Friday, February 13, 2009

Partial Best Picture Commentary

For some reason, it's been hard for me to keep in the habit of blogging for the last few months, including doing full-fledged movie reviews, but I still have a tendency to leave comments on other people's blogs.

Quoted below is the comment I made to an entry about the Best Picture nominated film Frost/Nixon over at The writer of the original post said they were having trouble "getting" Frost/Nixon. My comment strays a bit into my overall opinion of this year's Best Picture nominees.

I know what you mean. I have similar feeling about all four of the five Best Picture nominees I’ve seen. They’re good, but not quite *that* good. Slumdog Millionaire comes the closest to having a complete, epic, well rounded story with a satisfying emotional payoff at the end (even if the plot depends too much on a convenient series of coincidences).

I feel that the strength of Frost/Nixon was in the performances which play very well, sometimes in very intense close-up monologues. I also noticed the similarities between Frost/Nixon and sports movies. But, that’s one of the elements I actually liked. It was interesting to see Frost & Nixon spar for a while, then go back to their respective corners to re-group and then break between rounds. It felt like a boxing match. I don’t like sports, particularly boxing, but it was interesting to me to see the typical sports formula applied to a long interview where words were flying rather than fists. I liked that twist.

The biggest problem with this movie and other Oscar nominees from this year and other years is what I call the “so what” factor. Sometimes, I watch a movie and no matter how well made it was or how much I respect the performances, I still feel like, “Eh, so what.”

Did I learn anything, did I get excited, did I laugh a lot, did I almost tear up a little, am I more relaxed or in a better mood for having seen the movie? If the answer to all those questions is “no,” then the movie didn’t quite hit every mark. I sort of learned some things about both Frost & Nixon through the movie, but with biopics, it’s always hard to tell what’s true and what’s creative license.

As good as Kate Winslet’s performance was, I feel that The Reader definitely missed on all those marks. While I may sound like the typical geek (which I am), I’m more convinced now that The Dark Knight should have at least been nominated. For a comic book movie, it had all the high production values and top caliber performances you’d expect from an Oscar-worthy movie, but it was also written well and covered a lot of moral and philosophical issues without being depressing or draining. I might need to see Wall-E again to determine if I’d feel the same way about it (as good as it was, I think my expectations for it were *even higher* which clouded my opinion of it).

Frost/Nixon would be my 3rd choice for Best Picture after Slumdog Millionaire (1st) and Benjamin Button (2nd choice; also less emotional gravitas than it’s given credit for).

No comments: