Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Some random Oscar thoughts

"It's that time again!"

"To floss?"

"To make fun of the Disney Channel?"

"No!  It's time for the Oscar nomiations!"

Now, first thought out of the way - yes, this year is in part about the love of nostalgia, and for doing it well - Midnight in Paris with it's time-traveling trips to the Paris of yore and those towering figures of literature and art; Hugo with its also early 20th century tripping to the world of Paris and cinema via Melies; The Artist which is not even a love letter to silent/classic Hollywood film, it's a wondrous sex act that includes a cute dog and tap-dancing; The Tree of Liff is a trip all the way back to the beginning of everything, of the universe and of a life in the 1950's; same goes for The Help where it's a trip back in time to a, uh, not so good time in Mississippi (then again when is there a *good* time there); Moneyball looks back at, uh, ten years ago at the formation of baseball-by-statistics, and likewise Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (the latter an okay sap-fest, the former a straightforward and-all-the-better-for-it saga) looks back ten years ago at a fictional kid dealing in a rather extraordinary way with "The Worst Day" ten years ago.

Oh, and of course War Horse, which looks back fondly (sort of) at poor English folks and World War 1 via John Ford homage (and by homage I mean 'You're Not Even TRYING To Be Subtle With That' via Spielberg and Janusz Kaminski).  And then... what else am I missing?  Oh yes, The Descendants, the one film that takes place in present day, but even that too looks back at the past just by way of its title and how the character is torn between the personal life he's lived (his wife cheated on him and is now in a coma where she won't wake up) and business (his family legacy going back generations in Hawaii and the split in the family as to what to do with the multitude of Samolians in land ownership that can be sold or kept).  So this was a year about looking back, perhaps as an odd roundabout way to look forward, particularly as Woody Allen for the first time used digital color correction on one of his films, Spielberg used an AVID to edit one of his live-action films, and Scorsese went gaga for 3D - and in a good way, thank God - not to mention Wim Wenders with his own Oscar nomination.  It's an exciting time for films, even as it appears from the crop of works that it's about going forward in retrospect... or finding some solace and entertainment and meaning in the past via escapism.

Oh, as an aside, what CRAP that Errol Morris and Werner Herzog were shut out for what were the three best documentaries of the year - Tabloid, Into the Abyss and Cave of Forgotten Dreams, the latter being something that could've snagged the Great Duke a golden one where he could have then gone on stage to declare it is not a significant award.  I understand Paradise Lost is a good doc series (sadly I've yet to see any of the films), but then what about other much acclaimed docs like Buck or Senna?  Sigh, academy, sigh.  And don't get me started on the foreign Oscars, however A SEPARATION, the third best film of the year, has a lock on that (or it should anyway).

So... some more random thoughts (this first part is in reference to a friend who was frustrated that there were no nominations for women directors or cinematographers):

About women directors/cinematographers - frankly, these categories didn't surprise me and it is what about what I expected (Spielberg might've been the 'Dark Horse' so to speak but got shut out, and rightfully so as War Horse was kinda overrated, much preferred Tintin which sadly got shut-out of animated).  There were some good movies made by women this year but none that got major Oscar buzz to start with, and certainly no female cinematographers.  Of course it's not fair, but that's Hollywood for ya.  I don't think Malick has a real chance, it's between Scorsese and the Hanavavavicious dude from the Artist (it'd be really nice if Woody Allen won, but they'll give him best screenplay and that'll probably be it unfortunately).  I was surprised actually that Tree of Life got a best picture nomination - it's a fantastic film, though not what I'd usually picture the academy nominating (then again with the 'between 5 and 10' rule now, it's anybody's game).

I found Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close just OK.  I saw it this weekend, had some moving moments, Max von Sydow was great, and the climax helped clear up some things, 
but it was mostly pretty contrived and the film needed a Tom Cruise to counter the little kid's Dustin Hoffman.  

Foreign Film - hells yes, A Separation, my 3rd favorite film of the year.  

Actually I'm sad Melancholia didn't get a couple of nods, even just in like technical categories like cinematography (Janusz Kaminski's work was nice, but just nice and not much more), but then I might be biased as that was my pick for film of the year (that wasn't by Allen or Scorsese or whomever).

The two big shut-outs for best actor were Michael Shannon and Michael Fassbender.  I haven't seen this 'A Better Life' movie, it seemed to just quickly come and go in theaters, but it seemed kinda like pap.  Maybe the work by the two Michael's was too daring for the Academy, who usually skewers safer (i.e. Clooney, who was amazing in the Descendants, and Pitt).  However among the nominees Oldman is my favorite, but he probably won't win as his role would be seen as too "quiet" by the academy.

While I really really want Hugo to win a lot of awards, since I'm a Scorsese nut, Harvey Weinstein is never to be underestimated when it comes to Oscar campaigning, and there's a good chance he could get two wins back to back (after The King's Speech last year) with the Artist, which was a very good movie, just not a MASTERPIECE like Hugo or Midnight in Paris.  

Animated Oscar goes to Rango, end of report, next case.

Very happy to see The Muppets get a song nomination.  Can't wait to see Walter tear it up in front of millions watching.  

If Planet of the Apes doesn't get visual effects then they should just shut down the category.  That, and Andy Serkis, made that movie as wonderful as it was.

Frankly, while I understand the praise for Bridesmaids since it was the First Gross-Out Women's Comedy Like The Hangover(TM), I wasn't won over by the movie.  It had it's moments and some of the acting was fine, but honestly best supporting actress doesn't bother me as much as it's nom for best screenplay - most of that movie was *improvised*, as are a lot of Apatow productions, and it kinda ticks me off that Kristin Wiig gets that kind of attention while other better Apatow stuff like Knocked Up got shut out in years past.  

Christopher Plummer hands down

The Help will probably get a best supporting actress win for one of the peoples, though I haven't seen the film yet (!)  so it's hard for me to comment on that.

Um... at the moment I don't have much else to say.

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