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Home » Culture and Criticism

Oscars 2010 Death Race

Submitted by on February 5, 2010 – 8:53 AM42 Comments

Welcome to The Tomato Nation Oscars 2010 Death Race, in which I will attempt to see all the nominees before Oscar night.Yes: all of them.Best Live-Action Short, prepare to be boarded.

“But that’s crazy!Even Sarah wouldn’t tilt at such a windmill!”Sarah watched Jason and the Argonauts again last Monday.On purpose.

The list of pertinent nominees appears in alphabetical order after the jump.I’ve starred the Best Picture nominees.Care to play along on my perilous quest?See you in the comments.   Coming soon: reviews of Up in the Air and Serpico (which I had to hurry up and watch to clear my Netflix queue).

Current score: Death Race 52, Sarah 6

The Blind Side*
Bright Star
Burma VJ: Reporter i et lukket land
China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province
Coco avant Chanel
The Cove
Crazy Heart
La dama y la muerte
District 9*
Il divo
The Door
An Education*
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
Faubourg 36
Food Inc.
French Roast
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker*
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Inglourious Basterds*
In the Loop
Istallet for abrakadabra
Julie & Julia
Krolik po berlinsku
The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner
The Last Station
The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant
The Lovely Bones
The Messenger
Miracle Fish
The Most Dangerous Man In America: Daniel Ellsberg etc. and so on
Music by Prudence
The New Tenants
Un prophete
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
El secreto de sus ojos
A Serious Man*
A Single Man
Sherlock Holmes
Star Trek
La teta asustada
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Up in the Air*
Wallace and Gromit in “A Matter of Loaf and Death”
Das weisse Band – eine deutsche Kindergeschichte
Which Way Home
The Young Victoria




  • Deirdre says:

    Geez, good luck! I am going to try to see all the biggies, but there’s no way I’ll get through them all; some of these don’t even get released here.

  • rlb14 says:

    I used to do this for movies in the major categories the weekend of the Oscars. Anything that I had already seen was a true bonus.

    I would go Friday after work and see 2 movies, then see 4 on Saturday, and 1-2 on Sunday then straight to an Oscar party. It made for some strange film pairings and emotional rollercoasters.

    I haven’t done it for 3 years, but it was fun.

  • Dona says:

    My hat is off to you! I would never attempt such a thing, and I have a head start–I’ve already seen 17 films on the list.

    I used to try to see all of the Best Picture nominees each year, but it’s been a while since I met even that goal.

  • Sandman says:

    “Sarah watched Jason and the Argonauts again last Monday. On purpose.”

    I was going to ask why (or rather, “Whyyyyy??!”), but I think the first tag here might have answered my question. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on The Hurt Locker and An Education in particular (and on Julie and Julia, too). But I don’t think I could watch Das weisse Band on a bet. Good luck with the Race! (Du Krankenhosen.)

  • Rachel says:

    You’re nuts, dude. Up In the Air was good, but left me… up in the air? I’m not sure how I feel about it just yet but George Clooney can wear a suit like nobody else, which is always a nice thing to get to watch.

    Haha, you’re going to willingly sit through the Transformers mess? My hat is off to you. Same with Precious for the same (yet at the same time, totally different) reason.

  • Jeanne says:

    Good luck! My own score is 23/52 (including all the Best Picture nominees and all but one of the movies with acting nominations), I’ll be up to 24 and have all the acting nominees covered once I see The Last Station this weekend(side note: why does Boston get the fancy art house movies weeks and sometimes months after NY & LA? It’s not fair dammit!) I have no intention of ever seeing them all so my hat’s off to anyone that does.

  • Caitlin says:

    Omigod, that is an awesome idea! I usually try to see the nominees for Picture, Director, Screenplay and all the Acting ones–but ALL of them? That is truly impressive. I’m worried about even getting to see something like The Messenger, which hasn’t been released in Canada yet, and doesn’t seem to have a date to do so. Boo!

    (BTW, you seem to be missing A Single Man on your list!)

    My current score would be: Task Of Impossibility 38, Caitlin 20

  • TashiAnn says:

    I love Jason and the Argonauts. I don’t need to ask “Whyyyy” it’s great fun.

    WGN, before it was an international superstation, used to air “Family Classics with Frazier Thomas” every Sunday in Chicago and that was one of the films they would show, along with lots of Errol Flynn movies. That was followed by original Star Treks, dinner, the Muppet Show and then bed. Sundays were great.

