Well, here we are again; it’s Oscar time! It’s that time of year when the Academy rewards the best, most creative, most affecting, and certainly the best in the craft of film making of the past year. Oh, wait, no, sorry, that’s what the Academy is SUPPOSED to do, however, this year, with the absurd change of nominating 10 films for Best Picture instead of five, we have been subjected to some rather random entries.
There have been some great films this year, as there are every year. Sometimes you feel there are more than five, but not often. Usually, it’s hard enough to find five to nominate, so how would you find ten? Seems to me the Academy tried to appease some clamor from the public that certain films weren’t properly represented at the Oscars. Clearly, they Academy should not have caved.
Let’s talk about who is on the list that should be:
The Hurt Locker – This is a great movie. The story of a wreckless bomb specialist in the war in Iraq that has some emotional issues is made of some powerful stuff. It’s near perfect. And being directed by Kathryn Bigelow, one of very few female directors ever nominated, it makes a bit of a statement. That could go either way with the Academy.
Up in the Air – This is a really good film about companionship and finding love even when life doesn’t seem to make it easy. Other than one scene of Hollywood contrivance, it makes an emotional statement that resonates. Jason Reitman directed, and he’s kinda on fire right now since “Juno”.
Up – Pixar is at it again, and this one has a bit more mature drama to it, which could help it in the Best Picture category, even though it is also nominated for Best Animated Feature. Still, it’s a Pixar film and it has all the wit, emotion and high quality we’ve come to expect from them.
Precious: based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire – Our own Graham Elwood here has reviewed it for us, and indeed, all I’ve heard is amazing. This is an emotional drama about a young African American girl trying to get free from an abusive home life. This is stuff the Academy loves: powerful, real, drama.
A Serious Man, and An Education – Ok, one being a Coen Brothers film, and both being the type of movies the Academy likes. They both seem logical on the list.
Ok, now we have a questionable entry:
The Blind Side – I have to admit, when I saw the trailers for this I thought, “Great, here is Sandra Bullock’s ‘message’ film. You’ve seen actors do these before. They get one emotional, tear jerker in to say they’ve done it. Well, turns out, from what I hear, it’s actually pretty good. However, I just can’t get past the thought that this might be a better idea than an actual film. But Graham said it was good. It definitely has the story for an Academy pick, though.
And the rest? Well they clearly have no place on this list, despite some of them being good films.
District 9 – Hey, I loved this movie. It was really well done and has a great story. It’s unique, while dealing with relevant issues. But it seems out of place here, and not so amazing as to garner an Oscar nod. Not to say that a science fiction film can’t be on this list, I just didn’t think it was Oscar good. You want to give a science fiction film an Oscar? Let’s give a retroactive one to “Blade Runner”. That was WAY ahead of its’ time. Oh, that’s cheating? Well, then give an Oscar nom to “Moon” that came out last summer. That movie was wonderful.
Inglorious Basterds – Hey, this was a fun film. It was maybe a tad long, but all in all, pretty damn satisfying. However, I still don’t see it as an Oscar-worthy film. And I certainly don’t think Quentin Tarantino is going to be given an Oscar for a remake of a 70’s cult film about “what if we had a plot to stop the Nazi’s and it worked”? Fun? Yes. Best Picture? No.
This, of course, brings me to the piece de resistance, Pocahontas in Space, otherwise known as Avatar. If you don’t see that they are the same movie then you are disillusioned, simple as that. And no, I don’t think that’s too harsh. Sure, this movie is a technological marvel. It was beautiful to watch, and I still enjoyed it. But the story is as old as time itself. It is anything but fresh. I realize that most film these days is derivative of something before it, but this thing was lifted nearly point for point from “Pocahontas”. I actually know a guy that thinks this is the best movie he has seen in the past decade. He thinks it will change the way kids today think about the world and it will usher in some new age of environmental awareness. Dude, NEVER gonna happen.
