You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Midnight in Paris’ category.

My writeups, if you haven’t already gathered, rank  the nominees in reverse order of how I like them.  But here, as John mentioned, we’re ranking the best picture movies as if we were Oscar voters.

1. The Artist.  Yeah, picking this film is almost cliche at this point in awards season.  But that’s only because it is the best film of this lot by leaps and bounds.  The others really aren’t in the ballpark.  At this point I’ve waxed rhapsodic about so many aspects of the movie that really, all that’s left to say is that all these wonderful aspects of the film: writing, directing, acting, cinematography, just everything all combines together into one really great movie.

2. Midnight in Paris.  It is a sign of how poor an Oscar year it is that when I saw the film over the summer, I was wavering over whether I thought I’d give it Oscar consideration and now it is my second-favorite film of those nominated.  It is light, fun, and not particularly deep.

3. The Help.  It is a decent movie, and pretty much nothing like what people are projecting onto it.  Race issues get people riled up, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but if you can look past all that, you’ve got a fine movie.  Maybe a little bit bloated and unfocused at times, but it is funny, warm, and entertaining.  Not one of the nine best movies of the year, but certainly no outrage.

4. The Descendants.  And here’s the part of the list with films that make me go, “Eh.”  I currently have  this film as the 36th best movie of the year.  There are certainly plenty of good things about the movie, like George Clooney and Judy Greer and Matthew Lillard and Shailene Woodley constantly being in a bikini.  Each of us has voiced our problems with the plot, chiefly the underdeveloped plotline surrounding the land deal.

5. Moneyball.  As I’ve mentioned, great job figuring out how to turn the book into a movie, but they didn’t get quite all the way there.  Every single supporting character seemed underdeveloped and underutilized to me.  But hey, it is hard to be angry about a best picture-nominated film about the economics of baseball.

6. Everything Loud and Incredibly Close.  Another one of those issue movies where people make all sorts of outlandish claims about the film trying to “solve” some really huge issue and obviously failing to do so.  It is insane, to me, that anyone could think this film was about healing the wounds from 9/11.  Sure, clearly, the events form the backdrop here, but the movie is much smaller than that.  It is about a kid who lost his dad, isn’t particularly close to his mom, and is trying to figure out his world.

7. War Horse.  Not as bad as some people would have you believe, but hardly a great movie.  My biggest problem was that it was hard to get attached to any character, so while obviously it was sad when they died and happy when they lived, it wasn’t that sad or happy.

8. Hugo.  Just a bad movie and and a horrible movie-watching experience.  Sure, it is pretty and it is great that it references the birth of cinema.  But I dunno, I prefer my movies to have an interesting story and not be boring.

9. The Tree of Life.  Speaking of boring movies that don’t have a story!  Look, I understand if you want to make the argument that this film is high art.  I won’t even disagree.  But as a movie, it is horrendous.  One of the items on the film’s imdb trivia page states that in an Italian theater, two reels of the film were switched and nobody realized the mistake for an entire week.  If your film can be shown out of order for an entire week, there is something seriously, fatally, tragically wrong with it.  I’m not saying it is the worst movie I’ve ever seen in my life, but I’m also not saying I’ve ruled it out.

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The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Writing (Original Screenplay)

The nominees are:

  • The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius
  • Bridesmaids, Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
  • Margin Call, J.C. Chandor
  • Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen
  • A Separation, Asghar Farhadi

JOHN

What a rich category this year as it contains two of my favorite films. I hope Midnight in Paris comes away with the win. It’s such a delightful movie and its success hinges around the script. It’s a film with well-formed characters (as necessary – I don’t think Ernest Hemingway needs to be too developed) and a clever story. It also has some interesting things to say about nostalgia and our relationship with the past. It’s not a profound message but it’s a theme I always find interesting to explore.

My other favorite here is Margin Call. It’s a terrific workplace drama where internal and external forces roil an investment bank over the course of a day. I think it would work splendidly on those terms but it also happens to be right up my political wheelhouse. The film could have easily been a screed against sleazy bankers but I think it takes a more nuanced approach by highlighting the absurdities of their world. The bankers muse that they don’t understand their work or how they make so much money, a sentiment I share. As the problems spread further up the ladder at the firm, our perspectives of the characters change and the villains shift. Plus each subsequent level knows less about markets but more about internal politicking.

I’m thrilled that Bridesmaids is here on a conceptual level, that the Academy is honoring not just a comedy but a raunchy one. I just didn’t respond to the film that much. I felt like it needed a tighter story and a bit better comedic rhythm (plus about 20 fewer minutes). Furthermore, the common film conceit of the main character doing ever more stupid things instead of just talking it out drives me nuts. The discussion around the screenplay for The Artist is going to revolve around whether a dialogue-free film can really have a great script. This ignores the real issue that the film is thin as hell in both theme and story. Any success the film has is due to its performances and visual style. Finally, A Separation just felt like two hours of people being stubborn to me. I wanted it to be more but it never grabbed me.

In my perfect world, the campaign for Contagion would have picked up some steam for its realistic and chilling depiction of a pandemic. The extraordinary amount of detail in the film really sells its realism. Going further afield, some recognition for the clever and thrilling Source Code would have made me very happy.

JARED

I certainly don’t agree with the Academy’s picks here, but I have to respect them.  You’ve got a foreign film, a broad comedy, two dramedies (one of which has no dialogue), and a workplace drama set in the world of finance, by a first-time writer.  Screenplay is one of the few categories where Oscar has some imagination, it would seem.