    I wish you luck in your quest. Perhaps you should consider substituting the original “Death Race 2000” (the one with David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone) with the Transformers movie, I think it has a slightly more intelligible plot.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Caitlin: Crap, you’re right. Updated.

  • Kermit says:

    You haven’t see Up yet? Crazy. Eh, what am I saying? I’ve only seen 4, and definitely won’t make it anywhere near 15, much less 50+. I refuse to see Trannies 2, even though it’s sitting on our family room shelf (in BluRay form, my husband does have execrable taste at times).

  • RJ says:

    “Jason and the Argonauts”? You and my 82-year-old dad, Sars. While my mother and I fled to the kitchen. Shaking our heads. Sadly.

  • Kari says:

    Totally stupid question, but why do you only have five points when you have crossed off 12 movies? Do you have to write about them for them to count in your total?

  • Rinaldo says:

    I’m not the first to notice this, but there are way too many movies with confusingly similar titles this year. Up / Up in the Air. A Single Man / A Serious Man. 9 / District 9 / Nine.

    So it’s just coincidence that you seem to be working your way from the end of the alphabet? Cool, even so.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Some of those should not have been crossed off; I’ve corrected it.

  • koko says:

    My best friend and I do this every year. Neither of us have ever managed to see all of them…actually, I don’t think we’ve even gotten that close.

    List: 45 koko: 13

  • Melina says:

    I’ve seen one. It was Harry Potter. It’s possible that’s the only movie I’ve seen in a theater in a year or more. I… need a life.

  • David_DHX says:

    Please, don’t knock Jason and the Argonauts. Ray Harryhausen’s effects were marvels at the time, and still amazing in hindsight. The way the skeletons are animated is actually a really good story …

    OK, Film-geek-mode off. Kudos to your efforts, Sars. And good luck.

  • FloridaErin says:

    I won’t make it but am totally stealing this list to give it a go. It makes me weep that one of the few I can cross off is Transformers.

  • Sandman says:

    @Rinaldo, I hear you. It took weeks before I even realized that A Single Man and A Serious Man were different things. (Yes, apparently I am that dumb.)

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    The skeletons are still pretty effing creepy — but Tales (“Telas”? I can’t remember the name; it’s the giant statue) is even creepier. Yes, it’s very primitive compared with what we’re used to, but that adds to the creep, in my opinion.

    The acting is also very primitive compared with what we’re used to. Anyone still wondering how Medea angered the gods need look no further than the amateurish, and endless, reaction shots from Nancy Kovack.

  • WendyD says:

    That is awesome and something I’ve always wanted to try and do. I always see all the Best Picture nominees. I’ve seen 5 already, seeing ‘Precious’ tonight, have ‘Hurt Locker’ at home and ‘As Serious Man’ coming next week from Netflix. Overall I’m only 10/52.

    A few years ago I got to go be part of the bleacher fans at the Oscars but before I went I was determined to have seen all the Best Picture winners. It was a project that took about 6 months, but I got through them all.

  • Pegkitty says:

    I’m feeling clueless – what are the asterisks for? Were the movies on steroids or something?

  • Michael says:

    I try to do this every year….and every year I am unable to complete the task. I try to catch as many as I can before the ceremony, but will continue to try to catch all of the nominees even after the awards are given out. I think I’m only missing 3 from last year’s awards (my best total yet)- all of them foreign films – two aren’t out on DVD yet and the 3rd was just added to my Netflix queue. Finances and my odd work schedule will work against me this year.

    I don’t know how the NY film scene is situated for some of the esoteric categories, but DC does a pretty good job in between when the Oscars are nominated and when they are presented. Usually one of the art theaters will try to show the animated short and live action short nominees. In addition, the National Archives will usually show all of the animated short, live action short, documentary short (usually the most difficult to track down), and documentary feature films. The National Archives shows them for free, but screenings sometimes sell out. Also, the American Film Institure in Silver Spring usually shows the foreign film nominees.

    I was able to find two of this year’s animated shorts (“French Roast” and “Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty”) online (YouTube link thru from the day the nominees were announced). I really enjoyed French Roast, but didn’t care for the other. What dialogue exists in “French Roast” is in French, but there’s so little dialogue, you do not need to understand French to get the gist. For those who took French in high school, you don’t need to have taken more than French 1.

