Friday, February 12, 2010

And the Oscar Goes To...

Not believing that Oscars and good movies go hand in hand I have spent the rainy week watching best picture nominees anyway.

The Hurt Locker was quite a good movie but I have the feeling I would have thought more of it if I had come to it naturally instead of it being a nominee. I don't want to critique it from a hard line realist stance, but I do think a movie about the military needs to adhere to things that are factual, especially when discussing an ongoing conflict. I don't say that in any kind of "they need to do right by our boys" fashion, but that it detracts from what is going on when, say, the submarine has both a pet dog, an aquarium and a stereo on it. In the case of The Hurt Locker, while I found the seen in the professors house very good and necessary, I didn't find they way that the character ended up there plausible. I don't think U.S. GIs do very well off base in Baghdad. That being said, this was my only problem with the film. I thought that the last 10 minutes was exceptional and speaks to lots of things that I find to be true in life. Jeremy Renner picking out cereal in the supermarket seems especially tragic to some notion inside of me. I guess it can be a great and terrible thing about military life that it can make you stand out for being really, really good at something, even if that something doesn't negotiate well with the word at large.

Precious was very good were it good just have easily been bad and preachy and maudlin. It wasn't any of those things. It played somewhat like an after-school special. But like the dirtiest, most heartbreakingly honest and real after-school special ever produced. I thought Mo'nique, who I only knew from her spot on the dais at Emmitt Smith's roast, was exceptional. She was terrifying and pathetic. Al of the supporting performances were very good and captured something real about the situation. The story played really straight for being about something so awful. As a teacher you see parents like this out there and I will never understand them. Also, Mariah Carey was sterling in her role. I didn't even realize it was her for a bit, even though I knew she was in the movie and in what role and was told "I didn't realize it was her." Make no mistake, it is a very good movie.

Up In the Air is a solid movie with good acting and cinematography. It is about something in the same way the other two movies on here are, but it is something that, on its surface, seems more self-centered, and piddling and white. I think it runs a little deeper than that though. Also, on a shallower note, for people who have spent a lot of time flying it is a solid commiseration. We all have our methods and strategies I suppose. I also enjoyed the aerial scenes of the cities.

All of these movies, as I suppose most good movies do, seemed to have an interesting confluence with my present life and its predicaments. I identified a little with Clooney having to hand in his Superman "S" and what that means about who he is. Here is where I am going to make an outrageous claim; Of these three movies, Precious was the easiest to make. I don't mean logistically, although it might have been. I mean that the subject matter was so shocking and strong that it drives the movie forwards no matter what. I don't think you have to work as hard to make strategy and heartbreak impact people. I think that what The Hurt Locker and Up In The Air do subtly is a harder trick than showing how horrible rape and incest are. Then again, the tricky part of Precious is how to not make it too preachy or heavy handed. This brings me to another, and in my case, inevitable point; Where is The Hangover? I know, that is absurd, right? But why? Why is it absurd. I argued that Michael Caine should have had an Oscar for Austin Powers. I think that Tropic Thunder was probably the best move last year. I really, truly believe that making a solid comedy is far more difficult than making a drama, because, when making a drama, you are assuming a tone that demands that people take you seriously. With comedy you are making a product to be judged on its raw merits. That is a hard bar to pass. It isn't easy to come up with something funny. I don't know that The Hangover was the best picture last year, but I think it deserves consideration.


Caitlin said...

Mo'nique was in a sitcom a while back called The Parkers. Easily one of my favorite sitcoms. It was funny, but never really proved Mo'nique as a stellar actress. For her to make such a large jump was surprising, at least for me having seen her in such a ridiculous role as Nikki Parker. But I was blown away, her performance was outstanding. It was completely different from anything else she has done, and I never expected it out of her. I think that's why I found the movie to be so good.
As for the theme, it was difficult to watch and a very touchy subject. But it was very powerful.
I agree with you about comedies being harder to make. Comedies very rarely win Oscars. It is difficult to find a balance between situational humor, classy humor, and just the right amount of dirty humor that works together in a conducive way. Many comedies rely solely on dirty humor that is over played throughout the movie, and often ones that use smarter jokes make the movie too serious and not marketable to a wider audience. I think the Hangover closely manages a mixture, it could be smarter but at the risk of alienating a large portion of it's intended audience, and instead went with a successful movie surely snubbed by the Academy.

wwc said...

I should make clear that I am not saying that I would pick The Hangover for Best Picture, but I do think it does some things better than other nominees. It uses time and structure better than Inglourious Basterds and Precious, for example. It is able to leave out certain elements of the story and have you put the pieces together as to what has been going on, or to use your lack of knowledge to keep you interested. That is the main thrust of the movie. That is my main issue with Inglourious Basterds. I felt a little lost in it. I also think that The Hangover captured the nature of its characters in a better way than other films, say Up In the Air. The whol discussion about why the girlfriend wasn't really cheating is, although foul, very telling about who they are and what their relationship is. In the end making movies is a craft and I respect movies with real craftmanship. I think The Hangover was very, very well made and I support it on those grounds.

Caitlin said...

I agree, I think that they way they presented the story (starting a day 3 and rewinding) was a move that refreshed the plot line. They were able to play out the feeling of being part of the hangover and piecing it together in a way that made it different from the other "bromance" comedies. (I can't comment on Basterd's, I have only seen part of it. Dan says I will surely vomit if I see the whole thing and as much as I want to see the entire movie, I trust him.) The relationship between the girl and Dr. Faggot ( forgive me, I cannot remember his real name) was one of my favorite parts. I think his tact in the movie is wonderful, when he is breaking up with her, you see a struggle for words and even after all she has said he manages to pull it together and say that "you are just a bad person... to the core". Not that funny but I enjoyed it. And his excuse for why it's not cheating was so bizarre and insightful to what his role was in the movie.

P.S. it's worth saying that my mom at that point in the movie said "bullshit, 'innular' is still cheating, you remember that (insert pet name for me that I won't share)" and that a guy tried to use that reasoning on me.

attempting to silence the voices in my head.