You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘The Artist’ 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.

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.

Costume Design

The nominees are:

  • Anonymous, Lisy Christl
  • The Artist, Mark Bridges
  • Hugo, Sandy Powell
  • Jane Eyre, Michael O’Connor
  • W.E., Arianne Phillips

JARED

I’m spectacularly unqualified to write about this category, as anyone who has seen me attempt to dress myself will attest.  But I’m a completist, dammit.  Also, I didn’t make it to W.E., because it was only playing in Shirlington, which as we all know, is a fictional place.  Let’s pretend it was out of protest for Immortals not getting a nod.  Because, seriously, the junk the wore in that movie was friggin’ nuts.

Otherwise, I’m sorta struck by how the costuming in these nominees was relatively subtle.  At least, I couldn’t really tell you much about the costumes in any of these films, because nothing stuck out much in particular.  Anonymous was typical Elizabethan garb, with those crazy collars.  So many collars.  The Artist had…um…suits and flapper dresses, maybe?  The dog maybe wore a collar.  Hugo did have some cool outfits in the flashbacks to the old movies, I’ll give it that.  But let’s give it to Jane Eyre.  No, not just so I can justify watching the bore of the movie.  Because I do remember noting that the dresses weren’t as loud or ostentatious as you’d normally find in these movies.  And other people seemed to like it a lot.

ADAM

Anonymous

 

We continue with our chat where we reveal our ballot for this year’s Independent Spirit Awards (occurring right as this is posting!). Part 1 is here.

BEST MALE LEAD

The nominees:

  • Demian Bichir, A Better Life
  • Jean Dujardin, The Artist
  • Ryan Gosling, Drive
  • Woddy Harrelson, Rampart
  • Micahel Shannon, Take Shelter

WINNER: Michael Shannon (19 points – 12 from Brian, 7 from John)
Other votes: Jean Dujardin (1 point – Jared)

Jared: So you guys want to talk about your love for Michael Shannon?

John: He’s so intense!

Jared: He really is fantastic

Brian: I can’t imagine anyone else doing that role

John: He’s got the face, the voice, the demeanor for that role

Brian: There were only two categories I really truly cared about — and it was this and Supp. Female — but I didn’t realize you all agreed with me!

Jared: I thought this category was really, really strong, I wavered back and forth on voting for every single nominee.

John: This is all around a good crop of nominees though

Brian: I never considered voting for Gosling but other than that, the strongest batch of the nominees for sure

John: I agree that there wasn’t quite enough for Gosling to work with

Jared: I think Gosling managed to turn a little into a whole heck of a lot. Bichir has a kind of similar argument. Harrelson always seems to create these indelible characters.

John: I wish I liked Rampart more, but Harrelson is good. Dujardin is good. Bichir is good in a more subdued role. Good good good. I was a tad worried about Dujardin winning. Not because he’s not great but because I feel like someone else needs to win the Spirit. That’s why I fought the urge to take points from Shannon when I needed more elsewhere

Jared: I guess I want the best to win, but I see what you are saying.

BEST FIRST FEATURE

The nominees:

  • Another Earth
  • In the Family
  • Margin Call
  • Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Natural Selection

WINNER: Martha Marcy May Marlene

Jared: I actually kinda liked all of the Best First Feature nominees, not sure I loved any of them, but all are worthwhile films. Our nominee, though, will be Martha Marcy May Marlene.

Brian: Wooooo, that’s who I would have voted for

John: Good movie

John: I can’t believe Margin Call and MMMM are first features. Those are some real up and coming talents

Adam: It was fine. Not great, but had interesting elements

Brian: I fear that Margin Call will be a little bit of a one-trick pony

John: It depends on what Chandor does next. He’s gotta do something different. imdb says his next project is called All Is Lost. “A journey of one man’s fight to survive.” Starring Robert Redford

Jared: I thought MMMM did a good job of maintain tension throughout.

Brian: yes, it was incredibly tense

Jared: So In the Family is a 170 minute film about an gay, ethnically Asian man from Tennessee (completely with drawl) and his battle to cope after his partner dies leaving behind a biological son the two had been raising, and his battle to win custody of said kid. It also is surprisingly watchable.

Brian: I can see the ads now: “Surprisingly Watchable’

Jared: I mean, there’s no way to describe it so it sounds interesting. And the guy is desperate need of an editor or something. But writer/director/star Patrick Wang managed to put together a pretty compelling film.

