Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Oscar Thoughts - 2012

This year I saw seven of the nine films nominated for Best Picture.  The movies I saw were: The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, Moneyball, and The Tree of Life.  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and War Horse were also nominated, but they both left the theaters before I had a chance to see them (and are not yet available On Demand).  This blog post is my brief thoughts about these 7 movies.
The Artist seems to be the favorite to win Best Picture.  I loved this movie!  It's so hard to conceive of how a silent movie, about silent films, would work, but it does!! Jean Dujardin plays a silent movie actor, George Valentin, who is the king of Hollywood. However, when silent films are replaced by "talkies", George finds himself de-throned. Dujardin has a wonderful face that is so expressive and entertaining, you can't help but be drawn into his story (even though he never speaks). Berenice Bejo is a beauty, who plays an up-and-coming actress named Peppy Miller. Peppy starts as an extra in George's silent films, but moves her way up, just in time to rule the talking picture scene!  Bejo is very fun to watch. Dujardin is nominated for Best Actor and Bejo is nominated for Best Supporting Actress. I would love to see them both win, and the movie to be named Best Picture. My favorite scene in the movie takes place on set, when Peppy, as an extra, and George, as the star, bump into each other in a dance sequence, and dance together for a few minutes. The actors are required to tape the scene over and over, and it's such a joy to watch them interact differently with each take!

The Descendants is a touching story of human nature, and one man's realization that he does not have the relationships with his wife and daughters that he thought he had and that he wishes he did.  George Clooney shines in his portrayal of Matt King, a man who is dealing with the fact that (a) his wife is in a coma, (b) he has no idea how to take care of his daughters without her help, and (c) he is in charge of a multi-million dollar deal to sell family land. Clooney brilliantly shows King to be a man forced to face the tragedy before him, but also to take a good hard look at the world he has created.  Clooney could definitely win Best Actor, and that would be fine with me!

I read The Help before I saw the movie.  I loved both the book and the movie! Viola Davis is nominated for Best Actress, for her role as Abileen Clark, a maid in Mississippi in the middle of the 60's civil rights movement.  Abileen and her friend and fellow maid, Minny Jackson (played by Octavia Spencer, who is nominated for Best Supporting Actress), become involved with a young white woman who is writing a controversial book about the racism experienced by maids who are working for white families during the 60's.  The book is told from the maids' perspectives.  I felt that the story was wonderfully told in the movie, and the actors all rose to the occasion of bringing this book to life.  My favorite scene in this movie may have been when Abileen is talking with the white girl she takes care of, who is somewhat shunned by her own mother for not being pretty enough.  Abileen tells her over and over, and makes her  repeat the phrase, "You is smart, you is kind, you is important." Such a sweet, even as it is somewhat heartbreaking, interaction between this maid and her curly blond-haired little charge!

Hugo was a very pleasant surprise for me! This delightful story about a young orphan who lives in the clockworks of the Paris train station is not one I was planning to see, but I'm so glad I did.  Hugo is a difficult movie to describe, so I won't try. I will tell you, though, that I was deeply moved by it, and especially this concept from the young orphan protagonist (as paraphrased by me), "I like to imagine the world as one big machine.  Machines don't come with any spare parts.  That means I can't just be an extra part.  I must be in the world for an important reason."  Think about that!  Isn't it beautiful?

Midnight in Paris is a Woody Allen movie about an engaged couple who travel to Paris for a business trip.  Owen Wilson plays a screenwriter and would-be novelist, who explores the city at night. Each night, at midnight, he is transported back in time to rub elbows with some of his literary heros from another era.  Midnight is an enchanting movie, set in a beautiful city, with a sweet message about what is important in love and in life.  I especially enjoyed seeing the portrayals of such greats as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dali, and dreaming about what life would've been like if lived among them! 

I tried to read the book, Moneyball, but I never got through it.  This true story is based on Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt (Best Actor nominee), who is the general manager of the Oakland A's.  Because his ball club is not as wealthy as some of the other teams, Beane is forced to take a different approach to building a team capable of making it to the playoffs and beyond.  He teams up with a young Yale grad, played by Jonah Hill (Best Supporting Actor nominee), who takes a more statistical approach to recruiting.  Moneyball is not one of my favorites on this list, but I am really glad I saw it, and I especially enjoyed seeing Andy from Parks and Recreation!! :) 

Tree of Life is a very difficult movie to describe, and while I didn't really enjoy every part of the movie, I was definitely moved and inspired by it.  It's a movie that is impossible for me to recap or explain, so instead I will share with you how I responded.  For me, this movie is about parenting, faith and loss.  Brad Pitt plays the father of three boys, who while trying to raise them in a way that he thinks to be right, ends up alienating them from him.  There were times when I could feel what I believed to be the father's anguish in trying to love his boys, while doing what he thought was necessary to prepare them for the world. I can also say the same for the mother. I watched her love her children, and heard her whisper (in voice-over), the things she felt they really must know. Tree of Life included expressions of deep grief, and statements of deep faith. The story in this movie was, for me, profound, even as it was told in a somewhat disjointed and circuitous way.  My favorite mother's voice-over quote is this: "Help each other. Love everyone, every leaf, every ray of light. Forgive. Learn." 

I didn't really make predictions this year.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on the movies and the Oscars!!  If you've seen Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, and/or War Horse, I'd love to hear what you thought of those movies, too, and how you think they stack up to these seven.

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