Margin Call didn’t do very much for me, though I appreciated certain aspects of it.  I thought the way the story unfolded was kinda clever.  And the comparison is a little awkward, but the film reminded me a little bit of this year’s Outrage (which I saw during the DC Film Festival) in how it was about the structure of a company and how that structure affects its impact.  Also, any movie glorifying number crunchers can’t be all bad.  But ultimately, I found the script less compelling as the movie went on, getting bogged down with the situation and all the characters in it.

I really wanted to like A Separation, since everyone was raving about the script.  Instead, I found it to be Law and Order: Iran.  OK, that’s not entirely fair, and learning a little about the police system in Iran was neat.  But the only character I found interesting was the daughter, no one else was sketched out enough to really fascinate me.  And the twists and turns of the plot were more bunny slope than black diamond.

Bridesmaids is one of the weaker films in the Apatow oeuvre, so of course it would be the one to be recognized by the Academy.  Of course, a weaker Apatow film is funnier than 90% of films.  And sure, it is great to recognize a comedy, and not just that, a female-written and -driven comedy.  The movie had plenty of entertaining moments, of course, there’s no denying that.  But the script, overall, wasn’t that strong.  Almost none of the characters were well-developed, and the plot gets a little thing at times.  I’m curious if the script would have been honored if a different actress had been cast in Melissa McCarthy’s part.

Midnight in Paris has a very good script.  Allen shows a light touch, deftly moving between time periods to create an entertaining movie.  But while it may be OK for the historical figures to be caricatures because they are so funny, the broad strokes don’t work nearly as well for characters in the modern era.  Most scenes, save for when Michael Sheen is being pompous, are insufferable.  Which I guess is maybe kinda the point?  The film is breezy enough that it doesn’t really matter.

For me it has to be The Artist.  And to repeat everyone else in the world, it is so wonderful and unexpected to see a silent film get this treatment.  But a script is so much more than the dialogue.  And for a silent movie to be so engrossing today, the script just has to be top notch.  Hazanavicius goes broad comedy and dark melodrama with equal verve and skill.  The movie is laugh out loud funny, and moving, and just plain wonderful.  And that’s largely due to the fantastic script.

ADAM

Midnight in Paris

Unlike other categories where voters pick one nominee, in Best Picture they rank them 1-9. Therefore my pick the winners post will follow the same format.

1. Midnight in Paris. In a season filled with nostalgic pursuits, this is the only one that seriously worked for me. It’s just an absolute delight and I had so much fun watching it. It has an enjoyable, original story and fills it with interesting characters. They’re most characters you’re already familiar with, but the film’s takes on them and their interactions are a good time. It’s all just a whimsical fantasyland. And its simple if elegant message about the nature of the past and nostalgia hit home for me.

2. The Tree of Life. Ambitious, beautiful, moving, grand. I love its structure of wispy memories paired with gorgeous music. It’s a bizarre creature that washed over me and I loved it. Plus it’s the only nominee with dinosaurs.

3. The Help. Probably the film here that surprised me the most. It’s very entertaining and I found it really effectively evoked a time and place (which always helps get me through the times the schmaltz gets dialed up to eye-rolling level). Great performances as well.

4. The Descendants. I didn’t love it, but it has some undeniable beautiful, heartfelt sentiments and moments. Even as the stories never really came together in a satisfying manner – this is the only movie where I wanted to hear more about a perpetual trust! – a sense of sadness settled within me. I have a lot of goodwill for this film though I wanted it to be more.

5. The Artist. I just never took to this like everyone else seems to have. It’s fine enough, but there’s just not enough there. It gets some flak for being slight in that it’s thematically light, but its bigger sin is being narratively slight. Not enough happens and the thrill of the silent, black and white aesthetic wears off.

6. Moneyball. I can’t deny its technical proficiencies, but even after a second viewing it still feels like maybe a quarter of a story. I just think the filmmakers concentrated on parts of the Moneyball story that I find less interesting.

7. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. I never expected to like this and hell if it isn’t… adequate. It can be contrived and exasperating, but its unique perspective and occasional moments of earned emotion pull it through.

8. Hugo. It just didn’t do much for me. In fact, it mostly just bored me. I kept waiting for the magic to begin… then it ended. I guess my hard heart is a tough nut to crack.

9. War Horse. I’m going to ruin this movie for you: it’s just a damn horse. So when people do a bunch of stupid stuff for the main character they’re doing stupid stuff for a horse. And judging from the music you’d think the horse scores a winning touchdown every 20 minutes or so. Still, it has a few good WWI scenes.

The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Art Direction

The nominees are:

  • The Artist, Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
  • Hugo, Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
  • Midnight in Paris, Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
  • War Horse, Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales

JOHN

Art Direction is probably my favorite small category after Song. Why? I love sets! Many a mediocre film has been upgraded in my eyes due to neat sets. Sherlock Holmes, for example, is a lot of noise but the film’s stylish take on Victorian London always gives you something to look at when the plot takes another stupid turn. Or how about a similar entry from this year, missing from the nomination list: Captain America devolved into a lot of mind-numbing explosions, but it happened in some fantastic-looking enemy bases with their mix of Nazi, supernatural, and mechanical elements.

There’s a clear best in show winner for this year in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which of course wasn’t even nominated. There’s a film with meticulous, detail-rich sets that help establish the film’s cool style. Is there a set image more iconic from 2011 than the egg-crate insulation in the MI6 isolation meeting rooms? That and that neat doorframe in the middle of the desert in The Tree of Life, of course!

