So I have been sick and out of work all week with tonsilitus, and after the first few days when all I did was sleep, these last few all I have done is lie in bed and watch movies. This illness is a bitch, but at least I caught up a little movie-wise. This year, for the first year in about forever, I hadn't seen any of the Best Picture nominees before the Oscar ceremony. And now I am proud to say that I have seen four of them, excluding the (not-released yet and I have no interest anyway) Munich. So what do I have to say?
This is no new observation, but people, Brokeback Mountain got robbed. I don't understand how, with three nominations, none of the actors won, and it was far and away the best of the four.
After having heard a lot about Crash, I expected to not like it more than I did. I thought it was okay - some of the cast were really superb (I'm thinking Thandie Newton, Don Cheadle, and Terence Howard, particularly), but all of them were decent. The story kind of lost plausibility with me; it kept switching between moments of extreme hypersaccarine-ity, and moments of sheer horror - sometimes in the same scene. And I never found the dialogue plausible. I think I heard more racial slurs and insults in that movie (that is supposed to take place in 24 hours), than I hear in 5 years of normal life. Do people actually talk that way to people? If they did, how in the world would anyone be able to interact with anyone of a different race? And I'm not sure what the ultimate message was supposed to be: everyone is racist, but maybe we can overlook it and show some common humanity in situations involving car explosions? Everyone - even the smallest characters - was so hateful, and the few who tried to be good when the plot was stacked against them end up fucking up. So the movie just kind of left me feeling unmoved and unsympathetic for any of them. (By the way, does anyone else think that Brendon Fraser's character was sleeping with his assistant - the one Sandra Bullock is supposed to be jealous of? They didn't really come out and say it, but I kind of thought in the last scene...) This movie reminded me of the absolute dark opposite of that movie from a few years ago, Love Actually, where the premise was that an ensemble cast with intertwined lives proves that people really have kind thoughts and wishes for others in the world, and the world is full of love. Here, we have an ensemble cast whose intertwined lives prove that everyone out in the world hates everyone else so much they all would commit violent acts if given the chance.
As for Capote, I thought it was good too. Great cast, script, direction - definitely an Oscar nominee, but not a winner. I even think Philip Seymour Hoffmann shouldn't have won for it, although I like him as an actor, and I'm glad he won for something. But this movie is about Capote, and at the end, I didn't feel like I knew him at all. There were glimpses that he had a horrible childhood, and maybe that contributed to it, but he comes off like a first-rate asshole, who doesn't give a shit about anybody but himself. Yes, Hoffmann did a great job impersonating Capote, but neither he nor the script gives you any reason to care about him. That being said, I really liked Catherine Keener as Harper Lee, and the movie could have used more of her. The guy who played Capote's lover was good too - these two were the two human counterfoils to Capote and the killers.
I liked Good Night and Good Luck, but in a good year, it shouldn't even have been nominated. It was only 96 minutes long, and it even felt padded at times. I would have felt cheated seeing this in the theater, when a whole lot of that 96 minutes was historical footage and musical montages. I liked the story, I liked the point, I agree with both the political overtones, and the whole television could be a force for good, but it's becoming a force for complacency argument. I thought the story could have unfolded more, and we could have gotten more into the characters, or something, anything.
In contrast to these four (and I highly doubt Munich will top it), Brokeback had pitch perfect acting, directing, cinematography, and writing. It had heart, it made you care about the characters. After I saw it, I just wanted to watch it again, even with a stack of other movies I hadn't seen yet. It also didn't hurt that it had dreamy Jake Gyllenhaal in it.
Since I took up more than 10 seconds there, I will condense the rest of my reviews:
Memoirs of a Geisha: This was much better than I expected - I didn't like the book that much, but this was an adaptation that was better than the book.
Jarhead: More yummy Gyllenhaal goodness! Also Peter Sarsgaard! There was a lot of testosterone in this movie, like all war movies, but it was surprisingly funny.
Lesson learned from Junebug: Oral sex will solve any relationship problem. I did not understand the husband's character in this movie. For the first half, he is always asleep, leaving his new wife alone with his family, then it seems like he is siding with them against her, and then at the end, he is glad they leave. WTF? I think I might have divorced him before then.
Five Easy Pieces: I did not like this movie at all. Feel free to leave comments questioning my taste in movies, Rama.