John: I can see how that would make a compelling movie

Jared: I wouldn’t say to go out of your way to see it, but you probably won’t be disappointed.

BEST INTERNATIONAL FILM

The nominees:

  • A Separation
  • Melancholia
  • Shame
  • The Kid with a Bike
  • Tyrannosaur

WINNER: Shame

John: OUR vote for international film is Shame

Jared: Good thing Adam zoned out an hour ago, otherwise he’d be yelling at you a lot.

Adam: I would, but I am completely unsurprised that John chose the inferior film.

John: I know you all didn’t care for it, but it mesmerized me and it really affected me. I just wanted to curl up in my seat and then go take a shower

Brian: oh god

John: The last 30 minutes or so is so intense

Brian: or pointless

John: It reminds me of the finale to Requiem for a Dream. Just increasingly bleak and awful. I’m talking of the scenes in the lead up to his return home, which I cared for less

Brian: I’d love to hear about Melancholia instead of ragging on John about why Shame is terrible

John: You guys won’t like Melancholia

Brian: so… you loved it?

John: No I did not. I can see how people liked it though. It saves the best for last. The last 20-30 minutes is the impending doom of the apocalypse and it gets increasingly uneasy. So it ends with a tense bang

Adam: It looked absolutely awful

John: But holy hell the first hour is rough. The Kirsten Dunst character is at her wedding and has a serious case of cuntitis. She’s mentally ill, but still

Adam: YES!!!!

Jared: That may be the best line of the year, by the way. [ed note: “cuntitis” is a joke from Cinematography nominee The Off Hours]

Adam: That’s staying in

John: Tyrannosaur is terrific also, by the way

Jared: Adam, I believe Tyrannosaur is done by the guy who played Jason Statham’s partnerish guy in Blitz.

John: I heard some complaints that it was just another British bleak picture, but it has plenty of story and packs a punch

Adam: Oh. Maybe I’ll see that then

John: I also was underwhelmed by A Separation. Two hours of people being stubborn

Jared: That’s disappointing to hear, looking forward to seeing it this weekend.

Adam: John doesn’t know what he is talking about

Brian: thats good to hear, but I’m going with John’s evaluation so my expectations are lowered

Jared: That’s generally my operating assumption.

John: Everyone else seems to love it though so your mileage may vary. I just really expected it to be up my alley

BEST FEMALE LEAD

The nominees:

  • Lauren Ambrose, Think of Me
  • Rachel Harris, Natural Selection
  • Adepero Oduye, Pariah
  • Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
  • Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

WINNER: Rachel Harris (20 points – Adam)
Other votes: Elizabeth Olsen (9 points- 5 from John, 4 from Brian)
Michelle Williams (7 points – Jared)

Adam: YES!!

John: ha

Brian: Hahahaha

Adam: Clean sweep

Jared: Wanna tell us why you gave her so many points?

John: And here I was worried that someone would outvote Olsen with Williams

Brian: I can support this nomination, but I too want to hear why you loved it

Adam: Sure…I gave her so many points because fuck Michelle Williams

Jared: Hahaha.

Adam: And I like Game Theory

Jared: I was actually really surprised by Harris’s performance. I thought she did a fantastic job.

Adam: I actually agree. I was pleasantly surprised by the movie itself, but she made the movie

Brian: Me too — it could have turned into a Tracey Ullman like parody, but it didn’t. I found this category the hardest, actually

John: Until the last second I was throwing a point to Ambrose. Wish I had left it now!

Jared: John, I almost did the same! I really like Lauren Ambrose and thought she carried the film something fierce. She was playing a tough character and thought she did an admirable job.

John: The movie was meh but I can definitely see why she was nominated

Brian: Agreed

John: Yeah all were good but I never hesitated picking Olsen

Jared: She was a revelation, it is true.

John: Actually, I will say Oduye was a lesser nod to me.

Jared: Agreed. She was fine, but unremarkable.

John: Truth be told I found a few other performances outshone her. Specifically Aasha Davis as her friend and Sahra Mellesse as her sister in a small role

Brian: and Kim Wayans

John: See I wasn’t taken by Wayans

Jared: In Living Color 4 life!

John: Wayans is the mom, right?

Jared: Yup.

John: It’s an uneven movie for acting

Jared: I also have to defend Michelle Williams here. Thought she created a rather memorable Marilyn Monroe…fragile and strong, sexy and insecure and always larger than life.

