In two previous posts (here and here) I have given my initial reactions to the 9 films which are nominated for best picture.  Here are some themes and trends I found curious.

1.  The similarity in plot between Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Hugo is uncanny.  Absent father tragically killed.  Check.  Mysterious object needing a key.  Check.  Spooky/mysterious older man who is the ‘key’ to helping the boy move on.  Check.  Both of these films are someone’s Freudian PhD project.  Not to mention both of them have supporting actors from James Bond movies.  Creepy.

2.  The French Connection is so thick I can almost smell Jacques Pepin cooking something up to eat.  Let’s see, Hugo is set in a Paris train station, Midnight in Paris is, well, in Paris, War Horse reaches climax in France, The Artist is a French film with a French star and his accent as a major plot device.  Oddly, it was The Tree of Life which inexplicably won the Cannes Palm d’Or.  Go figure?

3.  Kids rule the day.  War Horse, Extremely, Hugo, The Descendants, Moneyball, and The Tree of Life all have significant roles for children.  Three films entire plot solely depends upon children.  These children are not happy children, though.  They all have grief issues:  Dead mothers, dead brothers, dead parents, and dead fathers.  The easiest childhood is the divorced child of Billy Bean (Brad Pitt) in Moneyball.  They all need a pastor.

4.  This year it is a battle of the superstar directors.  War Horse is a Spielberg production.  Scorsese was the genius behind Hugo.  Woody Allen is the  brilliance behind Midnight in Paris.  How’d you like to be the other six in the race?

5.  Eight of the nine films are period pieces.  Moneyball and Extremely are both recent, but still historical in that they are from a previous decade.  As I watched Extremely I remember thinking, “I used to have an answering machine just like that.”  My 12 year old would not know what an answering machine is.  Only The Descendants is perfectly contemporary.  However, and this might just be me reading too much in to make my point, the portrayal of life on Hawaii feels temporally distant (temporally distant seems like a Star Trek term).  Midnight in Paris is set now, but not the important parts.  All this nostalgia is fascinating.

6.  This used to be easier when only 5 films were nominated.  9 Movies represents a significant investment of time and money and a lot of popcorn.

7.  One last theme–the idea of the artist/writer/creative innovator is found in at least six of these films.  The Artist is about an actor, Extremely has the creative father, Hugo has the movie maker, Moneyball is the innovator who bases it all on a book written long ago, The Help is actually about the writing of a book, and Midnight in Paris is about a writer (a bunch of writers?).  This feels like blowback against an increasingly technological and scientific world.

WHO WILL WIN?  The only film that would make me angry if it won would be The Tree of Life.  Have I told you that I hate that movie?  I could see The Help winning and I could see Moneyball winning.  I don’t think they will, but I could see it.  War Horse has an outside shot.  It is a really good film.  The Descendants might win just because of the visceral reality of it and if the Academy had a tough year emotionally.  I don’t think Extremely can win.  It shouldn’t, and I don’t think it can.  For me, it boils down to The Artist, Hugo, and Midnight in Paris.  If any one of these three films won I would be happy.  My wife is pulling for Hugo.  I am pulling for Midnight In Paris because of the Hemingway connection and Owen Wilson is the greatest living actor of our time.  But I actually believe The Artist will win.  Hollywood loves itself more than anything else, and a movie about the tragic lives of actors in Hollywood will have the inside track.  But what do I know.  I just love movies.




With the exception of an absolutely wonderful day of worship with my church family on Sunday, the Greenbeans spent most of the weekend trying to watch as many of the best picture nominees as possible.  Here are my impressions so far; in the order we have seen them.

The Help–Okay, we saw this film about two months ago before we knew it would be nominated for best picture.  I think Kim liked it more than I did; but I have to say it was a very good movie.  I have heard some chatter from some corners that it is not very historically accurate, be that as it may, it was a very good movie.  The acting was spectacular and, as a man who spent his childhood in a racist, bigoted culture, I can tell you it did capture the ugly essence of racism.
Midnight in Paris–This was the first of three movies on Friday.  Kim and I purchased it on demand while the kids were at school.  I loved this movie.  It has all of the strengths of the classic Woody Allen movies without the weaknesses (an unending narcissism, fatalism, and self importance).  As a writer and reader who loves T. S. Eliot and Ernest Hemingway I find the premise absolutely engrossing.  I was hooked.  This movie has the added benefit of staring the greatest living actor of our time:  Owen Wilson.
The Tree of Life–Two hours, which regretfully, I will never get back.  I hated this movie.  I understand the metaphor and the images and the ‘put everything into perspective’ aspect but give me a break.  I need something linear.  Is clear exposition too much to ask for?  The only saving grace is that the acting is really good.  Too bad the actors are so rarely on screen or ever saying anything.  My 17 year old daughter saw this one with us (again, on demand in the basement) and kept saying, “make it stop!”
War Horse–We saw this film Friday evening (finishing the triple feature Friday) with our youngest daughter (12) at the historic Dragonfly Cinema in Port Orchard.  I liked this movie even though it featured an animal as the lead; and usually I do not like animal oriented movies.  I think what I liked most was the portrayal of the global impact of war on all the earth; man, land, and beast.  By like, I don’t mean that I enjoyed it, I mean it was moving.  It made me think of Isaiah’s prophecy of of the wolf lying down with the lamb as the context for universal peace.
Moneyball–Again, we purchased this on demand on Saturday evening.  I’m not a very big fan of Brad Pitt (I can’t forgive him for ruining Achilles in Troy) so two Pitt movies in two days was pushing it.  The film was good but the cast was what made it.  Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and all the character actors did a fantastic job.  On the negative side, the story is nice but it is not that compelling.  The movie has hard work to do–it is trying to make us feel sorry for million dollar athletes and professional sports clubs.  As a man who lives in a community that pulls for our miserable Mariners every year, it is hard to root for the A’s.  A few reviews say that it is to baseball what “The Social Network” was for Facebook.  I’m sorry, but no.  “The Social Network” was a far better film.

Okay, those are the ones we’ve seen.  I’ll update you later when I’ve finished the rest and will hopefully have a blog predicting the winner, as well as a pick or two in the other categories before the Academy Awards.