But for the purposes of this post, I'm going to mainly focus on the Best Picture nominees. Now, my ill feeling towards The Tree of Life and War Horse have been well documented, as has my appraisal of Hugo, so I won't be talking too much about those movies here. So I guess I'll just move right along with the remaining nominees, starting with my favorites and working my way down.
Who ever thought that in 2011, the front runner for best picture would be a black and white silent film? But it really is one of the absolute best movies of the year. They captured the time period perfectly in this film, and if it weren't for the inclusion of such current day names like John Goodman, you would never think that this was a modern movie. And I still can't believe they pulled it off, but they really did it. In this day and age, they not only managed to make a successful silent film, but they managed to make it completely enthralling throughout. The movie looks stunning, and the music almost perfectly evokes the emotions accompanying the visuals on the screen.
The performances here are great all around. Our stars, Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, are both nominated for their performances, and boy did they earn it. They were both great, as was all the supporting cast (especially the dog!). The movie tells us a story about love. Not just love between man and woman, but the love for art. We see as the acclaimed actor, George Valentin, played by Jean Dujardin, has a great love and passion for film as a silent medium, and is reluctant to let that love go and move on with the times. His pride leads to his downward spiral, while the actress of his affections, Peppy Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo, is only growing more and more successful in the move to talking movies.
On a technical level, this movie is outstanding. The use of sound is, quite frankly, brilliant, and results in a scene that is so simple, and yet so fascinating at the same time. But this movie just pulls you right in to the very end, and it'll leave you gasping. This really is just a lovely film all around, and definitely a solid pick in the Best Picture bracket. If I had seen it in time, it definitely would have made my Top 10 of the year.
This movie was actually really good. It didn't look like much, and I didn't really expect much, but this movie really does deliver. It stars George Clooney, and he does as good a job as ever. But really, I was really impressed with pretty much everyone in this film. Shailene Woodley was especially awesome, but even guys like Matthew Lillard and Nick Krause really surprised me here. There's just such a level of depth to all of these characters, and it shows in the performances all around.
The story is that George Clooney's wife is dying, but he finds out that she was cheating on him, and we basically see how he and his family deals with this news. It's a complex situation, but this movie handles the subject quite well, and the plot moves along really smoothly. We're presented with some very uncomfortable and, quite frankly, awkward moments. But unlike so many other movies, this movie presents these moments in a way that doesn't leave us, the audience, also feeling uncomfortable.
We'll be really feeling for the characters one moment, only for the movie to throw us an unexpected laugh the very next. The movie just feels really balanced in this way. It knows when to lay off on the sentimental moments and lighten the mood the little. Not that it's afraid to really drive home the sentimentality, of course. This movie can get pretty heavy at times, yet it leaves you off with a really good feeling inside.
This movie was a lot better than I expected. And if I would have included The Artist in my Top 10, then this would have placed as a real solid #11 spot, so a strong honorable mention, and another really solid nomination for Best Picture.
I was looking forward to this movie the very least. Hell, I was dreading seeing this movie. I had heard both good things and bad things about it, but nothing I heard could interest me in the least. So I basically had to force myself to sit down and watch this movie. But from the very moment it started, I couldn't pull myself away.
Starring Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, this movie is about a white girl, played by Emma Stone, who decides to write a book from the perspective of black maids, in order to get their story out there during the civil rights movement. And even though it may not be anything we haven't already seen and heard a thousand times before, it was still an interesting story this time nonetheless. I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie, how much I really cared about the characters, their various relationships, and their outcomes. But not only that, I was also surprised at just how funny this movie can be at times! Sissy Spacek just kills it, stealing every single scene that she's in.
But as with the other movies mentioned, this film is mainly pulled together by the strong cast all around. As I said, you really do grow to care about all of these characters. Well, most of them at least. Bryce Dallas Howard does a terrific job playing the racist antagonist, just a completely detestable young woman who'll leave you seething. (And on a nerdy note, I did get a kick out of the prior Spider-Man movies' Gwen Stacy, Bryce Dallas Howard, playing the villain to the upcoming Spider-Man movies' Gwen Stacy, Emma Stone).
I wrote this movie off as Oscar bait, and sure, maybe it is. But there's actually quite a bit of substance here as well. And despite the long running time, this movie just flew by in no time. Really enjoyable movie, and one of the biggest surprises of the year.
Midnight in Paris
And here's another movie about a writer, this one starring Owen Wilson. He's on a family vacation in the magical city of Paris. And every night, at the strike of midnight, he's taken on a trip through time, as he meets his idols, the artists of the past, such as Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Picasso, who laid the groundwork that inspired him to become a writer himself.
