When I'm at a party and the conversation lags (it tends to do that a lot when I'm at a party), I have one sure-fire technique for getting it going again that does not involve me leaving the room. I just start talking about some movie I've just seen.
Movies are the one safe topic in any situation, unless you get somebody who loved The Horse Whisperer arguing with somebody who hated it, such as myself. But mostly, everybody goes to the movies, and everybody loves to go on and on about their favorites, to the point of reciting lines of dialogue and expressing inappropriate urges towards the actors. Don't get me started on Renee Zellweger's turn in Chicago. I fully intend to abide by the restraining order.
Good thing party season is over, because these days I don't have much to talk about. Of the 22 films Variety.com lists has having a shot at major Oscars, I've seen exactly three of them: Burn After Reading, The Dark Knight and W.
The rest? I don't know. I've got Wall-E coming from Netflix and I'm interested in seeing Clint Eastwood's last role in Gran Torino, but I'm just not that curious about the rest of them. Benjamin Button sounded intriguing when I first heard of it, but I've seen so many stories and reviews since then I feel like I've already seen it. I'm sure The Changeling is a fine picture, but I find Angelina Jolie's lips a distraction, dominating every scene like a pair of fresh pork tenderloins.
But really, the biggest reason I haven't seen more of these movies it that it's not that much fun to go to the movies anymore. I spend the first third of any film waiting for some idiot to take a business call, or start talking to some other idiot seated next to him, or to start texting, his wonderful little iPhone screen an effective distraction to anything happening on the big screen. These things don't happen very often, but the expectation that they might always puts me on edge. I fear I might become confrontational, and any enjoyment the movie provides might quickly dissipate during the ensuing fistfight in the parking lot.
I may have mentioned my big TV. It's no subsitute for the grandeur of a movie screen and THX sound, but I prefer the TV because I can tell the dog to shut up and she's unlikely to want to make something of it. I can use the captions if I want. Also, my popcorn is better. The downside is that it takes me longer each year to get around to seeing the nominees. And there's always the matter of locating the remote when it's time to hit the bathroom.
We have a party each Oscar night, in which we pass around ballots for five bucks a pop and award the winnings to whoever makes the most correct picks. Tess and I always try to see as many of the nominees as possible, in the false hope of narrowing the odds, but that's not looking so good this year. I'm going to rule out the three I've already seen for the following reasons: the Coen brothers scored big last year, Heath Ledger died a year ago instead of a month ago, and George Bush is already yesterday's news.
That leaves 19 others. What do you think? Check out the Variety list and pick a couple of likely winners.