Thursday, February 23, 2012

Year of the Mediocre Movies

Is it me or has it been a weak year for movies??? Strong performances, but none of the movies wowed me. I just saw "War Horse", which means I've now seen every film nominated in the best picture, best actor, best actress, best supporting actor and best supporting actress categories, plus a few more. Sure, it's not like last year when I saw 33 of the Oscar-nominated movies, but still, I saw the majority of them. So, let's recap. I was not looking forward to seeing "War Horse" at all. I mean, I waited this long to see it, didn't I? While I was thrilled that I only paid $3.00 at the second-run theater (yes!), I now know that I would have enjoyed it even if I had paid full price! Though it is longer than it needed to be, I found myself rooting for the horse. And Jeremy Irvine, the lead kid in the movie, is quite simply a movie star. Watch for him, people! Young Celine Buckens sort of steals your heart too. She's the girl living with her grandfather, who cares for the War Horse and his fellow equine for a while. She reminds me of a young Gabrielle Anwar. This year has been strange for me in the movie world. Every year at Oscar time, I have a definite favorite to win for best picture. Often times, I know it won't win or realize there's a good chance that it won't, but nevertheless, I have a definite favorite. This year, I couldn't care less which picture wins. Did you catch that? "Couldn't" care less. If you COULD care less, that means you care. Got it? Cool! Remember it. Be original and use it correctly, please. So many people don't. But I digress! I honestly don't care this year which movie takes the top honor. Though "Hugo" was slow at times and I didn't feel that the revelation was as shocking as it could have been or should have been, it was, at times, magical. Again, another strong child performance. Asa Butterfield, who plays Hugo, carried the movie perfectly. The directing by Martin Scorsese, no big surprise, was superb. I wouldn't be upset if "The Artist" won, because it was so different from anything we've seen in so long. The production value alone made me happy, but it was slow at times. That seems to be a running theme in the movies of 2011. Slow, slow, slow. Pick up the pace! While I've mentioned some memorable performances by youngsters, I'm sorry to say that Thomas Horn ruined "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" for me. I know his character is supposed to be odd, but if an actor is in virtually every scene of the movie, he still has to be likeable. "The Descendants", "The Help", "Midnight in Paris" and "Moneyball" are all solid, mostly enjoyable movies with strong performances and decent screenplays, but best picture of the year? I don't think so. And "The Tree of Life"??? Sorry, folks. Didn't like that one at all. I would have LOVED to have seen an entire movie though on Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and their two young sons. THAT would have been a good movie, but all the other stuff mixed in (i.e. dinosaurs and waves - really???) ruined it for me. And I'll be honest, I've never witnessed so many people walk out of a movie and rip it apart at the end (if they stayed) than I did when I went to see "The Tree of Life". I understand what Terrence Malick was trying to do, but it would have made a better film to run at some science museum or something, not on the big screen. OK, on to the acting categories... while I think Gary Oldman should already be an Oscar winner and I'm shocked that this is his first nomination, I don't feel that he was the standout in the film. Though it's filled with talented actors, for me, the standouts were Tom Hardy (and not just because he's sexy) and Mark Strong. If you don't know who Mark Strong is, he looks like a cross between Stanley Tucci and Matt Lauer, and he's been popping up in more and more movies and in bigger parts lately. You'll be seeing a lot more of him. I know Jean Dujardin from "The Artist" may stand out in this category, because of the kind of movie he's in and I truly believe Brad Pitt should be an Oscar winner by now, but I think George Clooney may deserve the award for "The Descendants". We'll see. Best actress is a STRONG category this year. I think you can make arguments for each of them to win. Before I saw "The Iron Lady", I was saying I wanted Meryl Streep to win simply based on the trailer and the fact that she gets nominated so often, but rarely wins. I think she deserved to win for "Julie and Julia", because she MADE the movie, though I realize she was only in half of it. I like Sandra Bullock and she was great in "The Blind Side", but if Streep hadn't been nominated so many times, she may have taken that award. Anyway, now that I've seen "The Iron Lady", I feel that some elements of Julia Child comes out in the performance. She's still brilliant (of course), but I think Michelle Williams should win for playing Marilyn Monroe. You may disagree, but that is no easy task and many people would do it as a caricature. Williams didn't. I felt the pain and constant quest for love and affection that Marilyn went through, because Williams did it right. I'm hoping this might be the surprise win of the night. Viola Davis is clearly talented enough to be an Oscar winner. Her performance in "Doubt", though short, was intense. She delivered another powerful performance in 2011 in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" and she very well may take home the statue. Glenn Close was wonderful and also deserves to win an Oscar in her lifetime and Rooney Mara was fantastic, but this will not be their year. For best supporting actor, I don't think anyone doubts that Christopher Plummer will win, and he should. No question in my mind; however, I did love Max von Sydow in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close". I wanted much more of him! For best supporting actress, Octavia Spencer will almost definitely take home to award, and she should, but don't discount Jessica Chastain's performance in "The Help". Every moment she was on-screen, I had a huge smile on my face. Her performance was so refreshing. I just loved her. Someone else in that movie, who did not receive a nomination, but deserves big props is the one and only Sissy Spacek. She stole every scene she was in and made it look effortless. And let's talk effort for a second. I'm sincerely hoping studios and producers will put more effort into making movies in 2012. If a screenplay needs work, spend the money to improve it before you start shooting. So many times, a movie could have easily gone from good to phenomenal with a few nips and tucks of the screenplay. Come on, Hollywood! We pay a lot of money to go to the movies these days during an economy that is still struggling. Make it worth it for us and bring back the movie magic of yesteryear.