Friday, March 5, 2010

Best Picture Nominations

Hey, Space Monkies, its Oscar Weekend!

For all film buffs, there is one day out of all the others that we find particularly sacred.  For the Christians, there is Easter. For us, there's the Academy Awards.  There is no measure of quality that holds as much prestige and respect as an Oscar.  This is the day that every name in Hollywood congregates in one building to celebrate the very best of the art of film making... and then spend way too damn long handing out the minor technical awards (who cares about Best Sound Mixing, really?).  If I were only given the honor of merely attending the Academy Awards just once, I might die in a swell of religious ecstasy.  Its my hajj.

The award which I personally find to be of greatest interest is Best Picture.  My theory is that individual performances, though extremely important and worthy of acclaim, can only be as good as the movie around them.  A bad movie might have a good showing from one actor, but you can never be sure if you love them just because they're good, or because they're the one decent bit of meat left in a week-old rotten steak.  Best Picture rewards the entire effort, from the director to the actors to the editors.  You cannot give credit or blame to a single person in a work that is in its truest definition, a group effort.  There's a certain magic behind a great film that you can never find to be the creation of a single driving force behind the ensemble.  Most likely, its something that can never be defined or recreated, thus the failure of so many remakes and sequels.

Unfortunately, very rarely does the Academy actually pick out the very best movie of the year and proclaim it Best Picture.  For example, last year "Slumdog Millionaire" won.  Slumdog was a beautiful film, one that should be remembered for many years as a triumph of hope in modern cinema, but even so, very few people can honestly believe that it was a better film than either "WALL-E" or "the Dark Knight".  I certainly do not, at the very least.  Because both of those movies were passed over for various bits of snorefests like "the Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and just plain old depressing crap like "the Reader", the Academy has decided to increase the list of Best Picture nominees to ten this year.  If you were to ask me, that is not the solution to the problem.  The issue was that you were picking the wrong movies to honor with a nomination, not the number of them.  All you've done is cheapened the distinction by increasing the list.  Though its not something I'm particularly concerned with; its nothing to get passionate about.  Even when terrible movies are nominated, you can trust that they will rarely win Best Picture (I've never seen it happen at least).  So "Brokeback Mountain" was soundly defeated by "Crash".