John: I didn’t like the movie at all but she is indeed good. The big snub for Actress was Liana Liberato for Trust. I was really surpised that film didn’t show up anywhere. She’s so good for a child actress

Jared: I agree with John, people should watch Trust and praise her role

BEST SCREENPLAY

The nominees:

  • Footnote
  • The Artist
  • Win Win
  • Beginners
  • The Descendants

WINNER: The Artist (6 points – 5 from Jared, 1 from Brian)

Brian: I guess I’m not in alone in feeling like the First Screenplay group were much stronger than the Screenplay group.

John: Definitely. And how does Take Shelter get love in so many categories but not screenplay?

Jared: It is a crime that 50/50 isn’t in here.

Adam: I am also surprised that 50/50 is not here

John: I believe that scripts can either be in screenplay or first screenplay, not both. I may not be right about that but I think that’s the case

Jared: Also, how did Midnight in Paris miss?

Adam: Also, while I didn’t always agree with the overall story, Midnight in Paris had some of the best dialogue of any movie this year

Jared: Instead we get Win Win and Beginners.

John: Obviously I would have voted for Midnight in Paris if it had been there, but I can understand spreading the love around, like the way Clooney wasn’t nominated

Brian: I liked Win Win much more than Jared

Adam: I am also fine with Win Win. Beginners should not be here

Brian: Beginners was so trite

John: Beginners is about 40% awesome and 60% navel gazing whiny crap

Brian: with an unoriginal take on the manic pixie dream girl

John: Yeah really. More gay dad please! We want gay dad! We want gay dad!

Brian: Win Win wasn’t anything new either, but well done

John: The weird thing with Win Win is that there isn’t much drama. It’s quite pleasant but that’s about it. Even the sullen teen is a good kid.

Brian: since when do you care about drama?

Jared: Did any of you guys actually like The Descendants script?

Brian: MORE LAND DEALS!

John: I suppose I would have voted for Descendants by default if I had to vote but I clearly didn’t care enough to bother. It has some really great elements but it just doesn’t cohere in a way that I hoped

Jared: Agreed. Maybe Footnote will be really awesome.

John: So weird to me that Footnote is in here

Brian: I guess we should talk about the winner, Jared?

Jared: oh. Everyone already knows The Artist is awesome.

John: I liked the ratatat patter of our winner

Brian: making a screenplay work for a silent movie is no small feat

Jared: And I’m glad people realize that a script is so much more than dialogue. Everything that happens has to be in a script first.

Adam: Says the Aaron Sorkin fan

Jared: [walks down a hallway]

John: Yeah I’d say my problems with The Artist are probably more in execution than in writing. I hope you like stage directions because that script is full of them

Brian: [says self important things]

BEST DIRECTOR

The nominees:

  • Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
  • Mike Mills, Beginners
  • Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter
  • Alexander Payne, The Descendants
  • Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive

WINNER: Jeff Nichols (9 points – 6 from John, 3 from Brian)
Other votes: Nicolas Winding Refn (6 points – 3 from John, 3 from Jared)

John: Oh good. I was worried after that last category that The Artist was ready to sweep our votes. Both Drive and Take Shelter are real directors’ movies. All about execution. I liked Take Shelter better than Drive so I gave it more points, but kudos to both

Jared: I think Drive has the script of a direct to DVD movie, but Refn worked really hard to make every single shot memorable and elevate it to something arthouse.

Adam: Yeah..I agree with that I wasn’t blown away by any of these movies directing. If I had to pick though, it would have been for Drive

John: I agree fully, Jared. If we have issues with it it’s from the script. Refn gives it some real style: Camera work, scene staging, sound, music, editing. And the same could be said for Nichols. I’d say the only problem I have with Take Shelter is the pacing through some of the middle. It could have used some trimming, I think. Nichols is really good at ratcheting up the tension and doom

Brian: Drive was all flash, no substance. I put some of that on the director. Actually I thought he kept getting in the way of the small semblance of plot that was there. But Take Shelter — those visuals were so arresting and haunting

John: Getting in the way, by being too awesome?

Brian: by being distracting. The violence was the definition of gratuitous

Jared: Refn didn’t really seem to try to be invisible, he wanted you to know someone was Directing, dammit.

