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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » 2012 Academy Awards

   
Author Topic: 2012 Academy Awards
Speed
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The awards are tomorrow. I keep waiting for someone to start a thread on it, but no luck, so here you go.

Maybe I'm not the best person to start this. I just checked the list, and realized that I haven't seen any of the movies nominated for best picture. I think that's the first time since my mission that's happened. In fact, the only movies I've seen that are up for anything are:

  • Warrior
  • Bridesmaids
  • Kung Fu Panda 2
  • Puss in Boots
  • Drive
  • Harry Potter 7 pt. 2

Plenty of movies are sitting in my Netflix queue, but they won't show up until it's too late.

I did, however, see all the live action and animated short films. So I guess I can root for The Shore and A Morning Stroll (although the live action set was so good this year, I'll be happy with whatever ends up winning.)

Anyone else have any favorites? Who wants to handicap the race for me?

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TomDavidson
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I've seen all the Best Picture nominees. It's a weak field, but I honestly think "The Artist" deserves the nod for being the most genuinely enjoyable and consistent film. It's definitely not the most ambitious, and the female lead isn't quite able to pull off the performance that her husband (the director) really needed for that role, but the tone is solid and it works as homage, gentle parody, and even a straight-up love story. The "dream sequence" in which the rules of the movie as previously established are broken -- to drive home the ways in which the rules of the protagonist's world are being broken at that moment -- is very effective, in a way that isn't as irritating as Malick's similar sort of experimentation with "Tree of Life" (see below).

In my opinion, the movies nominated this year seemed to have an inverse relationship between ambition and execution. "Midnight in Paris" is predictable, enjoyable fluff; it's fan service for a certain type of artistic dilettante. Owen Wilson's performance starts out incredibly grating -- he's channeling Woody Allen, like so many of Allen's stand-ins -- but develops some depth as his character arc expands; unfortunately, the same can't be said for his cartoonish fiancee and her family, who exist as ridiculous cardboard targets for us to loathe and despise (which is a major, major weakness in this film, which could have been great had it taken a slightly gentler touch with the "real world" scenes to contrast them with the flash and glamour of the nostalgic visits to the past.) "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" is not only terrible, but exploitatively terrible; it's a film that somehow thinks that rooting its ridiculous melodrama in real-life tragedy is going to excuse the fact that nothing about it is genuine, or makes anything resembling a real observation about the universe. "The Help" is your usual Oscar bait schlock in which a non-minority female learns to feel bad about our society's treatment of minorities, with pretty much no other plot worth mentioning. "The Descendants" is a watchable movie with decent turns from its main actors and a plot arc that grows on you, but which is relentlessly downbeat and negative for nearly the first two thirds of the film. It says something about the movie, I think, when one major "up" moment is meant to be our realization that a completely obnoxious and seemingly worthless character actually has a backstory that partially justifies his inclusion in the cast (seriously). "Hugo," like "The Artist" and "Midnight in Paris," is basically fluff; unfortunately, it shares with "Midnight in Paris" the delusion that it's actually saying something, which it isn't. It's a beautiful film, and on that point alone is worth watching, but it's trying to say something about the virtue of beauty that it can't quite manage. (That's a flaw in its source material, though, as well, so it's forgivable.) "Moneyball" and "War Horse" are both extremely competent, predictable, stereotypical, and generally well-acted bits of docudrama. No one is going to walk away from either film remembering more than a couple of their setpieces, and most of their emotional setpieces are quite blatantly ridiculous and manipulative, but that's par for the course; they're solid movies, but nothing life-changing.

"Tree of Life" is the one genuinely ambitious film in the list, and it's a complete and total mess. It's a terrible, terrible failure of a movie. A fiasco. But it's a fiasco with some extremely fantastic acting from Brad Pitt and some complex, well-developed characters, as well as some desperate reaching for symbolism from a director who was apparently so afraid that his audience would miss subtle touches that he basically dumped an entire box of oil paints over everybody. It's one of those films in which every single annoying flourish means something, but that doesn't actually stop the flourishes from being annoying. It's worth watching, though, for a number of reasons (including the aforementioned Pitt performance, which may be one of his best); it demonstrates very effectively how the language of cinema can feel profoundly affecting even when there's actually nothing being communicated. When I and my coworkers finished it, we sat in silence for a few minutes before I said, rather solemnly, "Well, that was certainly a thing." And it was. It was a thing.

In related news: there are too many Best Picture nominees nowadays. They need to fix that. Because it was dumb when they changed it, and it has remained dumb.

[ February 25, 2012, 02:04 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Speed
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Wow, I guess I'm not the only one around here who hasn't seen any of these movies. But thanks for the breakdown, Tom. I'm glad you were able to confirm what I suspected about Extremely Loud. I don't feel too bad about not having any desire to see it.

And I agree, there are way too many movies these days. When there were 5, you had a good chance of seeing most of them before the awards. But with 9 movies, you either have to spend the whole year watching every new release that doesn't star Nicholas Cage as soon as it hits the theaters, or you have to spend the entire month of February in a mega-marathon of pretentiousness. I don't know how the casual movie fan has any chance to get invested in the contest any more.

