It’s Oscar season

Let me just put out there since the time that I mentioned that BoDeans song in my previous post, I hear it everywhere. I know it’s possible that my awareness of it is suddenly heightened, but I don’t see how that can be. I’ve been craving hearing the song for some time now and those cravings went unsatisfied. But just the other day I heard it pumping out of Anthropologie  as I was walking by, and I just heard it coming from the downstairs Milio’s when I went and got a soda. It’s like when you learn a new word and suddenly it’s the only word anyone ever uses.

Ok, that aside, let’s get started on this genuinely awesome movie season. Of what I consider note, I have seen Slumdog Millionaire, Doubt and Milk so far. If I had to pick best pic from these three, I surprise myself when I say I think I would go with Milk. I really enjoyed Slumdog (for the most part — what is it with Danny Boyle and toilet scenes?) and thought that it was an awesome tale and a great love story. It was pretty creative and neat-looking and the soundtrack accompanying the images was outstanding. The main character — I consider Jamal the Young Adult to be the main guy — was just terrific: all hero, all innocent, all lovely. And his acting was great — understated, patient and true. But, for whatever reason, the movie just hasn’t exactly stayed with me as I thought it would.

Then I saw Doubt. What an acting tour de force. Kent Williams, the main movie reviewer in the Isthmus, said that he thought the acting was a problem because the three main actors all had such different styles that it seemed they were in three different movies. With all due respect to Mr. Williams (whom I do respect a great deal), I totally disagree. I thought that Amy Adams, Meryl Streep and PSH all worked beautifully together to achieve a great piece of work. Additionally, I thought that the play was brought to the screen with love and care, but also in a very cinematic way. For example, when PSH gives his sermon on gossip, the movie shows us the unforgettable image of the feathers falling from the rooftop. This is an image that would not be feasibly rendered from the stage and it’s the very best things about film — you can do anything. Ultimately, though, I was disappointed in the ending. Not in the fact that Sister Aloysius got her way or that Sister James didn’t have to be there when Father Flynn gave his goodbyes, but in the very, very ending. I found it nearly incredible that Sister Aloysius — immediately upon telling Sister James that her lie had confirmed for her her own truth — would break down into tears expressing her doubts. I just didn’t buy it. And I don’t think it was necessary. While she was a cold woman with an unmalleable agenda, she was not a one-dimensional character that the audience needed to see some form of humanity in. That was amply demostrated, I thought, by her talk with Donald Miller’s mother. As she struggles to understand what Mrs. Miller is telling her, we can see in her eyes that while she doesn’t like it, she knows the world isn’t so black and white. I don’t know: for me, it just didn’t make a lot of sense.

Then I saw Milk. I forced myself to see it. I admit, I was not keen on it. Ever since Sean Penn did I Am Sam, I haven’t been very interested in him. But since it’s award season and I knew I’d be asked if I saw it and, if I hadn’t, I’d be inundated with the age-old, “You HAVE to”s that I decided to suck it up and sit down and watch. Oh dear. I LOVED it. I thought that Sean Penn was sheer genius. He was loving without being sappy, funny without being cheesy and charming with all the sincerity in the world. And I thought James Franco gave an outstanding performance — subtle and smiley. The scene in which he shoos out all of the campaign workers and insists that he and Harvey have dinner may have been my favorite scene this movie season (I know — still lots to see). It felt so emotional, compassionate and loving to me. It felt honest and not forced. Like the whole film, really. I also liked that Dan White’s motivations were not really explored, but just gently suggested (is he just struggling to make ends meet? is he in the closet? is he just a bigot? is he just lost?). Because we don’t know what his thinking really was, I think it best not to draft a theory and make the man’s actions fit that theory, but instead to lay it out for the audience: this is who he was to those around him; we don’t know why he did what he did; your guess is as good as mine.  And as far as a cinematic piece of film goes, I thought it lovely.  I loved looking at Penn’s and Franco’s faces close-up — seeing the lines from both stress and smiling — and the candlelight march is about as haunting and beautiful a scene as there can be.  I just really embrace this film.

Still to see: Frost/Nixon, Revolutionary Road, The Reader (I am not into WWII movies but feel compelled — please tell me if I needn’t be), The Wrestler, Gran Torino and Last Chance Harvey.  Am I forgetting anything?  Because Kristin declared Benjamin Button to be ‘crap-tastic,’ I think I am nixing that one from my list.  Can’t say I’m disappointed.  

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14 Responses to “It’s Oscar season”


  1. 1 herculesrob January 7, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    No, you HAVE to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It’s a crime if you don’t. It’s epic with an intriguing plot, exceptional acting (Pitt’s best performance yet), and superb directing from Fincher. You seem to be interested in Oscar season, therefore this film is a MUST.

    I’m catching Frost/Nixon tonight, which will round out the five films I think will be Best Picture nominees: Slumdog Millionaire, Milk, The Dark Knight, Frost/Nixon, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

    What are your predictions?

  2. 2 gracieandkate January 7, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Oh dear. I HAVE to? Alright, I’ll put it back on the list.

    I feel I need to see a few more before I feel comfortable picking, but it’s hard to disagree with your five. I was fortunate enough to see The Dark Knight on the IMAX, which was so awesome. I don’t know if my memory is just foggy or if I’m right, but I feel like this year has a plethora of great contenders. Usually I think there are just one or two outstanding movies, but this year feels richer.

