Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Two awards-season reviews and the Oscar snubs

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Though its visual achievements are extraordinary and there are a few beautiful moments in the film, it ultimately misses its many opportunities to make any statement on the nature of time and love. Instead the film revolves around Benjamin's and Daisy's attempts to have sex with each other, and when they do, it is the supposed climax (no pun intended). The final scene between them is borderline offensive, challenging the audience to find love and beauty in an adulterous act with a teenager. The cold, impersonal feel it gets from being shot in digital only enhances the movies distance from its audience. Although there are certainly enjoyable aspects to the film, its story's shortcomings are as curious as the character himself.
Dan-o-Meter: 6 out of 10

The Wrestler - Mickey Rourke gives a fantastic performance as a man who makes mistakes and is beaten down, yet still fights to overcome life's trials. He plays a wrestler who's career is put in jeopardy by physical heart problems, and who's relationships are in shambles due to emotional heart problems. It is a truly touching story of how he tries to mend his relationships, yet due to his own mistakes, as well as the bad hand of cards life deals him, he is unable to find meaning in anything except the life that put him where he is. Unfortunately, there is a gratuitous amount of sexuality/nudity that can hardly be called necessary to moving the story forward. Yet that is one of the few flaws in an otherwise moving film.
Dan-o-Meter: 7 out of 10

Earlier this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released their nominations for the Academy Awards. I am usually pretty excited by this, but the noticeable absence of two films/directors is simply mind-boggling and solidifies the Academy's reputation as a snobby, art-house loving film association that is easily seduced by films made simply to win a statuette. 
I will let the reviews speak for themselves, but suffice it to say that the Dark Knight is a cinematic piece of art that cemented itself as a classic by wowing 94% of critics and writing its name into box-office history. Yet Nolan, the film, and the script received a total of zero nods from voters. Other than a nomination for Ledger's already legendary performance, the Academy shoved the Dark Knight into the slots reserved for films that aren't artsy or depressing enough for the "real" awards.  The fact that the Dark Knight actually is a dark and culturally relevant film speaks volumes to the Academy's contempt for blockbuster films and their audiences.
Gran Torino and Clint Eastwood were also royally shafted. Was his performance inferior to that of Million Dollar Baby? And is the Reader, a film that barely registers a fresh on Rottentomatoes, really one of the top five motion pictures of the year? He also could have been nominated in the Original Song category, but again, the Academy missed the boat. Bruce Springsteen is also unavailable for comment.
The arrogance of Academy voters is astounding and will probably be reflected in the Oscar ratings in a few weeks. Although I think some phenomenal films and performances were nominated, I will always remember the '09 Oscars as the year when the Reader got nominated.

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