We're about 2 weeks away from the Oscars and the crowning of the "Best Movie of 2009". As I usually do, I am trying to see all the movies that are nominated before the telecast so I can have my own opinion and then root for whatever I choose to root for. As of this writing I have seen 5 out of the 10 movies nominated for best picture. For those that would like a full look at what is nominated feel free to click here.
But with about 14 weeks until the Academy Awards are given out, I find myself asking Do they Matter? Now, of course they don't matter versus two wars the Americans are involved in and everyone's money problems in today's troubled economy. I'm even asking do they matter in the entertainment world?
It is rare that I think the best movie produced in a given year actually receives any awards for best picture. I loved Slumdog Millionaire last year when I saw it in the theater, but if I find it on HBO on a nightly basis, I will normally pass it by for pretty much anything. That does not take away any of the smiles I had while watching the movie the one time I've seen it, or how clever I found the main character (no I don't remember his name, and I don't want to look it up) and how he happened to learn all the answers to all the questions that were asked of him in his young life. It just means, that was not the best movie last year. While at the same time, I've watched Wall E and The Dark Knight at least 10 times and am sure I'll watch it again.
But looking forward to this year, I am trying to figure out what the movies that are nominated mean. There are now 10 movies that are nominated for Best Picture instead of 5. This is done mostly so more movies can put on their DVD box "Best Picture Nominated film" in order to generate more sales. But looking at the list of movies, I'm wondered what will win, and why it should/shouldn't.
I'm choosing (for the sake of space) to only cover what are perceived as the front-runners. I will be doing my favorites of 2010 post soon enough:
Avatar: A HUGE technological breakthrough of a film. It uses technology in a film in a way that hasn't been seen since the original Star Wars in 1977. Remember Star Wars was nominated for Best Picture and it lost to Annie Hall. A good movie in its own right, but nothing as revolutionary as Star Wars. It's difficult to say "Best Picture" about either of these films since they are so different it's almost like asking which band is better Guns N Roses or Run DMC. I'm sure many people that grew up in the 80s have an opinion of which band was better depending on if they like Rock music or Rap music. This is similar. Star Wars is a sci-fi opus using camera tricks, special effects and some generic "Hero's Journey" storytelling vs. Annie Hall's witty screenplay and discussion on adult relationships in the 1970s. Both movies have their audience and both are quite good, classics in fact. But besides the fact that they were released in the same year, it is very difficult to compare them.
Avatar is in a similar situation. Is the movie good, with huge special effects and a story about the rise of a hero? Yes. Does the movie tell a story we haven't seen before and won't see again? No. The movie is impressive and beautiful to look at. I'm sure I will watch it on cable again and again, and there will be numerous copy-cat movies soon. But again, is it the "Best Movie of the Year"?
Next up: The Hurt Locker - I saw this movie this weekend and it was amazing. It was not what I expected, and it showed me a side of the Iraqi war that I never thought about, or even knew about. It wasn't really a story of the war itself, but more of a character study on a person and what type of person chooses to go into what looks like hell to me, but to him it's all he cares about. This story is "important" in the same way Apocalypse Now or Platoon was about Vietnam. To me, it was one of the greatest anti-war movies I'd seen in a while. But that's because I don't want to get blown up while walking down the street. Other people have seen this movie and think it would be cool to go to war. After all, William loves it and goes back for seconds (or is it 3rds, or 4ths). The movie was well acted, and well done-- I have some problems with the director's choices in storytelling. Especially in the middle and at the end where it got jumbled, but overall I come back to the question of is this the best movie of the year?
Again, I think it is "important" in the sense that for people that don't know what has been going on in Iraq for about 7 years now (assuming most action in the movie is based on truth), this was good to see. Americans should see this movie to see how the war has effected the Iraqis as well as the soldiers that have been fighting. As far as a movie goes, there was confusion in how the story was presented at times, and although the special effects were great (the slo-mo bomb going off), and the intensity of the action was amazing I keep coming back to the fact that the story was jumbled and rushed at the end. There could have been many scenes that were cut and we would have had the same impact if only we could have really seen the end of Will's tenure at Bravo and more his decision to return to Delta group. This would have made for a more-effective story and as a result, there are some flaws.
Which brings me to Inglourious Basterds: I found this almost perfect. This was almost 5 films in 1 and each were fun, intense, engrossing and I only have one minor gripe with the entire film. (The theater owner had to make a film of herself laughing for about 20 minutes to get the effect of the smokey Giant Face, and I just couldn't see her doing this). This movie is well acted, almost perfectly written, you find new things in it each time it is watched (I'm assuming, I've only watched it once so far). But it is a work of fiction. Tarantino rewrites how World War II endeed in the movie. It is not "Important" like The Hurt Locker, or groundbreaking like Avatar. But it is solid from beginning to end. Of course many people have a problem with the violence in Tarantino films and that is a strike against it as well (even though I have submitted that almost all the violence in Tarantino films is off-screen, and mostly in the viewer's own head which makes it even worse than if it was on screen in the first place, but i digress...)
Next is District 9 which was absolutely amazing on numerous levels. This movie actually has everything the above movies has. It is groundbreaking with the use of special effects and how one actor played the role of all of the prawns in the film. It is groundbreaking in the use of special effects that were used and although the effects are not quite as good as Avatar's, the are quite good in their own right especially when you consider it was made for a fraction of the cost of Avatar. It is "Important" in the sense that the way the Humans have enslaved the prawns and thrown them in the ghettos of South Africa is an amazing allegory for Apartheid and discrimination throughout history for anyone that has been 'different' than the majority throughout time. It was amazingly acted and I can find no holes in the story. The only problem the movie seems to have is the open-ended ending which leaves us with a possibility of a sequel.
So how do you choose? What is the Best Picture? Sure I have my favorites, and pretty much all 4 of these gets some consideration as my favorites of the year, and sure only one movie can win the prize. I guess it just upsets me that if one wins that means the majority has chosen X as the movie of the year, when really in truly, they all have their own positives and negatives.
Of course all this could be changed by me seeing Precious or A Serious Man and believing those are the best, but from what I can see Avatar, and the Hurt Locker are the front runners and one of these will mostl likely be crowned the victor. I just added the others to show a conflicting opinion and why some of these should be considered.
What do you all say? In the end, I believe the Oscars are just another money-making scheme for people that have a lot more money than I do or than I will every have. So, to them my opinion really doesn't matter at all. I'm just a guy with an internet connection and a keyboard. So the answer to my title question is simple: Yes, just not for you.