So my winner will instead be Hugo, another film whose setting really sets the tone for its overall style. It’s colorful, busy, and often quite beautiful. The train station will get most attention, but the designs of Méliès’s studio and house are also quite memorable. The film intent to pull the audience into its sense of magic didn’t really work on me, but I can understand how the production design would help sweep away those who fell under its spell.

The Artist also looks great. Design is a different beast in black and white and the film still has a nice sense of artistry as well as a neat period look. Furthermore, War Horse also has some effective sets. They’re not as flashy, but I liked the look of the windmill and the family’s house at the beginning of the film. The war scenes, mostly stripped of any gore, work as well as they do to show the horrors of war with the help of the design of the bleak trenches and No Man’s Land.

JARED

As anyone who has seen my room may attest, aesthetically pleasing spaces are maybe not so much my forte.  Being a war movie may have made War Horse a shoo-in, but I found the sets merely adequate.  Similarly, nothing in particular stood out for me with Midnight in Paris.  Though I suppose big and bold is what tends to get my attention in this category, and that may not be fair.  Speaking of bid and bold, though, this Harry Potter was the first that I’ve seen.  The wide range of locations were really impressive, but I wonder if maybe people are conflating their love of the series with admiration for the art direction.

I love many things about The Artist, and the scenery is certainly up there.  I’ve mentioned it elsewhere, but putting together a modern take on an old-timey look isn’t easy, and the crew pulled it off with style.  In particular, I’m thinking of the movie sets and scenes at the studios, which felt wonderfully alive.

Infringing on Brian’s turf here, but I think Hugo is my pick here.  I’m a big enough man to admit that even though I disliked much about the film, creating the world of the train station was really something special.  From the inner workings where Hugo lived to the bookstore, to the wide open concourses, the film established a magical, vivid world.  And Ben Kingsley’s film set was pretty neat too.

BRIAN

Hugo

ADAM

Midnight in Paris

 

Once again this year we are a member of Film Independent, the group that runs the Independent Spirit Awards. That is, the four of us combine to form one voting member with one ballot. I guess we could probably each afford the fee to join, but we had such fun last year wrangling to figure out our one set of votes that we decided to do it again!

Each of us have a certain number of points to assign to the whichever nominees we want. The nominee with the most points for each category gets the Grouches’ collective vote! And in a few categories only one of us saw all the movies and therefore got the sole vote in that category.

Last week just before the deadline we gathered to reveal our votes and discuss the outcome.

BEST DOCUMENTARY

The nominees:

  • We Were Here
  • The Redemption of General Butt Naked
  • The Interrupters
  • Bill Cunningham New York
  • An African Election

WINNER: We Were Here

John: My sole vote goes to We Were Here. It’s a documentary about the AIDS epidemic in San Francisco.

Adam: Booooo

Brian: Boooooo – Bill Cunningham all the way

Adam: I completely disagree with both of you

Jared: Well, it didn’t take very long to turn on John, huh?

Adam: How can you not pick….quick, Jared, what’s another documentary?

Brian: John where is it available? That actually does sound interesting

John: It’s well made and naturally has an emotional impact. But what I found especially interesting is its look at what life was like during that time. What is it like when a mysterious disease is wiping out gay men? When something like a third of the people you know are dying? I think its next stop is DVD. It’s also a Film Fest DC 2011 alum!

Adam: There is an AIDS epidemic in San Francisco? Is it similar in scope to Africa?

Brian: I think he means during the 80s

John: I also rather enjoyed the two films about Africa. One about a militant leader who killed thousands in Liberia but is now a pastor (The Redemption of General Butt Naked). He goes around asking for forgiveness, which sets up some really fascinating encounters. What I really want to see is a follow-up. What do these people think of this guy, General Butt-Naked, when the cameras aren’t following him around? The other African film, An African Election, embeds filmmakers during the 2008 Ghanaian Presidential election. They have an extraordinary amount of access and present a very interesting portrait of a young democracy.

I also have to make one note about The Interrupters. It’s the film everyone is yelling about not even making the Oscar short list, which is also what happened to Hoop Dreams

Brian: Right

John: But it draaaags. The subjects and their work – stepping into street conflicts before they escalate – are really impressive. But after the nth scene where the interrupters do their interrupting, I felt like I got the point

Brian: If John thinks it drags then it must reallllly drag

John: But at least it has a bigger impact than Bill Cunningham 🙂

Brian: wait wait who needs an impact in a documentary? Not every documentary has to be out to solve the world

Adam: “solving the world” and “impact” are two different things

John: No, of course not. But I would like to have had a reason to have watched it

Brian: Sorry, I keep forgetting that you are a robot

John: And as I don’t care about fashion and have no nostalgia for old-timey journalism, Bill Cunningham was a trifle

Adam: wait…what? You went from arguing something didn’t have to have an impact to accusing John of being a “robot”

Jared: Documentary catfight!

Brian: hahaha. I misinterpreted what John meant by impact

John: I think though that you’ll like We Were Here

Brian: I probably will

John: And I know that Brian hates when I talk about this, but it also has a terrific title.

JOHN CASSAVETES AWARD

(For features made for less than $500,000)
The nominees:

  • Bellflower
  • Hello Lonesome
  • Circumstance
  • Pariah
  • The Dynamiter

WINNER: Bellflower

Jared: Our (or rather my) pick for the Cassavetes award is Bellflower.

