Sunday, February 28, 2010

Seeing The Nominees

I love movies. I love them so much, my Netflix queue hovers around the 400 mark (I'm hoping to either win the lottery or get mono so I can have time to watch all those films). Since I've learned many theater chains offer incentives to frequent watchers, I've ventured out more often. It certainly makes those award shows more interesting! When the Academy Awards announced it would nominate ten films for best picture, I thought that was crazy. Then, when AMC said it would show all ten nominees in two weekends, I thought I jumped at the chance to see them. I had seen four of the ten before Saturday. Here's the first lineup:
The day started at 10:45AM and ended around 10:30PM. Long day, but I had seen "Up" and "Precious," so I skipped out on those. Now, here's what I thought about this lineup. WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS FOLLOW!

AVATAR:
First, a few things you should know about me: I don't love science fiction, aliens or fantasy lands. I also don't love James Cameron. That "Titanic" movie? Meh. So the idea that he was doing a movie that was supposed to have better effects than that multi-million dollar sinking ship movie wasn't exactly baiting me. Still, I showed up. I put on the 3D glasses. I decided to give the movie a chance. I have to say, I actually liked the story. I totally get why people say it's a political movie. To go to war over something that has nothing to do with freeing the oppressed (um, hello oil in Iraq) and to send innocent people scrambling from their homes is not a pretty topic - even if they are extra large blue people who worship colorful plant and animal life. But seeing the people who were duped into making the invasion possible switch sides... well, that's a story I can dig! Knowing Cameron spent 500 years (slight exaggeration) working on this movie, I thought I'd be blown away. I was. Kind of. I mean, the world of the Na'vi was beautiful. And it seemed real. But I felt like the 3D effects were an after thought. I expected poisoned arrows to come flying my way. Instead, I was distracted by plants in the foreground during incredibly fast action scenes. I do give Cameron credit for his ability to sneak a love story into a sci-fi/action flick. One question: did this have to be nearly 2 and a half hours long?

Up:
I'll be honest: what lured me to this movie was the talking dog, Dug. I mean, I have always wondered what my pets would sound like if they could talk! The beginning of this movie is very adult: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, couple grows up, couple gets married, couple can't have kids, couple gets old, woman gets sick and dies. Yes. Twenty minutes into a cartoon, I was crying. Carl, the old guy, meets a scout-type kid named Russell. Russell is quite eager. Carl is quite cranky. He decides to tie balloons to his house to honor his wife by going to the place they had always planned to go. Russell winds up tagging along and the adventure begins! This movie was sweet and funny. It may have the happiest ending of all the ten films (I have three more to see, so I reserve the right to take back that statement).

A Serious Man:
I had no idea what this was about. I only knew it was done by the Coen Brothers. This movie starts with a man telling his wife he had invited another man to their home. She says the man is dead. I thought they had started the wrong movie. I didn't think it was a horror film! But then, the movie goes on to the real serious man - the guy seen here on the roof. There is not one person in this movie who is not miserable. I mean, I wished the theater I was in served alcohol. It would have made me a little mopey so I could relate to these characters. A dysfunctional family at its worst. And just when you think they're turning things around and headed toward (mostly) happily ever after, BAM! The end! Only you're left to assume what happens to the characters. One more thing about me: I am not a fan of that. I want a real ending. I don't want to use my imagination. If I wanted to do that, I'd write a screenplay definitively wrapping up all the story lines.

Precious:
This might be one of the most tragic films I've ever watched. With all the horrible things that happen to this girl who goes by the name "Precious," I couldn't help but wonder if kids who go through them would see that they, too, could survive. Precious doesn't just survive. With the help of a teacher and a social worker (played by a dark-haired, makeup-less and mustached Mariah Carey), Precious sees a way out. She sets off to make her life better than what her abusive mother had in mind. For a second, I wanted to be a teacher (the only thing stopping me: I'd likely be one of those caught duct-taping a child's mouth shut). Instead, I have rooted for Gabourey Sibide and Mo'Nique to take home every award possible as a message to all the little Precious kids out there that good things can come from darkness (will you look at that? I'm optimistic!).

District 9:
The only thing I knew about this movie was that it involved aliens. So when it started, I had a hard time getting past the documentary-style shooting and bad hair cuts (you mean to tell me everyone in South Africa has bad hair?). Once I saw the giant aliens picking through trash and eating cat food, I was grossed out. I thought life from other planets was supposed to be smarter than us! Why were they eating animal parts rejected by humans? Then, I realized this, too, was a political film. The MNU decides it will relocate the aliens, who have been there for 20 years, to a tent city (where have I seen this before???). Also, the aliens understand English, but speak their own language - and the Africans understand alien, but speak English. The guy in charge of the relocation gets infected and starts to become an alien and is (shocker) alienated from his family. One alien who he tried to evict says he can undo the alienism (for lack of a better word), so he decides to help him and his super cute alien son. But this unleashes one heck of a fire fight. The documentary style includes "news coverage," the likes of which made me wonder on what planet this was really happening (no news chopper would hover above a shootout with weapons that shoot lasers and blow people into tiny bits). Still, I rooted for the aliens. That, my friends, is a sentence I never thought I'd write. This was entertaining, but my least favorite of all the day's offerings. I'm not sure how this movie made Oscar's ten list, but it has. I feel confident in saying it will not win.

Next Saturday, I'll see the remaining roster. I'll let you know what I think of those five films and which one I think will win Best Picture.
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