Main image
11th April
written by Mad Cow

The Academy, in what can only be a last-ditch move to get more people into theatres, cited ten nominees for best picture this year. Does anyone think that “Up” will win over “Avatar”? When Liberty Press readers see this you may already know who won, but I hope will be curious about who I think should have won. Scrambling to see them all, I paid outlandishly to be able to see my tenth one last night. What we do for love!

The Hurt Locker – 4 cowbells – Rightly rivaling Avatar with nine Oscar nominations, The Hurt Locker is close to being the perfect film. With Kathryn Bigelow’s incredible direction, we become the soldiers; feel their fear, exhaustion and personal anguish. Soldiers in Iraq dismantle street bombs and dodge snipers and so do we. The acting, tight editing, and cinematography all come together to bring us to the scene “on the ground” with suspense, horror, and deep-seated questions (not answers) about war and people. The “action” never overshadows the characters. Jeremy Renner as the hot shot hero and Anthony Mackie as the saner partner are both brilliant. If Bigalow wins Best Director, she will be the first woman in the history of the academy to do so. You go girl! This is my choice to win the top award.

Avatar – 3 cowbells – This film will likely get the nod for Best Picture, in spite of its racist, simplistic plot, mediocre dialogue, and lengthy self-indulgence. One cannot ignore the beauty and technical splendor conjured up by James Cameron, including the subtle and effective use of 3-D. If wisdom prevails, Cameron will not be chosen for best director and it will also lose the Cinematography prize, while capturing several others.

An Education – 4 cowbells – A superbly crafted period piece about a sixteen-year-old English girl in 1961, the joy of this film is its full use of every character. Jenny (Carey Mulligan) can’t help but be swept up by older man David (Peter Sarsgaard) who offers her the world of concerts, restaurants, and even Paris. Her naïve parents (Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour), trusting and hoping that David will help Jenny get into Oxford, willingly believe David’s lies. Our hearts ache for Jenny and her parents as things fall apart. The screenplay by the genius Nick Hornby is based on a memoir by Lynn Barber. Director Lone Scherfig, a woman by the way, caught an historical moment with aplomb. The film certainly rivals The Hurt Locker but was probably marginally easier to bring off. Question: Was it important that David is Jewish, a fact made much of in the movie but hardly mentioned by the critics?

Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire – 3 ½ cowbells With the huge impact of talented actors Gabourney “Gabby” Sidibe and Mo’Nique we get to see what life can be like for some poor Black teens.  We have many “Black” movies that feature the “wretched poor, downtrodden and abusive” theme like this one. I can see that we need so much more in the way of sophisticated, textured and subtle dramas about all people of color, especially the educated middle and upper-classes. Still, there is something here that needs our attention.

Up in the Air – 4 cowbells- George Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick are an unbeatable threesome in this satisfying, funny and well-written movie. Clooney’s job is to fire people and Kendrick, fresh from college, thinks she can do it better. The scene in which the eager young pup of an executive explains to the older twosome what she expects in a husband is worth the price of the movie. Plus, the social commentary is importantly woven into the film without sentimentality or pathos. Do we want a world in which the only answer to economic growth is to throw people away?

A Serious Man – 3 cowbells – The Coen brothers bring us a funny spoof about Jewish life in this contemporary story of Job. There are lots of laughs, many of which are “in jokes.” The Coens are so smart that any of their films are worth it and this one eschews their usual over-the-top violence.

Inglourious Basterds – 2 ½ cowbells – It’s evident here and elsewhere that Quentin Tarantino is a talented screenwriter and director. The movie is a fantasy, but about what? An metaphor about the nihilism of the arts? The efficacy – or non-efficacy – of revenge? A group of Jewish soldiers is sent to occupied France to kill, brutally and single-handedly, all Nazis they happen upon, regardless of rank. The are decidedly not a special intelligence unit, but a brute one. When it appears that they can eradicate a bunch – enough to end the war – all at once, they go for it, but in the fashion of Get Smart. The film is tedious at times but often interesting, in spite of the exaggerated bad-guy Nazis and overdone tough vigilante leader played by Brad Pitt. So, why does it all “end” in a movie theatre?

District Nine – 2 ½ cowbells – If you choose to see this clever movie (great special effects notwithstanding) I recommend that you see this it at home, close to a sink. If sentient beings looking like this bunch ever land on earth, we’ll need an army of entomologists to desensitize us. This is a high-pitched techno Twilight Zone with some moral lessons thrown in about the treatment of minority groups. But it’s icky, not just with blood, but with the bug-like excretions and what-not of the repulsive aliens. Be forewarned.

Up – 3 cowbells – This animated film with the 3-D option is a lot of fun, portrays good women supporting characters, an apparently Asian boy star, funny script and scenes and true companionship and love. It’s hard to compare it to the un-animated movies, especially since this film is mostly directed at children.

The Blind Side – 3 cowbells – What’s not to like? This sort-of true story of Michael Oher of the Baltimore Ravens, moves right along with a snappy plot, good portrayals, funny scenes, and a blockbuster performance by Sandra Bulloch. It’s a feel-good movie of the best kind, even though it turns the story of a Black person into the story of a white person (a common American maneuver). I’m just not sure why it should be nominated for the best picture of the year.

Postscript: If there is justice in the world neither Jeff Bridges nor Maggy Gyllenhaal will get awards for Crazy Heart, one of the most annoying films of the year. Bridges is an accomplished actor, so he can play an alcoholic loser and show his disgusting unwashed belly and throw up on cue. So what? Gyllenhaal simply slithers around the set with two expressions and there is no chemistry between them. This is The Wrestler with a country singer. Yawn.

Comments are closed.