Oscars Best Pictureathon, Part 1

Posted: 2012-02-22 by ilmozart in Movies
Tags: , ,

I am addicted to the Academy Awards.  I haven’t missed watching the Oscars in…well, as far back as my memory goes. Even when I lived in Israel for the year, I managed to sneak off to a friend’s house and watch.  It is my Superball (or is it Superbowl?) It is the pinnacle of my pop culture year.

And, because of that, every year I make it a point to see all the Best Picture nominated films. It used to be easy when there were only 5. Even if one of those 5 was that godawful piece of cinematic garbage Crash, I always managed. Then two years ago, they changed it to 10. But then the Academy realized that the chances of there actually being 10 nomination worthy films a year was a slim bet (hello, The Blind Side), so this year they used some bizarre algorithm/mystical incantation and voila! Only 9 films to watch this year! What a relief.

For those of you uninformed, or living under a rock they are (in no particular order): The Tree of Life, The Artist, The Descendants, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, Hugo, The Help, War Horse, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
OK, I lied – the movies are listed in order of personal preference.

I had watched 7 out of the 9 on my own and was begrudgingly setting out to watch War Horse and EL&IC, neither of which really interested me but that’s the level of my dedication.  Luckily, AMC Theaters has decided to hold a Best Picture Showcase, where over the course of 2 Saturdays, they will show all 9 nominees.  While the thought of watching 4 to 5 movies in a row, might seem daunting to some, I took this as a personal challenge, a chance to test my mettle. Am I really such a movie buff? I might see up to three movies a weekend, maybe two a day, but four in a day? …Was I really up for it?

Yesterday was the first day which ran from 11 am to around 9:30 pm. Luckily a friend of mine decided that he too needed to subject himself to this, so I had company. There was a very official looking table where we checked in and got our special tags which made us feel oh-so-special, and then we headed into the theater which would serve as our home for the day to settle in for the duration. The theater wasn’t full so we got prime real estate right in the center.  Everyone was a bit spread out so there wasn’t a huge sense of community, but the end we were all giving each other the “nod.”  In between each film they had movie trivia.  The questions weren’t too hard – I won a poster because I knew the release date of Titanic in 3D (April 6). A few of the questions were just inane; some guy couldn’t think of 2 candies they sold at the concessions stand and I’m betting he later hung his head in shame. Toward the end, they were just tossing random questions and random crap and I ended up with a t-shirt, a stress ball, three movie posters, and the soundtrack from We Bought a Zoo. Not sure I need the soundtrack for a movie I never want to see, but hey, free is free.

The movies screened were: War HorseMoneyballThe Tree of Life, and The Descendants.   We had both seen all of them but War Horse and were both of the opinion that The Tree of Life was the superior film in the lot. Below are my random thoughts about each of these movies, jotted down after each film ended:

War Horse – slow and silly beginning. Main kid is pretty but terrible actor. Movie didn’t really start in earnest until the war started. Beautiful to look at, music was very out of the 1940’s soundtracks. End seemed filmed like Gone with the Wind‘s scene when Atlanta was burning, the one that is on the poster. French Grandfather was affecting. Scene in No Man’s Land was also well done. Deaths handled mostly off camera. Maybe to keep this a kiddie film? The war was sad, but almost bloodless. Overall Good but not Great. Kept thinking of The Black Stallion, a far superior film about a boy and his horse. Also boy’s relationship with horse struck me as almost romantic (see Gone with the Wind visual reference above). He kept a pic of the horse like a man keeps a pic of his gf. And the “I will find you speech” was right out of Last of the Mohicans.  But at least there it was a man talking to a woman he wanted to sleep with — not his horse.   Towards the end, I had to use all my willpower not to shout “You’re not just a war horse, you’re a FRIEND horse!” Damn you SNL. Also, WWI, how did anyone survive those trenches? Seriously.

Moneyball – much better than I remembered. Jonah Hill didn’t deserve the Best Supporting Actor nomination. Brad Pitt was good but was nominated for the wrong film. Oddly, I felt more emotion watching this film than I did during War Horse. Not sure if that says anything about Warhorse or about Moneyball. The main game and focal point of the film had some drama but you don’t feel that so much is at stake for the team as much as there is for Billy Beane.  Again, Good but not Great.

Tree of Life – holds up upon the the second viewing and possibly even better. Knowing the basics of the film and general plot allowed me to focus more this time. The creation of the universe sequence is still amazing and awesome in the literal definition. Hard to believe the fx are just swirls in water.

Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain should both have been nominated for this movie. They do much better, deeper work in this than in the movies they got the nods in, Moneyball and The Help, respectively. Also the main child actor, Hunter Macracken should have gotten more recognition. His portrayal of an angry, confused, lost but  ultimately loving boy was honest and sincere in a way we rarely see on screen. The relationship between the brothers, the mother and the sons (both as a group and individually), the father and the rest of the family were all real and fraught with true emotion. The continued struggle between the two forces of Nature and Grace were beautifully defined in the film by the father and mother, while never losing sight of them as people not just metaphors. While I know people find the movie confusing, even boring, this was my favorite film of the year.

The Descendants – second viewing really allowed me to focus on George Clooney’s performance. When they say acting is about reacting, this performance is what they mean. He is a man forced to process a series of terrible events too quickly while still being the father for his daughters and making a major decision about the future of the one of the last untouched spots of paradise in Hawaii. Shailene Woodley is a surprise as his older daughter who has much to process herself. She was the one who learned that her mother was having an affair, so as her mother lays dying she must try to forgive her, forgive her father, protect her younger sister all while dealing herself with the slow inevitable course of her mother’s death. Having despised the commercials for The Secret Life of the American Teenager, I never assumed I’d actually find her talented. Quite a surprise. The movie is shot beautifully and though the problems and heartaches are no different than on the mainland, they are discordant with the lush verdant and impossibly gorgeous surroundings. Alexander Payne creates a world as real and effecting as he did in About Schmidt and pulls a performance out of Clooney that was every bit as nuanced as Jack Nicholson’s was. The end of the film, while nothing ground breaking happened and it didn’t say anything monumental, is just about perfect.

Although two of the movies were second-viewings, the day passed quickly.  In fact, when we left at 9:30, I found myself looking forward to part II of this marathon. So, in the end, challenge accepted and won.
Well, at least halfway.

  1. […] is my first post on this nifty blog about consumer electronics and other tech, thegoodthebadandtheugly.net, wherein […]

  2. The Original Luddite says:

    A charming, insightful view of contenders for the Academy Award. ilmozart illuminates each film with a personal viewpoint that may fill in what you have missed. Her love and knowledge of the genre is delightful. We look forward to Part II and to any contribution she will make.

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