John: Guh. Were the others really that bad?

Brian: Bellflower wasnt bad!

Jared: I really liked Bellflower, it was one of the real surprises of the year for me. It had flaws, no question, but I found it really engaging and found myself thinking about it for days after seeing it.

John: Did you find the first half at all engaging?

Jared: Yes.

Brian: the first half was fascinating

John: What was fascinating about it? It’s a group of shitstain hipsters being insufferable.

Brian: its the latter half that went off the rails

Jared: I didn’t say I wanted to hang out with the characters.

John: I at least appreciated that the last half went so insane. Best tattoo of the year?

Jared: Hahaha.

John: Better than the dragon tattoo.

Brian: Oh I found the latter half just too batshit crazy, but the first half felt very authentic and natural

Jared: And yes, the juxtaposition of the madness of the second half with the hipsterness of the first was really effective, I thought. I really liked how the film mixed things up, careening through genres.

John: So it’s a film about male aggression. But why does it have to be so uninteresting at the front end? And so obnoxiously artsy fartsy to end

Jared: It is more than just male aggression, though. Like any indie film it is about ennui and not having a direction. It is also a love story and apocalyptic.

Brian: and a bromance

Jared: Exactly. Not saying every beat hit or anything. But I admired the ambition and thought it mostly worked. Oh, also, I’m kind of in love with Rebekah Brandes.

John: Had you heard of her before the movie?

Jared: Nope.

Brian: She kept reminding me of Taylor Swift. Then I laughed at the idea of Taylor Swift being in that movie

John: She caught my eye too. For a while I thought she was the best actor in the film

Brian: yes, I’m sure that’s why Jared loves her. For her acting.

John: Haha

Adam: I guess I should put my comment on Bellflower in. I have to admit that this was probably the most powerful movie I saw this year. For whatever reason, I was also thinking about it for days afterwards. However, I just didn’t have the same positive reaction to it that Jared and Brian had. I will say that I still have not fully processed my feelings about the movie.

Brian: I also give Bellflower points for being the most original movie I’ve watched this year. Jared, tell us about the two films we missed

Jared: So Circumstance is eerily similar to Pariah, it is about two adolescent girls in Iran who become more than friends with each other and how they deal with their affection for each other in present day Iran. It was better than I was expecting, but I felt there was something more there to explore than the filmmakers shied away from, maybe because they thought the film was controversial enough.

Brian: was it made in Iran? or made by expats elsewhere

Jared: imdb says it is filmed in Lebanon, but it was in Persian.

Brian: Farsi

Adam: Farsi

Jared: Farsi. Sorry. Actually, no. I’m not sorry. Imdb says “Persian”

John: Since you say it’s similar to Pariah, can I ask if has a similar issue that I had with Pariah? That it feels like a film that tries too hard to be about the Lesbian Experience at the expense of story?

Jared: John, I hear what you are saying and I think that’s one difference between the two films. Probably because there doesn’t seem to be a lesbian culture in Iran to which the girls could escape. It was much more the two of them against the world.

John: I liked Pariah and it was an interesting look into a world I’m not familiar with. But it sort of seemed like they had a list of “bad things that happen to black lesbians” and checked the boxes

Jared: Hello Lonesome tells three stories: a May December relationship between a middle-aged guy who works from home and his elderly neighbor, a voiceover artist who works from home who has alienated his family and doesn’t have friends, and a budding relationship between two people who met online (one of whom is Sabrina Lloyd!) only for one of them to soon find out she has cancer. The stories never meet up at all, which is kind of strange.

John: Hmm, sounds like these people may be LONESOME or something

Adam: That sounds like one of the most boring movies ever

Brian: sounds like something John would love

Jared: It is a little better than boring, but not by a whole lot.

Adam: I was nodding off as I was reading your description

Jared: The filmmaker clearly had something to say about the need for relationships with other people, but couldn’t really figure out a story to tell it.

BEST SUPPORTING MALE

The nominees:

  • Albert Brooks, Drive
  • John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Christopher Plummer, Beginners
  • John C Reilly, Cedar Rapids
  • Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris

WINNER: Corey Stoll (12 points – 8 from Jared, 4 from Adam)
Other votes: John Hawkes (4 points – Brian)
Christopher Plummer (3 points – John)

Brian: Woooo. I’m pleased with that

Adam: Nice!

Brian: but I need a defense from John on Plummer

John: I think you guys are the largest concentration of Plummer haters out there.

Adam: Actually, I would go with Plummer over Hawkes

John: He’s just marvelous. So much so that the movie blows when he’s off screen.

Brian: I think thats more because he was adequate

John: That said, I almost tossed Hawkes and/or Stoll points too. And I figured you guys would outvote me

Brian: Stoll was easily the best “character” of the bunch of the fantasy land folks in Parisian Narnia

Adam: True, and he had better dialogue than the others as well…BUT, he pulled it off fantastically

Jared: I don’t think anyone else dominated the screen the way Stoll did.

John: Yep, true

Adam: Agreed. I can’t believe he got passed over for the Oscars

John: Hawkes is still the master creep. That guy is going to get typecast but he’s so good at it!

Jared: Yeah, if he had more screen time, I’d have considered him, maybe.

Brian: Yes that was my only hesitation in giving him points — was he just being his usually creepy self

Jared: I don’t think he’s like that normally.

John: And don’t say too many mean things about him or he’ll show up at your house, sing you a creepy song, and stab your throat. So there was no temptation to give John C Reilly 35 points, Adam?

