Oscar Weekend: The Post-Game

I hope no one thinks that this is too much of a disservice, but the facts are: if you want a comprehensive review of the films up for awards this year, there are plenty of people getting paid to do it more eloquently than I… that being said, here are my thoughts, movie-by-movie (in the order I saw them), on what I watched over the weekend.

The New World
As expected, visually breathtaking. Malick is a true film artist at this time when so many movies are just a camera pointed at the people reciting dialogue. Really enjoyed the score as well; combined with the images, it created a surreal mood early on when Smith was with the Indians. This one is up for best cinematography, and of the four of those that I saw (excluding Memoirs of a Geisha), it will be a tough call. There are some strong contenders in the mix that were all nominated for different reasons.

Brokeback Mountain
I enjoyed this one, but the media-hype machine pushed expectations too high for me. Again, a visual delight; the juxtaposition of the fresh, unspoiled regions of Brokeback Mountain itself and the beat-up, sometimes dirty crevices of civilization conveyed the feelings I think we were supposed to be picking up from the men. But that’s a pretty conventional assessment and I guess that’s the biggest problem I had here – other than the main characters being homosexual, this was a fairly conventional love story. I’m either too “hip,” (therefore de-sensitized) to what made it unique, or, as Jen offered, “we’re just insensitive pricks,” I suppose. We agreed that we’ve seen the story of unrequited love with the death of one of the lovers played out a million times before. Was the execution of that formula different here? Yes. Different enough to make it my “best picture”? No. Individual performances are what I thought were most award-worthy here. This one is up for best actor, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best cinematography, best director, best original score, best picture, and best adapted screenplay. Out of the 8, I won’t be surprised to see it go home with 4-6.

Good Night, and Good Luck.
Although I admit that his work doesn’t appeal to everybody, I have to classify myself as a George Clooney fan. I really enjoyed his directorial debut in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and I had a good time at this one, too. Even the people my age that know who Edward Murrow and Joe McCarthy? are (and let me say if you don’t, would you read some books, please?) did not experience the fight between them firsthand. So, this was an interesting foray into our nation’s recent history. On a couple other levels, it’s a nice look at how television began to sway public opinion and policy, and given the events and political climate of the present, a strong chorus of that adage about forgetfulness and repetition of history. Some of the things I really liked a lot about this movie: David Strathairn’s portrayal of Ed Murrow, the seamless editing of new footage with the actual news material from CBS, and above all, something I value a lot since so few people these days seem concerned with it – I thought the movie was tight, clean, and economical. This was the shortest flick that I saw over the weekend, but they did what they set out to accomplish. Obviously, there are still plenty of people in audiences around the country that can recall these events as they happened. Clooney didn’t set out to make an Aviator-length film about Murrow, McCarthy? or both. They interpreted the key events and put them together in an interesting and thought-provoking way. There are nominations here for best actor, art direction, cinematography, director, motion picture, and original screenplay. The thing is, they’re up against heavy hitters in every category. I hope it lands one or two, but I could easily see it winding up an also-ran across the board.

Munich
I’m also a Spielberg fan. And really, how could you not be? I think over the years, he’s done such a wide variety of things, everyone who watches movies can probably point to one of them and say they liked it (I bet George Lucas wishes he could say that. Actually, no, I’m sure George Lucas doesn’t give a damn. He probably just laughs menacingly like Jabba the Hutt while he tinkers with his Dagobah playset and throws another band of 50’s on the fire. But I digress.) . That being said, this movie was a good time, not exactly what I expected (having not read a synopsis before my screening), and very well executed across the board. It was too goddamn long, though. Steve, what’re ya doin to me? This badboy clocked in at almost 3 hours, and while I understand that your commitment to the actual events required a certain number things to happen, you could’ve tightened it up a little and still gotten the point across. This is the only one I saw over the weekend where I feel asleep for a few minutes. Not a ringing endorsement, but like I said, I still enjoyed it overall. It’s up for best picture, adapted screenplay, director, editing seriously?, and original score. I dunno, maybe it gets 1 or 2 max? This is another that I think could go away with only the nominations.

Capote
The only thing I really knew about Truman Capote going in to this movie was that he wrote Breakfast at Tiffany’s. With that in mind, it may seem strange to hear me say, “Philip Seymour Hoffman was fantastic,” because how would I know? I gauged his performance, though, against what I’ve seen him do in the past, and I can say with confidence this was the best I’ve ever seen him. Looking at his body of work, I can take an element or a moment of his other characters, and say, “well see – that’s Philip Seymour Hoffman,” but I couldn’t do that here. He played a role very well and—if I’m not mistaken—in his first shot at being the lead guy in a major movie. Kinda neat. Capote is up for best picture, adapted screenplay, best actor, best supporting actress, and best director. I would really like to see Phil pull down the best actor award, but if they get another one, it’ll be surprising.

OK, so that’s that. I didn’t really see enough of the field of nominees this year to make a lot of calls on what can or should win, but I did at least see all the best picture (and therefore, best director) nominees, so who would I be voting for? Crash for best pic, and Clooney for director. I think Ang Lee is gonna win both, though. Just a call.

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