I’m usually only posting Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but today I saw the last of the 9 films nominated for Best Picture this year and I wanted to get this up before the Oscars Sunday night. These are not predictions, but my ranking of those 9 nominated films . . .
9. The Descendants
A small independent film often slips into the Best Picture nominations. This year that film is The Descendants. I hoped The Descendants would be something like Little Miss Sunshine, which was nominated in 2007 and which I loved. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, “Descendants, you’re no Little Miss Sunshine.” Not that I dis-liked this film, but it was easily my least favorite of the 9 nominees. George Clooney is very good, as are the two girls who play his daughters (although I can do without 10-year olds spouting profanity). But the story never really grabbed me. “Sid,” the older daughter’s friend who is supposed to be comic relief, is just annoying. Was it wrong that I cared more about the fate of the family land than about what happened to the George Clooney character’s wife?
I love baseball. I love baseball movies. I didn’t love Moneyball. If Brad Pitt wins the Oscar for Best Actor, or Jonah Hill wins Best Supporting Actor, it’ll be a travesty. Pitt does overcome his Brad-Pittness, but there’s not the range of emotion in his character that you’d expect from an Oscar winner. Jonah Hill is, well, Jonah Hill. I couldn’t believe he was nominated. As with any screenplay in which Aaron Sorkin is involved, the writing is top-notch. Perhaps the biggest problem I have with Moneyball is that it gives the impression that Scott Hatteberg was the key to the A’s success, totally discounting Oakland’s excellent pitching staff led by Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito (none of whom ever appear in the film).
7. Midnight in Paris
Viewing Midnight in Paris was like eating chocolate mousse. It was good, I felt happy watching it, but I wasn’t . . . fulfilled. I had trouble putting my finger on where it fell short until my daughter watched the DVD and said, “It never really developed. It just got to a point and kept going on the same level from there.” I agree. Nothing wrong with a movie that cheers you up, but that’s not enough for a Best Picture.
6. The Help
Another movie I enjoyed watching. I hope Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer win Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively. The revelation of the “special” pie may be the most memorable scene in a movie this year. But . . . although the movie is valuable for younger folks by raising their awareness of discrimination , it is too simplistic in its portrayal of race relations in the south to be worthy of a Best Picture award. However, it could win tomorrow night in the same way that Driving Miss Daisy won back in the 90’s.
“A magical movie about the magic of movies” is what I posted on Facebook after I saw Hugo. It’s a beautifully filmed movie with the best 3D since Avatar. Ben Kingsley was wonderful as the broken, and then renewed, Georges Melies. Sasha Baron Cohen’s over the top performance as the Station Inspector single-handedly dropped this film from the top three on my list.
4. The Artist
There’s part of me that feels about The Artist much like I did about Midnight In Paris – it’s sort of an enjoyable trifle without a lot of substance. But, the fact that it sustained the attention of my daughter despite being both black and white AND silent moves it up the list. Also, the performance of Jean Dujardin in the lead role is hands down the best acting I saw last year. He “said” more in a single expression than other actors conveyed in a paragraph. And the dog was wonderful! The Artist is the first film on this list that I will buy and watch repeatedly.
3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
“The worst reviewed movie to be nominated for Best Picture,” or so I’ve read several places. Maybe so. Maybe it was somewhat exploitive of 9/11. But . . . Max Von Sydow single-handedly raised the level of this film in a performance that should net him the Best Supporting Actor trophy. His character had depth beyond anything else in the movie, and his performance as a mute character was “extremely loud” . . . it would be wonderful if both the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Oscars go to actors who did not speak. I was much more caught up in this film than I expected, even though Tom Hanks doesn’t have a lot to do and Sandra Bullock was much better in The Blind Side. The kid (Thomas Horn) impressed me with his portrayal of Aspergers (or something similar) and not just because he was discovered on Kids Jeopardy. I was surprised by the revelation at the end, which is always a plus.
2. War Horse
Yeah, it’s manipulative. But I almost always enjoy being manipulated by the master, Stephen Spielberg (I say “almost always” because there was War of the Worlds . . . and The Terminal . . . and, well, Always). War Horse is the kind of sprawling, old-fashioned epic that doesn’t get made much anymore. It is long, but it never drags. Characters pop up and then are replaced as the story moves on, but Spielberg always gives you enough to care about them. I also appreciate its message about the senselessness of war.
1. The Tree of Life
The sushi of movies – you either love it or you hate it. There’s no in between. I hate sushi, but The Tree of Life is one of my favorite movies not just of the past year but ever. It is beautiful, it is spiritual, it is Terrence Malick’s masterpiece. You can read all about it in my very lengthy blog post . . . be warned though that my wife warned me that it would be “the post that’s going to kill your blog.” She’s in the “hated it” category. The Tree of Life has no chance of winning tomorrow night, but it may (should!) win in the Cinematography category. I may celebrate by watching it . . . again. After Karen goes to bed.