b Papa Dog's Blog: Why February is the Cruellest Month

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Sunday, February 06, 2005

Why February is the Cruellest Month

Every year in the Oscar pool, it seems, there’s always at least one person I try to cajole into entering who declines on the grounds that they’ve just had a child and haven’t seen a movie all year. “Great!” I’d reply. “You have an edge! No preconceptions!” This time last year – knowing there was a child on the way – I figured that when Oscar Pool 2005 rolled around, I’d be that person. As it turns out, though, while our moviegoing is nowhere near what it once was, we’ve managed to get out now and again with the aid of babysitting by Gran or by the expedient of taking turns going to movies by ourselves. Often, we would see the same movie on consecutive days, so that we could talk about it once we’d both been. By whatever strange chance, it transpires that a high percentage of these movies have become multiple Oscar nominees. The movie we were both most eager to see this year, Sideways, was one of the let’s-take-turns movies. We saw Ray at Baby Brigade night at the Parkway. When we were down in Santa Barbara at Ho Ho time, Gran’s babysitting services availed us of the opportunity to see The Aviator and that Lickety Stickup thing. (Curiously, just before the trip to Saint Babs I saw Closer by myself. After returning to Oak, Mama Dog went at saw it herself. It struck me later that we had each seen three movies in a row with Jude Law, and now all three of them are on the Oscar ballot.) We saw Kinsey when Gran was up here on one visit or another, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was a late-pregnancy film (entailing so many trips to the bathroom that poor Mama Dog was left completely adrift in the nonlinear narrative). In addition, at different time I went without Mama Dog to see Collateral, Les incroyables, and L’homme d’araigneé deux.

Now, as I said, I had fully expected to find myself this time of year having seen close to none of the nominated films, and I figured that would free me from the annual compulsion to cram any unseen nominees into the month before Oscar time. It was rather gruelling last year. Ask Mama Dog, she’ll tell you. We had a large slate of movies to see in a short time, and at least one of them was so bad that it briefly caused us both to lose the will to live. I thought that having seen none of the movies this year would at least spare us all the filmgoing endurance test that February has evolved into in the time I’ve been running the pool. Imagine my mixed emotions, then, when I discovered that I’d seen roughly half the nominees in the major categories, and a good smattering of the ones in the “I’m not sure exactly what this person’s job is” categories. Last week, in slow moments at work, I started looking from the ballot to the calendar, calculating movies per weekend just like I did last year. The writing was on the wall.

Now, among the many reasons I love my beautiful and forbearing wife is that she recognises that these occasional little mania I fall prey to are part and parcel of the Papa Dog experience, that they’re essentially harmless, and that if she puts up with them in good humour they eventually go away for another year. Hence my special dispensation this weekend to fill in the gaps on my ballot by seeing not one but two multiple nominees. Yesterday I saw Finding Neverland, this year’s movie with Johnny Depp which is not really worthy of high critical regard but which somehow got a lot of nominations – apparently another annual tradition we might as well get used to and ignore until it goes away for another year. This was one far less excruciating than last year’s horror, but like that Crapibbean thing it also featured English moppets supposedly from a bygone era sporting thoroughly anachronistic mannerisms and patterns of speech, comic relief that’s thunderingly unfunny, and Johnny Depp substituting an impersonation of a pop star for a performance.* Today I saw Vera Drake, which shares with Finding Neverland a tendency to overly sanctify its lead character, but which overcomes that by being more firmly grounded in the real world than, well, Neverland.

Tomorrow night we’ll catch Being Julia at the baby brigade. We have Maria Full of Grace up next on the Netflix queue, and it just occurred to me that I should follow that with Before Sunset. Next weekend Gran will be in town and Mama Dog and I will go together to see Million Dollar Baby. The weekend after that I’ll catch Hotel Rwanda, and I’m done. That’ll be everything in the top eight categories except for a single screenplay nomination for Diarios de motocicleta, which we missed our chance at at Baby Brigade. If there’s time, I’ll try to work in Un long dimanche de fiançailles, which has nominations for Cinematography and Art Direction, but that seems doubtful. If I felt it necessary to see crap musicals by Joel Scum Acre or crap passion plays by Mel Gibson, even I would conclude I was getting far too carried away.
*The obvious joke here is “Michael Jackson,” but I’ve been saying Donovan, because that’s the only Scottish pop star from the sixties I could think of. Oh, wait, I just thought of Rod Stewart.


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