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.