Interview – Canada AM movie critic Richard Crouse
– by Rachel Fox
“I know you. You were the one who gave the Playboy comment at the gala the other night. You’re very quotable.”
So says Richard Crouse to me as I hound him for a few brief words directly following his MC’ing of an evening with Kris Kristofferson, the inaugural recipient of the this year’s Victoria Film Festival‘s IN Award . Despite my (very) mild embarrassment over being associated with such an inane quote, I try to appear semi-intelligent by pressing on and pestering Canada AM’s resident film critic about his thoughts on the recent crop of Oscar nominations.
Rachel Fox: The Oscar nominees were just announced. Any thoughts on that?
Richard Crouse: There are a couple of cool things. Lee Daniels is now the first African-American to direct a film that’s been nominated for Best Picture, with Precious. [Pause] It’s unbelievable that it’s 2010, but whatever, it’s happened now. That ceiling has been broken.
I was a little surprised that The Blind Side has been nominated for Best Picture. To my mind, it doesn’t really belong in that list. People love it, I get it, you know, but to my mind it doesn’t really belong. I think more that that one was there and Star Trek wasn’t… when they announced that they were going to expand the list to ten titles, the example that they used all the time was Star Trek, so movies like it can get nominated. Because the year before The Dark Knight didn’t get nominated, so by adding five extra titles on you can squish around in the genre-film department a little bit. Star Trek was out around the same time, so everyone thought, “That’s going to be one.” That was left off, but of course District 9 got nominated which is awesome, because it’s a cool movie and deserves some attention.
RF: And a Canadian connection. There’s some Vancouver Film School graduates [director Neil Blomkamp, Best Adapted Screenplay nominee Terri Tatchell, Visual Effects Executive Producer Shawn Walsh] who were involved with that.
RC: Absolutely, yes. I think the director actually lives in Vancouver. And also, James Cameron is Canadian. Although I don’t think he’s lived here in 29 million years …
RC: Yeah, he probably hasn’t been back here since he left high school. But Jason Reitman [Up In the Air] still comes back here all the time, so that’s cool.
RF: I haven’t seen The Blind Side.
RC: It’s not a terrible movie.
RF: That’s not exactly a glowing endorsement.
RC: No, it’s not. It’s a crowd-pleaser. I gave it a good review.
RF: It was inoffensive?
RC: I wouldn’t say that. That sounds much more dismissive than I would have been about it.
This is a movie that was built in a very standard story arc that was going to get people to reach for the Kleenexes at the time that you’re supposed to. All that stuff. The bit on the trailer, when Sandra Bullock shows the kid to his bedroom and he’s like, “I’ve never had one of these before” and she says, “a bedroom?” and he goes, “no, a bed.” Oh, “awwww” [makes convincingly appropriate weepy noises and gestures].
Like it’s the thing, you’re supposed to cry there, and it works for a number of reasons. Sandra Bullock is an extremely engaging performer. She had three movies released this year that ranged from the extraordinarily successful like The Blind Side to the quite successful, but not really all that good The Proposal, which was, I suppose, pleasing enough. If you had taken her out of there and say, put Renée Zellweger in? Not so much with that movie. And then a movie called All About Steve which was execrable, but was rescued by her charm.
RF: She may actually do the Razzies one evening and then the Oscars the next day.
RC: You know what? I think it would be cool. She’s the kind of performer who would go to the Razzies. There’s been very few. Tom Green went, Halle Berry went, and it would be kind of cool if she had a sense of humour enough about herself to go, get a Razzie, and then win an Academy Award the next day. Awesome.
RF: Any films that you think were overlooked this year? I’m thinking of Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, which I saw at the Vancouver International Film Centre last week, preceded by Carl Dreyer’s Day of Wrath.
RC: You’re pretty dark, eh? [laughs]
RF: [Pause] I may have to change my Facebook status now. But yes I am.
Anyways, as I was watching it I was thinking, “This is the most misogynistic film I’ve ever seen!” Then I walked out and thought about it, and then I decided it was the most misandrist film I’d ever seen. I thought it went very deep and people who saw it in a misogynistic way were kind of looking at it superficially. But what really struck me about that film was Charlotte Gainsbourg’s performance, which is so brave and bold and really unlike anything else. The other performance that blew me away was Helen Mirren in –
RC: The Last Station.
RF: Yes, and she has a few scenes where she literally does a complete 180, where she goes from madness to happiness, just a wonderful performance. Like I said, I haven’t seen The Blind Side. Do the Oscars mean anything anymore?
RC: Not really, no. The Oscars are fun. Warren Beatty once said, “The Golden Globes were for fun, because you go and drink champagne and you sit at the table and you get drunk and then you make a speech when you accept, and that the Oscars are all about business.”
The Oscars – you get a little bump when your movie’s nominated. But I’ll tell you, it’s not going to do A Single Man, for which Colin Firth is nominated for Best Actor, any good. It’s not going to do An Education [nominated for Best Picture and Best Actress] any good, that movie is done. Avatar, it’s not going to do that movie any good.
RF: Does it need another billion?
RC: It doesn’t need the little Oscar bump. I don’t know if it actually means anything, it’s more sport now. People who like movies make up Oscar pools, and people like to argue and talk and say, “It’s subjective and it doesn’t mean anything!” I kind of agree with that. I do get sucked in a little bit by it, though.
RF: You like the dresses?
RC: You know what, I don’t really care so much about the dresses.
RF: [Gasping in utter shock]
RC: I like the tuxedos, though… [Laughs]
RF: Oh, ok then. Fair enough. Christopher Plummer, nominated as Best Supporting Actor for The Last Station, in what may be the most exciting category so far…
RC: Christoph Waltz [Inglourious Basterds] is going to win. The thing about the Oscars this year is that, other than Best Director, I don’t think there’s going to be too many surprises.
RF: Do you think Kathryn Bigelow [The Hurt Locker] has a shot?
RC: I think she’s got a huge shot.
RF: She won the Director’s Guild Association award the other night.
RC: Yes, and the same people who vote for the DGAs are the same people who vote for Best Director [Academy Awards]. I think she may do it. It’s kind of an interesting idea that an ex-husband and wife [Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron were married] – but they get along really well. They apparently consult on one another’s films. But it’s also kind of interesting that out of all the movies that are nominated in those categories, that Avatar is, quite obviously, by far and away, the most successful.
And The Hurt Locker is probably the least successful of all of them. Although one of the most superior movies of the year, and if I was giving out the award for Best Picture, that’s what I’d give it to. I think Avatar is going to win, though. But it [The Hurt Locker] made so little money, nobody went to see it, and it’s a shame. I hope now that it’s getting so much attention, that at least people will rent it and watch it on Blu-Ray, because on Blu-Ray it’s spectacular.
RF: Like I said, I haven’t seen The Blind Side, but I would trade Sandra Bullock getting it if Kathryn Bigelow could get it. I think it would make a great story, and I’d like to see Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas in the movie version of it [the James Cameron-Kathryn Bigelow story].
RC: Yeah, totally. Sort of like, The War of the Roses.
RF: Exactly. I think that would be a neat little twist.