Regarding Oscar…

Usually when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announces its nominees for best picture, I commence a movie watching frenzy to catch up on all the ones I missed. One year, I had not seen any of them. But this has been a great year at the movies. This year I have seen all but one.

I possess no peculiar aptitude for film. But I do LOVE a well told story. For your consideration: viewing notes on eight of the nine.

The Artist A visual feast. A poignant tale. Storytelling without words. Gorgeous. Read my full review HERE.

The Descendants Life is messy. It is wonderful and awful and confusing and ecstatic and funny and crazy and good. This film has all of that. Provocative and painful. Humorous and healing. I hurt for Max and his family. I grieve over terrible choices and deep hurts. But I also cheer them on as they refuse to give up. As they carve a way forward. As they become family all over again. Redemption. Unexpected, but beautiful.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close One of the better book to film translations I have seen. In fact, and this will surprise you, in some ways I believe the movie was even better. Partly because of the genius of young Thomas Horn. He articulates the eccentricities of our quirky, brilliant little hero with an artistry that would be exceptional in someone twice his age.

Oscar Schell loses his father on September 11th. He keeps him close by fulfilling a secret mission his dad left for him. The mission will push him to do things that terrify him. It will people his life. It will be a bridge to his mother. It will make him brave. And it will give him one last chance to hear his father say he is proud of him.

There was audible sobbing in the theater when I saw this film. Oscar’s grief is our grief. He teaches us how to speak it. How to share it. How to keep breathing, even when everything seems extremely loud and incredibly close.

The Help Another admirable adaptation. Casting is superb. It is remarkable to me how like these women are to the women I saw in my head as I read. The storytelling is clean and uncluttered. And this story is very important. It takes us inside a world that many of us barely begin to understand. And it reminds us that some of the most courageous work in the civil rights movement (as in every work that has changed the hearts of men) is done by ordinary men and women whose names you will never know.

Midnight in Paris What if the things we taste and see and touch are not the truest things? What if there is a world more real than this one if only we knew how to find it? This film is a luscious, whimsical arabesque though an extraordinary city, in the company of extraordinary persons. Magic! More thoughts HERE.

Moneyball It is a great story. One of courage and tenacity. The acting is very good. But as a whole, I do not find the film to be remarkable. It seems somewhat disjointed, with random scenes that contribute little to the overall story. Just my opinion…

The Tree of Life Life is not tidy. It rarely ties itself up into neat little packages. Not surprisingly then, art that lingers in my brain and pricks my soul is art that reflects this. More questions than answers. Willing to live with mystery. Paradox. This film is such. More HERE.

War Horse An extravagantly beautiful film. The cinematography is genius. Even stark, desperate scenes are framed with such an exquisite eye, such deliberate artistry, that it gives me chills. It is a heart warming story, to be sure. Do not hate me if I admit that it seems a bit contrived at times. But, we meet some heroic and generous characters, and witness noble graces. And those are in lamentably short supply.

I have yet to see Hugo. It is not playing in my town at present.

I would not presume to predict which of these will win. There are others far more qualified to do that. I can tell you that if I were choosing I would place Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close at the top with The Descendants a close second. I will also say that, though I purchase only a few films, I will buy Midnight in Paris and The Tree of Life because I am not nearly done with them yet.

Which films have you loved this year? Do you have an Oscar pick, prediction or preference? Which film should have been nominated, but was not?