Since there are ten nominees this year, I unfortunately haven't seen all of them yet.  In fact, I've only seen half.  Even so, I'm going to ignorantly overview each one of the ten based upon my own very limited knowledge of them all.  There's no reason to listen to my opinions on this (why are you reading then?) but I figure my own thoughts on at least why I purposefully skipped watching those movies must have some merit, even if they are half-formed preconceptions.  So here we go (listed in alphabetical order):
  1. Avatar:  Quite frankly, I do not think that this movie should have been nominated in the first place.  Yes, "Avatar" was a brilliant spectacle of the most cutting edge of visual effects, but when you get right down to it, it was little more than "Pocahontas in Space".  Oh, it was a well-done film on every technical level, with solid work from every cast member.  But there just isn't anything more behind it all.  There's nothing truly great behind the film; nothing that kept me thinking about it seriously much longer than the time it took me to write up my impressions of it back in December.  I just didn't fall in love with this movie, that's all there is to it.  It was worth a view, oh yeah, you cannot miss the world of Pandora come to life.  But that doesn't mean it was a classic.  I really do not want this movie to win, above all others.
  2. The Blind Side:  There's a very clear and obvious reason why I did not see this movie, and it should take me just about five characters to explain it:  snore.  Sandra Bullock adopts a black child and he becomes a football player.  Yeah, there might have been an important and brilliant story of the real world to tell here, and many might enjoy it.  But this is just not my kind of movie.  I come to the theatre to be taken away from the real world and see something new and beautiful.  I don't want a harsh reality or some kind of cultural indictment.  This simply is not the kind of fiction I choose to experience.
  3. District 9:  This was an interesting film, though I found it to be a bit flawed.  The basic premise of using aliens as a metaphor for South Africa's own racial problems is a fascinating one, which handles a harsh social truth with much more tact than some films.  Instead of simply screaming the message out, its slightly hidden in a sci-fi narrative.  Unfortunately my problems with the film were two:  1) the point of view constantly shifted from a documentary style to a tradition omniscient one without much justification, I wish the film makers had chosen one style and run with it, and 2) the message is somewhat underpinned by the film's hypocritical view of the Nigerians, who are depicted with extreme stereotypical overtones (they're voodoo cannibal drug dealers for one).  Is that enough to remove it from the running?  I'm not entirely sure.  Its sure better, in my opinion, than most of the nominees here.
  4. An Education:  I've never even heard of this movie to be honest.  That's not something I'm particularly proud of.  I'll just skip this one.
  5. The Hurt Locker:  I've heard very good things about this movie, but I don't know if I'm up for actually seeing it.  Iraq seems like a very depressing subject matter, something I typically avoid on principle.  I hate feeling like absolute shit after a major downer of a movie.  That's why I stopped watching "Grave of the Fireflies", an anime film about two starving Japanese orphans after Hiroshima, about five minutes in.  I knew they were both going to die, and die horribly.  Why should I have to watch that and feel terrible for it?  Though the sheer volume of positive things I've heard about it might just make me watch it in the end.
  6. Inglourious Basterds:  Watching this movie was like going through the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.  I knew what I was seeing was supposed to be great works of human expression and something worth remembering, but in the end I just didn't get it.  I don't understand this movie.  Its not an action thriller like Quentin Tarantino's other films, it isn't really much of a war movie either.  Its not a comedy.  Its not a drama.  I don't know what it is.  I don't know what emotional need this movie is supposed to fulfill.  Why does history need to be rewritten where we blow Hitler up in a blaze of suicide bomber glory?  I've even come to suspect that this might even be some sort of elaborate joke on the audience, just like most modern art.  Beyond the very first wonderful scene, there was not much I enjoyed here.  In fact, I found this movie to be structurally incoherent and filled with at times excruciatingly long dialogue scenes.  So I'm lost here, maybe somebody can explain to me.
  7. Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire:  Repeat what I said about "the Blind Side", my feelings about this film are about the same.  The only thing that caught my interest here is just how many R&B stars are in this.  Mo'Nique, Lenny Kravitz, and Mariah Carey - is this a film or a band?
  8. A Serious Man:  This was one of the weirdest movies I've ever seen.  And the plot summary wouldn't make you think twice about it:  a Jewish father in the 70s Midwest undergoes a journey of discovery as he deals with his place in the universe, his marriage, and his community.  But then the movie starts off in nineteenth century Jewish Poland with a short story about a zombie that is never again brought up (except in a painting that I spotted late in the film).  The entire thing is sort of like an philosophical crisis, without any clear answers.  Then it all ends suddenly and meaninglessly.  Nothing is answered, nothing is learned.  To quote the Beatles Eleanor Rigby:  "no one was saved".  Maybe such a dark and cynical has merit artistically, but I simply did not care for any of it.  At the very least, you can spend hours looking for hidden meanings in the movie, so there's fun to be had there.
  9. Up:  Nominating "Up" seemed to largely be an apology for snubbing the excellent "WALL-E" last year.  Unfortunately, that doesn't say much for the movie itself.  I really enjoyed this film, its definitely as good as can want from children's animation.  And yet...  There's something lacking.  When you compare it to "WALL-E", you're bound to find it doesn't live up.  Nothing can!  That's a sad position to put an excellent film, but I can't help it.  "Up" doesn't even surpass the brilliant "Coraline", which I honestly believe to be the very best movie of all of 2009.  Its going to beat "Coraline" at Best Animated Picture too, which makes me a bit unhappy with it.  Even so, out of the entirety of the list, this is the most unique movie in the nomination list.  Seeing an animated movie win Best Picture would be such an upset that I simply cannot resist rooting for it.
  10. Up in the Air:  I have a theory:  either this or "Up" were nominated so that this year's Oscars could have a theme of elevation.  I haven't seen this movie either, though I mean to get around to it eventually.  George Clooney is never a bad sign for any movie.  That's really all I have to say here, since I don't know much about it.  Sorry about that.
So, in accordance with the trend lately, I'll have to give my prediction for what is going to win Best Picture.  Note, this isn't what I want to win (which would be "Coraline, but that isn't going to happen so instead I'll throw my support behind "Up").  In the end, I think "Hurt Locker" has got this one in the bag.  If there's anything the Academy cannot resist, its being topical, and you don't get more controversial than Iraq.

