Monday, February 02, 2009

Best Picture, a quick review


Now that I've seen all the nominees:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:

What I liked: Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, the visually stylized world Benjamin moves through, the much-discussed digital effects, and the scene where Benjamin and Daisy watch the Beatles on TV in their apartment.

What I didn't: The vacancy of the central character and wasting of Brad Pitt, the inauthentic feeling of New Orleans in the early scenes, the undramatic nature of the script and it's nonsensical inversion of Fitzgerald's story, the framing device with old Cate Blanchett and Julia Ormond, and the heavy-handed backwards clock metaphor.

The Reader:

What I liked: Kate Winslet, Lena Olin, Bruno Ganz, the whole high-toned literary adaptation style of the thing, and David Hare's honest attempt to make a movie out of an uncinematic novel.

What I didn't: The feebleness of the central message- Nazis have feelings too! A dull, wan, performance from Ralph Fiennes.

Frost/Nixon:

What I liked: Langella & Sheen, the transformation of a talky play (lots of direct address to the audience) into a dramatically compelling movie, forgetting I was watching a movie directed by Ron Howard.

What I didn't: Nixon had already resigned, why was all this important? The talent of its stars, writer, and director is all this has going for it.

Slumdog Millionaire:

What I liked: The visual and aural energy and unfamiliar setting plus the appealing child actors.

What I didn't: I don't think the film glamorizes or whitewashes poverty, but once the initial dynamic is set up of the older brother being the one who'll do the ugly stuff in order to survive the ending seems very obvious.

Milk:

What I liked: Pretty much everything; it's a rousing tribute to the American spirit of activism. Plus, how often do we get to see something totally new from a well-established actor like Sean Penn? Josh Brolin, Alison Pill, Emile Hirsch. Among these five nominees, Milk is my clear personal choice.

What I didn't: Diego Luna's performance was the only instance where I was conscious of an actor "playing gay." To be fair, Luna's role is underwritten; the movie really isn't interested in Milk's personal life. I would have liked to see more of Milk's politically shrewd side.

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