Last-Minute Oscar Thoughts

As I referenced in my last post, I finally got to see my ninth of the ten Best Picture Oscar Nominees, Winter’s Bone. I assume everyone who has been calling Black Swan a psychological thriller has either not seen Winter’s Bone or was too busy peeking at the film through their fingers to follow the plot. And I don’t want to take anything away from Christian Bale’s stunning performance in The Fighter, but John Hawkes deserves the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. His performance was more difficult and more nuanced. In very few scenes, he communicates a heck of a lot more than he says. I know this movie probably won’t win any Oscars, but I’m glad it at least got some nominations and that I watched it–truly the most challenging and interesting film of the year.

Animation is something I always pay attention to, but I find this year’s Oscar race in the Best Animated Feature category irritating. Everyone says Toy Story 3 is going to win. I enjoyed the heck out of that film, but best film? I don’t think so. If you saw the original Toy Story in the theater, maybe you remember how fresh and amazing it was–computer animation done in a way that made you forget the computer, partly because of technical skill that pushed the genre, and partly because of a secret-life-of-toys storyline that also pushed the genre by treating its subject like something important. Toy Story 3 doesn’t push anything besides people’s emotional buttons, and that only works because the first Toy Story exists. I’m not saying it’s not a good movie, but more interesting things were going on in animated features this year. How to Train Your Dragon, for instance, was really freaking good. It is much more suspenseful than your typical animated feature, and the computer work on the flying sequences is breathtaking, as it should be. I have, sadly, not seen The Illusionist yet, so I can’t complain about that. My major gripe in this category is that Despicable Me wasn’t nominated. In terms of animation, it was adequate–nothing stunning or ground-breaking. But the writing? First-rate. And the voice acting was perfection. Remember Agnes squeezing that stuffed animal and growling, “IT’S SO FLUFFY!” Doesn’t that still make you laugh? Do you even remember any other lines from any other animated features this year? Boo, Academy. Boo.

I did see all the nominees in the Animated Shorts category this year, too. “The Lost Thing,” based on the book by Shaun Tan, is the winner here, as far as I’m concerned, although I think “The Gruffalo” is more of a crowd-pleaser and may take the category, which is fine with me. Really, all of the nominees in this category are in some way fresh and interesting. “Madagascar” has no storyline to speak of, but the animation is jaw-droppingly beautiful. I laughed out loud a couple times watching it just because it’s so wonderful to look at. “Day and Night” is another example of Pixar rocking a good idea. “Let’s Pollute” is just hilarious. It’s all good.

I am disappointed that I haven’t seen more of the documentaries–usually I’ve seen all or most of them by Oscar night, but I guess I’ve been too busy watching Best Pictures. As I mentioned previously, I am not a fan of Exit Through the Gift Shop. I did get to see Restrepo earlier this week, and it is everything a good documentary should be. Rather than getting all shrill trying to make a point, it lets its story and points unfold by looking at details and trying to shine as much light as possible on an issue. It’s an important issue, too, about what’s going on with our soldiersĀ  and the citizens of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the situation the film is attempting to document is chaotic and confusing, so the film–much of it shot with hand-held cameras in terrible lighting, on account of the people being shot at and whatnot–often feels chaotic and confusing. It’s an asset and a detraction. I think it’s good to show what that reality is like, but I feel like the filmmakers could have done a little more to help viewers keep straight who was who. Even just including more subtitles, which is inexpensive and unobtrusive (at least to your average documentary feature watcher), to identify people would have helped.

You know, in the end, I don’t care what wins the Oscars. I won’t even watch the ceremony tonight. I am grateful for having all the nominees to think about, though. It helps focus my viewing and keeps me watching interesting movies I might have missed, and I do love watching movies.

6 Comments

  1. Chuck
    Posted February 28, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    There have been TONS of ads on the radio for Inception and The Social Network the past two months. Both listing the accolades they’ve gotten. I’ve wondered if they were nation-wide campaigns or if it’s LA-specific to influence Oscar voting more than movie rentals.

  2. adrienne
    Posted February 28, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure. I don’t listen to the radio all that often anymore, since I got my iPod.

  3. Lisa
    Posted March 1, 2011 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Winter’s Bone is one of my all-time favorite books. I read it several years ago and was captivated by both the plot and the Appalachian dialogue. I am usually disappointed in movie-renditions of my favorite novels, but not this time! The movie was an honest and accurate portrayal of this beautiful and heartbreaking novel!

  4. adrienne
    Posted March 1, 2011 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    I was curious how it compared to the novel. I didn’t even realize it was based on one until it came up in the credits.

  5. Posted March 3, 2011 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    The Lost Thing won! I thought of you.

    I was also super impressed with Hawkes in Winter’s Bone. Also, that scene where she finds her father. Shoot-fire. I won’t forget it for a long, long time.

    I think I get to see The Illusionist on the big screen tomorrow night. Woot.

  6. adrienne
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    I just reread The Lost Thing at work today. Such a good book.

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