    Thank you for the link to “China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province”

  • Todd K says:

    I hope you won’t be seeing any more of these at Cinema Pee-ridiso, where you and Matthew were last night…

    I’ll be interested to hear what you think of A Single Man, which is my favorite on this list so far (although I’m still catching up too). I have a hunch you’re going to dislike it, just based on other deliberately stylized movies you’ve found affected and “too much.” While I was watching it, even though I loved it, I was formulating the “anti” view in my head; I knew exactly which tack the negative reviews would take, and I was right. And I have found a lot of the reviews, even the positive ones, to be incredibly condescending; some seem to be reviewing the director’s reputation and past occupation rather than the movie (in other words, because he’s a famous fashion designer, and because his movie has a strong visual style, it must be “superficial”). As much as Colin Firth deserves his acclaim, I think the virtues of the movie itself are being missed. Julianne Moore’s omission in Supporting was my biggest disappointment. She has a moment here – a laughter fit at some silly memory with the main character, where seems right on the precipice of turning into hysteria or tears, before she pulls it back – that is as good as anything she’s ever done.

  • Sarah says:

    I tried this quest last year. I did pretty well considering, but missed all of the shorts and most of the documentary and foriegn language ones (I’m still stymied how you can’t find some of those movies even when you are trying!)
    I did manage to hit all of the screenplays and acting noms. I’m thinking I’ll do the same for this year. So far my score is about where yours is, but I’ll probably do the AMC Oscar showcase again this year to beef up my totals a bit. (I did the 5 movies in one day last year, but the 10 movie slate is a little more daunting – even for an obsessive like me.)
    Have fun with your project though – it definitely makes the award show more interesting when you are all invested in the outcomes!

  • annabel says:

    The best I ever did was one year when I lived in LA and saw over a hundred movies in the theater. I saw all the Pictures, Writing, Directors and Acting except for one Woody Allen film. I could never do it this year because I refuse to see Avatar.

  • Jen S says:

    I loved Up In The Air and An Education especially–saw the latter twice! I can’t wait to read your thoughts on Clooney wearing suits and fabulous early sixties English clothing, respectively.

  • Robin in Philly says:


    (Sorry, I had to; it’s a reflex.)

    I love the Oscars like nobody’s business. Never managed to see more than a third of the nominees in any given year, so the annual goal is to see all 5–excuse me, 10–Best Picture nominees. I always thought I was the only crazypants who cared (until I met, and subsequently married, a man whose goal is to see all Best Picture noms from his lifetime. The scary part is, he’s more than halfway there).

    Count me in, Sars! Can’t wait for the reviews.

  • Erin W says:

    I’ve only seen four of these! Actually, three and a half, because I left The Hurt Locker early. It was incredibly good, but ultimately I couldn’t fight off the handheld camera-induced nausea.

    Now I feel like I have to hand back my “film buff” card. (And there’s an arthouse theater in town that has showed every single one of the obscure ones at some point in the last six months. It’s totally around the corner from my house.)

    A year ago, I watched the entire AFI’s 100 Greatest Movies though, so can I still be crazypants, too?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says: should have a list of theaters participating in airing the shorts program in the U.S., Canada, and the UK; the series starts the 19th. I hope documentaries are included, because I’m having real trouble finding the other docs online (I found “Krolik po berlinsku” but it isn’t subtitled).

    I should also have a symbol for movies I dread seeing, because blech, “Avatar.”

  • Karen says:

    Sars, not sure if you know about this or if it will help. There is a screening of all the nominated shorts in NYC on 2/27. Deets:

    Good luck. I used to try to just see all the best picture nominees but now with ten I think even that is a tough goal to reach.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Karen: Awesome tip — but it’s sold out already, sigh. (I used to volunteer at the Lighthouse, actually; it would have been fun to go back and visit.) If you or anyone else hears of similar screenings, let me know. Have Smart, will travel.

  • Todd K says:

    I had no great enthusiasm for seeing Avatar either, but I ended up enjoying myself. I don’t think it deserves non-technical awards, and the screenplay really is an intergalactic Dances With Wolves, but it’s visually miraculous and it doesn’t feel its length. I’m glad I didn’t wait to see it on television. Spring for the 3D version if the theater gives you a choice.

