Thursday, February 4, 2010

I Hate The Oscars: Best Picture Nods

Brokeback Mountain losing Best Picture to Crash didn't keep Gyllenhaal from enjoying himself, or from ruining Ang Lee's pictures.

The nominees are in.

With a 10-picture dog race for the Best Picture Oscar, the 82nd Annual Academy Awards promises to be twice as long and at least twice as political.

While keeping in mind that "the Oscars are bullshit and we hate them", let's take a quick look at the nominees for Best Picture.

SYNOPSIS: A crippled Marine regains the use of his legs in a fantastical tale of redemption. No, it's not the Gary Sinise side-plot from "Forrest Gump", it's a lackluster cliche that is inexplicably the highest-grossing film of modern times. Modern moviegoers like bright shiny things, apparently. Like cats with laser pointers. Cats and lasers take up a lot of screen time in Avatar.

CRITICAL RESPONSE: Most critics heralded the graphics and visual experience, most refined critics also pointed out the story left a lot to be desired.

IHYFM RESPONSE: I didn't care for it.

WHY IT'S NOMINATED: Money talks.

WILL IT WIN?: The surprising win for Avatar at the Golden Globes could bode well or poor for Cameron's sci-fi epic. With a list of nominees as long as it is this year, Avatar could sneak in from behind to win if voters split over the other films (most likely The Hurt Locker, Precious, and Inglourious Basterds). Also, it could win outright because, let's face it, there's a lot of uncultured morons working in show business who get to vote.

"The Blind Side"
SYNOPSIS: Based on the true story of Michael Oher, a child who escaped poverty because he excelled at playing left tackle (at some levels), arguably one of the most important positions on the football field.

CRITICAL RESPONSE: Pretty decent. It has 70% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus that Sandra Bullock's performance and the 'based-on-a-true-story' make up for a drama that is at times too easy.

IHYFM RESPONSE: I didn't see it - even though I heard the book it was based on was good, I didn't feel compelled to catch it until it's on Netflix Watch It Now.

WHY IT'S NOMINATED: Based on a true story. Good performance from a veteran actress who moved beyond her typical fare.

WILL IT WIN?: In a field of five, The Blind Side might have stood a chance. With so many other pics up, though, I doubt it.

"District 9"
SYNOPSIS: Holy Apartheid allegory, Batman! Aliens in Johannesburg are about to be forcibly removed from their impromptu refugee camp, but things get complicated when the buffoon in charge of the ground operation falls severely ill. Exploding limbs ensue.

CRITICAL RESPONSE: Very favorable. Critics appreciated both the allegorical element and the visceral graphics.

IHYFM RESPONSE: I thought it was okay, but didn't really resolve all the interesting issues it brought up, and instead turned into a typical chase/action movie half way through. My initial review may have been a little harsh, but I stand by my assertion that it's not a classic.

WHY IT'S NOMINATED: The way director Neill Blomkamp integrates CGI is impressive, and it was a big crowd pleaser. Perhaps the Academy was trying to atone for the sin of nominating Avatar by recognizing a sci-fi film that did try to have a 'plot' and 'characters'.

WILL IT WIN?: Not too likely. The voting members of the Academy generally shy away from sci fi, and if a CGI-heavy epic walks away with the Oscar, I hate to say it, but it'll likely be Avatar.

"An Education"
SYNOPSIS: A young British schoolgirl (Carey Mulligan) plays hooky from her academic schedule to get an education of another kind. The kind you get from Peter Sarsgaard. Le dreamy sigh.

CRITICAL RESPONSE: Overwhelmingly positive. Most critics point to rookie Mulligan's performance as the stuff long film careers are made of (see: Jodie Foster in "Taxi Driver").

IHYFM RESPONSE: Unreviewed. I like my British films chock full of Simon Pegg or Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Alfred Molina, who plays the father, has yet to disappoint me, though, and I've also enjoyed the majority of performances Sarsgaard has delivered, so missing this was more of a time issue than utter lack of interest - there's just plenty of other films I'd like to see first prior to catching this one.

WHY IT'S NOMINATED: It's foreign-ish and apparently mildly sexy, which the Academy likes to recognize so they can pretend to be discerning.

WILL IT WIN?: Pretty unlikely - regardless of how good the movie actually is, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of momentum behind it.

"The Hurt Locker"
SYNOPSIS: In the wake of tragedy, a bomb-demolition squad in 2004 Baghdad is taken over by an adrenaline-junky, and in the waning days of the company's rotation, his squad begins to question whether they'll make it out alive.

CRITICAL RESPONSE: Almost unilaterally positive. The cast, Kathryn Bigelow's directing, and Mark Boal's script all received exemplary marks from the critical community, and despite the surprising snub at the Globes, The Hurt Locker has been picking up various awards.

IHYFM RESPONSE: Although I have yet to write a formal review, I think this is a fantastic movie. It breaks the mold of your typical "war drama" and despite some leaps in logic, it feels like the most realistic depiction of war since the infamous Normandy scene of Saving Private Ryan, and unlike that film, it avoids war movie cliches in both the plot and the characters.

WHY IT'S NOMINATED: It's a solid movie from top to bottom, and Kathryn Bigelow is one of those directors that's been around for a long time but hasn't gotten due recognition from the Academy (see: Martin Scorsese).

WILL IT WIN?: It stands a chance, especially if there's a Hollywood backlash against Avatar winning the Globe.

"Ingourious Basterds"
SYNOPSIS: In Nazi-occupied France, there's a group of head-bashing badasses in town to let Hitler know the Americans have his number. Most of the movie, however, focuses on the owner of a Parisian movie theater who was hunted by a ruthless SS officer earlier in her life.

CRITICAL RESPONSE: Very positive. Some have called it Tarantino's best movie yet, almost all trumpet Austrian actor Christoph Waltz's Oscar-nominated performance as the SS Colonel in charge of finding Jews in hiding.

IHYFM RESPONSE: My initial review (of both this movie and for this site) reads a little lukewarm, but the more I've reflected on the picture, and watched it a few more times since its release on DVD, the more I enjoy it. Aside from the Hitchcockian way that QT ratchets up the tension, it serves as a treatise on what's wrong with war movies, namely, how we have this perception that a war movie is only as good as its historical accuracy and protracted and grisly battle scenes.

WHY IT'S NOMINATED: Tarantino is a controversial director, for sure, but for all the criticism you can level at him for plagiarizing other directors and films, you can't deny his skill at making everything his own. Basterds is a really well-made flick with some great performances.

WILL IT WIN?: There's an outside chance, but the Academy generally goes towards more serious fare. Conventional wisdom says this is the strongest dark horse candidate inasmuch it was so popular.

SYNOPSIS: It was perhaps said best on a recent edition of the "I Love Movies" podcast with host Doug Benson and guests Sarah Silverman and Steve Agee - when the fact you have AIDS is an afterthought on the list of everything wrong with your life, that's pretty shitty.

CRITICAL RESPONSE: Very good. Although it's overwhelmingly grim, it's an ultimately uplifting tale brought to life by great performances.

IHYFM RESPONSE: I haven't been able to get myself to the theater for this one yet - even though I like dramas, I can only handle the really heavy ones a few times a year.

WHY IT'S NOMINATED: Performances by Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe.

WILL IT WIN?: Hard-hitting dramas with decent box office returns always have a chance.

"A Serious Man"
SYNOPSIS: The biblical story of Job, told as a dark comedy about a Jewish family man in 1960's-era Minnesota. It's a comedy only the Coen Brothers could do.

CRITICAL RESPONSE: Very positive. It received high marks for being very well-written, bitingly dark, and a simultaneously personal film for the Coens but also thought-provoking.

IHYFM RESPONSE: I really loved this movie. It had me thinking about big-picture issues but had me laughing almost throughout the duration of the film.

WHY IT'S NOMINATED: Joel and Ethan Coen have long been respected as among the best American filmmakers, and "A Serious Man" ranks among the best of their pictures.

WILL IT WIN?: There's only a slim chance: as satisfying as the movie is, the Coens have recently won the Best Picture nod for No Country For Old Men, and this movie did not make a big splash with audiences.

SYNOPSIS: An old man makes his house into an improvised dirigible to fulfill the childhood dreams of him and his departed wife. A young boy accidentally comes along for the ride.

CRITICAL RESPONSE: Great. This was the first animated movie to ever open the Cannes film festival, and it received a standing ovation on its completion - which never happens.

IHYFM RESPONSE: I really love this movie. It's whimsical, moving, imaginative, and although unconventional, a very satisfying film.

WHY IT'S NOMINATED: It's a moving, well-made film from top to bottom, and the infamous opening montage could move even the most hardened person to tears.

WILL IT WIN?: Of all the movies in this category that were made with a LOT of computers, this is hands-down the most deserving, and its overwhelming popularity means it stands a chance.

"Up In The Air"
SYNOPSIS: George Clooney plays a management consultant that performs firings for a living. When a hot-shot college grad makes suggestions that will restructure his entire firm, he starts to have doubts about whether his 'no luggage' lifestyle is really all he needs.

CRITICAL RESPONSE: Very positive. Again, a well-written script, solid directing, and some great performances by Clooney and company

IHYFM RESPONSE: I enjoyed the movie, thought that it was funny, thought-provoking, and overall enjoyable.

WHY IT'S NOMINATED: Jason Reitman, director of Thank You For Smoking and Juno, has yet to make a dud. The cast is great, and the script is solid.

WILL IT WIN?: There's been quite the backlash from the filmgoing community over this pic, saying it's overrated and dull. That doesn't help its chances.


- The intense character study from the scribe of The Wrestler, Big Fan.
- The sharpest satire in years, In The Loop.
- A delightfully bizarre true-story pic from Steven Soderbergh, The Informant!

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