As the title implies, I don’t like this new thing where they nominate a slew of movies for Best Picture. It makes it harder to watch them all, and a few undeserving movies always sneak in. I think this is a conspiracy by Hollywood to put more “Nominated for Best Picture!” stickers on DVDs that no one is buying anymore anyway.
Because I am a passionate movie fan, I did see all nine of the films that are nominated for Best Picture this year. Hear are my thoughts on each:
The Artist – This film was a lot more entertaining than I thought it would be. That it’s a silent black and white movie is a novelty, and the charm doesn’t wear off, probably because it’s not too long. The two leads do a lovely job of overacting, and I’m glad they aren’t well-known actors. Every time John Goodman was on the screen it reminded me that I was watching a movie made in 2011 and not one made in the 1920s. While it was a good movie and deserves inclusion on the list, I don’t think it should be Best Picture. It’s too gimmicky.
The Descendants – I did not enjoy this movie at all. I like George Clooney, but he can’t carry a film for me. I love him in Up in the Air, but he had the lovely Anna Kendrick by his side. Ides of March was amazing, but you can’t lose with Gosling standing next to you. This movie tried really hard to make me care about the characters, but all I could think was, “this is just a bunch of rich white people problems.” Also the daughter’s boyfriend, who I guess was supposed to be comic relief, was annoying and a pointless addition to the cast. I don’t think this should have been nominated for Best Picture at all.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – This film got me. I will admit that it totally swept me away. I don’t understand the mixed reviews for it–I think that Thomas Horn did an amazing job and Sandra Bullock made me cry twice. The story was completely compelling and I didn’t even notice that it was over two hours long. The film is a love letter to New York and its residents. It would absolutely be in my top five for Best Picture.
The Help – I don’t even know why this movie is on the list. It’s a feel-good chick flick based on a feel-good chick lit novel. I loved the book. I enjoyed the movie. I think Viola Davis deserves her nomination for Best Actress and I am in love with Emma Stone. But this is not a Best Picture caliber movie. It doesn’t really confront the race issues that were at the core of the book. This movie feels like pink lemonade and bubble gum, designed to give you a warm fuzzy feeling when you leave the theater, but with no real weight behind it. When I think about a movie that tackles racial issues that would deserve to be nominated for Best Picture, I think about American History X or Mississippi Burning. This isn’t a bad movie, but it’s not a serious movie.
Hugo – Based on a Caldecott medal-winning children’s book, Hugo is a beautiful film about a boy who lives in a train station in Paris. I saw it in 3-D, although I don’t think that added even a little to the experience. In fact, I think it detracted some as all of Hugo’s running and jumping and sliding caused me to feel motion sick at a couple of points. It’s a sweet movie with a lot of heart, stunning visuals, and excellent performances by the entire cast. While it’s definitely worth a watch, with or without your kids, I would not include it on a Best Picture short list.
Midnight in Paris – I’m a latecomer to the Woody Allen party, and I’m pretty happy about that. I haven’t seen Annie Hall (although I know I should have) and I tried to watch Sleeper and did not enjoy it at all. However, I very much enjoyed both Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Midnight in Paris. While I don’t like Rachel McAdams at all, she’s hardly in the film, which is carried by the lovable Owen Wilson and sexy Marion Cotillard. I’m probably biased as both an English major and a lover of French (and particularly Parisian) history, but I think this is a wonderful film. It’s funny and smart and deserves to be nominated for Best Picture.
Moneyball – Any movie that can make me care about baseball without making me feel blatantly emotionally manipulated deserves to be nominated for Best Picture. I know that, at the core, sports movies are about people and about rooting for the underdog, but Moneyball managed to draw me in intellectually as well as emotionally. This movie made me want to read a book about baseball, made me like Jonah Hill again, and gave me some Brad Pitt eye candy. That’s pretty much the definition of a successful film for me.
The Tree of Life – Tree of Life is over-artsy and pretentious, and if it wasn’t for Moneyball, I would think that it had only been nominated to ensure that Brad and Angelina were at the award show for the cameras. I think that Tree of Life could have been a good movie if it was at least half an hour shorter and they cut out all of the Discovery channel-style beauty shots. As it was, I found it to be a jumbled mess. If the Academy wanted to nominate something avant-garde, I think that Melancholia would have been a better choice.
War Horse – This is a stunning, epic movie and I cried four times. I didn’t expect much going into it–I actually only went as a favor to a friend. I thought that it was going to be a movie about war (which I don’t usually enjoy) and probably a horse that takes a whole lot of abuse (which I can hardly watch). And while both of those statements turned out to be true, the movie was beautiful and compelling and unapologetically sentimental. It’s a movie about war, but also about love and family and being human and making mistakes. It’s about what brings us together as people. If I had to pick, I would choose War Horse for Best Picture.
If you’re mad that this was so long you can blame the stupid Academy for nominating nine films. I still can’t believe that some of the best movies of last year (most notably 50/50, Drive, and Beginners) were not included on this list while The Help and The Descendants made the cut. Don’t even get me started on how I don’t like Billy Crystal and Gosling got left off of every list. I’d write three more paragraphs and have to find another picture of an actress crying.