This was an interesting movie, and I thought the story was really nice. I loved the contrast in style when he travels through time, it really paints the period down nicely. The story deals with nostalgia, and how we always think more fondly of the past than we do our present. I really liked the way it was handled, and I do have my own theories concerning the story. I actually think that what we're watching is actually Owen Wilson's novel being played out to us. The movie never confirms this, of course, but I think it's an interesting take on the movie, and there are a few hints leading me to that conclusion.
In any event, this was a decent movie, with a fun story and generally likeable characters. I wouldn't say that it was great, just that it was nice, though the fact that it got nominated I do find rather intriguing.
The general reaction I've noticed this movie get is that it's definitely good, if not necessarily great. And that's pretty much how I see it as well. It's basically The Social Network, only with baseball as the subject matter instead of Facebook. Not surprising that it feels so similar, seeing as it was written by the same guy. In fact, there's times where it feels a little too similar to The Social Network. The music often feels like it's trying to mimic Trent Reznor's score from that movie, the fast dialogue and the clinical way the story plays out, it really just feels like the same movie, only with baseball. The difference is, this movie just isn't nearly as good as The Social Network. It's not as sharp or as witty, the characters aren't nearly as interesting, and when it's over, it doesn't leave you wanting to revisit and see what you might have missed.
But enough about The Social Network, lets talk about what Moneyball has to deliver on its own. And honestly, it's Brad Pitt. He gives an awesome performance here. And while I personally thought he was even better in The Tree of Life, I'd actually say that Moneyball is well worth watching purely for Pitt's performance alone, while I could never find a valid reason to ever recommend The Tree of Life. And I suppose Jonah Hill was decent as well, certainly his best performance yet. Though I wasn't blown away by him or anything, and I find all the awards recognition he's been getting to be a bit baffling.
And yeah, that's pretty much all I have to say about this movie. It's basically The Social Network Lite. But despite not being a baseball fan, I thought it was still an interesting movie. And hey, if you are a fan, then you'll likely be able to enjoy and appreciate it a lot more than I did. But if there's one thing this movie has going for it, that one thing is Brad Pitt.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
And here's where I stop being so kind. I didn't like The Tree of Life, but for those who did, I get it. I didn't like War Horse, but for those who did, I get it. I won't call those bad movies, but they just weren't my kind of movie. This, however, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is just, flat out, a bad movie. But the thing is, the movie does have moments of brilliance that really have me wanting to like it. Yet these moments are few and far between, and are almost always cut short by something so cringe-inducing that it immediately reminds me that I'm watching a really, really bad movie.
It's just obnoxious, really. Director Stephen Daldry likes to have his characters softly rub things against their faces in an unnatural way that you would only see in a pretentious film such as this. And all of my complaints about War Horse's sentimentality abuse applies here, but where they were just eye-rollers in War Horse, they literally left you cringing in disgust in this awful movie, as it tries to play on people's emotions surrounding 9/11. I don't even have a problem with it using 9/11 as a basis for its plot. Hell, that's what actually interested me in the movie in the first place. But if you're going to do so, at least have the decency to treat such a touchy subject with at least a shred of respect! I've seen movies based around 9/11 that have tackled the subject well and respectably, and this sure as hell isn't one of them. This movie is nothing more than exploitation.
And the kid actor, my god, he is just terrible. In a year with movies such as Super 8, Hugo, and even Real Steel, where the kid actors manage to act so well and so naturally, it's just a shame to see a movie based entirely around this little shit who you can barely stand to stomach five minutes with, let alone two god damn hours.
But as I said, there are moments of brilliance to be had here. Pretty much all of the scenes with Tom Hanks are really nicely done, and Max von Sydow's character was also pretty interesting, playing a mute who communicates through writing on a notepad. It's just such a shame to see these brilliant moments and interesting characters wasted on such an embarrassing movie. And that's the key word there, this nomination is an absolute embarrassment. I may not agree with some of the other nominees, but I can at least understand why they received them. But this? In no way, shape, or form does this movie deserve a Best Picture nomination, or hell, any kind of positive recognition.
It's a terrible movie, through and through. Hell, it wasn't even that well received by critics or general movie-goers, so I really don't know how this even happened. Oh wait, that's right, this movie was Oscar bait. And it's the shining example of how the Academy totally just took that bait this year without even a second glance. Embarrassing.
... Oh wait, that's right, DRIVE GOT SNUBBED!!!!!!!!!
So anyways, that's my look at the Best Picture nominees for this year's Academy Awards. I don't agree with them all, but with the exception of one, I can understand how they all got their nomination. My favorites to win are either Hugo or The Artist, so I'll be satisfied with either one. But really, as I mentioned in the beginning, these awards just kind of look boring overall. The Academy just didn't take any chances this year, they played it way too safe, and as a result, the show just doesn't look all that interesting. Of course, I'll probably still watch, but, eh...