there are so few musicals that comedies tend to dominate that cateogry anyway.
And you may be right that because the Globes do have it as a category it it's all the more reason for the Academy--which considers itself the only REAL, serious awards show-not to go there. It's a snobbery thing.
Having said that, I think the Academy has weakly tried to address the issue by increasing the nominee list, which does allow an occasionally comedy (or quirky non-epic drama) to slip in, like Bridesmaids did last year. But of course we knew it wouldn't win. The win was the nomination. If there was a separate category as there is for animation, it could have won. I would have loved to see movies like The Wedding Crashers, Thank You For Smoking, Little Miss Sunshine, About a Boy, In Bruges, Juno,even Zoolander (and more) show up as nominees....
Brian Truitt: I'm gonna have to disagree with you guys on this one. I feel like the best picture race should be a survival of the fittest thing - or the funniest as the case may be. We're talking BEST picture - not best comedy. If a comedy is good enough to best every other movie regardless of genre, so be it. Something like Silver Linings Playbook is a comedy and could also win, but it's a dang well-made film.
Claudia Puig: Brian, I see your point, but then I would like to see the number of nominees increased every year to 10. Nothing less! In my perfect world....
Brian Truitt: And anything that keeps an Adam Sandler movie from ever being "Oscar-nominated" I am all for.
Claudia Puig: Totally agreed on Sandler....After That's My Boy he should be banned from moviemaking!
Brian Truitt: Oh yeah, agreed wholeheartedly. 10 is a nice round number and you can have a little bit of everything. A cornucopia if you will.
Like the salad bar at Sizzler.
John Elliot: Well, it's time for us to wrap up unfortunately!
Thank you Claudia and Brian. And a VERY big thank you to all our readers who participated and submitted questions.
Remember: you can submit your burning movie questions all week long, right here.
Check usatoday.com tomorrow for Claudia's reviews of 'Hyde Park on Hudson,' 'Playing for Keeps' and 'Rust and Bone' and look out for several pieces coming up from Brian on 'The Hobbit.'
Claudia Puig: Thanks to all our readers and question-suppliers! Here's to happy holiday viewing, naughty or nice...
Brian Truitt: Thanks for the great questions and for reading, peeps! And in the middle of the 24-hour marathons of A Christmas Story, be sure to fit in a few of our fave holiday flicks to make your season all merry and stuff.
John Elliot: Thank you all for joining us for the USA TODAY Movie Forum! Please join us again next Wednesday at 3 PM EST/12 PM PST for another edition of Movie Forum.
Latest in Entertainment