Tonight, the Academy Awards will be given out for the best films of the last year. I don't know if I'm qualified to make predictions, but I am struck by how lukewarm I am towards all of the nominated movies this year. I certainly liked Inglourious Basterds, mostly for the cinematography. And I really loved A Serious Man. I haven't seen Avatar, mostly because I keep being told the following by people who have seen it: "Oh, man, you have to see it for the computer visuals! It's about these blue cat people and, admittedly, the story is a little stupid and the dialogue is pretty cheesy, but it looks awesome!" Okay, I'll wait for the DVD, thanks.
Here are my thoughts on some of the nominated films:
Inglourious Basterds: Another mixtape of movie references from Quentin Tarantino. The cinematography is lush and the acting is highly entertaining. My only problem is that this is a "highly personal" film from a man who has no personal life. Woody Allen often has the same problem with "homages" that feel like rip offs, but at least he can draw from literature, New York life, philosophy, and his own neuroses; Tarantino has nothing else going on in his life aside from watching movies. Nevertheless, I do think we should encourage "talky" movies because I like actors and acting more than I like flying blue CG cat people.
Up in the Air: Hey, did you know that the corporate world can be impersonal? Or that it's psychologically unhealthy to avoid all personal relationships? Or that being fired sucks? Well, if not... Again, I was sort of meh about this movie. George Clooney is always good and everyone is good in it. Jason Reitman is a talented director. But it added up to less than the sum of its parts.
The Hurt Locker: I'm guessing the DVD chapters are something like: 1. Defusing a bomb, 2. Defusing another bomb, 3. Defusing two bombs, 4. A tense exchange, 5. Defusing a bomb... It's well-directed and certainly a tense movie. But, in the end, the Hurt Locker is just a stereotypical action flick: you have a crew of men doing a very dangerous job, and then they get a new guy; well, this guy is a real maverick! I mean, he's looked at the rule book and just thrown it away! So, this causes tension. And yet, in spite of the fact that he's a maverick who lives on the edge, he gets results, and you've got to respect that! But why does he live on the edge? Well, see, he's addicted to the thrill! Cue the hard rock.
Crazy Hearts: What's the easiest psychological problem to portray in a movie? Alcoholism! Just show the main character drinking in every scene and then, in the third act, either he stops drinking or doesn't. That's pretty much the movie. It's the tragic story of a singer who was once a megastar and has now fallen to being not as successful as another megastar, so he's a drunk. Nevertheless, the songs are pretty good and Jeff Bridges is as good as ever.
Up in the Air: Yes, everything Pixar does is amazing and this is no exception. But, if we're at the point that a pretty standard kid's cartoon gets movie of the year because of one heartbreaking montage in the opening credits, we're fucked.
District 9: Oh, piss off! A cheesy sci-fi movie can get nominated for best picture simply by shoehorning a political parable into its opening half-hour and then dropping it in lieu of video game violence and weird racism for the last hour?
A Serious Man: Only the Coen brothers could basically rewrite the book of Job as a comedy set in suburban Minnesota in the late 60s and have it work perfectly. A really funny movie about the mystery of faith and the meaning of life. Of course, it'll win shit.
Precious, An Education, and Avatar: I haven't seen these ones. I'm going to stay positive by assuming they're great. They're all about gay cowboys, right?
Seriously, I think we're being punished for having so many great films in the last few years. Movies like No Country for Old Men, Children of Men, Pan's Labyrinth, and There Will be Blood, I mean. Movies I wanted to see win. This year, it's like the Academy secretly knows the movies weren't very good, but had to nominate something.