Six Nominated Films

February 7, 2011 at 7:32 am (Movies and TV)

Now that it’s February, I really have to get on the stick. I have a long list of films to see before the telecast on Sunday, February 27. I spent this SuperBowl weekend seeing six more, which I will as usual offer comments on for your convenience.

Toy Story 3, nominated for Best Animated Feature.

Only in an alternate universe with Toy Story fail to win its Oscar. I preferred How to Train Your Dragon. But the Academy is not going to miss its last chance to award a franchise that changed the history of animated films forever. As you may recall, the original Toy Story came out in 1995, and its sequel in 1997, before they even had the Best Animated Feature category (that arrived in 2001).

I found several scenes, like the one where Ken models clothes, to be unnecessary. The whole concept of “bitter, non-played-with toy as villain” is a recycle from Stinky Pete, the Prospector. This film took less care with subplots, scoring, and background details than the other two, which is a shame and not fair to the original. One scene involving an incinerator moved me to tears, but not because of what was happening onscreen; I was terribly upset, picturing all the little kids sitting in movie theaters around the world getting traumatized. Had I taken my 6-year-old to this, he’s have woken up with nightmares about his toys burning up. The film had moments, certainly. But it wasn’t a worthy successor.

The Kids Are All Right, nominated for Best Picture

A few people have suggested that Annette Bening might pull an upset over Natalie Portman for Best Actress this year. Bening turned in a solid performance, but mostly, the character is Carolyn Burnham as a lesbian. It’s not that big of a stretch. The best moments of this film came from Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore, who are both nominated for Support Categories they won’t win.

The writing in the film is exactly the type I admire most…honesty, with humor and heart (that’s my motto, in fact). There is both humor and heartbreak. There is perfection in imperfection. These characters and their motivations are believable. In America, people don’t seem to get as offended by lesbians as they do gay men, for some reason…a reason why this film has gotten the level of attention it has. However, thinking back to Milk and Brokeback Mountain, those films both won other awards, but NOT Best Picture. I wonder when America will be ready for a gay Best Picture. It won’t be this year, and that’s too bad, because this was a special film.

Exit Through the Gift Shop, nominated for Best Documentary Feature

Thierry Guetta, a French expatriate in Los Angeles who ought to be on Ritalin, was obsessed with his camcorder for several years, and because he captured everything he could for several years, he stumbled onto the underworld of illegal street art. Guetta befriends the likes of Sheperd Fairey and Banksy, and follows them around, helping to document their art process and the reaction to that art. If only that’s solely what this film had been about.

Responding to a half-serious challenge from Banksy, Guetta mortgages his business, rents an art studio, buys printing equipment, and hires a staff to mass-produce the kind of street art Fairey and Bansky made famous. Guetta then puts together an art show, using quotes from those two artists to promote the show. Guetta’s show nets him a million dollars in art sales. The whole thing made me sick because this guy commodified art on purpose, and got away with it. He didn’t even do his work, personally. My 13-year-old son, also horrified by what he was seeing, exclaimed, “But…he’s cheating!” Even though there aren’t technically rules associated with art, I agree that there was something sleazy about this. Loved the first half, was upset by the second, and I wish the film had chosen either one or the other to be completely about.

Dogtooth, nominated for Best Foreign Feature

A Greek executive rules tyrannically using psychological and physical abuse, over his wife and three adult children, who live in a walled-off compound far away from civilization. This is a home school from Hell. Incest (very graphic) is condoned, the “children” spend all day in their underwear but dress in infantile-looking formalwear for dinner, and the three have been brought up, deliberately being taught fallacies about their language and their world. It is disturbing from beginning to end, and has a lot of sex and nudity in it, which isn’t done with any camera trickery or body doubles.

What the hell are the Greeks smoking these days? I’ve heard a few people claim that this film is really a protest against oppressive governments. I have no idea whether that’s true or not, because I didn’t read it that way at all. If it was the intention to have it be such a protest, then it was badly, and offensively handled. Not only will I not recommend that anyone see this, but I will actively campaign against anyone seeing it.

I Am Love, nominated for Best Foreign Feature

This is a film that proves I’m not enough of a film snob yet. It won the Golden Globe, and has gotten tons of glowing reviews about its depth. I pride myself on reading several levels of depth in films, to the extent that I’m asked to share my notes a lot at film school now that I’m there. However…I found it mostly boring because of its very slow pace. It took about half an hour before I even understood what the film was about, and because I don’t speak Italian, I missed a key point. Tilda Swinton’s character is Russian, and speaks Italian with a Russian accent. Good luck understanding that facet without reading any reviews, or just reading subtitles, grrrrr.

While others have written that this film is about a woman who is an outsider in her own family, who discovers and follows her own needs, that isn’t what I got from it. I found it to be a statement about old business that valued quality products and people, versus the new corporate mantra that only the bottom line matters. Grandfather Eduardo leaves the company to his son and grandson (also named Eduardo), stating that he wishes his old-fashioned business philosophy to continue; before the grandfather’s body is even cold, his son is making arrangements to sell to an American corporation. Young Eduardo clearly espouses his grandfather’s position, and protests loudly. Disillusioned, he argues with his mother, falls by accident into a swimming pool, hits his head and dies. His death is necessary because it represents the death of the old ways. I found that aspect of the film to be its most compelling. Overall, so far, between this and Dogtooth, this wins. But that’s not saying much because Dogtooth is actually Dogpoop.

Restrepo, nominated for Best Documentary Feature

I haven’t walked out on many movies in my lifetime. I think the only one I can ever remember actually walking out on is Adam Sandler’s Waterboy, because as the parent of a child with autism I found it offensive. I have great respect for the men and women in uniform who are deployed in Afghanistan, but I am ashamed to say, I lasted only twelve minutes and forty-three seconds into this film before I got seriously motion-sick and had to turn it off. It’s possible I may go back and try to see more, but…it’s even worse than the one that’s made me sickest of all (Children of Men), which I sat through all they way only because it contained Clive Owen. Maybe I’ll pretend the Army captain is Clive Owen. I do feel an obligation to finish this film. It’s the least I can do to honor the troops who have placed themselves in harm’s way, in my place. But I think I’ll need one of those motion sickness patches first.

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