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Academy Awards nominees, 2012

It’s that time of the year again! Here are my comments on this year’s Oscar nominees (the 2011 post is here).

Best Picture
The Artist
The Descendants
Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close
The Help
Hugo
Midnight in Paris
Moneyball
The Tree of Life
War Horse

The Artist has been the clear contender for this category for a long time now and will probably win the coveted prize. Well done for them! And the Weinstein Company shall rejoice for having grabbed this gem before anyone else. Regardless, it is a deserving winner, so no more Weinstein-related grumpery from my part!
There’s always that tiny little doubt that Hugo may pull an upset, much like the Departed did a few years ago. Although it grabbed more nominations than the Artist, it still won’t win the prize: the numerical advantage is nothing if the film isn’t nominated in the main categories, and Hugo isn’t. Hugo strikes me as the kind of film that is revered and beloved by the Academy but simply hasn’t got the momentum to actually win. Same goes for the Descendants, which I look forward to seeing. As for the other nominees, the sheer inclusion of Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, a Scott Rudin-produced, Stephen Daldry-directed Oscar vehicle, says it all really. I’m sure it is a good film, but I am also sure it was included because Rudin and Daldry have all the right friends at the Academy. The nod for the Tree of Life is welcomed though, if only for getting the recognition it finally deserves. Midnight in Paris and Moneyball are also two worthy nominees. As for War Horse, I haven’t seen it, but its early Oscar buzz might have killed its chances, oddly enough. The kind of anticipation generated by a filmmaker like Steve Spielberg is both a blessing and a curse. ALSO, the Help looks desperately tiny in this category of heavyweights.
And somehow people were still hoping that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 was going to make it to that category, as it is the last of the HP saga, but it really isn’t Oscar material and shouldn’t be.

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2011 review

Here is my top 15 for the best films of 2011 (the list from last year is here):

1. The Tree of Life, directed by Terrence Malick
2. Drive, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
3. Hugo, directed by Martin Scorsese
4. The Artist, directed by Michel Hazavinicius
5. Midnight in Paris, directed by Woody Allen
6. The Ides of March, directed by George Clooney
7. Source Code, directed by Duncan Jones
8. Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky / True Grit, directed by the Coen brothers
9. The King’s Speech, directed by David Hooper
10. Moneyball, directed by Bennett Miller
11. Contagion, directed by Steven Soderbergh
12. Never Let Me Go, directed by Mark Romanek
13. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Rupert Wyatt / The Adventures of Tintin, directed by Steven Spielberg
14. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, directed by David Yates
15. Carnage, directed by Roman Polanski

+ The Adjustment Bureau, Super 8, The Debt.

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2011, part 2: the year in review

As promised, here are my thoughts on the films I’ve seen since… August. It’s a long read, but I’ve tried to keep it short, so brace yourself!

* Rise of the Planet of the Apes, directed by Rupert Wyatt. An unconventional blockbuster, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a great success, especially in terms of character development. It relies heavily on the brilliant, brilliant interpretation of Caesar by Andy Serkis (who deserves Oscar recognition in all honesty). Simply put, Rise succeeds where Avatar couldn’t: it uses motion capture to its full potential while retaining a particular focus on the evolution of its main character. It’s entertainment with brains and smarts –the best kind, then. All in all, a very pleasant surprise, and an example for future summer blockbusters to look up to.

* Super 8, directed by JJ Abrams. I have always had a very soft spot for JJ Abrams and I’ve always thought of him as a master storyteller although he is quite a young director. Super 8 is a pure product of nostalgia –which seems to infuse and burst through every frame. It’s a movie about kids, and childhood, and growing up; everything you would expect at first, but it has a lot of heart, although the initial premise is more about mystery and suspense. And it really delivers in terms of pace and action. A huge chunk of it is inspired by Spielberg’s earlier films: if you’re a fan of those, chances are you will enjoy Super 8.

* Melancholia, directed by Lars Von Trier. It’s been often said that Melancholia is one of Von Trier’s most accessible film but let me disagree with that statement. I have never fallen asleep while watching a film in a movie theatre but I missed the last five minutes of that one. I know, I should be ashamed of myself, but what can I say? Either Von Trier is not good enough at holding the viewer’s attention or Melancholia is simply not interesting. Either way, I have to say I am quite astonished at all the excellent critics for this film and the Financial Times claiming it is the film of the year etc. Because this film is close to insufferable. Literally devoid of emotions, although the suffering of the main character is very obvious and in-your-face. It’s a film about depression, I get it, but there’s just no possible emotional connection with the character whatsoever, even though Kirsten Dunst’s performance is quite impressive. And Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character did not fare any better. I understood that she was scared and wanted to be protective of her son but little else. And despite the contrived beauty of the images, the references were, once again, a little bit too much in-your-face (Justine is Shakespeare’s Ophelia. GEDDIT?). And all wrapped up in a sort of tangible pretentiousness. So a big no from me on that one, although I did like Dogville a lot, I unfortunately cannot say the same from this one.

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