Everytime I start writing this blog, I start with the worst of the five, which was Benjamin Button. And then I get pissed at how such an ordinary movie was nominated. So here's the short version of my rant: Guy starts old and gets young- potential for lots of good stuff. In fact, I hope it gets some technical Oscars because they made it look really cool. And then this guy meets some mildly interesting people. When I say mildly, I mean that if they were people in the real world, mildly interesting. For a movie, fairly dull. And Brad Pitt stares at them with a slight smile while they talk as if he's learning something new. And then they get old and die. But he gets young. And there's a love story, but these lovers are doomed - doomed to spend fifteen to twenty or so happy years together. Wow. What a tragedy. Then he gets young. The end. And then add a somewhat distracting backstory about Hurricane Katrina. And then have the main character become omniscient at just one point in the story where he suddenly knows every tiny even that happened in this one 30 minute segment of time and exactly what would have happened if things has been slightly different. And THEN make the cinematography really pretty and play lots of sad crying music so that stupid people need to cry and think it's such a wonderful movie. For this Oscar season, I will less be rooting for my favorites than I will be rooting against this movie. Thank you. Yes, that was the short version. OK - now The End.
The Reader was pretty good. It's not really a Holocaust movie as much as it shows the aftermath of the Holocause in Germany, a story that isn't told as often to the people in the US. When I was in Germany in 2004, one of the highlights of the tour (one of dozens) was a guided tour of Bacharach, a small town along the Rhine. This guy was a child during WWII, and his story is about the aftermath and his relationship with Americans. While The Reader was good, I don't really think it's good enough to be nominated as one of the top five. But it's related to the Holocaust, so the Academy had no choice. If you really need a reason to see it, it's the copious amounts of naked that Kate Winslet is in the first 20 minutes or so. There's a half-assed attempt to show the movie out of chronological order. I think it's OK to put a later scene at the beginning of the movie and work up to it. OR have the whole movie cut back and forth. But it didn't for the first half and then did in the second. That didn't work for me. Some parts at the end fall apart, too. But it's good a renter, I think, or a movie to check out for WWII and history nerds.
Speaking of history nerds, I really liked Frost/Nixon. But I think my appreciation of the movie comes from my own desire to learn more about this time period. It's well made, it's well acted, and it's well written. And it will be forgotten in a few years. Years from now people will look back on a list of the movies nominated this year. They will see The Reader and Frost/Nixon and wonder if this was a down year for movies. That's almost too bad, since I think it was a great year. As is true so many times, these were only nominated because they were released at the end of the year. I did just get the original Front/Nixon interviews this past week from Netflix. I'll probably watch that later this afternoon after my computer finishes processing it.
Milk was a great movie. I think Milk actually stands a chance to win the Oscar for two reasons. The first is that it might be the alternate in the Slumdog Millionaire/Benjamin Button slugfest. It stands the best chance of getting any votes from people who don't want to vote for one of the two favorites. The second is that there could be some resentment left over from Crash defeating Brokeback Mountain, and perhaps the Hollywood types want a gay movie to win the Oscar (though they should remember Lord of the Rings and realize that it already happened). The only thing that really bugged me about Milk was the Goblin II. First, why is the son of the original Green Goblin making out with Spicoli? Weird. But many people said that they liked his performance. I've never been a huge fan. It looked like he smiled and brooded through his parts. But Spicoli's acting more than made up for it.
Finally, Slumdog Millionaire. I said earlier that I was rooting less for movies than I was against BB. Now that I'm writing about Slumdog Millionaire, I think I take it back. Damn, I really liked it. It was different enough from anything else to be interesting. A movie about the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Here was a movie that you could be curious about and actually have some pay off. I don't remember if I mentioned this when I wrote about it earlier this year, but Frieda Pinto has to be one of the most beautiful people alive. That made the movie much happier to watch, I think. Definitely good times. I also have a feeling that Slumdog Millionaire, more than any of these others, will be worth watching again.
Since I also saw all but one (I missed Richard Jenkins in The Visitor) of the movies with the Best Actors, I'll mention that while Penn will probably win, I'm rooting for Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. For Animated Movie, Wall-E will win, but Kung-Fu Panda would actually be cool as well. The only documentary I saw was Man on Wire. Really cool. If you have Netflix, it's available to watch instantly right now. It's definitely worth streaming that to your TV.