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Friday, January 27, 2012

Oscar nominations for Best film

The Artist
It may be 2012, but this homage to the era of silent movies by director Michel Hazanavicius, starring Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo was a breath of fresh air in a climate of extravagant productions. With 10 nominations, this black and white movie has already made its mark this year. It takes place in the late 1920s where Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a handsome silent movie star, who helps a talented young woman Peppy Miller, played by Bérénice Bejo, rise to success only to see his own career fade as she rises. It’s a touching ode to the pitfalls of love, fame and tragedy intertwined beautifully with the movie industry’s paradigm shift from silent movies to the “talkies” as a backdrop.
The Descendants
Easily one of George Clooney’s best performances, this comedic drama by Alexander Payne, of Sideways fame, is set in Hawaii. It’s a movie that incorporates humour and tragedy with equal dexterity. George Clooney plays Matt King, a husband and father of two girls, who tries to make sense of his life after his wife suffers a boating accident and goes into a coma. The film does a great job at showing that life isn’t black and white, it’s a spectrum and what Payne has done best, is given all the characters a sense of realism that is relatable.
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
This was one of the surprises of the lot. A movie panned by critics and reviews for the most part — Rotten Tomatoes is currently rating it at 48 per cent. Director Stephen Daldry’s fourth film revolves around the performance of a 13-year-old Thomas Horn, with no previous acting experience, whose father played by Tom Hanks dies in the World Trade Centre attacks. Horn discovers a key hidden in a vase in an envelope labelled “Black,” and embarks on a journey to find out what the key leads to and perhaps receive one last message from his dad.
The Help
Based on a novel of the same name written by Kathryn Stocket, the film takes place during the Civil Rights Era. Emma Stone plays Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan, an aspiring journalist, who decides to write about the daily trials and tribulations of two black women working for white families in the suburban south of America. The best part of The Help is that it refrains from caricaturing anything. Every character on screen is relatable and three-dimensional without over-doing anything. It’s a strong movie that has its weaknesses but is held together with a kind of saucy humour balanced by great storytelling.
Probably the leader of the pack for taking the Oscar home, Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is a sublimely made love letter to the magic of cinema. The opening sequence of Hugo is probably the best use of 3D technology since James Cameron’s Avatar. Hugo played by Asa Butterfield, had an uncle who was in charge of the clocks at a Parisian train station. His father’s dream was to complete an automated man he found in a museum, but he dies before completing it. The boy grows up hiding himself in the maze of ladders, catwalks, passages and gears of the clockworks themselves, but then he encounters a cranky toy shop owner named Georges Méliès played by Ben Kingsley. In essence, the story becomes the story of filmmaking itself, and no one other than Scorsese could have made it.
Midnight in Paris
One of my favourite movies of 2011, Midnight in Paris is vintage Woody Allen. This charming comedy is about a couple on vacation in Paris. Gil played by Owen Wilson and Inez played by Rachel McAdams are officially in love, but Gil’s real love is Paris itself. A struggling screenwriter from Hollywood, Gil dreams of writing the great American novel in the hope of joining the likes of Hemmingway and Fitzgerald as a literary hero himself. At midnight Gil finds himself transported back in time to the legendary salon presided over by Gertrude Stein where he meets the Parisian cultural elite, such greats like Picasso to Dali. It’s a beautifully directed film, were the city of Paris plays a character in itself.
When you’ve got Aaron Sorkin writing your screenplay, it’s almost certainly going to be a spectacular script. Brad Pitt stars as Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland A’s and the guy who assembles the team, who has an epiphany: all of baseball’s conventional wisdom is wrong. Beane is forced to reinvent his team on a tight budget and thus he partners with Ivy League grad Peter Brand, played by Jonah Hill, to recruit players on the cheap. Brand devises a system to find players all of whom have the ability to do the basics right i.e. get on base, score runs, and win games. It’s a revolution, and one that purists aren’t pleased with.
War Horse
It seems that Steven Spielberg is Oscar hunting again and with a Best Picture nomination, he seems to be on the right track. Based on both, a children’s novel set before and during World War I, by British author Michael Morpurgo as well as a 2007 stage production of the same name the movie is set in rural England and Europe during the First World War. While the jaded among us might assume this movie to be just another movie about the bond of a young man and his horse, it really is much more. It follows the journey of the horse, having been parted with his trainer, as he moves through the war, changing and inspiring the lives of all those he meets — the British cavalry, German soldiers, and a French farmer and his granddaughter — before the story reaches its emotional apex.
The Tree of Life
Starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, it’s a story of a Midwestern family in the 1950s. The film follows the journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). The story deals with life’s most profound questions of meaning and faith. It is Terrence Malick’s labour of love and it shows. Tree of Life is a movie that stays with you long after you see it. It is a film, which whether you like it or not, has a way of getting inside you and it’s not unlikely for parts of it to surface up to your mind at odd times of the day.


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