The bitching could not be held to one post. Hell, it couldn’t be held to two posts. It is interesting to see how complaining can develop into its own series when you really try.
It is inevitable that when the Oscar nominations come down each year, there are going to be some things that irritate you, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that this year was worse than most. Some years I walk away from the Oscar noms with a smile on my face. They don’t get everything right, but they get close. This year was rough. I mean difficult-to-stomach rough. Made me cry a little bit on the inside (only on the inside though, swear to God). Hopefully they will get things a little closer to right next year, and if they don’t, I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it then as well. That’s the rough thing about the Internet–it gives everyone a soap box. Sooner or later there will be some form of Internet protesting. I can imagine a world where we have Internet sit-ins to protest famine in Africa. Anyway, bitching resumed:
The whole of Let the Right One In
I’m gonna go ahead and echo Quaid’s sentiments about how much of a travesty it is that this film did not get some recognition. Any recognition. Something. A carrot. A nomination for cinematography. Music. The fact that this movie got no nominations is a testament to the fact that the Academy’s judgment was way-the-fuck off this year. Let the Right One In is one of those horror films that pushes the genre to its absolute limit and then steps beyond it, telling a tender emotional story of two children, one a vampire girl, the other a human boy, who form a bond and use that bond to ward off the cruelty of the world around them. It is the best thing to come out of Sweden since Peter Stormare.
The look of this film is absolutely phenomenal. It uses a winter landscape for a storytelling purpose better than any film I’ve seen since Fargo. Looking at inch after inch of snowfall in this film, you sense the need for the characters to be stronger than the world they exist in. The director, Tomas Alfredson, populates the film with a barrage of obstacles for the two heroes, from negligent parents to violent school bullies to a lack of bloody sustenance around midnight. The film is some times cheeky about it’s double identity as horror movie and indie drama, but it wears the suit well–at the heart is always a tender story between a boy and a girl fixed on the margins of their world, finding a connection where they least expect it.
I didn’t see many foreign films this year, but it’s hard to imagine any being better than this one. It is so fresh and unexpectedly affecting. When it was over (and this will sound strange considering the film’s climax, which you will have to see to believe) I was almost hugging myself from delight. It is a travesty that it was not acknowledged by Academy voters. I can imagine why (the horror connotations probably outlawed it) but it is tough to see true artistry be ignored.
The sets, music, lighting, and costumes of Valkyrie
This movie got a bad wrap all the way around. I guess it is the price of having Tom Cruise as your star. It seems like the second you cast him in any movie, the project loses a little bit of critical esteem. I’ll admit that I was skeptical when I saw that he was going to be in a historical drama about a failed attempt to assassinate Hitler at the end of WWII; it felt like there should have been a voice-over in the trailer that said “no one could stop Hitler, not even Tom Cruise.” Based on the reputation that Cruise dragged along with him, it felt like Bryan Singer’s film was unfairly dismissed as popcorn entertainment, when it is actually an effectively told and executed thriller that tells a story everyone should know about.
But beyond the quality of the story and the performances (which is considerable), I was surprised that the more technically focused parts of the film (art direction, costuming, music, cinematography) were not acknowledged. These aspects of a movie tend to be pretty esoteric for most audiences, but they are such a large part of creating a believable environment, and each of them are absolutely outstanding in Valkyrie.
The music and editing of John Ottman create a throbbing intensity and sense of dread that the film can play out against. The cinematography of Newton Thomas Sigel is interesting in that it is never dark–it creates a bright, elegant environment for Berlin, 1944 that playfully contrasts how the state is coming apart at the seams. The production design of Lily Kilvert and Patrick Lumb and the costumes of Joanna Johnston play into this creation as well; by designing the sets and costumes to accent the crescendo of German opulence, there is a greater weight added to the possibility of it all crashing down, either from the Valkyrie plot or the war itself.
I’m usually not a stickler for technical awards. But with this year’s nominations, the Academy did not spread things around very well, generally just nominating the Best Picture contenders over and over again with several throws to The Dark Knight and a few random ones to Iron Man and Australia. Valkyrie wasn’t a perfect film, but I enjoyed it a great deal and found it to be technically excellent, on par with the best films of the year. It is a shame that the Academy couldn’t even bring themselves to acknowledge it on that level.
The screenplay of Iron Man
There were few films that I enjoyed more this year than Iron Man, and as a piece of popcorn entertainment, that is a rarity for me. But this movie pushed the envelope and tried to do things with the comic book-movie formula that I hadn’t seen before. It sported a wonderful lead performance from Robert Downey, Jr. (rightfully acknowledged for his work in Tropic Thunder) and with the guidance of Downey and Swingers-own Jon Favreau behind the camera, they created a film that was just as rich in witty dialogue and character development as it was in thriling action and jaw-dropping special effects.
2008 represented a turning point for this type of movie. Obviously, The Dark Knight pushed the genre more than any other comic book-film I’ve seen, but Iron Man created a world that wasn’t austere and foreboding but more colorful and comic, telling its story effectively while presenting us with characters who were fully rounded, not just puppets for the plot to navigate.
Obviously, the Best Adapted Screenplay category is packed every year, as most of the Best Picture nominees are usually based on other material and most BP nominees get screenplay nominations. This year was no exception, as Slumdog, Button, The Reader, and Frost/Nixon are all up in that category. The only non-BP is Doubt, which is deserving. I can get behind Slumdog and The Reader as well, but the Academy seriously should have shat on the other two–the Best Adapted Screenplay category should not turn into the “you got a Best Picture nomination, so you’re automatically guaranteed admission into this category as well” nomination. They need to liven things up, and acknowledging Iron Man would have been the perfect way to do that.
At this point, I will cease bitching about the wrongs that were perpetrated in this year’s nominations. I’m sure you will get to hear plenty more bitching from me this Sunday when the Chop Shop staff blog live during the ceremony. And we want you there, bitching in real time and letting us know what you think. So be sure to come back to ChopShop Sunday at 7:30PM, EST.