John: Yes, but that’s literally the point. This was an exercise in stylish violence

Brian: but it was pointless

John: Well, it was the point

Brian: the point was that it was pointless?

John: I don’t disagree for the most part. But the point seemed to be nothing but to do some stylish violence

Brian: how is that in the plus column?

Adam: Wasn’t that one of your complaints about Inglourious Basterds?

John: Yeah it was my complaint about Inglourious Basterds and I have the same complaint about Drive. I’m just saying the violence isn’t pointless, it is the point. As a directorial exercise it’s great. It just needs some more substance

Brian: see I think Basterds and Drive are totally different. the violence in Basterds had a point — it was war and there was vengeance. in Drive — we knew nothing about The Driver

John: Are we talking writing or directing then

Brian: both. the director chooses what to do with the script . he choices he made didnt make much sense to me

Jared: Anyone have anything to say about the other nominees?

John: The Artist is also all about directorial vision. And people seem to like it. I think Mills gets in based on his segues when McGregor is rambling about shit over montages and the talking dog. Otherwise, why the hell is he there. If you think it’s a good movie you probably like it for the writing and the performances. What is there that makes it particularly well directed?

Jared: Nothing, frankly.

John: And Payne… whatever. He picked some nice Hawaiian music I suppose

Jared: Or the music supervisor did.

BEST FEATURE

The nominees:

  • 50/50
  • Beginners
  • Drive
  • Take Shelter
  • The Artist
  • The Descendants

WINNER: The Artist (10 points – Jared)
Other votes: Take Shelter (8 points – John)
50/50 (3 points – Brian)

Jared: Victory is mine again!

John: Jesus if The Artist wins the Spirits too then what’s the point

Jared: The best movie should win best picture.

Brian: yeah John I dont really think your argument makes much sense

Jared: The Artist is a black and white silent film…that seems pretty independent to me.

John: Mostly I just wish it cost a few million more so it didn’t qualify and we could have our own little playground here without The Artist juggernaut to deal with

Brian: made by French people!

Adam: Ugh…notice how I didn’t vote for it at all. Stupid French

Brian: Next time Adam is in charge of the voting so he rigs it

Adam: You realize that’s EXACTLY what would happen

John: Next time Brian doesn’t waste all his points so we can put up a fight against Jared’s taste in Best Feature

Adam: That said, I am more than happy to be in charge of voting

Brian: I’m actually fine with the selection though I’d have preferred Take Shelter or 50/50

John: So did The Artist warm your cold heart, Jared?

Jared: Yes. The Artist was fun and funny and also surprisingly dark and bleak. Also, it has a great doggie.

Brian: UGGGIE!

John: To me it was just too thin. The style wasn’t enough to get me through. I was on board for about 20 minutes

Jared: The movie managed to placate my entire family, which has pretty much never happened. There’s a really interesting story in there, though

John: It needs another viewing I think.

Thanks for reading. We’ll find out tonight if any of our selections won!

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.

Actor in a Leading Role

The nominees are:

  • Demián Bichir, A Better Life
  • George Clooney, The Descendants
  • Jean Dujardin, The Artist
  • Gary Oldman, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • Brad Pitt, Moneyball

JOHN

Actor is the hardest category this year. It’s a super strong line-up and I’m having a hell of a time picking a favorite. Honestly, I don’t think you can go wrong. It may even be the best slate of nominees in a major category since we’ve started this project. There’s also a convenient split in the type of performances represented here: the subdued and the classic movie star.

In the former category I’d put Bichir and Oldman. Neither are showy performances but both make a powerful impact. Bichir does a great job of selling the desperation of his situation as a man who is not used to displaying much emotion. I really liked his scenes with his son and the mixture of awkwardness and exasperation in their interactions. Oldman, meanwhile, turns in one of those blank slate performances that wow me every so often. He’s a closely guarded guy, used to the secrecy and politicking of spycraft and yet he can say so much with a little flicker or movement. Every action is so precise and measured.

Clooney, Pitt, and Dujardin instead shine as classic leading men. They have the charisma, conviction, and, indeed, the looks to really lead a film. You may say that’s not all that impressive, but think of how many films sink as their leading men can’t carry them on their shoulders. How many films must sink under Ryan Reynolds’s floundering?

