Ah yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year (apart from Christmas, of course). It’s Oscar season, and in a couple days, it’ll finally come to an end. For one weekend, movie fans will forget about all the shitty movies currently showing in theaters (“Underworld: Awakening“, anyone?) and focus on 9 of the most talked-about films of 2011. I’ve actually managed to watch all 9 of these films, most of which I enjoyed and the rest I didn’t enjoy that much. What follows is a brief synopsis/review of these 9 films, with my personal rating of each film. In this way, if you want to catch up on your Oscar viewing, you’ll be able to decide which of these films is actually worth your time and money (if you plan to purchase them from your friendly neighbourhood DVD pirate).
Now let’s start the show!
I WANT MY MONEY BACK – “EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE”
Now why would I give “Extremely Depressing and Incredibly Boring” a 2 out of 5 star rating, when it has Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Oscar winner Viola Davis (Yeah, I said it! More on that later) and the LEGENDARY Max Von Sydow in its cast? Look at the poster and see. Yes, that little kid is the reason why I didn’t enjoy this so-called “powerful” drama. You ever knew a kid who was highly intelligent, but loved to ask a bunch of annoying questions? Ever wished you could smack the shit out that kid, just for him to shut the fuck up? That would be Oskar Schell (Thomas Horn), a boy who just can’t accept the fact that his father Thomas (Tom Hanks) died in the World Trade Center during 9/11. One year later, Oskar finds a key behind a couch. He assumes that the key has something to do with his dead father, and goes on a quest of sorts to solve the mystery. During his quest, he bitches, moans, argues with his mother Linda (Sandra Bullock), asks questions non-stop to a MUTE old man (Max Von Sydow) and replays the memory of his dad’s death over and over and over in his head. If I could describe the experience of watching this film, I can only think of that famous scene in the classic 1980 comedy “Airplane!” where the protagonist (who’s on the airplane) tells his story of love and heartbreak to an old woman sitting next to him. At the end of his story, she hangs herself! I felt like that woman. End of story. 2 out of 5 stars.
SEE IT IF YOU REALLY HAVE TO – “THE TREE OF LIFE”
One of the two (MOST OVER-RATED) films in the Best Picture nominee list starring Brad Pitt. Now don’t get me wrong. Terrence Malick is a great director. And I don’t blame the guy at his age (68 years) to make a retrospective film on life and existentialism (and I do like films that creatively focus on the latter topic). And yes, like in his previous films, there is beautiful cinematography and dazzling imagery in “The Tree of Life”. But the problem is that while the film shows a man’s (Sean Penn) childhood memories in its joy and pain (the death of his younger brother), there’s a weird attempt to link these memories with the birth of the universe and the creation of Earth. We see solar eclipses, volcanoes, asteroids crashing to Earth and even DINOSAURS. WHADAFUCK?!!! It’s like watching two films in one – a home-video like look into the daily life of a family in 1950s Texas, and a man’s search for meaning after his brother died. At the end of this film, you’ll either appreciate it for the unique experience that it offers or wonder “What the fuck was I watching for 2 hours and 18 minutes”? To me, “The Tree of Life” is a mixed bag. I felt that the imagery, while amazing to look at, didn’t add any meaning to the already baffling story. I believe that by the end of this decade, millions of people will rate this film as one of the best ever made. Or they may forget this shit ever existed. All I have to say is, if “The Tree of Life” wins Best Picture, an asteroid will definitely destroy the Earth. And Michael Bay will be seen as a prophet. Get it? “Armageddon”? Heh heh heh. I laughed at my own joke. 2 1/2 stars out of 5.
IT WAS AIGHT – “MONEYBALL”
The second (MOST OVER-RATED) Best Picture nominee starring Brad Pitt. I say “overrated” because while the film boasts great direction, sharp dialogue and superb performances by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill (imagine that), “Moneyball” is just not as extraordinary as everyone would want you to believe. Then again, it is about baseball – so the “everyone” I’m referring to may entirely be Americans. But as a sports drama, it’s good for what it is. Nothing more, nothing less, in my honest opinion. If I could give one reason to watch “Moneyball”, it’ll be to see Jonah Hill play a non-comic role for once in his life. What a shame that he will star in the upcoming, unnecessary remake of “21 Jump Street”. Sigh. 3 out of 5 stars.
