Another year of Oscar ahead of me, and while I've only finished twenty years of movies, I have managed yet again to watch every nominated film! Collectively, it's a much more motley group of movies this year. Last year definitely had better films. But I'm hopeful that this year's ceremony with Billy Crystal as host will be far better than the train-wreck of last year. Please?
Much more fun was watching the films themselves. My life has gotten busy, and fitting in nine films in about two weeks was not very easy. Added to that was the fact that a few of these films were in that limbo between theaters and DVD. I may or may not have dragged my boyfriend to a small suburban town half an hour outside the city to watch back to back movies in crumbling down theaters. All worth it!
I've discovered the best thing about this project is watching movies that I might never otherwise decide to see. And even if I didn't like them, I'm glad I saw them. And in last year's tradition, regardless of how I feel about them, here they are ranked in order of "winability." I'll start with the one I know will win and end with the one that can't possibly...
Tree of Life
Despite the difficult topic of race, this film is entertaining and heartwarming. It is well acted, and a perfect portrayal of an era. From the costumes to the scenery, this film shows a (somewhat glorified) version of a difficult time. However the sometimes slavish devotion to a hit novel manages to make this film overlong--a few edits may have made it drag less. In addition, it does not commit to the topic of race enough. It skims the surface, and spends more time on gags and pretty costumes. This film is supposed to give voice to the help, but I wish I had seen more of them, and less of the uppity white girls we love to hate. While entertaining, it doesn't dig deep enough to give true weight to this film. So while I enjoyed it immensely, and it is, by the way, the top grossing Oscar nominee, I don't think it will win. But Viola Davis might for Best Actress!
And speaking of movies that dragged...thank god this film was made in Hawaii. I forgave the slow, plodding pace because I got to pretend I was on one of the many fabulous beaches they showed. In addition, the story was compelling enough to make me want to know more. And of course there's George Clooney, whom I just love to watch, no matter what. Fantastic actor. And the others don't do too bad themselves. The girls aren't too bratty and overplayed and his relatives aren't too "stereotypey islandy." Really though, this is George's movie and thank God for that. The plot twists and turns kept me guessing, the acting kept me engaged, and the scenery was...well...wow. I need to go to a beach ASAP. Even though it felt like it was much, much longer than it should have been, I did enjoy the film. Not as much as some that followed, but between the weighty material and the acting chops, this movie is pure Oscar bait.
This is a guy's movie, no doubt about it. It's about baseball statistics, with no romantic story line, or really any women at all. Any women watching this movie should go into it with those expectations. Despite the few female characters, I really liked this film. Brad Pitt has the perfect foil in Jonah Hill. Unlike many of the other nominated films this year, I never felt like it was dragging on. Which is something considering it is a film entirely about sports. There was always something catching your attention and moving you forward, and the scenes with the girl who plays Brad Pitt's daughter were a welcome relief from the spitting and sweating of the team. Smart, funny, and engaging, this film was a surprising win for me. It doesn't have the expected "good feeling" ending you get with most sports films, and I liked it the better for it. Just don't expect any great romance...
Midnight in Paris
This is the best film that probably shouldn't be on here. I love, love, love this film! It's every English major nerd's favorite dream. And the actors playing major historical characters are brilliant, and manage to subtlety wink at the audience at the same time. It has the witty/off-kilter humor that is always part of Woody Allen's films, but even if you aren't an Allen fan you should like this film. However, as entertaining as it is, it is not the stuff of Oscar films. It's sweet, funny, but ultimately just another Woody Allen film. I definitely loved it but I don't think it's the best film I've ever seen. It's this high on the list because of Woody Allen. Famous directors always get a bump.
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Okay, so Hugo got better reviews and has the more famous director. But this movie is so much better. I mean, I definitely sobbed through most of it, but it is a 9/11 movie. The main character, a young boy with some kind of social disorder, is both irritating and entertaining, and ultimately, extremely lovable. Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks both take a back seat, but make their few moments worthwhile. Max von Sydow plays the silent, absent grandfather to Oscar acclaim, but I really thought that his young co-star stole the show. Despite the almost graphically horrifying, wrenching scenes, I enjoyed, and was engaged by, every minute of this film.
So this movie got the better ratings, the better director, and the bigger Oscar chops. But it's probably my least favorite of all the films. Which is sad because I really wanted to like it. But is this a movie for children, or adults? The first three quarters of this film dragggggeedddd. And when it finally picked up, it became much more of an adult film than a child's. I think that's the problem. This movie floats between an adult's film and a child's film, and doesn't really settle on either. Plus the kid is creepy. Sasha Baron Cohen is the only relief, and every minute he wasn't on film I got bored again. Scorsese reverts to his biggest problem--he's so in love with his films that he can't bear to clip them. Hugo could have been a great movie with some serious editing. It's a beautiful film to look at, especially in 3D (which I don't always like) and a tribute to the early age of film. But if you want to see a film tribute...go see The Artist. It's much better.
So I expected to hate this movie. As one of my best friends said so eloquently, "I know World War I isn't as sexy as World War II, but did they have to add a horse? Why not just make a film about the war??" So with my expectations pretty low, I was pleasantly surprised. Mildly surprised. Okay it wasn't the worst movie on here (see Hugo). The main character is almost creepily obsessed with his horse, and his high pitched whining (the boy's, not the horse's) really started to grate. But it was filmed like Gone with the Wind, with sweeping panoramas liberally painted over with bright colors. I was entertained throughout the film, and despite myself, really wanted to see the damn horse get through. But Best Picture? Sorry Spielberg...I think not....
That's it! As far as the other categories, I think Viola Davis in The Help will get "Best Actress," although My Week with Marylin's Michelle Williams may give her a run for her money. "Best Actor" is anyone's game, with Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Jean Dujardin all contenders. "Best Director" will probably go to The Artist, but should go to Tree of Life. My prediction? The Artist will sweep pretty much everything, with a few bones tossed out to the remaining films above. Fingers crossed for a Bridesmaids win in pretty much anything--that's guaranteed to be an interesting speech.
I have my thoughts on this years theme...but that will have to wait! Got to start cooking.....