Monday, February 6, 2012

Movies – 2012 Best Picture Nominees Recap

I have now posted reviews for six of the nine films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar.  I am not done yet.  I intend to write reviews for those films I have seen that received other Oscar nominations, and that I would recommend.  Look for reviews of Rango, Rio, Drive, Warrior, The Ides of March, and others in the future.  You can read my previously posted reviews for nominees Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 here, Rise of the Planet of the Apes here, and Kung Fu Panda 2 here.

Before getting to those additional Oscar nominees, I was nominated for a Liebster Blog Award and I need to do a post on that.  I also just joined a club for those people who use the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book as a suggested list of future movies to watch and I will post on that.  Finally, I am going to do a special set of reviews of the various versions of the very romantic Pride and Prejudice leading up to Valentine’s Day.

In the meantime, here is how I would rate eight of the nine Best Picture nominees from best to not quite the best. 

  1. The Artist                     (Read my review here)
  2. Hugo                            (Read my review here)
  3. Midnight in Paris         (Read my review here)
  4. Moneyball                    (Read my review here)
  5. The Descendants         (Read my review here)
  6. The Help                      (Read my review here)
  7. War Horse                   (See below)
  8. The Tree of Life           (See below)

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – You may have noticed I did not have this in the list above.  That is because I have not seen it yet.  It is considered the least of the Best Picture nominees, so I decided to not make a special trip to the theater for it.  I will watch it when it comes to DVD. 

This film got two nominations for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor.  I did some digging.  Since 1945, Decision Before Dawn (1951) and Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) are the only other films to receive a Best Picture nomination with only one other nomination.  Decision Before Dawn’s other nomination was for Best Editing, while Four Weddings and a Funeral’s was for Best Original Screenplay.  Neither film won an Oscar.

War Horse – This is not a bad movie, but it couldn’t decide if it was a family film or a war movie.  It had all the simplistic, sicky sweet scenes you’d expect in a movie for children (complete with cute animals and uplifting score), but then it added in R-level war violence with people and animals getting killed left and right.  Aside from not explicitly seeing limbs being blown off, it wasn’t far removed from Spielberg’s D-Day opening in Saving Private Ryan.  I can’t recommend this as a family film because it would probably traumatize children, and I can’t recommend it for adults because of all the eye rolling scenes in the movie.  Since I only do full reviews for movies I am recommending, I will not have a separate post for this film.

The Tree of Life – Anyone who has seen Terrence Malick’s last couple of films will know what to expect: lots of beautiful images and not much plot.  This movie follows that pattern.  It’s a lot like a trophy wife who is stunningly beautiful to look at, but when you need more depth, comes up lacking.  The movie opens with a 50 minute long-form music video, and then has about 20 minutes of plot stretched over the remaining hour and twenty minutes of film.  The movie literally covers time from the forming of the universe, to the Earth as a burned out cinder because of the sun’s expansion as a red giant.  While I don’t agree it belongs in the Best Picture category, its nomination for Best Cinematography is well-deserved.  On a related note, here is a very short, fake script for the movie.  It made me laugh out loud.  If you loved this film, and do not have a sense of humor, then you should not click on the link.

A few more observations now that I have seen eight of the nine movies:

  1. Last year only one of the ten nominated films exceeded two hours (Inception).  It was a welcome change from the three hour long depress-fests that often get nominated.  This year six of the nine films are over two hours long, and The Descendants is just barely under two hours.  Only The Artist and Midnight in Paris are short by Academy standards.  The six longer films average 2 hours 17 minutes in length, with the two longest having the exact same runtimes of 2 hours 26 minutes (The Help and War Horse).
  2. Last year I liked all ten Best Picture nominees enough to recommend them.  This year is different.  The Tree of Life consists of many beautiful images in search of enough plot to fill its runtime and I cannot recommend it unless you are a big Malick fan.  And yes, I did “get” the film.  War Horse is a kids’ movie and a gritty war movie mixed into one and can’t make up its mind which it should be.
  3. Only one of the nine nominees is rated R (The Descendants), although War Horse should have been rated R for the violence in its war scenes.  Even the R rating for The Descendants is only because of a few “f*ck”s being uttered.  All the other films are rated PG-13, except for Hugo, which is rated PG.  This is quite a turnaround from years past.  When there were only five nominated films it was quite common to see all five of them be R-rated.  Even last year six of the ten nominated films were R-rated.  This year there is just the one.  I’m not sure what this says about the state of movie making.  Perhaps there is so much bowing down to the MPAA for a PG-13 rating and the bigger box office it brings that studios will cut back even further on R-rated films in the future.
  4. This was the year for misty eyed nostalgia.  The Artist, which is about the disappearance of silent films, is shot and presented almost exactly like a silent film from the 1920s.  Midnight in Paris celebrates the writers and artists of 1920s Paris.  Hugo celebrates the dawn of cinema, also in Paris.  It’s interesting that the French film (The Artist) is nostalgic about Hollywood, while the two Hollywood films are nostalgic about Paris.
  5. Four of the five Best Actress nominees have done at least one nude scene.  Unless Viola Davis wins the Best Actress Oscar, this will continue a string of 26 straight years, and all but 4 years since 1970, where the Best Actress winner has done nudity.  Many of the winners appeared nude in the role that won them the Oscar.  So much for “real actresses don’t do nude scenes.”

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