This movie should win all of the technical awards, absolutely. It deserves that. But if it wins anything else, then imagine me in a clock tower as near to the Academy as possible. Oh, I know, if it sweeps it might not be the stupidest thing the Academy has done…oh wait, yes it will. I just can’t bring myself to believe they would do that. I think The Hurt Locker, Precious, Up in the Air or A Serious Man have the best chance at winning. But with the Oscars, you just never know what shenanigans will take place.
As far as Best Actor in a Leading Role, my money is on Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. It’s one of those ‘he’s due for an Oscar’ things. I hear his performance is great. I think the other contender here is Colin Firth for A Single Man. Talk is, it’s the performance of his career. I guess we’ll find out. George Clooney was great, but I don’t think he was Oscar great. Morgan Freeman? I don’t know; I haven’t heard a thing about Invictus. Was it good? Boring? Anyone? Yeah, that’s the problem. I don’t think many people saw it.
Best Supporting Actor? Yeah, I saw Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones, and frankly he was one of the best things about the movie. But something tells me this film might get passed over all together. Also saw Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds, and he was great, but again, don’t see this taking any awards. Christopher Plummer could take it just for the veteran status, who knows?
Now, as usual, and I’m not sure why, I have not seen any of the Leading Actress performances. What’s that about? How do I always miss these films? Because I’m a guy and I don’t go see chick flicks. And obviously I’m a nerd, so I go see action/horror/sci-fi/comic book adaptation movies. Duh. …Huh. I need a girlfriend.
Oh, look, Meryl Streep was in a movie, let’s nominate her. And Helen Mirren is a class act and a true artist of her craft. Gabourey Sibide from Precious has a shot for the sheer power of her performance, despite the fact that this is her first real acting gig. Carey Mulligan is pretty new to me, and then there is Sandra Bullock, who may have canceled out her performance in The Blind Side by also being nominated for a Razzie Award this year for being in All About Steve. My, what a dubious distinction for an actor, yes?
Turns out I’ve actually seen two of the Best Supporting Actresses- Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick – both from Up in the Air. They were both great. Penelope Cruz from Nine won’t win because I don’t think that movie did well. Could go to Mo’Nique for Precious as the buzz is high there. Maggie Gyllenhaal is nominated for Crazy Heart. Haven’t seen it yet. Yeah, I know, I suck. I haven’t seen all the films yet. Hey, I’m just the ‘average movie-goer’ not the ‘I’ve got nothing to do all day but watch movies’ goer.
For Best Animated Feature I am hoping like Hell that Coraline wins. I think it was the most creative and beautiful to watch and such a great film. I think Up could take it because, well, it’s a Pixar film and they’ve won every time, practically. I’ve never even heard of The Secret of Kells, and Disney’s The Princess and the Frog looks like the worst animated Disney film in years. Lucky they own Pixar now, right? And this Fantastic Mr. Fox thing is just a weird choice of animation. Stop-motion stuff is excruciatingly grueling to shoot, and when you have characters with hair, it just comes out choppy. And frankly, the trailers just didn’t look that entertaining.
I’ll skip the tech stuff here. Most of it will be won by Avatar, anyway. The Adapted Screenplay will likely go to either Up in the Air or Precious: Based on the novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. Kinda sells itself for this category, doesn’t it?
Original Screenplay, I say either A Serious Man, or The Hurt Locker. The first is Coen Brothers, and the second is written by the guy who was actually there in Iraq. Two very strong cases for originality.
My biggest problem with this 10 Best Picture nomination thing is that I feel as if some of these films were only nominated because “the masses” complained that there wasn’t enough variety of films represented. Well, “masses”, there is a reason for that. Movies like Avatar were made for the lowest common denominator. They want to get as many people in the theater as possible to make as much money as possible. And they did. But beware! What’s lesson number one in film making (to me)? Big box office does not necessarily equate to Best Film of the Year. Most certainly this year. The Best Picture of the Year should be the absolute pinnacle of film making in EVERY respect. Not just a technical success, but also a CREATIVE success. Let’s hope the Academy does not disappoint this year.
If Avatar wins, then there is clearly no God, no logic, no all-powerful Wizard, and no justice in this world. I’m gonna find James Cameron’s house and piss in his mailbox.
This has been a public service announcement from Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer.