POST Oscar Thoughts

Well it was a year of surprises and of safe moves, of miraculous beauty and head-scratching descisions.  If you haven’t already seen it, check out my predictions for who would win here and then come back for my final thoughts on the 84th Annuel Academy Awards.

What I absolutely loved (and caught the careful purpose of) about the Oscars this year was the intense focus on reminding us why we like the movies, which I thought they did a great job at.  I left remembering the amazing feeling of seeing WallE on the big screen, catch every Harry Potter film at the Cinema’s and being blown away by them every time.  Obviously it is an important marketing move after one of the worst year in cinema attendance to date, but I felt they didn’t throw themselves at us too much.  It felt tasteful, glamourous and it did exactly what it needed to in bringing me back to why I love the movies so much.  So for that, Good on ya!

Let’s start with the good things, shall we?  This year was an incredibly safe show in stark contrast to the “edginess” that the Globes go for.  In some ways this was good, as it honored some of the best stars their are with dignity.  I rather loved Billy Crystal’s antics, despite the blandness of his intro.  He did a great job of making it subtly fun, keeping it clean and generally reminding us of all the fun of the movies.  Of course the departure from the “safe” came from the magnificent performance by Cirque du Soleil – wonderful as always.

All of that was wonderful, but what really wowed me by this year’s ceremony was the reverence and wonder they built into it.  Though it is sort of the thing to do these days, I was moved by the “In Memorium” section, which beautifully paid tribute to the men and women who do all of the hard work that allows this to happen.  Also, I nearly broke down watching Octavia Spencer lose it on stage. She was a mess but it was an elegant, beautiful thing.  And finally, I think we will all remember that marvelous moment when Christopher Plummer, 82 years young, was finally united with his long lost love and said “Where have you been all my life?”   It was a touching moment that he has deserved for a very long time and it was a joy to finally see him honored for his lifetime of dedication and quality performances.  Congrats, Christopher!

And now, let us turn to the the few puzzling and slightly infuriating flops from the Oscars.  First and foremost, FREAKING IRON LADY!!!  I was so surprised that a film about recent British figures beat out a film about a British woman being a British MAN, and a film about a magical world full of creatures and battles and stuff FOR BEST MAKEUP!!!!  Are you kidding me?  I was happy with almost every choice they made and I even understand why Potter wasn’t getting any love from the Academy, but REALLY! That choice makes no sense.

Secondly,  I cannot believe that Meryl Streep walked away with the win for Best Actress.  Please understand that I have nothing against Streep – in fact I think her to be the best actress of our time. HOWEVER, why did she win for this film?  Why not for something that she really gave 1000% to like Doubt or Adaptation?  Instead of acknowledge her serious work, the Academy gives it to her for a Margaret Thatcher impression.  It just doesn’t feel dignified of her to win for that.  And when you look at how much each nominated actress put on the line for their role, Viola Davis is the clear frontrunner. Michelle Williams and Rooney Mara both took greater risks with their nominated films than Streep did in this one.  Anyway, enough griping.  Congrats, Meryl and better luck to all those great actresses in the future.

Briefly let me mention the few other things that flopped this year.  First, that stupid Oz clip – no one thought it was that funny.  In fact we all hoped it would be real, but then it wasn’t….  Beyond that was the now standard Ferrell-comedian presentation of award which was funny as usual but it is becoming a little too usual.

Finally, I was a little upset at Hugo taking just a few to many awards, namely Cinematography and Visual Effects.  As I haven’t seen it yet, I will speak only briefly about it.  I just felt like it took a lot of awards that were locked for other films and that started to get really old really quickly.  Honestly, how does it beat Terrence Malick’s soul-movingly beautiful Tree of Life. And Particularly in VFX, I can’t fathow how good they must be in Hugo to beat out both the game changing performance capture of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the stunning conclusion of the Potter franchise.  It just seems bizarrely implausible that it could be THAT good.  Anyway, congrats also go to Scorsese proving again that not all Film Brats fall. 🙂

Overall I was very pleased with how the Oscars went this year.  Almost immediately after the ceremony I began to feel the low rumbling quake of Potter fans worldwide storming the internet with their unholy hatred for the Academy and I expect the rioting to end soon. 🙂  Sorry, but the great things we are to expect from you apparently weren’t Oscars, Mr. Potter.

As promised I provided a perfectly adequete 50% success rate in predicting the winners and I am already getting excited about next years awards.  My friend Ryan on the other hand nailed 19/24!  Let me know what you thought of the ceremony, the winners, the losers, whatever!  (I am an excellent shoulder to cry on, Tree of Life fans)  I hope you enjoyed this as much as I have and I will leave you with what I think has to be the best visual metaphor I have ever seen for this year’s Animated Feature race:

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Oscar Thoughts

Alrighty then!  It is that time of the year folks and I am joining the mass of Internet people bluntly throwing out their thoughts about the upcoming 84th Annual Oscars.  I am excited to see what comes of this years film awards as they are some of the most interesting nominations I have ever seen.  So, sit back, relax, and please enjoy my thoughts on the Oscars airing this Sunday on ABC at 4pm Pacific.

First, a quick personal note on the Oscars.
I want to remind you that this is all just a guessing game.  What the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says is the best picture or who was the best actor and actress of 2011 does NOT in any way make it the final word in the matter.  I have described this to friends as such:  Suppose we asked a class of Math Majors to pick the best Mathematician of all time via a vote.  Suppose further that we then asked all of the Math and Physics majors to try to guess what the class’s selection would be.  This is what the Oscars is – a hopefully objective guessing game at what another group of people subjectively chooses as the Best.  More often than not it ends up being a subjective prediction of subjectivity and that inevitably leads to a lot of angry Harry Potter fans. 🙂

With that said, I want to remind you that the members of the Academy are professionals in the field of the Cinematic Arts.  They know their stuff and a lot of them create the works that vie for the Academy Awards, so one cannot discount their opinions as being entirely misguided.  HOWEVER, please do not take their opinions or mine as Motion Picture Gospel.  We are all just people, trying to grasp Truth in the medium of film.  In short, don’t get worked up when the Academy doesn’t choose your favorite film.  They are doing their best and they pick whom they will.  As my friend Ryan likes to say, “My predictions are not who I WANT to win.  They are who I think WILL win.”  Don’t like it?  Blog about it. 🙂

On to the important stuff!  Below is the list of each category of awards and, next to that, my prediction of who will win.  The are broken up by type of award – starting with the “BIG 5” Oscars, followed by the Technical Awards, and, finally, the ancillary film awards.  I don’t claim to be an expert, but I believe I have a good sense of this year’s picks and further predict a 50+ percent success rate for these prognostications.  Please enjoy and I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject!
After the ceremony, I plan to go back in and highlight each film I predicted correctly in Red Text and mark each one that I missed via Strikethrough.

“BIG 5”

Best Picture — The Artist
Best Actor — Jean Dujardin
Best Actress — Viola Davis *Meryl Streep
Best Supporting Actor — Christopher Plummer
Best Supporting Actress — Octavia Spencer

Technical Awards

Art Direction — Hugo
Cinematography — Tree of Life *Hugo
Costume Design — Anonymous *The Artist
Directing — Michel Hazanavicius
Film Editing — The Descendants *Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Makeup — Harry Potter 7 pt 2 *The Iron Lady
Music (Score) — The Artist
Music (Song) — Man or Muppet (The Muppets)
Sound Editing — Drive *Hugo
Sound Mixing — Hugo
Visual Effects — Rise of the Planet of the Apes *Hugo
Writing (Adapted) — The Descendants
Writing (Original) — The Artist *The Shore

Ancillary Film Awards

Animated Film — Rango
Documentary Feature — If a Tree Falls: The Story of the Earth Liberation Front *Undefeated
Documentary Short Film — The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom *Saving Face
Foreign Film — A Separation
Short Film (Animated) — A Morning Stroll *Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
Short Film (Live Action) — Tuba Atlantic *The Shore

Brief Thoughts

I would like to end on a few comments on the films that are nominated that I have been able to actually see, both as justification for why I did or did not pick them to win, and to inform you of my personal opinions of each.  These reviews will be short and sweet, giving you as much as you need to know in a very short caption.  Enjoy and again, PLEASE let me know what you think of these films.  I absolutely love Oscar talk and I look forward to breaking the winners down after Sunday has past.

War Horse — Black Beauty in WWI; Go cry over either the gorgeous horse or the gorgeous lighting and ignore the wisp of a plot they tacked on (Horses can’t act).

The Artist — A wonderful homage to the films that made all of this possible; Beautifully Meta (I have never been so aware of the audience), it encapsulates the joy of the movies…and of winning all the Oscars.

Tree of Life — Very simply, SEE THIS FILM.  It is a magical and mysterious visual version of John Cage’s 4’33”.

*Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt.2 — Gotta love HP but aparently the Oscars don’t (though after having rewatched it, I feel/hope I am wrong about the Visual Effects award.

*Puss in Boots — One Thousand times better than I would have given it credit for, I do actually recommend you see this film.  It isn’t exactly soul-changing and I have problems with the ending, but it certainly was a very fun take on the Western genre.  Viva el Gato!

*Rango — So, it is to be a showdown between an American Western and a Mexican Western for the Animation Award this year.  🙂  Beautifully quirky and existential, Rango is a hilarious, serious, and beautiful film that all should see.

*The Help —  I saw this just before the Oscars and it left me with two thoughts.  First,  I am very comfortable with my best leading and supporting actress picks.  Second, this film beautifully uses the motif of tackling Racism to ACTUALLY tackle Sexism.  Go see this film that is one of the best portrayal’s of women I have seen in a long time.

* = Added after the post went live on Thursday

Thank you again for stopping by!  I have a lot more in the works so check back soon for more content here soon!  Until next time, happy Movie-Watching!

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Brokenness & Love

Hey Yall!
It has been a while since the Modern Warfare 3 review and it is good to be back.  I got a chance to see three amazing films over the past few weeks and I wanted to share my thoughts on them.  They really cover the board – Film Noir, Oscar Nominated, Experimental – and yet I found that all of them really deal with the same themes.  I have been really looking forward to these three films and am excited to cross them off my list, but beyond that I am happy to report that each of them was really good!  So, without further ado, please enjoy this review trifecta on stories of Brokenness and Love.

Sunset Boulevard

I know – not what first comes to mind when you think of a love story but I assure you it is there.  The Hollywood classic about Hollywood itself, Sunset Boulevard was an incredible homage to the film world of yester-year as told from the 1950’s.  It centers around fading Silent-era star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and her decline into madness as her need for love is slowly denied.  She clings desperately to hope that failing writer Joe Gillis might be able to revive her broken career and her broken self – falls for him.

The film is a beautiful example of Film Noir used outside of the standard, gritty detective story.  It is about how fallen we are, pointing to every flaw and trouble that a star in the spotlight (or out of it) faces and reveals exactly how cut-throat the movie world really is. Because no love is shared by either of the protagonists, the film depicts the tragedy of a world without love and the terrible affects love and lack of it can have on people.  It is a beautifully dark film that shows us how fallen we really are.

I really enjoyed the film for what it was.  Noir isn’t my typical style, so I always have a bit of trouble getting into it, but Sunset Boulevard really captured my attention and was absolutely amazing to watch.  I recommend it as a classic that any true fan of film should see and as an interesting look at a world without true (dare I say, Christian) love.

Rating:  9//10

The Artist

That is Right!  I got a chance to see the front-runner for the Best Picture Academy Award before the ceremony in February and I have to say that I absolutely fell in love with this film. It was beautiful, it was respectful, it captured my heart and reminded me why I make and study Film.  And it perfectly fits into the themes of brokenness and love.

In case you haven’t heard about this phenomenal picture, The Artist is, like Sunset Boulevard, an homage to Hollywood’s glorious birth during the silent era.  The film is shot in black and white, in the classic 4:3 picture aspect ratio (Standard instead of Widescreen), and the story is told with absolutely no audible dialogue.  The do break a few of the original Silent Era filming techniques (for example – complex moving camera shots) but the overall feel is not that it should be a silent film but that it is paying it’s respects to the origins of Hollywood cinema and the stars that made it big.

What captured me most was the beautifully archaic story it told and how it made use of modern techniques and sensibilities to recreate that style while allowing the medium of the visual motif to tell the story.  In essence it is a good old-fashioned love story about a man and woman who grow closer to each other from a chance encounter.  Yet, the filmmakers were able to work in a fantastic plot element of role-reversal and they wonderfully chose to up the stakes by making the man extremely broken.  Jean Dujardin’s character slips further and further into pride which leads him deeper into depression and the only thing able to break him out of it is the redemptive and forgiving power of love.

Not saying more on the story to avoid spoilers, I HIGHLY recommend you take the time to find a theater showing it around you and see what I, for one, hope will be the Best Picture of 2011.

Rating:  10//10

Paris Je T’aime

No, it’s not Black & White and no, it isn’t Noir.  In fact, in almost all ways it isn’t like either of the two previous films.  I had seen parts of it before and had left it with a faulty memory of it being…I shall call it “morally questionable”.  However, upon revisiting the film, I found it to be absolutely gorgeous snapshot of Humanity – capturing as many sides of the amalgamous thing we call love.

Beautifully orchestrated, the series of short vignettes directed by and starring famous individuals gives the viewer at once a broad overview of the desire we all have for personal connection and individual case studies into small aspects of it.  I love that we get the traditional romance stories mixed with tales of what we are willing to do, sacrifice, and fight for love.  My personal favorites are  “Loin du 16o”, “Parc Monceau” – directed by Alfonso Cuaron, “Tour Eiffel”, and “Place des Fetes”.  Each segment is stunning in its own way and truly beautiful.  I adore this film as I adore the city which I only yet dreamed about and I recommend it to you if you want to be reminded that their is some good still out there in the world.

Rating:  10//10

Ah! L'amour.

So there you have it!  Three films fitting by happenstance into one glorious pattern.  As Blaise Pascal said, which I love to quote, “Greatness, wretchedness. The more enlightened we are, the more greatness and vileness we discover in man…”.  In our search for truth and understanding, we find ourselves drawn to how utterly broken, alone, and terrified we are — blind people flailing about in a dark forest, trying to find a path.  Yet, as each of these films points out, there exists a great, glowing, wonderful thing by which we can all find hope.  And that thing is love: pure, uncomplicated, and entirely unfathomable love which unites all people.  From the world without in Sunset Boulevard, we see how desperately we seek out the light emanating from another person’s heart.  The Artist reminds us that even though the twilight is upon us and things only seem to be getting darker, that if we are willing to reach out a hand and grasp another’s things can only be bright.  And finally, the City of Love itself shows us how wonderfully complex, infinitely deep, and impossibly joyful is the simple soul-touching of love.  Perhaps I am just a Romantic by pen but deep in my heart I know I long for this sort of connection to my friends, my family, and my God.  That is what keeps me going in the hard times, gives me joy in the days of ease, and drives me onward in my study of the magical bonding found by storytelling.

That felt really good to gush like that. 🙂
I hope you enjoyed my reviews of the three films and, as always, I invite you to leave your thoughts down below on any of the three films or my analysis of them.  As the weeks roll on and I am able to catch a few more of the Oscar contending films, I will try to post my full reviews of each in comparison to each other and then make my predictions for who will win each category.  Maybe.

Also, I am busy working on a Quickee post for Art of the Trailer so be looking for that soon. Thanks for sticking around and I look forward to bringing you more reviews soon!

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