Well, as expected, yesterday’s Best Picture Showcase was AWESOME. My mom and I had a great time and Grant joined us for the first two films.
Because they moved the Showcase to a larger auditorium, there was a problem getting the first film (Milk) ready to show on time, so they had to switch it with The Reader instead (and we watched Milk second). This actually worked out quite well because Grant had no interest seeing The Reader and probably would have left after Milk. As it turned out, The Reader was fantastic and Grant is really glad he stayed.
The Reader was a real surprise. I had wanted to avoid it because it seemed trite and overly praised, and frankly, seemed as if it would bore me. Far from it. The film asks really interesting questions about guilt, complicity, love and forgiveness. The idea of morality as opposed to the system of law was juxtaposed against a just post-WWII Germany, where in the decades just after the war, the country was still struggling to deal with the Holocaust and each individual’s complicity in the system. To be clear, it’s not a Holocaust film — it goes far beyond that — but that was the perfect backdrop for this type of film, as it fit so well with the overall message.
Kate Winslet was astounding and David Kross who plays a young Ralph Fiennes (and looks so much like he could actually BE a young Ralph Fiennes that the casting director should totally win some serious awards) was phenomenal, especially for such a young actor. Kate’s performance was nuanced and stoic and sold more on her expressions and her eyes rather than the words that she spoke. Really, really excellent.
Of the five, The Reader was the most thought-provoking in a sense; if I needed to write an academic essay or a journal submission on a nominee, I’d choose The Reader because there was so much textual complexity. Like almost every other film nominated for Best Picture, it was an adaptation, and while I haven’t read the book, I know want to.
Milk, was unsurprisingly excellent. One of my all-time favorite documentaries is The Times of Harvey Milk and Milk is essentially a dramatic reenactment of that story, with some additional background details of Harvey’s love life and more on his interactions with Dan White. Having watched the documentary so many times (I think I discovered it on IFC or Sundance a few months before the 25th Anniversary DVD was released, the first home video release of the doc if I recall correctly), I was familiar with the players and the story, so I can’t really judge how well the film fleshed out some people and some characters — but I think it did a good job, as my mother, who has never seen the doc (I showed it to Grant last summer), really enjoyed it and was riveted by the story.
Gus Van Sant is still dead to me because of the Psycho fiasco, that said — this came as close as anything to absolving him from that greatest of cinematic sins.
Sean Penn has received the bulk of the acting buzz around the film, but I really think Josh Brolin was the real standout. Obviously, Harvey IS the film — and Penn’s performance is both excellent and exacting. The voice, the affectations and mannerisms were spot on with the real guy. That said, Josh Brolin’s beyond eerie transformation into a spitting image of the real Dan White was what took me aback when I first saw the trailer for Milk last year (I regret we weren’t able to see it when it was in theaters — so much was going on at the end of the year though) and it was an incredible performance by an actor that has really come out of nowhere in the last two years (first No Country for Old Men, now Milk and W.) to transition from “son of a famous guy” to a really stand-out actor in his own right.
James Franco was really impressive, and Emille Hirsch, who I cannot stand was also quite good. The film felt authentic and the mixture of the real home movies from the ’70s with the recreated clips were just awesome. Ending with the actual footage of the candlelight vigil across San Fancisco from November, 1978 was the perfect, perfect touch. That imagery was the most haunting and memorable part of the documentary and it was a perfect way to end the film.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was an exercise in proving me to NEVER DOUBT DAVID FINCHER. Now, I love me some David Fincher, LOVE, but I let the “it’s three hours and boring and blah blah blah” bullshit turn me off the movie. Again, fucking excellent. The pacing was great, the cinematography was superb and although I think it is going to get shut-out of everything big, if it doesn’t win Best Makeup, there’s a fucking problem.
Cate Blanchett who I normally can’t stand was excellent. Brad Pitt was great and the supporting cast of characters was equally wonderful. Now, I’ve heard a lot of Forrest Gump comparisons, but that’s an insult to Fincher, et. al. Zemekis is a director, Fincher is an auteur. there’s a difference in skill, in talent and in scope. The lessons of love and loss and to quote Pony Boy by way of Frost, “nothing gold ever staying,” were really remarkable.
