Saturday, February 23, 2013

Nominee Thoughts

I'm continuing the tradition I started last year and not watching/caring about the Academy Awards this year. I don't think movies are generally that great or interesting right now. I don't say that to be pretentious, I just don't feel as rewarded by them as I once did. But I still like movies and I still like to see what gets nominated, so here are one of a billion posts that people will have up today where they talk about the nominees and how they feel about them. So, just like commenting on a list, these are some personal opinionated thoughts. (Official list of nominees here.)

I think there are more worthy nominees this year than last year, even though this is a less good year for film. Amour is excellent, but painful. Argo is great filmmaking; it's a film about Important Things in Recent History that doesn't feel self-important or self-satisfied, which is nice. It doesn't try to be too big or dramatic, even with that tense, theatrical bit at the end (masterfully edited). It's not strictly historical, but who cares? I get really sick of the people who bellyache about a film based on a historical event going for drama rather than document. Have you not learned in the last century that film is drama? If someone can't crack a book on their own or at the least look up the Wikipedia page for the Canadian Caper, what the hell do I care? I saw a film and I loved the hell out of it.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is a movie I liked a lot, but I see a lot of people who felt it was gimmicky or condescending. I didn't get that, honestly, but maybe I wasn't looking closely enough. I don't think I'd nominate it for Best Picture, but I thought it was great.

I also loved Django Unchained. It's actually the first Quentin Tarantino movie that I thought wasn't up to par for him (the last half hour is too much running around to get back to one place), but even slightly less par Tarantino is better than a lot of the movies that came out this year. And there's always the humor value of people who just get weirdly pissed off about his movies. People get really fucking angry. And I don't mean about the violence or the use of the word nigger, I mean about the films he makes in general. Like everyone's pissed that his movies are exploitation genre films, as if you didn't already know he makes exploitation genre films. I don't know how that keeps surprising people, or how they think their weird hatred of him is profound in some way.

You all know what I thought of Les Miserables, because people are still getting annoyed at me for it. Sorry I didn't like your movie. I prefer coherence. Life of Pi is my favorite movie this year. I think it had narrative issues at the end, but it's the one I keep returning to in my mind the most. Lincoln is a movie I thought I'd hate but which I really enjoyed, except for the very ending, in which Spielberg finally can't stop himself from being all Spielberg. Silver Linings Playbook is a nice movie that doesn't deserve the nomination at all; this is that one Harvey Weinstein movie that ends up getting nominated because he campaigned enough that people gave in. It's a nice movie, I enjoyed it, but Best Picture? No.

Zero Dark Thirty is a movie I found interesting while I was watching it, but which hasn't really stayed in my memory. I know some people who have seen it recently and think it was a powerful experience, but I didn't connect with it that way.

What do I think will win? Life of Pi is my favorite, but it won't win. I kind of hope Argo does, just because I couldn't stand to see it go to Zero Dark Thirty. But, you know, does it matter? I do think that Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, and Lincoln are the only real contenders here; it'll be one of the three, I expect. I expected Les Miserables for a while, but that seems to have died down.

Not nominated: I think The Impossible is one of the best movies of 2012. Ginger & Rosa is small and escaped notice, but powerful. I saw Skyfall last night and loved it. I'm disappointed The Master didn't get nominated.

Again, only 9 nominations. I still think 10 nominations is over the top, especially when you look at the lists and see how bad a lot of those nominees really are. I think it's kind of funny that there's no nomination for some kind of really popular genre movie, like Skyfall or The Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises or The Hobbit, because the only reason they have 10 nominations now is (let's be honest) because of all the entitled populist whining in 2009 about how The Dark Knight didn't get nominated. And since this year they seem to be trying even harder than ever to turn the Oscars into the MTV Movie Awards, I would've expected it. I supposed you could argue that Django Unchained is that movie this year, even though it's not popular in the way I mean. I think the producers want the Oscars to be more youthful than the actual Academy does, which is what makes it so bizarre right now.