I’ve been a long time Clooney proponent and have given him great praise in this space in previous years for Up in the Air and Michael Clayton. I know people seem to think he plays the same role again and again, but I maintain there’s nothing wrong with taking similar roles. While within something of a “Clooney Realm,” all have their own impressive nuances. His part in The Descendants is a great match for him and he gets to show a little range compared to the previous Best Actor nods. The film bounces around tonally and it works partly because he carries it, balancing the anger, bewilderment, sadness of his predicament. (The narrative doesn’t work nearly as well but that’s not his fault.)

Dujardin brings great physicality to his silent role in The Artist. Presumably he’s never tackled such a role before but he’s a natural. The heightened emotiveness needed for a silent film could easily come off as mimickry or over the top in less suave hands. He just has a magnetism that makes it work. I have a bit less to say about Pitt. The guy is always solid and he does a good job, though I didn’t really find myself thinking, “Pitt is awesome” while watching Moneyball. But I understand that to those who fell for the movie his performance was a big part of it. A good, confident leading performance.

So who should win? At any given moment I could go for Clooney, Dujardin, or Oldman. But I suppose I’ll pick one and I’ll go with Gary Oldman, who is also sort of a sentimental pick. Though this decision is prone to change at any time!

It was a strong year all around for actors. As great as this slate is, it would have also been great to see Michael Fassbender (Shame), Michael Shannon (Take Shelter), and Leonardo DiCaprio (J Edgar). I don’t know how I’d pick just five out of all of these great performances.

JARED

I’ll give Adam the voice he’s lacking: Where’s Brendan Gleeson?!  Playing basically a mix of all the characters who did get nominated, he absolutely belongs in this list.

I like Gary Oldman a lot.  If I ran the world, he’d probably already have at least one Oscar.  I’m thrilled he finally got a nomination.  But I wouldn’t have pulled the trigger here.  He’s received lots of plaudits for his super-restrained, barely emoting performance.  At some point, though, doesn’t that just translate to a boring performance where nothing happens?  I wouldn’t go that far here, but I’m not seeing what others are.

It is too facile to dismiss Clooney’s role as another one in a series of charming Clooneyesque guys dealing with #whitepeopleproblems. I also wouldn’t have gone so far as to give him a nomination.  There’s a lot of good stuff here, though.  And I think Clooney was a solid choice to portray the not quite sympathetic “hero” of the story because he certainly makes the film more watchable, and he adds a lot of needed nuance to the script.

I have to make a conscious effort to not just say for all of these guys how much I like their body of work.  Brad Pitt is no exception.  But I’m just not quite seeing it here.  To me, he’s just doing a Coach Taylor imitation.  And granted, everyone should be doing a Coach Taylor imitation.  But I’d love to see Oscar and Pitt better line up with each other.

I’m tickled pink that the Academy saw fit to nominate Bichir.  A Better Life went out super early to members, so maybe that turned out to be an effective strategy.  For me, this performance was a case study in how a role doesn’t have to be showy to have a big impact.  There’s nothing you’d expect from a typical Oscar performance, such as wild swings of emotion.  Bichir commands the screen here, nearly flawlessly portraying the character and turning it into something quite real.

It was always going to be Jean Dujardin for me, though.  Not because his is the biggest and broadest role of the bunch.  But because he is just so darn good in the role.  I mean, honestly, even his crooked half-smile lights up the day.  Dujardin creates a character that feels so much like the actors of yesteryear would pull off, screwball and slapstick while also being dramatic and serious.  Dujardin nails the range and the depth of the character. And it feels like he is having tons of fun, a feeling that can’t help but be infectious.

BRIAN

Jean Dujardin

ADAM

Jean Dujardin

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

 

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.

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.

Actress in a Supporting Role

The nominees are:

  • Berenice Bejo, The Artist
  • Jessica Chastain, The Help
  • Melissa McCarthy, Bridesmaids
  • Janet McTeer, Albert Nobbs
  • Octavia Spencer, The Help

ADAM

Berenice Bejo.  (He is a man of a few words.)

