Sunday, February 20, 2011

Oscars: Best Picture nominees

This year I've managed to see all of the movies that the Academy has nominated for Best Picture. I won't venture a prediction, but here are my thoughts on all ten of them, in the order I saw them (as best as I can remember).

The Kids Are All Right *****

This was the only one of the bunch to which I gave five stars (with a couple of exceptions, I rated all of the movies on my Netflix account within 24 hours of seeing the movie, and I used those ratings in this post). Still, it's not my top pick...

While watching it, the Julianne Morore-Mark Ruffalo story line made me angry, angry enough to want to get up and walk out. But even in the moment I sensed that that emotional involvement was a good thing.

I thought Annette Benning was perfect in her role, as good as she's ever been, and I'd be happy to see her win Best Actress.

Overall, I loved it.

Inception **

I walked out wondering, "Why do they think they have to try so hard?" I wasn't impressed, and it seemed like yet another movie that attempts to achieve something by going way over the top. Style over substance. Yes, very intricate. But I just didn't care about the Leonardo DiCaprio character or his relationship with his wife, so who cares? Yawn.

The Social Network ***

I wasn't a fan of Mark Zuckerberg when I walked in, and I cared even less for him when I walked out. But the movie was great; I loved the pace, the relentless progress forward. Web-time, indeed. And I agreed with an article I read about the movie when it came out (sorry, can't find the link): the movie serves as a generational litmus test. To some people, the Zuckerberg character in the movie is a clod and a jerk, entirely annoying. To younger folk, he has more of a "heroic" quality because of his accomplishments. Unfortunately, this apparently makes me "old" despite working in Silicon Valley all those years...

With regard to the real Facebook, which like Apple has become less and less appealing with time, my attitude shifted a bit after listening to a CNN interview with Google marketing exec Wael Ghonim who volunteered that "this [Egyptian] revolution started on Facebook."

Black Swan ****

I haven't been much of a Natalie Portman fan (Padmé Amidala, ugh), but she was totally convincing in Black Swan. Like most of my favorites on this list, this was a difficult movie to watch (crazy how self-mutilation as minor as ripping off a tiny patch of skin can twist me up in contortions in my theater seat). The movie had a lot of cohesive layers; overall, it just worked for me. Creepy, unflinching, and ultimately... completely, poetically satisfying. It breathed new life into Swan Lake the way Rent did for La Bohème.

This was the first of the movies I saw and said afterwards, "This gets my vote."

Toy Story 3 ***

I cried. And yes, it speaks to the challenges of aging. But as someone who is aging, it didn't move me all that much. I sort of had a, "Well, yes, it's more Toy Story" reaction.

The King's Speech ****

I cried. Awesome performances from Geoffrey Rush, Colin Firth, and Helena Bonham Carter. Really moving. But I wouldn't name it Best Picture, though it's the odds-on favorite.

Winter's Bone ***

As a native of a small midwestern town, there was a wee bit too much familiarity in this one. It left me glad that I hadn't lived through anything quite as desperate as the story portrayed in the movie. Well done. But again, just didn't feel like a Best Picture to me.

True Grit ****

After seeing this, I changed my Best Picture vote from Black Swan. Hailee Steinfeld was brilliant and left me wanting more... as in, "Please don't flame out like so many actors who start young!"

Everything that happened after the rattlesnake bite was "heavy"... not emotionally so but a demontration of gravity. In other words, it left me with the sense that there was just no other course that Mattie Ross' life could have taken (I didn't know the story from the book or earlier movie.)

And yes, I cried.

127 Hours ****

I changed my vote for a second time after seeing James Franco's awesome performance in that chasm. I knew the story well from listening to a long interview with the real life Aron Ralston, and I'm an EMT who was trained to deal with the gory... both of which probably made it more difficult to sit still in my chair than it otherwise might have been. Talk about feeling dread and anxiety.

This gets my vote for Best Picture because it's a movie that takes you somewhere where you've never been... and will probably never go. I couldn't help but imagine myself in his situation...

The Fighter ****

I can't resist Mark Wahlberg in anything, which goes without saying. :-) But his whole Ward family in the movie... Jesuchristo, scary! Christian Bale was utterly spot on... his winning the Best Supporting Actor is my only non-negotiable in the acting categories, lol.

No tears but I couldn't help but cheer at the end.

ALL IN ALL, it was a great year of movies. I'd recommend all of the above except Inception. Enjoy. :-)

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Blogger TomS said...

Michael, a great post.
I have seen 7 of the 10 (missing True Grit, 127 Hours and Winters Bone.)
So far, with a few minor differences,our opinions are uncannily alike: Kids are All Right was my personal favorite. King's Speech is shaping up to be a close second. And speaking of movies that elicited tears..I cried at the fnal shot of Black Swan, with the music, the intensity, and the hell of her coming-of-age building to overwhelming emotion. Inception was vastly overrated. Social Network I felt was very mediocre fimmaking, regardles of the subject and characters. Nice to know you and I still, independently of one another, share a similar taste in film.

7:27 PM  

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