With the Academy Awards just a couple of days away, this seems like a good time for me to chime in with my picks for the annual schlocky celebration of the year in film. Though, actually, these aren’t predictions insofar a it would give me great pain to spend any of my precious time pondering how the witless members of the Academy might choose to direct their precious votes. So, instead, these are my personal selections for the truly deserving victors in each of the prime time categories.
Oh yeah, and by the way… I haven’t actually seen all of the nominated films. So, for the most part, these films are disqualified for Oscar consideration. I look at it this way: if I wasn’t intrigued by the trailer, if the advance hype did not pull me out to the theater, and if I had better things to do (typically, a fairly low bar)… surely, the film or performance does not deserve an Oscar.
Have any of you visited the official web site of the Academy Awards? Yikes! I went there to get my list of nominees and was greeted by so much dynamically growing advertising content and video that the “real site” scrolled well off the bottom of my screen.
Let’s get started!
Rather than bore you with three hours of heavy handed production numbers, endless speeches, and ugly gowns, we’ll go straight to the top with the most coveted award of year: Best Picture. In what was generally a terrible year for films, I’m amazed that the Academy could come up with nine films for Best Picture consideration. In any case, the nominees are:
The Descendants (didn’t see it)
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (didn’t see it)
Midnight In Paris
Moneyball (didn’t see it)
The Tree Of Life (didn’t see it)
War Horse (didn’t see it)
As you can see, I didn’t actually see more than half of the nominated films! Why not, you ask? After all, these are the BEST FILMS OF THE YEAR, and I do go to see a lot of films (and, no, I don’t go see all the mainstream crap Hollywood churns out to separate you from your hard earned money). I know The Descendants has received a lot of “Oscar buzz” and I generally like most George Clooney movies, but I just found the trailer obnoxious. Maybe it was that scene of George Clooney running flatfooted in leather sandals around a tropical bend, or maybe it was “Dad, Mom was cheating on you.” (Gag!) For the most part, I don’t enjoy films that make adults out to be less insightful than their kids, and that’s the impression I got from the trailer. Sorry George, no Oscar for you!
Though I’d been really looking forward to seeing The Tree Of Life, I saved myself the trouble after trusted friends described their experience seeing the film as “excruciating,” “frustrating,” and “a complete waste of time.” And seeing as how the film was directed by Terrence Malick who had previously directed The Thin Blue Line—the only film I ever walked out on—I decided to pass. So, instead of considering The Tree Of Life for Best Picture, I’m going to use my powers of Blog Master to substitute in another film that did not get nominated by the Academy
Melancholia (saw it!)
There! I now have five of the nine nominees to consider. Even better, I think swapping in Melancholia for The Tree Of Life is totally fair, since this was another film I was GREATLY looking forward to seeing, it was also created by a director whose previous work has left me cold and disappointed, and where my friends found The Tree Of Life to be “excruciating and frustrating,” I found Melancholia to be “excruciating and frustrating.” Perfect match!!! In all fairness, I thought Melancholia was the most beautifully shot bad movie I’ve ever seen. So it had that going for it.
I didn’t know what to think of the trailers for War Horse. It seemed like a very odd choice for Steven Spielberg and looked like a cross between Paths Of Glory and National Velvet. Both excellent films, but together I anticipated a bit of a Disney-fied mess. Skipped it. Likewise, Moneyball (though I’m a huge baseball fan) struck me as The Social Network if Mark Zuckerberg had chosen to major in Statistics at Harvard instead of Computer Sience. And I can’t buy any film where Jonah Hill is not a stoned high school student, so I skipped this one as well.
Clearly, none of the above are deserving of my selection of Best Picture for 2012! How about the films that I did see?
The most nominated film of the year is Hugo based on Brian Selznick’s Caldecott winning illustrated book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. I thought it was a very nice film, though way, way, way overrated, likely because it’s a Martin Scorsese film and it has received accolades for its use of 3D. Like I said, it’s a “nice” film. But it’s not Goodfellas, and it’s not Raging Bull or Taxi Driver. It’s not even The King Of Comedy, Afterhours, or The Aviator. It’s a nice film, but not nearly as good as Scorsese’s best work (amazingly ignored by the Academy; The Departed? Please… spare me the let’s-make-it-up-to-you token Oscar). I intentionally saw Hugo without the 3D effects, because I prefer judging a film based on my engagement to the story and its characters, so perhaps my experience would have been different had I been immersed in the effects. Once more, I found it very “nice” and I enjoyed the film. To be honest, though, I thought Hugo was overshadowed by the glorious footage of Georges Méliès’s previously films that appear at the very end of the film. I really love Scorsese’s affection for film restoration, and he was clearly the right person to tackle this subject matter. Worth seeing? Absolutely! It was nice, remember? Best Picture? No.
I saw The Help on DVD and it was another film that I enjoyed and would recommend to others. I can’t find a lot to not like about The Help, but it didn’t quite measure up to other nominated (and, sadly, not nominated) films I saw during the past year.
Midnight In Paris had the misfortunate of being released well before most of the other films, and at the time I saw it I thought it was the best film of the year. It was really clever, well written (Woody Allen should pick up a win for Best Original Screen Play), and perfectly cast from the leads all the way down to the ensemble supporting actors. Wonderful film! In many other years this would be my selection for Best Picture, but… not in 2012.
And the winner is… The Artist
Hands down, The Artist was the best movie of the year. It is an exceptional film that actually overcomes the obstacles of those things that make it so different from its competition. Come on… Black and white? Silent? French? It’s a recipe for self-parodizing nostalgia and gimmicky camp! Many are suspicious of a silent film made in 2011 (or a black and white film, for that matter) as a bit of left-wing moviemaking sleight-of-hand. Surely, a movie such as The Artist is just a pretentious stunt for high-brow liberals who think they are better than everyone else! It’s going to be a bunch of arty hogwash that people say they like, just to seem like they have a little culture, but at the end of the day is it really as good as color, CGI, and 3D?!?!?
Wrong!! (And I’ll pass you by as you wait in line for Transformers IV.)
The Artist is a great film in spite of the fact that it is silent, shot in black and white (gloriously so, I might add), and takes place 80 years in the past. While these elements are essential to the film, and perfectly executed, they quickly become secondary to the story told by director Michel Hazanavicius and his wonderful cast of players. The film pulls together every element of great moviemaking: wonderful storytelling, well-developed characters, excellent pacing, an intelligent point of view, conflict, and sheer visual delight. It’s the kind of film the Academy should aspire to recognize year after year as an achievement in storytelling that will resonate with audiences and critics alike for many years to come. It’s a film I definitely look forward to seeing again and again, and is most definitely the most charming film I’ve seen in 10 or 15 years.
Congrats to The Artist!
Up next… I’ll be tackling some of the individual awards. Tune in later!