WORTH A LOOK – “MIDNIGHT IN PARIS”
Forgetting the controversy over his marriage to his ex-wife’s adopted daughter, Woody Allen has been, and is still, a damn good director. In his latest film “Midnight in Paris”, Owen Wilson plays a modern-day screenwriter with writer’s block who meets his long-dead heroes (F. Scott Fitzgerald and Cole Porter among others) in the flesh during his nightly escapades in Paris. Owen literally channels the Woody Allen persona (talkative, intelligent, easily annoyed) and delivers a charming performance. The dialogue is smart and funny, the performances from its cast (Rachel McAdams, Tom Hiddleston Kathy Bates etc.) are impressive, and through the eyes of Woody Allen, Paris itself never looked better. The end result is a pleasant, light-hearted film that I admittedly enjoyed. It DEFINITELY won’t win Best Picture, but it will stand as another great film by a legendary film director. 3 1/2 stars out of 5.
WORTH A LOOK – “THE HELP”
As I mentioned earlier, Viola Davis will become an Oscar winner. What for, you ask? Well, for her role in “The Help”, in which she’s nominated for Best Actress. In this touching drama based on the novel of the same name, Viola plays Aibileen Clark, a black maid working for a rich white family in 1960s Mississippi. The film itself focuses on Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan (played by Emma Stone) who seeks to write a book accounting the struggles of black maids (“The Help”) during the Civil Rights era. Viola delivers a brilliant performance, and along with co-star and scene-stealer Octavia Spencer (nominated for Best Supporting Actress), is one of many reasons why “The Help” is worth looking at. 3 1/2 out of 5 stars
WORTH A LOOK – “WAR HORSE”
Despite what you may think, or what your friends probably told you, “War Horse” is actually a really good film. It’s not Steven Spielberg’s best film, and NO, it won’t win Best Picture – for the simple fact that there are better movies in this list than this film. But it shouldn’t prevent you from looking at the damn thing. Check out my review of “War Horse” for more ranting…. I mean, info. 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.
SEE THIS MOVIE – “THE DESCENDANTS”
I will be one of many who won’t be surprised if George Clooney gets the Best Actor Academy Award for his role in “The Descendants”. And he actually delivers a CONVINCING performance as a lawyer caught up with selling his Honolulu land, coming to terms with the eventual death of his comatose wife and patching up his relationships with his two daughters. Yes, the film is depressing at times. But you get that idea within the first five minutes of the film, when you see George in the hospital looking at his wife (played SUPERBLY – I mean, she just lies on a bed with her mouth slightly open for seconds on end – by Shailene Woodley) and sarcastically narrating the events taking place. But the heart of the film lies within his family, and their coming-to-terms with the condition of his wife. Also, it doesn’t beat you over the head when dealing about issues about death (“Extremely Depressing and Incredibly Boring”, anyone?). The characters deal with life, each other, and other people. With great performances throughout (Shailene should have been nominated for an Oscar in my opinion – just kidding), witty dialogue and a well-written story, “The Descendants” is a thoroughly emotional and entertaining drama that you should really check out. 4 out of 5 stars.
DEFINITELY SEE THIS MOVIE – “HUGO”
Leave it to Martin Scorsese to use 3D to tell a story about the history of movies. Though I missed the opportunity to see “Hugo” in 3D, I was compensated by the film’s superb visuals which added to the film’s extraordinary experience. It tells the story about Hugo (Asa Butterfield), a boy who journeys through a French train station, who ends up on an amazing adventure involving a smart young girl (played by Chloe Grace Moretz of “Kick-Ass” fame); a bumbling inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen); and Georges Méliès, the filmmaker behind the silent film classic “A Trip to the Moon”. Whether you’re a cinephile or not, there are lots to enjoy and appreciate in “Hugo”. This is from a guy who not only has a knowledge of film, but also a deep understanding and passion for film as well. I’ll be happy if this film (which I give 4 1/2 stars out of 5, by the way) wins Best Picture, but I strongly believe that the award will go to…
The silent film that won the hearts of everyone….including me. “THE ARTIST” visually and sonically takes the viewer back into the silent film era, where cue cards replaced dialogue and the musical soundtrack was played by a live orchestra. But it also tells the story of George Valentin, a silent film superstar, whose career hits rock bottom after he is upstaged by Peppy Miller , a young actress working in the more popular sound film industry. The visuals are great, the performances are great, the music is great, the dog who plays Uggie is great…..hell, apart from a couple minor flaws, the whole film was GREAT. I predict that this film will indeed win Best Picture this Sunday. If it doesn’t, then you should still DEFINITELY SEE THIS MOVIE. 4 1/2 stars out of 5. Read my review of “The Artist” if you still need convincing.