Oscar Best Picturathon, Part 2

Posted: 2012-02-26 by ilmozart in Movies
Tags: ,

Having not been scared off after the 4-in-a-row movie marathon as part of the AMC Best Picture Showcase, yesterday I completed said marathon with a five-in-a-row movie viewing.

I am happy to report, I have survived,  and am  even looking forward to sitting in a movie theater again.

Last week was a lot of fun, what with the free posters, stress balls and t-shirts. This time around, I was slightly better prepared and brought not only a slew of snacks, but a tote for all my swag. And I gotta say, having a hearty breakfast earlier in the morning didn’t hurt either.

I was joined by two friends this week and in general, the crowd seemed more up for a good time. Everyone was just more jovial and chatty.  I learned, for example, that the guy sitting in front of us had poor taste in movies. After he finished weeping at the end of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, he told us how he loves these sort of “difficult, emotional” movies and his favorite film is Life as a House.  I tried my best not to be too mean…

The trivia was slightly more challenging this time and I’m proud that I guess the connection between Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, John Cleese and George Segal (they all played Robin Hood) and one of my brothers will be a very lucky young man when he receives a Nic Cage poster as a result.But what everyone is really curious about are the movies, so here are my short and occasionally extremely biased opinions on the rest of the Best Picture nominee:

Hugo (in 3D) – A kid’s movie seems an odd choice for Martin Scorsese.  Based on a fabulous book The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (yes, those Selznicks), Hugo  tells the story of a young orphaned boy who lives in the walls of a train station in Paris and how his search to get a message from his father, helped connect him to one of the fathers of early cinema history, Georges Méliès.
Most people know Méliès from his silent  film, Voyage dans la Lune, which itself was based on novels by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.

While I am not a huge fan of 3D, in Hugo it doesn’t seem a nifty trick as much as a tool used to give the film visual depth and really take us into Hugo’s world. The scenes as Hugo ran around around the inner workings of the massive clocks in the station benefited especially from the 3D. The movie is as much a plea by Scorsese for film preservation, something very near and dear to his heart, as it is about the story of a lost boy and lost old man. Asa Butterfield as Hugo and Chloe Grace Moretz as Isabelle, Hugo’s friend and goddaughter to Méliès, were both wonderful, but the movie really belongs to Ben Kingsley. His portrayal of Méliès as a man who lost the most vital part of himself , his dreams and creativity, when his vast number of films were destroyed and his name and brilliance all but forgotten.

The Help – I didn’t really want to see this movie. I had read the book by Kathryn Stockett and while I enjoyed it, I was still uneasy.  Like so many other people I am tired of the “white people save black people” type of story. The book version benefited from the multi-person point of view.  The movie, however, not so successful.  Yes, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer were fantastic. Yes, Jessica Chastain was great. But this wasn’t a great movie. I did enjoy the relationship between Spencer’s Minny and Chastain’s Celia Foote – an unconventional boss/maid dynamic that proved positive for both involved. I also enjoyed the iron-strong rein that Bryce Dallas Howard’s Hilly Holbrooke kept on all the other white ladies, telling them in no uncertain terms how to act, whom to talk to, and most importantly, whom to ignore.  These character moments do not make a fulfilling story, however. Overall, this revised movie poster pretty much sums up how I feel (thank you to Ali Gray, theshiznit.co.uk)

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Out of all the best picture nominees, this is the one I really REALLY didn’t want to see. It is the worst reviewed movie to be nominated and openly reviled by some, including The Onion’s AV Club which gave the film an F and Tony Bourdain who really loathed it to the point of referring to it in an NYT interview as ‘Extremely Loud and Incredibly Twee’.  I was in NY during 9/11 and while I don’t assume that anyone really owns a tragedy of that scale, this movie really pissed me off.  More details on how much I hated this movie are forthcoming.  Since I had not read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book on which this movie is based, I relied on my friend sitting next to me to tell me if the fault lay in the original story or in the retelling. According to her, definitely the retelling. It was trite. It was manipulative. It lacked anything for me to really, honestly, latch on to – either plot point or character.  How can a movie that encompasses such a huge part of NY history and such a huge cross-section of New Yorkers be so  surface and in the end, so forgettable? Well, forgettable once I stop being pissed off…  And I will be a lady and not mention Thomas Horn, the young first-time actor who played Oscar Schell, our protagonist. All I’ll say is I hope he gets some better roles in the future. And lose the tambourine.

The Artist – Another movie about movies (along with Hugo), The Artist tells of the fall and rise of George Valentin, a dashing star of the silent screen along the lines of Douglas Fairbanks with a dash of Gene Kelly in Singin’ In the Rain. He is the King of Hollywood, loved by all (though not so much his wife, Penelope Ann Miller who is just great in the role); but once sound is introduced and the “talkie” is the next big thing, Valentin becomes a relic of the past. It is the love of a woman, Bérénice Bejo’s Peppy Miller, an ingenue Valentin helped discover and Hollywood’s new “girl you’ll love to love,” that save him from the brink.  This is not a deep movie, full of meaning and open to interpretation.  I leave that to Tree of Life.  What The Artist is, however, is a well-acted, well-filmed story that is entertaining and joyous by the end.  You cannot help but smile after watching the finale.

Oh — and it’s a silent film. Right. That.  If you need words, go see Shakespeare’s HAMLET.

Midnight in Paris – Truth be told, I love a good Woody Allen film. Love and Death, Hannah and Her Sisters, Annie Hall…all some of my favorite movies of all time.  Lately, though Allen’s films have been touch and go for me. Some were good (Vicky Cristina Barcelona) some were godawful (Scoop). So I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Midnight in Paris. Gil Pender is a screenwriter who on a trip to Paris with his fiancee and future in-laws, discovers a magic way to Paris’s past – a past he has romanticized and dreamed about for years.  Owen Wilson was also surprising as the Woody Allen stand-in, the Hollywood writer who feels drawn to Paris during the 20’s and who wants to give up being a hack and just write. Though Wilson didn’t have Allen’s Jewish-tinged neuroses, he figured out a way to keep his Gil Pender a clear descendant of Alvy Singer. The trips back to the 2o’s were the most fun scenes in the film, especially any scenes with Corey Stoll whose Hemingway is as intense as one would imagine Hemingway to be and as funny as that characterization would be today. Adrian Brody’s Dali and Allison Pill’s Zelda Fitzgerald are also worth noting. It does seem like this film was mocking Allen’s own fondness for nostalgia, chastising himself for not realizing that every age feels those generations who came before really understood how to live. I guess we should remember that in fifty years, there will be someone sitting by a window, dreaming about the heady days of the early 2000’s and how we had it right all along.

My guess for Best Picture? Probably The Artist, maybe The Descendants.  Either way we’ll find out tonight…Billy Crystal the ball is in your court.

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