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Orincoro
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quote:
In my opinion, the movies nominated this year seemed to have an inverse relationship between ambition and execution. "Midnight in Paris" is predictable, enjoyable fluff; it's fan service for a certain type of artistic dilettante. Owen Wilson's performance starts out incredibly grating -- he's channeling Woody Allen, like so many of Allen's stand-ins -- but develops some depth as his character arc expands; unfortunately, the same can't be said for his cartoonish fiancee and her family, who exist as ridiculous cardboard targets for us to loathe and despise (which is a major, major weakness in this film, which could have been great had it taken a slightly gentler touch with the "real world" scenes to contrast them with the flash and glamour of the nostalgic visits to the past.)
QFT. I could not *believe* this was under consideration after seeing it recently. And it was these elements, among others, that grated on me. It was an enjoyable film, but I felt the whole time that it was always slightly under-written, always slightly under-directed, and always slightly innate native to its characters. How does a person react? How does a person feel when something happens? There seemed to be little interest in that beyond sort of actively acknowledging that stuff was either weird, good, bad, or indifferent. Like you were watching a scene, and Owen would literally say: "this is really weird." and that accounted for the weirdness entirely.

: SPOILERS:

And the guy decides to go out and cheat on his girlfriend, and this is comical and okay? And suddenly she turns into a complete bitch in the end for no discernible reason. I hate hate hate this trope in comedy writing- the notion that a person would be engaged and "in love" and then suddenly just realize that their fiancé is an awful person, as if there have not been subtle hints and telltale signs for a long time. It's grating to have to sit through a relationship which is obviously set up this way: you hate the guy for being a tool, and the girl for being horrible. Or if there are no such signs, then you can't see why suddenly the woman is an evil witch at the end.

The Coen brothers deal with idiocy and unselfish-aware people 10 times better the Allen. After watching the film, I found myself wishing for the effective pauses and repititions, the incisive camera angles of Burn After Reading; the way the Coens hone in on the source of a moment of tension, or a facial expression- so that everything doesn't just slide all over the screen without anything coming not focus.

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BlackBlade
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The field was extremely weak this year. I was happy with War Horse, but even that movie doesn't deserve a best picture nod. It's an enjoyable, feel good movie about the horrors of war, and the rewards of perseverance.

I haven't seen any of the other nominees, they didn't look appealing to me.

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Dr Strangelove
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I haven't seen most of them, but I'll echo the Midnight in Paris sentiments. I watched the movie and even really enjoyed it, at least in part because I really love Paris and thought the depiction of Hemingway was entertaining. But Best Picture? Eesh. I really didn't get to the theater much this year so I don't really know what else is out there, but there's got to be something better than that. Heck, I'd probably throw Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in there above it (one of the few movies I did see).
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ZachC
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I liked Bridesmaids
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Samprimary
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I'm absolutely going to remember Moneyball. Every part of it.

Because it taught me that my uncle is Brad Pitt.

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ambyr
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A Separation and Saving Face both deserved to win and did. I am content.

I didn't see any of the best picture nominees. Or in fact anything nominated for anything else, except the rest of the short docs, Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, and HP2. And I thought I actually did see a fair number of movies this year! Maybe I imagined it.

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pooka
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I have replaced actually going to the movies with reading Eric Snider reviews. I did not see any best picture nominees this year. I wonder if they will dial back to 5 nominees.

Now I will post about my troubled love affair with hollywood on my livejournal.

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Aros
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The nominees, for the most part, sucked. That's the problem with the Academy's system -- only mainstream flicks that don't cause contention can even get nominated. Of course a movie that makes waves (Dragon Tattoo) will be omitted. Or one that's actually super-well crafted or fun to watch.

Here's my best of 2011 list (by release date):
- Cedar Rapids
- Paul
- Source Code
- Attack the Block
- The Muppets
- Our Idiot Brother
- Drive
- 50/50
- A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas
- Hugo
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Oh, and Rooney Mara (Dragon Tattoo) was robbed for best actress. Why? Was it too similar to Portman's win last year (Black Swan)?

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Geraine
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I wasn't very impressed by this years Best Picture nominees, though I see why The Artist won. It was a pretty risky film to make, though it was way too artsy for my tastes.

The Descendents was just...a horrible film. I have no clue how it got nominated. Woman gets injured and goes into a coma. Husband tries to bond with estranged kids, finds out his wife was cheating on him, then decides not to sell some land. That was it. It was the most boring film I've seen in a long time.

All I can say is if The Secret World of Arietty doesn't at least get nominated for best animated or best foreign film next year, I will lose all faith in the Academy.

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Aros
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Arrietty was really good . . . better than Ponyo or Spirited Away.

I didn't really like Descendants either.

But then again, I think my tastes might vary wildly. I REALLY enjoyed the Arthur remake, though few critics seemed to. Ebert gave it a good review -- I find that I have a pretty high correlation to him when it comes to most cinema (except for super-arthouse -- he likes a lot of crap for "craft" esthetics).

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