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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Here comes Oscar

Jennifer Lawrence (with young co-star) in Winter's Bone

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time know that I very occasionally weigh in on movies - and the recent Oscar nominations provide a ready excuse to look back at the rather weak year that 2010 was for the filmic medium.

Year Two of having 10 Best Picture nominees (up from the traditional five) shows what a problem that number can cause under such circumstances - my own record of films seen in 2010 barely includes 10 films at all, and most of those were not Best-Picture-Oscar worthy in my opinion. Still, six of them have been nominated for Best Picture, so I can comment on those - and having not seen the other four won't stop me commenting on some of them as well.

I will start with those I've seen, in descending order of my rating, then go on to explain why I haven't seen the others (yet).
  1. Winter's Bone - Nice that it got nominated, since it was by far the best film of the year. An intensely good story, incredibly well told (and beautifully photographed). I also think the unaffected and mesmerizing Jennifer Lawrence deserves the Best Actress statuette, but it's likely the Academy will consider her nomination to be the prize, and award the Oscar to someone more famous.
  2. The King's Speech - Like Winter's Bone, I loved this film and gave it my highest rating (4 stars). But the fact that such a modestly styled and historical presentation grabbed 12 nominations really underscores what a weak field we're considering. Firth and Rush together made this movie an extraordinary experience - if the world were just, they would share the Best Actor award.
  3. True Grit - OK, we're down to my 3.5-star rating here, which ain't bad, but it's only No. 3 on the list! Coen Brothers darkness tinges a rollicking Western with a couple of hoot-worthy characters played by Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld. Both are terrific, but the kid is totally awesome. An incredible discovery. I enjoyed the film heartily, and wished I had popcorn to munch throughout.
  4. The Social Network - No surprise that this got a lot of noms, as it's got a super-relevant topic and very snappy dialogue by Aaron Sorkin. I gave it 3.5 stars, but ultimately found it less memorable than those listed above.
  5. The Fighter - An unoriginal story presented in a slightly novel way, with very, very good acting that elevated this film to a 3-star rating. I always expect greatness from Christian Bale, and here he comes close to the mind-bending tour-de-force that he accomplished in The Machinist (look it up, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is just as good). Melissa Leo was better in Frozen River; Mark Wahlberg may have been overlooked here.
  6. Inception - OK, the Academy gave like a hundred nominations to Titanic, so nothing surprises me anymore. This was a boring action film disguised as an intellectual thriller, starring CGI (and some actual people who did nothing to distinguish themselves, unless you count delivering laughably stupid dialogue with a straight face). I only gave it 2 stars, which means I wouldn't recommend you waste the time to see it.

Now, for the Best Picture-nominated films I haven't seen, in the order I may see them in:

  1. Black Swan - I have shied away from this film, despite having loved Darren Aronofsky's previous work, because I'm worried that the crazy ballerina character (seen in photo above at right) will give me unpleasant flashbacks to a couple of past girlfriends. Also, the mixed reviews. But I may buck up my courage and catch it while it's still in the theater. One more thing - am I the only person who's sick and tired of Natalie Portman already?
  2. The Kids Are All Right - Gets points for correct spelling of alright. Lots of people have urged me to see this film, and I like the actors just fine. But, a long time ago, lots of people urged me to see a Lisa Cholodenko film called High Art, and it also had some pretty good actors in it, but it was so horrbly written that I shut it off after 45 minutes. Finding this available from the library will probably take several months, but maybe some day I'll see it and find out that this time they were right.
  3. Toy Story 3 - Predecessors were wonderful, and this probably is, too. Didn't see it because I'm old and don't have kids. Also, it sort of bothers me that it has grossed $415 million to just $6.3 million for Winter's Bone. Could it possibly be 65 times more worthwhile?
  4. 127 Hours - Didn't go because I don't crave such a harrowing experience. Probably won't ever crave such a harrowing experience. Also, I get the impression that the guy James Franco plays is so arrogant that half the audience is glad he has to cut off his arm. Yeeeesh!

Overlooked: Babies. I can't understand why this French-made documentary isn't nominated in its category. Of the five feature-length documentary nominees, I've only seen one - Restrepo - and it was amateurish in comparison to the lyrical, beautiful, nearly wordless human nature film Babies. See it and be charmed by who we are.

Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush in The King's Speech


B said...

127 was amazing on the big screen, but I don't think the theater experience is necessary on that one. Definitely watch it if you get a chance, it's an amazingly interesting depiction of what's really a pretty boring slice of time.

Roger Owen Green said...

I have Winter's Bone on my Netflix. as you know, I did love The king's Speech, and even tho it's small film in some ways, I found it very affecting.

BTW, I saw Toy Story 3 with wife but sans child.

PlanetAlbany said...

I liked Winter's Bone OK, but thought it's big flaw was it did not show the physical and other effects of meth addiction. King's Speech was good, too; but I didn't see "True Grit" as much different from the John Wayne version.

John Rowen said...

Dave - - Excellent call on the movies that you saw. I liked your observation about how King's Speech, a relatively low-key movie, was such a standout among the present nominees. If you wait for Kids are All Right to be on DVD, that will be ok. It's a good movie but I do not see what all the excitement was with it.

Melissa Stafford said...

Curious if you've gotten around to seeing Black Swan yet....and if you have, what did you think?