Have a very nice Academy Awards, Space Monkees.  I'll be watching with you Sunday!*

* Or maybe I won't.  Right now my local cable provider, Cablevision, is in a dispute with Disney over a 40 million dollar rate increase for them to broadcast ABC, which is showing the Oscars this year.  I don't know or care which side is in the right, as far as I'm concerned, Cablevision is nothing but a company of crooks and Disney is hardly much better.  This wouldn't be so bad if there was any other option, but Cablevision holds a television monopoly in my area.  If I missed my Oscars because of some stupid cash dispute, then I would be furious.  Then again, Steve Martin is hosting, so maybe its a blessing in disguise.


  1. Did u here there making a movie called Avatar the last air binder Its based on the cartoon. If you see it tell me what you think of it.

  2. check out my blog too. I'll be bloging about anime and manga as well^^

  3. Nice choice, I liked that movie. Here are my views:
    Avatar- Good Movie, nothing in it to make me re-watch it.

    Blind Side- Never heard of it.

    District 9- Freaking loved it. Amazing movie.

    Education- ???

    Hurt Locker- What you said.

    Inglorious Basterds- A ridiculously stupid Jewish joke, which was made to pretty much completely disgrace Germans and hail Israel. Fucking hated this diarrhea.

    Precious- Never heard of it.

    Serious Man- Never heard of it, might win because of the word Jewish in plot.

    Up- Loved this movie, since I wasn't expecting much.

    Other Up- Never heard of it.

  4. How the hell did Avatar get nominated? Yes, it's great, but it's not a movie I would expect.

    I really hope either UP or Precious wins, but it might be The Blind Side, just to piss me off. God, that movie sucked...

  5. No surprise here, Cablevision and ABC haven't reached an accord. So that means I have to watch the Oscars on a bloody Internet livestream! That's awful! Damn you, mass media!

  6. I think I'll be rooting for District 9, even though the last half of the movie consisted of only one word: "FUCK." But the fact that they were on such a relatively low budget yet made such an enjoyable movie makes the whole project even greater.

    Heh heh, I finally understand your old "The World Suffused with Q?" subtitle. It's RahXephon, right? "The World Suffused with Sound"? Man, am I behind...

  7. I love me my Time Warner Cable! I get to sit back on the couch and watch the Oscars tonight without having to constantly hit refresh on a computer or hook up a digital converter box. Out of the ten, the two movies I thought were best were Up and Up in the Air (though Up was just so overly depressing at times). The Academy will probably give it to The Blind Side, though. Why does Sandra Bullock always get good press? She really isn't that great.

    @LeahPeah: The movie based on Avatar: The Last Airbender is just called The Last Airbender in order to avoid confusion (and lawsuits) with Cameron's Avatar. While I didn't like the cartoon too much (I did love the final season, but the first two were always really boring to me), I do think that the live action adaptation looks awesome. Dav Patel (the star of Slumdog Millionaire) is playing the role of the antagonist, Prince Zuko. Originally, Jesse "Roxas" McCartney was supposed to take on the role, but he's touring so they brought in Patel. A welcome replacement, if you ask me.

  8. Avatar never should have even been nominated, it's script could have been written by a 12 year, maybe the one that did Eragon
    An Education was a british inclusion from the Academy just to keep us happy and keep up the numbers. It was a great film just not something the american public would be interested in...
    Oh and Up in the Air is a strangely pessimistic film, but Vera Farmiga is an exceptional actress if that performance is anything to go by. Clooney makes it worth seeing.

    Just filling in the blanks for you.