Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Oscar season, technically

Oscar season is upon us! Although, wait a minute, is it really? Because I usually have a list of ten films to see by December 1, and I'm pretty sure that this year I haven't even heard of ten that I want to see before 2010. What gives? Is this just a ho-hum movie season? Has the industry as a whole decided that since the Academy announced there will be ten Best Picture nominations instead of the usual five, they can just throw crap on the screen and expect an Oscar nod? (I'm not kidding... a fair estimate is that 1 out of every 30 films released this year will receive a nomination. NOT THE POINT, Academy.)

I don't mean to start off with a rant, really. It's just that Oscar season is an annual highlight for me. I love delving into reviews, sitting in dark theaters, being completely entranced by a performance, reeling from great writing brought to life. I even love that hectic last weekend before the Oscars, a marathon of every movie I managed to miss up to that point. Would I love it if Oscar-worthy movies were more staggered throughout the year? Sure. But do I think that's what's going on this fall/winter? Nope. All that said, I did manage to see three entirely wonderful films last weekend. And in a year when "Transformers" has a decent chance of being a Best Picture nominee, I'd happily cheer for any of these instead.

Seriously, Hollywood, give me my serious movies already!*

An Education
The central players in this coming-of-age story (don't yawn) set in 1950s England are the elegantly slippery Peter Sarsgaard and newcomer Carey Mulligan, who brings some brains to the classic ingenue role. Mulligan is more than meets the eye here, while Sarsgaard is much, much less. Alfred Molina (!) does Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson mails in another Emma Thompson cameo (she's also fantastic and fleeting in Pirate Radio), and finally back on screen is the teacher that stole Jason Schwartzman's heart in Rushmore, here as another stand-up teacher fighting another good fight. This all might sound rehashed and uninteresting, but Nick Hornby's screenplay ensures that it is not. Worth a viewing, this one, really. 

Fantastic Mr. Fox
This film is such an interesting parallel with Where the Wild Things Are. I don't really mean to compare/contrast, just to note the presence of these two films together in the same season - I find that really interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed both movies. And while WTWTA is a testament to fantasy borne of daydreams, Fantastic Mr. Fox is grounded in reality-based fantasy - a subtle but important distinction. Wes Anderson finally broke free of his Wes Anderson-ness here, and it's refreshing to see him do something different. (Although fellow weary Wes fans, never fear, there's plenty of him still sprinkled throughout.) The cast is phenomenal (Meryl and George: Foxy Couple of the Year!) and the entire journey is so damn fun and full of heart that you forget you're drinking wine in an indie movie theater on a Saturday night while watching what amounts to a children's film. Now that's a victory.

Away We Go (DVD)
We've had this one sitting around from Netflix for much too long, and as soon as it began I felt guilty for all those months of neglect. I'm a fan of director Sam Mendes, but one of the complaints you sometimes hear about him is that he doesn't like people, and it shows. That's certainly one way to view the peripheral characters here, none of which are very likable (and most of which are hilariously unlikable). But what I loved about this film was the way in which the craziness of the people around these two brought forth what was so simple and beautiful about them and their relationship. They're a calm force moving through a hurricane of simultaneously fun and horrific cameos. Rent this one for Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski.

*I know, I know, I still have to see 'Precious.' Just working up to the planned depression, is all.


  1. You know, I was just saying this same thing to Kev! Where are all the good movies lately?!

    And re: Precious. It is not all that depressing. Really. I can think of many, many more depressing films. It's actually a story about the strength that can be found in human nature, which is rather uplifting. Also? I didn't think it was as good as its been hyped. My 2 cents :)

  2. I'm going to have a movie marathon during my two weeks off during Christmas! I haven't seen Precious yet either. Was going to see it this past weekend but wasn't in the right mindset. I was super disappointed in The Times review of Precious for revealing a pretty important detail and not prefacing the reader by saying "spoiler alert". Oh well. Can't wait to discuss Precious with you!

  3. hi maggie!

    thanks for stopping by w&m & leaving a comment!

    1) i haven't seen like ANY movies this year. none that you listed. i blame grad school.

    2) i wore red shoes when i got married, too! (red patent stuart weitzmans)

    keep in touch!


  4. Hi, friend - sorry for not reading/ commenting in a bit.

    I'm happy to see your reviews here. I'm a huge Nick Hornby fan, so "An Education" is on my list & finally playing in Austin (I think). And I second your review of "Away We Go"; just watching the interplay between Krasinski (full disclosure: who I kinda adore anyways) and Rudolph is a joy.

  5. H: I'm curious what you thought the plot giveaway was... I read the review and didn't see anything there beyond the basic plot structure - which has been recounted in every other review I've seen.

  6. Who the father of her babies is. I had no idea. In every trailor I've seen, they don't show the father. And I've only read the Times review so that was all I had to go on. Oprah didn't even bring it up on her show. Maybe I'm the only one that didn't know.

  7. Loved "Away We Go," and dying to see the other two. Movies are one of the biggest things I miss from my pre-baby life. Besides sleep. Thanks for the great reviews!


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