Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscar roundup

I had a really fun time this weekend at the movies with Piper, watching seven Best Picture nominees in a row – Toy Story 3, 127 Hours, The Kids Are Alright, True Grit, The Fighter, Winter’s Bone and Black Swan.

I met Piper at the theater at 10 am for Toy Story 3, which I thought was the best movie of the day in terms of emotional impact. Maybe it’s because I’m invested in the characters after two excellent prequels; maybe it’s because I’m such a fan of The Velveteen Rabbit, or How Toys Become Real as a subject matter. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who believes that movie would be a strong Best Picture Oscar contender in a weaker field, and if the Academy didn’t handicap animated and foreign-language films by putting them in their own subcategorical ghettos for awards. There really should be a “Best Drama” and “Best Comedy” to balance the playing field if they are going to keep those categories.

Anyway, we both thought 127 Hours was a really hard film to watch. I think Danny Boyle is a great director in the sense he has such a unique style and flair, but the subject was a killer. Not to mention that decapitation and other bodily mutilations appeared in four of the nominated movies (five, if you count Mr. and Mrs. Potatohead having their body parts pulled off by screaming daycare toddlers).

The Kids Are Alright had its funny moments, which was a welcome change after sitting through 127 Hours. It’s hard for me to watch movies like that because of all the issues I have with birth families, compulsory monogamy and what might have been if I’d been allowed to make different choices during my transition. But it was definitely the lightweight movie of the group – only the superb acting by the leads makes it BP worthy, and Julianne Moore was robbed of a nomination in a strong field this year.

True Grit was surprisingly good, although I’m a fan of westerns to begin with. I am not, however, a big fan of the Cohen Brothers, but they made this remake into a very accessible film, and Hailee Steinfeld was amazing! Fittingly this year, she’s the most inspired debut performance of a young actress I can remember since Natalie Portman’s debut in The Professional.

The Fighter also took me a little by surprise. Christian Bale was fantastic – I really didn’t recognize him; he lost himself so completely in the role. It was better than I expected, but didn’t quite reach my standards of BP winner. Million Dollar Baby reduced me to a blubbery puddle of goo, and this was no Million Dollar Baby.

After The Fighter, Piper left because she’d seen everything else except for The King’s Speech, which wasn’t until 7 am Sunday morning, so I watched the last two with Rebecca, who was sitting next to us throughout. Winter’s Bone was an interesting movie, but unfortunately it suffered from two things – my highest expectations and that I was distracted by the noisy couple next to me, talking and eating food from noisy plastic wrapping. It’s the kind of movie that I’d have to watch again to fully appreciate, and it’s too bad that this little indie film didn’t pull off any upsets Sunday.

Finally, Black Swan started at 11:45 pm, also a very hard movie to watch, as Darren Aronofsky’s work sometimes is. I don’t like scary movies much, so near the end I spent a lot of time with my eyes covered – I’m such a marshmallow. The ending was good though, and that’s important. As a mind-f**k, it doesn’t hold a candle to my all-time favorite, David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.

The final three movies in the marathon were Inception, The Social Network and The King’s Speech, but since I’d seen the first and third, I didn’t feel like sitting through Inception just to see The Social Network. Perhaps in hindsight, knowing how many awards it would pick up, I should have. I’m glad that Inception got its due in the technical categories, although Chris Nolan should have gotten a directing nod over Tom Hooper (the eventual winner). Just my opinion, of course – I didn’t think The King’s Speech was that great.

In between True Grit and The Fighter, Piper and I went to Shake Shack to grab a bit to eat – it was my first time there. They only sell burgers and hot dogs as entrees, but the frozen custard was really good. The burger was like a fresh In ‘n’ Out Burger, but smaller, so a good choice if you’re not too hungry. And since they provided us with $20 gift cards for the concession stand, I also ate a fair amount of movie food, which was pretty gross but convenient.

One more busy week at work and then I should be winding down a bit. There’s also an OLNY leadership meeting on Wednesday to talk about how to clean up Poly Cocktails, so I’ll be going back to Diana’s place in Brooklyn for that. Plus, I'm looking forward to seeing Puck Tuesday night as they pass through New York back to school from visiting Ryan in New Jersey.