Bradley Cooper is probably the best he's ever been in Silver Linings Playbook--he's not an actor I care much for--but I still wouldn't nominate him. I mean, it's a cute movie, but come on.

Daniel Day-Lewis deserves it for Lincoln. He's such a lock that people have actually stopped talking about his performance, which really is masterful.

I liked Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables. I feel in the minority on that one. A lot of people I know who see the movie don't care for him--he sings too high (everyone does, the music's written that way), he's just being Hugh Jackman, he's boring, etc.--but I really liked his performance, singing included. If he hadn't been in the lead, the movie would have just been that much more unbearable to me. And there are so, so, so many worse performances in that movie that are much more worthy of comment than his.

Joaquin Phoenix is excellent in The Master. I think he blew it for a while there with the craziness, and it made it easier to overlook the fact that he really is a highly talented actor.

I think Denzel Washington's performance in Flight is overrated, but I don't think much of him as an actor and I never really have.

Not nominated: I like Tommy Lee Jones a lot in Hope Springs, which is not a great movie, but is a good one. Two performances I don't like seeing overlooked are Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi and Jean-Louis Trintignant in Amour.

I wasn't blown away by Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty. I haven't been convinced on her, but lots of people seem to love her. I recognize that in this case, it has less to do with her performance than with the entire tone of that movie, which she matches just fine, it's a movie I didn't get stirred by.

I hate Jennifer Lawrence, and her performance in Silver Linings Playbook is just as drab, dull and awkward as every performance I've ever seen her give. I do not understand why she is this popular. I think she'll probably win this one, too. They want to give her an Oscar so bad. Judging her just purely based on her work, I don't see it. Especially in this movie, where... seriously, her big diner freakout scene that Tumblr loves is some of the most embarrassing overacting of the year.

Emmanuelle Riva is excellent in Amour. Riveting in a difficult, non-sentimental film.

Quvenzhane Walls in Beasts of the Southern Wild... I don't know. I like her in the movie, but an Oscar? It's hard to tell with children in movies how much of it is performance and how much of it is natural and how much of it is direction.

Naomi Watts is another actress I don't care for, but she's excellent in The Impossible. I'm sorry people haven't been talking more about her.

Not nominated: I know I'm in the tank for her, but I think Elle Fanning really is Oscar-worthy in Ginger & Rosa. Meryl Streep in Hope Springs. Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone. AnnaLynne McCord is impressively fearless in Excision, which is not the kind of movie that gets taken seriously. The best performance by an actress I saw all year was Julianne Moore in Game Change, which isn't eligible.

I like Alan Arkin in Argo, but it's not anything you haven't seen Alan Arkin do before. Nothing against the guy, because his performance is fun.

Robert De Niro in Silver Linings Playbook... seriously, what is it with this movie? Quirky =/= acting, though it's easily the least embarrassing of De Niro's comic performances.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is excellent at being Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master.

Tommy Lee Jones was excellent in an almost effortless way in Lincoln. Not a lot of blood to his performance, but compelling. Maybe too polished for the award. Whatever that means.

Christoph Waltz in Django Unchained is wonderful and the best part of the movie. Waltz is a great actor who elevates every screenplay he performs, even when it's The Green Hornet. I'd give it to Waltz over anyone else.

Not nominated: I think the person most overlooked was Dwight Henry in Beasts of the Southern Wild, who is compelling and hard to look away from. Samuel L. Jackson is scary in Django Unchained, his greatest performance in some time, but I think nominating it would have meant confronting some of the aspects of the film people are most uncomfortable with.

Amy Adams is excellent and even chillingly detached in The Master. She's an actress who continues to fascinate me over the years. Her style is not naturalistic, and I think a lot of people don't like that about her, but when it's used the right way, she's really something to watch. She's my favorite in this category, even though she won't win it.

Sally Field has some really good scenes in Lincoln. She's an actress who always seems overrated and underrated at the same time.

