Well it seems that sitting through 5 movies back to back gets easier every year. Or maybe I’m just getting lazier every year. I guess its a good thing there are 10 best picture nominees, we need an increase in difficulty. Next Saturday we go back for round two, maybe we’ll be pulling our hair out halfway in.
Part one line-up was Avatar, Up, A Serious Man, Precious, and District 9. Here are thoughts on each, in order of appearance.
Avatar was pretty to look at, and the visual effects were pretty darned awesome. The beautiful colors and imaginative landscapes made me want to live in Pandora. We saw it in 3-D, and I guess that was great, but I think it would have been just as visually stunning in 2-D and I wouldn’t have come out with a headache. Othewise, meh. None of the characters were all that likeable, although it did crack me up whenever one of the Na’vi would do the Twilight hiss, and Neytiri had a lot of mannerisms that reminded me of a certain 6 year old daughter of mine. The plot was a good idea, but overdone. Any Big Message that was intended to get across was buried in violence and what I can only describe as bad military humor. With scantily clad otherworldly beings, a good-against-evil undertone, and a superheavy dose of militaristic violence, this movie must be a gamers wet dream. But it’s not best picture.
I can’t say enough good things about Up. It’s the only one we had seen previously, and truth be told, it was just as awesome the second time around. That movie is like the Voltron of things that bring me to tears: old houses threatened with demolition, an adorable little love story, a cute kid (and even cuter old man), impossible adventures, and a happy ending. Not to mention a simply great storyline and writing that kept me laughing so much my cheeks hurt from grinning. That being said, I’m not sure how I feel about an animated movie being in the running for best picture. Avatar was stretch where that’s concerned too. To me, it seems unfair to flesh and blood actors to compare actual acting with animation. So as much as I loved Up, it’s not best picture either.
A Serious Man was seriously awesome. This is one that I had heard about a while back and couldn’t wait to see. The perfect combination of weird, hilarious, and heart wrenching. Plus, it looked awesome. I wonder if the set director and prop people were borrowed from Mad Men. I kept seeing things I wanted to take home. I will say that I kept having to ask Adam what all the Jewish stuff was, so you may either want to take a Jewish friend with you to see it or bone up on your Jewish terminology beforehand. I highly recommend this one though, and so far it’s definitely my pic for best picture. However those Coen brothers need to stop it with the “what the…?” endings.
Precious was horrible in all regards. Call me cruel, but none of those characters were emotionally engaging, not even Precious. The plot was something that, while I’m sure happens in the real world, is not something I need to see on the big screen. The acting was fine for what it was. Props to Gabourey Sidibe for diving into a role that heavy (no pun intended), her first time on-screen. All the women in the bathroom after the movie loved it though. “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe that was Mariah Carey, she was amazing!” Huh? she was in like 20 minutes of the movie, and sat in a chair the whole time. A pop star without make-up does not an awesome movie make. Blech.
We ended the night with District 9, which I was surprised to really like as I’m generally not a science fiction fan. This was Avatar done right. The interaction between human and computer generated was way more smooth, not to mention believable. The storyline was engaging, as were the characters. I liked the documentary style scenes interspersed with the narrative, and the Big Message here was infinitely more clear than it was in Avatar. While there was a good dose of gore, it wasn’t the kind I had to watch through my fingers like I do with movies like No Country For Old Men. Something about weird alien gore just isn’t as disturbing as crazy psycho killer gore. And after the incest and child abuse gore of Precious, the weird alien gore of District 9 was a welcome change of pace. But as enjoyable as District 9 was, I’m not sure it’s really best picture material. Maybe that’s just because best picture is usually so dominated with high drama that its hard to imagine a science fiction film winning. Could be time for a change, I guess.
All in all, in my opinion there really aren’t any real best picture contenders here other than A Serious Man, and maybe District 9. I guess we’ll see what next week brings…