BRIAN

This is the first of a series of posts where I am generally apathetic about the winner. The distance between my pick and my least favorite nominees in supporting actress is pretty narrow, so I won’t dwell on this bunch much. Missing in this group is Jessica Chastain for Take Shelter, Shailene Woodley in The Descendants (I don’t want to hear it, Jared), Helen McCrory in Hugo, and Allison Pill in Midnight in Paris. All would have been strong contenders for my pick but since all were ignored, here we go:

I didn’t like Albert Nobbs very much at all, and contrary to John’s crackpot theories about her being a ringer for the Babysitter Bandit from “The Simpsons”, Janet McTeer wasn’t anything revelatory in it. I actually was surprised that she wasn’t in it for longer, considering the buzz she had been getting. Melissa McCarthy was funny and stole the show in Bridesmaids, but this also didn’t really stick with me. Much like the movie is getting notice and recognition for writing a gross-out movie for females, McCarthy was nominated for playing the gross-out role usually portrayed by men. But just because its novel doesn’t mean its anything special.

As for The Help performances, I liked Chastain and Octavia Spencer in their respective roles. I was more disappointed to not see Bryce Dallas Howard nominated for playing against type and really chewing the scenery in the fun “Worst Racist Ever” role. Chastain had a tremendous year — I clearly would have preferred to see her nom’d for Take Shelter — so I think this is mostly a cumulative nod. Spencer wasn’t playing a very nuanced role, so she never got to show the depth her fellow cast member Viola Davis did.

My pick would go to Berenice Bejo — She was an adorable ingenue with heart, class, smarts and that came through with having much less screen time than Jean Dujardin. I’d be really pleased if she took home the Oscar, even though that’s looking increasingly unlikely.

JOHN

This slate of nominees sure shows of the year’s range of quirky characters. We’ve got the silent actress hamming it up, the over-the-top bubbly blonde, the sassy black maid, the woman dressed as a man, and the overweight weirdo from a buddy movie. With a group like that I get worried about distinguishing the acting from the written character. Of course the performer goes a long way in building a character… but it helps when the script gives them good lines. Still, it’s a fine group.

I guess I think of this most in regards to Melissa McCarthy. She steals a lot of scenes, but that’s the job the script gives her. I know McCarthy has some range. Check out the differences between her work in Bridesmaids compared to more softer roles in “Mike & Molly” or “Gilmore Girls.” I especially dug the confident bravado she brings to the character, but, like with many performers in the Apatow oeuvre, I feel like I can see the wheels turning in her head during more improvised scenes and she’s just spit-balling lines. So, I’m conflicted and sway back and forth.

Spencer will probably walk away with the Oscar, but I think I somewhat prefer Jessica Chastain. I can’t really explain what drew me to her and it may also have to do with her all around extraordinary year. If she got a nod for Take Shelter instead it would have been a slightly easier decision. Both are quite memorable in The Help and I think Chastain ends up displaying a little more range. Honestly, it’s possible I would even abstain in this category if I were a real voter since I don’t really care much who wins among this solid if not mind-blowing crop.

JARED

Sorry for pulling a Brian here, but I’m a little miffed Elle Fanning didn’t make the cut, especially in a year with a theme of Hollywood on Hollywood.  On a plane ride with access to Super 8 after I’d already seen it in theaters, I fat-fingeredly found my way to the scene around the train crash, where she first “acts” and where she pretends to be a zombie, just because she’s so good in them.

Without a doubt, the best performance of this lot is Berenice Bejo.  Her role required a wide range of emotions and the ability to express them both broadly and in a subtle manner.  Additionally, the character and movie required a good deal of physicality.  And get your mind out of the gutter, I’m talking about her dancing and just motion in general.  Unfortunately, I have a little bugaboo about category fraud and to me, Bejo is a clear lead of The Artist.  As such, I can’t give her my vote, sadly.

Jessica Chastain, like an increasingly impressive number of twenty-somethings, appeared on Veronica Mars, and thus will always have my respect.  I realize she pretty much “had” to be nominated, given her year, but I don’t buy that reasoning.  You want to celebrate someone for being solid in a bunch of movies that happened to be released in the same year?  Fine.  Create an award to honor it.  We did, sorta, doing a Laura Linney of the year a few years back.  But Oscar should be for a single performance.  And I just don’t see it here.  Chastain, to be sure, was fine in the role, but there’s nothing to distinguish her from, say, Bryce Dallas Howard.

If Janet McTeer had a few more scenes, I could see her atop my rankings.  I was particular impressed with how she seemed to move and have the presence of a man, particularly of her (presumably lower middle) class.  It was an interesting juxtaposition with Close’s more timid, androgynous Nobbs.

I love that Melissa McCarthy got an Oscar nomination.  Just such an un-Oscar role.  Obviously having a good script helps a ton.  But comedy is an underappreciated talent, I think.  There’s so much that goes into timing and the ability to be funny on screen even after multiple takes.  And especially with physical comedy it is so tough not to go over the line and just look stupid.