Anne Hathaway will win for Les Miserables, of course. She's on a world tour of fake, faux-surprised, phony, disgustingly insincere acceptance speeches. She had one great scene in a grotesque movie. I think she deserves the recognition, but I think she deserved an Oscar years ago (for Rachel Getting Married) and here she's merely a powerful bright spot in a movie that barely slows down to tell a story.

Helen Hunt is surprisingly good in The Sessions. Good call on the nomination, won't win. She looks fantastic. I think this is the first time I've ever really liked her in anything. (I am not a fan of As Good As It Gets.)

Jacki Weaver in Silver Linings Playbook... how much money is Harvey throwing around these days?

Not nominated: I don't care, I still defend Kristen Stewart in On the Road.

Mostly good nominations, and I'm glad to have five this year. I didn't care for Frankenweenie, but to be fair, the animation is quite good. Brave has problems, but the animation is wonderful. I think the other three--ParaNorman, Wreck-It Ralph and The Pirates! Band of Misfits--knock it out of the park. My favorite, personally, is The Pirates, but I pretty much expect Wreck-It Ralph to win.

Not nominated: I wish The Secret World of Arrietty had placed. The Lorax is a movie I didn't like, but some of the sequences were really good (mostly the forest scenes and the Lorax himself), and the animation is really wonderful, despite the screenplay.

I never really care much, but come on, Ben Affleck really deserved it.

How does Amour not win this award, being that it's also a Best Picture nominee? It is the best of the five, but only just.

Kon-Tiki is excellent, though perhaps not for everyone. I see different reactions, but I loved it.

No is a fascinating trip back a few decades. I particularly love the way the movie looks: it's in 4:3 and filmed like it's a news program from 1988.

A Royal Affair is one of the best period dramas of the year.

War Witch is riveting from beginning to end. If Amour wasn't in this category, I'd say this is the clear winner.

Not nominated: Intouchables is a great film. Not nominating it is just so... stupid. Also sorry that Rust and Bone didn't make it. No French films in the pool this year.

Other thoughts:

:: So glad Sykfall got nominated for Best Cinematography. I think it looks remarkable (find me the Roger Deakins-shot movie that doesn't), and I'm glad we've moved away from the visceral shakiness of the past decade and into--hopefully--a new era of visual clarity in action films.

:: I can't believe I haven't seen a single documentary from 2012. It takes me forever to see documentaries.

:: I think Argo deserves Best Editing just for the way it keeps raising and raising the tension in the climax, from the moment they arrive at the airport on.

:: The Cabin in the Woods should have gotten a Best Makeup nomination.

:: Would've liked to see Frankenweenie get a Best Score nod for Danny Elfman, who carries the film.

Well, those are just my opinions. I'll read about it the next day, since I won't be watching. I probably won't be on Tumblr or Facebook, either, since those places are truly annoying to be when award shows are on.

I'm really just going to be looking for pictures of sexy actresses, anyway, let's be honest.


Roger Owen Green said...

I made my predictions, but I REALLY have no idea on Best Supporting Actor. I picked De Niro to wiin, but it could be Jones or Waltz. Riva was excellent, but I always assume the Academy wants to give it to a youngun for Best Actress.

phoniexflames said...

Thank you for your thoughts on Silver Linings. I cannot understand for a moment the huge critical praise it and Jennifer Lawrence are getting. It's a nice little film, but ultimately THAT'S ALL IT IS. It collapses under the slightest scrutiny, as you have pointed out. Something else that bothers me about that film is the fact that its thematic structure ends up completely contradicting its own ending. You cannot have a film that keeps drawing upon the well of how destructive untreated mental illnesses are to relationships.... and then suddenly ignore that for a tidy ending.

As far as Lawrence goes, I have no idea, really. A younger, hotter version of Rene Zelwegger, i guess?

SamuraiFrog said...

Someone pointed out that ultimately the message of Silver Linings Playbook seems to be that love is a perfectly good substitute for medicine when it comes to treating mental health. It hits a little too close to home; too often I hear the solution to my own problems is "Cheer up."