Adam: Yes. There was. You have no idea how strong it was. I just couldn’t do that because I felt so strongly about Stoll

Jared: I also want to say I’m glad none of us gave points to Brooks…I have no idea where his Oscar campaign came from.

John: I get it. He’s playing against type and he’s very memorably creepy. But, hell, you’ve got Hawkes doing it better here

Jared: Yeah, absolutely.

Brian: and Ron Pearlman was better in the same role

John: Surprisingly, Brooks has a great voice for being cruel

CINEMATOGRAPHY

The nominees:

  • John Hodge, Bellflower
  • Benjamin Kasulke, The Off Hours
  • Darius Khondji, Midnight in Paris
  • Guillaume Schiffman, The Artist
  • Jeffrey Waldron, The Dynamiter

WINNER: Midnight in Paris (15 points – Adam)
Other votes: Bellflower (4 points – 3 from Brian, 1 from John)
The Artist (1 point – Jared)

Adam: Yes!!! I win

Brian: Wow

John: Haha

Adam: I should have known none of you care about Cinematography. Barbarians

Jared: So maybe you can expound here, Adam?

Adam: Why?

John: I hope you enjoyed watching all these movies just to blow all your points on Cinematography

Adam: I didn’t really like most of the movies

Jared: What did you like about Midnight in Paris‘s cinematography?

John: I loved Midnight in Paris but I don’t recall much about the cinematography. Not that I cared much about this category this year.

Adam: I actually thought Midnight in Paris was well done. Especially the camera work and the dialogue. Just watch the opening scenes again to see what I mean. For me, Cinematography has a lot to do with the composition of the shots. It is hard to explain why one person or movie is able to compose and convey more through their shots than others. Midnight in Paris did it more for me than the others…which were, by and large, nothing special in this category.

Jared: That’s fair, the whole point of this category is visuals.

John: Did you know they built their own camera for Bellflower? That sort of industriousness will earn a point from me. So this category had two really small movies nominated in The Off Hours and The Dynamiter. And none of us can figure out why. I googled some reviews of The Off Hours and several mentioned the cinematography. So it’s not just the nominating committee smoking something

Adam: They ran out of eligible movies.

John: Drive has all sorts of iconic shots. Why not go for that over a where bored people populate a diner?

Jared: Drive was nothing but iconic shots, it seems silly for it not to be in here.

Brian: At least last year, with a movie like Tiny Furniture which I didnt enjoy, I found the cinematography noteworthy. But The Dynamiter – I didn’t get it at all.

John: Exactly. Jared, did you hate The Off Hours as much as us?

Jared: I wouldn’t say I hated it, but I didn’t enjoy it.

John: Jared, why The Artist?

Brian: Emulating an old movie style while also being modern

Jared: I’m not a visual person, so this category doesn’t mean that much to me, but I wanted to vote for something, and I had several vivid memories of shots from the film.

Adam: well that’s stupid

John: I appreciate that filming a black and white film requires different camera and lighting decisions. I think it would have been cooler if they actually used an older style camera instead of just changing it to black and white later

Brian: to quote Adam — well that’s stupid

John: But oh well. It definitely has some interesting visual elements, though I wonder if that’s more directorial

Adam: I would argue more directorial

BEST SUPPORTING FEMALE

The nominees:

  • Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter
  • Anjelica Huston, 50/50
  • Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
  • Harmony Santana, Gun Hill Road
  • Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

WINNER: Jessica Chastain (16 points – 12 from Brian, 3 from John, 1 from Jared)
Other votes: Shailene Woodley (2 points – John)

Brian: Thats hilarious. I thought John was going to Botz me and considering your inexcusable like of Albert Nobbs, I was worried

John: Well, it is the year of Chastain. I can’t pick which of her roles I like best. I generally think Take Shelter, but she’s also great in The Help. And of course I liked her in Tree of Life. But there’s no doubt she’s hottest in The Debt. A guy started talking to me in the bathroom about how much hotter she was in The Debt compared to the Israeli actress in the original

Brian: One of the things that has bothered me about a number of the movies this year is that the wives/girlfriends are harpy, selfish, whiny, or just awful people. But Chastain did a great job with the role of being the supportive mom and wife, while giving her moments to shine through her frustration. There’s no doubt that this was her best performance of the big 3 (Help, Tree of Life, Take Shelter) — and just thought I’d reward her for it.

John: It’s a noticeable, impressive dramatic performance. Does Huston seem like a nomination for being a name actress?

Jared: That is bizarre.

Brian: I thought she was great in 50/50 but…. not in it very much

John: It’s such a small role. But people were certainly talking about it

Jared: I’ll be honest, looking through our spreadsheet, where we just had the movie listed under this category, I assumed it was Anna Kendrick that had the nomination.

Brian: as did I

Adam: I would DEFINITELY have voted for her

John: But if you’re choosing a supporting role from 50/50 I think it has to be Bryce Dallas Howard

Brian: ew no

Adam: No. Once again, John is wrong

John: BDH is the anti-Chastain, racking up great, varied villain roles

Jared: And since John brought up hotness already…how about Shailene Woodley? Hubba hubba.

John: I gave Woodley two honorary points for contributing the two best parts of The Descendants: her gams. Yowza

Brian: Her gams?

Jared: Gams does not mean what you think it does.