But I’m going to go with the consensus (among awards-giver-outers, at least) and pip Octavia Spencer here.  It is a character type that doesn’t often receive Oscar love, so I’m glad to see it rewarded.  Spencer is, in large part, comic relief, but she does get a depth and some meaning to her character, aided in large part by the nuance she brings to it.  In a group of solid performances, she’s just a little bit stronger.

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.

This time we are going to talk about Score.

Music (Original Score)

The nominees are:

  • The Adventures of Tintin, John Williams
  • The Artist, Ludovic Bource
  • Hugo, Howard Shore
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Alberto Iglesias
  • War Horse, John Williams

BRIAN

I enjoyed many of the scores that came out this year and am generally pleased with this crop of nominees. I’d have liked for there to have been room for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ work on The Social Network was stronger, but their collaboration was a good match for Lisbeth Salander’s detached perserverance. Other good scores: X-Men: First Class and Super 8. (I’m a sucker for Michael Giacchino’s work)

On to the nominees (with an interesting note — only the film names are included on the ballot, not the composers):

John Williams for Tin Tin and War Horse: Unfortunately I didn’t get to see Tin Tin, so my knowledge of this score comes solely from YouTube audio streams. I’m guessing if I saw it I’d have stronger feelings, but what I heard didn’t sound very adventurous or exciting. Williams’ composition for War Horse was one of the high points of the much-maligned (unnecessarily, honestly) film. He transposed an Irish jig tune into a moving theme that popped up throughout the movie. It’s not Williams’ fault that the movie itself was overlong and melodramatic, but the score fit the tone well.

Howard Shore for Hugo. I loved this movie for many reasons, and Shore’s score helps it along. But where Williams’ War Horse succeeds by infusing what the audience knows (an Irish motif) with something new, Shore’s Hugo fails by being too close to the cliched Parisian cafe tones. The multiple train station characters were enough of a reminder of what I loved about Amelie — the music made it just too much.

Alberto Iglesias for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: This nominee is probably my least favorite of the bunch, though my criticisms of it are also the same I have of the movie itself: too plodding and sparse, not enough tension. Giving it a 2nd and 3rd listen don’t bring back any visceral memories of watching the film — no specific memories or callbacks. A good score should at least do that.

And my pick for winner, which I think will be the Academy’s as well, is Ludovic Bource’s phenomenal work for The Artist  Just consider how much heavy lifting the score had to do to keep the action moving. There were at least 2 or 3 distinct reoccurring themes that had as much personality as the characters each represented. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to mock Kim Novak for her bizarre tirade against Bource’s sampling of Bernard Hermann’s Vertigo. The absurdity of it makes me think that she may be mentally ill, so I won’t dwell on it or mock Novak for it, but the homage was far from “rape.” I thought it was a great wink-and-nudge for the film buffs in the audience. The Artist gets pretty bleak in parts, and theVertigo score was used well. Now if it had been used in The Hangover Part II, then maybe Novak would have something to stand on.

JOHN

Original Score is an interesting category because who I want to win and who should win are a bit different. The best of the nominees is John Williams for The Adventures of Tintin. It’s the right amount of playfulness for the fun motion-captured/animated adventure flick and it’s consistently complementary without overwhelming the rest of the film. That’s not the case with Williams’s other nomination, for War Horse. That score is more quintessentially Williams and overbearing. That dude knows how to hammer home a swell in the music and it becomes way too much.

But Williams already has five Oscars and this is a fairly insular branch. It’s good for everyone to spread the love around a bit in this category. I would probably vote for Alberto Iglesias’s work in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a string-heavy, understated yet tension-building work. I think The Artist will win and I wonder if that’s partly because there’s just so much music. The score is the dialogue and is therefore very noticeable. But is any of it really memorable? Don’t get me wrong, it complements the film well and has a nice period-appropriate style. I just hope voters have the right motives.

I’ve heard a lot of good music in movies this year, even if they didn’t always qualify as original scores for the Oscars. The Tree of Life uses music marvelously though much of it was not original to the film. Other great uses of music include the electronic scores in Hanna and Attack the Block and the colder but still terrific Contagion and Drive. Music went a long way to establishing the disturbing atmospheres of Shame and The Skin I Live In.

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