I was actually kind of excited to hear the Oscar nominations this year, after being pleasantly surprised by the Golden Globes broadcast -- both because it's so fun to watch the stars get drunk before getting onstage, and because I thought some really deserving films and performances were recognized.
But while this year's Oscar noms have some fun surprises -- Robert Downey Jr. for Tropic Thunder? Really? That's a joke right? No, it's not? Really? And did they just nominate Angelina and Brad so they'd show up? -- in the end I found the nominations kind of a let down.
Here's hoping the actual awards show doesn't disappoint me, too.
Perhaps my problem is that I've yet to see a few of the big nominated films. I know. Not like me. I've usually seen everything by the time the nominations are announced, but I've barely been to the movies the last couple of months. I do hope to go see both Benjamin Button and Milk this weekend.
Here are a few nominated films I really think you should see.
Frost/Nixon. Okay, perhaps not the most exciting topic or film ever... But if Richie Cunningham --I mean Ron Howard -- has one major talent as a director, it's in creating tension and suspense in films where the audience goes in knowing the ending. He did it with Apollo 13 and he did it with this one. And the performances in Frost/Nixon are pretty amazing. Although I'd be recognizing Sam Rockwell or even Rebecca Hall (who was also very good in Vicky Cristina Barcelona) as much as I'd recognize Frank Langella.
Slumdog Millionaire. I feel like a broken record here. I think this is at least the third time I've mentioned this film since I saw it back in September... But I was watching a non-local channel on TV the other night and realized that, while it opened in Toronto seven weeks ago, its only just now opening to a wider release. Go see it. Don't let the slum-setting or accents or the occasional subtitles scare you off. This is one of the most exciting, beautiful, fun, romantic, clever films I've seen in a long time. (Need to see it again.)
Revolutionary Road. Another one that's been open in Toronto for weeks, but has only recently opened up across North America. (Sometimes living in Toronto, rocks.) I'm actually slightly on the fence about this one. In the end, I actually think DiCaprio was miscast. I'm not sure I bought him in the role... I keep thinking about all these young actors in Mad Men and how I totally buy them as 1960's males... and then see a photo of the actors in real life, or acting in a modern-set show, and can't believe their transformations and am even more impressed. DiCaprio did not seem "of the times" to me... Maybe he just needed some heavy rimmed glasses. Or maybe it was a problem with the writing and the character being a little muddy. (Was he a frustrated artist or a frustrated laborer, pretending to be deeper to score the actress?) Or maybe he's so out of place and baby-faced in 2009 that he just didn't seem any different in a 1960's setting. Don't know. He was good (I think he's very talented, in general) but something just didn't feel right to me.
The ending of this film will tear your heart out, but it's a slow (albeit interesting) ride to get to that end, and I was left wondering for most of it... Is this just a bunch of character sketches or a story? (But it does wrap itself into a story by the end.)
The Wrestler. Again. I think I've talked about this enough already. Just go see the fraking thing.
Rachel Getting Married. Loved this movie. It's one I'd like to see again, too, because it seems to break all the rules of good storytelling, but I expect on closer inspection, I might find that it doesn't. That's the thing with great storytelling... you get so wrapped up in the book or film that you forget to think about things like structure or technique. There are quite a few scenes in this film that seem to be just conversations between characters that, sure, are filled with tension--this is a family with issues--but don't really seem to be going anywhere -- and then they do. (I'm thinking in particular of the dishwasher loading competition.) And it's great to see a film where the protagonist is a very unsympathetic character (Anne Hathaway who plays Kym) and where the backstory is revealed at just the right times (after we're really curious and either when we're starting to hate Kym and need something to make us feel sorry for her -- or alternately, when we're starting to sympathize with her too much and we need something to be appalled by -- to understand why her family treats her the way that they do). Also, the supporting performances in this film are amazing. I predict a big future for Rosemarie DeWitt (who plays Rachel) and was also the wonderful Midge in Mad Men. My personal favourite character from the first season of that show.
Films I still really want to see.
The Visitor. Can't believe I missed this one. It was at the 2007 TIFF and then playing at the Cumberland for most of the summer of 2008 and I got complacent thinking "I'll see it next week" week after week, and then it was gone. I hope I can rent it soon... I've heard such good things.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (although I must admit that all the hoopla and nominations have made me want to see it less, for some reason)
Films I'm not that sure I really want to see.
The Reader -- I loved this book when I read it... But I feel zero desire to see it on the big screen. I think it's one of those stories that once you know the "big reveals"... you really don't want to experience it again. If someone's seen it, and thinks I should go.. Please let me know.
Films I think are getting more award noms than they deserve
Benjamin Button (How I come to this conclusion having not yet seen it, I do not know. ;-)
Doubt. I did see this one. And it's good. But is it THAT good? Not for me. (Although I did like it...)