Brian: that is not where I thought that was going

John: I don’t mind a movie where Woodley gets to wonder about in shorts or bikinis throughout

Adam: Agreed

Jared: She wore so much fewer clothing than anyone else in that movie. It was a solid choice by the costumer.

John: Haha. Yknow, Hawaii, or whatever

Adam: Do you think that is why they decided to do it in Hawaii?

John: She’s good too. I guess push come to shove I’d pick McTeer over her, but she’s still memorable. Love the swimming pool scene

Brian: you all are a bunch of cads

BEST FIRST SCREENPLAY

The nominees:

  • Another Earth
  • Margin Call
  • Terri
  • Cedar Rapids
  • 50/50

WINNER: 50/50 (10 points – 8 from Jared, 2 from Brian)
Other votes: Margin Call (6 points – John)

Brian: wooo

John: Oh PHEW. I suddenly got petrified you voted for Another Earth. I have a lot of goodwill for 50/50. But it just didn’t hit with me as much as I had hoped

Jared: So 50/50 was, hands down, one of the best screenplays of the year, it is a travesty it didn’t get an Oscar nom.

Brian: I concur. It had a fatal weakness, but was still very strong

Jared: Fatal would mean it died.

John: The weakness being the plot line with Anna Kendrick?

Brian: no. Bryce Dallas Howard

Jared: I actually liked that part.

John: The character?

Brian: the girlfriend was written so unsympathetically and given no chance at all to be a real person

Jared: I strongly disagree.

Adam: I agree with Jared…about strongly disagreeing

John: I hate to say it but I think it probably played out pretty realistically

Adam: Absolutely

John: A lot of young people bail on relationships when one gets sick

Adam: Brian, you are an idiot

Jared: It was made very clear the relationship had severe problems before the cancer diagnosis, and then she’s forced to deal with handling a guy she doesn’t really love having cancer.

Brian: sure

John: I liked that she kept trying to justify it to herself

Adam: Yep and yep

Jared: So where’s the weakness?

Brian: but from her being a mooch, to being a bad artist, to making out with a gross hippie, just layer upon layer of her sucking as a person, they could have had her just being a shitty person by bailing on him

Adam: Which is COMPLETELY realistic. You are just biased because you hang out with awesome people like us. Those type of people exist in spades

John: Ha, forgot about the hippie

Jared: She was in a bad spot and felt a need to escape.

Brian: she didn’t need to be a bad person in every realm of her life and she was

John: I really didn’t care for the romantic plot. Dating your patient is icky.

Jared: I don’t think they made her a horrible person, just not a completely successful one. And I agree with John, romancing Anna Kendrick was kinda icky and forced.

Brian: also agreed

Adam: But it was Anna Kendrick

Jared: Oh yeah. Don’t get me wrong, if she were my doctor, I’d fall in love with her.

Adam: Exactly

Brian: and if Joseph Gordon-Levitt were your patient? you’d probably fall in love with him

John: I mean, you have a film about a young person with a serious illness combined with a mildly profane comedy. That’s enough. Why also shoehorn in a basic romantic plot?

The only twist to the basic movie romantic plot was that she is his therapist, which just makes it worse. Or just make her a random person or a fellow patient. There’s a lot of stuff to mine there. But, like I said, it still worked for me in the illness half of the film and it really packs a wallop with the occasional scene or line of dialogue

Jared: I hate to agree with John about romance, but I think you are spot on. Could you talk a little about the Oscar-nominated Margin Call?

John: Margin Call just enthralled me. It’s got a great structure of a workplace drama with big stakes taking place over a limited period of time. And it also fits into my political wheelhouse, which made me just love it even more. It could have easily been just about sleazy bankers, which is rote at this point. But instead its point, such as it is, is more subtle: that the whole system is kind of ridiculous. Like the way characters occasionally marvel at how much they make or how little they know.

Jared: I would have liked to have focus more on the number crunchers. Number crunchers seem like the true heroes in today’s society.

Brian: I really appreciated how the “villain” kept shifting further and further up the ladder

Jared: That was a neat conceit. Which ties into what John was saying, I think.

John: Yep. And the further up the chain you go the less in tune they are to the actual market. These guys make so much money and I just don’t really get why it isn’t competed away. They get paid like professional athletes for much more common skillsets. It could have been fine as an Occupy Wall Street screed, but it happened to present an outlook that I share so it really hit home for me.

Jared: I agree that Margin Call’s structure was unique, I just found the dialogue uninspired

Brian: and I found the character development was too sparse other than Spacey

John: That’s true re: character development. But I think it’s fine to let that slide as it’s meant to be about intense developments in a large organization over the course of about 24 hours.

I want to talk about Terri quickly because the movie it reminds me of the most is Please Give. The “ships passing in the night” thing that Brian talked about last year

Brian: I forgot about Please Give!

Jared: I don’t see that comparison at all.

John: You’ve got interesting characters. A few things happen over the course of a week or two. A few things are somewhat resolved, many are not. Movie over.

Jared: Isn’t that a lot of movies?

Brian: I thought Terri was fine and all, but I dont see the connection either

Jared: Like, you just described The Descendants.

Brian: And A Better Life

John: It’s that the plot revolves around these people crashing into each other and that’s about it. Descendants, Better Life, etc have more plot threads

Brian: I found Terri to be much more difficult to watch than Please Give and not nearly as well written

John: Please Give and Terri are really nothing more than creating some characters and letting them interact with a minimum of story points

Jared: Please Give also had lots of jokes. Terri…did not.

