Dear readers, let’s talk the pictures. Looking at the Oscars top ten (I still can’t believe they pick ten!) nominations for Best Picture, I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed. It’s a list where any of those movies could win and no debate would spark over it. Well I’m here to rile some up, friends. I had a great time at the movies this year, but barely any of the ones this so-called Academy came up with are on my lists! Without further adieu, here’s what the five (only five!) best movies of the year really look like:
To start off, I’m kind of a liar. I talk a big talk about how Oscar (I’m going to refer to the Academy as one single person named Oscar) couldn’t get any of the movies right, but he did. And that is Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris. “What a delight,” I exclaimed to whoever would listen as the credits rolled. This movie was a joy, and this is coming from someone less than thrilled with Allen’s latter day films. Owen Wilson nailed the Allen character, playing it true but also with his own sense of personality, not trying to match the tics and neurosis that make Woody who he is. Strolling through Paris at night and pining for a time and place that no longer exist, Gil Pender is magically transported to his Golden Era, 1920s Paris, where he can drink and ruminate with the likes of Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Dali (cameo of the year for Adrien Brody), and Ernest Hemingway (performance of the year for Corey Stoll, whoever that is). I may add that Woody still has an eye for the ladies: Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Carla Bruni (the President of France’s wife!), and Alison Pill (as a wonderful Zelda Fitzgerald)? Thank you.
The other movie Oscar got right? The Brad Pitt one. Except not the one with all the hype and has me anxious that it may actually take home Best Picture. Moneyball was a fine couple of scenes, and Aaron Sorkin probably already has the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for his trade deadline deal scene alone, but that’s all the movie should win. I’m talking about The Tree of Life, the visual beauty from the reclusive genius Terence Malick. Poor guy gets labeled with the “reclusive” label because he takes a ton of time in between his movies and doesn’t live in Hollywood. Sounds like my type of guy, and if he keeps making movies like this (and his track record is also very good) then maybe we should just leave him be. Also, the aforementioned Pitt got nominated for the Best Actor in the wrong role. Seeing him as a commanding and feared father figure is more of a challenge artistically than getting to play your own likable self as General Manager Billy Beane. There, it’s been said. Jessica Chastain in like her third movie ever (possibly exaggerating) is also fantastic.
Now let’s go to the meat of the matter. The Oscar snubs. I should start by saying that Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion should at least be talked about. The guy simply keeps churning them out, making the films he wants to make, and is totally under-appreciated for it. He also managed to give Gwyneth Paltrow a fairly graphic brain autopsy within 20 minutes of being introduced to her character. That’s not a spoiler alert, she plays “Patient Zero,” aka she’s not going to make it through the film. That was a big digression in order to tell you I’m selecting Mike Mill’s Beginners as my third nominee instead. I just wanted to let you know it was a close one, but Beginners stuck with me longer because of the performances. Christopher Plummer gets Best Supporting this year because of his role as a father who declares and embraces his homosexuality, finally, at the age of 70. Ewan McGregor plays the son admirably well (as he always seems to do – deliver a good performance that somehow gets outshined), and Melanie Laurent from Inglorious Basterds had me wondering who she was for half the film, and why she wasn’t in all the movies for the second half.
Ok, top two, let’s talk about it. Runner-up (and I know Oscar doesn’t do runner-ups which is why my Miss America inspired selection is way superior – and funnier than modern day Billy Crystal) goes to Attack the Block. I knew it was going to be worthwhile when Edgar Wright produced it, because that man can do no wrong – he’s got a nearly perfect track record. I only said nearly perfect because if someone tries to prove me wrong I can still be right. Anyhow, this film is about a gang of teenagers in a low rent apartment block neighborhood that is forced to use unconventional methods to defend themselves against an alien attack. It’s tough to describe, but if District 9 (which was awesome) gets nominated for Best Picture, then this should too.
When it’s all said and done, it just comes down to the best film experience. The winner is Warrior, by a hair. Filmed in Pittsburgh (right hand up that it did not influence the vote), this film about a mixed martial arts fighting competition (I know, I know) that pins a brother versus a brother in competition rooted in a lot of familial baggage (a mother that passed to cancer, an alcoholic father portrayed by a Moby Dick audiobook listening Nick Nolte, who will only get passed over for the Best Supporting Oscar due to the aforementioned Plummer). Tom Hardy is spectacular as usual, if not frighteningly in shape (I’ve never seen neck muscles that size) – and director Gavin O’Conner is used to the underdog treatment with the way unappreciated Miracle – but he gets my award, which must feel pretty good for a feel-good movie.
What did I miss, dear readers? Should my list also go to ten? Am I being unfair to poor Oscar? Post below in comments for interactive fun!