It was so different from a typical Fincher film, both in substance and even in style. His characteristic cinematography flourishes were there, but the color palette was more expansive and lush — and not just dark.
It was really, really solid and while I don’t want to see it again immediately, I’ll totally watch it when the DVD is released with Grant.
Slumdog Millionaire is the big pick to win, and for good reason. It is different, it is touching, it is uplifting — it’s just a great movie. The film has the full range of emotions, and none feel forced — and the fact that Danny Boyle directed such a film is astounding. The actors were amazing, especially for people so young. The child actors especially were just amazing. And the girl who plays Latika — what a phenomenal beauty. Like, she’s the Angelina Jolie/Vivien Leigh/Grace Kelley kind of beauty — like totally transfixing and perfect.
I don’t want to say too much because although the story has complexities and is certainly not shallow, even going into the premise ruins a certain element of the flow. You know how the film is going to end as soon as it starts (the title tells you), but the journey to get there is great. And the music fucking rocks.
Frost/Nixon was better than I had expected, but I still think The Dark Knight, The Wrestler or a host of other films could have claimed its spot for Best Picture and Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay nods. I read the play, and the film played better than the stage directions read. My only real criticism in a sense is that Nixon came off as tragic, sympathetic and human. And that’s fine, but I don’t think that was really the intention of the play or the film. Frost/Nixon succeeded where Oliver Stone’s Nixon utterly failed.
Part of that is because they got the right actor to play Nixon. Nothing against Sir Anthony Hopkins, but he was just a horrible choice for Stone’s film. But Nixon comes across as sympathetic, and I don’t know how I feel about that. The man did so much harm in the name of power, authority and winning a political game. Until George W. Bush, he was the most corrupt of all our Presidents. I don’t really like feeling sympathetic towards him, especially after the plethora of Nixon books I’ve read over the years. I’ve read so many books, listened to many of the tapes, watched documentaries — it was odd that this film, which isn’t substantively very strong, would make me uncomfortable in seeing the guy as human.
OK — so Predictions:
I want Mickey Rourke to get it, I think he deserves it — and though Sean Penn has a certain advantage, I think the rawness of Mickey’s performance outweighs the accuracy of Sean’s Method perfection.
Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger will surely be the third posthumous Oscar winner. I’m not sure how I feel about that. He was brilliant in Dark Knight, but I’d like to see Josh Brolin win.
Best Supporting Actress
It’s a toss-up between Amy Adams and Viola Davis for Doubt. Still, Marissa Tomei Penelope Cruz have a chance, toss-up.
Best Original Screenplay
WALL-E should get this. I hope it does.
Best Adapted Screenplay
I’ll say Danny Boyle, but I’m unsure — David Fincher might pull it out.
Woo — I’m done!
8 people have left comments
Great review. i’ve been cramming all the best picture flicks since 4am last night. needless to say, i hope makeup can cover up these massive bags. :S i’m going to be talking Oscars all night so I’ll save my predictions to the show. I’d love it if you could come chat. after all you are film_girl 😀
Brian Parks said:
Come on now. Heath completely disappeared into that role. His was the best performance I have seen in the past 2 year.
Mike Gonzalez said:
Great post. Agree about most of your thoughts, though I’m not ure I love Slumdog Millionaire for best picture. I think it’s going to win, but maybe not my personal choice.
Also, I think you meant “Latika”, not “Zamika”. I agree, Freida Pinto is astonishingly pretty.
Wasn’t going to write a comment, but then reading the “Comment Guidelines” forced me to give it a shot! I have never seen such a detailed comment guidelines, many times i wonder whether a href will work or not. I think this will qualify as Off-topic, but not inappropriate. U won’t have to delete my ass tho.
Btw, your Oscar predictions were on the target mostly. Well done.
Ok, testing ,
One suggestion tho: the comments are way below the content due to right column length. You might want to bring comments inside the
div id="column-left" from the current
Although I’m not a huge fan of dramatic movies (unless you count action thrillers as dramas!), your post actually made me interested in seeing a few of last night’s best picture nominations. Great post.
And are you proud of your picks this morning? You should be… Great accuracy!
Mike Doe said:
Christina, fantastic job as always! I’m a little late to the Oscars party, but I always love when you put on your @filmgirl hat and go into movie critic mode. 🙂