  3. 3 Kayt January 8, 2009 at 3:59 am

    It take us too long to get movies here.

    (sigh)

  4. 4 Sara H January 8, 2009 at 9:04 am

    I’m such a slacker on movie watching. I still haven’t seen some of LAST year’s Oscar picks. I just never get to the theater. However, without having seen any of them, I am always willing to bet on Kate Winslet and I think Revolutionary Road will be first on my list for DVD. And I have a total aversion to Brad Pitt unless he is playing a casino robber, so I don’t know if I’ll see Button. Even though it has Cate Blanchett, another fave.

    I did see Marley and Me last weekend with the fam. Not quite Oscar bait. 🙂

  5. 5 gwendolyngarden January 8, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Not having seen any of those movies (although Milk looked good enough to put on my netflix queue)I thought I might break down and go see Valkyrie. Although not a Tom C. fan, I think it would be interesting… unfortunately I watched a History Channel thing all about it so I know what happens. Well we all know what HAPPENS but I know the specifics of the movie.

  6. 6 gracieandkate January 8, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    How was Marley & Me? I’ve heard mixed things. The preview for it looks uber-cute and if I see Button, I have to see it to pay penance for supporting Brad.

    I actually am kinda a Cruise fan, but I’m still not really intrigued by Valkyrie (see comment re: WW2 movies, supra). Let me know if you see it.

    So, the Golden Globes are on Sunday night and Milk was snubbed from Best Pic. The nominees are: Slumdog, Button, Revolutionary Road, the Reader & Frost/Nixon. This is troubling as Rev Rd. isn’t even here yet. Frost/Nixon FINALLY opens tomorrow. So, if I’m going to do my cinematic, if not constitutional duty, that means I’d have to at least see the Reader, Frost, Button & Marley & Me by Sunday night. I suppose I could just issue a voucher that said I HAD to see Marley & Me while it was still in the theaters and it wouldn’t have to be this weekend. Lately, though, I find that if I don’t see a movie within the first few weeks of it being out, I lose theater interest and just accept that I’ll see it on DVD. I wonder what that’s about because I do love movie-theater-going.

  7. 7 Terry January 8, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    I don’t claim to know the truth about the ending of Doubt, but it didn’t strike me that Sr. Aloysius was expressing doubt about the the priest’s actions. I thought it had more to do with the fact that, as one sees all the complicated layers of “wrongness”– the priest and the boy, the horrible truth of the boy’s homelife, the fact that men in the Catholic church get promotions for their criminal behavior, etc etc. — I felt she was expressing much larger doubts about what the hell it’s all about and just who is in charge of this grand plan. You notice that Sr. James loved to have things simple…kept her faith pretty solid.

    Anyway, what do I know? But I like my interpretation of the meaning of her doubts better than thinking she was second guessing what her instincts had told her was true.

    I loved the complexity of the story. And as an 11 year old attending Catholic elementary school during the time that movie was set, I can vouch for all of the set as quite authentic…right down to the pole with the claws to change the light bulbs!

  8. 8 Sara H January 9, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Marley and Me was OK. I’d probably watch it again, but only at home if I was doing something while watching, knitting or whatever. The Grogans actually aren’t all that interesting, so the movie gets slow in the middle, and I feel like they could have done a better job using the dog as the thread through all the stories – sometimes, the dog is just there getting in the way. The majority of the theater was sobbing by the end, though. I’m getting teary just thinking about it. I’m pretty open to manipulation by moviemakers, though, and also a sucker for dogs.

  9. 9 gracieandkate January 9, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Oh, I agree that she wasn’t necessarily expressing doubts about Father Flynn. I just sort of felt that the whole meltdown was a bit much and it didn’t, for me, jibe with how her character had been revealed to us. I just felt it a tad jarring. I did think, though, that the sets were AMAZING. And the costumes. I would think it would get some serious Oscar attention in those departments.

  10. 10 Terry January 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm

    You know, I know what you mean about the “jarring” aspect of the ending scene. Steve and I saw this play on Broadway and loved it and all the performances. (and I totally agree with you about how well they adapted it for film, since the play was of course bare bone sets and only the 4 characters of the two nuns, Fr. Flynn and the boy’s mom). I don’t recall the ending scene of the play being so jarring so maybe it had something to do with how Meryl played it (but I do think she was tremendous…yet so was the Broadway actress). I don’t recall thinking that at the end of the play that Sr. Aloysius was suddenly out of character, so maybe Meryl could have expressed the same distraught feelings of her world and spiritual views collapsing with a just a little less – uh- whatever the word might be. I think she could have been believably emotional and still be in character. So I agree with you. Wish I could see that scene from the play one more time to see if my memory is playing tricks on me.

    Two entries in your blog!! Can you tell I am procrastinating on work??

  11. 11 Mary January 9, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I think that as Sister A reflected on the whole process she became very overwhelmed. Still strong but was questioning the so-called “grand scheme”. Too much for her at that moment. I LOVED the movie.

  12. 12 gracieandkate January 9, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Yes, mama, I get what she was supposed to be feeling, it just didn’t sit right with me. Seemed out of context. I agree with Terry that maybe she was just overyplaying it. It just seemed a little much. And I love the comments! Yay!!

  13. 13 Kristin January 12, 2009 at 1:57 pm

    I stand by my assessment of Benjamin Button. Crap-asaurus. Rex.

  14. 14 gracieandkate January 12, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    Hee hee.


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