    @Erin W: I used to think people must be exaggerating when they complained about shaky hand-held camera technique making them physically ill, but I guess it really is an issue. I’ve heard about people having to walk out on everything from Husbands And Wives to Rachel Getting Married to The Hurt Locker, and there were reports of actual vomiting when The Blair Witch Project was in theaters. I’m glad it doesn’t bother me, because it’s a choice made in a lot of movies I have liked. I usually adjust and stop noticing after a few minutes.

    On the other hand, the “death by a million cuts” effect, especially when carried to the ridiculous extremes of The Dark Knight, bugs me to no end. I wonder if *that* ever makes anyone sick, by inducing headaches or seizures? One thing I like about Quentin Tarantino, stunted meta dead-ender that he may be, is his fondness for nice long takes.

  • RJ says:

    “Jason and the Argonauts” just reminds me of the SNL spoof they did with Bill Murray. I don’t remember much of the dialogue besides:

    Female comic, as distressed heroine: “Hercules!”
    Bill Murray, as Hercules, having just attempted to lift paper mache (can’t spell it) rock: “I have hurt my back. I must lay here a while.”
    Female comic: “Hercules!”

    That was about it, but that pretty much summed it up to me.

    I guess it was better than the Harry Hamlin movie (which, GAD, my parents also watched) “Clash of the Titans.”

  • kithica says:

    I debated doing this, but I’m not sure I’ll even make it through the ten noms for best picture at this point.

    Right now, my score is 9 and a half (because I had to get up and walk out of District 9 for fear of vomiting in the aisles *mumble* stupid camera work *mumble*)

  • Grace says:

    I admire your goal, but no way would I make it through a third of the films on this list. I’ve only seen Star Trek, Up, Harry Potter and the Unstoppable Franchise, and Invictus. I may try to see 2-3 more before the awards, but probably won’t make it.

    IMHO, Invictus is not a great movie, as it’s somewhat predictable, but Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon are both quite good. They won’t win, but they deserved their noms.

  • rab01 says:

    Oy, that’s a lot of movies. Good luck.
    I’ll be seeing Avatar tomorrow so I hope it’s not THAT bad. Forget dread, which ones are you seriously anticipating? I just hope the hype doesn’t spoil Hurt Locker for you. I really liked it but it hadn’t yet gotten all this “OMG it’s the best movie ever” critic buzz. I’m not sure it’s the type of movie that can withstand those expectations.

  • Heat says:

    I have seen 20 movies so far. I always see all the pictures, and try to get most of the performances too. My “must see” list before the Oscars is A Single Man, A Serious Man(fell asleep on a plane while watching it at Christmastime), Crazy Heart, the Last Station, and the Messenger(which doesn’t open in Toronto until Feb. 26th!). I think seeing all of those I will have at least hit all best pictures and acting nominations…whoops, forgot about the Lovely Bones and Nine. Hmmmm, 2 movies that I was really excited for, but have gotten horrible reviews! Oh well, I have to add them to the list!

  • Jenno says:

    The Norwegian jumped out at me: it should be “Burma VJ: Reporter i et lukket land” (not et i) — reporter in a closed land. Now I have to see it myself to see what a bunch of Scandinavians did in Burma.

  • Fuzzbear says:

    I was shocked that I enjoyed Avatar (so much that I saw it a second time, taking my brother and sister-in-law). It’s really a marvel technically, but yeah, absolutely see it in 3D or not at all.

    I have this weird personal rule that I don’t see movies I know will disturb me, so I could never even attempt such a feat. Hats off to you, Sars.

  • Todd K says:

    The Blind Side is the one to dread, Sars. I had/have a more modest goal of seeing the likely winners in the major categories, as well as the also-rans of interest to me; and even before TBS got the Best Picture nomination, I had to include it, since Bullock is a lock (the movie seems designed to be her Erin Brockovich opportunity). What I wrote upthread about Avatar not feeling its 160 minutes? I felt the passage of every squirmy, manipulative minute of TBS’s 130. I hope it goes down easier for you.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @Jenno: I’ve corrected the title, but FYI, you won’t be seeing any Scandinavians in Burma. Or anything else you approve of. Burmese government = murderholes.

    Oy, Avatar. I’m set to see it on Thursday, and I’m really really trying to keep an open mind (I love The Abyss), but technical marvels aren’t what I care about in movies (or any other time), 3D usually gives me motion sickness, and I don’t think I see why it has to be that long.

    I advanced the theory to Glark that, because I’m expecting to hate it, I’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. He immediately was like, “No, you’ll totally hate it.” Great!

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