And the Oscar Nominees Are…

I always watch the Oscars.  I don’t quite know why, because very often I haven’t seen most of the movies and I have a low opinion of the Academy’s taste, but I always watch.  All the dresses, and the celebrities, and the Hollywood magic…it’s like a fairy tale.  And I’m particularly looking forward to this year’s ceremony, coming up on Sunday, because for a rarity I’ve actually seen most of the Best Picture nominees!

Usually, I don’t watch the movies the Academy nominates, and they don’t nominate the movies I watch.  Somehow, this year things came together a bit more than usual.  Since I’m enjoying this rare position of having an opinion on the Best Picture nominees, naturally I thought I’d share that opinion with you!

In alphabetical order…

The Artist – A silent movie about the end of silent movies, this was amazing.  I love old movies (though usually talkies) and from the opening frame it was such a hearkening back to old Hollywood.  Aside from a few brief moments, the movie is entirely silent (with music) and only a minimum of captioning, yet I felt everything was conveyed–the characters were well-drawn, the plot was clear, the emotions were strong…and the dog was adorable!

The Descendants – This one I missed.  A family drama with George Clooney, I’d be willing to watch it and will probably get it on DVD later.  But it’s out of theaters and not on DVD yet, so we’re in no-man’s land and it can’t be got right now.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – This focuses on a boy dealing with the aftermath of September 11th, when his father was killed in the World Trade Towers.  It was wrenching, heart-breaking and so well-done that I don’t want to see it again.  Excellent to watch once, but too painful to come back.  I’ve heard it’s been accused of being over-the-top, but frankly, considering the subject matter, I don’t know how it could not be as dramatic as it is.  Thomas Horn was incredible as the boy, and it also featured Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock, looking astonishingly like real people, not celebrities.

The Help – Another truly heart-wrenching movie, a fictional account of the lives of black servants in Jackson, Mississippi during the fifties.  It focuses especially on the black women who care for white children, and on the bond that forms across the cultural boundaries.  It’s a movie about racial and social prejudice, and it did well tackling a sweeping issue while focusing in-depth on a few lives.  It’s the relationships that drive this movie, relationships that give hope and ones that will ultimately break your heart.

Hugo – Like Extremely Loud, this story is also about a boy who lost his father; Hugo lives in a train station in Paris, where he keeps the clocks wound.  He slowly begins to investigate a mystery about the toy-seller at the train station, and bonds with the toy-seller’s goddaughter.  This movie has a whimsical, surreal atmosphere to it that makes me feel like it should be a British fantasy, even though it’s in France, and isn’t a fantasy.  I enjoyed the development of the characters, and the way lots of little bits and pieces came together in the end.  It has a beautiful message about doing what you’re meant to do, and the tragedy of losing sight of that purpose.  This movie also has the advantage of endless recognizable faces in the cast, and one of the most effective uses of 3D I’ve ever seen–and I usually don’t like the effect of 3D movies.

Midnight in Paris – I never thought I’d love an Owen Wilson movie this much.  It’s probably because it’s not really an Owen Wilson movie; it’s a Woody Allen movie, and Wilson is channeling Allen throughout.  Wilson’s character is a dreamy, nostalgic writer who’s in Paris with his overbearing fiancee and her family.  He dreams of the 1920s, when all the great artists were in Paris.  Out walking the streets at midnight, he finds himself hailed by an old-fashioned car that whisks him back to the 1920s, to meet all the writers he loves.  The writers were the best part of this movie.  They all talk the way they write and it’s SO entertaining.  Fitzgerald calls people “old sport,” and Hemingway makes solemn pronouncements about life and death and charging lions.  I doubt it’s realistic but it’s enormous fun, as is watching Owen Wilson play Woody Allen.

Moneyball – I’m not much of one for sports movies or Brad Pitt.  Missed this one.

Tree of Life – I saw most of this one, and I am so glad it was on DVD and didn’t involve spending money.  This is described as a metoraphorical story about a family in the 1950s, about a man (Sean Penn) coming to terms with his father (Brad Pitt), and also about creation.  Let me tell you, it is a dense metaphor.  It’s another movie with very little dialogue, but it made a lot less sense to me than The Artist.  It’s all quick cuts from family scenes in the ’50s, Sean Penn in the present day, and scenes of the creation of the universe–at least, the first hour and a half is.  It reminded me of 2001, but with less plot, and more incomprehensible (which is saying something!)  Everyone seems to madly love this or completely hate it.  I don’t think I hated it–it didn’t stir anything that significant.  I didn’t watch the last hour because I just didn’t care.  It may be a deep, profound piece of art, but it’s not at all accessible and I didn’t find it entertaining either.

War Horse – I’m really not one for violent war movies.  I briefly considered seeing this one (it’s about a boy and his horse!) but then I saw a few too many comments comparing it to Saving Private Ryan, and changed my mind.  I’ll pass on this one.

