What do you mean he doesn’t like our movie?
I think the Oscars were my very first heartbreak.
I was only thirteen years old when I tuned in for the Academy Awards in 1996. Like a lot of filmgoers and critics that year, I was confident that Fargo, the Coen brothers’ masterfully bleak comedy about an extortion scheme gone horribly wrong, would take best picture. I had seen the other nominees that year and I knew they were no great shakes in comparison. It was kismet.
What got the nod for Best Picture in 1996? The goddamn English Patient.
My mind raced. There had to be some mistake. Surely, the Academy of Arts & Sciences knew that Fargo was the only choice. I turned to Uncle Dave for some explanation behind this egregious error, but he only sighed and said, “it’s the Oscars. Good movies never win”.
I never watched another Academy Awards telecast after that.
With the 82nd Annual Academy Awards looming over us like the grim spectre of death, I thought I’d venture to review each of the Best Picture nominees before the ceremony airs on March 7th.
THE BLIND SIDE
They say that Sandra Bullock is “the girl next door.” If that were the case in my neighbourhood, I’d probably move. Bullock stars in a film that’s largely about how awesome her character is. Oh, I know the film was supposed to be based on the true story of Michael Oher, who rose above years of poverty and sketchy situations to become an NFL football player. Yet, if you watch the movie, you mostly get a sense that it’s about close-ups on Sandra Bullock’s face or just how nice all the white folks in the film are. Unfortunately, the only thing the film refuses to be about is the subject that inspired it.
The “man-becomes-alien-film-that-ends-in-a-mech-fight” which was unfortunately eclipsed by Avatar. Unlike Avatar, this one has a good story, a pretty thoughtful script with a lot of surprises, standout performances and is a thoroughly gripping drama.
With a sweet script by High Fidelity author Nick Hornby, this true account of a young girl’s infatuation with an older con man is one of the better choices this year. Bolstered by two terrific lead performances by Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard, the film oozes with charm alongside its swinging sixties background.
THE HURT LOCKER
A gritty, well-made Iraq War drama from eclectic filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow. Truth be told, I am less excited by this film winning by its own merits than I am by the prospect of the Best Picture Oscar going to the director of Near Dark and the definitive Patrick Swayze vehicle, Point Break. Yep, she directed those too.
Quentin Tarantino’s latest was no Jackie Brown or Kill Bill, but it was still a worthwhile effort. I doubt it will win an Oscar for Best Picture, but Christoph Waltz (who plays the unforgivably evil Hans Landa) did deliver one of the best performances I’ve seen all year. However, if Basterds not winning any Oscars somehow leads to Eli Roth never working again, it’s really a win-win scenario.
PRECIOUS—BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE
This film has everything: a story that sensationalizes teen pregnancy, mental disorders, incest, and Mariah Carey, Mo’Nique and Lenny Kravitz in dramatic roles… Now that’s entertainment! Seriously, this is the kind of film that was once only available as a “made-for-TV” that aired on WTN when they ran out of French & Saunders reruns.
A SERIOUS MAN
1996 has come back to haunt me, as the Coen Brothers have been nominated for a pitch-black comedy yet again. The film is loosely based on the story of Job. Though often very funny and striking, isn’t one of their absolute best efforts. That said, even a pretty good Coen Brothers’ film is pretty damn amazing.
Words fail me on this one. It’s brilliant. If Up doesn’t move you to tears by its opening ten minutes, you’re crueller than Mean Joe Greene.
UP IN THE AIR
Although George Clooney mostly plays himself these days, Up In The Air has a much stronger script than you would expect from the director of Juno. A film about a self-absorbed jerk who fires people for a living shouldn’t be anywhere near as enjoyable as this.
Am I forgetting something? Oh, yeah!
As terrible as the Blue Cat People Fighting Soldiers From The Planet Stereotype movie was, it surely deserves an Oscar for Best Editing. At nearly three hours without a single surprise or a moment of genuine emotion, it’s probably one of the few films that’s as drawn-out and boring as an Oscar ceremony.
Sorry, Avatar obsessives. I just can’t get behind an environmentalist film being championed by those who buy Big Gulps and throw them away half-full at the local theatre.
What’s your pick?