Evaluating the Nominees

For the films of 2011
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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby ITALIANO » Thu Feb 23, 2012 7:35 am

Bog wrote:Tree of Life is all that matters and only the top half of the list should even be in the area code of Sunday night.



Yes. For me Tree of Life, The Artist, Hugo and Moneyball are those worthy of a Best Picture nomination - especially considering that, of the English language movies I've seen this year, maybe only Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (or, though it's far from perfect, Shame) could get there, too.

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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby Bog » Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:57 pm

No need for objectivity in your personal evaluations I think...though of course it's very well written.

Subjectivity is key at least here...especially as the Oscars delve more and more each year into total sheepdom...Tree of Life is all that matters and only the top half of the list should even be in the area code of Sunday night.

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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby ITALIANO » Wed Feb 22, 2012 6:44 am

Thank you. I've just tried to be as objective as I could.

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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby mlrg » Wed Feb 22, 2012 5:35 am

ITALIANO wrote:My turn now. I still haven't seen My Week with Marilyn and The Ides of March, but as I doubt I will get to see them during this week, here we are:

BEST PICTURE
1. The Tree of LIfe
By today's standards, an absolute masterpiece, definitely. I guess we should be glad that it was nominated - though being in a list with War Horse and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close doesn't feel like such a great honor.
2. The Artist
A joy for anyone who loves (and isn't just "interested in") movies. Not perfect, but sincere. Not profound, but are the other movies on this list - with the exception of The Tree of Life - THAT profound? At least this is intentionally so. A divertissement, as the French would say, and a very nice one.
3. Hugo
For a movie about the magic of cinema, there could be more magic actually, and it is a bit heavy going at times. But it's also visually amazing and obviously deeply-felt, which makes its (many) flaws almost forgivable.
4. Moneyball
Professional in every department (including writing and acting) and intelligently made - something rare in American movies these days.
5. Midnight in Paris
Here the problems start. A nice little and not very original comedy which shouldn't have got all this attention, and probably wouldn't have if it hadn''t been directed by Woody Allen.
6. War Horse
A waste of talent(s) and money, but at least it's just an (overblown) movie for children, and doesn't try to deal with "important" issues.
7. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
A piece of kitsch - watchable only in an almost perverse way, as kitsch always is. Americans should be especially offended for the way it treats one of their major tragedies, but, again, I can't deny that it's strangely entertaining.
8. The Help
A country which produces a thing like this - and likes it - is a country in trouble, a country which will never change. There could have been interesting ways to treat this dreadful material (for example by having the main female roles played by men in drag), but they chose a totally reverential approach and the result is grotesque soap opera.
9. The Descendants
Maybe not really the worst of these nine movies, but in terms of expectations, the biggest disappointment. Flat and uninspired, it doesn't even provide trash the way The Help does. And it's not very well-acted.



Marco, my thoughts exactly. Although I didn't dislike The Help as much as you, my take for the rest is exactly the same as yours. Well said!

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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby ITALIANO » Tue Feb 21, 2012 4:39 pm

My turn now. I still haven't seen My Week with Marilyn and The Ides of March, but as I doubt I will get to see them during this week, here we are:

BEST PICTURE
1. The Tree of LIfe
By today's standards, an absolute masterpiece, definitely. I guess we should be glad that it was nominated - though being in a list with War Horse and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close doesn't feel like such a great honor.
2. The Artist
A joy for anyone who loves (and isn't just "interested in") movies. Not perfect, but sincere. Not profound, but are the other movies on this list - with the exception of The Tree of Life - THAT profound? At least this is intentionally so. A divertissement, as the French would say, and a very nice one.
3. Hugo
For a movie about the magic of cinema, there could be more magic actually, and it is a bit heavy going at times. But it's also visually amazing and obviously deeply-felt, which makes its (many) flaws almost forgivable.
4. Moneyball
Professional in every department (including writing and acting) and intelligently made - something rare in American movies these days.
5. Midnight in Paris
Here the problems start. A nice little and not very original comedy which shouldn't have got all this attention, and probably wouldn't have if it hadn''t been directed by Woody Allen.
6. War Horse
A waste of talent(s) and money, but at least it's just an (overblown) movie for children, and doesn't try to deal with "important" issues.
7. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
A piece of kitsch - watchable only in an almost perverse way, as kitsch always is. Americans should be especially offended for the way it treats one of their major tragedies, but, again, I can't deny that it's strangely entertaining.
8. The Help
A country which produces a thing like this - and likes it - is a country in trouble, a country which will never change. There could have been interesting ways to treat this dreadful material (for example by having the main female roles played by men in drag), but they chose a totally reverential approach and the result is grotesque soap opera.
9. The Descendants
Maybe not really the worst of these nine movies, but in terms of expectations, the biggest disappointment. Flat and uninspired, it doesn't even provide trash the way The Help does. And it's not very well-acted.


BEST DIRECTOR
1. Terrence Malick
2. MIchel Hazanavicious
3. Martin Scorsese
4. Woody Allen
5. Alexander Payne


BEST ACTOR
1. Jean Dujardin
An extremely pleasant surprise: true to the period and to the style of the movie he's in, expressive but never forced, with a naturally charming presence that's made for movies and that movies, not only French movies, in the next years will certainly use often.
2. Brad Pitt
The best American actor of the year - in this movie and in The Tree of Life. Unfortunately the Academy seems to think that he still has to pay for having being young and sexy (he would lose even without Dujardin in the race), but if he keeps choosing such right projects, his moment will come soon.
3. Demian Bichir
A honest and very believable performance.
4. Gary Oldman
Technically perfect but a bit too low-key for my tastes. Still, he's good and the movie he's in is even better.
5. George Clooney
He's better and more convincing in the (many, too many) tv ads he appears in in Italy.


BEST ACTRESS
1. Meryl Streep
Great as always, maybe better than she's been in these recent years, and charismatic in a way that honestly Thatcher never really was - except for the British people. The problem, and is a big one, is her movie.
2. Glenn Close
The result may be only partly successful, but at least this is the kind of performance - and approach to the character - that one can expect from an intelligent, daring, challenging actress. And she's very effective in some scenes.
3. Rooney Mara
The character is too strong to be ignored, and I always like when American actresses get naked in movies. But is she a very good actress? I still don't know.
4. Viola Davis
She doesn't have just one expression, true. She has two: noble and very noble. The way she absolutely refuses to do anything original or unexpected (and not only in this movie) is almost fascinating. Only a collective hallucination can explain why Saint Viola is seen as a sort of Eleonora Duse in the US. Mediocre actress, mediocre performance (and I think that she has less screen time than Octavia Spencer).


BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
1. Christopher Plummer
Not the most difficult, taxing role ever - but he does it well, in a pleasantly effortless way.
2. Jonah Hill
Extremely well cast, and even good. I should see him in other movies, though, to really see if he's a very talented actor or just one lucky enough to be given a perfect (for him) character.
3. Nick Nolte
He has one or two good scenes, but his character doesn't develop, doesn't go anywhere. And nobody from Warrior should be allowed to win an Oscar.
4. Max Von Sydow
Both his movie and the Academy itself get from him much needed dignity, and he's, of course, a superb actor. But this role is clearly beneath him - he doesn't even have to act.


BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
1. Janet McTeer
The only really good performance in this group: subtle and spontaneous at the same time, the best thing about the movie she's in.
2. Berenice Bejo
Too contemporary for the role she plays, but, I'd say, acceptable.
3. Octavia Spencer
One more close up of her round face and her bulging eyes and I would have left the cinema - but she probably isn't a bad actress, it's just the way she's directed that I found annoying.
4. Jessica Chastain
A depressingly predictable turn.
5. Melissa McCarthy
Difficult to say. Very difficult.


BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
1. A Separation
There's more truth in just one page of this script that in most American (and Italian) movies of this year. A wonderful screenplay, really.
2. The Artist
Not the most important aspect of its movie, maybe, but full of authentic warmth and sympathy.
3. Bridesmaids
At least it made me laugh a few times.
4. Margin Call
Talky - which can explain this nomination. It's not as revelatory and biting as I expected, and the actors are so good that they make their lines seem better than they really are. But I was never bored.
5. Midnight in Paris
Here I was a bit bored honestly - and this writer, of course, has done much, much better things.


BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Also talky, but in this case the lines are REALLY good, and this is a script which doesn't insult anyone's intelligence.
2. Moneyball
A very "well-made" screenplay - which means, not a work of art but expertly and efficiently written.
3. Hugo
Many weak spots, but still better than
4. The Descendants
And The Descendants will obviously win...

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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby anonymous1980 » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:00 am

OscarGuy wrote:I think my issue was Hugo was that I went in expecting a children's film and without knowing what the film was about, but the first time I caught a reference to Georges and subsequently realized that the old man's name was this, I put things together and I accepted that, but when the film decides halfway through to divert entirely to pseudo-documentary about the history of cinema, I literally rolled my eyes. I felt like what was an interesting conceit had been plowed down by a speeding train and Scorsese was trying to beat the material into my head. I don't particularly like that type of preachy style. Which, let's be honest, is what it was. I don't care how much Scorsese loves the movie, the film itself derails there. I will admit seeing what Melies' studio might have looked like and seeing a glimpse into film history was fascinating, but it just didn't feel like an organic part of the film. It felt like it had been transplanted from an entire other film into the film I was watching. And that's why I would consider it inorganic. Not that it wasn't faithfully adapted from a children's book that did the same thing, but that it felt so blatant and narratively out of place that it was distracting.


I actually knew it coming in but I thought that it worked quite organically.

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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby OscarGuy » Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:11 pm

I think my issue was Hugo was that I went in expecting a children's film and without knowing what the film was about, but the first time I caught a reference to Georges and subsequently realized that the old man's name was this, I put things together and I accepted that, but when the film decides halfway through to divert entirely to pseudo-documentary about the history of cinema, I literally rolled my eyes. I felt like what was an interesting conceit had been plowed down by a speeding train and Scorsese was trying to beat the material into my head. I don't particularly like that type of preachy style. Which, let's be honest, is what it was. I don't care how much Scorsese loves the movie, the film itself derails there. I will admit seeing what Melies' studio might have looked like and seeing a glimpse into film history was fascinating, but it just didn't feel like an organic part of the film. It felt like it had been transplanted from an entire other film into the film I was watching. And that's why I would consider it inorganic. Not that it wasn't faithfully adapted from a children's book that did the same thing, but that it felt so blatant and narratively out of place that it was distracting.
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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby Uri » Sat Feb 18, 2012 4:58 pm

anonymous1980 wrote:So if a filmmaker wishes to speak out against racism and makes a movie about it, it's wrong?


Actualy, yes. It would be better to write a letter to your newspaper (sorry, I'm old – write a blog). Amos Gitai makes films I can't watch – they lack any sense of the very concrete reality they relate to, I don't recognize the people in them, the language they speak, nothing. But he certainly has an agenda – which I'm 100% agreeing with, by the way – and I guess he found that architecture, his original vocation, was a trickier medium to use to promote it. Mike Leigh is probably an even better example. Yes, his agenda is always there, but as it happens, I happen to find his less obvious "Mike-Leigh-film" pieces far more satisfying. I always find his blunt, straightforward, social commentating stuff to be too dogmatic, too acerbically self righteous I can almost see where Damien's detesting of him came from. But when his motivation seemed to originate in something else, in the desire to tell a story and not an editorial to illustrate, the results are truly great films which correspond exactly the same highly committed social perspective in a far more effective way, imho.

As for the convictions – they should always be there, I guess. And not only for the purpose of making Art. Or better, artists should be free of their convictions, or at least free of the awareness of them, in order to create and the convictions will take care for themselves and shine through if they really are inherently integrated in them. That came off a bit too romantic for my liking, and I don't really believe it's possible, but for me, as a wide eyed spectator, there's always this need to be given the ability to have this illusion that the truth was conciously planted there but was somehow naturally, even spontaneously(!)evoked. And Haneke is, indeed, a perfect example to this ability.