Brian: and Please Give has Catherine Keener!

John: It’s just interesting that all our opinions are flipped. I forgot about Please Give immediately and you guys loved it. The opposite for Terri

Brian: maybe because the movies aren’t similar

Jared: Terri just seemed so proud of itself for coming up with the idea of a hulking kid in high school having trouble fitting in, and then never went anywhere.

Brian: but Terri does have one thing in common with Cedar Rapids

Jared: Can we all agree Cedar Rapids was atrocious?

John: No

Brian: yes! Speaking of movies that don’t have jokes

John: All comedies seem to have to be hard R, romcoms, or kiddie movies these days. I liked that here was one that is just a basic comedy for adults. Amusing, entertaining, and isn’t going for anything more

Jared: It had exactly one funny joke.

John: Now, I’m not saying I need to see it again, but it hit a niche I feel like we don’t see any more. Don’t get me wrong, I like a lot of edgier movies. But now that they are the trend we’re getting a lot of bad ones and it’s nice to have something like Cedar Rapids which is content as it is

Jared: I wish it weren’t content not being funny.

John: It was humorous. Gives you some good chuckles but your spleen ain’t splitting. Oh and Another Earth: Awful or really awful?

Brian: neither

Jared: Another Earth was fine. I would have liked to explore the sci-fi aspects a little more.

Brian: I thought it was a fine premise with good characters but I concur with Jared about the sci-fi parts

John: Another Earth has a boring domestic drama and a barely used sci-fi element. The sci-fi seems like all a build up for the final shot, which does pack a punch. But woo boy did I not care by then

Brian: I thought it was just a backdrop

John: Yeah but why bother if you’re hardly going to use it?

Brian: That didn’t bother me as much as the fact that if the Another Earth was that close. How come the waves weren’t affected?

John: Haha yeah really. There have been a number of movies this year where I thought “Why aren’t the tides affected?” Another Earth, Melancholia, Transformers

Stay tuned for when we cast our votes for the other categories!

The 84th Academy Awards is almost here! Leading up to the event, we’re going to put all the hours we spent watching these films to good use by giving our thoughts on all the categories, big and small. We may not be experts on everything, but I daresay that’s never stopped anyone from blogging before. On the (very remote chance) you disagree with us or the (much more likely chance) you want to applaud our picks, please chime in below.

Directing

The nominees are:

  • The Artist, Michel Hazanavicius
  • The Descendants, Alexander Payne
  • Hugo, Martin Scorsese
  • Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen
  • The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick

BRIAN

At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll just skip the pretense and toss the award to Scorsese for Hugo. Despite my minor qualms with the pacing, I loved the 3D and the general feel of the film. That it was so out of character of Scorsese makes it even better. Quickly with the rest: The Artist was a delight too; only a skilled director could make a silent film work with today’s tastes. Midnight in Paris and The Descendants each had major problems with their scripts, and since both were directed by their screenwriter, it’s hard for me to judge them separately. Oh and Tree of Life? HAHAHAHAHAHAH. Right.

JOHN

In the context of this season, the nominees for Director are quite good. I might not be all that fond of most of the nominees but even they are directorial achievements.

At the very top of the category is sort of an embarrassment of riches for me. Midnight in Paris is my favorite film of the year. The writing and acting really put it over the top, but Allen does a masterful job striking the right tone and keeping the pace zipping along. He also elicits a number of fine performances from mostly lesser known actors that readily recall the real life people they are portraying without slipping into caricature.

But my winner in this category is actually my second favorite Best Picture nominee, Terrence Malick for The Tree of Life. It’s a film that’s packed to the gills with directorial ambition, combining images, music, and a wispy narrative into a fragmented memory poem, audaciously scoped against no less than the history of the universe. It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced. Even if it still leaves me somewhat bewildered it made an unforgettable impact. There’s no other director who imparted such vision.

Two other lesser nominees also presented visions that didn’t always work for me, but I appreciate the efforts. I enjoy seeing directors like Scorsese and Hazanavicius take chances and really make their marks. I think both had pacing problems, but the worst thing I can say about either is that they just didn’t connect with me, which isn’t a terrible fault. If a film is going to misfire, it may as well do it with some panache! And while Payne directs with less flair, I do give him credit for building a film with a good sense of tone. In a jumbled story it’s the atmosphere that really pulls The Descendants through.

It has been quite a year for ambitious directors. My top nine of the year (https://goldengrouches.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/top-nines-through-january/) is filled with stylish, atmospheric films, from the cool (Steve Soderbergh’s Contagion and Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) to the disturbing (Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In and Steve McQueen’s Shame). Even something that was ultimately disappointing to us, like Drive, heralded the arrival of a promising talent.

ADAM

Woody AllenMidnight in Paris.

JARED

It isn’t exactly right for me to say I hate Terrence Malick.  I think it is more that I hate the Academy voters (and anyone else who gave The Tree of Life a glowing review) for giving me a good reason to watch the film.  Also, for all I know, Malick may be a warm and generous person.  So perhaps it would be more fair for me to say I hate his work.  Whatever promise the script may or may not have showed (and Sean Penn is on record saying the script was way more logical, one of the best he’s ever read, and nothing like what ended up on screen), Malick as director brutally hacked and mangled until it was something so stupefyingly awful, that pretentious snobs everywhere were all but forced to acknowledge it as a masterpiece.

