Monday, February 8, 2010

MOVIES and the weekend...and thoughts about Best Picture Academy Award AVATAR v HURT LOCKER


This weekend I saw two of the front runners for Best Picture Oscar: Avatar and The Hurt Locker. Man is this a tough one. These two movies are truly apples and oranges.

I saw Avatar in 3D at IMAX theater and it is easily the most unique film experience of my life. It is a beautiful film. And it is landmark, no doubt, and not JUST because it is the highest grossing film of all time (NOT adjusted for inflation and by the way that does make a huge difference). The movie is cinematically flawless. It is a masterpiece. But there are some problems with it. I think the whole beginning of the movie is very vague. It also goes a little overboard in depicting the Marine colonel as one-dimensional. It bordered at times on being a little too Disney-esque. That being said though, it is a profound story and is filled with a lot of provocative, intelligent, and complex themes (it is without a doubt a strong pro-Environment, anti-Republican party message but it really is a very spiritually evolved film as well). It is truly such a landmark film that one has to give it the title "one of the greatest films ever made." But it still has some flaws. That Sam Worthington is one mighty fine little hottie. It was also great seeing Sigourney Weaver.

The Hurt Locker is really a perfect film. It has no flaws. Unless you consider the fact that it is a very depressing film a flaw, which I don't. It is truly one of the more emotionally difficult movies I've seen in my lifetime. The only other one that I can think of is Deer Hunter. It is a stunning film though. The acting is tour de force. It is a relentless movie and it doesn't flinch or allow the viewer to shirk from facing the realities of Iraq, the War on Iraq, the Iraqi people, etc. Set in war-torn Baghdad the film tells the story of a unit of three soldiers whose responsibility is to safely disable bombs that have been set. It is a brutal film in every way. It also is one of the more balanced films that I think I've ever seen. The citizens of Baghdad (terrorist and non) watching from the buildings in the various scenes where SFC William James (the film's main character) moves towards the incendiary devices was an interesting perspective: who is the villain? Who was the invade in those scenarios? I don't know if this was intentional but I just thought the whole movie avoided, and amazingly so, being judgmental in any way, which seems to me it's greatest accomplishment. (There were two appearances by major actors that I was glad to see: Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce.)

So Avatar has some flaws and The Hurt Locker doesn't. But ultimately the sheer scale of Avatar I think gives it a little bit of leeway; I think it should win the Best Picture, even though there are some weak aspects.

I also saw The Blind Side again yesterday, which I was thrilled was included in nominations for Best Picture. Contrary to what critics said, I thought the film amazingly transcended itself, primarily because of the remarkable performances from Sandra Bullock (I wasn't previously a huge fan of hers by the way) and Quinton Aaron, who plays Michael Oher. This film could have been just a passable feel-good movie for white-bread, Republican, Christians. It ends up being a unique balance of humor and poignancy, and for that the director deserves kudos. In most hands this would have been a second rate movie with similar performances. But it really is an excellent piece of film making. I should add that I am now certain that Sandra Bullock SHOULD win Best Actress for this role, despite the fact that I LOVE La Streep and the film Julia and Julia. I just believe that Bullock delivers a tour de force, emotionally nuanced, technically perfect performance. When I first saw the movie I thought that this role for Bullock was like Julia Robert's Erin Brokovich: a singular career best. (These performances are so uniquely realized by the actresses in ways that no other actress perhaps could have, if that makes sense?) But I didn't think she would have a chance because well....she was Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep is......La Streep. But the fact that The Blind Side, having earned almost $250 domestically (which even Streep has never done....not Angelina Jolie, not Julia Roberts, not even Reese Witherspoon or Cameron Diaz) is the highest grossing film with a major actress in the title role and was nominated for Best Picture, I think, has paved the way for Bullock to deservedly win. This is a major thing for all actresses, this box office revenue accomplishment. It means more actress driven films will be made, I hope! Which is a fantastic thing as far as I'm concerned (I'm not much of a testosterone film lover).

I think I've seen now, with the exception of Precious and A Single Man, all of the truly serious contenders for Best Picture Academy Award.

Inglorious Basterds was completely overrated, although I did enjoy Diane Kruger's performance. Up In The Air (as I blogged about in previous posting) is brilliant and a perfect film, with incredible performances by Clooney and his two co-stars. It is a true accomplishment for Jason Reitman. But compared to Avatar and The Hurt Locker it just doesn't stand up to that level.

I will see Precious next, then A Single Man. And then I think I'm prepared to have an opinion on who SHOULD win the major awards. Although often that is not who wins. I'm usually pretty astute about who will win, whether or not I have a personal opinion. So watch and see how my predictions do. This year is an interesting year. The only sure award is Jeff Bridges for Best Actor. I haven't seen that movie or A Single Man to see Colin Firth, the other major contender so I don't have a personal opinion. I just think Jeff Bridges will win. It's his time after a long career with brilliant performances in very unique movies.

Another interesting characteristic of Academy Awards this year is that major money makers don't usually translate to Academy Award esteem. But Avatar's accomplishment is so significant and historic and The Blind Side's as well. Can't say the same for the stupid film Transponder can you? A film, I should add, I refuse to see.

Well here's my Oscar opinions and predictions on the major awards at the moment:

Best Film
Should Win: Avatar
Who Will Win: Avatar

Best Actor
Should Win: undecided
Who Will Win: Jeff Bridges

Best Actress
Should Win: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
Who Will Win: Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side

Best Director
Should Win: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Who Will Win: James Cameron, Avatar

I'd love to hear your thoughts as well?

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