Tuesday, March 01, 2011

And the Oscar Goes To...

In past years, I have blogged about the movies which have garnered nominations for the annual Academy Awards. And, in preparation for that blogging, my husband and I engage in a mad dash of seeing a whole slew of movies.

Well, this year I didn't blog in advance, and we did our movie going in slower dashes. Maybe it's a sign of encroaching age--dashing not being a thing we try to do more often than necessary.

Anyway. The first movie we saw was True Grit--back when it was first released and no Oscar nominees had been announced. It was a bit of a shock when the Golden Globes skipped nominating True Grit for anything. That snub notwithstanding, we went to see True Grit and enjoyed it enormously. I am not really a fan of Westerns--and there are many Western classics I have never seen, including the original True Grit. But I am a fan of the Coen brothers--of their movies I have seen, there is not one that I would say "oh, skip that one." The Coen brothers movie making sensibilities can be described as quirky, at best, but the result is usually an indelible movie that stays with you. So it is with True Grit--scenes from it keep popping into my head.

What we usually concentrate on is the best movies category, and the top actor nominee movies. We are not slavish, though, and willingly skip a movie we think we might not enjoy. So, we skipped 127 hours, The Black Swan, and The Fighter.

In the run-up to the Oscar night, we first went on a Toy Story bash. We recorded and watched all three. Toy Story 3 is the animated feature that was nominated for Best Movie. To understand its plot, we watched 1 and 2. Toy Story 3 is so charming, so endearing. Any adult would enjoy it. And, I confess, I wonder what it says about our non-animated movies when it is the animated ones that actually make us cry. Every child who has grown to be an adult, and every adult who has watched a child grow can find something to love in this movie.

As soon as The King's Speech came to theaters here, we went to see it. What a wonderful movie. The story would have been most compelling without the historical framework, but of course the point of the movie was not only the triumph of one person, but the triumph of that particular person--the man who became George VI. As an Anglophile, I enjoyed almost every part of this movie--the people, the setting, the social commentary. I can't claim to be prescient, but this did seem like the movie to beat.

We next The Social Network which recounts the creation of Facebook and the rise of the genius behind it, Mark Zuckerberg. The contrast between the old-style Western and the new generation social network couldn't be more stunning. Each movie crafted its own kind of dialogue--the wonderfully oddly stilted formal dialogue of True Grit contrasting with the rapid fire Aaron Sorkin dialogue of The Social Network. My ears simply can't listen fast enough to an Aaron Sorkin script. But I love it anyway. The bits I do catch are worth the effort.

We then recorded several movies to watch at our leisure. First, we watched The Kids are All Right. This movie was not great in its story--the story of a marriage, where secrets are uncovered, where infidelity occurs, and where final forgiveness is achieved--that's an old story. What was new was that the marriage was a gay marriage. The normalcy of the family underscored part of the message--so what's the big deal about gay marriage. A gay couple is in every detail--save one--completely the same as a straight couple. Get over it.

Next we watched the one movie we knew very little about--Winter's Bone. As the title might suggest, this movie--set in the grim grey winter world of the Ozarks-- presents a stark story of a young woman who is the sole locus of responsibility in her family. Her father, a meth making drug dealer, has vanished, but not before putting up the family home as collateral against his bail. The mother is catatonic, in a silent world of her own, incapable of caring for the two younger children. It is only Ree Dolly, the 17 year old heroine of the tale, who has any sense and tries to care for the family. She goes on a quest to find her father and make sure he appears for a court date and does not thereby cause them to lose their home. As she searches, she is turned away at almost every place by heartless relatives and even more heartless neighbors. Only a few folk are willing to help her any, until one person steps forward and helps her in a wonderful surprise twist.

Finally, we watched Inception. OK, OK--I admit it. My husband watched this one. I started watching it, and gave up. The premise was so preposterous to me--dreams within dreams within dreams--and all of them controlled by external intention. I got lost trying to figure out which layer of reality--oh, did I say reality?--err, unreality we were in that I just plain quit watching.

When the Oscar nominations were announced, the battle seemed to be between The King's Speech and The Social Network. Each garnered multiple nominations, each had a compelling story. Interestingly, a generational split developed, with older viewers (ahem, that would include me) preferring The King's Speech and younger viewers (say, my daughter) preferring The Social Network.

The surprise for my husband and me was that we really preferred the small budget unassuming movie: Winter's Bone. Were I a member of the Academy, one of those folks who receives a ballot and gets to vote, my votes would have gone to Winter's Bone.

Ah, well. Oscar night has come and gone. Anne Hathaway changed dresses--almost too many times for me to enjoy each; James Franco looked oddly stoic and bored. Come on, James--say something. The viewer audience dropped from last year's numbers, and the show ran over-time.

But the movies? Well, they just keep rolling along.

What were your favorites?


Anonymous said...

I didn't watch the Oscars and haven't seen all the movies, but I did see Winter's Bone and will never forget it. The bleakness of their world--literally and figuratively--where meth and marijuana are the industry of the area--and the realization that for most of those kids, their only way out of that poverty is to join the military. Then, to have their dreams and hopes dulled by deployment after deployment... if they even survive... seems an unforgivable cruelty to me. (sorry about that long sentence!)

I didn't read the book, but understand that the movie follows it very carefully. Also heard on NPR that the house where Ree and her family lived was someone's actual home-- where kids need to wear their coats inside because the cold comes right through..

The story was captivating, but the reality beyond it was heartbreaking. Everyone should see it.

NCmountainwoman said...

I'm glad to hear you praise "Winter's Bone." I read the book some time ago and was very much taken with it. I will definitely watch the DVD.

Ruth said...

The Oscars were a bore and I went to bed at 10:30PM. But The King's Speech was my pick to win and I was happy to see Colin Firth, David Seidler and the movie get the big prize. I just watched Inception tonight. I had to go to Wikipedia after the first 20 minutes to figure out what was going on...not my kind of movie. Will have to check out Toy Story 3.

dottieb said...

I enjoyed your thoughts on the movies. I saw a lot of the ones you mentioned, not all, and saw some you did not see. I really enjoyed The King's Speech, thought it deserved the oscars it got. Also enjoyed The Social Network. I thought it was very well done, and a really fascinating glimpse into a world of genius misfits. I was enthralled with Inception - found the premise incredibly captivating, although I will admit I had to see it twice to understand at lot of it. At this point I have actually seen it 3 times and I finally think I get it. Have not seen True Grit or Winter's bone, but they are both on my list. I did see Black Swan and it is my nomination for wierd movie of the year. Sort of makes you shake your head and wonder, but it was worth seeing. Natalie Portman was very good and deserved her award. As for The Kids are Alright, I was actually disappointed. Not much of a plot that hasn't been done before, except for the gay aspect, and I found the acting (I am usually a big Annette Benning fan)disappointing. I do love a good movie!

JeanMac said...

The Kings Speech - saw the movie-excellent.