I find trends fascinating.  Of the nine here, we have two movies set in Paris, three movies about boys and their fathers, three movies set (at least partially) in roughly the 1920s, two in the fifties, two making homages to silent movies, and just for good measure, two movies starring Brad Pitt.  Eight out of nine are set at least ten years in the past (six farther back); eight out of nine have male leads.  Now what does all that say about Hollywood?

Oscar commentaries like to wind up by saying who they think should win, and who they think will win.  If it was up to me, I would choose for Best Picture either The Artist or Extremely Loud.  I enjoyed Midnight in Paris the most, but the other two feel more landmark, like they’re doing something really noteworthy or groundbreaking.

As to who I think will win, I’ve heard good press for The Artist, so that’s encouraging.  However, I have far too often seen the Academy’s tendency to choose violent movies or bizarre, artsy movies, so I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see it go to War Horse or Tree of Life.

I guess we’ll find out when they open the envelopes on Sunday!  Who will you be rooting for?

About cherylmahoney

I'm a book review blogger and Fantasy writer. I have published three novels, The Wanderers; The Storyteller and Her Sisters; and The People the Fairies Forget. All can be found on Amazon as an ebook and paperback. In my day job, I'm the Marketing Specialist for Yolo Hospice. Find me on Twitter (@MarvelousTales) and GoodReads (MarvelousTales).
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11 Responses to And the Oscar Nominees Are…

  1. Jeff Gephart says:

    I liked your take on the movies nominated for Best Picture. Although “The Artist” doesn’t seem like my kind of film, I’m told it’s very well done so I’ll have to put it one the ol’ Netflix queue. I read “Extremely Loud…” and can’t imagine putting myself through that story again in movie form; too sad. BTW, a girl at my work today couldn’t stop talking about how much she loved Moneyball, even though she’s not the least bit interested in sports of any kind, so it may surprise you. You and/or your readers might be interested in my take on “Tree of Life” …I think someone just had a faulty remote and that’s why the movie kept flipping between seemingly unrelated scenes. Feel free to read the entire review here: (There’s also one for The Help)

  2. drsnyc says:

    I enjoyed your summaries – especially as I haven’t seen any of the films. Now I know which ones to order from Netflix! Thank you. I agree with you completely about war movies but wanted to tell you about War Horse the stage production, in case you ever have a chance to see it and think about passing it up: I really don’t like big theatre productions/musicals or anything to do with war but my cousin kindly “treated” me to this production and so I had to go (the only redeeming feature I could see was that the original book was written by Michael Morpurgo, whom I rate highly as a children’s books writer). It was the most amazing, most moving piece of this type of theatre I have ever seen. I actually cried and cheered and all that. If you ever do have a chance to go, please don’t pass it up! I think it is kind of a pity they made the movie, as it detracts from the book and the production.

  3. Care says:

    Oh, the Oscars. Great post, by the way. I used to see EVERY movie up for all the big categories and now, this year, has been the worst ever. I only saw The Help and was furious to miss Extremely Loud. But I’ll watch tonight and I’ll see the movies eventually, I hope.

  4. megwrites says:

    I’ve seen Hugo and Midnight in Paris. Hugo was interesting and beautiful in a way, but I liked the book more, so I didn’t get super into it. I loved Midnight in Paris. I didn’t expect to like Owen Wilson in a Woody Allen movie but it felt so fresh and charming and all the literary references and characters were the icing on the cake.

  5. Hmmm, I’ve only seen two: Hugo and Moneyball. I don’t go out to movies much, and just put them in my Netflix queue. Since it is very long, months pass between the time I put a flick in the queue and the time it arrives in my mailbox.

    Hugo was gorgeous. And not at all what I expected from the previews I’d seen. I (and my sisters who saw it with me) was expecting a fantasy-sort thing. I wasn’t disappointed, but I felt misled. I get what you said about it feeling like a fantasy even though it’s not. I left feeling like it was magic.

    You didn’t miss much with Moneyball; I wasn’t too impressed by it, and I love baseball and I like baseball statistics. I keep score at games for Heaven’s sake. The only thing you missed was a really cool come-from-behind-after-being-ahead win to break a win streak record (that’s baseball!) and an absolute great quote: “It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball.” Indeed.

    I’ve just added a few more movies to the queue.

  6. dianem57 says:

    I’ve seen eight of the nine nominees. It’s been a banner year for me, too, for a change. I am usually with you – haven’t seen (and don’t want to see) more than 1 or 2 of the Best Picture films. The only one I didn’t see was “War Horse,” for the same reasons you list. I don’t want to watch a movie where an animal is put in jeopardy, sorry! Of the other eight, I’d say in my own opinion who should win is “Midnight in Paris” (because I love seeing an “old guy” like Woody Allen at the top of his game this late in his life – gives us all hope to continue to do good work past “normal” retirement age – and because the film was just so GOOD on many levels). Who will win is “The Artist” (because it is so groundbreaking in the digital age – a SILENT?! When the internet is so dominant?! Cool! – and it so gracefully pays homage to “Old Hollywood” of a bygone era, just beautifully.)

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