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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby Johnny Guitar » Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:15 pm

I think that a phrase like "having an agenda" quickly becomes difficult to use because it's vague - what films don't have an agenda, even numerous agendas? Are we to penalize only films whose "agenda" might be something else, or additional, than to entertain? (As though entertainment is something honest, pure, universal, or self-evident - a tricky proposition.)

Uri, by the way, I want to stress that I'm not ascribing these stances or assumptions to you. I'm just trying to work through what it is about Hugo (or things like it) that might get under one's skin. Is it deciding upon a conclusion, or on a desired spectatorial "effect," as Hugo e.g. seems to want to induce a sense of wonder in its audience, can certainly feel inorganic? (And I agree that it feels forced in the movie. Scorsese's heart seems to be behind the re-animation of a Meliesian aesthetic, but most of the other trappings strike me as routine and flat; unimaginative.) But then, how does one film one's convictions? Do we not ultimately hold in our hearts a certain range of feelings or thoughts to which we happily say - Yes! That's an ineffable truth that this work of art has communicated! - when we come across them. And can't these, in fact, be targeted by artists with an "agenda"? (I think this is why someone like Michael Haneke both fascinates and repulses his audiences in equal measure, because of the blatant way in which he's either participating in or exposing this kind of appeal.)

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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby Hustler » Sat Feb 18, 2012 3:12 pm

Streep or Davis for Best Actress?

IMO we have a strong race between these two. Davis won the SAG but Streep has been awarded withe the Bafta and The Globe among many others. What´s your opinion?

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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:48 pm

Uri wrote:
anonymous1980 wrote:As for Hugo, I strongly disagree that the film preservation message was inorganic. Maybe a bit preachy but definitely not inorganic. It's based on a book and the film followed the book fairly closely, it's what drew Scorsese to the material.


Exactly – and having the desire to promote an agenda, noble as it may, as the primal reason for making a film is wrong. Or at least in this case, for me, it was.


So if a filmmaker wishes to speak out against racism and makes a movie about it, it's wrong? Love of film and film preservation are causes close to Martin Scorsese's heart. I found Hugo to be a thrilling glimpse into the heart of a true blue film lover as told through a familiar story of lonely boy trying to find where he fits in the world. It's a film which definitely spoke volumes for me.

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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby Uri » Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:36 pm

anonymous1980 wrote:As for Hugo, I strongly disagree that the film preservation message was inorganic. Maybe a bit preachy but definitely not inorganic. It's based on a book and the film followed the book fairly closely, it's what drew Scorsese to the material.


Exactly – and having the desire to promote an agenda, noble as it may, as the primal reason for making a film is wrong. Or at least in this case, for me, it was.

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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby Uri » Sat Feb 18, 2012 2:26 pm

Johnny Guitar wrote:I don't disagree with you as far as all this goes. But for all the reasons & meta-reasons that all the subpar movies that inevitably get nominated for (or win) Oscars, I remain resolutely unperturbed by Hugo for the simple fact of its gesture. This is outside of whether or not the gesture is integrated into the art.


This is not necessarily an answer to what you said, which I accept, but an attempt to clarify something for myself. As a simple minded, though hopefully not a completely imbecile moviegoer, whose approach to films is sadly far more content oriented than form wise – I wouldn't recognize a mise-en-scène if it hits me in the face – I'm afraid I tend to be somehow impatient with what I'd call, in lack of a better term, academic movie making. Don't get me wrong. I love it when a film I enjoyed watching becomes a thought provoking portal for me. There's a great reward once you find a key, an angel for you to get more layers in a film, an opportunity for a more complex, a less inevitable interpretation – a metareading of the text, if you like. But first the film, for me, has to be more than just a vehicle for promoting concepts or themes. You know the sensation, coming out of the cinema thinking – the movie stank, but the doctorate I could write about it would have been dynamite. Again, I'll use the term "organic" – it's not necessarily about making the thematic seams invisible, but by making them artistically justifiable in the context of the given film.

For me, the way it was done in Hugo was a resounding failure. The fact that I can come up with plenty of aspects in it which are potentially fascinating is irrelevant since the execution of them is lacking – it all about kinetics and time, trains as an analogy for films, the industrial nature of the architecture of both early train stations and film studios a so on, but it seems pointless since it's presented in what for me was a lackluster manner. On a certain level, the same can be said about The Artist, although it was less distracting, given the far more jubilant nature of its film making and also the fact that it aimed at a less "profound" target. The Tree of Life, for me, was probably the most disturbing in this respect, (but this probably has a lot to do with the fact that I find some of the themes in it highly objectionable intellectually and maybe even emotionally).

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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Feb 18, 2012 1:01 pm

Johnny Guitar wrote:Tree of Life - a masterpiece, and as such, I'd say it's in the highest echelon of films nominated for Best Picture. Kind of shocking that it even got nominated, but I suppose there are a lot of Academy voters still who enjoy Malickian lyricism. But this is another case of "the Oscar goes to Jean-Luc Godard," i.e., it honors the Academy more than the Academy honors it.


i personally predicted it will get a nomination for the simple fact of the new voting system. I suspected there were enough people within the Academy who would put it as #1 on their ballots because it's a film with a passionate fan base and you can't really vote against a film. I've said something similar about The Tree of Life in the past that if the film receives a nomination it will give credit to the Academy rather than the other way around. If it doesn't get nominated, it will be listed among the Academy's embarrassing blunders by future cinephiles.

As for Hugo, I strongly disagree that the film preservation message was inorganic. Maybe a bit preachy but definitely not inorganic. It's based on a book and the film followed the book fairly closely, it's what drew Scorsese to the material. I thought the film is a magnificent love letter to the magic of cinema and finding your place in the world and how art is every bit as integral to "machinery" that is life, so to speak, and is definitely one of Martin Scorsese's finest works. I would personally rank it as one of the Top 5 Scorsese's.

I've also seen The Descendants (imperfect film; but I loved the actors) and Midnight in Paris (an light, breezy enjoyable Woody Allen venture).

Have you seen A Separation, Zach?

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Re: Evaluating the Nominees

Postby Johnny Guitar » Sat Feb 18, 2012 11:37 am

Uri wrote:
Johnny Guitar wrote:Hugo - weak first half & a decent second half. I have mixed feelings about Scorsese generally and mixed feelings about this film, but I'm willing to overlook them happily for the simple fact that highlighting this movie is a de facto gesture towards film history & preservation.


The problem for me was that these gestures are so cinematically inorganic – and now folks, let's have a break with our regular narrative and hear Uncle Marty illuminating course about early cinema, and please pay attention to the public service bit about the importance of film preservation we put in, thank you. And while we're at it – is it ok, in the name of campaigning such film oriented issues, to apply what might be conceived as a total disregard of the true, historic progress of the way Cinema was publically and culturally perceived and appreciated. I have no problem with rewriting historical facts or using real people in a fictional narrative, certainly when it's in a fantasy context. But I always feel uncomfortable with an attempt to rewrite the history of human and social state of mind. Anachronistic planting of current sensibilities and notions into a piece set in another period (which is different than looking at the past with a contemporary p.o.v.) - unless done for parody effect – is an illegitimate artistic tool in my book. It's not only hinder the ability to understand historic process but too often used as a way to correct the past so the creator and the consumer of his or her creation would feel better about themselves. Maybe if Hugo was not such a self important (and long, o so long) film I was willing to give it a pass.


I don't disagree with you as far as all this goes. But for all the reasons & meta-reasons that all the subpar movies that inevitably get nominated for (or win) Oscars, I remain resolutely unperturbed by Hugo for the simple fact of its gesture. This is outside of whether or not the gesture is integrated into the art.


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