Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Some (Not So) Final Thoughts on This Years' Academy Award Winners

I have been catching up with my friends here in the blogosphere, and have observed with amusement the many opinions offered on the outcome of this year's Academy Awards. It would seem as though I have given short shrift to my own viewpoint, what with the Arizona travel and the whirlwind of activity that swept me up upon my return from the land of deserts and cactus.  So I would now like to contribute to the conversation with a few semi-final words on the winners and contenders.  There are no final words....

"Inglourious Basterds."  I was frankly surprised by the film's strong showing in the nominations. It was well-written at times but lumpy and oddly paced; ultimately frivolous, weighted only by some outrageous brutality amid the casual offhandedness and strained atmosphere of slapstick. Christof Waltz was strong and creepy and original; honestly though, I believe that if I saw this before any talk of awards, I would not have immediately said, "wow, this is Oscar material".  I think Waltz, interesting as he is, truly had the benefit of a somewhat forgettable field.

"Precious".  Being confronted by ugliness and despair makes most of us uncomfortable.  One  triumph of art is to distil an essence of humanity from something ferocious and ugly, and discovering some beauty in that which we may callously write off.  "Precious" shows us a hideous existence, yes, but does so in a singular way as to not cast a whole demographic in this light. We often refuse to admit that life in all of this sorrow can really exist; we would rather not know. "Precious" not only presents this world, but moves us within it, jars our senses with it, and provides a catharsis that brings us in touch with the potential for good in our own humanity.  Mo'Nique left me with no doubt that here was a portrayal of the ages, deserving of any amount of recognition.  And Gaby Sidibe did what few young actors have done recently: she performed with raw honesty, convinced me that this character was alive, and reduced me to tears; I could not help react to her despair, nor to her teacher's advice to keep writing to overcome her sadness.     Its Screenplay victory was among my biggest cheers of the evening.

"Up"... A Masterpiece, in my opinion.  Tomorrow I am going to review this artful, wonderful and, yes, buoyant piece of work. Having now seen it twice, I can hardly find words to express my appreciation for its artistry, originality, and generous and loving observaion of people on the fringe...and its spot-on characterizations of dogs.  This is what animated films are all about...."Up" could not exist in any other way but as an animated film, and it packs more genuine emotion, excitement, and laughs of recognition than most any other film this year.  The Oscar-winning score is a carnival, a Chaplin movie (thanks Mark), a Fellini circus, a banquet, a dying flower....a perfect marriage of sound to film. 

"Avatar"....Certainly deserved all three of its wins.  I did have one nagging question during the telecast: why did we not see clips associated with the nominees for cinematography?  That was a disturbing irony, to me, that we missed representative work from the most visual category.  I was a little surprised that "Avatar's"  huge popularity did not carry it to a Best Picture win.   I guess it peaked at the wrong time, or that the usual success-resentment backlash had set in during the voting period.  But then again, could many voters have seen this film only on a 2-dimensional screener CD?  The awe of its effects would certainly have been diminished in this format.

"The Hurt Locker"  This is a visceral character study that made voters feel noble.  To be fair, however, it is an excellent and effective little suspenser that was impossible to ignore.  While I was not a proponent of its rather cliched visual style, I admired its staging and capturing of movement and brilliant cutting.  In many ways it is as mysterious in its ascribing of motivation to its central character as was "Lawrence of Arabia".  It wisely sidestepped any political argument in favor of forcing the viewer to focus on the activities of Jeremy Renner's dangerously obsessed yet likeable character.  That is the key to my wanting to re-visit this intense world again soon.  This was a worthy choice for best Director and Picture.

I have already reviewed "The Blind Side" and "Crazy Heart" on these pages.  Neither one would have been my choice for Leading Actor/Actress accolades, even though both did very well with badly developed material.  I wonder if we will be talking about these performances next year with the same fervor and enthusiasm with which many of us remember....Slumdog Millionaire?

Ah well....  more about the movies as the year rolls on.....


Great writing last week by Ben (Runs Like a Gay), Tom (Sophisticated Lunacy), Ultra Dave,  Bill Up Close, Russ (Blue Truck Red State),  Walter (The Silver Screening Room), Adam (The Oscar Completist), Andrew (Encore), Cathy (Cinema Style), Reality Zone, Charles (Do Something  Fun), and Steve (Holy Queer).

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post, Tom! Great to hear more of your thoughts on the Oscar picks and how they mimicked or differed from your point-of-view. Having not seen many of them I am unqualified to render judgement on them, but I appreciate your learned analysis of them very much. Thanks for the shout out too, Tom! Very cool.