I think I like everything about Martin Scorsese except for the movies he makes.  A lot of my problems with Hugo were with the script.  But I also found the movie generally boring, and a lot of that is on the director, for not finding ways to keep me engaged.  I don’t really have much to say about Alexander Payne.  I seem to be a little bit lower on him than other people, but not exorbitantly so.  I’m not entirely certain what all the fuss is about with the film, but I’m also not sure I would have liked it much more with anyone else directing.

You have to admire someone who is Woody Allen’s age who can keep cranking out movie after movie.  Some directors take years and years to make something that won’t look or feel nearly as good as Midnight in Paris.  I really appreciate that about Allen.  In particular, I think Allen did a good job differentiating between the different eras.  And especially, while the film is obviously in some way a love letter to Paris, Allen makes sure never to allow the film to go overboard and become a Love Letter to Paris.

But I think it has to be Michel Hazanavicius here.  Making a silent, black and white film that’s a crowdpleaser?  Give me a break.  That’s insane.  How many directors would have the balls to attempt that, much less be able to pull it off?  The Artist manages to have the feel of a old time movie as well as a new one, while always feeling classic.

One small joy about running a website is seeing what search engine terms bring people to your site. Since our site doesn’t have readers, it may be the only joy. And because the list of referrals is naturally pretty small, I’m happy to respond to individual searchers.

So to the person who go to us by searching “midnight in paris historical accuracy”: no, the film about the time-traveling writer who hobnobs with a bunch of dead people is not historically accurate. Glad I could help!

"Let's do it again, but this time do it more accurately"

Stop staring at me!!

What’s in a name?  When Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon write a movie about going back in time, meeting famous historical dudes, and ultimately learning about yourself in the present, their film makes $40 million at the box office, spawns a sequel and an animated TV series and launched the career of an unlikely star.  When Brian and I write a skit about going back in time, meeting famous historical dudes, and ultimately learning about yourself in the present, we get an A in our Theory of Knowledge class.  At least, that’s how I remember it.

And, of course, when Woody Allen writes a film about going back in time, meeting famous historical figures, and ultimately learning about yourself in the present, Midnight in Paris becomes his highest grosser at the domestic box office, and its handlers are placing it square on the path to a writing nomination and quite possible a best picture one to boot.

Who knew that for Woody Allen to find success again, he just had to be derivative of me and Brian Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure?

The film is both accessible and likable, two traits that don’t always describe Allen’s films.  Sure, the film bears several of his hallmarks, most notably the neurotic protagonist/stand-in for Woody Allen (Owen Wilson in a role his schnozz was born to play), who is inevitably entwined with several attractive women (McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux (the best part of Robin Hood), I guess flirting with Carla Bruni, the 1st lady of France) and supported by an outstanding ensemble cast in general.  But here, Allen seems to just have fun, drumming up a lighthearted romantic comedy.

I think writing in the voice of 1920s Parisians stirred something in Allen.  The present-day scenes are unremarkable, seeming to serve mainly as a conduit to get back in time.  There’s nothing particularly subtle about Rachel McAdams’s character, for example, and there’s no apparent reason given why Wilson ever was in a relationship with her to begin with.  I’ll add a caveat that while the joke lasted too long, until all possible humor was drained, I really enjoyed Michael Sheen as the obnoxiously pretentious know-it-all.  The man has incredible range, and if there’s anyone out there who only knows him as Tony Blair and/or David Frost, check him out as an over the top rocker in Laws of Attraction or Brian Clough in The Damned United for starters.

But back to 1920s Paris, where every seemingly every single portryal of a famous writer or artist is outsized exactly to the point where we’d like to imagine each personality being.  From Alison Pill’s fantastic flapper Zelda Fitzgerald to Corey Stoll’s larger than life Hemingway; from Adrien Brody’s suitably ridiculous Dali to Kathy Bates’s yeoman work as the ringleader Gertrude Stein, one imagine’s Allen’s advice to his talented cast as something along the lines of: “Go big or go home.”

And I think this verve shines through in the writing of these historical figures, as Allen seems to be laughing along with us as he tries to figure out which literary icon to shoehorn in next.  Historical accuracy becomes irrelevant as each pairing of titans becomes a new chance to see these great minds in action.

Indeed, I’d argue the love story is the weak thread in all of this.  I mentioned above my problems with Rachel McAdams’s character.  Marion Cotillard is her normal dazzling self, but I think her character is most effective as an entree into the lives of the historical figures.  And least effective when she serves as a way for Allen to slip back into his rut of neuroses.  I’m relatively ambivalent about the final scene, but I’d  hope those who complained that, say, (500) Days of Summer was too cute in that respect would bring up a similar point.

In terms of Oscar, if this film were done by Judy Allen, I don’t think I’m writing this post.  The film has a much lighter tone than your typical Oscar film, the characterization is relatively weak, the message borderline trite.  Which just means it is a fun summer movie that I could (and did) see with my grandmas and that they enjoyed.  Maaaybe a screenwriting nomination, if the rest of the year turns out to be weak.  But I’m skeptical, because I don’t think as many people go see it, and it isn’t like traveling back in time to meet famous people is a particulalr novel device.  As is, nothing is ever in the bag, but a writing nom wouldn’t be surprising in the least.  And it is certainly a candidate for best picture, but that may more depend on how many Oscar-type films fail to pan out.

It is too early for me to say if the film, writing, or performances would make my ballot.  I’m fairly doubtful, though I did enjoy the movie so that means I’m bullish on this year’s Oscar prospects.  I’m sure I’ll revisit later on.

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